by F. Bente
XII. The Adiaphoristic Controversy.
136.Contents of the Leipzig Interim.
To exhibit the insidious character of the Leipzig Interim more fully,we submit the following quotations. In its Introduction we read:”As far as the doctrine of the state and nature of man before and after the Fall is concerned, there is no controversy”(between the Lutherans and Romanists) . The article “Of Justification,” in which the Lutheran sola fide is omitted, declares: “The merciful God does not work with man as with a block, but draws him, so that his will also cooperates if he be of understanding years.” Again: “And they who have thus received the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Ghost, and in whom the Holy Ghost begins faith and trust in the Son of God, love and hope, then become heirs of eternal salvation for the Savior’s sake.” In the article “Of Good Works” we read: “Nevertheless, the new virtues and good works are so highly necessary that, if they were not quickened in the heart there would be no reception of divine grace.” Again: “It is certainly true that these virtues, faith, love, hope, and others,must be in us and are necessary to salvation…. And since the virtues and good works, as has been said, please God, they merit also a reward in this life, both spiritual and temporal, according to God’s counsel, and still more reward in the eternal life, because of the divine promise.”
The article “Of Ecclesiastical Power” runs as follows: “What the true Christian Church gathered in the Holy Ghost, acknowledges, determines, and teaches in regard to matters of faith is to be taught and preached, since it neither should nor can determine anything contrary to the Holy Scriptures.” Self-evidently, Romanists construed this as an a priori endorsement of the Council and its resolutions. In the article “Of Ecclesiastical Ministers” we read: “And that all other ministers should be subject and obedient to the chief bishop [the Pope] and to other bishops who administer their episcopal office according to God’s command, using the same for edification and not for destruction; which ministers should be ordained also by such bishops upon presentation by the patrons.”This article conceded the primacy of the Pope and the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the bishops. The article “Of Ordination” declares: “Also, that, as has been said, upon presentation by patrons, ministers should hereafter be ordained with Christian ceremonies by such bishops as administer their episcopal office, and that no one should be allowed to be in the ministry unless, as has been said, he be presented by the patrons and have the permission of the bishops.” That was tantamount to a restoration of the “sacrament” of episcopal ordination.
The Interim furthermore demanded the immediate reintroduction of abolished ceremonies, such as exorcism and other ceremonies of Baptism, confirmation by bishops, auricular confession, extreme unction, episcopal ordination, and the like. We read: “That repentance, confession, and absolution, and what pertains thereto, be diligently taught and preached; that the people confess to the priests, and receive of them absolution in God’s stead, and be also diligently admonished and urged to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; also, that no one be admitted to the highly venerable Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ [in this indirect way only the cup of the laity is referred to in the Interim] unless he have first confessed to the priest and received of him absolution.”Again:”Although in this country the unction [Extreme Unction] has not been in use for many years, yet … such unction, according to the apostle, may be hereafter observed.”Again:”That henceforth the mass be observed in this country with ringing of bells,with lights and vessels,with chants, vestments,and ceremonies.” Among the holidays to be observed the Interim mentions also Corpus Christi and the festivals of the holy Virgin Mary. Again we read: “The images and pictures of the sufferings of Christ and of the saints may be also retained in the churches.” Again: “In the churches where the canonical hours have been formerly observed, the devout Psalms shall be sung in chapters and towns at the appointed time and on other high festivals, and also on Sundays.” “Likewise, that on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as during fasts, the eating of meat be abstained from and that this be observed as an external; ordinance at the command of His Imperial Majesty.” The clause, “that this be observed,” etc., was regarded by Flacius and Gallus as implying self-deception and hypocrisy on the part of the Interimists. (Frank 4 72. 119.) Again, as to the apparel of priests, that “a distinction be observed between ministers and secular persons, and that proper reverence be paid the priestly estate.”The Introduction of the Interim gives the assurance that the Lutherans would obey the Emperor and be found disposed toward peace and unity. The Conclusion adds the humble promise:”In all other articles we are ready … in a friendly and submissive manner to confer with Your Beloved and Princely Graces, and to settle our differences in a Christian way.” (C R. 7, 258. Jacobs, Book of Concord, 2, 260.)
137. Issue in Adiaphoristic Controversy.
From the passages quoted it appears that the Leipzig Interim was inoculated with the germs of many controversies.However, while in the beginning its offensive doctrinal features were not fully and generally recognized and realized, the Emperor’s demand for, and approval of, the Wittenberg and Leipzig theologian’s reintroduction of the Romish ceremonies immediately created an acute situation and a great commotion everywhere. The resulting theological conflict pertaining to the latter point in particular was called the Adiaphoristic or Interimistic Controversy. And, as explained above, even after the Interim had become a dead letter politically, this controversy did not subside, because its paramount object was not merely to pass a correct judgment on past events during the Interim, nor even to obtain norms for similar situations in the future, but,above all, to eliminate from our Church the spirit of indifferentism, unionism, and of direct as well as indirect denial of the Gospel-truth.
Accordingly, the exact issue in the Adiaphoristic Controversy was: May Lutherans, under conditions such as prevailed during the Interim, when the Romanists on pain of persecution and violence demanded the reinstitution of abolished papal ceremonies, even if the ceremonies in question be truly indifferent in themselves, submit with a good conscience, that is to say, without denying the truth and Christian liberty, without sanctioning the errors of Romanism, and without giving offense either to the enemies or to the friends of the Lutheran Church, especially its weak members? This was affirmed by the Interimists and denied by their opponents.
138. Opposition to the Adiaphorists.
Prominent among the theologians who participated in the controversy against the Adiaphorists were Flacius,Wigand, Gallus, and others,who in Magdeburg opened a most effective fire on the authors, sponsors, and advocates of the Interim. Following are some of the chief publications which dealt with the questions involved: “Opinion concerning the Interim, by Melanchthon, June 16, 1548,” published by Flacius without the knowledge of Melanchthon.-“Report on the Interim by the Theologians of Meissen,” 1548.- “That in These Dangerous Times (in diesen geschwinden Laeuften) Nothing is to be Changed in the Churches of God in Order to Please the Devil and the Antichrist,” by John Hermann, 1548. A Latin edition of this publication appeared 1549, mentioning Flacius as its author.-“A Brief Report (Ein kurzer Bericht) on the Interim from which One may Easily Learn the Doctrine and Spirit of That Book,” 1548.-“A General Protest and Writ of Complaint (Eine gemeine Protestation und Klageschrift) of All Pious Christians against the Interim and Other Sinister Schemes and Cruel Persecutions by the Enemies of the Gospel, by John Waremund, 1548.” Waremund was a pseudonym for Flacius.-“Against the Interim, Papal Mass, Canon, and Master Eisleben,” 1519.-“Against the Vile Devil (Wider den schnoeden Teufel), who Now Again Transforms Himself into an Angel of Light, i.e., against the New Interim, by Carolus Azarias Gotsburgensis, 1549.”Of this book, too, Flacius was the author; (Preger 1, 67.)-“Apology (Entschuldigung) of Matthias Flacius Illy. to a Certain Pastor,” 1549.-“Several Letters of the Venerable D. M. Luther concerning the Union of Christ and Belial, Written 1530 to the Theologians at the Diet in Augsburg,” 1549, with a preface by Flacius.-“Apology of Matthias Flacius Illy., Addressed to the University of Wittenberg, regarding the Adiaphora,”1549.-“Writing of Matthias Flacius Illy. against a Truly Heathen, yea, Epicurean Book of the Adiaphorists (in which the Leipzig Interim is Defended) in Order to Guard Oneself against the Present Counterfeiters of the True Religion,” 1549.-“Answer of Magister Nicolas Gallus and Matthias Flacius Illy. to the Letter of Some Preachers in Meissen regarding the Question whether One should Abandon His Parish rather than Don the Cassock” (linea vestis, Chorrock).-“Against the Extract of the Leipzig Interim, or the Small Interim,” by Flacius, 1549.-“Book concerning True and False Adiaphora (Liber de Veris et Falsis Adiaphoris), in which the Adiaphoristic Controversy is Explained Almost in Its Entirety, by Flacius, 1549.”This book, which is most frequently quoted and deals most thoroughly with the questions involved, is found in Schluesselburg’s Catalogus Haereticorum 13, 154ff.-“An Admonition (Vermahnung) to be Constant in the Confession of the Truth, in Cross and Prayer, by Flacius,” 1549.-“A Christian Admonition by Matthias Flacius Illy. to be Constant in the True, Pure Religion of Jesus Christ and in the Augsburg Confession,” 1550.-“Against the Alleged Power and Primacy of the Pope,Useful to Read at This Time, when the Whole World Endeavors again to Place the Expelled Antichrist into the Temple of Christ, by Matthias Flacius Illy.”-“Against the Evangelist of the Holy Chorrock, D. Geitz Major, by Matthias Flacius Illy., 1552.”-For a complete list of the writings of Flacius against the Interim, see Preger’s Matthias Flacius Illyricus, 2, 540 ff
Even the titles of these publications indicate that the Adiaphoristic Controversy did not lack violence and virulence. This animosity against the Interimists was chiefly due to the fear that their policy would finally lead to the complete undoing of the Reformation. For while Melanchthon still believed in and hoped for, an understanding with the Romanists, Flacius saw through their schemes and fully realized the impending danger. In the reintroduction of Catholic ceremonies which Melanchthon regarded as entirely harmless, Flacius beheld nothing but the entering wedge, which would gradually be followed by the entire mass of Romish errors and abuses and the absolute dominance of Pope and Emperor over the Lutheran Church.The obedience demanded by the Emperor, said Flacius, consists in this, that “we abandon our true doctrine and adopt the godless Papacy.” In all its details, he explained, the ultimate purpose of the Interim is none other than the reestablishment of Popery, of which even such seemingly trifling matters as the reintroduction of the Chorrock (linea vestis) were but the beginning, as it were, the breach in the dam which was bound ultimately to result in a complete submersion of Lutheranism. (Frank 4, 74. 76. 119.)
Since the loyal Lutherans, in keeping with the teaching of Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, regarded the Papacy as antichristendom, they could not but abhor the concessions made by the Interimists as treachery against the truth. From the very outset Flacius and Gallus insisted that their opponents answer the question,”whether the Pope with his government is the true Antichrist in the Church as according to the Word of God he has been publicly declared to be in our churches, and whether he still should and must be regarded and confessed as such.” And if Luther’s doctrine was to stand, how, then, they argued, could a union be effected between the enemies of the Gospel (the Antichrist and his bishops) and the Lutherans without idolatry and denial of the religion of Christ? (53. 107.) On the title-page of his Apology, of 1549, Flacius declares: “The upshot [of the Interim] is the establishment of the Papacy and the installation of the Antichrist in the temple of Christ, the encouragement of the wicked to flaunt their victory over the Church of Christ and to grieve the godly, likewise weakening, leading into doubt, separation and innumerable offenses.” (Schaff 1, 301.) Regarding the acknowledgment of the Pope and bishops by the Interim, Flacius remarked: “Mark well, here the werewolf (Baerwolf), together with his fellow-wolves, is placed over the little flock of Christ. There is, however, no danger whatever; for, as is added [in the Interim:”The Pope should use his power not for destruction, but for edification”], they have counted the sheep and commanded the wolves to be gentle. In my opinion this is certainly a good adiaphoron to restore Antichrist to the temple from which he has been expelled by the Finger of God.” (Preger 1, 191.) Accordingly, burning with shame and indignation, and trembling with fear for the future of Lutheranism, Flacius charged Melanchthon with want of faith and with treason against the truth, and characterized the Leipzig Interim as an unholy union of Christ and Belial, of light and darkness, of Christ and Antichrist.
While Flacius thus denounced the Interim as well as its authors and abettors, he at the same time admonished and encouraged the Lutheran pastors to be steadfast in confessing the truth, in spite of cross and persecution, and to stand by their flocks as true shepherds. That minister, he said, who denies or fails to confess the truth, or who yields to a tyrant, deserts his Church.We must not only confess with our mouths, but by deeds and actions as well.Not abandonment of the flock, but suffering is the best way to win the victory over a tyrant. Flacius also earnestly warned the people against yielding to the princes and acknowledging, hearing, and following their own ministers if they advocated and introduced the Interim.Moreover, he encouraged both pastors and laymen to resist the tyranny of princes demanding the reinstitution of the Roman ceremonies. “A government,” said he in his Admonition, “no matter which, has not the authority to forbid pastor to preach the pure doctrine.” When the government persecutes the truth,we must not yield, no matter what the consequences may be.Christians will sacrifice everything to a tyrannical prince, but not “the truth, not the consolation of divine grace, nor the hope of eternal life.” (Frank 4, 68. 117.)
139. Doctrinal Position of Anti-Adiaphorists.
The theological position occupied by the opponents of the Adiaphorists may be summarized as follows: Ceremonies which God has neither commanded nor prohibited are adiaphora (res mediae, Mitteldinge) and ceteris paribus (other things being equal), may be observed or omitted, adopted or rejected. However, under circumstances testing one’s faith they may become a matter of principle and conscience. Such is the case wherever and whenever they are demanded as necessary, or when their introduction involves a denial of the truth, an admission of error, an infringement of Christian liberty, an encouragement of errorists and of the enemies of the Church, a disheartening of the confessors of the truth, or an offense to Christians, especially the weak.Such conditions, they maintained, prevailed during the time of the Interim, when both Pope and Emperor plainly declared it to be their object to reestablish the Romish religion in Lutheran churches;when the adoption of the Interim and the reinstitution of the papal ceremonies were universally regarded, by Catholics as well as Protestants, as the beginning of just such a reestablishment of the Papacy; when the timid Wittenberg and Leipzig theologians, instead of boldly confessing the Gospel and trusting to God for the protection of His Church, compromised the truth and yielded to the demands of the Romanists in order to escape persecution when the consciences of Lutherans were perplexed and confused wherever the abolished rites were reinstituted. Accordingly, they declared that under the prevailing circumstances the reintroduction of the Romish ceremonies was nothing short of a denial of Christian faith and of Christian love as well.
Flacius, in particular, maintained that under the prevailing circumstances even such ceremonies as were in themselves true adiaphora ceased to be adiaphora and could not be reintroduced with a good conscience, because they were forced upon the Lutherans by the enemies of the Gospel, because they were accepted for reprehensible reasons, such as fear of persecution and desire for external peace, and because their reintroduction confounded the consciences, offended the weak, and gave comfort and encouragement to the enemies of Christ. The people, Protestants as well as Catholics, said Flacius, would regard such reintroduction both as an admission on the part of the Lutherans that they had been in the wrong and the Romanists in the right, and as the beginning of a general restoration of the Papacy. Explain the reintroduction of the ceremonies as piously as you may, said he to the Interimists, the common people, especially the Romanists, always impressed by ceremonies much more than by the doctrine, will infer that those teachers who reintroduce the ceremonies approve of the Papacy in every respect and reject the Evangelical doctrine. In his book De Veris et Falsis Adiaphoriswe read:”Adversarii totum suum cultum, vel certe praecipua capita suae religionis in ceremoniis collocant, quas cum in nostris ecclesiis in eorum gratiam restituimus, an non videmur tum eis, tum aliis eorum impiis cultibus assentiri? Nec dubitant, quin quandoquidem in tantis rebus ipsis cesserimus, etiam in reliquis cessuri simus, nostrum errorem agnoscamus, eorumque religionem veram esse confiteamur.” (Schluesselburg 13, 217.) Accordingly, Flacius contended that under the prevailing circumstances a concession to the Romanists, even in ceremonies harmless in themselves, was tantamount to a denial of Lutheranism. The entire argument of the Anti-Adiaphorists was by him reduced to the following principle or axiom: “Nihil est adiaphoron in casu confessionis et scandali.Nothing is an adiaphoron when confession and offense are involved.” And wherever the Interim was enforced, the consequences foretold by Flacius showed themselves: consciences were confused, simple Christians were offended, and the enemies were strengthened in their error and emboldened in their attacks and in further demands made upon the Lutherans.
140. Sophistries of Adiaphorists Refuted.
The Wittenberg Interimists endeavored to justify their attitude by a series of sophisms to which they also adhered in the “Final Report (Endlicher Bericht) of the Theologians of Both Universities of Leipzig and Wittenberg,” 1570. (Frank 4, 87. 2.) By adopting the Interim, the Wittenbergers, in reality, had assented also to doctrinally false and dubious statements and to a number of ceremonies objectionable as such. Yet they pleaded the guilelessness of their intentions and the harmlessness of their procedure. They maintained that they had yielded merely in minor matters and ceremonies, which were neither commanded nor prohibited by the Word of God; that this was done in order to preserve intact the central Christian truth of justification; to preserve political peace and to save the Church from ruin; to protect the weak, whose shoulders were not strong enough to suffer persecution; that in their concessions they had been guided by the dictates of true wisdom, which always chooses the lesser of two evils; and that in all this they had merely followed the example set by Luther himself. They minimized the entire affair, and endeavored to explain away the seriousness of the situation. In particular they ridiculed Flacius for shouting and sounding the fire-alarm when in reality, they said, he had discovered nothing but a little smoke coming from a Wittenberg chimney.
But in the ears of all genuine and earnest Lutherans their sophistries and apologies rang neither true nor sincere. The arguments which they employed merely served to defeat their own purpose.What else, for example, than disgust, indignation, and distrust could be the effect on all honest Lutherans when the Wittenberg theologians, dishonestly veiling the real facts, declared in their official “Exposition” of 1559 (when danger of persecution had passed long ago) concerning the reintroduction of Corpus Christi that they had reintroduced this festival all the more readily in order that they might be able to instruct the people in the right use of the Sacrament and in the horrible abuses and profanations of the most holy Supper of the Lord in the circumgestation and adoration of the bread which their critics [the Lutheran opponents of the Interimists, by their doctrine concerning the Lord’s Supper] strengthened and that they might thank God for the purification of tile temple from the Romish idol Maozim, Dan. 11, 38. (Tschackert, 510.) Frank remarks: “One must see this passage black on white in order to believe the Wittenbergers really capable of stultifying themselves in such an incredible manner. It is a monstrosity, a defense unworthy of an honest man, let alone an Evangelical Christian.” (4, 61. 113.)
The weak and insincere arguments of the Adiaphorists were thoroughly and convincingly refuted by their opponents. To the assertion of the Wittenbergers that the dispute was concerning mere unimportant ceremonies which were neither commanded nor prohibited by God, Flacius and Gallus replied (in their answer to the question of the ministers of Meissen whether they should leave their charges rather than don the Chorrock, lineam vestem induere) that even with respect to such seemingly most trifling adiaphora as the cope (Chorrock, vestis alba) one must not overlook what is attached to it.”We do not believe,” they said, “that the robber will let the traveler keep his money, although first he only asks for his coat or similar things, at the same time, however, not obscurely hinting that, after having taken these, he will also demand the rest. We certainly do not doubt that you yourselves, as well as all men endowed with a sound mind, believe that, since the beginning is always hardest, these small beginnings of changes are at present demanded only that a door may be opened for all the other impieties that are to follow-quod tantum ideo parva ista mutationum initia iam proponantur, ut quia principia semper sunt dificillima per ea aditus reliquis omnibus secuturis impietatibus patefiat.” (Schluesselburg 13, 644.)
The Adiaphorists pretended that they had consented to the Interim in the interest of the weak, who were unable to bear persecution.But the Lutherans answered that weak Christians could not be strengthened in their faith by teaching and persuading them to deny it and that the enemies and persecutors of the Gospel could certainly not be regarded as weak. (Frank 4, 78.) The protestations of the Adiaphorists that they had made the changes in ceremonies with the very best of intentions were answered by Flacius in De Veris et Falsis Adiaphoris as follows: Hardly ever has a Christian denied Christ without endeavoring to deceive both God and himself as to his motives. “But one must also consider, as may be clearly shown from 1 Cor. 10,with what design (quo animo) the adversaries propose such things to us, likewise, how they as well as others interpret our act.”(Schl. 13, 217.) “Even though the intention of those who receive and use the adiaphora be not an evil one, the question is,” said Martin Chemnitz in his Judicium de Adiaphoris, “whether the opinion of the one who commands, imposes, and demands the adiaphora is impious or wicked, whether such reception and observation is interpreted and understood as a turning away from the confession of the true doctrine, and whether the weak are offended and grow faint thereby.” (717.)
To the claims of the Interimists that they were but following the example of Luther,who, for the sake of the weak, had tolerated Romish ceremonies, etc., the Lutherans replied: Distinguish times and conditions! Luther was dealing with Christians who in their consciences still felt bound to the Roman usages, while the “weakness” spoken of by Adiaphorists is not an erring conscience, but fear of persecution. Moreover Luther tolerated existing Romish ceremonies as long as there was hope of arriving at an agreement with the Romanists in doctrine, while the Adiaphorists reinstitute ceremonies which have been abolished, and this, too, in deference and obedience to irreconcilable adversaries of the truth. Accordingly, Luther’s attitude in this matter flowed from pure love for truth and from com- passion with the weak, whom he endeavored to win for the truth, while the submission of the Adiaphorists to the demands of their adversaries is nothing short of unchristian denial of both true love and faith. (Frank 4, 55.) Brenz declared: “Adiaphora ex suis conditionibus iudicanda sunt. Adiaphora must be judged from their conditions.For if the condition is good, the adiaphoron, too, is good, and its observance is commanded. If, however, the condition is evil, the adiaphoron, too, is evil, and the observance of it is prohibited.” (Schl. 13, 562.)
Furthermore, when the Wittenberg and Leipzig theologians maintained that, in preferring the lesser evil (the Roman ceremonies) to the greater (persecution), they had merely listened to, and followed, the voice of true wisdom, the Lutherans replied that moral evils must not be placed on a level with physical evils, nor guilt be incurred in order to avoid suffering and persecution. Westphal declared in his Explicatio Gene regions, against , quod a Duobus Malis Minus sit Eligendum: “Impium est, amoliri pericula per peccata, nec ita removentur aut minuuntur sed accersuntur et augentur poenae. It is wicked to avert dangers by sins, nor are they removed or diminished in this way, but rather superinduced and increased.” (13, 251.) “It is better to take upon oneself punishments and great dangers than to offend God and to provoke His wrath by such offense.” (250.) “It is better and easier to bear many evils and to undergo many dangers than to be unfaithful in the least commandment of God, and burden oneself with the guilt of even a single sin.” (251.) Our paramount duty is not to escape persecution, but to retain a good conscience. Obey; the Lord and await His help! Such was the counsel of Flacius and the loyal Lutherans. (Frank 4, 65.)
But our Wittenberg school will be closed, our churches will be desolated, and our preachers will be banished, exclaimed the faint-hearted Wittenbergers. The Lutherans answered: It is our duty to confess the truth regardless of consequences, and, at the same time, to look to God for the protection of His Church. Flacius said, in De Veris et Falsis Adiaphoris: Confess the truth and suffer the consequences! A Christian cannot obtain peace by offending God and serving and satisfying tyrants. Rather be drowned by the Spaniards in the Elbe with a millstone about one’s neck than offend a Christian, deny the truth, and surrender the Church to Satan. “Longe satius esset teste Christo pati, ut alligata mola asinaria in medium Albis ab Hispanis proiiceremur, quam unicum parvulum Christi scandalizaremus, multo vero magis haec et quaevis gravissima pati deberemus, quam tam infinitis (ut iam fit) Christi parvulis offendiculum daremus, ecclesiam Satanae proderemus et salvificam confessionem veritatis abiiceremus.” (Schl. 13, 227.)
As to the Wittenberg School, Flacius said: “It would certainly be better that the school were closed not one, but many years than that we, by avoiding confession, extremely weaken our own religion as well as strengthen the one opposed to it.” (13, 231.) “As for myself, I do not doubt that, if only the theologians had been steadfast, the Wittenberg School would have been to-day much firmer than it is … The Interim sprang from the timidity of the Wittenberg theologians … Even a thousand Wittenberg schools ought certainly not to be valued so highly by pious men that, in order to preserve them unimpaired, they would rather suffer the world to be deprived of the light of the Gospel. Certe non tanti mille Wittenbergenses scholae piis esse debent, ut propter earum incolumitatem velint pati orbem terrarum Evangelii luce privari.” (232.) In a letter to Melanchthon, written in the beginning of 1549, Brenz said: “If therefore the Church and pious ministers cannot be preserved in any other way than by bringing reproach upon the pious doctrine, then let us commend them to Christ, the Son of God; He will take care of them; and in the mean time let us patiently bear our banishment and wait for the Lord.” ( C.R. 7, 290.)
June 30, 1530, Luther had written to Melanchthon, who was then in Augsburg: “You want to govern things according to your philosophy; you torment yourself and do not see that this matter is not within your power and wisdom … If we fall, Christ, that is to say, the Ruler of the world, falls with us; and even though He should fall, I would rather fall with Christ than stand with the Emperor.” This passage is contained in one of the letters of Luther which Flacius published 1548 in order to dispel Melanchthon’s timidity, rouse his Lutheran consciousness, and cure him of his vain and most dangerous disposition to save the Church by human wisdom and shrewdness, instead of, as Luther believed, solely by a bold confession of the truth of God’s Word.
141. Theological Attitude of Flacius Sanctioned.
The theological position which Flacius and his fellow- combatants occupied over against the Adiaphorists was embodied in the Tenth Article of the Formula of Concord, and thus endorsed by the Lutheran Church as a whole. Frank says concerning this most excellent article which our Church owes to the faithfulness of the Anti-Melanchthonians, notably Flacius: “The theses which received churchly recognition in the Formula of Concord were those of Flacius.” The entire matter, too, concerning the adiaphora had been discussed so thoroughly and correctly that the subsequent formulation and recognition of the Tenth Article caused but little difficulties. (Frank 4, 3f.)
Even Melanchthon, though refusing to confess that he was guilty of any doctrinal deviations, finally yielded to the arguments of his opponents and admitted that they were right in teaching as they did regarding the adiaphora. In his famous letter to Flacius (who, however, was not satisfied with the manner of Melanchthon’s retraction), dated September 5, 1556, he wrote with respect to the Adiaphoristic Controversy: “I knew that even the least changes [in ceremonies] would be unwelcome to the people.However, since the doctrine [?] was retained, I would rather have our people submit to this servitude than forsake the ministry of the Gospel. Cum doctrina retineretur integra, malui nostros hanc servitutem subire quam deserere ministerium evangelii.And I confess that I have given the same advice to the Francans (Francis). This I have done; the doctrine of the Confession I have never changed … Afterwards you began to contradict. I yielded; I did not fight. In Homer, Ajax fighting with Hector is satisfied when Hector yields and admits that the former is victor.You never come to an end with your accusations.Where is the enemy that does such a thing as striking those who yield and cast their arms away? Win! I yield. I do not contend concerning those rites, and I most earnestly wish that the churches would enjoy sweet concord. I also admit that I have sinned in this matter, and ask forgiveness of God, that I did not flee far from those insidious deliberations [in which the Interim was framed]. Fateor hoc in re a me peccatum esse, et a Deo veniam peto, quod non procul fugi insidiosas illas deliberationes.” (C. R. 8, 839.)
On January 17, 1557, Melanchthon wrote to the Saxon pastors: “I was drawn into the insidious deliberations of the courts. Therefore, if in any way I have either fallen or been too weak, I ask forgiveness of God and of the Church, and I shall submit to the judgments of the Church.” (9, 61.) In the Formula Consensus, written by Melanchthon at Worms, in 1557, the Interim is expressly condemned. For here we read: “With the help of God we retain, and shall retain, the entire doctrine of justification, agreeing with the Augsburg Confession and with the confessions which were published in the church of Hamburg against the book called Interim. Nor do we want any corruptions or ambiguities to be mixed with it; and we desire most earnestly that the true doctrine in all its articles be set forth, as far as possible, in identical and proper forms of speech, and that ambitious innovations be avoided.” (9, 369.) The Frankfurt Recess of 1558, also written by Melanchthon and signed by the princes, maintains: “Where the true Christian doctrine of the holy Gospel is polluted or persecuted, there the adiaphora as well as other ceremonies are detrimental and injurious.” (9, 501.)