As to making the symbolic character of a book depend on its being found in any particular number of editions or in them all, it is inadmissible, because, as Dr. Hase remarks, and the respected author of the Plea admits, the Augsburg Confession is the only one of the Lutheran symbolical books which has been universally received throughout the church. These editions, moreover, have been published, some by the civil governments, and others by private individuals; and the Lutheran church as such, has never been called on to decide which books are symbolic. The practice of different portions of the church is different, therefore the distinction must be made as to the extent to which each book was received; and as it is certain that exorcism was in some countries and periods even regarded as a distinctive test of orthodoxy, then and there, this rite must have been regarded as symbolic in the highest degree.
Note 1. Symbolik, p. 103, n. 2.
Note 2. The original is: Also von Luther selbst und schon in den ersten Zeugen von ihm dem Katechismus ange haengt.” [sic on punctuation] Zeugen here is evidently a typographical error for Zeiten.
Note 3. For particulars see the writer’s History of the American Lutheran Church, pp. 239-241.
We have thus found the statements of the Definite Platform, as to the tenets taught in the Augsburg Confession and other Symbolical books, established by the most careful and conscientious investigation of the original sources. Such are the facts incontestibly [sic] proved. They are true, and will remain true, notwithstanding all the ill-advised efforts to hide them. The Augsburg Confession, and other symbols, do teach the tenets ascribed to them in the Platform, and, in the judgment of the great mass of American Lutherans, the Word of God rejects them, and inculcates the contrary. All the invective and vituperation, not of the author of the Plea but of multitudes of old-Lutherans, &c., cannot change the truth, for it is unchangeable and eternal; nor is it their duty to deny it, any more than it is ours.
The question then arises, what is our duty under these circumstances? What does God expect of us, in view of these facts, as men to whom the interests and management of a portion of his church are confided? As men to whom he has given his inspired oracles, as the sure word of prophecy, to which we are to give heed? As men who love Luther and his fellow-laborers much, but desire to love Christ more?
Does our duty call on us to deny the truth, and say, these doctrines are not taught in these books, when the most careful examination has assured us of the contrary? No honest man can affirm this.
Is it honest or honorable to avow, unconditionally, creeds containing errors, and then labor to gloss over or defend these errors, because they are there? This would be to descend to the level of corrupt politicians, who professedly defend every measure of their party, whether right or wrong.