[Article XXIV(XII):] Of the Mass

Written in Latin by Philip Melanchthon (1531)

Translated from the Latin into German by Justus Jonas (1531)

English Translation by Ambrose and Socrates Henkel (1851), Revised by W. F. Lehmann (1854)

Link to Bente/Dau Translation from Latin (1921)

[1] In the first place, we must mention, by way of introduction, that we do not abolish the Mass; for Mass is held in our churches on every Sunday and festival, when the Sacrament is administered to those who desire it, that is, after they have been examined and absolved. Besides, the real Christian ceremonies are likewise observed, in reading, singing, praying, etc.

[2] Our opponents enter into a lengthy, bungling, and puerile discussion about the use of the Latin language in Mass, and about the great benefit derived, even by the illiterate, who do not understand the Latin language, from hearing Mass, in the faith of the church. They imagine that attending Mass, is, of itself, an efficacious divine service, even when not a word is heard or understood. [3] We shall not treat these assertions with the severity they deserve, but are content to leave them to the judgment of intelligent men. We refer to them, simply to show that the Latin Mass, lessons, and prayers, are also retained among us.

But inasmuch as these ceremonies are designed to afford the people an opportunity to learn the Scripture and God's Word, that they may fear God, obtain consolation, and learn to pray aright,—for this is the object of ceremonies—we retain the Latin language for the sake of those who understand the Latin, and combine with it the use of German hymns, for the benefit of the people and their instruction in the fear and knowledge of God. [4] This custom was always approved in the church, and in all our churches the people sung more or less German hymns; consequently, this custom cannot be so new. [5] But where is the Pharisaic doctrine to be found, that hearing Mass without understanding it, is meritorious and salutary, ex opere operato? Shame upon ye sophists, with your dreams.

[6] But our practice of holding no private, but public Mass alone, when the congregation receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, is not contrary to the principles of the universal Christian church; for even to this day, no private Mass is held in the Greek churches; they have but one kind of Mass, and that is held on Sundays and great festivals. All this shows what was the ancient practice of the church. The teachers who lived prior to the time of St. Gregory, never mention private Mass in any of their writings. [7] We shall not, for the present, show how private Mass originated. This is certain, that when the mendicant orders and the monks had begun to prevail, their false doctrines led to the introduction of more and more Masses every day, for mercenary purposes, and this was carried to such an extent that the theologians themselves continually complained of it. And although St. Francis, from good motives, attempted to remedy this evil, and ordered his followers to be content with one general Mass for each cloister daily; yet this useful statute was afterwards altered through hypocrisy, or for the sake of pecuniary interest. [8] Thus they themselves alter the regulations of the ancient Fathers as they please, whenever it is to their advantage; and yet they afterwards tell us, that the ordinances of the ancient Fathers must be held sacred. Epiphanius says that in Asia Communion was held three times every week, and that there was no daily Mass; and he tells us that this practice came from the Apostles.

[9] Now, although our adversaries have thrown together many remarks and quotations on this point, to prove that the Mass is a sacrifice; yet we can soon stop all this clamor, and silence them by simply replying, that this array of authorities, arguments, etc., does not prove that the Mass, ex opere operato, merits the forgiveness of sins and the remission of guilt and punishment for the priests or for others for whom it is performed. This one plain answer subverts all the arguments of our adversaries, not only in the Confutation, but in all the works they have published on the Mass.

[10] This is the main question in the whole matter; and we call upon every Christian reader, carefully to observe whether our adversaries adhere also to it; for they are in the habit of making many useless and unexpected digressions from the main question. For, if the main point be closely and firmly adhered to, without introducing anything foreign, both sides can be more easily understood.

[11] We have shown in our Confession, that we hold that the Eucharist or the Mass does not confer grace, ex opere operato, and that Mass, performed for others, does not merit for them the remission of sins, of punishment, and guilt. [12] And for this position, we have the strong and indubitable grounds, that it is impossible for us to obtain the forgiveness of sin through our works, ex opere operato,—that is, through the performed work in itself, sine bono motu utentis, without regard to the disposition of the mind, or though there be no good emotion in the heart; but the terrors of sin and death must be overcome through faith in Christ, when our hearts are cheered and comforted by the knowledge of Christ, as stated above; when we are conscious that God is gracious unto us for Christ's sake, his merits and righteousness being imparted to us, Rom. 5:1: "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God," etc. This foundation is so strong and firm, that all the gates of hell can make no impression on it,--of this we are sure.

[13] Now this would be sufficient on the whole subject; for no rational or intelligent man can approve this Pharisaic or Pagan hypocrisy and the great abuse of the opere operato. And yet this error has come to prevail throughout the world; hence the universal introduction of the Mass in all charitable institutions, cloisters, churches, hermitages, and in every corner. Mass is celebrated for lucre, and to appease the wrath of God, to obtain the remission of sins, redemption from guilt and punishment, to liberate the dead from purgatory, to secure health, riches, success, and prosperity in the occupations of life. These hypocritical, Pharisaic views were planted in the church by the monks and sophists. [14] Now, although the error involved in the abuse of the Mass, is sufficiently refuted by the fact that men do not obtain the remission of sins through their works, but through faith in Christ; yet, as our adversaries grossly distort many passages of Scripture into a defense of their errors, we shall submit a few additional remarks.

Our adversaries have much to say in their Confutation about sacrifice, although in our Confession we have intentionally avoided the word sacrificium, on account of its ambiguity, while we clearly pointed out the gross abuses which they design and practice under this name. Now, in order to refute their distorted quotations, we must first explain the word sacrificium or sacrifice.

[15] For ten whole years our adversaries have been engaged in writing a host of books to show that the Mass is a sacrifice, and not one of them has ever yet defined what a sacrifice is. They simply look for the word sacrificium in Concordances of the Bible, and apply it to this question, whether applicable or not. They pursue the same course with the works of the ancient Fathers, and then add their own dreams, as if sacrifice must signify whatever they wish.

The Nature of the Sacrifice, and Its Various Kinds.

[16] In order that we may not enter blindly upon our subject, it is necessary for us, in the first place, to show what is, and what is not sacrifice; it is necessary and useful for every Christian to know this. [17] The theologians are accustomed to make a proper distinction between sacrifice and Sacrament. Now, as to their genus [in the general character, common to both,] we will admit, that they are ceremonies or holy acts.

[18] A Sacrament is a ceremony or an external sign or work, through which God grants what the divine promise, annexed to the ceremony, offers. For instance, Baptism is a ceremony and work, not given or offered by us to God, but in which God makes a gift and an offer to us, in which he, or the minister in his stead, baptizes us. Here God offers and gives us the remission of sins according to his promise: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," Mark 16:16.

On the other hand, a sacrifice is a ceremony or a work which we offer unto God, that we may honor him.

[19] There are chiefly two kinds of sacrifices, and no more, in which all others are comprehended. The one is a propitiatory sacrifice, by which expiation is made for guilt and punishment, God is reconciled, his wrath appeased, and remission of sins obtained for others. The other is a sacrifice of thanksgiving, not to obtain forgiveness of sin or reconciliation, but made by those who are already reconciled, in order to give thanks for the remission of sins, and for other favors and gifts they received.

[20] We must be careful in this and many other controversies, not to lose sight of this distinction, which is strongly supported in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in many other places in the Scripture. [21] All the sacrifices under the Law of Moses, however diverse they may be, can be reduced to these two genera or kinds. In the Law of Moses some are called expiatory sacrifices, or offerings for sin; not that the forgiveness of sins was merited by them in the sight of God, but because they were designed as an external reconciliation, those for whom they were made being reconciled by such sacrifice so as not to be excluded from the people of Israel. They were, therefore, called expiatory sacrifices, while the others were sacrifices of thanksgiving.

[22] True, in the law there were indications of the true sacrifice, but there has been only one real expiatory sacrifice, or sacrifice for sin, in the world, namely, the death of Christ; as the Epistle to the Hebrews says: "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away the sins," Heb. 10:4; and then verse 10 says concerning the obedience and will of Christ: "By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

[23] Isaiah the prophet also previously explained the Law of Moses, and shows that the death of Christ is the ransom for sin, and not the offerings of the law, when he says of Christ: "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days," Isaiah 53:10. The Prophet referred the term, "offering for sin," to the death of Christ, in order to show that the expiatory sacrifices in the law were not the right sacrifice to make satisfaction for sin, but that another sacrifice would come, namely, the death of Christ, by which the wrath of God should be appeased.

[24] Again, the sin-offerings under the law had to cease, when the Gospel was revealed, and the right sacrifice had been made. Therefore, they were not true reconciliation in the sight of God; for they were discontinued, and another took their place. Hence, they were only symbols and types of the true reconciliation. Accordingly, the truth is firmly established, that there has been but one sacrifice, namely, the death of Christ, which was intended to be an atonement for others, and to appease the wrath of God.

[25] Besides this one expiatory sacrifice, namely, the death of Christ, there are others, all of which are merely sacrifices of thanksgiving, such as bearing the cross--preaching--the good works of saints, etc.; these are not sacrifices by which we are reconciled, which we can make for others, or which merit, ex opere operato, forgiveness of sin or reconciliation; for they are made by those who are already reconciled through Christ. [26] Such are our sacrifices in the New Testament; as Peter the apostle says, 1 Pet. 2:5: "Ye are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

[27] In the New Testament no sacrifice is of any avail, ex opere operato, sine bono mutu utentis, that is, the work without good thoughts (motives) in the heart; for Christ says, John 4:23: "The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth;" that is, with the heart, with cordial fear and sincere faith. Consequently, the doctrine of our adversaries, that their Mass merits the forgiveness of guilt and punishment, ex opere operato, is nothing but an antichristian, Pharisaic, and diabolical doctrine and service.

Nor did the Jews properly understand their ceremonies, thinking themselves just before God, when they had performed the works, ex opere operato. [28] The Prophets, however, most earnestly opposed this error, that they might turn the attention of the people from their own works to the promises of God, and lead them to faith and to the true services of God. Thus it is written, Jeremiah 7:22–23: "I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices; but this thing commanded I them, saying, obey my voice, and I will be your God," etc. What may the obstinate Jews have said to preaching like this, which so evidently appeared to be contrary to the law and to Moses? For it was obvious that God had required the fathers to sacrifice, and Jeremiah could not deny it. But Jeremiah condemned their false views on this subject, which God had not enjoined, namely, that sacrifices, ex opere operato, had the power to reconcile and please God. Jeremiah, therefore, adds this declaration in reference to faith, that God commanded: Hear me, that is, believe me, that I am your God, that I preserve you, that I have compassion on you, help you always, and need not your sacrifices; believe that I am your God, who makes you just and holy, not on account of your merits, but for the sake of my promises; therefore, expect all your consolation and help from me.

[29] This pagan view of the opere operato is also condemned in the fiftieth Psalm, verses 13 and 15, where it is said: "Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Call upon me in the day of trouble," etc. Here the opus operatum is condemned, and we are admonished to call upon God; and it is declared to be the noblest service of God, to call upon him with our hearts.

Again, we find in the fortieth Psalm, verse 6: "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire: mine ears hast thou opened." That is, thou hast given me a word which I am to hear, and requirest me to believe it and thy promises, that thou wilt help me; and Psalm 51:16–17: "Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it," etc. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit," etc. So in the fourth Psalm, verse 5: "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness; and put your trust in the Lord." Here we are commanded to place our trust in the Lord,--and this is called a true sacrifice; here it is shown that the other sacrifices are not true. Again, Psalm 116:17: "I will offer to thee the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord," etc.

[30] And the whole Scripture abounds with similar passages, showing that no sacrifice and no work, ex opere operato, reconciles God. Hence it teaches that in the New Testament, the sacrifices of the Law of Moses are abolished, and that none but pure, unstained sacrifices are now left, namely, faith in God, thanksgiving, the invocation of God, preaching the Gospel, crosses and afflictions of saints, and the like.

[31] Malachi speaks of these sacrifices, saying: "For from the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering," ch. 1:11.

Our adversaries falsely and foolishly say, that this passage refers to the Mass, and point to the authority of the ancient Fathers. But it is easy to reply to them; for even if Malachi were speaking of the Mass, which he is not, still it would not follow that the Mass justifies us before God, ex opere operato, or that we can hold Mass for others, to obtain the remission of sin for them. The Prophet says nothing of the kind, but it is an impudent device of the sophists and the monks themselves.

[32] But the words of the Prophet, themselves set forth the proper meaning. First he says: The name of the Lord shall be great; this is accomplished through the preaching of the Gospel. Through it the name of Christ is made known, and the grace promised in him. Now, through the preaching of the Gospel, men are led to faith; and it is then they call upon God aright, and thank him, suffer persecution for God's sake, and do good works. Therefore, the Prophet calls it the pure offering; not indeed, the ceremonies of the Mass solely ex opere operato, but all spiritual offerings, through which the name of God is magnified, namely, the preaching of the Gospel, faith, invocation, prayer, confession of the Gospel and of Christ before the world, etc., are pure, holy sacrifices.

[33] We would not seriously object even to referring this text to the ceremonies of the Mass, provided it be not held that the mere ceremonies, ex opere operato, reconcile God. For, as we call preaching a praise-offering, so the ceremony of the Eucharist in itself may be a praise-offering, but not an offering that justifies, ex opere operato, before God, or which, when performed for others, effects the remission of their sins. But we shall soon show in what sense ceremonies are an offering. Now, as Malachi is speaking of all the services and offerings of the New Testament, he evidently does not allude to the Mass or the Eucharist alone. Again, as he plainly opposes the Pharisaic error of the opere operato, this passage is not against, but rather for us; for he requires the thank-offerings of the heart, through which the name of the Lord is to be magnified.

[34] They also quote Malachi 3:3: "And he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." He is here speaking of an offering in righteousness; hence the text opposes the opus operatum. The offering of the sons of Levi, that is, of those who preach under the New Testament dispensation, is the ministry of the Gospel and the good fruits of the ministry; as Paul, Rom. 15:16 says: "That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering-up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost." For the slaying of oxen and sheep under the law, signified the death of Christ and the ministry of the Gospel, by which the old Adamic nature is to be daily mortified, and the new and eternal life begun.

But our adversaries apply the word sacrifice exclusively to the ceremony of the Mass. They have not a word to say about the ministry of the Gospel, faith, thanksgiving and calling upon the divine name, although the ceremony was instituted for this purpose, and the New Testament requires altogether the spiritual offerings of the heart, and not the sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood.

[35] Our adversaries also refer to the juge sacrificium, that is, the daily sacrifice, saying that as there was a daily sacrifice under the Law of Moses, so the Mass is the daily sacrifice under the New Testament dispensation. If this matter could be settled by allegories, everyone could find allegories to answer his purpose. But all intelligent men know, that in matters of such great importance in the sight of God, we must have positive and plain declarations of God, and no distorted, obscure, and irrelevant passages. Such doubtful interpretations will not stand the test before the judgment-seat of God.

Although, to gratify our adversaries, we might consent to have the Mass called the juge sacrificium, or daily sacrifice, provided they apply this term to the whole Mass, that is, the ceremonies including thanksgiving, faith in the heart, and sincere invocation of divine grace. All these together might be called the juge sacrificium of the New Testament; for on their account the ceremony of the Mass or Eucharist was established; for it was instituted for the sake of preaching, as Paul says: "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come," 1 Cor. 11:26. But the figure of the daily offering by no means proves, that the Mass is a sacrifice which reconciles God, ex opere operato, or by which we can obtain for others the remission of their sins. [36] Now, if we take a proper view of the juge sacrificium, or the daily sacrifice, we shall discover that it portrays not only the ceremonies, but also the preaching of the Gospel. For in Numbers 28:4-7, three parts are laid down, as belonging to this daily offering:--The burning of a lamb, libation of wine, and oblation of flour.

The whole Law of Moses is a shadow and figure of Christ and the New Testament; hence Christ is thus portrayed there. The lamb signifies the death of Christ; the libation of wine signifies, that all believers in the world are sprinkled with the blood of the lamb through the Gospel, that is, that they are sanctified, as we are told, 1 Pet. 1:2: "Through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ;" the oblation of flour signifies the invocation and thanksgiving in the hearts of all believers. [37] Now, as we find the shadow and prefiguration of Christ or the Gospel in the Old Testament; so we must look in the New Testament, not for a new type or figure which might be called a sacrifice; but for the Gospel and the truth, which the figure signifies.

[38] And, although the Mass, or the ceremony of the Eucharist, is a memorial of the death of Christ, yet the ceremony alone is not the continual or daily offering; but the remembrance of Christ's death, in connection with the ceremony, is the daily offering, that is, the preaching of faith and Christ—the faith that truly believes that God is reconciled through the death of Christ. To this continual sacrifice also belong the fruits of preaching, namely, that we be sprinkled with the blood of Christ, or sanctified; that the old Adam be mortified and that we grow in the Spirit,--this is the sprinkling; then we should also return thanks and praise to God, and confess the faith with patience and good works,--this is signified by the flour and oil.

[39] Thus, when we remove the gross Pharisaic error of the opere operato, we discover that the spiritual and the daily offering of the heart are meant by the juge sacrificium; for Heb. 10, Paul says that there is a shadow of good things to come in the law, but the body and the truth (reality) are in Christ. Now, it is the knowledge of Christ, and the Holy Ghost in the heart, that produce thanksgiving and daily spiritual offerings in the heart. [40] From this it is evident that the figure of the juge sacrificio, daily sacrifice, is not against, but rather for us; for we have clearly shown that everything belonging to the daily sacrifice in the Law of Moses, must signify a true heart-felt offering, not an opus operatum. Our adversaries falsely imagine that the external work and ceremonies alone are signified; whereas heartfelt faith, preaching, confession, thanksgiving, and sincere prayer, are the true daily offerings and the most noble part of the Mass, whether called sacrifice or otherwise.

[41] Now, all pious Christians can easily perceive that the charge of our adversaries, accusing us of abolishing the continual sacrifice, is unjust. But experience shows that they are the real Antiochi ruling in the church as furious, bloodthirsty, and despotic tyrants; who, under the garb of spirituality, arrogate all the power in the world, and are perfectly indifferent about the ministry, Christ, or the Gospel. Moreover, they have the presumption to establish new church services at pleasure, and to defend them by violence alone. [42] Our adversaries retain only the ceremonies of the Mass, but its proper use they neglect; they use it only for avaricious purposes and shameful traffic, and then imagine that it is profitable to others, and merits for them the remission of sin, of punishment, and guilt. [43] In their sermons they do not teach the Gospel, they impart no consolation to the conscience, nor do they preach the remission of sins without merit, for Christ's sake; but talk of the invocation of saints, satisfaction, expiation, and human traditions, declaring that they justify man before God. And although there are so many of these palpable, blasphemous abuses, yet, because they are profitable, they seek to maintain them by violence. Even the most learned preachers among them discuss intricate philosophical questions, which neither they nor the people understand. Finally, although some of them may be tolerable scholars, yet they teach nothing but the law, without saying anything about Christ or faith.

[44] Our opponents quote the language of Daniel, who says, ch. 9:27, that there shall be abomination and desolation in the churches; and they apply this to our churches, because the altars are not covered, and there are no burning candles there, etc. But it is not true that we abolish all such external ornaments; and even if it were, Daniel is not speaking of things altogether external, and not belonging to the Christian church. [45] He has reference to a far different and more abominable desolation, which is prevailing in Popery, namely, to the rejection of the most necessary and important service, the ministry, and to the suppression of the Gospel. Our adversaries mostly preach of human ordinances, which lead the soul away from Christ and encourage it to rely on human works; [46] hence it is evident that no one in the Papal church understood the doctrine of repentance, as our adversaries taught it; and yet it is one of the most important subjects in the whole range of Christian truth.

Our antagonists have tortured the poor conscience with the enumeration of sins; but as to faith in Christ, through which we obtain the remission of sins, and of the real struggles and trials, exercising our faith, they offered no correct instruction to the conscience for its consolation. All their books and preaching were not only less satisfactory than nothing on this subject, but really worked unspeakable injury. [47] Moreover, they have among them the monstrous, abominable abuse of the Mass, the like of which has scarcely ever existed on earth, besides a mass of other unchristian, foolish services. This is the very desolation of which Daniel speaks.

[48] On the contrary, in our churches, the priests duly attend to their office; they teach the Gospel and preach Christ, proclaiming the remission of sins and the grace of God, not on account of our works, but for the sake of Christ. This doctrine affords true, firm, and constant comfort to the heart. They also inculcate the Ten Commandments, and the genuine good works which God has enjoined, as well as the proper Christian use of the holy Sacraments.

[49] Now, if the Eucharist or Mass could properly be called the daily sacrifice, it might more justly be termed so among us. Among them the priests mostly hold Mass from mercenary motives; but in our churches the holy Sacrament is not abused in this manner. It is never celebrated for the sake of money, but the people are to examine themselves for the purpose of seeking consolation there.

Besides, they are instructed in the proper Christian use of the Sacrament, namely, that it was instituted to be a seal and sure testimony of the remission of sins, to admonish their hearts and strengthen their faith, firmly to believe that their sins are forgiven. Now, as the preaching of the Gospel and the proper use of the Sacraments are preserved among us, we have without doubt the daily offering.

[50] As for outward decency, our churches are better adorned than those of the opposite party. [51] For the real external ornaments of the church are true preaching, the proper use of the Sacraments, and the regular, zealous, and devout attendance for instruction and prayer. By the grace of God, Christian and wholesome instruction is given in our churches for consolation in all trials, hence the people gladly attend such preaching. Nothing does more to attach the people to the church than good preaching. But our adversaries preach the people out of their churches, because they do not teach the most important parts of Christian doctrine, but relate legends of saints and other fables.

Besides, when our adversaries set up their candles, altar coverings, images, and like ornaments as necessary things, and establish them as a divine service, they are the servants of Antichrist, of whom Daniel says that they honor their God with silver, gold, and like ornaments, Dan. 11:38.

[52] They also quote Hebrews 5:1: "Every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins." From this they conclude, that as there are bishops and priests under the New Testament dispensation, there must also be a sacrifice for sin. Now, this might make some impression on the unlearned and inexperienced; especially when they consider the magnificent pomp in the temples and churches, and of the garments of Aaron. As there were many ornaments of gold, silver, and purple under the Old Testament dispensation, they think that under the New there must be a similar service, similar ceremonies and sacrifices, offered for the sins of others, as in the Old Testament. All the abuses of the Mass and the Papal worship originated in the desire to imitate the ceremonies of Moses, in their ignorance of the fact that the New Testament is occupied with other matters, and that these external ceremonies, though applicable to the discipline of children, should not transcend their proper limits.

[53] Although our position is very fully established in the Epistle to the Hebrews, yet our adversaries quote several passages from this very epistle, in a mutilated form, as they did, for instance, in the place above, where it is said that every high priest is ordained to offer, etc. The text immediately refers this to Christ. The preceding words speak of the Levitical priesthood as a prototype of the priesthood of Christ. The Levitical offerings for sin did not merit the forgiveness of sins in the sight of God, but were only a figure of Christ, who was the real, true, and only offering for sin, as we have already said. [54] Nearly the whole Epistle to the Hebrews treats mainly of the fact that the Levitical priesthood and the sacrifices in the law, were not instituted for the purpose of meriting the remission of sins, or effecting the reconciliation of God, but only to foreshadow Christ, the true, future sacrifice. [55] The Patriarchs and the saints under the Old Testament also, were justified and reconciled to God through faith in the promise concerning the future Christ, through whom salvation and grace were promised, in like manner as we, under the New Testament, obtain grace through faith in Christ, who is now revealed. All believers, from the beginning of the world, believed that a sacrifice and ransom would be offered for sin, namely, Christ, who was to come, and was promised, as Isaiah says, 53:10: "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin," etc.

[56] Now, as no one under the Old Testament obtained remission of sin through the sacrifices, they having only signified the one sacrifice of Christ, it follows that there is only one offering, namely, Christ, who made payment and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. In the New Testament, consequently, there is no sacrifice to be made as a recompense for sin, except only the death of Christ, who was offered once upon the cross.

[58] When they therefore assert that under the New Testament there must be a priest to offer sacrifice, this can be conceded with reference to Christ alone. The whole Epistle to the Hebrews strongly urges and confirms this view. It would really be setting up other mediators besides Christ, were we to admit any other satisfaction for sin, or any reconciliation but the death of Christ.

[59] As the priesthood of the New Testament is an office, through which the Holy Spirit operates, there can be no sacrifice that benefits others, ex opere operato. When no special faith and life are produced by the Holy Spirit, no opus operatum can justify or save us. Hence it is obvious, that the Mass cannot be celebrated for the benefit of others.

[60] We have now shown why the Mass justifies no man in the sight of God, ex opere operato, and why Mass cannot be celebrated in behalf of others; for both are directly opposed to faith and to the doctrine of Christ. For it is impossible that sin should be forgiven, or that the terrors of death and hell should be overcome through the work of another, or otherwise than through faith in Christ alone, as we read, Rom. 5:1: "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God," etc.

[61] We have also demonstrated, that the passages of Scripture, quoted against us, do not prove anything in favor of the heathenish, antichristian opere operato doctrine of our adversaries. All honest and godly men whatsoever can see this. [62] We therefore reject the error of Thomas, who says that the body of the Lord was once offered upon the cross for original sin, and is daily offered upon the altar for our daily sins, so that the church has a daily sacrifice to reconcile God. [63] The other errors are likewise to be rejected, namely, that the Mass, ex opere operato, benefits him that holds it; and that when Mass is held for others, though they be ungodly, they obtain the remission of sins and are redeemed from guilt and punishment, provided only that they offer no obstruction. These are all errors, devised by ignorant and wicked monks, who are utter strangers to the Gospel, to Christ, and faith.

[64] This error in regard to these abuses of the Mass, gave rise to numberless others, for instance to the question whether Mass, when held for many, is as efficacious as when celebrated for each person individually. This controversy increased the number and price of Masses.

Further, they also hold Mass for the dead, to release their souls from purgatory--a shameful traffic-- although the Sacrament benefits neither the living nor the dead without faith. [65] Our antagonists cannot produce a particle of proof from the Scripture in confirmation of these dreams and fables, which they preach with the greatest assurance, although without the authority of the church or the Fathers. They are ungodly, perverse men, who knowingly reject and trample upon the plain truth of God.

The Ancient Teachers or Fathers on the Sacrifice.

[66] Having properly explained and answered the Scripture passages, quoted by our adversaries, it becomes necessary for us also to reply to the passages which they cite from the writings of the ancient Fathers. We are well aware, that the Fathers call the Mass a sacrifice; but they did not entertain the opinion, that the Mass imparts the remission of sins, ex opere operato, or that it should be held for the living and the dead, to obtain for them the forgiveness of sins and to release them from guilt and punishment. Our opponents can never show, that the Fathers taught any such abomination contrary to all the Scriptures; but the books of the Fathers treat of thanksgiving and thank-offerings; for this reason they call the Mass Eucharistia. [67] We have already shown that thanksgiving does not impart the remission of sins, but is offered by those who are already reconciled by faith in Christ; even as crosses and afflictions do not merit reconciliation to God, but are thank-offerings, when those who are reconciled willingly bear and endure them.

And these few words are a sufficient vindication against their quotations from the Fathers, and amply protect us against our adversaries. It is certain that their dreams, relative to the opere operato, can nowhere be found in the works of the Fathers. But in order that this whole subject of the Mass may be more clearly understood, we shall likewise speak of the proper use of the Sacrament, and accordingly show how it is represented in the holy Scripture, and in all the writings of the Fathers.

Of the Proper Use of the Lord's Supper, and of the Sacrifice.

[68] Some pedantic scholars imagine that the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was instituted for two reasons:--First, to be the sign and badge of an order, as are the caps of the monks:--Secondly, they conceive that Christ took particular pleasure in appointing a feast or supper as such a sign, to show forth the fraternal friendship, which should exist among Christians; for to eat and drink together, is an evidence of friendship. But these are human thoughts, and do not show the proper use of the Sacrament. They speak only of love and friendship, which worldly men can also manifest; but nothing is said about faith or the promise of God, things of the most exalted character, transcending our conception.

[69] But the Sacraments are evidences of the divine will or purpose towards us,--they are not only marks or signs of recognition; and those are correct, who say that the Sacraments are signa gratiae, that is, evidences of grace. And as there are two things in the Sacrament, the external sign and the Word, the Word in the New Testament is the promise of grace attached to the sign. This promise in the New Testament, involves the remission of sins, as the text says: "This is my body, which is given for you. This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins," Luke 22:19-20. [70] These words offer us the remission of sins. The external sign is, as it were, a seal and confirmation of the Word and promise; as Paul also calls it. Now, as the promise is useless, unless received in faith, so the ceremony or outward sign is useless without the faith which truly believes that we receive the remission of sins. This faith consoles the alarmed conscience. And as God gives the promise in order to awaken such faith, so the external sign is also given with it, and placed before our eyes, to induce the heart to believe, and to strengthen faith; for through these two things, the Word and the external sign, the Holy Spirit operates.

[71] This is the proper use of the holy Sacrament, that the alarmed conscience be consoled through faith in the divine promises. And this is the true service of God in the New Testament, in which the chief worship of God takes place in the heart, in the mortification of the old Adam, (Adamic nature,) and regeneration through the Holy Spirit. For this purpose Christ instituted the Sacrament, saying: "This do in remembrance of me," Luke 22:19. [72] The doing of this, in remembrance of Christ, does not consist merely in external acts, performed merely as an admonition and example, as in history, we remember the deeds of Alexander and others; but it means to know Christ truly, seeking and desiring his benefits. Now the faith which perceives the abounding grace of God, is life-giving.

This is the principal use of the Sacrament, from which it readily appears who are really prepared to receive it, namely, those who are alarmed, who feel their sins, dread the wrath and judgment of God, and long for consolation. The Psalmist, therefore, says: "He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion. He hath given meat unto them that fear him," Psalm 111:4-5. [73] The faith which acknowledges this mercy, gives life to the soul; and this is the proper use of the Sacrament.

[74] To this must then be added the thank-offering or thanksgiving; for when we perceive what great dangers, distress, and terror we are saved from, we are profoundly thankful for this inestimable treasure, employ the ceremonies or the external signs to the honor of God, and show that we receive this gift of God with thankfulness, and highly esteem it. Thus the Mass becomes a thank-offering or an offering of praise.

[75] Accordingly we find the Fathers speaking of a twofold effect or use of the Sacrament: First, that it affords consolation to the conscience; secondly, that it expresses praise and thanks to God. The first properly pertains to the right use of the Sacrament; the second, to the sacrifice. With regard to consolation, Ambrose says: "Go to him, that is, to Christ, and receive grace, etc.: for he is the remission of sins. But you ask: Who is he? Hear him speak himself: 'I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst,'" John 6:35. Here he shows, that the forgiveness of sins is offered in the Sacrament; and he says that we should embrace this by faith. In the writings of the Fathers, numbers of such passages can be found, all of which our adversaries refer to the opus operatum and to the holding of Mass for others, whereas the Fathers are speaking of faith in the promises of God, and of the consolation which the conscience receives, but not of its application to others.

[76] Moreover, we find passages in the books of the Fathers, concerning thanksgiving, for instance the beautiful language of Cyprian on Christian Communion: "The Christian heart," says he, "divides its thanks, offering one part for the presented treasure, the other for the sins forgiven: and it returns thanks for this abundant grace; that is, the Christian heart remembers what is presented to it in Christ, and what great guilt it was rescued from through grace; it compares our misery and the great mercy of God, and returns thanks to him," etc. Hence it is called Eucharistia in the church. [77] The Mass, therefore, is not thanksgiving which we can offer for others, ex opere operato, to obtain forgiveness of sin for them. This would be directly contrary to the doctrine of faith; it would be equivalent to saying, that the Mass or the external ceremony without faith, has justifying and saving power.

Of the Word Mass.

[78] On this point the gross stupidity of our adversaries is apparent. [85] They say that the word missa is derived from the word misbeach, which signifies an altar; from this it follows, as they claim, that the Mass is an offering; for upon the altar the offerings are made. [79] Again, the word liturgia, as the Greeks call the Mass, is also said by them to signify an offering. [87] To this we shall briefly reply. It is obvious that from these premises the antichristian and pagan error does not necessarily follow that the Mass is beneficial, ex opere operato, sine bono motu utentis. It is therefore ridiculous for them to introduce arguments so flimsy, on a subject of such great importance. Nor can they have any knowledge of grammar; for missa and liturgia do not signify a sacrifice. [85] Missa, in the Hebrew, signifies a contribution or collection. [86] For it was the custom at one time among the Christians to bring food and drink into the congregation for the benefit of the poor. This custom was derived from the Jews, who had to bring such contributions to their festivals, and who called them missa. [80] So liturgia in Greek properly signifies an office in which service is rendered to the public; this corresponds exactly with our doctrine, that the priest, as public servant, renders service to those who wish to commune, and administers to them the holy Sacrament.

Some think, that missa is not from the Hebrew, but that it is equivalent to remissio, remission of sins; because when Communion was over, it was said: Ite, missa est, depart, your sins are remitted. In proof of this, they allege that among the Greeks it was said laois aphesis, which is also equivalent to saying, forgiveness unto the people. If this were so, it would be an excellent idea; for the remission of sin should always be preached and announced in connection with this ceremony. But whatever the word missa may signify, it is of little account in this controversy.

Of the Mass for the Dead.

[89] Our antagonists have no evidence nor divine command in the Scriptures, for maintaining that the Mass benefits the dead,--an error which they have turned into a peculiar traffic, and made an article of extensive trade. Now, it is a monstrous abomination and a great sin for them to presume, without divine command or any authority from Scripture, to establish a service in the church, and to apply to the dead the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, which Christ instituted to preach the Word, to commemorate his death, and to strengthen the faith of those who partake of it. This is truly abusing the name of God, and is contrary to the Second Commandment.

It is the greatest insult and blasphemy of the Gospel and Christ, to assert that the mere work of the Mass, ex opere operato, is an offering which reconciles God, and makes satisfaction for sin. It is a dreadful doctrine, a monstrous abomination, that the miserable work of a priest is worth as much as the death of Christ. Surely sin and death cannot be overcome, except by faith in Christ, as Paul says Rom. 5:1; hence the Mass cannot in any way benefit the dead, ex opere operato.

[90] We shall not now show with what weak arguments our adversaries sustain purgatory, nor how the doctrine of expiation and satisfaction originated, having shown above that it is a mere dream and an invention of human vanity; but this we shall say to them, that certainly the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, is properly designed for the remission of guilt. For what consolation could we have, if forgiveness were offered there, and yet it were not the remission of guilt? Now, as this ceremony offers the remission of guilt, it cannot possibly be a satisfaction, ex opere operato, or benefit the dead; and if it is designed for the remission of guilt, it can serve only to console the conscience, and to assure it that its guilt is really forgiven.

[91] Indeed, we need not wonder that all pious Christians should feel the keenest anguish, and weep tears of blood, if they had a proper conception of the monstrous abuse of the Mass under Popery, namely, its almost exclusive employment for the dead, and for redemption from the penalties of purgatory.

They charge us with abolishing the juge sacrificium, or the daily offering, but they are themselves really putting down the true continual sacrifice in the church; they really equal the tyranny and fury of the ungodly Antiochus, in their attempts to suppress the whole Gospel, the whole doctrine of faith and Christ, and in preaching in their stead, the falsehoods of the opere operato, founded upon their dreams respecting satisfaction. It is really trampling the Gospel under foot, and shamefully perverting the use of the Sacraments. These are the very blasphemers, of whom Paul says, 1 Cor. 11:27, that they are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, who suppress the doctrine of Christ and faith, and turn the Mass and the Eucharist into a scandalous public traffic--all under the hypocritical pretense of satisfaction. For this great sacrilege the bishops must expect severe punishment from God, who will certainly verify the Second Commandment, and pour out upon them his great wrath. We and all others must therefore be careful, not to make ourselves partakers of the abuses of our antagonists.

[92] But we shall now return to the subject. As the Mass is not an expiation, either for punishment or guilt, ex opere operato, it follows that its employment for the dead is vain and useless. Nor is there any need of a lengthy controversy; for it is certain that the holding of Mass for the dead has no foundation in the Scripture. It is an abomination to institute any service to God in the church, without authority from the Scriptures. If necessary, we shall speak more fully on this subject, as it may require; for, why should we now go into a serious contest with our adversaries, since they do not understand the nature of the sacrifice, the Sacrament, the remission of sins, or faith.

[93] Nor does the Greek canon apply the Mass as an expiation for the dead; for it employs it alike for all the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles, from which it appears that the Greeks also offered it as a thanksgiving, and not as a satisfaction for the punishment of purgatory. Surely, it was not their intention to release the Prophets and Apostles from purgatory; but merely to join them in offering thanks for the noble, eternal blessings conferred on them and us.

[96] Our opponents allege that the opinion of a certain man, called Aerius, who is said to have held that the Mass is not an offering for the dead, was condemned as heresy. Here they resort, however, to their usual subterfuge, by pretending that our doctrine was rejected in the ancient church. These dolts do not hesitate at any falsehood; for they neither know who Aerius was, nor what he taught. Epiphanius writes, that Aerius maintained that prayer for the dead is useless. Now, we are not speaking of prayer, but of the Lord's Supper; and the question is, whether this is a sacrifice that benefits the dead, ex opere operato. This matter therefore has nothing to do with Aerius.

[94] Whatever else may be adduced in favor of the Mass, from the writings of the Fathers, has no bearing upon this controversy. For the good and pious Fathers did not teach the abominable, blasphemous, antichristian error, that the Mass, ex opere operato, merits the remission of guilt and punishment for the living and the dead; for this error is a manifest heresy, contrary to all the Scriptures of the Prophets and Apostles. All Christians should know, that this Popish Mass is nothing but frightful idolatry.

[97] But such idolatry will remain in the world while Antichrist continues to reign. For as there was a false worship established in Israel for the adoration of Baal, and unholy services were performed under the semblance of the true worship of God; so Antichrist, in the church, turned the Lord's Supper into an idolatrous service; and yet, as God preserved his church, that is, a number of saints in Israel and Judah, so he preserved his church, that is, a few saints, under Popery, so that the Christian church did not entirely disappear. [98] Although Antichrist will, to some extent, continue with his false modes of worship, till Christ the Lord shall visibly come and judge the world; yet all Christians should guard themselves against such idolatry, and learn to serve God truly, and to seek the remission of sins through faith in Christ, that they may truly honor God, and have a substantial consolation against sins. For God graciously sent his Gospel light to warn and save us.

[99] We have made these brief statements relative to the Mass, in order to show all godly men of every nation, that we with all due diligence preserve the true honor and the proper use of the Mass, and that we have most important reasons for not agreeing with our adversaries. We warn all good men, not to participate with our adversaries in this great abomination and abuse of the Mass, and thus to burden themselves with the sins of other men. This is a most weighty matter; this abuse is equal to that in the days of Elijah, in the false worship of Baal. We have now presented this matter in mild and gentle terms; but if our adversaries continue their vituperation, they will find that we can speak to them with greater severity.

Previous: [Article XXIII(XI):] Of the Marriage of Priests

Next: [Article XXVII(XIII):] Of Monastic Vows