Saturday, May 10, 2008
Confessing vis-a-vis Professing Christ
I'm not certain where I first came across the following citation, but it stuck with me:
"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."
On the web it is generally attributed Luther's lips or pen, but I have never been able to verify the source. Some have given the reference to Luther's Works, Weimar Edition, Briefwechsel [Correspondence], vol. 3, pp. 81f., but one time when I had access to the WA, I checked it out -- and I don't think that is accurate. (Does anyone have access to the searchable electronic edition of the Weimaraner?)
Then, today I happened upon the statement in this context (Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family) -- note the minor differences -- and it seems much more likely to me that the statement originated here:
"But now to confess Luther seemed to me to have become identical with confessing Christ. It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. It is to confess we are called, not merely to profess. If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved ; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.
"It seems to me also that, practically, the contest in every age of conflict ranges usually round the person of one faithful, God-sent man, whom to follow loyally is fidelity to God. In the days of the first Judaizing assault on the early Church, that man was St. Paul. In the great Arian battle, this man was Athanasius — " Athanasius contra mundum." In our days, in our land, I believe it is Luther; and to deny Luther would be for me who learned the truth from his lips, to deny Christ.
"Luther, I believe, is the man whom God has given to his Church in Germany in this age. Luther, therefore, I will follow — not as a perfect example, but as a God-appointed leader. Men can never be neutral in great religious contests ; and if, because of the little wrong in the right cause, or the little evil in the good man, we refuse to take the side of right, we are, by that very act, silently taking the side of wrong.
"When I came back to the convent I found the storm gathering. I was asked if I possessed any of Dr. Luther's writings. I confessed that I did. It was demanded that they should be given up. I said they could be taken from me, but I would not willingly give them up to destruction, because I believed they contained the truth of God. Thus the matter ended until we had each retired to our cells for the night, when one of the older monks came to me and accused me of secretly spreading Lutheran heresy among the brethren." (p. 276)