Saturday, October 28, 2006

#2005-To the Council in Nuernberg

God's grace through our LOrd Christ Jesus. Honorable,honor-worthy,favored Lords! After the disunity of the lord preachers had been conveyed to us, our hearts were sorry, and we were greatly inclined, inasmuch is always possible for us, to quiet this disunity and prevent this offense so with energy I,Dr.Martin, have not ceased from that time in general and in particular to admonish the lord preachers (although we up to this time were not completely aware of the opinion of lord Osiander) faithfully toward unity and peace. And since E.W.sent us both writings to peruse we have with earnestness read and pondered the same I,Dr. Martin, have once again writien to Lord Osiander and incdicated to him my opinion of the matter. God grant that this will to serve to unity and peace as is to be hoped. We do not doubt that both parties are thinking faithfully and with good Christian hearts and seek nothing else than the common improvement.

And to the question of E.W. this is our answer and opinion: Although we hold that the private-absolution is very Christian and comforting and that it should be preserved in the Church, for the reason we have previously to E.W. and otherwise written we do not want to so severly burden the conscience as to say there should be no forgiveness of sins except through private-absolution. Since also the saints from the beginning of the world to the time of Christ did not have private-absolution but they had to be comforted with the general promise (Promission) and rest their faith thereon. And although David already in one fall had a private-absolution,yet in other sins, before and after, had to hold to the common absolution and preaching as also Isaiah and others. But now, however, after the Gospel was revealed forgiveness of sins is in general and in particular.

It is true as Osiander says: The conscience does not struggles ao after whether God is merciful in general but whether God is gracious to it individually. However although the sermon and promise are spoken in general yet each one should mark that they are universal and one should not exclude himself therefrom but accept it as one's own and special word since God has commanded that all should believe His promise. And even if few believe He yet wants all others to hold that they are not forsaken as St.Paul says in Romans 3:3: "Numquid incredulitas eorum fidem Dei evacuavit?" " What if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?" What also
would follow if there would be no forgiveness except through private-absolution? How could one counsel the stupid conscience as one cannot as often hear private-absolution as it (the conscience) is assailed with terror and anguish not only about careless sins but also severe great matters? How also should these be comforted when suddenly overtaken by death since the suddeness does not permit having a priest? This may also transpire often in places where the Gospel is persecuted so that a true Christian may well not have a parish-lord who is willing to communicate private-absolution to him. Thus the Christian life and being is such a continuous struggle where man again and again seeks forgiveness against the horrors of sin.

As to the second, we know, before God, not to judge in any other way than that the general preaching of the Gospel has also the effect of working forgiveness of sins in the heart so that the terrified conscience is consoled and upheld; as St.Paul says: "The Gospel is a power of God whereby all are saved who believe thereon"; also, in 2 Corinth. 3 he calls the Gospel an office of the Holy Spirit that brings life and righteousness; also )Rom.10:17), Fides ex auditu est, auditus per verbum Dei; (Faith comes by hearing, by hearing the Word of God.); everything is chiefly through Ministerio verbi (ministry of the Word) spoken of both in general and particular. Summing up, because the general Gospel is the Word of God we are obligated to believe according to God's command and commandment; where the same faith is there must also be forgiveness and salvation. Thus the Gospel itself is a
general absolution since it is a promise which each and every one in particular should accept by God's command and commandment. Therefore we cannot forbid or condemn the common absolution as unChristian since it serves that each hearer is reminded that he should receive the Gospel as an absolution and belongs to him; thus, your form is designed to be such a reminder.

On the contrary some say one cannot absolve the entire group since there are among them those who should be equally bound; one should also not absolve him who does not desire it etc.; to this one should know that there are two things involved: Preaching and Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction applies to public sins; in addition there are many more secret sins which one cannot otherwise bind and rebuke except generally through the preaching-office (Predigt-Amt). Thereby the sermon binds all unbelieving and gives on the other hand all believing forgiveness. Yes, also anyone who is bound by the Jurisdiction if he through preaching comes again to obedience and faith he would be forgiven before God; although he should afterward be reconciled with the Church as he has sinned against them. This absolution under consideration is also conditional as preaching in general is; and every absolution, both common and private, has the condition of faith; then without faith they do not release and it is not thereby a failute of the Keys (Fehl-Schlussel). Faith does not rely on our worthiness but only insofar as one accepts absolution and says yes to it.

This is briefly our simple opinion which we do not prescribe in order to burden E.W.on its account or to bring about greater disunity but only because you desired to know our opinion. From our hearts we wish and desire that God would grant grace that your Church would remain in peace and unity and in the confession of Christ and all good fruits abound. On that account we plead in a friendly way that E.W. would consider how in a friendly way how to handle this as we do not doubt E.W. are inclined to do. And it is our opinion that since both sides are agreed regarding the above mentioned privat-confession as Christian and to be preserved that both parties uniformly admonish the people to do it; and because it is troublesome for Herr Osiander to stress and support the general absolution that he not be forced to do so but yet that he intend peace to the other party which holds to the general confession and that he also leaves the other party unassailed; thus both parties at the same time admonish the people toward privat-absolution.

This, we think, should be a way that no one's conscience is burdened and would serve the causse of peace. So we hope that both parties are inclined toward peace and seek nothing other than improved relations and not division and offense. Thus Herr Osiander has a good Christian opinion on the binding which applies only to the public open sins; and what we of such excommunication think and have prescribed to E.W. previously that E.W. knows well to be reminded. God grant E.W. grace and peace,Amen. Given at Wittenberg on midweek after Francis (8 Oct.) Anno 1539 (1533).Martinus Luther,Johann Bugenhagen,Justus Jonas, Philippus Melanchton, Caspar Cruciger.
NOTES: The Council Nuernberg is addressed as E.W.= "YOUR WISDOM".
Looks like the Editors think ML and/or others made a typo on the year,1539 instead of 1533, probably because of the previous correspondence on the prevailing controversy in 1533.

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