Schaff, setting forth the creeds of the Evangelical Protestant Churches in his Creeds of Christendom, distinguishes between the creeds of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the creeds of the Evangelical Reformed Churches. I assume that he makes this distinction because the Lutherans broke away from the rest of the Protestant Churches because they could not endorse the Protestant conception of the Lord’s Supper. It may be considered a sad and tragic thing that this break occurred because of Luther’s insistence on his view of the Lord’s Supper, that the communicants receive Christ through the mouth. We assume that it is because of this break between the Lutherans and the rest of the Protestant Churches that Schaff distinguishes, as he does, between the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Reformed Churches. We first quote from the Lutheran creeds in connection with their conception of the doctrine of sin.
In the Augsburg Confession, A.D. 1530, Art. II is devoted to the doctrine of original sin. It reads as follows:
Also they teach that, after Adam’s fall, all men begotten after the common course of nature are born with sin; that is, without the fear of God, without trust in Him, and with fleshly appetite; and that this disease, or original fault, is truly sin, condemning and bringing eternal death now also upon all that are not born again by baptism and the Holy Spirit.
They condemn the Pelagians, and others, who deny this original fault to be sin in deed; and who, so as to lessen the glory of the merits and benefits of Christ, argue that a man may, by the strength of his own reason, be justified before God.
In this article, the Lutherans condemn the Pelagian conception of sin, and declare that all men are born with sin, and that this spiritual disease is sin indeed.
The Lutherans also express themselves on the subject of original sin in the Formula of Concord, A.D. 1576. Art. I treats this subject of original sin, from an affirmative and negative point of view. In the affirmative section of this article, after maintaining that we must distinguish between the nature of the sinner and his sin, maintaining the distinction that the nature of man, also after the fall, is and remains God’s creature, this creed states the following:
III. But, on the other hand, we believe, teach, and confess that Original Sin is no trivial corruption, but is so profound a corruption of human nature as to leave nothing sound, nothing uncorrupt in the body or soul of man, or in his mental or bodily powers. As reads the hymn of the Church: “Through Adam’s fall is all corrupt, Nature and essence human.” How great this evil is, is in truth not to be set forth in words, nor can it be explored by the subtlety of human reason, but can only be discerned by means of the revealed word of God. And we indeed affirm that no one is able to dissever this corruption of the nature from the nature itself, except God alone, which will fully come to pass by means of death in the resurrection unto blessedness. For then that very same nature of ours, which we now bear about, will rise again free from Original Sin, and wholly severed and disjoined from the same, and will enjoy eternal felicity. For thus it is written
“I shall be compassed again with my skin, and in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.”
However, it is especially in the negative section of this article on Original Sin that this Formula of Concord expresses itself very strongly on the awfulness of sin, and we quote:
II. Also, that depraved concupiscences are not sin, but certain concrete conditions and essential properties of the nature, or that those defects and that huge evil just set forth by us is not sin on whose account man, if not grafted into Christ, is a child of wrath.
III. We also reject the Pelagian heresy, in which it is asserted that the nature of man after the fall is incorrupt, and that, moreover, in spiritual things it has remained wholly good and pure in its nature powers.
IV. Also, that Original Sin is an external, trivial, and almost insignificant birthmark, or a certain stain dashed upon the man, under the which, nevertheless, nature bath retained her powers unimpaired even in spiritual things.
V. Also, that Original Sin is only an external impediment of sound spiritual powers, and is not a despoliation and defect thereof, even as, when a magnet is smeared with garlic-juice, its natural power of drawing iron is not taken away, but is only impeded; or as a stain can be easily wiped off from the face, or paint from a wall.
VI. Also, that man’s nature and essence are not utterly corrupt, but that there is something of good still remaining in man, even in spiritual things, to wit, goodness, capacity, aptitude, ability, industry, or the powers by which in spiritual things he has strength to undertake, effect., or co-effect somewhat of good.
In Art. II of the Formula of Concord, the Lutherans treat the subject of Free Will. This, too, is very interesting. In this article the Lutherans placed themselves before this question: whether by his own proper powers, before he has been regenerated by the Spirit of God, man can apply and prepare himself unto the grace of God, and whether he can receive and apprehend the divine grace (which is offered [presented] to him through the Holy Ghost in the word and sacraments divinely instituted), or not. In answer to this question Art. II, in its affirmative section, declares the following:
I. Concerning this matter, the following is our faith, doctrine, and confession, to wit: that the understanding and reason of man in spiritual things are wholly blind and can understand nothing by their proper powers. As it is written in
“The natural man perceiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because he is examined concerning spiritual things.”
II. We believe, teach, and confess, moreover, that the yet unregenerate will of man is not only averse from God, but has become even hostile to God, so that it only wishes and desires those things, and is delighted with them, which are evil and opposite to the divine will. For it is written in
“For the imagination and thought of man’s heart are prone to evil from his youth.” Also
“The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law, neither indeed can be.”
Therefore we believe that by how much it is impossible that a dead body should vivify itself and restore corporal life to itself, even so impossible is it that man, who by reason of sin is spiritually dead, should have any faculty of recalling himself into spiritual life; as it is written in
“Even when we were dead in sins, He bath quickened us together with Christ.”
“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing good” as of ourselves; but that we are sufficient is itself of God.”
In Art. III the Formula of Concord addresses itself to the subject of the conversion of man and that the Holy Spirit effects this conversion by the means of preaching and the hearing of the Word of God. This article reads as follows:
Nevertheless the Holy Spirit effects the conversion of man not without means, but is wont to use for effecting it preaching and the hearing of the Word of God, as it is written in
“The gospel is a power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” And
“Faith cometh by hearing of the Word of God.” And without question it is the will of the Lord that His Word should be heard, and that our ears should not be stopped when it is preached
With this Word is present the Holy Spirit, Who opens the hearts of men, in order that, as Lydia did in
they may diligently attend, and thus may be converted by the sole grace of the Holy Spirit, Whose work, and Whose work alone, the conversion of man is. For if the grace of the Holy Spirit is absent, our willing and running, our planting, sowing, and watering, are wholly in vain
if, that is, He do not give the increase, as Christ says in
“Without Me ye can do nothing.” And, indeed, in these few words Christ denies to free-will all power whatever, and ascribes all to Divine grace, “that no one may have whereof he may glory before God
I Cor. 1:29; II Cor. 12:5; Jer. 9:23.Of interest is also what this Formula of Concord has to say in the negative section of this article on free will. How strong and forceful is the language here:
We repudiate, therefore, and condemn all the errors which we will now recount, as not agreeing with the rule of the Divine word:
I. First, the insane dogma of the Stoic philosophers, as also the madness of the Manicheans, who taught that all things which come to pass take place by necessity, and can not possibly be otherwise; and that man does all things by constraint, even those things which he transacts in outward matters, and that he is compelled to the committing of evil works and crimes, such as unlawful lusts, acts, rapine, murders, thefts, and the like.
II. We repudiate, also, that gross error of the Pelagians, who have not hesitated to assert that man by his own powers, without the grace of the Holy Spirit, has ability to convert himself to God, to believe the gospel, to obey the Divine law from his heart, and in this way to merit of himself the remission of sins and eternal life.
III. Besides these errors, we reject also the false dogma of the Semi-Pelagians, who teach that man by his own powers can commence his conversion, but can not fully accomplish it without the grace of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord willing, we will continue with this quotation in our following article. But already in the articles quoted, it is plain that the Formula of Concord condemns and rejects the Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian conceptions of original sin.