Skip to content

Confessions: Apology XXIV 35-65

by PastorMinton on August 15th, 2016

Text:

They cite also the daily sacrifice (cf. Ex. 29:38f.; Dan. 8:11f.; 12:11), that, just as in the Law there was a daily sacrifice so the Mass ought to be a daily sacrifice of the New Testament. The adversaries have managed well if we permit ourselves to be overcome by allegories. It is evident, however, that allegories do not produce firm proofs [that in matters so highly important before God we must have a sure and clear word of God, and not introduce by force obscure and foreign passages; such uncertain explanations do not stand the test of God’s judgment]. Although we indeed readily suffer the Mass to be understood as a daily sacrifice, provided that the entire Mass be understood, i.e., the ceremony with the preaching of the Gospel, faith, invocation, and thanksgiving. For these joined together are a daily sacrifice of the New Testament, because the ceremony [of the Mass, or the Lord’s Supper] was instituted on account of these things; neither is it to be separated from these. Paul says accordingly, 1 Cor. 11:26: As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come. But it in no way follows from this Levitical type that a ceremony justifying ex opere operato is necessary, or ought to be applied on behalf of others, that it may merit for them the remission of sins.

And the type aptly represents not only the ceremony, but also the preaching of the Gospel. In Num. 28:4f. three parts of that daily sacrifice are represented, the burning of the lamb, the libation, and the oblation of wheat flour. The Law had pictures or shadows of future things. Accordingly, in this spectacle Christ and the entire worship of the New Testament are portrayed. The burning of the lamb signifies the death of Christ. The libation signifies that everywhere in the entire world, by the preaching of the Gospel, believers are sprinkled with the blood of that Lamb, i.e., sanctified, as Peter says, 1 Pet. 1:2: Through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. The oblation of wheat flour signifies faith, prayer, and thanksgiving in hearts. As, therefore, in the Old Testament, the shadow is perceived, so in the New the thing signified should be sought, and not another type, as sufficient for a sacrifice.

Therefore, although a ceremony is a memorial of Christ’s death, nevertheless it alone is not the daily sacrifice; but the memory itself is the daily sacrifice, i.e., preaching and faith, which truly believes that, by the death of Christ, God has been reconciled. A libation is required, i.e., the effect of preaching, in order that, being sprinkled by the Gospel with the blood of Christ, we may be sanctified, as those put to death and made alive. Oblations also are required, i.e., thanksgiving, confessions, and afflictions.

Thus the pharisaic opinion of the opus operatum being cast aside, let us understand that spiritual worship and a daily sacrifice of the heart are signified, because in the New Testament the substance of good things should be sought for [as Paul says: In the Old Testament is the shadow of things to come, but the body and the truth is in Christ], i.e., the Holy Ghost, mortification, and quickening. From these things it is sufficiently apparent that the type of the daily sacrifice testifies nothing against us, but rather for us, because we seek for all the parts signified by the daily sacrifice. [We have clearly shown all the parts that belonged to the daily sacrifice in the law of Moses, that it must mean a true cordial offering, not an opus operatum.] The adversaries falsely imagine that the ceremony alone is signified, and not also the preaching of the Gospel, mortification, and quickening of heart, etc. [which is the best part of the Mass, whether they call it a sacrifice or anything else].

Now, therefore, good men will be able to judge readily that the complaint against us that we abolish the daily sacrifice is most false. Experience shows what sort of Antiochi they are who hold power in the Church; who under the pretext of religion assume to themselves the kingdom of the world, and who rule without concern for religion and the teaching of the Gospel; who wage war like kings of the world, and have instituted new services in the Church. For in the Mass the adversaries retain only the ceremony, and publicly apply this to sacrilegious gain. Afterward they feign that this work, as applied on behalf of others, merits for them grace and all good things. In their sermons they do not teach the Gospel, they do not console consciences, they do not show that sins are freely remitted for Christ’s sake; but they set forth the worship of saints, human satisfactions, human traditions, and by these they affirm that men are justified before God. And although some of these traditions are manifestly godless, nevertheless they defend them by violence. If any preachers wish to be regarded more learned, they treat of philosophical questions, which neither the people nor even those who propose them understand. Lastly, those who are more tolerable teach the Law, and say nothing concerning the righteousness of faith.

The adversaries in the Confutation make a great ado concerning the desolation of churches, namely, that the altars stand unadorned, without candles and without images. These trifles they regard as ornaments to churches. [Although it is not true that we abolish all such outward ornaments; yet, even if it were so, Daniel is not speaking of such things as are altogether external and do not belong to the Christian Church.] It is a far different desolation which Daniel 11:31; 12:11, means namely, ignorance of the Gospel. For the people, overwhelmed by the multitude and variety of traditions and opinions, were in no way able to embrace the sum of Christian doctrine. [For the adversaries preach mostly of human ordinances, whereby consciences are led from Christ to confidence in their own works.] For who of the people ever understood the doctrine of repentance of which the adversaries treat? And yet this is the chief topic of Christian doctrine.

Consciences were tormented by the enumeration of offenses and by satisfactions. Of faith, by which we freely receive the remission of sins, no mention whatever was made by the adversaries. Concerning the exercises of faith, struggling with despair, and the free remission of sins for Christ’s sake, all the books and all the sermons of the adversaries were silent [worse than worthless, and, moreover, caused untold damage]. To these, the horrible profanation of the masses and many other godless services in the churches were added. This is the desolation which Daniel describes.

On the contrary, by the favor of God, the priests among us attend to the ministry of the Word, teach the Gospel concerning the blessings of Christ, and show that the remission of sins occurs freely for Christ’s sake. This doctrine brings sure consolation to consciences. The doctrine of [the Ten Commandments and] good works which God commands is also added. The worth and use of the Sacraments are declared.

But if the use of the Sacrament would be the daily sacrifice, nevertheless we would retain it rather than the adversaries, because with them priests hired for pay use the Sacrament. With us there is a more frequent and more conscientious use. For the people use it, but after having first been instructed and examined. For men are taught concerning the true use of the Sacrament that it was instituted for the purpose of being a seal and testimony of the free remission of sins, and that, accordingly, it ought to admonish alarmed consciences to be truly confident and believe that their sins are freely remitted. Since, therefore, we retain both the preaching of the Gospel and the lawful use of the Sacrament, the daily sacrifice remains with us.

And if we must speak of the outward appearance, attendance upon church is better among us than among the adversaries. For the audiences are held by useful and clear sermons. But neither the people nor the teachers have ever understood the doctrine of the adversaries. [There is nothing that so attaches people to the church as good preaching. But our adversaries preach their people out of the churches; for they teach nothing of the necessary parts of Christian doctrine; they narrate the legends of saints and other fables.] And the true adornment of the churches is godly, useful, and clear doctrine, the devout use of the Sacraments, ardent prayer, and the like. Candles, golden vessels [tapers, altar-cloths, images), and similar adornments are becoming, but they are not the adornment that properly belongs to the Church. But if the adversaries make worship consist in such matters, and not in the preaching of the Gospel, in faith, and the conflicts of faith, they are to be numbered among those whom Daniel describes as worshiping their God with gold and silver, Dan. 11:38.

They quote also from the Epistle to the Hebrews 5:1: Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. Hence they conclude that, since in the New Testament there are high priests and priests, it follows that there is also a sacrifice for sins. This passage particularly makes an impression on the unlearned, especially when the pomp of the priesthood [the garments of Aaron, since in the Old Testament there were many ornaments of gold, silver, and purple] and the sacrifices of the Old Testament are spread before the eyes. This resemblance deceives the ignorant, so that they judge that, according to the same manner, a ceremonial sacrifice ought to exist among us, which should be applied on behalf of the sins of others, just as in the Old Testament. Neither is the service of the masses and the rest of the polity of the Pope anything else than false zeal in behalf of the misunderstood Levitical polity. (They have not understood that the New Testament is occupied with other matters, and that, if such ceremonies are used for the training of the young, a limit must be fixed for them.]

And although our belief has its chief testimonies in the Epistle to the Hebrews, nevertheless the adversaries distort against us mutilated passages from this Epistle, as in this very passage, where it is said that every high priest is ordained to offer sacrifices for sins. Scripture itself immediately adds that Christ is High Priest, Heb. 5:5-6,10. The preceding words speak of the Levitical priesthood, and signify that the Levitical priesthood was an image of the priesthood of Christ. For the Levitical sacrifices for sins did not merit the remission of sins before God; they were only an image of the sacrifice of Christ, which was to be the one propitiatory sacrifice, as we have said above. Therefore the Epistle is occupied to a great extent with the topic that the ancient priesthood and the ancient sacrifices were instituted not for the purpose of meriting the remission of sins before God or reconciliation, but only to signify the future sacrifice of Christ alone. For in the Old Testament it was necessary for saints to be justified by faith derived from the promise of the remission of sins that was to be granted for Christ’s sake, just as saints are also justified in the New Testament. From the beginning of the world it was necessary for all saints to believe that Christ would be the promised offering and satisfaction for sins, as Isaiah 53:10 teaches: When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin.

Since, therefore, in the Old Testament, sacrifices did not merit reconciliation, unless by a figure (for they merited civil reconciliation), but signified the coming sacrifice, it follows that Christ is the only sacrifice applied on behalf of the sins of others. Therefore, in the New Testament no sacrifice is left to be applied for the sins of others, except the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross.

They altogether err who imagine that Levitical sacrifices merited the remission of sins before God, and, by this example in addition to the death of Christ, require in the New Testament sacrifices that are to be applied on behalf of others. This imagination absolutely destroys the merit of Christ’s passion and the righteousness of faith, and corrupts the doctrine of the Old and New Testaments, and instead of Christ makes for us other mediators and propitiators out of the priests and sacrificers, who daily sell their work in the churches.

Therefore, if any one would thus infer that in the New Testament a priest is needed to make offering for sins, this must be conceded only of Christ. And the entire Epistle to the Hebrews confirms this explanation. And if, in addition to the death of Christ, we were to seek for any other satisfaction to be applied for the sins of others and to reconcile God, this would be nothing more than to make other mediators in addition to Christ. Again, as the priesthood of the New Testament is the ministry of the Spirit, as Paul teaches 2 Cor. 3:6, it, accordingly, has but the one sacrifice of Christ, which is satisfactory and applied for the sins of others. Besides, it has no sacrifices like the Levitical, which could be applied ex opere operato on behalf of others; but it tenders to others the Gospel and the Sacraments, that by means of these they may conceive faith and the Holy Ghost, and be mortified and quickened, because the ministry of the Spirit conflicts with the application of an opus operatum. [For, unless there is personal faith and a life wrought by the Holy Spirit, the opus operatum of another cannot render me godly nor save me.] For the ministry of the Spirit is that through which the Holy Ghost is efficacious in hearts; and therefore this ministry is profitable to others, when it is efficacious in them, and regenerates and quickens them. This does not occur by the application ex opere operato of the work of another on behalf of others.

We have shown the reason why the Mass does not justify ex opere operato, and why, when applied on behalf of others, it does not merit remission, because both conflict with the righteousness of faith. For it is impossible that remission of sins should occur, and the terrors of death and sin be overcome by any work or anything, except by faith in Christ, according to Rom. 5:1: Being justified by faith, we have peace

In addition, we have shown that the Scriptures, which are cited against us, in no way favor the godless opinion of the adversaries concerning the opus operatum. All good men among all nations can judge this. Therefore the error of Thomas is to be rejected, who wrote: That the body of the Lord, once offered on the cross for original debt, is continually offered for daily offenses on the altar, in order that, in this, the Church might have a service whereby to reconcile God to herself. The other common errors are also to be rejected, as, that the Mass ex opere operato confers grace upon one employing it; likewise, that when applied for others, even for wicked persons, provided they do not interpose an obstacle, it merits for them the remission of sins, of guilt and punishment. All these things are false and godless, and lately invented by unlearned monks, and obscure the glory of Christ’s passion and the righteousness of faith.

And from these errors infinite others sprang, as, that the masses avail when applied for many, just as much as when applied individually. The sophists have particular degrees of merit, just as money-changers have grades of weight for gold or silver. Besides, they sell the Mass, as a price for obtaining what each one seeks: to merchants, that business may be prosperous; to hunters, that hunting may be successful; and infinite other things. Lastly, they apply it also to the dead; by the application of the Sacrament they liberate souls from the pains of purgatory; although without faith the Mass is of service not even to the living. Neither are the adversaries able to produce even one syllable from the Scriptures in defense of these fables which they teach with great authority in the Church; neither do they have the testimonies of the ancient Church nor of the Fathers. [Therefore they are impious and blind people who knowingly despise and trample under foot the plain truth of God.]

Commentary:

The Roman Catholic Confutation has a section on the “daily sacrifice” commanded in the Mosaic law:

The angel also said to Daniel: “Many shall be purified and made white and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand.” And again: “The wise shall understand; and from the time that the daily sacrifices shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days,” Dan. 12:10, 11. Christ testifies that this prophecy is to be fulfilled, but that it has not been as yet fulfilled, Matt. 24:15. Therefore the daily sacrifice of Christ will cease universally at the advent of the abomination – i.e. of Antichrist – just as it has already ceased, particularly in some churches, and thus will be unemployed in the place of desolation – viz. when the churches will be desolated, in which the canonical hours will not be chanted or the masses celebrated or the sacraments administered, and there will be no altars, no images of saints, no candles, no furniture. Therefore all princes and faithful subjects of the Roman Empire ought to be encouraged never to admit or pass over anything that may aid the preparers of Antichrist in attaining such a degree of wickedness, when the woman – i.e. the Catholic Church – as St. John saw in the Spirit, will flee into the wilderness, where she will have a place prepared of God, that she may be nourished there twelve hundred and sixty days, Rev. 12:6. Finally, St. Paul says, Heb. 5:1: “Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” But since the external priesthood has not ceased in the new law, but has been changed to a better, therefore even today the high priest and the entire priesthood offer in the Church an external sacrifice, which is only one, the Eucharist.

The Lutheran Reformers had already mentioned (Ap XXIV 1) that the Lord’s Supper was offered every Sunday and on festival days. The Roman theologians were aghast and declared Luther the Antichrist for blaspheming Christ by the departure from the daily Mass. However, the Roman theologians were stuck with the idea that the Lord’s Supper is a re-sacrifice, a sacrificing again, of Jesus’ body and blood. They could not, and would not, accept that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was once for all (Hebrews 9:28). Understanding Christ’s sacrifice and the Eucharist in this way, the daily Levitical sacrifice cannot be the basis for the frequency of the Eucharist.

Melanchthon continues his argument against the abuses of the Mass in the Roman Church by witnessing to the Reformers’ explanation of the Sacrament to the laity. This explanation comes through frequent, practical and clear sermons on the Sacrament. These sermons show that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper “as a seal and testimony of the gracious forgiveness of sins and therefore as an encouragement to sensitive consciences in order that they may be completely convinced and believe that their sins are freely forgiven” (paragraph 49).

Melanchthon ends this section by discussing the common misconceptions and errors flooding the sixteenth-century Church from both clergy and laity.

From → Confessions

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.