Olive Branch Confession (1627)
Drawn up at Amsterdam, the 27th of September 1627, called Scriptural Instruction, concerning who the people are, on whom the peace of God rests, and how they are bound to peace and unity; given in answer to the following several questions, of which the first is:
What are the fundamental and unmistakable marks by which the children of God and members of Jesus Christ (being the church of God) can and must be known, according to the testimony of the word of the Lord?
In order to answer this question correctly, we must consider what the means are, by which men become children of God, members of Jesus Christ, and the church of God. For although the blessed Lord Jesus Christ is the only meritorious cause of the justification of man, their adoption by God as His children, and the foundation of their eternal salvation (Romans 3:24, 25; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 5:12; Ephesians 1:5 ; Colossians 3:11 ; Acts 4:12); God, the heavenly Father, of whom all things are, 1 Corinthians 8:6; and who is the true Father of the whole family in heaven and earth, Ephesians 3:14,15, has nevertheless been pleased to impute the merits of His Son Jesus Christ to man, and make him partaker of the same, through the means of faith in His beloved, only, and only-begotten Son (Romans 3:25; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8; John 3:15, 36; 6:40) ; whereby He owns them as children, and adopts them as heirs of everlasting life, according to the testimony of John, who says: "He" (that is, Christ) "came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:11-13). Paul confirms this with these words: "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26). Through this means -- faith -- apprehended from the Word of God, and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, men are born of God; hence, the appellation, children of God, truly belongs to them, since they have God for their father, and Christ for their brother. God the Father acknowledges them as His sons and daughters; and Christ, for this reason, is not ashamed to call them His brethren. (Romans 10:17; 2 Corinthians 4:13; Romans 8:16; John 1:12; 1 John 5:1; James 2:18; 1 Peter 1:23; Matthew 5:45; John 1:12, 13; 3:2; 20:17; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:16; Matthew 12:50; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Hebrews 2:11, 12). These children of God and brethren of Jesus Christ, are heirs of God, yea, joint heirs in the inheritance of their brother Jesus Christ, as has been promised to them by God the Father, through the means of faith, all the acquired benefits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which are, chiefly, forgiveness of sins, justification, and peace with God; and, because they are children of the resurrection, they shall not come into condemnation, but are passed from death unto life; they shall enjoy salvation, eternal life, and unspeakable happiness, yea, possess all things that the Lord Christ possesses. Romans 8:17; Ephesians 1:11; John 7:3; Acts 10:43; Romans 3:26; 4:5; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; Luke 20:26; John 5:24; Matthew 16:16, 17; Mark 16:16; Romans 10:9; 1 Peter 1:9; John 3:16; 6:47; 17:3; 20:31; 1 John 5:11; 1 Peter 1:8; Luke 22; Revelation 21:7.
Hence, we reply, in conclusion to the question presented: That the fundamental, certain mark of the children of God and members of Jesus Christ, is that by virtue of which this appellation belongs to them in truth according to the promise of God, namely, the only saving faith which worketh by love; upon which God Himself looks with gracious eyes, and which alone avails before Him (Galatians 5:6; Jeremiah 5:3; Hosea 2:2; Jeremiah 5:1 ; Acts 8:37; 15:11; Isaiah 26:2) wherefore we, being one or unanimous with God, must have respect to it alone, seeing that the Lord Christ Himself, promising Peter salvation upon his faith and confession, adds "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
We shall now briefly show, what faith in Christ is, what is to be believed, what its design is, and what are the internal and external operations of faith.
This faith in Christ, by which men become partakers of all the acquired benefits of Jesus Christ, is neither an uncertain opinion nor merely a bare confession of the mouth, but a firm and sure confidence of the heart, which doubts not the things promised by God in Christ; but has a firm assurance that He who has promised them is able also to perform them. Hebrews 11:13; 3:6; Romans 10:10; 4:20, 21. By this firm and sure confidence the believer in the promises of God is established in Jesus Christ his Saviour, because he knows that all the promises of God are yea and amen in Him; on which he lays firm hold, as on an anchor of his soul, both sure and steadfast. Acts 10:43; 1 Peter 1:10, 11; John 8:56; Hebrews 11:26; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 6:18, 19. He believes with his heart that God, -- for the fulfilling of His gracious promises, willing to show His great love toward mankind who, through sin, had fallen into death and manifold corruptions, by redeeming them,-- sent into this world for this purpose, when the time of all prophecies was fulfilled, His only, dear and beloved Son, who from eternity was with His Father in great glory and beloved by Him before the foundation of the world, possessing great riches and being equal with God His Father, by whom all things were made, and without whom not anything was made of all that was made in heaven or upon earth, and in whom they all stand, since He upholds all things by the word of His power. Genesis 22:18; Deuteronomy 8:15; Isaiah 7:15; 9:6; 11:1; 40:9; Micah 5:2; John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 9:31; 1 John 4:9, 10; Genesis 3:19; Wisdom 2:24; 4 Esdras 7:48; Romans 4:5, 12; 1 Corinthians 15:21 ; Romans 5:16; 4 Esdras 3:7; Genesis 3:17; Romans 1:2; 8:3; Colossians 1 :13; Ephesians 1:7; Galatians 4:4; Mark 12:6; 1:11; Matthew 17:5; 3:17; Hebrews 1:8; 7:3; 13:8; 1:3; John 16:28; 17:5, 24; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6; Revelation 1:18.
He left His divine glory, form, and riches, went out from God, His Father, and came down from heaven into this world, so that He was conceived by a virgin, and she brought forth this Son at Bethlehem, where God brings His firstborn Son into the world in the likeness of sinful flesh. John 13:3; 3:13, 31 ; 6:38, 51, 62; Ephesians 4:9, 10; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 2:21; Isaiah 9:6; Luke 3:6; Galatians 4:4; Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6; Hebrews 1:6; Romans 8:3. For the Word became flesh; that which was from the beginning, which the apostles say, which they heard with their ears, and which their hands handled, of the Word of life; for the life was manifested, so that there was seen that eternal life, which was with the Father. John 1:14; I John 1:1, 2; John 1:9; 20:25, 27; Isaiah 40:5, 9. Therefore, all true believers must show and ascribe to their Saviour, not as to a creature, but as to the Creator, all divine honor, even as they do unto the Father. John 5:23; 3:30, 31; 20-28. For, although, for a little while, He was made lower than the angels, yet all the angels of God must worship Him. Philippians 2:10; Matthew 14:33; Hebrews 1:6; for He is worthy of this who hath so loved us that He purchased us with His death, and washed us from our sins in His own blood; who died for our sins and rose for our justification; who destroyed the power of the devil, hell, and death; who abolished the sinful handwriting of the law, and has forgiven all sins, reconciling to God the Father all things that are in heaven and earth, in that He made peace through the blood of His cross; who brought life and immortality to light, and unto whom we are appointed by God, to inherit eternal salvation. Revelation 5:9; 1:5; Romans 5:10; Acts 20:28; Colossians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:19; Romans 4:25; 5:6, 8; Colossians 2:13, 14, 19, 20; Hebrews 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:54, 55; Revelation 20:14; Isaiah 25:8; 2 Timothy 1:10; Ephesians 1:10; 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
Thus the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is the true cornerstone, the way and door to eternal life, and there is no other name given unto man, either in heaven or on earth, whereby he can be saved, and become a child or heir of God, than the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah 28: 16; Romans 9:33; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6; John 14: 6; 10:9; Acts 4:12.
The believer, seeing, by faith, that God in His weightiest and unspeakably great promises is not mutable, but does, in truth, fulfill them through the giving of His only, dear, and beloved Son, feels assured by this, that there is nothing with God, which He shall not also give us with His Son. He, therefore, has firm confidence, that the benefits which God has promised in and through the suffering, death, shed blood, resurrection and ascension of His Son, belong to the believer and that he shall in truth receive them. Hebrews 6:17, 18; Psalm 33:4; John 3:16; 1 John 4:9; Ephesians 1:6, Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Timothy 4:8; Ephesians 1:11-13; Romans 8:32, 34:38; 2 Peter 1:3; Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:6, 7.
This faith begets in the heart of the believer an inward taste of the kindness of God, and of the powers of the world to come; which is followed by gladness, joy, and a firm security of the Father's favor in the soul, whereby, in every time of need, he is enabled to say, confident that he will be heard, "Abba, Father; and doubts not, though the thing promised be not apparent to human eyes, nay, seem contrary to nature, and transcends the comprehension, understanding and capability of man (Psalm 34:8; 1 Peter 2:3; Ephesians 2:7; Hebrews 6:5, 19; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 12:12; 14:17; 2 Corinthians 6:10; John 8:56; Revelation 19:7; Romans 8:31, 38; Psalm 32:1; Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6; Romans 4:20; James 1:6; Hebrews 11:1; Romans 4:18, 19; Hebrews 11:11; Hebrews 11:29), for the believer, by faith, looks not only at the things which, through the creation and government of God, exist in nature (which man may comprehend and understand), but to the goodness and omnipotence of the Promiser, unto whom nature and all creatural power in heaven, earth and sea, nay, death itself, must bow. Upon this ground the believer stands fast, even when, with Abraham, the father of the faithful, and with many of the pious, he is tried of God by things seemingly contradictory; for he is assured that God cannot lie. Psalm 52:9; Romans 4:21; Hebrews 11:19; Psalm 135:5; Isaiah 40:26; 4 Esdras 3:21, 23; 10:13; Habakkuk 3:10, 11; Matthew 27:44; Isaiah 40:12; Revelation 20:11; Proverbs 8:29; Jeremiah 5:22; Exodus 14:22; Hebrews 11:10; 35; 2 Corinthians 1:10; Genesis 22:1; 1 Peter 1:7.
But this faith of the heart is known the very best unto God, who also, being the only discerner of the intents and thoughts of the heart, will judge the internal signs of the faith of the heart, according as He finds it to be upright or dissembling. Jeremiah 17:10; Acts 1:24; Revelation 2:23; Hebrews 4:12. But to man, who has no other way of judging this faith of the heart, than by the fruits of the same, which he hears and sees, there are given as signs by which to distinguish it, the confession of it with the mouth, and the obedience of faith as manifested in outward works. Therefore the believer, according to the command of Christ, must confess openly before men, to the honor of his Creator and Redeemer, what he believes and experiences in his heart, no matter, what sufferings may result to him on that account. He can not do otherwise, for he must hearken unto God more than unto men (Mark 16:16; John 3:26; 1 Corinthians 2:11; John 3:11; Romans 10:10; 1:5, 16, 25; Acts 4:19, 20); for the Lord Christ hath said: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." Matthew 10:32; Luke 9:26. John says: "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God" (1 John 4-2), and Paul explains: "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak" (2 Corinthians 4:13)(These words of Paul "I believed, and therefore have I spoken," are taken from the 116th Psalm of David).
That, therefore, oral confession proceeding from sincere faith conduces to salvation, Paul testifies with these words: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9, 10).
This faith exhibits also its outward fruits of love worthy of the faith; wherefore the believer, according to the teaching of the apostle Peter, must give all diligence to show forth from his faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly love, and charity; and walk in the Spirit, whose fruits, as love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness,. goodness, faith, meekness, temperance are seen on them outwardly. 2 Peter 1:5-7; Galatians 5:16, 22, 23; 6:1; Ephesians 5:9. By these good fruits, and by brotherly love, as external signs of the true life, they are known as good trees, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a light which is put on a candlestick, to give light unto all that are in the house, a city set on a hill which cannot be hid. And thus they let their good works so shine before men, that they, seeing them, may glorify God, the heavenly Father. Matthew 7:17, 20; 12:35; 5:13-16.
For, as children who in their appearance and deportment show forth their father's form and qualities, are thereby judged and known to be the children of such parent, even so the believers, having, through the new birth, become partakers of the divine nature (inasmuch as they pattern after God in virtues), are thereby judged or known to be His children; and, in order that they might well express this image, they are abundantly admonished by Christ and His apostles in regard to it. So, for instance, with these words: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation." "And every man . . . purifieth himself, even as he is pure." "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful." Forgive one another, as God hath forgiven you. 2 Peter 1:4; 1 Peter 1:23; John 3:6; 1 John 4:7; 5:1; James 1:18; John 1:13; Romans 8:16; Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15; 1 John 3:3; Luke 6:36; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13.
Again "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9). The Lord says further: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye (show that ye) are the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Wherever, then, such similarity with God appears, through the putting on of the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, these show forth the image of Christ in their mortal flesh. Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3.10; Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17. They are an epistle of Christ, in which Christ can be seen, and read by all men; and they are justly called Christians; and, consequently, are true children of God, and members of Jesus Christ: therefore they must be recognized and accepted by all those who truly fear God, as belonging to one body, which is the church of the living God; and as having through this fruitful faith, fellowship with God the righteous judge, with Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, with the church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, with an innumerable company of angels, and with all the spirits of just men made perfect. 2 Corinthians 3:2; Acts 11 :26; Romans 12:5 ; Ephesians 4:4, 16; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:15. Of this church Christ is the foundation, Head, King, Shepherd, Leader, Master and Lord. 1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 4:15; Jeremiah 33:15; Luke 1:33; John 10:11, 14; 13:14. She alone is His body, adorned bride, dove, flock, and people, spiritual flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bones. Romans 12:5; Revelation 21:2; Song of Solomon 2:14; 4:1.
Now, although this fruitful faith is the only certain fundamental mark by which the children of God and members of Jesus Christ shall be known, and through which alone they are also, by grace, made partakers of the (by us unmerited) benefits of Christ, God has notwithstanding been pleased to set forth and confirm to believers, by external, visible signs, the benefits and merits of His Son Jesus Christ, which, as has been said, are received only by faith, and retained by obedience, in order that the things signified (of the promises of the grace of God), might shine forth the more clearly by the external signs, partly to assure the consciences of the believers, in the new covenant of the grace of God, and partly to bind the members of Jesus Christ together in unity, as members belonging to one body. For this purpose He has instituted in the church of the New Testament especially two such ordinances or signs suited to the thing signified, in which all true believers find great benefit and comfort. These are the Holy Baptism, and the Holy Supper. Ephesians 2:7; John 1:16; Mark 16:16; Luke 22:19; Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 11:24; Jeremiah 31:31; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 10:17; Romans 6:5; Matthew 28:19, 26.
Of Holy Baptism
Holy baptism is an external, visible ordinance, the rite of which consists in this: That all those who hear, believe, and receive gladly with a penitent heart, the doctrine of the holy Gospel, are baptized, for a holy purpose, with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, according to the institution of Christ, and the usage of His apostles. Acts 2:41; Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:35-38; 10:48.
The benefit which the Lord God, on His part, declares through the sign of baptism, is the washing away of the sinful corruptions of the soul, through the shedding of the blood of Christ; which signifies the forgiveness of sins, obtained through this blood, to the assurance of a good conscience with God, by which believers comfort themselves with the promise of eternal salvation. Acts 22:16; Colossians 1:14; 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 1:3; Revelation 1:5.
The obligations which baptism lays upon those baptized are: That they, burying their sins thereby into the death of Christ, bind themselves to the newness of the life of Jesus, in order to employ, as members of the body of Christ (having put on Christ), each his several gift, for the maintenance and improvement of this body in spiritual and temporal things; and further, that they as the true household of God, and citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, must obey the civil laws of their King by observing all His commandments. Romans 6:3, 4; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:25; Ephesians 2:19; Matthew 28:20.
Of the Holy Supper
The holy Lord's Supper is an ordinance instituted by Jesus Christ in remembrance of Himself, to be observed until His coming, by all who are baptized on true faith in Christ to be one body, in the church of the New Testament. Matthew 26:26; 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11 :24, 26.
This rite consists in this, that a minister of the Gospel, according to the institution of Christ, and the usage of His apostles, take bread and wine for a holy purpose, breaks the bread, and pours in the wine, and, after preparation and giving of thanks, dispenses both to the believing members. The broken bread is eaten, and the wine drank; Christ's passion or bitter suffering and death, and the shedding of His precious blood; also the motives for this, together with the benefits of His death, through which man receives the remission of his sins, which is signified by this visible sign -- all this is proclaimed thereby, in order that the believing church may give thanks to God for this benefit, and, as behooves members of one body, live and walk together here, as one heart and soul, in peace and love and unity. Luke 22:19, 20; Acts 2:42; 20:11; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17; 11:23-25; Acts 4:32.
The sum of all that has been said is: (1) That the Lord Christ is the foundation and only meritorious cause of eternal salvation; (2) that true faith in Him is the means whereby we become children of God and partakers of His merits; (3) that the children of God are to be known outwardly by the confession and fruits of their faith; (4) that God, through the external signs of Holy Baptism and the Supper, sets before the eyes of His children His gracious benefits, and binds them, as members of Jesus Christ, to one body, that is, to a church of God and Christ, whereby they are also admonished to the obedience they owe.
Here the answer to the first question might be concluded, but, since the Lord God, for the welfare of His church, and propagation of the truth, as being promotive of the honor of His name and the salvation of man-kind, has instituted other ceremonies and laws, besides certain offices, which, according to the circumstances of the case, the true members of the church of God are bound to observe; we shall, as briefly as is possible and proper, subjoin these to what has preceded; and this the more, as our peace presentation to people of the same faith points partly to them; that it may appear the more clearly, whether they agree with us, and we with them, in the order of the Christian household, to live according to it, through Christian obedience, together in love, peace and unity, without thinking for any reason, ever again to separate one from another.
Of the Office of Teacher and Deacon in the Church; also how the Election to, and the Confirmation in, these Offices, must Proceed, according to the Ordinance of God
As a body consists of different members, each of them having its own and special function, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, making increase of the body unto the edifying of itself, even so it is with the church of God; for although each believer is a member of the body of Christ, yet not all are therefore pastors, teachers, elders, or deacons, for these are those who have been properly appointed to such offices. For this reason, the administration of these offices, as the public preaching of the Word of God, the administering of the holy ordinances of baptism and supper, according to the institution of Christ, and the usage of His apostles, appertains to persons thus ordained, and elected thereto -- the pastors and teachers; just as it is the province of the deacons, to provide for the necessities of the poor. Romans 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:7; Acts 20:28; Titus 1:1; Romans 12:7; 2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Peter 5:2; Matthew 28; Mark 16; Acts 6; 1 Timothy 3:8; 5:9.
Concerning their calling and election to these offices, regard must be paid to the conditions required in those persons who will worthily fill said offices, according to the requirements :of the apostle, 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1. In order to obtain these, the church must prepare herself by a devout fear, by fasting and prayer, with constant invocation of the name of God, that as the discerner of all hearts He will show through the unanimous vote of the church, whom He counts worthy of such office; trusting that the Lord, who hears the prayers of those who are assembled in His name, and grants the petition of the godly, will, by His Holy Spirit, manifest His co-operation, and bring forth those whom He knows to be fit for this office; whereupon, upon, after having been examined, they are confirmed to this office, before the church, by the teachers, with the laying on of the hands. Acts 1:24; 6; Luke 6:8; Matthew 2:8; 1 Timothy 3: 10; 4:14; 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6.
Of Feet Washing
Feet washing we confess to be an ordinance of Christ, which He Himself performed on His disciples, and after His example, commended to true believers, that they should imitate it, saying: "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." Again: "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:14, 15, 17).
The purpose for which the Lord has instituted this ordinance is principally this: That we may remember in true humiliation, that by grace, we are washed from sin through the blood of Christ, and that He, our Lord and Master, by His lowly example, binds us to true humility towards one another. John 13:8, 10, 14. The apostle classes feet washing among the good works. 1 Timothy 5:10.
Marriage we hold to be an ordinance of God, which was first instituted by God in Paradise, and confirmed in our first parents, Adam and Eve, who were created after the image of God, male and female, while they both were yet in favor with God. Genesis 2:22; 1:27.
In accordance with this first institution, and agreeably to Christ's ordinance, Matthew 19:5, the marriage of Children of God (who are not too nearly related by consanguinity) must be entered into, after prayer, and kept inviolable, so that each man shall have his own, only wife, and each wife her own husband; and nothing shall separate them, save adultery. Leviticus 18:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; Matthew 19; Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Matthew 5:32; 1 Corinthians 9:5.
Thus it is lawful for a brother to take a sister to wife; a sister, also, may be married to whom she will, only in the Lord, that is, according to the ordinance and pleasure of the Lord, as mentioned before. But we do not find that God has anywhere, through His Word, ordained or instituted, that a believing member of the church should enter into, matrimony with an unbelieving, worldly person; on the contrary, we find, that God the Lord was very angry with those who did so, and declared that they were flesh, who would not be led by His Spirit; therefore, we reprove all those who follow herein the lust of their own flesh, in the same manner as we do other carnal sinners. 1 Corinthians 7:39; Deuteronomy 7:3; Nehemiah 10:30; 13:25-27; Genesis 6:6.
Of the Office of the Magistracy
The secular power or magistracy is ordained by God in all countries, and bears the sword not in vain, for it is the minister of God, and a revenger, for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good. Romans 13:2, 4; Siriach 17:18, 1 Peter 2:14.
Everyone is commanded to be subject unto the higher powers. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. Romans 13:1, 2.
All true believers are therefore in duty bound by the Word of God, to fear the magistracy, to render honor and obedience to the same, in all things not contrary to the commandments of the Lord, and to pay tribute, custom, and taxes to them, without gainsaying or murmuring, seeing that, according to the words of Peter, we must submit ourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, and pray to Almighty God for them; also to give our greatest thanks to the Lord for good and reasonable authorities. Romans 13:7; Acts 4:19; 5:29; 1 Peter 2:13; Jeremiah 29:7; Baruch 1:11; 1 Timothy 2:2.
Yet, we do not find, that the Lord Jesus Christ has ordained this office of secular authority in His spiritual kingdom -- the Church of the New Testament -- or added it to the offices of His church; nor has He given them laws adapted for such office and government; but He said to His disciples: The kings and lords of the Gentiles, and they that exercise authority among them, are called gracious lords. But it shall not be so among you. Matthew 20:25, 26; Luke 22:25, 26. Here we leave the matter, as we do not consider it necessary to enter into further details.
Of the Swearing of Oaths
For the confirmation of a cause which was just and true in itself, the Old Testament fathers were permitted to swear by the name of God. Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 5:33.
But the Son of the living God, the King and Lawgiver of the New Testament, whose command we are bound, through a voice from God out of heaven, to obey, has forbidden Christians all swearing, as does likewise, the apostle James; therefore, the swearing of oaths is forbidden to the believers of the New Testament. Matthew 3:17; 17:5; 5:34; James 5:12.
Separation, or the Putting away from the church, is a decree or sentence of the same, by virtue and authority of the Word of God, against a member, or members, of the church, who, through open sin, a scandalous life, heresy, or stubbornness, have separated themselves from God and the fellowship of Jesus Christ, and no longer belong into Christ's kingdom, or to His church; therefore, their brotherhood, or sisterhood, is renounced, by virtue of the Word of God, in the name of the whole church. 1 Corinthians 5:3; Matthew 18:18; 1 Corinthians 5:1; Romans 16:17; Titus 3; Matthew 18:17; Isaiah 59; Titus 1:16; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 2:8.
The reason for which this is done, and to which the church must have respect in the separation, are principally these: (1) to show that her doctrine does by no means permit such sins, but is wholly opposed to them: that, by so doing, the doctrine may be preserved pure, and the name of God glorified. 1 Timothy 1:20; Titus 1:13; 2 Timothy 4:15, 23; (2) through separation to prove in fact that she is the enemy of sin, and will in no wise tolerate it, in order that all causes for reproach to the church may be averted. 1 Corinthians 5:1, 2; Titus 2:8; (3) that not, by constant intercourse and fellowship with the evil, the good become leavened or corrupted. 1 Corinthians 5:7; 2 Timothy 2:17; (4) that the sinner, through excommunication and withdrawal may be convicted in his conscience, and moved to shame and reformation, that he may be saved. 2 Thessalonians 3; 1 Corinthians 5:5; and (5) that others, by hearing and seeing this, may be admonished, so that they will fear to follow such evil.
But when the separated sinner shows genuine fruits of repentance, we must at all times be ready to receive him again in peace to the Christian communion of the church, if he earnestly requests it. 2 Corinthians 2.
Since daily intercourse and mingling with ungodly apostates, in common eating, drinking, buying, selling, and similar unnecessary temporal or worldly transactions, is not only dangerous for the pious, who, thereby, may become contaminated, or be counted as companions of the apostate, but is also hurtful to the apostate himself, since he, through such mingling, may probably harden in sin, and esteem his offence of less consequence, therefore, we understand from the Word of God, that -- in order to avoid, according to the unction of the Spirit, the dangers of sin, and offenses, and to bring the apostate sinner to shame and repentance -- the true member of Christ must withdraw from the daily intercourse and communion with impenitent apostates; must shun them, and have nothing to do with them; and this without respect to persons, as far as they are not bound to the apostate by any command of God; for as one may do anything in the matter of shunning, which is contrary to love, benevolence, Christian propriety and justice, which supreme virtues a Christian is in duty bound to show unto all men, even to his enemies, for which purpose God has given all laws, which may, for no reason, be diminished, much less, broken or transgressed. 1 Corinthians 5:5 ; 2 Timothy 2:21; 2 Thessalonians 3; Titus 3; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 2 Peter 1:6; Titus 2:12; Romans 13:8; Matthew 5:44; Romans 13:9, 10; 1 Timothy 1:5; Revelation 22:19; Matthew 5:19; James 2:1.
Of the Second Coming of Christ, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Last Judgment
Finally, we believe, that the Son of the living God, the Lord Jesus Christ, our only Prophet, Priest and King, will visibly, as He ascended, descend from heaven, in the clouds, and all the holy angels of God with Him, with power and great glory, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, which shall be heard everywhere. Then all men who have lived upon earth, and have died, good and evil, just and unjust, shall rise from the dead, in incorruption, with their own body, in which they have lived; but those who still live on that day, and have not tasted death, shall be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, to incorruption, at the last sound of the last trumpet. Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Matthew 24:50; Zephaniah 1:16; Matthew 25:7; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:11; Jeremiah 5:29; Acts 24:15; 1 Corinthians 15:42; Jeremiah 26:19; 1 Corinthians 15:38, 52.
Thus, the whole human family shall be placed before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. For the Lord Jesus Christ shall then, as a shepherd, separate the sheep from the goats. Those who have done good, He shall set on His right hand, but those that have done evil, on the left; and He shall there pronounce the eternal, irrevocable sentence. 1 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 25:32, 33, 46; Jude 14.
To the true believers, who, through faith, have done works of love and mercy, He shall say: "Come, ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." These shall be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord, who shall take them away with Him into life eternal, in the heavenly glory and splendor, where they shall forever be with the Lord, in the innumerable company of the holy angels, in the society of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the pious, with great, unspeakable joy and gladness. 2 Peter 1:5; Matthew 25:35; Luke 16:9; 2 Peter 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:17,14; John 14:3; 17:24; Daniel 12:12; 1 Peter 1:8, 9.
But the unrighteous who have not known God, nor obeyed the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and have done no works of love or mercy, shall then be sentenced to everlasting fire, in these grievous and intolerable words: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels;" "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 1 Corinthians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Romans 2:9; Matthew 25:41; 22:13.
These shall go, where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched. There will come upon them tribulation and anguish, displeasure, wrath, and everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power. Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:46; Malachi 4:1; Romans 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 4 Esdras 9:10; Luke 16:24.
May the God of grace and mercy preserve us, through Jesus Christ, His dear and beloved Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, from this dreadful punishment of the ungodly, and grant us His grace, that we may live holy here on earth, and die happy, to a glad resurrection and joyful appearance in the presence of His glory. Amen.
Here follow two other questions and the answers to the same, which we could adduce, but we deem it unnecessary, since the treatise given embraces the substance or whole sum of the confession of saving faith, if it is only well apprehended.
Added was also a letter, as a preparative for peace, and signed by various persons (elders and teachers).
Given at Amsterdam, the 26th of September, 1627.
Context of the Confession
Olijftacxken (Olive Branch), a Dutch Mennonite confession of faith composed in 1627. The contents are described as follows: "Scriptural instruction, upon what people the Spirit of God rests, also how they are obligated and bound to peace and unity, given in reply to the question: Which are the fundamental, sure, distinctive signs, whereby the children of God and the disciples of Jesus Christ (the Church of God) can and must be identified according to the testimony of the Word of the Lord."
This query is briefly answered: Above all they recognize that Jesus Christ alone is the only cause of the justification of man, of sonship, and the foundation of eternal salvation; the means, however, through which man becomes partaker of the merits of Christ is faith, is derived from God's Word, and is vitalized in man through the Holy Spirit (Romans 10:17; 2 Corinthians 4:13; Romans 8:16). And thus man is born of God as he has God as his Father, and Christ as his Brother. These children of God possess all the good and kind gifts of the New Testament, as forgiveness of sin, peace with God, and eternal life. From this follows that the unalterable sign of the children of God and of the disciples of Jesus Christ is the true and only saving faith, which is effective in love (Galatians 5:6; Acts 8:36; 15:11; Matthew 16:18). This faith, which is a firm and sure confidence of the heart, not doubting the things that are promised of God in Christ, is stated in detail on pages 21 to 33. It discusses baptism, its benefit and purpose, communion, the servants of the church, their choice and ordination, feetwashing, marriage, secular office, the oath, separation and shunning, the resurrection of the dead and that in their own bodies in which they lived, and finally the last judgment and eternal ruin.
This confession of faith of the Dutch Mennonites was formulated by the four Amsterdam preachers of the Flemish (Lamist) congregation, Tobias Govaertsz (van den Wijngaert), Pieter Jansz (Moyer), Abraham Dircksz (Bacteria), and Dirck Dircksz. Inspired by the Waterlander Elder Hans de Ries, who had given much thought and effort to reuniting the discordant and divided body of the Mennonite church in Holland, they sent a letter to the Dutch congregations in 1626, in which they asked three questions: (a) What are the basic marks of a Christian church? (b) Are these distinctives only found in Flemish congregations? (c) Is making peace forbidden by the Scriptures? When the congregations failed to give adequate answers the four Amsterdam preachers answered the three questions themselves and drew up a confession which was sent with a presentation of peace and a Brief tot Vreed-Bereydinge (Letter for Preparing Peace), dated 16 September 1627, to the congregations in the provinces of Groningen, East and West Friesland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Holland, Zeeland, and Flanders. This confession was printed in 1629 and separately reprinted at least four times (Haarlem 1631, 1636, Amsterdam 1647, 1661), and also published in Algemeene Belijdenissen (Amsterdam, 1665) and Handelinge der Vereenigde Vlaemse en Duytse Doopsgesinde Gemeynten (Vlissingen, 1666). The complete Dutch title is Christelijcke Geloofs Belijdenisse des Olijf-Tracxken: of Schriftuerlijcke aenwijsingh over wat lieden den Vrede Godts staet, oock hoe deselve tot Vrede en Eenigheyt verplicht ende verbonden zijn.
The Olijftacxken was a messenger of peace. On the basis of this confession of the Flemish and a confession compiled by the Frisians and High Germans (Confession of Jan Cents 1630) an attempt was made to bring about a union between the two factions. A conference was held to that end in Amsterdam, 2-5 October 1630, and after thorough preparation the Flemish and the Frisian High German congregations were united. On 26 April 1639, a meeting was held in the Singel Church of Amsterdam, which was attended by more than 3,000 persons.
Commentary by Christian Neff and Nanne van der Zijpp
- Original in Martyrs' Mirror. Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1950: 27-33.
- Kühler, W. J. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden in Nederland: Gemeentelijk Leven 1650-1735. Haarlem, 1950: 184-200.
- Schijn, Hermanus. Uitvoeriger Verhandeling van de Geschiedenisse der Mennoniten. Amsterdam, 1744, where an account is given of the use of this confession in the Hamburg-Altona congregation.
- de Hoop Scheffer, J. G. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Amsterdam, 2 v. Amsterdam, 1883-1884, no. 572; no. 1242.
- Mennonitisches Lexikon III, 301 f.