Monday, 8 June 2009

The Saxon Visitation Articles of 1592 (& extra-confessional standards of doctrine)

The Visitation Articles For the Electorate and Provinces of Upper Saxony, published A.D. 1592.

Article I: Of the Lord's Supper: The pure and true doctrine of our Churches on the Lord's Supper.
1] That the words of Christ, 'Take and eat, this is my Body;' 'Drink, this is my Blood,' are to be understood in the simple and literal sense, as they sound.
2] That, in the Sacrament, there are two things which are exhibited and received together: one, earthly, which is bread and wine; the other, heavenly, which is the body and blood of Christ.
3] That these things [this union, exhibition, and consumption] take place here below on the earth, and not above in heaven
4] That the true and natural body of Christ which hung on the cross, and the true and natural blood, which flowed from the side of Christ, are exhibited and received.
5] That the body and blood of Christ are received in the Supper, not only spiritually, which might be done out of the Supper; but by the mouth, with the bread and wine; yet in an inscrutable and supernatural manner; and this for a pledge and ascertainment of the resurrection of our bodies from the dead.
6] That the body and blood of Christ are received orally, not only by the worthy, but also by the unworthy, who approach them without repentance and true faith; though with different effect. By the worthy, they are received for salvation; by the unworthy, for judgment.

Article II: Of the Person of Christ. The pure and true doctrine of our Churches on the Article of the Person of Christ.
1] In Christ there are two distinct natures, the divine and the human. These remain eternally unmixed and inseparable (or undivided).
2] These two natures are personally so united that there is but one Christ and one person.
3] On account of this personal union it is rightly said, and in fact and truth it really is, that God is man, and man is God; that Mary begat the Son of God, and that God redeemed us by his own proper blood.
4] By this personal union, and the exaltation which followed it, Christ, according to the flesh, is placed at the right hand of God, and has received all power in heaven and in earth, and is made partaker of all the divine majesty, honour, power, and glory.

Article III: Of Holy Baptism.
The pure and true Doctrine of our Churches on this Article of Holy Baptism.

1] That there is but one Baptism, and one Ablution: not that which is used to take away the filth of the body, but that which washes us from our sins.
2] By Baptism, as a bath of the regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost, God saves us, and works in us such justice and purgation from our sins, that he who perseveres to the end in that covenant and hope does not perish, but has eternal life.
3] All who are baptized in Jesus Christ are baptized in his death; and by baptism are buried with him in his death, and have put on Christ.
4] Baptism is the bath of regeneration, because in it we are born again, and sealed by the Spirit of adoption through grace (or gratuitously).
5] Unless a person be born again of water and Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. This is not intended, however, for cases of necessity.
6] Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh; and, by nature, all of us are children of divine wrath: because we are born of sinful seed, and we are all born in sin.

Article IV. On Predestination and the Eternal Providence of God.
The pure and true doctrine of our Churches on this Article.

1] That Christ died for all men, and, as the Lamb of God, took away the sins of the whole world.
2] That God created no man for condemnation; but wills that all men should be saved and arrive at the knowledge of truth. He therefore commands all to hear Christ, his Son, in the gospel; and promises, by his hearing, the virtue and operation of the Holy Ghost for conversion and salvation.
3] That many men, by their own fault, perish: some, who will not hear the gospel concerning Christ; some, who again fall from grace, either by fundamental error, or by sins against conscience.
4] That all sinners who repent will be received into favour; and none will be excluded, though his sins be red as blood; since the mercy of God is greater than the sins of the whole world, and God hath mercy on all his works.

The False and Erroneous Doctrine of the Calvinists On the Lord's Supper.
1] That the words of Christ ["This is my body; this is my blood"] are to be understood figuratively, and not according to the letter, as they sound.
2] That bare signs only are in the Supper; but the body of Christ is as far from the bread as the highest heaven from the earth.
3] That Christ is present therein, by his virtue and operation only, and not in his body; as the sun, by his splendour and operation, is present and effective on earth; but the body of the sun exists above in heaven.
4] That the body of Christ is therein a typified body, which is only signified and prefigured by the bread and wine.
5] That the body is received by faith alone, which raises itself to heaven, and not by the mouth.
6] That the worthy only receive it; that the unworthy, who do have the faith which rises to the heavens, receive nothing besides bread and wine.

The False and Erroneous doctrine of the Calvinists On the Person of Christ Which differs, in particular, from the Third and Fourth Article of the more pure doctrine.
1] That God is man, and man God, is a figurative mode of speech.
2] That human nature hath communion with the divine, not in fact and truth, but in name and words only.
3] That it is impossible to God, by all his omnipotence, to effect that the natural body of Christ, which is in one place, should, at the same time and instant, be in several.
4] That, according to his human nature, Christ hath, by his exaltation, received only created good and finite power; and doth not know and cannot do all things.
5] That, according to his humanity, Christ reigns, where he is absent, as the King of Spain governs his new islands.
6] That it is a damnable idolatry to place the hope and faith of the heart in Christ, not only according to his divine, but also according to his human nature, and to direct the honour of adoration to both.

The False and Erroneous doctrine of the Calvinists On Holy Baptism.
1] That Baptism is an external washing of water, by which a certain internal ablution from sin is merely signified.
2] That Baptism does not work nor confer regeneration, faith, the grace of God, and salvation, but only signifies and seals them.
3] That not all who are baptized in water, but the elect only, obtain by it the grace of Christ and the gifts of faith.
4] That regeneration doth not take place in and with Baptism, but afterwards, at a more advanced age-yea, with many not before old age.
5] That salvation doth not depend on Baptism, and therefore in cases of necessity should not be required in the Church; but when the ordinary minister of the Church is wanting, the infant should be permitted to die without Baptism.
6] The infants of Christians are already holy before Baptism in the womb of the mother, and even in the womb of the mother are received into the covenant of eternal life: otherwise the Sacrament of Baptism could not be conferred on them.

The False and Erroneous doctrine of the Calvinists On Predestination and the Providence of God.
1] That Christ did not die for all men, but only for the elect.
2] That God created the greater part of mankind for eternal damnation, and wills not that the greater part should be converted and live.
3] That the elected and regenerated cannot lose faith and the Holy Spirit, or be damned, though they commit great sins and crimes of every kind.
4] That those who are not elect are necessarily damned, and cannot arrive at salvation, though they be baptized a thousand times, and receive the Eucharist every day, and lead as blameless a life as ever can be led.

Based on the translation found in The Creeds of Christendom, Volume III, by Philip Schaff (in the public domain), anglicised in spelling and with some minor grammatical modifications.

Comment: This is a very clear and concise document originally written and authorised to ferret out crypto-Calvinism (secret-Calvinism under the guise of Lutheranism) from Saxony. It was subsequently appended to all editions of The Book of Concord published in Saxony until the Prussian Union with the Reformed was brought about in 1817; in fact, some information I have seen indicates the articles were still enforced among the Lutherans in Saxony until 1836, but I have not been able to confirm this.

There is an intra-Lutheran debate about whether extra-confessional writings that address particular doctrinal challenges to the Lutheran faith are 1) a legitimate use of church authority, and 2) can bind consciences. The publication of these articles as an appendix to the BoC in Saxony is a valuable fact which might well serve as a strong precedent at least for the legitimacy of such extra-confessional statements in local churches (e.g. the "Brief Statement" of 1932 in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the "Theses of Agreement" and various synodically authorised "Doctrinal Statements" in the Lutheran Church of Australia, plus numerous other examples which are now redundant due to ecclesial mergers). Whether such documents can bind the conscience would depend upon their consonance with scripture. That a church body could require subscription to such extra-confessional statements on the aprt of ordinands would seem to me to be entirely appropriate.

The picture is of Aegidius Hunnius, principal author of the articles.

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