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§ 55. The Second Helvetic Confession, A.D. 1566.
Confessio Helvetica Posterior. The Latin text, Zurich, 1566, 1568, 1608, 1651, etc.; recent editions by J. P. Kindler, with Preface of Winer, Sulzbach, 1825; by Fritzsche, Turici, 1839; and by Ed. Böhl, Vienna, 1866: also in the Collections of Corpus et Syntag. Confess., Oxford Sylloge, Augusti, and Niemeyer. The German text appeared frequently—Zurich, 1566; Basle, 1654; Berne, 1676, etc., and in the Collections of Beck, Mess, and Böckel. French ed. Geneva, 1566, etc. English translations in Hall's Harmony of Protestant Confessions (not complete); another by Owen Jones: The Church of the Living God; also the Swiss and Belgian Confessions and Expositions of the Faith, translated into the English language in 1862. London (Caryl Book Society), 1865 (complete, but inaccurate), and a third by Prof. Jerem. H. Good (of Tiffin, O.) in Bomberger's Reformed Church Monthly (Ursinus College, Pa.), for Sept. 1872, to Dec. 1873 (good, but made from the German translation).
Joh. Jak. Hottinger: Helvetische Kirchengeschichte, Zurich, 1708, Part III. pp. 894 sqq.
Hagenbach: Kritische Geschichte der Entstehung und Schicksale der ersten Basler Confession. Basel, 1827 (1828), pp. 85 sqq.
Niemeyer: Collect., Prolegomena, pp. lxiii.-lxviii.
L. Thomas: La Confession Helvétique, études historico-dogmatiques sur le xvie. siècle. Genève, 1853.
K. Sudhoff: Art. Helvetische Confession, in Herzog's Theol. Encyklop. 2d ed. Vol. V. pp. 749–755.
Carl Pestalozzi: Heinrich Bullinger. Leben und ausgewählte Schriften. Nach handschriftlichen und gleichzeitigen Quellen. Elberfeld, 1858 (5th Part of Väter und Begründer der reform. Kirche), pp. 413–421.
Before we proceed to the Calvinistic Confessions, we anticipate the Second Helvetic Confession, the last and the best of the Zwinglian family.
It is the work of Henry Bullinger (1504–1575), the pupil, friend, and successor of Zwingli, to whom he stands related as Beza does to Calvin. He was a learned, pious, wise, and faithful man, and the central figure in the second period of the Reformation in German Switzerland. Born at Bremgarten, in Aargau,764764 He was one of five sons of Dean Bullinger, who, like many priests of those days, in open violation of the laws of celibacy, lived in regular wedlock, but was much respected and beloved even by his bishop of Constance. He opposed Samson's traffic in indulgences, and became afterwards a Protestant through the influence of his son. educated in Holland and Cologne, where he studied patristic and scholastic theology, and read with great interest the writings of Luther and the Loci of Melanchthon, he became on his return intimately acquainted with Zwingli, accompanied him to the Conference at Berne (1528), and after laboring for some years at Cappel and Bremgarten, he was chosen his successor as chief pastor (Antistes) at Zurich, Dec. 9, 1531. This was shortly after the catastrophe at Cappel, in the darkest period of the Swiss Reformation.
Bullinger proved to be the right man in the right place. He raised the desponding spirits, preserved and completed the work of his predecessor, and exerted, by his example and writings, a commanding influence throughout the Reformed Church inferior only to that of Calvin. He was in friendly correspondence with Calvin, Bucer, Melanchthon, Laski, Beza, Cranmer, Hooper,765765 Bishop Hooper wrote from prison shortly before his martyrdom, May and December, 1554, to Bullinger, as 'his revered father and guide,' and the best friend he had ever found, and commended to him his wife and two children (Pestalozzi, l.c. p. 445). Lady Jane Grey,766766 Three letters of this singularly accomplished and pious lady, the great-granddaughter of Henry VII., to Bullinger, full of affection and gratitude, are still preserved as jewels in the City Library of Zurich, but his letters to her are lost. She translated a part of his book on Christian marriage into Greek, and asked his advice about learning Hebrew. Edward VI., against the will of Henry VIII., bequeathed his crown to Lady Jane Grey to save the Protestant religion, and this led to her execution at the Tower of London, Feb. 12, 1554, by order of Queen Mary. She met her fate with the spirit of a martyr, and sent, as a last token of friendship, her gloves to Bullinger, which were long preserved in his family (Pestalozzi, l.c. p. 445). and the leading Protestant divines and dignitaries of England. Some of them had found an hospitable refuge in his house and with his friends during the bloody reign of Mary (1553–58), and after their return, when raised to bishoprics and other positions of influence under Queen Elizabeth, they asked his counsel, and kept him informed about the progress of reform in their country. This correspondence is an interesting testimony not only to his personal worth, but also to the fraternal communion which then existed between the Anglican and the Swiss Reformed Churches.767767 See the Zurich Letters, published by 'The Parker Society,' Cambridge, second edition (chronologically arranged in one series), 1846. They contain, mostly from the archives of Zurich (the Simmler Collection), Geneva, and Berne, letters of Bishops John Jewel, John Parkhurst, Edmund Grindal, Edwin Sandys, Horn, John Foxe, Sir A. Cook, and others to Bullinger, as also to Gualter (Zwingli's son-in-law), Peter Martyr, Simmler, Lavater, Calvin, and Beza. The news of Bullinger's death was received in England with great grief. W. Barlow wrote to J. Simmler (Bullinger's son-in-law), March 13, 1576 (p. 494): ' How great a loss your Church has sustained by the death of the elder Bullinger, of most happy memory, yea, and our Church also, towards which I have heard that he always entertained a truly fraternal and affectionate regard, and indeed all the Churches of Christ throughout Europe.' Bishop Cox wrote to Gualter in the same year (p. 496): 'My sorrow was excessive for the death of Henry Bullinger, whom, by his letters and learned and pious writings, I had . . . known intimately for many years, although he was never known personally to me. Who would not be made sorrowful by the loss of such and so great a man, and so excellent a friend? not to mention that the whole Christian Church is disquieted with exceeding regret that so bright a star is forbidden any longer to shine upon earth.' Episcopacy was then not yet deemed the only valid form of the Christian ministry. He opened his house also to Italian Protestants, and treated even the elder Sozino, who died at Zurich, with great kindness and liberality, endeavoring to restrain his heretical tendency. In the latter years of his life he was severely tried by the death of his best friends (Bibliander, Froschauer, Peter Martyr, Pellican, Gessner, Blaarer, Calvin, Hyperius), and by a fearful pestilence which deprived him of his beloved wife and three daughters, and brought him to the brink of the grave. He bore all with Christian resignation, recovered from disease, and continued faithfully to labor for several years longer, until he was called to his reward, after taking affectionate farewell of all the pastors and professors of Zurich, thanking them for their devotion, assuring them of his love, and giving each one of them the hand with his blessing. He assumed the care of the Church of Zurich when it was in a dangerous crisis; he left it firmly and safely established.
Bullinger was one of the principal authors of the First Helvetic Confession, and the sole author of the Second. In the intervening thirty years Calvin had developed his amazing energy, while Romanism had formularized its dogmas in the Council of Trent.
Bullinger composed the Second Helvetic Confession in 1562, in latin, for his own use, as an abiding testimony of the faith in which he had lived and in which he wished to die. He showed it to Peter Martyr, who fully consented to it, shortly before his death (Nov. 12, 1562). Two years afterwards lie elaborated it more fully during the raging of the pestilence, and added it to his will, which was to be delivered to the magistrate of Zurich after his death, which he then expected every day.768768 See Bullinger's notes to the list of his writings; J. H. Hottinger, Schola Tigurina, p. 76; J. J. Simmler, Oratio de historia Confessionis Helveticæ, in Simmler's Collection, as quoted by Pestalozzi, l.c. pp. 416 sq. and 641. Also J. J. Hottinger, Helvet. Kirchengesch. Pt. III. p. 894.
But events in Germany gave it a public character. The pious Elector of the Palatinate, Frederick III., being threatened by the Lutherans with exclusion from the treaty of peace on account of his secession to the Reformed Church and publication of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), requested Bullinger (1565) to prepare a clear and full exposition of the Reformed faith, that he might answer the charges of heresy and dissension so constantly brought against the same. Bullinger sent him a manuscript copy of his Confession. The Elector was so much pleased with it that he desired to have it translated and published in Latin and German before the meeting of the Imperial Diet, which was to assemble at Augsburg in 1566, to act on his alleged apostasy.
In the mean time the Swiss felt the need of such a Confession as a closer bond of union. The First Helvetic Confession was deemed too short, and the Zurich Confession of 1545, the Zurich Consensus of 1549, and the Geneva Consensus of 1552 touched only the articles of the Lord's Supper and predestination. Conferences were held, and Beza came in person to Zurich to take part in the work. Bullinger freely consented to a few changes, and prepared also the German version. Geneva, Berne, Schaffhausen, Biel, the Grisons, St. Gall, and Muhlhausen expressed their agreement. Basle alone, which had its own Confession, declined for a long time, but ultimately acceded.
The new Confession appeared at Zurich, March 12, 1566, in both languages, at public expense, and was forwarded to the Elector and to Philip of Hesse.769769 The full title is: 'Confessio et Expositio simplex Orthodoxæ Fidei, et Dogmatum Catholicorum synceræ Religionis Christianæ. Concorditer ab Ecclesiæ Christi Ministris, qui sunt in Helvetia, Tiguri, Bernæ [Glaronæ, Basileæ], Scaphusii [Abbatiscellæ], Sangalli, Curiæ Rhetorum, et apud Confœderatos, Mylhusii item, et Biennæ: quibus adjunxerunt se et Genevensis [et Neocomensis] Ecclesiæ Ministri [una cum aliis Evangelii Præconibus in Polonia, Hungaria, et Scotia]; edita in hoc, ut universis testentur fidelibus, quod in unitate veræ et antiquæ Christi Ecclesiæ perstent, neque ulla nova, aut erronea dogmata spargant, atque ideo etiam nihil consortii cum ullis Sectis aut Hæresibus habeant. Ad Rom. cap. X. vers. 10. Corde creditur ad justitiam, ore autem confessio fit ad salutem. Tiguri: Excudebat Christophorus Froschoverus, Mense Martio, MDLXVI.' Glarus, Basle, Appenzell, Neufchatel, Poland, Hungary, and Scotland, which we have included in brackets, approved the Confession at a later period, and hence are not mentioned in the first edition, but partly in the second edition of 1568, and more fully in those of 1644 and 1651. A French translation appeared soon afterwards in Geneva under the care of Beza.
In the same month the Elector Frederick made such a manly and noble defense of his faith before the Diet at Augsburg, that even his Lutheran opponents were filled with admiration for his piety, and thought no longer of impeaching him for heresy.
The Helvetic Confession is the most widely adopted, and hence the most authoritative of all the Continental Reformed symbols, with the exception of the Heidelberg Catechism. Besides the Swiss Cantons and the Palatinate, in whose name it was first issued, the Reformed Churches of Neufchatel (1568), Basle, France (at the Synod of La Rochelle, 1571), Hungary (at the Synod of Debreczin, 1567), Poland (1571 and 1578), and Scotland (1566)770770 The ministers of Scotland wrote to Beza, September, 1566: 'Subscripsimus omnes, qui in hoc cœtu interfuimus, et hujus Academiæ sigillo publico obsignavimus.' This is stated after the Preface in the edition of the Corpus et Syntagma, and in Niemeyer, p. 465, but without naming the cœtus and Academia. gave it their sanction. It was well received also in Holland and England.771771 I find no evidence of a formal sanction by the Anglican Church; but that the Confession was well received there may be inferred from the high esteem in which Bullinger was held (see p. 391), and still more from the fact that his Decades (a popular compend of theology in five series of sermons, each containing ten sermons) were, next to Calvin's Institutes, the highest theological authority in England, and were recommended, as late as 1586, to the study of young curates along with the Bible. See Ch. Hardwick: A History of the Christian Church during the Reformation (third edition, London, 1873, p. 241), where the following order of the Southern Convocation is quoted from Wilkins, IV. 321: 'Every minister having cure, and being under the degrees of master of arts and bachelor of law, and not licensed to be a public preacher, shall, before the second day of February next, provide a Bible, and Bullinger's Decades in Latin and English, and a paper book,' etc. On Bullinger's Decades, and his abridgment of the same in the Handbook of the Christian Religion (1556), see Pestalozzi, pp. 386, 469, 505 sqq.
CHARACTER AND VALUE.
Like most of the Confessions of the sixteenth century, the Helvetic Confession is expanded beyond the limits of a popular creed into a lengthy theological treatise. It is the matured fruit of the preceding symbolical labors of Bullinger and the Swiss Churches. It is in substance a restatement of the First Helvetic Confession, in the same order of topics, but with great improvements in matter and form. It is scriptural and catholic, wise and judicious, full and elaborate, yet simple and clear, uncompromising towards the errors of Rome, moderate in its dissent from the Lutheran dogmas. It proceeds on the conviction that the Reformed faith is in harmony with the true Catholic faith of all ages, especially the ancient Greek and Latin Church.
Hence it is preceded by the Imperial edict of 380 (from the recognized Justinian code), which draws the line between orthodoxy and heresy, and excludes as heresies only the departures from the Apostolic and Nicene faith. It inserts also the brief Trinitarian creed ascribed to the Roman Pope Damasus (from the writings of Jerome), and referred to in said decree as a standard of orthodoxy.773773 Several creeds bear the name of Damasus, and are given by Hahn, Bibliothek der Symbole, pp. 179–190. The form inserted in the Confession is from a letter to Jerome (Opera, ed. Vallarsi, Tom. XI. p. 145), and is thus referred to in the Imperial edict: 'Cunctos populos . . . in ea volumus religione versari quam divinum Petrum Apostolum tradidisse Romanis . . . quamque Pontificem Damasum sequi claret, et Petrum Alexandriæ Episcopum, virum Apostolicæ sanctitatis.' Harmony in the fundamental doctrines of the ancient Church is declared sufficient, and brotherly union consistent with variety in unessentials, such as in fact always has existed in the Christian Church. As in former Confessions, so also in this, Bullinger distinctly recognizes, in the spirit of Christian liberty and progress, the constant growth in the knowledge of the Word of God, and the consequent right of improvement in symbolical statements of the Christian faith.
Upon the whole, the Second Helvetic Confession, as to theological merit, occupies the first rank among the Reformed Confessions, while in practical usefulness it is surpassed by the Heidelberg and Westminster Shorter Catechisms, and in logical clearness and precision by the Westminster Confession, which is the product of a later age, and of the combined learning and wisdom of English and Scotch Calvinism.774774 I add some testimonies on the Second Helvetic Confession. Hagenbach (l.c. p. 86): 'In ihrer ganzen Anlage and in der Durchführung einzelner Punkte, namentlich in praktischer Beziehung (in der Scheidung des Geistlichen and Weltlichen, u.s.w.) ist sie ein wahres dogmatisches Kunstwerk zu nennen.' Pestalozzi (Bullinger, p. 422): 'Diese Confession, zu der Bullinger zweimal Angesichts des Todes sich bekannte, erscheint als das reife Ergebniss seines Glaubenslebens, seiner reichen inneren und äusseren Erfahrung, als der Inbegriff seiner theologischen Ueberzeugung wie seiner kirchlichen Grundsätze, als die ächte, wahrhafte Entwicklung und Fortbildung seiner früheren Bekenntnisse, zumal der ersten helvetischen Confession (von 1536). Sie ist ein Muster von Klarheit und Einfachheit, wie selbst hervorragende Gegner anerkennen, ausgezeichnet durch den Ueberblick, der das Ganze der christlichen Lehre umfasst, der völlige Ausdruck von Bullingers Gesinnung, scharf ausgeprägt gegenüber den Verirrungen des römisch-katholischen Kirchenthums, milde in Bezug auf die lutherischen Besonderheiten, ohne doch der eigenen Ueberzeugung irgend Eintrag zu thun. Was aber vornehmlich beachtenswerth, sie ist durchaus getragen von dem vollen, klaren und ruhigen Bewusstsein, das mit so durchgreifender Kräftigkeit Bullinger beseelte, der ächten apostolischen und katholischen Kirche anzugehören, der wahrhaft berechtigten und rechtgläubigen Kirche Christi. Sie ist fern davon, bloss mit der Bibel in der Hand alles das zu verwerfen, was nicht ausdrücklich in der heiligen Schrift gelehrt und geboten ist, wiewohl ihr diese von höchster Geltung ist, als oberste Richtschnur der christlichen Wahrheit. Sie bricht nicht mit dem geschichtlich Gewordenen (der Ueberlieferung), ausser sofern dieses der Schrift nicht gemäss ist. Die ganze Entwicklung der christlichen Kirche seit den Tagen der Apostel bis auf die Gegenwart ist ihr von hohem Werthe und findet ihre ernste Berücksichtigung, nur dass sie sich nach der obersten Norm muss richten lassen. Insofern steht sie mit ihrer evangelischen Schwesterkirche lutherischen Bekenntnisses ganz auf demselben Boden und kann ihr stets die Hand reichen zur Annäherung, möglicher Weise auch zu einer Einigung, wenn gleich die Auffassung der christlichen Wahrheit nach gewissen Richtungen hin sich unterscheiden und deshalb die Entscheidung über diese oder jene einzelnen Lehrpunkte und Gebräuche verschieden ausfallen mag.' Dr. Hodge (Syst. Theol. Vol. III. p. 634): 'The Second Helvetic Confession is, on some accounts, to be regarded as the most authoritative symbol of the Reformed Church, as it was more generally received than any other, and was sanctioned by different parties.'
In view of the importance of this Confession, I give here a condensed translation of the original.775775 The full Latin text will be found in Vol. III. It consists of thirty chapters, which cover in natural order all the articles of faith and discipline which then challenged the attention of the Church.
Chap. I. The Holy Scriptures.—This chapter lays down the evangelical rule of faith, or the objective principle of Protestantism.
We believe and confess that the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the true Word of God, and have sufficient authority in and of themselves, and not from men; since God himself through them still speaks to us, as he did to the Fathers, the Prophets, and Apostles. They contain all that is necessary to a saving faith and a holy life; and hence nothing should be added to or taken from them (Deut. iv. 2; Rev. xxii. 18, 19).
From the Scriptures must be derived all true wisdom and piety, and also the reformation and government of the Churches, the proof of doctrines, and the refutation of errors (2 Tim. iii. 16, 17; 1 Tim. iii. 15; 1 Thess. ii. 13; Matt. x. 20). God may illuminate men directly by the Holy Spirit, without the external ministry; yet he has chosen the Scriptures and the preaching of the Word as the usual method of instruction.
The apocryphal books of the Old Testament, though they may be read for edification, are not to be used as an authority in matters of faith.776776 This is the first symbolical exclusion of the Apocrypha from the Canon. The Lutheran symbols leave this question open.
We condemn the doctrines of the Gnostics and Manichæans, and all others who reject the Scriptures in whole or in part.
Chap. II. The Interpretation of the Scriptures; the Fathers, Councils, and Traditions.—We acknowledge only that interpretation as true and correct which is fairly derived from the spirit and language of the Scriptures themselves, in accordance with the circumstances, and in harmony with other and plainer passages (2 Pet. i. 20, 21).
We do not despise the interpretation of the Greek and Latin fathers and the teaching of Councils, but subordinate them to the Scriptures; honoring them as far as they agree with the Scriptures, and modestly dissenting from them when they go beyond or against the Scriptures. In matters of faith we can not admit any other judge than God himself, who through his Word tells us what is true and what is false, what is to be followed, and what is to be avoided.
We reject traditions which contradict the Scriptures, though they may claim to be apostolical. For the Apostles and their disciples could not teach one thing by writing, and another by word of mouth. St. Paul preached the same doctrine to all the churches (1 Cor. iv. 17; 2 Cor. i. 13; xii. 18). The Jews likewise had their traditions of the elders, but they were refuted by our Lord as 'making void the Word of God' (Matt. xv. 8, 9; Mark vii. 6, 7).
Chap III. Of God, his Unity and Trinity.—We believe and teach that God is one in essence (Deut. vi. 4; Exod. xx. 2, 3, etc.), and three in persons—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Father hath begotten the Son from eternity; the Son is begotten in an unspeakable manner; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeds from both, and is to be worshiped with both as one God. There are not three Gods, but three persons—consubstantial, coeternal, distinct as to person and order, yet without any inequality. The divine essence or nature is the same in the Father, the Son, and the Spirit (Luke i. 35; Matt. iii. 17; xxviii. 19; John i. 32; xiv. 26; xv. 26).
In short, we accept the Apostles' Creed, which delivers to us the true faith.
We therefore condemn the Jews and Mohammedans, and all who blaspheme this holy and adorable Trinity. We also condemn all heretics, who deny the Deity of Christ and the Holy Ghost.
And although Christ assumed man's nature, yet he did so not in order to afford a model for sculptors and painters. He instituted for the instruction of the people the preaching of the Gospel, and the sacraments, but not images. Epiphanius tore down an image of Christ and some saint in a church, because he regarded it contrary to the Scriptures.
Chap. V. The Adoration and Invocation of God through the only Mediator Jesus Christ.—God is the only object of worship (Matt. iv. 10). And he is to be worshiped 'in spirit and in truth' (John iv. 24), and through our only and sufficient Mediator and Advocate Jesus Christ (1 Tim. ii. 5; 1 John ii. 1).
Nevertheless, we neither despise nor undervalue the saints, but honor them as the members of Christ and the friends of God, who have gloriously overcome the flesh and the world; we love them as brethren, and hold them up as examples of faith and virtue, desiring to dwell with them eternally in heaven, and to rejoice with them in Christ.
Chap. VI. The Providence of God.—We believe that the wise, eternal, and almighty God by his providence preserves and rules all things in heaven and earth (Psa. cxiii. 4–6; cxxxix. 3–4; Acts xvii. 28; Rom. xi. 36).
We therefore condemn the Epicureans, who blasphemously affirm that God neither sees nor cares for men (Psa. xciv. 3–9).
We do not despise as unnecessary the means whereby divine Providence works, but make use of them as far as they are commended to us in the Word of God. We disapprove of the rash words of those who say that our efforts and endeavors are vain.
St. Paul well knew that he was sailing under the providence of God, who had assured him that he must bear witness at Rome (Acts xxiii. 11), and that not a soul should perish (xxvii. 21, 34); nevertheless, when the sailors were seeking flight, he said to the centurion and the soldiers: 'Unless these abide in the ship, ye can not be saved' (ver. 31). For God has appointed the means by which we attain to the end.777777 Here we have a clear recognition of secondary causes in opposition to fatalism and determinism which has sometimes been charged upon Calvinism. The Westminster Confession (Chap. III.) is still more explicit: 'God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established (Acts ii. 23; iv. 27, 28; xvii. 23, 24, comp. with 36; Matt. xvii. 12; John xix. 11; Prov. xvi. 33).
Chap. VII. Of the Creation of all Things; of Angels, the Devil, and Man.—This good and almighty God created all things, visible and invisible, by his eternal Word, and preserves them by his coeternal Spirit (Psa. xxxiii. 6; John i. 3). He made all things very good and for the use of man (Gen. i. 31).
We condemn the Manichæans who impiously imagine two coeternal principles, the one good, the other evil, and two antagonistic gods.
The devil was a murderer and liar from the beginning (John viii. 44).
Some angels persevered in obedience, and are ordained unto the faithful service of God and men; but others fell of their own accord and ran into destruction, and have become enemies of God and men.
Man was made in the image and likeness of God, and placed by God in paradise as ruler over the earth (Gen. i. 27, 28; ii. 8). This is celebrated by David in the 8th Psalm. Moreover, God gave him a wife and blessed them (Gen. ii. 22 sqq.).
Man consists of two diverse substances in one person—of an immortal soul, which, when separated from the body neither sleeps nor dies, and of a mortal body, which at the last judgment, shall be raised again from the dead.
We condemn those who deny the immortality, or affirm the sleep of the soul, or teach that it is a part of God.
Chap. VIII. Of Man's Fall, Sin, and the Cause of Sin.—Man was created according to the image of God, in true righteousness and holiness, good and upright. But by the instigation of the serpent, and through his own guilt, he fell from goodness and rectitude, and became, with all his offspring, subject to sin, death, and various calamities.
Sin is that inborn corruption of man, derived and propagated from our first parents, whereby we are immersed in depraved lusts, averse to goodness and prone to all evil, and unable of ourselves to do or think any thing that is good. And as years roll on, we bring forth evil thoughts, words, and deeds, as corrupt trees bring forth corrupt fruits (Matt. xii. 33). Therefore we are all by nature under the wrath of God, and subject to just punishment.
We therefore acknowledge that there is original sin in all men, and that all other sins, whether mortal or venial, also the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost, spring from this same source. We acknowledge also that sins are not equal, but some are more grievous than others (Matt. x. 14, 15; xi. 24; 1 John v. 16, 17).
We condemn the Pelagians, who deny original sin; the Jovinianists, who with the Stoics declare all sins to be equal; and those who make God the author of sin against the express teaching of Scriptures (Psa. v. 5–7; John viii. 44).
When God is said to blind or harden men, or to give them over to a reprobate mind (Exod. vii. 13; John xii. 40), it is to be understood as a righteous judgment. Moreover, God overrules the wickedness of men for good, as he did in the case of the brethren of Joseph.
Chap. IX. Of Free Will and Man's Ability.—The will and moral ability of man must be viewed under a threefold state.
First, before the fall, he had freedom to continue in goodness, or to yield to temptation.
Secondly, after the fall, his understanding was darkened and his will became a slave to sin (1 Cor. ii. 14; 2 Cor. iii. 5; John viii. 34; Rom. viii. 7). But he has not been turned into 'a stone or stock;' nor is his will (voluntas) a non-will (noluntas).778778 Expressions used by Luther, Flacius, and the Formula of Concord. The Helvetic and other Reformed Confessions are much more guarded on this point, and teach that man, though totally depraved, remains a moral and responsible being in the act of sinning. Melanchthon, in his later period, came to the same view, but went beyond it into synergism. Comp. above, pp. 262, 270. He serves sin willingly, not unwillingly (servit peccato non nolens, sed volens). In external and worldly matters man retains his freedom even after the fall, under the general providence of God.
Thirdly, in the regenerate state, man is free in the true and proper sense of the term. His intellect is enlightened by the Holy Spirit to understand the mysteries and the will of God; and the will is changed by the Spirit and endowed with the power freely to will and to do what is good (Rom. viii. 5, 6; Jer. xxxi. 33; Ezek. xxxvi. 26; John viii. 36; Phil. i. 6, 29; ii. 13).
In regeneration and conversion men are not merely passive, but also active. They are moved by the Spirit of God to do of themselves what they do. But even in the regenerate there remains some infirmity. The flesh strives against the spirit to the end of life (Rom. vii. 14; Gal. v. 17).
We condemn the Manichæans, who deny that evil originated in the free will of man, and the Pelagians, who teach that fallen man has sufficient freedom to keep God's commandments. The former are refuted by Gen. i. 27; Eccles. vii. 29; the latter by John viii. 36.
Chap. X. The Predestination of God and the Election of Saints.—God has from eternity predestinated or freely chosen, of his mere grace, without any respect of men, the saints whom he will save in Christ (Eph. i. 4; 2 Tim. i. 9, 10).
God elected us in Christ and for Christ's sake, so that those who are already implanted in Christ by faith are chosen, but those out of Christ are rejected (2 Cor. xiii. 5).779779 'Ergo non sine medio, licet non propter ullum meritum nostrum, sed in Christo et propter Christum nos elegit Deus, ut qui jam sunt in Christo insiti per fidem, illi ipsi etiam sint electi, reprobi vero, qui sunt extra Christum.'
Although God knows who are his, and a 'small number of the elect' is spoken of, yet we ought to hope well of all, and not rashly count any one among the reprobate (2 Tim. ii. 19; Matt. xx. 16; Phil i. 3 sqq.).
We reject those who seek out of Christ whether they are chosen, and what God has decreed concerning them from eternity. We are to hear the gospel and believe it, and be sure that if we believe and are in Christ, we are chosen. We must listen to the Lord's invitation, 'Come unto me' (Matt. xi. 28), and believe in the unbounded love of God, who gave his own Son for the salvation of the world, and will not that 'one of these little ones should perish' (John iii. 16; Matt. xviii. 14).780780 Comp. ver. 10 and 11. A very strong passage for the doctrine of infant salvation, and so understood by Zwingli and Bullinger.
Let, therefore, Christ be the mirror in which we behold our predestination. We shall have a sufficiently evident and sure testimony of being written in the book of life if we live in communion with him, and if in true faith he is ours and we his.
And if we are tempted concerning our predestination, let this be our comfort—that God's promises are general to believers, as he himself says: 'Seek, and ye shall find, and whosoever asketh shall receive' (Matt. vii. 8 sq.). We pray with the whole Church, 'Our Father which art in heaven;' by baptism we are ingrafted into the body of Christ, and we are often fed in the Church by his flesh and blood unto life everlasting. Thus strengthened, let us 'work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it, is God who worketh in us both to will and to do according to his good pleasure' (Phil. ii. 12, 13).781781 This Tenth Article is moderately Calvinistic or Augustinian, and neither Arminian nor Melanchthonian (synergistic), as has sometimes been claimed. Comp. Schweizer, Centraldogmen, Vol. I. p. 476; also Sudhof's art. in Herzog.
Chap. XI. Jesus Christ true God and Man, and the only Saviour of the World.—We believe and teach that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, was from eternity predestinated by the Father to be the Saviour of the world; that he was begotten of the Father from all eternity in an ineffable manner (Isa. liii. 8; Micah v. 2; John i. 1). Therefore the Son, according to his Divinity, is coequal and consubstantial with the Father; true God, not merely by name or adoption or by conferring of a dignity, but in essence and nature (1 John v. 20; Phil. ii. 6; Heb. i. 2, 3; John v. 18; xvii. 5).
We abhor the blasphemous doctrine of Arius and Servetus in opposition to the Son of God.
We also believe and teach that the same eternal Son of God became the Son of Man, of the seed of Abraham and David, not through the will of man (Ebionites), but he was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the ever-Virgin Mary (ex Maria semper virgine), as taught in the gospel history and the Epistles (Matt. i. 18; Luke i. 34, 35; 1 John iv. 3; Heb. ii. 16). The body of Christ was therefore neither a mere appearance, nor brought down from heaven (the Gnostics, Valentinus and Marcion). Moreover his soul was not without reason (Apollinaris), nor his flesh without a soul (Eunomius); but he had a rational soul, and a flesh with senses capable of true suffering (Matt. xxvi. 36; John xii. 27).
Hence we acknowledge in one and the same Lord Jesus Christ two natures, a divine and a human, which are conjoined and united in one person without absorption or confusion and mixture.
We worship one Lord Christ, not two; one true God-Man, coequal (or of one substance, consubstantialis, ὁμοούσιος) with the Father as regards his divine nature, and coequal with us men, sin only excepted (Heb. iv. 15), as regards his human nature.
We therefore abominate Nestorianism, which dissolves the unity of person, and Eutychianism, Monothelitism, and Monophysitism, which destroy the proper character of the human nature.
We do not teach that the divine nature of Christ did suffer, nor that the human nature of Christ is every where present. The true body of Christ was not deified so as to put off its properties and to be absorbed into the divine substance. But we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ did truly suffer for us in the flesh (1 Pet. iii. 18; iv. 1), and that the Lord of glory was crucified for us (1 Cor. ii. 8). For we accept believingly and reverently the 'communication of properties,' which is deduced from the Scriptures and employed by the ancient Church in explaining and harmonizing seemingly contradictory passages.782782 'Nam communicationem idiomatum ex Scripturis petitam et ab universa vetustate in explicandis componendisque Scripturarum locis in speciem pugnantibus usurpatam, religiose et reverenter recipimus et usurpamus.' It is an error, therefore, to charge the Reformed Church with rejecting the communicatio idiomatum. It admits the communication of the properties of one nature to the whole person, but denies the communication of the properties of one nature to the other, viz., the genus majestaticum, so called, whereby the infinite attributes of the divine nature (as omnipresence and omnipotence) are ascribed to the human nature, and the genus tapeinoticon, whereby the finite attributes of the human nature are ascribed to the divine. Either of these forms leads necessarily to a Eutychian confusion of natures. The Lutheran Church teaches the genus majestaticum, as a support to its doctrine of the Eucharist, but rejects the genus tapeinoticon.
We believe and teach that Christ, in the same flesh in which he died, rose from the dead (Luke xxiv. 30), and ascended to the right hand of God in the highest heaven (Eph. iv. 10), which signifies his elevation to the divine majesty and power, but also a definite place (John xiv. 2; Acts iii. 21).
The same Christ will come again to judgment, when the wickedness of the world shall have reached the highest point, and Antichrist corrupted the true religion. He will destroy Antichrist, and judge the quick and the dead (2 Thess. ii. 8; Acts xvii. 51, 52; 1 Thess. iv. 17). The believers will enter into the mansions of the blessed; the unbelievers, with the devil and his angels, will be cast into everlasting torment (Matt. xxv. 41; 2 Tim. ii. 11; 2 Pet. iii. 7).
We reject all who deny the real resurrection; who teach the ultimate salvation of all the godless, and even the devil. We also reject the Jewish dream of a millennium, or golden age on earth, before the last judgment.
We believe and teach that Christ is the only Redeemer of the whole world, in whom all are saved that were saved before the law, under the law, and under the gospel, or will yet be saved to the end of the world (John x. 1, 7; Acts iv. 12; xv. 11; 1 Cor. x. 1, 4; Rev. xiii. 8).
We therefore confess and teach with a loud voice: Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of the world, the King and High-priest, the true Messiah, whom all the shadows and types of the Law and the Prophets did prefigure and promise. God did send him to us, and we need not look for another. There remains nothing but that we should give all glory to him, believe in him, and rest in him alone.
And, to say much in a few words, we sincerely believe and loudly confess all that has been determined out of the Holy Scriptures concerning the mystery of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and is contained in the creeds and decrees of the first four œcumenical Councils held in Niceæ, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, in the Creed of St. Athanasius, and all similar creeds; and we reject all contrary to the same. In this manner we retain, unchanged and entire, the Christian, orthodox, and catholic faith; knowing that nothing is contained in the aforesaid creeds which does not correspond with the Word of God and aid in setting forth the true faith.783783 An express and emphatic indorsement of the œcumenical Creeds, on the ground of their agreement with the Scriptures: 'Et ut paucis multa hujus causæ dicamus, quæcunque de incarnationis Domini nostri Jesu Christi mysterio definita sunt ex Scripturis sanctis, et comprehensa symbolis ac sententiis quatuor primarum et prœstantissimarum Synodorum celebratarum Niceæ, Constantinopoli, Ephesi, et Chalcedone, una cum beati Athanasii Symbolo, et omnibus his similibus symbolis, credimus corde syncero, et ore libero ingenue profitemur, condemnantes omnia his contraria. Atque ad hunc modum retinemus inviolatam sive integram fidem Christianam, orthodoxam atque catholicam: scientes, symbolis prædictis nihil contineri, quod non sit conforme Verbo Dei, et prorsus faciat ad synceram fidei explicationem.'
Chap. XII. The Law of God.—The law of God explains the will of God and the difference between what is good and bad, just and unjust. It is therefore good and holy. It is twofold: the law of nature inscribed on the hearts of men (Rom. ii. 15), and the written law of Moses. The latter we divide for perspicuity's sake into the moral law, comprehended in the two tables of the Decalogue (Exod. xx.; Deut. v.); the ceremonial law, concerning worship and sacred rites; and the judicial, concerning polity and economy.
The law of God is complete, and allows no addition nor subtraction (Deut. iv. 2; Isa. xxx. 21). It is given to us, not that by keeping it we might be justified, but that we may be led to a knowledge of sin and guilt, and, despairing of our own strength, turn by faith to Christ (Rom. iv. 15; iii. 20; viii. 3; Gal. iii. 21–24). Christ is the end of the law, and redeemed us from the curse of the law (Rom. x. 4; Gal. iii. 13). He enables us to fulfill the law, and his righteousness and obedience are imputed to us through faith.
The law is abolished inasmuch as it no more condemns and works wrath in them that believe, who are under grace, and not under the law. Besides, Christ has fulfilled all the types of the law, and put the substance in the place of the shadows; in him we have all fullness. Nevertheless, the law is useful in showing us all virtues and vices, and in regulating the life of new obedience. Christ did not come to destroy, but to fulfill the law (Matt. v. 17).
We therefore condemn old and modern Antinomianism.
Chap. XIII. The Gospel of Jesus Christ.—The law works wrath and announces the curse (Rom. iv. 15; Deut. xxvii. 26); the gospel announces grace and blessing (John i. 17). Nevertheless, those who lived before and under the law were not deprived altogether of the gospel, but had great promises (Gen. iii. 15; xxii. 18; xlix. 10). The promises were partly temporal, partly spiritual and eternal. By the gospel promises the fathers obtained salvation in Christ.
In the strict sense of the term the gospel is the glad tidings of salvation by Christ, in whom we have forgiveness, redemption, and everlasting life. Hence the history of Christ recorded by the four Evangelists is justly called the gospel.
Compared with the legalism of the Pharisees the gospel appeared to be a new doctrine, as it is even now called new by the Papists; but in fact it is the oldest doctrine, for God foreordained from eternity to save the world through Christ, and has revealed this plan in the gospel (2 Tim. i. 9, 10). It is therefore a grave error to call our evangelical faith a recent innovation.
Chap. XIV. Of Repentance and Conversion.—Repentance (μετάνοια) is a change of heart produced in a sinner by the word of the gospel and the Holy Spirit, and includes a knowledge of native and actual depravity, a godly sorrow and hatred of sin, and a determination to live hereafter in virtue and holiness. True repentance is turning to God and all good, and turning away from the devil and all evil. It is the free gift of God, and not the result of our own strength (2 Tim. ii. 25).
It is sufficient to confess our sins to God in private and in the public service; it is not necessary to confess to a priest, for this is nowhere commanded in the Scriptures; although we may seek counsel and comfort from a minister of the gospel in time of distress and trial (comp. James v. 16).
The keys of the kingdom of heaven, out of which the Papists forge swords, sceptres, and crowns, are given to all legitimate ministers of the Church in the preaching of the gospel and the maintenance of discipline (Matt. xvi. 19; John xx. 23; Mark xvi. 15; 2 Cor. v. 18, 19). We condemn the profitable popish doctrine of penance and of indulgences, and apply to them Peter's word to Simon Magus: ' Thy money perish with thee' (Acts viii. 20).
Chap. XV. Of True Justification of Believers.—'To justify' means, with the Apostle when treating of this subject, to remit sins, to absolve from guilt and punishment, to receive into grace, and to pronounce just (Rom. viii. 33; Acts xiii. 38; Deut. xxv. 1; Isa. v. 23).
By nature we are all sinners and guilty of death before the tribunal of God, and we can be justified only by the merits of Christ crucified and risen again. For his sake God is reconciled, and imputes to us not our sins, but the righteousness of Christ as our own, so that we are purged and absolved from sin, death and damnation, and heirs of eternal life. Properly speaking, God alone justifies and justifies only for Christ's sake, not imputing to us our sins, but the righteousness of Christ.
We therefore teach and believe, with the Apostle, that the sinner is justified by faith alone in Christ (sola fide in Christum), not by the law, nor by any works (Rom. iii. 28; iv. 2 sqq.; Eph. ii. 8, 9). Righteousness is imputed to faith because it receives Christ as our righteousness and ascribes all to the grace of God, but not because it is our work: it is the gift of God. As we receive food by eating, so faith appropriates Christ.
We do not divide justification by ascribing it partly to the grace of God or to Christ, and partly to our works or merits, but solely and exclusively to the grace of God in Christ through faith. We must first be justified before we can do good works. Love is derived from faith (1 Tim. i. 5; Gal. v. 6).
Therefore we speak here not of a false, dead faith, but of a living and vivifying faith which lives in Christ, our life, and proves its life by living works. Even James (chap. ii.) does not contradict our doctrine, for he speaks of a dead faith which even demons have, and he shows that Abraham proved his living and justifying faith by works.
Chap. XVI. Faith and Good Works, their Reward and the Merit of Man.—Christian faith is not a human opinion and persuasion, but a most firm confidence and clear and steady assent of the mind, a most certain apprehension of the truth of God as laid down in the Scriptures and the Apostles' Creed, and therefore of God himself as the highest good, and especially of the divine promise and of Christ, who is the crown of all promises. Such a faith is a free gift of God, who of his grace grants it to his elect through his Holy Spirit by means of the preaching of the gospel and believing prayer when and in what measure he pleases. This faith has degrees and is subject to growth; hence the prayer of the Apostles: 'Lord, increase our faith' (Luke xvii. 5). [Then follow a number of Scripture proofs: Heb. xi. 1; 2 Cor. i. 20; Phil. i. 29; Rom. xii. 3; 2 Thess. ii. 3; Rom. x. 16; Acts xiii. 48; Gal. v. 6, etc.]
Good works must be done, not to merit thereby eternal life, which is a free gift of God (Rom. vi. 23), nor for ostentation or from selfishness, which the Lord rejects (Matt. vi. 2; xxiii. 5), but for the glory of God, to adorn our calling and to show our gratitude to God, and for the good of our neighbor (Matt. v. 16; Eph. iv. 1; Col. iii. 17; Phil. ii. 4; Tit. iii. 14). Although we teach that man is justified by faith of Christ and not by any works, we do not condemn good works. Man is created and regenerated by faith in order to work unceasingly what is good and useful. 'Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit' (Matt. vii. 17). 'He that abideth in me, the same bringeth forth much fruit' (John xv. 5). 'We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them' (Eph. ii. 10).
We condemn, therefore, all who despise good works or declare them useless; at the same time we do not deem them necessary to salvation, in the sense that without them no one was ever saved; for we are saved by Christ alone; but good works are necessarily born of faith, and improperly salvation may be ascribed to them which properly is ascribed to grace (Rom. xi. 6).
God is well pleased and approves of works which are done by us through faith (Acts x. 35; Col. i. 9, 10). He also richly rewards them (Jer. xxxi. 16; Matt. v. 12; x. 42). But we ascribe this reward not to the merits of man who receives it, but to the goodness and faithfulness of God who promises and grants it, although he owes nothing to his creatures. Even if we have done all, we are unprofitable servants (Luke xvii. 10). We say with Augustine, that God crowns and rewards in us, not our merits, but the gifts of his grace. It is a reward of grace, not of merit. We have nothing but what we have received (comp. 1 Cor. iv. 7).
We therefore condemn those who so defend the merits of men as to set at naught the grace of God.
Chap. XVII. Of the Catholic and Holy Church of God, and of the only Head of the Church.—Since God willed from the beginning that men should be saved and come to the knowledge of truth, it follows of necessity that there always was, and now is, and shall be to the end of time, a Church or an assembly of believers and a communion of saints, called and gathered from the world, who know and worship the true God in Christ our Saviour, and partake by faith of all the benefits freely offered through Christ. They are fellow-citizens of the same household of God (Eph. ii. 19). To this refers the article in the Creed: 'I believe the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints.'
And as there is but one God, one Mediator between God and man, Jesus the Messiah, one pastor of the whole flock, one head of this body, one Spirit, one salvation, one faith, one testament or covenant, there must needs be but one Church, which we call catholic, that is, universal, spread throughout all parts of the world and all ages.
We therefore condemn the Donatists, who confined the Church to some corners of Africa, and also the Roman exclusiveness, which pretends that the Roman Church alone is the catholic Church.
The Church is divided, not in itself, but on account of the diversity of its members. There is a Church militant on earth struggling against the flesh, the world, and the devil, and a Church triumphant in heaven rejoicing in the presence of the Lord; nevertheless there is a communion between the two. The Church militant is again divided into particular Churches. It was differently constituted among the Patriarchs, then under Moses, then under Christ in the gospel dispensation; but there is only one salvation in the one Messiah, in whom all are united as members of one body, partaking of the same spiritual food and drink. We enjoy a greater degree of light and more perfect liberty.
This Church is called the house of the living God (1 Tim. iii. 15), built of lively and spiritual stones (1 Pet. ii. 5), resting on an immovable rock, the only foundation (1 Cor. iii. 11), the ground and pillar of the truth (1 Tim. iii. 15). It can not err as long as it rests on the rock Christ, on the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles; but it errs as often as it departs from him who is the truth.784784 'Non errat illa, quamdiu innititur petræ Christo et fundamento Prophetarum et Apostolorum. Nec mirum, si erret, quoties deserit illum, qui solus est veritas.' The Church is also called a virgin, the bride of Christ, the only and beloved (2 Cor. xi. 2), and the body of Christ, because the believers are living members of Christ under him the head (Eph. i. 23, etc.).
The Church can have no other head than Christ. He is the one universal pastor of his flock, and has promised his presence to the end of the world. He needs, therefore, no vicar; for this would imply his absence. [Those who introduce a double headship and government in the Church plainly belong to the errorists condemned by the Apostles (2 Pet. ii.; Acts xx.; 2 Cor. xi.; 2 Thess. ii.).]785785 The passage in brackets, according to the Zurich MS., was substituted by Bullinger on the margin for the following sentence, which he wished to have canceled (see note in Niemeyer, p. 501): 'We reject the Romish fiction concerning an official head and title of the servant of the servants of Christ; for experience proves that this is an empty boast, and that the Pope makes himself an enemy of Christ, and exalts himself above God, sitting in the temple of God, and showing himself that he is God' (2 Thess. ii. 4).
But by rejecting the Roman head we do not introduce disorder and confusion into the Church of Christ, since we adhere to the government delivered by the Apostles before there was any Pope. The Roman head preserves the tyranny and corruption in the Church, and opposes and destroys all just reformation.
They object that since our separation from Rome all sorts of controversies and divisions have arisen. As if there had never been any sects and dissensions in the Roman Church, in the pulpits, and among the people! God is indeed a God of order and peace (1 Cor. xiv. 33); nevertheless there were parties and divisions even in the Apostles' Church (Acts xv.; 1 Cor. iii.; Gal. ii.). God overrules these divisions for his glory and for the illustration of truth.
Communion with the true Church of Christ we highly esteem, and deny that those who separate from it can live before God. As there was no salvation out of the ark of Noah, so there is no certain salvation out of Christ, who exhibits himself to the elect in the Church for their nourishment.786786 'Ut extra arcam Noë non erat ulla salus, pereunte mundo in diluvio, ita credimus, extra Christum, qui se electis in Ecclesia fruendum prœbet, nullam esse salutem certam: et proinde docemus, vivere volentes non oportere separari a vera Christi Ecclesia.' This high estimate of the Church reminds one of Cyprian's 'Extra ecclesiam nulla salus,' of Tertullian's 'Qui ecclesiam non habet matrem, Deum non habet patrem,' and of Augustine's 'Ego evangelio non crederem, nisi me commoveret ecclesiæ auctoritas.' Calvin, in his Institutes (lib. IV. c. 1), uses similar language. But we must remember that the Calvinistic system does not bind election to the visible means of grace, and admits the possibility of salvation without baptism. Bullinger denies only the certainty of salvation (salutem certam) outside of the Church (comp. above what follows); and so must be understood the Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. XXV. 2, when it asserts that out of the visible catholic or universal Church 'there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.'
But we do not so restrict the Church as to exclude those who from unavoidable necessity and unwillingly do not partake of the sacraments, or who are weak in faith, or still have defects and errors. God had friends even outside of the Jewish people. We know what happened to Peter, and to chosen believers from day to day, and we know that the Apostle censured the Christians in Galatia and Corinth for grave offenses, and yet calls them holy churches of Christ. Yea, God may at times by a righteous judgment allow the Church to be so obscured and shaken as to appear almost annihilated, as in the days of Elijah (1 Kings xix. 18; comp. Rev. vii. 4, 9); but even then he has his true worshipers, even seven thousand and more; for 'the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his' (2 Tim. ii. 19). Hence the Church may be called invisible, not that the men composing it are invisible, but because they are known only to God, while we are often mistaken in our judgment. There are also many hypocrites in the Church, who outwardly conform to all the ordinances, but will ultimately be revealed in their true character and be cut off (1 John ii. 19; Matt. xiii. 24, 47).
The true unity of the Church is not to be sought in ceremonies and rites, but in the truth and in the catholic faith, as laid down in the Scriptures and summed up in the Apostles' Creed. Among the ancients there was a great diversity of rites without dissolving the unity of the Church.
Chap. XVIII. On the Ministers of the Church, their Institution and Offices.—God always used ministers for gathering and governing the Church (Rom. x. 14, 17; John xiii. 20; Acts xvi. 9; 1 Cor. iii. 9, etc.).
God employed the Patriarchs, Moses, and the Prophets as teachers of their age. At last he sent his only-begotten Son, filled with infinite wisdom, to be our infallible guide. Christ chose the Apostles, and these ordained pastors in all the Churches (Acts xiv. 23), whose successors have taught and governed the Church to this day.
The ministers of the New Testament are called Apostles, prophets, evangelists, bishops, presbyters, pastors, and teachers (1 Cor. xii. 28; Eph. iv. 11). In subsequent times other names were introduced, as patriarchs, archbishops, metropolitans, archpresbyters, deacons, and subdeacons, etc. But we are satisfied with the offices instituted by the Apostles for the teaching and governing of the Church.
A minister should be lawfully called and chosen by the Church, and excel in sacred learning, pious eloquence, prudence, and unblemished character (1 Tim. iii. 2; Tit. i. 5). When elected, a minister should be ordained of the elders by public prayer and the laying on of hands. We reject arbitrary intruders and incompetent pastors. But we acknowledge that innocent simplicity may be more useful than haughty learning.
A minister of the New Testament is not a priest, as in the Jewish dispensation, offering sacrifices for the living and the dead. Christ is our eternal High-priest, who fulfilled and abolished typical sacrifices by his one perfect sacrifice on the cross; and all believers are priests offering spiritual sacrifices—namely, thanksgiving and praise to God continually.
All ministers are equal in power and commission. Bishops and presbyters were originally the same in office, and governed the Church by their united services, mindful of the words of the Lord: 'He who will be chief among you, let him be your servant' (Luke xxii. 26). Jerome (Com. on Titus) says: 'Before, by the instigation of the devil, party spirit and sectarianism arose, the churches were governed by the common counsel of the presbyters; but afterwards, when every one thought that those whom he had baptized belonged to him, not to Christ, it was decreed that one of the presbyters should by election be placed over the rest, and be intrusted with the care of the whole Church, and thus the seed of schisms be destroyed.' But Jerome does not present this decree as divine, for he soon adds that presbyters and bishops know that this distinction is based on ecclesiastical custom, and not on divine command. Therefore no one can be lawfully forbidden to return from human custom to the ancient constitution of the Church of Christ.
The chief duties of ministers are the preaching of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments, the care of souls, and the maintenance of discipline. To do this effectually they must live in the fear of God, pray constantly, study the Scriptures diligently, be always watchful, and shine before all by purity of life. In the exercise of discipline, they should remember that the power was given to them for edification and not for destruction (2 Cor. x. 8; comp. Matt. xiii. 29).
We reject the error of the Donatists, who make the efficacy of the preaching and the sacraments to depend on the moral character of the minister. The voice of Christ must be heard and obeyed even out of the mouth of an unworthy servant (Matt. xxiii. 3); and the sacraments are efficacious to the worthy recipient by virtue of their divine appointment and the Word of Christ. On these things St. Augustine has much disputed from the Scriptures against the Donatists.
Nevertheless, proper control and discipline should be exercised over the doctrine and conduct of ministers in synods. False or immoral teachers should not be tolerated, but warned or deposed. We do not disapprove general or œcumenical councils if they are conducted, according to the apostolic example (Acts xv.), for the welfare, and not for the corruption of the Church.
As the laborer is worthy of reward, the minister is entitled to the maintenance of himself and family from the congregation he serves (1 Cor. ix. 9 sqq.; 1 Tim. v. 18, etc.). Against the Anabaptists, who denounce ministers living off their ministry.
Chap. XIX. The Sacraments of the Church of Christ.—With the preaching of the Word are joined sacraments or sacred rites instituted by God as signs and seals of his promises for the strengthening of our faith, and as pledges on our part for our consecration to him.
The sacraments of the Jewish dispensation were circumcision and the paschal lamb; the sacraments of the Christian dispensation are baptism and the Lord's Supper.
The Papists count seven sacraments. Of these we acknowledge repentance, ordination of ministers, and marriage as useful institutions of God, but not as sacraments. Confirmation and extreme unction are inventions of men, which may be abolished without any loss. We abhor all merchandise carried on with the sacraments by Romish priests.
The supreme benefit of the sacraments is Christ the Saviour, that Lamb of God slain for our sins from the foundation of the world, and that Rock of which all our fathers drank. So far the sacraments of the Old and New Testaments are the same. But we have the abiding substance.
Sacraments consist of the Word, the sign, and the thing signified. By the Word of God and institution of Christ they become sacraments and are sanctified. The sign in baptism is water, the thing signified is regeneration or the washing from sins. The sign in the Lord's Supper is bread and wine, the thing signified is the veritable body and blood of Christ sacrificed for us. The signs are not changed into the things signified; for then they would cease to be sacramental signs, representing the things signified; but they are sacred and efficacious signs and seals. For he who instituted baptism and the Supper intended that we should receive not the outward form only, but the inward blessing, that we should be truly washed from all our sins through faith, and be made partakers of Christ.
The truth and power of the sacraments depend neither on the worthiness of the minister nor that of the receiver, but on the faithfulness of God. Unbelievers do not receive the things offered; but the fault is in men, whose unbelief doth not annul the faith of God (Rom. iii. 3).
Chap. XX. Of Holy Baptism.— Baptism is instituted by Christ (Matt. xxviii. 19; Mark xvi. 15). There is only one baptism in the Church; it lasts for life, and is a perpetual seal of our adoption. To be baptized in the name of Christ is to be enrolled, initiated, and received into the covenant, into the family and the inheritance of the sons of God, that, cleansed from our sins by the blood of Christ, we may lead a new and innocent life. We are internally regenerated by the Holy Ghost, but we receive publicly the seal of these blessings by baptism. Water washes away filth, and refreshes and comforts the body; the grace of God inwardly and invisibly cleanses the soul.
By baptism, we are separated from the world and consecrated to God. In baptism we confess our faith and pledge obedience to God. We are enrolled into the holy army of Christ to fight against the World, the flesh, and the devil.
Later human additions to the primitive form of baptism, such as exorcism, the use of burning light, oil, salt, spittle, we judge to be unnecessary.
Baptism is not to be administered by women or by midwives, but by the ministers of the Church.
We condemn those who deny that children of believers should be baptized. For to children belongs the kingdom of God, and they are in covenant with God—why then should not the sign of the covenant be given to them? We are therefore no Anabaptists, and have no communion with them.
Chap. XXI. Of the Holy Supper of our Lord.—The Lord's Supper, or Eucharist, is a grateful commemoration of the benefits of redemption, and a spiritual feast of believers instituted by Christ, wherein he nourishes us with his own flesh and blood by true faith unto eternal life. It signifies and seals to us the greatest benefit and blessing ever conferred on the race of mortals, that he truly delivered his body and shed his blood for the remission of our sins. In it we eat his flesh which is meat indeed, and drink his blood which is drink indeed (Matt xxvi. 20 sqq.; Luke xxii. 19; 1 Cor. xi. 21 sqq.; John vi. 51 sqq.).
This eating is not corporeal and Capernaitic, by the mouth and the stomach, but spiritual, i.e., by the Holy Ghost through faith. 'The flesh,' corporeally eaten, 'profiteth nothing; it is the spirit that quickeneth' (John vi. 63). 'I am the bread of life; he that cometh unto me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst' (John vi. 51). So that eating and drinking here means to come unto Christ and to believe in him. As Augustine says: 'Why preparest thou the tooth and the stomach? Believe, and thou hast eaten.'
Besides the spiritual eating, in the daily communion of the soul with Christ, there is also a sacramental eating, whereby the believer not only inwardly partakes of Christ, but also receives the visible signs and seals of his body and blood at the Lord's table.787787 'Præter superiorem manducationem spiritualem est et sacramentalis manducatio corporis Domini, qua fidelis non tantum spiritualiter et interne participat vero corpore et sanguine Domini, sed foris etiam accedendo ad mensam Domini accipit visibile corporis et sanguinis Domini sacramentum.' This is strangely mistranslated by Owen Jones (l.c. p. 173): 'Moreover, also, the sacramental eating of the body of the Lord is a superior spiritual eating,' etc. Bullinger rightly distinguishes between the purely spiritual communion with Christ's flesh and blood (i.e., his real humanity), spoken of in the sixth chapter of John, and the sacramental communion in the Eucharist, which includes all the benefit of the former with the additional blessing of the visible signs and seals of Christ's body broken for us, and Christ's blood shed for us. And with the signs he receives the thing itself.788788 'Qui foris vera fide sacramentum percipit, idem ille non signum duntaxat percipit, sed re ipsa quoque, ut diximus, fruitur.' He is nourished and strengthened by spiritual food. The signs are also sure pledges that Christ died not only for men in general, but also individually for every believing communicant. Besides, in partaking of this ordinance we obey the command of our Lord, celebrate his atoning death, give thanks for the great redemption, and openly profess our faith before the congregation.
But those who commune unworthily and without faith receive only the visible signs to their own condemnation or judgment (1 Cor. xi. 27 sqq.).
We therefore do not so conjoin the body and blood of Christ with bread and wine as to say that the bread itself is the body (except sacramentally), or that the body of Christ is corporeally hid under the bread, aud should be adored under the form of bread, or that whosoever receives the signs receives also necessarily the thing itself. [Against the Lutheran theory.] The body of Christ is in heaven at the right hand of the Father (Mark xvi. 19; Heb. viii. 1; xii. 2); and hence we must raise our hearts to heaven.
And yet he is not absent from his people when they celebrate his communion. For as the sun in heaven is efficaciously present with us, so much more is Christ the sun of righteousness with us, not, indeed, corporeally, but spiritually by his enlivening and vivifying operation, even as he in the Last Supper explained that he himself would be present with us (John xiv.-xvi.). Hence we have not a Supper without Christ, but an unbloody and mystical Supper, as universal antiquity called it.
Moreover, the Lord's Supper reminds us that we are members of his body, and should live peaceably with all our brethren, and grow and persevere in holiness of life.
Therefore it is very proper that we should duly prepare ourselves by self-examination in regard to our repentance and faith in Christ (1 Cor. xi. 28).
As to the external celebration, we adhere to the original form, consisting in the annunciation of the Word of God, devout prayers, the Lord's action, and its repetition in breaking bread, and distributing it together with the wine, in eating the body and drinking the blood of our Lord, in grateful remembrance of his death, in thanksgiving, and in holy reunion of the brethren as one body.
We disapprove of the withdrawal of the cup contrary to the express command of our Lord: 'Drink ye all of it' (Matt. xxvi. 27).
The mass—whatever it may have been in ancient times—has been turned from a salutary institution into a vain show, and surrounded with various abuses, which justify its abolition.
Chap. XXII. Of Sacred and Ecclesiastical Assemblies.—It is lawful and right for all men privately to read the Scriptures for edification. At the same time the maintenance of religion demands regular public services. These should be conducted decently, in order, and for edification, in the language understood by the people.
Chap. XXIII. Of Church Prayers, Singing, and Canonical Hours.—Public prayers in sacred assemblies should be made in the vulgar tongue understood by all. Every prayer is to be offered to God alone, through the sole mediation of Christ, not to saints or through them. Churches are at liberty to vary from the usual forms. Prayers are not superstitiously to be confined to particular places or hours. Long and tedious prayers in public assemblies should be avoided. Singing is not indispensable, but lawful and desirable. Canonical hours are not prescribed in the Scriptures, and are unknown to antiquity.
Chap. XXIV. Of Feasts, Fasts, and the Choice of Meats.—The Lord's day is consecrated, from the times of the Apostles, to the worship of God and to sacred rest. But we observe it in Christian freedom, not with Jewish superstition, neither do we believe that one day is in itself holier than another.
If congregations in addition commemorate the Lord's nativity, circumcision, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, we greatly approve of it. But feasts instituted by men in honor of saints we reject, though the memory of the saints is profitable, and should be commended to the people with exhortations to follow their virtues.
True Christian fasting consists in temperance, abstinence, watchfulness, self-government, and chastisement of our flesh, that we may the easier obey the Spirit. Such fasting is a help to prayer and all virtues.
There are also public fasts appointed in times of affliction and calamity, when people abstain from food altogether till evening, and spend all time in prayer and repentance. Such fasts are mentioned by the Prophets (Joel ii. 12 sq.), and should be observed when the Church is afflicted and oppressed. Private fasts are observed by each of us as we may judge it profitable to our souls.
All fasts ought to proceed from a free and willing mind, and be observed in a spirit of true humility, in order to vanquish the flesh and to serve God more fervently, but not in order to gain the favor of men or the merit of righteousness.
The fast, of forty days (Lent) has the testimony of antiquity, but is not enjoined in the Scriptures, and ought not to be imposed upon the conscience of the faithful. There was great diversity and freedom in the early Church as to the time of fasting, as we learn from Irenæus, and Socrates the historian.
As to the choice of meats, we hold that in fasts we should abstain from all such food or drink as stimulates the carnal desires. But otherwise we know that all the creatures of God are good (Gen. i. 31), and may be used without distinction, but with moderation and thanksgiving (1 Cor. x. 25; Tit. i. 15). Paul calls the prohibition of meats a doctrine of the demons (1 Tim. iv. 1 sqq.), and reproves those who by excessive abstinence wish to acquire the fame of sanctity.
Chap. XXV. Of Catechizing, and of the Visitation and Consolation of the Sick.—The greatest care is to be bestowed on the religious instruction of the youth, especially in the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the nature of the sacraments. Churches should see to it that children receive catechetical instruction.
It is one of the chief duties of Christian pastors to visit, comfort, and strengthen the sick, and pray for them in private and in public. But the extreme unction of the Papists we disapprove.
Chap. XXV. Of the Burial of the Faithful, the Care of the Dead, of Purgatory, and the Apparition of Spirits.—The bodies of believers, which are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and will rise again in the last day, should be honorably committed to the earth, without superstition, and their relatives, widows, and orphans should be tenderly cared for.
We believe that the faithful after death go directly to Christ, and need not the prayers of the living. Unbelievers are cast into hell, from which there is no escape.
The tales about the souls of the departed appearing to the living and requesting their services for deliverance we judge to be mockeries or deceptions of the devil. The Lord forbids necromancy (Deut. xviii. 10); and the rich man was told that if his brethren on earth hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead (Luke xvi. 30).
Chap. XXVII. Of Rights and Ceremonies.—The ceremonial law of the Jews was a schoolmaster and guardian to lead them to Christ, the true Liberator, who abrogated it so that believers are no more under the law, but under the gospel freedom. The Apostles would not lay the burden of Jewish ceremonies on the new converts (Acts xv. 28). The more of human rites are accumulated in the Church, the more it is drawn away from Christian liberty and from Christ himself, while the ignorant seek in ceremonies what they should seek in Christ through faith. A few pure and moderate rites consistent with the Word of God are sufficient.
Difference in ceremonies, such as existed in the ancient Church, and exists now among us, need not to interfere with union and harmony in doctrine and faith. In things indifferent, which are neither good nor evil, the Church has always used liberty (1 Cor. viii. 10; x. 27 sqq.).
Chap. XXVIII. Of Church Property.—The wealth of the Church should be used for the maintenance of public worship and schools, the support of ministers and teachers, and especially also for the benefit of the poor.
Misapplication and abuse of Church property through ignorance or avarice is a sacrilege, and calls for reformation.
Chap. XXIX. Of Celibacy, Marriage, and Economy.—Those who have the gift of celibacy from heaven, so as to be pure and continent from their whole heart, may serve the Lord in that vocation in simplicity and humility, without exalting themselves above others. If not, they should remember the apostolic word: 'It is better to marry than to burn' (1 Cor. vii. 9).
Marriage (the remedy for incontinence, and continence itself) was instituted by God, who blessed it richly, and inseparably joined man and woman to live together in intimate love and harmony (Matt. xix. 5). Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed is undefiled (Heb. xiii. 4; 1 Cor. vii. 28).
We condemn polygamy, and those who reject second marriages.
Marriage should be contracted in the fear of the Lord, with the consent of parents or their representatives, and for the end for which it was instituted.
Children should be brought up in the fear of the Lord, properly supported by their parents (1 Tim. v. 8), and be taught honest arts or trades.
We condemn the doctrine which forbids marriage, or indirectly slights it as unholy and unclean (1 Tim. iv. 1). We execrate unclean celibacy, secret and open fornications, and the pretended continency of hypocrites.
Chap. XXX. Of the Magistrate.— The civil magistrate is appointed by God himself (Rom. xiii.) for the peace and tranquillity of the human race. If opposed to the Church, he can do much harm: if friendly, he can do the Church most useful service.
The duty of the magistrate is to preserve peace and public order; to promote and protect religion and good morals; to govern the people by righteous laws; to punish the offenders against society, such as thieves, murderers, oppressors, blasphemers, and incorrigible heretics (if they are really heretics).789789 'Coërceat et hæreticos (qui rere hæretici sunt) incorrigibiles, Dei majestatem blasphemare et Ecclesiam Dei conturbare, adeoque perdere non desinentes.' The same view of the right and duty of the civil government to punish heretics is expressed in other Confessions. The Reformers differed from the Roman Catholics, not so much in the principle of persecution as in the definition of heresy and the degree of punishment. Nevertheless, the Reformation inaugurated the era of religious toleration and freedom.
Wars are justifiable only in self-defense, and after all efforts at peace have been exhausted.
We condemn the Anabaptists, who maintain that a Christian should not hold a civil office, that the magistrate has no right to punish any one by death, or to make war, or to demand an oath.
All citizens owe reverence and obedience to the magistrate as the minister of God in all righteous commands, and even their lives when the public safety and welfare require it. Therefore we condemn the despisers of the magistrate, rebels and enemies of the commonwealth, and all who openly or artfully refuse to perform their duties as citizens.
We pray to God, our merciful heavenly Father, to bestow his blessing upon princes and rulers, upon us, and upon all his people, through Jesus Christ our only Lord and Saviour: to whom be praise, and glory, and thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen.
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