In 1529, Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, instituted a colloquy at Marburg between Luther and his followers and fellow combatants in the Reformation, on the one hand, and Zwingli and some of his followers, on the other. At first it seemed that the desired object of brotherly and ecclesiastical union could really be attained; for the Swiss made one concession after the other. But the movement was brought to a halt at the discussion of the doctrine of the Lord's Supper. For the sake of peace the Swiss, indeed, offered to speak like Luther concerning the Substantial presence of the true body and the true blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper, only they would understand by that a spiritual presence. Spite of this the Swiss desired with great earnestness — Zwingli even with tears in his eyes — that brotherly and ecclesiastical fellowship be not refused them on account of this single difference.
What did Luther do on this occasion? He had soon noticed that the Swiss were not acting quite honestly. That his Suspicion was not without foundation was revealed, you know, six months later, when Zwingli overthrew the entire agreement and denied all concessions which he had made at Marburg. Accordingly, Luther said to Zwingli: "Yours is a different spirit from ours." This winged word, this memorable, world-renowned dictum of Luther, struck the heart of Zwingli and his followers with the force of lightning. Zwingli speaks of the effect in a letter to his friend Dr. Propst, pastor at Bremen. He relates that whenever he repeated those words of Luther to himself, — and he did that often, — he felt their consuming force. Why? He and his friends knew they were beaten; they felt that they stood revealed and had to uncover their insincere aim of setting up a mere external union.
What was Luther's meaning when he uttered those words: "Yours is a different spirit from ours"? Unquestionably this: "If you poor mortals were merely caught in an error because of your human weakness, we could, yea, we would have to, regard you as weak, erring brethren, but still as our brethren, because you would surely be soon rid of this single error of yours. But that is not the case; the difference between you and us is this, that yours is a different spirit."
What spirit did Luther find lacking in the Swiss? Unquestionably the spirit to which the Lord refers when He says, Matt. 18,3: "Verily, I say unto you, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Indeed, my friends, that is the spirit which Zwingli and his followers lacked and which those who follow in his footsteps in our day are still lacking. It is the spirit of childlike simplicity which takes the Father in heaven by His words. The spirit of the Zwinglian, Calvinist, and unionistic churches is nothing else than the rationalistic spirit, the spirit of doubt and uncertainty which, like unenlightened, unregenerate Nicodemus, queries before every mystery of the Holy Scriptures: "How can these things be?" John 3, 9. That passes my comprehension; that is contrary to my reason. When people of this character make concessions, they give you no assurance of reliability. This is plainly shown by their entering into union with people who teach doctrines contrary to their own. Moreover, as a rule, they betray that they are ashamed of their religion themselves and are unwilling to admit with their mouths as much as they are forced to admit in their hearts.
On the other hand, the spirit of Luther and of the entire genuine Lutheran Church is the spirit of childlike simplicity, the spirit of faith, the spirit that submits to the Word of God and takes human reason captive under the wisdom from on high. It is the spirit that finds expression in one of our glorious hymns, in these words: —
What Thou hast spoken true must be;
Let no one who is unable to confess these words with the pious poet call himself a Lutheran; he belongs to the fanatical sects.
from C.F.W. Walther, 'Law and Gospel, Seventeenth Evening Lecture' (February 6, 1885.)Read More