Such are the doctrines and the antitheses of the Formula of Concord. They are in every part consonant with Holy Scriptures, with the General Creeds, and with the earlier Confessions of the Lutheran Church. The Formula is but the old doctrine repeated, systematized, applied and defended. The chief charge against the Formula of Concord is that it caused a complete separation between the Lutheran and the Zwinglian-Calvistic Churches. This is a great mistake. The cause of the separation was the divergent convictions and principles on both sides. The Formula did not originate a single one of the questions settled. But the Formula of Concord was not even the occasion of the separation. So far was this from being the case, that after the controversies which necessarily attended the first appearance of the Formula of Concord, a far healthier and kindlier feeling prevailed between the tow Communions. Before the Formula, may things existed in their relations which tended demoralize the Reformed Church, as much as it did to disorganize and distress the Lutheran Church. Truthful separation is far better than dishonest union, and two Churches are happier, and more kindly in their mutual relations, when their differences are frankly confessed, than when they are clouding with ambiguities and double meaning the real divergencies. And even if two Communions are in downright conflict , it is better that the battles should be on the side of clearly marked lines, or well understood issues––should be the struggles of nationalities, under the laws of war rather than the savage, ill-defined warfare of the border, and of the bush. That the open transitions to the Reformed side of a few nominally Lutheran States were really occasioned by the Formula, is not true. Most of these movements were those of political force, in the face of the bitter regrets of the people. No State which honestly held the Augsburg Confession went over to the Reformed. If the Formula uncovered and shamed out of the pretence of Lutheranism any who were making a mere cloak of the Augsburg Confession, it s something to love it for. It is charged upon the Formula of Concord that it represented the Melanchthonian tendency in our Church, and substituted the fossilization of the letter and of the dogma for the freedom of the spirit and of the Word. This again is not true. It is not true that the spirit within our Church which the Formula encountered, was that of genuine freedom. It was rather the spirit which was making a real bondage under the pretences of liberty, a spirit which was tolerant only to vagueness and laxity, not to well-defined doctrinal conviction. It was a spirit which softened and relaxed the Church when she needed her utmost vigor and firmness. It was a spirit of false deference to antiquity and human authority over against the Word. It yielded now to a false philosophizing, now to the Reformed, now to Rome. It tried to adjust some of the most vital doctrines to the demands of Rationalism on the other side, of Romanism on the other. In the “Interims,” it came near sacrificing all that had been gained in the struggle with the Papacy. It confessed in edict, that the principle of the Reformation could reach no definite result, that the better path it claimed to open, led for ever toward something which could never be reached. So far as Melanchthon’s great gifts were purely and wisely used, the Formula fixed these results in the Church. It did not overthrow the Confessional works in which Melanchthon’s greatest glory in involved. It established the Confession and Apology forever as the Confession of the Church as a whole. The Book of Concord treats Melanchthon as the Bible treats Solomon. It opens wide the view of his wisdom and glory, and draws the veil over the record of his sadder days. Melanchthon’s temperament was more exacting and demanding than Luther’s. He made his personal gentleness a dogmatism and demanded impossibilities. The time of the deluge had come, ––a world had to be purified; and it was useless to send out the dove till the waters had passed away. The era of the Reformation could not be an era of Melanchthon mildness. To ask this, is to ask that war shall be peace, that battles shall be fought with feathers, and that armies shall move to the waving of olive branches. The war of the Formula was an internal defensive war; yet, like all civil wars, it left behind it inevitable wounds which did not at once heal up. The struggle in Churches or States, which ends in a triumph over the schism of their own children, cannot for generations command the universal sympathy, with which the overthrow of a common foe is regarded. All England is exultant in the victories over France, but even yet there are Englishmen, to whom Charles is a martyr, and Cromwell a devil. the war of the Formula was fought for great principles: it was bravely and uncompromisingly fought; but it was fought magnanimously under the old banner of the Cross. It was crowned with victory brought peace.
Charles Porterfield Krauth
The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology