- Of the Holy Scripture Being the True Word of God
- Of Interpreting the Holy Scriptures; and of Fathers, Councils, and Traditions
- Of God; the Unity and the Trinity
- Of Idols; or of Images of God, of Christ, and of Saints
- Of the Adoration, Worship, and Invocation of God Through the Only Mediator Jesus Christ
- Of the Providence of God
- Of the Creation of All Things; of Angels, the Devil, and Man
- Of Man’s Fall; Sin, and the Cause of Sin
- Of Free-Will, and so of Man’s Power and Ability
- Of the Predestination of God and the Election of the Saints
- Of Jesus Christ, Being True God and Man, and the Only Saviour of the World
- Of the Law of God
- Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: also of Promises; of the Spirit and of the Letter
- Of Repentance, and the Conversion of Man
- Of the True Justification of the Faithful
- Of Faith and Good Works; of their Reward, and of Man’s Merit
- Of the Catholic and Holy Church of God, and of the One Only Head of the Church
- Of the Ministers of the Church, their Institution and Offices
- Of the Sacraments of the Church of Christ
- Of Holy Baptism
- Of the Holy Supper of the Lord
- Of Holy and Ecclesiastical Meetings
- Of the Prayers of the Church, of Singing, and of Canonical Hours
- Of Holydays, Fasts, and Choice of Meats
- Of Catechising, of Comforting and Visiting the Sick
- Of the Burial of the Faithful, and of the Care Which Is To Be Had For Such As Are Dead; of Purgatory, and the Appearing of Spirits
- Of Rites, Ceremonies, and Things Indifferent
- Of the Goods of the Church, and the Right Use of Them
- Of Single Life, Wedlock, and Household Government
- Of the Magistracy
Chapter 1 - Of the Holy Scripture Being the True Word of God
We believe and confess the Canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men. For God himself spake to the fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.
And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has all things fully expounded which belong to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded of God that nothing be either put to or taken from the same (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18,19).
We judge, therefore, that from these Scriptures are to be taken true wisdom and godliness, the reformation and government of churches; as also instruction in all duties of piety; and, to be short, the confirmation of doctrines, and the confutation of all errors, with all exhortations; according to that word of the Apostle, ‘All Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof,’ etc. (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Again, ‘These things write I unto thee,’ says the Apostle to Timothy, ‘that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God,’ etc. (1 Timothy 3:14,15). Again, the self-same Apostle to the Thessalonians: ‘When,’ says he, ‘ye received the word of us, ye received not the word of men, but as it was indeed, the Word of God,’ etc. (1 Thessalonians 2:13). For the Lord himself has said in the Gospel, ‘It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of my Father speaketh in you;’ therefore ‘he that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me’ (Matthew 10:20; Luke 10:16; John 13:20).
Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is preached, and received of the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be feigned, nor to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; who, although he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God abides true and good.
Neither do we think that therefore the outward preaching is to be thought as fruitless because the instruction in true religion depends on the inward illumination of the Spirit, or because it is written ‘No man shall teach his neighbor; for all men shall know me’ (Jeremiah 31:34), and ‘He that watereth, or he that planteth, is nothing, but God that giveth the increase’ (1 Corinthians 3:7). For albeit ‘No man can come to Christ, unless he be drawn by the Heavenly Father’ (John 6:44), and be inwardly lightened by the Holy Spirit, yet we know undoubtedly that it is the will of God that his word should be preached even outwardly. God could indeed, by his Holy Spirit, or by the ministry of an angel, without the ministry of St. Peter, have taught Cornelius in the Acts; but, nevertheless, he refers him to Peter, of whom the angel speaking says, ‘He shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do’ (Acts 10:6).
For he that illuminates inwardly by giving men the Holy Spirit, the self-same, by way of commandment, said unto his disciples, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15). And so Paul preached the Word outwardly to Lydia, a purple-seller among the Philippians; but the Lord inwardly opened the woman’s heart (Acts 16:14). And the same Paul, upon an elegant gradation fitly placed in Romans 10, at last infers, ‘Therefore faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God’ (Romans 10:14-17).
We know, in the mean time, that God can illuminate whom and when he will, even without the external ministry, which is a thing appertaining to his power; but we speak of the usual way of instructing men, delivered unto us from God, both by commandment and examples.
We therefore detest all the heresies of Artemon, the Manichæans, the Valentinians, of Cerdon, and the Marcionites, who denied that the Scriptures proceeded from the Holy Spirit; or else received not, or interpolated and corrupted, some of them.
And yet we do not deny that certain books of the Old Testament were by the ancient authors called Apocryphal, and by others Ecclesiastical; to wit, such as they would have to be read in the churches, but not alleged to avouch or confirm the authority of faith by them. As also Augustine, in his De Civitate Dei, book 18, chapter 38, makes mention that ‘in the books of the Kings, the names and books of certain prophets are reckoned;’ but he adds that ‘they are not in the canon,’ and that ‘those books which we have suffice unto godliness.’
Chapter 2 - Of Interpreting the Holy Scriptures; and of Fathers, Councils, and Traditions
The Apostle Peter has said that ‘the Holy Scriptures are not of any private interpretation’ (2 Peter 1:20). Therefore we do not allow all kinds of exposition. Whereupon we do not acknowledge that which they call the meaning of the Church of Rome for the true and natural interpretation of the Scriptures; which, forsooth, the defenders of the Romish Church do strive to force all men simply to receive; but we acknowledge only that interpretation of Scriptures for orthodox and genuine which, being taken from the Scriptures themselves (that is, from the spirit of that tongue in which they were written, they being also weighed according to the circumstances and expounded according to the proportion of places, either of like or of unlike, also of more and plainer), accords with the rule of faith and charity, and makes notably for God’s glory and man’s salvation.
Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises as far as they agree with the Scriptures; but we do modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to, the Scriptures. Neither do we think that we do them any wrong in this matter; seeing that they all, with one consent, will not have their writings matched with the Canonical Scriptures, but bid us allow of them so far forth as they either agree with them or disagree.
And in the same order we also place the decrees and canons of councils.
Wherefore we suffer not ourselves, in controversies about religion or matters of faith, to be pressed with the bare testimonies of fathers or decrees of councils; much less with received customs, or with the multitude of men being of one judgment, or with prescription of long time. Therefore, in controversies of religion or matters of faith, we can not admit any other judge than God himself, pronouncing by the Holy Scriptures what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what to be avoided. So we do not rest but in the judgment of spiritual men, drawn from the Word of God. Certainly Jeremiah and other prophets did vehemently condemn the assemblies of priests gathered against the law of God; and diligently forewarned us that we should not hear the fathers, or tread in their path who, walking in their own inventions, swerved from the law of God (Ezekiel 20:18).
We do likewise reject human traditions, which, although they be set out with goodly titles, as though they were divine and apostolical, delivered to the Church by the lively voice of the apostles, and, as it were, by the hands of apostolical men, by means of bishops succeeding in their room, yet, being compared with the Scriptures, disagree with them; and that by their disagreement bewray themselves in no wise to be apostolical. For as the apostles did not disagree among themselves in doctrine, so the apostles’ scholars did not set forth things contrary to the apostles. Nay, it were blasphemous to avouch that the apostles, by lively voice, delivered things contrary to their writings. Paul affirms expressly that he taught the same things in all churches (1 Corinthians 4:17). And, again, ‘We,’ says he, ‘write none other things unto you than what ye read or acknowledge’ (2 Corinthians 1:13). Also, in another place, he witnesses that he and his disciples—to wit, apostolic men—walked in the same way, and jointly by the same Spirit did all things (2 Corinthians 12:18). The Jews also, in time past, had their traditions of elders; but these traditions were severely confuted by the Lord, showing that the keeping of them hinders God’s law, and that God is in vain worshiped of such (Matthew 15:8,9; Mark 7:6,7).
Chapter 3 - Of God; the Unity and the Trinity
We believe and teach that God is one in essence or nature, subsisting by himself, all-sufficient in himself, invisible, without a body, infinite, eternal, the Creator of all things both visible and invisible, the chief good, living, quickening and preserving all things, almighty and supremely wise, gentle or merciful, just and true.
And we detest the multitude of gods, because it is expressly written, ‘The Lord thy God is one God’ (Deuteronomy 6:4). ‘I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no strange gods before my face’ (Exodus 20:2,3). ‘I am the Lord, and there is none other; beside me there is no God. Am not I the Lord, and there is none other beside me alone? a just God, and a Saviour; there is none beside me’ (Isaiah 45:5,21). ‘I the Lord, Jehovah, the merciful God, gracious and long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,’ etc. (Exodus 34:6).
We nevertheless believe and teach that the same infinite, one, and indivisible God is in person inseparably and without confusion distinguished into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: so, as the Father has begotten the Son from eternity, the Son is begotten in an unspeakable manner; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from them both, and that from eternity, and is to be worshiped with them both. So that there are not three Gods, but three persons, consubstantial, coeternal, and coequal; distinct, as touching their persons; and, in order, one going before another, yet without any inequality. For, as touching their nature or essence, they are so joined together that they are but one God; and the divine essence is common to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
For the Scripture has delivered unto us a manifest distinction of persons; the angel, among other things, saying thus to the Blessed Virgin, ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; and that holy thing which shall be born shall be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:35). Also, in the baptism of Christ, a voice was heard from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son’ (Matthew 3:17). The Holy Spirit also appeared in the likeness of a dove (John 1:32). And when the Lord himself commanded to baptize, he commanded to baptize ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19). In like manner, elsewhere in the Gospel he said, ‘The Father will send the Holy Spirit in my name’ (John 14:26). Again he says, ‘When the Comforter shall come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me,’ etc. (John 15:26). In short, we receive the Apostles’ Creed, because it delivers unto us the true faith.
We therefore condemn the Jews and the Mohammedans, and all those who blaspheme that sacred and adorable Trinity. We also condemn all heresies and heretics who teach that the Son and the Holy Spirit are God only in name; also, that there is in the Trinity something created, and that serves and ministers unto another; finally, that there is in it something unequal, greater or less, corporeal or corporeally fashioned, in manners or in will diverse, either confounded or sole by itself: as if the Son and Holy Spirit were the affections and proprieties of one God the Father—as the Monarchists, the Novatians, Praxeas, the Patripassians, Sabellius, Samosatenus, Aëtius, Macedonius, the Anthropomorphites, Arius, and such like, have thought.
Chapter 4 - Of Idols; or of Images of God, of Christ, and of Saints
And because God is an invisible Spirit, and an incomprehensible Essence, he can not, therefore, by any art or image be expressed. For which cause we fear not, with the Scripture, to term the images of God mere lies.
We do therefore reject not only the idols of the Gentiles, but also the images of Christians. For although Christ took upon him man’s nature, yet he did not therefore take it that he might set forth a pattern for carvers and painters. He denied that he came ‘to destroy the law and the prophets’ (Matthew 5:17), but images are forbidden in the law and the prophets (Deuteronomy 4:15; Isaiah 44:9). He denied that his bodily presence would profit the Church, but promised that he would by his Spirit be present with us forever (John 16:7; 2 Corinthians 5:5).
Who would, then, believe that the shadow or picture of his body doth any whit benefit the godly? And seeing that he abideth in us by the Spirit, ‘we are therefore the temples of God’ (1 Corinthians 3:16); but ‘what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?’ (2 Corinthians 6:16). And seeing that the blessed spirits and saints in heaven, while they lived here, abhorred all worship done unto themselves (Acts 3:12, and Acts 14:15; Revelation 19:10, and Revelation 22:9), and spake against images, who can think it likely that the saints in heaven, and the angels, are delighted with their own images, whereunto men do bow their knees, uncover their heads, and give such other like honor?
But that men might be instructed in religion, and put in mind of heavenly things and of their own salvation, the Lord commanded to preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15)—not to paint and instruct the laity by pictures; he also instituted sacraments, but he nowhere appointed images.
Furthermore, in every place which way soever we turn our eyes, we may see the lively and true creatures of God, which if they be marked, as is meet, they do much more effectually move the beholder than all the images or vain, unmovable, rotten, and dead pictures of all men whatsoever; of which the prophet spake truly, ‘They have eyes, and see not,’ etc. (Psalm 115:5).
Therefore we approve the judgment of Lactantius, an ancient writer, who says, ‘Undoubtedly there is no religion where there is a picture.’ And we affirm that the blessed bishop Epiphanius did well, who, finding on the church-doors a veil, that had painted on it the picture, as it might be, of Christ or some saint or other, he cut and took it away; for that, contrary to the authority of the Scriptures, he had seen the picture of a man to hang in the Church of Christ: and therefore he charged that from henceforth no such veils, which were contrary to religion, should be hung up in the Church of Christ, but that rather such scruple should be taken away which was unworthy of the Church of Christ and all faithful people. Moreover, we approve this sentence of St. Augustine, ‘Let not the worship of men’s works be a religion unto us; for the workmen themselves that make such things are better, whom yet we ought not to worship’ (De Vera Religione, cap. 55).
Chapter 5 - Of the Adoration, Worship, and Invocation of God Through the Only Mediator Jesus Christ
We teach to adore and worship the true God alone. This honor we impart to none, according to the commandment of the Lord, ‘Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou worship,’ or ‘him only shalt thou serve’ (Matthew 4:10). Surely all the prophets inveighed earnestly against the people of Israel whensoever they did adore and worship strange gods, and not the only true God.
But we teach that ‘God is to be adored and worshiped,’ as himself has taught us to worship him—to wit, ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24); not with any superstition, but with sincerity, according to his word, lest at any time he also say unto us, ‘Who hath required these things at your hands?’ (Isaiah 1:12; Jeremiah 6:20). For Paul also says, ‘God is not worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing,’ etc. (Acts 17:25).
We, in all dangers and casualties of life, call on him alone, and that by the mediation of the only Mediator, and our Intercessor, Jesus Christ. For it is expressly commanded us, ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me’ (Psalm 50:15). Moreover, the Lord has made a most large promise, saying, ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask of my Father, he shall give it you’ (John 16:23); and again, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28). And seeing it is written, ‘How shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed?’ (Romans 10:14), and we do believe in God alone; therefore we call upon him only, and that through Christ. For ‘there is one God,’ says the apostle, ‘and one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus’ (1 Timothy 2:5). Again, ‘If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,’ etc. (1 John 2:1).
Therefore we do neither adore, worship, nor pray unto the saints in heaven, or to other gods; neither do we acknowledge them for our intercessors or mediators before the Father in heaven. For God and the mediator Christ do suffice us; neither do we impart unto others the honor due to God alone and to his Son, because he has plainly said, ‘I will not give my glory to another’ (Isaiah 41:8); and because Peter has said, ‘There is no other name given unto men, whereby they must be saved, but the name of Christ’ (Acts 4:12). Those, doubtless, who rest in him by faith do not seek any thing without Christ.
Yet, for all that, we do neither despise the saints nor think basely of them; for we acknowledge them to be the lively members of Christ, the friends of God, who have gloriously overcome the flesh and the world. We therefore love them as brethren, and honor them also; yet not with any worship, but with an honorable opinion of them, and with just praises of them. We also do imitate the saints, for we desire, with the most earnest affections and prayers, to be followers of their faith and virtues; to be partakers, also, with them of everlasting salvation; to dwell together with them everlastingly with God, and to rejoice with them in Christ. And in this point we approve that saying of St. Augustine, in his book De Vera Religione, ‘Let not the worship of men departed be any religion unto us; for, if they have lived holily, they are not so to be esteemed as that they seek such honors, but they will have us to worship Him by whose illumination they rejoice that we are fellow-servants as touching the reward. They are therefore to be honored for imitation, not to be worshiped for religion’s sake,’ etc.
And we much less believe that the relics of saints are to be adored and worshiped. Those ancient holy men seemed sufficiently to have honored their dead if they had honestly committed their bodies to the earth after the soul was gone up into heaven; and they thought that the most noble relics of their ancestors were their virtues, doctrine, and faith; which as they commended with the praise of the dead, so they did endeavor to express the same so long as they lived upon earth.
Those ancient men did not swear but by the name of the only Jehovah, as it is commanded by the law of God. Therefore, as we are forbidden to ‘swear by the name of strange gods’ (Exodus 23:13; Joshua 23:7), so we do not swear by saints, although we be requested there unto. We therefore in all these things do reject that doctrine which gives too much honor unto the saints in heaven.
Chapter 6 - Of the Providence of God
We believe that all things, both in heaven and in earth and in all creatures, are sustained and governed by the providence of this wise, eternal, and omnipotent God. For David witnesses and says, ‘The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. Who is like unto the Lord, who dwelleth on high, and yet humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and earth?’ (Psalm 113:4-6). Again, he says, ‘Thou hast foreseen all my ways; for there is not a word in my tongue which thou knowest not wholly, O Lord,’ etc. (Psalm 139:3,4). Paul also witnesses and says, ‘By him we live, move, and have our being’ (Acts 17:28); and ‘of him, and through him, and from him are all things’ (Romans 11:36).
Therefore Augustine both truly and according to the Scripture said, in his book De Agone Christi, cap. 8, ‘The Lord said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without the will of your Father.” By speaking thus he would give us to understand whatsoever men count most vile, that also is governed by the almighty power of God. For the truth, which said that all the hairs of our head are numbered, says also that the birds of the air are fed by him, and the lilies of the field are clothed by him.’
We therefore condemn the Epicureans, who deny the providence of God, and all those who blasphemously affirm that God is occupied about the poles of heaven, and that he neither sees nor regards us or our affairs. The princely prophet David also condemned these men when he said, ‘O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph? They say the Lord doth not see, neither doth the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye unwise among the people; and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? and he that hath formed the eye, shall he not see?’ (Psalm 94:3,7-9).
Notwithstanding, we do not condemn the means whereby the providence of God works as though they were unprofitable; but we teach that we must apply ourselves unto them, so far as they are commended unto us in the Word of God. Wherefore we dislike the rash speeches of such as say that if all things are governed by the providence of God, then all our studies and endeavors are unprofitable; it shall be sufficient if we leave or permit all things to be governed by the providence of God; and we shall not need hereafter to behave or act with carefulness in any matter. For though Paul did confess that he did sail by the providence of God, who had said to him, ‘Thou must testify of me also at Rome’ (Acts 23:11); who, moreover, promised and said, ‘There shall not so much as one soul perish, neither shall a hair fall from your heads’ (Acts 27:22,34); yet, the mariners devising how they might find a way to escape, the same Paul says to the centurion and to the soldiers, ‘Unless these remain in the ship, ye can not be safe’ (Acts 27:31). For God, who has appointed every thing his end, he also has ordained the beginning and the means by which we must attain unto the end. The heathens ascribe things to blind fortune and uncertain chance; but St. James would not have us say, ‘Today or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and there buy and sell;’ but he adds, ‘For that which ye should say, If the Lord will, and if we live, we will do this or that’ (James 4:13,15). And Augustine says, ‘All those things which seem to vain men to be done advisedly in the world, they do but accomplish his word because they are not done by his commandment. And, in his exposition of the 148th Psalm, ‘It seemed to be done by chance that Saul, seeking his father’s asses, should light on the prophet Samuel;’ but the Lord had before said to the prophet, ‘To-morrow I will send unto thee a man of the tribe of Benjamin,’ etc. (1 Samuel 9:16).
Chapter 7 - Of the Creation of All Things; of Angels, the Devil, and Man
This good and almighty God created all things, both visible and invisible, by his eternal Word, and preserves the same also by his eternal Spirit: as David witnesses, saying, ‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth’ (Psalm 33:6); and, as the Scripture says, ‘All things that the Lord created were very good’ (Genesis 1:31), and made for the use and profit of man.
Now, we say, that all those things do proceed from one beginning: and therefore we detest the Manichees and the Marcionites, who did wickedly imagine two substances and natures, the one of good, the other of evil; and also two beginnings and two gods, one contrary to the other—a good and an evil.
Among all the creatures, the angels and men are most excellent. Touching angels, the Holy Scripture says, ‘Who maketh his angels spirits, his ministers a flaming fire’ (Psalm 104:4); also, ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?’ (Hebrews 1:14).
And the Lord Jesus himself testifies of the devil, saying, ‘He that hath been a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44).
We teach, therefore, that some angels persisted in obedience, and were appointed unto the faithful service of God and men; and that others fell of their own accord, and ran headlong into destruction, and so became enemies to all good, and to all the faithful, etc.
Now, touching man, the Spirit says that in the beginning he was ‘created according to the image and likeness of God’ (Genesis 1:27); that God placed him in paradise, and made all things subject unto him; which David doth most nobly set forth in the 8th Psalm. Moreover, God gave unto him a wife, and blessed them.
We say, also, that man doth consist of two, and those divers substances in one person; of a soul immortal (as that which being separated from his body doth neither sleep nor die), and a body mortal, which, notwithstanding, at the last judgment shall be raised again from the dead, that from henceforth the whole man may continue forever in life or in death.
We condemn all those who mock at, or by subtle disputations call into doubt, the immortality of the soul, or say that the soul sleeps, or that it is a part of God. To be short, we condemn all opinions of all men whatsoever who think otherwise of the creation of angels, devils, and men than is delivered unto us by the Scriptures in the Apostolic Church of Christ.
Chapter 8 - Of Man’s Fall; Sin, and the Cause of Sin
Man was from the beginning created of God after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness, good and upright; but by the instigation of the serpent and his own fault, falling from the goodness and uprightness, he became subject to sin, death, and divers calamities; and such a one as he became by his fall, such are all his offspring, even subject to sin, death, and sundry calamities.
And we take sin to be that natural corruption of man, derived or spread from our first parents unto us all, through which we, being drowned in evil concupiscence, and clean turned away from God, but prone to all evil, full of all wickedness, distrust, contempt, and hatred of God, can do no good of ourselves—no, not so much as think any (Matthew 12:34,35).
And, what is more, even as we do grow in years, so by wicked thoughts, words, and deeds, committed against the law of God, we bring forth corrupt fruits, worthy of an evil tree: in which respect we, through our own desert, being subject to the wrath of God, are in danger of just punishment; so that we had all been cast away from God, had not Christ, the Deliverer, brought us back again.
By death, therefore, we understand not only bodily death, which is once to be suffered of us all for our sins, but also everlasting punishments due to our corruption and to our sins. For the Apostle says, ‘We were dead in trespasses and sins, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others; but God, who is rich in mercy, even when we were dead in sins, quickened us together with Christ’ (Ephesians 2:1-5). Again, ‘As by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin, death, and so death passed upon all men, forasmuch as all men have sinned,’ etc. (Romans 5:12).
We therefore acknowledge that original sin is in all men; we acknowledge that all other sins which spring therefrom are both called and are indeed sins, by what name soever they may be termed, whether mortal or venial, or also that which is called sin against the Holy Spirit, which is never forgiven.
We also confess that sins are not equal (John 5:16,17), although they spring from the same fountain of corruption and unbelief, but that some are more grievous than others (Mark 3:28,29); even as the Lord has said, ‘It shall be easier for Sodom’ than for the city that despises the word of the Gospel (Matthew 10:15). We therefore condemn all those that have taught things contrary to these; but especially Pelagius, and all the Pelagians, together with the Jovinianists, who, with the Stoics, count all sins equal. We in this matter agree fully with St. Augustine, who produced and maintained his sayings out of the Holy Scriptures. Moreover, we condemn Florinus and Blastus (against whom also Irenæus wrote), and all those who make God the author of sin; seeing it expressly written, ‘Thou art not a God that loveth wickedness; thou hatest all them that work iniquity, and wilt destroy all that speak leasing’ (Psalm 5:4-6). And, again, ‘When the devil speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; because he is a liar, and the father of lies’ (John 8:44). Yea, there are even in ourselves sin and corruption enough, so that there is no need that God should infuse into us either a new or greater measure of wickedness.
Therefore, when God is said in the Scripture to harden (Exodus 7:13), to blind (John 12:40), and to deliver us up into a reprobate sense (Romans 1:28), it is to be understood that God does it by just judgment, as a just judge and revenger. To conclude, as often as God in the Scripture is said and seems to do some evil, it is not thereby meant that man does not commit evil, but that God does suffer it to be done, and does not hinder it; and that by his just judgment, who could hinder it if he would: or because he makes good use of the evil of men, as he did in the sin of Joseph’s brethren; or because himself rules sins, that they break not out and rage more violently than is meet. St. Augustine, in his Enchiridion, says, ‘After a wonderful and unspeakable manner, that is not done beside his will which is done contrary to his will; because it could not be done if he should not suffer it to be done; and yet he doth not suffer it to be done unwillingly; neither would he, being God, suffer any evil to be done, unless, being also almighty, he could make good of evil.’ Thus far Augustine.
Other questions, as whether God would have Adam fall, or whether he forced him to fall, or why he did not hinder his fall, and such like, we account among curious questions (unless perchance the frowardness of heretics, or of men otherwise importunate, do compel us to open these points also out of the Word of God, as the godly doctors of the Church have oftentimes done); knowing that the Lord did forbid that man should eat of the forbidden fruit, and punished his transgression; and also that the things done are not evil in respect of the providence, will, and power of God, but in respect of Satan, and our will resisting the will of God.
Chapter 9 - Of Free-Will, and so of Man’s Power and Ability
We teach in this matter, which at all times has been the cause of many conflicts in the Church, that there is a triple condition or estate of man to be considered. First, what man was before his fall—to wit, upright and free, who might both continue in goodness and decline to evil; but he declined to evil, and has wrapped both himself and all mankind in sin and death, as has been shown before.
Secondly, we are to consider what man was after his fall. His understanding, indeed, was not taken from him, neither was he deprived of his will, and altogether changed into a stone or stock. Nevertheless, these things are so altered in man that they are not able to do that now which they could do before his fall. For his understanding is darkened, and his will, which before was free, is now become a servile will; for it serveth sin, not nilling, but willing—for it is called a will, and not a nill. Therefore, as touching evil or sin, man does evil, not compelled either by God or the devil, but of his own accord; and in this respect he has a most free will. But whereas we see that oftentimes the most evil deeds and counsels of man are hindered by God, that they can not attain their end, this does not take from man liberty in evil, but God by his power does prevent that which man otherwise purposed freely: as Joseph’s brethren did freely purpose to slay Joseph; but they were not able to do it, because it seemed otherwise good to God in his secret counsel.
But, as touching goodness and virtues, man’s understanding does not of itself judge aright of heavenly things. For the evangelical and apostolical Scripture requires regeneration of every one of us that will be saved. Wherefore our first birth by Adam does nothing profit us to salvation. Paul says, ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit,’ etc. (1 Corinthians 2:14). The same Paul elsewhere denies that we are ‘sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves’ (2 Corinthians 3:5).
Now, it is evident that the mind or understanding is the guide of the will; and, seeing the guide is blind, it is easy to be seen how far the will can reach. Therefore man, not as yet regenerate, has no free-will to good, no strength to perform that which is good. The Lord says in the Gospel, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin’ (John 8:34). And Paul the Apostle says, ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be’ (Romans 8:7).
Furthermore, there is some understanding of earthly things remaining in man after his fall. For God has of mercy left him wit, though much differing from that which was in him before his fall. God commands us to garnish our wit, and therewithal he gives gifts and also the increase thereof. And it is a clear case that we can profit very little in all arts without the blessing of God. The Scripture, no doubt, refers all arts to God; yea, and the Gentiles also ascribe the beginnings of arts to the gods, as the authors thereof.
Lastly, we are to consider whether the regenerate have free-will, and how far they have it. In regeneration the understanding is illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that it may understand both the mysteries and will of God. And the will itself is not only changed by the Spirit, but it is also endued with faculties, that, of its own accord, it may both will and do good (Romans 8:4). Unless we grant this, we shall deny Christian liberty, and bring in the bondage of the law. Besides, the prophet brings in God speaking thus: ‘I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts’ (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:27). The Lord also says in the Gospel, ‘If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed’ (John 8:36). Paul also to the Philippians, ‘Unto you is given for Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake’ (Philippians 1:29). And, again, ‘I am persuaded that he that began this good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6). Also, ‘It is God that worketh in you the will and the deed’ (Philippians 2:13).
Where, nevertheless, we teach that there are two things to be observed—first, that the regenerate, in the choice and working of that which is good, do not only work passively, but actively; for they are moved of God that themselves may do that which they do. And Augustine does truly allege that saying that ‘God is said to be our helper; but no man can be helped but he that does somewhat.’ The Manichæans did bereave man of all action, and made him like a stone and a block.
Secondly, that in the regenerate there remains infirmity. For, seeing that sin dwells in us, and that the flesh in the regenerate strives against the Spirit, even to our lives’ end, they do not readily perform in every point that which they had purposed. These things are confirmed by the apostle (Romans 7:13-25; Galatians 5:17).
Therefore, all free-will is weak by reason of the relics of the old Adam remaining in us so long as we live, and of the human corruption which so nearly cleaves to us. In the meanwhile, because the strength of the flesh and the relics of the old man are not of such great force that they can wholly quench the work of the Spirit, therefore the faithful are called free, yet so that they do acknowledge their infirmity, and glory no whit at all of their free-will. For that which St. Augustine does repeat so often out of the apostle ought always to be kept in mind by the faithful: ‘What hast thou that thou didst not receive? and if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?’ (1 Corinthians 4:7). Hitherto may be added that that comes not straightway to pass which we have purposed, for the events of things are in the hand of God. For which cause Paul besought the Lord that he would prosper his journey (Romans 1:10). Wherefore, in this respect also, free-will is very weak.
But in outward things no man denies but that both the regenerate and the unregenerate have their free-will; for man hath this constitution common with other creatures (to whom he is not inferior) to will some things and to nill other things. So he may speak or keep silence, go out of his house or abide within. Although herein also God’s power is evermore to be marked, which brought to pass that Balaam could not go so far as he would (Numbers 24:13), and that Zacharias, coming out of the Temple, could not speak as he would have done (Luke 1:22).
In this matter we condemn the Manichæans, who deny that the beginning of evil unto man, being good, came from his free-will. We condemn, also, the Pelagians, who affirm that an evil man has free-will sufficiently to perform a good precept. Both these are confuted by the Scripture, which says to the former, ‘God made man upright’ (Ecclesiastes 7:29); and to the latter, ‘If the Son make you free, then ye shall be free indeed’ (John 8:36).
Chapter 10 - Of the Predestination of God and the Election of the Saints
God has from the beginning freely, and of his mere grace, without any respect of men, predestinated or elected the saints, whom he will save in Christ, according to the saying of the apostle, ‘And he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world’ (Ephesians 1:4); and again, ‘Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given unto us, through Jesus Christ, before the world was, but is now made manifest by the appearance of our Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Timothy 1:9,10).
Therefore, though not for any merit of ours, yet not without a means, but in Christ, and for Christ, did God choose us; and they who are now ingrafted into Christ by faith, the same also were elected. But such as are without Christ were rejected, according to the saying of the apostle, ‘Prove yourselves, whether ye be in the faith. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?’ (2 Corinthians 13:5).
To conclude, the saints are chosen in Christ by God unto a sure end, which end the apostle declares when he says, ‘He hath chosen us in him, that we should be holy and without blame before him through love; who has predestinated us to be adopted through Jesus Christ unto himself, for the praise of his glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:4-6).
And although God knows who are his, and now and then mention is made of the small number of the elect, yet we must hope well of all, and not rashly judge any man to be a reprobate: for Paul says to the Philippians, ‘I thank my God for you all’ (now he speaks of the whole Church of the Philippians), ‘that ye are come into the fellowship of the Gospel; and I am persuaded that he that hath begun this work in you will perform it as it becometh me to judge of you all’ (Philippians 1:3-7).
And when the Lord was asked whether there were few that should be saved, he does not answer and tell them that few or many should be saved or damned, but rather he exhorts every man to ‘strive to enter in at the strait gate’ (Luke 13:24): as if he should say, It is not for you rashly to inquire of these matters, but rather to endeavor that you may enter into heaven by the strait way.
Wherefore we do not allow of the wicked speeches of some who say, Few are chosen, and seeing I know not whether I am in the number of these few, I will not defraud my nature of her desires. Others there are who say, If I be predestinated and chosen of God, nothing can hinder me from salvation, which is already certainly appointed for me, whatsoever I do at any time; but if I be in the number of the reprobate, no faith or repentance will help me, seeing the decree of God can not be changed: therefore all teachings and admonitions are to no purpose. Now, against these men the saying of the apostle makes much, ‘The servants of God must be apt to teach, instructing those that are contrary-minded, proving if God at any time will give them repentance, that they may come to amendment out of the snare of the devil, which are taken of him at his pleasure’ (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
Besides, Augustine also teaches, that both the grace of free election and predestination, and also wholesome admonitions and doctrines, are to be preached (Lib. de Bono Perseverantiæ, cap. 14).
We therefore condemn those who seek otherwhere than in Christ whether they be chosen from all eternity, and what God has decreed of them before all beginning. For men must hear the Gospel preached, and believe it. If thou believest, and art in Christ, thou mayest undoubtedly hold that thou art elected. For the Father has revealed unto us in Christ his eternal sentence of predestination, as we even now showed out of the apostle, in 2 Timothy 1:9,10. This is therefore above all to be taught and well weighed, what great love of the Father toward us in Christ is revealed. We must hear what the Lord does daily preach unto us in his Gospel: how he calls and says, ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you’ (Matthew 11:28); and, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16); also, ‘It is not the will of your Father in heaven that any of these little ones should perish’ (Matthew 18:14).
Let Christ, therefore, be our looking-glass, in whom we may behold our predestination. We shall have a most evident and sure testimony that we are written in the Book of Life if we communicate with Christ, and he be ours, and we be his, by a true faith. Let this comfort us in the temptation touching predestination, than which there is none more dangerous: that the promises of God are general to the faithful; in that he says, ‘Ask, and ye shall receive; every one that asketh receiveth’ (Luke 11:9,10). And, to conclude, we pray, with the whole Church of God, ‘Our Father which art in heaven’ (Matthew 6:9); and in baptism, we are ingrafted into the body of Christ, and we are fed in his Church, oftentimes, with his flesh and blood, unto everlasting life. Thereby, being strengthened, we are commanded to ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling,’ according to that precept of Paul, in Philippians 2:12.
Chapter 11 - Of Jesus Christ, Being True God and Man, and the Only Saviour of the World
Moreover, we believe and teach that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, was from all eternity predestinated and foreordained of the Father to be the Saviour of the world. And we believe that he was begotten, not only then, when he took flesh of the Virgin Mary, nor yet a little before the foundations of the world were laid; but before all eternity, and that of the Father after an unspeakable manner. For Isaiah says (Isaiah 53:8), ‘Who can tell his generation?’ And Micah says (Micah 5:2), ‘Whose egress hath been from everlasting.’ And John says (John 1:1), ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,’ etc.
Therefore the Son is coequal and consubstantial with the Father, as touching his divinity: true God, not by name only, or by adoption, or by special favor, but in substance and nature (Philippians 2:6). Even as the apostle says elsewhere, ‘This is the true God, and life everlasting’ (1 John 5:20). Paul also says, ‘He hath made his Son the heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; the same is the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, bearing up all things by his mighty word’ (Hebrews 1:2,3). Likewise, in the Gospel, the Lord himself says, ‘Father, glorify thou me with thyself, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was’ (John 17:5). Also elsewhere it is written in the Gospel, ‘The Jews sought how to kill Jesus, because he said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God’ (John 5:18).
We therefore do abhor the blasphemous doctrine of Arius, and all the Arians, uttered against the Son of God; and especially the blasphemies of Michael Servetus, the Spaniard, and of his complices, which Satan through them has, as it were, drawn out of hell, and most boldly and impiously spread abroad throughout the world against the Son of God.
We also teach and believe that the eternal Son of the eternal God was made the Son of man, of the seed of Abraham and David (Matthew 1:25); not by the means of any man, as Ebion affirmed, but that he was most purely conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of Mary, who was always a virgin, even as the history of the Gospel does declare. And Paul says, ‘He took not on him the nature of angels, but of the seed of Abraham’ (Hebrews 2:16). And John the apostle says, ‘He that believeth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God’ (1 John 4:3). The flesh of Christ, therefore, was neither flesh in show only, nor yet flesh brought from heaven, as Valentinus and Marcion dreamed.
Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ had not a soul without sense and reason, as Apollinaris thought; nor flesh without a soul, as Eunomius did teach; but a soul with its reason, and flesh with its senses, by which senses he felt true griefs in the time of his passion, even as he himself witnessed when he said, ‘My soul is heavy, even to death’ (Matthew 26:38); and, ‘My soul is troubled,’ etc. (John 12:27).
We acknowledge, therefore, that there be in one and the same Jesus Christ our Lord two natures—the divine and the human nature; and we say that these two are so conjoined or united that they are not swallowed up, confounded, or mingled together; but rather united or joined together in one person (the properties of each nature being safe and remaining still), so that we do worship one Christ our Lord, and not two. I say one, true God and man, as touching his divine nature, of the same substance with us, and ‘in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15).
As, therefore, we detest the heresy of Nestorius, which makes two Christs of one and dissolves the union of the person, so do we abominate the madness of Eutyches and of the Monothelites and Monophysites, who overthrow the propriety of the human nature.
Therefore we do not teach that the divine nature in Christ did suffer, or that Christ, according to his human nature, is yet in the world, and so in every place. For we do neither think nor teach that the body of Christ ceased to be a true body after his glorifying, or that it was deified and so deified that it put off its properties, as touching body and soul, and became altogether a divine nature and began to be one substance alone; therefore we do not allow or receive the unwitty subtleties, and the intricate, obscure, and inconstant disputations of Schwenkfeldt, and such other vain janglers, about this matter; neither are we Schwenkfeldians.
Moreover, we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ did truly suffer and die for us in the flesh, as Peter says (1 Peter 4:1). We abhor the most impious madness of the Jacobites, and all the Turks, who execrate the passion of our Lord. Yet we deny not but that ‘the Lord of glory,’ according to the saying of Paul, was crucified for us (1 Corinthians 2:8); for we do reverently and religiously receive and use the communication of properties drawn from the Scripture, and used of all antiquity in expounding and reconciling places of Scripture which at first sight seem to disagree one from another.
We believe and teach that the same Lord Jesus Christ, in that true flesh in which he was crucified and died, rose again from the dead; and that he did not rise up another flesh, but retained a true body. Therefore, while his disciples thought that they did see the spirit of their Lord Christ, he showed them his hands and feet, which were marked with the prints of the nails and wounds, saying, ‘Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have’ (Luke 24:39).
We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, in the same flesh, did ascend above all the visible heavens into the very highest heaven, that is to say, the seat of God and of the blessed spirits, unto the right hand of God the Father. Although it do signify an equal participation of glory and majesty, yet it is also taken for a certain place; of which the Lord, speaking in the Gospel, says, that ‘He will go and prepare a place for his’ (John 14:2). Also the Apostle Peter says, ‘The heavens must contain Christ until the time of restoring all things’ (Acts 3:21).
And out of heaven the same Christ will return unto judgment, even then when wickedness shall chiefly reign in the world, and when Antichrist, having corrupted true religion, shall fill all things with superstition and impiety, and shall most cruelly waste the Church with fire and bloodshed. Now Christ shall return to redeem his, and to abolish Antichrist by his coming, and to judge the quick and the dead (Acts 17:31). For the dead shall arise, and those that shall be found alive in that day (which is unknown unto all creatures) ‘shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye’ (1 Corinthians 15:51,52). And all the faithful shall be taken up to meet Christ in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17); that thenceforth they may enter with him into heaven, there to live forever (2 Timothy 2:11); but the unbelievers, or ungodly, shall descend with the devils into hell, there to burn forever, and never to be delivered out of torments (Matthew 25:41).
We therefore condemn all those who deny the true resurrection of the flesh, and those who think amiss of the glorified bodies, as did Joannes Hierosolymitanus, against whom Jerome wrote. We also condemn those who have thought that both the devils and all the wicked shall at length be saved and have an end of their torments; for the Lord himself has absolutely set it down that ‘Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched’ (Mark 9:44).
Moreover, we condemn the Jewish dreams, that before the day of judgment there shall be a golden age in the earth, and that the godly shall possess the kingdoms of the world, their wicked enemies being trodden under foot; for the evangelical truth (Matthew 24 and Matthew 25, Luke 21), and the apostolic doctrine (in 2 Thessalonians 2, and in 2 Timothy 3 and 2 Timothy 4) are found to teach far otherwise.
Furthermore, by his passion or death, and by all those things which he did and suffered for our sakes from the time of his coming in the flesh, our Lord reconciled his heavenly Father unto all the faithful (Romans 5:10); purged their sin (Hebrews 1:3); spoiled death, broke in sunder condemnation and hell; and by his resurrection from the dead brought again and restored life and immortality (Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:17; 2 Timothy 1:10). For he is our righteousness, life, and resurrection (John 6:44); and, to be short, he is the fullness and perfection, the salvation and most abundant sufficiency, of all the faithful. For the apostle says, ‘So it pleaseth the Father that all fullness should dwell in him’ (Colossians 1:19), and ‘In him ye are complete’ (Colossians 2:10).
For we teach and believe that this Jesus Christ our Lord is the only and eternal Saviour of mankind, yea, and of the whole world, in whom all are saved before the law, under the law, and in the time of the Gospel, and so many as shall yet be saved to the end of the world. For the Lord himself, in the Gospel, says, ‘He that entereth not in by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up the other way, he is a thief and a robber’ (John 10:1). ‘I am the door of the sheep’ (John 10:7). And also in another place of the same Gospel he says, ‘Abraham saw my day, and rejoiced’ (John 8:56). And the Apostle Peter says, ‘Neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ; for among men there is given no other name under heaven whereby they might be saved’ (Acts 4:12). We believe, therefore, that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as our fathers were. For Paul says, that ‘All our fathers did eat the same spiritual meat, and drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ’ (1 Corinthians 10:3,4). And therefore we read that John said, that ‘Christ was that Lamb which was slain from the foundation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8); and that John the Baptist witnesseth, that Christ is that ‘Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
Wherefore we do plainly and openly profess and preach, that Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer and Saviour of the world, the King and High Priest, the true and looked-for Messiah, that holy and blessed one (I say) whom all the shadows of the law, and the prophecies of the prophets, did prefigure and promise; and that God did supply and send him unto us, so that now we are not to look for any other. And now there remains nothing, but that we all should give all glory to him, believe in him, and rest in him only, contemning and rejecting all other aids of our life. For they are fallen from the grace of God, and make Christ of no value unto themselves, whosoever they be that seek salvation in any other things besides Christ alone (Galatians 5:4).
And, to speak many things in a few words, with a sincere heart we believe, and with liberty of speech we freely profess, whatsoever things are defined out of the Holy Scriptures, and comprehended in the creeds, and in the decrees of those four first and most excellent councils—held at Nicæa, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon—together with blessed Athanasius’s creed and all other creeds like to these, touching the mystery of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ; and we condemn all things contrary to the same.
And thus we retain the Christian, sound, and Catholic faith, whole and inviolable, knowing that nothing is contained in the aforesaid creeds which is not agreeable to the Word of God, and makes wholly for the sincere declaration of the faith.
Chapter 12 - Of the Law of God
We teach that the will of God is set down unto us in the law of God; to wit, what he would have us to do, or not to do, what is good and just, or what is evil and unjust. We therefore confess that ‘The law is good and holy’ (Romans 7:12); and that this law is, by the finger of God, either ‘written in the hearts of men’ (Romans 2:15), and so is called the law of nature, or engraven in the two tables of stone, and more largely expounded in the books of Moses (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:22). For plainness’ sake we divide it into the moral law, which is contained in the commandments, or the two tables expounded in the books of Moses; into the ceremonial, which does appoint ceremonies and the worship of God; and into the judicial law, which is occupied about political and domestic affairs.
We believe that the whole will of God, and all necessary precepts, for every part of this life, are fully delivered in this law. For otherwise the Lord would not have forbidden that ‘any thing should be either added to or taken away from this law’ (Deuteronomy 4:2, and 12:32); neither would he have commanded us to go straight forward in this, and ‘not to decline out of the way, either to the right hand or to the left’ (Joshua 1:7).
We teach that this law was not given to men, that we should be justified by keeping it; but that, by the knowledge thereof, we might rather acknowledge our infirmity, sin, and condemnation; and so, despairing of our strength, might turn unto Christ by faith. For the apostle says plainly, ‘The law worketh wrath’ (Romans 4:15); and ‘by the law cometh the knowledge of sin’ (Romans 3:20); and, ‘If there had been a law given which would have justified and given us life, surely righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture (to wit, of the law) has concluded all under sin, that the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ should be given to them which believe’ (Galatians 3:21,22). ‘Therefore, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith’ (Galatians 3:24). For neither could there ever, neither at this day can any flesh satisfy the law of God, and fulfill it, by reason of the weakness in our flesh, which remains and sticks fast in us, even to our last breath. For the apostle says again, ‘That which the law could not perform, inasmuch as it was weak through the flesh, that did God perform, by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh’ (Romans 8:3). Therefore, Christ is the perfecting of the law, and our fulfilling of it; who, as he took away the curse of the law, when he was made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13), so does he communicate unto us by faith his fulfilling thereof, and his righteousness and obedience are imputed unto us.
The law of God, therefore, is thus far abrogated; that is, it does not henceforth condemn us, neither work wrath in us; ‘for we are under grace, and not under the law’ (Romans 6:14). Moreover, Christ did fulfill all the figures of the law; wherefore the shadow ceased when the body came, so that, in Christ, we have now all truth and fullness. Yet we do not therefore disdain or reject the law. We remember the words of the Lord, saying, ‘I came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them’ (Matthew 5:17). We know that in the law are described unto us the kinds of virtues and vices. We know that the Scripture of the law, if it be expounded by the Gospel, is very profitable to the Church, and that therefore the reading of it is not to be banished out of the Church. For although the countenance of Moses was covered with a veil, yet the apostle affirms that ‘the veil is taken away and abolished by Christ’ (2 Corinthians 3:14). We condemn all things which the old or new heretics have taught against the law of God.
Chapter 13 - Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: also of Promises; of the Spirit and of the Letter
The Gospel, indeed, is opposed to the law: for the law works wrath, and does announce a curse; but the Gospel does preach grace and blessing. John also says, ‘The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’ (John 1:17). Yet, notwithstanding, it is most certain that they who were before the law, and under the law, were not altogether destitute of the Gospel. For they had notable evangelical promises, such as these: ‘The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head’ (Genesis 3:15). ‘In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed’ (Genesis 49:10). ‘The Lord shall raise up a Prophet from among his own brethren,’ etc. (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22, and 7:37).
And we do acknowledge that the fathers had two kinds of promises revealed unto them, even as we have. For some of them were of present and transitory things: such as were the promises of the land of Canaan, and of victories; and such as are nowadays concerning our daily bread. Other promises there were then, and are now, of heavenly and everlasting things; as of God’s favor, remission of sins, and life everlasting, through faith in Jesus Christ. Now, the fathers had not only outward or earthly, but spiritual and heavenly promises in Christ. For the Apostle Peter says that ‘the prophets, which prophesied of the grace that should come to us, have searched and inquired of his salvation’ (1 Peter 1:10). Whereupon the Apostle Paul also says, that ‘the Gospel of God was promised before by the prophets of God in the Holy Scriptures’ (Romans 1:2). Hereby, then, it appears evidently that the fathers were not altogether destitute of all the Gospel.
And although, after this manner, our fathers had the Gospel in the writings of the prophets, by which they attained salvation in Christ through faith, yet the Gospel is properly called ‘glad and happy tidings;’ wherein, first by John Baptist, then by Christ the Lord himself, and afterwards by the apostles and their successors, is preached to us in the world, that God has now performed that which he promised from the beginning of the world, and has sent, yea, and even given unto us, his only Son, and, in him, reconciliation with the Father, remission of sins, all fullness, and everlasting life. The history, therefore, set down by the four evangelists, declaring how these things were done or fulfilled in Christ, and what he taught and did, and that they who believe in him have all fullness—this, I say, is truly called the Gospel. The preaching, also, and Scripture of the apostles, in which they expound unto us how the Son was given us of the Father, and, in him, all things pertaining to life and salvation, is truly called the doctrine of the Gospel; so as even at this day it loses not that worthy name, if it be sincere.
The same preaching of the Gospel is by the apostle termed the Spirit, and ‘the ministry of the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:8): because it lives and works through faith in the ears, yea, in the hearts, of the faithful, through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. For the letter, which is opposed unto the Spirit, does indeed signify every outward thing, but more especially the doctrine of the law, which, without the Spirit and faith, works wrath, and stirs up sin in the minds of them that do not truly believe. For which cause it is called by the apostle ‘the ministry of death’ (2 Corinthians 3:7); for hitherto pertains that saying of the apostle, ‘the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life’ (2 Corinthians 3:6). The false apostles preached the Gospel, corrupted by mingling of the law therewith; as though Christ could not save without the law. Such, also, were the Ebionites said to be, who came of Ebion the heretic; and the Nazarites, who beforetime were called Mineans. All whom we do condemn, sincerely preaching the word, and teaching that believers are justified through the Spirit (or Christ) only, and not through the law. But of this matter there shall follow a fuller exposition, under the title of justification.
And although the doctrine of the Gospel, compared with the Pharisees’ doctrine of the law, might seem (when it was first preached by Christ) to be a new doctrine (which thing also Jeremiah prophesied of the New Testament); yet, indeed, it not only was, and as yet is (though the papists call it new, in regard of popish doctrine, which has of long time been received), an ancient doctrine, but also the most ancient in the world. For God from all eternity foreordained to save the world by Christ, and this his predestination and eternal counsel has he opened to the world by the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:9,10). Whereby it appears that the evangelical doctrine and religion was the most ancient of all that ever were or are; wherefore we say, that all they [the papists] err foully, and speak things unworthy the eternal counsel of God, who term the evangelical doctrine and religion a newly concocted faith, scarce thirty years old: to whom that saying of Isaiah does very well agree—‘Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter’ (Isaiah 5:20).
Chapter 14 - Of Repentance, and the Conversion of Man
The Gospel has the doctrine of repentance joined with it; for so said the Lord in the Gospel, ‘In my name must repentance and remission of sins be preached among all nations’ (Luke 24:47).
By repentance we understand the change of the mind in a sinful man stirred up by the preaching of the Gospel through the Holy Spirit, and received by a true faith: by which a sinful man does acknowledge his natural corruption, and all his sins, seeing them convinced by the Word of God, and is heartily grieved for them; and does not only bewail and freely confess them before God with shame, but also does loathe and abhor them with indignation, thinking seriously of present amendment, and of a continual care of innocency and virtue, wherein to exercise himself holily all the rest of his life.
And surely this is true repentance—namely, an unfeigned turning unto God and to all goodness, and a serious return from the devil and from all evil. Now we do expressly say, that this repentance is the mere gift of God, and not the work of our own strength. For the apostle directs the faithful minister diligently to ‘instruct those who oppose the truth, if so be at any time the Lord may give them repentance, that they may acknowledge the truth’ (2 Timothy 2:25). Also the sinful woman in the Gospel, who washed Christ’s feet with her tears; and Peter, who bitterly wept and bewailed his denial of his Master—do manifestly show what mind the penitent man should have, to wit, very earnestly lamenting his sins committed. Moreover, the prodigal son, and the publican in the Gospel, that is compared with the Pharisee, do set forth unto us a most fit pattern of confessing our sins to God. The prodigal son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and against thee: I am not worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants’ (Luke 15:18,19). The publican, also, not daring to lift up his eyes to heaven, but smiting his breast, cried, ‘God be merciful unto me a sinner’ (Luke 18:13). And we doubt not but the Lord received them to mercy. For John the apostle says, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and purge us from all iniquity. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us’ (1 John 1:9,10).
We believe that this sincere confession, which is made to God alone, either privately between God and the sinner, or openly in the church, where that general confession of sins is rehearsed, is sufficient; and that it is not necessary for the obtaining of remission of sins that any man should confess his sins unto the priest, whispering them into his ears, that, the priest laying his hands on his head, he might receive absolution: because we find no commandment nor example thereof in the Holy Scripture. David protests and says, ‘I made my fault known to thee, and my unrighteousness did I not hide from thee. I said, I will confess my wickedness to the Lord against myself, and thou hast forgiven the heinousness of my sin’ (Psalm 32:5). Yea, and the Lord, teaching us to pray, and also to confess our sins, said, ‘So shall ye pray: Our Father which art in heaven, forgive us our debts, even as we forgive our debtors’ (Matthew 6:9,12). It is requisite, therefore, that we should confess our sins unto God, and be reconciled with our neighbor, if we have offended him. And the Apostle James, speaking generally of confession, says, ‘Confess each of you your sins to one another’ (James 5:16). If so be that any man, being overwhelmed with the burden of his sins, and troublesome temptations, will privately ask counsel, instruction, or comfort, either of a minister of the Church, or of any other brother that is learned in the law of God, we do not mislike it. Like as also we do fully allow that general and public confession which is wont to be rehearsed in the church, and in holy meetings (whereof we spake before), being, as it is, agreeable with the Scripture.
As concerning the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which the Lord committed to his apostles, they [the papists] prate many strange things; and of these keys they make swords, spears, scepters, and crowns, and full power over mighty kingdoms, yea, and over men’s souls and bodies. But we, judging uprightly, according to the Word of God, do say that all ministers, truly called, have and exercise the keys, or the use of them, when they preach the Gospel; that is to say, when they teach, exhort, reprove, and keep in order the people committed to their charge. For they do open the kingdom of God to the obedient, and shut it against the disobedient. These keys did the Lord promise to the apostles, in Matthew 16:19; and delivered them, in John 20:23; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:47, when he sent forth his disciples, and commanded them to preach the Gospel in all the world, and to remit sins. The apostle, in the epistle to the Corinthians, says that the Lord ‘gave to his ministers the ministry of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:18). And what this was he straightway makes plain and says, ‘The word or doctrine of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). And yet more plainly expounding his words, he adds, that the ministers of Christ do, as it were, go an embassage in Christ’s name, as if God himself should by his ministers exhort the people to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20); to wit, by faithful obedience. They use the keys, therefore, when they persuade to faith and repentance. Thus do they reconcile men to God; thus they forgive sins; thus they open the kingdom of heaven and bring in the believers; much differing herein from those of whom the Lord spake in the Gospel, ‘Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye have not entered in yourselves, and those that would have entered ye forbade’ (Luke 11:52).
Rightly, therefore, and effectually do ministers absolve, when they preach the Gospel of Christ, and thereby remission of sins; which is promised to every one that believes, even as every one is baptized; and to testify of it that it does particularly appertain to all. Neither do we imagine that this absolution is made any whit more effectual for that which is mumbled into some priest’s ear, or upon some man’s head particularly; yet we judge that men must be taught diligently to seek remission of sins in the blood of Christ, and that every one is to be put in mind that forgiveness of sins does belong unto him.
But how diligent and careful every penitent man ought to be in the endeavor of a new life, and in slaying the old man and raising up the new man, the examples in the Gospel do teach us. For the Lord said to him whom he had healed of the palsy, ‘Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee’ (John 5:14). Likewise to the woman taken in adultery he said, ‘Go thy way, and sin no more’ (John 8:11). By which words he did mean that any man could be free from sin while he lived in this flesh; but he does commend unto us diligence and an earnest care, that we (I say) should endeavor by all means, and beg of God by prayer, that we fall not again into sins, out of which we are risen after the manner, and that we may not be overcome of the flesh, the world, or the devil. Zacchæus, the publican, being received into favor by the Lord, cried out, in the Gospel, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken from any man any thing by false accusation, I restore him fourfold’ (Luke 19:8). After the same manner we preach that restitution and mercy, yea, and giving of alms, are necessary for them who truly repent. And, generally, out of the apostle’s words we exhort men, saying, ‘Let not sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it through the lusts thereof. Neither give ye your members as weapons of unrighteousness to sin; but give yourselves unto God’ (Romans 6:12,13).
Wherefore we condemn all the ungodly speeches of those who abuse the preaching of the Gospel, and say, To return unto God is very easy, for Christ has purged all our sins. Forgiveness of sins is easily obtained; what, therefore, will it hurt to sin? And, We need not take any great care for repentance, etc. Notwithstanding, we always teach that an entrance unto God is open for all sinners, and that this God does forgive all the sins of the faithful, only that one sin excepted which is committed against the Holy Ghost (Mark 3:28,29).
And, therefore, we condemn the old and new Novatians and Catharists; and especially we condemn the Pope’s painful doctrine of penance. And against his simony and simoniacal indulgences we use that sentence of Simon Peter, ‘Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God might be bought with money. Thou hast no part or fellowship in this matter: for thy heart is not upright before God’ (Acts 8:20,21).
We also disallow those who think that themselves, by their own satisfactions, can make recompense for their sins committed. For we teach that Christ alone, by his death and passion, is the satisfaction, propitiation, and purging of all sins (Isaiah 53:4). Nevertheless, we cease not to urge, as was before said, the mortification of the flesh; and yet we add further, that it must not be proudly thrust upon God for a satisfaction of our sins (1 Corinthians 8:8); but must humbly, as it becomes the sons of God, be performed, as a new obedience, to show thankful minds for the deliverance and full satisfaction obtained by the death and satisfaction of the Son of God.
Chapter 15 - Of the True Justification of the Faithful
To justify, in the apostle’s disputation touching justification, does signify to remit sins, to absolve from the fault and the punishment thereof, to receive into favor, to pronounce a man just. For the apostle says to the Romans, ‘God is he that justifieth. Who is he that can condemn?’ (Romans 8:33,34). Here to justify and to condemn are opposed. And in the Acts of the Apostles the apostle says, ‘Through Christ is preached unto you forgiveness of sins: and from all things (from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses) by him every one that believes is justified’ (Acts 13:38,39). For in the law, also, and in the prophets, we read, that ‘If a controversy were risen among any, and they came to judgment, the judge should judge them; that is, justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked’ (Deuteronomy 25:1). And in Isaiah 5:22,23, ‘Woe to them which justify the wicked for reward.’
Now, it is most certain that we are all by nature sinners, and before the judgment-seat of God convicted of ungodliness, and guilty of death. But we are justified—that is, acquitted from sin and death—by God the Judge, through the grace of Christ alone, and not by any respect or merit of ours. For what is more plain than that which Paul says?—‘All have sinned, and are destitute of the glory of God, and are justified freely by grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:23,24).
For Christ took upon himself and bare the sins of the world, and did satisfy the justice of God. God, therefore, is merciful unto our sins for Christ alone, that suffered and rose again, and does not impute them unto us. But he imputes the justice of Christ unto us for our own; so that now we are not only cleansed from sin, and purged, and holy, but also endued with the righteousness of Christ; yea, and acquitted from sin, death, and condemnation (2 Corinthians 5:19-21); finally, we are righteous, and heirs of eternal life. To speak properly, then, it is God alone that justifieth us, and that only for Christ, by not imputing unto us our sins, but imputing Christ’s righteousness unto us (Romans 4:23-25).
But because we do receive this justification, not by any works, but by faith in the mercy of God and in Christ; therefore, we teach and believe, with the apostle, that sinful man is justified only by faith in Christ, not by the law or by any works. For the apostle says, ‘We conclude that man is justified by faith, without the works of the law’ (Romans 3:28). ‘If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to boast; but not with God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness; but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness’ (Romans 4:2,3,5; Genesis 15:6). And again, ‘Ye are saved by grace, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not by works, lest any might have cause to boast,’ etc. (Ephesians 2:8,9). Therefore, because faith does apprehend Christ our righteousness, and does attribute all the praise of God in Christ; in this respect justification is attributed to faith, chiefly because of Christ, whom it receives, and not because it is a work of ours; for it is the gift of God. Now, that we do receive Christ by faith the Lord shows at large (John 6:27,33,35,48-58), where he puts eating for believing, and believing for eating. For as by eating we receive meat, so by believing we are made partakers of Christ.
Therefore, we do not divide the benefit of justification, giving part to the grace of God or to Christ, and part to ourselves, our charity, works, or merit; but we do attribute it wholly to the praise of God in Christ, and that through faith. Moreover, our charity and our works can not please God if they be done of such as are not just; wherefore, we must first be just before we can love or do any just works. We are made just (as we have said) through faith in Christ, by the mere grace of God, who does not impute unto us our sins, but imputes unto us the righteousness of Christ; yea, and our faith in Christ he imputes for righteousness unto us. Moreover, the apostle does plainly derive love from faith, saying, ‘The end of the commandment is love, proceeding from a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned’ (1 Timothy 1:5).
Wherefore, in this matter we speak not of a feigned, vain, or dead faith, but of a lively and quickening faith; which, for Christ (who is life, and gives life), whom it apprehends, both is indeed, and is so called, a lively faith, and does prove itself to be lively by lively works. And, therefore, James does speak nothing contrary to this doctrine; for he speaks of a vain and dead faith, which certain bragged of, but had not Christ living within them by faith. And also James says that works do justify (James 2:14-26), yet he is not contrary to Paul (for then he were to be rejected); but he shows that Abraham did declare his lively and justifying faith by works. And so do all the godly, who yet trust in Christ alone, not to their own works. For the apostle said again, ‘I live no longer myself, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live through the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness be by the law, then Christ died without cause’ (Galatians 2:20,21).
Chapter 16 - Of Faith and Good Works; of their Reward, and of Man’s Merit
Christian faith is not an opinion or human persuasion, but a sure trust, and an evident and steadfast assent of the mind; it is a most sure comprehension of the truth of God, set forth in the Scriptures and in the Apostles’ Creed; yea, and of God himself, the chief blessedness; and especially of God’s promise, and of Christ, who is the consummation of all the promises. And this faith is the mere gift of God, because God alone of his power does give it to his elect, according to measure; and that when, to whom, and how much he will; and that by his Holy Spirit, through the means of preaching the Gospel and of faithful prayer. This faith has also its measures of increase; which, unless they were likewise given of God, the apostles would never have said, ‘Lord, increase our faith’ (Luke 17:5).
Now, all these things which we have hitherto said of faith, the apostles taught them before us, even as we set them down. For Paul says, ‘Faith is the ground,’ or sure subsistence, ‘of things hoped for, and the evidence,’ or clear and certain comprehension, ‘of things which are not seen’ (Hebrews 11:1). And again he says that ‘all the promises of God in Christ are yea, and in Christ are amen’ (2 Corinthians 1:20). And the same apostle says to the Philippians that ‘it was given them to believe in Christ’ (Philippians 1:29). And also, ‘God doth distribute unto every man a measure of faith’ (Romans 12:3). And again, ‘All men have not faith’ (2 Thessalonians 3:2); and, ‘All do not obey the Gospel’ (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Besides, Luke witnesses and says, ‘As many as were ordained to life, believed’ (Acts 13:48). And therefore Paul also calls faith ‘the faith of God’s elect’ (Titus 1:1). And, again, ‘Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ (Romans 10:17). And in other places he oftentimes wills men to pray for faith. And the same also called faith powerful, and that showeth itself by love (Galatians 5:6). This faith pacifies the conscience, and opens to us a free access unto God; that with confidence we may come unto him, and may obtain at his hands whatsoever is profitable and necessary. The same faith keeps us in our duty which we owe to God and to our neighbor, and fortifies our patience in adversity; it frames and makes a true confession, and (in a word) it brings forth good fruit of all sorts; and good works (which are good indeed) proceeds from a lively faith by the Holy Spirit, and are done of the faithful according to the will or rule of God’s word. For Peter the Apostle says, ‘Therefore, giving all diligence thereunto, add, moreover, to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance,’ etc. (2 Peter 1:5,6).
It was said before that the law of God, which is the will of God, did prescribe unto us the pattern of good works. And the apostle says, ‘This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye abstain from all uncleanness, and that no man oppress or deceive his brother in any matter’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3,6). But as for such works and worships of God as are taken up upon our own liking, which St. Paul calls ‘will-worship’ (Colossians 2:23), they are not allowed nor liked of God. Of such the Lord says in the Gospel, ‘They worship me in vain, teaching for doctrine the precepts of men’ (Matthew 15:9).
We therefore disallow all such manner of works, and we approve and urge men unto such as are according to the will and commandment of God. Yea, and these same works that are agreeable to God’s will must be done, not to the end to merit eternal life by them; for ‘life everlasting,’ as the apostle says, ‘is the gift of God’ (Romans 6:23), nor for ostentation’s sake, which the Lord does reject (Matthew 6:1,5,16), nor for lucre, which also he mislikes (Matthew 23:23), but to the glory of God, to commend and set forth our calling, and to yield thankfulness unto God, and also for the profit of our neighbors. For the Lord says again in the Gospel, ‘Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16). Likewise the Apostle Paul says, ‘Walk worthy of your calling’ (Ephesians 4:1). Also, ‘Whatsoever ye do,’ says he, ‘either in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by him’ (Colossians 3:17). ‘Let no man seek his own, but every man his brother’s’ (Philippians 2:4). And, ‘Let ours also learn to show forth good works for necessary uses, that they be not unprofitable’ (Titus 3:14).
Notwithstanding, therefore, that we teach with the apostle that a man is justified by faith in Christ, and not by any good works (Romans 3:28), yet we do not lightly esteem or condemn good works; because we know that a man is not created or regenerated through faith that he should be idle, but rather that without ceasing he should do those things which are good and profitable. For in the Gospel the Lord says, ‘A good tree bringeth forth good fruit’ (Matthew 12:33); and, again, ‘Whosoever abideth in me, bringeth forth much fruit’ (John 15:5). And, lastly, the apostle says, ‘We are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God hath prepared, that we should walk in them’ (Ephesians 2:10). And again, ‘Who gave himself for us, that he might deliver us from all iniquity, and purge us to be a peculiar people to himself, zealous of good works’ (Titus 2:14). We therefore condemn all those who do contemn good works, and do babble that they are needless and not to be regarded. Nevertheless, as was said before, we do not think that we are saved by good works, or that they are so necessary to salvation that no man was ever saved without them. For we are saved by grace and by the benefit of Christ alone. Works do necessarily proceed from faith; but salvation is improperly attributed to them, which is most properly ascribed to grace. That sentence of the apostle is very notable: ‘If by grace, then not of works; for then grace were no more grace: but if of works, then is it not of grace; for then works were no more works’ (Romans 11:6).
Now the works which we do are accepted and allowed of God through faith; because they who do them please God by faith in Christ, and also the works themselves are done by the grace of God through his Holy Spirit. For St. Peter says that ‘of every nation he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him’ (Acts 10:35). And Paul also, ‘We cease not to pray for you, that you may walk worthy of the Lord, and in all things please him, being fruitful in every good work’ (Colossians 1:9,10). Here, therefore, we diligently teach, not false and philosophical, but true virtues, true good works, and the true duties of a Christian man. And this we do with all the diligence and earnestness that we can inculcate and beat into men’s minds; sharply reproving the slothfulness and hypocrisy of all those who with their mouths praise and profess the Gospel, and yet with their shameful life do dishonor the same; setting before their eyes, in this case, God’s horrible threatenings, large promises, and bountiful rewards, and that by exhorting, comforting, and rebuking.
For we teach that God does bestow great rewards on them that do good, according to that saying of the prophet, ‘Refrain thy voice from weeping, because thy works shall have a reward’ (Jeremiah 31:16). In the Gospel also the Lord said, ‘Rejoice, and be glad, because your reward is great in heaven’ (Matthew 5:12). And, ‘He that shall give to one of these little ones a cup of cold water, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward’ (Matthew 10:42). Yet we do not attribute this reward, which God gives, to the merit of the man that receives it, but to the goodness, or liberality, and truth of God, which promises and gives it; who, although he owe nothing to any, yet he has promised to give a reward to those that faithfully worship him, notwithstanding that he do also give them grace to worship him. Besides, there are many things unworthy the majesty of God, and many imperfect things are found in the works even of the saints; and yet because God does receive into favor and embrace those who work them for Christ’s sake, therefore he performs unto them the promised reward. For otherwise our righteousness is compared to a menstruous cloth (Isaiah 64:6); yea, and the Lord in the Gospel says, ‘When ye have done all things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do’ (Luke 17:10). So that though we teach that God does give a reward to our good deeds, yet withal we teach, with Augustine, that ‘God doth crown in us, not our deserts, but his own gifts.’ And, therefore, whatsoever reward we receive, we say that it is a grace, and rather a grace than a reward: because those good things which we do, we do them rather by God than by ourselves; and because Paul says, ‘What hast thou that thou hast not received? but if thou hast received it, why dost thou boast, as though thou hadst not received it?’ (1 Corinthians 4:7). Which thing also the blessed martyr Cyprian does gather out of this place, that ‘we must not boast of anything, seeing nothing is our own.’ We therefore condemn those who defend the merits of men, that they may make frustrate the grace of God.
Chapter 17 - Of the Catholic and Holy Church of God, and of the One Only Head of the Church
Forasmuch as God from the beginning would have men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), therefore it is necessary that there always should have been, and should be at this day, and to the end of the world, a Church—that is, a company of the faithful called and gathered out of the world; a communion (I say) of all saints, that is, of them who truly know and rightly worship and serve the true God, in Jesus Christ the Saviour, by the word of the Holy Spirit, and who by faith are partakers of all those good graces which are freely offered through Christ. These all are citizens of one and the same city, living under one Lord, under the same laws, and in the same fellowship of all good things; for the apostle calls them ‘fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God’ (Ephesians 2:19); terming the faithful upon the earth saints (1 Corinthians 4:1), who are sanctified by the blood of the Son of God. Of these is that article of our Creed wholly to be understood, ‘I believe in the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints.’
And, seeing that there is always but ‘one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ’ (1 Timothy 2:5); also, one Shepherd of the whole flock, one Head of this body, and, to conclude, one Spirit, one salvation, one faith, one Testament, or Covenant,—it follows necessarily that there is but one Church, which we therefore call Catholic because it is universal, spread abroad through all the parts and quarters of the world, and reaches unto all times, and is not limited within the compass either of time or place. Here, therefore, we must condemn the Donatists, who pinned up the Church within the corners of Africa; neither do we assent to the Roman clergy, who vaunt that the Church of Rome alone is in a manner Catholic.
The Church is divided by some into divers parts or sorts; not that it is rent and divided from itself, but rather distinguished in respect of the diversity of the members that are in it. One part thereof they make to be the Church Militant, the other the Church Triumphant. The Militant wars still on earth, and fights against the flesh, the world, and the prince of the world, the devil; against sin and against death. The other, being already set at liberty, is now in heaven, and triumphs over all those things overcome, and continually rejoices before the Lord. Yet these two churches have, notwithstanding, a communion and fellowship between themselves.
Moreover, the Church Militant upon the earth has evermore had many particular churches, which must all, notwithstanding, be referred to the unity of the Catholic Church. This Militant Church was otherwise ordered and governed before the Law, among the patriarchs; otherwise under Moses, by the Law; and otherwise of Christ, by the Gospel. There are but two sorts of people, for the most part, mentioned: to wit, the Israelites and the Gentiles; or they who, of the Jews and Gentiles, were gathered to make a Church. There are also two Testaments, the Old and the New. Yet both these sorts of people have had, and still have, one fellowship, one salvation, in one and the same Messiah; in whom, as members of one body, they are all joined together under one head, and by one faith are all partakers of one and the same spiritual meat and drink. Yet here we do acknowledge a diversity of times, and a diversity in the pledges and signs of Christ promised and exhibited; and that now, the ceremonies being abolished, the light shines unto us more clearly, our gifts and graces are more abundant, and our liberty is more full and ample.
This holy Church of God is called ‘the house of the living God’ (2 Corinthians 6:16), ‘builded of living and spiritual stones’ (1 Peter 2:5), ‘founded upon a rock’ (Matthew 16:18), ‘which can not be moved’ (Hebrews 12:28), ‘upon a foundation besides which none can be laid’ (1 Corinthians 3:11). Whereupon it is called ‘the pillar and ground of the truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15), that does not err, so long as it relies upon the rock Christ, and upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles. And no marvel if it do err, so often as it forsakes Him who is the alone truth. This Church is also called ‘a virgin’ (1 Corinthians 11:2), and ‘the spouse of Christ’ (Song of Solomon 4:8), and ‘his only beloved’ (Song of Solomon 5:16). For the apostle says, ‘I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 11:2). The Church is called ‘a flock of sheep under one shepherd,’ even Christ (Ezekiel 34:22,23, and John 10:16); also, ‘the body of Christ’ (Colossians 1:24), because the faithful are the lively members of Christ, having him for their head.
It is the head which has the pre-eminence in the body, and from whence the whole body receives life; by whose spirit it is governed in all things; of whom, also, it receives increase, that it may grow up. Also, there is but one head to the body, which has agreement with the body; and therefore the Church can not have any other head besides Christ. For as the Church is a spiritual body, so must it needs have a spiritual head like unto itself. Neither can it be governed by any other spirit than by the Spirit of Christ. Wherefore Paul says, ‘And he is the head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence’ (Colossians 1:18). And in another place, ‘Christ,’ saith he, ‘is the head of the Church: and he is the Saviour of the body’ (Ephesians 5:23). And again, ‘Who is the head of the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all’ (Ephesians 1:22,23). Again, ‘Let us grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; by whom all the body being knit together, receiveth increase’ (Ephesians 4:15,16). And therefore we do not allow of the doctrine of the Romish prelates, who would make the Pope the general pastor and supreme head of the Church Militant here on earth, and the very vicar of Jesus Christ, who has (as they say) all fullness of power and sovereign authority in the Church. For we hold and teach that Christ our Lord is, and remains still, the only universal pastor, and highest bishop, before God his Father; and that in the Church he performs all the duties of a pastor or bishop, even to the world’s end; and therefore stands not in need of any other to supply his room. For he is said to have a substitute, who is absent; but Christ is present with his Church, and is the head that gives life thereunto. He did straitly forbid his apostles and their successors all superiority or dominion in the Church. They, therefore, that by gainsaying set themselves against so manifest a truth, and bring another kind of government into the Church, who sees not that they are to be counted in the number of them of the apostles of Christ prophesied? as Peter in 2 Peter 2:1, and Paul in Acts 20:29; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:8,9, and in many other places.
Now, by taking away the Romish head we do not bring any confusion or disorder into the Church. For we teach that the government of the Church which the apostles set down is sufficient to keep the Church in due order; which, from the beginning, while as yet it wanted such a Romish head as is now pretended to keep it in order, was not disordered or full of confusion. The Romish head doth maintain indeed his tyranny and corruption which have been brought into the Church; but in the mean time he hinders, resists, and, with all the might he can make, cuts off the right and lawful reformation of the Church.
They object against us that there have been great strifes and dissensions in our churches since they did sever themselves from the Church of Rome; and that therefore they can not be true churches. As though there were never in the Church of Rome any sects, any contentions and quarrels; and that, in matters of religion, maintained not so much in the schools as in the holy Chairs, even in the audience of the people. We know that the apostle said, ‘God is not the author of confusion, but of peace’ (1 Corinthians 14:33), and, ‘Seeing there is among you emulation and contention, are ye not carnal?’ (1 Corinthians 3:3,4). Yet may we not deny that God was in that Church planted by the apostle; and that the Apostolic Church was a true Church, howsoever there were strifes and dissensions in it. The Apostle Paul reprehended Peter, an apostle (Galatians 2:11), and Barnabas fell at variance with Paul (Acts 15:39). Great contention arose in the Church of Antioch between them that preached one and the same Christ, as Luke records in Acts 15:2. And there have at all times been great contentions in the Church, and the most excellent doctors of the Church have, about no small matters, differed in opinion; yet so as, in the mean time, the Church ceased not to be the Church for all these contentions. For thus it pleases God to use the dissensions that arise in the Church, to the glory of his name, to the setting forth of the truth, and to the end that such as are not approved might be manifest (1 Corinthians 11:19).
Now, as we acknowledge no other head of the Church than Christ, so do we not acknowledge every church to be the true Church which vaunts herself so to be; but we teach that to be the true Church indeed in which the marks and tokens of the true Church are to be found. Firstly and chiefly, the lawful and sincere preaching of the word of God as it is left unto us in the writings of the prophets and the apostles, which do all seem to lead us unto Christ, who in the Gospel has said, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life. A stranger they do not hear, but flee from him, because they know not his voice’ (John 10:5,27,28).
And they that are such in the Church of God have all but one faith and one spirit; and therefore they worship but one God, and him alone they serve in spirit and in truth, loving him with all their hearts and with all their strength, praying unto him alone through Jesus Christ, the only Mediator and Intercessor; and they seek not life or justice but only in Christ, and by faith in him; because they do acknowledge Christ the only head and foundation of his Church, and, being surely founded on him, do daily repair themselves by repentance, and do with patience bear the cross laid upon them; and, besides, by unfeigned love joining themselves to all the members of Christ, do thereby declare themselves to be the disciples of Christ, by continuing in the bond of peace and holy unity. They do withal communicate in the sacraments ordained by Christ, and delivered unto us by his apostles, using them in no other manner than as they received them from the Lord himself. That saying of the Apostle Paul is well known to all, ‘I received from the Lord that which I delivered unto you’ (1 Corinthians 11:23). For which cause we condemn all such churches, as strangers from the true Church of Christ, which are not such as we have heard they ought to be, howsoever, in the mean time, they brag of the succession of bishops, of unity, and of antiquity. Moreover, we have in charge from the apostles of Christ ‘to shun idolatry’ (1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 John 5:21), and ‘to come out of Babylon,’ and to have no fellowship with her, unless we mean to be partakers with her of all God’s plagues laid upon her (Revelation 18:4; 2 Corinthians 6:17).
But as for communicating with the true Church of Christ, we so highly esteem it that we say plainly that none can live before God who do not communicate with the true Church of God, but separate themselves from the same. For as without the ark of Noah there was no escaping when the world perished in the flood; even so do we believe that without Christ, who in the Church offers himself to be enjoyed of the elect, there can be no certain salvation: and therefore we teach that such as would be saved must in no wise separate themselves from the true Church of Christ.
But as yet we do not so strictly shut up the Church within those marks before mentioned, as thereby to exclude all those out of the Church who either do not participate of the sacraments (not willingly, nor upon contempt; but who, being constrained by necessity, do against their will abstain from them, or else do want them), or in whom faith does sometimes fail, though not quite decay, nor altogether die: or in whom some slips and errors of infirmity may be found. For we know that God had some friends in the world that were not of the commonwealth of Israel. We know what befell the people of God in the captivity of Babylon, where they were without their sacrifices seventy years. We know what happened to St. Peter, who denied his Master, and what is wont daily to happen among the faithful and chosen of God who go astray and are full of infirmities. We know, moreover, what manner of churches the churches in Galatia and Corinth were in the apostles’ time: in which St. Paul condemns many and heinous crimes; yet he calls them holy churches of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:2).
Yea, and it happens sometimes that God in his just judgment suffers the truth of his Word, and the Catholic faith, and his own true worship, to be so obscured and defaced that the Church seems almost quite razed out, and not so much as a face of a Church to remain; as we see fell out in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 19:10,14), and at other times. And yet, in the mean time, the Lord has in this world, even in this darkness, his true worshippers, and those not a few, but even seven thousand and more (1 Kings 19:18; Revelation 7:4,9). For the apostle cries, ‘The foundation of the Lord standeth sure, and hath this seal, The Lord knoweth who are his,’ etc. (2 Timothy 2:19). Whereupon the Church of God may be termed invisible; not that the men whereof it consists are invisible, but because, being hidden from our sight, and known only unto God, it cannot be discerned by the judgment of man.
Again, not all that are reckoned in the number of the Church are saints, and lively and true members of the Church. For there are many hypocrites, who outwardly do hear the word of God, and publicly receive the sacraments, and do seem to pray unto God alone through Christ, to confess Christ to be their only righteousness, and to worship God, and to exercise the duties of charity to the brethren, and for a while through patience to endure in troubles and calamities. And yet they are altogether destitute of the inward illumination of the Spirit of God, of faith and sincerity of heart, and of perseverance or continuance to the end. And these men are, for the most part, at length laid open in their true character. For the Apostle John says, ‘They went out from among us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us’ (1 John 2:19). Yet these men, while they do pretend religion, are accounted to be in the Church. Even as traitors in a commonwealth, before they be detected, are accounted in the number of good citizens; and as the cockle and darnel and chaff are found among the wheat; and as wens and swellings are in a perfect body, when they are rather diseases and deformities than true members of the body. And therefore the Church is very well compared to a drag-net, which draws up fishes of all sorts; and to a field, wherein is found both darnel and good corn (Matthew 13:26,47). Hence we must be very careful not to judge rashly before the time, nor to exclude, and cast off or cut away, those whom the Lord would not have excluded nor cut off, or whom, without some damage to the Church, we can not separate from it. Again, we must be very vigilant lest the godly, falling fast asleep, the wicked grow stronger, and do some mischief in the Church.
Furthermore, we teach that it is carefully to be marked, wherein especially the truth and unity of the Church consists, lest that we either rashly breed or nourish schisms in the Church. It consists not in outward rites and ceremonies, but rather in the truth and unity of the Catholic faith. This Catholic faith is not taught us by the ordinances or laws of men, but by the holy Scriptures, a compendious and short sum whereof is the Apostles’ Creed. And, therefore, we read in the ancient writers that there were manifold diversities of ceremonies, but that those were always free; neither did any man think that the unity of the Church was thereby broken or dissolved. We say, then, that the true unity of the Church does consist in several points of doctrine, in the true and uniform preaching of the Gospel, and in such rites as the Lord himself has expressly set down. And here we urge that saying of the apostle very earnestly, ‘Let us, as many as are perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing’ (Philippians 3:15,16).
Chapter 18 - Of the Ministers of the Church, Their Institution and Offices
God has always used his ministers for the gathering or erecting of a Church to himself, and for the governing and preservation of the same; and still he does, and always will, use them so long as the Church remains on earth. Therefore, the first beginning, institution, and office of the ministers is a most ancient ordinance of God himself, not a new device appointed by men. True it is that God can, by his power, without any means, take unto himself a Church from among men; but he had rather deal with men by the ministry of men. Therefore ministers are to be considered, not as ministers by themselves alone, but as the ministers of God, by whose means God does work the salvation of mankind. For which cause we give counsel to beware that we do not so attribute the things appertaining to our conversion and instruction unto the secret virtue of the Holy Spirit as to make void the ecclesiastical ministry. For it behooves us always to have in mind the words of the apostle, ‘How shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? Therefore faith is by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ (Romans 10:14,17). And that also which the Lord says, in the Gospel, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me’ (John 13:20). Likewise what a man of Macedonia, appearing in a vision to Paul, being then in Asia, said unto him; ‘Come over into Macedonia, and help us’ (Acts 16:9). And in another place the same apostle says, ‘We are laborers together with God; ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building’ (1 Corinthians 3:9).
Yet, on the other side, we must take heed that we do not attribute too much to the ministers and ministry: herein remembering also the words of our Lord in the Gospel, ‘No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him’ (John 6:44), and the words of the apostle, ‘Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? So then neither is he that planteth any thing, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase’ (1 Corinthians 3:5,7). Therefore let us believe that God does teach us by his word, outwardly through his ministers, and does inwardly move and persuade the hearts of his elect unto belief by his Holy Spirit; and that therefore we ought to render all the glory of this whole benefit unto God. But we have spoken of this matter in the First Chapter of this our Declaration.
God has used for his ministers, even from the beginning of the world, the best and most eminent men in the world (for, although some of them were inexperienced in worldly wisdom or philosophy, yet surely in true divinity they were most excellent)—namely, the patriarchs, to whom he spake very often by his angels. For the patriarchs were the prophets or teachers of their age, whom God, for this purpose, would have to live many years, that they might be, as it were, fathers and lights of the world. They were followed by Moses and the prophets renowned throughout all the world.
Then, after all these, our heavenly Father sent his only-begotten Son, the most perfect teacher of the world; in whom is hidden the wisdom of God, and from whom we derive that most holy, perfect, and pure doctrine of the Gospel. For he chose unto himself disciples, whom he made apostles; and they, going out into the whole world, gathered together churches in all places by the preaching of the Gospel. And afterward they ordained pastors and teachers in all churches, by the commandment of Christ; who, by such as succeeded them, has taught and governed the Church unto this day. Therefore, as God gave unto his ancient people the patriarchs, together with Moses and the prophets, so also to his people under the new covenant he sent his only-begotten Son, and, with him, the apostles and teachers of this Church.
Furthermore, the ministers of the new covenant are termed by divers names; for they are called apostles, prophets, evangelists, bishops, elders, pastors, and teachers (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 6:11). The apostles remained in no certain place, but gathered together divers churches throughout the whole world: which churches, when they were once established, there ceased to be any more apostles, and in their places were particular pastors appointed in every Church. The prophets, in old time, did foresee and foretell things to come; and, besides, did interpret the Scriptures; and such are found some among us at this day. They were called evangelists, who were the penmen of the history of the Gospel, and were also preachers of the Gospel of Christ; as the Apostle Paul gives in charge unto Timothy, ‘to fulfill the work of an Evangelist’ (2 Timothy 4:5). Bishops are the overseers and watchmen of the Church, who distribute food and other necessities to the Church. The elders are the ancients and, as it were, the senators and fathers of the Church, governing it with wholesome counsel. The pastors both keep the Lord’s flock, and also provide things necessary for it. The teachers do instruct, and teach the true faith and godliness. Therefore the Church ministers that now are may be called bishops, elders, pastors, and teachers.
But in process of time there were many more names of ministers brought into the Church. For some were created patriarchs, others archbishops, others suffragans; also, metropolitans, archdeacons, deacons, subdeacons, acolytes, exorcists, choristers, porters, and I know not what others, as cardinals, provosts, and priors; abbots, greater and lesser; orders, higher and lower. But touching all these, we little heed what they have been in times past, or what they are now; it is sufficient for us that, so much as concerns ministers, we have the doctrine of the apostles.
We, therefore, knowing certainly that monks, and the orders or sects of them, are instituted neither by Christ nor by his apostles, we teach that they are so far from being profitable that they are pernicious and hurtful unto the Church of God. For, although in former times they were tolerable (when they lived solitarily, getting their livings with their own hands, and were burdensome to none, but did in all places obey their pastors, even as laymen), yet what kind of men they be now all the world sees and perceives. They pretend I know not what vows; but they lead a life altogether disagreeing from their vows: so that the very best of them may justly be numbered among those of whom the apostle speaks: ‘We hear that there are some among you which walk inordinately, working not at all, but are busybodies,’ etc. (2 Thessalonians 3:11). Therefore, we have no such in our churches; and, besides, we teach that they should not be suffered to rout in the churches of Christ.
Furthermore, no man ought to usurp the honor of the ecclesiastical ministry; that is to say, greedily to pluck it to himself by bribes, or any evil shifts, or of his own accord. But let the ministers of the Church be called and chosen by a lawful and ecclesiastical election and vocation; that is to say, let them be chosen religiously by the Church, and that in due order, without any tumult, seditions, or contention. But we must have an eye to this, that not every one that will should be elected, but such men as are fit and have sufficient learning, especially in the Scriptures, and godly eloquence, and wise simplicity; to conclude, such men as are of good report for moderation and honesty of life, according to that apostolic rule which St. Paul gives in the 1 Timothy 3:2-7, and to Titus 1:7-9. And those who are chosen let them be ordained by the elders with public prayer, and laying on of hands. We do here, therefore, condemn all those who run of their own accord, being neither chosen, sent, nor ordained. We do also utterly disallow unfit ministers, and such as are not furnished with gifts requisite for a pastor.
In the mean time we are not ignorant that the innocent simplicity of certain pastors in the primitive Church did sometimes more profit the Church than the manifold, exquisite, and nice learning of some others that were over-lofty and high-minded. And for this cause we also, at this day, do not reject the honest simplicity of certain men, who yet are not destitute of all knowledge and learning.
The apostles of Christ do term all those who believe in Christ ‘priests;’ not in regard to their ministry, but because that all the faithful, being made kings and priests, may, through Christ, offer up spiritual sacrifices unto God (Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 1:6). The ministry, then, and the priesthood are things far different one from the other. For the priesthood, as we said even now, is common to all Christians; not so is the ministry. And we have not taken away the ministry of the Church because we have thrust the popish priesthood out of the Church of Christ. For surely in the new covenant of Christ there is no longer any such priesthood as was in the ancient Church of the Jews; which had an external anointing, holy garments, and very many ceremonies which were figures and types of Christ, who, by his coming, fulfilled and abolished them (Hebrews 9:10,11). And he himself remains the only priest forever; and we do not communicate the name of priest to any of the ministers, lest we should detract any thing from Christ. For the Lord himself has not appointed in the Church any priests of the New Testament, who, having received authority from the suffragan, may offer up the host every day, that is, the very flesh and the very blood of our Saviour, for the quick and the dead; but ministers, who may teach and administer the sacraments. Paul declares plainly and shortly what we are to think of the ministers of the New Testament, or of the Church of Christ, and what we must attribute unto them: ‘Let a man,’ says he, ‘so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God’ (1 Corinthians 4:1). So that the apostle wants us to esteem ministers as ministers. Now the apostle calls them ὑπηρέτας, as it were under-rowers, who have an eye only to their pilot; that is to say, men that live not unto themselves, nor according to their own will, but for others—to wit, their masters, at whose commandment and beck they ought to be. For the minister of the Church is commanded wholly, and in all parts of his duty, not to please himself, but to execute that only which he has received in commandment from his Lord. And in this place it is expressly declared who is our Master, even Christ; to whom the ministers are in subjection in all the functions of their ministry. He adds further that the ministers of the Church are ‘stewards, and dispensers of the mysteries of God’ (1 Corinthians 4:1). Now the mysteries of God Paul in many places, and especially in Ephesians 3:4, does call ‘the Gospel of Christ.’ And the sacraments of Christ are also called mysteries by the ancient writers. Therefore for this purpose are the ministers called—namely, to preach the Gospel of Christ unto the faithful, and to administer the sacraments. We read, also, in another place in the Gospel, of ‘the faithful and wise steward,’ whom ‘his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season’ (Luke 12:42). Again, in another place of the Gospel, a man goes into a strange country, and, leaving his house, gives unto his servants authority therein, commits to them his substance, and appoints every man his work (Matthew 25:14).
This is now a fit place to speak somewhat also of the power and office of the ministers of the Church. And concerning their power some have disputed over busily, and would bring all things, even the very greatest, under their jurisdiction; and that against the commandment of God, who forbade unto his disciples all dominion, and highly commended humility (Luke 22:26; Matthew 18:3). Indeed, there is one kind of power which is mere and absolute power, called the power of right. According to this power all things in the whole world are subject unto Christ, who is Lord of all: even as he himself witnesses, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth’ (Matthew 28:18), and again, ‘I am the first and the last, and behold I live forever, and I have the keys of hell and death’ (Revelation 1:17,18); also, ‘He hath the key of David, which openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth’ (Revelation 3:7).
This power the Lord reserves to himself, and does not transfer it to any other, that he might sit idly by, and look on his ministers while they wrought. For Isaiah says, ‘I will put the key of the house of David upon his shoulder’ (Isaiah 22:22), and again, ‘Whose government shall be upon his shoulders’ (Isaiah 9:6). For he does not lay the government on other men’s shoulders, but does still keep and use his own power, thereby governing all things. Furthermore, there is another power, that of office, or ministerial power, limited by him who has full and absolute power and authority. And this is more like a service than a dominion. For we see that a master does give unto the steward of his house authority and power over his house, and for that cause delivers him the keys, that he may admit or exclude such as his master will have admitted or excluded. According to this power does the minister, by his office, that which the Lord has commanded him to do; and the Lord does ratify and confirm that which he does, and will have the deeds of his ministers to be acknowledged and esteemed by his own deeds. Unto which end are those speeches in the Gospel: ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou bindest or loosest in earth shall be bound or loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:19). Again, ‘Whose sins soever ye remit, they shall be remitted; and whose sins soever ye retain, they shall be retained’ (John 20:23). But if the minister deal not in all things as the Lord has commanded him, but pass the limits and bounds of faith, then the Lord does make void that which he does. Wherefore the ecclesiastical power of the ministers of the Church is that function whereby they do indeed govern the Church of God, but yet so do all things in the Church as he has prescribed in his Word: which thing being so done, the faithful do esteem them as done of the Lord himself. But touching the keys we have spoken somewhat before.
Now the power, or function, that is given to the ministers of the Church is the same and alike in all. Certainly, in the beginning, the bishops or elders did, with a common consent and labor, govern the Church; no man lifted up himself above another, none usurped greater power or authority over his fellow-bishops. For they remembered the words of the Lord, ‘He that is chief among you, let him be as he that doth serve’ (Luke 22:26); they kept themselves by humility, and did mutually aid one another in the government and preservation of the Church. Notwithstanding, for order’s sake, some one of the ministers called the assembly together, propounded unto the assembly the matters to be consulted of, gathered together the voices or sentences of the rest, and, to be brief, as much as lay in him, provided that there might arise no confusion.
So did St. Peter, as we read in Acts 11:4-18, who yet for all that neither was above the rest, nor had greater authority than the rest. Very true, therefore, is that saying of Cyprian the martyr, in his book De Simplicitate Clericorum: ‘The same doubtless were the rest of the apostles that Peter was, having an equal fellowship with him both in honor and power: but the beginning hereof proceedeth from unity, to signify unto us that there is but one Church.’ St. Jerome also, in his commentary upon the Epistle of Paul to Titus, has a saying not much unlike this: ‘Before that, by the instinct of the devil, there arose parties in religion, the churches were governed by the common advice of the elders; but after that every one thought that whom he had baptized were his own, and not Christ’s, it was decreed that one of the elders should be chosen, and set over the rest, who should have the care of the whole Church laid upon him, and by whose means all schisms should be removed.’ Yet Jerome does not avouch this as an order set down of God; for straightway he adds, ‘Even as the elders knew, by the continual custom of the Church, that they were subject to him that is set over them, so the bishops must know that they are above the elders rather by custom than by the prescript rule of God’s truth, and that they ought to have the government of the Church in common with them.’ Thus far Jerome. Now, therefore, no man can forbid by any right that we may return to the old appointment of God, and rather receive that than the custom devised by men.
The offices of the ministers are divers; yet, notwithstanding, most men do restrain them to two, in which all the rest are comprehended: to the teaching of the Gospel of Christ, and to the lawful administration of the sacraments. For it is the duty of the ministers to gather together a holy assembly, therein to expound the Word of God, and also to apply the general doctrine to the state and use of the Church; to the end that the doctrine which they teach may profit the hearers, and may build up the faithful. The minister’s duty, I say, is to teach the unlearned, and to exhort; yea, and to urge them to go forward in the way of the Lord who do stand still, or linger and go slowly on: moreover, to comfort and to strengthen those which are faint-hearted, and to arm them against the manifold temptations of Satan; to rebuke offenders; to bring them home that go astray; to raise them that are fallen; to convince the gainsayers; to chase away the wolf from the Lord’s flock; to rebuke wickedness and wicked men wisely and severely; not to wink at nor to pass over great wickedness. And, besides, to administer the sacraments, and to commend the right use of them, and to prepare all men by wholesome doctrine to receive them; to keep together all the faithful in a holy unity; and to encounter schisms. To conclude, to catechise the ignorant, to commend the necessity of the poor to the Church, to visit and instruct those that are sick, or entangled with divers temptations, and so keep them in the way of life. Besides all this, to provide diligently that there be public prayers and supplications made in time of necessity, together with fastings, that is, a holy abstinency, and most carefully to look to those things which belong to the tranquillity, peace, and safety of the Church.
And to the end that the minister may perform all these things the better, and with more ease, it is required of him that he be one that fears God, prays diligently, gives himself much to the reading of the Scripture, and, in all things, and at all times, is watchful, and does show forth a good example unto all men of holiness of life.
And seeing that there must be discipline in the Church, and that, among the ancient Fathers, excommunication was in use, and there were ecclesiastical judgments among the people of God, wherein this discipline was exercised by godly men; it belongs also to the minister’s duty, for the edifying of the Church, to moderate this discipline, according to the condition of the time and public estate, and according to necessity. Wherein this rule is always to be holden, that ‘all things ought to be done to edification, decently, and in order’ (1 Corinthians 14:40), without any oppression or tumult. For the apostle witnesses, that ‘power was given to him of God, to edify and not to destroy’ (2 Corinthians 10:8). And the Lord himself forbade the cockle to be plucked up in the Lord’s field, because there would be danger lest the wheat also be plucked up with it (Matthew 13:29).
But as for the error of the Donatists, we do here utterly detest it; who esteem the doctrine and administration of the sacraments to be either effectual or not effectual, according to the good or evil life of the ministers. For we know that the voice of Christ is to be heard, though it be out of the mouths of evil ministers; forasmuch as the Lord himself said, ‘Observe and do whatsoever they bid you observe, but do ye not after their works’ (Matthew 23:3). We know that the sacraments are sanctified by the institution, and through the word of Christ; and that they are effectual to the godly, although they be administered by ungodly ministers. Of which matter Augustine, that blessed servant of God, did reason diversely out of the Scriptures against the Donatists. Yet, notwithstanding there ought to be a discipline among the ministers—for there should be intelligent inquiry in the synods touching the life and doctrine of the ministers—those that offend should be rebuked of the elders, and be brought into the way, if they be not past recovery; or else be deposed, and, as wolves, be driven from the Lord’s flock by the true pastors if they be incurable. For, if they be false teachers, they are in no wise to be tolerated. Neither do we disallow of general councils, if that they be taken up according to the example of the apostles, to the salvation of the Church, and not to the destruction thereof.
The faithful ministers also are worthy (as good workmen) of their reward; neither do they offend when they receive a stipend, and all things that be necessary for themselves and their family. For the apostle shows that these things are for just cause given by the Church, and received by the ministers, in 1 Corinthians 9:14, and in 1 Timothy 5:17,18, and in other places also.
The Anabaptists likewise are confuted by this apostolical doctrine, who condemn and rail upon those ministers who live upon the ministry.
Chapter 19 - Of the Sacraments of the Church of Christ
God even from the beginning added unto the preaching of the Word his sacraments, or sacramental signs, in his Church. And to this does the holy Scripture plainly testify. Sacraments are mystical symbols, or holy rites, or sacred actions, ordained by God himself, consisting of his Word, of outward signs, and of things signified: whereby he keeps in continual memory, and recalls to mind, in his Church, his great benefits bestowed upon man; and whereby he seals up his promises, and outwardly represents, and, as it were, offers unto our sight those things which inwardly he performs unto us, and therewithal strengthens and increases our faith through the working of God’s Spirit in our hearts; lastly, whereby he does separate us from all other people and religions, and consecrates and binds us wholly unto himself, and gives us to understand what he requires of us.
These sacraments are either of the Old Church or of the New. The sacraments of the Old were Circumcision, and the Paschal Lamb, which was offered up; under which name, reference is made to the sacrifices which were in use from the beginning of the world. The sacraments of the New Church are Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.
Some there are who reckon seven sacraments of the New Church. Of which number we grant that Repentance, Matrimony, and the Ordination of ministers (we mean not the popish, but the apostolical ordination) are very profitable, but no sacraments. As for confirmation and extreme unction, they are mere devices of men, which the Church may very well spare, without any damage or inconvenience at all; and, therefore, we have them not in our churches, because there are certain things in them which we can by no means allow of. As for that merchandise which the Romish prelates use in ministering their sacraments, we utterly abhor it.
The author and institutor of all sacraments is not any man, but God alone: for man can by no means ordain sacraments; because they belong to the worship of God, and it is not for man to appoint and prescribe a service of God, but to embrace and retain that which is taught unto him by the Lord. Besides, the sacramental signs have God’s promises annexed to them, which necessarily require faith: now faith stays itself only upon the Word of God; and the Word of God is resembled to writings or letters, the sacraments to seals, which the Lord alone sets to his own letters. And as the Lord is the author of the sacraments, so he continually works in that Church where they are rightly used; so that the faithful, when they receive them from the ministers, do know that the Lord works in his own ordinance, and therefore they receive them as from the hand of God; and the minister’s faults (if there be any notorious in them) can not hurt them, seeing they do acknowledge the goodness of the sacraments to depend upon the ordinance of the Lord. For which cause they put a difference, in the administration of the sacraments, between the Lord himself and his minister; confessing that the substance of the sacraments is given them by the Lord, and the outward signs by the ministers of the Lord.
But the principal thing, which in all sacraments is offered by the Lord, and chiefly regarded by the godly of all ages (which some have called the substance and matter of the sacraments), is Christ our Saviour—that only sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12); and that Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8); that rock, also, of which all our fathers drank (1 Corinthians 10:4), by whom all the elect are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, through the Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:11,12), and are washed from all their sins (Revelation 1:5), and are nourished with the very body and blood of Christ unto eternal life (John 6:54).
Now, in respect of that which is the chief thing, and the very matter and substance of the sacraments, the sacraments of both covenants are equal. For Christ, the only Mediator and Saviour of the faithful, is the chief thing and substance in them both: one and the same God is author of them both: they were given unto both churches as signs and seals of the grace and promises of God; which should call to mind and renew the memory of God’s great benefits to them, and should distinguish the faithful from all the religions in the world; lastly, which should be received spiritually by faith, and should bind the receivers unto the Church, and admonish them of their duty. In these, I say, and such like things, the sacraments of both churches are not unequal, although in the outward signs they are diverse.
And, indeed, we do yet put a greater difference between them; for ours are more firm and durable, as those which are not to be changed to the end of the world. Again, ours testify that the substance and promise is already fulfilled and performed in Christ, whereas the other did only signify that they should be fulfilled. And again, ours are more simple, and nothing so painful, nothing so sumptuous, nor so full of ceremonies. Moreover, they belong to greater people, that is dispersed through the face of the whole earth; and because they are more excellent, and do by the Spirit of God stir up in us a greater measure of faith, therefore a more plentiful measure of the spirit does follow them.
But now, since Christ the true Messiah is exhibited unto us, and the abundance of grace is poured forth upon the people of the New Testament, the sacraments of the Old Law are surely abrogated and have ceased; and in their stead the sacraments of the New Testament are placed—namely, for Circumcision, Baptism; and for the Paschal Lamb and sacrifices, the Supper of the Lord.
And as in the old Church the sacraments consisted of the word, the sign, and the thing signified; so even at this day they are composed, as it were, of the same parts. For the Word of God makes them sacraments, which before were none: for they are consecrated by the Word, and declared to be sanctified by him who first ordained them. To sanctify or consecrate a thing is to dedicate it unto God, and unto holy uses; that is, to take it from the common and ordinary use, and to appoint it to some holy use. For the signs in the sacraments are drawn from common use, things external and visible. As in Baptism, the outward sign is the element of water, and that visible washing which is done by the minister; but the thing signified is regeneration and the cleansing from sins. Likewise, in the Lord’s Supper, the outward sign is bread and wine, taken from things commonly used for meat and drink; but the thing signified is the body of Christ which was given, and his blood which was shed for us, or the communion of the body and blood of the Lord. Wherefore, the water, bread, and wine, considered in their own nature, and out of this holy use and institution of the Lord, are only that which they are called, and which we find them to be. But let the Word of God be added to them, together with invocation upon his holy name, and the renewing of their first institution and sanctification, and then these signs are consecrated, and declared to be sanctified by Christ. For Christ’s first institution and consecration of the sacraments stands yet in force in the Church of God, in such sort that they who celebrate the sacraments no otherwise than the Lord himself from the beginning has appointed, have still, even to this day, the use and benefit of that first and most excellent consecration. And for this cause, in the administration of the sacraments, the very words of Christ are repeated.
And as we learn out of the Word of God that these signs were appointed unto another end and use than the common one, therefore we teach that they now, in this their holy use, do take upon them the names of things signified, and are not still called bare water, bread, or wine; but that the water is called ‘regeneration, and washing of the new birth’ (Titus 3:5), and the bread and wine ‘the body of the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 10:16), or the pledges and sacraments of his body and blood. Not that the signs are turned into the things signified, or cease to be that which in their own nature they are (for then they could not be sacraments, which should consist only of the thing signified, and have no signs); but therefore do the signs bear the names of things, because they are mystical tokens of holy things, and because the signs and the things signified are sacramentally joined together; joined together, I say, or united by a mystical signification, and by the purpose and will of him who first instituted them. For the water, bread, and wine are not common, but holy signs. And he that instituted water in Baptism did not institute it with that mind and purpose that the faithful should only be dipped in the water of Baptism; and he which commanded the bread to be eaten and the wine to be drunk in the Supper did not mean that the faithful should only receive bread and wine without any further mystery, as they eat bread at home in their houses: but that they should spiritually be partakers of the things signified, and by faith be truly purged from their sins, and be partakers of Christ also.
And, therefore, we can not allow of them who attribute the consecration of the sacraments to I know not what syllables; to the rehearsal of certain words pronounced by him that is consecrated, and that has an intent of consecrating; or to some other accidental things, which are not left unto us either by the word, or by the example, of Christ or his apostles. We do also mislike the doctrine of those that speak no otherwise of the sacraments than of common signs, not sanctified, nor effectual. We condemn them also who, because of the invisible things, do despise the visible, and think the signs superfluous, because they do already enjoy the things themselves; such were the Messalians, as it is recorded. We do disallow their doctrine also who teach that grace and the things signified are to be so tied to and included in the signs that whosoever do outwardly receive the signs must needs inwardly participate in the grace, and in the things signified, what manner of men soever they be.
Notwithstanding, as we esteem not the goodness of the sacraments by the worthiness or unworthiness of the ministers, so likewise we do not weigh them by the condition of the receivers. For we know that the goodness of the sacraments does depend upon the faithfulness, or truth, and the mere goodness of God. For even as God’s Word remains the true Word of God; wherein not only bare words are uttered when it is preached, but therewithal the things signified by the words are offered of God, although the wicked and unbelievers hear and understand the words, yet enjoy not the things signified, because they receive them not by a true faith; even so the sacraments, consisting of the Word, the signs, and the things signified, continue true and perfect sacraments, not only because they are holy things, but also because God offers the things signified, howsoever the unbelievers receive not the things which are offered. This comes to pass, not by any fault in God, the author and offerer of them, but by the fault of men, who do receive them without faith, and unlawfully: ‘whose unbelief can not make the truth of God of none effect’ (Romans 3:3).
Now, forasmuch as in the beginning, where we showed what the sacraments were, we did also, by the way, set down to what end they were ordained, it will not be necessary to trouble ourselves with repeating any thing which has been already handled. Next, therefore, in order, it remains to speak severally of the sacraments of the Christian Church.
Chapter 20 - Of Holy Baptism
Baptism was instituted and consecrated by God; and the first that baptized was John, who dipped Christ in the water in Jordan. From him it came to the apostles, who also did baptize with water. The Lord, in plain words, commanded them to preach the Gospel and to ‘baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19). And Peter also, when divers demanded of him what they ought to do, said to them, in the Acts, ‘Let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:38). Hence baptism is called by some a sign of initiation for God’s people, whereby the elect of God are consecrated unto God.
There is but one baptism in the Church of God; for it is sufficient to be once baptized or consecrated unto God. For baptism once received does continue all a man’s life, and is a perpetual sealing of our adoption unto us. For to be baptized in the name of Christ is to be enrolled, entered, and received into the covenant and family, and so into the inheritance, of the sons of God; yea, and in this life to be called after the name of God; that is to say, to be called a son of God; to be purged also from the filthiness of sins, and to be endued with the manifold grace of God, in order to lead a new and innocent life. Baptism, therefore, does call to mind and keep in remembrance the great benefit of God performed to mankind. For we are all born in the pollution of sin and are the children of wrath. But God, who is rich in mercy, does freely purge us from our sins by the blood of his Son, and in him does adopt us to be his sons, and by a holy covenant does join us to himself, and does enrich us with divers gifts, that we might live a new life. All these things are sealed up unto us in baptism. For inwardly we are regenerated, purified, and renewed of God through the Holy Spirit; and outwardly we receive the sealing of most notable gifts by the water, by which also those great benefits are represented, and, as it were, set before our eyes to be looked upon. And therefore are we baptized, that is, washed or sprinkled with visible water. For the water makes clean that which is filthy, and refreshes and cools the bodies that fail and faint. And the grace of God deals in like manner with the soul; and that invisibly and spiritually.
Moreover, by the sacrament of baptism God does separate us from all other religions and nations, and does consecrate us a peculiar people to himself. We, therefore, by being baptized, do confess our faith, and are bound to give unto God obedience, mortification of the flesh, and newness of life; yea, and we are soldiers enlisted for the holy warfare of Christ, that all our life long we should fight against the world, Satan, and our own flesh. Moreover, we are baptized into one body of the Church, that we might well agree with all the members of the Church in the same religion and mutual duties.
We believe that the most perfect form of baptism is that by which Christ was baptized, and which the apostles did use. Those things, therefore, which by man’s device were added afterwards and used in the Church we do not consider necessary to the perfection of baptism. Of this kind is exorcism, the use of lights, oil, spittle, and such other things; as, namely, that baptism is twice every year consecrated with divers ceremonies. But we believe that the baptism of the Church, which is but one, was sanctified in God’s first institution of it, and is consecrated by the Word, and is now of full force, by the first blessing of God upon it.
We teach that baptism should not be ministered in the Church by women or midwives. For Paul secludes women from ecclesiastical callings; but baptism belongs to ecclesiastical offices.
We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that young infants, born of faithful parents, are to be baptized. For, according to the doctrine of the Gospel, ‘theirs is the kingdom of God’ (Luke 18:16), and they are written in the covenant of God (Acts 3:25). Why, then, should not the sign of the covenant of God be given to them? Why should they not be consecrated by holy baptism, who are God’s peculiar people and are in the Church of God? We condemn also the Anabaptists in the rest of those peculiar opinions which they hold against the Word of God. We therefore are not Anabaptists, neither do we agree with them in any point that is theirs.
Chapter 21 - Of the Holy Supper of the Lord
The Supper of the Lord (which is called the Lord’s Table, and the Eucharist, that is, a Thanksgiving) is, therefore, commonly called a supper, because it was instituted by Christ at his last supper, and does as yet represent the same, and because in it the faithful are spiritually fed and nourished. For the author of the Supper of the Lord is not an angel or man, but the very Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did first of all consecrate it to his Church. And the same blessing and consecration does still remain among all those who celebrate no other but that very Supper, which the Lord did institute, and at that do recite the words of the Supper of the Lord, and in all things look unto the one Christ by a true faith; at whose hands, at it were, they do receive that which they do receive by the ministry of the ministers of the Church.
The Lord, by this sacred rite, would have that great benefit to be kept in fresh remembrance which he procured for mankind; to wit, that by giving up his body to death and shedding his blood he has forgiven us all our sins, and redeemed us from eternal death and the power of the devil, and now feeds us with his flesh, and gives us his blood to drink: which things, being apprehended spiritually by a true faith, do nourish us up to life everlasting. And this so great a benefit is renewed so oft as the Supper is celebrated. For the Lord said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19).
By this holy Supper also it is sealed unto us, that the very body of Christ was truly given up for us, and his blood shed for the remission of our sins, lest our faith might somewhat waver. And this is outwardly represented unto us by the minister in the sacrament, after a visible manner, and, as it were, laid before our eyes to be seen, which is inwardly in the soul invisibly performed by the Holy Spirit. Outwardly, bread is offered by the minister, and the words of the Lord are heard: ‘Take, eat; this is my body;’ and, ‘Drink ye all of it; this is my blood’ (Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:17-20). Therefore the faithful do receive that which is given by the ministers of the Lord, and do eat the bread of the Lord, and do drink of the Lord’s cup. And at the same time inwardly, by the working of Christ through the Holy Spirit, they receive also the flesh and blood of the Lord, and do feed on them unto life eternal. For the flesh and blood of Christ is true meat and drink unto life eternal: yea, Christ himself, in that he was delivered for us, and is our Saviour, is that special thing and substance of the Supper; and therefore we suffer nothing to be put in his place.
But that it may the better and more plainly be understood how the flesh and blood of Christ are the meat and drink of the faithful, and are received by the faithful unto life eternal, we will add, moreover, these few things:
Eating is of divers sorts. (1.) There is a corporeal eating, whereby meat is taken into a man’s mouth, chewed with the teeth, swallowed down, and digested. After this manner did the Capernaites in times past think that they should eat the flesh of the Lord; but they are confuted by him (John 6:30-63). For as the flesh of Christ could not be eaten bodily, without great wickedness and cruelty, so is it not food for the body, as all men do confess. We therefore disallow that canon in the Pope’s decrees, Ego Berengarius (De Consecrat. Dist. 2). For neither did godly antiquity believe, neither yet do we believe, that the body of Christ can be eaten corporeally and essentially, with a bodily mouth.
(2.) There is also a spiritual eating of Christ’s body; not such a one whereby it may be thought that the very meat is changed into the spirit, but whereby (the Lord’s body and blood remaining in their own essence and property) those things are spiritually communicated unto us, not after a corporeal, but after a spiritual manner, through the Holy Spirit, who does apply and bestow upon us those things (to wit, remission of sins, deliverance, and life eternal) which are prepared for us by the flesh and blood of our Lord, sacrificed for us; so that Christ does now live in us, as we live in him; and does cause us to apprehend him by true faith to this end, that he may become unto us such a spiritual meat and drink, that is to say, our life. For even as corporeal meat and drink do not only refresh and strengthen our bodies, but also do keep them in life; even so the flesh of Christ delivered for us, and his blood shed for us, do not only refresh and strengthen our souls, but also do preserve them alive, not so far as they be corporeally eaten and drunken, but so far as they are communicated unto us spiritually by the Spirit of God, the Lord saying, ‘The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’ (John 6:51): also it is the spirit that gives life: ‘the flesh’ (to wit, corporeally eaten) ‘profiteth nothing; the words which I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life’ (John 6:63). And as we must by eating receive the meat into our bodies, to the end that it may work in us, and show its efficacy in us (because, while it is without us, it profiteth us not at all); even so it is necessary that we receive Christ by faith, that he may be made ours, and that he live in us, and we in him. For he says, ‘I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth in me shall not thirst any more’ (John 6:35); and also, ‘He that eateth me, shall live through me; and he abideth in me, and I in him’ (John 6:50).
From all this it appears manifestly, that by spiritual meat we mean not any imaginary thing, but the very body of our Lord Jesus, given to us; which yet is received by the faithful not corporeally, but spiritually by faith: in which point we do wholly follow the doctrine of our Lord and Saviour Christ in John 6. And this eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood of the Lord is so necessary to salvation that without it no man can be saved. But this spiritual eating and drinking takes place also without the Supper of the Lord, even so often as, and wheresoever, a man does believe in Christ. To which purpose that sentence of St. Augustine does happily belong, ‘Why dost thou prepare thy teeth and belly? Believe, and thou hast eaten.’
(3.) Besides that former spiritual eating, there is a sacramental eating of the body of the Lord; whereby the believer not only is partaker, spiritually and internally, of the true body and blood of the Lord, but also, by coming to the Table of the Lord, does outwardly receive the visible sacraments of the body and blood of the Lord. True it is, that by faith the believer did before receive the food that gives life, and still receives the same; but yet, when he receives the sacrament, he receives something more. For he goes on in continual communication of the body and blood of the Lord, and his faith is daily more and more kindled, more strengthened and refreshed, by the spiritual nourishment. For while we live, faith has continual increasings; and he that outwardly does receive the sacrament with a true faith, the same does not only receive the sign, but also does enjoy (as we said) the thing itself. Moreover, the same does obey the Lord’s institution and commandment, and with a joyful mind gives thanks for his redemption and that of all mankind, and makes a faithful remembrance of the Lord’s death, and does witness the same before the Church, of which body he is a member. This also is sealed to those who receive the sacrament, that the body of the Lord was given, and his blood shed, not only for men in general, but particularly for every faithful communicant, whose meat and drink he is, to life eternal.
But as for him that without faith comes to this Holy Table of the Lord, he is made partaker of the outward sacrament only; but the matter of the sacrament, from whence comes life unto salvation, he receives not at all; and such men do unworthily eat of the Lord’s Table. ‘Now they who do unworthily eat of the Lord’s bread and drink of the Lord’s cup, they are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, and they eat and drink it to their judgment’ (1 Corinthians 11:26-29). For when they do not approach with true faith, they do despite unto the death of Christ, and therefore eat and drink condemnation to themselves.
We do not, therefore, so join the body of the Lord and his blood with the bread and wine, as though we thought that the bread is the body of Christ, more than after a sacramental manner; or that the body of Christ does lie hid corporeally under the bread, so that it ought to be worshiped under the form of bread; or yet that whosoever he be who receives the sign, receives also the thing itself. The body of Christ is in the heavens, at the right hand of his Father; and therefore our hearts are to be lifted up on high, and not to be fixed on the bread, neither is the Lord to be worshiped in the bread. Yet the Lord is not absent from his Church when she celebrates the Supper. The sun, being absent from us in the heavens, is yet, notwithstanding, present among us effectually: how much more Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, though in body he be absent from us in the heavens, yet is present among us, not corporeally, but spiritually, by his lively operation, and so as he himself promised, in his Last Supper, to be present among us (John 14, John 15 and John 16). Whereupon it follows that we have not the Supper without Christ, and yet that we may have meanwhile an unbloody and mystical supper, even as all antiquity called it.
Moreover, we are admonished, in the celebration of the Supper of the Lord, to be mindful of the body whereof we are members; and that, therefore, we should be at concord with our brethren, that we live holily, and not pollute ourselves with wickedness and strange religions; but, persevering in the true faith to the end of our life, give diligence to excel in holiness of life. It is therefore very requisite that, purposing to come to the Supper of the Lord, we do examine ourselves, according to the commandment of the apostle: first, with what faith we are indued, whether we believe that Christ is come to save sinners and to call them to repentance, and whether each man believes that he is in the number of them that are delivered by Christ and saved; and whether he has purposed to change this wicked life, to live holily, and to persevere through God’s assistance, in the true religion, and in concord with his brethren, and to give worthy thanks to God for his delivery.
We think that rite, manner, or form of the Supper to be the most simple and excellent which comes nearest to the first institution of the Lord and to the apostles’ doctrine: which does consist in declaring the Word of God, in godly prayers, in the action itself that the Lord used, and the repeating of it; in the eating of the Lord’s body and drinking of his blood; in the wholesome remembrance of the Lord’s death, and faithful giving of thanks; and in a holy fellowship in the union of the body of the Church.
We therefore disallow those who have taken from the faithful one part of the sacrament, to wit, the Lord’s cup. For these do very grievously offend against the institution of the Lord, who says, ‘Drink ye all of this’ (Matthew 26:27); which he did not so plainly say of the bread.
What manner of mass it was that the fathers used, whether it were tolerable or intolerable, we do not now dispute. But this we say freely, that the mass which is now used throughout the Roman Church is quite abolished out of our churches for many and just causes, which, for brevity’s sake, we will not now particularly recite. Truly we could not approve of it, because they have changed a most wholesome action into a vain spectacle; also because the mass is made a meritorious matter, and is said for money; likewise because in it the priest is said to make the very body of the Lord, and to offer the same really, even for the remission of the sins of the quick and the dead. Add this also, that they do it for the honor, worship, and reverence of the saints in heaven (and for the relief of souls in purgatory), etc.
Chapter 22 - Of Holy and Ecclesiastical Meetings
Although it be lawful for all men privately at home to read the Holy Scriptures, and by instruction to edify one another in the true religion, yet that the Word of God may be lawfully preached to the people, and prayers and supplications publicly made, also that the sacraments may be lawfully administered, and that collections may be made for the poor, and to defray all necessary charges, or to supply the wants of the Church, it is very needful that there should be holy meetings and ecclesiastical assemblies. For it is manifest that, in the apostolic and primitive Church, there were such assemblies, frequented of godly men. So many, then, as do despise them, and separate themselves from them, they are contemners of true religion, and are to be urged by the pastors and godly magistrates to abstain from stubbornly absenting themselves from sacred assemblies. Now, ecclesiastical assemblies must not be hidden and secret, but public and common; except persecution by the enemies of Christ and the Church will not suffer them to be public; for we know what manner of assemblies the primitive Church had formerly in secret corners, being under the tyranny of Roman emperors. But let those places where the faithful meet together be decent, and in all respects fit for God’s Church. Therefore, let houses be chosen for that purpose, or churches, that are large and fair, so that they be purged from all such things as do not beseem the Church. And let all things be ordered as is most meet for comeliness, necessity, and godly decency, that nothing be wanting which is requisite for rites and orders, and the necessary uses of the Church.
And as we believe that God does not dwell in temples made with hands, so we know that by reason of the Word of God, and holy exercises therein celebrated, places dedicated to God and his worship are not profane, but holy; and that therefore such as are conversant in them ought to behave themselves reverently and modestly, as they who are in a sacred place, in the presence of God and his holy angels. All excess of apparel, therefore, is to be abandoned in churches and places where Christians meet for prayer, together with all pride and whatsoever else does not beseem Christian humility, discipline, and modesty. For the true ornament of churches does not consist in ivory, gold, and precious stones; but in the sobriety, godliness, and virtues of those who are in the church. ‘Let all things be done decently and in order’ in the church (1 Corinthians 14:26). To conclude, ‘Let things be done unto edifying’ (1 Corinthians 14:40). Therefore, let all strange tongues keep silence in the holy assemblies, and let all things be uttered in the vulgar tongue, which is understood of all men in the company.
Chapter 23 - Of the Prayers of the Church, of Singing, and of Canonical Hours
True it is that a man may lawfully pray privately in any tongue that he does understand; but public prayers ought, in the holy assemblies, to be made in the vulgar tongue, or such a language as is known to all. Let all the prayers of the faithful be poured forth to God alone, through the mediation of Christ only, out of a true faith and pure love. As for invocation of saints, or using them as intercessors to entreat for us, the priesthood of our Lord Christ and true religion will not permit us. Prayer must be made for the magistracy, for kings, and all that are placed in authority, for ministers of the Church, and for all necessities of churches; and especially in any calamity of the Church prayer must be made, both privately and publicly, without ceasing.
Moreover, we must pray willingly, and not by constraint, nor for any reward; neither must we superstitiously tie prayer to any place, as though it were not lawful to pray but in the church. There is no necessity that public prayers should be in form and time the same or alike in all churches. Let all churches use their liberty. Socrates, in his History, says, ‘In any country or nation whatsoever, you shall not find two churches which do wholly agree in prayer.’ The authors of this difference, I think, were those who had the government of the churches in several ages. But if any do agree, it deserves great commendation, and is to be imitated by others.
Besides this, there must be a mean and measure, as in every other thing, so also in public prayers, that they be not over-long and tedious. Let, therefore, most time be given to the teaching of the Gospel in such holy assemblies; and let there be diligent heed taken that the people in the assemblies be not wearied with over-long prayers, so that, when the preaching of the gospel should be heard, they, through wearisomeness, either desire to go forth themselves or to have the assembly wholly dismissed. For unto such the sermons seem to be over-long which otherwise are brief enough. Yea, and the preachers ought to keep a mean.
Likewise the singing in sacred assemblies ought to be moderated where it is in use. That song which they call the Gregorian Chant has many gross things in it; wherefore it is upon good cause rejected by our Church, and most other Reformed churches. If there be any churches which have faithful prayer in good manner, without any singing, they are not therefore to be condemned, for all churches have not the advantage and opportunity of sacred music. And certain it is by testimonies of antiquity that, as the custom of singing is very ancient in the Eastern churches, so it was long ere it was received in the Western churches.
In ancient times there were no such things as canonical hours; that is, fixed prayers framed for certain hours in the day, and therein chanted or often repeated, as the Papists’ manner is: which may be proved by many of their lessons, appointed in their hours, and divers other arguments. Moreover, they have many absurd things (of which I say no more) that are well omitted by our churches and replaced by matters more wholesome for the universal Church of God.
Chapter 24 - Of Holydays, Fasts, and Choice of Meats
Although religion be not tied unto time, yet can it not be planted and exercised without a due dividing and allotting-out of time. Every Church, therefore, does choose unto itself a certain time for public prayers, and for the preaching of the Gospel, and for the celebration of the sacraments; and it is not lawful for any one to overthrow this appointment of the Church at his own pleasure. For except some due time and leisure were allotted to the outward exercise of religion, without doubt men would be quite drawn from it by their own affairs.
In regard hereof, we see that in the ancient churches there were not only certain set hours in the week appointed for meetings, but that also the Lord’s Day itself, ever since the apostles’ time, was consecrated to religious exercises and to a holy rest; which also is now very well observed by our churches, for the worship of God and the increase of charity. Yet herein we give no place unto the Jewish observation of the day, or to any superstitions. For we do not account one day to be holier than another, nor think that mere rest is of itself acceptable to God. Besides, we do celebrate and keep the Lord’s Day, and not the Jewish Sabbath, and that with a free observation.
Moreover, if the churches do religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s Nativity, Circumcision, Passion, Resurrection, and of his Ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, according to Christian liberty, we do very well approve of it. But as for festival days, ordained for men or saints departed, we can not allow of them. For, indeed, festival days must be referred to the first table of the law, and belong peculiarly unto God. To conclude, those festival days which are appointed for saints, and abrogated by us, have in them many gross things, unprofitable and not to be tolerated. In the mean time, we confess that the remembrance of saints, in due time and place, may be to good use and profit commended unto the people in sermons, and the holy examples of holy men set before their eyes to be imitated by all.
Now, the more sharply the Church of Christ does condemn surfeiting, drunkenness, and all kinds of lusts and intemperance, so much the more earnestly does it commend unto us Christian fasting. For fasting is nothing else than the abstinence and temperance of the godly, and a watching and chastising of our flesh, taken up for present necessity, whereby we are humbled before God, and withdraw from the flesh those things with which it is cherished, to the end that it may the more willingly and easily obey the Spirit. Wherefore they do not fast at all that have no regard for those things, but imagine that they fast if they stuff their bellies once a day, and for a set or prescribed time do abstain from certain meats, thinking that by this very work wrought they please God and acquire merit. Fasting is a help of the prayers of the saints and all virtues; but the fasts wherein the Jews fasted from meat, and not from wickedness, pleased God nothing at all, as we may see in the books of the Prophets.
Now, fasting is either public or private. In olden times they celebrated public fasts in troublesome times and in the afflictions of the Church; wherein they abstained altogether from meat till the evening, and bestowed all that time in holy prayers, the worship of God, and repentance. These differed little from mournings and lamentations; and of these there is often mention made in the Prophets, and especially in the 2d chapter of Joel. Such a fast should be kept at this day, when the Church is in distress. Private fasts are used by every one of us, according as every one feels the spirit weakened in him; for so he withdraws that which might cherish and strengthen the flesh.
All fasts ought to proceed from a free and willing spirit, and such a one as is truly humbled, and not framed to win applause and the liking of men, much less to the end that a man might merit righteousness by them. But let every one fast to this end, that he may deprive the flesh of that which would cherish it, and that he may the more zealously serve God.
The fast of Lent has testimony of antiquity, but none out of the apostles’ writings; and therefore ought not, nor can not, be imposed on the faithful. It is certain that in old time there were divers manners and uses of this fast; whereupon Irenæus, a most ancient writer, says, ‘Some think that this fast should be observed one day only, others two days, but others more, and some forty days. This diversity in keeping this fast began not in our times, but long before us; by those, as I suppose, who, not simply holding that which was delivered them from the beginning, fell shortly after into another custom, either through negligence or ignorance.’ Moreover, Socrates, the historian, says, ‘Because no ancient record is found concerning this matter, I think the apostles left this to every man’s own judgment, that every one might work that which is good, without fear or constraint.’
Now, as concerning the choice of meats, we suppose that, in fasting, all things should be denied to the flesh whereby the flesh is made more lusty, wherein it does most immoderately delight, and whereby it is most of all pampered, whether they be fish, spices, dainties, or excellent wines. Otherwise we know that all the creatures of God were made for the use and service of men. All things which God made are good (Genesis 1:31), and are to be used in the fear of God, and with due moderation, without putting any difference between them. For the apostle says, ‘To the pure all things are pure’ (Titus 1:15), and also, ‘Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience’ sake’ (1 Corinthians 10:25). The same apostle calls the doctrine of those who teach to abstain from meats ‘the doctrine of demons;’ for that ‘God created meats to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving’ (1 Timothy 4:1,3,4). The same apostle, in the Epistle to the Colossians, reproves those who, by an overmuch abstinence, will get unto themselves an opinion of holiness (Colossians 2:20-23). Therefore we do altogether mislike the Tatians and the Encratites, and all the disciples of Eustathius (of Sebaste), against whom the Gangrian Synod was assembled.
Chapter 25 - Of Catechising, of Comforting and Visiting the Sick
The Lord enjoined his ancient people to take great care and diligence in instructing the youth well, even from their infancy; and, moreover, commanded expressly in his Law that they should teach them, and declare the mystery of the sacrament unto them. Now, forasmuch as is evident by the writings of the evangelists and apostles, that God has no less care of the youth of his new people (seeing he says, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 19:14)), therefore the pastors do very wisely who do diligently and betimes catechise their youth, laying the first grounds of faith, and faithfully teaching the rudiments of our religion, by expounding the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the doctrine of the sacraments, with other like principles and chief heads of our religion. And here let the Church perform her faithfulness and diligence in bringing the children to be catechised, as being desirous and glad to have her children well instructed.
Seeing that men do never lie open to more grievous temptations than when they are exercised with infirmities, or else are sick and brought low by diseases, it behooves the pastors of the churches to be never more vigilant and careful for the safety of the flock than in such diseases and infirmities. Therefore let them visit the sick betimes, and let them be quickly sent for by the sick, if the matter shall so require; let them comfort and confirm them in the true faith; finally, let them strengthen them against the dangerous suggestions of Satan. In like manner, let them pray with the sick person at home in his house; and, if need be, let them make prayers for the sick in the public meeting; and let them be careful that they have a happy passage out of this life. As for Popish visiting with the extreme unction, we have said before that we do not like it, because it has many absurd things in it, and such as are not approved by the canonical Scriptures.
Chapter 26 - Of the Burial of the Faithful, and of the Care Which Is To Be Had For Such As Are Dead; of Purgatory, and the Appearing of Spirits
The Scripture directs that the bodies of the faithful, as being temples of the Holy Spirit, which we truly believe shall rise again at the last day, should be honorably, without any superstition, committed to the earth; and, besides, that we should make honorable mention of those who died in the Lord, and perform all duties of love to those they leave behind, as their widows and fatherless children. Other care for the dead we do not enjoin. Therefore, we do greatly mislike the Cynics, who neglected the bodies of the dead, or did carelessly and disdainfully cast them into the earth, never speaking so much as a good word of the deceased, nor any whit regarding those whom they left behind them.
Again, we disapprove of those who are too much and preposterously officious to the dead; who, like the heathen, do greatly lament and bewail their dead (although we do not censure that moderate mourning which the apostle does allow [1 Thessalonians 4:13], since it is unnatural not to be touched with sorrow); and who do sacrifice for the dead, and mumble certain prayers, not without their penny for their pains; thinking by these prayers to deliver their friends from torments, wherein, being wrapped by death, they suppose they may be rid of them again by such lamentable songs.
For we believe that the faithful, after bodily death, do go directly unto Christ, and, therefore, do not stand in need of helps or prayers for the dead, or any other such duty of them that are alive. In like manner, we believe that the unbelievers are cast headlong into hell, from whence there is no return opened to the wicked by any offices of those who live.
But as touching that which some teach concerning the fire of purgatory, it is directly contrary to the Christian faith (‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins, and the life everlasting’), and to the absolute purgation of sins made by Christ, and to these sayings of Christ our Lord: ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life’ (John 5:24). Again, ‘He that is washed, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean’ (John 13:10).
Now, that which is recorded of the spirits or souls of the dead sometimes appearing to them that are alive, and craving certain duties of them whereby they may be set free: we count those apparitions among the delusions, crafts, and deceits of the Devil, who, as he can transform himself into an angel of light, so he labors tooth and nail either to overthrow the true faith, or else to call it into doubt. The Lord, in the Old Testament, forbade us to inquire the truth of the dead, and to have any thing to do with spirits (Deuteronomy 18:10,11). And to the glutton, being bound in torments, as the truth of the Gospel does declare, is denied any return to his brethren on earth; the oracle of God pronouncing and saying, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one arose from the dead’ (Luke 16:29,31).
Chapter 27 - Of Rites, Ceremonies, and Things Indifferent
Unto the ancient people were given in old time certain ceremonies, as a kind of schooling to those who were kept under the law, as under a schoolmaster or tutor. But Christ, the deliverer, being once come, and the law taken away, we who believe are no more under the law (Romans 6:14), and the ceremonies have vanished out of use. And the apostles were so far from retaining them, or repairing them, in the Church of Christ, that they witnessed plainly that they would not lay any burden upon the Church (Acts 15:28). Wherefore we should seem to bring in and set up Judaism again if we should multiply ceremonies or rites in the Church according to the manner of the Jewish Church. And thus we are not of their judgment who would have the Church of Christ bound by many and divers rites, as it were by a certain schooling. For if the apostles would not thrust upon the Christian people the ceremonies and rites which were appointed by God, who is there, I pray you, that is well in his wits, that will thrust upon it the inventions devised by man? The greater the heap of ceremonies in the Church, so much the more is taken, not only from Christian liberty, but also from Christ, and from faith in him; while the people seek those things in ceremonies which they should seek in the only Son of God, Jesus Christ, through faith. Wherefore a few moderate and simple rites, that are not contrary to the Word of God, do suffice the godly.
And in that there is found diversity of rites in the churches, let no man say, therefore, that the churches do not agree. Socrates says, in his Church History, ‘It were not possible to set down in writing all the ceremonies of the churches which are observed throughout cities and countries. No religion does keep every where the same ceremonies, although they admit and receive one and the self-same doctrine touching them; for even they who have one and the self-same faith do disagree among themselves about ceremonies.’ Thus much says Socrates; and we, at this day, having diversities in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and in certain other things, in our churches, yet we do not disagree in doctrine and faith; neither is the unity and society of our churches rent asunder. For the churches have always used their liberty in such rites, as being things indifferent; which we also do at this day.
But yet, notwithstanding, we admonish men to take heed that they count not among things indifferent such as are not indeed indifferent; as some used to count the mass and the use of images in the Church for things indifferent. ‘That is indifferent’ (says Jerome to Augustine) ‘which is neither good nor evil; so that, whether you do it or do it not, you are never the more just or unjust thereby.’ Therefore, when things indifferent are wrested to the confession of faith, they cease to be free; as Paul does show that it is lawful for a man to eat flesh if no man do admonish him that it was offered to idols (1 Corinthians 10:27,28); for then it is unlawful, because he that eats it does seem to approve idolatry by eating of it (1 Corinthians 8:10).
Chapter 28 - Of the Goods of the Church, and the Right Use of Them
The Church of Christ has riches through the bountifulness of princes, and the liberality of the faithful, who have given their goods to the Church. For the Church has need of such goods; and has had goods from ancient time for the maintenance of things necessary for the Church. Now, the true use of the ecclesiastical goods was, and now is, to maintain learning in schools and in holy assemblies, with all the service, rites, and buildings of the Church; finally, to maintain teachers, scholars, and ministers, with other necessary things, and chiefly for the succor and relief of the poor. But for the lawful dispensing of these ecclesiastical goods let men be chosen that fear God: wise men, and such as are of good report in the government of their families.
But if the goods of the Church, by injury of the time, and the boldness, ignorance, or covetousness of some, be turned to any abuse, let them be restored again, by godly and wise men, unto their holy use; for they must not connive at so impious an abuse. Therefore, we teach that schools and colleges, whereinto corruption is crept in doctrine, in the service of God, and in manners, must be reformed; and that there provision should be made, piously, faithfully, and wisely, for the relief of the poor.
Chapter 29 - Of Single Life, Wedlock, and Household Government
Such as have the gift of chastity given unto them from above, so that they can with the heart or whole mind be pure and continent, and not be grievously burned with lust, let them serve the Lord in that calling, as long as they shall feel themselves endued with that heavenly gift; and let them not lift up themselves above others, but let them serve the Lord daily in simplicity and humility. For such are more apt for attending to heavenly things than they who are distracted with the private affairs of a family. But if, again, the gift be taken away, and they feel a continual burning, let them call to mind the words of the apostle, ‘It is better to marry than to burn’ (1 Corinthians 7:9).
For wedlock (which is the medicine of incontinency, and continency itself) was ordained by the Lord God himself, who blessed it most bountifully, and willed man and woman to cleave one to the other inseparably, and to live together in great concord (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 14:5,6). Whereupon we know the apostle said, ‘Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled’ (Hebrews 13:4). And again, ‘If a virgin marry, she hath not sinned’ (1 Corinthians 7:28). We therefore condemn polygamy, and those who condemn second marriages. We teach that marriages ought to be contracted lawfully, in the fear of the Lord, and not against the laws which forbid certain degrees to join in matrimony, lest the marriages should be incestuous. Let marriages be made with consent of the parents, or such as are instead of parents; and for that end especially for which the Lord ordained marriages. And let them be confirmed publicly in the Church, with prayer and blessing. Moreover, let them be kept holy, with peace, faithfulness, dutifulness, love, and purity of the persons coupled together. Therefore let them take heed of brawlings, debates, lusts, and adulteries. Let lawful judgments and holy judges be established in the Church, who may maintain marriages, and may repress all dishonesty and shamefulness, and before whom controversies in matrimony may be decided and ended.
Let children also be brought up by the parents in the fear of the Lord; and let parents provide for their children, remembering the saying of the apostle, ‘He that provideth not for his own, hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel’ (1 Timothy 5:8). But especially let them teach their children honest arts and occupations, whereby they may maintain themselves. Let them keep them from idleness, and plant in them a true confidence in God in all these things; lest they, through distrust, or overmuch careless security, or filthy covetousness, wax loose, and in the end come to no good.
Now, it is most certain that those works which parents do in true faith, by the duties of marriage, and government of their families, are, before God, holy and good works indeed, and do please God no less than prayers, fastings, and alms-deeds. For so the apostle has taught in his epistles, especially in those to Timothy and Titus. And with the same apostle we account the doctrine of such as forbid marriage, or do openly dispraise or secretly discredit it as not holy or clean, among the ‘doctrines of demons’ (1 Timothy 4:1).
And we do detest unclean single life, licentious lusts, and fornications, both open and secret, and the continency of dissembling hypocrites, when they are, of all men, most incontinent. All these God will judge. We do not disallow riches, nor contemn rich men, if they be godly and use their riches well; but we reprove the sect of the Apostolicals, etc.
Chapter 30 - Of the Magistracy
The magistracy, of what sort soever it be, is ordained of God himself, for the peace and quietness of mankind; and so that he should have the chief place in the world. If the magistrate be an adversary to the Church, he may hinder and disturb it very much; but if he be a friend and a member of the Church, he is a most useful and excellent member thereof; he may profit it very much, and finally may help and further it very excellently.
The chief duty of the civil magistrate is to procure and maintain peace and public tranquillity: which, doubtless, he shall never do more happily than when he shall be truly seasoned with the fear of God and true religion—namely, when he shall, after the example of the most holy kings and princes of the people of the Lord, advance the preaching of the truth, and the pure and sincere faith, and shall root out lies and all superstition, with all impiety and idolatry, and shall defend the Church of God. For indeed we teach that the care of religion does chiefly appertain to the holy magistrate.
Let him, therefore, hold the Word of God in his hands, and look that nothing be taught contrary thereunto. In like manner, let him govern the people, committed to him of God, with good laws, made according to the Word of God in his hands, and look that nothing be taught contrary thereunto. Let him hold them in discipline and in duty and in obedience. Let him exercise judgment by judging uprightly: let him not respect any man’s person, or receive bribes. Let him protect widows, fatherless children, and those that be afflicted, against wrong; let him repress, yea, and cut off, such as are unjust, whether in deceit or by violence. ‘For he hath not received the sword of God in vain’ (Romans 13:4). Therefore let him draw forth this sword of God against all malefactors, seditious persons, thieves, murderers, oppressors, blasphemers, perjured persons, and all those whom God has commanded him to punish or even to execute. Let him suppress stubborn heretics (who are heretics indeed), who cease not to blaspheme the majesty of God, and to trouble the Church, yea, and finally to destroy it.
And if it be necessary to preserve the safety of the people by war, let him do it in the name of God; provided he have first sought peace by all means possible, and can save his subjects in no way but by war. And while the magistrate does these things in faith, he serves God with those works which are good, and shall receive a blessing from the Lord.
We condemn the Anabaptists, who, as they deny that a Christian man should bear the office of a magistrate, deny also that any man can justly be put to death by the magistrate, or that the magistrate may make war, or that oaths should be administered by the magistrate, and such like things.
For as God will work the safety of his people by the magistrate, whom it is given to be, as it were, a father of the world, so all subjects are commanded to acknowledge this benefit of God in the magistrate. Therefore let them honor and reverence the magistrate as the minister of God; let them love him, favor him, and pray for him as their father; and let them obey all his just and equal commandments. Finally, let them pay all customs and tributes, and all other duties of the like sort, faithfully and willingly. And if the common safety of the country and justice require it, and the magistrate do of necessity make war, let them even lay down their life, and spend their blood for the common safety and defense of the magistrate; and that in the name of God, willingly, valiantly, and cheerfully. For he that opposes himself against the magistrate does provoke the wrath of God against him.
We condemn, therefore, all contemners of magistrates, rebels, enemies of the commonwealth, seditious villains, and, in a word, all such as do either openly or closely refuse to perform those duties which they owe.
The Conclusion.—We beseech God, our most merciful Father in heaven, that he will bless the rulers of the people, and us, and his whole people, through Jesus Christ, our only Lord and Saviour; to whom be praise and glory and thanksgiving, both now and forever. Amen.