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Saxony in the year 1527, and the elector, as chief magistrate in his dominions, was acknowledged its supreme head.
At the Diet of Spire, in 1529, it was decreed that no prince of the empire should be allowed to regulate the concerns of religion in his own territories, and that all change of the estabbished Catholic religion, in doctrine, discipline, or worship, should be deemed unlawful. Against this unjust decree, the Elector of Saxony, and five other princes of the empire, with the deputies of thirteen imperial cities, Protested, and appealed to the decision of a general Council of the Church, (which they insisted should be convoked,) as the only proper authori. ty to decide on these subjects. In consequence of this protest, the followers of Luther were denominated Protestants-A general term which was applied to all who adopted the principles of the Reformation in opposition to the Catholic church, and has continued to the present time.
Nothing in the character of the Reformers demands such high admiration as their extraordinary moderation. In most revolutions, when long established systems are broken, when the base injustice and stern oppressions of tyranny are exposed, when the minds of men are unhinged by the breaking of the shackles in which they have long been bound, they throw off restraint and vibrate to the opposite extreme. On this account, good men have always dreaded revolution more than the conlinuance of existing evils. The people of Europe had long been accustomed to look upon the Roman Catholic system as Christianity; and they knew of no other system of revealed religion. They were, at the same time, deeply tinctured with licentiousness and vice. Why they did not, under such circumstances, abandon all religion as imposture, and run to the license of infidelity and the dogmas of atheism, is one of the most astonishing events to be found in the history of man. To the Protestant Reformers, and the sixteenth century belongs the extraordinary honour of having broken, effectually, the strongest power and one of the most extensive systems of error, that have ever existed, and stopped the terrible current of revolúg tion at the precise point of rational freedom, government and truth. Rather, it was done by the mercy of God. This was a greater work than the human mind has ever performed. HE wlio promised his gracious presence to his people, even unte the end of the world, enlightened their minds, sanctified their hearts, imparted to them divine wisdom, and led them to such) results as ħxed his Church on the immutable basis of the truth of God. No material improvement has been made in the condition of Protestant churches from the days of the Reformation to the present time.
The Protestant Church is divided into various classes and denominations, which will now be noticed in order.
OF THE LUTHERANS. The Literans derive their name from Martin Luther, a celebrated reformer, who sprung up and opposed the church of Rome with great vehemence and success, in the beginning of the 16th century.
The system of faith embraced by the Lutherans, was drawn up by Luther and Malancthon, and presented to the Emperor Charles V., in 1530, at the diet of Augusta, or Augsburg, and hence called the Augustan or Augsburg Confession. It is divided into two parts, of which the former, containing twentyone articles, was designed to represent, with truth and perspicuity, the religious opinions of the reformers; and the latter, containing seven articles, is employed in pointing out and confuting the seven capital errors which occasioned their separation from the church of Rome : these were communion in one kind, the forced celibacy of the clergy, private masses, auricular confession, legendary tradition, monastic vows, and the excessive power of the church. The leading doctrines of this confession are the true and essential divinity of the Son of God ; its substitution and vicarious sacrifice ; and the necessity, freedom, and efficacy of divine grace.
From the time of Luther to the present day, no change has been introduced into the doctrine and discipline received in this church. The method, however, of illustrating, enforcing, and defending the doctrines of Christianity, has undergone several changes in the Lutheran church ; and, though the confessions continue the same, yet some of the doctrines which were warmly maintained by Luther, have been of late wholly abandoned by his followers. In particular, the doctrines of absolute predestination, human impotence, and irresistible gruce, for which Luther was a zealous advocate, have been rejected by most of his followers, and are now generally known by the name of Calvinistic doctrines. The Lutherans now maintain, in regard to the divine decrees, that they respect the salvation or misery of men, in consequence of “ a previous knowlėdge of their sentiments and character,” and not with the Calvinists, as founded on “the mere will of God.” .
The capital articles which Luther maintained are as follow; "to which are added a few of the Texts and arguments which he employed in their defence.
1. That the holy seriptures are the only source whence we are to draw our religious sentiments, whether they relate to faith or practice, John v. 39. 1 Cor. iv. 16. 2 Tim. jii. 15.17. Reason also confirms the sufficiency of the scriptures : for if the written word be allowed to be a rule in one case, how can it be denied to be a rule in another ?
2. That justification is the effect of faith, exclusive of good!
works ; and that faith ought to produce good works purely in obedience to God, and not in order to our justification :* for St. Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, strenuously opposed those who ascribe our justification (though but in part) to works : If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Gal. ii. 21. Therefore it is evident we are not justified by the law, or by our works; but to him who believeth, sin is pardoned, and Christ's righteousness imputed.
3. That no man is able to make satisfaction for his sins; for our Lord teaches us to say, when we have done all things that are commanded, We are unprofitable servants. Luke xvji. 10. Christ's sacrifice is alone sufficient to satisfy for sin, and nothing need be added to the infinite value of his atonement.
Luther also rejected tradition, purgatory, penance, auricular confession, masses, invocation of saints, monastic vows, and other doctrines of the church of Rome.
On the points of Predestination, Original Sin, and FreeWill, Luther coincided with Calvin, and sometimes expressed himself more strongly ; but on matters of Church discipline they widely differed; likewise on the presence of Christ's body in the Sacrament. His followers also deviated from him in some things : but the following may be considered as a fair statement of their principles, and the difference between them and the Calvinists: (1.) The Lutherans have bishops and superintendayts for the government of the church. But the ecclesiastical government which Calvin introduced was called Presbyterian; and does not admit of the institution of bishops, or of any subordination among the clergy. (2.) They differ in their notions of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The Lutherans reject transubstantiation ; but affirm that the body and blood of Christ are materially present in the sacra. mnent, though in an incomprebensible manner; this they called consubstantiation. The Calvinists hold, on the contrary, that Jesus Christ is only spiritually present in the ordinance, by the external signs of bread and wine. (3.) They differ in their doctrine of the eternal decrees of God respecting man's salvation. The modern Lutherans maintain that the divine decrees, respecting the salvation and misery of men, are founded upon the divine prescience. The Calvinists, on the contrary, consider these decrees as absolute and unconditional.
In 1523, Luther drew up a liturgy or form of prayer and administration of the sacraments, which, in many particulars, differed little from the mass of the church of Rome. But he did not intend to confine his followers to this form ; and hence every country, where Lutheranism prevails, has its own liturgy,
* Luther constantly opposed this doctrine to the Romish tenet, that man by works of his own, prayer, fasting, and corporeal afflictions, might merit and claim pardon : and he used to call the doctrine of jus. tification by faith alone “ Articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ.", in article with which the church must stand or fall.
which is the rule of proceeding in all that relates to external worship, and the public exercise of religion. The liturgies used in the different countries, which have embraced the system of Lutber, perfectly agree in all the essential branches of religion, in all matters that can be considered as of real moment and importance ; but they differ widely in many things of an indifferent nature, concerning which the Scriptures are silent, and which compose that part of the public religion tbat derives its authority from the wisdom and appointment of men. Assemblies for the celebration of divine worship meet every where at stated times. Here the Holy Scriptures are publicly read ; prayers and hymns addressed to the Deity; the sacraments administered ; and the people instructed in the knowledge of religion, and excited to the practice of virtue, by the discourses of their ministers.
Of all Protestants, the Lutherans are perhaps those who differ least from the church of Rome, not only in regard to their doctrine of consubstantiation, namely, that the body and blood of Christ are materially present in the sacrament of the Lord's
Supper, though in an incomprehensible manner ; or, that the .: partakers of the Lord's Supper receive along with, under, and
in the bread and wine, the real body arid blood of Christ; but likewise as they represent several religious practices and ceremonies as tolerable, and some of them useful, which are retained in no other Protestant church. Among these may be Feckoned the forms of exorcism in the celebration of baptism; the use of wafers in the administration of the Lord's Supper ; the private confession of sins ; the use of images, of incense, and of lighted tapers in their churches (particularly at the celebration of the Lord's Supper,) with a crucifix on the altar. All these are practices of the church of Rome. Some of them, however, are not general, but confined to particular parts.
In every country were Lutheranism is established, the supreme head of the state is, at the same time, the supreme visible ruler of the church ; but “ all civil rulers of the Lutherab persuasion are effectually restrained, by the fundamental principles of the doctrine they profess, from any attempts to change or destroy the established rule of faith and manners,-to make any alteration in the essential doctrines of their religion, or in any thing intimately connected with them, or to impose their particular opinions upon their subjects in a despotic and arbitrary manner.” The councils, or societies, appointed by the sovereign to watch over the interests of the church, and to govern and direct its affairs, are composed of persons versed in the knowledge both of civil and ecclesiastical law, and, according to a very ancient denomination, are called Consistories. The intemal government of the Lutheran Church seems to be in some respects anomalous. It bears no resemblance to Independency, and yet it is equally removed from Episcopacy on the one hand, and from Presbyterianism on the other. We must, however, except the kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark
(including Norway,) in which the form of ecclesiastical government that preceded the Reformation is retained; purged, indeed, from the superstitions and abuses that rendered it so odious.
“This constitution of the Lutheran hierarchy,” says Dr. Mosheim, “will not seem surprising, when the sentiments of that people, with respect to ecclesiastical polity, are duly considered. On the one hand they are persuaded that there is no law, of divine authority, wbich points out a distinction between the ministers of the gospel with respect to rank, dignity, or prerogatives ; and therefore they recede from Episcopacy. But, on the other hand, they are of opinion, that a certain subordination, a diversity in point of rank and privileges among the clergy, is not only highly useful, but also necessary to the perfection of church communion, by connecting, in consequence of a mutual dependence, more closely together, the members of the same body; and thus they avoid the uniformity of the Presbyterian governments. They are not, however, agreed with respect to the extent of this subordination, and the de: grees of superiority and precedence that ought to distinguish their doctors; for in some places this is regulated with much more regard to the ancient rules of church government, than is discovered in others.
The constitution of the Lutheran church in Sweden bears great resemblance to that of the church of England. However, neither in Sweden, nor in Denmark, is that authority and dig. nity attached to the Episcopal office, which the church of Eng. land bestows upon her dignitaries.
Lutheranism is the established creed and form of religion I Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, in a great part of Germany, particularly in the north, and in Saxony ; in Livonia, and Esthonia, and the greatest part of Prussia. There are also Lutberan churches in Holland, Courland, Russia, Hungary, North Amer ica, the Danish West India Islands, &c. · In Russia, the Lu. therans are at present more numerous than any other sect, that of the Greek Christians excepted. In Poland are several Lutheran churches ; and in Hungary, the Lutherans have 439 churches ; and 472 pastors, who are elected by the people, and regulate among themselves their church government.
The Lutherans have too long cherished in their breasts thal spirit of intolerance and bigotry, from which they themselves had suffered so long, and so much ; and this spirit has often impeded among them the progress of science and enlightened inquiry, and frustrated many attempts of the reformed pariy towards a re-union. But this bigotry is by no means characteristic in them; and during the last thirty-five or forty years, learning has been cultivated, and liberality of sentiment and doctrine practised by them, in at least an equal degree with any other Christian party.