Defending a thesis is a crucial step to obtain a higher degree in modern educational systems. Defending a simple argument has become the function of microscopic critics with the rise of social media and the scrutinization of false information. Imagine having to defend your faith in Christ against an entire kingdom, presenting years’ worth of deep theological insights to the Holy Roman Emperor. This is exactly what happened to Martin Luther on June 25, 1530, a critical day in the Reformation.
The Reading of the Confession of Faith
At 3:00 p.m. on June 25, 1530, one of the most important documents of the Lutheran faith was presented to Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. The Augsburg Confession boomed through the halls as it was read aloud—a statement of Lutheran beliefs years in the making. Today, exactly 490 years later, Lutherans still hold strongly to the beliefs recorded in The Augsburg Confession.
On the 490th anniversary of its presentation, a new edition of The Augsburg Confession is now available: The Augsburg Confession and the Apology of the Augsburg Confessionwith Key Historical Documents: The Concordia Reader’s Edition. This new edition contains three additional documents alongside The Augsburg Confession and The Apology of the Augsburg Confession.
Martin Luther’s Personal Augsburg Confession
One of these documents is considered Martin Luther’s personal Augsburg Confession, titled “Luther’s Exhortation to the Clergy in Augsburg, 1530.” Published at the same time as The Augsburg Confession, this letter was addressed to the men presenting the Confession and expressed Luther’s plain thoughts regarding the same content written in The Augsburg Confession. Read an excerpt from his introduction below:
Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is not fitting, Dear Sirs, that I should appear in person at this diet; and even though I had to appear, or were to do so, it would serve no useful purpose, for it would make no difference amid all the splendor and bustle.
Nevertheless, beside my spiritual presence (which I will prove with all my heart and with God’s help, through my diligent and earnest prayers and supplications to my God) I have undertaken to be among you with this mute and feeble written message.
The reason is that my conscience drives me to pray, beseech, and exhort each and all of you, in the kindliest way and from the heart, that you will not pass this diet by or use it to vain purposes. For God, through our most gracious Emperor Charles, is giving you grace, chance, time, and cause to accomplish much that is great and good by means of this diet, if only you have the will to do so. He is speaking now as Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 6:1: “I exhort you that ye receive not the gift of God in vain.”
For He says, “I have heard thee in an accepted time and day of salvation,” especially for you. And we see and hear how the hearts of all men are set upon this diet, and expect, with high hope, that good will come out of it.
If, however, this diet shall break up without result (which may God graciously forbid!) and nothing worthwhile be accomplished, after all the world has for a long while been fed with false hopes and put off by diets and councils, and that hope has all been false and vain, it is to be feared that despair will be bred, and everyone will become overtired of false hopes and delays, and the long, fruitless waiting will produce impatience and make bad blood. For things cannot longer stay as they are now, especially with you and your class; you know and feel better than I can tell you. I am therefore doing what now I do, for your own good and for the sake of peace and unity.
Excerpt adapted from The Augsburg Confession and the Apology of the Augsburg Confession with Key Historical Documents: The Concordia Reader’s Edition, copyright © 2020 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Want to read more of “Luther's Exhortation to the Clergy in Augsburg, 1530”? Order The Augsburg Confession and the Apology of the Augsburg Confession with Key Historical Documents.