According to the doctrine of the Saint Peter the apostle in his first letter, all Christians must be ready to give an answer of the hope inside them (1 Peter 3:15), with all meekness and benevolence; we, the undersigned, Lord Villegaignon, unanimously (according to the measure of grace upon us bestowed by the Lord), are giving an answer, to every point, as you have thus requested and ordained, beginning with the first article:
We believe in one God, immortal, invisible, creator of heaven and earth, and of all things, visible and invisible, who is identified in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; who constitute the same substance in eternal essence, and the same will; The Father, source and beginning of all good; The Son, eternally begotten by the Father, who, in accomplishment of the fullness of time, manifested himself in the flesh to the world, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born of the Virgin Mary, made under the law to rescue those that were under the law, in order that we could be received by adoption as His own sons; The Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, master of all truth, speaking through the mouths of the prophets, suggesting the things which were said by our Lord Jesus Christ to the apostles. This is the only comforter in affliction, imparting steadfastness and perseverance in all good. We believe that it is necessary to solely worship, and to perfectly love, cry to and call upon the majesty of God in faith individually.
Worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ, we do not separate one nature from the other, but confess both natures, namely the inseparable divine and human natures.
We believe, concerning the Son of God and concerning the Holy Spirit, that which the Word of God and the apostolic doctrine and the symbol teach us.
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, in a visible and human form, just as he ascended to heaven, executing such judgment in the form that was predicted in Matthew 25; and that the Father has given Him, being man, all power to judge. And concerning what we say in our prayers, that the Father will appear in the Son, we understand, with that, that the power of the Father given to the Son will be manifested in that judgment; nevertheless we do not want to confuse the persons, knowing that they are distinct one from another.
We believe in the holy sacrament of the supper, as corporal figures of the bread and the wine, and that the faithful souls are actually fed with the very substance of our Lord Jesus, as our bodies are fed by food; thus, we do not want to say that the bread and wine are actually transformed or transubstantiated in the body, because the bread continues with its nature and substance; likewise for the wine, there is no change or alteration. We differentiate, nevertheless, this bread and wine from other bread and wine dedicated to the common usage, understanding that these are, for us, a sacramental sign, under which truth is infallibly received.
The reception of this truth, however, is not possible except by faith, and in it is not proper to think of anything carnal, nor prepare the teeth to eat, as we learn from Saint Augustine, when he says: “Why do you prepare the teeth and the stomach? Believe, and you have eaten it.” The sign, therefore, does not give us the truth nor the thing signified; but our Lord Jesus Christ, by His power, virtue and goodness, feeds and preserves our souls and makes them share in His own flesh and blood, and of all His benefits. Let us see the interpretation of the words of Jesus Christ: “This is my body;” Tertullian, in his fourth book “Against Marcion”, explains these words as such: “this is the signal and the figure of my body.” Saint Augustine says: “The Lord did not avoid saying — This is my body, when he was merely giving a sign of his body.” Therefore (as it is ordained in the first canon of the Nicean Council), in this holy sacrament, we should not think of anything carnal, nor distract ourselves with the bread and wine, which are in them proposed as signs, but lift our spirits to heaven so that we can contemplate, by faith, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus, who sits at the right hand of God, His Father. In this sense we could subscribe to the article of Ascension, alongside many other statements of Saint Augustine, which we are omitting for they are too long.
We believe that if it was necessary to add water to the wine, the gospel writers and Saint Paul would not have omitted such an important matter. And as what the earlier doctors have observed (basing themselves on the blood mixed with water that flowed from Jesus Christ’s side, since this observance has no basis on Scripture, also seeing that this happened after the institution of the Lord’s Supper), we cannot necessarily admit this practice today.
We believe that there is no other consecration but that which is performed by the minister, when he celebrates the Lord’s Supper, when he addresses the people, in a known language, the institution of this Supper literally, according to the way that our Lord Jesus Christ taught us, admonishing the people concerning the death and passion of our Lord. And even as it is taught by Saint Augustine, consecration is the word of faith that it is preached and received in faith. Therefore it follows that the words secretly pronounced about the signs cannot be their consecration, as it appears from the institution that our Lord left to His Apostles, speaking His words to the disciples who were present, whom he ordered to take and eat.
The holy sacrament of the Supper is not food for the body but for the souls (for we are not to think of anything carnal, as we declared in the fifth article) which receives it by faith, which is not carnal.
We believe that the baptism is a sacrament of penitence, and as an entry into the Church of God, so we can be incorporated in Jesus Christ. It represents to us the remission of our past and future sins, which is solely and completely acquired through the death of our Lord Jesus. Moreover, the mortification of our flesh is represented in it, and the washing, represented by the water sprinkled on the child, is the sign and seal of the blood of our Lord Jesus, who is the true purification of our souls. The institution of this sacrament is taught to us in the Word of God, which the holy apostles have observed, using the water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Concerning exorcisms, abjuration of Satan, chrism, spittle and salt, we register these as man’s traditions, and we are pleased only with the form and institution left by our Lord Jesus.
Concerning free will, we believe that the first man, created in the image of God, had freedom and will, both for good as well as evil. Only he knew what free will was, for he was fully able. Nevertheless, he did not even keep this gift of God, as well as it was deprived from him on account of his sin, and to all that descend from him, in such a way that no one from the seed of Adam has anything good. For this reason, Saint Paul says, the natural man does not understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:4). And Hosea cries to the children of Israel: “Thy has fallen by thine iniquity.” (Hosea 13:9) And we understand that this is true about the man who is not regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Concerning the Christian man, baptized in the blood of Jesus Christ, who walks in newness of life, our Lord Jesus Christ restores his free will, and reforms his will for all good works, not however in perfection, for the acting of good will is not in his power, but comes from God, as the holy apostle fully declares in Romans 7:18 saying: “but to will is present with me, but to perform that which is good, I find not.” The man predestined to eternal life, even though he sins because of his human frailty, nevertheless cannot fall into impenitence. Speaking about this Saint John says that he does not sin because election remains in him (1 John 3:9).
We believe that forgiveness of sins belongs only to the Word of God, of which says Saint Ambrose, man is just the minister; therefore, if he condemns or absolves, it is not him, but that which the Word of God announces. Saint Augustine in this area, says that it is not by merits of men that sins are forgiven, but by virtue of the Holy Spirit. For the Lord said to his apostles: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit,” (John 20:22) and he adds: “whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them, etc.” (John 20:23) Cyprian says that a servant cannot forgive an offense against the Lord.
Concerning imposition of hands, this once served its time, and there is no need of preserving it now, for through imposition of hands one cannot bestow the Holy Spirit, for this belongs only to God. Concerning ecclesiastical orders, we believe that which has been written by Saint Paul in the first letter to Timothy and in other places.
The separation between man and woman legitimately united by marriage cannot be done, except on account of adultery, as it is taught by our Lord (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9). And the separation can not only be made by this cause, but also, with the cause properly examined by authorities, the non-guilty party, if he cannot contain himself should marry, as it is taught by Saint Ambrose’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 7. The magistrate however must proceed in this matter with mature counsel.
Saint Paul, when teaching that the bishop must be husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2), is not saying that to marry again is not proper, but he is condemning bigamy, which attracted many in those times; nevertheless, we will leave the concluding judgment on this matter to ones more versed in Holy Scripture, and we do not found our faith on this point.
It is not allowed to vow a promise to God, unless it is that which he approves. Thus the monastic vows tend to corrupt the true service to God. It is also a bold presumption of man to vow something beyond his calling, because the Holy Scripture teaches us that continence is a special gift (Matthew 19:1-13 and 1 Corinthians 7). Therefore, it follows that those that impose on themselves this necessity, renouncing matrimony for all his life, cannot be excused of extreme audacity and excessive and insolent confidence in themselves. And through this mean, they tempt God, considering that the gift of continence is only temporal for some, and that which is temporal does not last for a lifetime. Thus, monks, priests, and others who oblige themselves to live in chastity, tempt God, for they themselves are not able to fulfil what they have promised. Saint Cyprian, in his chapter eleven, says: “If virgins dedicate themselves in good will to Christ, they persevere in chastity without defect; if they are thus strong and constant, they can expect the reward prepared for their virginity; if they do not want or cannot persevere in their vow, it is better for them to marry than to be thrown in the fire of luxury, on account of its pleasures and delights.” Concerning the passage written by Saint Paul, it is true that the widows that serve the church would submit to a vow of not marrying again while they are subject to that role; not because this would impart to them or attributed to them any holiness, but because they could not carry out those duties if they were married; and, if they wanted to marry, they should renounce that calling to which God had called them; nevertheless, fulfilling the promises made in the church, without violating the promises made at baptism, in which this is inserted: “Everyone should serve God in the place where he has been called.” Widows, thus did not vow continence, rather marriage was unbecoming to their duties, and they had no other choice but to observe that. They were not so constrained to the point that they were forbidden to marry and so burn in desire, falling into infamy or dishonesty. But, to avoid such inconvenience, the Apostle Saint Paul, in the aforementioned chapter, forbids that they be received to vow such vows unless they reached sixty years of age, which is an age generally considered outside of the incontinence bracket. He adds that the elect should be married only once, so to receive already an approval of continence.
We believe that Jesus Christ is our only mediator, intercessor and advocate, by whom we have access to the Father, and that, justified by his blood, we will be free from death; and by him reconciled, we will have full victory against death. Concerning the saints who are dead, we say that they desire our salvation and the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, and that the number of elect is whole; nevertheless, we must not direct ourselves to them, as intercessors to obtain something, because we would be disobeying the commandment of God. Concerning us, the living, while we are united as members of one body, we should pray one for another, as many parts of the Holy Scriptures teaches us.
Concerning the dead, Saint Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, forbids us to mourn for them, for this suits the pagans, who have no hope of a resurrection. The Apostle does not command nor teach to pray for them, something which he would not have forgotten, if it was convenient. Saint Augustine, speaking about Psalm 48, says that the spirits of the dead receive according to what they have done in life; and that if they have not done anything, and are still living, they will receive nothing when dead.
This is the answer that we give to the articles sent from you, according to the measure and portion of faith, which God has given us, praying that he may be pleased that this faith may not be found dead in us, but that it bears fruits worthy of its children, and that we may grow and persevere in it, so that we will render praises and thanksgiving to him forever.
Jean du Bourdel, Matthieu Verneuil, Pierre Bourdon, André la Fon.