Quote of the Week – Grace Means Unearned

The following is taken from Philip Melanchthon’s Apology (or Defense) of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV (Justification), verses 40 and 41:

Since then no one is able to keep God’s law by his own powers, and all are under sin and deserve to be condemned to eternal wrath and death, we are therefore unable to be freed from sin or to become upright in God’s sight through the law. Instead, forgiveness of sins and righteousness is promised through Christ, who has been given for us to pay for the sins of the world and who is the only Mediator and Redeemer. And this promise does not say that you have grace, salvation, etc. through Christ if you earn it. No, he offers forgiveness of sins purely out of grace, as Paul says, “If [forgiveness of sins] is by works, then it is not grace” [Romans 11:6]. And in another place: “This righteousness that avails before God is revealed apart from law” [Romans 3:21], that is, forgiveness of sins is offered for free.

Source
Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 2nd ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1955), p. 167,168

Quote of the Week – Commands and Promises

The following is taken from Martin Luther’s closing reflections in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (October 1520). Note that after suggesting here that prayer, the Word, and the Christian’s cross might “seemingly be numbered with the sacraments,” Luther does go on to say that, properly speaking, sacrament is a label best reserved for “promises that have signs attached to them,” namely baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The quote is shared here not so much for Luther’s reflections on the sacraments, but for his reflection on law and gospel as the two main and thoroughgoing doctrines of Holy Scripture.

There are several other things, besides these, that can seemingly be numbered with the sacraments, namely all those things for which a divine promise has been made, like prayer, the Word, and the cross. For in many places Christ has promised those who pray that he will hear and answer them, especially in Luke 11, where he invites us to pray with many parables [11:5-13], and says concerning the Word, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and preserve it” [11:28]. And who can count up how many times he promises help and glory to the afflicted, the suffering, and the humbled? Yes, who can enumerate all the promises of God, since all of Scripture has the purpose of inciting us to faith, driving with commands and threats in this place and alluring with promises and consolations in that one? For indeed everything written in Scripture is either command or promise; the commands humble the proud with their demands, and the promises lift up the humbled with their remissions.

Source
Weimarer Ausgabe 6:571,572

Strieter Autobiography: Counseling and Instructing

[Continued from Part 22. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Wisconsin (continued)

One time a woman asked me to stop by her place sometime; she had something to tell me about. I stop by. There she relates this: Over in Germany she had been a rich farmer’s daughter, and her husband had been her father’s servant, and because he was such a good person, she had fallen in love with him and suggested that they get married. But he had said, “Get that idea out of your head. Your father will not agree to it, and if he did agree to it, our wealth would come from you. I have nothing, and it is not good when the wife makes her husband rich. You are a hothead; you’ll fly off the handle at some point and rub it in my face.”

“So I promise him, ‘I will say nothing about it all my life.’

“I approach my mother and she approaches my father. ‘Good,’ said my father, ‘I will give you such and such an amount, then the two of you can move to America.’

“We got married. My father gave me money and we came to America and bought ourselves the land here. Just think, sir, I got annoyed over something recently and say to my husband, ‘You didn’t have anything but your jacket!’

“He doesn’t say a word, but shoots me a look. Oh, that look went right through my heart! If only he weren’t so good! But I have such a good man. He can go anywhere and while this one or that one comes home and has too much, mine never does. And he is so good to me and the children. And now I had promised him I would never rub it in his face, and I did it anyway. So do you think that God can forgive me my sin?”

I say, “First of all, you must apologize to your husband, ma’am, and he must first forgive you.”

She says, “Ah, I have already asked him for forgiveness many times, and he has said to me, ‘Just forget about it; everything is fine!’”

I say, “Good, now ask your dear God for forgiveness too.”

She says, “O how often I have done that!”

I say, “Okay, what more do you want? Now everything is just fine. Your husband has forgiven and God has forgiven, and you don’t need any forgiveness beyond that.”

She says, “Has God really forgiven me too?”

I say, “Why, in the Fifth Petition he says he has.”

Then she was happy. —

One time a man came to me with his wife and told me that his wife was going out of her mind. He had heard that such women should be given a good, sound beating, and should he try it once?

I say, “Of course not. How is that going to help? You must be kind, sir.”

I speak with the woman. She said that one child after another would die on her when it was born, and that was God’s punishment for her sins. I point her to her Savior and recite passages to her. She listens to it, but that’s it. I arrange to meet the man again and again. Finally have no idea what else to say. One day I had her in front of me again and asked her whether she really wanted to be saved.

“Oh yes!” she exclaimed.

I say, “Good, and God wants it too and affirms it with an oath [cf. Hebrews 6:13-20]. Now who’s going to prevent it?”

Suddenly she lifts up her head and looks at me beaming with joy and cries out, “That is true!” From then on she stayed happy.

Yes, when God’s hour has struck, he helps through a simple little word.

One time a man came and told me that his woman was a Jewess. They were not married yet and his girl, 12 years old, was also not baptized yet.

I say, “Come over and bring the woman along.”

He came. I start with Moses and the Prophets and prove to the woman that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah promised by the prophets and ask her what is her position on that. But she gave me no answer. He says, “Come on, talk to the preacher.” She remains stock-still.

I arrange to meet her again. She comes and I take her alone and start again and ask what she thinks, but she remains stock-still. If I talk about something else, she is very talkative. If I start talking about Jesus, her head turns to the ground and not a word. I cannot start anything with the woman.

I tell the man, “So I cannot marry you, sir, for the woman does not believe in Jesus, so I also cannot marry her in the name of Jesus. Go to the justice of the peace. Your child, though, I will instruct and baptize.” The child is sent to me and I instruct and baptize it in the presence of witnesses. The mother, however, did not show her face.19

While I’m on the subject of the Jewess, I will also add this: One woman asked me, “Mr. Preacher, your wife is a Jewess, is she not? She has such large, black eyes and such heavy, black hair.” —

I also had to deal with the musicians. Especially at weddings they knew how to have a good time. If it was going to be a proper one, it lasted three days and three nights. During that time there would be music-playing, dancing, and boozing. The performers were my churchgoers. One of them, a teacher from abroad, knew better than to go to the Lord’s Supper, but always went to church; the others – there were 4 of them usually – also went to the Supper. I speak with the musicians, but accomplish nothing except that they become defiant towards me. I thought, “You must put up with this for the time being.” But it didn’t take long before I just couldn’t give the performers the Supper any more in good conscience, but they still went to church and their wives also went to the Supper. Not just at weddings, but also at get-togethers things often got out of hand. I had to rebuke and to instruct; had much opposition from the flesh and often unpleasant confrontations. Ah, many sighs were sent to heaven, many tears were shed. My short impromptu prayer was always: “Comfort me once again with your help and let your joyful Spirit uphold me!” [Psalm 51:12].20

I did most of my studying when I was riding, driving, or sitting. I had Luther, the Erlangen edition, the German volumes, which I picked up cheaply in Euclid from one of Kühn’s members through Kühn’s negotiation. Luther’s House Postil was my constant companion, as well as another extra volume.21 I read my Luther, and my manner and method of preparing my sermon in my mind, as already noted, now came in very handy. First I would go through my Gospel, then I would run through my Luther, then I would outline, then I would think and organize, then I would preach in front of the group in question in my mind all the way from the first word to the last, and would then step confidently in front of my people. I never preached long.

For confessional services I used the Catechism exclusively, simply covering part for part in order, but I didn’t just preach outright, but asked a lot of questions, doing more catechesis and taking answers so that I would also know whether they understood it. Especially a former teacher [Mr.] F. answered me very often.

I did not labor in vain. Quite often it was expressed: “We never heard such sermons abroad.” Quite a few tears were cried; quite often there was grieving over the fleshly condition.

The people were not to blame, for they must have had miserable preachers – rationalists, hirelings, belly-servers,22 and babblers. You could tell from some of the things that were said. One man, Administrator B., was once asked to tell me that I should preach more humbly. I say, “I am constantly striving to be humble and am not aware of anything particularly arrogant in my sermons.”

He says, “Oh, that’s not what I meant. What I mean is this: Our preachers would often have the whole church in tears when they preached.”

“Ah, so,” I replied, “you mean, sir, that I should preach more emotionally?” Their preachers had had it as their goal to elicit the emotions, so that they would be praised for what a fine sermon they had given.

Especially for funerals they must have had this practice, for one man even gave me two dollars before his mother’s burial. That was unheard of. He said, “Please give a nice address; my mother was a good woman.”

But I read as my text: “Death is the wages of sin” [Romans 6:23], and preached law and gospel.

One man told me, “What my pastor [Seelsorger] in Germany liked best was when he got to sit down with the musicians at weddings and play the Brumm” – the bass viol.

They also could be bribed. I noticed that too. There was a man who came from 12 miles away to bring us two beautiful, nicely dressed ducks, and soon he started in, telling me that he was living in conflict with his neighbor, and I should settle it. But he gave me to understand that I should take his side.

Another man asked if he could ride with me to the next congregation. I invited him up. Soon he pulled a small, folded-up paper parcel from his pocket and handed it to me saying, “Mr. Preacher, I would very much like to give you some pay, sir.”

I say, “You certainly don’t owe me any pay, sir. You’re just a servant on the prairie.”

He says, “Even so, I want to give you this just this once. Please take it; I give it gladly.”

I took it, stick it in my waistcoat pocket and say, “Thank you very much!”

Pretty soon he started in: “Mr. Preacher, you have a girl as your maid, sir, whom I would very much like to have as my wife. You will put in a good word for me, won’t you?”

I say, “Listen here, sir, I did not study for the matchmaking trade, but let me give you a good piece of advice: Ask L.’s parents” – he had none himself – “and if they say Yes, ask L., and if she also says Yes, then come to me and I will marry you.”

He was quiet. In front of my house he got down and went on his way. My L. saw us coming and I hardly get into the house before she asks, “Papa, what did he want from you, sir?”

I say, “He wanted you.”

L. says, “Just what I thought! How often have I already told that guy that I do not want him.”

I say, “Yeah, but he gave me money too,” and pull out my small parcel. It is 5 dollars. I say, “You poor guy, spending so much money for nothing!”

My L. laughs and claps her hands: “If only it were 10!”

Whenever anyone came with a gift, I was suspicious. But soon they learned to think differently.

Endnotes

19 The man in this story was Gottlieb Busse and “his woman” was Charlotte Jacobson. Their 12-year-old daughter was Julie Busse, born on February 15, 1851. (Thus most of the events in this story took place in 1863.) Strieter baptized her on March 27, 1864, in the presence of Julius and Rose Breitenfeld and his wife Elizabeth.

20 One of the evils of Pietism enumerated by Valentin Ernst Loescher (1673-1749) in The Complete Timotheus Verinus (Milwaukee: NPH, 1998) is precisionism in matters of adiaphora, that is, unyielding strictness in matters neither explicitly commanded nor forbidden in Holy Scripture (p. 150-160). Pietists like Joachim Lange (1670-1744), Gottfried Vockerodt (1665-1727), August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), and Paul Anton (1661-1730) taught that producing or attending comedies, joking, and dancing were sinful. Pietists took activities that often lead to sin – e.g. dancing often leads to lust (cf. Matthew 5:28; Romans 13:14), and those who love to joke often end up being obscene or coarse (cf. Ephesians 5:4) – and wrongly labeled them sinful in themselves. The effects of the Pietistic movement can still be felt in the Lutheran Church today, and Strieter was not exempt from them in his day either, even though he certainly knew about Pietism and opposed it in principle. One can appreciate his concern: Lust, drunkenness, and self-abandonment are all sins, and certainly those sins abound in the kind of raucous scenes he is describing. However, while acknowledging that we do not know all the details and therefore must be cautious in judgment, it could be that Strieter went too far in refusing the Lord’s Supper to the musicians.

21 See previous chapter and endnote 12 there.

22 An expression taken from Romans 16:18

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: Announcing for Communion

[Continued from Part 21. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Wisconsin (continued)

The people had the custom of not standing around in front of the schoolhouse or residence, but of going inside and singing until I arrived. They had Bollhagen’s hymnal,12 which in the main part had our hymns more or less unaltered. It had several appendices that contained rationalistic hymns. One man told me, “Our preacher in Germany always had us sing from the second appendix.” That’s where the worst hymns were.13 I looked up all the hymns that were in our St. Louis hymnal14 and wrote the page number in Bollhagen’s hymnal on the side. I purchased hymnals from Barthel and sold them, and thus I brought our hymnal into use among the people. At first I would say, “In my hymnal, no. —, in Bollhagen’s, page —.”

The people sang well and knew all the melodies. It never happened to me once that we were unable to sing a hymn. Almost everywhere I had some men who would act as the precentor. I would begin, and some good singer would take it up. Then I would save my voice as much as possible.

One time I noticed over at Buchholz’s that every last person was standing in front of the church. (There they soon built a log church thatched with straw,15 and soon another one just like it at Donning’s.16) When I got there, someone said, “Father died the day before yesterday. Please give a funeral sermon before you go into the church.” I announce the hymn, “Who Knows When Death May Overtake Me,” and while they are singing, I think of a text for myself and what I am going to say.

Now with the Lord’s Supper I had some anxiety. My Stelter – he was an administrator [Vorsteher] and a very dear Christian – said, “When we were abroad, people announced for the Supper with the schoolteacher or with the custodian. No one went to the preacher.”

I think to myself, “Where do you even start?” I give a speech and show what the Lutheran custom is, namely to announce for the Supper beforehand with the pastor, and I show how necessary this is for me and them.

But the reply was, “We’re not used to that,” meaning that it wasn’t necessary either.

A former schoolmaster from Germany wanted to know where it stood in the Bible that you had to announce for the Supper. I had already cited the passages, “We are stewards” [cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1], and, “Do not throw your pearls to the sows” [Matthew 7:6], and now I also pointed to the passage, “Confess your sins to each other” [James 5:16]; they confessed their sins to John.17 He was quiet. But they still could not and would not see the necessity of the practice.18

I say, “But what then if it is absolutely necessary for me to say something to someone for the sake of my conscience?”

They reply, “Then just say it.”

I say, “In front of everyone?”

They say, “But of course!”

I say, “Fine, that’s what I’ll do.”

I allow every single person to give me his or her name, and I always write it down. When I held Lord’s Supper at Buchholz’s for the first time, I had 75 male and 75 female names in my book. After that I posed the following questions: Do you believe from the heart in Jesus Christ as your Savior? Do you believe that in the Lord’s Supper the true body and blood of Christ is eaten and drunk under bread and wine? Are you reconciled, and do you wish to partake of the Holy Supper as repentant sinners? These questions were answered Yes in chorus.

But it didn’t take long before it happened as I thought it would. One time I’m going home from Princeton and see how someone is unhitching his oxen from the cart and letting them drink and hitching them back up again, and he’s so drunk that he can hardly get it done. On Sunday there’s Lord’s Supper at W[arnke]’s. My man is sitting way in the back, but gives his name too.

I say, “But my dear man, I have something to say to you, sir. I saw you there completely drunk, did I not?”

He says, “Yeah.”

I say, “Does this happen with you at other times, sir?”

He says, “Yeah.”

I say, “You, sir, are a drunkard then. A drunkard cannot inherit the kingdom of God; God’s word condemns him [cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10]. He can only take the Holy Supper to his detriment.”

He says yeah, he was sorry and would amend his ways.

I say, “You, sir, must repent, sincerely, acknowledge your sin and hasten in faith with your sins to your Savior. Repentant, as a Christian, you must go to the Lord’s Supper.”

He says, “Yes, I will do that.”

I say, “I will give you the Lord’s Supper then, but I will be watching you to see whether you are serious about improving.”

Later, on the way home, a man is standing at the bottom of the little hill where I have to turn and he says, “Mr. Preacher, one moment!” I halt. He says, “I also want to go to the Supper. Will you take me, sir?”

I say, “You know my questions, sir. What is your position on them?”

He says, “I am not reconciled. My brother-in-law N. and I are mortal enemies and I would sooner go to hell than forgive him.”

“My dear man,” I say, “how then are you going to go to the Supper? Doesn’t the Lord say that if you do not forgive people their failings, then your heavenly Father will not forgive you yours either [cf. Matthew 6:15]?”

He says, “I know well that according to the teaching of Jesus I cannot go to the Supper.”

The Lord’s Supper is at B[uchholz]’s. After the names are recorded, a father stands up and says this: “Mr. Preacher, So-and-so and Such-and-such, my daughter and my son-in-law, have also announced, and they are at enmity with us.”

I ask the accused; they admit it. I say, “Then reconcile with each other immediately! All four of you step into the aisle and extend your hands in reconciliation.” They do so.

A mother stands up: “Mr. Preacher, So-and-so, my son, has also announced, and he’s a drinker. Please admonish him.”

I admonish him.

The Lord’s Supper is at T[agatz]’s. There I learn that [Mr.] H. doesn’t believe in any devil. He announces.

“Mr. H., is it true what I hear about you, sir, that you deny the existence of the devil?”

He says, “How can I believe that there is a devil, when no one has ever seen him?”

I say, “Sure someone has seen him – there in the wilderness [rf. Matthew 4:1-11]. Haven’t you heard about that yet, sir?”

He says, “Oh sure, but I can’t believe it.”

I say, “Then you do not believe God’s word, sir. Then you also cannot believe the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, so you cannot go to the Supper.”

In the course of time one administrator after another comes to me. They say, “Mr. Preacher, the people don’t like having you tell them their shame right to their face in front of everyone.”

I say, “That’s exactly what I suspected!”

I now present again how necessary it is to announce. This time they want to do it. I now say that I will set a day on which they should announce; for those far away I will hold it so that they can announce by my buggy before church. And that’s how it went. That’s how I got private confession and announcing for the Lord’s Supper going.

One time I’m going to B[uchholz’s] for announcement in the church. On the way someone calls to me, “Mr. Preacher, we would also like to go to the Supper. Will you write us down here?”

“Gladly.”

He says, “But the question is whether I am allowed to go?”

I say, “Why wouldn’t you be?”

He says, “Yeah, I am in conflict with my neighbor [Mr.] P, who let his cattle in my pasture. I told him about it, but to no avail. Then I sued him and he was judged guilty. But in front of the court he came up to me and socked me one in the face and went to the judge and laid 5 dollars down. I go to him later and confront him with his wrong, but he says, ‘I have paid for that.’”

I say, “If you have offered him reconciliation and he didn’t want it, then you, sir, can go to the Supper, but he cannot.”

I reach my destination. Sure enough! My [Mr.] P. comes and announces. I confront him with what [Mr.] M. said. He admits it, but also refers to his 5 dollars. I say, “Listen here, sir, you know better than that. You know that you cannot make up for your sins with 5 dollars. You must ask [Mr.] M. to forgive you.”

“I will not do that.”

I say, “Then you cannot go to the Supper either.”

He makes a sour face and leaves.

After the service the administrators are occupied with something else, and I come out of the sacristy with my basket. (I always had to bring everything with me.) My [Mr.] P is also still there and starts in: “Listen, you administrators, I have something to tell you. I am in conflict with [Mr.] M. To him he gives the Supper, but not to me.”

I now lay the matter before them. My administrators said, “The preacher did exactly right.”

Later a woman came and said, “Mr. P. has threatened that he’s going to give you a sound thrashing, sir. I would definitely watch out; he is a wild man.”

I say, “Did he say that to you, ma’am?”

She says, “Yes.”

I say, “Good, give him my regards and tell him that here under the hay is a small little gun, loaded and ready. If he should attack me in the woods like a murderous robber, I will shoot him stone dead.”

But he did not come.

Endnotes

12 Laurentius David Bollhagen (1683-1738) first issued his Heilige Lippen- und Herzensopfer einer gläubigen Seele oder Vollständiges Gesangbuch (Holy Offerings from the Lips and Heart of a Believing Soul or Complete Hymnal) in 1724 for use in public worship in Pomerania. It was reprinted several times after his death. In 19th century editions the first word was changed from Heilige to Heiliges (A Holy Offering…).

13 The second appendix contained such hymns as “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers” (Christian Worship 7), “The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us” (CW 10), “Come, Oh, Come, Life-Giving Spirit” (CW 181), “Alleluia! Let Praises Ring” (CW 241), and “Renew Me, O Eternal Light” (CW 471). Strieter, however, probably did not especially care for the strong representation in that section of Pietistic hymns and hymnwriters. And I am sure that hymn #1203, for example, made him positively shudder. Attributed to a certain J. P. v. Schult, it opens thus:

Jesus, come with your Father,
Come to me – I love you!
Come, O faithful Counselor of my soul,
Holy Spirit, take possession of me!
Let me, O triune Being,
Be selected as your dwelling.

This could perhaps be understood correctly in light of John 14:23, but by a) switching the perspective from Jesus’ third person to the first person of the singer, b) including the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus does not include in John 14, c) intensifying the language, and d) providing no theological context, it ends up conveying a message and giving an impression diametrically opposed to the truth Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:16.

14 The Kirchen-Gesangbuch für Evangelisch-Lutherische Gemeinden ungeänderter Augsburgischer Confession, first published in 1847, also colloquially known as “Walther’s hymnal.” Today it is also available in English.

15 Today this is Emmanuel Lutheran, Big Mecan (mailing address Montello), located at the corner of Evergreen Lane and Town Hall Road, just south of State Road 23. The church Strieter describes here was built in 1863 at what is today the east end of Emmanuel Lutheran Cemetery.

16 Today this is St. Paul’s Lutheran, town of Newton (mailing address Westfield), located at the corner of 10th Road and 11th Road.

17 Either Strieter was mistakenly thinking, either at the time or when recalling the incident later, that the passage was found in one of John’s epistles, instead of in James, or he was combining James 5:16 with 1 John 1:9 in his mind.

18 The practice of announcing with the pastor before partaking of the Lord’s Supper can trace its ancestry back to private confession, which in turn dates all the way back to around 250 AD in the Eastern Church. The Eastern Church historians Socrates Scholasticus and Sozomen both relate that the office of penitentiary, a minister appointed for hearing private confessions, also thereby helped people to prepare to receive the Lord’s Supper (Socrates, Bk. 5, Ch. 19; Sozomen, Bk. 7, Ch. 16). The Bible nowhere explicitly necessitates private confession or announcing, but it does command us to examine ourselves before receiving the Supper and warns us of the consequences of treating the Supper lightly (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Strieter was also correct to cite 1 Corinthians 4:1 and Matthew 7:6, which emphasize the pastor’s role in relation to the Lord’s Supper, namely to be a faithful administrator of it and not to knowlingly or willingly distribute it to those who are continuing in some sin. Many Lutheran churches in America today no longer practice announcing, probably due to the difficulty of putting it into practice in our fast-paced, busy society and in larger churches. However, there is usually still some form of registration required so that the pastor is able a) to take note of those planning to partake of the Supper and to speak to them beforehand or afterward if needed, and b) to keep track of whether or not any of his congregation’s members are failing to make use of the Supper.

[Read the next part here.]