The Ministry in Historical Perspectives by H. Richard Niebuhr and Daniel D. Williams (eds.)
H. Richard Niebuhr was Professor of Christian Theology at Yale University Divinity School. His most famous book is Christ and Culture. Assisting him in this project were Daniel Day Williams, Professor of Theology at Union Theological School, and James Gustafson, then on the staff of the Study of Theological Education in the U.S. and Canada. The Ministry in Historical Perspectives was published in 1956 by Harper & Brothers, New York. It was part of a survey of theological education in the United States and Canada, which led to the publishing of this book as well as H. Richard Niebuhr, The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry (1956) and H. Richard Niebuhr, Daniel D. Williams, and James M. Gustafson, The Advancement of Theological Education (1957). This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock
The Ministry in Historical Perspectives was published in 1956 by Harper & Brothers, New York. It was part of a survey of theological education in the United States and Canada, which led to the publishing of this book as well as H. Richard Niebuhr, The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry (1956) and H. Richard Niebuhr, Daniel D. Williams, and James M. Gustafson, The Advancement of Theological Education (1957). This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock
Chapter 5: The Ministry in the Time of the Continental Reformation, by Wilhelm Pauck
[Wilheml Pauck, D. Th., University of Giessen in 1933, taught at Upsala College, Thiel College, Gustavus Adolphus College, the University of Edinburgh, and Chicago University. He was Professor of Church History, Union Theological Seminary from 1939 to 1953, after which he became distinguished professor of church history at Stanford University.]
The Nature of the Ministry
Nothing is more characteristic of Protestantism than the importance it attaches to preaching. To be sure, also before the Reformation, the sermon played a great role in Christian life. As Jesus himself had done, the apostles and the earliest Christian missionaries spread the gospel by preaching. The greatest Christian leaders of the ancient church, John Chrysostom and Basil of Caesarea, Ambrose and Augustine, were not only ecclesiastical rulers and theologians but masters of the pulpit. In the Middle Ages, preaching did again and again have; a great influence, though it was not as general as it had been earlier. Just prior to the Reformation, it came once more into general vogue. But preaching had never been in the very center of Christian life.
Only the new understanding of the gospel achieved by Luther and his fellow Reformers led to such an emphasis upon the proclamation of the Word that henceforth the very reality of the church was grounded in preaching. The seventh article of the Augsburg Confession, in which Melanchthon summarized the faith of the Lutherans for presentation at the diet of Augsburg in 1530, defined the church as "the congregation of the saints in which the gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments are rightly administered." Somewhat later, Calvin wrote: "Where the Word is heard with reverence and the sacraments are not neglected there we discover . . . an appearance of the Church.''1 Formulations of this kind are to be found in the creeds of most Protestant communions. Indeed, we do not go wrong when we define the Protestant conception of the church thus: Where the Word of God is rightly preached and heard and the sacraments are rightly administered and received, there is the church. Protestants attribute priority to the Word of God (i.e., the Christ of the Bible) and they assert that the Word is communicated by preaching and by the administration of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. They assume, furthermore, since faith comes by hearing which is not merely a listening to speech but also an understanding of it followed by decision and action, that when people hear and accept the gospel preached to them, they recognize themselves and each other as members of the church, i.e., the people of God.
The basic criticism which the Reformers directed against Roman Catholicism was that, instead of permitting the Word of God to run a free course among men, the Papists confined it to a historical man-made institution, the Church of Rome. Luther especially was persuaded that the Pope was the very Anti-Christ, because he claimed to be the only authoritative interpreter of the Bible and thus bound it to his office. Calvin regarded the Roman Church as a victim of superstition and idolatry because, in his judgment, it relied for the ordering of its practices on human inventions and not on the Bible. In his eyes, the ceremonialism of Roman Catholicism was an evil because it was the practice of an irreligious religion and not that of obedience to the will of God revealed in Christ.
The Reformers went on to object that, because the Papal Church did not give the Bible its due, it did not properly understand the gospel as the good news of the forgiveness of sins and, therefore, it educated its people to seek salvation not by faith but by good works, not by a trusting reliance on the divine promise of forgiveness as proclaimed by the Bible, but by the performance of all sorts of religious acts as prescribed by the priesthood.
"Three great abuses," wrote Luther,2 "have befallen the service of God. First, God's Word is not proclaimed, there is only reading and singing in the Churches. Second, because God's Word has been suppressed, many unchristian inventions and lies have sneaked into the service of reading, singing and preaching, and they are horrible to see. Third, such service of God is being undertaken as a good work by which one hopes to obtain God's grace and salvation. Thus faith has perished and [instead of believing the gospel] everyone wishes to endow churches or to become a priest, monk or nun."
Luther's conception implied a tremendous simplification of Christianity. In the last resort, only two things mattered: The Word of God and faith. Or, as he put it: "The sum of the gospel is this: who believes in Christ, has the forgiveness of sins." Faith in Christ can be real only if it depends on the Bible. Nothing, therefore, is as important for religion as to make the Bible accessible and to proclaim its message. The Reformers staked everything on this understanding of the nature of Christianity.
Against this background, we must see the new conception of the ministry. The very term "minister," i.e., minister verbi divini (servant of the Word of God) makes sense only in connection with the ideas we have been discussing. Strictly speaking, every Christian is or should be a minister of the Word of God by virtue of his faith. It is therefore not surprising that, at the very beginning, Luther was led to propose the doctrine of the universal priesthood of all believers, thus doing away with the distinction between clergymen and laymen.
This teaching is an eminently social one: every believer in the gospel is a priest, i.e., a mediator and intercessor between God and men. He must transmit to others the power of the gospel that has laid hold of him. He must express his faith in loving social action and thereby communicate it to others. All Christians are such ministers; they cannot but bring about a new kind of society -- the fellowship of believers.
"God has placed his Church in the midst of the world among countless undertakings and callings in order that Christians should not be monks but live with one another in social fellowship and manifest among men the works and practices of faith."3 This was the conclusion Luther drew from the idea of the universal fellowship of believers.
All Christian believers, therefore, are ministers, servants, priests, by virtue of their faith in the Word of God, but not every one of them can or should assume the function of preaching, teaching, and counseling. For the sake of order, certain ones must be set apart from the group of believers to undertake the office of the preacher.
This was the new conception of the ministry that was to determine the whole history of Protestant Christianity. 'We are all priests," wrote Luther, "insofar as we are Christians, but those whom we call priests are ministers [Diener] selected from our midst to act in our name, and their priesthood is our ministry." 4
The institution of a separate hierarchical priesthood was thereby overcome in principle and together with it the distinction between the clergy; and the laity, between rectores and subditi (rectors and subjects). How many difficulties the Reformers encountered when they tried to translate this idea into fact, we shall see in what follows. The point to be kept: clearly in mind when one deals with the Reformers' conception of the ministry is that they regarded the function of the leader of the congregation, whose task was to be primarily preaching, as an assignment or office [Amt] which, to be sure, set him apart from his fellow Christian but only by their appointment, in order that he might perform a duty that each one of them was entitled to fulfill. Moreover, they regarded this office as a service to be rendered in the name of God and not in the name of men. Once appointed to the office, a minister could not be removed from it by the congregation that had called him, except if he disregarded or defied the Word of God.
This was a high conception both of the ministry and of the power of the congregation over the ministry. We must admit that it has only rarely been fully realized by Protestant churches in the course of their history. At the time of the Reformation, the condition of the congregations was such that they could not in fact exercise this power. As we shall see, they had a part in calling their ministers, but it never happened that they deposed them and judged them in the light of the Word of God. The declaration of the principle was the result of Luther's belief at the beginning of his career as a Reformer that any true Christian and particularly a congregation of Christian believers would be able to see that the institutions and practices of the Roman Church were irreconcilable with the gospel. He wrote in his tract On the power of a Christian congregation over its preachers:5 "We conclude then, that a Christian congregation that has the gospel, possesses not only the right and power but also owes it to the salvation of souls according to the baptismal bond it has entered into, to shun, avoid, depose and withdraw from the authority which the present bishops . . . exercise; for it is publicly manifest that they live and govern in opposition to God and his Word."
In this connection, we should also mention that Luther asserted that every Christian has the power of the keys, i.e., to forgive sins, but that no one should exercise this power unless publicly authorized to do so. This notion became the common property of the Reformation. These key sentences from Luther's early writings are representative of many others: "Where the Word of God is preached and believed, there is true faith, that (certain) immovable rock; and where faith is, there is the Church; where the Church is, there is the bride of Christ; and where the bride of Christ is, there is also everything that belongs to the Bridegroom. Thus faith has everything in its train that is implied in it, keys, sacraments' power, and everything else."6 In other words, a man of faith has all the spiritual powers which in Roman Catholicism belonged to the clergy alone. "All of us who are Christians have this office of the keys in common." 7 "Every Christian has the power the pope, bishops, priests and monks have, namely, to forgive or not to forgive sins.... We all have this power, to be sure, but no one shall dare exercise it publicly except he be elected to do so by the congregation. In private, however, he may use it." 8
Such a view of the rights of the individual Christian and of the congregation implied the rejection of clericalism, which therefore never appeared in the course of the Reformation. Indeed, it has not held sway in Protestantism at any time, although it has often happened that the ministers dominated and determined the life of the churches.
Whenever and wherever, in the course of the Reformation and later, such domination became a fact, it was caused chiefly (apart from many other factors which we do not need to explore here) by the prominence attributed by Protestants to the preaching office. In Protestantism, the preachers tend to be the spokesmen and representatives of the church and the church is often a preachers' church. This is a great danger and threat to the Christian religion, not unrelated to clericalism, but nevertheless not as deadly. For clericalism tends to identify the church with the priestly-sacramental clergy to such an extent that it is no longer, in fact or conception, the people of God. Modern Roman Catholicism, for example, finds it most difficult to interpret the church as the people of God when, by defining it as the corpus Christi mysticum, it bases its reality on the sacraments and the priests. But when, as in the case of Protestantism, the church is dominated by the preachers, the people must nevertheless be reckoned with in a very real sense, for even a preachers' church is nothing without people to preach to. Preaching cannot be and is not undertaken unless there is a congregation to address, while, in Roman Catholicism, the sacraments can be and are celebrated even if there is no congregation present. In any case, the possibility that the church will become a preachers' church inheres in the Reformers' insistence that preaching the gospel is the source and fountain of all Christian life. It was most characteristic of them that they thought of God as a speaking God (Deus loquens), of the gospel as a tale or spoken message, of the Bible not as a book but as preaching, and of the church as a gathering of people who listen to the Word of God being spoken to them. Luther once called the church building a Mundhaus (mouth or speech-house).9
The significance the Reformers attached to the preaching office is reflected in all their writings. Here are characteristic statements of Luther: "Next to the preaching office, prayer is the greatest office in Christianity. In the preaching office God speaks with us. In prayer I speak with God.''10 "God speaks through the preacher. When we preach [lehren] we are passive rather than active. God is speaking through us and it is a divine working [that is happening]." 11 "The preaching office is the office of the Holy Spirit. Even though men do the preaching, baptizing, forgiving of sins, it is the Holy Spirit who preaches and teaches. It is his work and office." 12 "A Christian preacher is a minister of God who is set apart, yea, he is an angel of God, a very bishop sent by God, a savior of many people, a king and prince in the Kingdom of Christ and among the people of God, a teacher, a light of the world. There is nothing more precious or nobler on earth and in this life than a true, faithful parson or preacher." 13
Calvin expressed the same judgment and in equally superlative terms: "Neither the light and heat of the sun, nor any meat or drink, are so necessary to the nourishment and sustenance of the present life, as the apostolical and pastoral office is to the preservation of the Church in the world."14 God "chooses from among men those who are his ambassadors to the world, to be the interpreters of his secret will, and even to act as his personal representatives.... When [therefore] a contemptible mortal, who had just emerged from the dust, addresses us in the name of God, we give the best evidence of our piety and reverence toward God himself, if we readily submit to be instructed by his minister who possesses no personal superiority to ourselves." 15 "On the one hand, it is a good proof of our obedience when we listen to his ministers, just as if he were addressing us himself; and on the other hand, he has provided for our infirmity, by choosing to address us through the medium of human interpreters, that he may sweetly allure us to him, rather than to drive us away from him by his thunders." 16
Similar judgments can be found in the writings of the other Reformers. In view of the fact that they were all preoccupied with the preaching office and its importance for the church, it is surprising that they did not produce more books and tracts dealing specifically with the ministry. The most outstanding book of this kind was a work of Martin Bucer, entitled Pastorale, i.e., On the true Care of Souls and the right Pastoral Ministry and how the same is to be established and performed in the Church of Christ. 17 It is an exposition of the various functions of the ministerial office in the form of a plea addressed to the magistrate of the city of Strassburg for the establishment of a truly reformed church under adequate ecclesiastical leadership. Earlier, Zwingli had published a tract on the ministry under the title Der Hirt (The Shepherd, or Pastor). It is mainly an argument against the Roman Catholic priesthood, its vices and its inadequacies in the administration of pastoral care. The norm of his exposition is to be found in the following characteristic sentence: "The Christian people never lived more piously and purely than at a time when no human addition or authority [Zwang] was added to the Word of God." 18
In this connection, we must mention that the Reformers customarily spoke of the minister as pastor (shepherd, in relation to certain New Testament passages, e.g., John 10:2 and 10:16; Hebrews 13:20; I Peter 2:25), but they called him most frequently "preacher" (Prediger or Praedikant). The term "pastor" came into general use only during the eighteenth century under the influence of Pietism, especially in Lutheranism. The German Reformers also adhered to the medieval usage and called the preacher Pfarrer, i.e., parson (derived from parochia -- parish, and parochus -- parson). The common people most generally called the ministers "preachers," but they also continued to use the terms to which they had been accustomed under Roman Catholicism, i.e., "priests," et cetera. This was natural in view of the gradual transition from the old order to the new. In certain regions, basic structures relating to the organization of the parishes and to the polity of the church developed by Roman Catholicism were preserved in the changeover to the Reformation, not only in certain parts of Germany, but chiefly in the Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden, not to speak of England. Here, the old names and titles of the ministerial office were naturally retained. The term "minister" was gradually introduced into English-speaking countries by the Nonconformists and Dissenters. Dependent upon Calvinism, they distinguished the Protestant "ministry" from the Anglican "clergy."
The actual formation of the early Protestant ministry was determine by the course the Reformation took in the various regions first of Germany and then of other European countries. The general ideas and principles which we have been describing were at work everywhere, but the forms they assumed depended on many different circumstances. When Luther's views of the gospel and of Christian faith and life as well as his criticisms of the Roman Church took hold of others, the discussion of the issues of the struggle in books, tracts, and pamphlets led to concrete action aimed at the abolition of Roman Catholic orders and practices. Priests and monks who had become evangelical preachers generally took the initiative. But even when the spokesmen of the Reformation had won a following among the common people and when they had gained the open or concealed support of princes and magistrates, they could not readily proceed to institute a new order. They were face to face with many difficulties. The Roman Church was firmly established in the common life. Innumerable ties linked it to the political and social order, to economics and law, to mores and customs. New church orders could not come into being except by a transition in the course of which much that was old and traditional had to be preserved. Moreover, Luther was outlawed by Papacy and Empire and everything he represented was officially condemned together with his person. Only in 1526, did the evangelical minority among the princes and estates of the German Empire risk the cautious introduction of the Reformation in their territories. Indeed, the acts of the Reformers were without legal sanction until the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. Until then, the expansion of the Reformation and the formation of evangelical churches were possible only because the Pope and the Emperor were unable to execute the ban they had pronounced upon Luther and his cause. Both were entangled in the conflicts of European politics. In fact, they were politically at odds with each other so frequently that they both became the involuntary allies of the Reformation. They could not stop its progress so long as they schemed against each other. Under these circumstances, it required skillful engineering on the part of the friends of the Reformers among the princes and political leaders to make way for a new order in the church.
Moreover, there was no preconceived and overall plan for the building of evangelical churches. Luther had no program when the role of reformer was forced upon him. No one among his followers had a strategic plan of action. At first, Luther himself thought that, if the worst abuses of the Roman Church could be undone and room given in the world to the preaching of the Word of God, true Christians would arise who would gradually form new congregations and proceed to build a new church order. Throughout his life, he never entirely abandoned the notion that "the Word must do it." But he saw very soon that an actual reformation could not be carried out except with the help and authority of the princes and political magistrates. In 1520, he appealed to the Christian nobility to act as "emergency-bishops" because the regular bishops had failed to care properly for the church. As time went on, he reluctantly acknowledged and agreed that the public authorities had to assume the responsibility for all ecclesiastical change. The territorial princes and the magistrates of the towns took the necessary steps to introduce the Reformation.
The first of such steps were taken early in the twenties of the sixteenth century, but new forms of the church were produced only gradually and were of considerable variety. In the towns, changes could be effected comparatively quickly, because they were close-knit autonomous administrative units. But even there, workable patterns of an evangelical church order emerged only in the course of several decades. In the territories of the princes, the situation was much more complex, even though here the decision lay in the hands of the monarch alone. Scores of communities and localities were involved and many different ancient feudal rights and customs had to be respected.
Here one proceeded on the basis of visitations. They were first instituted in 1526 in the electorates of Saxony and Hesse. Under the authority of the princes, commissions of theologians and of public officials trained in law inspected the conditions of the churches in the various parts of the territories in order to lay the ground for their reorganization. They found widespread confusion. The old order had collapsed. The barons had appropriated much of the ecclesiastical property. They and the common people showed little interest in the church and had ceased to support it. They no longer paid tithes and fees and made no gifts of goods or money. After the tragic suppression of the Peasants' Revolt in 1525, the peasants were largely alienated from the Reformation and they resented or passively resisted the actions of the Reformers and of the lords as well. The worst feature of the situation was that there was little adequate local leadership. Monasteries had been forsaken, and whole parishes were without ecclesiastical leadership. Many priests who had turned to the Reformation and had become evangelical preachers were incapable either of preaching or of rebuilding the congregations. There was no common understanding about the ways by which the Reformation was to be realized. Confusion prevailed in the celebration of worship services and sacraments. The changes made were often arbitrary and inspired by the whims of individuals. Ecclesiastical discipline and Christian morality were no longer maintained. The jurisdictional and administrative power which the Roman Catholic bishops had exercised, either directly or through episcopal officials, had disappeared -- with dire effects, particularly upon the institution and the practices of marriage.
But, in many places, ardent adherents of the Reformation were at work, preachers who had studied in Wittenberg and in other evangelical centers or who had come under the influence of the Reformers through their writings. Since 1522, Luther's German translation of the New Testament was in circulation. He had also published his Church Postil Sermons as examples of evangelical preaching. Numerous tracts written by the Reformers continually came from the printing presses. Thus the new understanding of the gospel was kept alive.
Soon a diversity of Christian doctrines and practices arose which embroiled the Reformers themselves in controversy with one another. We need to concern ourselves here only with the so-called sectarians, because it was in opposition to them that the new church orders assumed a special uniformitarian character. Luther found it necessary to oppose the spiritualism and mysticism of his colleague, Karlstadt, the "heavenly prophet" who was the first in Wittenberg to attempt the introduction of a Biblical order of service in place of the Roman Mass. He also had to defend himself against Thomas Muntzer, the "Schwärmer," who felt that Luther lacked the radicalism and the resolute will to carry the Reformation through to a complete abolition of the Papist priesthood and to the establishment not only of new churches but also of a new social order, if necessary by revolution.
A similar opposition arose against Zwingli, who, since 1519, had prepared the way for the Reformation in Zürich by Biblical preaching. In 1523, he began to introduce a new order with the sanction of the public authorities and he completed it in its first form two years later. Under the leadership of Conrad Grebel, some of his most ardently evangelical adherents objected to his program (which in fact was the only feasible one) to effect the Reformation by the co-ordination of Church and State and the building of an evangelical people's church to which every citizen and subject of Zürich had to belong and to whose order all were expected to conform. They advocated instead the idea that a church truly reformed according to the Bible could not be anything else but a community of believers who, having been awakened and reborn by the Holy Spirit, were resolved to follow Christ and to practice a life of uncompromising discipleship, declining to rely on political power for the maintenance of religion and refusing to bear arms, to use physical coercion of any sort, to appeal to the courts, to swear oaths, et cetera. The issue between them and Zwingli became joined, when they neglected to present their children for baptism, convinced that only believers' baptism was the true sign of entrance into membership of the church. When they were ordered to abide by the common custom of infant baptism, they chose to set themselves apart in a community of the reborn, using a very simple form of baptism as the seal of faith. Because they thus appeared to "rebaptize" one another, though they themselves regarded infant baptism as no baptism at all, they were dubbed Anabaptists. They were vigorously and cruelly suppressed in Zürich, but what they had begun spread rapidly. From 1525 on, Anabaptists were active wherever the Reformation took hold. They founded communities of regenerate disciples who were resolved as simple Bible Christians to dedicate themselves to a life of faith and love. Their missionary zeal made them agents of Christian awakenings. Their gatherings in private houses, in barns, in forests and open fields were often revivals.
Their presence where the churches were in process of being reformed, added to the general confusion. As believers wholly committed to the Christian way, they refused to identify themselves with the publicly instituted churches, whether they were Roman Catholic or Evangelical. They disobeyed the commands of the political authorities that they attend the officially sanctioned church services. At the same time, they vigorously criticized the Reformers for their alleged failure to produce fruits from their preaching of the gospel.
The Reformers opposed them with fervor and even with violence. They now found themselves compelled to interpret the gospel not only in contrast to Roman Catholicism but also in opposition to these sectarians. Indeed, the greatest expositions of the faith of the Reformers (for example, Calvin's Institutes) were conceived in opposition to Roman Catholicism on the right and to the Anabaptists on the left.
On can understand this rejection of the Anabaptists only if one is mindful of the fact that, when the Reformers were confronted with the task of building church orders of their own, they found it inevitable to adhere to the principles and practices of religious and creedal uniformity. They maintained the tradition that had prevailed throughout the Middle Ages and had shaped all institutions, namely, that peace, concord, and unity could not prevail in a sociopolitical community unless all its members were bound together by the same religious confession. Though they knew from personal experience and continually professed that faith cannot be coerced, and though they were themselves in dissent from Roman Catholicism, which heretofore had furnished the religious bond of unity, they demanded conformity from all who lived in the confines of the territories and communities where they were developing new church orders. Dissenters were ordered to emigrate. The Protestant estates did not protest when first at Speyer, in 1529, and then at Augsburg, in 1530, the Diet of the Empire invoked the old heresy laws against the Anabaptists. The Protestants themselves did not prosecute the sectarians on the charge of heresy but rather put them on trial for sedition and disturbance of peace. Their crime was that they dared set themselves apart from the "people's churches" and that they formed conventicles and met in secret. The evangelical churches were thus formed as territorial or state churches. Each of them became a closed unit, subject to the political authority of its own government, the prince, or the city council. All subjects or citizens were expected under penalties of law to conform to the established order.
In the course of time, it was generally agreed everywhere in these churches that the ultimate source and norm of the church and of the Christian life was the Bible; that nothing, therefore, was as important as the preaching and teaching of the Bible and that, because there was no authority higher than the Bible, Biblical preaching was not subject to regulation by political authority (except if it led to secession from the common order!). Everything else, however, particularly matters relating to the external organization of the church, was to be under governmental regulation. This arrangement gave the preachers as the spokesmen and interpreters of the Bible considerable freedom to preach but it confined them at the same time to the established church order and made their actions subject to political administration.
The orders which thus came into being were a far cry from what Luther had envisaged at the beginning of the Reformation but they were also the result of the conviction of Luther and the other Reformers that there were not yet enough Christians in the world. In 1526, Luther had written in the preface to his German Mass:
Those who earnestly desire to be Christians and confess the gospel by word and deed, should register their names and gather in a house by themselves in order to pray, read, baptize, receive the sacrament [of the Lord's Supper] and to practice other Christian work. In such an order, those who could not behave in a Christian way, could be recognized and one could punish, reprimand, expel or banish them according to the rule of Christ, Mt. 18. Here one could also levy upon the Christians a common contribution of alms, which readily given could then be distributed among the poor according to the example of Paul, Cor. 9.... But I cannot and do not yet dare organize or establish such a congregation or gathering. For I have not yet available a sufficient number of Christian people [for such an undertaking] and, as a matter of fact, I do not know and see many who insist that it be done.
As they actually developed, the evangelical church orders were of several types. We must distinguish between the territorial churches (A), and those of the towns (B).
A. The church orders of the princely territories of Germany were of three types:
1. In Saxony, and in dependence upon it in most principalities of northern Germany, the ministers were held solely responsible for preaching, catechetical teaching, and the administration of the sacraments. They were relieved of all responsibility for the external organization and administration of the Church. They were supervised by Superintendents who, generally speaking, were the successors of the archdeacons and deans of the Roman Catholic order. These Superintendents were appointed by the ruler and were commonly ministers of a parish in a district town. It was their task to examine the ministers before they were called to serve a church, to ordain them and to supervise and advise them in their work. They convened the ministers of their districts in synods, which were permitted to concern themselves solely with problems and issues relating to the ministry. Everything else lay in the hands of Consistories (there were three in Saxony, established after 1555). Each of these consisted of two theologically trained and two juristically trained councilors as well as other minor officials, among whom there had to be some who were skilled in financial administration. Responsible to the prince, they regulated all affairs of the church, external and internal, except that they lacked the power of ordination and had to respect the preaching office insofar as it was bound to the Word of God. But they controlled the training for the ministry, the observance of the creeds and of the orders of divine services. They administered the finances and properties of the churches and exercised all jurisdictional authority, especially with respect to marriage laws and customs.
In this system, the congregations had no status providing for active responsibility. They were entirely at the receiving end. Some church orders of this type provided for the exercise of a veto on the part of the congregation (or at least its representatives), especially in connection with the appointment of ministers, but these provisions were in fact ignored. The congregations were the objects of ministerial and pastoral labors and consistorial administration. The ministers, themselves hemmed in by regulations issued by higher authorities, were the sole voices of the church.
2. Similarly in the church order of Hesse (first introduced in 1531 and revised in 1537,1539, and 1566), the highest ecclesiastical authority lay in the hands of the prince, but it was less bureaucratic and more representative in character. In the local congregations, the people were given a voice through the office of elders who were selected from their midst. Actually this office rapidly declined after it had first been instituted in 1539. The church was governed by Superintendents (at first six, later four) who exercised full episcopal authority in their districts, supervising ministers and congregations, administering church properties and dispensing discipline and jurisdiction. The first Superintendents were appointed by the Landgrave, and their successors were named in the following manner: the ministers of a district proposed three of their number as candidates for the office to the Superintendents who then elected one of them, proposing his name to the prince who had the right either to confirm or to veto the election. The ministers of each district were convened annually by their Superintendent; every second year there was held a General Synod attended by the Superintendents, one minister from each district elected by his synod, and the official representatives of the prince.
3. The church order of Württemberg (completed in 1533) was bureaucratic in character. The church was governed by a commission of councilors acting on ducal authority. They engaged a number of Visitators (theologians and lawyers) under a director, the church councilor. It was his duty to inspect the churches regularly with regard to all external affairs. In their purely spiritual work the ministers were led by Superintendents who resided in the district towns. The highest spiritual officials were four General Superintendents who were set over the Superintendents and were appointed by the prince.
The object of all these orders was to establish churches according to the standards of the Reformers! The prince as the praecipuum membrum ecclesiae (chief member of the church) assumed the authority which formerly had belonged to the bishops. Only preaching and the administration of the sacraments were exempt from his power, and he himself was subject to the Word of God, the highest authority. The bureaucratic officials through whom he exercised the landesherrliche Kirchenregiment (the church government of the ruler) were the instruments of what turned out to be a patriarchal government. The prince generally took a very personal interest in the affairs of the church. When one reads the records and documents of sixteenth-century church administration, one cannot but be surprised at the innumerable details which were submitted by the church officials to the prince for his personal decision. He was ultimately responsible for the punishment of wayward ministers, the settlement of quarrels in synods, the disciplining of church members who objected to their ministers or refused to observe the church rules, et cetera. He was in fact the patriarch of his people who through his personal government led them in Christian ways. For the success of his rule, he had to rely not only upon the administrative officials but chiefly upon the local ministers and the heads of families. In their own spheres, these were as patriarchal as he was in his. The most important parts of this scheme were the local parish ministers, for they occupied a position in between the ruler and the families.
Strenuous efforts were made to produce well-trained, effective parish ministers. Secondary schools and universities were maintained in order to train them. In 1525, Philip of Hesse founded the University of Marburg in order to raise an educated ministry. The University of Wittenberg, the school of Luther and Melanchthon, fulfilled a similar purpose for Saxony. When Württemberg became Protestant, its university at Tübingen was given the same role, and the same pattern was followed elsewhere. It was believed that a humanistically and theologically trained minister who had been taught how to interpret the Bible would effectively lead the common people in Christian faith and life, chiefly through his preaching and teaching.
B. The church orders of the free towns were different, primarily because these communities had a social character of their own. They were ruled by oligarchical-republican governments and were engaged in commercial pursuits. Here too public affairs were managed and administered through person-to-person relationships, even more so than in the territories of the princes, but the structure of governing authority was not patriarchal. When, therefore, the city councils and their executive officers assumed control of the evangelical churches, and it was generally through their decision and sanction that the Roman Catholic order was abolished and the Reformation introduced, the church government took on a less bureaucratic character. The political magistrates jealously guarded their prerogatives: they were intent on not having their control of the common life restricted and curtailed. They insisted, therefore, that the preachers as the leaders of the churches should be subject to their guidance. But the preachers, nevertheless, had much more leeway of action than their colleagues in the monarchical lands enjoyed. They were able to assert their own initiative. The goal of the towns that had introduced the Reformation was to establish a Christian commonwealth (respublica Christiana or civitas Christiana). In the pursuit of this aim, the preachers were able to display a much greater independence from the governments than the church leaders of the princely territories found possible. As advisers to the princes, certain ministers could exercise great power; particularly the Reformers themselves had a deep influence upon the rulers: Luther and Melanchthon in Saxony; Bugenhagen in Pomerania and Denmark; Krafft in Hesse; Brenz in Württemberg; et cetera; but the preachers of the towns were able to press their demands for the regulation of the Christian life much more forcefully upon their magistrates as in the cases of Bucer and his colleagues Hedio, Zell, and Capito in Strassburg; Rhegius in Augsburg; the brothers Blaurer in Konstanz; Zwingli in Zürich; Oecolampadius in Basel; and of course Calvin in Geneva.
We must not imagine that they dominated the towns. There the great issue was the institution of Christian discipline; i.e., the subjection of all phases of life, personal and social, private and public, to the moral-religious demands of the gospel. In the territorial churches, this concern was not so acute. One relied on the prince and trusted that he would exercise a Christian responsibility in his rule. In this connection, we should note that Luther was doubtful whether public life and particularly government could be Christianized. It was also hoped that the local ministers would control and shape the behavior of people, especially in family relations, by preaching and a conscientious administration of the sacraments. But in the towns, the introduction of Christian discipline, at least as it was understood by the preachers, amounted to the regulation of the whole common life by laws designed to render the church omnipresent. In order to comprehend this undertaking, one must be mindful of the fact that the citizens of medieval towns were accustomed to live under strict and amazingly detailed regulations issued and executed by their governments.
Nevertheless, the people of the towns were not exactly friendly toward the plans of the preachers. To be sure, the city councils were prepared to assume many of the functions which, under Roman Catholicism, had been fulfilled by the bishops in the administration of marriage laws, poor relief, education, et cetera. They were also ready to introduce and to supervise evangelical church orders. But they shied away from the demand for Christian discipline, particularly if the preachers insisted that its administration was their prerogative and that it should be as unencumbered by governmental interference as preaching the Word of God was recognized to be. Though the magistrates of the evangelical towns were wont to emphasize, sometimes from a high sense of mission, that the town governments were Christian, they hesitated to institute church discipline, because they feared that the preachers might constitute themselves as a second legislative and governmental body. Indeed, they suspected that a new "Papism" might arise. They were widely supported by the people themselves who, though by no means hostile toward religion, were unwilling to submit to a Puritan regime of the preachers. It is reported that, in Strassburg, they said: "One must let the world be the world, at least a little!" (Man muss dennoch die Welt ein wenig die Welt sin lassen).19
It is most instructive to consider what took place in Strassburg. The Reformation was introduced there in the early twenties of the sixteenth century. Its agents were a group of distinguished preachers who had all been converted from Roman Catholicism to the gospel. Each of them was a highly educated and competent person. They all, Caspar Hedio, Matthias Zell, Wolfgang Capito and others, wielded great influence, but their leader was Martin Bucer. In the course of time, he became the spokesman of the Strassburg church, and related it to the Reformation movement everywhere. He adopted practices that had been established elsewhere (particularly in Zürich and Basel) and introduced them in Strassburg, but he also transmitted the new patterns developed there to other places, like Konstanz, Ulm, even Hesse, and particularly Geneva.
After the city government, yielding to evangelical preaching, had permitted the people of the several parishes in the city to elect their own preachers and then had encouraged them to establish an evangelical order of worship, it proceeded to reorganize the property of the church, assigning its income to the maintenance of church buildings, the payment of ministers' salaries, education, and poor relief. In 1529, the Council issued a detailed mandate of morals (Sittenmandat), and then established a marriage court. In contrast to Zürich, the preachers were given no responsibility as "judges." Two years later, after the preachers had demanded that the magistrate further the health of the church by legislation (their most important suggestion was that, in each parish, elders should be appointed to supervise the people of their own congregation but particularly the ministers), the city council ordered the appointment of three church wardens (Kirchenpfleger) in each of the seven parishes in the city, two to be chosen from the city government and one from the citizens. These wardens were to be elected by the city council and were to be responsible to it. They were charged to supervise the ministers "in their life, teaching and preaching" and to attend the synods, which, it was hoped, would meet henceforth twice a year, "in order that they might further the gradual upbuilding of a real Christian congregation." After the first synod had met in 1533 and promulgated a confession of faith, the city council proclaimed a definite church order (1534), incorporating in it most of the earlier regulations. The office of the church wardens was strengthened. They were now made responsible for the preservation of true doctrine, given a more important part in the nomination of ministers, and empowered to admonish people who disregarded the church laws. Neither they nor the ministers nor the congregations were given power of excommunication. Moreover, they continued to be functionaries of the city council.
This office of the church wardens proved to be ineffective, in part because it was both ecclesiastical and political, in part because those appointed to it fulfilled their duties only formally, but chiefly because the magistrate was really not interested in seeing it succeed. The preachers, therefore, pressed for greater independence of the church from the government in order to make Christianity more effective in the common life. Particularly Bucer, who had a high sense of the church as a moral community, fired one memorandum after another at the city council, demanding for the church the full institution of church discipline. In 1539, he argued that the church should be constituted according to the law of the New Testament and that therefore four offices should be established: preachers, elders (responsible for the administration of discipline and for the religious and moral supervision of church members), teachers and deacons (responsible for poor-relief). The council did not choose to adopt his proposal. In 1546 and 1547, he went so far as to propose the formation of fellowships (Gemeinschaften) of earnest Christians in each parish. Such fellowships were to be voluntarily formed by church members who had responded to an appeal from the ministers, but no one was to be permitted to join without making a clear confession of his faith. Young people were to become members only after a period of thorough instruction in the Christian religion and on the basis of a solemn confession of faith before the whole fellowship. (Here is the first pattern of the Protestant practice of Confirmation, later introduced into Lutheranism under the influence of the Pietist, Spener). The fellowship was to elect elders who together with the ministers were to administer discipline according to Matt. 18:16 ff. The minister and the elders should have the right to supervise the life of the members of the fellowship, to admonish, and, if necessary, to excommunicate them by excluding them from prayer and the Lord's Supper and, in certain cases, from the preaching service. The fellowship was to manifest itself chiefly in the common celebration of the Lord's Supper, for which all members would be expected to make themselves ready by attending a special preparatory service of penance, confession, and absolution.
Bucer had the support of a minority of his fellow ministers. The others feared that the building of an ecclesiola in ecclesia might disrupt the officially established church and disturb the unity of the commonwealth. It did not take the magistrate long to reject these proposals. Bucer thus lost his long battle for the establishment of an effective church discipline. His proposal of an inner church fellowship, which reminds one of the plan that Luther had entertained and quickly rejected at the beginning of the Reformation, represented a final, even desperate, effort to obtain for a minority in the church what he had hoped to realize on behalf of the whole community.
The church order as he saw it was to be based on the following principles: The government is responsible for the temporal and eternal welfare of its subjects, because it is endowed with the sword, and has power over life and death. It therefore must regulate also the affairs of religion. Indeed, it is charged with the custodia utriusque tabulae (the custody of the two tables of the law), i.e., it has power to order and supervise men's duties toward God as well as toward one another, but only insofar as external order is concerned. It must institute true religion and abolish all religious abuses, idolatry, and superstition. At the same time, it must maintain a just and moral public order concomitant with religion. But its power of coercion does not extend to the affairs of eternal life and it therefore must maintain and respect the right of the church, under the Word of God, to regulate preaching, the administration of the sacraments, absolution, excommunication, and the ordering of divine services. In his tract On the True Care of Souls, Bucer put the matter in this way: "The secular sword and power must be under the spiritual sword and power. And this spiritual sword is the Word of God.... When the pastors rightly handle this spiritual sword, namely the Word of God, . . . all men must with complete obedience be subject to them, i.e. to the Word of God and of Christ which they teach and according to which they pass judgments. They must now let themselves be judged and governed not by men who happen to be ministers, but by Christ, the heavenly King, who by 'his Word [rules] in and through his ministers."'
In these sentences, Bucer formulated succinctly the conception of a Christian commonwealth which guided him throughout his career and which inspired the leaders in other Reformed city-states: Christ is the governor of the city and he governs through his Word. His vicars are the preachers who administer the Word. To them, the teachers and interpreters of the Word of Christ, the sociopolitical order must be subject. Under the Word of God, the civil government must maintain order by means of the sword, i.e., by means of the power of public law and coercion. Under the Word of God, the church must also constitute itself as a fellowship of faith through preaching, teaching, celebration of the sacraments, spiritual discipline, and benevolence. Both must be free in their own sphere but not separated from each other, for their ultimate source, authority, and norm is the same: the Word of God.
This ideal hovered over the church orders of all towns in which the Reformation was introduced. It was nowhere completely realized, chiefly because the civil governments refused to yield an independent control of public life to the preachers. In Geneva Calvin succeeded in making it real. He had to make concessions to the political government, to be sure, but the compromise to which he gave his assent, did not invalidate the ideal. He too was compelled to enter into long conflicts with those who wanted to prevent the church from administering discipline, but he won -- and was thus enabled to accomplish what in Zürich, Basel, Strassburg, and other places remained either a plan or a fragment or an ineffective compromise.
Calvin submitted the Ordonnances Ecclesiastiques (Ecclesiastical Ordinances) to the Genevan government, when, in September, 1541, he returned to the city, at its invitation, for his second pastorate there. After detailed negotiations, which produced changes, the Ordinances were adopted in November of the same year and henceforth had the force of law.
The outstanding feature of this church order was the provision of four church offices, namely, of preachers, teachers, elders, and deacons, according to the institution of Christ, i.e., by divine law. Calvin here proceeded on the principle, which he had most probably adopted from Bucer, that the New Testament (in Rom. 12; I Cor. 12; and Eph. 4) prescribed a definite form of the church. Exegetically, he argued that the New Testament passages provided for some church offices that were valid only for the beginnings of the church, e.g., apostles, prophets, et cetera, and others that were at all times, i.e., preachers, elders, et cetera.
The preachers as a body were constituted as the Compagnie Vénérable (Venerable Company). New ministers were examined by them and recommended by them to the congregation to be called and elected. The city council had the right to approve the election. Until he died (in 1564) Calvin was the president of this body of ministers. The function of the pastors was to preach, teach, administer the sacraments, and enforce church discipline. In the latter task, they were joined by the elders, all twelve of whom were also members of the city government, two of the Small Council, four of the Council of Sixty, and six of the Large Council. Though named to the eldership by the magistrate, they were officers of the church and as such not responsible to the city government. Together with the ministers, they constituted the Consistoire (Consistory) which administered church discipline. Pastors and elders were charged to supervise the religious and moral life of the people of their districts (the city was divided into twelve districts) and to bring all irregularities to the attention of the Consistory for action (hearings, admonitions, reprimands, exclusion from the Lord's Supper, and excommunication). If criminals were discovered in connection with the administration of church discipline, the persons involved were handed over to the secular government for trial and punishment. The Consistory was entitled to hear all marriage cases but it could not make legal decisions concerning them. This was the duty of a civil marriage court to which one of the ministers was attached as a consultant. Despite the fact that the Consistory was a partnership between the church and the secular government, Calvin saw to it that it operated as the disciplinary body of the church. In the course of time, its right to pronounce excommunication from the church (this did not also entail the civil ban) without the sanction and approval of the civil government was challenged, but Calvin succeeded in maintaining the freedom of the ecclesiastical function of the Consistory. Gradually, it imposed, under his guidance, a strict and very minute discipline upon the people of Geneva.
The teachers also were officers of the church. Their chief responsibility was the Academy, a humanistic and theological institution for the training of young men for the ministry. It began to flourish, when in 1559 Theodore Beza, who was to become Calvin's successor as the leader of the church of Geneva, assumed its rectorship. Finally, the church also administered poor-relief and benevolences of all kinds through the deacons.
It is no wonder that this church order became the most influential of all that were produced by the Reformation. Its most remarkable administration under Calvin made Geneva, according to the words of John Knox, "the greatest school of Christ on earth." The fact that the four ministerial offices on which the structure was based were regarded as divinely prescribed, made it possible to transplant this polity, basically unchanged, to other countries and places, where Calvinism became established. Thus the Genevan church order served as the pattern for the Protestant churches of France, Holland, Hungary, Scotland. Furthermore, the ideal of the Christian commonwealth which it embodied became that of the English Puritans and their descendants, particularly among those denominations which later shaped American Protestantism.
The Functions and Standards of the Early Evangelical Ministry
At the beginning of the fourth book of the Institutes, in which he deals with the church, Calvin likens the church to a mother and he suggests that no one can be a Christian unless he gives himself continuously into her care. "Our infirmity," he writes, "will not admit of our dismission from her school; we must continue under her instruction and discipline to the end of our lives." And, he continues, "though God could easily make his people perfect in a single moment, yet it was not his will that they should grow to mature age, but under the education of the church." 20
In writing this, Calvin was thinking of the church as it comes into being through the Word of God as it is preached, taught, and applied to private and public, individual and social life. Under the Word of God, therefore, the church is the educator -- not by itself, but "by the instrumentality of men," the ministers, to whom is assigned "the preaching of the heavenly doctrine" and the administration of the whole divine order prescribed by it.
Calvin's doctrine of the church implied a high conception of the ministry. He was unique among the Reformers because he regarded the polity of the church as divinely instituted. However, they all held a high doctrine of the ministry, and they all agreed with Calvin that the church as the school of Christ becomes real through the ministry of the Word.
The primary ministerial function was preaching. And what a load of it the ministers of the era of the Reformation had to carry! In his German Mass Luther described the practice prevailing at Wittenberg as follows: On Sunday, there were three services. At the early morning service, at five or six o'clock, there was a sermon on the Epistle of the day. At the main service, at eight or nine o'clock, the minister preached on the Gospel of the day. The sermon at the Vesper service in the afternoon was based on the Old Testament. It was the practice to expound the whole book consecutively, Sunday after Sunday. Monday and Tuesday were the days of the Catechism, and on each of these days, the sermon was devoted to an exposition of parts of the Catechism, the Decalogue, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, or the sacraments. The early morning service on Wednesday was centered on the Gospel of Matthew. On Thursday and Friday, the Epistles were expounded. On Saturday, a late afternoon Vesper service was held, and the Gospel of John traditionally furnished the text of the sermon. In other places the practice was similar. In the evangelical churches of the cities and towns, at least one service with sermon was held every day. In the villages, particularly those that were incorporated in a township, there were, naturally, fewer services. For example, the parish of Wittenberg comprised thirteen villages besides the town. The preaching services there were held by an assistant preacher, called deacon (generally a theological student) who visited each place at regular intervals. Let us mention, by the way, that the parish minister of Wittenberg had three (and, since 1533, four) assistants. He could, of course, count on being helped in his preaching chores by the members of the Theological Faculty.
Luther preached regularly in the town church. Many of the sermons that were later published and included in his Collected Works are transcripts of stenographs taken at these occasions. They are representative of the type of preaching generally practiced among the early Protestants. They are all expository homilies and, in large part, paraphrases of the Biblical text, interlaced with interpretations of key doctrines and with moral admonitions that were designed to make the Bible live as the mirror of God's self-disclosure.
In other respects, Luther's style of preaching was not typical. As he did in all his works, he communicated his own person in his sermons, yet without superimposing himself on the message he wanted to convey. The vivid imagination and the sharp observation of men and nature that marked his mind; his acquaintance with common speech and his joy in the use of proverbs; indeed, his capacity to express in creative speaking with a skill that only a poet and genius possesses the whole range of human emotions from awe in the presence of the numinous to the feelings of the body -- all are reflected in his sermons (as also in the commentaries, his work of the lecture room), not consistently, of course, and not every time, yet most impressively in the Church Postil Sermons, one of the products of his exile on Wartburg Castle, written in order to furnish to the preachers of the Reformation examples of Biblical preaching. There is nothing parallel in the work of another preacher of the Reformation. Zwingli spoke directly and naturally, yet too intellectually; Calvin preached with remarkable consistency, always concerned to bring to the fore all that was contained in the passage he was expounding, but he was always impersonal; Bucer was rambling and long-winded and because, as he spoke, all kinds of ideas were awakened in his well-stored mind, he could never be a popular preacher. We know the sermons of scores of other men of the Reformation. Most of them do not reflect anything extraordinary. And we do not know anything about the work of hundreds of other preachers, but we may be sure that only comparatively few had mastered the art of preaching.
It is understandable that ministers were permitted and specifically encouraged to use sermons published by others, even if they could not memorize them and had to read them aloud from the pulpit. Luther's Postils and other sermon collections "useful and of advantage to unskilled pastors and preachers" could be bought at the book markets. A volume of sermons for all occasions, written by the Reformer of Augsburg, Urbanus Rhegius, was most popular.
At the beginning of the Reformation, there were many pastors, converts to the gospel from Roman Catholicism, who had no experience in preaching and could not learn how to do it because they were too old or because they lacked training and education. The Visitators and Superintendents who shaped and directed the new evangelical church orders were instructed to help them with advice and counsel; to provide them with books and to assign readings, in many cases of the Bible itself. Melanchthon, who from 1526 on was a leading member of the Visitation Commission of electoral Saxony, once told one of his classes that, at a Visitation examination, he had asked a minister who earlier had been a monk, whether he taught his people the Decalogue and that he had received the answer: "That book I have not yet been able to get." Melanchthon did not say what he did to help the man. As the Reformation progressed, provisions were made for the training of ministers at schools and universities. This ministerial education did not provide specifically for training in the art and skill of preaching. The assumption was that if one had learned to read and interpret the Bible and could defend and expound a Biblical theology, he would also be able to preach. Perhaps it was this sort of training which made for the length of some of the sermons in early Protestantism. During the latter part of the sixteenth century, it was not unusual for a sermon to last two or three hours. Of Bugenhagen, the first evangelical minister of the parish church of Wittenberg and the first Superintendent of the church of electoral Saxony, it is reported that, during a visit to Denmark where he helped to introduce the Reformation, he once preached for seven hours! 21 This was certainly not the common custom at this or any other period, but Bugenhagen had a reputation as a preacher who took a very long time in the pulpit.
Luther certainly was not in favor of overlong sermons. He was too mindful of the capacities of his congregation! He often said, in his Table Talk, that when he was in the pulpit, he thought of "little Jack and little Betty" (Hänslein und Elslein) and of the maids and menservants in the pews.22 He knew that "to preach simply is a great art." 23 His rule for good preaching was as follows: "First of all, a good preacher must be able to teach correctly and in an orderly manner. Second, he must have a good head. Third, he must be able to speak well. Fourth, he should have a good voice, and, fifth, a good memory. Sixth, he must know when to stop. Seventh, he must know his stuff and keep at it. Eighth, he must be willing to risk body and soul, property and honor. Ninth, he must let everyone vex and ridicule him [sich von jedermann lassen vexieren und geheuen]." 24
These rules show that he was well acquainted with preaching and preachers. But how many ministers could observe them? It is probable that a great number among them resembled the parson Dionysius Brunn of Moisall in Mecklenburg about whom a Visitation Commission of 1544 made the following report: "There is not much knowledge or intellect in the little man. He preaches from memory, it is true, but he has a strange way and is very faulty in his pronunciation and, besides, he shouts. He swallows the last words and syllables, and he has an odd way to over-use certain words; he repeats them again and again in his sermon. Consequently, he is unpleasant to listen to; indeed, he hurts one's ears. The poor congregation cannot possibly comprehend what he is saying." 25
Another minister who had no trouble in making himself understood had difficulties of another sort. In a sermon, he once advised his congregation that they should whistle when they heard someone tell a lie. "A little later, he preached on the creation of man and, desiring to be as graphic and plain as possible, he said: 'When God Almighty had; made heaven and earth, he rolled in one a lump of clay and fashioned it into the likeness of a man and then leaned it on a fence to harden.' When an insolent peasant heard this, he whistled very loudly right in the church. The parson noticed it and said: What! Do you think, peasant, that I am lying?' 'No,' replied the peasant, 'but who had made the fence when there was not yet any man on earth?"' 26
When the Visitations disclosed that the chief trouble of the evangelical churches was the ignorance of the common people, steps were taken to use the public services also for purposes of instruction. Catechisms, which were produced everywhere, served as the basis of teaching. It was customary in many churches, when the sermon was ended, for the minister to lead the congregation in a recital of the Catechism or parts of it. Luther had written his Smaller Catechism to be memorized by young and old alike and the larger one to be read aloud at home or in church. Shortly after they were published in 1529, they were put into general use. In Wittenberg, it became the practice (which was instituted elsewhere) to hold, four times a year, preaching services on the Catechism. For two weeks, the Catechism was explained seriatim in daily sermons. Practices of this sort made it inevitable for preaching generally to assume a catechetical character. The ministers directed their sermons to the end of stimulating a right faith on the basis of a correct knowledge of evangelical doctrines. They did not try to arouse conversion experiences in their listeners nor did they cultivate religious emotions or sentiments. Early Protestant preaching was doctrinal and became more and more so. Only among the Anabaptists did Christian awakenings and revivals occur under the influence of Biblical preaching, Bible readings, and hymn singing. The movement of the Reformation at large was not a "great awakening." It was the goal of the Reformers and of the early Protestant ministry to inculcate right Christian teaching and "pure doctrine" in the minds of men. This is why as preachers they were primarily teachers.
The predominance of teaching became apparent also in the general work of the ministry. The administration of the sacraments was always accompanied by some kind of instruction. In Lutheran churches, young people were not admitted to the first communion service without having been examined by the minister on their faith. In St. Gallen, Switzerland, children between the ages of seven and fourteen had to attend lessons every Sunday afternoon in order to be instructed by the minister in the Catechism, in preparation for their first communion. In the services of confession and penitence which practically everywhere, preceded the celebration of the Lord's Supper the people were examined on their faith. Practically all Lutheran church orders prescribed such a Glaubensexamen. To be sure, this "examination" was but part of the confession without which no one could take the sacrament. In Lutheran churches, where the sacrament was celebrated in connection with every main Sunday service and where only those who chose to do so communed, the confessional had a private character. People who intended to take the sacrament had to inform the minister beforehand, and he was not allowed to admit them without having held with them a service of confession. They were not expected to confess their sins in detail, but those who were in need of counsel were encouraged to make complete confession of all that burdened them.
In Geneva, the Lord's Supper was regarded as a service of the whole congregation that everyone had to attend. Calvin had originally proposed that it should be held once every month in the city, each parish observing it once every quarter of the year but on different Sundays, and that, in addition, it should be observed in every parish at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. But the Ecclesiastical Ordinances as they were actually adopted prescribed the celebration of the Supper only on the three great feast days and the first Sunday in September. Here, too, a confessional service was held preceding the celebration of the sacrament. Meeting as the congregation of God, all were individually confronted with their responsibility worthily to approach the Lord's table. The ministers did not admit anyone who was not in good standing in the church. The communion service was thus placed in the context of church discipline. To be excluded from it was the chief consequence a person had to bear on whom the Consistory had pronounced the sentence of excommunication. Moreover, none of those who had been cited to appear before the Consistory because of irregularities in faith or morals was permitted to take communion, unless evidence was given of his having corrected the faults.
In this connection, there developed, in Geneva, a regular practice of the care of souls. The Ordinances prescribed that each minister accompanied by an elder should regularly call in the homes of his parish. In 1550, an order was issued that the ministers should visit each home at least once a year. Beza commented on the effect of the order by saying: "It is hard to believe how fruitful it proved to be." 27
In other towns attempts to introduce a similar practice were made, but apparently the plan was generally not carried out. According to the regulations of most church orders, the care of souls for which the ministers were responsible by virtue of their office was limited to regular visits in the hospitals and prisons. The ministers visited the sick in their homes only if they were asked to come. People were encouraged to inform the ministers when members of their families were ill, and especially when they were near death, and then to invite them to call. It seems that the ministers made no uninvited sick calls in order to avoid the impression that people required the services of a priest when they were about to die. Where church discipline was instituted, the regular visits of ministers and elders produced a sense of Christian mutuality and a spirit of churchmanship not matched elsewhere.
Among all the Reformers, it was Bucer who saw this most clearly. Throughout his career, he aimed to actualize the church as a real community of love. To what an extent he characteristically interpreted this concern in terms of instruction, he reveals in this passage of his book on The Care of Souls: "One must not confine Christian teaching and exhortation to the church service and the pulpit, for there are many who let remain general what is there offered as a general teaching and admonition and who interpret and understand it with respect to others rather than with respect to themselves. Hence it is necessary to instruct the people at home and to give them individual Christian guidance. Those churches therefore have acted wisely who pursue an individual approach in teaching everyone penitence and faith in Christ the Lord."28 In the church of Geneva, Calvin turned the same concern in the direction of discipline: "As the saving doctrine of Christ is the soul of the Church, so discipline forms the ligaments which connect the members together and keep each in its proper place.... [For there would occur] a dissolution of the Church . . . unless the preaching of the doctrine were accompanied with private admonitions, reproofs and other means to enforce the doctrine and prevent it from being altogether ineffectual." 29 "For the doctrine then obtains its full authority, and produces its due effect, when the minister not only declares to all the people together what is their duty to Christ, but has the right and means of enforcing it upon them whom he observes to be inattentive, or not obedient to the doctrine." 30
These sentences, which accurately reflect the practices of the Genevan church, imply that the minister occupied an office of great authority. And this was the case not only in Geneva but also elsewhere. He had the power to preach, to bind and to loose, and to administer the sacraments. In these three respects, the Augsburg Confession (Art. 28, 5) defined the power of the keys (potestas clavii). Its definition applied generally to Reformation Protestantism. By virtue of it, the minister had the right to proclaim the ban. But one was careful to distinguish this power of excommunication from that used in Roman Catholicism. Luther wrote in the Smalcald Articles (Art. 3, 9): "The great ban [maior excommunicatio] as the Pope calls it, we regard entirely as a secular punishment, and it does not concern us. But the small, i.e., the true Christian ban is this that one must not permit apparent, obstinate sinners to partake of the sacrament and other common acts of the Church, unless they mend their ways and avoid sin." In Lutheranism, this power was used by the minister on behalf of the church, in private rather than in public, but, in Calvinism, it was employed publicly by the minister and the elders in the church. Yet also here, excommunication was understood as a measure of discipline rather than as a punishment. "For," Calvin wrote, "excommunication differs from anathema; the latter, which ought to be very rarely or never resorted to, precluding all pardon, execrates a person and devotes him to eternal perdition; whereas excommunication rather censures and punishes his conduct." 31
The power and authority of the minister was regarded as divine. It was believed that he did not speak and act in his own name but in the name of God. Calvin went so far as to treat acts of contempt or ridicule of the ministry as serious public offenses. He saw in them an expression of disregard of the divine order, and he was sure that such contempt threatened all order.
But though divine in nature, ministerial authority was bestowed by the congregation. This was the principle that was enacted when persons were inducted into the ministerial office. The methods of calling and ordaining a minister differed greatly from place to place and only gradually assumed a definite form.
The Confessio Helvetica Posterior of 1566 (written in 1562 by Henry Bullinger, the successor of Zwingli), summarizes the prevailing conception of the ministry in a representative way though it speaks only for the Swiss Reformed Church (Art. 18): At all times, God has used ministers for the gathering and establishment of the Church and for its government and maintenance. The origin, institution, and function of the ministry is therefore very old and willed by God himself. It is not a new order nor is it man-made. While God leads the hearts of his elect to faith inwardly by the Holy Spirit, he teaches them outwardly by the Word through his ministers. Christ called the apostles to preach the gospel and, by his command, they ordained pastors and teachers throughout the churches of the world and, by their successors, he has been teaching and governing the Church until now. Only such persons are qualified to become ministers who possess adequate and holy learning, pious eloquence (pia eloquentia) and simple prudence and are persons of moderation and honesty. They must be called and chosen by a legitimate ecclesiastical election (electione ecclesiastica et legitima), i.e., they must be carefully chosen by the church or by persons delegated by the church for this purpose, in an orderly proceeding without disturbance, sedition, or contention.32
The basis of this conception was the rejection of the ordinatio absoluta of the Roman Church, i.e., ordination to the priesthood without reference to a call to a specific office. At the very beginning of the Reformation, Luther had argued that the ministry made sense only in relation to a local congregation. Rejecting, therefore, the Roman Catholic sacrament of ordination as an induction into the status and order of the priesthood, he insisted that no one should be ordained to the ministry unless he had a call from a congregation. This view became the common property of the Reformers. It was not always observed in practice, and it often was lost sight of in the complex and confused efforts to raise and train a Protestant ministry. However, in principle, the congregational call of the minister was henceforth more important than his ordination. Indeed, in early Protestantism, ordination was nothing else than the confirmation of the calling and election of the minister. The importance which was attached to the choosing of the minister is impressively reflected in a passage of Calvin's Institutes where he writes: "Whenever a controversy arises respecting religion, which requires to be decided by a council or ecclesiastical judgment; whenever a minister is to be chosen, in short, whenever anything of difficulty or great importance is transacting; . . . it is a pious custom and beneficial in all ages, for the pastors to exhort the people to public fasts and extraordinary prayers." 33
When one considers the actual conditions that prevailed in the local congregations at the time of the Reformation and is mindful of the fact that the people themselves for many reasons lacked initiative so that, as objects rather than as subjects of action, they were dependent upon the leadership of the princes, magistrates, and church governments, one can understand why the actual calling of the ministers was in fact rarely the result of their decision. According to the regulations of the various church orders, the patrons, Superintendents, ministers' convents, or officials of the church governments actually chose, examined, and elected the ministers, and the secular governments often appointed them. However, care was taken to have the candidate at least presented to the congregation (or its deputies) he was to serve.
In Wittenberg and the electorate of Saxony, the method of calling and ordaining a minister remained fluid until about 1535. Until then the early teaching of Luther was followed according to which ordination was nothing else than the confirmation of the call to the ministry in a particular congregation. When a minister had received a call, he was examined on his fitness for the office. Competent persons administered this examination: neighboring ministers; Visitation commissions; Superintendents; et cetera. If he was found to be qualified, he was elected and then, with prayer and the laying on of hands, commended to the congregation in its presence. The laying on of hands was understood as a gesture of intercession on behalf of the minister. After 1535, ordination, still interpreted as confirmatio vocationis, became a separate ritual.; As such it was now an act of the church government, performed generally by the Superintendent, with prayer and the laying on of hands, in the presence of the congregation. No candidate for the ministry could be thus ordained, unless he had been called and elected and until he had passed an examination, the examiner being the Superintendent, later the Theological Faculty of the university.
Soon after ordination became a separate rite (it was, by the way, not repeated, when the minister accepted a call to another parish), the requirement of an ordination vow was introduced. In Wittenberg, the ordinand vowed (since 1533) that he would keep himself to the Apostolic, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds and to the Augsburg Confession, but there was not yet a fixed formula. Regulations of other early Lutheran church orders prescribed that the candidate for ordination should vow that he would preach the pure gospel of Jesus Christ without any additions (ohn allen zusatz) and that he would obey the Superintendent.
In Zürich, the early practice of calling and ordaining a minister, according to an Order for Preachers written by Leo Jud and Henry Bullinger, was as follows: A commission of examiners consisting of two ministers, two members of the City Council, and two laymen experienced in the reading of the Bible, examined the candidates who either had been proposed or had applied to be called to a vacant ministerial office. They; inquired into their way of life and doctrine. On recommendation of this commission, the City Council elected the minister. The Dean (or senior minister) of Zürich then ordained him by the laying on of hands in the presence of the congregation, and a magistrate commended him to the people. At the next Synod meeting, the ordained minister had to vow that he would faithfully preach and teach the gospel and Word of God according to the Old and New Testaments, that he would be obedient to the government, and that he would keep the secrets of his ministerial office.
In Calvin's Geneva, the Compagnie Vénérable examined the candidates for the preaching office. In order to qualify, they had to be "men of sound doctrine and holy life." The ministers then nominated the candidate of their choice to the congregation who called and elected him. When the City Council had confirmed the election, the candidate was ordained, the pastors laying their hands on him. Calvin explains in the Institutes that the significance of the imposition of hands is "to admonish the person ordained that he is no longer his own master but devoted to the service of God and the Church." 34
What Calvin has to say about the call to the ministry in the Institutes reflects not only his own high sense of the dignity of this office, but also the practices that prevailed in Geneva. He writes: "In order, therefore, that any one may be accounted a true minister of the Church, it is necessary, in the first place, that he be regularly called to it, and, in the second place, that he answer his call, that is, by undertaking and executing the office assigned to him."35 "I speak of the external and solemn call, which belongs to the public order of the Church; passing over that secret call, of which every minister is conscious to himself before God, but which is not known to the Church. This secret call, however, is the honest testimony of our heart that we accept the office offered to us, not from ambition or avarice, or any other unlawful motive, but from a sincere fear of God and an ardent zeal for the edification of the Church.... In the view of the Church, ... he who enters on his office with an evil conscience, is nevertheless duly called, provided his iniquity is not discovered." 36 "We find, therefore, that it is a legitimate ministry according to the Word of God, when those who appear suitable persons are appointed with the consent and approbation of the people; but that other pastors ought to preside over the election, to guard the multitude from falling into any improprieties, through inconstancy, intrigue, or confusion." 37 "Whoever, therefore, has undertaken the government and charge of one Church, let him know that he is bound to this law of the Divine call; not that he is fixed to his station so as never to be permitted to leave it in a regular and orderly manner, if the public benefit should require it; but he who has been called to one place, ought never to think either of departing from his situation, or relinquishing the office altogether, from any motive of personal convenience or advantage. But if it be expedient that he should remove to another station, he ought not to attempt this on his own private opinion, but to be guided by public authority." 38
The supervision of the ministers, to which we have repeatedly referred, was a constant problem. It was particularly acute so long as the evangelical churches had not yet recruited and trained their own ministers. During the period of transition from Roman Catholicism, especially during the third decade of the sixteenth century, the method of visitation proved to be the only feasible one. The theological members especially of the Visitation Commissions concerned themselves with the standards of the ministry. They advised the congregations on proper proceedings, counseled the ministers, and enforced discipline among them. If necessary, they could invoke the assistance of secular authorities, and these generally responded by applying coercion. Many unfit ministers, e.g, former priests or monks who had forsaken the old order not for spiritual reasons but for material ones of all kinds, and also spiritual adventurers of all sorts who lacked adequate preparation, were dismissed from their "posts." When conditions were stabilized, Superintendents were installed. They assumed the spiritual functions which formerly the bishops had exercised, their chief duty being the supervision of the ministers of their districts. They supplemented the training of the ministers by assigning readings to them and by subjecting them to regular examinations. By the middle of the century, most ministers were university-trained in some fashion, and the theological faculties began to wield considerable influence on the standards of the ministry -- but they also created a climate of theological controversy with dire consequences for edifying preaching!
In Zürich, since 1528, a synod was held twice a year. All preachers from town and country were expected to attend it. It met in the presence of several members of the City Council. Its sole agenda was the censura mutua, i.e., the ministers subjected one another to criticism and mutual counsel on their life and work. The congregations had the right to send one or two delegates to the synod, but only if they had complaints of their minister's teaching or behavior. It seems that the congregations made little use of this privilege, and the synods became ministers' conferences.
In Strassburg, the church wardens were at first responsible for the supervision of ministers. When, in 1533, synods were introduced, they were ordered to attend them in order to assist in the building of a common church order. In 1543, a Church Convent was established, of which Bucer was the permanent superintendent and Hedio his permanent deputy. Its other members were two ministers, one deacon and one teacher. All these were elected annually. The Convent met once a month. It surveyed the life of the church and particularly the work of the ministers. How effective it was, we do not know.
In Geneva, Calvin had provided in the Ecclesiastical Ordinances for a weekly Conférence des Ecritures (Bible Conference) of the ministers. Its chief purpose was censura mutua. One of the ministers had to preach a sermon which was then discussed and criticized by the others. But all aspects of the ministry were subject to being reviewed. The members of the "Venerable Company" were charged to maintain certain standards for themselves and for one another. Heresy; deviation from the established ecclesiastical order (rébellion contre l'ordre ecclésiastique); blasphemy; drunkenness; playing prohibited games; and dancing were regarded as irreconcilable with the ministry. Moreover, the ministers had to avoid arbitrary exegesis of Scripture; presumptuousness; preoccupation with speculative problems (curiosités à chercher questions vaines); indolence in the study of Scripture; tardiness in the denunciation of vice; avarice; irascibility; cantankerousness; unseemly dress. Also in this case, regrettably, we do not know what the actual proceedings and their results were.
The Social and Economic Status of the Early Protestant Ministers
All the ideals and doctrines, developments and practices we have been describing produced a new social and vocational class: that of the Protestant minister. He did not belong to the caste of the clergy, set apart as a special group in the social order. He became identified with the middle class, the burghers. No members of the nobility became Protestant preachers -- in contrast to the medieval tradition. The Roman Church recruited its higher clergy chiefly from the ranks of the feudal lords and barons. When the Reformation deprived the evangelical churches of political and economic power, the ecclesiastical career ceased to be attractive to the sons of the upper classes, because in it they could no longer hope to satisfy either political ambition or the desire for riches and an opulent way of life. As soon as the evangelical churches were in some way established, the preachers were recruited from the ranks of the small burghers. A comparatively large number of them came from families of teachers and sextons, others from the ranks of clerks, printers, typesetters, and weavers. Significantly enough, the peasants were hardly represented among them, partly because, after the Peasants' Revolt, most of them had become estranged from the Reformation, and partly because it was difficult for them to come up even to the lowest standards of education the Protestant church governments required.
The great differences in social rank and position which characterized the Roman Catholic clergy had no chance to develop among the evangelical ministers. Yet they too were not all of the same social or professional status. It took a long time to establish educational standards for the ministers and to enforce them. For many years, the new churches lacked adequately trained preachers. Until 1544, even the Theological Faculty at Wittenberg admitted poorly educated men, even mere artisans, to ordination. Many theological students did not finish the full course of study but were nevertheless assigned to parishes. At the middle of the sixteenth century, most churches of the Reformation had, in fact, a ministry of two ranks, one of trained and one of untrained men. The former, many of whom held the theological doctor's degree or a lower academic title, became parish ministers in the towns or court preachers. They wielded considerable influence. Indeed, they were the "conscience" of the new profession.39
Many of the country preachers were poorly trained. For a long time, it was customary to examine those who wanted to qualify for service in rural parishes much less strictly than those who aspired toward ministerial positions in the towns. When a country parson wanted to be transferred to a town parish, he had to submit to a new examination.
The Visitations showed that many preachers were rough and uncouth fellows, careless and sloppy in their way of life and manner of dress and inattentive to their duties. The most common complaint about them was that they drank too much. It was frequently reported that preachers spent their time sitting around in taverns and that many of them had the habit of staying at wedding parties until the last keg of beer was consumed. Mathesius, famous for his sermons on Luther's life, tells of a preacher who took a jug of beer with him into the pulpit! In 1541, the Hessian Superintendents sent the following petition to the Landgrave Philip: "In view of the fact that there are current many complaints about parsons who scandalize people by their excessive drinking and other disgraceful vices and yet remain unpunished as well as unreformed, we suggest that the jail at the cloister of Spisskoppel be restored and that the parsons who persist in their vices be given the choice either to leave their parishes or to be confined in this jail for a period of time the length of which shall depend on the nature of their offense, in order that on water and bread they may undergo corrective punishment."40 Unfortunately, we are not told whether the Landgrave acted on this petition or, if he caused this jail for parsons to be built, whether any elected to be confined there.
Many of the troubles and vices to which ministers became subject were undoubtedly caused by the poor economic conditions under which they had to live. It took a long time to reorganize church property and income. During the confusion that accompanied the initial introduction of the Reformation, the princes, nobles, town magistrates and even the peasants had appropriated much of the landed endowments and properties of the churches. Later, the barons and the peasants did not continue to pay the customary dues and excises, and people generally, who, in former times, had supported the church by paying fees for private masses, prayers, indulgences and other religious goods and services, now ceased to make contributions -- in part, because they rightly thought that the teachings of the Reformers prohibited them, and, in part, because they simply took advantage of the new order. What income remained for the parish ministers was in most cases insufficient to support them. As late as in 1531, Luther said of the parsons: "They are now poorer than before [i.e., in Roman Catholicism], and if they have wife and children they are beggars indeed." It is no wonder, then, that the preachers turned to all sorts of devices in order to eke out a living. They practiced handicrafts or turned to farming, keeping gardens and cattle, sheep and pigs. Many availed themselves of feudal privileges with which their parishes were endowed, for example, by taking over from monasteries and other Roman Catholic establishments brewing rights, et cetera.
In the course of time, the income of the preachers was, of course, regulated. In Hesse, Landgrave Philip ordered that rural ministers should be paid 5O to 60 gulden and the preachers in the towns 70 to 80 gulden. In addition, they were to receive certain amounts of meat, corn and grain, wood, et cetera. Duke Maurice of Saxony set the salaries of town and country ministers at the amount of 200 and 90 gulden respectively, later reducing them to 150 and 70 gulden. The parish minister at Wittenberg (Bugenhagen) received (since 1529) annually 200 gulden and later 300 gulden, plus 75 bushels of corn. In addition, he had an income of 40, later 50 gulden as a professor in the university. The first (i.e., highest ranking) minister of Augsburg was paid (since 1544) 250 gulden; the other ministers received 200 gulden and the deacons 100 to 150 gulden.
Nothing shaped the social status of the Protestant ministry as decisively as the fact that they were permitted and indeed encouraged to marry. The evangelical parsonage assumed a character by which the Protestant ministry was radically distinguished -- in social terms -- from the Roman Catholic clergy. The family life of the ministers became the symbolical expression of the communal character of the evangelical faith. Ministerial households often exemplified the practical application of the Reformers' new understanding of the Christian religion, namely, that the faith in Christ must be practiced in mutual love and service in the natural, social setting of human life and in ordinary, secular pursuits. Thus the married ministry came to demonstrate that family life together with the manifold social activities it engenders can be a more; effective vehicle of religion and the service of God than asceticism, celibacy, and otherworldliness.
There was not one of the Reformers who did not get married. And every one of them was an advocate of the institution of marriage, insisting particularly that ministers of the Word of God should be married men, who would preside over their parishes as fathers of families. The most noted marriage was, of course, that of Martin Luther with Katharine von Bora (on June 13, 1525). It was a particularly happy union, though Katharine was almost sixteen years younger than her husband. In his ebullient, unreserved, communicative way, Luther let the world share in his happiness as well as his sorrows (three of his six children died in infancy or in childhood), and all Protestants, but especially the Lutherans, have thought and still think of him, the Reformer and enemy of the Pope, as the Protestant parson in the midst of his family circle in the Black Cloister of Wittenberg! The families of some of the other Reformers were no less notable. The homes of the Strassburg Reformers were famous all over Europe for the generous hospitality that was there extended to Protestant refugees and travelers from many lands.
Nor should the women who presided over these households be forgotten. Katharine von Bora assumed responsibility for the economic security of Luther and his children and she took efficient care of him in the many sicknesses of his later life. Katharine Zell, the wife of the popular senior among the preachers of Strassburg, was a fearless and temperamental defender of tolerance. She did not hesitate to speak up when the ministers or the City Council saw fit to exile a man because of his religious views without taking into account his personal character. She readily entertained religious nonconformists in her home and let it be known that in her Christian judgment, character and honorableness mattered more than orthodox doctrine. Anna Weisbrucker, the wife of the Augsburg Reformer Urbanus Rhegius, mother of thirteen children, was a woman of learning. She knew Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and used and cultivated her knowledge throughout her married life. Wilbrandis Rosenblatt, the second wife of Martin Bucer (his first wife died during the great epidemic of the plague in 1541) had been married three times before, and two of her husbands had been ministers and Reformers closely related to Bucer. As a young widow, she had married John Oecolampadius of Basel and, after his death, she became the wife of Bucer's colleague and friend Wolfgang Capito (he too perished in the plague of 1541). One can readily imagine that women like these contributed their share to the life and work of the ministry, helping to integrate it in the common social life!
A telling symbol of the new religious and social status of the Christian minister of the Age of the Reformation was his manner of dress. The gown of the secular scholar, commonly worn by the men of learning among the burghers and called Schaube, became the outward sign of ministerial vocation and social status. Zwingli was the first to introduce it in Zurich, during the autumn of 1523. In the afternoon of October 9, 1524, Luther too began to wear it. Clothed in the Schaube, he then preached from the pulpit which he had occupied in the morning for the last time wearing the monk's cowl.
Henceforth, the scholar's gown was the garment of the Protestant minister. It symbolizes all the changes that were wrought by the Reformation in the nature and the work of the ministry.
For Further Reading
The best sources for the development of the Protestant ministry at the time of the Reformation are the works of the Reformers, especially their letters. The early church orders together with the documents and letters dealing with the history of their formation and first application are also mines of information.
There are studies on several aspects of the early evangelical ministry, but no monograph on the subject as a whole is available.
Two highly illuminating studies on the history of the Protestant ministers of Germany have been mentioned. They contain brief chapters on the Reformation.
Paul Drews, Der evangelische Geistliche in der deutschen Vergangenheit, 2nd ed. (Jena, 1924).
Hermann Werdermann, Der evangelische Pfarrer in Geschichte und Gegenwart, (Leipzig, 1925).
1John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religon, 7th American ed. (Philadelphia, 1936), IV.1.10.
2"On the Ordering of the Divine Service in the Congregation." W. A. (Weimar Edition of Luther's Works), Vol. 12, pp. 32 f.
3W. A.; Tischreden (Table Talk); Vol. 4, p. 62, 1. 5.
4W. A-. Vol. 6, p. 564.
5W. A. Vol. 11, p. 224.
6De potestate papae, 1523.
7De institutione ministerii ecclesiae, 1523.
8Church Postil, 1522.
9W. A. Vol. 101, Pt. 2, p. 48, 1. 5.
10W. A. Vol. 341, p. 395, 1. 14.
11W. A. Vol. 43, p. 381, 1. 28.
12W. A. Vol. 28, p. 479, 1. 31.
13W. A. Vol. 302, p 533, 1. 20.
17Pastorale. Das ist Von der waren Seelsorge und dem rechten Hirtendienst wie derselbige in der Kirchen Christi bestellet und verrichtet werden soll (Strassburg, 1536). Reprinted frequently, also in a Latin translation included (under the title De vera cura animarum) in Bucer's Scripta Anglicana.
18Ulrich Zwingli, Eine Auswahl aus seinen Schriften (Zürich, 1918),
19W. Koehler, Züricher Ehegericht, II (Zürich, 1951), 503. This work contains a very full discussion of all these issues.
21Quoted from G. Loesche, Analecta Lutherana et Melanchthonia, 1891, No. 290, by Hans Achelis, Lehrbuch der Praktischen Theologie, II (Leipzig, 1911), 268.
22W. A. Tischr. Vol. 3, p. 310, 1. 8; Vol. 6, p. 196, 1. 43.
23lbid., Vol. 4, p. 447, 1. 19.
24E.A. (Erlangen ed.), 59, 194.
25Hermann Werdermann, Der evangelische Pfarrer in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Leipzig, 1925), 21.
27Vix credibile est, quantus sit fructus consectus. Vita Joh. Calvini, chap. 13.
28Von der wahren Seelsorge, 180.
32This is an abbreviation containing all key terms and phrases of the article De ministris ecclesiae ipsorumque institutione et officio.
33Inst., IV.12.14. (ItaRcs mine.)
39Paul Drews, Der evangelische Geistliche in der deutschen Vergangenheit, 2nd ed. (Jena, 1924), 20.
Viewed 169232 times.