Confession of Faith

Confession of Faith

 

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The oldest of the Doctrinal Standards of the United Reformed Churches is the Confession of Faith. It is usually called the Belgic Confession because it originated in the Southern Netherlands, now known as Belgium. Its chief author was Guido de Bres, a preacher of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands, who died a martyr to the faith in the year 1567. During the sixteenth century the churches in this country were exposed to the most terrible persecution by the Roman Catholic government. To protest against this cruel oppression, and to prove to the persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were no rebels, as was laid to their charge, but law-abiding citizens who professed the true Christian doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures, de Bres prepared this Confession in the year 1561. In the following year a copy was sent to king Philip II, together with an address in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, but that they would "offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to fire," rather than deny the truth expressed in this Confession.

 

Although the immediate purpose of securing freedom from persecution was not attained, and de Bres himself fell as one of the many thousands who sealed their faith with their lives, his work has endured and will continue to endure for ages. In its composition the author availed himself to some extent of a Confession of the Reformed Churches in France, written chiefly by John Calvin and published two years earlier. The work of de Bres, however, is not a mere revision of Calvin's work, but an independent composition. In the Netherlands it was at once gladly received by the churches, and adopted by the National Synods, held during the last three decades of the sixteenth century. After a careful revision, not of the contents but of the text, the great Synod of Dort in 1618-19 adopted this Confession as one of the Doctrinal Standards of the Reformed Churches, to which all office-bearers of the churches were required to subscribe. Its excellence as one of the best symbolical statements of Reformed doctrine has been generally recognized.

Table of Contents

Article 1 There Is Only One God

Article 2 By What Means God Is Made Known Unto Us

Article 3 The Written Word Of God

Article 4 Canonical Books Of The Holy Scripture

Article 5 Whence The Holy Scriptures Derive Their Dignity And Authority

Article 6 The Difference Between The Canonical And Apocryphal Books

Article 7 The Sufficiency Of The Holy Scriptures To Be The Only Rule Of Faith

Article 8 God Is One In Essence, Yet Distinguished In Three Persons

Article 9 The Proof Of The Foregoing Article Of The Trinity Of Persons In One God

Article 10 Jesus Christ Is True And Eternal God

Article 11 The Holy Spirit Is True And Eternal God

Article 12 The Creation Of All Things, Especially The Angels

Article 13 The Providence Of God And His Government Of All Things

Article 14 The Creation And Fall Of Man, And His Incapacity To Perform What Is Truly Good

Article 15 Original Sin

Article 16 Eternal Election

Article 17 The Recovery Of Fallen Man

Article 18 The Incarnation Of Jesus Christ

Article 19 The Union And Distinction Of The Two Natures In The Person Of Christ

Article 20 That God Hath Manifested His Justice And Mercy In Christ

Article 21 The Satisfaction Of Christ, Our Only High Priest, For Us

Article 22 Our Justification Through Faith In Jesus Christ

Article 23 Wherein Our Justification Before God Consists

Article 24 Manýs Sanctification And Good Works

Article 25 The Abolishing Of The Ceremonial Law

Article 26 Christýs Intercession

Article 27 The Catholic Christian Church

Article 28 Every One Is Bound To Join Himself To The True Church

Article 29 The Marks Of The True Church, And Wherein It Differs From The False Church

Article 30 The Government Of The Church And Its Offices

Article 31 The Ministers, Elders, And Deacons

Article 32 The Order And Discipline Of The Church

Article 33 The Sacraments

Article 34 Holy Baptism

Article 35 The Holy Supper Of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Article 36 The Magistracy (Civil Government)

Article 37 The Last Judgment

 

Article 1
There Is Only One God

We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good. [Back to Table of Contents]

Article 2
By What Means God Is Made Known Unto Us

We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to see clearly the invisible things of God, even his everlasting power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says (Romans 1:20). All which things are sufficient to convince men and leave them without excuse. Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word, that is to say, as far as is necessary for us to know in this life, to His glory and our salvation. [Back to Table of Contents]

Article 3
The Written Word Of God

We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of man, but that men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter says; and that afterwards God, from a special care which He has for us and our salvation, commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed word to writing; and He Himself wrote with His own finger the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures. [Back to Table of Contents]

Article 4
Canonical Books Of The Holy Scripture

We believe that the Holy Scriptures are contained in two books, namely, the Old and the New Testament, which are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged. These are thus named in the Church of God.

The books of the Old Testament are the five books of Moses, to wit: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the book of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the two books of Samuel, the two of the Kings, two books of the Chronicles, commonly called Paralipomenon, the first of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther; Job, the Psalms of David, the three books of Solomon, namely, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs; the four great prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; and the twelve lesser prophets, namely, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Those of the New Testament are the four evangelists, to wit: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul, namely, one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, one to Philemon, and one to the Hebrews; the seven epistles of the other apostles, namely, one of James, two of Peter, three of John, one of Jude; and the Revelation of the apostle John. [Back to Table of Contents]

Article 5
Whence The Holy Scriptures Derive Their Dignity And Authority

We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith; believing without any doubt all things contained in them, not so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they carry the evidence thereof in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are being fulfilled. [Back to Table of Contents]

Article 6
The Difference Between The Canonical And Apocryphal Books

We distinguish those sacred books from the apocryphal, viz: the third and fourth books of Esdras, the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Sirach, Baruch, the Appendix to the book of Esther, the Song of the Three Children in the Furnace, the History of Susannah, of Bel and the Dragon, the prayer of Manasseh, and the two books of the Maccabees. All of which the Church may read and take instruction from, so far as they agree with the canonical books; but they are far from having such power and efficacy that we may from their testimony confirm any point of faith or of the Christian religion; much less may they be used to detract from the authority of the other, that is, the sacred books. [Back to Table of Contents]

Article 7
The Sufficiency Of The Holy Scriptures To Be The Only Rule Of Faith

We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein. For since the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says. For since it is forbidden to add unto or take away anything from the Word of God, it does thereby evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects.

Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all: for all men are of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule, as the apostles have taught us, saying, Prove the spirits, whether they are of God. Likewise: if anyone cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teach