The Minor German Reformed Confessions

We Are Reformed

The following overview on the Minor German Reformed Confessions comes from the book: The Creeds of Christendom by Phillip Schaff

We will be posting the seven Confessions/Catechism of the Corpus et Syntagma Confessionum as part of our Reformed Confessions line. You can view/read/translate them for free on Google Books here and/or download the PDF version we have hosted.

Heinrich Heppe: Die Bekenntniss-Schriften der reformirten Kirchen Deutschlands. Elberfeld, 1860. (Contains nine confessions of secondary importance, most of which are not found in other collections.)

The remaining Confessions of the Reformed Churches in Germany have only a local importance, and may be briefly disposed of.

1. The Confession of Elector Frederick III. of the Palatinate, 1577. — It was his last will and testament, and was published after his death by his son, John Casimir. It may be regarded as an explanatory appendix to the Heidelberg Catechism. It is a clear and strong testimony of his catholic and evangelical faith, and contains some wholesome warnings against the unchristian intolerance of the princes and theologians of his age. 1

2. The Confession of Anhalt, or Repetitio Anhaltina (i.e., a Repetition of the Augsburg Confession), 1581. 2 — It was prepared chiefly by Wolfgang Amling, Superintendent of Anhalt, and laid before a conference with Hessian divines held at Cassel, March, 1579.

The duchy of Anhalt, on the banks of the Elbe and Saale (formerly divided into four duchies, called after the principal towns, Anhalt-Dessau, Anhalt-Zerbst, Anhalt-Bernburg, Anhalt-Cöthen, in 1853 united into two, 1863 into one) embraced the Lutheran reformation in 1534, but during the controversies which led to the Formula Concordiæ it adhered to Melanchthon, and finally passed over to the Reformed faith in 1596. Prince John George married a daughter of Prince Casimir of the Palatinate, and introduced the Heidelberg Catechism and a simpler form of worship. At a later period (1644) Lutheranism was partly re-established, but Dessau, Bernburg, and Cöthen remained Reformed.

The ‘Anhalt Repetition’ can scarcely be numbered among the Reformed Confessions. It belongs to the Melanchthonian transition period, and represents simply a milder type of Lutheranism in opposition to the Flacian party. It recognizes, along with the Altered Augsburg Confession and the Corpus Doctrinæ of Melanchthon, the Smalcald Articles and Luther’s Catechisms, and professes even the manducatio oralis and the manducatio indignorum. 3 This is clearly incompatible with the Reformed system of doctrine.

3. The Confession of Nassau, 1578, prepared, at the request of Count John of Nassau-Dillenburg, by the Rev. Christopher Pezel, who had been expelled from Saxony for Crypto-Calvinism. It was adopted by a general synod of that country, and first printed in 1593. It is Melanchthonian in the sense of the Altered Augsburg Confession and the Confession of Saxony, and rejects the doctrine of ubiquity as an unscriptural innovation and fiction. 4

4. The Bremen Confession (Consensus Ministerii Bremensis), prepared, 1598, by the same Pezel, who in the mean time had removed to Bremen, and signed by the pastors of that city. It is more decidedly Reformed, and adopts the Calvinistic view of predestination. Among, the books herein approved and recommended to the study of the pastors are also the Geneva Harmonia Confessionum, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Decades of Bullinger, and the Institutes of Calvin, as well as the works of Melanchthon. 5

5. The Hessian Confession, adopted by a General Synod at Cassel, A.D.1607, and published 1608. 6 It treats only of five articles: the Ten Commandments, the abolition of popish picture idolatry, the Person of Christ (against ubiquity), the eternal election, and the Lord’s Supper (against the manducatio indignorum). The Heidelberg Catechism and a modification of Luther’s Small Catechism were both used in Electoral Hesse. 7

6. The Confession of the Heidelberg Theologians, of 1607, is an exposition of what the Reformed Churches of Germany believe, and what they reject. 8

7. The Catechism of Emden, 1554, prepared, after the model of Calvin’s Catechism, by John a Lasko, or Laski (1499-1560), a converted nobleman and reformer of Poland. It was used in the Reformed Church of East Friesland, where he labored several years. It was afterwards superseded by the Heidelberg Catechism, which is partly based upon it. 9

  1. The German text is given by Heppe, pp. 1-18; a Latin translation in the Corpus et Syntagma Confessionum, with a Preface by John Casimir. []
  2. The German text in Heppe, pp. 19-67, the Latin in Niemeyer, pp. 612-641. Böckel excludes it from his collection because it is not strictly Reformed. []
  3. Ebrard (Kirchen- and Dogmengeschichte, Vol. III. p. 575) is certainly wrong when he says that the Repetitio Anhaltina proves that the Anhalt clergy ‘schon damals ganz und gar reformirt über die Person Christi und das h. Abendmahl dachte.’ It expressly asserts in Art. vii. that even ‘indigne viscentes non quidem nudum aut communem panem calicemque manducant et bibunt, sed ipsum corpus et sanguinem Domini in Sacramento Coenæ manducantes et bibentes . . . rei fiunt corporis et sanguinis Domini.’ See Niemeyer, p. 628, and Heppe, p. 46.[]
  4. Heppe, pp. 68-146. []
  5. Ibid. pp. 147-243.[]
  6. Ibid. pp. 244-249.[]
  7. Comp. Heppe, Geschichte der Hessischen Generalsynoden von 1568-1582, Kassel, 1847, 2 vols. The vexed question whether Hessia is Lutheran or Calvinistic has called forth a large controversial literature, in which the numerous works of this indefatigable investigator of the early history of German Protestantism are very prominent. []
  8. Heppe, pp. 250 sqq []
  9. Ibid. pp. 294-310. Comp. Bartels, Johannes a Lasco, in the ninth volume of the valuable series of Väter und Begründer der reformirten Kirche (1861), pp. 53 sq. []