C. F. W. WALTHER
(From Lutherische Brosamen [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1897], p. 391.)
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love, be with you all. Amen.
Honorable brethren in the Lord, esteemed and loved by all!
The most important feature of a synodical fellowship is pure doctrine and understanding. A Synod, after all, is to be a part of Gods church on earth. For that reason also its distinguishing mark is this that in it the Gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments are administered in accord with the Gospel. Also [a Synod] is to be built on nothing but the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. Also [a Synod] is to be a flock of those holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd. Also [a Synod] has been given the assignment which the Savior, when He ascended to heaven, left behind for His church on earth, Teach them to observe all things which I have commanded you. Also its ultimate purpose is the salvation of sinners, which is achieved by nothing else than the pure Gospel. Also its very first prayer should be, not Thy kingdom come, but Hallowed be Thy name!
... Yes, what am I saying? even if a Synod has the pure confessions of the orthodox church as its law, but does not have [in practice] the pure doctrine and its [correct] understanding, then it, too, will be one of those whitewashed sepulchers that look beautiful on the outside but inwardly are full of the bones of dead men and all uncleanness.
Pure doctrine and pure understanding always go together. Pure doctrine is absent not only where philosophy is taught instead of theology, humanism instead of Christianity, not only where those things are selected from Gods Word which seem to agree with reason, while whatever does not agree is rejected, not only there where the cross of Christ is brought to naught by clever words, not only where articles of the holy Christian faith are denied and adulterated, or made uncertain by calling them open questions, not only where human ideas are mixed with the thoughts of God and then proclaimed as Gods Word, where together with the unchanging apostolic and prophetic words changing views and stylish opinions and together with the sure Christian hope uncertain human hopes are preached, [no,] the pure doctrine is also absent there where one only in slavish obedience bows under the yoke of the confessions of the orthodox church, and with fearful heart seeks to repeat what the confessions have said without living insight into the basis and inner connection of the doctrine of salvation and without personal experience of its divine power.
C. F. W. Walther
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