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History of the Christian Church, Volume VII. Modern Christianity. The German Reformation.
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§ 80. Reformation of Public Worship.


I. Luther: Deutsches Taufbüchlein, 1523; Ordnung des Gottes-dienstes in der Gemeinde, 1523; Vom Gräuel der Stillmesse, 1524; Deutsche Messe und Ordnung des Gottesdienstes, 1526; Das Taufbüchlein verdeutscht, aufs neue zugerichtet, 1526. In Walch, X.; in Erl. ed., XXII. 151 sqq. Comp. the Augsburg confession, Pars II. art. 3 (De missa); Apol. of the Augsb. Conf. art. XXIV. (De missa); the Lutheran liturgies or Kirchenagenden (also Kirchenordnungen) of the 16th century, collected in Daniel: Codex Liturgicus Ecclesiae Lutheranae, Lips. 1848 (Tom. II. of his Cod. Lit.), and Höfling: Liturgisches Urkundenbuch (ed. by G. Thomasius and Theodos. Harnack), Leipz. 1854.

II. Th. Kliefoth: Die ursprüngliche Gottesdienstordnung in den deutschen Kirchen luth. Reformation, ihre Destruction und Reformation, Rostock, 1847. Grüneisen: Die evang. Gottesdienstordnung in den oberdeutschen Landen, Stuttgart, 1856. Gottschick: Luthers Anschauungen vom christl. Gottesdienst und seine thatsächliche Reform desselben, Freiburg i. B., 1887.


The reformation of doctrine led to a reconstruction of worship on the basis of Scripture and the guidance of such passages as, God is spirit,"618618    i e., all spirit, nothing but spirit, (without the article, as in the margin of the Revised Version), according to the Greek: πνεῦμα(emphatically put first) ὁΘεός, in opposition to all materialistic conceptions and local limitations. Compare the parallel expressions: " God is love" (1 John 4:8), " God is light" (1 John 1:5), where neither the definite nor the indefinite article is admissible. and must be worshiped, in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24), and, Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). Protestantism aims at a rational or spiritual service,619619    λογικὴ λατρεία, Rom. 12:1; comp. the "spiritual sacrifices" (πνευματικαὶ θυσίαι), 1 Pet. 2:5 as distinct from a mechanical service of mere forms. It acts upon the heart through the intellect, rather than the senses, and through instruction, rather than ceremonies. It brings the worshiper into direct communion with God in Christ, through the word of God and prayer, without the obstruction of human mediators.

The Reformers first cleansed the sanctuary of gross abuses and superstitions, and cast out the money-changers with a scourge of cords. They abhorred idolatry, which in a refined form had found its way into the church. They abolished the sale of indulgences, the worship of saints, images, and relics, processions and pilgrimages, the private masses, and masses for the dead in purgatory.620620    Missae de sanctis, missae votivae missae pro defunctis. Melanchthon, in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, art. XXIV., says: "The fact that we hold only public or common mass is no offense against the Catholic Church. For in the Greek churches even to-day private masses are not held; but there is only a public mass, and that on the Lord’s Day and festivals." Masses for the dead, which date from Pope Gregory I., imply, of course, the doctrine of purgatory, and were among the crying abuses of the church. They rejected five of the seven sacraments (retaining only baptism and the eucharist), the doctrine of transubstantiation, the priestly sacrifice, the adoration of the host, the withdrawal of the cup from the laity, and the use of a dead language in public worship. They also reduced the excessive ceremonialism and ritualistic display which obscured the spiritual service.

But the impoverishment was compensated by a gain; the work of destruction was followed by a more important and difficult work of reconstruction. This was the revival of primitive worship as far as it can be ascertained from the New Testament, the more abundant reading of the Scriptures and preaching of the cardinal truths of the gospel, the restoration of the Lord’s Supper in its original simplicity, the communion in both kinds, and the translation of the Latin service into the vernacular language whereby it was made intelligible and profitable to the people. There was, however, much crude experimenting and changing until a new order of worship could be fairly established.

Uniformity in worship is neither necessary nor desirable, according to Protestant principles. The New Testament does not prescribe any particular form, except the Lord’s Prayer, the words of institution of the Lord’s Supper, and the baptismal formula.

The Protestant orders of worship differ widely in the extent of departure from the Roman service, which is one and the same everywhere. The Lutheran Church is conservative and liturgical. She retained from the traditional usage what was not inconsistent with evangelical doctrine; while the Reformed churches of the Zwinglian and Calvinistic type aimed at the greatest simplicity and spirituality of worship after what they supposed to be the apostolic pattern. Some went so far as to reject all hymns and forms of prayer which are not contained in the Bible, but gave all the more attention to the Psalter, to the sermon, and to extemporaneous prayer. The Anglican Church, however, makes an exception among the Reformed communions: she is even more conservative than the Lutheran, and produced a liturgy which embodies in the choicest English the most valuable prayers and forms of the Latin service, and has maintained its hold upon the reverence and affection of the Episcopal churches to this day. They subordinate preaching to worship, and free prayer to forms of prayer.

Luther began to reform public worship in 1523, but with caution, and in opposition to the radicalism of Carlstadt, who during the former’s absence on the Wartburg had tumultuously abolished the mass, and destroyed the altars and pictures. He retained the term "mass," which came to signify the whole public service, especially the eucharistic sacrifice. He tried to save the truly Christian elements in the old order, and to reproduce them in the vernacular language for the benefit of the people. His churchly instincts were strengthened by his love of poetry and music. He did not object even to the use of the Latin tongue in the Sunday service, and expressed an impracticable wish for a sort of pentecostal Sunday mass in German, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.621621    "Wenn ichs vermöchte," he says in his tract on the German Mass, January, 1526, "und die griechische und ebräische Sprache wäre uns so gemein als die lateinischen und hätte so vielfeiner Musica und Gesangs als die lateinische hat, so sollte man einen Sonntag um den andern in alten vier Sprachen, deutsch, lateinisch, griechisch und ebräisch, Messe halten, singen, und lesen." Such a polyglot service was never even attempted except at the Propaganda in Rome. Melanchthon (Apol. Conf. Aug., art. XXIV.) defends the use of a Latin along with German hymns in public worship. At the same time he desired also a more private devotional service of converted Christians, with the celebration of the holy communion (corresponding to the missa fidelium of the ante-Nicene Church, as distinct from the missa catechumenorum), but deemed it impossible for that time from the want of the proper persons; for "we Germans," he said, "are a wild, rough, rabid people, with whom nothing can be done except under the pressure of necessity."

So he confined himself to provide for the public Sunday service. He retained the usual order, the Gospels and Epistles, the collects, the Te Deum, the Gloria in excelsis, the Benedictus, the Creed, the responses, the kneeling posture in communion, even the elevation of the host and chalice (which he afterwards abandoned, but which is still customary in the Lutheran churches of Scandinavia), though without the adoration. He omitted the canon of the mass which refers to the priestly sacrifice, and which, since the sixth century, contains the kernel of the Roman mass, as an unbloody repetition of the crucifixion and miraculous trans-formation of the elements.622622    The canon missae ("Te igitur," etc.), embraces five or six prayers bearing upon the consecration and the offering of Christ’s body. It begins with an intercession for the Pope and all orthodox Catholics. Janssen says (III. 64): "In der Messe liess Luther den Canon, den Kern und das Wesen der katholischen Messe, fort," and unfairly adds: "Das Volk jedoch sollte dieses nicht wissen." As if Luther were the man to deceive the people! He had previously rejected this "horrible canon," as he calls it, in his "Babylonian Captivity," and in a special tract from the Wartburg. He assailed it again and again as a cardinal error in the papal system. He held indeed the doctrine of the real presence, but without the scholastic notion of transubstantiation and priestly sacrifice.

He gave the most prominent place to the sermon, which was another departure from previous custom. He arranged three services on Sunday, each with a sermon: early in the morning, chiefly for servants; the mass at nine or ten; and in the afternoon a discourse from a text in the Old Testament. On Monday and Tuesday in the morning the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer were to be taught; on Wednesday, the Gospel of Matthew; on Saturday, the Gospel of John; on Thursday, the Epistle lessons should be explained. The boys of the school were to recite daily some Psalms in Latin, and then read alternately one or more chapters of the New Testament in Latin and German.

Luther introduced the new order with the approval of the Elector in October, 1525, and published it early in 1526.623623    Deutsche Messe und Ordnung des Gottesdiensts, with musical notes for the parts to be sung. The chief service on Sunday embraces a German hymn or psalm; the Kyrie Eleison, and Gloria in Excelsis (Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr); a short collect, and the Epistle for the day; a hymn; the Gospel for the day sung by the Minister; the Nicene Creed recited by the whole congrega-tion; a sermon on the Gospel; the Lord’s Prayer; exhortation; the holy communion, the words of institution sung by the minister (this being the consecration of the elements), with singing of the Sanctus (Isa. 6:1–4, rendered into German by Luther), the Benedictus, the Agnus Dei (John 1:29) or in German "O Lamm Gottes unschuldig" (by Decius), followed by the distribution, the collection, and benediction. Omitting the canon missae, or the offering of the sacrifice of Christ’s body, the new order was substantially the same as the old, only translated into German.

Melanchthon says in the Augsburg Confession of 1530:624624    Part II. art. III. Comp. his "Apology of the Conf.," art. XXIV., De missa. Our churches are wrongfully accused of having abolished the mass. For the mass is retained still among us, and celebrated with great reverence; yea, and almost all the ceremonies that are in use, saving that with the things sung in Latin we mingle certain things sung in German at various parts of the service, which are added for the people’s instruction. For therefore alone we have need of ceremonies, that they may teach the unlearned."

Luther regarded ceremonies, the use of clerical robes, candles on the altar, the attitude of the minister in prayer, as matters of indifference which may be retained or abolished. In the revision of the baptismal service, 1526, he abolished the use of salt, spittle, and oil, but retained the exorcism in an abridged form. He also retained the public confession and absolution, and recommended private confession of sin to the minister.625625    The Augsburg Confession, Part II. art. IV., says: "Confession is not abolished in our churches. For it is not usual to communicate the body of our Lord, except to those who have been previously examined and absolved. ... Men are taught that they should highly regard absolution, inasmuch as it is God’s voice, and pronounced by God’s commsand."

The Lutheran churches in Northern Germany and in Scandinavia adopted the order of Wittenberg with sundry modifications; but the Lutheran churches in Southern Germany (Würtemberg, Baden, Palatinate, Alsace) followed the simpler type of the Swiss service.

The Lutheran order of worship underwent some radical changes in the eighteenth century under the influence of rationalism; the spirit of worship cooled down; the weekly communion was abolished; the sermon degenerated into a barren moral discourse; new liturgies and hymnbooks with all sorts of misimprovements were introduced. But in recent times, we may say since the third centennial celebration of the Reformation (1817), there has been a gradual revival of the liturgical spirit in different parts of Germany, with a restoration of many devotional treasures of past ages. There is, however, no uniform Lutheran liturgy, like the Common Prayer Book of the Church of England. Each Lutheran state church has its own liturgy and hymnbook.



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