Difference between revisions of "Mennonite Articles of Faith by Cornelis Ris (1766)"
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* ''Mennonitisches Lexikon'' III, 517-19.
* ''Mennonitisches Lexikon'' III, 517-19.
Latest revision as of 18:42, 24 March 2016
Cornelis Ris (1717-18 April 1790) lived at Hoorn, Dutch province of North Holland. He was a Zonist Mennonite preacher, and descended from the influential Ris family of Hoorn. On 12 March 1746, Cornelis was installed as one of the ministers of the Hoorn Frisian congregation. In the 17th century Hoorn had an unusual number of Mennonite branches; in 1747 the Frisians and the Waterlanders, then the only remaining congregations, merged. Ris served at Hoorn until his death. His colleague Jacob Spis delivered his funeral sermon.
An address to the Hoorn congregation said, "There was namely besides the Waterlander congregation, which had adopted the Confession of Hans de Ries, also a Frisian congregation, which gave considerable approval to another (confession), signed at Dordrecht on 27 September 1632, by a number of ministers: when these two congregations united in 1747, the third article of the agreement stipulated the following: The confessions of faith now adhered to by the two congregations will not be changed now; nor will the ministers and members be required to give a more specific declaration than that given when they were installed in office or admitted into the congregation; but when the two congregations are united, an attempt will be made to unify the two confessions wherein they may differ: And if an admission of members is planned, as has hitherto been customary, to proceed with such moderation that too much will not be demanded of such as are weak of understanding and tender spirits are spared" (Foreword of the German edition of the Confession of Cornelis Ris, Hamburg, 1776).
Thus it became a special concern to Cornelis Ris to gather into a single confession and merge the confessions of faith that seemed definitive in the Algemeene Belydenissen (1665) of the Zonists; viz., the Concept of Cologne, 1591; Outerman's Confession, 1626; Olijftacxken, 1627; Confession of Jan Cents, 1630; Dordrecht Confession, 1632. Besides consideration for the two congregations at Hoorn, he was moved by the desire to check the rapid decline of the congregations of his time by steering them toward the old foundation of the recognized confessions (whereas van der Zijpp has shown that the congregations that were more faithful to the confessions were declining even more rapidly than the more liberal ones). In 1759 the church council of the Hoorn congregation decided to present Ris' proposal to the Zonist Sociëteit. This body approached the problem with hesitation. Nevertheless Cornelis Ris was able to present a concrete sketch in 1762 and to publish it in 1766. His caution in this matter is shown by the title of the fourth article; at first it read, "How this one God is further to be distinguished in the Holy Scriptures"; the later version says more plainly, "Of the Holy Trinity." Not until 1773 did the Sociëteit formally approve the confession. But in spite of this approval it found no enthusiastic reception by the Zonists, the Lamists, or the Old Flemish. Concerning the previous history and the difficulties in having this confession approved Ris wrote Kort Berigt van't voorgevallene over de Geloofsleere (Hoorn, 1776).
The Confession of Cornelis Ris was given the significant title De Geloofsleere der waare Mennoniten of Doopsgezinden. Nevertheless Cornelis Ris, like the orthodox wing of the Dutch Mennonites in general at that time, also sought contact with Calvinism, the established faith; his confession, which expressly attaches itself to the Mennonite tradition, has a certain Calvinistic inclination (the doctrine of election in article IX was later moderated or left open by insertions). His 36 articles deal with all the major points of theology.
This confession, like the Dordrecht Confession, had only temporary significance in the Netherlands, but attained a true and wide significance outside its home. For the Confession of Cornelis Ris its relations to the Hamburg-Altona congregation and to America were important.
Besides the Hoorn congregation, the only other congregations to support it were Westzaan in North Holland and Almelo in Overijssel, where Pieter Beets, a nephew and collaborator of Cornelis Ris, was the pastor. He took a position in favor of the confession in a "Brief Report."
The bridge to the Hamburg-Altona congregation was built by members of the Beets family, some of whom lived there and others in Hoorn. Jan Beets (1708-88), of Hoorn, a follower of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf and a successful revival preacher, was a faithful adherent of Cornelis Ris. His cousin Gerrit Beets (1707-76), elder of the Hamburg-Altona congregation, fought all his life, like Ris, "that the ancient pillars should not be removed." Pieter Beets (1727-76), a nephew of Jan Beets and of Cornelis Ris, who had also been "awakened" in the early 1750's, was called from Almelo to Hamburg-Altona, recommended by his uncle Cornelis Ris, and began his service there in 1771. He was succeeded not long after by Jan Ris (1756-84), a son of Cornelis Ris, whom Pieter Beets had instructed in Hamburg-Altona, and who became a ministerial candidate in 1775, a minister in Hamburg-Altona in 1777, and an elder in 1779.
In Hamburg the Confession of Cornelis Ris was translated into German and published in 1776. The Foreword explains that it was intended for Mennonites of Dutch extraction who were now using German in their services, and for the congregations in Southwest Germany and Alsace and their "colonies" in America; it expresses the hope that the Protestants would graciously accept this work. The translator reproduced some 12 pages of the original author's 52-page introduction and added some pages of his own, making a German introduction of about half the length of the Dutch. For 1791 B. C. Roosen reported in his history of the Hamburg-Altona congregation (II, p. 55), "when the preachers of our congregation in 1791 suggested in the church council that competent preachers be sought from the outside, they added the wish that only orthodox ones adhering to the confessions of Hans de Ries and Lubbert Gerrits, Gerrit Roosen, or Cornelis Ris be invited for a visit." The same history records that on May 29, 1803, it was unanimously decided to adopt the Confession by Cornelis Ris, and that for many years each newly chosen preacher and deacon signed a copy of this confession.
In the early 19th century, when Prussia organized its Rhine Province (see Rhineland) and sought information about its Mennonites, the Dordrecht Confession was presented as that of the stricter branch (Amish), and the Cornelis Ris confession as that of the more lenient branch.
The Confession of Cornelis Ris acquired new effectiveness in the 19th and 20th centuries through the work of Carl Justus van der Smissen (1811-90), who was the minister in the Friedrichstadt Mennonite congregation 1837-68, and was then called to America to serve as a teacher in the Wadsworth Mennonite School at Wadsworth, Ohio. He revised the German translation of this confession "in order that it may not be lost to our congregations." His revision, without the Scriptural proof texts, was published as a manuscript in 1850.
In America Carl Heinrich Anton van der Smissen (1851-1950), a son of the above, a Mennonite pastor in Summerfield, Illinois, published the Cornelis Ris Confession in 1895 as an appendix to a short history of the Mennonites. This edition contained some new proof texts added by his father and Berend Roosen. This confession seemed more liberal, in America as well as in Europe, than the Dordrecht Confession, and was published by the General Conference Mennonite Church in English in 1902 and 1904, and 1904 (with title of 1895 edition) and 1906 in German, as its recognized confession.
The slighted revised English text is attached.
Text of the Confession
Preface to English edition
The distinctive literature of the Mennonite church, limited though it is, includes a number of efforts at a complete statement of doctrines to be held and taught in the church. These were issued at different times and under various circumstances; sometimes perhaps in an apologetic spirit, intended as a defense either before civil and ecclesiastical authorities or against those holding divergent views; but mostly with the laudable desire, not always achieved, of bringing about a closer union where differences of opinion and disputed questions of faith disturbed the harmony and threatened disruption.
The work that is here given in an English translation, owes its origin in the first place to the desire for a reunion, on an enduring basis, of once separated factions in a local Mennonite community. It was afterward developed into its present dimensions in order to widen its scope of usefulness in the same line.
Though the hope of the author for ultimate adoption of these Articles by Mennonites in general as the authoritative confession of faith of the church was not realized, and while neither they nor any other similar articles ever written and adopted in any portion of the Mennonite church carry with them the same weight of ecclesiastical authority as do the confessions of faith in some other churches, yet such a reverent and withal masterly effort in the way of a systematic statement of the essential teachings of the Bible is worthy of a careful study and will prove very helpful in the imparting of doctrinal instruction in the church.
Originating in the Netherlands, these articles were written in the language of that country. In order to make the work accessible to the Mennonites in Germany and in America the late Carl J. van der Smissen made a German translation in 1849. A similar motive prompted the present translation into English. There is a great need in this country of more literature of this kind being offered to the constantly increasing English reading portion among our church members, to our children, and to many others to whom a better knowledge of the teaching of our church will be no harm. The General Conference recognized the need, and at its triennial meeting in 1902 authorized this publication.
It may be well to say a word in reference to the translation. It is made, not from the original Dutch, but from the German version of van der Smissen. The difficulty of transmitting the exact shade of thought at every point is greatly increased, by such a circuitous route. There has been no attempt at literalness in the translation but rather to give the thought in idiomatic English; and wherever the language in the German was taken from the Bible, the corresponding verses or parts of verses from the English Bible were incorporated in the translation. In doing this the Revised Version was mostly used, this version generally agreeing more nearly with the German of Luther than the King James version.
Some of the proof texts indicated in the German were found in the English to lack application and were therefore omitted. In a few instances others were substituted.
With these explanations we commend these Articles of Faith in their English dress to all to whom they are thus made accessible. We prize this work, with others of a similar character, for what they bring to us of the thought and teaching of the forefathers in our church, being moved with gratitude to God for the grace given them in such a deeply spiritual apprehension of revealed truth. We recognize in these works a blessed heritage come to us out of the past when men's faith was tried as in a crucible. As a guide in our own study and teaching we value them, not as an ultimate or conclusive statement of doctrines, but as an introduction simply to the devout study of the Scriptures, the inspired Word of God, which is the one conclusive and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice, the fountain-head of revealed truth to be believed and taught.
I. Of the Knowledge of God from Nature
We believe that there necessarily must be and actually is a supremely perfect Being, exalted above all other beings; a Being possessing in Himself infinite wisdom, power and glory, by whom all things were made and are continually sustained and governed; -- this we believe not only because of the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, but because we may also clearly gather it from the things created.
Leaving our own being out of consideration, we see the heavens (Psalms 19:1; 8:3), the earth (Psalms 24:1; Job 26:7), the seas (Psalms 89:9; Jeremiah 5:22) and all that in them is (Job 12:7-9; Psalms 107:23, 24; Psalms 104) proclaim that such a greatness (Psalms 104:24) and glory (Psalms 8:9; 19:5; 104:1-3), skill and mastery (Psalms 104; 139:1-18), fixed order (Psalms 148:6; Isaiah 40:26; Jeremiah 31:35, 36), innumerable benefits (Acts 14:17; Psalms 119:64) and much besides, must of necessity have an author who Himself is infinitely great, glorious, wise, powerful and good, just as the perfectness of a work of art gives evidence of the ability and insight of the artist.
Considering ourselves also, we find that this is no less verified when we thoughtfully observe the ingenious mechanism of our body (Job 10:11, 12), the marvelous qualities and capabilities of the soul, as well as the union and reciprocal relation of both, all of which points to a supreme author or creator and teaches us our exalted duties toward the same. Malachai 1:6; Acts 17:27. In this we are also especially confirmed by the consciousness of peace or fear, accordingly as we obey or disobey the voice of the law as it is written in our hearts. Romans 2:15.
All this, together with the concurring testimony of all thinking people in all ages, leads us to the conclusion that the thought that all things are eternal and self-existent or have been brought into existence by chance, and work independent of the control of a higher being, is so irrational that only presumptuous fools (Psalms 14:1; Isaiah 29:15, 16) or the stubbornly hardened (Jeremiah 5:1-5) can entertain it, and that they do violence to their better convictions in order that, continuing in such unbelief, they may sin the more unhindered.
II. Of the Holy Scriptures
Although, as has been said, we conceive from the things that are created that there must be a God who in His own being possesses infinite perfections, nevertheless, without a further revelation concerning the nature of His being, His perfection, His ways and His works, His holy will, and (since we have sinned) especially concerning the way and means of being reconciled with God, we would be much in the dark, as has been generally true of all the heathen.
Therefore we conceive it an incalculable boon that God has spoken at sundry times and in divers manners in times past to the fathers and prophets and in the fullness of time through His only begotten Son, as also through His holy apostles (Hebrews 1:1, 2), and that in His gracious pleasure He has had as much of it recorded as is necessary for us as a rule of faith and conduct. Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
Under the term Holy Scriptures we include all those books known as regular or canonical, from the Pentateuch to Revelation. These Scriptures we call holy, because they are inspired by God and written by holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21. We accept them, therefore, not as the word of man, but of God; as the only infallible and sufficient rule of faith and conduct to which we owe supreme reverence and obedience.
There are many and weighty arguments upon which this our faith rests. Of these we give the following: (a) The teaching contained in these holy books transcends the laws or the light of nature, but in no wise contradicts them. (b) The contents thereof are altogether worthy of God and invite reverence for Him. (c) All that is contained therein serves to the attainment of holy ends; as the glory of God, the good of one's neighbor, and one's own happiness. (d) The holy writers were persons of distinguished piety and uprightness, who neither evidenced credulity nor sought their own glory, justification or temporal advantage in this work, much less could they obtain such; but their sole object was the glory of God and the salvation and peace of their fellowman. (a) By means of supernatural miracles, fulfillment of prophecies, and many other things, God convinced them, and us through them, of their divine mission. Moreover, everyone who yields himself in honest obedience and submission to the Word of God, finds peace of heart and obtains for himself the assurance of the truth.
III. Of God's Being and Perfections
In accordance with these Holy Scriptures and as taught by them we believe there is an only God (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6), a Being wholly perfect (Matthew 5:48), a Spirit (John 4:24), self-existent (Psalms 90:2), unchangeable (James 1:17; Psalms 102:28), omnipresent (Jeremiah 23:23, 24; Psalms 139:7-10), all-sufficient (Acts 17:25), and altogether perfect in His attributes, viz., holy (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11: 44), righteous (Psalms 11:7), omnipotent (Genesis 17:1), omniscient (Psalms 139:1-18) all-wise (Isaiah 40:28; Psalms 104:24), merciful (James 5:11), gracious, long-suffering, of great goodness and truth (Exodus 34:6; Psalms 145:8, in a word, God is love (1 John 4:16), the source of life (Psalms 36:16; Jeremiah 2:13), and author of all good (James 1:17; Psalms 102:28), the creator and preserver of all things, visible and invisible (Colossians 1:16, 17), worthy to be reverenced, loved and glorified by all His creatures.
IV. Of the Holy Trinity
This one God (Deuteronomy 6:4) is more definitely revealed in Holy Scripture (John 1:18) and distinguished as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 17; Isaiah 48:16; Matthew 3:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6), yet with the added declaration that these three are one.
The Father is presented to us as the author (John 5:26; 17:5, 6) and source of all things (1 Corinthians 8:6), of whom, in an inscrutable manner, the Son is begotten (Psalms 2:78) from eternity (John 1:1, 2), before all creatures. Colossians 1:15,16.
The Son is the Father's eternal word and wisdom (John 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:24; Colossians 2:3), through whom all things are (Colossians 1:15, 16), the effulgence of the Father's glory and the very image of his being. Hebrews 1:2, 3.
The Holy Spirit belongs, as a divine entity, to the essence of God. He is as well the Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20) as of the Son (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:9), and proceeds from the Father and from the Son (John 15:26) as the mighty worker of all divine and spiritual things. Philippians 1:19.
We profess that these three are not divided or separated from one another, but united and one (John 10:30) in essence as well as in will and operation, since the same names, attributes and works are predicated of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so, too, the same divine regard, as the Saviour so explicitly commands to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), and as also every believer has need of the grace, love and communion of these three (2 Corinthians 13: 14), for which reasons equal honor and equal service are due them (see of the Son - Luke 24:52; John 5:23; 14:23, 24; Philippians 2:10, 11; Revelation 5:12. Of the Holy Spirit Ephesians 4:30; 1 Corinthians 3:16).
V. Of the Creation and All Things and of Man in Particular
We believe that this eternal God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- is the omnipotent Creator of heaven and earth, who in the beginning (Genesis 1:1), in six days (Exodus 20:11), made the heavens with all their host (Nehemiah 9:6), the stars, the holy angels and celestial spirits, as also the earth and the seas with all that is found in and on the same, and lastly, on the sixth day, man who is the masterpiece of all God's works upon earth. Genesis 1:26, 27. Man's body is indeed made of the earth (Genesis 2:7, 3:19), but his spirit is by the breath, or a direct powerful working, of the Almighty (Job 33:4) and is therefore immaterial and immortal. Matthew 10:28.
Man being thus, especially after the spirit, of such exalted and divine origin (Acts 17:28) he is created likewise unto a noble end, viz., to know God, to love Him, and to glorify Him (Romans 1:19-21), which is the essence of all true godliness. John 17:3; Jeremiah 9:23, 24.
Further, God gave Adam a wife for his help (Genesis 2:18), built of one of his ribs (Genesis 2:22) that there should be between them the closest union and the most intimate love. Genesis 2:23, 24. Out of her all mankind have sprung. Acts 17:26.
VI. Of God as Preserver and Ruler
We believe that God in His supreme wisdom, power, righteousness and goodness, provides for (Acts 17:25; Psalms 145:15), directs (Job 37:1-13; Genesis 50:20), and governs (Psalms 103:19; Psalms 104; Psalms 147) all things that He has made, so that nothing takes place (Lamentations 3:37), however insignificant it may seem, without this divine providence and control; as Jesus also plainly taught that no sparrow falls to the earth without the will of our heavenly Father. Luke 12:6, 7; Matthew 10:29. Yet we must here carefully distinguish between what God works directly (James 1:16, 17; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Philippians 2:13) and what He permits and overrules (Genesis 31:7; Isaiah 10:5-15) according to the nature of things and in consonance with His divine perfection. (It is of the highest importance to note this distinction, wherefore James says, "Do not err." God does not bring about the evil of sin, but permits, yet limits and overrules it). Above all do we believe in God's control, protection and direction exercised with solicitous care (Zechariah 2:8) and in minute detail (Matthew 10:30; 1 Timothy 4:10) over them that fear Him (Psalms 33:18; 34:7, 9, 10, 15, 17), love Him (Romans 8:28), and obey Him. John 15:10.
VII. Of the Condition of Man Before the Fall
Concerning the condition of man before the fall, we believe that God made man upright (Ecclesiastes 7:29) and good (Genesis 1:31), in His image and after His likeness (Genesis 1:26; 5:1); in which holy and good condition our first parents were glorious and happy creatures, endowed and adorned with exalted wisdom, pure affections and impulses, and with a free will whereby they could (under God's permission) accept without compulsion, or of their own accord reject, what was presented to them, whether it be the counsel and will of God (Genesis 2:16, 17) or the counsel and will of the evil one (Genesis 3:4, 5) as the issue demonstrated. To prove this, God laid upon them a certain duty (namely, first of all the law of nature written in their hearts (Romans 2:14, 15); wherefore God could ask Cain, Genesis 4:7: "Is it not thus?" -- Luther's translation), and made, as it were, a covenant with them. Hosea 6:7.
As long as this good condition lasted, they doubtless enjoyed a perfect and intimate converse with God. (Gen. 3:8) in child-like love and reverence, which, had they continued therein, could have issued only in a pure blessedness for soul and body in all eternity.
VIII. Of the Fall of Man and Its Consequences
We believe that our first parents, Adam and Eve, remained not in this blessed condition, but allowed themselves to be led astray through the crafty deceit of the serpent, the devil, or Satan (Genesis 3:1-5; Revelation 20:2; John 8:44) who with his angels had before fallen away from God and been cast out. Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4. Our parents fell in that they, against their conscience, transgressed the plain command of God and ate of the tree (Genesis 3:1-8) of which God had bidden them not to eat under pain of death. Genesis 2:16, 17.
Through this one disobedience sin with all its sad consequences came into the world. We acknowledge the far-reaching effects of this in every relation, first of all, however, for our first parents. Romans 5:12-21. Through it they fell from their innocence and were filled with shame; in the place of their filial reverence and openheartedness came fear and pangs of conscience (Genesis 3:1-8); in place of the unrestricted and intimate converse with God, a condition of antipathy and estrangement from Him (John 3:20), yea, the wrath and severity of the holy and righteous Creator. Ephesians 2:3. Besides the peace with God they lost also the peace with their created surroundings, they must pass under the sentence of death (Romans 5), were driven from the garden of Eden, the way to the tree of life was closed for them (Genesis 3:24), the earth itself was cursed on their account, and they were doomed to much pain and hard work. Genesis 3:16-19.
All this misery and wretchedness passed as a natural heritage upon all their posterity (1 Corinthians 15:21, 22), for how could they bring forth seed different from themselves (Job. 14:4; John 3:6), or how could they transmit prerogatives which they themselves had lost? Therefore we believe that they and all their posterity in, through, and with them, have become subject to physical (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22), spiritual (Ephesians 4:18; James 1:15; Romans 7:13), and eternal death (Romans 6:23), and utterly unable to be saved therefrom either by their own efforts (Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 13:23) or through any creature. Psalms 49:7, 8. In this miserable condition they would, therefore, have to remain forever, if God had not come to them in His mercy. Ezekiel 16:5, 6.
IX. Of the Election of Grace or Election and Rejection
We believe that God from eternity foresaw and knew all things that have been, that are, and that yet shall be, both good and evil (Acts 15:18; Isaiah 41:21-26; Hebrews 4: 13), therefore also the above named sad fall of man with its fatal consequences, which is clearly indicated by the foreordaining of Christ as mediator (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8); nevertheless, that He in no wise caused the fall or made it necessary (James 1:13; Psalms 145:17) but only permitted it for reasons known only to His infinite wisdom. Romans 11:33. Since He is the eternal, highest good (Matthew 19:17) and the fountainhead of all life (Psalms 36:9), we understand and confess that He is the author, source, and doer only of those things that are good and pure and holy, and in harmony with His nature (James 1:16, 17), but in no wise of sin or impurity, which are damnable. Everywhere He commands (1 Peter 1:15, 16; Ephesians 5:1) and desires the good, commends it (2 Corinthians 5:20) and incites to it by means of great promises (Deuteronomy 28:1, 2; Matthew 5:1-12; 2 Corinthians 7:1). On the other hand He prohibits the evil (Romans 12:9), warns against it (Genesis 4:6, 7), threatens the evil-doers (Deuteronomy 28:15), punishes them often in this life (1 Samuel 15:23; Psalms 73:16-19), and finally pronounces upon them an eternal punishment. Matthew 25:46; 3:12. He thus declares Himself the enemy of sin, and that all unrighteousness is offensive to His nature. Psalms 45:8. As it is, therefore, impossible that God should lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2), so it is also impossible that He should work in a manner contrary to His perfectly holy-nature. Genesis 18:25; Job. 8:3; 2 Timothy 2:13.
We, therefore, cannot and must not believe that God should in His free pleasure have decreed to leave by far the greater part of fallen humanity in their sins withholding from them altogether the needed grace for conversion and salvation, much less that He should have created them to the end that they should be damned (1 John 4:8), and that thus He willed and made necessary their impenitence and hardness of heart in order to bring them into perdition (Psalms 51:6); for as the Lord liveth He hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked but in that he turn from his way and live. Ezekiel 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4.
We do indeed gladly and heartily believe that God in and of Himself formed an eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11; 1:9; Romans 8:28) concerning all that which He would in time perform (Ephesians 1:11) especially how and by what means He would redeem fallen man (Acts 4:28); likewise, that He decreed to impart His love, His grace, and His gifts in larger measure to some, in smaller measure to others (Luke 8:10; Matthew 25:15; Romans 9:13), and this according to His own will and pleasure (Matthew 20:15; 2 Timothy 2:20), as experience proves; -- but that nevertheless His loving kindness is so great, so far-reaching, and so all-inclusive (2 Corinthians 5:19; John 3:16; 1:7; 1 John 2:2) that no one is excluded therefrom without a just cause. Psalms 145:9; Acts 17:30; Titus 2:11, 12. This He confirmed by His command that the gospel of this universal grace, love, and good-will shall be proclaimed and offered to every creature. Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:47.
Moreover, we confess that in the wisdom and the ways of God, especially in this matter, there are depths which will ever be beyond our ability to fathom in this life. Therefore we deem it best not to seek to penetrate further into the mysteries of the divine purposes, but in our confession to rest satisfied with a statement of the nature of those persons respectively whom God has decreed to save or to condemn.
Everyone, namely, who with a penitent and believing heart (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21) apprehends, accepts and abides in the proffered salvation (John 1:12, 13; Acts 2:41; Revelation 3:20; Matthew 24:13; 1 John 2:19; Revelation 2:10) him has God before the foundation of the world, out of free grace, and for Christ's sake, elected (2 Thessalonians 2:13; James 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9) and ordained (Ephesians 1:5) to make him partaker of His kingdom and His glory (Matthew 25:34, 41); him has God foreknown (1 Peter 1:1, 2) and called by his name. 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 3:5.
On the other hand, they that despise and reject the proffered grace (Romans 2:4, 5; Hebrews 10:29), love darkness rather than light (John 3:19), and continue in sin and unbelief (John 3:18) -- these He has ordained to eternal destruction from His face (2 Thessalonians 1:9) by reason of their own willful wickedness (Matthew 23:37; Proverbs 1:24-32) as those that thrust from them the Word and judge themselves unworthy of eternal life. Acts 13:46. Seeing they despise the Lord's supper to which they. were invited, they shall never taste of it. Luke 14:24.
X. Of Man's Restoration
Since God purposed even from the foundation of the world to redeem fallen man through His Son, Jesus Christ, as above set forth, He in His goodness did not leave him long in his hopeless condition, but revealed unto him, immediately after the fall, His purpose of grace by the promise of a redeemer, who as the seed of the woman should crush the serpent's head, although it should bruise His heel. (This promise, mysterious as it may seem, is the basis of all succeeding promises. Genesis 3:15).
This, together with many other evidences of God's goodness, gave our first parents such a great consolation that they could perceive how that by faith in God's promises, in a sincere conversion to Him, grace and salvation could be obtained. Hebrews 11:4. (It seems that Eve already at the birth of Cain drew comfort from this hope. Genesis 4:1). Thus, through the inestimable grace of God in Christ, revealed to them as above stated, there was given to them, in distinction from the fallen angels, the possibility and hope of being restored to blessedness, and with them to all their posterity in so far as these would not cut themselves off by their own guilt and the rejection of God's grace.
This revelation of His grace in and through the promise of a redeemer, was renewed and confirmed both to the devout patriarchs (Genesis 12:2, 3) and through all the prophets (Luke 1:70; 24:27) as also by means of many symbols and types (Hebrews 9:8-10), in order that they should exercise faith in this coming Messiah (1 Peter 1:10, 11), wait with confidence for their redemption through Him (Romans 4:20), and look forward to the same with desire (Luke 10:24) as many among them did in a remarkable manner. John 8:56.
XI. Of Man's Freedom and Ability After the Fall
Regarding man's free agency, we believe, that however great may be the loss and the ruin that have come upon mankind through the fall in sin (as set forth in Art. IX), yet through God's grace the light of reason and of conscience has not been wholly quenched, as we are taught by Holy Scripture (Romans 1:19-21; 2:1-15) as well as by experience; further, that man still left in the position of a free agent, can either by and through the power of the grace of restoration accept or else reject the divine instruction and the good offered by God in His Son Jesus Christ -- that he can incline in a degree his heart unto them, or turn away and withdraw himself from them. Deuteronomy 11:26-28; 30:15-20. This freedom is so essential to the nature of a rational being that without it his actions could not be reasonably judged as good or bad, nor could they, if virtuous, deserve reward, or, if sinful, come under righteous condemnation, which, however, is most certainly the case with man.
For this reason we acknowledge, that, although without God's prevenient grace it is entirely impossible for our corrupt nature to seek, choose and apprehend the good, and even if the universal gift of divine grace alone arouses and assists our nature, these acts still come very hard and are possible only in a rudimentary way -- yet they must, nevertheless, not be considered as wholly impossible, but rather as actually possible, in a way since the Lord our God certainly deals with us so that, on the one hand, He holds out to us commands (Exodus 20:3-17; Matthew 17:5), counsel (Revelation 3:18), motives (Isaiah 55:1-7; 2 Corinthians 5:11, 18-21; 6:1), promises (Isaiah 55; Matthew 11:28, 29; 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18), blessings for good undertakings (Isaiah 45:22; Luke 18:29, 30), and finally an eternal reward (Matthew 25), but on the other hand, warning (Genesis 4:6, 7; 1 Corinthians 10:11), threatenings (Deuteronomy 27: 26), chastisements (Hebrews 12:5-11; 1 Peter 1:6, 7; Revelation 3:19), and terrible judgments (Deuteronomy 28:15; 29:19, 20) both temporal (Isaiah 29:13-15) and eternal (Matthew 25:46); all of which would otherwise seem strange and inconsistent. Deuteronomy 32:3, 4.
However, from what has thus far been said in a general way, we must be careful not to draw the conclusion that man is as capable to use his free agency arrant in spiritual things as he is in natural things. Luke 12:5457. Far be it! The contrary is plainly taught not only by the Holy Scripture (1Corinthians 2:14), but also by reason and our daily experience. Matthew 7:13.
For this reason we conclude that ordinary impulses in the direction of good, moving simply on the plane of reason, must be carefully distinguished from those that are spiritual, far more powerful (Ezekiel 36:25-27), and special (Romans 9:12-18); that the former, nevertheless, are sufficient to awaken in us certain incipient longings (Proverbs 2:4-7), and that such seeking is the God-ordained way to obtain more (1 Chronicles 28:9; Proverbs 8:17; Matthews 7:7) yet by grace (Isaiah 55:7); that, accordingly, fallen man, to whom grace has come (Micah 6:8; Revelation 3:20), has still the ability left to him to take to heart more or less the general promptings of grace, to prove them, to adapt himself to them, and wait for more grace. Psalms 37:24; 27:14; Isaiah 40:31; Lamentations 3:24, 25. (See further Art. 17.)
XII. Of the Person of the Redeemer and His Appearing in the Flesh
When the time was fulfilled (Galatians 4:4) of which the prophets had spoken (Genesis 49:10; Daniel 9:24), God let His Son proceed forth from Himself (John 8:42; 16:28) and sent Him into the world (John 6:38), into the womb of a highly favored virgin named Mary (Luke 1:27, 28), where and by whom He (the seed of the woman, Genesis 3:15; of Abraham, Galatians 3:16-19; of David, Romans 1:3) was conceived through divine quickening and overshadowing of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35); became partaker of flesh and blood, and was made like unto us in all things yet without sin (Hebrews 2:14-17; 4:15), in that in the natural course of time He was born of her, as it was written, in Bethlehem (Luke 2:11; Micah 5:1), and was called Jesus because He should save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21.
This Jesus, born of Mary in Bethlehem and brought up in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23), is the one whom we confess to be Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16) the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14), the Word which was with God and was God (John 1:1; Genesis 1:3; 1 John 1:1), and became flesh. John 1:14; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7-11. Not as though the divine essence of the eternal Word had been changed to visible, mortal flesh or a visible man (Hebrews 1:8-12), and had ceased to be Spirit, Divinity or God (1 Timothy 3:16), but so, that the eternal Son of God (Micah 5:2) continued to be what He was before (John 3:13; Colossians 1:17; Revelation 22: 13), namely God (Romans 9:5) and Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 15:45-47), and became what He was not, namely flesh or man.
Therefore we confess that Jesus is our Immanuel, true God and man in one person (Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16) and thus qualified and fitted to be a redeemer and the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2: 1, 2.
XIII. Of the Work of Redemption in General
The great purpose for which God the Father out of His infinite love to man thus gave His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 5), and to which end the Son of God willingly humbled Himself (Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2:7), was to reconcile unto God the world lost in sin (2 Corinthians 5:19), to redeem it (Hebrews 2:15, 17) and to save it. 1 Timothy 1: 15.
To accomplish fully this great work committed to Him of the Father (John 17:4), for which, according to the divine purpose and preordination He was anointed and set apart even before the foundation of the world, and which out of pure love and obedience He took upon Himself (Hebrews 10:4; 9:10), He must be first put under the law (Galatians 4:4, 5) that by a perfect obedience He might fulfill all its demands (Matthew 5:17-18); and this He actually did. John 17:4.
Having lived a holy and spotless life (Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22, 23) to the age of about thirty years (Luke 3: 23), fully satisfying in this respect the will and pleasure of the Father, He received a public approval from heaven (Matthew 3:16, 17) and was as to His human nature also anointed and endowed in an especial manner with the Holy Ghost from God the Father (Acts 10:38) to carry out the momentous work of salvation (Colossians 1:19, 20), in which He as our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 9:15; 12:24) approved Himself in the exalted threefold capacity as a prophet (Luke 24:19), high priest (Hebrews 10:21) and king (John 12:15; 18:37), Whom God had promised to send into the world, and whom we must hear (Deuteronomy 18:15-18), believe (John 3:16; 6:40, 47), and obey (John 8:12; 10:27-30), as will be more fully shown in the following chapters.
XIV. Of Christ's Office as Prophet
After the Son of God had been solemnly anointed and had passed victoriously through sundry hellish temptations (Luke 4:1-13; Mark 1:12-15, 22) He presented Himself at once to the world (Matthew 4:17) as the great prophet (Luke 7:16) who had been promised of God (Acts 3:22, 23; Deuteronomy 18:15, 18), in that He taught the way of God in truth (Matthew 22:16) as one who had authority (Mark 1:22) and with a wisdom (Matthew 13:54) which no one could withstand; preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, repentance and faith (Mark 1:14, 15); testified likewise how one must walk to be pleasing to God (Matthew 5:3-12), foretold also things to come (Matthew 20:18, 19; 21:2; 24:2); and confirmed it all with many wonderful miracles. Matthew 11:5. Moreover, He lived just as He taught (John 8:46) and has thus left us both in His teaching and His life an example which we are to follow. 1 Peter 2:21.
Further, as the Lord Christ taught and led His people under the old covenant as the angel of God's presence, through Moses and all the prophets, in whom His Spirit was, and as He now did the same in His own person, so He continued His teaching office through His apostles and evangelists (Ephesians 4:11; Luke 10:1-7), whom He called (Luke 9:1-6), instructed (Acts 1:2, 3), endowed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4), and sent forth (John 20:21) to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8. And these were faithful even unto death and kept back nothing that is profitable (Acts 20:20, 24) but declared the whole counsel of God unto salvation, to which God also bore witness by signs and wonders and by manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. Hebrews 2:4.
The Lord Jesus also continues His work as teacher by means of His holy Word, seeing He has given a short yet sufficiently complete account of His holy life and divine teaching as well as of those of His holy apostles to be transmitted in the books of the New Testament, in which, together with the books of the Old Testament, there is included everything needful to a rule of faith and life. (See Art. 2). Through the teaching, reading, and hearing of this Word He continues to bring about faith, conversion and sanctification, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Romans 1:16.
Finally the Lord Jesus teaches also through the Spirit according to His promise, both convincing and winning the unbelieving, and leading the believers into all truth. John 16:13. In this work the Spirit never contradicts the true meaning of the written Word (James 3:11; 1:17), but enlightens the believer's mind to a right understanding of the Word (Luke 24:45), gives them assurance of its truth, and brings to remembrance the things that the Lord has spoken. John 14:26.
It is, therefore, necessary to prove the spirits whether they are of God (1 John 4:1) and to hold fast to the unerring Word of God (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21) concerning which we have received assurance and know who has taught us the same. Galatians 1:6-12.
XV. Of Christ as High Priest
As the true high priest (Hebrews 4:14) and only mediator of the new and eternal covenant (1 Timothy 2:5), Christ prayed to His heavenly Father for His apostles and also for them that should believe on Him through their word (John 17:9, 20), yea even for those who crucified Him and would take His life. Luke 23:34.
Moreover, He obediently took upon Himself the most grievous suffering (Philippians 2:8) and offered Himself through the eternal Spirit without blemish unto God (Hebrews 9:14), both in soul and body, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17; 7:26, 27), We believe that this most bitter suffering of soul as well as of body, begun in Gethsemane and finished on Calvary, is an offering whose efficacy is eternal (Hebrews 9:12; Isaiah 53) and by which He has perfected forever them that come to God through Him, are obedient to Him, and are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14. We take the obedience of the Son of God, His precious suffering, shed blood, and sacrificial death on the cross once for all (1 Peter 2:24) to be the ransom (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6) or price (Hebrews 9:13, 14) of our redemption, all sufficient for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2); through which, accordingly, all who truly believe on Him, are reconciled with God (2 Corinthians 5:19-21), are brought into a condition of peace, and attain unto a well grounded hope and assurance of eternal life. Romans 5:1, 5, 9, 10.
Now, when the Lord Jesus Christ had finished His high priestly work upon earth through His death, He was buried and on the third day arose again from the dead and appeared unto the apostles and many others (1 Corinthians 15) with many infallible proofs by the space of forty days. Acts 1:3, 9-12. Thereafter He ascended into heaven as a triumphant victor (Ephesians 4:8; Colossians 2:15) before the eyes of all His faithful apostles (Luke 24:50-52) and sat down at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16: 19) crowned with honor and glory. Hebrews 2:9; John 17:5.
There, and thus clothed, He continues His holy office as our high priest. Hebrews 8:1. For as He is the servant of the true tabernacle, He has entered not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood once into heaven itself (Hebrews 9:11, 24), to appear before the face of God in behalf of the believers. Wherefore He is called of God a high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek (Hebrews 5:10; Psalms 110:4) to the great comfort of the believers in their infirmities. Hebrews 4:14-16. And as He has an everlasting priesthood, since He abides forever, He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God through Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:24, 25; 1 John 2:1, 2.
Lastly, as it was the part of the high priest, after completing the offering of atonement, to return to the waiting and praying people to bless them, so Christ, the great High Priest, is continually bestowing upon His own the fruit, the power, and the sufficiency of His sacrifice that they may benefit by them. Acts 3:26. Having the power and the right to forgive sins (Mark 2:10; Matthew 28:18), He grants this blessing to the penitent (Acts 5:31); through His blood of sprinkling He purges the conscience from dead works (Hebrew 9:14) and thus gives boldness and confidence to draw nigh unto God. Ephesians 3:12. He baptizes them with His Spirit (John 1: 33), holds spiritual and intimate communion with them (Revelation 3:20; John 14:21-23), yea, and He makes His holy and redeemed people themselves to be a royal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. 1 Peter 2:5, 9.
From all this follows self-evidently that the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 10:5-9), and with it the whole ceremonial law, has been fulfilled, has come to an end, and has been abolished. The law had only the shadow of good things to come (Hebrews 10:1) and it ended in Christ (Romans 10:4) to whom be glory forever. Amen!
XVI. Of Christ as King
The Lord Jesus Christ as the one promised and heavenly King of the new covenant (Psalms 2:6; Jeremiah 23:5; Luke 1:32, 33), having by His glorious resurrection proved Himself victor over the devil, over death and the grave, (Colossians 2:15; 2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14, 15) at once began to set up and order His spiritual kingdom when He gave His apostles command and instruction as to how the same should be established (Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47); yet more especially when He ascended on high (Ephesians 4:8), entered into His glory (Luke 24:26), and sat down on the right hand of His Father in heaven (Hebrews 1:3) of which He gave the strongest proof when on the day of Pentecost He poured forth abundantly the Holy Spirit upon His apostles. Acts 2:33-36.
Thenceforth the kingdom of God came with power, so that from that day on, through the instrumentality of the apostles, great numbers of believing and spiritually minded people were gathered (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:32, 33) who confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11.
The spiritual kingdom, generally called the kingdom of heaven, the Lord Jesus has committed in part to His servants here on earth to administer according to the spiritual laws of His kingdom. Ephesians 4:11, 12; 1 Peter 5:1-4. Yet above all and in particular He Himself administers the same direct from heaven. He rules the hearts of His people through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; 14: 26), in accordance with His Word, with passionate love; He protects and shelters them as under His wings, equips them with spiritual weapons against His and their enemies (Ephesians 6:11-18), and is to them a very present help in trouble so that in Him they are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37); He prepares for them a place in heaven (John 14:2) and will by grace give victory and a crown of righteousness in the life eternal (2 Timothy 4:7, 8) to all who continue faithful to Him in the spiritual conflict with sin and Satan (Revelation 2:10; Matthew 24:13); but His enemies He will put under His feet. Matthew 22:24.
XVII. Of the Universal Offer of Grace and the Call of God Unto Faith
By universal grace as we confess it (Titus 2:11-14) we do not understand that God dispenses gifts and favors alike great to all men and at all times (See Article 9) even not under the preaching of the Gospel; much less that through the death of Christ all men without distinction are reconciled with God (John 3:36) and received and adopted as children (John 1:12), for then would conversion (Mark 1:15), regeneration (John 3:3), and a willingness to become reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20) be no longer necessary, upon which, however, the gospel lays great stress (Acts 2:38-40), ascribing the grace of justification only to them who truly believe. Romans 3:22, 25, 26; Acts 10:43; 13:39.
We understand rather, thereby, in the first place, the all-including love of God and of Jesus Christ in the work of salvation (John 3:16), seeing that the Lord Jesus died not only for many (Matthew 20:28) but for all men (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6; Hebrews 2:9) not only for the reconciliation of the believers (John 10:15; Acts 20: 28) but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2); that, namely, God so reconciled the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19) that He in view of the perfect obedience (Romans 5:18, 19) and death (Isaiah 53:11, 12) of Christ-as the ransom for all-has made His throne of grace accessible (Hebrews 10:19-22) to all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Luke 19:10) without distinction (Romans 10:12; 2:11; Isaiah 45: 22), and therefore has ordered that universal forgiveness be proclaimed (Acts 17:30) to all the world (Mark 16:15, 16), so that everyone who believes (John 3:15) and is converted (Luke 24:47) shall not perish but shall have forgiveness of sins and inherit eternal life (Acts 13:38, 39). Wherefore, then, we have confidence that no one will be eternally damned for Adam's transgression, but indeed for his own obstinacy, his unbelief, his disobedience, etc., and that thus we need not fear condemnation for little children, but rather we may cherish for them the hope of the kingdom of God for Christ's sake. Mark 10:13-16.
Again we confess to believe that with whatever power (Galatians 2:8; Ephesians 1:19) and absolute authority (Matthew 20:15; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 1:11) it may please God to work at certain times to bring about conviction and conversion (Isaiah 44:3), and though some nations and persons are preferred before others (Luke 8:10), all of which we heartily believe and reverently adore-it is yet withal sufficiently plain and evident that God's work of grace to incite man to faith and conversion (Acts 3:26) is so far general that He does not altogether pass by any one (Romans 1:20; 2:14, 15) but manifests to all and every one His goodness (Psalms 145:9) and justice, and even the common mercies of His providence have this in view (Acts 17:27) and lead to this end. Romans 2:4.
Seeing then, as we do, that all grace shown by God to fallen man from the gates of Paradise on through all times, is the fruit only and solely of Christ's mediation, and that it has pleased God to reveal the same very differently and by degrees, we regard ourselves as both disqualified (1 Corinthians 4:5; Romans 14:4) and unable to define with exactness what the Lord our God through His omnipresent Spirit and His unceasing works of providence does and will do (Job 33:14, 24, 28-30), in the consciences of such nations and persons who hitherto have been deprived of the knowledge of the gospel. For this reason we hold it best to maintain a holy silence on this point, since we know that God's decisions are always in accordance with the most perfect justice, and are ordered according to the highest wisdom, and that He does not reap where He has not sown. Or, if we should have to choose, we would think that He would for Christ's sake extend His mercy to those who, according to the measure of their knowledge of God (Romans 2:9, 14-16) and His revelation have sought the Lord (Acts 17:27, 30; Romans 10:12, 13) feared Him (Acts 10:34, 35) and glorified Him. Romans 2:1.
Especially do we acknowledge the universality of the divine work of grace in the case of those who live under the preaching of the gospel, viz., that God either by the general influence of His providence on the conscience (Psalms 33:15), or by His Word (John 15:22), or by His Spirit (John 14:26; 16:8-11; Ephesians 1:17), or by all these means combined (Revelation 3:20) offers to every man (endowed with reason and understanding) sufficient opportunity (Isaiah 5:3, 4; 65:2) and grants divine help to make a beginning and then to advance step by step in the knowledge of Him (John 7:17; Micah 6:8) and to attain unto faith (Mark 9:24) and conversion (Isaiah 55:7); after which, if this prevenient grace of God (in the strength which it supplies) is recognized and accepted according to ability (Proverbs 1:30), and God's face is sought according to the measure of knowledge (1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 15:2-4), more grace will inevitably follow. James 4:6. Yea, we doubt not that the Lord will in His time and way and according to the riches of His grace and His great promises (Luke 11:9-13) give all else necessary to complete salvation and happiness. Ephesians 2:8, 9.
From all this it naturally follows that those who accept the testimonies of God by a living faith (1 John 4:16) obtain great pleasure (Matthew 11:28) to take refuge themselves in the proffered hope (Hebrews 6:18; 10:19-23; Romans 3:24, 25) and also to commend it to all others and invite souls thereto (Revelation 22:17) as the experience of all those who are in any measure constrained by the love of Christ Proves. 2 Corinthians 5:13-15.
XVIII. Of Faith by Which We Partake of the Grace of God in Christ
We hold that it is not enough to have simply a historical knowledge of the truth (Romans 2:17-24), or to assent to it, or even to be able to talk eloquently and beautifully about it (1 Corinthians 4:20); more particularly that true faith does not consist in a self-assumed favorable position (John 8:32, 33; Matthew 3:9; Romans 2:28, 29; 9:6-8) and assurance (Matthew 7:21, 22; 15:13; John 3:27), for this may all be found apart from the heart-renewing and cleansing power (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Acts 15:9), apart from true love (2 Thessalonians 2:10) and good works (Matthew 7:17) without which true faith unto righteousness (Romans 10:10) can not exist. James 2:17; Galatians 5:6.
Saving faith therefore includes both a profound conviction (Hebrews 11:1) and understanding of divine truth, and an appreciation of its sublimity and worth (Matthew 13:44-46. It is thus, viewed in its inception, nothing less than a light from God shining in our souls. 2 Corinthians 4:6. Further, faith may be defined as including a hearty consent (Romans 7:16), approval (Psalms 119:128) and appropriation (Psalms 119:97) of all God's testimonies (Psalms 19: 7) promises (Psalms 119:49, 50) and blessings (Psalms 116: 12), especially the gift of His Son, and all this out of love (1 John 4:8, 19) combined with a deep reverence and sense of unworthiness (Luke 7:6); frequently also with much anxiety and fear so that the joy in the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6), which should otherwise follow without fail, may for a time remain suppressed through the weakness of the faith.
This faith naturally begets a passionate desire to partake by experience of the whole Christ and in consequence of this an humble looking for and to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 3:14, 15). In other words, it amounts to fleeing to Christ for refuge (Hebrews 6:18; Matthew 11:28, 29), actually accepting Him in all respects (though in varying degrees as to clearness and power according to the measure of faith) with much crying for mercy (Matthew 9:27), repentance and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31; Matthew 8:2; Psalms 51:1-17) and a participation in all the blessings He has obtained for us. John 1:16; 1 John 5:12.
To this fleeing for refuge in such a frame of mind there belongs a sincere prayer for acceptance (Luke 15:19) an actual self-surrender and unfeigned submission (Isaiah 44:5; Acts 16:30), henceforth not to live unto one's self but unto Him who died for us and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:15), the soul being constrained thereto by love, with great desire (2 Corinthians 5:9, 14) and joy. Proverbs 21:15.
In all this, faith acts and is sustained (Hebrews 11:33-38) by a deeply felt trust in God (Romans 4:3), holding Him to be faithful that promised (Romans 10:23) and that having not spared His own Son, He will with Him freely give us all things (Romans 8:32; Hebrews 4:16), which trust is fully answered by His actual dealings in His own time.
This true faith we recognize as a gift of God (Philippians 1:29; Ephesians 2:8) wrought in us (Philippians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:11) through His Word (Romans 10:17) and by His Spirit (Acts 16:14; Luke 24:45; John 16:8, 15) out of free grace, yet so that in order to its proper reception it is necessary that we give an attentive ear to what the Lord says (Isa. 55:3-7) and do not harden our hearts against it (Proverbs 1:23-33; 28:13, 14; Hebrews 3:7, 8) but give room to the power of conviction and yield to it (Mark 4:23-25); for in them that draw back the Lord has no pleasure. Hebrews 10:38; 3:18, 19.
By this faith one becomes a child of God (Galatians 3:26), overcomes the world (1 John 5:4), and is fortified against the crafty attacks of the devil (Ephesians 6:16); but without it, it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6. As faith is the ordained means of becoming a partaker of the grace of God in Christ, so it is also the means of abiding in Christ, of holding fast to Him, of becoming more intimately united with Him, and of drawing from Him, as the head of the body or as the true vine, all spiritual life power and thus walk worthy of God who has called us unto His kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:12.
XIX. Of Conversion and the New Birth
Since the heart of man is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21; John 3:6) and carnally-minded (Romans 8:5) which is enmity against God (Romans 8:7), it is self-evident that such a faith as set forth in the preceding chapter includes: and brings about a sincere amending of one's way (Ephesians 4:25-29; 1 Peter 4:2-4), conversion (Acts 3:19) and a newness of life. Romans 6:4, 11; 8:1, 4. Therefore equally as strong emphasis is laid upon conversion as upon faith (Matthew 18:3; Acts 2:38) and the Lord Jesus has declared most solemnly, that no one can see the kingdom of God unless he be born again. John 3:3; Luke 13:3-5.
This teaches us that all men must be converted if they are to receive remission of sins (Isaiah 45:22; Luke 24:47), be fitted for fellowship with God who is light (1 John 1:5-7) and bring forth good fruit (Matthew 12:33-35; John 15:8); since neither profession (Matthew 7:21) nor baptism, nor the Lord's Supper, nor any other outward act apart from regeneration can avail anything to please God. Galatians 5:6; 6:15; Ephesians 4:22-24.
That this essential experience of conversion may be truly a turning unto the Lord (Hosea 14:2; Jeremiah 4:1), it is not sufficient that one be convinced in his conscience that he must leave the evil and do good, for this is found among the heathen (Romans 2:14, 15) and with many of the worst sinners. Acts 24:25. Again, it is not enough to make some good resolutions now and then (Matthew 21: 28-30), or to do this or that good deed (Mark 6:20) without a sincere turning of the heart to God (Acts 8:21), for in this way one may indeed come near to the kingdom of God (Matthew 13:20-22; Mark 12:34) and yet be excluded from it just the same. Matthew 25:11, 12; Luke 13:24. But in order to a true conversion there must be such an understanding and conviction of sin (Psalms 51; John 16:8) that we repent of it not only because of the punishment that it brings, but primarily because through it we have dishonored, offended and lost God (Isaiah 1:2-4; Deuteronomy 32: 5, 6; Daniel 9:5-19); for it is sorrow for God that worketh unto salvation a repentance which bringeth no regret. 2 Corinthians 7:10. They who thus sorrow, shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4. Those who are thus exercised abhor themselves (Job. 42:6; Ezekiel 36:31), hate and leave sin (Psalms 119:104), and from the heart make the resolve, -- I will arise (Luke 15:18), I will confess. Psalms 32:5. And this they do in that they penitently plead for forgiveness (Luke 18:13; Psalms 51), make a complete surrender of their will (Romans 6:17), and seek to know (Acts 22:10) and to do (Psalms 40:8; Ephesians 6:6) what is well-pleasing unto the Lord. Ephesians 5:10.
In view of the inner renewing of the understanding and the will (Romans 12:2; Titus 3:5) as well as of the outward active change and renewing of the life (Matthew 18:3; Romans 6:4), this true conversion is also called a new birth, a being born again (John 3:7), a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10-15) and the like, because the change of condition and activity that is brought about is as though a heart of stone had been removed and one of flesh received, upon which the Lord would write His law. Ezekiel 36. The effect is therefore nothing less than a transition from sin to virtue (Romans 6:17-22), from death unto life (1 John 3:14), from darkness to light (Ephesians 5:8), from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18), etc., though weak in its inception and needing growth (Colossians 1:11-14) and strengthening. Ephesians 6:10.
This true conversion or new birth is therefore a spiritual life, which, like faith, comes from God (Ephesians 4:18; Romans 6:11; Galatians 2:19, 20; Acts 11:18; Titus 3:5; Psalms 51:10; a gift of God in Christ for which we must ask and return thanks as for a blessing upon which depends our whole happiness. Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3, 21-23; 2:25). Nevertheless, to obtain it, there is required on our part, accompanying the divine work of grace and through the same, earnest effort (Luke 8:18; 13:24; James 1:21) and great diligence as is plainly evident from the many exhortations and promises (Ezekiel 18:30-32; Mark 1:15; Isaiah 55:7; Luke 7:30-34; Matthew 11:20) as well as warnings and rebukes pointing this way.
XX. Of Justification and Faith
Through faith, which, as shown above, stands directly connected with conversion and the new birth, a poor, grief-stricken sinner (Matthew 5:3; Luke 18:13) obtains true justification from God (Romans 3:24-26; 8:33), not for any merit of his own, but alone out of grace (Titus 3:5) by virtue of the full obedience and sufficient offering of Christ (Romans 5:18, 19; Hebrews 10:10-14), being made free and absolved from all his sins (Acts 13:38, 39), however great they may be (Isaiah 1:18; Psalms 32; Psalms 51; Romans 5: 6-10) called into fellowship with Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9, and made a rightful partaker of Him (Hebrews 3:14) and of the blessings of salvation which He obtained for His people (1 Corinthians 1:30) and which out of His fullness and in His wisdom He gives each in His time. Ephesians 4:7; John 1:14-16.
In the counsel of God this boon, great beyond all comprehension (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-10), has been accomplished and bestowed once for all (2 Corinthians 5:17-19) when the Son of God, as the surety of a better covenant (Hebrews 7:22) and the Redeemer of His people, offered (1 Timothy 2:5, 6; Hebrews 10:4-10), accomplished (John 17:4) and suffered (Philippians 2:8-10) in their stead, all that the offended majesty of God demanded to be reconciled with the world. Wherefore the Son of God could say on the cross as He gave His soul into death, "It is finished" (John 19:30); and to this also bear witness the rending of the veil (Hebrews 10:14-20), Christ's glorious resurrection and ascension (Romans 1:4; 4:18-25), the giving of the Holy Spirit, and the preaching of the gospel in all the world.
But before the tribunal of conscience this comes to pass only then when true faith is exercised, and not before, since faith is distinctly the God-ordained means (John 3:16; 6:40) of becoming actually and personally a partaker of Christ and the blessings He obtained for us. For this reason evangelical justification is always associated with faith (Romans 3:22, 28, 30; John 3:16-18, 36) and remains thus inseparably associated.
Thus it is (as set forth in Art. 18) that a really convicted sinner, poor (Isaiah 66:2) and heavy laden (Matthew 11:28), flies for refuge to this gracious Christ. Utterly undone in himself, he hungers after Christ with weeping and sighing (Jeremiah 3:21, 22), falls at His feet praying for forgiveness of sins and adoption into the sonship of God (2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Galatians 4:4-6); he tastes and realizes that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:3) in that He covers our nakedness and condescends to dwell in us (John 14: 23; Ephesians 3:17) and we are found in Him. Romans 8:1; Philippians 3:9. We come praying that we may be healed of our infirmities (Matthew 9:12), of our spiritual blindness (Isaiah 35:5; Ephesians 1:18; Revelation 3:18), deafness, barrenness (Psalms 63:1; 119:81-83), leprosy (Psalms 38:3-8; Isaiah 1:6), and every form of spiritual disease (Psalms 103:3); that He baptize us with His Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11); that He satisfy our hunger and thirst with heavenly food and drink (John 6:48-51; 7:37, 38), and make us partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:24) so that His mind may be in us (Philippians 2:5; Matthew 5:44-48), that by His grace our old man may be crucified with Him. (Romans 6:46; Galatians 5:24) and His life may be manifested in us (2 Corinthians 4:10, 11) being conformed unto His death and risen again to a newness of life thus to know by personal experience the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10; Ephesians 1:19, 20) to the praise and glory of His heavenly Father. Romans 6:17.
This is what we call knowing Christ after the Spirit whereby eternal life is received (John 10:4, 14; 17:3), and we frankly submit that without this spiritual knowledge, this inward exercise and experience, a knowledge of Christ historically or according to the letter does not suffice unto salvation. Romans 2:14-20, 28, 29; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. However, the soul that in truth seeks refuge in Christ (Psalms 145:18) with steadfastness in prayer (Luke 18:7; Romans 12:12) we believe will assuredly find grace (Matthew 7:7-11) in God's own time, and be received into the covenant of God (2 Corinthians 6:18) whereby everyone thus constituted, becomes the property of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2:19.
The most certain outward proof of this great work of salvation, we hold is to be found in the fruits of righteousness, such as unfeigned love to God (1 Corinthians 8:3; Luke 7:47) and to the brethren (1 John 3:14) yea to all men, active godliness (1 John 3:18, 19) and an earnest observance of God's commandments (1 John 5:1-4). The inward verification is found in the experience of peace with God (Romans 5:1; Isaiah 32:17), a new spiritual joy (Isaiah 29:19; 61:10), as also a strong assurance (Romans 8:38, 39) and sealing of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22; 5:5; Romans 8:16; Ephesians 1:13; 4:7, 30; 1 John 4:13); and all this according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
XXI. Of Good Works, or the Piety of True Believers
By good works, for which the believers in Christ Jesus are created that they should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10), those works must not be meant which are only outward (Luke 11:39) and have simply the appearance of good like the works of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:28): nor those that are performed from natural or civil motives (Matthew 5:44-47; Luke 6:32) which, though good and becoming in themselves, are not distinctly characteristic of true Christianity; and not those which spring out of a servile or legal spirit (John 15:15; Galatians 4:7; Romans 9:31, 32; 10:1-4) more out of fear and compulsion (Romans 8:15; I John 4:18) than out of love (Galatians 5:6; 1 Timothy 1:5); for the disciple of Christ is called unto a better righteousness than is found in all these. Matthew 5:20.
Therefore we hold those only to be good works which are well pleasing to God in Christ (1 Peter 2:5; Romans 12:1, 2; Hebrews 12:28), being wrought in God (John 3:21), proceeding out of faith (Hebrews 11:6) and love (1 John 4:8) and true thankfulness (1 John 4:19) out of a changed and renewed mind (Ephesians 5:8-10.; Romans 12:2), a childlike fear (Proverbs 14:27), in short out of a fellowship with Christ (John 15:5) in and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-24; Ephesians 5:9-11.
In our relation to God this. life requires an humble walking with Him (Micah 6:8) and before His face (Genesis 17:1) in heart-felt love (Matthew 22:37-40; Ephesians 5:1, 2), gratitude (Colossians 1:12), praise (1 Corinthians 6:20), child-like fear (1 Peter 1:17), obedience (Ephesians 6:6), etc.
In relation to our fellowmen, good works consist in a practical and unwearying exercise of righteousness (Titus 2:12; 1 John 3:18), forbearance (Philippians 4:5; Titus 3:2; James 3:17), gentleness (1 Peter 3:8; 2 Timothy 2:24; Philippians 2:3, 4), readiness to serve (Galatians 5:3), benevolence (1 Timothy 6:17, 18; Hebrews 3:16), etc., in the endeavor to promote the best interests of our neighbors both in soul and body (Leviticus 19:17) and this not only of the brethren (Romans 12:10; Hebrews 13:1; 1 John 3:16) but of all (2 Peter 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 3:12) yea even of our enemies. Romans 12:20.
In reference to one's self there is required a holy watchfulness and warfare (Luke 12:1-5; 17:3; 21:34; Ephesians 6:10-18; Hebrews 12:1-4, 12-17; 2 Peter 3:17) against all manner of intemperance (Titus 2:4-6; 1 Timothy 2:9, 10) and worldly lusts (2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 2:16), against all unclean affections and lusts of the flesh (Romans 13:14; 1 Peter 2:12), against pride (Romans 11:20; Psalms 19:13) and all its miserable issues (James 4:1-6; Matthew 15:19) such as hatred, envy, and anger; or thoughtless, frivolous, and harsh words (Galatians 5:19-21; Matthew 12:36; 5:37; James 5:11, 12), corrupt speech (Ephesians 4:29) and the like. Thus the deeds of the body of sin (Romans 8:13; 7:23, 24) with all its members upon the earth, must be mortified (Colossians 3:5) and the opposite virtues be put on (Colossians 3:12-14) in order that we may live unto righteousness (1 Peter 2:24), increase in holiness (Hebrews 12:14; Revelation 22:11) unto perfection in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:13.
XXII. Of Perseverance in Holiness
The true believer applies himself with all diligence in this new spiritual life to walk worthily of the Lord (Colossians 1:10, 11; 1 Thessalonians 2:12) and to be fruitful in good Works, not only because be is called and in duty bound thereto (Ephesians 4:1-3; 2 Peter 1:5-10), but because by virtue of his new birth from God (I John 3:9) there is within him an inward impulse (Psalms 119:35) an inbred disposition to the same. 2 Corinthians 5:9. He finds in it a holy delight (Romans 7:22), a great spiritual, yea divine, peace and comfort (Acts 9:31), a growth in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10, 11) and of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:15), in short, the life of the soul. By a contrary course a believer does violence to his own soul (Proverbs 8:36), pursues death (Romans 6:16; 8:6) and brings upon himself great misery. 1 Timothy 6:10.
It is therefore contrary to the renewed nature of the believers and in antagonism with it, to sin. 1 John 3:6-9. Moreover, they are carefully watched over and kept (Psalms 23; Zechariah 2:8; Jude 1) by the faithful Shepherd (John 10:1-16; Ezekiel 34:11-31) and Bishop of their souls (1 Peter 2:25), as also by His heavenly Father who is greater than all (John 10:29), so that it is impossible for any power, however great, to pluck them out of such faithful hands in which they are kept unto salvation. 1 Peter 1:5; John 10:28, 29.
Wherefore also it seems unnecessary that any one should teach them (1 John 2:27) if they will but abide in Him constantly as they ought (1 John 3:6) and will let that abide in them which they have heard from the beginning. 1 John 2:24.
But since they have this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7) and in their flesh there dwelleth no good thing (Romans 7:18) but on the contrary a law that wars against the law of their mind (Romans 7:23), since they are, moreover, surrounded by various seductions of the world (1 John 2:16) and temptations of the devil (Ephesians 6:11; 1 Pet. 5:8), and since the Lord permits all this that He may prove their faith and their obedience (Deuteronomy 8:2, 16-18) and keep them in humility through the experience of their weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7); there is required of them, notwithstanding what has been said above, or rather by reason of it (1 Peter 1:5-7; Philippians 2:13), nothing less than resolute watchfulness and earnest care (1 Corinthians 6:13) that they may not fall back (1 Timothy 1:6; 6:20, 21; Hebrews 3:12), become slothful (Hebrews 6:12; 3:13; Romans 12:11), lose again that which they have already obtained (2 John 8), fall from their stronghold (2 Peter 3:17), and be overcome of sin (2 Peter 2:20), as is shown to have been the case with many who at first ran well (Galatians 5:7) but afterward grew weary (Hebrews 12:3-5) and were but scarcely brought back to the right path (1 Peter 4:18; Psalms 40:1, 2) not without agony of soul (2 Samuel 24:14) and grievous chastisement (Psalms 38:1-19; 51; 130) -- let alone that such escape is not recorded of all.
For this reason the Scriptures are everywhere full of admonition to take heed (Hebrews 3:12-15), to watch (Luke 21:36; Revelation 16:15; Matthew 26:41), to pray always (Ephesians 6:18; Luke 18: 1; Romans 12:12) that we may be zealous (Titus 2:14), rich (1 Timothy 6:18), full (Acts 9:36), yea abounding (1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Peter 1:8) in good works (Titus 3:8); also that we consider one another (Hebrews 10:24, 25), exhort one another (1 Thessalonians 5: 11) and pray with and for one another (James 5:14-18); and it is indicated that even the most sincere hearts may not consider this to be useless or unnecessary. 2 Peter 1:12, 13; 3:1; Philippians 3:1; Hebrews 3:12-14.
XXIII. Of the Church of Christ
All such believing, converted, and from the heart Obedient ones (Romans 6:17) together constitute as so many living stones (1 Peter 2:5) a holy temple in the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; Ephesians 2:20, 21), the true church (Hebrews 12:23) the people of God (Hebrews 4:9) the church of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18) which He has purchased through His own blood. Acts 20:28.
This church, according to our confession, is but one (John 10:16), its members (1 Corinthians 12), how-ever many (Revelation 7:9), and however varied in their achievements (Romans 12:4-6), constituting but one body (Ephesians 4:4-6) of which Jesus Christ is the head. Colossians 1:18; 2:19. It is known by such names as, People of God (Hebrews 4:9), His Saints (Psalms 50.4; Romans 8:27), the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:18, 23; 25:1), the Kingdom of God (Matthew 12: 20), the Kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13; Ephesians 5:5), etc.
We call this church holy, not saying by this that its members are freed from the condition of sinfulness as long as they live here below (1 John 1:8), but because they are sanctified by God the Father (Jude 1) in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:2) as well as by His sanctifying Himself for them (John 17:19; Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 2:11) as also by their actual separation from the world (2 Peter 1:4; 2 Corinthians 6:17) and their transition into the kingdom of the Son of God (Colossians 1:13) to serve the Lord in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life. Luke 1:74, 75.
That this church is general we confess, because in it the distinction between different nationalities falls away (Romans 10:12; Ephesians 2:14) and its members are scattered in all parts of the earth (Matthew 24:31) among all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues (Revelation 5:9; 7:9); wherefore it is self-evident that this true church must not be sought among any particular nation or a particular class of professors (Acts 10:35; 1 Corinthians 3:1-5) or limited to such to the exclusion of others. Luke 17:21-23; Matthew 24:26; Mark 13:21.
We call the church Christian, because we thereby mean only those that believe in Jesus Christ (John 1:12), are united with Him (John 15), belong to Him as His sheep, know Him, hear and follow Him (John 10: 12, 27) and are therefore most tenderly loved (John 13: 1), cherished (Ephesians 5:29, 30), led, protected and kept (John 10) by Him, the weak as well as the strong. Isaiah 40:11, 25-31.
Because of the intimate relation which the members of Christ's spiritual body sustain to each other, it is His expressed will (Mark 10:42-45; Matthew 23:11; Mark 9:35) that these His saints shall cultivate fellowship (John 13: 34, 35; 17:22, 26) and this not in a restricted way (Matthew 5:46-48), as for instance only with those, with whom we are especially united, or with those whose association may seem desirable for our own benefit-for this would follow of itself-but with all believers in general (Acts 4:32; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 5:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:3), even with those who seem to be the weakest (Acts 20:35; Romans 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14) and most insignificant (1 Corinthians 12:22-24), for such have special need of spiritual help. Galatians 6:1. Has not God put together and endowed the members of the body in such a manner that they must have care one for another (1 Corinthians 12:18-31; Romans 12:3-10), so that those that are. strong bear the infirmities of the weak and do not have pleasure in themselves? Romans 15:1-3. For this reason it is not proper, on the one hand, that any among them think of others, -- I have no need of thee (1 Corinthians 12:21, 22), nor on the other hand, that any one should possess his gifts for himself alone (Romans 12:4-8); but it is the duty of each one to use the same as much as possible for the general good. Mark 4:21; 1 Peter 4:10, 11.
From this arises the necessity for the assembling of believers in meetings (1 Corinthians 11:18; Acts 2:1), of which both the Lord Jesus and His apostles spoke with approval. Matthew 18:19, 20; Hebrews 10:23-25. Therefore, too, our Lord Himself was a regular attendant at such meetings (Luke 4:16) and likewise His loving disciples came together even at the risk of their lives (John 20:19; Acts 12:12-16) thus to serve God publicly (Acts 13:1-3; Ephesians 4:11, 12) and to praise Him together as with one accord (Romans 15:6; Acts 11:18); to confess Jesus Christ before the whole world (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:10; 1 Timothy 6: 12), cultivate fellowship among themselves (Acts 2:42) in edification (1 Timothy 4:13; 1 Corinthians 14:26) and continue in the breaking of bread (Acts 20:7) and in prayer. Matthew 18:19, 20. Therefore we pray all disciples of Christ Jesus not to withdraw themselves from such meetings out of obstinacy or self-conceit (Hebrews 10:23-25) seeing that even the weakest and least talented can be useful in the Lord's temple if only their lives show a good example (1 Peter 3:1-5), if they are active in works of love (Romans 16:1-6; Hebrews 6:10) and by earnest intercession strengthen the hands of the servants of the Lord.
And though hypocrites (2 Timothy 3:5; Jude 12) and the unconverted (Romans 12:2) should mingle in great numbers with the flock of Jesus who are His own (John 10:14, 27), as has at all times been the case, sometimes less and sometimes more, in the outward fold of the church -- a condition unavoidable on account of the limitations in our ability, to discern the intents of the heart -- the true disciples of Jesus (John 8:31) must not be soon alarmed or draw back discouraged, but must seek to let their lights shine (Matthew 5:13-16) and become pillars in the house of their God (Revelation 3:12), remembering that the Son of God represented the economy and outward union of the church as composed partly by foolish virgins. Matthew 25:2; Luke 17:34-36. Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His: and, Let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness. 2 Timothy 2:19.
XXIV. Of the Ministry of the Church
In reference to the ministers of the church we reverently consider that God is not a God of disorder (1 Corinthians 14:33) and that the Lord Jesus Christ in order to promote the above mentioned unity and edification of His people (Ephesians 4:12-15) instituted various offices and conditions in His church (1 Peter 4:10), in that He gave some to be apostles and some prophets and some evangelists and some pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of His body (Ephesians 4:11-16), etc.
Now, although our Lord did this directly (Mark 3: 14; Luke 9:1, 2) and by original authority (John 15:16) as long as He was here on earth and as far as the first founders of His church were concerned (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; Ephesians 2:20, 21), whom He therefore also endowed with much grace (2 Corinthians 4:5, 6) and extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), we yet know full well that He must have willed and commanded (as Acts 1:2, 3 cf. Romans 15:18 suggests) that later on this be done indirectly, in respect to the regular and ordinary ministers of His church who should simply continue to build on. the foundation already laid (1 Corinthians 3:11) and for this reason ever remained subordinate to the first, "the apostles." 1 Corinthians 14:37. Moreover we hold ourselves assured of this partly because good order requires it (Matthew 12:25) and the promise of Christ's presence is given to the ministers of the gospel even unto the end of the world. (Matthew 28:20) and partly because it accords with the constant practice and directions of the apostles. Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5.
Therefore we believe it is the duty of all assemblies of saints that they observe this order after the example and direction of the apostles (2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15), namely, that they pray, as Christ commanded, that the Lord of the harvest send forth laborers into His harvest (Matthew 9:38); that they, however, also look about for such men as are of good report, possessing the gift of the Spirit and true faith (Acts 6:2-5) and other essential characteristics (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Titus 1: 6-9) in the highest measure obtainable; further, that to such men, chosen with prayer (Acts 1:24) and with the greatest possible unanimity (thus not doing violence to the rights common to the whole brotherhood, much less disregarding the same) (Acts 6:5; James 2:1-9; 1 Peter 5: 1-4), the administering of the affairs of the church shall be committed (Acts 6:3) and they solemnly installed in their office (1 Timothy 4:14) provided they accept the call and have first been examined and proved. 1 Timothy 3:10, 1 Corinthians 9.
Those who have been thus lawfully chosen to the office of overseer (1 Timothy 3:1) and have accepted the same in faith as of the Lord (Colossians 4:17) have in consequence resting on them very weighty obligations toward the church, as the latter also has toward them. It is incumbent upon the shepherds and teachers to pasture the church of God, speaking always as is proper according to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 1:13; Titus 1:9; 2:1; 1 Peter 5:1, 2), to proclaim unto her the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-28) and, as much as in them is, as faithful and wise stewards (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2; 2 Timothy 2:2; Luke 12:42) to impart unto each one in particular according to his circumstances and condition (1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Timothy 5:1; 1 Peter 4:10), to watch over the church (Hebrews 13:17) and to set before her a good example in a godly life. 1 Peter 5:3; 1 Timothy 4:12.
The deacons have likewise and in many points similar holy responsibilities. 1 Timothy 3:8-13. They must help to rule the church in the fear of God (1 Timothy 5:17), collect the useful offerings, exercise faithful stewardship with these, and whatever other gifts there may be, and according to need distribute in the best way, impartially, with kindness and love. 2 Corinthians 8:19-21; 9:5-14.
The church on her part owes it to hold them in honor (Philippians 2:29), to obey them (Hebrews 13:17), to esteem them for their work's sake (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13), not lightly blame them (1 Timothy 5:19), much less to grieve them and quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) but to pray for them (Colossians 4:3, 4; Philippians 1:19; 4:10-19; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2; Hebrews 13:18) and kindly care for them with a proper competence (Galatians 6:6; Matthew 10:10; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 2 Corinthians 11:7-9; 1 Timothy 5:18); yet in all this is the respect for their office and administration not to be in any wise binding upon the conscience, except in so far as their words and management are in accord with the Word of God (Matthew 15:9; Philippians 3:17; 1 John 4:1; Matthew 7:16) as the only rule of faith and life. 1 Timothy 6:3-5.
XXV. Of Water Baptism
In the church of Jesus Christ and through its ministers, we believe there is to be maintained not only the ministry of the Word but also, as has already been said, the ordinances commanded by the Lord, namely baptism and the Lord's Supper. (Matthew 28:19, 20 -- "Go ye, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you." R.V.). The first of these is to be a sign and a means of incorporation (Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13), the second a means of strengthening in the covenant with God (Luke 22:19, 20) and in communion with Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:16.
Concerning the act of holy baptism we understand it to be an immersing of the whole body in water (Romans 6:4; Matthew 3:16; Acts 8:37, 38), or a liberal sprinkling with water (which latter mode we in these northern latitudes consider more generally appropriate, since the same blessings are signified by it) and this most solemnly into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), God on His account thus giving most positive assurance of the benefits of His covenant of grace, that every one truly believing in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10) and penitently seeking refuge in Him to lay hold of the hope set before us (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 6:18) shall certainly and truly partake of the blessings signified thereby, namely, the washing away of sins through the blood of Christ (Acts 22:16; Revelation 1:5) together with all the blessed results that follow. Roman 8:17, 28-39.
On the part of the believer to be baptized this ordinance is also exceedingly important and precious in that he, by the act of presenting himself for baptism, most solemnly professes his faith in Jesus Christ and His blood (Romans 3:25), that in Him are to be found righteousness and strength (Isaiah 45:24), and that he imploringly prays to be permitted to partake thereof; that as much as in him is, he lays hold on the Savior (John 1:12) and most humbly offers and surrenders himself to Him (Luke 9:23; 14:26, 27; Matthew 10:37) out of gratitude and reciprocating love (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15; Ephesians 5:2) to live for His honor and glory. Isaiah 44:5; Romans 6:16, 17; 12:1.
If Christian water baptism is thus devoutly desired (Acts 8:36), administered (2 Corinthians 3:6), and received (Acts 2:41; 1 Thessalonians 2:13), we hold it in high esteem as a means of communicating and receiving spiritual blessings (1 Peter 3:20, 21), nothing less than a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5; Ephesians 5:26. This blessed result and work is, however, not obtained through the outward element of the water (1 Peter 3:21, "even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh but a prayer addressed to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, " -- Parallel Bible), but through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Titus 3:5), only on the ground of true faith and the searching of a good conscience before God, wherefore in the absence of this condition in the one baptized the blessing is not found. Acts 8:21.
Therefore it is, in our estimation, self-evident that children in their infancy are not qualified to receive the Christian rite of water baptism because they can neither understand nor believe these things. Romans 10:14. Further, it does not seem to us right to administer this sacredly important covenant act after the manner of the fleshly law of circumcision and the condition of the church in its infancy (Galatians 4:1-3; 5:1-6; Hebrews 7:18, 19; 8:7-12; 10:19-22; John 4:23, 24) on the ground of a superficial assertion (Romans 2:29; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11-15) that baptism has taken the place of circumcision, seeing that in the church of the New Testament everything is founded on grace and truth (John 1:17), or on the reality of the things typified (Hebrews 10:1). Neither can we assent to infant baptism on the strength of the indefinite and uncertain accounts of the baptizing of Jewish proselytes which are founded on the Jewish Talmud, a book known to be spun through with many fabulous tales. Finally, and of more especial weight is the fact that in all the books of the New Testament we do not find a single convincing indication that in the early church any but grown people were baptized. Of the households that were baptized there are everywhere things said that are not applicable to little children (Acts 10:2, 47, 48; 16:15, 34) and in the most detailed reports we find indeed that more and more were added to the church of such as believed in the Lord, both of men and women (Acts 5:14), but of the baptizing of children there is nowhere any mention. Acts 8:12.
Since then there is not a single plain evidence concerning infant baptism; since salvation does not depend on any outward sign; since every testimony and narration in the Holy Scriptures points only to the baptism of grown persons, even as the nature of the case demands; since the Son of God Himself has led the way otherwise, and it is well known that in the first centuries the most eminent teachers of the church, though born of believing parents, were baptized only when they had come to years, and that it was not without serious complaint and strong opposition that in the second and third centuries infant baptism increased and prevailed: we therefore come to the conclusion that we must wait with baptism until our children attain to years of riper understanding, that we must carefully instruct them from youth up (2 Timothy 3:15), pray with them and for them, lay before them the importance of the matter, and the necessity of faith and conversion, and that in this we must keep on and on. As many of them as in the course of time with constancy confess their faith, their repentance and a decision for the good, and also in their lives do not manifest the contrary, shall be baptized, we believe, and added to the church, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16) according to the example of the apostolic church.
XXVI. Of the Holy Supper
By the Supper of the Lord we understand the sacred and solemn act of the Lord with His disciples in the night in which He was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) when after the eating of the Passover meal (Luke 22:15) He took of the bread which they had, blessed (Luke 22:19, 20) and broke it and gave to the disciples (Matthew 26:26-28) with the gracious words, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken and given for you: this do in remembrance of me."
Likewise also He took the cup after the eating of the Supper, gave thanks again (Mark 14:22, 23) and gave it to the disciples with the loving words, "Drink ye all of it, for this is My blood, the blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many; this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me."
That the Lord instituted this sacrament with the intention that it is to be observed by His disciples in His church in all time, is plainly seen, we think, not only from the words already quoted, and repeated by the Lord -- "This do in remembrance of Me," but also from the renewed command given evidently for this reason, directly to the Apostle Paul and through him to the church, in the same words; further, from the careful observance of this sacred act by the first and best Christians (Acts 2:46; 20:7); finally also from the fact that the apostles did not revoke the institution when great disorder and abuse crept in with its observance, but rather insisted on reformation and a return to its right use.
When we consider, moreover, the ends for which this sacrament was instituted, ends worthy of God and positively useful to the church, we find our esteem for the same to grow at every turn. On the part of God and Christ it serves as a means to confirm and seal unto us in the most emphatic manner the great blessings comprehended in the gospel. The great love of the Father manifested to us (John 3:14-17); Jesus Christ as crucified, the author of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9), the true Bread of Life (John 6:35, 50, 51, 53-58) both all-sufficient (Hebrews 10:14) as well as ready and willing to give us the life-all this is here, as it were, set before our eyes for the strengthening of our faith, and hope (Galatians 3:1; John 12:32); and this the Holy Spirit confirms unto the souls that are susceptible to it.
On the side of the believer the celebration of this holy feast has likewise important ends to serve and is useful in more ways than one. In general to bring to grateful remembrance, with deep reverence, the great work of redemption; to proclaim the Lord's death as, well as the occasion (1 John 4:9, 10; Romans, 5:6-8; 2 Corinthians 8:9) and the effects (Isaiah 53:5, 6; Romans 8:1) of the same; to lay stress upon the exalted duties of the believers toward God (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:14-19) and Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15), as well as toward one another (1 John 4:11; Colossians 3:13); and more of like nature. But especially according to each one's attitude and inclination, may persons who stand in the assurance, of a blessed participation in Christ have fellowship and eat with joy, in love and singleness of heart; burdened ones may fall together at Jesus' feet with new confession of guilt, with humiliation and self-surrender seeking in Him righteousness and strength and looking for His grace; yea, even the most unworthy and the most timid among the people of the Lord, if they hunger indeed after the truth and His righteousness (Matthew 5:6) and desire to be wholly His, may confidently disclose this longing and this desire, and rest in the hope of His grace, remembering that He never cast out those that came to Him in humility (John 6:37) crying to Him for mercy, asking for the crumbs, and counting themselves happy if they could but touch the hem of His garment.
If the Lord's holy Supper is thus desired, and celebrated with this end in view, we believe that the true blessing as indicated -- the communion with Jesus Christ and the knitting together of the believers (Matthew 26:26-28; John 6:55; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17), will be realized in no small measure, and be furthered thereby. But where this essential frame of mind is lacking (Matthew 22:11-13) there this fruit can not with reason be expected (2 Chronicles 16:9); and if the elements are taken unworthily, that is, if one does not with reverence discern the body and blood of the Lord, such a one eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29.
For this reason we may invite none to the Lord's table but such as truly believe in Jesus Christ and honestly desire to live through and for Him, those who have openly professed this before, God and man, who have been baptized according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 12:13) and have been duly received into the church, who do not by their lives give just cause for offense in the church (Romans 16:17), who live with her in peace (Matthew 5:23, 24), and as much as in them is have peace with all men (Romans 12:18), who bear with and forgive one another (Matthew 6:14, 15; 18:23-35); in short none but disciples of Christ who have a desire and are determined solemnly to renew and confirm the covenant once entered into. Wherefore we admonish everyone to prove himself (1 Corinthians 11:28). Moreover we exclude no one except those who by offensive teaching or disgraceful life (2 Thessalonians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13) are subject to discipline.
XXVII. Of Brotherly Care and Church Discipline
We believe that in a Christian church every brother and every sister must share, according to ability and gifts bestowed, in a mutual care among the members, inciting one another to love and good works. Hebrews 10:24. True love to one's neighbor requires this (Leviticus 19:17, 18), and it is commanded by Christ our Lord (Matthew 18:15-20), and also enjoined by His apostles after Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 15; James 5:16-20. More especially should this be observed by those who are set as overseers (Acts 20:28; Titus 1:7-11), whose work it is by virtue of their office to shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:14) and watch over the spiritual welfare of the church. Hebrews 13:17; Ezekiel 3:17; 33:2-9.
The cases that call for the notice, reproof and discipline of the church are not those shortcomings and mistakes which to a greater or less degree are common to all believers (James 3:2; 1 John 1:8; Psalms 130:2; 143:2), but errors in teaching (Galatians 1:8; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; Titus 3:10) or conduct (2 Thessalonians 3:6; Philippians 3:18, 19) so far-reaching that those who commit the error are in apparent danger of losing their-soul's inheritance (1 Corinthians 6:5-10) or become a cause of offense and stumbling to the church (Galatians 5:10; Revelation 2:20; 1 Corinthians 5:6, 7; Matthew 18:7), leading souls astray (Matthew 24:10-12; 2 Timothy 3.13; Jude 3, 4) and causing the name of God and the church of Christ to be evil spoken of. 2 Peter 2:2; Romans 2:24; 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:3-5.
In dealing with offenders we distinguish the following four stages to be observed: First, when with a reasonable degree of certainty it becomes known that a brother or sister is guilty of this or that dangerous practice or clearly interdicted sin (1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 2 Peter 2: 20; Galatians 5:19-21), but the matter is not as yet generally known, the person is to be called to account in private, examined with all possible discretion, and warned in tender love (Galatians 6:1-3; James 3:13-18), so that, if possible, such a one may be brought back into the right way (James 5:19, 20) before the evil seed spread further. Galatians 5:9; Hebrews 12:15.
If, in the second place, some one is guilty of manifest works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-7) and such fact is surely known, though the sin be committed under circumstances which seem in a degree to palliate the offense, as for instance being taken unawares or having acted hastily, such a one is to be solemnly called to account, the evil of his sin and its consequence set before him with the admonition to humble himself before God (Acts 8:22; James 4:7-10; Psalms 51) and man (Matthew 5:23-26; Luke 17:1-4), according as the transgression may have been, and all possible means applied to bring about true repentance (Revelation 3:2, 3; Isaiah 55:6, 7); and if necessary he should be counseled not to come to the Lord's table for a time (Jude 22, 23), until by clear proof of an amended life the offense that was given may be removed, of, in the judgment of his fellow members (2 Corinthians 2:6-8) it be blotted out.
The third stage is reached in the case of one who, regardless of the first and second reproof given in private, continues and grows hardened in his sin (Ephesians 4: 17-19; Acts 19:9; Hebrews 3:13). He is to be made known to the congregation in order that the whole congregation may decide what is to be done with such a member and take such action that, being reproved in the presence and by the judgment of all, he may be ashamed and be brought to repentance. 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15. This properly must be accompanied with earnest prayer that, if possible, the result may be reformation and forgiveness. James 5:15; 1 John 5:16, 17.
If, however, all this is fruitless and the reproved one continues and hardens himself in his evil way, he must finally, by the decision of the whole congregation, be excluded from membership and denied all spiritual church-fellowship (Ephesians 5:11) till he is truly converted and gives evident proof thereof. However, all must be done with due regard to position and circumstances (1 Timothy 5:1, 19-21), yet without respect of person.
This ecclesiastical care and discipline we consider most necessary, not only because Jesus Christ and His apostles enjoined it and by neglecting the same we have to fear just condemnation (1 Corinthians 11:30, 31), but also because it works many a benefit, namely, keeping the church free from open blemish, saving it from harmful contempt, and preventing the estrangement of weak souls or the leading astray of established hearts; yea, much more tending to deter these from evil and on the other hand to move the reproved ones to shame and repentance.
In order, however, that this manner of treatment may have its desired effect, there must be far removed from us all inordinate desire for authority and all self-conceit of superior holiness, since in the use of these keys (Matthew 16:19) there is a power to which we resort only out of obedience (consider with what holy reserve the apostles went to work: Acts 5:1-13; 13:8-11; 1 Corinthians 5: 3-5; 1 Timothy 1:20), and which must be applied in deep humility (2 Corinthians 2:14) because we dare not neglect it (1 Corinthians 9:16-22; Ezekiel 3:17-21), and in the fear of the Lord. Matthew 10:14. There is in it, therefore, also no condemning or absolving power further than as it is in perfect accord with God's judgment and His holy testimony. Proverbs 17:15; 2 Timothy 2:2, 15, 24-26; Titus 1:9; 2:2, 7,8.
For this reason the separation from the persons under discipline must not proceed out of a spirit of Pharisaic holiness (1 Corinthians 4:7), as though we said, "Depart from me, for I am holier than thou," but out of a holy fear lest we manifest a fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:17; 1 Timothy 5:22; Revelation 18:4), in accordance with the apostolic injunction to have nothing in common with such; with which there must, nevertheless, be combined a Christ-like compassion (Romans 9:1-3) and continued admonition until one is compelled reluctantly to leave such a person to himself. Between husband and wife this separation cannot in all cases take place unless it be for adultery or fornication. Matthew 5:32; 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, 10, 16, 39.
In conclusion, we believe in reference to this subject, that as soon as the erring one gives conclusive evidence of sincere sorrow and amendment (Luke 17:3, 4; 2 Corinthians 7:7, 16) he must be met with added love, encouraged, and after public and humble confession, received back into communion (Psalms 130:4; Jeremiah 3:1; Ezekiel 33:11), with cordial love and joy (Luke 15:1-10) and full forgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:10), even as God also in Christ Jesus has forgiven us. Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13; Matthew 18.
XXVIII. Of the Office of Temporal Government
We believe that although men have by nature no right to rule over one another with violence, but only in a brotherly spirit to control themselves and come to one another's assistance (Acts 17:26, 27; Matthew 7:12), nevertheless, the office of government has become necessary by reason of man's great corruptness (Genesis 6:12, 13) and that the Lord our God therefore has not only permitted but determined and ordained it (Romans 13:1-8) first through His divine providence in general but then, too, among His people, Israel, by specific command (Deuteronomy 16:18; Exodus 18:25; Numbers 11:11, 16, 17) and that the same seems still absolutely necessary as well for the observance of right and good order in social life as for the punishment of the evil and the protection of the good, and other like objects.
For this reason we hold ourselves in duty bound towards our lawful government to regard the same as God's servant for our good, to honor it with due reverence (1 Peter 2:12-21), to be obedient unto it in all things that are not in violation of God's commandments or of one's good conscience (Acts 4:19, 20), to pay cheerfully and faithfully all proper taxes and assessments, and devoutly to pray for it (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Jeremiah 29:7), etc. All this we need to observe the more in all cases since we know that "promotion cometh neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south; but God is the judge: He putteth down one and lifteth up another" (Psalms 75:6, 7) according to His will (Proverbs 8:15, 16), now to bless and now to chastise.
Should, however, such an office be conferred upon us, we would hesitate and would not dare to accept it, not knowing the will of Christ as to how such office should be administered. (True, there are other things, too, in civil life concerning which we have no explicit direction, but they are less difficult and can more easily be ordered according to God's Word.) No direction whatever concerning it is found among all His commandments respecting the administration of His kingdom, nor among all the instructions of his apostles. (We know nothing as to how the government is to be instituted or how the office should be administered. This gives us reason to be scrupulous). Moreover when we consider that the Lord Jesus seems everywhere to warn His disciples against bearing rule according to the manner of the world (Matthew 20:25, 26; Luke 22:25-30; John 18:36), as well as against all vengeance (Matthew 5:39, 40; Romans 12: 19), the swearing of oaths, and all worldly conformity, we consider it a very difficult matter to administer this office according to faith. We hold, too, that the power vested for a time in the Jewish government (Deuteronomy 17:8-12; 2 Chronicles 10:5-11) is in Christ fulfilled, brought to an end and abolished (Matthew 5:17; Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 2:15-23; 3:16-25), and hence can not be applicable to Christ's people (Hebrews 7:12); on the other hand it seems to us no less calculated to arouse scruples when human laws are to be enforced which are at variance with the principles of civil law which God Himself laid down for Israel. Cases occur which often cause judges to hesitate: Compare the present laws concerning theft and adultery with Exodus 22:1; Leviticus 20:10.
For these various reasons we consider ourselves fortunate to be exempt from this most important and at best dangerous service (we regard it a favor not to be called or impressed into civil office) while at the same time we can live in peace and quiet under the protection of such a benign government, who, though not recognizing for themselves the difficulties mentioned (but rather seeing in their office a divine calling) have yet granted to us such great privileges and exemptions (exemption from oaths and military service) for which we can not thank God enough (1 Timothy 2:1-4) and owe our government all reverence and love.
XXIX Of Revenge and War
We believe we do not err when by nature we judge that avenging or retaliating of every injustice is but just. Nevertheless, it is certain that though the Lord our God permitted His people in the olden times to exercise revenge (Matthew 5:38, 43), by reason of their hardness of heart (Matthew 19:8), yet it primarily and properly belongs to God Himself (Romans 12:17-21; Hebrews 10:30; Leviticus 19:17-18; Deuteronomy 32:35) who also is alone able correctly and with exactness to judge of the measure of the evil and of the just punishment (Isaiah 28:17; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 12:47, 48) for which we are often incapacitated by our imperfect knowledge, our unbridled self-love, and excited passions. James 1:20; Proverbs 27:4. For this reason, we believe, our Lord Jesus Christ, when He would establish His spiritual and heavenly kingdom in accord with the will of God as it was from the beginning, forbade His followers not only all practice of revenge (Matthew 5:38-44) but even all vindictiveness (1 John 3:15), as did likewise His apostles after Him. Romans 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9. On the contrary, He insisted on their putting in practice the law of love to a degree far in advance of the teaching of nature (Luke 6:32, 33) or of the Jewish Rabbis (Matthew 5:20), as well as on an exercise of patience that should be perfect (James 1:4) after His own example (2 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Peter 2:21-23); that is, instead of violently resisting the evil with the object of destroying it, rather to suffer repeated wrong (Matthew 5:38-40); rather put up with material loss and injustice than to be quick to quarrel (1 Corinthians 6:1-8); to render to no one evil for evil (Romans 12:17, 20) not even reviling for reviling (1 Peter 3:9); but always to follow after that which is good toward one another and toward all; to overcome by doing good (Romans 12:21); to manifest love even to our enemy: if he is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink (Proverbs 25:21, 22; Romans 12:20); to bless them that curse us; to do good to them that hate us, and to pray for them that do violence to us and persecute us. Only as we do this shall we be children pleasing to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44-48), and true followers of Jesus Christ (John 12:26), who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not; but committed all to Him that judgeth righteously (1 Peter 2:21-23), in all of which He left us an example that we should follow in His steps. Philippians 2:5.
Hence it is, as we think, self-evident that the use of deadly weapons and the carrying on of warfare to the destruction of our enemies -- and even of innocent ones who have not wronged us but upon whom in war often falls the burden of misery and sorrow -- is entirely unseemly for a true follower of Jesus and therefore not allowed (Matthew 5:39, 40, 43, 44; 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4). For we are persuaded that war, as we know it, cannot possibly be carried on without manifestly violating the fundamental principles of Christ's kingdom (John 18:36; Ephesians 4:31, 32) and without nurturing vice and practices contrary to those principles (Galatians 5:19-21), whereby there is often manifested the likeness of wild beasts and of devils, rather than of followers of the Lamb of God (Isaiah 53:7) and of those that show forth His excellencies. 1 Peter 2:9.
We therefore hold that it is our duty carefully to abstain from the use of all war-like weapons and from the above mentioned hostile resistance; that it is allowed to flee from the evil as much as is in our power (Matthew 10:23), to adopt such measures against an enemy that without working to his destruction we may prevent and bring to naught his hostile purposes (Acts 23:6-9), and by means of defensive reasoning and good words (John 18:23; Acts 4:8-13, 19, 20) and manifold kindnesses to bring him to reflect and be at peace (Matthew 5:25, 26; Luke 12:58; Genesis 21:25-27. Moreover, we are of the opinion that all malevolent treatment that we experience must serve to exercise us in the faith and patience of the saints, as we follow the example of Jesus Christ, His holy apostles, and many thousands of Christians in the early and later centuries, who when for conscience sake they had to suffer adversities (Matthew 5:10) experienced in this the grace of God making all things work for their good (Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 1:3-6; 4:17, 18; 6:10), not to mention that the merciful God often gives an issue and an escape (2 Corinthians 11:23-33) beyond all human thought (2 Corinthians 1:8-11; 2 Timothy 3:11; 4:17, 18). Besides all this, it was plainly prophesied that such a peaceful and non-resistant life (Matthew 10: 16; Luke 10:3) would be found among the subjects of Christ's kingdom (Isaiah 2:4; 11:6-8; Micah 4:1-3; Zechariah 9:9, 10). Wherefore we pray that this blessed kingdom may come (Matthew 6:10) and come soon, Amen!
XXX. Of Oaths
In the question of taking oaths we believe that though it is possible to take an oath with a devout purpose, as did the holy patriarchs at times (Genesis 14:22, 23; 21:30, 31) and as it was permitted under the Mosaic dispensation, God Himself being often represented as speaking in this human manner (Hebrews 6:13-17; Psalms 89:35; 95:11; 110:4), yet such a practice is nowhere enjoined by a command of God (Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 19:12) but simply defined and restrained. Exodus 22:11. Thus it is evident that swearing, like divorce and some other practices, was in reality permitted because of the want of love and of the prevailing mistrust, and the increasing degeneracy among mankind. Wherefore the Lord Jesus, in order to correct also this violation of and deviation from the original purpose of God, entirely prohibited the use of oaths in His spiritual and heavenly kingdom, when He said: "But I say unto you, Swear not at all," etc. Matthew 5:34-37.
The reason why we cannot regard these words as a prohibition simply of the frivolous and notorious habit of profane swearing, or of swearing in things of minor importance, but consider it far safer to regard them as doing away entirely with all swearing are, besides those already mentioned and others, the following: First, because the Lord Jesus is evidently not speaking against trivial swearing but refers to the legal use of the oath, as it was said to them of old time, "Thou shalt not forswear thyself but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths" (obviously the Lord here refers to Exodus 20:7 and Leviticus 19:12). Further because the Lord says, -- "But I say unto you, Swear not at all -- but let your speech be Yea, yea; Nay, nay, and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one." Further, because James, repeating the same words, adds: "But above all things, my brethren, swear not -- neither by any other oath -- that ye fall not under judgment." James 5:12. Again, because such a view does not forbid an earnest assertion of the truth of our statements, when the honor of God and the love of the truth calls for it -- such as the Lord Jesus often made (John 14:12) likewise the Apostle Paul, now and then (Romans 1:9; 9:1; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 1:20; Philippians 1:8), since Christ does not mean to say that one shall use no words except Yea and Nay, but that our Yea shall be yea, and since we cannot regard such manner of emphasis as in reality an oath but an intense effort, proceeding from a holy motive, to awaken attention and deepen the impression; and even if in a few instances (like 1 Thessalonians 5:27) this should be found to have taken the form of an oath (which, however, is not conceded) it is well to observe that this was done by persons of unimpeachable truthfulness, and probably in the spirit of forbearance, but not to serve us as a pattern. Again, because it is far more commendable to keep our yea and nay as faithfully as though we had sworn to it; and this confidence in one's given word is in harmony with the kingdom of Jesus. Further, because by reason of the depravity of human nature it is to be feared that the very practice of making oath is taken by godless men as a cause for attaching no weight to simple assurances and making light of lying. Revelation 21:27; 22:15. Further, because the Christians of the first centuries in general seem to have understood these words thus, and we have on record the testimonies of almost all the old teachers of the church against the use of oaths.* Finally, because a look at civil life and the requirements of a well-regulated state does not seem to reveal the need of swearing, since godless and faithless men are not to be trusted even though they swear (Jeremiah 5:2) and such persons have often so little fear of an oath that it is known full well beforehand and afterwards established that false oaths are sworn without number, a fact that causes godly rulers as well as true Christians in general to sigh, and which makes it necessary in spite of the use of the oath, to provide civil punishment for the untruthful.
As for ourselves, we hold that if under our solemn affirmation of the truth, which is put in place of the oath, we should deal faithlessly or fail to come up to our word, we are just as guilty and subject to just punishment as though we had sworn the heaviest oaths.
It behooves us indeed to excel in this respect and thus to confirm our testimony with our acts, and it is therefore not to be feared that through our abstaining from the oath good order and fidelity shall suffer even in the least.
- We find in the early church widespread disapprobation of the oath based on the declaration of Jesus and of James. One of the oldest testimonies is that of Justin Martyr. In the early part of the third century Basilides dies a martyr's death for refusing to swear. Irenaeus gives a similar testimony. Basilius is very emphatic in his prohibition of the oath, but above all Chrysostom. Likewise Isidore Pelusius, also Theophylact and Euthymius, Hilarius and Hieronymus. In modern times Olshausen and Stirus.
XXXI. Of Marriage
We believe that the married state should be held in honor by all (Hebrews 13:4) and that it is not only permitted but also needful (Genesis 1:28), expedient (Genesis 2:18-24; Proverbs 18:22), and well pleasing to God (Matthew 19:4-6), if it is entered upon in the true spirit (Genesis 24; Proverbs 19: 14; 31:10-30; 1 Corinthians 7:39) and so continued in. Ephesians 5: 22-33. We are assured of this through the fact of God's own appointment (Genesis 2:18-24), and the reaffirming of the same (Mark 10:3-12) and through the action of Jesus, who hallowed a marriage by His presence (John 2:1-11), as well as through the example of the most eminent saints who, living in a married state, walked with God (Genesis 5:22) and had the testimony that they pleased God (Hebrews 11:5), including even the priests (Leviticus 21:7-9), the high priest (Leviticus 21:1315), the prophets (e. g. David, Ezekiel, Hosea) and the apostles of the Lord (1 Corinthians 9:5; Matt. 8:14). It appears indeed that the teaching of the Bible holds this state to be expedient for overseers in the church (1 Timothy 3:2, 12; 5:9, 10; Titus 1:6) wherefore we are certain that the throwing of suspicion on the married state proceeds from superstition and the prohibiting of it is anti-Christian and an abomination. 1 Timothy 4:3.
On the general question involved the will of God concerning this state is clearly expressed, viz., that only two persons free from all others and not of too close blood relationship may enter into it, to be united and bound together without any reserve even unto death. Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:28. The separation of such is moreover, altogether prohibited except for the cause of fornication. Matthew 5:31, 32; 19:7-10; 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11.
Further, we believe that in cases of marrying as in all things, the Lord our God directs and disposes -- yet so as not thereby to annul man's freedom -- be it that He in His goodness graciously brings them about (Genesis 24: 14, 50; Matthew 19:6; Joshua 23:12, 13) or that He in His righteous displeasure and chastisement permits them (e. g. Judges 14:3, 4, 14; 1 Kings 11:1-6; Ezra 9:10-15; Nehemiah 13:23-27.) Therefore marriage is not to be regarded as an explicit general command (Matthew 19:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 7: 7, 17, 27, 28) or as a universally ordained destiny, but as a thing in which man may act with freedom, so far as this is not limited by God's holy directions, and that it be in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:39. These limitations are clearly to be seen in the prohibition of marriage with unbelieving persons (Genesis 24:14, 50; Matthew 19:6; Joshua 23:12, 13); the transgression of God's repeated command in this respect (Genesis 6:1-3; 26:34, 35; 27:46) and God's holy displeasure thereat (1 Kings 11:1-9); and in the necessity of putting away the strange wives out of Israel in order that the enkindled wrath of the Almighty might be turned from them (Ezra 9:10-15; 10:1-19; Nehemiah 13:23-28) as well as many occurrences showing the evil and hurtful consequences of carnal marriages in which only the natural passions are followed. Luke 17:26-28.
For this reason it is exceedingly important that a person purposing either to enter this state or to abstain from it should examine himself, consider well his qualities, in faith seek to know God's will concerning himself (1 Corinthians 7:12-17), take counsel of God and His Word (Proverbs 3:6; Psalms 119:9-11; Philippians 4:6, 7), and not decide upon one or the other course until in faith and with a good conscience he is convinced that in that course he will be pleasing unto the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 10: 31; 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10; Colossians 3:17. Those who thus marry have good reason to hope that it is in the Lord and that His blessing will accompany it.
If matrimony is thus begun in the fear of the Lord and conducted in a Christian manner (Ephesians 5:22-33) in accordance with the principles of the gospel, as laid down for the direction of both husbands and wives (1 Timothy 2:813; Titus 2:3-8; 1 Peter 3:1-7), then shall the man, who is the head of the woman, strive to be a worthy copy of Jesus Christ in His relation to His church. The wife shall be saved through the child-bearing (1 Timothy 2:15, R.V.), her seed shall be blessed (Genesis 18:18, 19; Ephesians 6:4) and all things shall work together for good to them. Matthew 6.33; Romans 8:28.
That this married life may be a happy one we consider it essential, as much as possible, to remain within one's own church communion (after the example of the patriarchs, Genesis 24:3, 4; 28:1-8; Romans 15:5, 6; Philippians 2:1, 2) to avoid disgraceful contentions and many unpleasant consequences which are so apt to arise out of differences in the bringing up, in the manner of life, and in intellectual views (as exemplified in 1 Corinthians 3:4) and which crop out when it comes to bringing up their own children as well as in other things, being often discovered too late. It is, therefore not only proper but also to their advantage for young people to counsel-next to God-with their parents and other intimate relatives, listen to their advice and not to grieve them but rather give them cause for joy. Proverbs 10:1. But everything in the fear of the Lord.
XXXII. Of Death
Of the state of the soul after this life and the necessity of a godly preparation for a blissful departure.
That it is appointed unto man once to die (Hebrews 9:27; Psalms 89:48) is, we believe, a result of the transgression of our first parents (Romans 5:12-14; Genesis 2:17; 3:19; 1 Corinthians 15:21) and is thus in reality a punishment for sin. Romans 6:23. But we also believe that through the obedience and death of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:19; Hebrews 2:14, 15; Isaiah 25:8) the sting of death has been removed (1 Corinthians 15: 55-57; Hosea 13:14) for all them that truly believe on Him (John 6:40, 50, 51, 58); so that these need not fear death (Hebrews 2:14, 15; Isaiah 25:8), but can thank God through Jesus Christ that it is theirs sometime to die. For though our body -- which, be it remembered, is of the earth (Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 12:7), polluted through sinful lusts (Romans 7:5, 23, 24; 2 Corinthians 7:1), and altogether unfitted for heaven without great change (1 Corinthians 15:36, 50; Philippians 3:21) -- continues under the necessity of a return to its first element (Romans 8:10), and though such a thought is indeed appalling to them that live after the flesh (Romans 8:6, 13; Luke 12:16-21) and are the servants of sin (Romans 6:16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 10:31), yea, also to the godly in a certain degree after the physical nature; yet to the believer the thought of death brings true comfort (1 Thessalonians 4:17, 18) amid the hardships (James 5:7, 8; 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18; 5:1-9) and imperfections (1 Corinthians 13:8-12; 1 John 3:2) of this earthly life, knowing that to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord, to be set free and be with Christ, is by far better (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:20-23), and finally that the putting of the body in the earth like the grain of wheat (John 12:24) is the divinely ordained way to the reaping of better things. 1 Corinthians 15:35-44.
As to the soul, the immortal nature of which has already been spoken of under Article Five, we believe that the same immediately upon its release from the body, returns to God -- not to the full and final condition of glory or punishment (Matthew 25:46; Jude 6) for this will come only after the resurrection of the body and the reunion of the soul with the same, in the day of the final judgment (Matthew 25:34-46) -- but to a lively anticipation of that state (Luke 16:23, 24; Revelation 6:10, 11) though in greater or less measure (Luke 12:47, 48; 2 Peter 2:9, 10) according to the degree of unrighteousness (Matthew 10:15; 11:22, 24) and estrangement from God (Matthew 25:30; Luke 13:24-30), or of holiness (2 Timothy 2:20-22) and intimate union with Him (John 14:21-23; 15:10; 17:23, 24; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Peter 1:8), as it evidently follows from the justice of God (Galatians 6:7, 8; 2 Corinthians 9:6) and the nature of the case. With many their conscience bears witness to this even while they seek to deafen it, Romans 1:21-25, how much more when it awakes. Luke 16:23; Isaiah 57:21. The ungodly and unconverted sinners pass at death to a condition of imprisonment (2 Peter 2:4, 9, 17), of regret that is too late, of chagrin and pain. Isaiah 66:24; Matthew 18:34; Mark 9:48. Those who die in the Lord (Revelation 14:13) pass to a condition of comfort (Luke 16:25), of peace and happiness. Luke 23:43. In this state of being, kept by the hand of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:18; 3:7), they await either in fear (Matthew 8:29; Hebrews 10:27) or with desire (2 Peter 3:12-14) the last sentence or final judgment. For of a purging of the soul after death (as taught by the Roman church) we confess to know nothing, but rather that the judgment is connected with death (Hebrews 9:27) and that the tree will lie as it falls, Ecclesiastes 11:3; Luke 16:22, 23.
It is therefore of the utmost importance that we seek to prepare for the hour of death in time (John 9:4) while it is yet today (Hebrews 3:15) not only by a solemn contemplation of these things (Deuteronomy 32:29; Psalms 39:4, 5; Psalms 90) but also by a true conversion (Acts 9:1-18; 1 Peter 2:25) and a striving after faith and holiness (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 12:14), to be found in Christ (Philippians 3:9-14), to have always a conscience void of offence (Acts 24:16; 1 John 3:20, 21), to do gladly and with our might what our hands find to do (Ecclesiastes 9:10), and whatever there is more of like import. Philippians 4:8. All this because (being repeatedly warned of the Lord, Mark 13:37) we know not at what time or hour He will come (Matthew 24:42; 25:13; Luke 12:35-46), that we may always be ready as those that wait for their Lord that we may not be ashamed at His coming (2 John 2:28) but may be found of Him in peace without spot, and blameless. 2 Peter 3:14.
Seeing, moreover, that for this most necessary and most important preparation very much is required, namely, that we look forward to death in faith as to a messenger of peace (Luke 2:29, 30), regard the putting off of our body as a deliverance (2 Timothy 4:6) and a redemption (Romans 8:23) and commit our spirit with a well-founded calmness of mind unto the hands of God as our heavenly Father of Jesus Christ as our dear Redeemer (Acts 7:58), we need to this end nothing less than saving faith (John 3:14, 15; 6:40), true peace with God (Romans 5:1) a resignation to His will (Matthew 6:10; 26:39; Philippians 1:20-23), a relinquishing of all earthly things (Philippians 3:7-11; Hebrews 11:13), the experience of His love (Romans 5:5), and the comfort of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:5; Romans 8:15, 16. These all being gifts of grace bestowed on us by reason of the obedience and death of our dear Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17; 8:37; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 2 Timothy 1:10), we must seek these gifts in persevering prayer, moved throughout by a lively realization of our dependence, and then receive and acknowledge them in such measure as the Lord may impart to us, in deep humility, as His undeserved mercy. Psalms 103:10-14; 32:6, 7.
XXXIII. Of the Resurrection of the Dead
That the great mystery (1 Corinthians 15:51) of the resurrection was revealed and known to the saints in the old dispensation (Daniel 12:2), though less clearly than to us (Hebrews 11:13-16), we know from the words of Christ when He said, to the confusion of the Sadducees: "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God." "God is not the God of the dead but of the living." Matthew 22:29, 32; Mark 12:24, 26, 27. The same is also evident from the many tokens and testimonies that they lived and died in this faith. This fundamental doctrine (Hebrews 6:1, 2) has, however, been set forth in a much clearer light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:9, 10), by which we now know definitely that before the final judgment there is to be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15) so that all men that ever lived and died, whether buried on land or in the sea (John 5:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22; Revelation 20:12, 13) shall awake and be made manifest. John 6:39; Ezekiel 37:1-14.
As to the possibility of such an occurrence, surpassing all human thought, our faith rests not only on the above mentioned and many other clear testimonies, but on the omnipotence (Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37; Zechariah 8:6), justice and faithfulness of Him who has promised and will perform it (Hebrews 10:23; Numbers 23:19), namely God the Father (Romans 4:17; Deuteronomy 32:39) through His Son Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:14; John 6:40; Philippians 3:21) in the all availing power and working of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11), seeing that He to whom nothing is impossible, who calls into being that which is not (Romans 4:17) should much less find it impossible to call them to whom the seed yet remaineth. 1 Corinthians 15:35-44; John 12:14. This faith rests further on the cases of those who in times past were raised from the dead (John 11:23, 44), and especially on the resurrection of our Lord Himself (1 Corinthians 15:12-18), for in that He was thus declared the Son of God with power (Romans 1:4), having power to take His life again (John 10:18) we can with confidence rely on His Word (John 6:54; 14:19) knowing that He is our Redeemer (Job 19:25, 26) and that He as the first fruit (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; Romans 11:16; Acts 26:23) and the Head of the church (Colossians 1:18) not only can but without fail will fulfill all His promises. Revelation 1:18.
Concerning the way and manner, how all this shall take place, we see from the Word of the Lord, that Christ Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the arch-angel, and with the trump of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16) accompanied by the angels of His power (2 Thessalonians 1:7; Matthew 25:31); that then all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment (John 5:29); that this shall take place with the same bodies in which they have thus lived (Isaiah 26:19; Romans 8:11) yet so changed and made incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:53, 54) that they can either live forever in bliss or continue in eternal woe; that these changes shall take place instantly as in the twinkling of an eye, and yet each in this own order (1 Corinthians 15:23), for they that have died in Christ shall rise first and they that are yet alive and remain shall be changed likewise. 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
Finally, as regards the time of this coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:13; James 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 3:12) it shall be in the last day (John 6:39, 44, 54) immediately before the last judgment, when the Lord shall come to hold judgment, the day and hour of which it is not for us to know. Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7. For though there are various prophecies and signs of the times given (Matthew 24:1-38), which we are to observe with deep reverence and which seem to indicate that the time of the end is near at hand (Daniel 12:4-9; 1 Timothy 4: 1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Peter 3:3-18), yet it must be preceded by the transpiring of great things -- there is, nevertheless, nothing more certain than that the Lord will come in an hour when men will not be looking for Him (Matthew 24:44) and in a time when thoughtlessness and worldly-mindedness shall predominate in the world (Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 18:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5), wherefore the Lord Jesus so often admonishes always to watch, as has been more fully set forth in the foregoing article.
XXXIV. Of the Final Judgment
That in immediate connection with the aforenamed resurrection of the dead the final and general judgment will take place, we believe -- first because of the idea of God's justice so deeply impressed on the conscience of all men that the consciousness of evil fills us with fear (Romans 2:15; Genesis 42:21, 22), and, on the contrary, the consciousness of good inspires a heartfelt confidence (1 John 3:20, 21), and this in such a manner that even the most godless can scarcely and at most only for a time deaden the impression (Isaiah 57:20, 21; Romans 6:13-17); secondly, because we do not always see justice carried out in this life (Psalms 73) and are thus led to look for it in the hereafter (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13; 2 Corinthians 5:10), since the above-mentioned idea can in no wise be denied or gotten rid of (Romans 1:19; 2:15), for which reasons all intelligent peoples in all ages, even though being without special divine revelation, have believed in a coming judgment. Our belief in this rests still much more on the explicit statements found in the Scriptures of the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes 12:14; 11:9; Daniel 7:9, 10; 12:1-3; Malachi 4:1) and more especially in those of the New.
The one who is to hold this great judgment is God, the Father (Acts 17:31; Romans 3:6) the Judge of all (Hebrews 12:23); yet it will be through Jesus Christ, His Son (Acts 10:42) to whom He has committed all judgment (John 5:22, 27) because of His willing humiliation and His obedience even unto death (Philippians 2:6-11) by which He, as mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:24), has obtained the right (Psalms 2:8-12) to rule over all. Psalms 72:8; John 5:27. Wherefore He will show His kingly power not only to His friends (Matthew 25:34; 28: 18-20) but also to His foes (Luke 19:27; Revelation 1:7) as it is written, -- "That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth, and things under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:10, 11.
Those who shall be judged are all nations as whole (Matthew 25:31, 32) and every individual person in particular, be he great or small (Revelation 20:12, 13) rich or poor as well as the humblest beggar, yea also the fallen angels. Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 20:10.
The manner of the appearing of the great Judge, Jesus Christ, at His coming in judgment will be in the highest degree terrible, and the bringing of all nations before His judgment seat, without any escape (Matthew 24:29, 30); for the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16) with the clouds of heaven (Revelation 1:7; Daniel 7:13, 14), with great power and glory (Luke 9:26; 21:25-27), with ten thousands of His saints (Jude 14, 15), and all the holy angels with Him, amid accompanying circumstances so mighty that all nature will be moved and amazed. 2 Peter 3:10. When He shall thus sit upon the throne of His glory before the eyes of all, even of His bitterest enemies, then shall the angels of His power (Matthew 13:41-44; 2 Thessalonians 1:7) gather before His judgment seat all nations to give account (Romans 14:12; Matthew 25) of the time (Revelation 3:3; Luke 19:44), the means (Luke 16:2; Matthew 11:20-24; Hebrews 2:14) and the gifts which they have received. Luke 12:47, 48.
Moreover, the things concerning which account shall be required are not only a few of the most prominent actions of men, but every one of them in particular, subjective as well as objective (Hebrews 4:12, 13), not only words (Matthew 12:36, 37; Jude 15) and deeds (Romans 2:6; Revelation 2:23) but even the hidden thoughts (1 Corinthians 4:5) and inclinations of the heart. Romans 2:16.
The standard of judgment will be perfect righteousness itself (Isaiah 28:17; Psalms 9:8; 96:10; 98:9) which belongs to this great Judge as an essential quality (Psalms 45:7, 8; Hebrews 1:8, 9) by which He is always known. Genesis 18:25. And His judgment is unerring (Psalms 139:1-13; Isaiah 29:15, 16), since He is the omniscient one (John 2:25; Hebrews 4:13) the searcher of all hearts (Acts 1:24) before whom no manner of false plea or any pretence can in the least avail. Matthew 7:22, 23. Moreover, He will judge with exactness (Daniel 5:27; Proverbs 24:12) according to that which is written in the books of His omniscience (Malachi 3:16), of conscience (Romans 2:15), and of divine revelation (John 12:48; 5:45), in each case according to the circumstances under which the person has lived (Romans 2:12) and after the measure of gifts he received and the means and opportunities he had of obtaining the same (Matthew 13:16, 17) as well as the use or abuse or total neglect of them. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
All this shall proceed on the basis of the covenant of grace (John 3:14-18; 5:24) by virtue of which they who sincerely believe (Romans 8:1) who earnestly strive after that which is good (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:7-14; Hebrews 12:14) and do the same (1 John 2:4, 29; 3:4-10) even though in weakness (Psalms 103:10-14; 1 John 1:6-10) and amid much stumbling (James 3:2; Psalms 37:24), will obtain mercy for Christ's sake (Jude 21; Romans 6:23); those however who continue in unbelief and obey not the truth but obey unrighteousness, unto them shall be wrath and indignation. Romans 2:4-8.
As to the award of this righteous judgment we see that Jesus Christ the great Judge shall bring together as His chosen ones those who shall be found to be His sheep (John 10:27, 28), who have done good and have been faithful in a very little (Luke 16:10; 19:17), and shall set them on His right hand receiving them with this most gracious greeting: "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." But those who have done evil and not good (whose names are not found in the book of life, Revelation 3:5, 20:15; 21:27), set on His left hand as the servants of unrighteousness, He shall banish from His presence with these most terrible words: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
The time when this final judgment shall take place the Father has put in His own power (Mark 13:32-37; Acts 1:7) but upon us He enjoins a life of pious preparation and watchfulness in the fear of God. Luke 21:34-36.
XXXV. Of Eternal Life
The kingdom which the blessed shall inherit in the day of the final judgment (Matthew 25:34) we understand (1 John 3:2) to be in general a condition of joy (Matthew 25:21; Psalms 16:11; Isaiah 51:11) and glory (1 Peter 1:4) far exceeding our conceptions in this life of humble limitations. I Tim. 6:16. For this reason the Holy Spirit, in order to help our infirmity, speaks of it throughout figuratively, in terms of such things as in this life are esteemed the most agreeable and delightful. Matthew 8:11; 22:2; Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 19:7; chaps. 21 and 22.
To speak of it more in particular, we believe that it will consist in a life of eternal and heavenly bliss (Luke 15:7; Revelation 19:7), imperishable and unfading, which will be enjoyed under conditions of perfect delight and satisfaction in soul and body, spoken of as a fullness of joy in God's presence and pleasures at His right hand forevermore.
The body will be freed from all its present imperfections and infirmities, altogether changed (Philippians 3:21), spiritual, heavenly (1 Corinthians 15:40-44, 49, 50), shining glory (Matthew 13:43), fashioned like unto the glorified body of Jesus Christ in heaven. In no less degree will the soul be set free from all that is yet painful and grievous (Revelation 7:16; 21:4) and on the contrary will be clothed with all the perfection of which it is capable, both in knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:9-13) and in glory (2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Peter 5:10; Revelation 21:27), perfectly at one with God, and thus transformed into that image of glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) toward which the upward progress in this life is but as the beginning, though its consummation be sought with longing desire. 2 Corinthians 5:1, 2; Romans 8:23.
The place of this blissful state is heaven, where God dwells (Isaiah 57:15; John 14:2), a city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God, of which the greatest glory on earth is but a shadow.
Though there will be degrees of glory (1 Corinthians 3:8), some shining as the sun (Daniel 12:3; Matthj=ew 13:43) others as the stars, even as also one star differeth from another in glory, according as they suffered much and contended rightly (2 Timothy 2:5-12; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Revelation 3:4, 5) or have excelled in holiness and zeal (2 John 8; Revelation 2:17; 3:12), yet each one according to his capability will be filled and satisfied.
The company of the blessed will be extremely delightful. First there will be the perfectly blessed and all-sufficient God (Matthew 5:8; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 21:3), and Jesus Christ as the Lamb that was slain (Revelation 5:6; John 12:26; 14:3; 17:19-24), then the holy angels of God (Revelation 7:11; Hebrews 12:22-24) together with all just men made perfect from Eden to the end of the world. Luke 13: 28-30. Among all these there will not be found the least contention or disagreement, but on the contrary, the fullest accord (Revelation 5:8-14; 7:9-12) and the most passionate love. 1 John 4:7-21. In all probability they will know each other (Matthew 17:3; Luke 16:19-31) and also communicate to one another their knowledge, their experiences and their enjoyments, all of which will be the source of unspeakable joy. Psalms 79:13.
The blessed will be occupied largely in beholding unveiled all the perfections of God (Psalms 63:3-6; Exodus 34: 5-8) and Jesus Christ as the mediator between God and man, and all the divine providences and works both in nature and in grace, especially the work of redemption (Revelation 1:5) as well as that of conversion and sanctification (Colossians 1:12), etc. Thus beholding all the wonderful things in God, in His saints, and especially in one's own self (Revelation 15:34; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Titus 3:3-7; Ephesians 2:3-10) under the unbroken influence of the Spirit of glory, the overshadowing of the Almighty, and the guidance of the Lamb in the midst of the throne, both body and soul will be continually refreshed, and be absorbed in the delight of united and responsive praise, worship and glorifying (Revelation 7:10-12) in all eternity.
XXXVI. Of Eternal Punishment
Respecting the condition of those who in the final judgment will be condemned, we believe that it will be unhappy and terrible beyond all conception (Daniel 12:2), because the Holy Spirit represents it throughout in terms of all that is dreadful and insufferable (Hebrews 12:29; Isaiah 33:14), speaking of it now as hell (Matthew 10:28; 18:9; 2 Peter 2:4) or the valley of the children of Hinnom where the idolatrous Israelites formerly cast their children as an offering into the glowing arms of Moloch to be burned with fire; then as a furnace of fire (Matthew 13:50), a pit burning with fire and brimstone (Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8) an outer darkness (Matthew 25: 30), the gnawing of a worm that death not (Mark 9:43-48) and fire that is not quenched (Matthew 3:12), and more of like import (Matthew 18:34). From all these dreadful representations we have every reason to assume that that condition will be one of utter perdition from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Matthew 7:23; Luke 13:27, 28), from all good, all comfort (Luke 16:24, 25), and all salvation, as also a realization of the insufferable wrath of almighty God (Revelation 6:16, 17) and His avenging justice (2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 10:30, 31), both as to soul and body, without any hope of escape or relief in all eternity. Matthew 25:46.
In their bodies, as we can conceive of it, the condemned will be standing without (Luke 13:25) when the blessed have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17) when all the doors of hope and of escape both on earth and in heaven shall be shut (Matthew 25:10), when all the elements, kindled with fire, will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10-12), the bottomless abyss opening to engulf alive these unhappy ones as were in their time Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16:32, 33) and the Sodomites, they being thus consumed with the earth and all that is upon it that they loved (2 Timothy 3:2-4; Psalms 17:14; Luke 17:26-30; 1 John 2:15-17; 2 Peter 3:7), yet their changed bodies being indestructible, they are not annihilated (Revelation 9:6) but will suffer the fire of eternal punishment.
Regarding the soul, they will not only, as said above, be separated by a great gulf from God and the blessed and from every sort of comfort, but will, moreover, be most painfully tormented, by the undying recollection of so many proffered means of grace (Matthew 21:20-24) opportunities (Matthew 11:28; 23:37; Isaiah 55), and convincing appeals to God's goodness (Acts 14:17; Romans 1:16-25; 2:1-24; Revelation 3:20), and the willful neglect and refusal of the same (Matthew 22:5; Hebrews 2:3; 10:29; Acts 13:40-46) as well as all manner of unrighteous deeds. This consciousness with the consequent belated repentance, chagrin, and despair (Genesis 4:13, 14; Matthew 27:3-5), will cause a torment far exceeding all our present conception.
All this will be aggravated by the exceeding terribleness of the company of the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41) together with all wicked sinners (Galatians 5.19-21; Ephesians 5:3-6; Jude 14-16; Revelation 22:15) and by the sound of their blasphemies against God and all that is good. Revelation 16:9, 11, 21. Moreover, that which makes this unhappy condition most desperately terrible is the fact that the Holy Scriptures do not give the least ground to expect a release from the same, but on the contrary they call it an eternal punishment, an everlasting fire, and unquenchable fire, a worm that dieth not, etc.
However, it is certain that there will be degrees in these punishments (Luke 12:47, 48) so that it will be more tolerable for them of Tyre and Sidon, and of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for such places and persons among whom the Lord has manifested Himself with especial means of knowledge and convicting power (Matthew 12:41, 42), such distinction being indeed a necessary part of the exercise of the most perfect justice, which will be manifested in this as in all other works of God. Galatians 6:7, 8.
May He give us grace, that in the right way we may flee from this wrath to come! Amen.
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