The confessional writings of our Church are the legacy that we have inherited from our fathers. Hence, in these jubilee years, we should be careful to celebrate these great historical events not merely by decorating the fathers' graves by splendid orations and great, festive demonstrations, but rather by earnest heart-searching and inquiry as to how we regard this legacy of the fathers. The fathers of our Lutheran Church prized purity of teaching as their greatest treasure. Their one fear was that they might in some way adulterate the truth. Their one purpose was to spread the truth by faithful instruction in pulpit and school. Alas, how many who call themselves Lutherans prove themselves unworthy of the fathers! In large territories of the Lutheran Church, purity of teaching is held in but low regard, and a spirit of indifference can calmly see one scriptural doctrine after the other thrown overboard, while but little effort is put forth to indoctrinate the Church's youth in church and school.
The founders of our beloved Synod had eyes opened to recognize in the Lutheran Confessions a golden legacy. How they prized the truth of these writings, and how zealous were they to hand on this truth intact to us, their children! To this end they erected educational institutions, published books and periodicals, and established congregations and schools. With sadness of heart we must register the indisputable fact that in our own generation, the appreciation and love of pure doctrine is waning. We can see this in many places. Our Church is in great danger of drifting into a state of lethargy. By the grace of God, the coming jubilees want to help us to appreciate anew our inheritance and to turn it to good account, so that with all our hearts we may join the psalmist in saying: "Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart" [Ps. 119:111].
Our fathers, however, not only rejoiced in the glory of the Lord that had risen upon them, they also were ready to prove the genuineness of their faith by supporting their Confession with a readiness to suffer shame, persecution, yes, even death for the sake of the truth. When at Spires and Augsburg they were threatened with severe punishment, they did not allow themselves to be intimidated. When at Marburg, Luther was tempted to make concessions to the Zwinglian party for the purpose of bringing about a great political confederation, calculated to afford the new teaching the protection of the sword, he withstood the temptation, heedless of consequences, and was willing to go his way alone rather than, at the expense of the divine truth, enter into an alliance with men who had "a different spirit." It was not easy thus to isolate oneself. The Smalcald Articles say: "To dis- sent from the agreement of so many nations and to be called schismatics is a grave matter. But divine authority commands all not to be allies and defenders of impiety and unjust cruelty." (Treatise 42; Triglotta, 516)
In this attitude of our fathers, my dear brothers, there lies a solemn admonition to the Church of the present day. And how we do need that admonition! The universal tendency of our times is to "get together." Isolation in church life is regarded as intolerable. Those who keep themselves separate for the sake of the truth are denounced as bigots. The well-being and prosperity of the Church is sought in the merger of church bodies even at the cost of truth. Sad to say, this destructive virus of unionism has infected also many Lutheran circles. This modern striving after external union despite spiritual disunion brings to one's mind the words that God spoke to Israel by the prophet Isaiah: "Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of Hosts, Him you shall honor as holy. Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread" [Isaiah 8:12–13].
God grant that the remembrance of the great events in the history of our Church may be to us all a call of admonition and encouragement not to seek the well-being of the Church in all manner of unions at the expense of truth, but rather to let it be our great care to hold fast for ourselves and our children our rich inheritance as embodied in our Lutheran Confessions. Then, even though we, with our brethren in the Synodical Conference, must feel ever more the sting of isolation, the true fountain of Israel will richly flow for us in the Word of God; heaven will stand open; we shall have a cheerful conscience, sweet comfort in life and death, and unfailing strength for a life of godliness. And God will use our testimony as a guide for many also outside of our Synod. May God bless the coming jubilees unto such glorious consummation! We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.