The Glories of the Lutheran Church
In 1931 Concordia Publishing House printed Church-Membership: Addresses and Prayers at the Meetings of the Ev. Lutheran Joint Congregation of St. Louis, MO., and Its Board of Elders by CFW Walther. It first appeared in 1888 and was then translated into English by the Rev. Rudolph Prange. Several years ago CPH republished the work, newly titled "For the Life of the Church." The book collects hundreds of prayers drafted by Walther for use in the joint St. Louis congregation according to the Church year, with prayer topics from the Word of God, and dozens of other concerns of God's people to be lifted up before the mercy seat. Of special interest are the addresses Walther gave to the Voter's Assembly of the congregation.
What follows is from the 1931 edition titled "The Glories of the the Lutheran Church". Take it in, and pray that the same may be said again of our congregations and Synod as Walther said of his own many years ago.
Before many witnesses, dear brethren, you have signed the constitution of our congregation. Thereby you have become a part of our organization as voting members. Allow me to welcome you in the name of the congregation. Yesterday was the beginning of the week in which occurs the birthday of our beloved Reformer Luther. Therefore, I would improve this opportunity by emphasizing the fact that you are now members of the Church which bears the great Reformer's name.
Upon that fact you are to be congratulated. You are members, not of a sect, but of the Church of the Reformation, which has been purged of all the corruptions of the Popery, the Church of the pure doctrine and unadulterated Sacraments, the orthodox Church, the true visible Church of God on earth. All the sects that have left the Roman Church were originally Lutheran. The Swiss, the French, the Dutch, the English, and the Scottish so-called Reformed sects, all were at one time Lutheran, and the good features which they still possess they owe to the Reformation of Luther. Their first martyrs were Lutheran martyrs. As Lutherans they were put to death by the papists. The claim of all these sects that they are more thoroughly purged of papal corruptions than the Lutheran Church amounts to nothing more than this - they cast overboard not only the false popish doctrines, but also those Bible doctrines of the Lutheran Church which they could not reconcile with their reason.
Rejoice therefore that you have become united with the old, genuine Church of the Reformation.
Regard not our persons. We, too, are poor sinners, having many failings. But great treasures are ours - not such treasures as are at the mercy of thieves or rust and moths, but treasures far different, much greater, and exceedingly more precious. We have the pure Word of God. We know the right way to heaven. We have the true doctrine concerning good works. We have true consolation in days of tribulation and in the hour of death. We have the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper, confession as insitituted by Christ. We practise and apply the same rules of discipline as did the apostles. We tolerate no manifest servant of sin. We tolerate none who refuse to accept God's Word at full worth, who cling to fundamental errors, and will not permit themselves to be admonished in a brotherly way. We practise brotherly admonition, church discipline, and excommunication as instituted by Christ.
We have beautiful services and pleasing ceremonies.
We have books - Catechisms, hymn-books, books of forms, schoolbooks - that are free from error.
Rejoice, then, because you have every reason to do so.
Be faithful therefore and loyal unto the end, so that, when you die a blessed death, you will be translated from this earthly congregation into the triumphant Church of the elect in heaven.
God grant it for the sake of Christ, our Savior, to whom be glory in time and in all eternity! Amen.
(CFW Walther, Church Membership, Trans. by Rudolph Prange. CPH, 1931. pp. 7-9.)