Friedrich Bente’s American Lutheranism Vols. I & II is a vitally important work of history. We tried awhile ago to post Vol. I chapter by chapter, but the effort foundered, so here’s the second half of the book in one post.
All of the history penned by Bente is instructive, but not all of it is as pertinent to the current year Sitz im Leben of the orthodox remnant of American Lutherans, i.e. that group which—at least since the nineteenth century—has been called the “Old Lutherans.” (Surprise! The name of this blog is not original, nor was it ever intended to be; see: “Old Lutherans,” Christian Cyclopedia). The most pertinent part of the book is the second half, which is entirely dedicated to giving the history of the Evangelical Lutheran Tennessee Synod, a confessional Lutheran synod which existed in the Southeastern United States for exactly a century (1820-1920), although by the time it entered fellowship with the United Synod of the South in 1886 it had more or less lost its substance. The Wiki is a fair summary. Word Fitly Spoken did a great episode back in January 2019, “Fire From Heaven: The Evangelical Lutheran Tennessee Synod”; it is very much worth your time.
The whole of Part 2 of Bente’s history is reproduced in full below with a linked Table of Contents, should you care to click around. If you saw this tweet…
…and were puzzled by the apparent flame-throwing, we would especially direct your attention to §. “Peculiarities Of Tennessee Synod,” specifically §§ 119, “Establishment of Seminaries Discouraged.” Really, the whole “Peculiarities” section is fascinating. See the index below.
Commentary to follow. Until then, take a day or two to enjoy Bente’s work.
The Tennessee Synod
87. “German Ev. Luth. Conference of Tennessee.”
Although the Tennessee Synod has always been and is now only one of the smaller American Lutheran synods, its history reveals much that is gratifying, instructive, edifying, and interesting. The first report is entitled: “Report of the transactions of the first conference of the German Ev. Luth. pastors and deputies held in the State of Tennessee, in Solomon’s Church, Cove Creek, Green Co., on the 17th, 18th, and 19th of July, 1820.” The conference was organized by Pastors Jacob Zink of Virginia, Paul Henkel of Virginia, Adam Miller of Tennessee, Philip Henkel of Tennessee, George Esterly of Tennessee, and David Henkel of North Carolina (who was unable to attend the first meeting), and 19 deputies of congregations in Tennessee. (Bericht 1820, 3.) By 1827 the number of pastors had increased to 14, by 1856 to 32, and by 1900 to 40. At present the Tennessee Synod numbers about 130 congregations and 14,500 communicants. The name “Synod” appears for the first time in the English Report of 1825, and is found in the constitution since 1827. In the minutes of 1820 we read: “Firstly, it was deemed necessary and good that all business and proceedings of this conference, or synod, shall be conducted in the German language. All written reports of the proceedings belonging to the whole shall also be published in the German language.” (4.) Synod also regarded it “as most necessary that we be as diligent as possible to acquaint our children with all our doctrines of faith in our German language, since in it we are able to instruct them in the easiest way.” (9.) A footnote makes the following comment: “The reason why we desire a purely German-speaking conference: Experience has taught us that where a conference is German-English, either the one or the other party considers itself offended. When German is spoken, the English brethren understand little, and very frequently nothing at all. When English is spoken, many a German brother is unable to grasp the matter, and accordingly unable to judge in questions of the greatest importance. Besides, at the present time there are very few purely English pastors who accept the doctrine of our Church and desire to preach it.” (4.) The same sentiments are voiced in the following statement of this report: “False Lutherans prefer to seek entrance among the German church-people, because they still contribute most to the support of the ministry. Some Germans also of our day are of such a kind that if they are able to preach a little English, no matter how broken and jargonlike it is spoken, they are inflated with such senseless pride that they would no longer preach a thing in their mother-tongue nor care the least for the order of the Church, if it were not a question of bread and of keeping the good will of some obdurate Germans. They preach because they take pleasure in hearing themselves. Those who are really English and understand their language do not care to hear such, except at times, and then for their amusement only. The Germans therefore are under no obligations to the good will of such sirs, when they serve them in their language and according to their order.” (31.) Originally, then, the Tennessee Synod was determined to be and to remain a purely German-speaking body.
88. Attitude toward the English Language.
That the interest manifested by the Tennessee Synod in the German language was not due to any unreasonable prejudice or hatred toward the English language as such, appears from the fact that since 1821 the minutes of Synod were printed both in English and German. Moreover, in the minutes of the second convention, 1821, we read: “At the request of some of our brethren of North Carolina it was resolved that there be annually a synod held in North Carolina, or in an adjoining State in the English language. The members of the German Tennessee Synod may also help to compose this Synod. It shall be governed agreeably to the same constitution as that of the German Tennessee Synod (the language excepted). Those who compose this Synod may appoint the place and time of the meeting, when and where they may deem it expedient.” (Report 1821, 7.) The Report of 1822 records: “Resolved: Because this Synod is German-speaking, and Mr. Blalock not understanding this language, he cannot therefore have a seat and vote in this body. Yet, the Revs. Paul and David Henkel are allowed as individual ministers to examine him, and in case he is qualified, to ordain him. It is to be understood that Mr. Blalock is to be ordained a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; but in case he should acquire a knowledge of the German language, which he expects to do, he can then have a seat and vote in the German synod. But whilst he understands the English language only, he may with other ministers, who walk agreeably to the doctrines and rules of the German synod, organize an English-speaking synod, in conformity to a resolution passed last year.” (5.) In 1826 the resolution was adopted: “Whereas there are sundry members belonging to this Synod who do not understand the German language, and yet do not wish to form a separate body, it was resolved that the Secretary, during this session, shall act as an interpreter between the German and English brethren. It was further resolved that at the next session, during the three first days, all the business shall be transacted in the German language, i.e., if so much time shall be requisite; after which the business shall be resumed in the English language.” (3.) The anxiety caused by the language-question appears from the following letter of Philip Henkel, dated October 19, 1826: “After my return from Synod, I found our German congregation-members very much dissatisfied because they believed that we had violated the constitution, and I am afraid that a separation will be the result. For the old Germans will never suffer the Tennessee Synod to become a German-English-speaking body. We must certainly act carefully in this matter, otherwise our Synod will be ruined. . . . They said that they were willing to sacrifice the constitution, provided that we remain an exclusively German-speaking body. I also am willing to relinquish the constitution, provided that the Augsburg Confession is made the constitution of this synod. We shall find that we shall not be able to keep the Germans and English together, even when we conduct synod at the same place three days in the German and three days in the English language, for the Germans will have to suffer the burden. The English will always want to attend; then they are coarsely treated by the Germans; the English complain; thus the matter will be ruined. My advice, therefore, is: Let us always hold a German-speaking synod, and afterwards an English-speaking one. In this way we shall be able to exist. For my part, I am willing to attend both. Every constitution except the Augsburg Confession may then be set aside. If the Germans refuse to maintain their language, we can’t help it, and we are not at fault if they perish. If you approve the plan of holding first an exclusively German-speaking synod and then an exclusively English-speaking synod, and also of abolishing every constitution except the Augsburg Confession, advise me at your earliest convenience. I will then write to the rest of the preachers, and appoint the time and place for synod. This seems to be the only means of keeping our people united, for at present they are apart, and who knows how we may bring them together. After the constitution has been transgressed, everybody feels free. But if the Augsburg Confession were the constitution, every member would readily agree to it. These are my thoughts. Write soon. Philip Henkel.” (L. u. W. 60, 63.) In the minutes of 1827 we read: “14. Some members of this congregation alleged the following charge against Mr. Adam Miller, Jr.: that he neglected to officiate in the German language, and thus deprived those of religious instructions and edification who do not understand the English. The Synod was convinced of the justice of the complaint, and considered it highly necessary that these brethren should be served in the German language. Mr. Miller, in defense of his conduct, said that he did not understand the German language accurately and therefore could not officiate in it, and that hitherto he has not had an opportunity of learning it. But he promised to acquire a more accurate knowledge of this language, provided his congregations were willing to spare him from their service for one year. He intends to study this language with David Henkel. The members of his congregations who were present agreed for him to do so, but requested to be visited a few times by some of the other ministers during the time they should be vacant. The Synod highly approved Mr. Miller’s resolution, and wished him to persevere in this laudable undertaking.” (12.) The Synod of 1827 was confronted by conflicting petitions as to the language-question. The following memorials were read: “1. A memorial from St. James’s Church in Greene County, Tenn., subscribed by 23 persons. They pray this Synod not to alter the constitution. Further, that this body remain exclusively German, and that some measures be taken to establish a separate English Synod…. 4. In a letter in which the Rev. Adam Miller, Sr., states the reasons of his absence, he prays this body to allow the English brethren equal privileges, so that they may not be under the necessity of establishing a separate Synod.” (14.) The constitution, which was proposed at this meeting and accepted in the following year, disposed of this question as follows: “All debates shall first be held in the German language, whereupon the same shall be resumed in the English; provided there shall be both German and English members present. After the debates on a subject shall have been ended, then the decision shall be made.” (R. 1827, 24; B. 1828, 28.) In the following years the English language rapidly gained the ascendency, until finally the German disappeared entirely. (R. 1831, 9; B. 1841, 8. 9.) Rev. Th. Brohm, after visiting the Tennessee Synod, wrote in the Lutheraner of January 2, 1855: “Though of German origin, the Tennessee Synod in the course of time has lost its German element, and has become a purely English synod.”
89. Born of Lutheran Loyalty.
The organization of the Tennessee Synod came as a protest against the projected General Synod, and especially against existing conditions in the Synod of North Carolina, to which the Tennessee pastors belonged until their secession in 1820. March 14, 1820, Philip Henkel had written to his brother: “If I am spared, I shall attend synod. . . . If the old ministers will not act agreeably to the Augsburg Confession, we will erect a synod in Tennessee.” The “old ministers” were Stork, Shober, Jacob and Daniel Sherer, and other pastors of the North Carolina Synod who advocated a union with the sects and the connection with the General Synod, and sought to suppress such testimony on behalf of Lutheran truth and consistency as the Henkels had begun to bear publicly. Aversion to faithful confessional Lutheranism was the real reason why the Synod of North Carolina in 1816 refused to ordain the young, but able David Henkel, which, even at that time, almost resulted in a withdrawal of the Henkels and their delegates. The tension was greatly increased when the Synod of 1819 degraded David Henkel to the rank of catechist, on the false charge that he had preached transubstantiation and other papistic heresies and thereby given offense to the “Reformed brethren.” As a matter of fact, he had proclaimed the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. The North Carolina Synod made the entry into their minutes. “He [David Henkel] is therefore no preacher of the Lutheran Church of North Carolina and adjacent States.” (G., 696.) A source of additional ill will was the autocratic procedure of the officers in arbitrarily convening the Synod of 1819, five weeks before the constitutional time (whence known as the “Untimely Synod”), and that without sending out notices sufficiently early, and for a purpose most odious to the Henkels and their adherents, viz., to elect a delegate (Shober was chosen) to the convention of the Pennsylvania Synod at Baltimore in order to participate in the framing of a tentative constitution for the projected General Synod. Resenting the arrogance and unconstitutional action of the officers as well as the obnoxious resolutions of the “Untimely Synod,” those members of the North Carolina Synod who had been either unwilling or unable (having been notified too late) to take part in the deliberations of the “Untimely Synod,” five weeks later, at the time prescribed by the constitution, held a synod of their own at Buffalo Creek, in Stork’s congregation, where the “Untimely Synod” had been held, under the oaks, near the church, Stork having refused them the use of the church for this purpose. “The Synod,” Stork declared, “has been held; and there is no need of holding it again.” He ordered his elders not to open the church, but finally permitted them to hold services there, with the express proviso, however, that no business was to be transacted in it. (B. 1820, 21.) Philip Henkel was elected president, and Bell and David Henkel were ordained. (21.) In the following year, a few months after the so-called “Quarreling Synod” (“Streitsynode”), where the majority of the North Carolina Synod decided in favor of a union with the General Synod, the minority, as related above, organized the Tennessee Synod. (15.) In the minutes (Bericht) of 1820, the members of the new synod justify their withdrawal and organization as a separate body by calling attention especially to the following points: 1. The officers and some of the members of the North Carolina Synod had proven by their words and actions that they “could no longer be regarded as truly Evangelical Lutheran pastors.” (12. 15.) 2. The “Untimely Synod” had declared the excommunication of a member of David Henkel’s congregation to be invalid, without investigating the matter in that congregation, thereby infringing upon the rights of the congregation. (20.) 3. The same synod had not rebuked its president, Rev. Stork, when he made the statement that he could not believe the Lutheran doctrine that Christ as man was in possession of all divine attributes, and that he would not believe it if 500 Bibles should say so. 4. The Synod of 1820 had declared David Henkel’s ordination “under the oaks” invalid, and had published a sort of letter of excommunication against him. (22.) 5. Synod had refused to settle the mooted questions according to the Augsburg Confession and the synodical constitution, but, instead, had demanded that the minority should yield to the majority. “We, however, thought,” says the Report, “that the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession (concerning which we were convinced that it could be proven by the doctrine of the Bible) should have greater weight with us than the voice of a majority of men who are opposed to the doctrine and ordinance of our Church.” (23.) 6. Synod had permitted the un-Lutheran remarks made at the convention and elsewhere on Baptism, the Eucharist, Election, Conversion, and the certainty of the state of grace, as well as on union with all religious parties, to pass unreproved.—Stating the causes of the deplorable schism, David Henkel wrote in 1827: “A most unhappy difference exists between this body and the North Carolina Synod. Previous to the year 1820 some members of the former and some of the latter constituted one Synod. In this year the North Carolina Synod entered into the connection of a General Synod with some other synods. This is a connection and institution which heretofore did not exist in the Lutheran community, and to which the Tennessee Synod object as an institution calculated to subvert ecclesiastical liberty, and to prepare the way for innovations. This, together with the difference in regard to some of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, are the principal reasons of the division.” (R. 1827, 32.) In brief, the organization of the Tennessee Synod was a solemn protest against synodical tyranny and anticonfessional teaching then prevailing in the North Carolina Synod and in all other Lutheran bodies in America. Accordingly, as compared with her contemporaries, it remains the peculiar glory of the Tennessee Synod that she was born of Lutheran loyalty.
90. Back to Luther! Back to the Lutheran Symbols!
Such, in substance and effect, was the slogan sounded by the Tennessee Synod, for the first time in the history of the Lutheran Church in America, after long years of confessional disloyalty and of doctrinal and practical deterioration. By dint of earnest and conscientious study of the Lutheran Symbols and of Luther’s writings, the Tennessee pastors, in particular the Henkels, had attained to a clear knowledge of Lutheran truth and practise, thereby, at the same time, becoming fully convinced that of all teachings in Christendom the Lutheran doctrine alone is in full accord with Holy Writ. March 13, 1823, Solomon Henkel wrote: “A week ago Mr. York was here, bringing with him Luther’s Works. They are bound in 13 folio volumes and cost $100. I purchased the books.” To penetrate deeper and deeper into the writings of Luther, to persuade others to do the same, and to make this possible to them, such was the ardent desire and earnest endeavor of the Tennessee pastors. Evidently with this purpose in view, Paul Henkel had established a printery at New Market, Va., where books and tracts breathing a Lutheran spirit were published. Synodical colporteurs diligently canvassed them among the congregations. Sound Lutheran works, e.g., the Augsburg Confession, sermons by Luther and Arndt, the article on Good Works from the Formula of Concord, were from time to time, by resolution of Synod, appended to the synodical reports. (1831, 11.) Nor was their zeal satisfied with fostering true Lutheranism in their own midst. In order to acquaint the English-speaking public with the truths and treasures of our Church, they issued translations of standard Lutheran works. Besides an agenda and a hymnal, the New Market printery published in 1829 an English translation of Luther’s Small Catechism with notes by David Henkel; in 1834, a translation of the Augsburg Confession with a preface by Karl Henkel (in 1827 David Henkel had already been commissioned to prepare a correct translation); in 1851, an English version of the entire Book of Concord, of which a second and improved edition appeared in 1854; in 1852, “Luther on the Sacraments,” being translations of some writings of Luther by Jos. Salyards and Solomon D. Henkel, 423 pages octavo; in 1869, Luther’s Epistle Sermons, an English edition of which had been determined upon in 1855. (Rep. 1826, 7; 1830, 17; 1841, 15; 1855, 14.) On March 1, 1824, a certain Sam Blankenbecker wrote to David Henkel: “There are two sorts of Lutherans: the one sort believes there is no doctrine right and pure but the Lutheran; the other thinks that also the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists are equally right and pure; and such Lutherans are very hurtful to others.” The Tennessee Synod belonged to the first class. They were conscious Lutherans, who knew what they were and what they stood for. The fact is that in those days Tennessee was the only synod with a true Lutheran heart and an honest Lutheran face.
91. Despised and Ostracized.
Their return to Luther and the Lutheran Symbols brought the Henkels and the Tennessee Synod into direct opposition to, and sharp conflict with, all other Lutheran synods of that day. For, though still bearing, and priding themselves on, the Lutheran name, they all had long ago begun to abandon the confessions and distinctive doctrines of the Church which the cherished and coveted name of Luther stood for. Their leaders had become indifferentists, unionists, and Reformed and Methodistic enthusiasts. Over against this lack of Lutheran faithfulness and apostasy from the Confessions the Henkels gave no uncertain testimony. Being Lutherans in their hearts as well as in their heads, they boldly confessed the truths, and most energetically championed the cause of genuine Lutheranism. And they squared their actions with their words and convictions. Consistent also in their practise, they refused to fellowship and recognize the errorists everywhere, even when found in Lutheran synods. No wonder, then, that the Henkels and their uncompromising attitude met with no sympathy on the part of the Lutheran synods then found in America. And, being, as they were, a standing protest against the apostasy of these synods, it was but natural, carnally, that the Tenneesee [tr. note: sic] confessors were avoided, ignored, despised, hated, maligned, and ostracized by their opponents. Tennessee was decried and stigmatized as the “Quarreling Conference” (“Streitkonferenz”). The “Henkelites,” it was said, had been convicted of error at the “Quarreling Synod”; there they had not been able to prove their doctrine; they were false Lutherans; some of them had been excluded from Synod, therefore they had no authority to officiate as ministers; their synod was not a lawful synod; its transactions were invalid, etc. (1820, 22.30; 1824, App. 3; 1827, 43 f.) All endeavors on the part of the Tennessee Synod to bring about an understanding and a unification in the truth were spurned by the other synods “with silent contempt,” says David Henkel. (1827, 6. 25.) In the Maryland Synod the prediction was heard: “This Tennessee Synod will go to pieces finally.” The Address of the General Synod of 1823 states: “Our Church, which was originally embraced in two independent synods [Ministeriums of Pennsylvania and New York], has spread over so extensive a portion of the United States that at present we have five synods [North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland and Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York Synods], and shall shortly have several more.” (3. 9. 14.) The General Synod, then, refused to recognize Tennessee as a Lutheran synod in America. In a letter, dated January 23, 1826, and addressed to Solomon Henkel, H. Muhlenberg remarked that the Tennessee Synod “had as yet not been recognized as a synod by the other Lutheran synods.” In 1839 the General Synod censured both the Franckean and Tennessee Synods as the two extremes “causing disturbances and divisions in our churches” and standing in the way of a union of the Lutheran Church in America—a resolution which was rescinded in 1864. Thus universal contempt and proscription was the reward which Tennessee received for her endeavors to lead the Lutheran Church out of the mire of sectarian aberrations back to Luther and the Lutheran Symbols. Rev. Brohm, after his visit with the Tennessee Synod, wrote in the Lutheraner of June 5, 1855: “In order to heal, if in any way possible, the deplorable breach, the Tennessee Synod, in the course of seven years, made repeated attempts to persuade her opponents [in the North Carolina Synod] to discuss the mooted doctrines, offering them conditions most just and most acceptable . . . . But with exasperating indifference all these offers were stubbornly despised and rejected. Tennessee directed various questions also to the Pennsylvania Synod in order to learn their views on the pending doctrinal controversies. But this body, too, did not even deign to answer. The Tennessee Synod, however, though rebuffed on all sides and stigmatized as a fanatical sect, quietly went its way, without suffering itself to be confused or led astray. Unanimity and love reigned among its members. The number of congregations which united with them and desired pastors from them constantly increased, so that the Synod was not able to satisfy all requests. The synodical resolutions offer ample evidence of the lively interest and diligence of their pastors to appropriate more and more fully the riches of the Reformation, and to make their congregations partakers thereof.” (11, 166.) The first request for a minister came from Cape Girardeau, Mo. The minutes record: “At the earnest request and desire of a number of German inhabitants in Cape Girardeau (“Cape Cheredo”), Mo., through H. Johannes Schmidt and Georg Klemmer, who earnestly pray that they might be visited, it was resolved that H. Jacob Zink should make a journey thither, as soon as possible, to preach the Gospel to them and to perform all other official acts that may be required. For this laudable undertaking we wish him the rich blessing of the Lord.” (B. 1820, 10.)
Objections to General Synod.
92. Critique of So-called “Planentwurf.”
The formation of a Lutheran General Synod, warmly advocated by the Synods of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, met with the earnest and zealous, though not in every respect judicious, opposition of the Tennessee Synod. Her Report of 1820 contains a criticism of the Planentwurf, which in 1819 had been proposed by the Pennsylvania Synod as a tentative constitution for the projected General Synod. Among the objections enumerated are the following: 1. Whosoever desired to be recognized as a pastor would be compelled to pursue his studies at the proposed seminary of the General Synod. 2. Of those entitled to cast a vote there were two pastors to every lay delegate. “It would therefore be vain for a lay deputy to make the journey, except he desired the honor of being a servant of two masters.” 3. The General Synod arrogated to itself the exclusive right to introduce new books for public worship. 4. Luther’s Catechism also was to remain only until the Synod would introduce other books. 5. According to the Planentwurf, the General Synod could reject all articles of faith or omit them entirely. 6. Neither the Augsburg Confession nor the Bible was designated as the foundation of the General Synod, nor even so much as mentioned in the Planentwurf. (52 f.) 7. The General Synod was striving to establish a dominion over all Ministeriums, as appeared from the statement: “Until the permission or approval of the General Synod shall have been formally obtained, no newly established body shall be regarded as a Ministerium, nor shall an ordination conferred by them be considered valid.” “Accordingly,” they said, “one had as much liberty as the rope permitted.” (54 f.; 1822, 10.) 8. The General Synod claimed the right to specify the “ranks universally valid for the ministry.” “Catechist,” as the Report of 1820 has it, “candidate, dean, and pastor will no longer suffice; who knows but something higher will be required, such as bishop, archbishop, cardinal, or even pope!” 9. Pastors were granted the right to appeal from the decision of their synod to the General Synod. “Accordingly the case of a pastor, be he ever so bad, may drag on for years; and if, owing to extreme distances or other circumstances, the witnesses are not able to attend, he may finally even win it. This provision renders the matter similar to a temporal government, where appeals are commonly made from a lower to a higher court.” 10. “One cannot be sure that a spirit desiring as much power as appears to be granted by this Planentwurf will be able to rest and not seek further power.” 11. No one was able to guarantee that this Lutheran General Synod would not later on unite with the General Synods of the sects to form a National Synod, in which the majority would then determine all articles of faith and all church-customs. 12. Such a National Synod would be able also to change the Constitution of the United States and compel every one to unite with this National Synod, impose taxes, etc. (50 f.) By resolution of Synod the reasons why some pastors in Ohio, influenced in their action by Paul Henkel, rejected the Planentwurf were also appended to the Report of 1820. Among them were: 1. The fear “of falling into the hands of a strong hierarchy” by accepting this Planentwurf, since they knew from church history that the Papacy had developed rapidly along similar lines. (64.) 2. The General Synod would soon become English, whereas, according to its ministerial order, the Ohio Synod “must remain a German-speaking ministerium.” (65.) 3. Every meeting of the General Synod would mean for them a traveling expense of $168. 4. As the Planentwurf was subject to change, union with the General Synod would be tantamount “‘to buying the cat in the bag,’ as the proverb has it.” These scruples reveal the fact that the Tennessee Synod viewed the General Synod as a body which was hierarchical in its polity and thoroughly un-Lutheran in its doctrinal position, an opinion well founded, even though the objections advanced are not equally valid.
93. General Synod’s Constitution Criticized.
The critique of the Planentwurf was not devoid of fruit in every respect. Due to the testimony of the Henkels, its hierarchical features were toned down considerably in the constitution finally adopted at Hagerstown, Md., 1820. Thus, e.g., the odious passage regarding the establishment of new ministeriums and the validity of their ordinations was omitted. Still Tennessee was far from being satisfied with the constitution as amended. Moreover, a committee was appointed to draw up their remaining objections, and the report submitted was appended to the minutes of 1821 and printed by order of Synod. It subjects the constitution to a severe examination, and makes a number of important strictures. 1. The first objection was raised against the words of the Preamble: “Whereas Jesus Christ, the great Head of the Church, hath not given her any particular prescriptions how church-government should be regulated, she therefore enjoys the privilege in all her departments to make such regulations as may appear best, agreeably to situation and circumstances.” While recognizing that Christ has given no prescriptions “for the regulation of some things not essential to the Church,” they objected to the sweeping statement of the Preamble whereby the government of the Church would be left to a majority of votes. Tennessee maintained that Matt. 18, 16 Christ prescribes to the Church how discipline is to be exercised; that 1 Cor. 11, 4-11 sufficient rules with respect to public worship are prescribed; that 1 Tim. 3, 1-3 the grades of ministers are described; that 1 Tim. 5, 19-22 instructions are given how to receive an accusation against an elder; and that 2 Tim. 2, 3-6 Paul shows that ministers should not be entangled with the things of this world. “From these and many more passages that might be quoted, it is evident that Christ and His inspired apostles have given the Church sufficient prescriptions of her government in all her various branches. They are general rules, and yet applicable to every particular case that may occur, so that they are also particular prescriptions. But that the constitution of the General Synod saith, Christ has not left such particular prescriptions, appears a strange, unwarranted, and arbitrary assertion.” (14 f.) 2. The second objection asserted that the General Synod was a yoke of commandments of men, hence could not serve the purpose of true peace. According to the constitution the purpose of the General Synod was “the exercise of brotherly love, the furtherance of Christian harmony, and the preservation of the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace.” But the Report maintained: “The attempt of the establishment of this General Synod has not produced any brotherly love, nor harmony, nor peace; but on the contrary, divisions, contentions, and confusion. This establishment is nothing but self-invented rules and traditions of men, and such as love Christian liberty cannot suffer themselves to be brought into bondage; hence the confusion. O ye watchmen of Zion, pity and spare the flock!” (17 f.) A “note” added by David Henkel, the “clerk of the committee,” explains: “That this institution of General Synod’s promotes unity in spirit is contrary to constant experience. The Presbyterians, Methodists, and other churches are governed by General Synods, and have many human rules and regulations; but yet from time to time many disputes and factions have arisen among them, so that they are split into many sects and parties. The Lutheran Church never heretofore was governed by a General Synod, yet she never was divided until this novel system was introduced. . . . The first Lutheran ministers emigrated from Germany and Sweden. . . . Being few in number, no particular synods were formed for many years; yet they were united. The Augsburg Confession of Faith, containing the principal doctrines of the Holy Scriptures, was their standard of union. It was unalterable; they had no novel system, produced by a majority of votes, to expect. . . . Each of these synods, before the General Constitution was formed, were independent, and not amenable to any superior tribunal, except that of Christ. Differences in local and temporary regulations, the formation of new synods, etc., were not considered as divisions of the Church; their standard of unity was far more noble, and exalted: the pure Scriptural doctrines of the Augsburg Confession of Faith was their meridian sun, which they viewed with united eyes; and anything less, such as local and temporary regulations, never influenced their minds, even to think of divisions. The Church proceeded peaceably, until the unhappy and fatal period of 1819 arrived, when a meeting was called to Baltimore, consisting of some of the Synod of Pennsylvania and an individual from North Carolina, for the purpose of devising a plan for the establishment of the General Synod, etc. (17 f.) Article III, Sec. V, which provided that “the General Synod shall take good care not to burden the consciences of ministers with human traditions,” called forth the following comment: “The General Synod shall not burden the consciences of ministers with human traditions, yet at the same time the very institution of the General Synod is nothing but human laws and traditions! How vehemently our Savior upbraided the Pharisees for their human laws and the traditions they imposed upon the common people! By means of human laws and traditions popery was established.—Why are preparations made now again to introduce that horrid beast? How careful individual synods should be not to impose human traditions upon the Church, but to remember that they do ‘not assemble for the purpose of making laws for the Church, but only to devise means to execute those already made by Christ.” (B. 1821, 26; R. 1821, 28. 29.) In an additional “note” David Henkel remarks: “The unity of the Lutheran Church doth not consist in any external forms or ceremonies, or government established by men. It is independent of any general head except Christ. The Seventh Article of the Augsburg Confession of Faith points out the true nature of her unity. . . . It is the same as if it had said: the Church of Christ is but one united body, consisting of innumerable members; but what unites them? All believers believe in one invisible Lord, by whom they are governed, for He is their King; they are anointed by the same Holy Ghost, for He is their Comforter and Guide. This is an invisible, godlike union, not discerned by the carnal eye, nor doth it imitate the unity of the kingdom of this world. Christ is its polar star, the Bible its charter, ministers who proclaim sweet words of peace, its heralds, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper its seal, bond, token, and security. This union is independent of all human ceremonies, traditions, general synods, or anything of the kind, and has existed ever since the promulgation of the Gospel in all realms and climes. . . . A union which consists of human laws, ceremonies, and discipline may be termed a political union—a union peculiar to civil government of this world. Now, even were it the case that all who call themselves Christians would be united in this manner, it would by no means prove their spiritual unity. For many may conform to one external rule, and yet be divided in heart, for they are not all Israelites that are of Israel. It is evident, because the General Synod is but the invention of men, that they make much more necessary to Christian unity than the pure preaching of the Gospel and the proper administration of the Sacraments, commanded by Christ. Thus, this establishment of the General Synod must be contrary to the Seventh Article of our Confession of Faith. True Christianity is thereby blended with human laws and policy—the true lineaments of popery. . . . If no man is to judge Christians in respect to meat and drink or of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath-days, who, then, has a right to judge them in respect of forming books for the public use in churches, or in respect of meeting as a synod, without a formal permission, or in respect of performing ordinations? The General Synod have arrogated this right of judging and oppressing Christians in these respects. These are prerogatives they claim, contrary to the doctrines of the apostle.” (R. 1821, 28.)
94. Criticism of Constitution Continued.
3. The third objection maintained that the General Synod was Lutheran in name only. Says the Report: “This body, indeed, may call itself Evangelical Lutheran, and yet not be such. The constitution does nowhere say that the Augsburg Confession of Faith, or Luther’s Catechism, or the Bible shall be the foundation of doctrine and discipline of the General Synod. It is well known that they always have been the standard of the Lutheran Church. Why does the constitution not once name them?” “Had the framers of this constitution been zealous advocates of Lutheran doctrine, they would have been careful to insert a clause to compel the General Synod always to act according to our standard books. It is an easy thing to prove that some of the founders of this General Synod have openly denied some of the important doctrines of the Augsburg Confession of Faith and of Luther’s Catechism.” (B. 1821, 18; R. 1821, 19.) 4. The fourth objection was based on the proposed membership of the new body, which, according to Article II, was to consist “of deputies of the different Evangelical Synodical and Ministerial Connections in the United States.” Tennessee commented: “This body [General Synod] may consist of deputies from the different evangelical connections. It is not said of the several Evangelical Lutheran connections. If this body may consist of the different connections, then it is evident that it may be composed of all denominations, such as Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, etc. These all denominate themselves Evangelical, and are even recognized as such by some who call themselves Lutherans. Thus it is manifest that all denominations who call themselves Evangelical may have seats and votes in this body, forasmuch as there is nothing to prohibit them from it.” (R. 1821, 22.) The German version adds the following: “The constitution has opened a door where all manner of sects and parties may creep into the Lutheran Church and extirpate her doctrine.” (B. 1821, 20.) These apprehensions of Tennessee were no mere products of their own imagination, for just such a union of all Evangelical denominations Shober and his compeers had been ardently advocating in the North Carolina Synod, especially since 1817. 5. The fifth objection was that the General Synod proposed to curtail the exercise of Christian liberty in regard to ceremonies. Article III, Section II, provided that no synod or ministry in connection with the General Synod shall publish any new catechism, liturgy, compilation of hymns, or confession of faith “without having first handed a complete copy thereof to the General Synod, and having received their sentiments, or admonitions, or advice.” The Tennessee Synod held this to be against the Seventh Article of the Augsburg Confession and said: “Why shall individual societies be robbed of the liberty to introduce such books us suit them best, when our Confession of Faith grants every person liberty in this case?” (23.) 6. A further objection was raised against this article (III, 2) of the constitution because its language permitted the introduction of a new confession of faith. Tennessee remarked: “An opportunity is here given to introduce a new confession of faith. This appears a conclusive proof that the General Synod do not intend to be governed by (the Augsburg Confession of Faith, nor vindicate the Lutheran doctrines contained therein; for if they did, they would not by this clause have given liberty to form other confessions of faith. Perhaps this may be one of the reasons why they have nowhere promised in the constitution that Luther’s Catechism, the Augsburg Confession of Faith, nor the Bible should be the guide of their body. They wish to have power to form a new confession; perhaps more popular, and suited to the newfangled opinions of this present age of infidelity. Were not the men such as Luther, Melanchthon, etc., who formed the Augsburg Confession of Faith, as a testimony against popery and other heresies, godly and enlightened men, and to whose instrumentality we owe our light of the Gospel? Will any of the votaries of the General Synod presume to say that this confession is erroneous, heretical, and wicked? Can they form a better one? If they answer in the affirmative, they are no Lutherans, as they call themselves. If they answer in the negative, why, then, have they not positively specified in the constitution that such should remain the standard of the Church? Why have they given an opportunity to introduce a new confession? It is known that all Lutheran ministers, when they are ordained, are solemnly pledged as by an oath to maintain the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession of Faith. But when there is an opportunity given to propose and introduce other confessions, perhaps the very reverse, what shall become of all the oaths made at the time of ordination?” (24.) The German Report argues: “The Evangelical Lutheran Church already has, for almost three hundred years, a confession of faith, to wit, the Augsburg Confession. To this confession all Lutheran ministers are pledged by an oath when they are ordained. Since the constitution nowhere states that the Augsburg Confession shall be retained, and other confessions of faith may be proposed, it is apparent that the General Synod has the power to abrogate the Augsburg Confession entirely, and to introduce a new and erroneous confession of faith, and consequently to set aside the oath of ordination.” (B. 1821, 22.) 7. A further objection to the General Synod was based on Article III, Section V, which provided, among other things, that the General Synod shall take good care “not to oppress any person on account of differences in opinion.” After pointing out that this can only be understood as referring to doctrinal differences, Tennessee made the following arraignment: “What an opportunity is here given to introduce all manner of false doctrines! If no person is to be afflicted in respect to difference in opinion, then no person can be excommunicated for propagating any false or wicked doctrine. One might deny the Holy Trinity, and encourage any system of infidelity, and yet, agreeably to this constitution, no one could be rebuked nor suspended. One might plead this article in defense, and say the General Synod have no right to oppress me for my different opinion.” (R. 1821, 30; B. 1821, 25.) The German report concludes as follows: “This is nourishment for the lukewarm spirit, where men are indifferent whether true or false opinions are maintained.” (27.) That also these apprehensions were not purely imaginary appears from the fact that two delegates of the Ministerium of New York, then identifying itself with the rationalism of Quitman, were permitted to participate in the organization of the General Synod. 8. Finally, Article III, Section VIII, provided that the General Synod should “be sedulously and incessantly regardful of the circumstances of the times, and of every casual rise and progress of unity of opinions among Christians in general, in order that the blessed opportunities to promote concord and unity, and the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom, may not pass by neglected and unavailing.” In this, too, Tennessee saw but “another opportunity to extirpate the Lutheran doctrine.” “For,” said they, “how is it possible that the opinions of Lutherans can ever become agreed with those of Calvinists and other parties so long as they do not deny their teachings?” (B. 1821, 30.) The English Report merely states: “All that we can understand from this [Section VIII] is a desire to unite with all denominations.” (34.) Thus the Tennessee Synod, with the utmost candor, exposed and rebuked the un-Lutheran features of the constitution of the General Synod, which substituted external organization and union for true internal Christian unity in the Spirit. David Henkel remarked: “Is the General Synod a plant which has been planted by the heavenly Father? No. It was planted by a majority of votes. . . . It is too lamentable a fact that among the most denominations human laws, discipline, and ceremonies are made the rallying point of unity!” (R. 1821, 30; 1832, 17.) It was in the spirit of truth and conscientiousness that Tennessee had made her objections to the constitution of the General Synod. “We conclude,” they say, “hoping that the friends of the General Synod will not view us as enemies. We would freely join in with them if we could do it with a good conscience . . .; it is much easier to swim with than against the current.” (34.)
Attitude as to Church-Fellowship.
95. Refusing to Join in with General Synod.
The practise of the Tennessee Synod squared with her doctrinal position. Also church-fellowship was regarded as a matter, not of expediency and policy, but of conscience. In the conclusion to their “Objections against the Constitution of the General Synod” the committee declared: Since a general connection of all ministers in a General Synod would exalt the clerical state to a high degree above the people; since greater burdens might then be imposed on the people, and ministers could thereby live more comfortably; since our widows and orphans also might then live with much ease and our missionary services would be amply remunerated; and since the union with the General Synod would increase our popularity and decrease our burdensome labors,—”we, therefore, would freely join in with them if we could do it with a good conscience,” and “if we could justify such conduct before the judgment throne of Christ.” (R. 34; B. 30.) In accordance herewith Tennessee, at her first meeting, resolved: “It cannot be tolerated that a teacher of our conference have any connection with the so-called Central or General Synod, for the reason which will be adduced afterwards.” (5.) The minutes of 1826 record: “Whereas there is a report in circulation, both verbally and in print, that some of us, members of the Tennessee Conference, should have said that we now regard the General Synod as a useful institution; that we disapprove the turbulent conduct of a certain member of this body; that we (some of us) pledged ourselves to leave this body if we cannot succeed in having said member expelled, we deem it our duty hereby to inform the public that we are unanimously agreed in viewing the General Synod as an anti-Lutheran institution, and highly disapprove it, and are the longer, the more confirmed in this opinion; and that we know of no member among us whose conduct is turbulent or immoral, and hence have no desire either to expel any one, nor do any of us intend to withdraw from this body. Neither do we know of any member among us who is not legally ordained. We testify that we live in brotherly love and harmony. September 5, 1826.” (6.) In 1839 the General Synod publicly denounced the Tennessee Synod, charging her with un-Lutheran as well as unchristian doctrine and conduct. The matter, brought to the attention of Tennessee by a petition from the congregation at New Market and from Coiner’s Church, was disposed of by the following resolutions: “1. Resolved, That it is to us a matter of small importance whether the General Synod recognizes us as an Evangelical Lutheran Synod or not, since our orthodoxy and our existence as a Lutheran body in no wise depends on their judgment. 2. Resolved, That we cannot recognize the General Synod as an Evangelical Lutheran body, forasmuch as they have departed from the doctrines and practises of the Lutheran Church. 3. Resolved, That under present circumstances we have no inclination whatsoever to unite with the General Synod, and can never unite with them, except they return once more to the primitive doctrine and usages of the Lutheran Church. 4. Resolved, That Pastor Braun be appointed to draw up our objections to the General Synod, and to show from its own publications wherein that body has departed from the doctrine and usages of the Lutheran Church, and submit his manuscript to this Synod at its next session for examination; and that, if approved, it be printed.” (B. 1841, 11; R. 1842, 8.) In this connection the Tennessee Synod likewise resolved in no wise to take part in the centenary of the Lutherans in America as recommended by the General Synod. (15.) At the next session of Synod the committee reported that they had examined the manuscript submitted by Rev. Braun, and that it was “well calculated to place in their proper light the views and practises of the General Synod and expose its corruptions and departures from Lutheranism, as well as to evince the fact that the Tennessee Synod still retain in their primitive purity the doctrines, and adhere to the usages of the Lutheran Church.” (10.) When, in 1853, the Pennsylvania Synod called upon all Lutheran synods to follow their example and unite with the General Synod, Tennessee took cognizance of this matter in the following resolution: “Whereas we regard the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as the authorized and universally acknowledged Symbol of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and consequently the belief and acknowledgment of it, in its entireness, as essential to the existence of Lutheranism in its integrity; and whereas we profess, in our synodical constitution, to believe the doctrines of the Christian system as exhibited in this symbol, and have pledged ourselves to teach according to it; and whereas the doctrinal position of the General Synod, as we understand it, is only a qualified acknowledgment of the Augsburg Confession, as we think it evident, a) from the constitution of this body, in which there is no clause binding its members to teach according to the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, and not even a distinct mention of this instrument; b) from the constitution recommended by the General Synod to the District Synods connected with it; c) from the form of oath required of professors in its Theological Seminary, when inducted into office; d) from the construction placed upon its Constitution by the framer of that instrument, and other prominent members of it; e) from the various publications made by distinguished members of the General Synod, in which distinctive doctrines of our Church confessions are openly assailed, and for doing which they have never been called to account: be it therefore 1. Resolved, That we cannot, under existing circumstances, take any steps toward a union with the General Synod.” (8.)
96. Attitude toward North Carolina Synod.
In her relations with the North Carolina Synod the practise of Tennessee was in perfect keeping with her doctrine, her actions tallying with her words. In 1820 they declared: “No teacher of our Conference may take seat and vote in the present Synod of North Carolina, since we cannot look upon them as a truly Evangelical Lutheran synod.” (B. 1820, 9.) Neither was it tolerated that a member of the Tennessee Synod at the same time be a member of the North Carolina Synod; witness the case of Seechrist. (R. 1826, 4.) Furthermore, Tennessee declared that steps looking to a union with the North Carolina Synod would be contemplated only if the respective pastors of that synod were to “revoke their doctrine in print as publicly as they had disseminated the same, and would give entire assent to the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession.” (1824, 11; 1825, 6.) At the sixth convention, 1825, the committee previously appointed to negotiate with the North Carolina Synod reported that the ministers of that connection had refused to deal with them, 1. Because this “committee did not entitle them as a genuine Lutheran body; and 2. because we appointed farmers to constitute the committee.” (6.) With respect to the first grievance Tennessee declared: “We must here observe that we cannot consistently grant to the Synod of North Carolina this title, because we maintain that they departed from the Lutheran doctrine. This is the very design in preferring the questions, in order to ascertain whether they adopted different views, since they published their doctrines. We, therefore, entreat them not to be offended when at this time we cannot grant the desired title, but to be contented until a union with respect to doctrine shall have been effected.” (R. 1825, 6.) Thus Tennessee was careful to avoid even the appearance of denying her convictions. Dissimulation was not in her nature. True to her convictions she formulated the address of her second petition for negotiations as follows: “To the Rev. Synod of North Carolina, who assume the title Lutheran, but which we, at this time, for the reason aforesaid, dispute. Well-beloved in the Lord, according to your persons,” etc. (R. 1825, 6.) Similar language was employed in the invitation of December, 1826, which the Tennessee committee (Daniel Moser and David Henkel) sent to Pastors Stork, Shober, Sherer, and other pastors of the North Carolina Synod to conduct a public debate, that every one might be enabled to decide for himself “who are the genuine and who the spurious Lutherans.” The invitation reveals a spirit of love, fairness, and willingness to yield in every point which was not a matter of conscience, as well as true Lutheran conscientiousness and determination not to yield a single point in violation of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Symbols. Here Daniel Moser and David Henkel who wrote the letter of invitation state with true Christian frankness: “You call yourselves Lutherans, and we call ourselves the same; notwithstanding there is a division. You have accused us with teaching erroneous doctrines, and we, notwithstanding the appellation you give yourselves, deny that your doctrines correspond with the same or with the Holy Scriptures.” (27.) “We are willing to forgive all private conduct which we conceive erroneous and criminal in you. You ought also to be willing to forgive what you conceive to be the same in us. But as we differ with you in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, an ecclesiastical union is impracticable, until the one or the other party be clearly refuted and convinced.” (29.) The following were mentioned as the chief points of difference which ought to be discussed: “1. The person and incarnation of Christ, etc. 2. Justification. 3. Repentance. 4. Good Works. 5. Holy Baptism. 6. The Lord’s Supper. 7. Church Government.” (R. 1827, 26.) An offer of union made by the North Carolina Synod, in 1847, was answered by Tennessee as follows: “Resolved, That we accede to a union with the said Synod only on the platform of pure and unadulterated Evangelical Lutheranism—a union which we shall heartily rejoice to form, as is evident from the repeated overtures we made to bring about such a desirable state of things.” (R. 1847, 9.)
97. Attitude toward Other Southern Synods.
Tennessee was conscious of representing nothing but the pure truth of unadulterated Lutheranism also over against the Synods of South Carolina, Virginia, and South West Virginia. Despite enmity, contempt, and slander, they were unwilling to enter into any unionistic compromise at the expense of the truth as they saw it. As for the Synod of South Carolina (organized 1824), the Tennessee Report of 1838 recorded the following protest: “Whereas the Synod of South Carolina has recently employed various scandalous means in order to bring the Ev. Luth. Tennessee Synod into disrepute, in particular by the annotations contained in a sermon delivered by Pastor Johannes Bachman, D. D., which was published with the approval and by the support of said Synod (the aforementioned sermon, unless its evil influence is hindered, is well calculated to make a false and unfavorable impression upon otherwise honest minds, and to represent our doctrine, synod, and pastors as being the objects of scorn, disdain, and constant persecution); and whereas we believe that we stand on the primitive ground of the Lutheran Church, and that the doctrine of the glorious and memorable Reformation, which was wrought through the especial mediation of the Saxon Reformers, Dr. Martin Luther and his immortal assistants, exactly agrees with the Word of God, which we regard as the only infallible norm of faith and life: 1. therefore be it Resolved, That we regard the actions of the South Carolina Synod toward us as impolite, ignoble, dishonest, and uncharitable. 2. Resolved, That we look upon the assertions in Dr. Bachman’s sermon as utterly unfounded and without the slightest approach to the truth, but as base calumniations, well calculated to insult (beschimpfen) our Synod.” At the same time Pastors Braun and Miller were appointed a committee to publish a refutation of Bachman’s sermon. (B. 1838, 11.) In his address delivered on November 12, 1837, Bachman, as President of the South Carolina Synod, had voiced, with a squint toward Tennessee, among others, the following sentiments: “We have never boasted of being an exclusive church, whose doctrines are more Scriptural or whose confessors are purer than those of other denominations round about us. . . . We will gladly unite with every friend of the Gospel in producing the downfall of sectarianism, though not the obliteration of sects. Our pulpits have ever been open to the servants of every Christian communion, and we invite to our communion tables the followers of Jesus regardless of what particular denomination they may belong to.” Dr. Bachman, in direct contravention to what the Henkels had maintained over against Stork and Shober of the North Carolina Synod, expressed his own indifferentistic and Reformed doctrinal position as follows: “If Baptism is regeneration, why, then, does not every one who has been baptized in infancy walk with God from his Baptism? Why does not every one lead a pious life? Evidently, such is not the case!” “As a matter of fact, for a hundred years the Lutheran Church has abandoned the moot question of the body of Christ, etc., and has left it to the consciences of its members to decide what they must believe according to Holy Writ. This we may do without deviating from the faith of our Church, since at our ordination, especially in this country, we confess nothing more than that the fundamental articles of the divine Word are, in a manner substantially correct, presented in the doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession.” (Kirchl. Mitt. 1846, 34 f.) In the same year (1838) the Tennessee Synod instructed its secretary to inquire of the president of the Virginia Synod (organized 1829 at Woodstock) why, according to the resolution passed at their last meeting, they do “not recognize the members of the Tennessee Conference as Evangelical Lutheran pastors.” (B. 1838 12.) And, when, in 1848, the Western Virginia Synod (Southwest Virginia Synod, organized 1841) requested an exchange of delegates, Tennessee answered: “Resolved, That, although it would afford us the highest gratification, and we most sincerely desire to see those who are one with us in name also united in doctrine and practise, and in that case would most cheerfully unite and cooperate with them in such measures as are calculated to advance and promote the cause of truth, yet we wish it to be distinctly understood that, however much a union is desired, it can only be effected upon the assurance of a strict adherence to the doctrines and usages of our Church as set forth in its Symbols; and until we can have this assurance, we, on our part, can consent to no such union.” (R. 1848, 8.)
Efforts at Unity and Peace.
98. Attempts at Union with North Carolina.
Though universally decried as the “Quarreling Conference,” Tennessee enjoyed and cultivated unity and harmony within, and zealously also sought peace and unity with other Lutheran synods. In 1826 all of the Tennessee ministers signed a document, denying a report circulated by their enemies, according to which Tennessee was disagreed as to its attitude toward the General Synod, and declaring: “We testify that we live in brotherly love and harmony.” The minutes add: “Thus it is evident that all the ministers of this body live in brotherly love, and entertain uniform sentiments.” (7.) Nor did the staunch, unbending doctrinal position of Tennessee prove to be a hindrance of, and a check upon, their efforts at unity and peace, but rather a spur to most earnest endeavors in this direction. Moreover, after having themselves fully realized that the Lutheran Confessions contain nothing but God’s eternal truth over against the manifest errors of the Roman and other churches, it was, as shown above, the ambition and prayer of the Henkels to lead the American Lutheran synods out of the mire of sectarian aberrations back to the unadulterated Lutheranism of Luther and the Lutheran Symbols. When, in 1824, some members of the North Carolina Synod made proposals for a union of the two synods, Tennessee forthwith appointed a committee to negotiate with them. (10.) This committee was instructed to compile the controverted points of doctrine from the writings of the two parties, “and to put into one column what the ministers of the North Carolina Synod teach, and in an adjoining column what the Tennessee Synod teaches, so that every one may immediately perceive the difference.” In this way they hoped to enable every one to decide for himself which party taught according to the Augsburg Confession. In the interest of truth the committee was also authorized to direct such questions to the North Carolina Synod as they might see fit. (11.) It was, however, resolved that any further arrangements for union were not to be made until “said pastors, in case they would be convinced, recall their doctrine in print as publicly as they had disseminated it, and fully assent to the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession and to Lutheran order as it obtained before the institution of the General Synod arose.” (11.) Following are the questions which were directed “to the Messrs. C. Stork, G. Shober, Jacob Sherer, Daniel Sherer, Jacob Miller, Martin Walter, and to all other men belonging to this connection” (North Carolina Synod): “1. Do ye intend for the future to maintain what you have asserted, viz.: ‘Baptized or not baptized, faith saves us?’ Or upon mature deliberation, have ye concluded publicly to revoke the same as erroneous? 2. Will ye also maintain that the Christian Church may consist of twenty different opinions? 3. Do ye deny that the true body and blood of Jesus Christ are really present in the Lord’s Supper, and administered and received under the external signs of bread and wine? and that also the unbelieving communicants do eat and drink His body and blood? Further, do ye deny that Jesus Christ, agreeably to both natures, as God and man, inseparably connected in one person, is omnipresent, and thus an object of supreme worship? 4. Do ye intend to relinquish the General Synod, if in case ye cannot prove the same to be founded in the Holy Scriptures?” (R. 1825, 8; B. 1824, Appendix, 2.) However, the Carolina Synod declined to answer. The Tennessee committee reported 1825: “The ministers of said connection [Carolina Synod] refused to answer the committee that was appointed last year to negotiate with them. The reasons of their refusal shall here be inserted: Said ministers assign the following reasons which we learn from Mr. J. Sherer’s letter and their minutes: 1. That the committee did not entitle them as a genuine Lutheran body; and 2. because we appointed farmers to constitute the committee.” (R. 1825, 6.) David Henkel wrote in 1827: “In the year 1822 I addressed a letter to them [North Carolina Synod]. . . . But they refused to accept the letter because they got offended with the address which was, ‘The Lutheran Synod of North Carolina and adjoining States, so called.’ The Tennessee Synod have since, at several of their sessions, made sundry propositions to them for a reciprocal trial, and have proposed some questions to them which they were requested to answer. But as they were not addressed in such manner as to recognize them as genuine Lutherans, they rejected every proposition. It must, however, be observed that they were not thus addressed through contempt, but rather through, necessity. One of the charges against them is that they deviated from the Lutheran doctrines; hence had we addressed them in such manner as to have recognized them as genuine Lutherans, they might easily have justified themselves under the covert of the address, and have produced it as an evidence against our charge.” (R. 1827, 35.) However, though North Carolina had not even answered their letter, Tennessee did not relinquish her efforts at peace and harmony. In the following year, 1825, a memorial subscribed by nine persons was submitted, requesting Synod “to make another attempt to effect a union with the ministers of the North Carolina Synod; yet so that the genuine Lutheran doctrine be not thereby suppressed.” (R. 1825, 6.) Pursuant to this request, “it was resolved that the questions again should be preferred in a friendly manner; and provided their answer should prove satisfactory, all the necessary regulations shall be made to effect peace and harmony.” (7.) At the same time Tennessee explained and justified their action of withholding from the North Carolina Synod the title Lutheran, and of appointing laymen, “farmers,” as they were styled by North Carolina, to constitute the committee. “It was believed,” David Henkel declared with respect to the latter point, “laymen would act more impartially, since the ministers are more immediately concerned in this controversy. Neither can I discover that all the farmers are so contemptible a class of people that Mr. Sherer could possibly be offended at the appointment!” (R. 1825, 7.) Regarding the first point Synod declared: “We must here observe that we cannot consistently grant to the Synod of North Carolina this title [Lutheran], because we maintain that they departed from the Lutheran doctrine. . . . We therefore entreat them not to be offended when at this time we cannot grant the desired title, but to be contented until a union with respect to doctrine shall have been effected.” (R. 1825, 7.) In accordance herewith the letter to the North Carolina Synod was addressed as follows: “To the Rev. Synod of North Carolina who assume the title Lutheran; but which we at this time, for the reason aforesaid, dispute. Well-beloved in the Lord, according to your persons!” (R. 1825, 7.)
99. Debates at Organ and St. Paul’s Churches.
According to her resolutions of 1825, Tennessee was ready to establish peace and harmony with the North Carolina Synod. But one proviso had been added by Tennessee, limiting this action as follows: “Provided their [North Carolina’s] answer should prove satisfactory.” If such, however, should not be the case, they proposed public discussions of the differences. The minutes continue: “But if in case their answers should not prove satisfactory, that we propose to them to appoint a certain time and place, and that each party appoint a speaker, for the purpose of exhibiting the disputed doctrines, so that the assembly, which may be present, may discover the difference; and that also all the arguments, on both sides, may afterwards be published.” (R. 1825, 7.) In the following year, when the questions preferred were still unanswered by North Carolina, Tennessee resolved: “This Synod have made sundry proposals to the North Carolina connection for the purpose of amicably adjusting the difference which exists with respect to doctrine and other differences, but said connection have hitherto refused to comply with any of the proposals. Although it seems to be in vain to make any further propositions, yet this Synod deem it their duty to adopt the following resolutions: 1. That the Revs. Adam Miller, Daniel Moser, and David Henkel be authorized to proclaim and hold a public meeting at or near the Organ Church, Rowan Co., N.C. They shall continue said meeting at least three days, and preach on the disputed points of doctrine. 2. That they invite the Revs. C. A. Stork and Daniel Sherer, who reside near said Organ Church, to attend said meeting, and give them an opportunity of alleging their objections and proving their doctrines. Further, that as many of the other ministers belonging to the North Carolina connection as may be conveniently notified be also invited to attend for the same purpose. This will afford an opportunity to a number of people to ascertain which party have deviated from the Lutheran doctrine. This meeting shall, if God permit, commence on the 4th day of next November.” (R. 1826, 5.) The public meeting was duly proclaimed at Organ Church in Rowan Co., N.C., on the 4th of November. A notice was inserted into the weekly paper, and some of the ministers were individually requested to attend. However, not one of the North Carolina Synod ministers put in his appearance, or made any official statement of their reasons for not attending. Persons who had visited Rev. Stork quoted him as having said: “Let them [the committee] come to our Synod, which is the proper place to discuss these points.” (R. 1827, 5.) Stork’s remark suggested the arrangement of a second debate in connection with the prospective meeting of the North Carolina Synod in St. Paul’s Church, Lincoln Co., beginning May 7, 1827. The Tennessee Report of 1827 records: “On the day appointed [November 4, 1826], Messrs. Moser and Henkel attended [the meeting at the Organ Church]; but none of the ministers whom they had invited. Whereupon sundry respectable members of the Lutheran community [in Lincoln Co.] requested the committee [of the Tennessee Synod, Moser and Henkel] to renew this invitation, and to make another appointment. The same request was also made by the Lutheran Joint Committee of this county [composed of members of several Lutheran congregations in Lincoln County], at their session on the 9th of last December . Accordingly, Messrs. Moser and Henkel renewed the invitation, and proclaimed another meeting.” (25.) The request of the Lutheran Joint Committee reads as follows: “To Lutherans. The Lutheran Tennessee Synod had appointed a committee for the purpose of publicly debating some points of doctrine, which are in dispute between the aforesaid Synod, and that which is commonly called the Synod of North Carolina and adjoining States. Some members of the latter were invited and notified by the committee to attend at Organ Church, on the 4th ult., for the purpose of reciprocally discussing the aforesaid points of doctrine. Two of the committee attended, but none of the ministers of the North Carolina Synod. Whatever reasons they may have had for not attending, we, the members of several Lutheran congregations in this county, being assembled and constituting a joint committee for the purpose of regulating the internal government of the same, request said committee to proclaim another public meeting at a convenient place for the aforesaid purpose, and to invite the members of the North Carolina Synod to attend the same. We also hereby request the members of the North Carolina Synod to meet the committee [of Tennessee] in a friendly manner, in order to discuss the doctrines in dispute.” Moser and Henkel responded: “We . . . acquiesce in your request, and deem it pertinent to the manifestation of the truth.” (26.) They also published a proclamation, inviting the ministers of the North Carolina Synod to attend a public meeting to be held in St. Paul’s Church, Lincoln Co., “to commence on the day after you shall have adjourned, and to continue at least three days.” (R. 1827, 27.) Again invitations and notices of the projected meeting were printed, and a copy was sent to each of the ministers of the North Carolina Synod a few months prior to their session. And when the North Carolina Synod was convened, by special messenger, a letter was sent to the president for presentation to Synod, inviting them to attend the proposed debate, at the same time asking them to give their reasons in case they should refuse to comply with the request. On the following day the messenger, Mr. Rudisill, applied for an answer, and again on the day of adjournment; but in vain. The Report of 1827 records: “Mr. Rudisill handed this letter to the president, who, taking it, replied that it was not properly directed to them; notwithstanding it should be given to a committee appointed by this Synod, who should report on the same. On the next day Mr. Rudisill applied for an answer, but he received none. On Wednesday, the day of their adjournment, Mr. Rudisill again requested an answer, but he again received none. Neither did the Synod assign any reason for their refusal. Whereupon Mr. Rudisill publicly proclaimed that Messrs. Moser and Henkel would attend on the next day, i.e., on Thursday, and discourse upon these disputed topics, and invited all who were present to attend. Accordingly, Messrs. Moser and Henkel attended, but none of the ministerium of the North Carolina Synod appeared. The most of them, or perhaps all, had started on their way home. The members of the church who were present requested David Henkel to discourse on a few of those disputed points, with which he complied. After his discourse was ended, it was concluded that it was not necessary then to pursue the subject any further. The congregation, who were present, nominated a majority of the members of this committee to draw up the above statements. It was resolved that this report shall be laid before the next session of the Tennessee Synod and that the same shall be requested to annex it to the report of their transactions. It was further resolved that David Henkel be requested to write a treatise, in order to show the propriety and Scriptural grounds for the debate on the disputed points of doctrine, which was offered to the ministers of the North Carolina Synod.” (R. 1827, 31 f.) Thus the repeated and cordial offers on the part of the Tennessee Synod to discuss and settle the differences were ignored and spurned by the North Carolina Synod. David Henkel wrote: “As the committee, who gave them the last invitation to attend to public debate, knew from past experience that to address the North Carolina Synod with the addition ‘so called’ was offensive, and was made a plea to evade a public trial, they addressed some of the principal ministers thereof agreeably to etiquette, by their personal names, and including all the others, believing that no rational man would be offended to be called by his own name. Neither did I hear that any of them objected to the address as offensive, nor to any of the propositions for the manner of conducting the debate. Notwithstanding this, and although they accepted a letter directed to them also by the committee, and promised the bearer to return an answer, yet they treated both the invitation and letter with silent contempt.” (35.) The repeated endeavors of the Tennessee Synod to draw the false Lutherans out of their holes failed. The Lutheran Church of America was destined to sink even deeper into the mire of indifferentism, unionism, and sectarianism.
100. Characteristic Address of Moser and Henkel.
The truly Lutheran spirit in which Tennessee endeavored to bring about unity and peace with the North Carolina Synod appears from the following letter, published in connection with the debates proposed in the interest of union, and dated, “Lincoln Co., N.C., December 10, 1826”: “To the Revs. Charles A. Stork, G. Shober, Jacob Sherer, and Daniel Sherer, and all other ministers belonging to their Synod.—Sirs! You call yourselves Lutherans, and we call ourselves the same; notwithstanding there is a division. You have accused us of teaching erroneous doctrines, and we, notwithstanding the appellation you give yourselves, deny that your doctrines correspond with the same or with the Holy Scriptures. It is hence somewhat difficult for some professors of Lutheranism to determine with which party to associate, as they have not sufficient information on the subject. We know no method which would be better calculated to afford the people information and an opportunity for both parties to prove their accusations than to meet each other, and debate the points in dispute publicly, according to the rules of decorum.—Whereas we are informed that you intend to hold your next synod in St. Paul’s Church in this county, on the first Sunday in next May, why we wish to try your doctrines, and why we wish you to try ours by the Augustan Confession and the aforesaid symbolical books, is because the important question in the dispute is, Who are the genuine and who the spurious Lutherans? For it is known that Lutheran ministers are pledged to maintain the Augustan Confession. But if you should at said meeting declare that the Augustan Confession contains false doctrine, and that Dr. Luther erred in any of the doctrines which are here proposed for discussion, we shall then, in that case, be willing to appeal exclusively to the Holy Scriptures.—Whatever private misunderstanding may have existed between us heretofore, we notwithstanding intend to meet you in a friendly manner, without attempting to wound your feelings by personal reflections. That we intend publicly to contradict your doctrines as erroneous we beg you not to consider as an insult, as we expect and are willing for you to treat ours in the same manner. We pray you as our former brethren, do not despise and reject those proposals, as a compliance with them may have the salutary effect to convince either the one or the other party of the truth, and we are confident it will be beneficial to many of the hearers.—We are willing to forgive all private conduct which we conceive erroneous and criminal in you. You ought also to be willing to forgive what you consider the same in us. But as we differ with you in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, an ecclesiastical union is impracticable until the one or the other party be clearly refuted and convinced.—We remain yours, respectfully, Daniel Moser. David Henkel.” (R. 1827, 27.)
101. Probing Orthodoxy of Pennsylvania Synod.
In the interest of doctrinal clarity and Christian unity the Tennessee Synod, in 1823, addressed to the Pennsylvania Synod the following questions: “1. Do ye believe that Holy Baptism performed with water, in the name of the Holy Trinity, effects remission for sins, delivers from death and Satan, and gives admittance into everlasting life to all such as believe, according to God’s promises? 2. Do ye believe that the true body and blood of Christ are present, administered, and received under the external signs of bread and wine? Do ye believe that the unbelieving communicants also eat and drink the body and blood of Christ? We do not ask whether they receive remission for their sins, but simply, whether they also eat and drink the body and blood of Christ. 3. Ought Jesus Christ to be worshiped as true God and man in one person? 4. Ought the Evangelic Lutheran Church, endeavor to be united with any religious denomination, whose doctrines are contrary to the Augustan Confession of faith? Or, is it proper for Lutherans to commune with such?” (R. 1825, 9.) The Pennsylvania Synod, which immediately prior to that time had been planning to establish a union seminary with the German Reformed and to enter into organic union with that body, treated the request with silent contempt. Two years later Tennessee, patiently and humbly, renewed the questions with the following preamble: “In the year of our Lord 1823, a few questions were preferred to your honorable body by this Synod, but as no answers have been received, and as the reasons thereof are not known, we [Daniel Moser, Ambrose Henkel, John Ramsauer, Peter Hoyle] were appointed by our Synod to renew the request, and to solicit you to comply with the same. We most humbly beseech you to make known the reasons of your hope that is in you, because we believe if this be done, it will contribute towards restoring peace and tranquillity [tr. note: sic] among all genuine Lutherans. We, therefore, renew the following questions,” etc. (R. 1825, 8 f.) “It was also resolved,” the Report of 1825 continues, “that the Secretary of this Synod be ordered to address a friendly letter to the Rev. Muhlenberg, member of the Synod of Pennsylvania, for the purpose of obtaining his counsel relative to the present affairs of the Church.” (9.) However, these letters also remained unanswered. But, even this did not exasperate, nor exhaust the patience of, Tennessee, as appears from the following entry in the minutes of 1826: “At our last session a few theological questions were submitted to the reverend Synod of East Pennsylvania, and a letter to the Rev. Muhlenberg; but we received no answer, neither from the Synod nor from Mr. Muhlenberg. The cause of this delay we do not know; but we indulge the hope of receiving satisfactory answers before our next session.” (R. 1826, 6.) In the same Report we read: “Several letters from Pennsylvania [not the Synod] were read in which David Henkel is particularly requested to visit that State for the purpose of preaching, and arguing the peculiar doctrines of the Lutheran Church. Resolved, That this Synod also solicit him to undertake this task. He agreed to do so, provided he can arrange his other business so as to be enabled.” (9.) In the following year, however, as no answer had arrived from the Pennsylvania Synod, Tennessee made the following declaration, which was directed also against the North Carolina Synod: “Whereas there are sundry ministers who appear under the disguise of Lutherans, notwithstanding [they] deny the Lutheran doctrines, and as they are patronized by several synods, this body deemed it expedient and to have a Scriptural privilege to demand of other bodies answers to some theological questions, in order to ascertain whether they differ in points of doctrine from this body. Accordingly, they submitted a few theological questions to the reverend Synod of Pennsylvania (now East Pennsylvania), and have waited patiently four years for an answer. But no answer was received. The secretary was also ordered by the session of 1825 to address a friendly letter on the subject to the Rev. Muhlenberg. The secretary [tr. note: sic] complied with this order; but Mr. Muhlenberg has not as yet returned an answer. In order, therefore, to ascertain the sentiments of the several synods, as well as of individual ministers on sundry points of doctrine, it was resolved, 1. That there shall be a pastoral address directed to the Lutheran community, in which shall be shown what this body deem to be the genuine Lutheran doctrines relative to such points as are in dispute. 2. That the several Synods, as well as individual ministers shall be requested, in the preface of the aforesaid contemplated address, to peruse and examine it; and then, in a formal manner, either justify it as correct, or condemn it as erroneous. That every synod and minister who shall be silent after having had an opportunity of perusing it shall be considered as fully sanctioning all its contents as correct, although they should teach or patronize a contrary doctrine. 3. That David Henkel shall compile and prepare said book for publication, and that the other ministers of this body shall assist him in it. . . . This address is intended to be published both in the German and English languages.” (R. 1827, 6 f.) Also from the Ohio Synod, which at that time practically identified itself with the indifferentistic attitude of the Pennsylvania Synod, Tennessee received but little encouragement in her efforts at purifying the Lutheran Church from the leaven of sectarianism. Says Sheatsley: “The minutes [of the Ohio Synod of 1825] report that David Henkel of the Tennessee Synod placed several theological questions before Synod. These were discussed in the ministerial meeting and answered, but as many of the older heads were absent, the answers should first be sent to them and then forwarded to Pastor Henkel. What the questions were we have no means of determining [no doubt, they were the same questions asked the Pennsylvania Synod], but, judging from the ability and bent of the doughty David Henkel, we may surmise that the questions involved some difficulties. In the following year Synod resolved that it could not answer these questions, since it is not our purpose at our meetings to discuss theological questions, but to consider the general welfare of the Church. This did not betoken indifference [?] [tr. note: sic] to doctrine, but it was then like it is now a Joint Synod; there was little or no time for the discussion of these matters.” (History, 73.)
Tennessee Justifying Her Procedure.
102. Confession of Truth a Christian Duty.
It appears from the procedure of the Tennessee Synod, as well as from the resolution of 1827, quoted in the preceding paragraph, that Tennessee felt justified in demanding a showdown on the part of the American Lutheran synods, which had persistently refused to reveal their colors. However, being unionists, indifferentists, and masked or open Calvinists, these false Lutherans resented such a demand as obtrusive, arrogant, and impudent. Hence their contemptuous silence. However, also in this matter Tennessee realized that they were only asking what, according to the Word of God, it was their solemn duty to demand. For to confess the faith which is in him is not only the privilege of a Christian, but also an obligation and a debt which he owes his brethren. Accordingly, when, in 1827, the committee reported how all efforts to induce the Carolina and Pennsylvania Synods to reveal their colors and to give testimony of their faith as to the doctrines of Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, etc., had been rebuked with silent contempt, Tennessee passed the resolutions quoted in the preceding paragraph. They felt called upon publicly to justify their procedure; and this all the more so because a member of the North Carolina Synod had declared “that it was not only improper, but also sinful to argue publicly on religious subjects.” (R. 1827, 36.) David Henkel, therefore, in a treatise appended to the Report of 1827, endeavored to show the propriety and the Scriptural grounds for the public debate proposed to the ministers of the North Carolina Synod. How Tennessee justified her actions appears from the following quotations culled from this treatise: “The members of the Lutheran Church,” says David Henkel, “are pledged by their confirmation vows to support and to adhere to her doctrines and discipline. Now as it is not a matter of little importance to break such vows, it is therefore highly interesting for every member to know who of the ministers and which of the synods have departed from the confession of faith they have vowed to maintain, as a connection with such would be a partaking of their errors.” (33.) “Because all Lutherans are pledged to maintain the doctrines of their confession of faith, it may therefore be legally required of any one to stand an examination, if it be believed that he has deviated from the same.” (36.) “The members of the Lutheran Church at the time of their confirmation declare that they believe the doctrines as held by the same, and every minister is solemnly pledged to maintain the Augustan Confession. Independently of Synods, the Augustan Confession of Faith is the point of union of all Lutherans, and by which they are distinguished from other denominations. As all bear the same name, and are pledged to maintain the same creed, they are viewed as one body. Therefore one member is accountable to another, and it is one minister’s duty to watch the other’s official conduct, as the doctrines taught by one are ascribed to the others, because they constitute one body. How does a man become partaker of another’s guilt but by being in connection with him, and not reproving it? 1 Tim. 5, 22.” (37.) “Now as one Lutheran minister’s doctrine is ascribed to another, why should the one not have the right to bring the other to an account, provided he believes that he deviates from the confession they are both pledged to maintain? The ministers of the North Carolina Synod call themselves Lutherans, but as we believe that they propagate doctrines contrary to the Augustan Confession, we considered it necessary to require of them to stand an examination. It is necessary to correct a wrong opinion, which is, that Lutheran ministers are at liberty to deviate from the Augustan Confession whereinsoever they conceive it as erroneous. Some ministers have declared that they did not care what the Augustan Confession teaches, that they simply taught the doctrines of the Scriptures; further, that Luther was only a man, and was therefore liable to err. In answer to this, I observe that Lutheran ministers have no right to deviate from any article of this Confession because the whole of it is viewed by the Lutheran community as true and Scriptural. Let them remember their solemn vows! Such as think proper to deviate, infringe upon the rights of the community. It must, however, be admitted that if any one should discover that this confession is unscriptural, he would be justifiable in renouncing it. By doing so no one would be deceived. If there are errors in this confession, why should any man who has discovered them yet pretend to preach under its covert? Such as believe that this Confession contains errors practise a twofold fraud. The one is, that they cause Lutherans to think that they hold the same doctrines as they do themselves, when yet they do not. The other is (provided it be true what they affirm), that they encourage the people in those errors, because they pretend to support the very confession which contains them. That the Bible is the proper rule of doctrine must be confessed; yet the question is, Does the Augustan Confession contradict it? That Luther was a man, and therefore liable to err, is not denied; but that he did err with regard to the doctrines contained in the Augustan Confession remains to be proven. But if he erred, why do such as believe this call themselves Lutherans? Such practise a fraud by being called Lutherans, when they affirm that Luther taught erroneous doctrines; or else [they] must own that, by being called after him, they sanction such errors.” (37 f.)
103. Truth Always Seeks the Light.
In his justification of the procedure of the Tennessee Synod, David Henkel continues as follows: “The intention of the public debate which was offered to the ministers of the North Carolina Synod was to afford them an opportunity of manifesting the doctrines we teach, and to prove them as erroneous. The same [opportunity] we would also had to have treated theirs in like manner. The propositions which were made were calculated to have brought all these things to light. They would not only have offered the hearers who might have been present the opportunity of knowing the difference, and arguments on each side, but the debates might also have been committed to paper and published, and thus the whole Lutheran community might have been judges in this controversy. When a doctrine is in dispute between two parties, how shall the public decide when they never heard the opposite arguments? Is it rational to condemn either party without a trial? Whilst the deeds of men are to be concealed, there are just grounds for believing that they are evil. Our blessed Savior says, ‘For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God.’ John 3, 20. 21. No man who is confident that he has the truth on his side will ever evade coming to the light; for he is not ashamed to profess and vindicate the truth; and though it should be scrutinized to the utmost, yet he knows that thereby, like gold passing through the fire, it shall become more brilliant. Even the man who is diffident with respect to his doctrines, yet having an honest disposition, never objects to be brought to the light; for he considers that no greater favor could be shown him than that his errors be overthrown, and he be led into the paths of truth. But the man who knows that he cannot defend his doctrines upon Scriptural grounds, and yet possesses too high an estimation of himself, hates to be brought to the light, for he knows that his errors will be unmasked; ‘for every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.’ Why do men make so many shifts to evade a public trial of the doctrines, but a consciousness of being in an error which their pride does not suffer to be publicly exposed? Many a man in a hasty ill humor condemns a doctrine merely because the man whom he considers his enemy vindicates it; and though he should afterwards be clearly convinced, yet he believes it to be beneath his dignity to make a recantation, and thus throughout all his days he is tormented with a guilty conscience. In the days of the Reformation public debates were highly conducive to manifest the errors of the papists. When Luther confronted his opponents in the presence of multitudes, it was that many souls got convinced of the truth, which before were kept in ignorance. Had he refused to appear, especially before the Diet at Worms, what would have been the result? Though he knew that his life was in danger, if he appeared, yet he also knew that the cause he had espoused would have suffered, provided he evaded a public test of his doctrines. The Papists having been taught by experience that the public debates with Luther proved injurious to their party, they avoided them as much as they could and employed various stratagems to destroy him and his cause. Luther says: ‘The court of Rome most horribly fears, and shamefully flees from, a Christian council.’ Had this principle been uniformly followed in the days of Luther that it is sinful to dispute on points of doctrine, the errors of the Papish Church could have been impregnable; and those who bear the name of Christian might perhaps yet groan under papal superstition and tyranny. . . . Thousands have joined churches with whose peculiar doctrines they are not acquainted, and even do not know whether their government is republican, aristocratical, or monarchical. They are satisfied with what they hear from their ministers, without even examining their creeds or forms of government. Such being ignorant, they are already prepared for a state of slavery. They who so easily submit to an ecclesiastical slavery may also by degrees, by the same means, be led to sacrifice their civil liberty. How is it possible that people can with any degree of safety be in connection with such ministers as are publicly impeached with erroneous doctrines, and yet are not willing to be brought to light? Ought not every person conclude: If such ministers believed that they had nothing but the truth on their side, they would freely embrace every opportunity of coming to the light, so that they might show that their works are wrought in God, and refute their opponents’ calumnies? That a public debate would create animosity is no reason that it should be omitted. Would it offend real Christians? By no means. It indeed might offend false teachers and their votaries, who for the want of argument would substitute the ebullitions of their anger. But what Christian can imagine that no error should be exposed, lest the persons who are guilty might be offended?” (38 ff.)
104. Arguments Continued.
David Henkel furthermore showed from Phil. 2, 15; 1 Pet. 2, 9; 1 Pet. 3, 15. 16, that it is the duty of Christians to shine as lights in the world, to instruct the ignorant, to give an answer to every man who asks them a reason of the hope that is in them, and then proceeds to the following conclusion: “Now if it be every Christian’s duty to answer those who interrogate them respecting the grounds of their faith, how contrary to the Word of God do such synods and ministers act when they refuse answering some important theological questions either by writing or public interview! Do they refuse because they consider the persons who interrogate them too far beneath their notice? Does not this (if it be the case) indicate that they are possessed with the pride of the devil? What! poor sinful mortals, do they exalt themselves above their fellowmen? Or are they ashamed to let their sentiments be known? Are they sensible that they cannot rationally defend their doctrines if they were scrutinized? Or, indeed, have they the truth on their side, and yet fear to let it be known that they believe it, lest they should become unpopular? Alas! there are too many whose sentiments may be correct, yet through fear of getting the ill will of some others will not answer the most important questions. Let such men remember, that, whilst they wish to keep the truth in darkness, with a view to please opposite parties, that they are vile hypocrites; and let them tremble! St. Paul says: ‘For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.’ Gal. 1, 10. We have asked the ministers of the North Carolina Synod for the reasons of the hope that is in them, or properly, for the proofs of their doctrines; and, agreeably to the last invitation given them, they might have had the opportunity of showing the reasonableness of their doctrines. Now as they have neglected to endeavor to convince us, why do they warn the people against us, especially since they are not willing to confront us in a public debate?” (42 f.) Henkel continues: “We, as it has been already said, are represented by the ministers of the North Carolina Synod as enemies of the promulgation of the Gospel. Particularly I am charged with teaching the most dangerous heresies, as may be seen from a scurrilous pamphlet written by their president, Mr. Shober. How is such a dangerous man to be treated by Christian pastors? Is he to be at liberty without reproof? Is he to be opposed behind his back, and defeated by arguments, or rather invectives, to which he has no opportunity of replying? No. For such treatment has rather a tendency to strengthen him in his errors, and cause such as are led by him to conclude that his doctrines are incontestable; otherwise the learned and pious clergy would confront him in a public interview. St. Paul describes the duty of a bishop in this respect: that he should ‘hold fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.’ He adds: ‘For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision, whose mouth must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.’ Titus 1, 9. 11. As these show that it is the duty of a bishop to exhort and convince the gainsayer, and to stop his mouth, the question may be asked, How is this to be done? It cannot be done otherwise than to propose to the gainsayer an interview, and if he attend to it, to refute his arguments. But if he refuses to attend, the bishop has discharged his duty; for the gainsayer thereby shows that he is, already convinced, and his mouth stopped, because, if he believed that he could not be refuted, he would by no means avoid the light. Again, when the gainsayer in a public debate is closely pursued by the truth, he uses invectives instead of arguments, which is a plain indication of his mouth being stopped. A false teacher is said to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which signifies to be under the covert of a servant of God. . . . Now, indeed is it possible that the ministers of the North Carolina Synod represent me as the most dangerous wolf, and yet can see me come among their congregations, and gain a goodly number of their people, without even being willing to confront me in a public debate, which would be calculated to show me in mine originality. Why do they flee? Do they not feel for their flocks? To pronounce them hirelings would seem uncharitable. How could I otherwise acquit them of such a charge, unless I would suppose that they in reality do not consider me as a false teacher? Otherwise they would not flee, but stand public test. But that they have called me a false teacher is perhaps owing to the violence of the old man in them, whom they have not yet crucified through the Spirit.” (44 ff.) Finally, in defending the propriety of the procedure of the Tennessee Synod, David Henkel refers to the example of Christ, who “answered the questions of the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and the devil. Now, as Christ debated with wicked men, yea, with the devil himself, with what face can any man say, It is wrong to dispute on doctrinal topics?” (45 f.) David Henkel concludes: “Whereas all Lutherans are pledged to their creed by a solemn vow, it must be a matter of great importance for every one to know the sentiments of the ministers under whose care he may be; for whosoever supports such as are inimical to the doctrines of the Church acts contrary to his vow. Every Lutheran ought to be certain, and able to prove by texts of Scripture, that his creed contains erroneous doctrine, before he adopts a contrary one, lest he incur the crime of perjury. The ministry of the North Carolina Synod are charged with denying the most important doctrine of the Lutheran Church, and have been requested to come to a reciprocal trial, which they have obstinately refused. Now, what is the duty of the people under their care? Ought they not to urge them to come to a reciprocal trial? How can they consider themselves safe under a ministry who are not willing to come to the light!” (47.)
105. Attitude toward the Scriptures.
Regarding the constitution of the Tennessee Synod we read in the Report of 1827: “Whereas the constitution [of 1820] of this Synod is blended with the transactions of the session at which it was formed, and as the unalterable articles are not distinguished from those that are local and of a temporary nature, and as the language is not sufficiently explicit, it was deemed necessary, in order to supply those defects, to supply another. Consequently a committee was appointed to draw up one for examination.” The committee complied with the order, drew up a constitution, and laid it before the body. Every one of its articles having been critically examined, Synod resolved: “1. That this constitution shall be annexed to this journal [Report]; but it shall not now be adopted nor ratified, so that the absent ministers, as well as the congregations may have the opportunity of alleging their probable objections, or of proposing necessary amendments. This also affords an opportunity for the members of the present session to reexamine it. 2. But that, if no objection of importance shall be alleged, or necessary amendments proposed by any member of this body, or by any congregation, and be laid before the next session, it shall then be considered as the adopted and ratified constitution of this Synod.” (9.) In the following year the new constitution was adopted and ratified in a somewhat revised form, and appended to the minutes of the same year. The English version is found also in the Report of 1853. The First Article of this constitution reads as follows: “The Holy Scriptures, or the inspired writings of the Old and New Testaments, shall be the only rule of doctrine and church-discipline. The correctness or incorrectness of any translations is to be judged according to the original tongues, in which the Scriptures were first written.” (B. 1828, 13; R. 1853, 20.) The Introduction declared: “Nothing relative to doctrines and church-discipline ought to be transacted according to the mere will of the majority or minority, but in strict conformity with Holy Writ.” (B. 1828, 12; R. 1853, 19.) According to the constitution of 1828, therefore, Tennessee recognized the Holy Scriptures as the only norm and rule of doctrine and life. This had been the position of the Tennessee Synod from the very beginning. As early as 1822 they declared: “Forasmuch as the Holy Bible is the only rule of matters respecting faith and church-discipline, and because the Augsburg Confession of Faith is a pure emanation from the Bible, and comprises the most important doctrines of faith and discipline, hence it must always remain valid. Therefore our Synod can neither be governed by a majority nor a minority, now nor ever hereafter, with respect to doctrine and discipline. This is the reason why nothing can be introduced among us, now nor at any time hereafter, which may be repugnant to the Bible and the Augsburg Confession of Faith. Neither the majority nor the minority shall determine what our doctrine and discipline are, because they are already determined in the above-named rule. But that we assemble from time to time is neither to form new rules, doctrines, nor traditions, but as united instruments in the hand of God we wish to promulgate the doctrine of the Bible, and to execute the rules already laid down in the Holy Scriptures. But with respect to local and temporary regulations, such as the place and time of meeting, and such like things, which do not interfere with matters of faith and discipline, the Synod suit themselves to the conveniences of the most of their members. We refer the reader to the Seventh, Fifteenth, and Twenty-eighth Articles of the Augsburg Confession of Faith, where he may find more satisfactory instructions with respect to these things.” (R. 1822, 9 f.)
106. Augsburg Confession Adopted with a “Quia.”
From the very beginning the Tennessee Synod regarded the Book of Concord as a correct exhibition of the teachings of Holy Writ, although at first only the Augsburg Confession was officially received into the constitution. At its organization in 1820 Synod declared: “All doctrines of faith and the doctrine of the Christian Life, as well as all books which are used for public worship in the Church, shall, as far as possible, be arranged and observed according to the Holy Scriptures and the Augsburg Confession. Especially shall the youth and others who have need thereof in our Church be instructed according to the Small Catechism of Dr. Luther, as has been the custom hitherto. Said Catechism shall always be the chief catechism of our Church.” (4.) “Whoever will be a teacher shall solemnly promise that he will teach according to the Word of God, and the Augsburg Confession, and the doctrine of our Church.” (5.) The minutes of 1821 record: “On motion made by Mr. Peter Boger, it was resolved that a copy of the Augsburg Confession of Faith, likewise a copy of the minutes of the Synod, shall be deposited in every church.” (8.) The Second Article of the new constitution, adopted 1828, reads as follows: “The Augustan Confession of Faith, comprised in twenty-eight articles, as it is extant in the book entitled ‘The Christian Concordia,’ is acknowledged and received by this body, because it is a true declaration of the principal doctrines of faith and of church-discipline. Neither does it contain anything contrary to the Scriptures. No minister shall therefore be allowed to teach anything, nor shall this body transact anything that may be repugnant to any article of this Confession. Luther’s Smaller Catechism is also acknowledged and received, because it contains a compendium of Scriptural doctrines, and is of great utility in the catechising of youth.” (R. 1853, 21.) The “Remarks” appended to this article explain: “Creeds fraught with human tradition and opinions are rejected by this body. Neither is the authority of a general council considered as valid, or sufficient to establish any point of doctrine. . . . Now there is a considerable difference when a body of Christians receive a human composition [symbol] as an unerring guide in addition to the Scriptures, or when they receive it to show their views as respecting points of doctrine. Lutherans acknowledge the Holy Scriptures as the only rule of doctrine and discipline; nevertheless they receive the Augustan Confession because it exhibits the same views they have on the Scriptures, and is a formal declaration of what they believe. But if it were possible to prove that the views on the points of doctrine contained in the Augustan Confession were erroneous, it would be the duty of this body to renounce it; nevertheless, in that case they could by no means be Lutherans, as they would have rejected the views of Lutherans. As there have been various editions of the Augustan Confession, this body have chosen the one which is extant in the book entitled ‘The Christian Concordia,’ because they are well assured that that is genuine.” (22.) The revised constitution of 1866 recognized the entire Book of Concord as being the doctrinal basis of the Tennessee Synod, thereby merely giving expression to the position which the Tennessee Synod had actually occupied from the very beginning. In their letter of December 10, 1826, addressed to the pastors of the North Carolina Synod, Daniel Moser and David Henkel declared: “We also wish to appeal to the book called ‘Concordia,’ as it is one of the principal symbolical books of the Lutheran Church.” (R. 1827, 28.) The sixth of the “Alterable Articles” of the proposed constitution submitted to synod in 1827 reads: “The book entitled ‘Concordia,’ which contains the Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church, shall be viewed as a directory in Theology.” (24.) After visiting the Tennessee Synod in 1855, Brohm wrote: “Creditable witnesses have given me the assurance that, as far as their persons are concerned, all the pastors of the Synod adhere to the entire Concordia.” (Lutheraner 11, 78.) When the Tennessee Synod was organized, it was the only American Lutheran synod which was pledged to the Lutheran Confession, not merely with a quatenus, i.e., as far as it agrees with the Bible, but with an honest quia, i.e., because it agrees with the Bible.
107. Confession No Mere Dead Letter.
That Tennessee did not regard the Lutheran Confession a mere dead document appears from her attitude toward the Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and other unfaithful Lutheran synods, as delineated above. The treatise appended to the Report of 1827 declared: It is necessary to correct the wrong opinion that Lutheran ministers are at liberty to deviate from the Augustan Confession whereinsoever they conceive it as erroneous. As long as a minister pretends to be a Lutheran minister, he has no right to deviate from any article of this Confession. Let him remember his vows! If any one should discover that the Augsburg Confession is unscriptural, he is justified and bound to renounce it. But if he continues to preach under its cover, he is guilty of a twofold fraud. He deceives the Church by causing Lutherans to believe that he agrees with them. And he deceives the Christians by failing to warn them against what he regards erroneous teaching. If Luther and the Lutheran Confessions erred, “why do such as believe this call themselves Lutherans? Such practise a fraud by being called Lutherans, when they affirm that Luther taught erroneous doctrines; or else must own that, by being called after him, they sanction such errors.” (38.) Tennessee was not satisfied with being called Lutheran. They were seriously determined to be Lutherans. The Lutheran Confessions were the living norm of both their preaching and their practise. In publishing books, receiving pastors and teachers, examining candidates, in negotiating with other synods, Tennessee was scrupulously guided and governed by the Lutheran Symbols. In 1821 they resolved on a Liturgy to be prepared by Paul Henkel “according to the Augsburg Confession of Faith and the Bible.” (7.) In 1826 it was resolved that Luther’s Smaller Catechism should be translated into the English language, and that Ambrose Henkel was to provide both for an accurate translation and for the publication of the Catechism. (7.) Numerous instances where pastors were carefully examined with respect to doctrine before they were admitted to membership are recorded in the synodical minutes. In the Report of 1831, e.g., we read: “Mr. Rankin [who previously had been a member of the Presbyterian Church] presented himself to the committee. He was first made a full member of the Lutheran Church by confirmation. Then, having taken the most solemn pledge, he was ordained a pastor of the same Church with prayer and laying on of hands.” (8.) The Report of 1832 records: “Whereas Mr. Rankin, as appears from a letter of Mr. Bonham, addressed to Synod, and from other trustworthy sources from Green County, Tenn., has departed from the Augsburg Confession, both as to doctrine and discipline, it was resolved that Mr. Rankin be requested to attend the next session of our Synod, and there defend himself against the above-mentioned charges, otherwise we can regard him as member of this Synod no longer.” (9. 16.) In the Report of 1827 we find the following entry: “It was considered necessary that one of the pastors should visit all the other pastors, and their congregations, and examine whether there be any who deviate from the doctrines and rules of our Church. But as none of the pastors who were present could undertake this visit, it was resolved that any of the absent ministers who may volunteer his services shall hereby be authorized to make this visit, and to reprove all errors that may come within his knowledge. Whatever pastor may undertake this visit is requested to inform the secretary of his intention, and to hand in a report of his journey at the next session.” (12.)
108. Symbols Regarded as Necessary.
In the “Remarks,” appended to the Second Article of the constitution, adopted 1828, the necessity of symbols in explained as follows: “Now the question may be put, Is not the Augustan Confession a human composition? Why is it adopted by this body? Answer: The Apostle Peter exhorts Christians to ‘be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them,’ etc. 1 Pet. 3, 15. 16. From the history of the Reformation it is evident that the Protestants were called upon to deliver their confession of faith before the diet assembled at Augsburg. Every Christian is not only privileged, but also commanded to confess what he believes. Although the Scriptures be a sufficient guide without any other, and though there be but one explanation of them which can be correct, yet not all who profess Christianity explain them alike, for their views are widely different. Hence, as all do not explain the Scriptures alike, it could but be known what each body of Christians believed; consequently others could not know whether they should fellowship them, provided they had not a formal declaration of their views on the points of doctrine contained in the Scriptures. But when a body of Christians make a formal declaration of their views on the Holy Scriptures, others are enabled to judge whether they be correct, and thus may know with whom to hold Christian fellowship. . . . Lutherans acknowledge the Holy Scriptures as the only rule of doctrine and discipline; nevertheless they receive the Augustan Confession because it exhibits the same views they have on the Scriptures, and is a formal declaration of what they believe.” (22.) According to his own report of a conversation with a pastor of the General Synod, dated December 2, 1824, Andrew Henkel answered as follows the objection that the Scriptures are sufficient, and that for that reason symbols are superfluous: “I told him then that he had departed from the Augsburg Confession, and, of course, from the Lutheran Church. He then told me that the Bible was his creed, and not the Augsburg Confession, and that the said Confession contained things which were not in the Scriptures. I then replied and said that every fanatic and sectarian said so, and that Lutherans as much considered the Scriptures to be the only guide in doctrines as he or any other person did, but that it was necessary to have some standard by which men could know how the Scriptures were understood by this or the other denominations, as men varied materially in their explanations of the Scriptures. I then demanded of him to show wherein the Confession did not correspond with the Scriptures. He referred me to the word ‘real’ in the article of the Lord’s Supper, and added that that word was inserted by the hotheaded Luther.”
109. Church Governed by Word of God Alone.
The Tennessee Synod did not only realize the importance of the Symbols for the Lutheran Church, but had correctly apprehended also their spirit and doctrinal content. This appears from her uncompromising attitude toward the Romanistic, Reformed, Methodistic, and unionistic tendencies prevailing in the Lutheran synods and congregations at the time of her organization. As to polity, the cast of the first American Lutheran synods and congregations was of the hierarchical type. The congregations were subordinate to their pastors, the pastors and congregations to their respective synods, as a rule called ministeriums, because, essentially, they were bodies composed of ministers. David Henkel had experienced the tyranny to which such an order would naturally lead and lend itself. The Tennessee Synod must be credited with being the first, in a large measure, to recognize, confess, and defend the inalienable rights of all Christians and Christian congregations. The Henkels must be regarded as champions also of the basic truth of all normal church-government, viz., that no one is to govern the Christian Church, save Christ and His Word alone, not the pastor, nor the ministerium, nor the synod, nor any sort of majority. (1820, 23; 1828, 12.) In 1820, when the leaders of the North Carolina Synod, in matters of right and wrong, demanded subjection to the majority of votes, the Henkels maintained: “We thought the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession, of which we were assured that it can be proved by the doctrine of the Bible, ought to be of greater authority to us than the voice of a majority of men who are opposed to the doctrine and order of our Church.” (1820, 23.) Nothing short of clear proof and conviction from the Word of God and the Augsburg Confession would satisfy the Henkels. In 1822 Tennessee declared: “Our Synod can neither be governed by a majority nor a minority, now nor ever hereafter, with respect to doctrine and discipline. . . . Neither the majority nor the minority shall determine what our doctrine and discipline are to be, because they are already determined in the above-named rule. . . . But with respect to local and temporary regulations, such as the place and time of meeting, and such like things, which do not interfere with matters of faith and discipline, the Synod suit themselves to the conveniences of the most of their members.” (R. 1822, 9.) In a “Note” appended to the above declaration, David Henkel defines the position of Tennessee as follows: “Herein is the difference between the government of the pure Evangelical Lutheran Church and the government of the General Synod. The established rule of the pure Christian Church is the Holy Scriptures and her supreme Head, Jesus Christ. Christ, by His Word, governs the Church in the doctrines of faith and discipline; there needeth no majority of votes to determine. In such matters as do not immediately interfere with the doctrines of faith and government of the Church, as, for instance, to appoint the time and place for the meeting of a synod, or the erection of a synod, and such like things, herein our Church doth not seek to exercise any authority, but granteth liberty to each congregation and to each of her ministers to act and do as they judge it most convenient for themselves. No one is despised for not joining with us in our Synod; no one is oppressed who is not in conformity with us in matters which are not essential to the doctrine of faith. Nothing can separate our union or break our peace with any, only when they deviate from the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and when they compose traditions of their own and impose them on others. A majority is not to have authority over any one, because they have no power to impose traditions of men on others with regard to religion. The government of the General Synod is altogether otherwise. . . . It is plainly to be seen in her constitution that her aim is to impose a number of human traditions on the Church, as, for instance, that no synod shall be erected in any State, unless there are six ordained ministers living therein, and not even then unless they are authorized by the General Synod. The General Synod is to be governed by a majority; if it were not so, she would admit that every congregation and every minister should act agreeably to their own advantage in matters not interfering with the doctrines of faith, and not seek such universal power, by which they may compel men to act according to the will of a majority. The Church of God on earth was never constantly governed right by a majority. In the times of the prophets the Church was oppressed by a majority. . . . How was it in the time of Christ? How did the majority act against the Savior? Who was right? The great council of Jerusalem and thousands of their adherents, or Jesus of Nazareth, and the few of His disciples who were despised by the world? How was it in the days of Luther? What was he against millions of the Papist Church? And yet every Protestant will confess that Luther’s cause was just, and is thankful to God that the light of the Gospel was set up by Luther. But supposing that Luther had yielded to be governed by a majority as the advocates for a General Synod insist, or wish that the Church should be governed by a majority, might we not have remained in the ignorance of blind popery to the present day? The government of the world is supported by a majority, and thus, many imagine to themselves, it ought so to be in the Church; but they are greatly mistaken! Jesus saith, ‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ and consequently not His manner of government. . . . Jesus Himself hath already prescribed all things respecting the doctrine and discipline of His Church, therefore we need no General Synod to give us prescriptions! As touching matters not essential, as appointing the time and place of a convention or the like, whereof no prescription is given, no one is justifiable to give any prescription or direction, much less to compel any one thereto, whereas all are to enjoy Christian liberty. See Rom. 14; Col. 2. But those of the General Synod undertake to erect universal directions in these matters, or else they would not name their Synod Universal. Whosoever submits himself to be governed by a majority must be such as trust to a majority. The Scripture saith: ‘Cursed is the man who putteth his trust in man.’ Jer. 17.” (R. 1822, 11 f.) These views were embodied also in the constitution of 1828. In the explanatory “Remarks” to the Fourth Article we read: “As the aforesaid duties [to supply laborers, detect false teachers, examine and ordain ministerial candidates, etc.] devolve on all churches and ministers, they undoubtedly have the privilege to perform them jointly, i.e. they may constitute a synod. But no Christian synod can have legislative powers, consequently have no right to make rules for churches. All necessary and salutary rules pertaining to the government of the Church are prescribed in the Scriptures; therefore every body of men who make rules for the Church are in opposition to Christ. To make rules for the Church is one thing, but to execute these rules already made, and to employ the proper means for the promulgation of the Gospel, is another. The latter, but by no means the former, is the business of this body. That there ought to be no appeals from the decisions of congregations is evident from Matt. 18, 15-20.” (B. 1828, 20; R. 1853, 25.) Of course, appeals from the congregation to the synod as a higher authority, to which the congregation is subordinated, were meant. The Introduction to the constitution says: “The rules and principles of church-government are contained in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore no body of Christians have authority to dispense with, or alter or transact, anything contrary to them. Human traditions or rules impressed upon the Church as necessary for Christian fellowship, which have no foundation in the Scriptures, are rejected by our Savior. Matt. 15, 9. 13. 14.” Although, in executing the rules of the Church, different times, persons, and local circumstances intervene, as, for instance, in one age and country one language is prevalent, but not in another age, and perhaps not in the same country . . ., nevertheless, Christ being omniscient, and His all-wise Spirit having inspired His apostles, they have provided the Church with salutary rules, which are applicable to all persons in all places, times, and circumstances. Nothing relative to doctrines and church-discipline ought to be transacted according to mere will of the majority or minority, but in strict conformity to the Scriptures. Local and temporary regulations, such as the time and place of the meeting of the synod, the ratio of representatives from congregations, etc., may be varied for the sake of convenience, hence are subject to be altered, amended, or abolished by the majority; yet they ought not to attempt to make their decisions in such cases absolutely obligatory upon the whole community, because such regulations are only subservient to the execution of the rules which are founded upon the Scriptures.” (19.)
110. Antihierarchical Principles Practised.
The organization of, and connection with, a synod was regarded by Tennessee as a matter not of divine obligation, but of Christian wisdom and liberty. No congregation was condemned or refused fellowship merely because it refused to unite organically with their synod. In the “Remarks” to the Fourth Article of her constitution Tennessee explains: “When ministers and lay-delegates are assembled, they may have a more accurate knowledge of the exigencies of the whole connection they represent, hence are the better enabled to impart their counsel. By their simultaneous efforts, vacant churches may be supplied with ministerial labors, and others formed and organized. Indeed, the same end may also be obtained by individual ministers and churches; nevertheless, as it frequently becomes necessary for such to receive cooperation from their brethren, this end may be obtained with more facility by the meeting of a Synod.” (1853, 25.) According to Tennessee, then, the organization of, and connection with, a synod is a matter of Christian liberty, wisdom, and expediency. But, while not opposed to synods as such, Tennessee most strenuously objected to any kind of human autocracy within the synods and congregations. When, in a letter, several members of the North Carolina Synod designated Paul Henkel “the head” of the Tennessee Synod, the latter declared, and could do so truthfully, that their Synod “confesses no man as its head save the one and only God-man, Jesus Christ.” (B. 1824, 10.) The fact is that, in the beginning, Tennessee was even without standing officers. The chairmen were elected and changed at pleasure even during the sessions of the same convention. (B. 1820, 7.) Largely, her opposition to the General Synod also was rooted in her determined hostility to every form of Romanism. (R. 1820, 55; 1821, 17.) “If you will consider,” they said to the North Carolina Synod, which had joined the General Synod, “what pertains to true Christianity, you certainly cannot reasonably desire that a government, shall be forced upon the Church, of which no trace can be found in the Bible.” (B. 1824, Anhang 2.) Indeed, in their aversion to any and every form of synodical dominion over the congregations Tennessee frequently went so far as to create the impression that they viewed with suspicion and as questionable, if indeed not as directly objectionable and sinful, every form of organization of synods into a general body. On this point, also in her criticism of the General Synod, Tennessee frequently ran riot. But, though occasionally losing her balance and making a wrong application of her antihierarchical doctrine, the principle as such was sound to the core and truly Lutheran. When the North Carolina Synod, without further investigation, annulled a ban of excommunication which David Henkel’s congregation had imposed, Tennessee repudiated the action as an infringement on the rights of the congregation. “For,” said they, “it cannot be proven anywhere that a synod has authority to break the decision made by the church council and the congregation. In such matters a congregation has greater power than any synod.” (B. 1820, 20.) In agreement herewith the Fourth Article of the constitution submitted in 1827 provided: “But this Synod shall have no power to receive appeals from the decision of congregations, with respect to the excommunication or receiving of members. For every congregation in this respect is independent of the Synod.” The German version adds: “Hence Synod cannot change or annul a decision of any congregation pertaining to the exclusion or the acceptance of a member.” (R. 1827, 22; B., 21.) The form in which this article was finally adopted (1828) reads: “But this Synod shall have no power to receive appeals from the decisions of, nor to make rules nor regulations for, congregations.” (B. 1828, 19; R. 1853, 25.) Neither did the Tennessee Synod arrogate to itself the right to appoint pastors to the congregations or to remove them. The Report of 1824 records concerning Adam Miller: “This young man displays strong inclination for preaching; but since he has produced no regular call from a congregation, he could not be ordained.” (14.) The Tennessee Synod claimed no power whatever over the individual congregations. The minutes of 1825 record: “It is reported that this Synod, in 1821, ordered all the congregations not to suffer any minister who is connected with the General Synod to preach in their meeting-houses. Be it therefore known to all whom it may concern that there was no such a resolution adopted; although, there was a petition handed in, subscribed by three congregations in Tennessee, in which they stated that they had adopted a resolution among themselves not to suffer a minister belonging to the General Synod to preach in their meeting-houses, and also petitioned the Synod to admonish all the congregations to concur with their resolution. But the Synod sanctioned their resolution only in part, in so far as not to be connected with the General Synod; yet the Synod do not arrogate to themselves any authority to prescribe to any congregation, whom they shall suffer to preach in their meeting-houses. All congregations in this respect are independent of the Synod.” (R. 1825, 11; 1821, 7.) The Report of 1832 declared: “This body arrogates to itself no power to make laws and rules for the congregations, because it is against their rights and liberties, as well as also against the Fourth Article of our constitution.” Indeed, such was their care not to exceed their authority that, e.g., Synod, superscrupulously, refrained even from making a declaration how to further the instruction of the young, but contented itself with merely advising “the diverse church councils and congregations to make such rules and arrangements how they might most fittingly and conveniently (wie es fuer sie am schicklichsten und bequemsten sei) instruct their young.” (B. 1832, 9.) According to the Fourth Article of the constitution it was the business of Synod “to detect and expose false doctrines and false teachers.” But the “Remarks” appended to this article are careful to explain: “That it shall be the duty of this body to detect erroneous doctrines and false teachers does by no means suppose that the same does not also devolve upon individual churches and ministers, for this body does not claim it as their prerogative. But it is believed that this duty may be performed more advantageously by a synod.” (R. 1853, 25; B. 1828, 19.) Even the right of examining and ordaining ministers was not denied to the congregation. The draft of the constitution published 1827 declared: “The business of this body shall be . . . to examine (if requested) candidates for the ministry who may be called by congregations, and, if they be found qualified, to consecrate them with the imposition of hands and prayer.” (R. 1827, 22.) The reading adopted in 1828 ran thus: “The business of this body shall be to impart their useful advice . . . and, upon application, to examine candidates for the ministry.” (1853, 24.) The “Remarks” appended this explanation: “Neither does this body claim the exclusive right of examining and ordaining candidates for the ministry. For every congregation has the privilege of choosing fit persons for their ministers, and individual pastors have the authority to perform their ordination. This is evident from the practise of the primitive Christians, as well as from the Scriptures. But when any congregation shall request this body to examine and ordain the person of their choice, it then devolves on this body to perform this duty. As the aforenamed duties devolve on all churches and ministers, they undoubtedly have the privilege to perform them jointly, i.e., they may constitute a synod. But no Christian synod can have legislative powers, consequently have no right to make rules for churches.” (1853, 25.)
111. Rights of Laymen Recognized.
From the very beginning the Tennessee Synod vindicated to the deputies of the congregations the right not merely to listen, to witness, and to testify, when called upon to do so by the ministers, as had been the custom in the Pennsylvania Synod, but also, on equal terms with the pastors, to deliberate, decide, and vote on all matters submitted to Synod. ( Lutheraner 11, 166.) Article Three of the Constitution declared: “It shall not be allowed either for the ministers to transact any business exclusively of the lay delegates, or for the lay delegates exclusively of the ministers; provided there shall be both ministers and lay delegates present.” (B. 1828, 16; R. 1853, 23.) The “Remarks” appended, add the following: “It is not the privilege and duty of the clergy alone to impart their counsel in ecclesiastical matters, and to employ means for the promulgation of the Gospel, but also of other Christians. The first Christian council was convened in Jerusalem, and consisted of the apostles, the elders, and the other brethren. They decided the question whether it was necessary to be circumcised. See Acts 15, 1-31. The apostles were inspired, hence could have made the decision, without the assistance of the lay brethren; but it appears they desired no such prerogative. This precedent justifies the laity in being in council with the clergy for the purpose of deliberating on the most important ecclesiastical matters. Christians, in common, are called ‘a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,’ and they are ‘to show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.’ 1 Pet. 2, 9. Now, since Christians in common have such honorable titles, sustain such a high dignity, and are to manifest the praises of God, it may be concluded that they have the same rights in church-government as the clergy. St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, said: ‘Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that ye shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?’ 1 Cor. 6, 2. 3. Not only the believing ministers, but also the laity are saints. . . . Now, if saints shall judge the world, even the angels, why should they not also be capable and privileged to transact the most important matters pertaining to the Church? That laymen should exercise equal rights with clergymen in church-government, is not only Scriptural, but also conducive to the preservation both of civil and ecclesiastical liberty. . . . From the history of the Church it appears that whenever the clergy governed without the laity, they enslaved the people, grasped civil authority, and persecuted those who detected or opposed their aspiring views. This not only has been the case under the reign of Popery, but also some of the clergymen who called themselves Protestants have been the most bloody persecutors.” (B. 1828, 17; R. 1853, 23.) In accordance with these principles, laymen in the Tennessee Synod were also represented on, or even exclusively composed, most important committees. Thus, in 1824, three laymen were elected members of the committee which was to confer with the North Carolina Synod in an effort to remove the doctrinal differences separating them. “They appointed farmers,” Jacob Sherer of the North Carolina Synod, in a letter, remarked contemptuously, “to instruct us, who in public print have slandered us, and treated us scornfully when it is known to them that the priests’ lips are to preserve the doctrine.” David Henkel, then secretary of the Tennessee Synod, however, in a “Note,” recorded in the Report of 1825, justified the action of Tennessee. Here he wrote: “I conceive it to be my duty to observe that it is truly astonishing that farmers should not also, as well as ministers, be capable of judging the Christian doctrine. Whenever it shall be proved that farmers are not to read the Holy Scriptures, then only ought they to be excluded from this important business. It is well known that in the dark ages of Popery the layman was not permitted to judge in religious controversies, and it seems very alarming that Mr. Sherer has expressed a similar sentiment, inasmuch as he considers himself much offended because the Synod appointed laymen or, as he says, farmers to constitute the committee. That the priests’ lips are to preserve the doctrine does not prove that it is inexpedient or wrong to appoint laymen to assist on deciding a dispute. It was believed laymen would act more impartially, since the ministers are more immediately concerned in this controversy. Neither can I discover that all farmers are so contemptible a class of people (so niedertraechtige Leute) that Mr. Sherer could possibly be offended at the appointment! If in case the committee have published anything, which is contrary to truth, Mr. Sherer is at liberty to make it appear.” (R. 1825, 6.)
112. Fanatics Described.
At the time of the organization of the Tennessee Synod the Lutheran Church of America generally was suffering with a threefold malady: Unionism, Reformedism, and Methodism. Methodism may be defined as a diseased condition of Christianity, causing Christians to base their assurance of salvation not on the gracious promises of God in the objective means of grace, the Word and Sacraments, but on feelings and experiences produced by their own efforts and according to their own methods. As the years rolled on, the early Lutheran Church in America became increasingly infected with this poison of subjectivism and enthusiasm, especially its English portions. Rev. Larros of Eaton, 0., said in a letter to Paul Henkel, dated August 2, 1821: “I remember when eighteen or twenty years ago many among the Germans in North Carolina were awakened as to their salvation, and we, in joyful hope, spared no trouble teaching and instructing, in order to make of them men for the kingdom of Jesus, preserving the Bible-religion, that even then one could notice how some were flushed and puffed up with pride. This was evident especially at the time of the great revival of the English Church, when, at the large meetings, their novices [“Neulinge,” young English preachers] admonished the people, and, to the detriment of the Church and the depreciation of the older ministers, by their bold and arrogant actions indicated, that they understood the business of converting the people better than the old preachers, and this without being called to order by their superiors. Since that time impudence and lust of ruling have greatly increased, so that the fruit of it appears at public synods.” (B. 1821, 35.) The Methodistic doctrine of conversion, as related above, was a point of dispute also between the North Carolina and Tennessee Synods. The Tennessee Report of 1820 states this difference as follows: “Since our opponents [of the North Carolina Synod] refuse to admit that regeneration is wrought in the manner taught by our Church, we infer that they believe it must be effected in an altogether different way. For almost all religionists of this time teach most frequently and diligently and urge most earnestly that one must experience regeneration, or be eternally lost. We are also accused by many that we deny the doctrine of regeneration. Our answer is: We do not deny the doctrine of regeneration at all; moreover, we teach it as well as our opponents. But that regeneration is effected in the manner and by the means such as they teach and pretend, this we cannot believe, nor do we admit that it is possible in this way. Some of them teach and maintain that regeneration cannot be wrought in any other way than by fear and terror, when one, experiencing true contrition and sorrow of sin, is moved to pray and cry anxiously, beseeching the Holy Ghost to perform in him the work of regeneration. They hold that the Holy Ghost can operate this in such only as are previously brought into this state of fear and terror. As a natural birth cannot be effected without pain, in like manner, they argue, no one could be born anew without previously, through anguish and fear, having experienced pains of the soul, more or less. Such teachers, however, fail to observe that by this example they contradict themselves. For in a natural birth, as everybody knows, only the mother has pain, not the child, while according to their doctrine the child ought to have the pain. Who, therefore, does not see that their teaching is most absurd and questionable? Now, in order to bring about regeneration in the manner they teach, it is the rule to preach the Law and its curse. To produce the required pangs of the soul, the poor people are threatened with the devil, eternal death, and hell. The intention is to cause a sinner to pray earnestly in order, by such prayer, to receive the Holy Spirit. To produce this result, joint prayers are said to contribute the most, viz., when a number of people gather and strain every power of body and soul in crying and screaming to move the Holy Spirit, or even to force Him, to finish the work of regeneration. They imagine that, by their own exercises in prayer, and especially by their joint prayers, they have advanced the matter and earned and obtained the Holy Ghost, and that, He [the Holy Ghost] having united with their exercises and labor, the work of regeneration was finished through the combined operation of their prayers and the gifts of the Holy Spirit acquired by them. They mistake imaginations for divine revelations. And the sensation rising from such imaginations they regard as effects of the Holy Spirit. They apply to themselves what the Apostle Paul writes Rom. 8, 16: ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.’ They declare: We are born anew, and we know indeed that it is so, for the Spirit of God has given testimony to our spirit. But if one desires to learn how He had given this testimony, whether they had seen Him or heard Him, or in what manner or whereby He had given such assurance, they appeal to their imaginations and sensations, from which also something peculiar, like an apparition, may come to them; but whatever this is we do not know. One can be absolutely sure, however, that it is not the Holy Spirit. For as soon as you let them understand that you believe that they have been deceived and you endeavor to lead their attention to the testimonies of Holy Scripture in order to obtain from it reliable testimonies, immediately their anger begins to rise, their countenance becomes disfigured, and, alas, with some already a fist is clenching with which they strike the table or their knees and declare defiantly: ‘I don’t care anything for what you say; it is none of your business; I know that I am born of God, and will suffer it to be taken away from me by nobody, by no learned man, nor by any devil; what I know I do know.’ There is a reason, why such a person will not suffer his opinion to be taken from him by anybody, and he need not fear that any devil will rob him of it, especially when he is ready to use his fist in defense of his opinion.” (B. 1820, 32 ff.)
113. Sober Attitude of Tennessee Synod.
In opposition to the subjectivism of the Methodistic enthusiasts within the Lutheran synods, Tennessee based the certainty of salvation on the objective means of grace, placing especial emphasis on the well-known comforting passages of Holy Writ concerning Baptism, such as John 3, 5; Eph. 5, 23. 25. 26; Titus 3, 5; 1 Pet. 3, 20. 21; Rom. 6, 3-5; Acts 2, 38; 22, 16; Gal. 3, 26. 27; Mark 16, 16. “These passages of the Bible,” they said, “show us that we are not to seek salvation in any work which we ourselves can create or perform, no matter whatever its nature may be, but only through faith on the Lord and Savior Christ, who alone has done everything for us, and through the grace which He bestows and confers on us in Holy Baptism, whereby we are regenerated.” (B. 1820, 34.) Again: “From the passages here quoted the attentive reader is able to see and comprehend that regeneration is not effected in the manner as some teach.” It was evident from the Scriptures, they maintained, that Christ referred to Baptism when He declared that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he was born again of the water and the Spirit. They explained: Self-evidently it is not a natural power or effect of the water to wash away sin. “Yet we see that the washing and cleansing from sin is effected alone [?] [tr. note: sic!] through Baptism, and that by faith alone such grace is appropriated. Accordingly, whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. Mark 16, 16.” (38.) In this passage, Mark 16, 16, Tennessee declared, “Christ in a few and clear words indicates the whole condition under which a man can be saved. It consists in this, that he believes that, for the sake of Christ and what He has done and suffered for us, God will forgive all our sins, and that by faith, in Baptism, he appropriates such promises of all the gifts of salvation which God imparts to man for Jesus’ sake. This also shows us that man cannot be saved by his own work or merit, but alone by what God presents and imparts to him. He obtains faith through preaching, which is by th. Word of God, as Paul writes, Rom. 10, 17. Baptism is administered by the command of Jesus Christ, Matt. 28, 19, through the service of the minister of the Church. In this way God, through means, seeks man before man seeks Him. Accordingly, for having been translated into the state of salvation, man is to thank God and His ordinances alone, not himself, his merit, his own works, or his experiences.” “Because we understand and teach this matter in the manner indicated, we are said to despise prayer, declare it unnecessary, and teach men that it is sufficient for salvation if they are baptized and attend the Lord’s Supper, and that nothing else is needed. To this we answer: Whoever is baptized and has true faith in Christ, is in need of nothing else in order to die a blessed death; if he should die thus, he would be saved, for whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved. And Paul writes to the Galatians: ‘Ye are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus; for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.’ However, if they are possessed of the true faith, they will also acknowledge the grace of God, for which they thank Him heartily. Whoever truly believes, loves his neighbor; indeed, he loves all men, he prays for all, being moved to do so by love and compassion toward all. Such a one will also experience many temptations and tribulations by the devil, the world, and his own flesh against which he will have to fight and strive daily. This will cause him trouble and teach him to pray of his own accord. Such people we advise to pray heartily, and give them instruction therein. And this we do for the reason that God in His Word promises to hear them, and that they may be strengthened in faith, to continue faithfully to the end, but not in order that thereby they may be born anew.” (36 f.) The question, “How does the Spirit give testimony?” was answered by David Henkel as follows: “When an evil-doer condemned to death receives a document with the name and seal of the Governor affixed, that his crime is pardoned, and that he shall be set free, then he is in possession of something upon which he may firmly rely. By it he cannot be deceived, as would be the case when such a thing merely appeared to him in his thoughts, or he had dreamt that he was set free. In like manner he cannot be deceived who firmly believes the assurances given him in the Word of God that God, for the sake of Christ, has forgiven all his sins. The Spirit is then giving him, through the Word, firm assurance of the forgiveness of his sins. And if he remains in faith, he always has this firm assurance in the Gospel which proclaims the forgiveness of sins. All men could have such an assurance if by faith they were obedient to the Gospel. The Romans had it, but only for the reason that, in accordance with the ordinance of Jesus Christ, they were baptized and believed in Him. That this text [Rom. 8, 16] does not, though always misinterpreted in this way, prove that one must have been favored with a certain heavenly vision in order to know that one’s sins are forgiven, every intelligent man will see without further explanation. The Prince of Darkness always endeavors to lead men away from the ordinances and promises of God, and causes them to rely on all manner of works and merits of their own, in order, finally, to make the poor creatures believe as all Deists do, viz., that Christianity is nothing but a nursery-tale. There is reason also to believe that wily Satan presents some illusion to such as, in an overwrought frame of mind, are in great expectations of seeing a vision, and that they regard it as sent from heaven, and build on it their assurance of the forgiveness of their sins.” (43.) In the letter, appended to the Report of 1821, from which we quoted above, Jacob Larros says: “If I can again, after falling from baptismal grace, appropriate to myself from Holy Scripture the blessed marks of a state of grace and of regeneration, then it truly is no new grace, produced by the storming of men; but it most assuredly is the same grace promised in Baptism which has been found once more. The grace secured by storm [die gestuermte Gnade] may also have its marks, drawn from the air or out of the head, not from the Bible, but from the majority of false voices.” (B. 1821, 35.) Concerning the “new measures” (die “neuen Massregeln”) the Report of 1841 records the following: “Now the ‘new measures’ were taken under advisement [by Synod], and after a carefully considered discussion it was unanimously Resolved, That we disapprove most strongly of the ‘new measures’ which have been introduced into the Lutheran Church by modern enthusiasts, because we believe that they are in conflict with the Word of God, with the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession, with the Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church, and with the usages of the Church in her best and purest era, and are calculated to arouse discord and contention between the members of the Church.” (B. 1841, 10.) However, though strenuously opposed to Methodistic enthusiasm, Tennessee, at the same time, was very considerate of Christians who were pietistically inclined, and care fully avoided judging their hearts. In the Report of 1820 we read: “It is indeed true that some men of honest mind do err in this matter; they do not perceive the difference and seek in their own exercise and experience what in reality they have already received in Baptism. However, if they are but faithful, they will advance in holiness by the thing wherein they seek regeneration, and thus it cannot, harm their salvation. The harm, however, is this, that the Price of Darkness misleads many who are in such error to believe that, since they seek to be regenerated by their own works and doings, Baptism is unnecessary; and, remaining unbaptized themselves, they will not permit their children to be baptized.” (43.)
114. Refusing Fellowship to Non-Lutherans.
The purpose of the General Synod was an external union of all bodies bearing the Lutheran name, irrespective of their differences as to doctrine and practise, and to cultivate intimate fraternal relations with other Evangelical denominations. The Tennessee Synod, on the contrary, was not only opposed to any kind of union with non-Lutheran churches, but also sought to bring about a separation of the true Lutherans from the spurious Lutherans, and to unite the former in defense of true Lutheranism against Reformed and other corruptions then prevailing in the Lutheran synods. Unity in the spirit, unity in doctrine, unity in faith and confession, was viewed by Tennessee as the sine qua non, the absolutely necessary condition, of all church-fellowship, church union, and cooperation. This appears from their attitude toward the North Carolina and other synods, as described above. While Stork, Shober, and others advocated a union not only with the General Synod, but with all religious bodies in America, the Henkels and their adherents declared at the “Quarreling Synod,” 1820: “The general union of the numerous religious parties, though a very desirable matter, is not to be hoped for, as we can clearly see that such a thing is impossible at this time. How should it be possible? Some teach: Christ died on the cross for all men to redeem all. Others teach: This is not true; He died only for the small number of those who, according to the holy will and the wise counsel of God, are elected from eternity and are compelled to be saved; the rest of mankind, also according to His wise counsel, God, from eternity, has ordained and elected unto damnation, and they must be lost. Again, some teach: Baptism is necessary to salvation, because Christ and His apostles teach thus. Others hold: This is not true; Baptism is a mere outward sign indicating obedience toward the command of the Lord and nothing more; Baptism is not at all necessary unto regeneration, as regeneration is wrought by the Holy Spirit without any means whatever. Some say: It is right to baptize children. Others maintain: Infant Baptism is an institution of the Pope. Others: It is of the devil. Some reject every kind of baptism. Such and similar are the people who constitute the present so-called Christendom: opinions, opposing one another, and that always will be opposed to each other! All these are supposed to be united in one church, and to become one congregation and one flock, all under the care of one shepherd. That would be like stabling together sheep, goats, lambs, cows, oxen, horses, bears, wolves, wildcats, foxes, and swine, and putting them under the care of one shepherd, saying, ‘Here you have a united flock which now you may feed and pasture in peace; you have many heads under one hat, take your place among them.’ That some were much displeased by this objection to the general union is not to be wondered at, for some of that stripe were present. There were also some of almost all religious parties in attendance.” (B. 1820, 26.) It is apparent from these statements that a general union of all denominations, irrespective of their doctrinal differences, was certainly not relished by Tennessee in 1820. Twenty years later Synod still occupied the same position. In 1841, after discussing an appeal which had gone out to unite all the different religious parties in one big body, Tennessee “resolved that whereas the Church of Christ is a gathering of all true believers, and is not now, nor ever has been, divided; and whereas it is impossible that all the different, contradictory teachings should agree with the Word of God; and whereas it is also impossible to bring about a Christian union of all the different denominations without the unity of opinions; and whereas the teachers do greatly differ in their views on religion and the form of church-government: a union of all the various denominations in one large body is both impossible and improper; and even if brought about, instead of furthering the kingdom of our Redeemer, it would harm the welfare thereof and jeopardize the religious liberty of our happy land.” (B. 1841, 11.)
115. Refusing Fellowship to False Lutherans.
That the attitude of Tennessee also over against those whom they regarded as false Lutherans was of a most determined and consistent nature, and free from all unionism, has been shown above. Nor did they regard this a mere matter of policy, but of conscience. With respect to their public testimony against the errorists of the North Carolina Synod the men of Tennessee declared: “Should any one raise the accusation that it was unbecoming for us as teachers of the Gospel to publish and reveal this matter here [in the Report of 1820], to him we give the answer: The prophets in the Old Testament did also contend against every erroneous doctrine, and the Apostles Paul, Peter, and John marked all such as taught false doctrine, and warned the Christians against them. If, however, it can be proven from Holy Writ that we proclaim erroneous or false doctrine, we will suffer ourselves to be corrected. We cannot, however, for the sake of keeping the peace, let everything pass and approve of everything they preach, for we know that it does not agree with the Holy Scriptures. It is certainly our desire to be able to live and continue to work in peace and union with all members of the entire Synod. We cannot, however, unite with them at present [because they were not agreed doctrinally]. We consider it our supreme duty and obligation to defend the doctrines of our Church against all false teachings; and though they proceed from such as call themselves Lutheran preachers, we cannot on that account spare them nor keep silence in this matter, even if we could thereby win their favor and the favor of all great men on earth.” (1820, 31.) With special reference to Shober, Stork, and their compeers Tennessee declared: “Should we help them to cover such bold things as you have here read [errors concerning Baptism, Lord’s Supper, etc.], because they belong to our organization and bear the name Lutheran? Can we do this with a good conscience?” (1820, 31.) True, at the “Quarreling Synod,” 1820, the Henkels were charged with having served all religious parties with the Word and Sacrament. They admitted that this was true, and expressed their confidence that it had not been without blessing, at least, for some. But they added: “This, however, must also be taken into consideration, that they [the Henkels] had always taught such people what our Church teaches, and that they had never preached anything else in deference to them, or to please them. Now, if any one was agreed with our doctrine, and hence felt free to hear our doctrine and to commune with us, we could not hinder him. We do not regard the name of such people, but what they believe.” (1820, 25.) However, one will admit that the practise of Tennessee at this early date does not appear to have been fully consistent. The Report of 1820, for example, records: “With the Evangelical Reformed David Henkel had no quarrel that we know of, for many of them, who are members in good standing, receive Communion from him.” (18.) The following remark of the same Report uncovers a similar inconsistency: “Should any one who has been baptized according to Christ’s command, and who has been confirmed in another church, desire to commune with us and to be in fellowship with our Church, it shall be permitted him, and he may be looked upon as a member of the Church without being baptized or confirmed for the second time.” (5; 1831, 8.) These shortcomings, how ever, do not dispute the fact that the Tennessee Synod, in a manner most energetic and persistent, endeavored to steer clear of, and opposed every kind of, unionism with the sects, as well as with unfaithful Lutherans. In 1886, however, Tennessee, untrue to its noble traditions, participated in the unionistic organization of the United Synod in the South, and in 1918 she joined the Lutheran Merger, which brought her into complete fellowship with all the unionistic synods that constituted the General Synod, opposition to which having been the primary cause of her separate organization in 1820.
Tennessee And Missouri.
116. Mutual Attraction.
The doctrinal, confessional, and practical position of the Tennessee Synod being such as described, it was but natural that, as soon as Missouri and Tennessee became acquainted with each other, both should sense their kindred spirits, and feel attracted mutually. And such was the case in spite of the fact that Tennessee at this time had practically sloughed off the German language, while Missouri was thoroughly German, and continued so for many decades. Immediately after the first contact with Tennessee, Missouri displayed a lively interest in these early protagonists of genuine confessional Lutheranism. They rejoiced in having found in the Tennessee confessors flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone. With great satisfaction they reported on the antiunionistic position which Tennessee held over against the old, apostate synods. In Loehe’s Kirchliche Mitteilungen of 1847 we find the following: “Several Virginians came to St. Louis to the Lutheran Pastor Buenger, and asked him whether he still adhered to the old Lutheran faith, which he affirmed to their joy. Thereupon they told of Henkel. . . . They had protested against an edition of Luther’s Small Catechism in which, with reference to Baptism, the words ‘who believe it‘ (die es glauben) had been made to read ‘who believe’ (die da glauben).” (94.) The Lutheraner of February 22, 1848, published the Tennessee resolution, stating that they could unite with the Synod of North Carolina “only on the ground of pure and unadulterated Evangelical Lutheranism,” and added the comment: “We confess that a closer acquaintance has filled us with the best prepossessions for this Synod. As far as we can see from the Report, they are earnestly striving to preserve the treasure of pure Lutheran teaching.” At the convention of the Missouri Synod at Fort Wayne, in 1849, Dr. Sihler was elected a delegate to the Tennessee Synod. He wrote to Loehe that “according to its Reports and confessions, this Synod maintains an upright churchly position.” “It would be a great joy,” Sihler adds, “if we could enter into definite church-fellowship with them, especially, as we, above all others, have been stigmatized as the ‘exclusive Lutherans.’” (Kirchl. Mitt. 1849, 92.) Reviewing the Tennessee Report of 1848, Walther remarked in the Lutheraner of January 23, 1849: “Like its predecessor, this Report proves that this Synod belongs to the small number of those who are determined not only to be called Lutherans, but also to be and to remain Lutherans.” After reporting their chief resolutions, including the one expressing their delight over the organization of the Missouri Synod, and recommending the Lutheraner to their German-speaking members, Walther continues as follows: “We close this extract with the sincere wish that the Lord would continue to bless this Synod, which for almost thirty years, in spite of much shame and persecution, has faithfully testified and fought against the apostasy of the so-called American Lutheran Church, especially against the General Synod, and which, as far as we know, of all the older Lutheran synods, alone has preserved in this last evil time the treasures of our Lutheran Church; and we also wish that the Lord would make this Synod a salt of the earth to stay the growing spiritual corruption in other synods.” (5, 84.) At the meeting of the Tennessee Synod in 1853, a letter dated October 6, 1853, and signed by Theo. Brohm and A. Hoyer, delegates appointed by Missouri, but unable to attend personally, was read, stating, in part: “We are highly rejoiced in this vast desert and wilderness to meet a whole Lutheran synod steadfastly holding to the precious Confession of our beloved Church, and zealously engaged in divulging the unaltered doctrines and principles of the Reformation among the English portion of Lutherans, by translating the standard writings of the Fathers, at the same time firmly resisting the allurements of those who say they are Lutherans and are not. Our Synod extends, through our instrumentality, the hand of fraternity to you, not fearing to be refused, and ardently desires, however separated from you by a different language and local interests, to cooperate with you, hand in hand, in rebuilding the walls of our dilapidated Zion. We are authorized to beseech your venerable Synod to delegate as many of your members as you may deem proper to our synodical meeting to be held next year at St. Louis, promising hereby a friendly and hospitable reception. Should your Synod next year assemble at a place more easily accessible, and more convenient, to us, we, or they whom our Synod may appoint, shall not fail to attend.” (1853, 18.) With special reference to a letter of Rev. A. Biewend, also a delegate appointed by the Missouri Synod, but prevented from attending, in which he expressed “the hope and desire that a more intimate acquaintance may be formed between both synods,” Tennessee adopted the resolution, “That we duly appreciate the kind regard of the Missouri Synod, and that we also desire a more intimate acquaintance with them, and that we appoint Rev. J. R. Moser a delegate to the next session of that Synod.” (1853, 13.) In the Tennessee minutes of 1854 we read: “The Rev. Theodore Brohm, of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, was introduced to Synod, and received as a corresponding member of this body.” (5.) “During recess, Rev. Th. Brohm preached from Rev. 14, 6. 7.” (11.) “The Rev. Theodore Brohm, of the Missouri Synod, being present, the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted: Whereas the Rev. Theodore Brohm, of the city of New York, delegate of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, has appeared amongst us, and we are assured from personal interviews with him, as well as from other sources of information, that the Synod which he represents adhere strictly to the doctrines of the Ev. Lutheran Church, as exhibited in her confessional standards, and are zealously and actively engaged in promoting the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom, be it therefore 1. Resolved, That we are highly gratified to see Brother Brohm in our midst. 2. Resolved, That we fully and cheerfully reciprocate the kind and fraternal feelings expressed and manifested towards us by the Missouri Synod. 3. Resolved, That we endeavor to cultivate a more intimate acquaintance and a closer union with the Missouri Synod. 4. Resolved, That, for this purpose, Rev. Socrates Henkel be appointed a delegate from this body to the Eastern division of the Missouri Synod, to be holden in Baltimore; and that Rev. J. R. Moser be appointed our delegate to the Western division of said Synod, at its next session.” (12; Lutheraner 11, 77.) Moser attended and reported to his Synod in the following year. (1856, 23.) Brohm, relating in the Lutheraner his visit to the Tennessee Synod, said, in part: “Let the assurance here suffice that, among the pastors in attendance, I have found a faithful adherence to our common Mother Church, and that I have not met with any essential doctrinal differences. It gave me great pleasure to observe how these men, in spite of the great dearth of English-Lutheran literature, have preserved such a living consciousness of Lutheran orthodoxy and such a firm Lutheran character.” (11, 78.)
117. Tributes from Dr. Walther.
When, in 1852, the book, Luther on the Sacraments, published by the Tennessee Synod, came to Walther’s attention, he wrote: “We praise God that He has caused this glorious work to succeed. The importance of the appearance of this work in this country, where the great majority of the English-speaking Lutherans have fallen into Reformed errors regarding the articles of the holy Sacraments, and are ignorant of, yea, do not even suspect, the good foundation on which the Lutheran doctrine of the Sacraments is built, cannot be estimated at its true value. After the Book of Concord had been presented to the English-speaking Lutherans in their own language, no better selection could have been made for them than the above-mentioned three writings [Sermon on Holy Baptism, of 1535; Letter on Anabaptism, of 1528; Confession of the Lord’s Supper, of 1528 of Luther, the chosen vessel of God for the reformation of the Church. These two books, now rendered into English, are gracious visitations indeed for the English Lutheran Church of this country. May it know the time of its visitation! . . . And the right reverend Tennessee Synod, which has issued both works (the Book of Concord and Luther on the Sacraments) in the English language, as well as the dear men who moved by love for the truth and the Church of their fathers, have regarded neither the unspeakable labor nor the great expense connected with this undertaking—may God reward them by showering His blessings upon them in abundant measure!” (9, 115.) When the second edition of the Book of Concord appeared, Walther wrote: “We thank God for the unspeakable blessing which He has conferred upon the Church of our adopted fatherland [through the publication of this book], and in our hearts we bless the faithful publishers. It is surprising as well as faith-strengthening to learn that already in the first year a second edition has become necessary. May many hands reach out for it, and may a third edition soon become necessary!” (L. 11, 63.) Walther’s joy and enthusiasm over these works published by Tennessee in the English language will be understood when we remember that it was the time when the Definite Platform was preparing, and Benjamin Kurtz and others, in order to discredit the “Old Lutherans,” who still adhered to the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, were boldly repeating the Heidelberg Lie (die Heidelberger Landluege), according to which Luther, shortly before his death, disavowed his doctrine regarding the Lord’s Supper. (L. 12, 31.)
Peculiarities Of Tennessee Synod.
118. Opposed to Incorporation.
The peculiarities of the Tennessee Synod, several of which have already been alluded to, may be accounted for partly by the lack, on their part, of correct logical distinctions and clear conceptions, partly by their fear of synodical tyranny over the individual ministers and congregations. Conspicuous among these abnormalities is the rejection of civil incorporation us a reprehensible commingling of State and Church. Article 5 of the Constitution declares: “This Synod shall never be incorporated by civil government, nor have any incorporated Theological Seminary under their care.” (B. 1828, 20; 1827, 22; 1853, 26.) The “Remarks” appended explain: “This article prohibits this body ever from being incorporated by civil government. That the government of the Church ought not to be blended (vereinbart) with the State, is a tenet of the Augustan Confession, amply supported by the Scriptures. See 28th Article. Our Lord declared that His kingdom was not of this world. John 18, 36. That the Church ought not to be blended with the State is also according to the Constitution of the United States, whose spirit and design is to secure to every person full liberty with respect to spiritual matters. The kingdom of Christ admits of no bondage, for ‘it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost,’ Rom. 14,17; ‘and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,’ 2 Cor. 3, 17. But when the Church is identified with the State, it is also fettered by human traditions, aspiring priests obtain the power to tyrannize men’s consciences. However, an ecclesiastical body may be incorporated by civil authority, and yet not be the established Church of the nation; and so far as I am acquainted with our civil constitutions there is nothing contained in them to prohibit a legislative body from incorporating any society. But when a Church is incorporated, it approximates to a State coalition. The Church, by an act of incorporation, if I am not greatly misinformed, would have power to enact laws and regulations binding upon all their members, and could recover by a civil suit at law any property, or its value, bequeathed to them. Thus empowered, could they not also borrow money upon the credit of their whole community for the establishment of any institution? An incorporated Church may not only preserve their funds, but they may also lend out their money on usury, and obtain a vast increase. The aspiring priests of such a body, knowing that the wealth of the Church is their interest, they invent many schemes to enlarge the so-called treasury of God, lest it should ever get exhausted. They fetter the conscience of some persons, by telling them that they ought to promote the cause of God, by casting their donations into the sacred treasury, so that they yield to their request, whilst they denounce those who refuse to comply with their importunities as foes to Christ and His holy Gospel. They contrive to obtain testamentary devices to the injury (in many cases) of widows and orphans; they condescend to flatter the female sex until they have begged all that they are able to bestow. Thus by the instrumentality of those clerical beggars, and by the cause of Christ being made a pander, the Church becomes wealthy; and wealth creates power, and power, tyranny and oppression. That many of the clergymen of the day possess an aspiring spirit is evident from the several attempts they have made to get some of their institutions incorporated by civil authority. If a few of the most numerous denominations in the United States were to unite, join their funds, in one, and could succeed in obtaining an incorporation act, they would not only be extremely wealthy already; but they might also increase in wealth to such a degree as would endanger our civil as well as ecclesiastical liberty. But if it be asked in what manner this could be effected, I answer: In various ways, as, for instance, such a gigantic body might by means of their wealth establish so great a number of printing-offices as would enable them to print and sell Bibles at so reduced a price that they would engross the sales of all the Bibles wanted in America, which would be an annual revenue of millions. They would be enabled to educate thousands for the ministry who otherwise had no inclination to embark in that office; and they, tutored in the principles of aristocracy, and the churches filled with them, those principles might be disseminated among millions; they could also supply the most of the common schools with their teachers, and thus the rising generation would imbibe the same pernicious principles, until at length persons of this description would occupy all the civil offices in our country, which would ultimately effect the destruction of civil liberty. In a similar manner the Roman Church became elevated above the State. By testamentary devises from the people, as well as from noblemen and kings, by the sales of indulgences and other inventions, the Church became exceedingly wealthy; cloisters were erected, and they occupied by friars and nuns supported at the expense of the people, it was their interest to support the power and dignity of the Roman pontiff. The same causes will produce the same effects. If the Church should ever acquire great wealth, aspiring priests will grasp great power. Whereas this body know these things, and wish to preserve both spiritual and civil liberty, and to prevent their successors from attempting to blend the Church with the State, they have by this article prohibited an incorporation of this body, and of any theological seminary under their care, and from accumulating funds for the support of such a seminary and of missionaries.” (1853, 27.)
119. Establishment of Seminaries Discouraged.
Tennessee did not only oppose the incorporation of seminaries, but, strangely enough, never did encourage the establishment of any kind of theological school whatever. According to their views, theological and literary schools, supported by the Church, were superfluous, since the languages might be studied in the secular academies of the country, and a course of theology could be pursued with some able divine. The Fifth Article of the Tennessee Constitution provides: “Neither shall they have any particular treasury for the purpose of supporting . . . theological seminaries.” (1853, 26.) The “Remarks” appended to this article explain: “Although this body shall have no incorporated theological seminary under their care, nor any particular treasury for its support, nevertheless they consider it highly beneficial to the Church for every minister to understand the original tongues of the Scriptures, and to be well skilled in theology. But such qualifications may be acquired without an incorporated theological seminary. There are already a goodly number of academies dispersed throughout our country which are not under the care of any particular denomination, in which the student may acquire a classical education. He, in like manner, may have the opportunity of studying theology with some able divine.” (1853, 26.) However, though Tennessee in no way encouraged the establishment of a theological seminary, the conclusion must not be drawn that they underestimated or despised a well-educated ministry. The minutes of 1821 record: “A motion was made by Rev. David Henkel that no person shall be ordained a pastor of our Church unless he understands as much of the Greek language as will enable him to translate the New Testament. But no resolution respecting it was passed. It remains postponed until the next Synod, when it shall be taken into contemplation.” (1821, 8.) In 1827 Tennessee made the following recommendations and declarations with, respect to the German, Greek, and Hebrew languages: “Whereas the Symbolical Books of our Church, particularly Luther’s works, are extant in the German language, and as sundry extracts have been made out of them, and most erroneously translated into the English; and as it is probable that such frauds may be practised in future, this body recommend the study of the German language to all the members of the Church. This would enable them to detect the glaring frauds practised by men under the garb of Lutherans. It was resolved that a more strict attention shall be paid to the literary qualifications of those who enter the ministry than has been done heretofore. A deacon should at least understand the language in which he officiates with some degree of accuracy, and be able to make the logical compositions in writing. A pastor ought, in addition to these qualifications, be acquainted with the Greek, the original tongue of the New Testament. Also an acquaintance with the Hebrew, the original tongue of the Old Testament, would the more amply qualify him for the sacred ministry. The Synod, however, do not think that there are not also useful men in the ministry who do not possess all those qualifications. For there are men whose manifold experience supplies some literary defects. But when a whole body of ministers are illiterate, they are not able to defend the truth of the Gospel against the subtile attacks of enemies. Suppose false teachers were to make a spurious translation of the Scriptures, how could such an illiterate body of ministers detect the forgery? If the knowledge of the original tongues should ever become extinct, the Gospel might soon become forged and corrupted. It is to be lamented that there are too many young men who wish to be ministers; notwithstanding, they are too indolent to acquire a knowledge of the original tongues. They are infatuated to think that they are immediately inspired from heaven, and that, therefore, they need no literary qualifications. In order to check this growing evil, and to oppose this fanaticism, it was resolved that every candidate for the ministry shall stand a literary as well as a theological examination, and be promoted agreeably to his industry. This resolution principally respects young men.” (11.)
120. General Mission Treasury Regarded Dangerous.
The Report of 1824 records: “Synod has not, and does not want to have, a treasury to pay traveling missionaries.” (8.) The “Remarks” appended to the Fifth Article of the constitution, rejecting “any particular treasury for the purpose of supporting missionaries and theological seminaries,” explain as follows: “There are but few, if any, young men in our country who are not able to defray the expenses of their education either by means of their property or industry. Yet if there be such whose indolence is the cause why they are not able to defray the expenses of their education, they should by no means embark in the ministry, as the faithful discharge of ministerial duties requires men of great industry. It must also be observed that this article does not limit the charities of liberal Christians who wish to encourage the promulgation of the Gospel; for they may, if they deem it expedient, assist any student in getting his education, or any indigent congregation in getting ministerial labors. Nor does it prohibit individual congregations from having funds under their own care, for the purpose of defraying their own expenses, and assisting any of their indigent brethren. It would be expedient for every congregation to have a fund, yet by no means to hold such under an act of incorporation. Again, although this article prohibits this body from having any particular treasury for the purpose of supporting missionaries, yet some of the ministers of this body annually perform missionary labors. Now if it be asked how they are supported, it may again be asked, How were the apostles of Christ supported when they went into all the world to preach the Gospel? Did Christ recommend the establishment of a general fund by begging donations, and obtaining testamentary devises from dying men to remunerate His apostles for missionary labors? By no means. He said unto them that they should ‘first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness,’ and that ‘all these things should be added unto them.’ Matt. 6, 33. See also vv. 25-31. Thus they had the promise of being supported whilst they labored in the Lord’s vineyard. Every faithful minister may rely upon these promises. If he be industrious in preaching the Gospel and instructing the ignorant, he will turn many unto righteousness, who will consider it their duty and privilege to manifest their gratitude in contributing towards his support. But such people as manifest an avaricious disposition, so that they will suffer faithful ministers to serve them without contributing something towards their support, prove themselves unworthy of the Gospel, and minister to others, who will receive them with gratitude.” (1853, 26.) In their “Objections” to the constitution of the General Synod, Tennessee declared: “We cannot conceive the propriety of paying missionaries out of a general fund. How many pious ministers heretofore have preached the Gospel in remote parts, without such a provision. Men who are commissioned by Christ to preach the Gospel, ‘take no thought, saying, What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed?’ Matt. 6, 31-34. Their daily employment is to teach and admonish the people—for their support they depend on the faithful promise of our Lord who said: ‘All these things shall be added unto you.’ Men who are sent of God shall profit the people; the Lord, therefore, who feeds the winged songsters, though they toil not, and arrays the lilies of the field, stirreth up the hearts of the people, and fills them with gratitude, so that they freely honor Him with their substance in supporting His ministers. Thus the promise of Christ shall evermore be verified. But hirelings and wolves do not believe this promise. They are either entangled with some temporal employment to secure their support, or else must know what they are to have from a general fund before they go forth to labor in the Lord’s vineyard. When men know what they shall get from a general fund, before they preach, they have no need to exercise faith in the promise of Christ, for their trust is in the general fund! The country is already filled with such hired circuit-riders, whose trust for a support is not in the promise of our Lord; because they first bargain with their superiors or general synods what they are to have per month or year from the general fund. Was the mission of the primitive apostles conducted in this manner? Had Christ established a general treasury, out of which He had hired His apostles by the month or year? No. Is it not degrading for Christians to depart so far from the paths of Christ and His apostles? Is it not enough that we have His promise? Genuine ministers have no need of a general fund to support them; their mission is profitable to the people, whose hearts, being moved by the Lord, will support their teachers—but such men, who are not called of God do not profit the people; they therefore do not expect to be be supported by the promise of Christ, hence they must look to the general treasury. What is better calculated to induce hirelings to enter into the holy orders than their sure wages, by a general fund?” (1821, 31.) The German Report of 1821 concludes these remarks as follows: “Give an itinerant preacher 40 to 50 dollars a month, as some already receive, and it will prove to be a veritable bait to lead all manner of evil men into the ministry, whether they are called of God or not; for the salary calls them!” (28.)
121. Funds for Widows and Orphans of Pastors Denounced.
Regarding Christian benevolence and charity, Tennessee admonished the Christians to be liberal, and also to establish a congregational treasury to meet their needs. General treasuries, however, were denounced as leading to synodical tyranny and worldly-mindedness. This was applied also to the establishment of general funds for the support of widows and orphans of pastors. In the Report of 1821 we read: “Why are ministers’ widows and orphans, and poor ministers only, to be supported by a general fund, and not also the poor members of the church? Are the families of ministers a nobler race than other people, so that extraordinary provisions must be made for them in preference to others? Would it not be better if every congregation had a fund of its own to support their needy at home? Each congregation are best acquainted with their own poor, and know who deserves help. Is it necessary that the congregations should send their money several hundred miles from home, into the general fund, and that the poor should receive it from thence? Pious ministers accustom their families to honest labor, so that they may know how to support themselves when they need it. Who supports the people’s widows and orphans? It is too lamentable a fact that too many ministers do not accustom their children to labor, but indulge them in their pride, vanity, indolence, and in the imitation of rich, proud, and pompous people of the world. Behold how many ministers with their wives, in our time, surpassing humility—how grand their attire, how lofty their appearance, how great their association with the wealthy of this world! With what contempt do they view the poor! How numerous their waiters, and how little do they expose themselves to preach the Gospel unto the poor! There is no similarity between them and Christ, whose ministers they affect to be—for He was poor; He appeared lowly and in the form of a servant. Such vain, arrogant, and indolent families truly cannot support themselves in such style after their fathers’ decease; a general treasury indeed might be considered necessary to support such in their vanity. The farmers and mechanics may labor hard to procure money to fill this treasury, of which, though, their widows and orphans in their straits could expect no assistance. Have we any nobility in America whom the people must bear upon their hands? What a constant tax is hereby imposed upon the congregations! How frequently the ministers or church-council must admonish the people to cast their mites into the general fund, lest it should be exhausted! There would be no end to begging and expostulating with the people for money. Howbeit, it is said that no person is compelled to contribute towards the general fund. We grant it in one sense, but not in another; for such as did not freely contribute would be viewed with a contemptible eye, and frequently reproved as avaricious, hardened wretches, so that at last they would find themselves obliged to contribute. Such widows and orphans who by some misfortune are rendered unable to support themselves generally find benefactors, in addition to those means civil government hath already provided.” (33.) The “Remarks” to the Third Article of the constitution conclude as follows: “Can it be believed that the majority of the clergy of the day are true shepherds? and that they do not cherish the most aspiring views? Why are there so many attempts made to identify the Church with the State? Why are so many petitions sent to legislative bodies for incorporation? Why is there such an insatiable thirst for creating funds of immense sums for churches under incorporation acts, if the clergy of the day did not cherish the most aspiring views, and did not wish to acquire a spiritual dominion blended with civil power?” (1853, 24.) It was in keeping with these views on general funds when Tennessee, in 1841, resolved not to participate in the Lutheran centenary jubilee advocated by the General Synod, also for the reason that they were opposed to the plan of collecting $150,000 as an endowment fund for its literary and other institutions. (15.)
122. Doctrinal Peculiarities.
Evidently at the time of its organization, the views prevailing in the Tennessee Synod concerning “The Last Things” were not as yet sufficiently clarified. They believed that by the organization of the General Synod the way was prepared for “the great falling away,” spoken of in the Bible, when “the Antichrist prophesied 2 Thess. 2 would set himself in the temple of God.” In the “Conclusion” of his “Objections” to the constitution of the General Synod, David Henkel said: “We do not expect finally to prevent the establishment of this General Synod by publishing our objections, because we believe, agreeably to the divine predictions, that the great falling away is approaching, so that Antichrist will set himself into the temple of God. 2 Thess. 2 We also believe that the establishment of General Synods are preparing the way for him. Antichrist will not, nor cannot, get into power without a general union, which is not effected by a divine harmony of godly doctrines, but by common temporal interests and the power of a majority. Notwithstanding, we consider it our duty to make the people attentive to those things, and to instruct such as are not wilfully [tr. note: sic] blind. But should we be deceived in our opinion, and clearly be convinced of it, we shall not be ashamed to recant. In vain people dream of the Millennium before crosses and tribulations shall have visited the Christian world by the rage of Antichrist. His kingdom is reared under a good garb; if this were not the case, no person would be deceived. Men who are notoriously immoral and vicious cannot deceive, but they only who appear like innocent lambs. May God preserve all His people against every temptation, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.” (1821, 35.) In a letter of Jacob Larros, appended to the German Report of 1821, we read: “O that our dear brethren in office would recognize the prophecies of Holy Writ concerning the kingdom of Antichrist which . . . soon will undergo a great change and appear in its highest stage; for then they would be on their guard. Of him it is written: ‘And it was given him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds and tongues and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him.’ He desires a universal communion (Universalgemeinschaft) to reach his purpose. This he neither can nor denies to attain by [bringing them all into] agreement with the Scriptures, but by the majority of votes. Oh, how it will grieve our brethren when they, having by their well-meant Planentwurf [constitution of the General Synod] organized a universal communion, behold that, as forerunners, they have only prepared the way for Antichrist to reach his goal and obtain his dominion. From this, Lord God, preserve our Church and our dear brethren in the ministry! Amen.” (36.)—Concerning the ministry the Sixth Article of the constitution, adopted 1828, declares: “The grades of the ministry are two: pastor and deacon, or, as St. Paul calls them, bishop and deacon. They must possess the qualifications which are described by St. Paul 1 Tim. 3, 1-14; Titus 1, 4-9.” (1853, 25.) Both of these offices, as well as ordination, were regarded as necessary. Says the Report of 1820: “As concerning the states and grades of the ministry (des Lehramts), we do not recognize more than two, to wit, pastor and deacon, as necessary for the preservation and propagation of the Church. A pastor is an evangelical teacher who discharges the office fully, in all its parts, or who performs all ministerial acts. He must be ordained and consecrated to this office by prayer and the imposition of hands by one or more pastors, when he also solemnly promises faithfully to discharge such office according to the Word of God and the doctrine of our Church. A deacon is indeed also a minister of the Word of God, but he does not discharge this office fully, like a pastor, but conducts catechetical instruction, reads sermons, conducts funerals, exhorts and, in the absence of a pastor, also baptizes children, where such is desired. He must be a regular member of the church and possess the testimony of a Christian conversation. At the request of the church-council he is to be examined at the synod as to his qualifications. If he is found able, he is dedicated [gewidmet] to such service by one or more pastors by prayer and laying on of hands either at the conference or in one of the congregations which he serves. And in the presence of the whole congregation he is, at the same time, to make the solemn promise that he will faithfully discharge his office according to his instructions. If such a deacon proves to be diligent in his office and acquires the knowledge and ability needed for the discharge of the office of a pastor, and also receives a regular call from one or more congregations who are without a minister, he may be consecrated and ordained a pastor in the manner indicated before.” (1820, 6.)—In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper the Tennessee Synod adhered to the custom of breaking the bread, instead of using wafers. When questioned by Missouri concerning this practise, they appealed to 1 Cor. 10, 16 and to passages of the Confessions which speak of a “breaking of the bread.” In 1856 Synod declared: “With all due deference to the learning and high character of the Missouri Synod for orthodoxy, we have been unable to see sufficient reason to make any change in our manner of administering the Lord’s Supper. We are influenced in our practise in this respect by the authority of both the Holy Scriptures and the Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church. . . . For the present, therefore, we feel fully justified in our present practise.” (R. 1856, 23 f.) Self-evidently, Tennessee did not adhere to this practise in the interest of Reformed or unionistic views.
123. A Most Influential Family.
The Henkels were by far the most prominent and influential of the men composing the Tennessee Synod. Because of their bold and uncompromising attitude toward the sects as well as all others deviating from the Christian doctrine, as taught by the Lutheran Confessions, they, together with their adherents, were universally, by false Lutherans as well as Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and other sects, hated and ostracized, and stigmatized as “the Henkelites,” Paul Henkel being designated as their “head.” (B. 1824, 10.) The sire of the American branch of the Henkel family was Gerhard Henkel. For a time he was court chaplain to the Duke Moritz of Saxony. But when the duke turned Roman Catholic, Henkel was banished. He left for America and served the first Lutherans in Virginia and later on Lutheran congregations in Pennsylvania, notably in New Hanover and Germantown. James Henkel, the grandson of G. Henkel, was the father of Moses, Paul, Isaac, and John Henkel. Thus Paul Henkel, born 1754, was the great-grandson of Gerhard Henkel. He was educated by J. A. Krug and ordained by the Pennsylvania Ministerium in 1702. For many years he served as missionary, laboring especially in Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio. He was pastor at New Market, Va., at Salisbury, Va., and again at New Market, where he died, November 17, 1825. He participated in the organization of the North Carolina Synod, in 1803, of the Ohio Synod, in 1818, of the Tennessee Synod, in 1820. In New Market, Paul Henkel, together with his sons, established a printery for the purpose of supplying the Lutheran Church with the books, German and English, which they were in need of so sorely: Luther’s Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, a Liturgy, hymn-books, etc. Paul Henkel was the father of six sons: Solomon, Philip, Ambrose, Andrew, David, and Carl. Solomon was a physician and manager of the printing-establishment. Philip was pastor in Green County, Tenn., and a member of the North Carolina Synod. Together with Bell, who was later ordained a minister, he opened a Union Seminary which, however, soon passed out of existence. He was one of the founders of the Tennessee Synod. Two of his sons, Irenaeus and Eusebius, were Lutheran ministers. Ambrose was minister at New Market, and a member of the New Market publishing firm. Under him the Book of Concord and other important works were issued. He was joint translator of the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the Appendix, and the Articles of Visitation. Andrew, the fourth son, was pastor in Ohio. David, the fifth son, was the most gifted of the Henkel family. A clear, able, and undaunted theologian, he was preeminent in zealously defending the Lutheran truth. He died 1831, at the early age of thirty-six years. His two sons, Polycarp and Socrates, entered the ministry. The latter was pastor in New Market for more than forty years; he also assisted in the publication of the Book of Concord. Charles, the youngest son, was pastor in Ohio and published a translation of the Augsburg Confession in 1834. Dr. Graebner remarks with respect to the publishing house established by the Henkels at New Market: “From this printery, which is in existence today as the oldest Lutheran publishing house in America, were issued numerous large and mall publications in both the English and German languages, abc-books, catechisms, hymnals, theological dissertations and polemical writings, books for pastime and for instruction for young and old, Christmas booklets, such as Das Virginische Kinderbuch of 1809, a paper entitled, Der Virginische Volksberichter und NeuMarketer Wochenschrift bearing the motto: ‘Ich bring’ das Neu’s, So gut ich’s weiss!‘ The Henkels were a busy and skilful [tr. note: sic] people. When in need of manuscript for their press, they wrote it; when in need of verses, they composed them; when in need of woodcuts, they cut in wood; after the books were printed, they bound them; and when the bindings had dried, they, in part themselves, canvassed the finished product throughout the country.” (611.)
124. Paul Henkel.
“My father,” says Andrew Henkel, “was a large man, within half an inch of six feet in height, well developed, with a keen black eye, as erect as an Indian; somewhat inclined to corpulency, and yet athletic and rapid in his movements. Though his health was not always good, yet he was almost constantly employed either in reading, writing, preaching, or traveling; and when necessary he did not hesitate to labor with his hands. He had no desire for this world’s goods beyond what was wanting for daily use; whatever savored of ostentation was foreign to his nature. His manner of living was frugal, and his dress plain, and yet in performing the services of the sanctuary, he uniformly wore a gown of rich black silk. He had great equanimity and serenity of temper, and his friendships were sincere and constant, and his friends numerous. In the social circle he always rendered himself agreeable, and often communicated important instruction by means of some pertinent and, sometimes, humorous anecdote. As a preacher he possessed much more than ordinary power. In the commencement of his discourse he was slow and somewhat blundering, but, as his subject opened before him, he would become animated and eloquent, with a full flow of appropriate thought and glowing language. His illustrations were lucid and forceful, simple and natural. He assisted in training a goodly number of young men for the ministry, some of whom have occupied responsible stations with great fidelity and usefulness.” (Sheatsley, History, 40; L. u. W. 43, 106 ff.) The obituary notice of “Father Paul Henkel of blessed memory,” appended to the Tennessee Report of 1826, says, in, part: “During his illness his greatest concern was that we might all remain faithful to the pure Evangelical Lutheran doctrine, and with meekness and patience, yet manfully contend for the truth for which he had contended so earnestly.” (B. 1825, 16.) He expressed the same sentiments in a message to Pastor Riemenschneider, by whom also desired to be buried. Ambrose Henkel, in a letter, November 30, 1825, reports concerning the death of his father: “I then asked him whether I should inform also all my brothers to this effect concerning him. He said: ‘O yes; write to all of them, that by all means they should remain steadfast.’ I furthermore asked him whether he still stood on the faith which he had hitherto defended. He said: ‘Yes, indeed; on this faith I have lived, and on it I will now die.’ I was also careful to call in several neighbors to listen to his words, fearing that enemies might contradict my report of his statements.” In his last letter, written to his son David, and dated August 20, 1825, Paul Henkel wrote: “If the doctrine is right and it is the will of the Lord that it should be taught publicly, He will also find and show ways and means to do it. . . . How our mendax-priests would rejoice if they could accuse some of us that we deviated in a single article from the teaching of the Augsburg Confession of Faith.” (L. u. W. 60, 62.)
125. David and Philip Henkel.
As for David Henkel, the Report of 1831 enumerates his publications and speaks of him as “this much-esteemed and venerable fellow-laborer.” “His last illness,” says the notice of his death, “was dyspepsia, which disabled him from officiating in a public capacity for the term of nine months. He bore his afflictions with a perfect resignation to the will of his divine Redeemer. He embarked in the cause of his blessed Savior when a youth (1812). And we are happy to say, to the praise of this worthy servant of Christ, that his assiduity and vigilance to study and deep researches into the truth of divine revelation have seldom been equaled by any. He remained immovable in the doctrines he promulgated to the end of his life. This venerable servant of the Lord had to endure many trials, crosses, and temptations, but he maintained his integrity through them all, trusting to the promises of his Redeemer; and notwithstanding the difficulties he had to encounter, he left a bright example to succeeding pilgrims. His ardent desire for the promotion of his Redeemer’s kingdom and his love of truth caused him to submit cheerfully to the difficulties connected with his official labors. When on his death-bed, being interrogated by his friends whether he still remained steadfast in the doctrines which he had taught, he confidently answered in the affirmative. Being again asked whether he feared death, he replied in the negative. The last words which he was heard to utter, were, ‘O Lord Jesus, Thou Son of God, receive my spirit!’ and in a few moments expired.” “The perishable remains of this worthy brother were followed to the grave by his loving companion and seven children, together with a numerous train of mourners, who were left to lament the loss of a kind father, an affectionate husband, a friend and benefactor. The body is deposited at St. John’s Church, Lincoln County, N.C. The funeral sermon was delivered by the Rev. Daniel Moser, from Phil. 1, 21: ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’” From 1812 to 1830 David Henkel preached 3,200 sermons, baptized 2,997 infants and 243 adults, and confirmed 1,105 persons. The whole course of his ministry was distinguished for industry and perseverance. He traveled in all seasons, even the most inclement, and frequently preached two and three times in a day, in the German and English languages. Besides, he maintained an extensive correspondence and was quite active also in a literary way. (1831, 15.)—Concerning Philip Henkel we read in the obituary notice, appended to the Tennessee Report of 1833: “Already in his youth he was a confessor and defender of the Christian religion, and began in 1800 to consecrate his services to the Lord, in whose vineyard he labored incessantly for 33 years and 3 months. During this time he preached 4,350 sermons, of which 125 were funeral sermons. He baptized 4,115 children and 325 adults, and confirmed 1,650 persons into the Christian Church. . . . Shortly before his end he declared, if it were the will of God to take him home, he was willing, and prayed the verse, which were also the last words he was heard to utter: ‘For me to live is Jesus, To die is gain for me, To Him I gladly yield me, And die right cheerfully.’” (B. 1833, 24.) Philip Henkel was the first to conceive the plan of organizing the Tennessee Synod. In a letter to his brother David, dated December 9, 1819, he wrote that he would do his utmost to induce Pastor Zink and Miller to join them. “But,” he added, “do not say a word of it to anybody, not even to your best friend, lest they get wind of it. In a second letter, dated March 14, 1820, Philip declared: “If the old ministers will not act agreeably to the Augsburg Confession, we will erect a synod in Tennessee.” (L. u. W. 59, 481.)