« AnteriorContinuar »
MERCERSBURG QUARTERLY REVIEW.
Art. I.-BERENTS AND UBIQUITY.
Translation from Ebrard's “ Dogma and History of the Holy Supper.”
Thus far we have looked on the dark side of Flacian Lutheranism. How such a parcel of hot-headed, fanatical fellows obtained the ascendency in a large portion of the Church of the Augsburg Confession, is a question that may properly be asked! Perseverance in fanaticising may certainly do a great deal, but it will be of short duration. If the, in a narrow sense, 80-called Lutheran Church, as constituted in the Form of Concord, and distinguished from the Melancthonian-Calvinistic theory, were really nothing more than an artificial product of Flacian Lutheranism—then certainly, such a reaction would, long since, have arisen within its own borders, as would have utterly destroyed the Church, thus defined, i. e. the boundary lines would have lost their whole meaning. But this did not take place. Reactions were not wanting against Flacianism, we have only to recollect the Syncretists and Pietists—but both these kept within the limits which separated the Lutheran from the Reformed system. Even where Flacianism, and the scholastic, zeloțic zeal exhausted themselves, the interest for the specific, Lutheran doctrine of the Lord's Supper* was by no means suspended. This already demands our attention. It was not mere caprice, it must have been an earnest and sincere concern for the truth, that bound such men as Spener and Sa
* Lutheran, from that time forth, signified not Luther's individual theory, but the theory of the Lutheran Church, as symbolicully established in the Form of Concord.
lig and Franke to the doctrine of oral manducation, &c. If so, then the origin of the Form of Concord must be accounted for as the result of such concern. In fact, history proves this. We cannot believe that such impure sprites as Westfal and Hesshus should have succeeded in a Church, in which there was so large a treasure of substantial life! Even Melancthon's nervous solicitude, cherished to the end of his life, and the dishonesty of the Crypto-Calvinists would not be sufficient to account for their triumph. That which secured the victory was the position which Berents assumed. It may be truly said, that the scales were wavering, until Berents threw himself, and the Wittenburg Church at the same time, into one of them. In this way Flacian perverseness received an accession of truth, by which it was able to sustain itself.
But how is this decision of the venerable Berents to be explained? Is it not more enigmatical still? We make no account of the fact, that to us, the Palatinate theory of the Lord's Supper appears to be the simplest, deepest and most satisfactory form of the true Scriptural doctrine ; but we insist upon it as a matter of great importance, that the very view which the Palatines held, was the one, which some ten years before seemed to father Berents to be altogether correct. He originated it, and defended it with "a heavenly fire in his bones” against Zwingli; and it was also, at least silently approved by Luther himself. That the body of Christ was in the bread, in the same way in which he was in the word—that he was present in the transaction, imparting himself to the communicant—that he was not locally in the bread—that he was not received by unbelievers—all this Berents had openly avowed in express terms, and was only careful not to regard the sacrament of the altar as a mere memorial of the death of Jesus and an appropriation of his merits, but also as a living union with Christ's person.
In this belief Berents agreed fully with Calvin—and when in 1556, Lasko carried to Stutgart, the remnant of the congregation at Frankfort, driven out by persecution, expecting there to obtain for it an asylum, and avowed the very same doctrine,* Berents coldly and haughtily treated him as a heretic, and by his influence brought it to pass that he was not received.
Should we now, or can we, place such a man as Berents in the same category with the miserable Hesshus ? Certainly not. We have here a psychologico-theological problem, which Hartman and Jager have but poorly solved, when they simply say that Berents, in 1556, as well as in 1525, was a Lutheran. This indeed is remarkable, that in 1526, he stood by the side of Luther with the very same dogma in his hands which he afterwards believed that he was bound to reject.
Or was Berents possibly a party man, in the ordinary sense, and as such, a reed swayed and shaken by the wind ? Did he himself care nothing for the doctrine, and was it his sole concern to express himself always in the same way with those who had the name of being Luther's firmest adherents? He who would asgert this, is really but poorly qualified to appreciate such a personality as Berents !
No, this man was influenced by an honest concern for the truth. This axiom stands far beyond the reach of doubt. Let us carefully mark the traces of this concern.
Although in his catechism, Berents had fully expressed the Melanchtonian doctrine, that Christ,“ with the bread and wine, offers us also his body and blood,” he still cherished in this Concord affair, a deep mistrust of the Swiss, and the more so, because they hesitated to offer the holy supper to weak and uninstructed persons. He was evidently afraid that they would make the efficacy of the sacraments to depend upon an act of faith, or make the impartation of Christ to depend upon a grade of faith. In this way it is to be explained, that in opposition to his earlier views, he then contended for the participation of unbelievers. In this way he expressed himself again in 1546, in the dispute between Tossan and Engelman, at Moem-pelgard. Although he expresses himself mildly respecting Tossan,* he nevertheless, at the same time, declared in reference to the point in dispute : “That the people acknowledge that believers receive the body and blood of Christ, in the Eucharist, because they cannot deny it; for clearly the body and blood of Christ, without the sacrament, are constantly received by believerg. We accordingly never can more certainly force them to say what they really mean, than by pressing them with the question, as to the participation of the ungodly.” He was clearly of the opinion, that in the holy supper, there must be an objective new communication of Christ, which is really an objective act of Christ, and not just the result of a momentary subjective increase of our faith, (and so an act of faith.) The proper, precise, real question would have been this: Whether the communication of Christ is affected by an act of faith, or is received upon the presupposition of a state of faith, or in other words : Whether the body and blood of Christ are objectively offered to the unworthy? Instead of this, to present the question : Whether the worthy received Christ? was improper. But we now have nothing to do with the errors and improprieties of the man, but first and most of all with the matter of his concern for the truth.
* Seissen, fol. 136.—His confession says: “We believe and confess that Christ our Lord, as well truly God, as truly man, is really and truly present in the sacrament, and that he bimself, as to his body, which, in his death, was given for us, and to his blood which was shed for us, is imparled to us, at the same time, with the bread and wine of the sacrament, that he may be received by us in faith, to nourish us up truly and effectually to eternal life, i. e. when we receive the bread and wine according to his institution."
+ Hartman and Jager, II, fol. 366.—“Berents appears not to be free from a certain sort of severity against the poor refugees. In the year 1559, a certain Nuertingen preacher, laboring under the reproach of Calvinism, had a discussion as it seems. with Berents and Andrews. (Hartman, II, fol. 372.) He also referred to Berent's earlier writings, particularly to his commentary on John 6. Berents became angry, and replied that he had never met with such a shameless man."
If he was really only concerned for the objectivity, and not
• In his letter to Engelman, (Hartman and Jager, II, fol. 135,) “ As Tossan receives the Conf. Augs., we should not condemn him, if he does not believe in the participation of unbelievers. It is very possible that those with whom you have to do, eover up their Zwinglian views with verbiage and think differently from what they say. But if their words are pious, I would rather, in Christian charity believe the best, than from mere suspicion judge harshly, especially as God has not required me to judge the heart. Think of the origin of this dispute! How shameful that good people should quarrel about the participation of the ungodly in the Lord's supper."
for a local and oral communication of Christ in the holy supper, how does it come that he objected to the Palatines, who, as Calvin did, (and if even it was without any conscious regard to the opposite theory) taught clearly enough the objectivity of the communication, and made faith to be the appropriating organ, and not the agent to lay hold of Christ ? On the one
, hand, Berents may have taken offence, that this point was not expressed with a conscious disapproval of the opposite opinion, that of Harchey, for instance, which makes faith rather to be the acting agent. On the one hand, Berents found himself opposed in principle to the whole order of Church discipline, as it was for the most part introduced in the Palatinate,* and there was wanting, of course, that power of full brotherly consciousness, so necessary to enable us to come to a perfect understanding in doctrinal disputation. A third and still deeper ground lay in the imperfection of the Reformed doctrine of the Lord's supper itself.
With pure motives, and certainly with impartiality, have we exposed the hatefulness of the Flacian, and at the same time, the imperfections of the Lutheran dogma. We do not meet with anything odious on the other side; but we do with imperfections of doctrine, notwithstanding; and to expose these with equal impartiality, is the bounden duty of such as are honestly concerned for a true union.
The Melancthonian-Calvinistic doctrine, even in the greatest perfection to which it attained in the Palatinate school, presents breaches, breaches too of a description that if not here
* The Cultus arrangements are here to be considered first of all. In Wittenberg, the Zwinglian forms and customs introduced by Blaucer, were originally the most prevalent, (Hartman II, fol. 58 ;) that is, a dispute arose about images, and the Duke at first took part with Blaucer. He said that images drew off attention from the word. Blaucer triumphed, but the Duke's decree for the destruction of the images was not carried into effect. That Blaucer was not altogether wrong, appears from this, that in 1540, complaints were still made, that many persons knelt and prayed to images. Berents proceeded from an entirely different point of view, when he afterwards prescribed the cultus. He wished even to retain the Latin language in worship, and for the singular reason that no one any longer desired to learn it. The Palatinate, although, in many things, it resembled the Lutheran cultus, still held chiefly to the Calvinistic forms. Such differences, however, have a greater effect than we are aware of upon our churchly consciousness.