« PreviousContinue »
EXTRACTS FROM THE HELVETICK CONFESSION.
This confession was first framed, at the requisition of the rulers and senate of Basil, by the delegates of the Helvetian states, which had embraced the evangelical doctrine, in the year 1536 ; the very year, in which Calvin settled at Geneva. It was drawn up by Bullenger, Mycomus, Grynæus, Capito, and Bucer; in order, if there should be need, to be exhibited to the general council, which was then expected.-It received the sanction of the Wittembergian theologians; as the letters of Luther himself to the Helvetians testify.-But when this confession was too short, (brerior,) ' it was, for most weighty reasons, written over again A.D. 1756; 'to which the Tigurini, the Bernenses, the Sangallenses, the · Rbæti, the Myllhusiani, the Biellenses ; and also the Geneves
subscribed. This was two years after Calvin's death. But after twenty-eight years' residence at Geneva, where his influence was exceedingly great, as well as in all the adjacent churches; it can hardly be doubted, but that it would bave secived his full sanction, had his life been continued to that time. It should be noted, that be was succeeded, at Geneva, by his colleague Theodore Beza.-If then, we desire to know, what Calvin, and his nearest associates, approved, as proper to be inserted in a publick confession of faith, on those doctrines now called Calvinistick; this may, I apprehend, be learned in a good measure from the Helvetian confession. ACcordingly, I shall translate all those parts of it which directly relate to this subject.
ARTICLE v1.-Concerning the Providence of God. * By the providence of this wise, eternal, and omnipotent God, ' we believe, that all things in heaven, and in earth, and in all 'creatures, are preserved and governed.-- For David testifies and ' says: “ The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above " the heavens. Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelletb " on high, and humblesh bimself to behold the things which are “ done in beaven and earth?". The same again says: “Thou hast
“ seen beforehand (prævidisti) all my ways: because there is “ not a word in my tongue, which thou hast not altogether " known, O Lord."i Paul also testifies and says, “ By him we “ live, and move, and are:" and “ Of him, and by him, and " to him are all things.": Most truly, therefore, and according ' to the Scripture, Augustine pronounced in the book concerning • the agony of Christ : The Lord said, “ Are not two sparrows « sold for one farthing? Yet not one of them falleth to the “ ground, without the will of your Father." But thus speaking, • he purposed to shew, that whatever men think the meanest, is • governed by the omnipotence of God. For thus the truth speak• eth ; " that the birds of the heavens are fed, and the lilies of “ the field are clothed by bim ;" and he saith, “ that even our " bairs are all numbered."}
• We therefore condemn the Epicureans, who deny the provie dence of God, and all those who blasphemously say, that God is employed about the grand concerns of heaven,' (versari circa
curdines cæli; or, 'exists in the heavens,') and does not see, . nor regard our affairs. For even David himself, the royal pro• phet, condemned these when he said, “ How long, O Lord, “ how long, shall the impious exult? Saying, God doth not see, “ neither doth the God of Jacob understand.- Understand, ye « stupid among the people, and ye fools, when will ye at lengib “ be wise? He who formed the ear, cannot be hear? Or be “ who framed the eye, how cannot he see?"* But, at the same
time, we do not despise as useless the means, (media, middle, or • intermediate, things,) by which divine Providence worketh :
but we teach, that we ought to be as far attentive to them, • (accommodandos esse) as they are commended (or enjoined, con mendentur,) in the word of God. Whence we disapprove the
rash voices of those, who say ; If all things are conducted by the • providence of God; certainly our endeavours, and our pursuits
(studia) are in vain. It will be sufficient, if we leave all things • to the government of divine providence; nor is there any rea.
son why we should be solicitous about any thing, or what we • may do. For though Paul acknowledged, that he sailed under • the providence of God, who had said to bim, “ Thou must bear “ witness to me at Rome;" who moreover bad promised to him
and had said, “ There shall be no loss of any life, neither shall a “i hair fall from your head :" nevertheless when the sailors were
meditating flight, the same Paul said to the centurion, and to i the soldiers, « Unless these remain in the ship, ye cannot be “ saved."'s For God, who hath destined his own end of an affair to & each person, hath appointed both the beginning, apd the means • (media,) by which it is brought to that end. The heathens
· Ps. cxxxix, 2.A. • Acts xvii. 28. Rom. xi, 36. 3 Matt. vi. 26-30. x. 29...31. Po xcir. 62-9. 5 Acts xxiii. II. xxvii, 22-25, 30-34.
s ascribe things to blind and uncertain chance. St. James is
not willing it should be said, “To-day, or to-morrow, we “ will journey into such a city, and we will carry on business." o negotiabimur.) « For that ye'ought to say, If the Lord shall “ will and we shall live, we will do this or that."! And Augus. • tine saith : 'All these thiags, which to vain men seem to be
done at random, in the nature of things, do not accomplish any • thing except his will, because they are not done, except by his • command. Thus it seemed to come to pass by fortune, that • Saul seeking his father's asses, came to the prophet Samuel : " but the Lord had before said to the prophet, " To-morrow I will « send unto thee a man of the tribe of Benjamin, &c.”3
Article vii. On the Creation of all things ; concerning Angels,
the Devil, and Man. This good and omnipotent God created all things, both visible and invisible, by his own coeternal Word; and he also preserves
the same by his own coeternal Spirit ; David testifying and saying, “ By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the "s power (virtus) of them by the Spirit of his mouth." But all • the things, which God created, were, as the Scripture says, " Very good," and created for the profit and use of man. We'
say then, that all things proceeded from one beginning, (or
source, principio.) We therefore condemn the Manichees and • Marcionites, who impiously feigned two substances and natures, • of good and evil; and also two principles, (principia,) and two • Gods opposite to each other, a good, and a bad, God.
"Among all the creatures, angels and men are pré-eminent. (præstant.) Concerning angels the divine Scripture pro
nounces; “ Who creates his angels spirits, and his ministers a ko Aame of fire." Also, “ Are they not ministering spirits, sent « forth for service, (in ministerium,) because of those, who are as the heirs of salvation." 0 " But the Lord Jesus himself testifies
concerning the devil, “ He was a homicide from the beginning; at and he stood not in the truth, because truth is not in hina; " when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, rex propriis, « because he is a liar, and the father of that thing." "We teach,
therefore, that some angels indeed persevered in obedience, and were deputed to the faithful ministry of God and of men, but • that others fell of their own accord; rsud sponte ;) and were prea
cipitated into destruction, and were made (or became, factos esse) " the enemies of all good and of the faithful.
'But now the Scripture saith concerning man, that at the beginning he was created good, after the likeness and similitude of
· Jam. iv, 13-16. On Ps, cxlviii. 4 Ps, xxxiii, 6. Ps, cix, 4. Heb. i. 7,
31 Sam. ix. 15-20. Hab, i, 14. Joka viii, 44.
God; that God placed him in Paradise, and subjected all thiogs ' to him.' That which David magnificently celebrates in the " eighth psalm. He added to him also a wife, and blessed them. • But we say, that man consists indeed of two and diverse sub• stances, in one person; an inmortal soul; inasmuch as, sepa
rated from the body, it neither sleeps nor dies; and a mortal ' body, which yet at the last judgment, shall be raised from the
dead; that from thence, the whole man, may remain for ever, • either in life, or death. We condemn, therefore, those who
deride, or by subtle disputations call into doubt, the immortality I of souls; or say that the soul sleeps, or is a part of God.-10 brief, we condemn all the opinions of all, even as many as think different things, concerning creation, concerning angels, and demons, and man, from those, which have been delivered to us by the Holy Scriptures, in the apostolick church of Christ.'
ARTICLE VII.-Concerning the Fall of Man, and Sin, and the
Cause of Sin. Man was at the beginning created by God after the image of • God, in righteousness and holiness of truth, good and upright; • (rectus ;) but, by the instigation of the serpent, and by his own
fault, failing from goodness and rectitude, he became obnoxious to sin, death, and various calamities. And such as he became
by the fall, are all those, who have been produced, prognati, • from him; being, I say, obnoxious to sin, death, and various & calamities. But we understand sin to be that corruption of man
by birth, (nativam illam hominis corruptionem,) which is derived ! and propagated from our first parents, unto us all ; by which
being sunk in depraved concupiscences, averse from good, but • propense to all evil; being full of all wickedness, unbelief, con• tempt, and hatred of God; we cannot do, nor indeed even think, ' any thing good, of our own sèlves.-Moreover, as now years • proceed, we bring forth corrupt fruits, worthy of a bad tree, in
evil thoughts, speeches, and deeds, committed against the law • of God: on which account, quo nomine,) by our own desert, < we become obnoxious to the wrath of God, and are subjected to o just punishments : so that we should all have been cast off from
God, unless Christ our Redeemer (Liberator) had brought us back. . –Therefore by death, we understand, not only corporeal death,
which must be undergone once by us all, because of sins ; but even eternal punishments, due to our sins and to our corruption.
For the apostle says, “We were dead in trespasses and sios :" “ and we were by nature the children of wrath, even as the rest. “ (cæberi.) But God, who is rich in mercy, when we were “dead because of sins, hath made us alive together with Christ."
And likewise, “ Thus, as by one man sin entered into the world, “ and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, in that all “ have sinned,” We therefore acknowledge original sin to be ' in all men: and we acknowledge all other sins, which arise out
of this, to be called, and in reality to be sins; by whatever : name they may be distinguished, (nuncupentur, whether mortal,
or venial, and also that which is called the sin against the Holy 'Spirit, which is never remitted. We also confess, that all sins ' are not equal, though they all spring from the same fountain of ' corruption, and unbelief; but that some are more heinous than ' others. As our Lord says, “ It shall be more tolerable to “ Sodom,"3 • than to the city which rejects the word of the gospel. " Therefore we condemn all, who have taught any thing contrary ' to these things, but especially Pelagius, and all the Pelagians; • along with the Joyinianists, who with the Stoicks make all sins * equal. But we think as to all things in this cause, with Augus
tine, who brought forth and defended his sentiments (sua,) from " the Holy Scriptures. Moreover we condemn Florinus and
Blastus, against whom Irenæus also wrote, and all who make • God the Author of sin: when it is expressly written, “ Thou art “ not a God who willest iniquiiy. Thou hatest all who work “ iniquity, thou wilt destroy all, who speak a lie.”+ And again, “ When the devil speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; because " he is a liar, and the father of the thing." But even in ourselves, ( there is enough of vice and corruption, so that it is not at all ' necessary for God to pour into us any new or increased prayity. • Therefore, when it is said in the Scriptures, that God“ hardens," " blinds," and " delivers up to a reprobale mind;" it should be • understood, that God doth this by a righteous judgment, as a • Judge, and just Avenger. Finally, as often as God is said, or ( seems, to do any thing of evil; it is not said on that account, that • man does not the evil, but that God suffers, and does not hinder • it to be done, by his own just judgment, who could, if he had ? co willed, have prevented it : or that he uses, to good purpose,
the evil of man; as the sins of Joseph's brethren: or that he · himself governs sins, that they should no more widely break
forth and prevail, than) was convenient. (quam par erat.) St. • Augustine, in bis Enchiridion, says, In a wonderful and ineffable • manner, even that does not come to pass beyond his will, which ' is contrary to his will : because it could not come 10 pass, unless • he should permit it to be done. Nor indeed does he unwillingly
permit, but willingly. Nor would he who is good permit evil "to be done; unless, as on pipotent, he was able to do good even • from the evil.—These things he says. The other questions, • Whether God willed Adain to fall, or impelled him to the fall? • Rom. v. 12. Mark iii. 28--30. I Joho v. 16–18. Matt. xi.
20-24 4 Ps, v, 4-0. A