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Protestants and Radicals – Martin Bucer's Debate with Hessian Anabaptists (1538)

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Jörg: I spoke of usury. Although this church was to be better than the papist, I have evidence in my heart that led to my separation: for avarice is now double in the church.

Butzer: I spoke of church discipline. We intend to speak with you first about this and later about usury. You don’t have cause enough to separate yourselves, for you shouldn’t be more strict than Christ, who commanded to cut off only those who will not hear the church after adequate warning and conviction, even though they’ve been exposed thoroughly to the proper text Matthew 18.

(Jörg) He had given answer on church discipline and discussed with his pastor the way Matthew 18 stands written. And that the preachers have withheld the sacrament from the open sinners was more of a warning than an improvement.

(Butzer) Jorg didn’t deal with the pastor according to the text Matthew 18, for he didn’t take it to the fellowship and to the church. Thus even the believers didn’t agree with him in condemning the pastor. The church must exercise the ban. If a mayor didn’t use his office and the community suffered, it wasn’t for a single citizen to unseat him. In the same way a solitary citizen in the kingdom of Christ can expel no one. By his separation Jorg had offended the community and done no honor to the Word of God.

(Jörg) He had acted justly according to his understanding. For he had only shown the pastor that he should stand apart from those things which were wrong. Because he wouldn’t stand apart, he had justly separated himself.

(Butzer) He would like to see the text: whether the pastor expelled the sinner or whether a single person might separate himself.

(Jörg) He hadn’t separated himself from the parish or the people but only shunned the pastor along with his doctrine.

(Butzer) Said he had shunned the community for he had shunned the preaching [service]. For there one is to hear the Word, receive the Sacrament, pray and give alms. And according to the Gospel (Matt. 23, v.) – “they sit on Moses seat,” etc. – they are not to pay attention to the person of the preacher. In short, no individual alone is to remove a mayor or pastor or because of them, where they are lazy in their offices, to sunder himself from the civic and Christian community with the other citizens and Christians. Those who belong to Judas have heard the Word of God. He desired again to have the ground and proof text for his separation; for he had not shunned the pastor but the office of pastor.

(Jörg) Repeated the words of Matthew 18; the church hasn’t had the strength to live up to it. So he pointed it out to the mayor and town council; and if Butzer wouldn’t give it adequate acceptance he would let it stand to his record. But he was certain of it in his heart.

(Butzer) The Lord gave the Key to the church and not to any single individual.

(Jörg) Said the church had shown itself to be incapable of such discipline.

(Butzer) Nevertheless he hadn’t acted properly in relation to the church; even if it had been foul in its leadership. Neither he nor any other individual is empowered to expel someone and especially not to appropriate the common service of the church. Expulsion was for two purposes, that the good be not corrupted by the bad and that those cut off may be shamed. He asked again as before, since the church had not expelled the pastor, that Jorg might show the text on the basis of which he had shunned pastor, pastoral office and the whole fellowship before an official expulsion by the church [had taken place].

(Jörg) Said still: He had punished them according to the ordinance (even here in the church office his weakness was demonstrated, but he didn’t abandon it). Note and watch him: he did it justly, in separating himself.

(Butzer) Among the Corinthians the church had managed the communion improperly, that is with prophesying by tongues and much more; but the apostles had not therefore expelled the church, and Jorg had no divine command, when he immediately punished the pastor, that he should separate himself.

(Jörg) Said: After Paul showed the Corinthians their crimes they improved themselves and expelled some.

(Butzer) Indeed they expelled those cited, but grew in much other wickedness, as Paul complained in the other epistle to the Corinthians (12:20): “I feared, lest when I came to you ...” etc. But be that as it may, Jorg still hasn’t brought a holy text forward which would justify his separation, even though the church may have been neglectful in exercising church discipline.

(Jörg) Repeated his previous argument, that [they] have acknowledged it to be wrong and have indicated as much to them here in the church office. And since they were all at ease in this practice, he hoped he had done justly and stopped with that.

(Butzer) Concluded from it that he had showed no text for his separation; for those only are to be shunned who will not hear the church.

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