Defense of Brenz

by Anonymous
translated by Philip Moldenhauer

Brenz’s Defense of the Things Which Schwenckfeld Noted in Brenz’s Exegesis of John Concerning the Sacrament. Part I.

31 December 1529

First, when Brenz in John 6 cites Paul to the Galatians, chapter 3: “Did you receive the Spirit from the works of the law, etc.,” and likewise, in Romans chapter 10: “Faith is from hearing…,” Schwenckfeld notes in the margin, “Here he errs in the spiritual judgment concerning the words of Paul,” not indicating that Schwenckfeld erred, but that Brenz erred. Would it suffice that someone accuse another before a judge of crime, yet not explain the name or quality of the crime? Moreover, I do not see how Brenz errs in the spiritual judgment concerning these words of Paul. For he understands the words of Paul according to the thought of the author, who teaches in these passages that God bestows the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel, and gives faith through the hearing of the Word of God. Isn’t this truly how Paul understands spiritual judgment? For either Paul speaks in Galatians about the manifest gift of the Spirit, which was given to the apostles on the day of Pentecost, and afterwards to the Galatians through the apostles, or he speaks concerning the hidden gift of the Spirit with which it is necessary for all believers to be filled. Not unsuitably, nor out of place, has this been cited by Brenz.

Brenz: “We receive the Holy Spirit through the Word.”

Schwenckfeld: “But not through the Word of Scripture or the external Word, but through the incarnate Word or Christ, who now has been assumed into glory.”

And later Schwenckfeld writes below: “They wondrously err in the distinction of the word of the Spirit and the word of the letters.”

Brenz responds: “The Holy Spirit is given to us through the Word, both external and incarnate; through the incarnate indeed, that is, through Christ it is given with authority; through the external or written Word by the ministry. He is given to us through the incarnate Word by intercession, for the Lord obtains for us the Holy Spirit from the Father. However, he is given to us through the external Word as through an instrument.”

Concerning this, if anyone desires to know more, let him read the “Preface of Brenz to the Prophet Amos,” where, among other things, Brenz writes that the Holy Spirit is given through the external Word, and he means not the authority but the ministry and instrument. For thus he writes: “I find that the word of the gospel, which is preached about Jesus Christ, is that medium instrument by which the Holy Spirit is given to believers.” Afterwards, what Schwenckfeld states (that we wondrously err in the distinction of the word of the Spirit and of the letter) he indeed does say, but he does not prove: he fixes a sting and flees! According to the doctrine of Paul, we separate from one another the Spirit and the letter; that is, the gospel and the law, and indeed we ascribe to the Spirit vivification, but to the letter, mortification. Thus also we distinguish the word of the Spirit and the word of the letter. And so, if we err in this distinction, we err with Paul. And who would not prefer to err with Paul rather than to speak well with Schwenckfeld? For, to err with Paul is to think well, but to think well with Schwenckfeld is to err. Now, that the Enthusiasts cut the word of the gospel into Spirit and letter is truly more imprudence than truthful thought. For, if we wish to speak according to the quality of the words of Paul, every word of the law, whether it sounds internally in the conscience (as in the conscience of despairing Judas) or externally in the ear of man, is called the letter, because it kills, if not by the present energy and the revealing action, then certainly by divine decree. For thus God decreed the law, so that, having been preached to the ear of man, and through that having been transmitted to the conscience, it may thoroughly terrify, kill, and produce wrath. However, every word of the gospel, either internal or external, is called “Spirit.” Thus Paul says: “He makes us ministers of the new testament, not of the letter but of the Spirit; that is, not of the law but of the gospel, not of the old, but of the new covenant.” Do you see that the external gospel, preached by the apostles and received in the hearts of the hearers, is called Spirit? So also in Genesis chapter 6: “My Spirit will not remain in man, because he is flesh.” The Scripture, by the interpretation of St. Peter, calls the external preaching of the divine word “Spirit.” Moreover, it is called “Spirit” not because the Holy Spirit is always revealed in the external Word, but because the external Word was ordained for this by the Lord: that through it, as through an ordinary organ, the Spirit is revealed. It is not a miracle, when even any pious man whom we see with external eyes is called spiritual, not because he is entirely spirit, but because he is renewed by the Spirit. And Paul calls interpretation of Scripture “spirit” when he says: “The spirits of prophets are subjected to prophets.” Similarly, John says: “Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” John calls external preaching or confession “spirit.” For even if someone impious in heart confesses thus with his mouth, this confession is the confession and preaching of the Holy Spirit, although it has been falsely used by the impious. Is a collar not a collar, because a pig wears it? Or is gold not gold, because it hangs from the neck of a slave? Therefore, we do not err if we call the external word “Spirit,” even by our own reason. But speaking in this way we speak according to the apostolic custom. Moreover, we err if we should call the letter the gospel, to which indeed Paul ascribes murder. The gospel, however, gives life; for that reason it is the power for the salvation of all believers.

Brenz: “The true life is given to us by these things, not indeed to all, but to those who believe.”

Schwenckfeld noted that “to those who believe” therefore means that faith precedes.

Brenz responds: “By the authority of Paul, ordinarily faith does not precede, but follows the word of preaching.”

For Paul writes: “Faith is from hearing,” and later: “How will they believe, concerning which they have not heard? How will they hear without preaching?” And Peter writes: “Reborn not of mortal seed, but of immortal through the word of God, living and remaining forever,” and later: “Moreover, this is the word, which through the gospel was brought down to us.” For this is the order of human justification: first God the Father sent his Son into this world. Then the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, reconciled the Father with sinners by his death, and he merited the Holy Spirit for them, shouting “Abba, Father.” This reconciliation, which Christ merited, is announced by the preaching of the gospel. When the announcement is heard, through the heard word God gives to whomever he wishes the spirit of faith. Through faith the believer receives all good things obtained by Christ and offered through the word of the gospel. Therefore, for the justification and salvation of man the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, gospel, and faith work together. The Father sends, the Son obtains, the gospel reveals, faith is given through the gospel, and, having been given, it receives the promises of good things. Thus faith indeed precedes the reception of divine good things, but it does not ordinarily precede the word of preaching, as was indicated above from Paul.

Brenz: “On account of this reason the sacraments are added to the Word, so that they are a median instrument, etc.”

Schwenckfeld: “It is pleasing to prove,” and later: “Christ is our only mediator, through whom are conferred to us heavenly good things. There is no other case of the joining of heavenly things to elements of this world.”

Brenz responds: “That the sacraments are joined to the Word as a median instrument is proven from Paul.”

First, concerning baptism, Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 5: “Christ made himself manifest on behalf of the church, so that it might be made holy, having been washed with the washing of water through the Word.” For if the church is washed by the washing of water, which is baptism, it will follow, that the Word and baptism are median instruments or organs, by which Christ sanctifies his church. Likewise in Titus: “We are made whole through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” If the Lord gives salvation to us through the washing of regeneration, which is baptism, what else will baptism be other than an organ giving salvation? And concerning the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper it is manifest from the institution of Christ itself. For thus the Evangelists say: “He took bread, he took the chalice, and he said: ‘This is my body, this is my blood.’” Behold! First you have bread and wine, corporal things, then the word: “This is my body,” by which the body and blood of Christ conjoined are given to us. What else, then, are these than instruments for the offering of body and blood? For we call them instruments, which in Greek are called ὄργανα, by which medium a thing is effected, or by which it is worked. Moreover, they are sacraments, through which God works salvation in us, as was proven before from Paul. Therefore rightly we also call them organs. For even if these letters: “sacraments are median instruments” are not found exactly so in Scripture, nevertheless clearly this thought is found in these sayings of Paul: “having been washed with the washing of water through the word,” and, “He made us saved through the washing of regeneration.” Clearly the same sense of these words (sacraments are median instruments) is found by readers of his letters.

Next Schwenckfeld adds this: “Christ is our sole mediator, through whom heavenly good things are conferred to us.”

He speaks truly, but because he concludes from this, that the sacraments are means of communication of heavenly good things, his own infancy in Christian understanding comes forth, and also his ignorance in the understanding of dividing. For Christ and the sacraments are to be divided, because Christ is the mediator with authority and merit. For it follows that the author of salvation is the meritor of salvation; indeed he merits and obtains favor for us by his passion. Moreover it follows that the sacraments are means of salvations, but by authority, not as an organ or by the ministry. Paul clearly signifies this when he writes: “Christ loved the church and exposed himself for her, so that he might make her holy (behold: you hear the authority and merit), having been washed with the washing of water through the Word (behold: you hear the ministry). Therefore Schwenckfeld begins well, saying, “Christ is our sole mediator,” but he concludes poorly, saying “The sacraments are not ministerial means,” to which he added: “There is no other relationship of heavenly things to elements of the world.” It is said well indeed concerning the Schwenckfeldians, that they are of either unproductive or impious intellect. For if through elements of this world he understands the sacraments, baptism and the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, and in these things he holds no connection to heavenly things, it is the highest blasphemy to the sacraments of our Lord Jesus Christ. For if the baptism of John the Baptist was not of this worldly element but of heavenly, how is it understood from Mark chapter 2? And how would the baptism of Christ be an earthly thing, an element of this world, having no relationship to heavenly things? O impiety! Therefore, when Paul writes: “Whoever of you has been baptized has put on Christ,” he has written poorly according to Schwenckfeld, and he ought to have written thus: “Whoever of you has been baptized, you have been converted to infirm and needy elements, to which you wish to be a slave again? And for that reason you are foolish, when you have begun by the Spirit, now to be completed by the flesh?” And thus when the Enthusiast calls the sacraments of the Spirit elements without discrimination, he blasphemes both Christ, the institutor of the sacraments, and Paul, the primary apostle of Christ. Indeed, water, bread, and wine, received alone by themselves also are considered elements of this world, I say, if they are received and understood apart from baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but when they are called sacraments and received in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, they are not yet elements of this world, but truly heavenly things, heavenly things sanctified by the Word, from which they are called sacraments. And Augustine says: “The Word is added to the element and makes a sacrament.” Therefore as much distance as there is between heaven and earth, so also so much distance is there between element and sacrament. And for that reason, it is best agreeing that there is a relationship of heavenly things to the sacrament, as much as the sacraments themselves are clearly heavenly things, so that the vision of man sees nothing except the element, and touches nothing except water, and feels nothing except bread and wine.

Brenz: “Regeneration is a gift of God and a gift of God accordingly is distributed through its own means.”

Schwenckfeld: “It is not known how the gifts of God are distributed through the Holy Spirit to the new man, but it is not through externals.”

Brenz responds: “Again Schwenckfeld errs in distinguishing means. For the Lord our God, in distributing his gifts uses two means, internal and external; invisible and visible. The internal is the Holy Spirit; the external the Word and sacraments.”

Concerning the internal Paul says in Romans, chapter 5: “The love of God is poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” Concerning the external, Paul says: “We are made saved through the washing of regeneration,” and likewise: “All Scripture is divinely inspired, useful for teaching, etc.,” and likewise: “We have hope through patience and the consolation of the Scriptures, etc.” Is not hope the gift of God? Therefore the Lord bestows it through the Scripture.

Brenz: “Having been reborn not of mortal seed, etc.”

Schwenckfeld: “The thought of Peter is sufficient for confutation of Brenz’ doctrine.”

Brenz responds in as many words: “The thought of Peter is sufficient for the confutation of Schwenckfeld’s doctrine.”

Brenz: “You see, therefore, that baptism is not a vane and empty sign, etc.”

Schwenckfeld: “He confuses everything and also ignores what the washing of regeneration through the word is according to Paul.”

Brenz responds that he does not confuse the reason of the sacraments but the order in ordination, unless by chance Schwenckfeld understands for “confusion” [confundere] “confutation” [confutare]. For then Brenz would admit that he confuses the sacraments of the Enthusiasts–this is to cause great confusion. Brenz is ignorant of what else he said, what the washing of regeneration is according to Paul. (Not that he would say thus, if he himself did not know what the washing of regeneration is—as if Paul would understand something other than baptism when he says “through washing,” the distribution of which Christ commended to the Apostles by institution, saying: “Go, baptize all nations in the name of the Father, etc.,” and concerning which Peter said in Acts, chapter 2: “Repent of your sins and be baptized each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”)

Brenz: “Not because it is water, but because it is water of the word of regeneration, etc.”

Schwenckfeld: “He mingles a two-fold water in one.” And later: “They are making a great leap from the order of heavenly things to the order of earthly things.”

Brenz responds that he only knows one water in baptism. But if Schwenckfeld has two waters—perhaps the waters of the Rhine and the Danube in baptism?— let him prove that Christ had instituted baptism with two waters. There are indeed living waters in Scripture, and there are waters of tribulation, and also there are waters of blisters, as in Revelations. But Christ, in instituting baptism, instituted that it was to be done with true and natural water, which he was also able to call living water, because through it, believing, we might obtain living salvation. Concerning this, Schwenckfeld says that we make a great wasteland from the order of heavenly things to the order of earthly. We will be confuted, when he makes with his own plain words what he understands through this, and then we will respond, when he will have proved with reasons that we make an inconvenient and absurd wasteland. For among us it is said concerning the water of baptism, that we speak not concerning an earthly thing but heavenly. But it is allowed by Schwenckfeld that all things are earthly that are seen and felt, thus plainly another visible thing has been absorbed into spirit.

Brenz: “Why, therefore, are not all of the baptized regenerated, etc.”

Schwenckfeld: “Oh, you comment with us to us!”

Brenz: “Christ has long cursed you Enthusiast spirits, so that unless you repent, you will be placed with the hypocrites.”

Brenz: “Now, as Augustine writes, ‘it does not make a difference with integrity concerning the sacraments, etc.’”

Schwenckfeld: “Where does this baptism and faith of little ones remain?”

Brenz responds: “From the words of Augustine, it perishes neutral. For the baptism of little ones is a true baptism, and unless it is received by little ones by their own faith, they will not obtain salvation through baptism. Indeed, it remains in itself true and holy baptism even if accepted without faith, but it does not effect salvation to the faithless.”

Furthermore, when Schwenckfeld says that many questions relate to the sacraments, whether he who believes receives the sacrament, he rejects not Brenz but Augustine. Moreover it would not be a wonder if Brenz would foul that which Augustine fouled. The words of Augustine in the third book concerning baptism of “Against the Donatists,” chapter 14, have it thus: “It does not make a difference concerning the sacrament if it is handled with integrity and holiness. He who believes and with as much faith as he has been filled, that is the one who receives the sacrament. Indeed it does make much difference for the way of salvation, for to the question of the sacrament there is no difference. For it is able to be done, so that man might have the entire sacrament and perverse faith; but just as it is able to be done, so that he might hold to the entire words of the Creed and nevertheless not believe correctly either concerning the Trinity itself or concerning the resurrection or concerning anything else.” Thus far Augustine. These things are true by the authority of Scripture, even if Augustine had never written them. For Paul writes in Romans, chapter three, that the unbelief of man (this is true) does not make vain the faithfulness of God. Now, what Schwenckfeld writes, that Augustine also wishes that the sacraments are not sacraments to the unfaithful, what follows from this? Then for themselves, in their own nature they are not sacraments? God forbid! For thus equally Christ would not truly be Christ in himself, on account of that he is not Christ to the unfaithful. And God himself in himself would not be good, because on account of the impious he would be evil, just as Peter said: When I am evil you are evil. However, in this disputation we will not dwell on this question, that he who believes or does not believe receives the sacrament, but that in their own nature they are truly sacraments. This is the status of our disputation.

Brenz: “For Christ is not only his body, etc.”

Schwenckfeld: “What sort of Christ is given in the word of letters, such a sort also is given in the bread and the wine, they are all letters and besides that, nothing.”

Brenz responds: “Again Schwenckfeld blasphemes the gospel, calling it ‘letter.’”

For if in Pauline custom the name “letter” is used, then in calling the gospel “letter” he makes law from the gospel; mortification from vivification. But if he uses “letter” for the external sound of voice, we indeed admit that for a visible figure and for the audible sound of the gospel it is “letter,” for these words, “Christ died for us,” stand from the letters, that is, “C-h-r-i-s-t” etc. But if we consider the ordination of God, by which these letters of the gospel have been arranged for the ministry of the Spirit, then just as a sacrament is made from the Word added to the element, so by adding the divine decree to the letter of the gospel Spirit is made, as is manifest from what is written above. Now in this word of letters (the gospel) true and proper Christ is given to us. Therefore he is given to us also in bread and in wine, insofar as by the word of the gospel they are sanctified. Do you not hear that your impure mouth calls the word of the gospel a mere letter, that is, the sound of death and effecting nothing, when the vessel, Paul, writes to the elect: “There is not shame to me of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe”? Paul calls the gospel the power of God, which Schwenckfeld calls the letter and besides that, nothing: “to whom, I beseech you, will we apply faith?” Again Paul writes in I Thessalonians chapter 2: “On which account, we also give thanks to God continually, that when you received the Word from us, by which you learned God, you received it not as the word of men, but just as it is, truly the Word of God, which also works in you who believe.” Behold Paul’s sermon, which he had preached, not the killing letter but the efficacious Word in believers. And Schwenckfeld hears this word having been preached by mouth, that he calls it mere letter and sound without authority. O ignorance, or should I say, impiety!

Brenz: “Christ gave his entire self for us, etc.”

Schwenckfeld: “The freedom is a spiritual course that no one distributes except God alone through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.”

Brenz: “This was defended above.”

For God alone distributes with authority spiritually good things through Christ Jesus, just as the merit is confirmed in the Holy Spirit, and because the three are one, therefore the author of our salvation is one. But there are external means decreed for this, so that through these the author of our salvation might distribute spiritual gifts, the sort of which are the gospel and sacraments, to which alone is ascribed the ministry of communication, so that the authority remains with God alone. So that, therefore, the authority of God does not impede the free spiritual course, thus neither is the ministry decreed for this use by the authority of God.

Brenz: “For that reason by itself he said: ‘Take, eat, this is my body; he received bread in his hand and distributed it to the disciples.’”

Schwenckfeld: “This we deny, because it is not true by the witness of Mark.”

Brenz: “Will I love this impudence by Schwenckfeld, who dares to appeal to manifest truth to confirm his lie and impudence by the authority of Mark?”

For from two of the evangelists, Matthew and Mark, and also from Paul it is evident that Christ had said concerning bread and wine: This is my body, this is my blood, before the disciples ate bread and drank wine. Mark alone, using the figure (which the grammarians call πρωθύστερον, when something is said first, and later is done), writes: “They all drank from it, and he said to them: this is my blood, etc.” Thus are these writings by Mark, not as though the apostles had drunk before Christ had said: “This is my blood.” Therefore Schwenckfeld is unlearned and unrefined, not recognizing that Mark by the authority of Matthew, Luke, and Paul thus uses πρωθυστέρῳ and that he uses “said” for “had said,” a thing which in the aorist of Greek is most frequent.

Schwenckfeld: “It had not yet become known everywhere, that the Word of God was nothing other than Christ, Revelation chapter 19.”

Brenz: “It was clearly known that the eternal Word, ineffably begotten of the Father, was none other than Christ. Nevertheless there is another Word, which indeed in its nature is not Christ; nevertheless it is an organ, by which Christ is revealed and given to us. For example, the Word of the gospel, which is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.”

Schwenckfeld adds other things, namely: “The sacraments stand from visible and invisible grace, but there is not one remaining, nor is it given through the remaining.” Likewise: “On the contrary, the reckoning of the sacraments contradicts this doctrine.” Likewise: “He cannot separate it well.”

All of these words entirely are denied by us, as many as are affirmed by Schwenckfeld, and each is easily disregarded, which are said by Schwenckfeld.

Brenz: “So that external man might have external things, etc.”

Schwenckfeld: “Man is spiritual in heaven (Philippians 3); carnal on earth, whom nevertheless Brenz estimates to be one.” And later: “The ignorance of the new man, who is not of flesh but of spirit, although he stands from flesh and spirit.”

Brenz: “See again the impudence of this man to me, or should I say, the rashness! I call external man visible, tangible, walking, eating, sleeping–and for that reason, carrying out natural works. But he deceitfully interprets for external ‘carnal,’ who he says is not in heaven and denies that the new man is of such a sort. O sophisticated calumny! Truly I am not ignorant that the new man is called spiritual and is in heaven, but is he not on account of this external, that is, does he not eat, not drink, not sleep? And because he is external, on account of this is he neither spiritual nor heavenly? On the contrary, he eats or sleeps, and however much would be natural and corporal work, he makes spiritual and heavenly work if he does it from faith. Moreover, there is a twofold use of these words: carnal, external, and likewise, spiritual and heavenly, which it appears that Schwenckfeld ignores.”

For occasionally we say that he is carnal, who is subject to the affections of the flesh, just as Paul calls the Corinthians, for this, he says, you are flesh. However, concerning this man he makes no plain mention in this place from me. Occasionally we call that “carnal,” which is constituted from visible and tangible flesh, whose flesh or body is composed of different parts, such as also we are able to say that Christ is carnal, because he bore true and natural flesh. And I call this external: that which exercises exterior and natural works. And he, if he exercises his works from faith and the Holy Spirit, truly he is called spiritual and heavenly. He also is said to be an exile on earth in heaven, because he has his citizenship there. But if indeed you receive carnal for the one subject to the affections of the flesh and exercising its works, which Paul enumerates in Galatians, chapter 5, twice through all he is separated from the spiritual. But since in the place of it I do not record certain things, Schwenckfeld makes arguments importunely and sophisticatedly, pouring out evenings of reading with the confusion of words.

An anonymous defense of Johannes Brenz’s exegesis of the sacramental text in John.

 Dec 24, 2008