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Of the Authority of General Councils. General Councils (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God) may err, and sometimes have erred, not only in worldly matters, but also in things pertaining to God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation are not binding, as such, on a Christian man's conscience unless it may be proved that they be taken out of Holy Scripture. No law or authority can override individual responsibility, and therefore the right of private judgment. For the individual Christian, as Christ distinctly affirms, is to be judged by the Word. The only rule of faith is God's Word written.
Of Ministering in the Congregation. Those who take upon themselves the office of public preaching, or ministering the ordinances in the congregation, should be lawfully called thereunto, and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent which be moved to this work by the Holy Ghost, and are duly accredited by the Lord's people.
That doctrine of. Apostolic Succession,' by which it is taught that the ministry of the Christian Church must be derived through a series of uninterrupted ordinations, whether by tactual succession or otherwise, and that without the same there can be no valid ministry, no Christian Church, and no due ministration of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, is wholly rejected as unscriptural and productive of great mischief.
This Church values its historic ministry, but recognizes and honors as equally valid the ministry of other Churches, even as God the Holy Ghost has accompanied their work with demonstration and power.
Of the Sacraments. By the word Sacrament this Church is to be understood as meaning only a symbol or sign divinely appointed.
Our Lord Jesus Christ hath knit together his people in a visible
company by sacraments, most few in number, most easy to be kept, most excellent in signification, viz., Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Those five so-called Sacraments—that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony,and Extreme. Unction-are not to be counted for Sacraments of the gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed by the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
And in such only as worthily receive Baptism and the Lord's Supper are they of spiritual benefit, and yet not that of the work wrought (ex opere operato), as some men speak. Which word, as it is strange and unknown to Holy Scripture, so it gendereth no godly, but a very superstitions sense. In such as receive them rightly, faith is confirmed and grace increased by virtue of prayer to God. But they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves judgment, as St. Paul saith; while it is eqnally true that none, however conscious of unworthiness, are debarred from receiving them, if they are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Of Baptism. Baptism represents the death of believers with Christ, and their rising with him to newness of life. It is a sign of profession, whereby they publicly declare their faith in him. It is intended as a sign of regeneration or new birth. They that are baptized are grafted into the visible Church : the promises of the forgiveness of sin and of adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost are visibly set forth. The baptism of young children is retained in this Church, as agreeable to ancient usage and not contrary to Holy Writ.
Of the Lord's Supper. The Supper of the Lord is a memorial of our Redemption by Christ's death, for thereby we do show forth the Lord's death till he come. It is also a symbol of the soul's feeding upon Christ. And it is a sign of the communion that we should have with one another.
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to believers in him pardon, acceptance, sonship, sanctification, redemption, and eternal glory. Those who believe in him are in him complete. They are even now justified and have a present salvation; though they may not at all times have the sense of its possession.
Of Election, Predestination, and Free Will. While the Scriptures distinctly set forth the election, predestination, and calling of the people of God unto eternal life, as Christ saith: * All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;' they no less positively affirm man's free agency and responsibility, and that salvation is freely offered to all through Christ.
This Church, accordingly, simply affirms these doctrines as the Word of God sets them forth, and submits them to the individual judgment of its members, as taught by the Holy Spirit; strictly charging them that God commandeth all men every where to repent, and that we can be saved only by faith in Jesus Christ.
Of Sin after Conversion. The grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after conversion : that is to say, after, by the quickening into life by the Holy Ghost, they have turned to God by faith in Christ, and have been brought into that change of mind which is repentance into life. For after we have received the Holy Ghost we may, through unbelief, carelessness, and worldliness, fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again, and amend our lives; but every such fall is a grievous dishonor to our Lord, and a sore injury to ourselves.
Of Christ alone, without Sin. Christ, in the truth of our nature, was made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted, from which he was clearly void, both in his flesh, and in his spirit. He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by sacrifice of himself, made once forever, should take away the sin of the world; and sin (as St. John saith) was not in him. But all we the rest, although born again in Christ, yet offend in many things; and
Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross. The offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. And as there is only this one sacrifice in the Christian Church, once made, never to be repeated, so there is but the one Priest, even Jesus Christ, the Apostle and High-Priest of our profession. Wherefore the sacrifices of masses, in the which it is commonly said that the priest offers Christ for the quick and the dead, for the reinission of pain or guilt, or any representations of the Lord's Supper as a sacrifice, are blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits.
ARTICLE XXXI. Of Certain Erroneous Doctrines and Practices. The Romish doctrines concerning purgatory, penance, and satisfaction have no support from the Word of God, and are, besides, contradictory of the completeness and sufficiency of the redemption in Christ Jesus, of justification by faith, and of the sanctifying efficacy of God the Holy Ghost. Praying for the dead is man's tradition, vainly invented, and is in violation of the express warnings of Almighty God to the careless and unconverted. The adoration of relics and images, and the invocation of saints, besides that they are grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, are idolatrons practices, dishonoring to God, and comproinising the mediatorship of Christ. It is also repugnant to the Word of God to have public prayer in the Church, or to minister the ordinances, in a tongue not understood by the people.
Of Confession and Absolution. Private confession of sins to a priest, commonly known as Auricular Confession, has no foundation in the Word of God, and is a human invention. It makes the professed penitent a slave to mere human authority, entangles him in endless scruples and perplexities, and opens the
way to many immoralities. If one sin against his fellow-man, the Scripture requires him to make confession to the offended party; and so if one sin and bring scandal upon the Christian society of which he is a member. And Christians may often, with manifest profit, confess to one another their sins against God, with a view solely to instruction, correction, guidance, and encouragement in righteousness. But in any and every case conifession is still to be made to God; for all sins are committed against him, as well such as offend our fellow-man as those that offend him alone.
Priestly absolution is a blasphemous usurpation of the sole prerogative of God. None can forgive sius as against God but God alone.
The blood of Jesus Christ only can cleanse us from our sins, and always we obtain forgiveness directly from God, whenever by faith in that blood we approach him with our confessions and prayers.
Of the Marriage of Ministers. Christian ministers are not commanded by God's law either to vow the estate of single life or to abstain from marriage; therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion.
Of the Power of the Civil Authority. The power of the civil magistrate extendeth to all men, as well ministers as people, in all things temporal; but hath no authority in things purely spiritual. And we hold it to be the duty of all men who are professors of the gospel to pay respectful obedience to the civil authority, regularly and legitimately constituted.
Of Christian Men's Goods. The riches and goods of Christian men are not common, but their own, to be controlled and used according to their Christian judgment. Every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability; and as a steward of God, he should use his means and influence in promoting the cause of truth and righteousness to the glory of God.