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Melanchthon's Commonplaces, 1521


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[Melanchthon's 1521 edition of the "Commonplaces of Theology" is the earliest systematic theology of the Reformation]

"Luther's little book "Christian Liberty" is at hand. He who wishes can seek from it further commendations of faith. However, I am of the opinion that the power of faith will be more clearly learned from Scriptural examples. 

In Genesis 15: 1, God promises Abraham his mercy in these magnificent words: " Fear not, Abraham, I am thy protector and thy exceeding great reward." A little later he promises him posterity. Then follows the word: "Abraham believed God and it was imputed unto him for righteousness." What did Abraham believe? Nothing but that God exists? Nay rather he believed the promise of God and then declared that faith by an illustrious example, as when he would have sacrificed his son nothing doubting but that God would have given him posterity, even though his son were slain. Now since faith is to give assent to the word of God, what Abraham really believed is made clear enough from the promise when God adds that he is Abraham's protector. Therefore, they believe who consider God as a protector, a father, and not only as a judge."

Melanchthon, Philip and Charles L. Hill. The Loci Communes of Philip Melanchthon, 179. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007.

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Melanchthon on Original Sin

"I shall submit several topics that witness to the fact of original sin. What can be plainer than Eph. 2: 3? "We were by nature children of wrath even as others." But if we are by nature, children of wrath, we were certainly born so. For what else can Paul mean than that all of our faculties are born subject to sin, and that at no time is there any good in any of our faculties? In Roms. 5, Paul has established an argument concerning sin, grace, and the law, wherein he teaches that sin was propagated upon all mankind. How is the sin of one man propagated, if all are not born sinners from one man? Nor can it be truly denied but that Paul is here talking about original sin. Now if he were speaking of each man's sin, he could not say that many died by one man's offense. For this would be a thing which could not possibly be said about what they term "actual sin." Who, with the exception of anyone who wishes to misrepresent the text, does not see this fact?  Now if Adam is not the author of sin, Christ alone will not be the author of righteousness, but Adam also. Likewise, if he is speaking here of each man's sin, why do children die who have as yet not committed what they call" actual sin?" And since death enters not except by sin, children necessarily are guilty of sin, and possess sin. But what kind of sin I ask? Most assuredly original sin. Moreover, Paul is speaking of that kind of sin by which we have all been condemned to death."

Melanchthon and Charles L. Hill. The Loci Communes of Phillip Melanchthon, 84,85. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Melanchthon on the Law 

"Summation: We are free by faith from the whole law, but this same faith, that Spirit of Christ which we have received, mortifies the remainder of sin in our flesh. Not because. the law demands it, but because that is the very nature of the Spirit that it cannot but mortify the flesh. This is what Paul says in Roms. 8: 1: "There is now no condemnation in them that are in Christ Jesus." He means thereby those who believe: and since they are already redeemed from the curse of the law, since they are already saved, these very persons walk not after the flesh; that is, since the Spirit rules in them, therefore the remainder of the flesh is crucified. Indeed, laws will be prescribed for believers by which the Spirit will mortify the flesh. For liberty is not yet consummated but only begun, until the Spirit increases and the flesh is killed. There is a use for the decalogue in the mortification of the flesh, but no use for ceremonial or judicial laws. It thus results that believers have use of the decalogue, but not of the rest of the laws."

Melanchthon and Charles L. Hill. The Loci Communes of Phillip Melanchthon, 234. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007.

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