27 February, 2013

Chemnitz on Lutheran Catholicity

"...we disagree with those who invent opinions which have no testimony from any period in the church, as Servetus, Campanus, the Anabaptists, and others have done in our time. We also hold that no dogma that is new in the churches and in conflict with all of antiquity should be accepted. What could be more honorably said and thought concerning the consensus and the testimonies of antiquity? Irenaeus writes to Florinus: “These dogmas, Florinus, have no sound meaning; these dogmas depart from the church; these dogmas not even the heretics would ever have dared to proclaim; these dogmas the presbyters who were before us and who were also disciples of the apostles have not handed down.” These things are from Eusebius, Bk. 5, ch. 20. But we confess also this, which we have not invented ourselves but have learned from the fathers: that we search out and quote the testimonies of the fathers, not as though the things which are shown and proved from clear testimonies of Scripture were either not certain or not firm enough in themselves or did not of themselves possess enough strength and authority unless also the consensus of the fathers were added; but the reason why they are quoted Augustine clearly explains in De peccatorum meritis, Bk. 3, ch. 7: “This I have mentioned not because we should rely on the opinions of any and all disputers as on canonical authority but that it may be clear that from the beginning until the present time in which this new thing has arisen this teaching about original sin has been guarded in the faith of the church with such great constancy that by those who treated the words of the Lord it was used as the surest way to refute other false things, rather than that anyone should have tried to refute it as false. Besides, the clearest and fullest authority for this statement lives in the sacred canonical books.”

Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586), Examination of the Council of Trent (St Louis, 1971), Part I, p. 258.


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