OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
- The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience,1 although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and his will which is necessary unto salvation. 2 Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in diverse manners to reveal himself, and to declare that revelation to be his will unto his church,3 and afterward 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 makes the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.4
- Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these:
|OF THE OLD TESTAMENT|
|Exodus||2 Kings||The Song of Solomon||Jonah|
|OF THE NEW TESTAMENT|
|John||1 Thessalonians||2 Peter|
|Acts||2 Thessalonians||1 John|
|Romans||1 Timothy||2 John|
|1 Corinthians||2 Timothy||3 John|
All of which are given by the inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.5
- The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are not part of the canon or rule of the Scripture, and, therefore, are of no authority to the church of God, nor are they to be any way otherwise approved or made use of than other human writings.6
- The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, depends not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), who is its author; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.7
- We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church of God to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, and the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope (purpose) of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, and many other incomparable excellencies, and entire perfections thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of its infallible truth, and divine authority, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.8
- The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.9
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,10 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.11
- All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all;12yet 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 ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.13
- The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old),14 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 authentic, authoritative and trustworthy; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them.15 But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read16 and search them,17 therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar (generally used and accepted) language of every nation unto which they come,18 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.19
- The divine inspiration of the original Hebrew and Greek autographs was verbal, extending to the very words of Scripture,20and plenary, including all the words of Scripture alike without21 Nevertheless, divine inspiration does not obscure, eliminate or violate the humanity of the writers of Scripture, but rather employs, upholds, guides and sanctifies it;22 so that Holy Scripture in its entirety is the product of both divine and human agency, God’s infallible and inerrant Word in language comprehensible to men.
- The divine preservation of the Scriptures through God’s singular care and providence does not consist in his miraculous protection of the inspired originals from decay or harm, but rather in their faithful and abundant reproduction by his people.23Despite copying errors and deliberate efforts to alter or destroy God’s Word, the Scriptures have been (and will be) kept throughout all ages so pure that they are a sufficient rule for doctrine and practice,24 that they do not obscure anything needful for God’s glory or man’s salvation25 and that the sum and substance of everything they say and teach is preserved intact.26 Nevertheless, the divine preservation of the Scriptures does not insure either that every single word of the originals can be ascertained with certainty or that any one manuscript or set of manuscripts is the infallible standard for all other manuscripts.27 The Scriptures themselves are the only infallible rule for determining the inclusion of any word or phrase in Scripture.28
- The Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, being thus inspired and preserved by God and therefore authentic (authoritative and trustworthy), are both infallible (incapable of being wrong or mistaken)29and inerrant (entirely free from error).30 Accordingly, whatever they state or pronounce is entirely reliable, completely accurate, and totally true, whether they speak respecting history, science, doctrine, ethics, religious practice or any other 31
- Since the very words of Scripture, not merely its thoughts or ideas, are inspired, preserved, and authentic,32translators of the Scriptures ought to strive, as much as in them lies, to render each and every word of Scripture accurately and plainly, without needlessly interpreting or paraphrasing, adding their own uninspired words, or deleting God’s inspired words.33 No single translation of Scripture is a perfect translation, the ultimate translation, or the infallible standard by which all other translations are to be judged.34
- 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 [(many )], but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.35
- 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 examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved.36
OF GOD AND OF THE HOLY TRINITY.
- The Lord our God is but one only living and true God;1whose subsistence is in and of himself,2 infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself;3 a most pure spirit,4 invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto;5 who is immutable,6 immense,7 eternal,8 incomprehensible, almighty,9 every way infinite, most holy,10 most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will11 for his own glory;12 most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarded of them that diligently seek him,13 and withal most just and terrible in his judgments,14 hating all sin,15 and who will by no means clear the guilty.16
- God, having all life,17glory,18 goodness,19 blessedness, in and of himself, is alone in and unto himself all sufficient, not standing in need of any creature which he has made, nor deriving any glory from them,20 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,21 and he has most sovereign dominion over all creatures, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleases;22 in his sight all things are open and manifest,23 his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain:24 he is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works,25 and in all his commands; to him is due from angels and men, whatsoever worship,26 service, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator, and whatever he is further pleased to require of them.
- In this divine and infinite Being there are three persons or subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit,27of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided:28 all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.
OF GOD’S DECREE.
- God has decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeable, all things, whatsoever comes to pass;1yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor has fellowship with any therein;2 nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established;3 in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.4
- Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions,5yet has he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.6
- By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life,7 to the praise of his glorious grace;8and the rest are foreordained to everlasting death, in just condemnation for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.9
- 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.10
- Those of mankind that are predestinated to 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, has chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love,11without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto.12
- As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so he has, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto;13wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ,14 are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified,15 and kept by his power through faith unto salvation;16 neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved but the elect only.17
- God determined, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will,18whereby he extends or withholds mercy as he pleases,19 for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures,20 to pass by the rest of mankind, to leave and harden them in their sin to their just condemnation,21 and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin;22 nevertheless, God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked,23 so that even reprobate men, through his kindness and forbearance,24 are sincerely called to faith in Christ through the indiscriminate offer of salvation in the gospel.25
- 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;26so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise,27 reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility,28 diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel.29
- In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,1 for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power,2 wisdom, and goodness, to create or to make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good.3
- After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female,4with reasonable and immortal souls,5 rendering them fit unto that life to God for which they were created; being made after the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness;6 having the law of God written in their hearts,7 and power to fulfill it, and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change.8
- Besides the law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil,9which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.10
OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE.
- God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom, does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things,1from the greatest even to least,2 by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will; to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness and mercy.3
- Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly;4so that there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without his providence;5yet by the same providence he orders them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.6
- God, in his ordinary providence makes use of means,7yet is free to work without,8 above,9 and against them10 at his pleasure.
- The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that his determinate counsel extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men;11 and that not by a bare permission, which also he most wisely and powerfully limits, and otherwise orders and governs,12 in a manifold dispensation to his most holy ends;13 yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceeds only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.14
- The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own hearts, to chastise them from 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 other just and holy ends.15So that whatsoever befalls any of his elect is by his appointment, for his glory and their good.16
- As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sin does blind and harden;17from them he not only withholds his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understanding, and wrought upon in their hearts;18 but sometimes also withdraws the gifts which they had,19 and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin;20 and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan,21 whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, under those means which God uses for the softening of others.22
- As the providence of God does in general reach to all creatures, so after a more special manner it takes care of his church and disposes of all things to the good thereof.23
OF THE FALL OF MAN, OF SIN, AND ITS PUNISHMENT, AND OF COMMON GRACE.
- Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof,1yet he did not long abide in this honor; Satan using the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did wilfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them, in eating the forbidden fruit,2 which God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.
- Our first parents by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in Adam, whereby death came upon all:3all becoming dead in sin,4 and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.5
- They being the root, and he by God’s appointment standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation,6being now conceived in sin,7 and by nature children of wrath,8 the servants of sin, the subjects of death,9 and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.10
- From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil,11do proceed all actual transgressions.12
- The corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated;13and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and the first motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.14
- Although the original creation, through human sin, was subjected to vanity, ruined and slated for destruction, and even though no sinful man merits any good thing from the Lord but only deserves judgment and eternal damnation,15nevertheless, the good Lord is pleased to demonstrate his general benevolence and favor,16 usually called his common grace, both to man and beast alike,17 to the righteous and wicked alike,18 in this life until death,19 according to his own good pleasure.20
- The Lord’s common grace consists of every expression of his good will and favor, of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation from sin, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world receives from the hand of God; but is primarily expressed by the perpetuation and abundant multiplication of human life,21by the restraint of his curse upon the earth,22 by his provision for the sustenance, protection and enjoyment of life,23 by his restraint of sin through government, conscience and providence,24 and by his postponement of the final judgment;25 and its ultimate expression is his sincere and benevolent offer of mercy and salvation from sin through Jesus Christ, made to sinners indiscriminately, to elect and reprobate sinners alike, through the Gospel.26
- This common grace flows out of the Lord’s kindness, goodness, benevolence, forbearance, and mercy,27even to unthankful and evil men,28 so that God’s genuine and stated purpose for showing this favor to his enemies is a benevolent one, to lead them to repent and seek after God;29 nevertheless, this divine favor often tragically results, through the carnal presumption of sinners and their despising of his goodness,30 in their increased culpability, hardening and ruin,31 which result God also purposed and decreed;32 whence arises an apparent (but not real) contradiction in the will and purpose of God, between reprobation and common grace,33 irreconcilable in and through human logic, but to be embraced and confessed through humble submission to and faith in all that God has revealed in his Word.34
- God’s common grace is ordered, certified, and increased through his covenants,35complements and furthers his saving grace,36 and will continue to be shown until the day of judgment, for as long as the earth remains.37
- This doctrine of common grace, though it involves us in mystery, tension, and apparent contradiction, nevertheless is most important and necessary to our holiness; since it calls us to imitate the kindness of God and guards against ungodly harshness towards our enemies,38since it teaches us to attribute any common decency in sinful men to God’s grace and power and guards against carnal pride in human virtue and achievements,39 and since it sanctifies all the good gifts which God gives us richly to enjoy and guards against a morbid and ascetic outlook on life.40
OF GOD’S COVENANTS.
- 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 attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part; and since the fall the alienation between God and men is so great that sinners could never seek or attain peace with God except by some gracious initiative and powerful intervention on God’s part, which he has been pleased to express by way of covenant.1
- Accordingly, it pleased the Lord to make and disclose a scheme (plan, way, and method) of salvation from sin, commonly called the covenant of grace,2 wherein he freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them repentance from sin and faith in him, that they may be saved;3and wherein he works powerfully by his Holy Spirit in all those that are ordained into eternal life, to make them willing and able to repent and believe.4
- This divine scheme of salvation from sin, or covenant of grace, is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman,5 and afterward by further steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament;6 and it is founded in that eternal decree and commitment, of the Father, Son and Spirit about the redemption of the elect, often called the covenant or counsel of redemption;7 and it is alone by the grace of this scheme of salvation from sin that all of the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality, man being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon those terms which Adam stood in his state of innocency.8
- This divine scheme of salvation from sin is executed and disclosed primarily through three saving acts of God, each united with divine covenants.9 These covenants, through which his saving purposes are ordered10 and certified,11 are God’s sworn and spoken promises, or pledges,12 of perpetual blessing to his righteous servants13 and of peaceful relations with communities saved by him.14
- The first display of divine covenant and deliverance occurred when God, grieved with indignation against fallen mankind and determined to destroy them with a flood,15 but graciously disposed toward his righteous servant, Noah, made a covenant with him to spare him and a remnant of the creatures with him,16 rescued and saved them from the flood in the ark,17 and made the Noahic covenant with the entire community which experienced that awesome deliverance, both man and beast, and with their natural posterity after them;18 which covenant consists of the Lord’s pledge never again to destroy the earth with a flood,19 has the rainbow as its token,20 remains in force until the consummation of all things,21 and serves as the capstone over God’s blessing them with a new mandate for life in this world;22 from which deliverance and covenant our entire existence derives order and stability,23 sinners are given space and incentive to repent,24 and we obtain a graphic picture of God’s deliverance of believers from sin and wrath through Jesus Christ.25
- Within the framework established by the Noahic Covenant, God graciously worked his two greatest deliverances, called divine redemptions:26 which occurred when the Lord, having in sovereign grace made a covenant with his righteous servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bless them, their posterity after them, and all the nations through them,27redeemed, in fulfillment of that covenant with the patriarchs,28 their natural posterity, the Hebrew Nation, from slavery in Egypt, in the days of Moses29 and gave them the land of Canaan as their inheritance;30 and when the Lord, in further and ultimate fulfillment of that covenant with the Patriarchs,31 having sent his Christ into the world32 as their promised heir,33 accomplished the redemption of their spiritual posterity,34 believers from every nation,35 from sin and hell36 and poured out on them the Holy Spirit of promise37 as the earnest of their eternal inheritance:38 from which redemptions two communities of God’s redeemed heirs were successively formed on earth, first the physical nation of Israel, then the Apostolic Christian church,39 with which respectively he made the Old and New Covenants;40 from which redemptions also the Bible derives its format and structure, being divided into two parts, the Old and New Testaments, each revealed respectively in conjunction with these redemptions, written respectively in the language of those redeemed peoples, and designated respectively in terms of the covenants God made with them.41
- The Mosaic or Old Covenant was made with the generation of Israel which experienced firsthand redemption from slavery in Egypt, and with the generation of Israel which received the land of Canaan as their inheritance,42and with their natural posterity;43 which covenant consisted of God’s pledge that if they would obey his voice, which they heard utter the decalogue at Sinai,44 and keep his commandments, which were codified for them in the book of the law,45 then they would forever be the special objects of his care and blessing and sustain their unique place as his peculiar people;46 was sealed with the observance of the Sabbath on the seventh day as its token; 47 was mediated through Moses;48 and was established until the coming of the promised Messiah:49 by which covenant the entire Jewish theocracy and society derived its foundation,50 the people from whom the promised savior from sin would come were separated from the world and preserved by the Lord,51 many graphic pictures of the person and work of Christ are displayed,52 the abiding testimony of Gods’ will for human conduct, the decalogue, is declared,53 and many needful admonitions and lessons concerning holy living are given.54
- The Old Covenant being broken through the apostasy and rebellion of the Hebrew nation,55bringing wrath upon them to the uttermost,56 it pleased God, to make his final servant covenant, in fulfillment of his covenants with Abraham and David,57 with their promised heir, the incarnate Son, his righteous servant Jesus;58 which consists of his pledge to designate and coronate him Son of God by resurrection from the dead,59 to appoint him royal high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,60 to give him a name above every name, King of Kings and Lord of Lords,61 to seat him on David’s throne, at God’s right hand in supreme glory and majesty forever,62 to bless all the nations through him and give them to him for his inheritance,63 to give him complete victory over all his enemies, sin, death, Satan, the wicked, and hell,64 and to bless his posterity, who are born to him spiritually when they become his disciples,65 with everlasting life and favor through him and for his sake.66
- Accordingly, in the days when he finished his work and poured out the Holy Spirit,67God made the New Covenant, an everlasting covenant of peace, with Christ’s posterity, the Israel of God,68 which does not consist of the whole Hebrew nation, or exclusively of Jews, but of a faithful remnant of every nation according to the election of grace, who repent of their sins and believe in Christ;69 which is a spiritual nation, a kingdom of priests, the saints and people of God:70 which includes, on earth, the entire holy catholic church of Christ, from the apostolic generation until the generation alive when Christ returns;71 and which includes, in heaven, the disembodied spirits of all just men made perfect in glory.72
- Unlike the Community of the Noahic Covenant, which has as its distinguishing trait that its first members were saved from the flood in the ark, and which was perpetuated organically with their physical descendants,73 and unlike the community of the Old Covenant, whose initial membership was distinguished by experiencing redemption from Egypt and inheriting Canaan, and which was also perpetuated organically by physical descent, since it is Abraham’s and Israel’s physical posterity; 74 the community of the New Covenant has as its distinguishing trait that its initial members experienced firsthand the accomplishment of redemption from sin and inherited the Spirit of promise75 and is perpetuated on earth by spiritual descent, since it is Christ’s posterity, with those born of God through the Gospel, to whom redemption from sin is applied, in whom the Spirit of promise dwells.76 Therefore no one, even if born to Christian parents, has any right to membership in the community of the New Covenant on earth, which is the Church of Christ, the house of the living God, unless he is truly saved from sin.77 Nevertheless, hypocrites, apostates and false brethren may at times be wrongly admitted to this earthly fellowship of believers,78 whose punishment from God shall be worse than that endured by those who broke the Old Covenant.79
- God’s New Covenant with this Israel of God consists of his pledge to dwell in complete and everlasting peace with them as his people,80to bless them now on earth with every spiritual blessing in Christ, including: a heart to love, fear, serve and obey God,81 the forgiveness of sins and the gift of Christ’s virtue (righteousness),82 the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit,83 the adoption of sons,84 a certain hope of glory,85 experiential knowledge of and communion with himself,86 and perseverance in faith and grace firm unto the end;87 and to bestow on them, in the world to come, heavenly and eternal bliss, in glorified and resurrected bodies, as their inheritance,88 and it is sealed with the Lord’s supper as its token,89 mediated and secured through the Lord Jesus Christ himself,90 ratified by his shed blood,91 and consummated at his return in glory.92
- Although the Old Covenant was truly gracious,93yet the New Covenant is far superior to it, because of its superior promises and its efficacy to secure them,94because it embodies the very image of the heavenly realities and the very substance of the scheme of salvation from sin and the spiritual blessings in Christ, not merely shadows of them,95 and because its promises endure permanently forever and ever.96 Accordingly, the divine scheme of salvation from sin, or covenant of grace, is administered differently in the time of the Old Covenant and in the time of the New Covenant.
- Under the law, or the Old Covenant, the covenant of grace 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; 97 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,98by whom true believers had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation.99Under the gospel or the New Covenant, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which the covenant of grace is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper:100 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.101
- There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.102 Nor is the New Covenant the same Old Covenant, merely administered differently, for it was not made with the same persons, nor does it have the same promises, mediator, token, efficacy or perpetuity.103
OF CHRIST THE MEDIATOR.
- It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man;1the prophet,2 priest,3 and king;4 head and savior of his church,5 the heir of all things,6 and judge of the world;7 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.8
- The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things he has made, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof,9yet without sin;10 being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David, according to the scriptures;11 so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures 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.12
- The Lord Jesus in his human nature thus united to the divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure,13having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;14 in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell,15 to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled,16 and full of grace and truth,17 he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a mediator and surety;18 which office he took not upon himself, but was thereunto called by his Father;19 who also put all power and judgment in his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same.20
- This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake,21which that he might discharge he was made under the law22 and did perfectly fulfill it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered,23 being made sin and a curse for us;24 enduring most grievous sorrows in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; 25 was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption:26 on the third day he arose from the dead27 with the same body in which he suffered,28 with which he also ascended into heaven,29 and there sits at the right hand of his Father, making intercession,30 and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.31
- The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, has fully satisfied the justice of God,32procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father has given unto him.33
- Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to 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 which should bruise the serpent’s head;34and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,35 being the same yesterday, and to-day and for ever.36
- 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 the scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.37
- To all those for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption, he does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them;38 uniting them to himself by his Spirit, revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mystery of salvation, persuading them to believe and obey,39 governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit,40 and overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom,41 in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation; and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it.42
- This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from him to any other.43
- This number and order of offices is necessary; for in respect of our ignorance, we stand in need of his prophetical office;44 and in respect of our alienation from God, and imperfection of the best of our services, we need his priestly office to reconcile us and present us acceptable unto God;45 and in respect of our adverseness and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and security from our spiritual adversaries, we need his kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us to his heavenly kingdom.46
OF FREE WILL.
- God has indued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined, (set and fixed) to do good or evil.1This does not mean that the will of any man is neutral; to the contrary the will of righteous men by God’s regenerating power and grace is set upon good, and the will of wicked men by virtue of the fall into sin and their corrupted nature is set upon 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,2but yet was unstable, so that he might fall from it.3
- Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation;4so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin,5 is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.6
- When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he frees him from his natural bondage under sin,7and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good;8 yet so as that by reason of his remaining corruptions, he does not perfectly, nor only will, that which is good, but does also will that which is evil.9
- This will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone in the state of glory only.10
OF EFFECTUAL CALLING.
- Those whom God has predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call,1 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; 2enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God;3 taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh:4 renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining (setting and fixing) them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ;5 yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.6
- This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature7being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit;8 he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.9
- All God’s elect are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit;10who works when, and where, and how he pleases;11 through the ministry of the Word.12
- Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit,13yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will nor can truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved:14 much less can men that receive not the Christian religion be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess.15
- Those whom God effectually calls, he also freely justifies,1not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous,2 not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone;3 not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ’s active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness,4 they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.5
- Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification;6yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.7
- Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are justified; and did, by the sacrifice of himself in the blood of his cross, undergoing in their stead the penalty due unto them, make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in their behalf;8yet, 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,9 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.10
- God did from all eternity decree to justify all the elect,11and Christ did in the fullness of time die for their sins, and rise again for their justification;12 nevertheless, they are not justified personally, until the Holy Spirit does in due time actually apply Christ unto them.13
- God does continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified,14and although they can never fall from the state of justification,15 yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure;16 and in that condition they have not usually the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.17
- 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.18
OF ADOPTION AND OF THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
- All those that are justified, God vouchsafed (graciously granted as a privilege), in and for the sake of his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption,1by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of children of God,2 have his name put upon them,3 receive the spirit of adoption,4 have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry Abba, Father,5 are pitied,6 protected,7 provided for,8 and chastened by him as by a Father,9 yet never cast off,10 but sealed to the day of redemption,11 and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.12
- The God of all comfort, who dwells in heaven and is always present everywhere on earth,13graciously granted, to all those that are justified, in and for the sake of his only Son, Jesus Christ,14 the additional privilege of abiding in his special presence, by sending his Holy Spirit, the Spirit of his Son, as the Spirit of adoption,15 into each of their hearts,16 upon their repentance from sin and faith in Christ,17 whereby they are comforted and encouraged in their afflictions,18 strengthened in their love, hope and faith,19 assured of their sonship and eternal life,20 assisted in their prayers,21 instructed in the word and ways of Christ,22 given access to and filial communion with God,23 liberated from spiritual bondage,24 enabled to mortify sin and please the Lord,25 united to Christ and each other,26 and sealed until the day of redemption.27
- This personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not now manifested by the ability to accomplish miraculous feats, or by hearing heavenly voices, receiving direct revelation, foretelling the future or speaking in tongues,28 since this special apostolic endowments and signs, bound to the founding of the church, ceased when the apostles finished their special work,29but rather is manifested, throughout this age, by the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control.30
- Unlike the regenerating work of the Spirit, which is the root and cause of saving faith,31this gift of the Holy Spirit results from the exercise of saving faith and is conditioned upon it,32 nevertheless, the Spirit is not received subsequent to conversion as a second blessing, but immediately upon the exercise of saving faith; so that no true believer is devoid of the Spirit of God, nor is this gift of the Spirit to be earnestly sought, patiently tarried for, or carnally peddled by believers.33
- Although the Holy Spirit resides irrevocably in the hearts of all true Christians from the moment of their conversion, being received once for all;34nevertheless the same Spirit continues to be supplied to them throughout their lives,35 so that it is the duty of those already indwelt by God’s Spirit both to request further supplies and larger measures of the Holy Spirit and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.36
- The gift of the Holy Sprit is never completely taken away from true Christians, but He can be so grieved by their rebellions and backslidings37that for a season his presence is greatly withdrawn and his influences largely withheld;38 therefore, it is the duty of all believers neither to grieve nor to quench the Holy Spirit.39
- All true believers in every era had the Holy Spirit in their hearts and enjoyed the benefits of his special presence with them,40but subsequent to the session of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost,41 in the era of God’s New Covenant with Israel, the people of God,42 not merely individually43 but now also corporately,44 are the temple of God, the place of his special habitation, their distinguishing trait now being this gift of the Holy Spirit,45 so that unless a person is indwelt by the Holy Spirit he has neither inheritance among God’s people under the New Covenant nor any right to membership in the church of Christ.46
- They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also farther sanctified, really and personally,1through the same virtue, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them;2 the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed,3 and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified;4 and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces,5 to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.6
- This sanctification is throughout the whole man,7yet imperfect in this life; there abides still some remnants of corruption in every part,8 whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.9
- In which war, although their remaining corruption for a time may much prevail,10yet, through the continual supply of strength from sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate overcome the world and indwelling sin;11 and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, pressing after an heavenly life, in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ, as Head and King, in his Word has prescribed to them.12
OF SAVING FAITH.
- The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts,1 and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word;2by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord’s supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened.3
- By this faith a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word for the authority of God himself,4and also apprehends an excellency therein above all other writings and all things in the world,5 as it bears forth the glory of God in his attributes, the excellency of Christ in his nature and offices, and the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit in his workings and operations: and so is enabled to cast his soul upon the truth thus believed;6 and also acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands,7 trembling at the threatenings,8 and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come;9 but the principal acts of saving faith have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receiving, and resting upon him alone for justification, sanctification and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.10
- This faith, although it be different in degrees, and may be weak or strong,11yet it is in the least degree of it different in the kind or nature of it, as is all other saving grace, from the faith and common grace of temporary believers;12 and, therefore, though it may be many times assailed and weakened, yet it gets the victory,13 growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ,14 who is both the author and the finisher of our faith.15
OF REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE AND SALVATION.
- Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace,1the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.2
- By this saving repentance a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the danger, filthiness, odiousness and manifold evils of his sin, as contrary to God’s holy nature and His righteous law,3and perceiving and embracing by faith in Christ God’s mercy to such as are penitent,4 humbles himself for his sin and turns from it to God5 with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrency,6 praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavor, by supplies of the Spirit, to walk before God in all the ways of his commandments unto all well-pleasing in all things.7
- Although repentance is 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.8
- As repentance is to be continued through the whole course of our lives, upon the account of the body of death, and the motions thereof,9so men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, since it is every man’s duty to repent of his particular sins particularly.10
- Such is the provision which God has made through Christ in the covenant of grace for the preservation of believers unto salvation, that although there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation,11yet there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent,12 which makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary.
- Whereas there is none that does good and does not sin,13 and the best of men may, through the power and deceitfulness of their corruption dwelling in them, with the prevalency of temptation, fall into great sins and provocations; God has, in the covenant of grace, mercifully provided that believers so sinning and falling be renewed through repentance unto salvation.14
- As every man is obligated 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;15so he that scandalizes 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,16 and where necessary to make restitution,17 to those that are offended, who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him.18
OF GOOD WORKS.
- Good works are only such as God has commanded in his Holy Word,1and not such as without the warrant thereof are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intentions.2
- These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith;3and by them believers manifest their thankfulness,4 strengthen their assurance,5 edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel,6 stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God,7 whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto,8 that having their fruit unto holiness they may have the end eternal life.9
- Their ability to do good works is not all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ;10and that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is necessary an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure;11 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.12
- 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.13
- 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;14but 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,15 and as they are wrought by us they are defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.16
- Yet notwithstanding the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him;17not 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.18
- 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;19yet because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith,20 nor are done in a right manner according to the Word,21 nor to a right end, the glory of God,22 they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, nor make a man meet to receive grace from God,23 and yet their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing to God.24
OF THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.
- Those whom God has accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourishes in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality;1and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them,2 yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity.3
- This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election,4flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father, upon the efficacy of the merit and the intercession of Jesus Christ and union with him,5 the oath of God,6 the abiding of his Spirit, and the seed of God within them,7 and the nature of the covenant of grace;8 from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
- And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein,9whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit,10 come to have their graces and comforts impaired,11 have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded,12 hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves,13 yet they shall renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.14
OF THE ASSURANCE OF GRACE AND SALVATION.
- Although temporary believers and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God and in a state of salvation, which hope of theirs shall perish;1yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, 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,2 which hope shall never make them ashamed.3
- This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope, but an infallible assurance of faith4founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel;5 and also upon the inward evidence of those graces of the Spirit unto which promises are made,6 and on the testimony of the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God;7 and, as a fruit thereof, keeping the heart both humble and holy.8
- This infallible assurance does 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;9yet 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 means, attain thereunto:10 and therefore it is the duty of every one 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 Spirit, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance;11 so far is it from inclining men to looseness.12
- True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as by negligence in preserving of it,13by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit;14 by some sudden or vehement temptation,15 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,16 yet are they never destitute of the seed of God17 and life of faith,18 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,19 and by the which, in the meantime, they are preserved from utter despair.20
OF THE LAW OF GOD.
- God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart, and a particular precept of not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil;1by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience;2 promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.3
- The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall,4and was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables, the four first containing our duty towards God, and the other six, our duty to man.5
- Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits;6and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties,7 all which ceremonial laws being appointed only to the time of reformation, are, by Jesus Christ the true Messiah and only law-giver, who was furnished with power from the Father for that end, abrogated and taken away.8
- To them also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution; their general equity only being of moral use.9
- The moral law does for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof,10and 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;11 neither does Christ in the Gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.12
- Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned,13yet it is 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 natures, hearts, and lives, so as examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against, sin;14 together with 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 and unallayed rigor thereof. These promises of it likewise show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof, though not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works; so as man’s doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.15
- Neither are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it,16the 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, requires to be done.17
OF THE GOSPEL, AND OF THE EXTENT OF THE GRACE THEREOF.
- Upon the fall of mankind into sin, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of calling the elect, and begetting in them faith and repentance;1in this promise the gospel, as to the substance of it, was revealed, and is therein effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners.2
- This promise of Christ, and salvation by him, is revealed only by the Word of God;3neither do the works of creation or providence, with the light of nature, make discovery of Christ, or of grace by him, so much as in a general or obscure way;4 much less that men destitute of the revelation of him by the promise or gospel, should be enabled thereby to attain saving faith or repentance.5
- The revelation of the gospel unto sinners, made in divers times and by sundry parts, with the addition of promises and precepts for the obedience required therein, as to the nations and persons to whom it is granted, is merely of the sovereign will and good pleasure of God;6not being annexed by virtue of any promise to the due improvement of men’s natural abilities, by virtue of common light received without it, which none ever did make, or can do so;7 and therefore in all ages, the preaching of the gospel has been granted unto persons and nations, as to the extent or straitening of it, in great variety, according to the counsel of the will of God.
- Although the gospel be the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is, as such, abundantly sufficient thereunto; yet that men who are dead in trespasses may be born again, quickened or regenerated, there is moreover necessary an effectual insuperable work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul, for the producing in them a new spiritual life;8without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God.9
- In the Gospel God freely and sincerely calls upon lost men indiscriminately to come to Christ,10because he delights in and desires their salvation,11 so that whosoever is sincerely willing to come to Christ on God’s terms may come to him and whosoever so comes to him will not be turned away.12 Although this free and benevolent offer of Christ appears to contradict God’s decree of reprobation,13 particular redemption,14 and the total inability of lost sinners to repent and believe;15 nevertheless Christ’s servants are earnestly to entreat sinners indiscriminately to repent and believe the Gospel.16
OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY AND LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE.
- The liberty which Christ has purchased for believers under the gospel, consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the rigor and curse of the law,1and in their being delivered from this present evil world,2 bondage to Satan,3 and dominion of sin,4 from the evil of afflictions,5 the fear and sting of death, the victory of the grave,6 and everlasting damnation:7 as also in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear,8 but a childlike love and willing mind.9
All which were common also to believers under the law for the substance of them;10 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.11
- God alone is Lord of the conscience,12and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his Word, or not contained in it.13 So that to believe such doctrines, or obey such commands out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience;14 and the requiring of an implicit faith, and absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience and reason also.15
- They who upon pretence of Christian liberty do practice any sin, or cherish any sinful lust, as they do thereby pervert the main design of the grace of the gospel to their own destruction,16 so they wholly destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of all our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our lives.17
OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP AND THE SABBATH DAY.
- The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good, and does good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might.1But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself,2 and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.3
- Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to him alone;4not to angels, saints, or any other creatures;5 and since the fall, not without a mediator,6 nor in the mediation of any other but Christ alone.7
- Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one part of natural worship, is by God required of all men.8 But that it may be accepted it is to be made in the name of the Son,9 by the help of the Spirit,10 according to his will;11 with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and when with others, in a known 12
- Prayer is to be made for things lawful, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter;13 but not for the dead, 14nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.15
- The reading of the Scriptures,16 preaching, and hearing the Word of God,17 teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing praises with grace in our hearts to the Lord;18 giving of our tithes and offering to the Lord;19 as also the administration of baptism,20 and the Lord’s supper,21 are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience to him, with understanding, faith, reverence and godly fear; moreover, solemn humiliation with fastings,22 and thanksgivings upon special occasions, ought to be used in an holy and religious manner.23
- Neither prayer nor any other part of religious worship is now under the gospel 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 worshipped everywhere in spirit and in truth;24as in private families25 daily,26 and in secret each one by himself,27 so more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly nor wilfully to be neglected or forsaken, when God by his word or providence calls thereto.28
- As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive, moral and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he has particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him,29which 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 is called the Lord’s Day:30 and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished.31
- The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day, from their works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations,32but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.33
OF LAWFUL OATHS AND VOWS.
- A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgment, solemnly calls God to witness what he swears,1and to judge him according to the truth or falseness thereof.2
- 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;3yet as in matter of weight and moment, for confirmation of truth, and ending all strife, an oath is warranted by the word of God;4 so a lawful oath being imposed by lawful authority in such matters, ought to be taken.5
- Whosoever takes an oath warranted by the word of God, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to say nothing but what he knows to be truth; for that by rash, false, and vain oaths, the Lord is provoked.6
- An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservations.7
- A vow, which is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone, is to be made and performed with all religious care and faithfulness;8but monastical vows of perpetual single life,9 professed poverty,10 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.11
OF THE CIVIL MAGISTRATE.
- God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people, for his own glory and the public good; and to this end has armed them with the power of the sword, for defence and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil doers.1
- It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called thereunto; in the management whereof, as they ought especially to maintain justice and peace,2 according to the wholesome laws of each kingdom and commonwealth, so far that end they may lawfully now, under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.3
- Civil magistrates being set up by God for the ends aforesaid; subjection, in all lawful things commanded by them, ought to be yielded by us in the Lord, not only for wrath, but for conscience’ sake;4all due custom, tax, tribute and honor should be paid5 and we ought to make supplications and prayers for kings and all that are in authority, that under them we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.6
- Marriage is to be between one man and one woman; neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband at the same time.1
- Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife,2 for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue,3and for preventing of uncleanness.4
- It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent;5yet it is the duty of Christians to marry in the Lord;6 and therefore such as profess the true religion, should not marry with infidels, or idolaters; neither should such as are godly, be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresy.7
- Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity, forbidden in the Word;8nor 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.9
- Although the corruption of man is such that men are prone to seek improper reasons to put asunder those whom God has joined together in marriage:10yet, nothing but adultery,11 or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate,12 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.13
OF THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL.
- Scripture declares the church of Christ to be the assembly1of the disciples of our risen Lord Jesus Christ,2 which gathers by the Holy Spirit in God’s special presence,3 fights his enemies,4 and conducts his worship.5
- Although the nature and characteristics of this assembly of Christ’s disciples were progressively revealed in the Scriptures, wherein it was richly and abundantly foreshadowed as the body and bride of the Second Adam, the Son of God,6as the remnant of humanity saved from the wrath of God,7 as the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven,8 as a kingdom of priests,9 as the assembly of the Lord,10 as the temple of God,11 as the holy city, Jerusalem, Mount Zion,12 as the remnant of God’s people liberated from captivity,13 and as the disciples of God’s final prophet;14 yet it was formed in the fullness of time, by the Lord Jesus Christ himself,15 in fulfillment of God’s covenant promises,16 in organic continuity with the people of God under the Old Covenant,17 from a believing remnant of the Hebrew Nation according to the election of grace,18 into which Gentile disciples were grafted under the ministry of his apostles,19 disclosing Christ’s church to be catholic, open to disciples from every race and nation without ethnic restriction.20
- The church of Christ, thus formed by the Lord and his apostles, is the Commonwealth of God’s people,21on earth,22 under the New Covenant.23 In this age, therefore, this commonwealth of Israel under the New Covenant, which is the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ,24 the fellowship of the saints25 and faithful brethren,26 the family of God’s elect,27 is separated by death into two parts. The church of Christ, which is militant, wrestling not against flesh and blood but against the powers of darkness, the deeds of the flesh, and this present evil world,28 is the earthly and visible part of this spiritual commonwealth,29 the disembodied spirits of all just men made perfect in heaven, those who died before and after Christ’s incarnation, commonly called the church triumphant, its heavenly and invisible part. Nevertheless, though New Covenant Israel is thus divided, there is even now, in virtue of the special presence of the Spirit of God with his people both in heaven and on earth, a spiritual unity and communion between the glorified spirits in heaven and the church on earth.30 But in the age to come, when Christ shall return and present the church to himself a glorious church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,31 triumphant over every foe,32 then the whole number of God’s elect, from heaven and earth, will be gathered into one glorious assembly, fellowship, and kingdom before Christ their King, forever and ever.33
- The Scripture views and denotes the church militant both particularly or locally and collectively or inclusively: each local assembly of Christ’s disciples, a particular church,34constituting a distinct and independent part, the local churches viewed collectively constituting the unified and interdependent whole, the universal church and assembly of Christ’s disciples;35 which in its broadest span is age long and worldwide, including every true church of Christ, everywhere on earth, in every generation until his return;36 which is the spouse and body of Christ, the fullness of him that fills all in all,37 the house of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth;38 out of which there is ordinarily (not absolutely) no possibility of salvation.39
- Whereas this universal church and assembly of Christ’s disciples is the visible society of those saved from sin,40(although with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace it may be called invisible), only such as are truly justified from their sins and united to Christ in saving faith ought to be received and retained in its membership, and only of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.41 Nevertheless, through error in doctrine or judgment, some persons who do not know the Lord may be wrongly received into the church,42 and others may be wrongly refused or cast out.43 But this anomaly does not justify the apathy by which men condone and tolerate unconverted members in their churches,44 or the pride by which they devise and enforce membership standards stricter than God’s;45 rather, Christ calls his church, throughout this age, to exercise discernment and discipline with diligence, prayer, love and a good conscience,46 in order to maintain peace and purity in the house of God,47 until he himself forever removes from his church everything false, impure, and evil upon his return.48
- The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error;49and some assemblies have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan,50 from which the Spirit of Christ has departed, in which the proclamation of the Gospel and the practice of godly discipline have ceased. Nevertheless, Christ always has had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name, in fulfillment of his promise to preserve, guard and perpetuate51 his church until at his appearing he crushes all enemies under its feet, whether remaining sin, or persecution, or treachery, or heresy, or apostasy, or antichrist, or Satan, unto the last enemy, which is death.52
- The church universal is perpetually governed by the Lord Jesus Christ through his Holy Spirit and apostles. The Lord Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order, or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner;53 But because he is in heaven seated at God’s right hand and his church is militant on earth, Christ has not left his church without a Comforter, having sent his Holy Spirit to earth to be with his church as his Vicar,54 to indwell and animate,55 guide and teach,56 rule and govern,57 convict and sanctify,58 and protect and comfort59 his Bride throughout this age until he is reunited with her at his return. Moreover, in love and grace, Christ commissioned his apostles to build, order, oversee, and shepherd his church universal,60 by their testimony during their lives,61 after their death succeeded only by their writings preserved in Scripture;62 nor has Christ given to any person other than those apostles any authority to govern his church universal.63 Wherefore, no Pope of Rome can ever in any sense be head of the church, or vicar of Christ, or successor of Peter and other apostles; to the contrary, such blasphemous claims, together with their doctrines of demons64 and bloody persecutions,65 abundantly demonstrate that the Popes of Rome are false apostles, sons of perdition, and ministers of the Devil, fashioning themselves as ministers of righteousness, and that the church of the Rome over which they rule is apostate.66 Wherefore also, the unity of all true churches of Christ is spiritual and scriptural, since Christ by his Word and Spirit rules over, dwells in, animates, and unites them all;67 nor is that unity to be sought in any supposed charismatic gifts of the Spirit,68 or in any ecumenical movement devised by men to create organizations of churches or of denominations and rule over them.69
- The mission of this living church universal, composed of the local churches, is defined by none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself, through his apostles;70who, to his church alone, has given authority to perform, promised success in undertaking, and furnished grace sufficient to fulfill his mandate;71 whereby he has directed the churches to gather on the Lord’s day for the worship of God,72 to make disciples of all the nations,73 to promote and preserve the Word of God,74 to nurture his disciples,75 to exercise church discipline,76 to show benevolence to his needy saints,77 to observe his sacraments of Baptism and Lord’s Supper,78 and to make intercession for all men;79 nor has the Lord authorized or empowered any other institution or society of men to fulfill the mission of the church, nor has he authorized or empowered the church to devise or pursue any mandate other than 80
OF LOCAL CHURCH POLITY.
- As the Lord Jesus Christ is head of the church universal, so also he is the head of each particular church;1and as such his will declared in Scripture respecting the formation, membership, government, meetings, ministries, and interrelations of local churches ought to be implemented conscientiously, completely and reverently,2 nor are churches free to devise and follow any polity other than Christ’s.3 Nevertheless, the Lord has not so specified in Scripture every detail of local church polity as to mandate total uniformity of practice, but has left many matters circumstantial to the life of the churches to be administered and determined separately in each church with Christian prudence, according to the general principles of the Word of God.4
- In the exercise of this headship, the Lord Jesus calls out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father,5that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribes to them in his word.6 Those thus called, he commands to walk together in particular churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requires of them in the world.7
- Although the Lord has thus mandated the formation of particular churches for the glory of God and the good of His people, yet he has graciously provided that each church be formed voluntarily, by such who willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ, giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.8
- Although the formation of particular churches is thus voluntary, yet those of one mind in polity, living within such distances as that they may conveniently assemble for divine worship, ought rather to join in one church for their mutual strengthening and edification, than to set up many distinct societies;9for the avoiding of petty differences and jealousy that may otherwise arise,10 for the greater solemnity in the celebration of the ordinances of Christ and the worship of God,11 and the opening a way for the larger usefulness of the gifts and graces deposited in the church by the Holy Spirit.12
- Although a particular church is a society of Christ’s disciples thus assembling by the appointment of Christ, yet every society of Christians gathering for a religious purpose is not thereby constituted a church, seeing there may be wanting among them what is essentially required to that end, namely, their mutual and solemn commitment to organize and band together to do all things whatsoever their Lord requires of particular churches.13 Moreover, every society of Christ’s disciples, thus organized and committed, is consecrated as a church and temple of the living God by their corporate indwelling with the Holy Spirit, without which no organized society of religious people is a church of Christ, irrespective of their claims, documents, or affiliations.14
- To each of these churches thus gathered, according to his mind declared in his Word, Christ himself has given all that power and authority; which is in any way needful to implement all the things he has instituted for them to observe, with commands and rules for the due and right exerting; and executing of that power.15 Nevertheless, even though particular churches are thus autonomous and independent, these same churches, in virtue of sharing one life in the Holy Spirit and having one mandate from Christ, are also interdependent, needing each other’s communications, prayers, counsel, support, and cooperation.
- Whereas all particular churches, thus authorized by Christ, voluntarily formed by his disciples and consecrated by his Spirit, belong to the universal assembly of those saved by the Lord from their sins, only visible saints by calling ought to be received into the membership of a local church,16namely, those who believe in Christ and confess their faith in him creditably in orthodox doctrine,17 by moral life,18 and with personal and experiential knowledge of God.19 And whereas God is not the God of confusion but of peace, only those visible saints by calling who are in substantial agreement with the polity of any particular church, and are willing to promote its peace and submit to its government ought to be received into its membership.20 But no person should ever be denied membership or have any of its privileges abridged on the basis of skin color or race or of social or economic status;21 nor should church membership or its privileges ever be granted to any person as a birthright, or on any grounds whatsoever other than faith in Christ.22 Moreover, so that peace and love (without dissimulation) may be preserved among all the members, no person should be added to any particular church except by the consent of that church itself.23
- Whereas the churches are independent yet interdependent, transfer of members among them should proceed in an orderly,24conscientious,25 and gracious26 Therefore, persons that are joined in church fellowship ought not lightly or without just cause to withdraw themselves from the communion of the church whereunto they are so joined.27 Nevertheless, when any person cannot continue in any church without violating his conscience,28 or when due to persecution,29 or convenience of habitation,30 he thinks it best, that person, consulting with the church officers, may peaceably depart from the communion of the church with which he has walked uprightly to join himself to some other church.31
- A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists not only of members but also of officers. The officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons.32
- Only such men as are qualified according to the standards specified in the Word of God33 ought to be ordained and allowed to remain as elders or deacons,34and the way appointed by Christ for the calling of any persons, thus fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself;35 and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein;36 and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands.37 But former ordination alone, without the current consent of the church in which those who formerly have been ordained now fellowship,38 does not constitute any person a church officer or communicate any ecclesiastical authority unto him.
- The office of elder or presbyter, also called in Scripture that of bishop and pastor,39was established by Christ for the spiritual care and leadership of his churches. To that end, he has specified in his Word the solemn nature and manifold duties of that office, which are: as governors under Christ their King and as God’s stewards over his house, to manage, administer, and oversee all aspects of the corporate life and polity of their particular church according to his will revealed in Scripture;40 as teachers, to teach and preach the Word of God in order to edify saints, convert the lost, and convict the gainsayers;41 as men of God, to pray for the blessing of God upon the whole cause of Christ and his gospel in their local church and throughout the world;42 as bishops and pastors, to watch over, nurture, and visit their entire flock individually and personally, in order to ward off every foe and present every man complete in Christ;43 and as servants and ministers of Christ, to represent Christ their master and their particular church blamelessly among the churches and before a hostile world.44
- Whereas the Lord Jesus Christ, as the chief Shepherd and Bishop,45and his apostles, as fellow elders and pastors of the church universal,46 manifest the disposition with which these duties should be performed,47 it is incumbent upon all the elders of each particular church to fulfill their responsibilities in a Christlike demeanor, with love,48 diligence,49 gentleness,50 and a heart to serve their flock,51 making themselves examples to the flock rather than lording it over 52
- Due to the weight and number of these responsibilities, for which no man is sufficient of himself but only through God’s calling and grace,53the Lord has mercifully ordained, for the encouragement of his servants and the good of each congregation, that there should be a plurality of elders in each local church fully organized,54 and among them complete parity and equality in authority,55 and that one or more of them should be set apart to labor in the word and doctrine as a vocation, in accordance with their measure of gift from God for that work.56
- Whereas all the elders of a church are Christ’s gifts to that church and serve in his name,57it is incumbent upon the members of each church to know those that are over them in the Lord,58 to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake,59 to refuse to receive evil rumors about them,60 to imitate their faith,61 to submit to them as those who watch for their souls,62 and to call, when afflicted, for their prayers.63 Moreover, the work of those pastors who labor in the word and doctrine being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him;64 it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things, according to their ability,65 so as they have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs;66 and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others;67 and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who has ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.68
- Moreover, the Lord of grace and peace has ordained, for the benefit of his church,69that men duly qualified70 be ordained as deacons71 to manage, under the oversight of the elders,72 the benevolent concerns and mundane affairs of the church,73 in order that the pastors may give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.74 To the deacons, and to those men and women helping them in their service, the congregation ought to render all due assistance.75
- Although it is incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the Word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the Word is not so peculiarly confined to them, but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved and called upon by the church, may and ought to perform it.76
- Although men and women are equals in grace, possessing identical privileges of church membership,77 yet they are not equals in the exercise of rule and authority in the church. And whereas church officers necessarily exercise authority, it is God’s will that only men should hold church office, for the Lord himself has ordained that men alone should teach and preach in the gathered church,78 and the apostles do not suffer a woman to teach or to exercise ecclesiastical authority over a man;79 not in virtue of arbitrary and temporary mores bound to their culture, but based on the necessary, permanent, and binding implications of the creation, fall, and redemption for all societies and cultures.80 Notwithstanding, God has ordained that sober-minded women assist the office bearers in the diaconal affairs of the church,81 that older women train younger women in domestic piety and decorum,82 and that Christian women nurture their children in the ways and word of God.83
- The Lord Christ summons each particular church to assemble every Lord’s Day for the worship of God,84the ministry of the Word,85 and Christian fellowship86 as part of that worldwide gathering of the church universal into the special presence of God, and frequently to gather on that day for the observance of the Lord’s Supper,87 and to gather at other times, appointed by them severally, for prayer,88 for promoting the spread of the gospel,89 for choosing their officers,90 for exercising discipline,91 and for conducting their benevolent and mundane affairs;92 but always in the fear of God93 and in love to one another,94 lest the Spirit be grieved and the Lord provoked to wrath.95
- Moreover, the Lord Christ calls upon each particular church humbly to discern, through the guidance of his Word and Spirit,96and cheerfully to contribute, by the power of his grace,97 its part toward fulfilling his mandate for his church, whereby he commands the churches to proclaim and defend the truth of his Word,98 to make disciples and organize them into churches,99 and to show benevolence to needy saints;100 and he calls upon them to labor thereunto in accordance with the ministerial gifts,101 financial resources,102 and providential opportunities sovereignly bestowed on them,103 by diligent use of those means alone as are approved in Scripture,104 through both separate efforts105 and combined ventures with other churches;106 unto which end the Lord has promised to supply to his churches all things necessary to fulfill those ministries eternally prepared for them.107
- As each church, and all the members of it, are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ,108 in all places, and upon all occasions to further every one within the bounds of their places and callings, in the exercise of their gifts and graces, so the churches, when planted by the providence of God, so as they may enjoy opportunity and advantage for it, ought to hold communion among themselves, by seeking each other’s counsel, by recognizing, supporting, assisting, communicating, visiting and cooperating with each other, for their peace, increase in love, and mutual edification.109 Moreover, such churches as consist of persons sound in the faith and of lifestyle becoming the Gospel even though they walk not in all things according to the same rules of church order, still ought to hold communion with each other and respect each other’s discipline, so far as is consistent with their own principles and conscience respectively.
OF CHURCH CENSURES.
- The Lord Jesus, as head of his church, has appointed that those who bring just reproach upon the church, or give serious offense to it1by not walking in respect of faith or life according to the rules and laws appointed by him,2 be censured and disciplined in his name and authority.3 To that end he has given every particular church authority and power to exercise all those censures appointed by him in the way and order prescribed in Scripture.4
- As all believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do; so all that are admitted unto the privileges of a church, are also under the censures and government thereof, according to the rule of Christ.5
- Church censures are designed and necessary for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren,6for deterring others from like offenses7, for purging out that leaven which might infect the whole lump,8 for vindicating the honor of Christ and the holy profession of the gospel,9 and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church if they should suffer his new covenant and its seal, the Lord’s Supper,10 to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.11
- The censures appointed by Christ for attaining these ends are solemn admonition or reproof,12suspension from some of the privileges of membership for a season,13 and excommunication from the church;14 which are to be administered, according to the nature of the offense and the demerit of the offender, by following the procedures outlined in Scripture as suited to the offense in question, whether the case of a brother obstinate in a private offense,15 or of a divisive and factious man,16 or of a disorderly brother,17 or of a person persisting in scandalous immorality.18 Even though these procedures are never to be abandoned, each instance of discipline must be approached by applying the general principles of the Word of God to it with special care and Christian prudence.19
- Although the elders are to give leadership to the church in the exercise of censures,20yet both revocation of privileges and excommunication are to be imposed only with the consent of the church and enforced by the action of the church.21 Censures so enacted in Christ’s name according to fact and Scripture, are also by Christ made effective, so that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven.22 But censures pronounced in error and falsehood, being contrary to fact or to Christ’s word, are not valid, and have no efficacy before God, but to the contrary provoke his wrath.23
- No church members, upon any offence taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at, ought to disturb any church-order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence at any of their fellow members, but to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church.24
- Whereas the churches are all united under Christ, they should honor each other’s discipline and censures so far as is consistent with their own conscience and polity.25 In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order; it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned;26 howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church-power properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers.27
OF THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS.
- All saints that are united to Jesus Christ, their head, by his Spirit, and faith, although they are not made thereby one person with him, have fellowship in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory;1 and being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces,2and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, in an orderly way, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.3
- 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;4as also in relieving each other in outward things according to their several abilities, and necessities;5 which communion, according to the rule of the gospel, though especially to be exercised by them, in the relation wherein they stand, whether in families,6 or churches,7 yet, as God offers opportunity, is to be extended to all the household of faith, even all those who in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus; nevertheless their communion one with another as saints, does not take away or infringe the title or propriety which each man has in his goods and possessions.8
OF BAPTISM AND THE LORD’S SUPPER.
- Baptism and the Lord’s supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world.1
- These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of 2
- Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him;1 of remission of sins;2 and of his giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of 3
- Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance.4
- The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.5
- Immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance.6
OF THE LORD’S SUPPER.
- The supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in his churches unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance, and showing forth the sacrifice of himself in his death,1confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, the further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe to him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other.2
- In this ordinance Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sin of the living or dead, but only a memorial of that one offering up of himself by himself upon the cross, once for all;3 and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same.4 So that the Roman Catholic sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominable, injurious to Christ’s own sacrifice the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.
- The Lord Jesus has, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to pray, and bless the elements of bread and the fruit of the vine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use, and to take and break the bread; to take the cup, and, they communicating also themselves, to give both to the communicants.5
- The denial of the cup to the people, worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this ordinance, and to the institution of Christ.6
- The outward elements in this ordinance, duly set apart to the use ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, although in terms used figuratively, they are sometimes called by the names of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ,7 albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and the fruit of the vine, as they were before.8
- That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of the elements, 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,9but even to common sense and reason, overthrows the nature of the ordinance, and has been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.10
- Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.11
- All ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Christ, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and cannot, without great sin against him, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto;12yea, whosoever shall receive unworthily, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgment to themselves.13
OF THE STATE OF MAN AFTER DEATH, AND OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD.
- The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption;1but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them.2 The souls of the righteous being then made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise, where they are with Christ, and behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies;3 and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell; where they remain in torment and under darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day;4 besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledges none.
- At the last day, such of the saints are found alive, shall not sleep, but be changed;5and all the dead shall be raised up with the selfsame bodies, and none other;6 although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.7
- 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.8
OF THE LAST JUDGMENT.
- God has appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, by Jesus Christ;1to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father; in which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged,2 but likewise all persons that have lived upon the 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.3
- 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 eternal damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient:4 for then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fullness of joy and glory with everlasting reward, in the presence of the Lord; but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast aside into everlasting torments,5 and punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.6
- As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all men from sin,7and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity,8 so will he have the 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,9 and may ever be prepared to say, Come Lord Jesus; come quickly.10