Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Divine Service in 17th c. Poland (from Ledderhose)

Kripplein Christi church, Fraustadt (Wschowa).
IN THAT HOUSE of God called Kripplein Christi [Christ’s Manger], altogether beautiful divine services were celebrated. Only to a superficial eye could it seem as if the divine service of the Fraustadters tended toward the Roman Catholic one. It was all genuinely evangelical [Lutheran], but let it not be forgotten that it was never in Luther’s mind or in the foundational Lutheran Church to do away with sensible, meaningful customs. Let us hear from old Valerius himself how the children were baptized in Fraustadt, and what splendid remarks he makes in connection with it. He says,
What kind of thoughts ought we to have when we consider our Baptism, when we watch children being baptized, or when someone among us is asked to be a sponsor? This is very necessary to know, for many people do not consider, As it was done with their baptism, how then can they find comfort in it? Many people never once express interest in watching or listening, which is a great pity. Therefore evangelicals do not like to put their fonts in concealed corners, but in open, visible places and positions. Many people do not know what sponsorship entails. They stand there as a mockery and shame upon Holy Baptism, and, since they cannot pray, harm to the child. Therefore let me go through all the customs that have been observed by us since the beginning of the Gospel:
(1) The sponsors stand quietly with the child by the door. Here we consider how the child, because of its sinful conception and birth, would have to be eternally separated from God, and with the foolish virgins find the door to heaven closed (Matt. 25), and with all the damned remain outside the heavenly Jerusalem, as may be read in Apocalypse of John 22.
(2) We therefore begin by praying and recalling the words of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 7; Luke 11): “Ask and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Our posture is in every respect as if we stood at the door of heaven and sought entrance. This is exceeding beautiful. A prayer also is employed in which there are two likenesses: (a) the flood, after 1 Peter 3; and (b) the Red Sea, after 1 Corinthians 10. This teaches us to understand also (I know that many of them do not consider it), we beseech God to let the child’s sin be drowned by this spiritual flood of grace, as long ago all sinners died in the flood, and to sustain the child in the spiritual Church of Christendom unto life everlasting, as Noah did with his children. Likewise, we beseech God to make all the might of the infernal Pharaoh over our baptized child to be destroyed in this water of Baptism, which is in His eyes “a crimson flood, / By Christ’s own blood empurpled.” [LSB 406:7]
(3) In these two prayers also, the infernal Pharaoh, the wicked, unclean spirit, is read his judgment, that he shall and must depart from this new courtier of Jesus Christ; he shall never for eternity gain power over him. At this we consider two things: first, our great, pitiable misery wherein we lie on account of sin, whereof we also sing, “To th’ devil I a captive lay, / In death I then had perished” [LSB 556:2]; secondly, we also recall the great consolation in Holy Baptism to which we were brought by the grace of Jesus Christ. “The snare’s in two and we are free / God’s Son from bondage loosed us” [TLH 267:3]. Thus we are truly free people (John 8). There shall be nothing condemnable in us (Rom. 8).
(4) The child is given a new name, for it has become a new citizen of heaven; its name must be written in the civic roll of heaven (Luke 10), yea, in God’s hand (Is. 49) and recorded in the register of the elect children of God, in Christ’s genealogy, that it may never be forgotten (Ps. 12). The child has become a young student of the Church, so his name must be included in the heavenly matricule. The child is not given an evil name; it must not be called Cain or Judas, but bear a holy name. Here the sponsors express the wish, “God help thee, little godchild, to carry thy name in deed, and to prove as godly as those blessed persons which bore that Christian baptismal name before thee.”
(5) The sign of the holy cross is made over the child’s breast and forehead. Here we remember that every Christian’s heart must be a little posthole for the cross of Jesus Christ; their motto is, “Thy cross, Lord Jesus Christ, alone, / My highest comfort is, I own.” Besides this we remind ourselves that baptized Christians cannot be free of cross and misery; they must bear their cross into the pit. They are true brothers of the Order of the Cross, of which the Lord Jesus is Himself the Grand Master.
(6) Hereupon the Gospel Mark 10 is read, concerning how many pious mothers brought their children to the Lord Jesus. In this we are reminded firstly that we may bring our children to Baptism without reservation. For the Lord Jesus fills those sophists full to the ears with rebuke who would prevent children being brought to Him. He says, “Let the children come unto Me, and prevent them not, for of such is the kingdom of God” (if the gold is theirs, who would withhold the purse from them?), and He embraced them, and laid His hands upon them, and blessed them. The examples of Scripture also agree with this, for in Acts 16 the warden’s whole house is baptized, and in 1 Corinthians 1[:16], whole families. Origen says it had always remained customary since the time of the Apostles, and Cyprian, who lived 150 years after Christ’s birth, writes that people were punished in the council who delayed Baptism until the eigth day, after the example of circumcision. Emergency also demands it, for our children are conceived and born in sin, as David testifies in Psalm 51, which we justly believe. They are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2), and so they must be born anew by water and the Spirit (John 3). Isaiah even saw it in the time of the Old Testament, when he says (ch. 49), “They shall bring Thy sons in their arms, and bear Thy daughters on their shoulders.” The witless Anabaptists say, “Our children do not yet believe, so Baptism is of no use to them.” But we stick with Christ’s words in Matthew 18, “Whosoever offendeth one of the least of these that believe on Me…,” etc. How else could they please God (Heb. 11)? The more our reason staggers at it, the greater the hidden artwork of the Holy Spirit. Others appeal to Christ’s example, who was not baptized until He was thirty years old. Answer: He was not, however, thirty years old before He was circumcised. Now of course our Baptism has taken the place of circumcision (Col. 2). If they had already had Baptism in the land of the Jews when Christ was born, He would not have postponed it. In addition, those who have been asked to be sponsors are reminded of their duty. They do no differently from the good-hearted mothers who brought their dear heartlings to the Lord Jesus and laid them in His arms, praying, “O Lord Jesus, please take the dear godson from our arms. Press it to Thy loving heart, and stroke it with Thine hand of grace. Pronounce a mighty blessing upon our godson, in which it may live as a Christian and die blest. Let it increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” From this it is obvious that the office of sponsor is not for inexperienced children, drunken fools, or the ungodly and unsaved, who are incapable of prayer. Sponsors are the child’s advocates, just as these mothers spoke to Christ on behalf of their children.
(7) On this firm basis that Jesus will bless our children that we bring to Him and bearing these things in mind, we pray the Our Father.
(8) After this the minister of Christ says, “The Lord keep thy going out”—out of your old estate of sin in which you were conceived and born; “and thy going in”—into the communion of the blessed, believing Church. Indeed, may He keep thy going out from the world and going into life everlasting. God help us, how comforting this is!
(9) Now the holy waters of Baptism are approached. Then you are to think, “The Lord Jesus by His intercession will secure heaven for the child; the Holy Ghost will descend, albeit invisibly, yet fruitfully and efficaciously, and renew the child, consecrating it as a temple of God; the heavenly Father will receive the young baptizee as His own beloved child.”
(10) But first the child must renounce the devil and all that he is, for no one can serve two masters (Matt. 6). You are to keep this in mind for all your days.
(11) Hereupon the child must be sworn to the blood-red banner of Jesus Christ, and distinctly confess the three Articles of the Apostles’ Creed.
(12) The child is sprinkled with water thrice. Long ago adults who converted to Christianity were actually immersed in the water to the glory of the most Blessed Trinity, who was certainly present, and in remembrance of the three parts comprising true repentance, which is signified by baptizing with water, as St. Paul explains in Romans 6.
(13) The child is distinctly addressed with these words: “I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” For the preacher is only Christ’s minister, and performs the outward work according to Christ’s ordinance, but God Himself is the baptizer, and when the preacher baptizes people with water outwardly, then through this ministry God, out of His divine power, baptizes them inwardly in their heart. Through this blessed heavenly washing God the heavenly Father cleanses for Himself His beloved children of heaven. The Lord Jesus washes them through the power of His holy blood: “…The eye alone the water seeth, / As men pour out the water, / The Spirit’s faith the pow’r perceives, / Of Jesus Christ’s blood crimson, / To God it is a crimson flood, / By Christ’s own blood empurpled, / Which healeth every injury / Inherited from Adam, / And by ourselves committed.” [LSB 406:7]  The Holy Ghost renews the dear little heart and sanctifies it to be the child and blessed dwelling of God. Thus it is well that no more than three sponsors be requested. Additional pageantry is most often only an odious display of wealth of which Christians ought justly to be ashamed.
(14) When the Baptism has been administered, the child is dressed in a white hood and a white gown as a reminder that it has been clothed head to toe in the beautiful, white silk of the righteousness of Jesus Christ and in the lambskins of His innocence, for Paul says in Galatians 6, “As many of you as are baptized have put on Christ”; and also as a reminder that it is obliged to cultivate the purity of body and soul with earnest.
(15) The godparents lay their hands on the child, as it were assuring with a handshake in the child’s stead that it will remain in the new, established covenant of the good conscience. The godparents also indicate herewith that they will bear witness in the future to the validity of the Baptism, and if (God forbid) the young godchild should forsake the true faith, that they will faithfully warn it to turn back.
(16) Then the minister of Christ prays that the baptized child, being born again through water and the Holy Ghost, might be sustained unto life everlasting. Finally, all the sponsors and the baptizer kneel and thank God from the heart for receiving the young little heart as His child, crowning the parents with His blessing, and again enlarging Christendom with a young shoot of the Church.
(17) When this has happened, the godparents and the child approach the high altar and remember that, all its days, their godchild, like all Christians, has a bold right to come before God’s presence.
(18) The godmother goes a little lower and puts the child in her lap. Here we remember: Now the dear, godly, young heart is lying in the lap of the heavenly Father’s grace; now it is lying in the arms of Jesus Christ, now it is resting under the henlike wings of His merit.
(19) This is followed by the sponsorial gifts. Here the thoughts of the godparents are as follows: Dear godchild, thou hast three godparents and witnesses to thy Baptism on earth, and thou hast three godparents in heaven which bear witness to thy Baptism and salvation: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost [1 John 7]. These godparents in heaven have here shown themselves in a worthy and generous manner; God has filled your heart with consolation. We would fill your purse with good coinage. May God enlarge what is little! Then each one contributes according to his means and custom of the land.
(20) At last the godparents kneel with the young godchild and a conclusion is made with a heartfelt prayer, just as it was began. Here the circle of Baptism is complete.
Such was the way that Herberger baptized in Fraustadt; such was the thoughtfulness that he gave its meaning. He says on this account, “Behold, dear heart, what a fine affair it is! I wanted to make sure to tell you baptized Christians about it at somewhat more length for your consolation and honor.”
In Herberger’s evangelical labor, the Absolution and the Holy Supper were no less important. Scarcely a sermon passed without him coming back to these means of grace of the Christian Church. No doubt they were conducted with exceptional festivity in Fraustadt. We must therefore share some of the essential ideas that our mightily comforting Herberger had. They not only give us a glimpse of the deep spirit of this preacher of grace, but also make us love and esteem the things of God for the salvation of the world of sinners. He gives us in one sermon on Judica sunday a “Little Book on Confession for repentant hearts, who desire to go worthily to the table of the Lord.” First he says concerning this, “What does a true God-pleasing confession of heart and mouth call for?” He says,
To confess is an art above all arts, for it makes friendship with God, the highest Good and greatest Lord, so that it may be said without fear, Abba, dear Father, I know Thou wilt not deny me Thy fatherly grace. For which cause every man has purpose to learn diligently wherein it consists. I will say it in one sentence: Right confession means right repentance. On this all our salvation and blessedness depends. This is comprised mainly of three things: firstly, that one heartily lament and mourn his sins, like Peter and Mary Magdalene; secondly, that one not doubt like Judas, but with a believing heart seek and ask for Absolution and grace with God in the name of Jesus Christ; thirdly, that one commend oneself to a new and better obedience, and from that very moment begin to behave in a more godly manner…
He then gives the qualities of a true child of confession: “Confession must be sincere, for God does not ask for the rubbish of a slippery mouth when the heart is not right. Accordingly, a true child of confession should and must be moral and reverent, for it is not a speaking merely with men but with the most heavenly Majesty… Therefore guard yourself not only from inward arrogagnce of the heart, but also from outwardly arrogant actions which betray a hidden, haughty conceit. Gentle Christians justly ought to remove their adornments and kneel with reverence.” Further he says that a child of confession must be true, and adds, “The eyes of the LORD are clearer than the sun, seeing all that men do, and beholding even the secret places; all things are known to Him” [Sir 23:19]. When he says that a child of confession should be sober and sensible, he notes after his fashion, “God opposes gullets stinking of wine and beer.” “The child of confession must be devout. How shall God hear when you yourself do not hear? A true child of confession must be humble, like David (Ps. 51), like the repentant publican (Luke 18). For the Lord sees the miserable and them of contrite heart. A true child of confession must be upright,” etc. In this way he goes on with marking the qualities of a true child of confession, and comes to sharp-sightedness for searching out sins, sorrowfulness, to mourn like Peter and Mary Magdalene, a comforted spirit, as Cain, Saul, and Judas did not have, open speech with God, the neighbor, yea, the entire congregation. He reproaches stubbornness that intends to remain in its old sins, ingratitude, which refuses to give thanks through good works. He also reproaches those who only go to confession to please others. Now he comes the comforting Absolution, saying that such a child of confession can expect the effective, true forgiveness of sins from heaven. God swears it with a costly oath (Ezek. 33). He summons a host of consoling passages, saying,
Hence our devout forefathers were accustomed to say, ‘All things are possible with God, but one thing is impossible for Him: that He should despise and condemn a humble, sorry, mournful, repentant heart…’ Yet a repentant child of confession may say, Indeed, how is it that the Lord Jesus will personally let me to hear such a word of grace in the confessional, yet I find nothing but a man? Answer: When a pastor absolves you of sin, it is as much as if the Lord Jesus had personally done it with His own mouth. For just as you have not chiefly confessed to a man, so neither are you chiefly absolved by a man, but it is God Himself who does it through men ordained for the task. Your father confessor is the Lord Christ’s ambassador, envoy, messenger, missive, and agent indued with every power. You know of course how the Lord Jesus said (Luke 10), “Whosoever heareth you heareth Me,” and (Matt. 18), “Whatso ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven also,” and (John 20), “Whose sins soever ye remit, to him are they remitted.” Therefore St. Paul says, “We are messengers in Christ’s stead, Christ admonishing through us” (2 Cor. 5). “So let every man count us, to wit, as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4). And in the Small Catechism, the forgiveness of the father confessor is rightly called God’s forgiveness.
Interior of Kripplein Christi,
recently under renovation.
If Herberger expresses himself in so comforting a manner concerning the Absolution, he does no less concerning the Holy Supper. After explicitly discussing the institution of the Supper, the time of the institution, and how it it ought to be handled by us, he answers the question, “What manner of noble, blessed food and drink does the Insituter serve us therein, and to what benefit and good?” He says, “Bread and wine are the lowliest things in this table. Behold, dear heart, the Lord Jesus willingly gives you as a pledge of your salvation those two blessed elements with which He procured the grace of God and heaven. He did not redeem you with bread and wine, neither therefore will He leave it at bread and wine, but just as He gave His body into death for you, just as He poured out His blood for your sins, so He feeds you with His own body and gives you to drink of His own blood. If someone asks, What kind of body is it then? What kind of blood is it? the Lord Jesus says, ‘The body that is given for you; the blood that is poured out for you.’” After satisfying the contrary opinions, he goes on, “He gives us as a true pledge of His grace not a signet ring, not His right hand, as happens in betrothals and weddings, but His body and blood. Oh, praised be His most holy Body! Oh, praised be His blessed Blood! What we cannot grasp with reason we must make up for with humble faith, for as stated at the outset, We swore faith in the Lord Jesus at our Baptism. Uncouth, fleshly, capernaitic, shameless thoughts and speech do not belong to this profound Mystery (John 6), but the Lord Jesus desires among His table-guests utterly holy thoughts, virginal, chaste speech, and purely believing hearts.” Arriving then at its benefits, he especially emphasizes “Do this in remembrance of Me”: “This priceless meat and this precious drink serve us as two kinds of remembrance: firstly as a remembrance of His benefits and countless treasures of grace, by which our faith is strengthened and our heart filled to the brim with consolation; secondly, as a remembrance of His teaching and His commandments, whereby our life is urged on to every God-pleasing virtue.” Finishing this, he comes to the worthy prepration for the Table of the Lord. Here above all he is adamant that one must be a disciple and lover of Jesus. One should examine himself in this regard. Yet He also asks for outward conduct: “Outward examples of morality are often unfeigning windows in the heart of a Christlike disposition. Honest wives in these lands are accustomed to wearing a veil; maidens take off their wreaths, as if they were all in sorrow. Those of the nobility and equestrian class, who always wear a rapier at their side, press their arms to the side and act as if they meant to bore a hole in the ground with their feet; they take off their sword and fold their hands; those who otherwise walked like fierce lions return like gentle lambs. This is all rightly and well done, but the inward adornment of the heart is the best… Neither concern yourself chiefly with the other table-fellows who go up with you, for they are not all the same. Rather, be aware of yourself, adorn yourself with true repentance, be humble, meek, faithful, and devout at the table of the Lord, and show your gratitude as long as there is breath in you.”
Of means of edification in Fraustadt there were many. Already Herberger’s predecessors Arnold and Florian had committed to holding three sermons every Sunday and Feast-day throughout the year, and in addition, to holding weekday sermons on Mondays and Fridays. Herberger reintroduced the practice of reading the clear and powerful Athanasian Creed from the pulpit on the high feast of Trinity. Every other Monday he had it sung from the choir-space distinctly and slowly in Latin. As Luther had done, so in Fraustadt too the poor students would sing in front of houses on certain days. Valerius supported this old custom, saying in one place, “Oh, let the singing scholars poor / Receive your favor at your door. Who knows what shall become of them?” On the so-called Feast of Holy Corpus, he also held a divine servce, but he used the occasion to preach against it. “The origin of this feast,” he says, “we ought not seek in the Bible, for the Holy Scripture has not one jot about it. Of its likes the ancient doctors of the Church tell us nothing either.” The feast was first introduced in 1262. He calls it straight out a service of idolatry invented by women. “When they try to make it out to be a feast in honor of the Holy Supper, it is deception, for the Holy Supper does not consist only of the blessed bread, but also of the blessed wine. The Holy Supper belongs in the gathering of the children of the Church, not in the city’s marketplace and streets, much less in an open field. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Take and eat,’ etc., not ‘Close it up, take it for a walk, look at it and pray to it.’ The Holy Supper is to be honored often according to the right use, not carried around on display once a year. So let us leave the dead to bury their dead (Matt. 8). Distance is good protection from a shot; it is good not get mixed up; better alone than in idolatrous company. Every upright heart that keeps itself unspotted by such useless affairs glorifies God. The slothful should be ashamed in their soul that they are not as eager and devout in their divine service on Sundays and holidays as this miserable lot is in their self-invented works. For they could receive a joyful conscience from proper devotion, but here “their heart is never still, / A constant fear dismays them.” [ELHB 277:5]

(Translated by M. Carver from C.F. Ledderhose, Leben Valerius Herbergers, Bielefeld, 1851, pp. 36–46. Exterior photo courtesy of Wikipedia; other photos from Marek Chwistek.)

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