Friday, April 20, 2012

Valerius Herberger on St. George the Knight (April 23)

TODAY WE commemorate St. George, whom our forefathers called one of the chiefest of the saints because he did not go on foot like the others but rode a horse. Tres equites esse in coelo. “There are three who ride in heaven: Christ, Martin, and George.” Ambrose and Jacob de Voragine say a great deal about him, but already at the Council of Nicaea the holy fathers doubted whether the story were true. So because we do not like to build on shaky ground, let me merely draw from it what may redound to the glory of our paschal King, Jesus Christ… Formerly it was said that St. George was a noble knight and warrior in the time of Emperor Diocletian, and that he delivered the citizens of Silena from the hideous, venomous dragon, to whom they were daily compelled at first to give two lambs, and later, a lamb and a man—which misfortune at last fell upon the king’s daughter herself. All well-educated scholars count this a fabrication of a creative man who wished by such a parable to draw a picture of a faithful ruler, or perhaps of the Lord Jesus Himself. For a faithful ruler must be a valiant George, that is, a “builder up of land, city, and honor.” He must have the mind of a builder, as Moses says in Deuteronomy 1:13. (Those interested may read the sermon in Part 9 of Magnalia Dei, Medit. 5, on Deut. 1, p. 672.). And he must risk his own life and limb for his subjects, as King Alfonso reminds himself in his seal, where next to a pelican he has the words: Pro lege et pro grege. “For the law and the people.” 

But above all, the Lord Jesus is very admirably depicted to us in this parable. The oppressed citizenry of Silena is mankind. We ought to have been eternally silenced and speechless before God because of our sin. We were brought into such great misery by the hellish dragon, who disguised himself as a venomous serpent in the Garden of Eden, and with his deceitful breath tricked Adam and Eve. Still today he seeks our doom and downfall. He is ever on the prowl, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Yet in our sorry plight we are rescued by Jesus Christ, the noble Lord (Luke 19:12), the doughty Champion (Is. 9:6), the Giant of twofold substance (Gigas geminae substantiae), the true valiant George and “builder of the land” of His Church, with the true quick-witted mind of a builder. After all, He was the Craftsman present when God created heaven and earth (Prov. 8:22). He leapt down to us from heaven on the steed of His tender humanity, like a true leaper, in collibus saliens, leaping on the hills (Song of Songs 2:8). Therefore the Church sings on Ascension: Saltum de coelo dedit in virginalem ventrem, et inde pelagus seculi. “He leaped down from heaven into the womb of the Virgin, and thence to the sea of mortality.” “His right hand had to help Him” (Is. 6:53). He armed Himself with the javelin of His holy cross, and so overcame the hellish dragon. He trampled underfoot the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15) and destroyed the works of the evil one (1 John 3:8) and bound the adversary of our soul with eternal bonds like a chained dog so that he can have no power over us. Now in what manner we ought to be grateful is shown to us by the rescued maiden and little lamb. We are to gain a clean heart, and a humble, timid, yielding, gentle mind, and to love Jesus with a virgin’s love (Rev. 14:4; Matt. 25:1). We are to follow Him as little lambs do their shepherd, and willingly to surrender ourselves to be slain for His glory. (As said above on Misericordia Sunday in Hertzpostille Part 1, p. 340.)

The Gospel that we read is therefore expounded today because the name George is clearly evident in this text: “My Father is a vinedresser,” or field-worker. In the Greek it says, “My Father is a Georgos,” or George, a builder of the land and worker of the soil…

(Translation © Matthew Carver, 2012, from Hertzpostille II, 148ff.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Johann Gerhard, On the Ministry, Part One

The latest volume of Johann Gerhard's Theological Commonplaces is On the Ministry, Part One. The table of contents gives a great overview of what the volume is about.

Editor’s Preface
Comparison of Editions of Gerhard’s Loci

Commonplace XXVI/1: On the Ecclesiastical Ministry, Part One
The preface shows the connection of this commonplace with the preceding commonplace, § 1, and explains the three estates in the church, § 2, as well as the necessity of the ecclesiastical ministry, § 3, and its usefulness and dignity, § 4.

Chapter I: The nomenclature for the ecclesiastical ministry.
(I) As for the ministry, in Holy Scripture it is called: “The ecclesiastical order,” § 5. “Ministry” (διακονία), § 6. “Public service” (λειτουργία), § 8. “Watch,” “Service,” “Inspection,” and “Stewardship,” § 11. In writers of the church it is called: “Holy work, priestly service” (ἱερουργία) and “hierarchy” (ἱεραρχία), § 12. (II) As for the ministers, in Holy Scripture there are various titles, § 13. In the Old Testament, the proper titles are: “Priests,” § 14. “Patriarchs,” § 17. “Prophets,” § 18. “Seers,” § 21. “Men of God,” § 22. “Angels,” § 23. “Anointed ones,” § 24. The metaphoric titles are: “Watchmen,” § 25. “Builders,” “shepherds,” “fathers,” § 26. In the New Testament, the proper titles are: “Bishops,” § 27. “Presbyters,” § 28. “Deacons,” § 30. “Teachers,” § 31. “Presidents, rulers,” § 32. “Leaders,” § 33. “Scribes,” § 34. The metaphoric titles are: “Salt of the earth,” “light of the world,” “laborers in the vineyard,” “servants who invite people to the wedding,” “to a banquet,” “fishermen,” “laborers in the harvest,” “fellow workers in agriculture,” “stewards,” “physicians,” “ambassadors of God,” “witnesses,” “preachers,” “trumpeters,” “winds,” § 35. In ecclesiastical writers they are called: “leaders,” “parsons,” “priests,” § 36. The Papists call our ministers “preachers” as a term of contempt, and call their own ministers “clerics,” § 37.

Chapter II: Whether there is an ecclesiastical ministry.
(I) The existence of the ministry is proved: (1) By their titles. (2) By the continuous line of teachers from the beginning of the world to our times, in the Old Testament: Patriarchs, § 39. Priests and prophets, § 40. And in the New Testament: John the Baptist, the apostles, and bishops, § 41. The fathers and scholastic doctors, § 42. (3) By the divine promises concerning the preservation of the church and, consequently, of the ecclesiastical ministry until the end of the world, § 43. (4) By the distinction of this order from the other estates and orders, § 45. (II) Gerhard responds to arguments against the necessity of the ministry: That believers of the New Testament no longer need to be taught, § 46. That they have their anointing from God, § 47. That God can illuminue us without the work of the ministry, § 48.

Chapter III: The efficient cause of the ecclesiastical ministry.
The principal efficient cause of the ministry is the Holy Trinity, § 49. The distinction and order of Persons in this work is explained, § 50.

Section I: Whether a particular call is required to take on the ecclesiastical ministry.
What the call is, § 51. Whether it is distinguished from “choosing,” § 53. Its necessity is affirmed, § 54. Gerhard responds to the objections of the Anabaptists and Photinians, § 65.

Section II: How many kinds of call to the ministry there are.
Among various divisions of the call, § 75, the chief distinction is between the mediate and immediate call, § 76.

Section III: The immediate call specifically.
The questions arise: (1) In how many ways the immediate call occurs, § 79. (2) Whether the power to perform miracles is always connected with it, § 80. (3) How one should discern between it and the deceit of fanatics, § 81. (4) Whether it should be expected still today? § 82.

Section IV: The mediate call.
The mediate call is no less divine than the immediate, § 83. By what means it is accomplished, § 85. Each estate of the church participates in the calling of ministers, § 86. But the Papists argue that the laity and the Christian magistrate should be excluded from the call, § 99.

Section V: Episcopal right and the right of patronage, § 108.

Section VI: Things that must be avoided in the calling and selection of ministers, § 115.

Section VII: Controversies and some doubtful questions and cases that often occur in dealing with the call, § 117.

Section VIII: The call of blessed Luther.
The controversy concerning Luther’s call is reviewed, § 118. Luther’s call was mediate, § 120, was confirmed three times, § 121, and Luther often appeals to this mediate, solemn call, § 122. Yet something extraordinary was also present in Luther’s call, § 123. The Papists’ arguments against Luther’s call are refuted, § 124.

Section IX: The calling of ministers in the churches that they call “Evangelical,” § 127.

Section X: The calling of bishops in the Papist church, § 130.

Section XI: The degree of doctorate: Whether it is a call to the ministry, § 136.

Section XII: Ordination.
(1) Whether ordination is absolutely necessary for the ministry, § 139. (2) Whether ordination is a sacrament, § 141. (3) Who the legitimate minister of ordination is, § 152. (4) Whether those whom heretics have ordained should be ordained again, § 155. (5) Whether one who has not been called to a certain place should be ordained, § 158. (6) The ceremonies of ordination: The imposition of hands, § 159. Anointing, § 160. Tonsure, § 163. (7) What the effect and fruit of ordination are, §165.

Section XIII: The examination preceeding ordination, § 166.

Section XIV: The investiture of ministers, § 170.

Section XV: The transfer of ministers, § 171.

Section XVI: The removal of ministers, § 174.

Chapter IV: The material cause of the ministry, 178.

Section I: The matter in which of the ministry.
(1) The matter in which, or subject, of the ministry is human beings. God ordinarily uses their work for the wisest of reasons, both with respect to God, § 179, and with respect to human beings, § 180. (2) What sort of persons are to be selected for the ministry is taught from 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, § 181. (3) The questions arise: (a) Whether the ministry is bound to a certain family, § 184. (b) Whether those who are to be called must have a certain number of years, § 185. (c) Whether women, too, should be used for the ecclesiastical ministry, § 186. (d) Whether the ministry should be entrusted to those afflicted with a bodily defect, 187. (e) Whether bastards may be promoted to the ministry, § 188.

Section II: The matter concerning which of the ministry.
The matter concerning which, or object, of the ministry is the Lord’s flock, committed to the care and protection of shepherds, § 189.