« Augsburg, Bishopric of Augsburg Confession and its Apology Augsburg, Interim of »

Augsburg Confession and its Apology


Origin of the Confession (§ 1).

Its Character and Contents (§ 2).

Origin of the Apology (§ 3).

History of the Confession and the Apology (§ 4).

1. Origin of the Confession.

On Jan. 21, 1530, the Emperor Charles V issued letters from Bologna, inviting the German diet to meet in Augsburg Apr. 8, for the purpose of discussing and deciding various important questions. Although the writ of invitation was couched in very peaceful language, it was received with suspicion by some of the Evangelicals. The far-seeing Landgrave of Hesse hesitated to attend the diet, but the Elector John of Saxony, who received the writ Mar. 11, on Mar. 14 directed Luther, Jonas, Bugenhagen, and Melanchthon to meet in Torgau, where he was, and present a summary of the Protestant faith, to be laid before the emperor at the diet. This summary has received the name of the ” Torgau Articles.” On Apr. 3 the elector and reformers started from Torgau and reached Coburg on Apr. 23. There Luther was left behind. The rest reached Augsburg May 2. On the journey Melanchthon worked on an ” apology,” using the Torgau articles, and sent his draft to Luther at Coburg on May 11, who approved it. Several alterations were suggested to Melanchthon in his conferences with Jonas, the Saxon chancellor Brück, the conciliatory bishop Stadion of Augsburg, and the imperial secretary Alfonso Valdez. On June 23 the final form of the text was adopted in the presence of the Elector John of Saxony, the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, the Margrave George of Brandenburg, the Dukes Ernest and Francis of Lüneburg, the representatives of Nuremberg and Reutlingen, and other counselors, besides twelve theologians. After the reading the confession was signed by the Elector John of Saxony, Margrave George of Brandenburg, Duke Ernest of Lüneburg, the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, the Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt, the representatives of Nuremberg and Reutlingen, and probably also by the electoral prince John Frederick and Duke Francis of Lüneburg. During the diet the cities of Weissenburg, Heilbronn, Kempten, and Windesheim also expressed their concurrence with the confession. The emperor had ordered the confession to be presented to him at the next session, June 24; but when the evangelical princes asked that it be read in public, their petition was refused, and efforts were made to prevent the public reading of the document altogether. The evangelical princes, however, declared that they would not part with the confession until its reading should be allowed. The 25th was then fixed for the day of its presentation. In order to exclude the people, the little chapel of the episcopal palace was appointed in place of the spacious city hall, where the meetings of the diet were held. The two Saxon chancellors Brück and Beyer, the one with the Latin copy, the other 362with the German, stepped into the middle of the assembly, and against the wish of the emperor the German text was read. The reading lasted two hours and was so distinct that every word could be heard outside. The reading being over, the copies were handed to the emperor. The German he gave to the imperial chancellor, the Elector of Mainz, the Latin he took away. Neither of the copies is now extant.

2. Its Character and Contents.

The history of its origin shows that the document presented at Augsburg was confession and apology at the same time, destined to serve the cause of peace and to refute the charge of deviating from the ancient doctrine of the Church and of having communion with sectaries; and the entire first part (Articuli præcipui fidei, arts. i-xxi) was intended to prove that the Evangelicals agreed with the Catholic teaching, and wherever they differed from the transmitted form of doctrine they wished to restore the original, genuine teaching of the Church. The second part (Articuli in quibus recensentur abusus mutati, xxii-xxviii) treats of abuses and proves how certain general abuses must be abolished for the sake of conscience and that such action was not only supported by Scripture but also by the practise of the ancient Church and the acknowledged teachers of the Church.

[The first part of the Confession, which treats of the chief articles of faith, speaks of the following subjects: art. i, of God; ii, of original sin; iii, of the Son of God; iv, of justification; v, of the ministry of the Church; vi, of the new obedience; vii, of the Church; viii, what the Church is; ix, of baptism; x, of the Lord’s Supper; xi, of confession; xii, of repentance; xiii, of the use of sacraments; xiv, of ecclesiastical orders; xv, of ecclesiastical rites; xvi, of civil affairs; xvii, of Christ’s return to judgment; xviii, of free will; xix, of the cause of sin; xx, of good works; xxi, of the worship of saints. The second part recounts the abuses which have been corrected: art. i, of both kinds in the Lord’s Supper; ii, of the marriage of priests; iii, of the mass; iv, of confession; v, of the distinction of meats and of traditions; vi, of monastic vows; vii, of ecclesiastical power.]

3. Origin of the Apology.

The hope that the opponents of the Confession would make a profession of their faith was not fulfilled. They refused to be considered as a party. Nevertheless, it was decided to have the Confession examined by intelligent and unprejudiced scholars, who were to acknowledge that which was correct and to refute that which was against the Christian faith and the Christian Church (Ficker: Die Confutation des Augsburger Bekenntnisses, Leipsic, 1891, pp. 15 sqq.). Among the twenty scholars selected by Campeggi were some of the most malicious opponents of Luther, like Eck, Faber, Cochlæus, Dietenberger, and Wimpina, and their refutation (reprinted by Ficker) was of such a character that it was rejected by the emperor and the estates siding with Rome. A revision, however, was accepted, and as Responsio Augustanæ confessionis it was read on Aug. 3, 1530, in the same room in which the Confession had been read. Since this reply, the Confutatio pontifica, as it afterward came to be known (the Latin text in Kolde; 141 sqq.), was adopted by the emperor as his own and conformity to it was demanded, the Protestants thought necessary to refute it. No copy of the confutation was given to the Evangelicals, and, as negotiations led to no result, Melanchthon and others were requested to prepare an ” Apology of the Confession,” that is to say, a refutation of the charges of the Confutatio, and the same was approved by the Evangelical estates. In the circular for dismissing the diet which was presented to the estates, Sept. 22, the remark was found that the evangelical confession ” had been refuted.” This remark was contradicted by the chancellor Brück in the name of the Evangelicals, who presented at the same time Melanchthon’s apology. But the emperor, to whom Ferdinand had whispered something, refused to accept it. This is the so-called Prima delineatio apologiæ, first made known in Latin by Chyträus (Historia Augustanæ confessionis, Frankfort, 1578, 328 sqq.; best edition of the Latin and German text in the Corpus reformatorum, xxvii, 275 sqq.). Subsequently Melanchthon received a copy of the Confutation, which led to many alterations in the first draft of the Apology. It was then published in 1531 under the title Apologia confessionis Augustinæ. It follows the articles of the Augustana (i.e., the Augsburg Confession), and on account of its theological exposition is rather a doctrinal work than a confession.

4. History of the Confession and the Apology.

Although the emperor prohibited the printing of the evangelical confession without his special permission, during the diet six German editions and one in Latin were published (cf. Corpus reformatorum, xxvi, 478 sqq.). Their inaccuracy and incorrectness induced Melanchthon to prepare an edition to which he added the Apology. Thus originated the no-called editio princeps of the Augustana, and Apology, which was published in the spring of 1531. This edition was regarded as the authentic reproduction of the faith professed before the emperor and empire. Whereas the first recension of the Apology was composed in behalf of the evangelical states, the edition now issued by Melanchthon was evidently a private work to which he attached his name as author, which is not the case with the Augustana. Nevertheless, the Apology was accepted everywhere and the German translation of Justus Jonas made it accessible to the laity. In 1532 the Apology was officially accepted at Schweinfurt by the evangelical estates as an ” apology and exposition of the confession along with the confession.” Ever since the Augustana and Apology have been regarded as the official principal confessions of the nascent Evangelical church. Their recognition was a condition of membership in the Schmalkald League; both were adopted is the Concord of Wittenberg of 1536 and again at Schmalkald in 1537. Meanwhile Melanchthon worked continually to improve the text. The German edition of 363the Augustana published in 1533 shows changes in arts. iv, v, vi, xii, xv, xx, which are of no doctrinal consequence. The same is the case with subsequent editions. More important was the new Latin edition of 1540, where the apology is said to have been diligenter recognita. But the Augustana appears here in such a form, especially in art. x, that it afterward received the name variata. Although attention had been called in 1537 to Melanchthon’s changes in the text, and the Elector John Frederick criticized them as arrogant (Corpus reformatorum, iii, 366), we find that the “Variata” when published gave no offense. The assertion that Luther condemned it, can not be confirmed (cf. Köllner, Symbolik, i, Hamburg, 1837, 239). The new edition was used freely, as a new edition is preferable to an older; even such strict Lutherans as Johann Brenz praised Melanchthon for it (Corpus reformatorum, iv, 737). Even the fact that Johann Eck at the Worms Colloquy in 1541 mentioned the change of the original text (Corpus reformatorum, iv, 34 sqq.; Ranke, Deutsche Geschichte, iv, 176) had so little effect upon the contemporaries and Melanchthon, that when a new edition became necessary in 1542 the latter introduced other changes. After the death of Luther, when dogmatic controversies widened the chasm between Melanchthonians and the strict Lutherans and the edition of 1540 became the party-symbol of the former and later also of the Crypto-Calvinists, it naturally became an object of suspicion to the stricter Lutherans and it was but natural that in preparing the Book of Concord the original text was adopted. The Latin text represents the editio princeps of 1531, whereas the German was made from a Mainz copy.

(T. Kolde.)

Bibliography:The best text of the Confession in Lat. and Germ. is by Tschackert, Leipsic, 1901; given also by T. Kolde, Gotha, 1896, cf. the ed. by E. Rausch, Die ungeänderte augsburgische Confession, Dresden, 1874; the Lat. with Eng. transl. by C. B. Krauth is in Schaff, Creeds, iii, 3–73; the Krauth transl. of the Confession and Eng. transl. of the Apology by H. E. Jacobs are in the latter’s Book of Concord, i, 69–302, Philadelphia, 1893, while full information as to the history of these documents is given in the same, ii, 24–41. For early history and collections of sources consult D. Chyträus, Historie der Augsburger Confession, Rostock, 1576, and often; J. J. Müller, Historie von der evangelischen Stände Protestation wie auch von dem zur Augsburg übergebenen Glaubensbekenntnisse, Jena, 1705; E. S. Cyprian, Historie der Augsburger Confession, Gotha, 1730; C. A. Salig, Vollständige Historie der Augsburger Confession, 3 vols., Halle, 1730; G. G. Weber, Kritische Geschichte der Augsburger Confession, aus archivalischen Nachrichten, 2 vols., Frankfort, 1785. For history of the text consult CR, xxvi, 280; G. W. Panzer, Die unveränderte augsburgische Confession, Nuremberg, 1782 (Germ. and Lat.); G. P. C. Kaiser, Beitrag zu einer kritischen Literärgeschichte der Melancthonschen Originalausgabe, ib. 1830. For the sources consult C. E. Förstemann, Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte des Reichstags su Augsburg, 1530, Halle, 1830; idem, Archiv für die Geschichte des kirchlichen Reformation, vol. i, part 1, Halle, 1831; Luther’s Briefe, ed. M. L. de Wette, vol. iii, Berlin, 1826; CR, ii; T. Kolde, Analecta Lutherana, pp. 119 sqq., Gotha, 1883; F. Schirrmacher, Briefe und Akten zur Geschichte des Religiongesprächs und des Reichstags zu Augsburg, ib. 1876. On the history and interpretation consult G. L. Plitt, Einteitung in die Augustana, 2 vols., Erlangen, 1867–68; O. Zöckler, Die augsburgische Confession als symbolische Lehrgrundlage, Frankfort, 1870; C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and its Theology as represented in the Augsburg Confession, Philadelphia, 1871; L. von Ranke, Deutsche Geschichte, iii, 172 sqq., Leipsic, 1881; J. Ficker, Die Konfutation des augsburgischen Bekenntnisses, ihre erste Gestalt und ihre Geschichte, ib. 1891: H. E. Jacobs, Book of Concord, ut sup. (the best edition for English readers); T. Kolde, Martin Luther, ii, 324 sqq., Gotha, 1893; Schaff, Christian Church, vi, 706–718; J. W. Richard, Philip Melanchthon, pp.190–218, New York, 1898; J. Köstlic, Martin Luther, ii, 192 sqq., Berlin, 1903.

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