Preface to the Solid Declaration
When, by the special grace and mercy of the Almighty, the doctrine concerning the chief articles of our Christian religion (which under the Papacy had been horribly obscured by human teachings and ordinances) had been explained and purified again from [in accordance with the direction and analogy of] God’s Word by Dr. Luther, of blessed and holy memory, and the papistic errors, abuses, and idolatries had been rebuked; and this pure reformation was nevertheless regarded by its opponents as [introducing] a new doctrine and was violently (though without foundation) charged with being entirely contrary to God’s Word and the Christian ordinances, and, in addition, was loaded with [almost endless] unsupportable calumnies and accusations, the Christian [the most illustrious and in religious piety most prominent] Electors and Princes, and the Estates [of the Empire] which at that time had embraced the pure doctrine of the Holy Gospel and had their churches reformed in a Christian manner according to God’s Word, had a Christian Confession prepared from God’s Word at the great Diet of Augsburg in the year 1530 and delivered it to the Emperor Charles V. In this they clearly and plainly made their Christian confession as to what was being held and taught in the Christian evangelical churches concerning the chief articles, especially those in controversy between them and the Papists; and although this Confession was received with disfavor by their opponents, still, thank God, it remains to this day unrefuted and unoverthrown.
To this Christian [pious] Augsburg Confession, so thoroughly grounded in God’s Word, we herewith pledge ourselves again [publicly and solemnly] from our inmost hearts; we abide by its simple, clear, and unadulterated meaning as the words convey it, and regard the said Confession as a pure Christian symbol, with which at the present time true Christians ought to be found next to [which pious hearts ought to receive next to the matchless authority of] God’s Word; just as in former times concerning certain great controversies that had arisen in the Church of God, symbols and confessions were proposed, to which the pure teachers and hearers at that time pledged themselves with heart and mouth. We intend also, by the grace of the Almighty, faithfully to abide until our end by [the doctrine of] this Christian Confession, mentioned several times, as it was delivered in the year 1530 to the Emperor Charles V; and it is our purpose, neither in this nor in any other writing, to recede in the least from that oft-cited Confession, nor to propose another or new confession.
Now, although the Christian doctrine of this Confession has in great part remained unchallenged (save what has been done by the Papists), yet it cannot be denied that some theologians have departed from some great [principal] and important articles of the said Confession, and either have not attained to their true meaning, or at any rate have not continued steadfastly therein, and occasionally [some] have even undertaken to attach to it a foreign meaning, while at the same time they wished to be regarded as adherents of [they professed to embrace] the Augsburg Confession, and to avail themselves and make their boast of it [for a pretext]. From this, grievous and injurious dissensions have arisen in the pure evangelical churches; just as even during the lives of the holy apostles among those who wished to be called Christians, and boasted of Christ’s doctrine, horrible errors arose likewise. For some sought to be justified and saved by the works of the Law, Acts 15, 1-29, others denied the resurrection of the dead, 1 Cor. 15, 12, and still others did not believe that Christ was true and eternal God.
Against these the holy apostles had to inveigh strenuously in their sermons and writings, although [they were well aware that] also at that time such fundamental errors and severe controversies could not occur without offense both to unbelievers and to those weak in the faith. In a similar manner at present our opponents, the Papists, rejoice at the dissensions that have arisen among us, in the unchristian and vain hope that these discords might finally cause the suppression of the pure doctrine, while those who are weak in faith are [greatly] offended [and disturbed], and some of them doubt whether, amid such dissensions, the pure doctrine is with us, and others do not know with whom to side with respect to the articles in controversy. For the controversies which have occurred are not, as some would regard them, mere misunderstandings or disputes concerning words [as are apt to occur], one side not having sufficiently grasped the meaning of the other, and the difficulty lying thus in a few words which are not of great moment; but here the subjects of controversy are important and great, and of such a nature that the opinion of the party in error cannot be tolerated in the Church of God, much less be excused or defended. Necessity, therefore, requires us to explain these controverted articles according to God’s Word and approved writings, so that every one who has Christian understanding can notice which opinion concerning the matters in controversy accords with God’s Word and the Christian Augsburg Confession, and which does not. And sincere Christians who have the truth at heart may guard and protect themselves against [flee and avoid] the errors and corruptions that have arisen.