20 August 2009
Fighting as a Sign of Life: The True Faith Makes the True Church
We know well enough what our adversaries are always saying. "Whenever were you united? You always have been fighting, -- and how long has it been that you have boasted of a Church again? It is not long that you have spoken in this way, and not a very long time ago you yourselves forsook your Confession and were not the Church, which now you boast yourselves to be." But our adversaries' mockery does not frighten us. We are not afraid to say the whole truth, -- we have the courage of repentance, and in this courage a fresh life which our adversaries cannot slay, which it were better for them to fear.
It is true that our fathers contended; in the bright light of our Church they they saw little inequalities in the way, yes, motes in the air; and over these they contended. But it was for us they fought. Now there is rest. We are one, and our unity grows apace! We have conquered each other. We can go forward with one mind. -- It is true! There was much unfaithfulness in our borders. We had almost dropped out of sight. But we had not died out, -- or then whence came we, who fight against you? We are the proof what we teach, that the Church can be small, but also that it is immortal; that it can wane like the Moon, but also that it can increase like the Moon. Or would you that we had died out?
Let us use your own position. For our new life has been kindled by the Scriptures, which in that point are clear, as indeed they are everywhere. Therefore here is a manifest shining example that you are wrong who say that the Scriptures are not clear. Or would you prefer to say that our new life was enkindled by the writings of our fathers? Good! Then may you well be amazed before these relics of ours, before these dumb words of our sleeping fathers now first learned by us to their least part, in which we learn both how we must fight, and how we must not fight. Enough! Here is the Lutheran Church. Behold, it was dead, and it is alive again. It is the old Confession, but new times and new strength are here!
Permit us to carry our speech higher, yet we will not therefore allow ourselves to lie. This Lutheran Church, inasmuch as it holds Word and Sacraments in a pure Confession, is the wellspring of truth, and by her waters all who thirst in all other Churches are satisfied. The children of this Church in cheerful peace with shining faces and sharp swords stand around the spring, from which all are saved who are saved. Here is Israel's host and, in the midst, the Ark of the Word and Sacraments, and over the Ark of the Lord. Yes, here is the Holy of Holies of the House of God; and if one say: "The Lord send thee help from the Sanctuary and strengthen thee out of Zion," the Sanctuary and Zion are here with the Church of the pure Confession, in whose Word and Sacraments the Lord dwells more gloriously than in the Temple of the Old Testament! Hence proceeds all salvation; for here is uncovered, not partially but completely, so far as it can be on this side of the grave, the clear truth of the Gospel.
Whatever other truths other communions possess, are here united in the Truth. The perfect Truth, kept in the fire of the centuries, the Truth that overcometh the world, is here! Here it is confessed, here is protest against every perversion of it, here not a little word of it is yielded. So it was, and so it is again. Therefore, here is the Church par excellence. Do they gainsay this? Let them take away from us the standards and marks of the Church! Let them prove, what they never can prove, that our Confession declines from the Word! So long as they do not do this, the Lord is with us, and it is from us, from our perfect fulness, that all other Churches live. Till then let us rejoice in what we have, be a blessing to all other Churches, refuse their error, take pleasure in all their truths; -- fight against their wrongdoing, and feel at one with them in all they do that is right.
Wilhelm Loehe. Three Books Concerning the Church: Offered to friends of the Lutheran Church, for Consideration and Discussion. Translated from the German by Edward T. Horn. [Reading, PA: Pilger Publishing House, 1908] pages 103-106