The Teachings of The Universal Pentecostal Church International Ministries

an Inclusive Affirming Ministry of the Kingdom of God


Our Confession of Faith

We believe in one God, 
the Father, the Almighty, 
maker of heaven and earth, 
of all that is, seen and unseen.  
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
the only Son of God, 
eternally begotten of the Father, 
God from God, light from light, 
true God from true God, 
begotten, not made, 
of one Being with the Father; 
through him all things were made. 
For us and for our salvation 
he came down from heaven, 
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary 
and became truly human. 
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; 
he suffered death and was buried. 
On the third day he rose again 
in accordance with the Scriptures; 
he ascended into heaven 
and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, 
and his kingdom will have no end. 
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, 
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], 
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, 
who has spoken through the prophets. 
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. 
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. 
We look for the resurrection of the dead, 
and the life of the world to come. Amen.


1. Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the triune Godhead. The Father chose a people, the Son died for them, the Holy Spirit makes Christ's death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the Gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.

The Five Points of The Spiritual Lighthouse Fellowship are easily remembered by the acrostic TULIP

T

Total Depravity (Total Inability)

Total Depravity is probably the most misunderstood tenet of Calvinism. When Calvinists speak of humans as "totally depraved," they are making an extensive, rather than an intensive statement. The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality -- his thinking, his emotions, and his will. Not necessarily that he is intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to his entire being.

The unregenerate (unsaved) man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11f). This is why Total Depravity has also been called "Total Inability." The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God's making him alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5).


U

Unconditional Election

Unconditional Election is the doctrine which states that God chose those whom he was pleased to bring to a knowledge of himself, not based upon any merit shown by the object of his grace and not based upon his looking forward to discover who would "accept" the offer of the gospel. God has elected, based solely upon the counsel of his own will, some for glory and others for damnation (Romans 9:15,21). He has done this act before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4-8).

This doctrine does not rule out, however, man's responsibility to believe in the redeeming work of God the Son (John 3:16-18). Scripture presents a tension between God's sovereignty in salvation, and man's responsibility to believe which it does not try to resolve. Both are true -- to deny man's responsibility is to affirm an unbiblical hyper-calvinism; to deny God's sovereignty is to affirm an unbiblical Arminianism.

The elect are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). Thus, though good works will never bridge the gulf between man and God that was formed in the Fall, good works are a result of God's saving grace. This is what Peter means when he admonishes the Christian reader to make his "calling" and "election" sure (2 Peter 1:10). Bearing the fruit of good works is an indication that God has sown seeds of grace in fertile soil.


L

Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)

Limited Atonement is a doctrine offered in answer to the question, "for whose sins did Christ atone?" The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9). Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28). Specifically, Christ died for the invisible Church -- the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name "Christian" (Ephesians 5:25).

This doctrine often finds many objections, mostly from those who think that Limited Atonement does damage to evangelism. We have already seen that Christ will not lose any that the father has given to him (John 6:37). Christ's death was not a death of potential atonement for all people. Believing that Jesus' death was a potential, symbolic atonement for anyone who might possibly, in the future, accept him trivializes Christ's act of atonement. Christ died to atone for specific sins of specific sinners. Christ died to make holy the church. He did not atone for all men, because obviously all men are not saved. Evangelism is actually lifted up in this doctrine, for the evangelist may tell his congregation that Christ died for sinners, and that he will not lose any of those for whom he died!


I

Irresistible Grace

The result of God's Irresistible Grace is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit, when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ, himself, teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37). Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the very Spirit of God leads God's beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14). What a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard, sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit (I Peter 5:10)!


P

Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints is a doctrine which states that the saints (those whom God has saved) will remain in God's hand until they are glorified and brought to abide with him in heaven. Romans 8:28-39 makes it clear that when a person truly has been regenerated by God, he will remain in God's stead. The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Phil. 1:6). Christ assures the elect that he will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the "last day" (John 6:39). The Calvinist stands upon the Word of God and trusts in Christ's promise that he will perfectly fulfill the will of the Father in saving all the elect.


 A Statement of Faith of the Spiritual Lighthouse Fellowship

1. I believe that God, since the creation of His world, has plainly revealed through the things He has made His eternal power and divine nature, and the requirements of His law, so that there is no excuse for unbelief or disobedience on the part of any man; yet however glorious this revelation, it is not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary for salvation.

2. I believe that my one aim in life and death should be to glorify God and enjoy Him forever; and that God teaches me how to glorify and enjoy Him in His inerrant Word, that is, the Bible, which He has given by the infallible inspiration of His Holy Spirit in order that I may certainly know what I am to believe concerning Him and what duty He requires of me.

3. I believe that the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by alleged new revelations of the Spirit or by traditions of men.

4. I believe that God authenticated His prophets and apostles as agents of revelation by mighty acts of His power employed by Him as signs whereby all men should confess, concerning those who are gifted with such power, "We know you are a teacher sent from God, for no one could do the things you do lest God were with Him"; and I believe that the great outpouring of such miracles displayed in the ministry of Christ and His Apostles signified the breaking into history of God's promised kingdom, which kingdom, when established in its fullness, will issue in the miraculous renewal of all creation; and that until such time, God is at work bringing men and women into that kingdom through the supernatural work of regeneration.

5. I believe that because God has completed His revelation in Jesus Christ, the former ways of revealing His will are now ceased; and because the final and manifest establishment of His kingdom is yet to come, God does not now choose to publicly display His miraculous power. Nevertheless I believe that God is directly upholding and governing His creation, moment by moment; that God faithfully supplies the needs of His people through His constant providential care; and that He often blesses them with special providences wherein He strengthens their faith and displays His special love for them to the world.

6. I believe that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth; incomparable in all that He is; one God but three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Sanctifier; in whose power, wisdom, righteousness, goodness, and truth I may safely put my trust.

7. I believe that God has all life, glory, goodness, and blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of me, or deriving any glory from me, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon me in Christ Jesus; and that He has most sovereign dominion over me, to do by me, for me, or upon me whatsoever He pleases.

8. I believe that God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence done to the will of the creature; and trusting in the decree of God, I who am called according to His purpose, I may be assured that all things will work together for my good.

9. I believe that the heavens and the earth, and all that in them is, are the works of God's hands; and that all that He has made He directs and governs in all their actions, so that they fulfill the end for which they were created, and I who trust in Him shall not be put to shame, but may rest securely in the protection of His almighty love.

10.I believe that God created man after His own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and that all men owe their Creator thanksgiving and worship; yet God condescended, making a covenant with man, that men might know God, not just as Creator, but as their blessedness and reward. And I believe that while the requirement of this covenant, originating under Adam, was obedience, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit him to disobey, having purposed to order it to His own glory; so that it was by willfully sinning against God that I, in Adam, lost the rewards of a covenant keeper, and suffer the curses due a covenant breaker. Therefore my only hope of salvation is that Christ the second Adam, has kept the covenant, securing its rewards for the elect, among whom by grace I am numbered.

11. I believe that, being fallen in Adam, my first father, I am by nature a child of wrath, under the condemnation of God and corrupted in body and soul, prone to evil and liable to eternal death; from which dreadful state I cannot be delivered save through the unmerited grace of God my Savior.

12. I believe that God has not left the world to perish in its sin, but out of the great love wherewith He has loved it, has from all eternity graciously chosen unto Himself a multitude which no man can number, to deliver them out of their sin and misery, and of them to build up again in the world His kingdom of righteousness; in which kingdom I may be assured I have my part, if I hold fast to Christ the Lord.

13. I believe that God has redeemed His people unto HimseIf through Jesus Christ our Lord; who, though He was and ever continues to be the eternal Son of God, yet was born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem them that are under the law; I believe that He bore the penalty due to my sins in His own body on the tree, and fulfilled in His own person the obedience I owe to the righteousness of God, and now presents me to His Father as His purchased possession, to the praise of the glory of His grace forever; wherefore renouncing all merit of my own, put all my trust only in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ my redeemer.

14. I believe that Jesus Christ my redeemer, who died for my offenses was raised again for my justification, and ascended into the heavens, where He sits at he right hand of the Father Almighty continually making intercession for his people, and governing the whole world as head over all things for His Church; so that I need fear no evil and may surely know that nothing can snatch me out of His hands and nothing can separate me from His love.

15. I believe that the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ is effectualy applied to all His people by the Holy Spirit, who works faith in me and thereby unites me to Christ, renews me in the whole man after the image of God, and enables me more and more to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness; until His gracious work having been completed in me, I shall be received into glory; in which great hope abiding, I must ever strive to perfect holiness in the fear of God.

16. I believe that God requires of me, under the gospel, first of all, that, out of a true sense of my sin and misery and apprehension of His mercy in Christ, I should turn with grief and hatred away from sin and receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation; that, so being united to Him, I may receive pardon for my sins and be accepted as righteous in God's sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to me and received by faith alone; thus, and thus only, do I believe I may be received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.

17. I believe that, having been pardoned and accepted for Christ's sake, it is further required of me that I walk in the Spirit whom He has purchased for me, and by whom love is shed abroad in my heart; fulfilling the obedience I owe to Christ my King; faithfully performing all the duties laid upon me by the holy law of God my heavenly Father; and ever reflecting in my life and conduct the perfect example that has been set me by Christ Jesus my leader, who has died for me and granted to me His Holy Spirit that I may do the good works which God has afore prepared that I should walk in them.

18. I believe that God has established His Church in the world, one and the same in all ages, and now, under the Gospel, has endowed it with the ministry of the Word and the holy ordinances of Baptism, the Lord's Supper and prayer; in order that through these means, the riches of His grace in the gospel may be known to the world, and by the blessing of Christ and the working of His Spirit in them that by faith receive them, the benefits of redemption may be communicated to His people; wherefore also it is required of me that I attend on these means of grace with diligence, preparation, and prayer, so that through them I may be instructed and strengthened in faith, and in holiness of life and in love; and that I use by best endeavors to carry this gospel and convey these means of grace to the whole world.

19. I believe that the visible Church consists of all those who are united to Christ, the Head of the Church, by profession of their faith, together with their children; and that the visible unity of the body of Christ, though obscured, is not destroyed by its division into different denominations of professing Christians. Therefore I believe that all of these which maintain the Word and Sacraments in their fundamental integrity are to be recognized as true branches of the Church of Jesus Christ.

20. I believe that God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in any respect contrary to His Word, or beside it in matters of faith or worship. I believe therefore, that the rights of private judgment in all matters that respect religion are universal and inalienable and that no religious constitution should be supported by the civil power, further than may be necessary for protection and security equal and common to all others.

21. I believe that the Church is God's spiritual minister for the purpose of redemption and the state is God's providential minister for the purpose of thisworldly order. The power of the Church is exclusively spiritual; that of the State includes the exercise of force. The constitution of the Church derives exclusively from divine revelation; the constitution of the State must be determined by human reason and the course of providential events. I believe therefore that the Church has no right to construct or modify a government for the State, and the State has no right to frame a creed or polity for the Church.

22. I believe that disciples of Jesus Christ are called to be His witnesses in the world, proclaiming the justice and mercy of God to all men, and making evident His wise and righteous rule over every aspect of human culture. Therefore it is my obligation to search the Scriptures with all the skills God has allotted me, and to seek, within the bounds of my calling, to apply my understanding of His Word to the entire created order, and to all the outworkings of His most wise providence. And I believe that it is my privilege and duty to pursue a vocation in this world that employs my gifts to the glory of God, and for the good of my family, my congregation, my community, and, as God brings opportunity, to any who may be in need.

23. I believe that as Jesus Christ has once come in grace, so also is He to come a second time in glory, to judge the world in righteousness and assign to each his eternal reward; the wicked shall have the fearful but just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them, wherein their consciences shall fully concur, and they shall be cast into hell, to be punished with unspeakable torments, both in body and soul, with the devil and his angels for ever. The righteous in Christ shall be caught up with Christ and there openly acknowledged and acquitted; shall be received into heaven, where they shall fully and forever be freed from all sin and misery; filled with inconceivable joys, made perfectly holy and happy in both body and soul, in the great company of all God's saints and holy angels, but especially in the immediate vision of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, to all eternity.

24. I believe that if I die in Christ, my soul shall be at death made perfect in holiness and go home to the Lord, and when He shall return in His majesty I shall be raised in glory and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity; encouraged by which blessed hope, it is required of me willingly to take my part in suffering hardships here as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, being assured that if I die with Him I shall also live with Him, if I endure, I shall also reign with Him.

 

Confession of Faith of

Spiritual Lighthouse Fellowship


1. THE HOLY SCRIPTURE

1. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these:

Of the Old Testament:

Genesis II Chronicles Daniel
Exodus Ezra Hosea
Leviticus Nehemiah Joel
Numbers Esther Amos
Deuteronomy Job Obadiah
Joshua Psalms Jonah
Judges Proverbs Micah
Ruth Ecclesiastes Nahum
I Samuel The Song of Songs Habakkuk
II Samuel Isaiah Zephaniah
I Kings Jeremiah Haggai
II Kings Lamentations Zechariah
I Chronicles Ezekiel Malachi

Of the New Testament:

The Gospels    Galatians The Epistle
   according to    Ephesians    of James
   Matthew    Philippians The first and
   Mark    Colossians    second Epistles
   Luke    Thessalonians I    of Peter
   John    Thessalonians II The first, second,
The Acts of the    to Timothy I    and third Epistles
   Apostles    to Timothy II    of John
Paul's Epistles    to Titus The Epistle
   to the Romans    to Philemon    of Jude
   Corinthians I The Epistle to The Revelation
   Corinthians II    the Hebrews    of John

All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.

The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.


2. THE GODHEAD

There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal, most just, and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent, or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.

In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.


3. GOD'S ETERNAL DECREE

God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.

These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.

Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.

As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.

The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel.


4. CREATION

It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.

After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.


5. PROVIDENCE

God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at his pleasure.

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous Judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden, from them he not only withholdeth his grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasions of sin; and, withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.

As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of his church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof.


6. THE FALL OF MAN, OF SIN, AND OF THE PUNISHMENT THEREOF

Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin, God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.

By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.

They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.

From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.

This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.

Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.


7. GOD'S COVENANT WITH MAN

The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.

This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.

This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.

Under the gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the new testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.


8. CHRIST THE MEDIATOR

It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Savior of his church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world: unto whom he did from all eternity give a people, to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.

The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man's nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.

The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified, and anointed with the Holy Spirit, above measure, having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell; to the end that, being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a mediator, and surety. Which office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called by his Father, who put all power and judgment into his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same.

This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake; which that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died, was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered, with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession, and shall return, to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.

The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience, and sacrifice of himself, which he, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.

Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent's head; and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world; being yesterday and today the same, and forever.

Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.

To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.


9. FREE WILL

God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.

Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.

Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.

The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone, in the state of glory only.


10. EFFECTUAL CALLING

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by his almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And, to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.


11. JUSTIFICATION

Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father's justice in their behalf. Yet, inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them; and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.

God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.

God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and, although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God's fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

The justification of believers under the old testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the new testament.


12. ADOPTION

All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put upon them, receive the Spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.


13. SANCTIFICATION

They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.


14. SAVING FAITH

The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.

By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.


15. REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE

Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.

By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments.

Although repentance be not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God's free grace in Christ; yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.

As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.

Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man's duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.

As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof; upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy; so, he that scandalizeth his brother, or the church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession, and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended, who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him.


16. GOOD WORKS

Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intention.

These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of his good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

They who, in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.

We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment.

Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God's sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.


17. THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS

They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God's displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.


18. THE ASSURANCE OF GRACE AND SALVATION

Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.

This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.

This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.


19. THE LAW OF GOD

God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

Beside this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.

To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it. Neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.

Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it; the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.


20. CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, AND LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE

The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law; and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin; from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation; as also, in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear, but a childlike love and willing mind. All which were common also to believers under the law. But, under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish church was subjected; and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

They who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against, by the censures of the church.


21. RELIGIOUS WORSHIP, AND THE SABBATH DAY

The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.

Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creature: and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.

Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of his Spirit, according to his will, with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and, if vocal, in a known tongue.

Prayer is to be made for things lawful; and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter: but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.

The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.

Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed: but God is to be worshiped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto.

As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.


22. LAWFUL OATHS AND VOWS

A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth, or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth.

The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence. Therefore, to swear vainly, or rashly, by that glorious and dreadful Name; or, to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred. Yet, as in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the new testament as well as under the old; so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken.

Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth: neither may any man bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.

An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation. It cannot oblige to sin; but in anything not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man's own hurt. Nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels.

A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.

It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want, whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties; or, to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.

No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God. In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.

 
23. THE CIVIL MAGISTRATE

God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates, to be, under him, over the people, for his own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers.

It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion.

Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience' sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates' just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, much less hath the pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretense whatsoever.


24. MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE

It is lawful in our ministry for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden by the Word. Nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife.

Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce: and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.

Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.


25. THE CHURCH

Throughouit history the Church has been reconized through four traits

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic

The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.

The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.

This catholic church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a church on earth, to worship God according to his will.

There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ.  He does carry out this ministry through the Five Fold Ministry......Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers, Missionaries,  and Deacons.

26. THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS

All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by his Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other's gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

This communion which the saints have with Christ, doth not make them in any wise partakers of the substance of his Godhead; or to be equal with Christ in any respect: either of which to affirm is impious and blasphemous. Nor doth their communion one with another, as saints, take away, or infringe the title or propriety which each man hath in his goods and possessions.


27. THE SACRAMENTS

Jesus touches our lives through the sacraments. Our celebrations of the sacraments are signs of Jesus' presence in our lives and a means for receiving his grace. The Church celebrates seven sacraments, which are divided into three categories.


These sacraments lay the foundation of every Christian life. 

Baptism
In Baptism we receive new life in Christ. Baptism takes away original sin and gives us a new birth in the Holy Spirit. Its sign is the pouring of water.

Confirmation
Confirmation seals our life of faith in Jesus. Its signs are the laying on of hands on a person’s head, most often by a bishop, and the anointing with oil. Like Baptism, Confirmation is received only once.

Eucharist
The Eucharist nourishes our life of faith. Its signs are the bread and wine we receive—the Body and Blood of Christ.

Anointing of the Sick
This sacrament unites a sick person’s suffering with that of Jesus and brings forgiveness of sins. Oil, a symbol of strength, is the sign of this sacrament. A person is anointed with oil and receives the laying on of hands from a priest.

 Matrimony
In Matrimony a baptized man and woman are united with each other as a sign of the unity between Jesus and his Church. Matrimony requires the consent of the couple, as expressed in the marriage promises. The couple and their wedding rings are the signs of this sacrament.

Holy Orders
In Holy Orders are people who are ordained into the five fold ministry, whether they are a;postles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Ministers serve as spiritual leaders of their communities, and deacons serve to remind us of our baptismal call to help others. Bishops carry on the teachings of the apostles. The signs of this sacrament are the laying on of hands and anointing with oil by the bishop.

28. BAPTISM

Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world.

The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.

Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.

Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.

Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it; or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.

The sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.


29. THE LORD'S SUPPER

Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein he was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, called the Lord's Supper, to be observed in his church, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death; the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body.

In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to his Father; nor any real sacrifice made at all, for remission of sins of the quick or dead; but only a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself, upon the cross, once for all: and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God, for the same: so that the popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ's one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of his elect.

The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people; to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.

Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone; as likewise, the denial of the cup to the people, worshiping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about, for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use; are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.

The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.

That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ's body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament, and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions; yea, of gross idolatries.

Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive, and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.

Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament; yet, they receive not the thing signified thereby; but, by their unworthy coming thereunto, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore, all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord's table; and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.


30. CHURCH CENSURES

The Lord Jesus, as King and Head of his church, hath therein appointed a government, in the hand of church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.

To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed; by virtue whereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel; and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.

Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.

For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the church are to proceed by admonition; suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the church; according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.


31. SYNODS AND COUNCILS

For the better government, and further edification of the church, there ought to be such assemblies as are commonly called synods or councils: and it belongeth to the overseers and other rulers of the particular churches, by virtue of their office, and the power which Christ hath given them for edification and not for destruction, to appoint such assemblies; and to convene together in them, as often as they shall judge it expedient for the good of the church.

It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in his Word.

All synods or councils, since the Apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.

Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.


32. THE STATE OF MEN AFTER DEATH, AND OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption: but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them: the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.

At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever.

The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonor: the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honor; and be made conformable to his own glorious body.


33. THE LAST JUDGMENT

God hath appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world, in righteousness, by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.

The end of God's appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of his mercy, in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of his justice, in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fullness of joy and refreshing, which shall come from the presence of the Lord; but the wicked who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.

As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all men from sin; and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity: so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, Amen.


Understanding Reformed Theology
 
What should we chose as basic principles of the Reformed Tradition?  There are 9 points that should be considered as primary and essential for those holding to the Reformed Tradition. They are very good starting points in the consideration of this topic.  1) The Majesty and the Praise of God, 2) The Polemic Against Idolatry, 3) The Working Out of Divine Purposes of History, 4) Ethics: A life of Holiness, 5) The Life of the Mind as the Service of God, 6) Preaching, 7) The organized Church and Pastoral Care, 8) The Disciplined Life, 9) Simplicity.  I would venture to say that most thinking Christians would agree with all these points as thoroughly Biblical, and even those they hold themselves.  They would then consider themselves as “Reformed.”  This is a mistake.  Until these ideas are defined and explained, there is room for Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other cults to claim this list as their banner of truth as well.  Thus, let’s briefly look at each of these to gain a starting point for basic Reformed Theology.
 
First, the Majesty and Praise of God refers to the Creator of the Universe, God through Jesus Christ, who desires all glory and honor form the creatures He has made.  The glory of God is the chief end of man.  It is even more important than the salvation of a soul.  God will have His glory from His creatures.  Some glorify Him in hell, others in heaven, but all glorify Him.  The ultimate and chief end of the creation of the world was for His own glory.  It was not because He was lonely, or needed a friend to talk to.  Such mindless drivel spreads like wildfire across the church today, and such drivel excludes those churches from ever holding forth the biblical concept of God, and the banner of Reformed Orthodoxy.  This primary ideology resonates with an emphasis on the Lordship of God over the entire world.  (Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 10:31)
 
Secondly, there was the valiant polemic against idolatry. The Reformed Tradition does not seek God in idols, bread, wine, golden calves, or images of Jesus.  It never has.  The classic Reformers were exceedingly careful to make their points known in connection with idolatry in any form.  It was sin, and an affront to the majesty of Christ.  Idols deter men from the spiritual and direct them to the physical.  In their mind, there were those who worshipped the One, True and Living God, and then there were those who worshipped idols; whether those idols be cars, jobs, families, or images of God in the form of creatures.  That is why the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) succinctly states that God is “a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions.”  (Job 11:7-9; Job 26:14; Psa. 139:6; John 4:24; 1 Tim. 1:17; John 1:18; Deut. 4:15-16; John 4:24 with Luke 24:39)
 
Thirdly, God works out the divine purpose in and through the vehicle of history.  In this is related the decrees of God and then the providence of God, and the manner in which the divine plan is worked out.  Here we find Covenant Theology as a key aspect of the purposes of Redemption and salvation and God’s Glory.  Here, the outworking of the divine plan meets with the means by which the Creator and Savior will redeem His elect. Such working out of His plan is then seen within the spheres of Christian activity in every area of the Christian’s life.  Every sphere in which he lives and moves and has his being before God is a part of the divine outworking of salvation.  The Calvinist, though, did not, and does not believe, that He changes the will of God when he acts or prays.  However, he does believe he is an ordained part of the decrees and providence of God within the interrelation of providence and creation towards the redemption of men in the coming of the Savior.  (Rom 11:36; I Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2; John 1:2-3; Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4; Rom 1:20; Jer. 10:12; Psa. 33:5; 104:24; Gen 1:1-31; Psa. 33:6; Heb. 11:3; Col. 1:16; Acts 17:24; Exod. 20:11; Neh. 9:6; Psa. 145:14-16; Heb. 1:3; Dan. 4:34-35; Psa. 135:6; Acts 17:25-28; Job 34:1-41:34; Matt. 6:26-32; 10:29-31; Prov. 15:3;  I Chr. 16:9; Psa. 104:24; 145;17; Acts 15:18; Isa. 42:9; Ezek. 11:5; Eph. 1:11; Psa. 33:10-11; Isa. 63:14; Eph. 3:10; Rom. 917; Gen. 45:7; Psa. 145:7)
 
Fourthly, a life of holiness was essential for a life ethic in the Reformed Tradition.  The Puritans alone penned more practical Christianity than any other religious group in the history of the Reformed Tradition (with the exception of Martin Luther). The life of the Christian is the undeniable truth of Justification by Faith alone (the pillar of the church) continued in a life of Sanctification and the conforming of the Christian into the image of Jesus Christ.  (Rom. 3:24; 5:15-16; 8:30; Rom. 3:22-28; 4:5-8; 5:17-19; II Cor. 5:19, 21; Titus 3:5, 7; Eph. 1:7; Jer. 23:6; I Cor. 1:30-31; John 1:12; 6:44-45, 65; Acts 10:43; 13:38-39; Phil. 1:29; 3:9; Eph. 2:7-8; I Thess. 5:23-24; II Thess. 2:13-14; Ezek. 36:22-28; Titus 3:5; Acts 20:32; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:5-6; John 17:17, 19; Eph. 5:26; Rom. 8:13-14; II Thess. 2:13; Rom. 6:6, 14; Gal. 5:24; Rom. 8:13; Col. 1:10-11; Eph. 3:16-19; II Cor. 7:1; Col. 1:28, 4:12; Heb. 12:14)
 
Fifthly, the life of the mind as the service of God plays an integral role in the Reformed Tradition.  There are three reasons the Reformers gave for quality service before God in whatever area a man was called to: education, education, education.  Reformers were men who exercised their minds in the pursuit of knowing Christ.  Theological education is not enough.  Most of the Puritans, and many of the early reformers were steeped in classical education (something which seems to be taking hold in today’s Reformed Family for the first time in many years.) Learning is the Christian’s duty.  It is something that should always be sought after, and continually improved upon.  It is the hallmark of Reformed writing.  That is why the greatest documents of the Christian church were formed in a catechistic manner.  Think through the Westminster Confession, the Larger Catechism, the Shorter Catechism, Calvin’s Geneva Catechism, Perkin’s Fixed Principles of Religion, and the like.  Catechisms ruled the day to teach children, and men how to think through doctrine.  Even Francis Turretin’s 3-volume work on Systematics was written as a Catechism for men to lead their families in theological discourse.  How will men ever understand propositional truth if they cannot think?
 
Where would you go to find the greatest revival in church history?  The sixth point places the emphasis on Reformed Preaching.  This is the truth that was “screwed” into the mind of men, to borrow Richard Baxter’s illustration.  The Reformed Preacher is one who labored to understand the truth of the Word, and then to explain it in such a way as to edify saints and convert the sinner.  Preaching itself was at the heart of Reformed Orthodoxy.  Calvin, for example, said he was a theologian in order to be a good preacher.  Do men think this way today?  Are pastors first scholars and then pastors?  Or do they go to school for a time, train under basic theology and then go out to minister to the chosen people of God because they have the gift of being friendly with people?  Reformation Preaching was done byscholars – men who were pastors who knew Biblical theology, systematic theology, historical theology, biblical languages, and the like.  How can someone be a good pastor without the use of the tools to be a pastor?   The Belgic Confession in Article 31 says, “We believe that the ministers of God's Word, the elders, and the deacons ought to be chosen to their respective offices by a lawful election by the Church, with calling upon the name of the Lord, and in that order which the Word of God teaches. Therefore every one must take heed not to intrude himself by improper means, but is bound to wait till it shall please God to call him; that he may have testimony of his calling, and be certain and assured that it is of the Lord.  This required a time of proper education in order to train up a minister in the proper manner. This way they would have respected the “order in which the Word of God teaches” for such things.

 

Seventhly, the organized church and pastoral care were emphasized as essential in the Reformed Tradition.  No doubt, the church was an integral aspect of theology since the Reformers were knee deep in fighting doctrinal battles inside and outside the church in “protesting” times.  But a clear and concise definition of the church is needed even today since, for the most part, churches have lost their identity with Christ as a church as a result of losing their theology.  The church has always been defined within the context of a covenant family.  Smaller covenant families make up the larger covenant family of God.  In seeing this, the Reformers divided the church into the invisible and visible church.  The invisible were those who are elect from all ages, in heaven and on earth.  The visible church is the covenant community of covenanted families in the church.  

 

The WCF defines the invisible church at length in this manner: “The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”  It also defines the visible church in this manner: “The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” (Eph. 1:10, 22-23; 5:23, 27, 32; Col. 1:18; I Cor. 1:2; 12:12-13; Psa. 2:8; Rev. 7:9; Rom. 15:9-12; I Cor. 7:14; Acts 2:39; Gen. 17:7-12; Ezek. 16:20-21; Rom. 11:16; see Gal. 3:7, 9, 14; Rom. 4:12, 16, 24; Matt. 13:47; Isa. 9:7; Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:30-36; Col. 1:13; Eph. 2:19; 3:15; Acts 2:47)

 

Although the church received great attention theologically, so Pastoral Care, proper pastoral care, was extensively explained.  One of the best works written on the “Reformed Pastor” is the book entitled “The Reformed Pastor,” by Richard Baxter.  All pastors would do exceedingly well to read this book and implement the book (just reading it will not help!) The flock of Jesus Christ must be kept safe, not only in leading them down the path of holiness towards Christ, but also in guarding them against false teachers which prevailed in the time of the Reformers.  That means pastors must know their flocks well, for they oversee their souls and will give an account to God for all those they discipled as a minister.

 

Eighthly, the disciplined life was essential to the Reformed Tradition.  Personal discipline was a common trait of the reformers and puritans of the Reformation and continuing generations.  What did that mean?  Leith states, “Discipline, as the Reformed Tradition has advocated it, can best be understood as the deliberate and economic use of the energies and vitalities of human existence in the pursuit of loyalty to God ad the advancement of God’s cause in the world.”  In essence, it is the “good steward” before God.  He is the one who uses all his resources as a means to advance the kingdom of God’s righteousness in the World.  He does this by practical Calvinism properly understood.  Fervent prayer, a hearty devotional life, meditation on the Word, study of the Word, and regular church involvement all push the Christian to take heaven by storm.

 

Ninthly, “simplicity” ends the list that Leith formulates as Reformed distinctives.  This is the opposition of wastefulness all through the life of the Christian.  What advances the Kingdom of God?  Should you buy a new DVD or a new theological book? Should you give the money to the poor, or give more of an offering at church next Sunday?  The model of Reformation thought is surrounded by the actions of simplicity.  Leith concludes this section by stating the following, “There is no one model of the Reformed Life-style or personality…yet, [these] have persistently and frequently characterized the Reformed community.”  This is true.  Calvin did not impose a rigid “Calvin personality” on Luther, and neither did Luther do this to Calvin.  However, the distinctives of Reformed Theology could be seen in both their lives in varied extents, which should suffice the point at hand, at least in this introduction.

 

Certainly there are faithful preachers and theologians today that preach and teach Reformed doctrines.  Many Seminaries still hold the banner of orthodoxy and are careful to train up young men in a curriculum enveloping all the major tenants of the faith in this manner.  Many book publishing companies are veering back to reprint and republish many of the Reformed and Puritan works.  They are making these more available today and more people are buying these books – which is exciting to see!  But how could we substantiate what is Reformed and what is not?   I think our historical journey and brief theological discussion above gives us a concise inquiry into who was reformed, or considered reformed, and some of the deviation of what it means to be reformed, as well as some foundational material concerning Covenant Theology.  All this does help us come to a decision on what it means to be Reformed.  However, it may be finally helpful to turn to the “Reformers” like Calvin, and mimic their position on doctrine ad conformity to the Bible to determine how we should conclude our survey at who may be deemed Reformed today.

 

Reformed theology is not some new revelation, or new brand of theological thought, but is, in its best examples, what the church has rightly believed throughout its history. Similarities between its doctrines and that of other traditions should be welcomed and celebrated as a "family resemblance" with others in the household of God.

 

Reformed theologies take seriously the idea of God's sovereignty over all things. Therefore Reformed theologians seek the implications of God's creation of all things in space and time.

Reformed theologies traditionally base their convictions on the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments. Most Reformed theologians would go on to say that the Word of God is, first and foremost, Jesus Christ, and theology must always find its first allegiance to him.

Reformed theologies affirm that Jesus Christ is God's witness to the world in terms of love, grace, mercy, and justice. Reformed theology has always affirmed that God's salvation, offered in Jesus Christ is always granted without regard to merit.

Reformed theologies have upheld the importance of the two sacraments (baptism and the Lord's Supper), and contend that both have correlate effects in spiritual reality, if not actual change in the substance of the sacramental elements.

 

Reformed theologies, believing that God's sustaining providence suffuses all things, have always instructed Christians that the proper response to God's provision for all creation is fervent gratitude that shows itself in devout thought, speech and action. Therefore, Reformed communities have always been involved in shaping and ameliorating the civil societies in which they live.

Reformed theologies take the ministry potential of the laity very seriously, and many Reformed groups (not all) have the peculiar tradition of ordaining certain lay members to participate in the ministry of the church as elders and deacons, but not making them members of the clergy.

 

Trying to define the Reformed faith simply and briefly is like taking a snapshop of the Grand Canyon at 50 yards: inevitably, something is going to get left out. Even an outline of it, though, is better than nothing at all, especially in these days when the American church desperately needs a revival of Calvinism.

 

That word Calvinism is much abused. Some Church of Christ believers and Baptists, for example, claim that when we of the Reformed faith use it, we are only proving their accusation that we are following a man, John Calvin. They, however, say they are following God and the Bible alone. It is really hard to believe they can be so naive, though. They read books written by and hear sermons preached by leaders of their own group and use these "man-made" works to give them a better understanding of what they believe the Bible teaches. The Reformed do the same thing with Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and others. We believe their teaching is closer to what the Bible teaches than anybody else's; we do not accept their teaching instead of the Bible. Only the Bible is infallible and authoritative; we just believe their teaching about it is superior to competing teachings.

 

The Reformed faith, then, holds it is the closest approximation of what the Bible teaches. It was expressed in part by Augustine, and came to full fruition in the teachings of John Calvin and the other reformers at the time of the Reformation. It was held to a greater or lesser degree by the Pilgrims and the Puritans. It survives today among those usually called Reformed, Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians, Calvinistic Methodists, and many reconstructionists.

Theme

 

Every system of theology has some theme it revolves around. For example, Roman Catholicism revolves around the universal church; Methodism revolves around sanctification; Pentecostalism revolves around the Holy Spirit; the Baptist faith revolves around the new birth; Lutheranism revolves around justification by faith; Greek Orthodoxy revolves around sacramentalism. The Reformed faith, by contrast, revolves around God. For that reason-if for no other-it should be taken seriously.

God

 

The Reformed share with most other Christian traditions a lofty estimate of the attributes and nature of God. In the Reformed view, however, God is even more highly exalted. God knows what will happen because He controls all things in the universe (Is. 46:9, 10). He does what He wants to do, and no one can stop Him (Ps. 115:3). He is holy (Is. 6:1-5), and hates both ungodliness and the ungodly (Ps. 11:5).

 

The Reformed Faith embraces Trinitarian orthodoxy. We believe God exists in three persons, the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. We believe God is a perfect Spirit (Jn. 4:24), but that in the incarnation Christ took on human flesh (Phil. 2:5-11) which He now retains, though in perfect, resurrected form. We believe that Christ was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death for the sins of the world, rose bodily the third day from the tomb, and ascended to heaven where He is now seated next to his Father.

Authority

 

For the Reformed, the Bible is inspired of God and is "the rule of faith and life." Indeed, "The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of sacred writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture."

 

The final authority for "faith and life" is the providentially preserved Old and New Testaments, written originally in Hebrew and Greek, and now translated into the common languages.

 

Everything necessary for us to know is found in the Bible, either in its express statements of in its implications.

 

Salvation

Most of the attention the Reformed faith receives from non-Reformed people concerns the Reformed doctrines of salvation. Salvation doctrine is only a part of the reformed faith, but it is an important part. The Reformed beliefs include predestination and election (Eph. 1:4, 5), the full sinfulness of mankind (Rom. 3:10-18), Christ's death to secure the salvation of his own people (Jn. 10:15), and the perseverance of Christ's own (Phil. 1:6). The Reformed believe that sinners are saved totally by grace. Many other groups, like Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and many Baptists and Methodists, believe that depraved men have free will and cooperate with God in salvation; God does his part, and man does his. The Reformed are different. We believe that God does all of the work in salvation. The Father purposed our salvation from eternity (Eph. 1:4); the Son purchased our salvation at Calvary (Ac. 20:28); and the Spirit prosecutes it in time by his operation of regeneration (Jn. 3:5). He saves us not because of our works or what he knew beforehand we would do, but because of his grace (Eph. 2:8-10).

The Reformed do not believe like many evangelicals and fundamentalists that men are regenerated after they believe. We believe that men must be regenerated in order to believe. If people can develop enough spirituality to believe, then why would they need to be regenerated? (2 Cor. 2:14).

We are not, however, like some of the primitive Baptists who believe we do not need to preach the gospel for people to be saved. For God elects the means of salvation (preaching the gospel [ 1 Cor. 1:21 ]), just as he elects the people who are his own. We must preach the gospel, because the Holy Spirit uses it to convert sinners (Eph. 1:13).

 

We believe justification is by faith alone (Rom. 4:5; Gal. 3:6-8). When we are united to Christ in salvation, God imputes Christ's perfect righteousness to our account. In other words, He treats us as though we are as sinless as Christ, not because of our own righteousness, for we have none (Phil. 3:9), but because He looks at Christ's righteousness which he credits to us (1 Cor. 1:30). By faith, which is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8, 9), we appropriate salvation.

 

The Reformed believe that those whom God justifies, he sanctifies (Rom. 8:29-39). We do not believe those truly saved can "lose" their salvation, nor do we believe they can so fall away from God's care that they live in a state of continual carnality. We do not hold with dispensationalists and fundamentalists that carnality is a category of believers, although we certainly believe Christians can be carnal. If professed Christians do not perform good works, they are only proving their faith is not genuine (Jas. 2:17-26), that is, they are not converted.

 

The Reformed do not believe that one can attain sinless perfection or a state of rest from the battles with the inward principle of sin until they meet Christ at death or at his coming (Rom. 7:15-25). They do believe, though, that as the Spirit works in the elect, he produces progress so that the power of sin becomes weaker (Rom. 6:16). The means by which he sanctifies us include the word of God (1 Pet. 2:1-3), our resistance to sin (1 Pet. 5; 8, 9), the mortification of the deeds of the sinful man (Rom. 6:15-22), and personal tribulation (Jas. 1:2-4).

 

Covenant

The Reformed believe God relates to man by means of covenant: "The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant."

 

For example, in salvation God promises eternal life on the grounds of Christ's death to all for whom Christ died and who exercise faith (Jn. 3:14-18). Under the new covenant God forgives the sins of his people in that Christ bore the penalty for those sins and God writes his law on his people's hearts (Heb. 8:6-13).

 

Further, God promises blessings to his people and to their children on condition of their obedience (Dt. 4:39, 40; 5:32, 33). Children of believing parents as covenantal heirs are brought into a special relationship to God (Gen. 17:7; Ac. 2:38, 39; 1 Cor. 7:14).

 

Moreover, the Reformed believe the Abrahamic covenant must be fulfilled. Abraham must be father to many nations and kings (Gen. 17:4-8). The seed of Abraham are all those who place faith in Christ (Gal. 3:28, 29). Therefore, a multitude of nations and kings will one day join the church by virtue of union with Christ.

 

Church

The church is an extremely important part of the Reformed faith. Though we recognize what is usually called the universal church composed of all believers, we concentrate attention on the local body of united believers. The church universal, which is Christ's body (Eph. 1:22, 23), is composed of all believers on earth and in heaven (Heb. 12:23). The church local is composed of believers united for the sake of Christ to fulfill the dominion and gospel commissions.

 

The church is Christ's corporate representation on earth (Mt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 5:19, 20). Its commission is to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ and to bring all nations under the discipline of Jesus Christ and the word of God. The church should edify itself by the preaching of the word (2 Tim. 4:2), communion with Christ's flesh and blood at his table (1 Cor. 10:16), and the affectionate exercise of gifts among the members (Eph. 4:7-16).

 

In the Reformed view, preaching is exalted. In some other views (Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox, for example), the minister stands almost as Christ Himself and delivers the grace of God to those who hear. On the other hand, among some Pentecostals and Baptists, the minister is seen as a "prophet": he declares inspired words he believes God directly shows him. By contrast, the Reformed believe the minister stands in an awesome place before the people of God to declare the very word of God as found in the Bible. He must meet not only the highest spiritual qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7) but the highest intellectual qualifications as well (2 Tim. 2:15). This does not mean he must be scholar in the eyes of the unconverted. It does mean he should have a thorough command of the Bible, of illuminating books about the Bible, and of the language in which he preaches. He must declare not his own ideas but the very word of God. His preaching must then necessarily be expositional-that is, he must expound what the Bible is actually saying. But that alone is not enough. He must then apply that truth under the power of the Holy Spirit to the converted and unconverted under the sound of his voice.

 

The Reformed faith stresses the Lord's table. It is there in partaking together of the bread and wine that all members of the families of the church remember Christ's death (1 Cor. 11:24), gain strength for the Christian life (Jn. 6:41-63), and publicly profess their determination to follow the new covenant (Mt. 26:28).

 

The Reformed disagree with Roman Catholics over the Lord's table. We do not believe in transubstantiation or that the table is a mass. We believe that the Roman view of the table is blasphemy. We disagree with Lutherans who believe Christ is physically with, in, and under the bread and wine. We disagree with most evangelicals that the Lord's table is merely a memorial and does not give grace and strength to those who partake in faith.

 

We believe that Christians actually commune with Christ's flesh and blood when they partake by faith (1 Cor. 10:16). The elements are never anything other than bread and wine, but the flesh and blood of Christ by which we have eternal life accompany the symbols.

Society

 

The Reformed do not believe Jesus is Lord only of Christians and the family and church. They believe he is Lord over all things ( Eph. 1). We believe that society must be sanctified just like the Christian, family, and church must be sanctified. The Reformed believe in the "separation of church and state," but not the separation of the state from God. We believe all political leaders are required by God to submit themselves to God and his word ( Ps. 2).

 

We disagree with the Anabaptist view that politics is bad and that Christians should stay out of political office and away from political processes. We believe that Christians should press the claims of the Lordship of Christ in politics just as they should in the family, church, education, business, economics, education, the arts, and every other part of the society.

 

We believe that the church cannot fail in in its mission to Christianize the nations with the gospel and the word of God (Mt. 16:18, 19; 28:18-20). We do not hold that the church is "holding the fort" until Jesus arrives to rescue his people. We believe he accompanies his people wherever they go in their mission (Mt. 28:18-20) and that they will accomplish greater exploits than even he did while he was on earth; we believe that one reason Christ returned to heaven is so that his people could accomplish great tasks by his grace (Jn. 14:12).

 

We believe that Christ is presently reigning on David's throne (Ac. 2:22-36) and will remain there until all his enemies are placed under his feet (Heb. 10:11-14). Thus we believe the church will be successful in its mission to preach the gospel and bring all nations under the discipleship of Christ's word. We expect a future period of an overwhelming number of conversions (Rom. 11:11-29) and Christian civilization (Is. 11:1-11).

 

Conclusion

The Reformed are uncomfortable with the labels "fundamentalist" and "evangelical." They believe the fundamentals of the faith as strongly as any fundamentalist, but we believe also that fundamentalism has watered down the message of the Bible and the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all of life. Likewise, the Reformed do not prefer to be called "evangelical," even though we hold to the evangel, the gospel, just as strongly as any evangelical. We believe evangelicals have compromised the gospel message by toning down the truth that Christ not only died to save sinners but that he also actually secured their salvation by his death.

 

Calvinism, unlike so many other Christian variations, is a life-system. It governs every area of life. Its task does not end when the church meeting has concluded Sunday; it has only begun. This is one of the reasons we of the Reformed faith believe we-I should say Christ working through us-will win in history. The first reason we have such confidence is that we believe the Bible promises such victory. But the second reason is that Calvinism is the only truly comprehensive Christian scheme combatting Satan's kingdom. Other groups fight selectively; Calvinism fights on all fronts. By the grace of God, it will fight Satan's kingdom in every sphere until all foes are placed under Christ's feet. Its goal is expressed simply but powerfully in the statement of Abraham Kuyper, former prime minister of the Netherlands and one of the greatest defenders of Calvinism:

 

One desire has been the ruling passion of my life. One high motive has acted like a spur upon my mind and soul. And sooner than that I should seek escape from the sacred necessity that is laid upon me, let the breath of life fail me. It is this: That in spite of all worldly opposition, God's holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the State for the good of the people; to carve as it were in the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.