The Hessian Confession is commonly referred to as the Confession of the Synod of Cassel. Both that confession and this one are one in the same.
I. Of The Ten Commandments.
II. The Abolishing of Images.
III. From the Articles of Faith and the person of Christ.
IV. The eternal election of grace.
V. The Holy Supper.
Printed in Cassel by Wilhelm Wessel, Anno 1608.
We believe from the heart and confess with the mouth, before God in heaven and His holy churches on the earth, that the Holy Scripture given from God is the only, the certain, and the infallible rule of conduct, the foundation and standard for everything in our Christianity that we believe and ought to do. Therefore, all that conforms to that standard is correct and good, but what runs counter to it is false and evil. For thus says the Lord, “Verily, to the law and the testimony: if they do not speak accordingly, they will not have the dawning of the day” (Isa. 8:20). Likewise: “Walk not in the statutes of your fathers, and observe not their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols. I am the Lord your God; you shall walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezek. 20:18). Similarly, Christ sends us to the Scriptures when He says, “Search the Scriptures” (John 5:39). Also: “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” (Luke 10:26). Also: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). To the same effect, Peter says, “We have a sure word of prophecy, and you do well to heed it” (2 Peter 1:19). Like St. Paul before the governor Felix, so we also confess and declare before the whole world that we “believe all things which are written in the law and in the prophets” (Acts 24:14). We “say none other things than those which the prophets did say” (Acts 26:22, and the apostles, on which foundation we are built into a habitation of God through the Spirit, Eph. 2:19).
On this immutable foundation of divine truth, we believe and teach the holy Ten Commandments, word for word, to the letter, as God spoke them from His holy mouth, wrote them with His own finger on the tables of stone, and had Moses write them for us in the book of the covenant, with an accompanying earnest warning, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord thy God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). But with respect to the division of the Ten Commandments, because it is not expressly fixed by the Word of God, we do not wish to quarrel over this with other churches. Inasmuch as that division which was customary in the printed catechism of our churches beginning from the period of Count Philip is agreeable to Scripture and antiquity, we consider it to be not unreasonable that the same be uniformly and everywhere retained and made use of in our churches. We also are expecting that this division will give no one a reason to bring schism or rupture to our churches.
As then we are bound to teach and study the words of the holy Ten Commandments, so also we are pledged and obliged to obey them, as was said by Moses, the man of God: “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so, etc. Keep therefore and do them, etc.” (Deut. 5:5). Likewise: “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it. Ye shall not every man do whatsoever is right in his own eyes” (Deut. 12:33, 8). Further, God the Lord has said in His holy Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness, etc.” (Ex. 20:4). Also: “Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire. Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the likeness of male or female, etc.” (Deut. 4:15). Also: “Take heed then unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you. Do not make unto you a graven image of any likeness, as the Lord your God has commanded. For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” (4:23). To the contrary, it is never written that God commanded and said, “Thou shalt make a picture of me; thou shalt make some graven image or likeness of me.” Similarly, nowhere in the entire Bible is it written that either the patriarchs Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and David, or the prophets and apostles, or other saints of God, even once erected an image of God, of Christ, or of Mary, or other deceased patriarchs and saints. Much rather the Scripture testifies that they broke in pieces the images and idols erected by others, and put them out of the sight of the churches. Therefore we regard ourselves bound and engaged to remove from the eyes of God’s congregation the superstitious images carried over from the papacy, which had been set up, consecrated, and used in our churches for no other end than idolatry.
Respecting God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our faith is on the same lines as everything on this topic that has been compiled from the Word of God and drawn up in the articles of our Christian apostolic creed. Besides these we believe, teach, and declare nothing. Instead, we bring our reason captive in obedience to the Holy Scripture and the articles of the Christian creed. Accordingly, when Holy Scripture nowhere declares, neither in the Old nor in the New Testament, and neither by the evangelists nor by the apostles, that the humanity or the body of Christ, or the human nature in Christ’s person, is physically present everywhere, at one and the same time in heaven, in the air, on the earth, in the water, in the fire, and in all creaturely things, we shall once again adhere to Scripture and part company with our old synodical decisions, refraining from ways of speaking that are unknown to Holy Scripture. Acknowledging ourselves to be under obedience to Holy Scripture, we only speak of the high mystery of the person of Christ to the extent that Scripture does, and we wish to remain silent insofar as it does. For the Lord says in Scripture, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). Likewise: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). This is something we believe from the heart, and make it our highest comfort in all our trouble and concern. But we also console ourselves that the Lord has said, “I leave the world, and go to the Father” (John 16:28). Likewise: “I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them through thy name, that they may be one, as we are” (John 17:11). Also: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go away to prepare a place for you. And if I go away to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself: that you may be where I am” (John 14:2–3).
After the same fashion, we believe and teach with respect to the high mystery of eternal predestination all that is written about it in the Bible, and further than that we believe and teach nothing on the matter. We disavow in this regard all impertinent prying and disputing spun from human reason. We abstain from the harsh language which some may use and which might give occasion for the simple to fall into despair or into carnal security. Thus we handle this doctrine in a way that ministers to people an assured and steadfast comfort, and a godly life and walk. And that we may yet more expressly explain ourselves on this point, our confession is just that which Luther has taken from the Word of God (which at all times we make our only infallible foundation in this and all other matters), and in the Bible has written a preface to the epistle to the Romans, which reads verbatim as follows: “In chapters nine, ten and eleven, he (Paul) teaches about God’s eternal predestination, from which originally proceeds who shall believe or not believe, who can get free from sin or not get free, so that whether we shall become godly is altogether taken out of our hands and placed in the hand of God alone. This is in the highest degree necessary. For we are so weak and doubtful that if it depended on us no one at all would be saved, and the devil would undoubtedly overwhelm them all. But since God is dependable, so that his predestination does not fail and no one can hinder him, we still have hope in the face of sin, etc.” Thus far, Luther. And this precisely is also our confession regarding this high mystery of eternal election.
Respecting the most holy Lord’s Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ, we believe and observe all that is written in the Holy Bible, but besides that we believe and teach nothing. The Scripture testifies that our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night in which He was betrayed, took quite genuine bread and wine (such as the host and all other Jews on the same occasion ate and drank during the meal at their tables), and broke into pieces the same bread with His hands at the table, in the sight of His disciples, and commanded them to take the broken bread itself and eat. And then He said, “This do,” which word of command the apostles and early church understood to indicate that the Supper should be administered with actually nourishing bread and with the holy ceremony of breaking, and that this actual breaking of the bread has been prescribed to us (Acts 2, 4, 20; 1 Cor. 10, 11). Therefore we regard ourselves as bound to observe the Lord’s Supper with quite genuine bread, and to practice a breaking of the bread. And we are certain that in this we act not improperly, but properly, and can with the holy apostle say, we have received of the Lord that which also we have delivered unto you. But if we did not practice this, how could we truthfully say that we have received of the Lord, since what we have received is indeed not without genuine bread or without such breaking (1 Cor. 10, 11)? Moreover, because the Lord says of that bread broken and appointed for use in the sacrament of His body, “Eat” (so that what is understood according to plain usage is that eating of bread with the mouth with which everyone is familiar), we believe and practice that this consecrated bread is to be received with our physical mouth, chewed with our teeth, tasted with our tongues, and should be taken into our stomachs; and this is all the same with the actual eating with the mouth with which everyone is familiar. However, this bread is called and is a sacrament of the body of Christ, and in accordance with this holy usage and rule is not straight common bread; and accordingly this eating is called and is, not a common but a sacramental eating. After all, the Lord says of the bread, “This is my body which is given for you”; and further, “This do in remembrance of me.” By these words, He calls for faith, and will not only have us with the physical mouth eat the earthly bread, but also with the mouth of believing hearts eat and drink the heavenly food, which is His true body given for us, and His true blood on the cross poured out for us from His sides and wounds for the forgiveness of our sins. Thereby our hungering and thirsting souls will be fed, satiated, and revived unto everlasting life. Thus we believe that in the holy Lord’s Supper, along with the physical use of the sacrament of the body of Christ, there is at the same time an actual partaking of the true body and blood of Jesus Christ Himself, and not a partaking that is imaginary or merely notional. Through such nurture Christ dwells in our hearts. On this account, the Lord Jesus Christ is not absent, but present truly to feed us in His holy Supper with His holy flesh, and makes us to drink of His blood. This use of the body and blood of Christ brings and yields strong consolation, life, and eternal salvation to all timid, distressed, but believing hearts, in accordance with the word and promise of the Lord, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. He hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54–56). But woe to all who do not have this feeding, and gape after other things, for the Lord says: “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” If such be the case, we rightly pray in accordance with our church order: “O almighty God, give us to relish with true faith the body and blood of thy dear Son in the holy sacrament, that He should live in us, and we in Him.” Likewise: “Give us to receive, with the appetite of true piety and in thankfulness, His body and blood in His holy Lord’s Supper.” Also: “Give us above all to eat and drink His body and blood in the holy sacrament unto everlasting life, in order that we may always live in Him and He in us.” Both sorts of eating, namely eating with the mouth during the sacrament, and then the spiritual eating of the body of Christ, are set forth in Scripture in clear and distinct letters. But that beyond these two there is yet a third eating, in which with the physical mouth the body of Christ is eaten also by blasphemers, sorcerers, and other unbelievers, in an inexplicable and unfeeling manner, and indeed without any benefit or fruit, lacks any basis in the institution of the Supper or in any passage in the Holy Scriptures. For this reason, we adhere to the said two ways of eating that are expressly set forth in the Word of God, and leave to the side the third, as that which in Scripture is supported neither by a command nor a promise, though if churches believe or hold it we have no desire either to quarrel with them over this or to condemn them. This then is our simple and straightforward faith and confession respecting the above-mentioned articles, founded securely on the divine Word in clear and distinct letters, and in nothing contrary to the Augsburg Confession, its Apology, and our church order. We submit all to the judgment and understanding of each Christian and indeed to the entire Christian church, not doubting that to everyone from now on it will appear manifest and evident how invalid are the diverse accusations of frightful and detestable errors with which until now we have been loaded, but of which we are not at all aware. God be praised. The God of all grace and mercy keep us in the true faith, and grant peace and truth to His dear churches.
(Translated by George Friesen and J.Brigman)