Confession of Faith of
Spiritual Lighthouse Fellowship
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
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:
the Old Testament:
||The Song of Songs
the New Testament:
| according to
|| of James|
||The first and|
|| second Epistles|
|| Thessalonians I
|| of Peter|
|| Thessalonians II
||The first, second,|
|The Acts of the
|| to Timothy I
|| and third Epistles|
|| to Timothy II
|| of John|
|| to Titus
| to the Romans
|| to Philemon
|| of Jude|
| Corinthians I
||The Epistle to
| Corinthians II
|| the Hebrews
|| of John|
which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to
good alone, in the state of glory only.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Men ought not to content themselves with a general
repentance, but it is every man's duty to endeavor to repent of his particular
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Throughouit history the Church has been reconized through
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
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
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
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
These sacraments lay the foundation of every
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.
seals our life of faith in Jesus. Its signs are the laying on of hands on a
persons head, most often by a bishop, and the anointing with oil. Like Baptism,
Confirmation is received only once.
nourishes our life of faith. Its signs are the bread and wine we receivethe
Body and Blood of Christ.
Anointing of the Sick
sacrament unites a sick persons 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
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
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
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
Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but
baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the
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
The sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered
unto any person.
29. THE LORD'S
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
Jehovahs Witnesses, and other cults to claim this list as their banner of truth
as well. Thus, lets briefly look at each of
these to gain a starting point for basic Reformed
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.
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
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
the purposes of Redemption and salvation and Gods 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 Christians
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.
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.
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 todays Reformed Family for the first time in many years.) Learning is the Christians 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, Calvins Geneva Catechism, Perkins Fixed Principles of Religion, and the like. Catechisms ruled the day to teach
children, and men how to think through doctrine. Even Francis Turretins 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
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 Baxters
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
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 Gods 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 Gods 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Everything necessary for us to know is found in the Bible,
either in its express statements of in its
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.
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).
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
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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
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.
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).
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.