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BX 9183 .S4 1850 
Shaw, Robert, 
An exposition of the 
Confession of faith of the 


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Act of Assembly, - - _ _ v 

Preface, .-_._- vii 

Introductory Essay, - . - . - ix 

Chapter I. Of the Holy Scripture, - - - - 1 

» II. Of God, and of the Holy Trinity, - - 23 

« III. Of God's Eternal Decree, . . - 42 

« IV. Of Creation, .... 6C 

w v. Of Providence, - - - - 65 

n VI. Of the FaU of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment 

thereof, - - - - - 73 

H VII. Of God's Coyenant with Man, - - 84 

« VIII. Of Christ the Mediator, . - . Bb 

„ IX. Of Free-will, 115 

„ X. Of Effectual Calling, - - - - 118 

„ XL Of Justification, . - . - 124 

„ XII. Of Adoption, 137 

,r XIII. Of Sanctification, - - - - 141 

„ XIV. Of Saving Faith, - - - - 145 

H XV. Of Repentance unto Life, _ _ - 154 

„ XVI. Of Good Works, - - - - 162 

n XVII. Of the Perseverance of the Saints, - - 171 

II XVIII. Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation, - 181 

„ XIX. Of the Law of God, . - - - 192 

II XX. Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience, 200 

„ XXI. Of ReUgious Worship, and the Sabbath-day, - 212 

I. XXII. Of Lawful Oaths and Vows, - - - 235 

„ XXIII. Of the CivH Magistrate, - - - 240 

„ XXIV. Of Marriage and Divorce, - - - 253 

II XXV. Of the Church, .... 258 

. XXVI. Of Communion of Saints, - - - 271 


Chap. XXVII. Of the Sacraments, - - - 279 

f, XXVIII. Of Baptism, - - - - 283 

n XXIX. Of the Lord's Supper, - - - 292 

r. XXX. Of Church Censures, - - - 302 

r. XXXI. Of Synods and Councils - - - 306 

n XXXII. Of the State of Men after Death, and of the 

Resurrection of the Dead, - - 312 

n XXXIII. Of the Last Judgment, - - - 320 

Index, - - - . - - -327 



Assemlly at Edinhitrgh, August 27, 1647. Sess. 23. 

A Confession of Faith for the Kirks of God in the three 
kingdoms, being the chiefest part of that uniformity in reli- 
gion, which by the Solemn League and Covenant, we are 
bound to endeavour : And there being accordingly a Con- 
fession of Faith agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines 
sitting at Westminster, with the assistance of Commissioners 
from the Kirk of Scotland; which Confession was sent from 
our Commissioners at London to the Commissioners of the 
Kirk met at Edinburgh in January last, and hath been in 
this Assembly twice publicly read over, examined, and con- 
sidered; copies thereof being also printed, that it might be 
particularly perused by all the members of this Assembly, 
unto whom frequent intimation was publicly made, to put 
in their doubts and objections, if they had any : And the 
said Confession being, upon due examination thereof, found 
by the Assembly to be most agreeable to the Word of God, 
and in nothing contrary to the received doctrine, worship, 
discipline, and government of this Kirk. And, lastly. It 
being so necessary, and so nmch longed for, that the said 
Confession be, with all possible diligence and expedition, 
approved and established in both kingdoms, as a principal 
part of the intended uniformity in religion, and as a special 
means for the more effectual suppressing of the many dan- 
gerous errors and heresies of these times; the General As- 
sembly doth therefore, after mature deliberation, agree unto, 
and approve the said Confession, as to the truth of the mat- 
ter (judging it to be most orthodox, and grounded upon the 
Word of God); and also, as to the point of uniformity, agree- 
ing for our part, that it be a common Confession of Faith for 
the three kingdoms. The Assembly doth also bless the 
Lord, and thankfully acknowledge his great mercy, in that 
60 excellent a Confession of Faith is prepared, and thus far 


agreed ujion in both kingdoms; Avliich we look upon as a 
great strengthening of the true Reformed religion against the 
common enemies thereof. But, lest our intention and mean- 
ing be in some particulars misunderstood, it is hereby ex- 
pressly declared and provided, That the not mentioning in 
this Confession the several sorts of ecclesiastical officers and 
assemblies, shall be no prejudice to the truth of Christ in 
these particulars, to be expressed fully in the Directory of 
Government. It is further declared. That the Assembly 
imderstandeth some parts of the second article of the tliirty- 
one chapter only of kirks not settled, or constituted in point 
of government : And that although, in such kirks, a synod 
of INIinisters, and other fit persons, may be called by the 
Magistrate's authority and nomination, without any other 
call, to consult and advise with about matters of religion; 
and although, likewise, the Ministers of Christ, without dele- 
gation from their churches, may of themselves, and by virtue 
of their office, meet together synodically in such kirks not 
yet constituted, yet neither of these ought to be done in 
kirks constituted and settled; it being always free to the 
IMagistrate to advise with synods of 5linisters and Ruling 
Elders, meeting upon delegation from their churches, either 
ordinarily, or, being indicted by his authority, occasionally, 
and pro re nata; it being also free to assemble together 
synodically, as Avell p7'o re nata as at the ordinary times, upon 
delegation from the churches, by the intriusical power 
received from Christ, as often as it is necessary for the good 
of the Church so to assemble, in case the Magistrate, to the 
detriment of the Church, withhold or deny his consent; the 
necessity of occasional assemblies being first remonstrate 
unto him by humble supplication. 

A. Ker. 


In preparing the following Exposition of the Confession 
of Faith, framed by the Westminster Assembly of Di- 
vines, it has been the object of the author to state the 
truths embraced in each section, to explain the terms 
employed wherever it seemed necessary, and to illus- 
trate and confirm the doctrines. To avoid swelling 
the volume to an undue size, the arguments have been 
stated with the utmost possible brevity; in the illustra- 
tions, conciseness, combined with perspicuity, has been 
studied, and numerous passages of Scripture, which 
elucidate the subjects treated of, have been merely re- 
ferred to, without being quoted at large. It is hoped 
that the attentive reader will here find the substance 
of larger works compressed within a small space; that 
materials for reflection will be suggested ; and that an 
examination of the texts of Scripture marked, will throw 
much light upon the points to which they refer. 

The AVestminister Confession of Faith contains a 
simple exhibition of the truth, based upon the Word of 
God ; but its several propositions are laid in opposition 
to the heresies and errors which had been disseminated 
in various ages. It has, therefore, been a prominent 
object of the author of the Exposition to point out the 
numerous errors against which the statements in the 
Confession are directed. The reader will thus find the 


deliverance of the "Westminster Assembly of Divines 
upon the various errors by which the truth has been 
corrupted in former times, and will be guarded against 
modern errors, which are generally only a revival of 
those that had previously disturbed the Church, and 
that had been long ago refuted. 

To render the work more accessible for reference, a 
Table of Contents has been prefixed, and a copious In- 
dex added, which will show, at a glance, the various 
subjects discussed, and the manifold errors that have 
been noticed, in the course of the work. 

To have transcribed the proofs from Scripture an- 
nexed to each proposition by the Westminster Assem- 
bly of Divines, would have extended this volume to an 
inconvenient size, but the texts have been inserted after 
each section; and the additional labour of those who 
will take the trouble of turning to these proofs in their 
Bibles will be amply compensated. Their scriptural 
knowledge will be enlarged, and they will be satisfied 
that every truth set down in the Confession is " most 
agreeable to the Word of God." Of this the author of 
the Exposition is so completely convinced, that he has 
rot found it necessary to differ from the compilers of 
the Confession in any one point of doctrine. The lan- 
guage, in some cases, might admit of improvement; but 
" as to the truth of the matter," he cordially concurs in 
the judgment of the General Assembly of the Church 
of Scotland in 1647, that it is "most orthodox, and 
grounded upon the Word of God." And if the Con- 
fession, two hundred years ago, contained a faithful ex- 
hibition of the truth, it must do so still ; for scriptural 
truth is, like its divine Author, " the same yesterday, 
to-day, and for ever." 

Whitburn, May 12, 1845. 



There have been many objections urged against the 
use of Creeds and Confessions of Faith, at different 
periods, and with various degrees of skill or plausibility. 
It is not necessary either to enumerate all these objec- 
tions or to answer them all, since many of them have 
sunk into oblivion, and others have already met suffi- 
cient refutation. Almost the only objection which is 
now urged with any degree of confidence, is that which 
accuses Confessions of usurping a position and authority 
due to divine truth alone. This objection itself has its 
origin in an erroneous view of w^Lat a Confession of Faith 
really is, and of what it is in which the necessity of a 
Confession being framed consists. The necessity for the 
formation of Confessions of Faith does not lie in the 
nature of the sacred truth revealed to man ; but in the 
nature of the human mind itself. A Confession of Faith 
is not a revelation of divine truth — it is "not even a 
rule of faith and practice, but a help in both," to use the 
words of our own Confession ; but it is a declaration of 
the manner in which any man, or number of men — 
any Christian or any Chm'ch — understands the truth 
which has been revealed. Its object is, therefore, not 
to teach divine truth ; but to exhibit a clear, systematic, 
and intelligible declaration of our own sentiments, and 
.to furnish the means of ascertaining the opinions of 
others, especially in religious controversies. 


The trutli of this view, and the explanation which i|' "-l 
gives of the necessity for the existence of Creeds and 
Confessions, may be easily shown. The human mind 
is so prone to error, and of such widely diversified capa- 
city in every respect, that when even a simple truth is 
presented for its reception, that truth may be reproducec I 
in almost as many different aspects as there were dif - 
ferent minds to which it was presented. Suppose it 
a single sentence, uttered in a voice, or written in ti 
language understood by all — each man might under- 
stand it in his own way, putting upon it the construc- 
tion which, to him, seemed the clearest ; but it would 
be impossible to ascertain, whether they all understood 
it in the same sense or not, by their merely repeating 
the very words which they had heard or read, unless 
they were all to state, each in his own words, what they 
understood it to mean. Each man might then say, " 1 
believe its meaning was to this effect." This would be 
really his Creed, or Confession of Faith, respecting that 
truth ; and when all had thus stated their belief, if any- 
thing like a harmonious consent of mind among them 
could be obtained, it would be their united Confession 
of Faith, with regard to that particular truth so revealed 
and understood. 

But it would be more than this — it would be both 
a bond of union among themselves on that point, and 
also a conjoint testimony to all other men ; not as ab- 
solutely and certainly teaching that truth, but as abso- 
lutely and certainly conveying the sense in which these 
men understood it, so far as their statement was itself 
distinct and intelligible; and it might prove the tenn 
of admission to the body of those who had thus emitted 
a joint declaration of what they believed to be the mean- 
ing of that truth. 

To this extent, we think, all intelligent and candid 
persons will readily concur; and so far, it must be 
evident that there is no infringement of the natural 
liberty of any man, nor any attempt to control or over* 
bear his conscientious convictions respecting what he 


believes to be truth in any given or supposable case. If 
any man cannot agree with the joint testimony borne by 
those \vho are agreed, this may be a cause of mutual re- 
gret ; but it could neither confer on them any right to 
compel him to join them, contrary to his convictions, 
nor entitle him to complain on account of being excluded 
from a body of men with whose opinions he did not 
concur. No man of strict integrity, indeed, could even 
wish to become one of a body of men with whom he 
did not agree on that peculiar point which formed the 
basis of their association. 

Now, let this view be applied to the subject of reli- 
gious truth — taking care, at the sametime, to mark the 
special points which the idea of religious truth neces- 
sarily introduces. Religious truth is the revelation of 
God's will to man — whether that revelation be conveyed 
orally, or in a written record. As it comes now to us, 
it is in a written record. This we believe to be the 
very Word of the very God of truth. In this respect, 
it is to every soul the only and the all-sufficient rule of 
faith, with regard to " what man is to believe concern- 
ing God, and what duty God requires of man." But 
the question immediately arises, as above suggested, 
whether all to whom - this revelation of God's w^ill has 
been made understand it in the same sense ? If any 
man say, that his only rule of faith is the Bibje, ever)' 
man who believes the Bible to be the Word of God 
will agree in this sentiment ; but still the question re- 
turns, " What do you understand the Bible to teach." 
It would be no answer to this question, Merely to repeat 
a series of texts ; for this would give no information in 
what sense these texts were understood. This must be 
manifest to every one who reflects for a moment. All 
who even profess the Christian name, however dis- 
cordant their opinions may be, at least assume to believe 
the Bible ; but each jarring sectarian gives his own con- 
struction to the language of that sacred book ; and it is 
only in consequence of the statement in his own words 
of what that construction is, that it can be known whe- 


ther his sentiments accord with, or differ from, those of 
the majority of professing Christians. This, as before 
remarked, arises not out of the nature of the truth re- 
vealed, but out of the nature of the minds to whom that 
truth is presented. The question is not, therefore, one 
respecting God's truth, but respecting man's truth — 
not respecting the truth of the Bible, but respecting 
man's apprehension of that truth. 

Another element now comes into view. The Bible 
not only contains a revelation of eternal truth, which it 
is man's duty to receive and to hold; but it also appoints 
a body of men to be the depositaries and teachers of that 
truth — a Church, which is not a voluntary association of 
men who have ascertained that there is a harmony of 
sentiment sufficient for a basis of union, but a divine 
institution, subject directly to God, and having no autho- 
rity over conscience. And, to complete this idea, let it 
further be observed, that God, in instituting the Church, 
has^promised to bestow upon it the Holy Spirit, to lead 
it into the knowledge of the truth. This promise, 
further, is not to the Church in an aggregate capacity 
alone, but also to every individual member thereof, so as 
both to preserve inviolate his own responsibility, and to 
secure his personal union with God. The realization of 
this great promise provides what in no other case exists, 
or can exist — an infallible umpire for the decision of 
all questions that can arise respecting Christian faith. 
For it may be confidently maintained, that whenever 
jarring Churches or individual Christians have been 
enabled to seek the light and guidance of the Holy 
Spirit in a sincere, humble, and earnest spirit, they have 
obtained such a decision of the point in dispute as to 
put an end to contention, and to secure the unity of the 
Spirit in the bonds oF peace: and further, notwithstand- 
ing all the various aspects in which Christianity has, 
during the course of many centuries, been externally 
disguised, there has been still an amount of real har- 
mony of belief such as none but an infallible teacher 
and arbiter could have secured. 


The Christian Church, as a divine institution, takes 
the Word of God alone, and the whole Word of God, as 
her only rule of faith; but she must also frame and pro- 
mulgate a statement of what she understands the Word 
of God to teach. This she does, not as arrogating any 
authority to suppress, change, or amend anything that 
God's Word teaches, but in discharge of the various 
duties which she owes to God, to the world, and to those 
of her own communion. Since she has been constituted 
the depositary of God's truth, it is her duty to him to 
state, in the most distinct and explicit terms, what she 
understands that truth to mean. In this manner she 
not only proclaims what God has said, but also appends 
her seal that God is true. Thus a Confession of Faith 
is not the very voice of divine truth, but the echo of that 
voice from souls that have heard its utterance, felt its 
power, and are answering to its call. And, since she 
has been instituted for the purpose of teaching God's 
truth to an erring world, her duty to the world requires 
that she should leave it in no doubt respecting the man- 
ner in which she understands the message which she has 
to deliver. Without doing so the Church, would be no 
teacher, and the world might remain untaught, so far as 
she was concerned. For when the message had been 
stated in God's own words, every hearer must attempt, 
according to the constitution of his own mind, to form 
some conception of what these words mean; and his 
conceptions may be very vague and obscure, or even 
very erroneous, unless some attempt be made to define, 
elucidate, and correct them. Nor, indeed, could either 
the hearers or the teachers know that they understood 
the truth alike, without mutual statements and explana- 
tions with regard to the meaning which they respec- 
tively believe it to convey. Still further, the Church, has 
a duty to discharge to those of its own communion. 
To them she must produce a form of sound words, in 
order both to promote and confirm their knowledge, and 
also to guard them against the hazard of being led into 
errors; and, as they must be regarded as all agreed, with 



respect to the main outline of the truths which they be- 
lieve, they are deeply interested in obtaining some secu- 
rity that those who are to become their teachers in future 
generations shall continue to teach the same divine and 
saving truths. The members of any Church must know 
each other's sentiments — must combine to hold them 
forth steadily and consistently to the notice of all around 
them, as witnesses for the same truths ; and must do 
their utmost to secure that the same truths shall be 
taught by all its ministers, and to all candidates for ad- 
mission. For all these purposes the formation of a 
Creed, or Confession of Faith, is imperatively necessary; 
and thus it appears that a Church cannot adequately 
discharge its duty to God, to the world, and to its own 
members, without a Confession of Faith. 

There never has been a period in which the Christian 
Church has been without a Confession of Faith, though 
these Confessions have varied both in character and in 
extent. The first and simplest Confession is that of 
Peter: " Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." 
That of the Ethiopian treasurer is similar, and almost 
identical : " I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of 
God." This Confession secured admission into the 
Church; but, without this, admission could not have 
been obtained. It was not long till this simple and brief 
primitive Confession was enlarged; at first, in order to 
meet the perverse notions of the Judaizing teachers, and 
next, to exclude those Avho were beginning to be tainted 
with the Gnostic heresies. It then became necessary, 
not only to confess that Jesus Christ was the Son of 
God, but also that Jesus Christ was come in the flesh, 
in order to prevent the admission, and to check the 
teaching, of those who held that Christ's human nature 
was a mere phantasm or appearance. In like manner 
the rise of any heresy rendered it necessary, first, to test 
the novel tenet by the Word of God and by the decision 
of the Holy Spirit, and then to add to the existing Con- 
fession of Faith a new article, containing the deliverance 
of the Church respecting each successive heresy. Thus, 


in the discharge of her duty to God, to the world, and 
to herself, the Church was constrained to enlarge the 
Confession of her Faith. But this unavoidable enlarge- 
ment ought not to be censured as unnecessarily length- 
ened and minute ; for, let it be observed, that it led to 
a continually increasing clearness and precision in the 
testimony of what the Church believes, and tended to 
the progressive development of sacred truth. Further, 
as the need of a Confession arises from the nature of the 
human mind, and the enlargement of the Confession 
was caused by the successive appearance and refutation 
of error, and as the human mind is still the same, and 
prone to the same erroneous notions, the Confession of 
Faith, which contains a refutation of past heresies, fur- 
nishes, at the sametime, to all who understand it, a 
ready weapon wherewith to encounter any resuscitated 
heresy. The truth of this view will be most apparent to 
those who have most carefully studied the various Con- 
fessions of Faith framed by the Christian Church. And 
it must ever be regarded as a matter of no small im- 
portance by those who seek admission into any Church, 
that in its Confession they can obtain a full exhibition 
of the terms of communion to which they are required 
to consent. The existence of a Confession of Faith is 
ever a standing defence against the danger of any Church 
lapsing unawares into heresy. For although no Church 
ought to regard her Confession as a standard of faith, in 
any other than a subordinate sense, still it is a standard 
of admitted faith, which the Church may not lightly 
abandon, and a term of communion to its own members, 
till its articles are accused of being erroneous, and again 
brought to the final and supreme standard, the Word of 
God and the teaching of the Holy Spirit, sincerely, 
humbly, and earnestly sought in faith and prayer. 

II. Quitting the subject of Confessions of Faith in 
general, we direct our attention to the Confession of 
Faith framed by the Westminster Assembly of Divines. 
The first thing which must strike any thoughtful reader, 



after having carefully and studiously perused the "West- 
minster Assembly's Confession of Faith, is the remark- 
able comprehensiveness and accuracy of its character, 
viewed as a systematic exhibition of divine truth, or 
what is termed a system of theology. In this respect it 
may be regarded as almost perfect, both in its arrange- 
ment and in its completeness. Even a single glance over 
its table of contents will show with what exquisite skill 
its arrangement proceeds from the statement of first prin- 
ciples to the regular development and final consummation 
of the whole scheme of revealed truth. Nothing essen- 
tial is omitted; and nothing is extended to a length 
disproportioned to its due importance. Nor do we think 
that a systematic study of theology could be prosecuted 
on a better plan than that of the Confession of Faith. 
Too little attention, perhaps, has been shown to the Con- 
fession in this respect; and we are strongly persuaded 
that it might be most advantageously used in our theolo- 
gical halls as a text-book. This, at least, may be affirmed, 
that no private Christian could fail to benefit largely from 
a deliberate and studious perusal and reperusal of the 
Confession of Faith, for the express purpose of obtaining 
a clear and systematic conception of sacred truth, both 
as a whole, and with all its parts so arranged as to dis- 
play their relative importance, and their mutual bearing 
upon, and illustration of, each other. Such a deliberate 
perusal would also tend very greatly to fortify the mind 
against the danger of being led astray by crude no- 
tions, or induced to attribute undue importance to some 
favourite doctrine, to the disparagement of others not 
less essential, and with serious injury to the harmonious 
analogy of faith. 

There is another characteristic of the Westminster 
Confession to which still less attention has been gene- 
rally directed, but which is not less remarkable. Framed, 
as it was, by men of distinguished learning and ability, 
who were thoroughly conversant with the history of the 
Church from the earliest times till the period in which 
they lived, it contains the calm and settled judgment of 


these profound divines on all previous heresies and sub- 
jects of controversy which had in any age or country 
agitated the Church. This it does without expressly 
naming even one of these heresies, or entering into mere 
controversy. Each error is condemned, not by a direct 
statement and refutation of it, but by a clear, definite, 
and strong statement of the converse truth. There was, 
in this mode of exhibiting the truth, singular wisdom 
combined with equally singular modesty. Everything 
of an irritating nature is suppressed, and the pure and 
simple truth alone displayed; while there is not only 
no ostentatious parade of superior learning, but even a 
concealment of learning the most accurate and profound. 
A hasty or superficial reader of the Confession of Faith 
will scarcely perceive that, in some of its apparently 
simple propositions, he is perusing an acute and conclu- 
sive refutation of the various heresies and controversies 
that have corrupted and disturbed the Church. Yet, if 
he will turn to Church history, make himself acquainted 
with its details, and resume his study of the Confession, 
he will be often surprised to find in one place the wild 
theories of the Gnostics dispelled; in another, the Arian 
and Socinian heresies set aside; in another, the very 
essence of the Papal system annihilated; and in another, 
the basis of all Pelagian and Arminian errors removed. 
Thus viewed, the Confession of Faith might be so con- 
nected with one* aspect of Church liistory as to furnish, 
if not a text- book according to chronological arrange- 
ment, in studying the rise and refutation of heresies, yet 
a valuable arrangement of their relative importance, doc- 
trinally considered. And when we advert to the fact 
that, owing to the sameness of the human mind, there 
is a perpetually recurring tendency to reproduce an old 
and exploded error, as if it were a new discovery of some 
hitherto unknown or neglected truth, it must be obvious 
that were the peculiar excellence of our Confession, as 
a deliverance on all previously existing heresies, better 
known and more attended to, there would be great 
reason to hope that their re-appearance would be ren- 


dered almost impossible, or, at least, that their grovvth 
would be very speedily and effectually checked. 

Closely connected with this excellence of the Confes- 
sion of Faith is its astonishing precision of thought and 
language. The whole mental training of the eminent 
divines of that period led to this result. They were 
accustomed to cast every argument into the syllogistic 
form, and to adjust all its terms with the utmost care and 
accuracy. Every one who has studied the propositions 
of the Confession must have remarked their extreme pre- 
cision; but, without pecuhar attention, he may not per- 
ceive the astonishing care which these divines must have 
bestowed on this part of their great work. This may 
be best shown by an instance. Let us select one from 
chapter iii., " On God's Eternal Decree," sections 3 and 
4 : "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his 
glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto ever- 
lasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. 
These angels and men thus predestinated and foreor- 
dained," &c. The expressions to w^iich we wish to 
draw the readei'-'s attention are the words predestinated 
and foreordained, A hasty or superficial reader might 
perceive no difference between these words. But, if so,' 
why are ih.Qj both used ? for there is no instance or 
mere tautological repetition in the concise language of 
the Confession. But, further, let it be well remarked 
that the word " predestinated" is used only in connec- 
tion with "everlasting life," and the word "foreordained" 
with " everlasting death." And when the compound 
form of the proposition is assumed, both terms are used 
to represent each its respective meml)er in the general 
affirmation. Why is this the case? Because the West- 
minster Divines did not understand the meaning of the 
terms predestination and foreordinaiion to be identi- 
cal, and therefore never used these words as synonymous. 
By predestination they meant a positive decree deter^ 
mining to confer everlasting life; and this they re- 
garded as the basis of the whole doctrines of free grace^ 
arising from nothing in man, but having for its divine 


origin the character and sovereignty of God. 'By fore- 
ordination, on the other hand, they meant a decree of 
order, or arrangement, detei^mining that the guiltif 
shoidd he condemned to everlasting death ; and this 
they regarded as the basis of judicial procedure, accord- 
ing to which God " ordains men to dishonour and wrath 
for their sin," and having respect to man's owji character 
and conduct. Let it be further remarked, that while, 
according to this view, the term predestination could 
never with propriety be applied to the lost, the terni 
foreordination might be applied to the saved, since they 
also are the subjects, in one sense, of judicial procedure. 
Accordingly there is no instance in the Confession of 
Faith where the term jjredesfination is applied to the 
lost, though there are several instances where the term 
foreordination, or a kindred term, is applied to the 
saved. And let this also be m-arked, that the term 
^'eprobation, wdiich is so liable to be misunderstood and 
applied in an offensive sense to the doctrine of predes- 
tination, is not even once used in the Confession of 
Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Later 
writers on that doctrine have indeed employed that 
word, as older writers had done, and had thereby fur- 
nished occasion to the opponents of the doctrine to mis- 
represent it; but the Westminster Divines cautiously 
avoided the use of an offensive term, carefully selected 
such words as were best fitted to convey their meaning, 
and in every instance used them with the most strict 
and definite precision.* Many other examples might be 
given of the remarkable accuracy of thought and lan- 
guage which forms a distinguished characteristic of the 
Confession of Faith; but we must content ourselves 
with suggesting the line of investigation, leaving it to 
every reader to prosecute it for himself 

Another decided and great merit of the Confession 

* In the Exposition it has been found necessary to use the term reproba- 
tion, in consequence of its frequent occurrence in tlie writings of the most 
eminent modern authors; wlio have, however, been careful to explain it, so 
as to guard against the harsh misconstruction of its meaning by prejudiced 
opponents. When so explained it is harmless ; but it might have been as well. 
had a term so liable to be perverted never been employed. 


consists in the clear and well-defined statement which 
it makes of the principles on which alone can securely 
rest the great idea of the co-ordination, yet mutual sup- 
port, of the civil and the ecclesiastical jurisdictions. It 
is but too usual for people to misunderstand those parts 
of the Confession which treat of these jurisdictions — 
some accusing those passages of containing Erastian con- 
cessions, and others charging them with being either 
lawless or intolerant. The truth is, they favour no ex- 
treme. Proceeding upon the sacred rule, to render to 
Csesar what is Cissar's, and to God what is God's, they 
willingly ascribe to the civil magistrate a supreme power 
in the State — all that belongs to his province, not merely 
with regard to his due authority over the persons and 
property of men, l)ut also with regard to what pertains 
to his own official mode of rendering homage to the 
King of kings. It is in this latter department of magis- 
terial duty that what is called the power of the civil 
magistrate, circa sacra — about religious matters, con- 
sists. But there his province ends, and he has no power 
in sacris — in religious matters. This is most carefully 
guarded in tlie leading proposition of chapter xxx. : — 
" The Lord Jesus Christ, as King and Head of his 
Church, hath therein appointed a government in 
THE hands of Church Officers, distinct from the 
Civil Magistrate." The leading Erastlans of that 
period, learned and subtle as they were, felt it impos- 
sible to evade the force of that proposition, and could 
but refuse to give to it the sanction ot the Legislature. 
They could not, however, prevail upon the Assembly 
either to modify or suppress it; and there it remains, 
and must remain, as the unanswered and unanswerable 
refutation of the Erastian heresy by the Westminster 
Assembly of Divines. In modern times it has been too 
much the custom of the opponents of Erastianism tacitly 
to grant the Erastian argument — or, at least, the prin- 
ciple on which it rests — by admitting, or even asserting, 
that if a Church be established, it must cease to have a 
separate and independent jurisdiction, and must obey 


the laws of the State, even in spiritual matters; but then 
declaring, that as this is evidently wrong, there ought to 
be no Established Church. There is more peril to both 
civil and religious liberty in this mode of evading Eras- 
tianism than is commonly perceived ; for, if it were gene- 
rally admitted that an Established Church ought to be 
subject, even in spiritual matters, to the civil jurisdiction 
of the State, then would civil rulers have a direct and 
admitted interest in establishing a Church, not for the 
sake of promoting Christianity, nor with the view of 
rendering homage to the Prince of the kings of the 
earth, but for the purpose of employing the Church as 
a powerful engine of State policy. That they would 
avail themselves of such an admission is certain; and 
this w^ould necessarily tend to produce a perilous con- 
test between the defenders of religious liberty and the 
supporters of arbitrary power; and if the issue should be 
the triumph of Erastianism, that issue would inevitably 
involve the loss of both civil and rehgious liberty in the 
blending of the two jurisdictions — which is the very es- 
sence of absolute despotism. Of this the framers of our 
Confession were well aware; and, therefore, they strove 
to procure the well-adjusted and mutual counterpoise 
and co-operation of the two jurisdictions, as the best 
safeguards of both civil and religious liberty, and as 
founded on the express authority of the Word of God. 
It never yet has been proved, from either Scripture or 
reason, that they WTre wrong, although their views have 
been much misunderstood and grievously misrepre- 
sented. But, instead of prosecuting this topic, we refer 
to the comment on those chapters which treat of the 
civil magistrate, of synods, and of Church censures, as 
giving a very accurate and intelligible explanation of the 
doctrine of the Confession on these subjects. 

The* Confession of Faith has often been accused of 
advocating intolerant and persecuting principles. It 
is, however, in truth, equally free from latitudinarian 
laxity on the one hand, and intolerance on the other. 
An intelligent and candid perusal of chapter xx.. 


" On Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience," 
ought of itself to refute all such calumnies. The mind 
of man never produced a truer or nobler proposition 
than the follo^Ying: — " God alone is Lord of the con- 
science, and hath left it free from the doctrines and 
commandments of men, which are in anything contrary 
to his Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship." 
The man who can comprehend, entertain, and act upon 
that principle, can never arrogate an overbearing and 
intolerant authority over the conscience of his fellow- 
man, much less wdeld against him the weapons of re- 
morseless persecution. But there is a very prevalent, 
and yet very false, method of thinking, or pretending to 
think, respecting toleration and liberty of conscience. 
Many seem to be of opinion that toleration consists in 
making no distinction between truth and error, but re- 
garding them with equal favour. This opinion, if care- 
fully analyzed, would be found to be essentially of an 
infidel character. Many seem to think that by liberty 
of conscience is meant, that every man should be at 
liberty to act in everything according to his own incli- 
nation, without regard to the feelings, convictions, and 
rights of other men. This would, indeed, be to convert 
liberty into lawlessness, and to make conscience of licen- 
tiousness. But the Confession proceeds upon the prin- 
ciple that truth can be distinguished from error, right 
from wrong; that though conscience cannot be com- 
pelled, it may be enlightened; and that when sinful, 
corrupt, and prone to licentiousness, men may be law- 
fully restrained from the commission of such excesses as 
are offensive to public feeling, and injurious to the moral 
^velfare of the community. If this be intolerance, it is 
a kind of intolerance of which none will complain but 
those who wish to be free from all restraint of law, 
human or divine. Nothing, in our opinion, but a wil- 
ful determination to misrepresent the sentiments ex- 
pressed in the Confession of Faith, or a culpable degree 
of wilful ignorance respecting the true meaning of these 
sentiments, could induce any man to accuse it of favour- 


ing intolerant and persecuting principles. Certainly the 
conduct of those who framed it gave no countenance to 
such an accusation, though that calumny has been often 
and most pertinaciously asserted. On this point, also, 
it would he well if people would take the trouble to 
ascertain what precise meaning the framers of the Con- 
fession gave to the words which they employed; for it 
is not doing justice to them and their w^ork to adopt 
some modern acceptation of a term used by them in a 
different sense, and then to charge them with holding 
the sentiment conveyed by the modern use or misuse of 
that terra. Yet this is the method almost invariably 
employed by the assailants of the Confession of Faith. 

III. In order to form a right conception of the Con- 
fession of Faith, it is absolutely necessary to have some 
acquaintance with the history of the period in which 
it w^as composed. A brief outline, however, is all 
that our present space can afford. There was, from the 
beginning, a very strong and essential difference be- 
tween the Reformed Churches of England and of Scot- 
land; arising, in a great measure, out of the pecuhar 
elements prevailing at the time in the respective king- 
doms. In England, the Reformation was begun, con- 
ducted, and stopped, almost entirely according to the 
pleasure of the reigning sovereign. In Scotland, it was 
begun, carried forward, and completed, in spite of the 
determined opposition of the sovereign. In England, 
therefore, the will of the monarch was an essential ele- 
ment from the first, and continued to be so throughout 
the course of the Reformation; and the Church of Eng- 
land was accordingly based upon, and pervaded by, the 
evil influence of the Erastian principle, the sovereign 
being recognised as the supreme judge in causes eccle- 
siastical as well as in causes civil. The Church of Scot- 
land assumed a very different basis, and gave her undi- 
vided allegirjice to a far other King : she assumed as the 
sole rule the Word of God alone, and the w^hole Word 
of God, in all matters of doctrine, worship, government, 


and discipline; and paid her allegiance to the Lord Jesus 
Christ, and to him alone, as the only Head and King of 
the Church, There was, therefore, in the Church of 
Scotland, from the first, a degree of spiritual indepen- 
dence — ^of true religious liberty, to which the Church of 
England never could attain. 

This spiritual independence enjoyed by the Church of 
Scotland was by no means agreeable to James YI., who 
set himself to subvert it by every means which fraud 
(by him called " king-craft") could devise, or force ac- 
complish. He did not wholly succeed, though, by 
banishing the faithful and the fearless, and overawing 
the timid, he did manage to mould it somewhat into 
conformity with his arbitrary will, and imposed upon it a 
set of sycophantic and tyrannical prelates. His sterner 
but not less deceitful son, Charles I., urged on by the 
narrow-minded and cruel Laud, seeking to complete what 
his father had begun, drove Scotland to the necessity of 
rising in defence of her liberties, civil and sacred. This 
gave rise to the great National Covenant of 1638, by 
which the people of almost the entire kingdom were 
knit to God and to each other, in a solemn bond for the 
maintenance and defence of sacred truth and freedom. 
The contest proceeding, a General Assembly was held 
at Glasgow towards the close of the same year, in which 
the system of Prelacy was abolished, and the Presbyterian 
Church of Scotland restored. In vain did the king 
attempt to overthrow this second Reformation, even by 
the extreme measure of an attempted invasion. The tide 
of war rolled back from the Scottish borders, and the 
Church and kingdom continued covenanted and free. 

But a storm had been long gathering in England, and 
was ready to burst forth with uncontrollable might. 
Although the progress of the Reformation in England 
had been paralized in all its elements, and stopped short 
long ere it had reached anything like completeness, still 
there were many who ardently desired to promote the 
greater purity of the English Church, by additional 
reforms in doctrine, worship, and discipline. This could 


not be obtained ; but the persevering efforts of these true 
Reformers gave rise to the Puritan party, as they were 
designated, and prepared for a more intense and formid- 
able struggle. On the other hand, while the Puritans 
were striving for further reform, what may be termed 
the Court party were receding further and further from 
the principles of the Reformation, and gradually approxi- 
mating to those of Rome. The evil genius of the un- 
happy Laud brought matters to a crisis. His influence 
urged on the unfortunate king to the adoption of mea- 
sures formidable alike to both civil and religious liberty. 
The free spirit of England was at length aroused ; and 
the contest between the despotic monarch and his free- 
hearted subjects began to assume the aspect of a civil 
war. The Parliament declared its own sittings perma- 
nent; and regarding the despotic principles and conduct 
of the bishops as the direct cause of the oppression un- 
der which they had so long groaned, passed a bill for the 
abolition of Prelacy. The king unsheathed the sword of 
civil war; and the English Parliament sought the as- 
sistance of Scotland, as necessary to preserve the liber- 
ties of both kingdoms. The leading Scottish statesmen 
were well aware, that if the king should succeed in his 
attempt to overpower the English Parliament, he would 
immediately assail Scotland with increased power and 
determination. But at the sametime, as their whole 
contest had been on sacred ground, they could not enter 
into an offensive and defensive alliance with the English 
Parliament for any less hallowed cause, or with any less 
important object in view. Had the king not gone be- 
yond his own province, and invaded that of religion, 
they would have left his jurisdiction and authority un- 
questioned and untouched. For such reasons they would 
not frame with England a civil league, except it were 
based upon, and pervaded by, a religious covenant. To 
these views England consented ; and the consequence 
was, the formation of The Solemn League and Cove- 
nant — a document which we cannot help regarding as 
the noblest and best, in its essential nature and princi- 


pies, of all that are recorded among the international 
transactions of the world. 

A considerable time before this important event took 
place, the idea had been entertained in England that it 
would be extremely desirable to call a " general synod 
of the most grave, pious, learned, and judicious divines," 
for the purpose of deliberating respecting all things 
necessary for the peace and good government of the 
Church. This desire had been intimated as early as 
1641; while it was not till June 12, 16'43, that Parlia- 
ment issued the Ordinance calling the Assembly. Al- 
though, therefore, the Solemn League and Covenant 
exercised no little influence in the deliberations of that 
Assembly, it was not the cause of that Assembly being 
held. At the time when the Assembly was called to- 
gether, there was no organized Church in England. 
Prelacy had been abohshed, and no other form of Church 
government was in existence. It did not meet as a 
Church court, in any accurate sense of that expression, 
but was in reality merely an assembly of divines, called 
together in a case of extreme emergency, to consult, de- 
liberate, and advise, but not to exercise directly any judi- 
cial or ecclesiastical functions. This it is necessary to bear 
in mind, not for the purpose of casting any slight upon 
its character and proceedings, but for the purpose of 
showing how utterly groundless are the assertions of 
those who charge it with being constituted on an Erastian 
principle. It could not have met except under the pro- 
tection of Parliament. It was not an ecclesiastical court 
at all ; for it had no conformity with either the Epis- 
copalian, Presbyterian, or Congregational systems of 
Church government ; it neither ruled the Parliament, nor 
was ruled by the Parliament ; it deliberated, reasoned, 
voted, formed its own free judgment concerning the 
important matters before it, and gave the result as its 
advice to Parliament, to be followed or rejected by that 
body on its own responsibility. When the members of 
Parliament, Avho formed a constituent element of it as 
lay assessors, strove to introduce Erastian principles into 


its decisions, it met these attempts with strong, perseve- 
ring, and invincible opposition — wilHng rather that its 
whole protracted labours should be rejected, than that, 
by any weak and sinful compromise, it should consent 
to the admission of an evil principle. 

The greater part of the divines of whom the Westmin- 
ster Assembly was composed were of the Puritans ; but 
nearly all of these had been originally Episcopalians, so far, 
at least, as regarded their ordination, and their having 
held the ministerial office in connection with the Prelatic 
Estabhshment. The Independents w^ere at first only 
five in number — Goodwin, Nye, Burroughs, Bridge, 
and Simpson — but afterwards increased to about a dozen. 
There were only two of the divines that entertained 
Erastian principles — Lightfoot and Coleman. The Scot- 
tish commissioners, appointed to consult and deliberate, 
but not to vote, were six in number, four of whom were 
ministers — Henderson, Baillie, Rutherford, and Gil- 
lespie; and two elders — Lord Maitland and Johnston 
of Warriston. The whole number of the Assembly 
amounted to one hundred and forty-two divines, and 
thirty-two lay assessors; but of this number seldom 
more than from sixty to eighty gave regular attendance. 
The Assembly was convened for the first time on Satur- 
day, July 1, 1643, and it continued to hold regular 
meetings till February 22, 1649 ; when, instead of being 
formally dissolved, it was formed into a committee for 
the trial of ministers. In this character it continued to 
meet occasionally till March 25, 1652, when Cromwell 
forcibly dissolved the Long Parhament, and put an end 
to everything to which it had given existence. The 
number of sessions held by the Westminster Assembly 
was one thousand one hundred and sixty-three, and the 
period of its duration five years, six months, and twenty- 
one days. 

The general result of the Westminster Assembly's 
deliberations was the framing of the Confession of Faith, 
the Directory for Public Worship, a Form of Church 
Government and Discipline, and the Catechisms, Larger 


and Shorter. When these had been completed, the 
Scottish Commissioners returned to their own country, 
laid the fruits of those labours in which they had been 
so long and arduously engaged before the General 
Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and obtained the 
ratification of those important productions. So careful, 
however, was the Church of Scotland to guard against 
the possible admission of anything that could be even 
suspected to have the slightest taint of Erastianism, 
that the Assembly, in its Act approving the Confession 
of Faith, of date August 27, 1647,* inserted an expla- 
nation of chapter xxxi., relating to the authority of the 
civil magistrate to call a synod — restricting that autho- 
rity to the case of " Churches not settled or constituted 
in point of government," and protecting the right of the 
Church to hold assemblies on its own authority, " by 
the intrinsical power derived from Christ," even though 
the civil magistrate should deny his consent. To this 
the Scottish Parliament offered no opposition ; but the 
English Parliament refused, or at least declined, to ratify 
or sanction it, and re-committed certain particulars in 
discipline. These particulars were section 4, chapter xx., 
"Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience;" 
chapter xxx., " Of Church Censures;" and chapter 
xxxi., '' Of Synods and Councils." Let the intelligent 
and candid reader peruse carefully the above-named 
passages, and he cannot but perceive the folly, absurdity, 
or perverse malevolence of those who accuse the Con- 
fession of Faith of being tainted with intolerance and 
Erastianism; since the very passages on which such 
persons pretend to found their accusations were those 
which the decidedly Erastian, and not peculiarly tole- 
rant Parliament of England, refused to sanction. It 
is painful to be constrained even to allude to the con- 
tinued fabrication of such calumnious charges, and that, 
too, by some who either do know, or ought to know, 
that they are utterly untrue. " What shall I do in 
order to become famous ? " said an ambitious youth to 
* The reader will find this Act prefixed — Vide page v. 


an ancient sophist. " Kill a man who is famous al- 
ready, and then your name will be always mentioned 
along with his," was the sophist's reply. On some such 
principle those men seem to act, who charge the Con- 
fession of Faith with intolerance, as if that were the 
ready way to procure renown. But the sophist neglected 
to draw the distinction between fame and infamy; and 
it may ultimately appear that those who seek celebrity 
by attempting to kill the reputation of the Westminster 
divines, have committed a similar mistake. 

But it is not necessary here to prosecute the vindica- 
tion of the Westminster Assembly and the Confession 
of Faith. That has been effectually done recently by 
various publications, to which the reader is referred. 
This only would we further state, with regard to such 
accusations, that Presbyterians in general, and Scottish 
Presbyterians in particular, have long been guilty of 
[the most uno;rateful neglect and disregard towards the 
memories of the truly great and good men by whom the 
admirable subordinate standards of their Church were 
framed. It would be absurd to ascribe perfection either 
to the men or to their works; but it is worse than absurd 
to permit them to be vilified by assailants of all kinds, 
certainly in no respect the equals of these men, without 
uttering one w^ord in their defence. The best mode 
of defending them, however, is to draw to them the 
quickened attention of the public mind. Let them be 
read and studied profoundly; let them be exposed to 
the most minute and sifting examination; let every pro- 
position be severely tested by the strictest laws of rea- 
soning and by the supreme standard of the Word of 
God. Whatever cannot endure this investigation, let it 
he cast aside, as tried in the balance and found wanting ; 
for this is only consistent with its own frank admission, 
that " all synods and councils, since the apostles' times, 
whether general or particular, may err, and many have 
Rrred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of 
faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both." But 
so far as it does stand an examination so searching — and 


of that we have no fear — let it no longer be exposed to 
the wanton assaults of rude ignorance, guileful calumny, 
or bitter malevolence. This, and nothing less thain this, 
is due to the memory of the illustrious dead, and to the 
living Confession of their Faith, and to our own reve- 
rential attachment to the sacred doctrines therein stated 
and maintained. 

IV. Our prefatory remarks were begun by directing 
attention to the necessity for the existence of Creeds and 
Confessions, and the important purposes subserved by 
these subordinate standards; and we resume that view 
for the purpose of stating the inference to which it 
ought to lead. Since a Church cannot exist without 
some Confession, or mode of ascertaining that its mem- 
bers are agreed in their general conception of what they 
understand divine truth to mean ; and since the succes- 
sive rise of heretical opinions, and their successive 
refutation, necessarily tends to an enlargement of the 
Confession, and at the sametime to an increasing deve- 
lopment of the knowledge of divine truth, ought it not 
to follow, that the various Confessions of separate 
Churches would have a constant tendency to approxi- 
mate, till they should all blend in one harmonious Con- 
fession of one Church general ? No one who has studied 
a harmony of Protestant Confessions can hesitate to ad- 
mit that this is a very possible, as it is a most desirable, 
result. When, further, we rise to that spiritual element to 
which also our attention has been directed, we may antici- 
pate an increasing degree of enlightenment in the Chris- 
tian Church, bestowed by the Holy Spirit, in answer to 
the earnest prayers of sincere and humble faith, which 
will greatly tend to hasten forward and secure an amount 
of Christian unity in faith and love far beyond what has 
existed since the times of the apostles. Entertaining 
this pleasing idea, we might expect both that the latest 
Confession of Faith framed by a Protestant Church 
would be the most perfect, and also that it might form 
a basis of evangelical union to the whole Church. To 


some this may seem a startling, or even an extravagant 
idea. But let it be remembered, that, owing to a pecu- 
liar series of unpropitious circumstances, the West- 
minster Assembly's Confession of Faith has never yet 
been adequately known to the Christian Churches. By 
the Scottish Church alone was it fully received ; and in 
consequence of the various events w^hich have since be- 
fallen that Church, comparatively little attention has 
been paid to the Confession of Faith till recent times. 
It is now, we trust, in the process of becoming more 
known and better understood than formerly; nnd w^e feel 
assured that the more it is known and the better it is 
understood, the more highly will its great and varied 
excellences be estimated. This w^ill tend, at the same- 
time, to direct to it the attention of other Churches ; and 
we cannot help anticipating the degree of surprise which 
will be felt by many ingenuous minds, that they had 
remained so long unacquainted with a production of 
such remarkable value. Should this be the case, as we 
venture to hope, and should any serious objections be 
entertained by fair and candid minds with regard to 
some expressions in the Confession, there could be no 
great difficulty in appending to these some slight verbal 
explanations, showing what they were intended to mean, 
and how we understand them ; for we are fully per- 
suaded that by far the greater proportion of objections 
that could be entertained by any evangelical Christian 
or Church would relate merely to peculiar terms, and 
would be founded almost entirely on a misconception 
of what meaning these terms were intended to convey. 
For our own part, we wish no alteration, even of a single 
word ; but neither do we think it necessary to allow the 
erroneous interpretation of a word to operate as an ob- 
stacle to the reception by other Churches of our Con- 
fession of Faith, if, by the explanation of that word, the 
obstacle might be removed. 

Such a result would be the realization of the great 
idea entertained by the leading members of the West- 
minster Assembly, and especially by the Scottish com- 


missioners — ■with Avhom, indeed, it originated. No nar • 
row and limited object could satisfy the desires and 
anticipations of these enlightened and large-hearted men. 
With one comprehensive glance they surveyed the con- 
dition of Christendom and the world — marked its neces- 
sities, and contemplated the remedy. Thus they formed 
the great, and even sublime idea of a Protestant union 
throughout Christendom; not merely for the purpose 
of counterbalancing Poper}', but in order to purify, 
strengthen, and unite all true Christian Churches; so 
that, with combined energy and zeal, they might go 
forth, in glad compliance with the Redeemer's com- 
mands, teaching all nations, and preaching the everlast- 
ing gospel to every creature under heaven. Such was 
the magnificent conception of men whom it has been too 
much the fashion to stigmatize as narrow-minded bigots. 
It is not in the heart of a bigot that a love able to em- 
brace Christendom could be cherished — it is not in the 
mind of a bigot that an idea of such moral sublimity 
could be conceived. It may be said, no doubt, that this 
idea was premature. Premature it was in one sense; 
for it could not be then realized ; but the statement of 
it was not premature, for it was the statement of the 
grand result which ought to have been produced by the 
Reformation. In still another sense it was not prema- 
ture, any more than it is premature to sow the seed in 
spring from which we expect to reap the autumnal har- 
vest. The seed must be sown before the harvest can be 
produced — the idea must be stated before it can be rea- 
lized. It must then be left to work its way into the 
mind of man — to grow, and strengthen, and enlarge, till 
in due time it shall produce its fruit in its season. 

May it not be hoped that tlie fruit-bearing season is 
at hand? All things seem hastening forward to some 
mighty change or development. On all sides the ele- 
ments of evil are mustering with almost preternatural 
rapidity and power. Popery has, to an unexpected 
degree, recovered from its deadly wound and its ex- 
hausted weakness, and is putting forth its destructive 


energies in every quarter of the world. In England the 
dread aspect of Laud ean Prelacy has re-appeared — called, 
indeed, by a new name, but displaying all the formidable 
characteristics of its predecessor — the same in its lofty 
pretensions, in its Popish tendencies, in its supercilious 
contempt of every other Church, and in its persecuting 
spirit. The civil government appears to be impelled by 
something like infatuation, and is introducing, or giving 
countenance to, measures that are darkly ominous to 
both civil and religious liberty, as if hastening onward 
to a crisis w hich all may shudder to contemplate. The 
masses of the community are in a state ripe for any con- 
vulsion, how^ever terrible, having been left for genera- 
tions uneducated and uninstructed in religious truth. 
The Scottish Ecclesiastical Establishment has been rent 
asunder; its constitution has been changed, or rather 
subverted; and those who firmly maintained the prin- 
ciples of the Church of Scotland have been constrained 
to separate from the State, in order to preserve these 
principles unimpaired. The Church of Scotland is again 
disestablished, as she has been in former times ; but she 
is free — free to maintain all those sacred principles be- 
queathed to her by reformers, and divines, and martyrs 
— free to offer to all other evangelical Churches the 
right hand of brotherly love and fellowship — free to 
engage with them in the formation of a great evangelical 
union, on the firm basis of sacred and eternal truth. 
Surely these concurring events are enough to constrain 
all who are able to comprehend them, to long for some 
sure rallying ground on which the defenders of religious 
truth and liberty may plant their standard. Such 
rallying ground we think the Confession of Faith would 
afford, w^ere its principles carefully considered and fully 
understood. And we would fondly trust we may che- 
rish the hope of at length accomplishing the Christian 
enterprise for which the Westminster Assembly met 
together, and of realizing the great idea which filled the 
minds of its most eminent Christian patriots. 

"The errors which prevented the success of the West- 


minster Assembly may be to us beacons, both warning 
from danger and guiding on to safety. In their case, 
political influence and intrigue formed one baneful ele- 
ment of deadly power. Let all political influence be dis- 
trusted and avoided, and let political intrigue be utterly 
unknown in all our religious deliberations. In times of 
trouble and alarm, ' Trust not in princes, nor in the sons 
of men,* with its divine counterpart, ' Trust in the Lord, 
and stay yourselves upon your God,' should be the 
watchword and reply of all true Christian Churches. 
Dissensions among brethren, groundless jealousies, and 
misconstructions, and want of openness and candour, 
were grievously pernicious to the Westminster Assembly. 
If the Presbyterians and the Independents could have 
banished the spirit of dissension, expelled all petty jea- 
lousy, and laid their hearts open to each other in godly 
simplicity and sincerity, all the uniformity that was 
really necessary might have been easily obtained. And 
if all truly evangelical Christians, whether they be Pres- 
byterians, or Independents, or Baptists, or Methodists, or 
Episcopalians, such as some that could be named, would 
but give full scope to their already existing and strong 
principles and feelings of faith and hope and love, there 
could be little difficulty in framing such a Christian 
union — term it Presbyterian or Evangelical, so that it be 
truly scriptural — as might be able, by the blessing and 
the help of God, to stem and bear back the growing and 
portentous tide of Popery and Infidelity, that threaten, 
with their proud waves, once more to overwhelm the 

" Has not the time for this great evangelical and scrip- 
tural union come ? It is impossible for any one to looli 
abroad upon the general aspect of the world with even a 
hasty glance, without perceiving indications of an almost 
universal preparation for some great event. The nations 
of the earth are still — not in peace, but like wearied 
combatants, resting on their arms a brief breathing space, 
that, with recovered strength and quickened animosity, 
they may spring anew to the mortal struggle. During 


this fallacious repose there has been, and there is, an ex- 
ertion of the most intense and restless activity, by prin- 
ciples the most fiercely hostile, for the acquisition of 
partisans. Despotism and Democracy, Superstition and 
Infidelity, have alike been mustering their powers and 
calling forth their energies, less apparently for mutual 
destruction, according to their wont and nature, than in 
order toform an unnatural coalition and conspiracy against 
the very existence of free, pure, and spiritual Christi- 
anity. Nor, in one point of view, has Christianity been 
recently lying supine and dormant. Many a noble enter- 
prise for the extension of the gospel at home and abroad 
has been planned and executed; and the great doctrines 
of saving truth have been clearly explained and boldly 
proclaimed, with earnest warmth and uncompromising 
faithfulness. A time of refreshing also has come from 
the presence of the Lord — a spirit of revival has been 
poured forth upon the thirsty Church, and the hearts of 
Christian brethren have learned to melt and blend with 
a generous and rejoicing sympathy, to which they had too 
long been strangers. Can all these things be beheld and 
passed lightly over, as leading to nothing, and portend- 
ing nothing? That were little short of blind infatuation. 
What they do fully portend it were presumptuous to say; 
but it is not difficult to say for what they form an un- 
precedented preparation. What now prevents a world- 
wide evangelical and scriptural union? 'AH things 
are prepared, come to the marriage.' *• If ye love Me, 
love one another.' ' Because He laid down his life for 
us, we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.' 
Had these been fully the principles and rules of conduct 
of the Westminster Assem.bly, its great idea might have 
been realized. Let them be those that animate and 
guide all Christian Churches now. They have been felt 
in our great unions for prayer; they should be felt by all 
who venerate and can understand the standards of the 
Westminster Assembly. And if they be, then may we 
not only accomplish the object of its Solemn League and 
Covenant, concur in its Confession of Faith, and rea- 


lize its great idea of a general evangelical union; but 
we may also, if such he the will of our Divine Head and 
King, be mightily instrumental in promoting the uni- 
versal propagation of the gospel, and drawing down 
from above the fulfilled answer of that sacred prayer in 
which we all unite — 'Thy kingdom come: Thy will 





Section I. — Although the light of nature, and the works 
of creation and providence, do so far manifest the good- 
ness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inex- 
cusable ; ^ yet they are not sufficient to give that know- 
ledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto 
salvation ; ^ therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, 
and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare 
that his will unto his Church ; ^ and afterwards, for the 
better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for 
the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church 
against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of 
Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly 
unto writing ; ^ which maketh the Holy Scripture to be 
most necessary ; ^ those former ways of God's revealing 
his will unto his people being now ceased." 

Rom. ii. 14, 15 ; i. 19, 20. Ps. xix. 

1-3. Rom. i. 32; ii. 1. 
1 Cor. i. 21 ; ii. 13, 14. 
Hebrews i. 1. 

* Prov. xxii. 19-21. Luke i. 3, 4. 

Rom. XV. 4. Matt. iv. 4, 7, 10. 

Isa. viii. 19, 20. 
6 2 Tim. iii. 15. 2 Pet. i. 19. 
-» Hebrews i. 1, 2. 


There are few doctrines of supernatural revelation that 
have not, in one period or another, been denied or contro- 
verted ; and it is a peculiar excellence of the Westminster 
Confession of Faith, that its compilers have stated the several 
articles in terms the best calculated, not only to convey an 
accurate idea of sacred truths, but to guard against contrary 


errors. In opposition, . on the one hand, to those who deny 
the existence of natural religion, and, on the other hand, 
in opposition to Deists, who maintain the sufficiency of the 
light of nature to guide men to eternal happiness, this section 
asserts, — • 

1. That a knowledge of the existence of God, and a num- 
ber of his perfections, is attainable by the light of nature, 
and the works of creation and providence. 

2. That the light of nature is insufficient to give fallen 
man that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is neces- 
sary unto salvation. 

3. That God has been pleased to grant to his Church a 
supernatural revelation of his will. 

4. That this revelation has been committed to writing, and 
that the Holy Scripture is most necessary, the ancient modes 
of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. 

First. That there is a God is the first principle of all re- 
ligion, whether natural or revealed, and we are here taught 
that the being of God and a number of his perfections may 
be discovered by the light of nature. By the word God is 
meant a Being of infinite perfection ; self-existent and inde- 
pendent ; the Creator, Preserver, and Lord of all things. 
" It is true, indeed, that to give a perfect definition of God 
is impossible, neither can our finite reason hold any pro- 
portion with infinity ; but yet a sense of this Divinity we 
have, and the fii"st and common notion of it consists in these 
three particulars, — that it is a Being of itself, and independent 
from any other ; that it is that upon which all things that 
are made depend ; that it governs all things." * When we 
affirm that the being of God may be discovered by the light 
of nature, we mean, that the senses and the reasoning powers, 
which belong to the nature of man, are able to give him so 
much light as to manifest that there is a God. By our senses 
we are acquainted with his woiks, and by his works our 
reason may be led to trace out that more excellent Being who 
made them. This the Scripture explicitly asserts, Rom, i, 19, 
20 : " That which may be known of God is manifest in them 
(i. e., in men), for God hath showed it unto them. For the invi- 
sible things of liim from the creation of the world are clearly 
seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his 
eternal power and Godhead." The existence of God is not 
less indubitable than our own existence. Every man knows, 
with absolute certainty, that he himself exists. He knows 
also that he had a beginning, and that he derived his being 
from a succession of creatures like himself. However far 
* Pearson en the Creed, Art. I. 


back he supposes this succession to be caiTied, it does not 
afford a satisfactory account of the cause of his existence. 
His ancestors were no more able to make themselves than 
he was ; he must, therefore, ascend to some original Being, 
who had no beginning, but had life in himself from all eter- 
nity, and who gives life and being to all other creatures. This 
is the Being whom we call God. But " we are not only con- 
scious of our own existence, we also knoAv that there exists 
a great variety of other things, both material and spiritual. 
It is equally inconceivable that these things should liave ex- 
isted from all eternity in their present state, or t'lat they 
should have fallen into this state by chance ; and, conse- 
quently, as there was a time when they did not exist, and as 
it was impossible for them to produce themselves, it follows 
that there was some exterior agent or creator to wliom the 
world owed its beginning and form : that agent or creator 
we call God." * The amazing works of providence, the re- 
gular and unerruig motions of the heavenly luminaries for 
so many thousand years, the never failing return of summer 
and winter, seed-time and harvest, day and night, and innu- 
merable other wonders, clearly manifest the existence of a 
Supreme Being, who upholds and governs all things. In the 
works of creation and providence, too, we see the clearest 
characters of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness. " The 
more that we know of these works, we are the more sensible 
that in nature there is not only an exertion of power, but an 
adjustment of means to an end, which is what we call wis- 
dom, and an adjustment of means to the end of distributing 
happiness to all the creatures, which is the highest concep- 
tion that we can form of goodness." f 

As the marks of .a Deity are so clearly impressed upon all 
the works of creation, so we learn from the history of former 
times, and from the observation of modern travellers, that in 
every country, and at every period, some idea of a Superior 
Being, and some species of di\ine worship, have prevailed. 
The persuasion of a God is universal, and the most ancient 
records do not conduct us to a period in the history of any 
people when it did not exist. That truth must certainly be 
a dictate of nature, to which all nations liave consented. 
There is much practical Atheism in the v^^orld, but it may be 
questioned whether any have been able entirely to erase from 
their mind the impression of a Supreme Being. It is, indeed, 
affirmed, Ps. xiv. 1, " The fool liath said in his heart. There 
is no God;" but it is rather the wish of the unsanctified 

* Pretyman's Elements of Christian Theology, vol, ii. p. G2. 
t Hill's Lectures, vol. i. p. 9. 


affections, than the proper determination of the deliberate 
judgment, which these words express. Though some may 
in words disavow the being of God, yet the teiTors which 
they feel in their own breasts, especially upon the commission 
of some daring wickedness, force upon them the conviction 
that there is a Supreme Being, who ■na'iII judge and punish 
the transgressors of his law. Conscience, indeed, is in the 
place of a thousand witnesses to this ti*uth. The Apostle 
Paul, who tells us that '* there is a law written in the hearts 
of men," adds that "their conscience bears witness, and their 
thoughts accuse, or else excuse one another," — Rom. ii. 15. 
Conscience reproves, condemns, and scourges a man for his 
wicked deeds, and anticipates the account which he must 
give of all his actions, and thus demonstrates that there is a 
God. The Scriptures, accordingly, Uike the being of God for 
granted, and instead of fii'st proving that there is a God, begin 
with telling us what God did. " In the beginning God created 
the heavens and the earth." — Gen. i. 1. 

This knowledge of God, which is attainable by the light of 
nature, serves various usefvil purposes. It is a testimony of the 
goodness of God towards all his creatures. — Acts xiv. L7. As 
it shows men their duty, and convinces them of sin, in many 
points ; so it has had son^ influence on mankind, at least by 
the fear of punishment, in restraining them from extreme 
degi-ees of wickedness. — Rom. ii. 14, 15. It excites men to 
seek after a clearer revelation of God, and prepares the 
way for their receiving the gospel of his grace. — Acts x-sdi. 
27. It serves to vindicate the conduct of God as a righteous 
governor, in his severe dealing with obstinate sinners, both 
here and hereafter. This will leave them without excuse in 
the great day, when God shaU judge the secrets of all hearts. 
—Rom. i. 20, 21, and ii. 15, 16. But the knowledge of God 
by the light of nature being obscure and defective. 

The second proposition asserts the insufficiency of the light 
of nature to give fallen man that knowledge of God, and of 
his will, which is necessary unto salvation. The extent of 
knowledge, in regard to the things of God, which man is 
capable of attaining, cannot be ascertained from the writings 
of modern Deists, who, how much soever they affect to 
desi)ise supernatural revelation, have derived the greater 
part of their sentiments respecting God, and moral obliga- 
tion, from that source. The history of past times and an- 
cient nations shows, that the greater part of mankind, in 
eveiy country destitute of supernatural revelation, knew but 
little of the true God, or of their duty towards him. " The 
world by wisdom knew not God ;" even the leai-ned Athe- 


nians were so ignorant of the tme God that they dedicated 
an altar " to the iinknoM-n God." The heathen world was sunk 
in the most abominable idolatry and gross superstition. Not 
only were the heavenly luminaries deified, but almost every 
creature on earth was worshipped as a god, and innumerable 
imaginary beings had divine honours paid them. Though 
some heathen philosophers attained some considerable know- 
ledge of the nature of God, and inculcated upon their fol- 
lowers several moral virtues, this did not prevent them from 
complying with the idolatry of their country, or deter them 
from the commission of the most gross and unnatural crimes. 
— Rom. i. 21-28. From the light of nature we may learn 
that there is evil both moral and penal in the world ; but as 
to the question how sin entered into the world, and how 
deliverance from it may be obtained, the light of nature is 
entirely silent. It shows men their sin and misery, but it 
discovers not the plain and certain way of salvation. The 
Scriptures assure us, that there is no salvation for sinful men 
in any other name but that of Jesus Christ, — that there is no 
salvation through him but by faith, and that there can be no 
faith nor knowledge of Christ but by revelation, — Acts iv. 
12 ; Mark xvi. 16 ; Rom. x. 14-17. The Scripture affirms, 
in terms the most express, that " where there is no vision," 
or revelation, " the people perish ;" and it desci-ibes those 
who are destitute of di\dne revelation, as " having no hope, 
and without God in the world." — Prov. xxix. 18 ; Eph. ii. 
12. God does nothing in vain ; and were the light of nature 
sufficient to guide men to eternal happiness, it cannot be 
supposed that a divine revelation would have been given. 

The tJdrd proposition asserts, that God has been pleased to 
grant to his Church a supernatural revelation of his will. 
It cannot be considered as a thing incredible that God should 
make a revelation of his mind and will to men. Has he 
framed men so as that they should be capable of making 
known tlieir mind to one another, by speech and by writing ? 
And shall it be deemed a thing incredible that he should 
communicate his mind to them in a similar way ? " It was, 
indeed, out of infinite love, mercy, and compassion, that God 
would at all reveal his mind and will unto sinnei-s. He 
might for ever have locked up the treasures of his wisdom 
and pnidence, wherein he abounds towards us in his Word, 
in his own eternal breast. He might have left all the sons 
of men unto that woful darkness, whereinto by sin they had 
cast themselves, and kept them, with the angels who sinned 
before them, under the chains and power of it, unto the 


judgment of the great day. But from infinite love he con- 
descended to reveal himself and his will unto us." * The 
mind of God was not revealed to the Church all at once, but 
by several parts and degrees, as in his infinite wisdom he saw 
meet. He spake unto the fathers by the prophets " at sun- 
diy times, and in divers manners." — Heb. i. 1. The "sun- 
dry times " may be understood " as referring to the matter of 
ancient revelation, given in diflferent parts, and at different 
times, thus conveying the idea of the gradual development 
of truth in different ages, and by different persons ;" and the 
"divers manners"may be understood "as indicating ihevarious 
ifxiys in which these revelations were communicated, — i. e., by 
dreams, visions, symbols, Urim and Thummim, prophetic 
ecstacy, &c."+ Under the new dispensation, God has com- 
pleted the whole revelation of his will by his Son, and no 
new revelation is to be expected to the end of the world. 

ThefouHli proposition asserts, that this revelation has been 
committed to writing. Until the time of !Moses, or for a 
period of two thousand five hundred years, no part of the 
sacred books was written. God then communicated his will 
to the Church by immediate revelation ; and the long lives 
of the patriarchs enabled them to preserve uncorrupted what 
was so revealed, and to transmit it from generation to gene- 
ration. Two persons might have conveyed it down from 
Adam to Abraham ; for ]Methuselah lived above three hun- 
dred years v/hile Adam was yet alive, and Shem lived almost 
a hundred years with Methuselah, and above a hundred years 
with Abraham. But after the lives of men were shortened, 
and revelation was greatly enlarged, it pleased God that the 
whole of his revealed will should be committed to writing, 
that the Church might have a standing rule of faith and prac- 
tice, by which all doctrines might be examined, and all ac- 
tions regulated, — that sacred truth might be preserved uncor- 
rupted and entire, — that it might be propagated throughout 
the several nations of the earth, and might be conveyed 
down to all succeeding generations. Though, in the infancy 
of the Church, God taught his people withoiit the written 
Word, yet now that his former ways of revealing his will to 
his people have ceased, the Holy Scripture, or written Word, 
is most necessary. Without this the Church would be left 
to the uncertainty of tradition and oral teaching ; but the 
written Word is a sure test of doctrines, and a light in a dark 
place, both of which are most necessary. — Isa.viii. 20; 2 Pet. 
i. 19. 

* Owen on Hebrews, i. 1. 

+ Stuart's Commentary on the Hebrews, i. 1. 


Section II. — Uucler 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 : — 




I. Kings. 




II. Kings. 

The Song of 



I. Chronicles. 




II. Chronicles. 


















Zechariah. , 

I. Samuel, 



II. Samuel. 






Matthew. 1 

I. Corinthians. 

I Timothy. 

I. Peter. 


II. Corinthians. 

II. Timothy. 

II. Peter. 




I. John. 




II. John. 

Acts of the 


Epistle to the 

III. John. 



1 Hebrews. 


Epistle to the 

I. Thessalonians. 

' Epistle of 

Book of the 


II. Thessalonians. 

! James. 


All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the 
rule of faith and life.^ 

Section III. — The Books commonly called Apo- 
crypha, not being of divine inspiration, ai'e no part of 
the canon of the Scripture ; and, therefore, are of no 
authority in the Church of God, nor to be any other- 
wise approved or made use of, than other human 

» Luke xvi. 29, 3L Eph. ii. 20. 
Rev. xxii. 18, 19. 2 Tim. iii, 16. 

" Luke xxiv. 27, 
2 Pet. i. 21. 

Rom. iii. 2. 


These sections relate to the true canon, and the divine in- 
spiration of the Holy Scriptures. In opposition to the Romish 
Church, which reckons the apocryphal books of equal autho- 
rity with the Scriptures, it is asserted that these books are 
no part of the canon of the Scripture ; and in opposition to 
the Deists, who deny that the Scriptures of the Old and New 


Testaments are the Word of God, it is affirmed that all the 
sacred books are given by inspiration of God. 

The term Scriptures signifies writings in general, but is ap- 
propriated to the Word of God, which is also, by way of emi- 
nency, called the Bible, or 600^, because it is incomparably 
the best of all books. The sacred books are divided into 
the Old Testament and the New Testament. The former 
includes those books which were written under the old dis- 
pensation of the covenant of grace, or prior to the incarna- 
tion of the Son of God; the latter includes those books 
which were written after the commencement of the neto dis- 
pensation, or posterior to the advent of Christ. The Apostle 
Paul lays a foundation for this distinction ; for he uses the 
phrases Old Testament and New Testament, and in one in- 
stance designates the writings of JNIoses and the prophets 
by the former title. — 2. Cor. iii. 14. The word canon lite- 
rally signifies a rule, and was early used to designate the In- 
spired Scriptures, which form a perfect rule of faith and 

The Sacred Scriptures are now collected into one volume, 
but that volume contains a considerable number of separate 
books, written by different persons, and in different ages. 
How, then, do we ascertain the authenticity and genuine- 
ness of each of these books, and why do we receive them 
as canonical, to the exclusion of all others ? In determin- 
ing a question of this kind, we must employ the same me- 
thod which we follow when the genuineness of any other 
book is the subject of investigation. How do we know that 
the books which bear the names of Homer, Horace, Tacitus, 
and Livy were really composed by them, but by the uni- 
form testimony of all succeeding ages ? In the same way 
do we ascertain that the writings of the Apostles and Evan- 
gelists are genuine ; Ave have the testimony of their contem- 
poraries and immediate successors, who are the most com- 
petent witnesses in this case. The task of searching the 
records of antiquity has been undertaken by learned men, 
and executed with great industry and zeal. The result of 
their inquiries is, that the books now included in the New 
Testament were received as inspired by the primitive 
Church, and numerous passages were quoted from them by 
the earliest Christian writers ; that catalogues of these books, 
which coincide with ours, are inserted in the works of dif- 
ferent authors who flourished in the third and fourth cen- 
turies ; and that these books were publicly read in Chris- 
tian congregations, and were continually appealed to by 
Christian writers, as the standard of faith, and the supreme 


judge of controversies. The canon of the Old Testament 
is ascertained by a short process, — we know that the Jews 
arranged their sacred books into three classes, the Law, the 
Prophets, and the Hagiogi-aphy, or holy writings. Now, our 
Lord, just before his ascension, thus addressed his dis- 
ciples, — " These are the words which I spake unto you, while 
I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which 
were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in 
the psalms concerning me." — Luke xxiv. 44. The Psalms 
are here put for the Hagiography, probably because they 
were the principal book, or occupied the first place in that 
division. Our Lord, by adopting this common division of 
the sacred books, which comprehended all the Hebrew 
Scriptures, ratified the canon of the Old Testament, as it 
was received by the Jews. This, however, does not deter- 
mine what particular books were then included in the Sacred 
Volume ; but on this point we have th.e testimony of the 
Jewish historian, Josephus, who indeed does not name the 
books of the Old Testament, but he numbers them, and so 
describes them that there is scarcely room for any mistake. 
His testimony is corroborated by that of several of the early 
Christian fathers, who have furnished us with catalogues of 
the books of the Old Testament, from which it appears, that 
the canon then existing was the same as that which we 
now possess. Besides, a Greek translation of the Old Testa- 
ment, known by the name of The Septuagint, was made tAvo 
hundred and seventy years before the Christian era, in 
which are the same books that are at present found in the 
Hebrew copies. 

The books commonly called Apocrypha, were never ad- 
mitted int'o the list of canonical books, imtil the Council of 
Trent, at its fourth session, 1546, placed them in the same 
rank with the inspired writings. They are rejected by the 
Protestant Churches for the following reasons : — The Jews, 
to whom the oracles of God were committed, and who were 
n-ever blamed for unfaithfulness to their trust, never ac- 
knowledged these books to be of divine authority. They 
were not written in the Hebrew, but in the Greek language, 
and the authors of them were posterior to Malachi, in whom, 
according to the universal testimony of the Jews, the spirit 
of prophecy ceased. No part of these books is quoted by 
Christ or his apostles, nor a single Avord found in all the New 
Testament from which it can be inferred that such books 
were in existence. These books contain many things erro- 
neous, superstitious, and immoral ; and some of the writers, 
instead of advancing a claim to inspiration, acknowledge 


their own weakness, and apologise for their defects. The 
Church of England, though she does not receive the apocry- 
phal books as canonical Scripture, and therefore does not 
" apply them to establisli any doctrine," yet she directs cer- 
tain portions of them to be read in the chui'ch, " for example 
of life, and instruction of manners." Now, as these por- 
tions are read promiscuously with the lessons taken from 
the canonical books, and no notice is given to the people 
that they are selected from the Apocrypha, they are in 
reality undistinguished from the inspired writings ; and how- 
ever good and instructive these apocryphal lessons may be, 
it never can be justified that they should thus be put on a 
level with the Word of God. 

The Holy Scripture is called the Word of God, because it 
is given by inspiration of God. " The possibility of inspira- 
tion seems to be granted by all who profess to be Christians, 
though there is a great diversity of opinion with respect to 
its nature and degrees, as applied to the Scriptures. Some 
are of opinion that the inspiration of the Scriptures amounted 
to nothing more than a mere superintendence over the mjnds 
of the sacred writers, so as to prevent them from publishing 
gross errors. Others go a little further, and maintain that, 
besides superintendence, the understandings of the several 
writers were enlarged, — that their conceptions were elevated 
above the measure of ordinary men, — and that with their 
minds thus elevated, they were left to their own judgment 
both as to matter and words. The advocates of plenary in- 
spiration, again, maintain that the Holy Spirit suggested to 
the minds of the persons inspired not only the matter to be 
communicated, but also the words in which the communi- 
cation was to be made. A fourth party are for taking in all 
these supposed kinds of inspiration now mentioned ; and 
they maintain that the sacred writers sometimes wi'ote un- 
der mere superintendence, sometimes under superintendence 
accompanied with a high elevation of conception, and at 
other times under a divine suggestion, or what is called 
plenary inspiration, according to the nature of the subject 
on which they wrote." * 

At no remote period, the plenary and verbal inspiration 
of the Scriptures was very generally abandoned. Events, 
however, have occurred of late years, which have occasioned 
a more thorough investigation of the subject ; and the most 
eminent writers who have treated of it more lately, maintain 
the plenary inspiration of the sacred books in opposition to 
tl?bse who hold that it was merely partial and occasional, 
* Stevenson on the Offices of Christ, p. 50-51. 


and their verbal inspiration, in opposition to those who hold 
that only the sentiments or matter, and not the words, are 
inspired. " We are humbly of opinion," says Dr Stevenson, 
" that inspiration, as employed in communicating the sacred 
oi'acles to men, is only of one kind, and that this is the inspira- 
tion of suggestion, according to which not only the matter, 
but the words also, were communicated to the minds of the 
sacred wiiters. 1. The Scriptures themselves take notice 
of only one kind of inspiration, and represent it as extending 
to all the parts of Scripture, — to those which are historical 
and moral, as well as to those which are prophetical and 
doctrinal.— 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17 ; 2 Pet. i. 21. 2. There must 
have been more than an enlargement of the understand- 
ing, and an elevation of conception in inspiration, since a 
gi'eat many of the things were such as could not have 
entered into the hearts of men or of angels, had they not 
been suggested to the mind by the Divine Spirit. Of this 
description were the events foretold by the sacred writers 
many years before they took place, and the whole of the doc- 
trines that relate to the supernatural plan of man's redemp- 
tion. — 1 Cor. ii. 9, 10. 3. For similar reasons we must insist 
for the suggestion not only of tlie ideas, but also of the words 
of Scripture. To us it is altogether inconceivable how the 
sacred writers, who, like other men, were accustomed to think 
in words, could have the ideas suggested to their own minds, 
except in words ; or hoAv they could have written intelligibly 
about future events, with which they could have had no pre- 
vious acquaintance, and on doctrinal subjects, far above 
theii' comprehension, had not the language, as well as the 
matter, been furnished to them by Divine suggestion. — 1 Cor. 
ii. 13. 4. If Avhat has been called the inspiration of superin- 
tendence a.nd elevation, could in any case be deemed to have 
been sufficient, it must have been in cases where the sacred 
writers may be supposed to have had a prior acquaintance, 
from other sources, with the subjects on v^'liich they were 
called to write ; such as subjects of morality and history. 
But even in these cases, plenary inspiration seems to have 
been absolutely necessary. "With regard to moral subjects, 
it may be observed, that although the remains of the law of 
nature furnish man with certain moral sentiments, yet, in 
his fallen state, his views of right and wrong arc so dark and 
confused, that there is not, perhaps, any case in whicli plenary 
inspiration was more necessary than this, in order that man 
might be furnished with a perfect rule of duty. With re- 
spect to history, where the facts recorded may be supposed 
to have been known by the sacred writers from their own 


observation, or from other aiithentic sources, it may be ob- 
served, in general, that sacred histoiy diffei-s, in the main 
ends proposed by it, from profane history." While profane 
liistory has for its object only the civil and political benefit 
of individuals and nations, the inspired historians propose a 
much higher aim, — the advancement of salvation in subser- 
Adency to the glory of God in Christ, — an aim which requires 
a manner of thinking and writing peculiar to itself. " Neither 
does the variety of style found throughout the Scriptures 
form, in our apprehension, any valid objection to the doctrine 
of plenary inspiration. Though the inspired penmen were 
under infallible direction, both in regard to the sentiments 
to be communicated by them, and the phraseology best 
adapted to express these sentiments ; yet tlie Holy Spirit, 
for wise reasons, seems to have accommodated his sugges- 
tions, so far as relates to mere style, to the age in which 
they ■v\a'ote, and their respective talents for composition. 
5. We observe further, in support of plenary inspiration, 
that unless it be admitted the Bible has no valid claim to 
be called the W^ord of God. The Scriptures frequently lay 
claim to a diAdne ongin in support of theu^ supreme autho- 
rity as a rule of faith and manners ; but if the sacred wTiters 
were only under what is called superintendence, we cannot 
see the justness of that claim. It would be a gross perversion 
of words, to call a man the author of a book, who had no 
hand in its composition further than merely guarding its real 
author from falling into gross error. The designation, the 
Word of God, must suggest to every unprejudiced mind, that 
the Bible is from God, both in respect of sentiment and ex- 
pression. Nor does it render the matter any better to tell 
us, that though some parts of the Bible were written under 
the mere superintendence of the Spirit, yet others were 
written by the inspiration of suggestion ; for this throws a 
suspicion over the whole, since it is impossible for us to de- 
termine what parts wei-e dictated by plenary inspiration, and 
what parts were not. The safe way is to hold by the doc- 
trine of the Bible itself, that inspiration is one in kind ; that 
it is not a partial, but a full or plenary inspiration ; and that 
this applies to the whole of the sacred volume. * All Scrip- 
ture is given by inspiration of God.' " * 

Section IY. — The authority of tlie Holy Scripture, 
for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth 
not upon the testimony of any man or Church, hut 

* Stevenson on the Offices of Christ, pp. 51-57. See al.-o the admirable 
work of Professor Ggiussen, on " The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scrip- 
tures," which must set this question at rest. 


■wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author 
thereof; and, therefore, it is to be received, because it is 
the AVordofGod.^ 

Section V. — We may be moved and induced by the 
testimony of the Church to an high and reverend esteem of 
the Holy Scripture, ^^ and the heavenliness of the matter, 
the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, 
the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole, 
(w^hich is to give all glory to God,) the full discovery it 
makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many 
other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection 
thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evi- 
dence itself to be the Word of God.; yet, notwithstanding 
our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, 
and Divine authority thereof, is from the inward Avork 
of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word 
in our hearts.'* 

» 2 Pet. i. 19,21. 2 Tim. iii. 16. I " 1 John ii. 20, 27. John xvi. 13, 
1 John V. 9. 1 Thess. ii. 13. 14. 1 Cor. ii. 10-12. Isa. lix. 

'0 1 Tim. iii. 15. 21 


These sections teach us, that the authority of the ScripturdT' 
depends not upon any man or Church, but wholly upon God, 
the author thereof, and then points out the e\ddences that 
the Scriptui-e is the Word of God. The first of these heads 
is stated in opposition to the Papists, who maintain that the 
authority of the Scriptures is derived from the Church. The 
absurdity of this idea is easily evinced. The true Church 
of Christ is founded on the Scriptures, and therefore the 
authority of the Scriptures cannot depend on the Church. — 
Eph. ii. 20. 

That the Holy Scripture is the Word of God, is proved both 
by external and internal evidences. 1 . The external evidences are 
such as these : — The character of the sacred penmen — the 
miracles wrought by them, for the decla-red purpose of at- 
testing their divine mission and inspiration — the exact ac- 
complishment of numerous prophecies recorded in Scripture 
— the antiquity of the Scriptures, taken in connection with 
their wonderful preservation to this ' day-j-the effects pro- 
duced by the Scriptures, effects which cnuld never have 
been accomplished by the lessons of philosophy, nor the force 
i of human laws — and the influence which the Scriptures have 


had in civilizing the most barbarous nations, and in meliorat- 
ing the condition of society at large, wherever the knowledge 
of them has been disseminated. 2. The internal evidences are 
such as these : — The incomparable sublimity of the doctrines 
contained in the Scriptures, and their revealing many truths 
which could not be discovered by nature or reason — the ex- 
tent and purity of their precepts — the representation which 
they give of the character and moral administration of God 
— the exact adaptation of the revelation they contain to the 
state and wants of man — the entire harmony of their several 
parts, though written by different persons, and in different 
ages — the majesty of their style — and the scope and ten- 
dency of the whole to advance the glory of God, and secure 
the salvation of men. Such arguments as these may pro- 
duce a rational conviction that the Scriptures are the Word 
of God ; but it is only the Holy Spirit's effectual application 
of them to the heart, in their self-evidencing light and power, 
that can produce a cordial and saving persuasion of it. " He 
that believeth hath the witness in himself." Though many 
who believe are not qualified to demonstrate the inspiration 
of the Scriptm-es by rational arguments, yet, by the expe- 
rience they have of their power and efficacy on their own 
hearts, they are infallibly assured that they are the Word of 
God ; and they can no more be convinced, by the reasonings 
and objections of infidels, that the Scriptures are the produc- 
tion of men, than they can be persuaded that men created 
the sun, whose light they behold, and by whose beams they 
are cheered. 

Section YI. — The whole counsel of God, concerning 
all things necessary for his o^Yn glory, man's salvation, 
faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripturf, 
or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced 
from Scripture : unto which nothing at any time is to 
be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or 
traditions of men. ^^ Nevertheless, we acknowledge tlie 
inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessai-y 
for the saving understanding of such things as are 
revealed in the Word ;^^ and that there are some circum- 
stances concerning the worship of God, and government 
of the Church, common to human actions and societies, 

»2 2 Tim. iii. 15-17. Gal. i. 8, 9. 1 »3 John vi. 45. I Cor. ii. 9-12. 
2 Thess. ii. 2. 


which are to be ordered by the hght of nature and 
Christian pnidence, according to the general rules of 
the Word, which are always to be observed. ^^ 

Section YII. — All things in Sci-ipture are not alike 
plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all ; ^^ yet those 
things which are necessary to be known, believed, and 
observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and 
opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only 
the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the 
ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understand- 
ing of them^*'. 

1* 1 Cor. xi, ]3, 14. 1 Cor. xiv. 2G, 1 !« 2 Pet. iii. 16. 

40. I 16 ps. cxix. 105, 130. 


These sections relate to the perfection and perspicuity of 
the Scriptures. 

1, In regard to the ])erfection, or sufficiency, of the Scrip- 
tures, it is acknowledged that there are some circumstances 
concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, 
in regard to which no express injunctions are given in Scrip- 
ture, and which are to be ordered by the light of nature and 
Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the 
Word. The Apostolic rule in such cases is, — " Let all things 
be done decently and in order," — 1 Cor. xiv. 40 ; but this 
general iide does not authorise the introduction into the 
Church of rites and ceremonies of human invention, in order 
to set oft' the worship of God. This cannot be justified by 
any plea of expediency, with a view of rendering the services 
of the Church more attractive, and conciliating those that 
are withawt. " And it may be here remarked, that it was 
one of the first and greatest mistakes into which the Church 
fell, after insjnration ceased, to make too free a use of this 
doctrine of expediency. The abuses which have crept in 
under this specious disguise were not foreseen. The Fathers 
saw no harm in an indiff'erent ceremony, to which, perhaps, 
their new converts were attached from long custom. By 
adopting things of this kind, the Church, which was at first 
simple, and unencumbered with rites, became strangely meta- 
morphosed ; and in place of her simple robe of white, assumed 
a gorgeous dress, tricked oft' with gaudy ornaments and va- 
rious colours. And this practice of inventing new ceremonies 
went on increasing, until, in process of time, the burdensome 
vitual of the Levitical law was not comparable to the liturgy 


of the Christian Church. Who that now attends a Romish 
chapel on some ' high day,' would suppose that the service 
performed was connected with the religion of the New Tes- 
tament ?" * 

In maintaining the perfection of the Scriptures, we do not 
insist that every article of religion is contained in Scripture 
in so many words ; but we hold that conclusions fairly de- 
duced from the declarations of the "Word of God are as truly 
parts of divine revelation as if they were expressly taught in 
the Sacred Volume. That good and necessaiy consequences 
deduced from Scripture are to be received as part of the 
rule of our faith and practice, is evident from the example 
of our Saviour in proving the doctrine of the resurrection 
against the Sadducees, — Matt. xxii. 31, 32 ; and from the 
example of Paul, who proved that Jesus of Nazareth is the 
Christ, by reasoning with the Jews out of the Old Testament 
Scriptures. — Acts xvii. 2, 3. " All Scripture " is declared to 
be " profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, foi 
instruction in righteousness ; " but all these ends cannot bft 
obtained, unless by the deduction of consequences. Legiti- 
mate consequences, indeed, only bring out the full meaning 
of the words of Scripture ; and as we are endued with the 
faculty of reason, and commanded to search the Scriptures, 
it was manifestly intended that we should draw conclusions 
from what is therein set down in express words. 

By the jjerfection of Scripture, then, we mean, that the 
Scripture, including necessary consequences as well as the 
express words, contains a complete revelation of the will of 
God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's 
salvation, faith, and life. The Scripture is represented as 
2?e7'fect, fitted to answer every necessary end, — Ps. xix. 8, 9 ; 
it is sufficient to make " the man of God perfect," and able 
to make private Christians " wise unto salvation, through 
faith which is in Christ Jesus." — 2 Tim. iii. 15-17. So com- 
plete is the Scripture, that its Author has peremptorily pro- 
hibited either to add to, or to diminish ought from it. — Deut. 
iv. 2 ; Rev. xxii. 18, 19. 

The perfection of the Scriptures is to be maintained in 
opposition to those enthusiasts who pretend to new revela- 
tions of the Spirit, and in opposition to the Church of Rome, 
which " receives traditions with the same veneration that 
they do the Scriptures." No new revelations are to be added 
to the oracles of God, for Christ and his apostles have 
foretold the rise of false prophets, and wai'ned us not to 
g'ive heed to their pretended revelations. — IMatt. xxiv. 11, 

* Alexander on the Canon of the Scriptures. 


24. The Apostle Paul denounces a curse upon all who preach 
any other gospel than that which is contained in the Scrip- 
tures. — Gal. i. 8, 9. The uncertainty of private revelations 
furnishes another argument against them. Such is the de- 
ceitfulness of the heart, that men are apt to mistake their 
own fancies and imaginations for revelations of the Spirit, 
and such is the subtlety of Satan, that he sometimes trans- 
forms himself into an angel of light. Private revelations, 
therefore, must be very uncertain to ourselves, and much 
more so to others. And it may be observed, that none plead 
for the authority of private revelations but such as, by the 
contrariety of their oj^inions and practices to the Scriptures, 
manifest themselves to be led by a spirit of delusion. 

Neither are the traditions of men to be added to the Word 
of God. Traditions have been a fertile source of corruption 
in religion, both among Jews and Christians. The Jews 
pretended that besides what Moses committed to wiiting, he 
received from God a variety of revelations, which he com- 
municated verbally to Aaron, and w^hich w^ere orally trans- 
mitted from generation to generation. These traditions mul- 
tiplied exceedingly, especially after the Sjiirit of prophecy 
was withdrawn from the Church ; and when Christ appeared 
on earth, he found the Jews so far degenerated, that their 
religion consisted almost entirely in the observation of such 
traditions. Plence we find him declaring, " Ye have made 
the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition." 
" In vain they do w^orship me, teaching for doctrines the 
commandments of men." — INIatt. xv. 6, 9. In the same way 
have a multitude of the corruptions in the doctrine and wor- 
ship of the Romish Church sprung iip. They, after the ex- 
ample of the Jews, pretend that Christ and his apostles de- 
livered many things which are not found in the Scriptures, 
and which have come down to us by tradition. But how 
can it be shown that those articles of religion, or institutions 
of worship, which they say have come down by tradition, 
were really received from the mouth of Christ, or from the 
teaching of his apostles ? Or, supj^osing that they were de- 
rived from this source, how can it be ascertained that they 
have been conveyed down to us without alteration or corrup- 
tion ? The fact is, many of these traditions, which are called 
ajjostolical, can be traced to their commencement, at a period 
much later than that of the apostles. To admit unwritten 
traditions would open a door for all the innovations and cor- 
ruptions which the fancies of men may devise, and would 
ma;ke void the law of God. But as our Lord strongly con- 


demned the Jewish tradilions, so we justly reject the mass of 
traditions received by the Romish Church. 

2. The Scriptures are clear and perspicuous in all things 
necessary to salvation. We allow that there are doctrines 
revealed in the Scriptures which surpass the comprehension 
of created beings, such as, the doctrine of the Trinity, the 
eternal generation and the incarnation of the Son of God, 
These are mysteries which we cannot comprehend, but the 
doctrines themselves are plainly taught in the Scriptures, 
and we must receive them on the divine testimony. We also 
admit that in the Scriptures there are some things obscure 
and " hai'd to be understood." But this obscurity is chiefly 
in history and prophecies, which do not so nearly concern 
our salvation. As in nature everything necessary for the 
support of life occurs almost everywhere, and may be found 
on the most easy search, while other things less necessary, 
such as its gems and gold, lie concealed in certain places, 
and can only be discovered and obtained by great exertions 
and unwearied industry ; so there are things in the Scrip- 
tures, ignorance of which will not endanger the salvation of 
the soul, that are abstruse and difficult to be imderstood, 
even by those who possess acute minds and great learning. 
But we maintain, that all those things which are necessary 
to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so 
clearly revealed in some place of Scripture or other, that 
every serious inquirer, in the due use of ordinary means, 
may iindei'stand them. This may be inferred from the fact 
that their author is God. If he intended them to be a rule 
of faith and life to men, surely he has adapted them to the 
understandings of men. There are numerous injunctions to 
read and search the Scriptures, but these necessarily imply 
that they are perspicuous and intelligible. Christians are also 
commended for searching the Scriptures, and trying by the 
written Word the doctrines delivered to them. — Acts xvii. 
II. If the Scriptures were unintelligible to common Chris- 
tians, and the interpretation of the Church were necessary to 
discover their meaning, then such Christians would have no 
foundation. upon which a divine faith could rest. Their faith 
must be ultimately resolved into the testimony of men; but 
human testimony, being fallible, cannot be the ground of an 
infallible persuasion. 

Notwithstanding the subjective perspicuity of the Scrip- 
tures, we acknowledge the imvard illumination of the Spirit 
of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such 
things as are revealed in them. This arises from the blindness 
and perversity of the human understanding, as now corrupted 



and depraved. — 1 Cor. ii. 14. If the enlightening influences 
of the Holy Spirit were unnecessary, then the greatest ade})ts 
in human literature would he best acquainted with the Scrip- 
tures ; this, however, is not the case. — INIatt. xi. 25. In the 
promises of God, and in the prayers of the saints, the special 
illumination of the Spirit is i-epresented as necessa.ry to enable 
us savingly to understand the things of God, — John xiv. 26 ; 
Ps. cxix. 18, &c. 

Section YIII — The Old Testament in Hebrew 
(which was the native language of the people of God of 
old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the 
time of the WTiting of it was most generally known to 
the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by 
his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are 
therefore authentical ; ^' so as in all controversies c.c reli- 
gion the Church is finally to appeal unto them.^'' But 
because these original tongues are not known to all the 
people of God, wdio have right unto and interest in the 
Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear God, to read 
and search them,^^ therefore they are to be translated 
into the vulgar language of every nation unto which 
they come,^° that the Word of God dweUing plentifully 
in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner,^' 
and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, 
may have hope.^^ 

Section IX. — 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 Scriptm-e 
(which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched 
and known by other places that speak more clearly.^^ 

Section X. — The Supreme Judge, by which all con- 
troversies of religion ai-e to be determined, and all 
decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines 
of men, and private spirits, ai-e to be examined, and in 
v>'hose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the 
Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.^'* 

1- ]\Jatt. V. 18. I 21 Col. iii. 16. 

i» Isa. viii. 20. Acts xv. J5. Jolm 1 22 Rom. xv. 4. 

V. 39. 46. 2-'* 2 ret. i. 20, 21. Acts. xv. 15, IG. 

19 John V. 39. 24 ]^jatt. xxii. 29, 31. Eph. ii. 20. 

2" 1 Cor. xiv. C, 9, 11, 12, 24, 27, 28. | Acts, xxviii. 25. 



There are four heads embraced in these sections. Fhst, 
That the Scriptures, in the original languages, have come 
down to us uncorrupted, and are, therefore, authentical. 
Secondly, That the Scriptures are to be translated into the vul- 
gar language of every nation unto which they come^ Thirdly^ 
That the infallible rule of the intei-pretation of Scnpture is 
the Scripture itself. Fourthly, That the Scriptures are the 
supreme standard of religious triith; and that the Suisreme 
.Judge, by which all controversies in religion are to be deter- 
mined, is the Holy Spirit speaking to us in the Scriptures. 

1. The Old Testament, except a few passages which were 
written in Chaldee, was originally written in Hebrew, the lan- 
guage of the Jews, to whom the prophetical oracles were 
committed. The passages which were written in Chaldee, 
are the eleventh verse of the tenth chapter of the Prophecies 
of Jeremiah ; from the second verse of the fourth chapter of 
Daniel, to the end of the seventh chapter ; and the fourth, 
fifth, and sixth chapters of Ezra. The New Testament was 
originally written in Greek, the language which, at the time 
of writing it, was most universally known. The original 
language of the Gospel according to Matthew, is indeed a 
subject of controversy. The ancients, with one voice, affirm 
that it was written in Hebrew, and this opinion is supported 
by many modern critics ; othei'S, equally learned, maintain 
that it was originally composed in Greek. Several of the 
latest writers on this subject have adopted the opinion that 
there w^ere two originals, Hebrew and Greek, both written 
by Matthew himself, — the one for the use of the Jews, the 
other for tlie use of the Gentiles. Though the autographs of 
the inspired writings have long since disappeared, yet there 
is ample evidence that, by the singular care and providence 
of God, they have been preserved pure in all ages, and that 
the copies which we now possess generally coincide with the 
originals. The -purity of the Old Testament Scriptures is 
confirmed by the general coincidence of the present Hebrew 
coj)ies with all the early translations, and particularly with 
the Septuagint version. It may also be obsers'-ed, that 
although our Lord frequently reproved the rulers and 
teachers of the Jews for their eiToneous and false doctrines, 
yet he never accused them of any corruption in their sacred 
books; and the Apostle Paul reckons it among the privi- 
leges of the Jews, that to them " were committed the oracles 
of God," without ever insinuating that they had been un- 
iaithful to their trust. The animosity which lias ever since 


prevailed betAvixt Jews and Christians has rendered it im- 
possible for either of them to vitiate these sacred writings 
without immediate detection. The corruption of the books 
of the New Testament is altogether incredible. Had any 
party entertained a wish to alter them, it would have been 
impossible for them to succeed. Copies were speedily mul- 
tiplied ; they were early translated into the different lan- 
guages of the several nations among which the gospel was 
planted ; the Christian fathers embodied numerous quota- 
tions from them into their writings ; various sects soon arose, 
keenly opposed to each other, but all receiving the same 
sacred books, and these became a check upon each other, 
and rendered corruptions and interpolations impracticable. 
Every succeeding age increased the difficulty ; and though 
the comparison of a multitude of ancient manuscripts and 
copies has discovered a vast number of various readings, 
occasioned by the inadvertency and inaccuracy of tran- 
scribers, yet none of these differences affect any one article 
of the faith and comfort of Christians. 

2. As the Scriptures Avere originally written in the lan- 
guages which, at the time of writing them, were most gene- 
rally understood, God has hereby intimated his will, that 
they should be translated into the vernacular language of 
different nations, that every one may read and understand 
them. This we maintain in opposition to the Church of 
Rome, which forbids the translation of the Scriptures into the 
vulgar languages, and declares the indiscriminate reading of 
them to be highly dangerous. Though the free use of the 
Scriptures be prohibited by that Church, they were cer- 
tainly intended by God for all ranks and classes of mankind. 
All are enjoined to read the Scriptures (John v. 39); and the 
laity are commended not only for searching them, but for 
trying the doctrines of their public teachers by them. — Acts 
xvii. 11. It is, therefore, necessaiy that the Scriptures 
should be translated into the language of every nation; and 
the use of translations is sanctioned by the apostles, who fre- 
quently quoted passages of the Old Testament from the 

3. The best and only infallible rule of interj^retation of 
Scripture, is the Scripture itself. Some things that are 
briefly and obscurely handled in one place, ai-e more fully 
and clearly explained in other places ; and, therefore, when 
we would find out the true sense of Scripture, Ave must com- 
pare one passage Avith another, that they may illustrate one 
another; and Ave must never affix a sense io any particulai* 
text, but such as is agreeable to " the analogy of faith," or 


the general scheme of divine truth. The compilers of the 
Confession affirm, that the sense of Scripture is not manifold, 
but one. No doubt, many passages of Scripture have a com- 
plex meaning, — as some prophecies have several steps of ful- 
filment, in the Jewish nation, the Christian Church, and the 
heavenly state, and some passages have one thing that is 
t}T)ical of another. Yet these only make up that one and en- 
tire sense intended by the Holy Ghost. No Scripture can 
have two or more meanings properly different, and nowise 
subordinate one to another, because of the unity of truth, and 
because of the perspicuity of the Scripture. 

4. That the Scriptures are the supreme standard of reli- 
gious truth, is asserted in opposition to the Socinians, who 
maintain that reason is the standard by which we are to 
judge of the doctrines of revelation, and that we are bound 
to receive nothing as time which reason does not comprehend. 
There is, no doubt, much use for the exercise of reason in 
matters of religion; but, it may be remarked, "that the 
office of reason, in reference to a revelation, is not to discuss 
its contents, to try them by its own standard, and to approve 
or disapprove, as they agree or disagree with it ; for this 
would be to treat it as if it were not a levelation, at the 
moment when we acknowledge it to be such ; or to insinuate 
that the Word of God, although known to be his Word, is 
not entitled to credit, unless it be supported by independent 
proof. The sole province of reason is to examine the evi- 
dence exhibited to show that it is his Word, and to investi- 
gate its meaning by rules which are used in determining the 
sense of any other book. These preliminaries being settled, 
the state of mind which a revelation demands is faith, im- 
plicit faith, to the exclusion of doubts and objections ; the 
subjection of our understanding to the authority of God, — en- 
tire submission to the dictates of infinite wisdom. The 
reason is, that his testimony supplies the place of all other 
evidence." * 

That the Supreme Judge, by which all controversies in 
religion are to be determined, is no other but the Holy Spirit 
speaking in the Scripture, is asserted in opposition to the 
Papists, who maintain that the Church is an infallible judge 
in religious controversies ; though they do not agree among 
themselves whether this infallible authority resides in the 
Pope, or in a council, or in both together. Now, the Scrip- 
ture never mentions such an infallible judge on earth. Nei- 
ther Pope, nor councils, possess the properties requisite to 
constitute a supreme judge in controversies of religion; for 
* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. ii., p. 5. 



they are fallible, and have often erred, and contradicted one 
another. Althongh the Church or her ministers are the 
official guardians of the Scriptures, and although it belongs 
to them to explain and enforce the doctrines and laws con- 
tained in the Word of God, yet their authority is only minis- 
terial, and their interpretations and decisions are binding on 
the conscience only in so far as they accord with the mind 
of the Spirit in the Scriptures. By this test, the decisions 
of councils, the opinions of ancient writers, and the doctrines 
of men at the present time, are to be tried, and by this 
rule all controversies in religion must be determined. — Isa. 
viii. 20 ; Matt. xxii. 29. 



Section I. — There is but one only ^ living and true 
God,^ who is infinite in being and perfection,^ a most 
pure spirit,^ invisible,^ without body, parts, ^ or passions,^ 
immutable,^ immense,^ eternal,^" incomprehensible," 
almighty ,^^ most wise,^^ most holy,^^ most free, ^^ most 
absolute, ^^ working all things according to the counsel 
of his own immutable and most righteous will,^'' for his 
own glory; ^^ most loving, ^^ gracious, merciful, long- 
suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving 
iniquity, transgression, and sin;^'* the re warder of them 
that diligently seek him;^^ and withal most just and 
terrible in his judgments; ^^ hating all siu,-^ and who 
will by no means clear the guilty.** 

1 Deut. vi. 4, 1 Cor. viii. 4, 6. 

2 1 Thess. i. 9. Jer. x. 10. 
^ Job xi. 7-9 ; xxvi. 14. 

* John iv. 24. « 1 Tim. i. 17. 

« Deut. iv. 15, 16. John iv. 24. Luke 
xxiv. 39. 

"> Actsxiv. II, 15. 

^ James i. 17. Mai. iii. 6. 

9 1 Kings viii. 27. Jer. xxiii. 23, 24. 
10 Ps. xc. 2. 1 Tim. i. 17. 
" Ps. cxlv, 3. 

^2 Gen. xvii. 1. Rev, iv. & 

^3 Rom. xvi. 27. 

1* Isa. vi. 3. Rev. iv. 8. 

15 Ps, cxv. 3. 

i« Exod. ill. 14. 

17 Eph. i. 11. 

18 Prov. xvi. 4. Rom. xi. 36. 

19 1 Johniv. 8, 16, 

20 Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. ^i Heb. xi. 6 
22 Neh. ix. 32; 33. 23 pg. v. 6, 6. 
2* Nah, i. 2, 3. Exod. xxxiv. 7. 


Section II — God hath all life,*'* glory, ^^ goodness,^ 
blessedness,^ in and of himself; and is alone in and unto 
himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures 
which he hath made,^'' not deriving any glory from 
them,^ but only manifesting his own glory, in, by, unto, 
and upon them : he is the alone fountain of all being, of 
whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things ;^^ and 
hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, 
for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth.^^ 
In his sight all things are open and manifest; ^^ his know- 
ledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the 
creature,^ so as nothing is to him contingent or uncer- 
tain.^^ He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his 
works, and in all his commands. ^° To him is due from 
angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever 
worship, service, or obedience, he is pleased to require 
of them.^ 

25 John V. 26. I 32 Rev. iv. 11. 1 Tim. vi. 15. Dan. 

26 Acts vii. 2. iv. 25, 35. 

27 Ps. cxix. 68. I 33 Heb. iv. 13. 
1 Tim. vi. 15. Rom. ix. 5. I 3* Rom. xi. 33, 34. Ps. cxlvii. 5. 

29 Acts xvii. 24, 25. 3s Acts xv. 18. Ezek. xi, 5. 

so Job xxii. 2, 3. | 36 Ps. cxlv. 17. Kom. vii. 12. 

31 Rom. xi. 36. j st Rgv. v. 12-14. 


We are here taught, — First, That there is but one God. 
Secondly, That he is the only living and true God. Thirdly, 
That he is a most pure spirit. Fourthly, That he is possessed 
of all possible perfections. 

1. The assertion, that there is but one God, does not mean 
that there is hut one divine person, for it is afterwards stated, 
that " in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons;" 
but it means that the Divine Being is numerically one in nature 
or essence. This is affirmed in opposition to the Polytheism 
of heathen nations, and to the heresy of the Tritheists, who 
hold that there are three distinct Godheads, or that one 
Godhead is divided into three distinct parts. The unity of 
the Divine Being might be discovered by the light of nature, 
for the same process of reasoning which leads to the idea 
of a God, leads also to the conclusion, that there can be no 
more Gods than one. There can be but one first cause, one 
self-existent, independent, omnipotent, infinite, and Supreme 
Being ; it is a contradiction to suppose otherwise. Hence, 


though the nide unthinking mxiltitude among the Pagans 
adored gods many, and lords many, yet the wiser of their 
philosophers had their one supreme god; and their poets 
sung of one sovereign deity, whom they called the Father 
of gods and men. It is unquestionable, however, that the 
heathen world received a multiplicity of gods, and the phi- 
losophers contented themselves with empty speculations 
about the nature of the Deity; and, instead of instructing 
the vulgar in the unity of God, confirmed them in their 
error, by practically complying with the customs of their 
country. But divine revelation has firmly established the 
doctrine of God's unity. Jehovah solemnly declares, " I, 
even I, am he, and there is no god with me." — Deut. xxxii. 
39. " Before me there was no god formed, neither shall 
there be after me." — Isa. xliii. 10. The inspired Avriters of 
the Old Testament have said of him, " The Lord he is God; 
there is none else besides him" (Deut. iv. 3.5} ; and, " Hear, 
O Israel : the Lord our God is one Lord." — Deut. vi, 4. Jesus 
adds his testimony to this great truth; he told the scribe 
that came to question him about his religion, " The first of 
%all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God 
is one Lord;" and he spoke with high approbation of the 
answer returned to this, in which " the scribe said imto him, 
Well, Master, thou hast said the truth : for there is one 
God; and there is none other but he." — Mark xii. 29, 32. 
The Apostle Paul often inculcates the same truth : " We 
know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is 
none other God but one." — 1. Cor. viii. 4. "There is one 
God, and one mediator between God and men, the man 
Christ Jesus." — 1. Tim. ii. 5. 

2. It is asserted, that this God is the only living and true 
God. The name of God is, indeed, given in Scripture to 
various other beings, on account of some resemblance which, 
in some particular respect, they bear to God. Angels are 
called gods, on account of the excellence of their nature. — 
Ps. xcvii. 7. Magistrates are called gods, because, in the 
execution of their office, they act in God's name, and be- 
cause we are bound to obey them. — Exod. xxii. 28. Moses 
was a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron was his prophet, because 
Aaron received the divine messages, which he caiTied to 
Pharaoh immediately from Moses; whereas other prophets 
received their messages to the people immediately from God 
himself. — Exod. vii. 1. Idols are called gods, because idola- 
ters account them gods, and honour them as such. And 
Satan is called the god of this world, because he rules over 
the greater part of the world, and they are his servants, and 


do his works, — 2 Cor. iv. 4. But, " though there be that 
are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, yet to us 
there is but one God," who is the only living and true God. 
He is styled the living God, in order to distinguish him from 
idols, which are altogether destitute of life. The opposition 
between the living God and dead idols the Psalmist states 
and illustrates in a manner the most convincing. — Ps. cxv. 
3-7. He is styled the true God, in opposition to imaginary 
and fictitious gods. The heathen, besides worshipping dead 
idols, worshipped also living creatures. — Deut. xxxii. 17. 
These were only gods in their vain imagination, not in 
reality. They were called gods, but they w^ere not gods by 
nature. — Gal. iv. 8. Between the true God and all rival 
gods there is an infinite disparity. 

3. It is asserted that this God is a most pure Spirit, — that 
is, he is an incorporeal, immaterial, invisible, and immortal 
Being, wdthout bodily parts or passions. " No man hath seen 
God at any time." He " dwelleth in light, which no man can 
approach unto, whom no man hath seen nor can see." He is 
described as " invisible, incorruptible, and immortal." The 
Confession affirms that God is a pure Spirit, according to the 
Scriptures, and in opposition to an ancient sect of heretics, 
who, understanding everything spoken of God in a literal 
sense, held that God has bodily parts and a human form. 
These heretics are called Antliropomorphites ; a name com- 
pounded of two Greek words, — the one signifying human, and 
the other, shape or form. That corporeal parts and bodily 
members, — such as eyes, ears, hands, and face, — are ascribed 
to God in the Scriptures is certain; but such language is used 
in accommodation to our capacities, and must be understood 
in a way suitable to a pure spirit. Were the great God to 
speak of his essence and perfections as he is in himself, in- 
stead of being informed, we w^ould be confounded. He, there- 
fore, employs human properties and actions as emblems of his 
own spiritual perfections and acts. AVe become acquainted 
with persons and things by seeing them or hearing of them ; 
and to intimate the perfect knowledge which God has of his 
creatures, eyes and ears are ascribed to him. It is chiefly by 
our hands that we exert our bodily strength ; and hands are 
ascribed to God to denote his irresistible power. We look 
with an air of complacency and satisfaction on those whom 
we love ; and God's face denotes the manifestation of his 
favour. In the same manner must we explain the several 
2mssions that are ascribed to God, — such as anger, fury, 
jealousy, revenge, bowels of mercy, &c. " Passion produces 
a vehemence of action ; so when there is, in the providences of 


God, such a vehemence as, according to the manner of men, 
wonld imiDort a passion, then that passion is ascribed to God. 
When he punishes men for sin, he is said to be angry ; when 
he does that by severe and redoubled strokes, he is said to be 
full oifury and revenge ; when he punishes for idolatry, or any 
dishonour done to himself, he is said to be jealous ; when he 
changes the course of his proceedings, he is said to repent ; 
Avhen his dispensations of providence are very gentle, and 
his judgments come slowly from him, he is said to have bowels. 
And thus all the varieties of providence come to be expressed 
by all that variety of passions which, among men, might give 
occasion to such a variety of proceeding." * 

4. It is asserted that this God is possessed of all possible 
perfections. The perfections of God are called his attributes, 
because they are ascribed to him as the essential properties 
of his nature. These attributes are variously, though imper- 
fectly distinguished, in our ways of thinking about them. 
They have been called natural and moral, incommunicable 
and communicable attributes, — the latter is the most common 
distinction. Those attributes are called incommunicable, of 
which there is not the least resemblance to be found among 
creatures ; and those are called communicable, of which there 
is some faint, though very imperfect resemblance to be found 
among creatures. Without attempting to class the divine 
perfections under these two heads, we shall arrange the 
several parts of the description of God contained in the two 
sections now before us under the following particulars : — 

1. God is infinite. To be infinite, according to the literal 
signification of the word, is to be unbounded, — unlimited. 
As applied to the other attributes of God, this term denotes 
their absolute perfection. He is infinite in his wisdom, power, 
holiness, &c. As these perfections must be considered after- 
wards, we only notice, at present, that God is infinite in his 
being, or essence. From this results his incomprehensibility, or 
that supereminent perfection which can be comprehended 
by none but himself. A perfect kuoAvledge of God is com- 
petent to none but himself, whose understanding is infinite. 
" Canst thou by searching find out God ? canst thou find out 
the Almighty unto perfection ?" — Job xi. 7. His infinity, as 
applied to his being, also includes his immensity and his omni- 
presence. Betwixt these a distinction may be drawn. His 
omnipresence has a relation to creatures actually existing, 
with every one of which he is intimately present ; but his 
immensity extends infinitely beyond the boundaries of all 
created substance. God fills all places at once — heaven, and 
* Burnet on the Thrty-Nine Articles, Art. i. 


earth, and hell — with his essential presence. " Am I a God 
at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off ? Can any 
hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him ? 
saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth ? saith the 
Lord."— Jer. xxiii. 23, 24. 

2. God is self-existent and inde'pendent. He has all life, glory, 
and blessedness, in and of himself. His existence is neces- 
sary and nnderived ; for his name is, " I am that I am." — 
Exod, iii. 14. His glory and blessedness are likewise unde- 
rived. His glory necessarily results from, or rather consists 
in, the absolute perfection of his OA\m nature, and his blessed- 
ness is all summed up in the possession and enjoyment of 
his own infinite excellencies. Being thus all-sufficient in 
and imto himself, he must be independent of any other 
being. He stands not in need of any creatures which he has 
made, nor can he derive any gloiy from them. Every other 
being receives its all from him, but he receives no advan- 
tage from any. " For his pleasure all things ai-e and were 
created ; but none can be profitable to God, as he that 
is wise may be profitable to himself ; nor is it any gain to 
him that they make their ways perfect." — Rev. iv. 11 ; Job 
xxii. 2, 3. 

3. God is the fountain of all being. As he has life in and 
of himself, so he is the author of that life which is in every 
living creature. " In him we live, and move, and have our 
being." All the life of the vegetative, animal, and rational 
world, the life of grace here, and the life of glory hereafter, 
are of him, and derived from him. " With him is the foun- 
tain of life," — of all sorts of life. " Of him, and through 
him, and to him, are all things." — Rom. xi. 36, From this 
it follows, that God has most sovereign dominion over all his 
creatures, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever 
himself pleaseth. He who is the first cause of all things, 
must also be the last end. As he gave being to all crea- 
tures, so he must have an absolute right to rule over tliem, 
and to dispose of them for tlie ends of his own glory. Hence 
we are told, that " his kingdom ruleth over all," and that 
" he doeth according to his will in the anny of heaven, and 
among the inhabitants of the earth : and none can stay his 
hand, or say xmto him, What doest thou?" — Ps. ciii. 19; 
Dan. iv. 35. But God has not only a right to exercise sove- 
reign dominion over his creatures, he has also an indisput- 
able claim to their service and obedience. This claim is 
likewise founded upon his giving them their being. They 
are not their own, but the Lord's ; him, therefore, they are 
bound to serve. Hence the Confession, with great propriety. 


affirms, that to God " is due from angels and men, and every 
other creature, whatsoever Avorship, service, or obedience, he 
is pleased to require of them." 

4. God is eternal. The word eternal is sometimes used, 
both in Scripture and in common language, in a restricted 
sense, for a long time, or for a period whose termination is 
to us unknown. Sometimes it denotes a duration which, 
though not without beginning, is without end. Thus angels 
and the souls of men are eternal ; for though they had a 
beginning, they will have no end. But eternity, in the strict 
and proper sense of the word, signifies a duration without 
beginning, without end, and without succession; and in this 
sense it is peculiar to the great God. The supposition that 
there was a period at which God began to be, is equally re- 
pugnant to reason and to revelation. He that created all 
things must have existed before any of them began to be ; 
and his existence being imderived, he can never cease to 
exist. The Scriptui-e plainly declares that he is without 
beginning : " Before the mountains were brought forth, or 
ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from 
everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." — Ps. xc. 2. It "o 
less plainly declares that he is without end : " The Lord 
shall endure for ever." — Ps. ix. 7. That he is without suc- 
cession is no less explicitly declared : " One day is with the 
Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." 
— 2 Pet. iii. 8. There is one passage in which an unbegin- 
ning, unending, and unsuccessive duration, is ascribed to 
God.— Ps. cii. 25-27. One of his glorious titles is, « The 
high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity;" and he is 
styled, " The everlasting God, — the Father of eternity, — the 
First and the Last." 

5. Grod is immutable. " With him is no variableness, 
neither shadow of turning." To this important truth reason 
and revelation give their united testimony. His immu- 
tability necessarily results from his absolute perfection. If 
he -were to change, it must be either to the better or to the 
worse. He cannot change to the better, for that would 
imply past imperfection ; he cannot change to the worse, for 
then he would cease to be perfect. He must, therefore, re- 
main invariably the same. To the absolute immutability of 
God the Scripture gives numerous testimonies. — Numb, 
xxiii. 19; Ps. xxxiii. 11; Mai. iii. 6. 

God is unchan'geable in his being. " I am that I am,'' is 
the name by which he made himself known to Moses, a name 
whiph conveys the idea not only of self-existence and inde- 
pendence, but also of immutability. He is unchangeable in 


his glory. Tlioiigli the manifestation of his glory may vary, 
yet he is, and ever was, infinitely glorious in himself; for his 
essential glory is neither capable of increase nor susceptible 
of diminution. He is unchangeable in his blessedness ; for 
as it consists in the enjoyment of himself, so it can neither 
be increased nor diminished b}^ anything that creatures can 
do for or against him. — Job xxxv. 5-7. He is unchangeable 
in his purposes and counsels. He proclaims with divine 
majesty, " My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my 
pleasure : I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass ; I 
have purposed it, I will also do it." — Isa. xlvi. 10, 11. He 
is unchangeable in his covenant, love, and promises to his 
people. — Isa. liv. 10. When, therefore, we read in Scripture 
of God's repenting, we must understand such language of an 
alteration of the outward dispensations of his providence. 
We are by no means to attribute to him any change of mind ; 
for, in this respect, it is impossible for God to change. " He 
is in one mind, and who can turn him ? " — Job xxiii. 13. 

6. God is all-knowing. In his sight all things are open and 
manifest. He has a perfect knowledge of himself, and he 
only knows himself perfectly. He knows all things besides 
himself, Avhether they be past, present, or to come, in oiir 
way of measuring them by time. He knows all creatures, 
from the greatest to the least ; he knows all the actions of 
his creatures, whether secret or open ; all their Avords, 
thoughts, and intentions. Hence the Scripture declares, 
" The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil 
and the good." — Prov. xv. 3. " He is acquainted with all 
our ways, there is not a word in our tongue but he knoweth 
it altogether, and he understandeth our thought afar off." — 
Ps. cxxxix. 2-4. " Known iinto God are all his works 
fi'om the beginning of the world." — Acts xv. 18. Yea, he 
knows the most contingent events : the actions of free agents, 
and all events concerned in them, were always known with 
certainty to him ; so that, though they be contingent in their 
own nature, or ever so uncertain as to us, yet, in reality, no- 
thing is to him contingent or uncertain. We cannot doubt 
this, when we consider the numerous prophecies, relating to 
things of this kind, that ha,ve received a most exact and cir- 
cumstantial accomplishment, many ages after the proj)hecies 
were announced. It may be remarked, that God knows things, 
not by information, nor by reasoning and deduction, nor by 
succession of ideas, but by a single intuitive glance ; and he 
knov,'s them comprehensively, and infallibly. 

7. God is most free and most absolute. " He worketh all 
things after the counsel of his own will." — Eph. i. 11. His 


will is infinitely free, and " he doth according to his will in 
the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." 
He has an absolute right to do whatsoever he pleaseth, and 
" none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou ?" 
—Dan. iv. 35. 

8. God is infinitely tcise. The wisdom of God is that per- 
fection of his nature by which he directs all things to their 
proper end — the end for w^hich he gave them being ; and 
this is his own glory : for as he is the most excellent Being, 
nothing can be so excellent an end as his own glory. How 

I admirably is the wisdom of God displayed in creation! Whe- 
ther we look upward to the heavens, or downward to the 
earth ; whether y^e survey the mineral, the vegetable, or the 
animal world, can we forbear to exclaim with the devout 
Psalmist, " O Lord, how manifold are thy works ! in wis- 
dom thou hast made them all." — Ps. civ. 24. When we 
consider the vast variety of creatures and things which God 
has produced from the same original matter, the fitness of 
everything for its intended purpose, the subserviency of one 
thing to a-nother, and the conspiring of all to a common 
end — how conspicuous is his wisdom ! Nor is the wisdom of 
God less apparent in the gorernment of the world, especially 
in effecting the most grand and glorious designs by weak 
and feeble means, and even by the bad dispositions of men — 
" making even the wrath of man to praise him, and restrain- 
ing the remainder thereof." " O the depth of the riches 
both of the wisdom and knowledge of God !" — Rom. xi. 33. 
But this perfection of God shines forth with the brightest 
lustre in the method of our redemption by Jesus Christ. No- 
thing less than wisdom truly divine could have devised a 
plan whereby " mercy and truth should meet together, and 
righteousness and peace should embrace each other." Here 
is " the hidden wisdom of God." Here " he has abounded 
toward us in all wisdom and prudence ; " and hence the 
publication of this contrivance is spoken of as a discovery of 
" the manifold wisdom of God." — Eph. iii. 10. 

9. God is infinitely powerful, or almighty. The power of 
God is that perfection whereby he is able to effect all things 
that do not imply a contradiction, either to his own perfec- 
tions, or to the nature of things themselves. " With God 
nothing shall be impossible," said the angel to the Virgin 
Mary. " With God all things are possible," said Jesus to 
his disciples. How great must be that power whicli pro- 
duced the beautiful fabric of the univei-se out of nothing ! 
" By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all 
the host of them by the breath of his mouth." "For he spake, 


and it was done ; he commanded, and it stood fast." — Ps. 
xxxiii. 6, 9. His power is still exerted in the preservation 
of the world; for he upholds all creatures in their being and 
operations by the word of his power. It appears conspicu- 
ously in the moral government of the world — especially in 
restraining wicked men from their purposes ; for "he stilleth 
the noise of the waves, and the raging of the people." But 
it is most eminently displayed in the work of redemption by 
Jesus Christ ; in the formation of his human nature in the 
womb of the Virgin; in supporting his human nature under 
that load of wrath which was due to iis for our transgres- 
sions ; and in raising him from the dead. It is also displayed 
in the production of that wonderful change which takes 
place in the conversion of a sinner, which in Scripture is 
termed a new creation; in the preservation of believers in a 
state of grace; in enabling them to resist and overcome 
strong temptations, to perform arduous duties, and to bear 
heavy trials with patience and joyfulness ; and it will be 
signally manifested in raising up their bodies, glorious and 
immortal, at the last day. 

It may be observed, that although there are some things 
which God cannot do, yet this implies no imperfection in his 
power. He cannot do what involves a contradiction ; for 
instance, he cannot make a thing to be, and not to be, at the 
same time ; he cannot do what is repugnant to his nature, 
or his essential perfections ; he cannot deny himself — he 
cannot lie — he cannot look upon sin — he caimot sleep, or 
suifer, or cease to exist. This, however, argues no defect of 
power, but arises from his absolute perfection. 

10. God is infinitely holy. The holiness of God is the per- 
fect rectitude of his nature, whereby he is absolutely free from 
all moral impurity, and, in all that he does, acts like himself, 
and for the advancement of his own honour ; delighting in 
what accords with, and abhorring what is contrary to, his 
nature and will. Holiness is, as it were, the lustre and glory 
of all the divine perfections ; hence God is styled " glorious 
in holiness." It is that perfection which those exalted spirits, 
who are best acquainted with the glories of the divine nature, 
dwell most upon in their songs of praise ; hence, the seraphim 
cry one to another, " Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts." 
— Isa. vi. 3. God himself puts peculiar honour upon his holi- 
ness ; for he singles it out as that attribute by which he 
swears that he will accomplish whatever he hath spoken. — 
Ps. Ixxxix. 35, The holiness of God is manifest from the 
original condition of all rational creatures; for, when formed 
by him, they were perfectly holy. It has been awfully dis- 


played in the judgments which God has executed upon sin- 
ners. The expulsion of the rebel angels from heaven, — the 
exclusion of man from paradise, as soon as he became a sin- 
ner, — the destruction of the old world by water, — the over- 
throw of Sodom and Gomorrah ; these, and innumerable 
other instances, the Scripture records of God's awful dis- 
pleasure against sin. But nothing affords such a striking 
demonstration of God's hatred of sin as the sufferings and 
death of his own Son. God must be of purer eyes than to 
behold iniquity, since, when our guilt was transferred to his 
own Son, he spared him not. Could he have overlooked sin 
in any case, he would certainly have done it in the case of 
his dear Son. But, though he was the object of his Father's 
ineffable delight, and though he was personally innocent, yet, 
when he stood charged with the sins of his people, he could 
not be excused from suffering and dying. " It pleased the 
Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief."— Isa. liii. 10. 
11. God is infinitely jM5f. The justice of God is that per- 
fection of his nature according to which he is infinitely 
righteous in himself, and just and equal in all his proceed- 
ings with regard to his creatures. " A God of truth, and 
without iniquity, just and right is he." — Deut.xxxii. 4. God 
is just to himself, by acting in all things agreeably to his 
nature and perfections, and by maintaining his own rights 
and prerogatives. He is just to his creatures, by governing 
them in a way agreeably to their nature, according to a law 
which he has given them. God's justice has been variously 
distinguished, according to the various ways in which it is 
exercised. His legislative justice, is his giving righteous laws 
to his creatures, suited to their original abilities, command- 
ing or forbidding such things as are fit for them to do or 
forbear. Hence, his law is said to be "holy, and just, and 
good." — Rom. vii. 12. His distributive justice, is his render- 
ing to every one his due, according to law, without respect 
of persons. This, again, is distinguished by various names. 
There is remunerative justice, whereby God rewards the sin- 
cere, though imperfect obedience of those who are accepted 
in his sight as righteous, through the righteousness of Jesus 
Christ imputed to them, and received by faith. " Verily, 
there is a reward for the righteous." " God is not unrigh- 
teous, to forget their work and labour of love."- — Ps. Iviii. 
11 ; Heb. vi. 10. But this reward is entirely of free grace, 
and not of debt. There is pmiitive justice, whereby God ren- 
ders to the sinner the punishment due to his crimes. 
This is nothing else than God's distributive justice, as it 
regards punishment. It is sometimes called xindicalory 


justice, and sometimes avenging justice. This, we hold, v\ 
opposition to Socinians, is not an arbitrary eft'ect of the will 
of God, but an essential perfection of his nature ; and, there- 
fore, upon the entrance of sin, its exercise was indispensably 
necessary. God must inflict the punishment due to sin, 
either upon the transgressor himself, or upon another as his 
surety. This appears from the holiness of God, which re- 
quires that he should demonstrate his aversion to sin by 
punishing it according to its demerit. It appears from the 
threatening of the law, taken in connection with the truth of 
of God. " In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely 
die," was the penalty annexed to the law, and the faithful- 
ness of God is pledged for the execution of the sentence 
upon transgressors. This is confirmed by the testimony of 
conscience in all men, apprehending that punishment will 
overtake the transgressor ; hence, both barbarous and civi- 
lized nations have had recourse to sacrifices to appease the 
anger of the Deity. This appears, further, from God's in- 
flicting remarkable judgments, even in this life, on sinning 
nations and individuals ; and especially from his executing 
punishment upon his own Soti, as the sui'ety of sinners. 
Christ having substituted himself in the place of sinners, 
justice exacted of him full satisfaction. And never did 
justice appear in such terrible majesty, as when God gave it 
the commission to awake, and smite the man that was his 
fellow. — Zech. xiii. 7. Then it was seen that God " can by no 
means clear the guilty," or allow sin to pass with impunity. 

Several writers, of late, have attributed to God what they 
call public justice ; that is, justice which respects the groat 
general end of government, — the public good. But, we ap- 
prehend, there is no foundation, either in Scripture or reason, 
for supposing that this kind of justice has any place in the 
moral government of God. Such an idea proceeds upon the 
supposition that the divine government, so far as punish- 
ment is concerned, is completely analogous to human govern- 
ments. There is, howevei-, a wide and obvious distinction 
between tl^.e procedure of human govei-nments and the pro- 
cedure of the Most High. 

12. God is infinitely good. Though all the perfections of 
God are his glory, yet tiiis is particularly so called ; for 
when Moses earnestly desired to behold the glory of Jehovah, 
the Lord said, " I will make all my goorbwi^x pass before thee, 
and I will proclaim the name of the J.,ord before thee." 
" And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The 
Lord, the Loud God, mci-ciful and gracious, long-suffering, 
and abundant in goodness and truth," cS:c. — Exod. xxxiii. 18, 


19, and xxxiv. 6. The goodness of God is distinguished by 
different names, according to the different aspects in which 
it is viewed, or the different objects about which it is exer- 
cised. When it relieves the miserable, it is called mercy ; 
when it confers favours on the undeserving, or on those who 
deserve nothing but what is evil, it is called grace ; when it 
supplies the wants of indigent beings, it is called hountij ; 
when it forbears to execute punishment upon, provoking 
rebels, it is called patience or Jongsvffering. The goodness of 
God is, therefore, a very comprehensive term ; it includes 
all the foi-ms of his kindness towards men, whether considered 
as creatures, as sinners, or as saints. But we may describe 
it generally as that property of the Divine Being which dis- 
poses him to communicate happiness to his creatures, as far 
as is consistent with his other perfections. 

Innumerable are the instances in which God has mani- 
fested his goodness. What but goodness could pronrpt him 
to give being to so many creatures, when he stood in no 
need of them, being intinitely happy in the enjoyment of 
himself? What goodness does he display in iiphold ing in- 
numerable creatures in existence, and in making am]de pro- 
vision for their wants ? But the most astonishing display of 
this, as well as of all the other perfections of Deity, is in 
the redemption of sinners. In the contrivance of the plan, 
and in the execution of it from first to last, God appears 
good, in a manner and to a degree that astonishes the in- 
habitants both of earth and of heaven. The goodness of 
God, as manifested in this work, is usually expressed by the 
term love ; and the love herein displayed surpasses know- 
ledge. — John iii. 16- 

The goodness of God may be considered as absolute and 
relative, — as it is in himself, and as it is exercised toward his 
creatures. ^ — Ps. cxix. 68. It may also be considered as 
common aiid sioecial. Of his goodness, in the former view, 
his creatures promiscuously are partakers — Ps. xxxiii. 5, 
cxlv. 9. Of his goodness, in the latter view, his chosen 
people are partakers. — Ps. cvi. 5. 

13. God is infinitely true and faithful. The truth of God 
is that perfection of his nature. whereby it is impossible for 
him not to fulfil whatever he hath spoken. He is " a God 
of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he." What- 
ever God hath spoken, whether in a way of promise or of 
threatening, he will, sooner or later, infallibly accomplish, 
" It is impossible for God to lie." No difficulties can arise 
to render a performance of his word impracticable ; and he 
is not liable to a change of mind Numb, xxiii. 19. We may, 


therefore, be confidently assured, that " there shall not fail 
one good word of all that the Lord our God hath spoken." 

How blessed are they who, upon good grounds, can call 
this all-perfect Being their Father and their God ! How 
miserable those who live " without God in the world !" and 
what a " fearful thing" must it be to " fall into the hands of 
the living God !" That we may escape this misery, and pos- 
sess the happiness of those " whose God is the Lord," let us 
unreservedly yield ourselves to God, through Christ, and 
take him to be our portion for ever. May the unfeigned 
language of every reader be, " Whom have I in heaven but 
thee ? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides 

Section III. — In the unity of the Godhead there be 
three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity ; 
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy 
Ghost.^^ The Father is of none, neither begotten nor 
proceeding ; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father ;^^ 
the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and 
the Son.^" 

•'8 1 John V. 7. Matt. Hi. 16, 17; 1 ^^ John i. 14,18. 

xxviii. 19. 2 Cor. xiii. 14. \ *" John xv. 26. Gal. iv. 6. 

We are here taught, — First, That in the one Godhead there 
are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. 
Second!}/, That these three are distinguished by their personal 
properties. Thirdlr/, That each of these persons is truly God. 

1. That in the one Godhead there are three persons, is 
affirmed in opposition to the Anti-trlmtarians, who maintain 
that God is one in respect of personality as well as of essence. 
The term Avhich has been chosen to express the doctrine now 
under consideration is Trinity. This word is not to be found 
in Scripture, but it is a very appropriate and happy term to 
express this profound mystery. It is a compound Latin word, 
signifying three in unity; that is, three distinct persons in one 
undivided Godhead. The adversaries of this doctrine now 
call themselves Unitarians, by which they mean to intimate 
their belief of only one God, and insinuate that those who 
believe the doctrine of the Trinity must admit more than 
one God, But we maintain, as strongly as they, that there 
is only one God, and we think it perfectly consistent with 
this belief, to acknowledge three persons in the Godhead. 
This, indeed, is a mystery, but there is nothing in it absurd, 
. or contradictory to reason. We do not say that three are one 


in the same sense and in the same respect in which they 
are three ; that would, no doubt, be a plain contradiction in 
terms. But we say, they are three in one respect, one in an- 
other respect, — three in person, one in essence ; and there is no 
absurdity in that at all. It surpasses our reason, indeed, 
fully to understand it ; and so do a thousand things besides, 
which yet we know are true and real. But, if it be a doc- 
trine clearly revealed in the Sacred Scriptures, we are bound 
to believe it, however incapable we may be of comprehend- 
ing it. 

Before proceeding to establish the doctrine, we must ex- 
plain the terms employed. The word Godhead signifies the 
divine nature. This is a scriptural term. — Rom. i. 20 ; Col. 
ii. 9. In the Scriptures, and, agreeably to them, in our Con- 
fession, Godhead denotes that infinite, eternal, and unchange- 
able nature, or essence, which is not peculiar to the Father, 
or the Son, or the Holy Ghost, but common to all the three. 
The distinction in the Godhead is characterised by the word 
person. This term, in the common acceptation, denotes " a 
separate and independent being, whose existence and actions 
have no necessary connection with the existence and actions 
of any other being. It has been defined to be a thinking 
substance, which can act by itself, or an intelligent agent, 
who is neither a part of, nor sustained by another." But this 
term, when applied to the Sacred Three, is not to be un- 
derstood in exactly the same sense as when applied to 
creatures. The cases are totally dissimilar. " Three human 
persons have the same specific nature, but three divine persons 
have the same numerical nature. Anti-trinitarians affirm, that, 
by holding three divine persons, we necessarily make three 
Gods, because they most unfairly maintain, in the face of our 
solemn protestations, that we affix the same idea to the word 
person which it bears when used in reference to men. But we 
deny that it has this meaning. We do not teach that there 
are three distinct essences mysteriously conjoined, — that the 
Father, the Son, and the Spirit possess, each of them sepa- 
rately from the others, a divine nature and divine perfections. 
What we believe is this, that there is a distinction in the 
Godhead, to which there is nothing similar in creatures, who 
are one in every sense of the terra ; and we employ the word 
person to express that distinction. It may be objectionable, 
because, being applied to other beings, it is apt to suggest an 
idea which is inconsistent with the imity of God ; but this 
is the unavoidable consequence of the imperfection of human 
language ; and we endeavour to guard against the abuse by 
declaring that, in this application, it must be qualified so as 

38 CONFESSION or faith. [^chai'. ii. 

to exclude a separate existence. When we say that there 
are three persons in the Godhead, the word person signifies 
a distinction which we do not pretend to explain, but which 
does not intrench upon the unity of essence."* 

The doctrine of the Trinity is not discoverable by the 
light of nature, or by unassisted reason. It can only be 
known by divine revelation, and it is amply confirmed by 
the Holy Scriptures. There are many passages in the Old 
Testament which prove a pkiraUty of persons in the God- 
head ; such as those passages in which one divine person is 
introduced as speaking of or to another. To these we can 
only refer. — Gen. i. 26, iii. 22, xi. 7 ; Ps. xlv. 6, 7, ex. 1 ; 
Isa. vi. 8. All these texts plainly point out a plurality of 
persons in the Godhead. But it is evident from Scripture, 
not only that there is a pluraliti/, but also that there is a 
Trinity, or only three jjersons in the Godhead. This is plain 
from Isa. Ixi. 1, where our Divine Redeemer thus speaks : 
" The Spirit of the Lord God is upon 7ne ; because the Lord 
hath anointed me," &c. Here one divine person is the 
speaker ; he speaks of another divine person, whom he styles 
the Spirit; and of a third divine person, whom he calls the 
Lord God. The work of creation is ascribed to the agency 
of three distinct persons, Ps. xxxiii. 6 : " By the word of the 
Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the 
breath of his mouth." Here three are distinctly pointed out, 
— the Father ; the Word, or the Son of God ; and the breath 
of his mouth, which can be no other than the Holy Spirit. But 
in the New Testament this doctrine is still more explicitly 
revealed. In the history of our Lord's baptism we have a 
plain intimation of the mystery of the Trinity. — Matt. iii. I(i, 
17. The Father, by an audible voice from heaven, bears 
testimony to the incarnate Redeemer ; the So7i, in human 
nature, is baptized by John ; and the Holy Spirit descends 
upon him in a visible manner. Hence the primitive Christians 
used to say to any who doubted the truth of this doctrine, 
" Go to Jordan, and there you will see the Trinity." Plainer 
still is this truth from the form of words appointed to be used 
in Christian baptism, — " Baptizing them in the name of the 
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." — Matt, xxviii. 
19. To baptize in the name of one, is to baptize by his autho- 
rity, and dedicate to his service. This is competent only to 
a divine person. Now, if the Fathei', in whose name we are 
baptized, be a person, so must the Son, and the Holy Ghost, 
for we are baptized in their name, as well as in the name of 
the Father, The apostolical benediction furnishes another 

* Dick's Lectures on Tlicology, vol. ii., pp. (Jl, Go. 


proof of a Trinity : " The gi-ace of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be 
with you all." — 2 Cor. xiii. 14. " This is evidently a prayer, 
which it would be impiety and idolatry to address to any 
other but God. Yet three persons are distinctly addressed, 
and consequently are recognised as possessed of divine per- 
fections ; as knowing our wants, and hearing our requests, 
and able to do what we ask ; as the fountain of all the 
blessedness implied in the terms, grace, love, and com- 
munion." We have a most explicit testimony to this doc- 
trine, 1 John. V. 7, "There are three that bear record in 
heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these 
three are one." The genuineness of this text has been much 
disputed; but the truth' of the doctrine does not rest on a 
single text, as has been already shown. 

Nor is the doctrine of the Trinity a mere speculation. 
On the contrary, to use the language of Dr Dick, " without 
the knowledge of this doctrine it is impossible to under- 
stand the grandest of the works of God — redemption, — in 
which the three persons act distinct and conspicuous parts. 
We are called to contemplate the love of the Father, the 
condescension of the Son, and the gracious operations of 
the Spirit. Redemption is not the work of a solitary 
agent, but of three, all concurring in the salvation of our 
[>erishing race. Hence we owe gratitude to each of the 
persons of the Godhead distinctly, and are bound to give to 
each the glory to which he is entitled. We are baptized 
in their name, and consecrated to their service; and our 
prayers are addressed not to God absolutely considered, 
but to the Father, through the Son, and by the assistance 
of the Holy Ghost. It appears, therefore, that the Christian 
system of duty is founded upon this doctrine, and that without 
the belief of it there can be no acceptable religion. So far is 
it from being useless, that it is the very foundation of prac- 
ical piety." 

II. The Sacred Three are distinguished from each other by 
their personal properties. It is the personal property of the 
Father to beget the Son. — Ps. ii. 7. It is the personal property 
of the Son to be eternally begotten of the Father. — John. i. 
14. It is the personal property of the Holy Ghost to proceed 
eternally from the Father and the Son. — John xv. 26 ; Gal. 
iv. 6. These are called personal properties, to distinguish 
them from the essential perfections of Deity. Essential per- 
fections are common to the Father, the Son, and the Holy 
Spirit, but a personal property is something peculiar to 
each, something which may be affirmed of one, but cannot be 
affivined of the other two. Paternity is peculiar to the first 


person, filiation to the second, and procession to the third. 
We pretend not to explain these personal properties ; here, 
if in anything, it is safest to abide by the language of Scrip- 

III. Each of the Sacred Three is truly God. That the 
Father is God is admitted on all hands ; it is, therefore, un- 
necessary to prove what no one denies. But the Deity of 
the Son Avas controverted and denied at an early period of 
the Christian Church. The Arians, who arose in the begin- 
ning of the fourth century, held that the Son had a begin- 
ning, and is a creature, though in antiquity and excellency 
superior to all other creatures. The Socinians, who sprung 
up towards the close of the sixteenth century, went further 
than the Arians. They held that the second person had no 
existence till he was formed in the Avomb of the Virgin, and 
that he is called the Son of God because God employed him 
to propagate divine truth by his ministry, and to confirm it 
by his death, and advanced him, after his resurrection, to the 
government of the universe. The modern Socinians, who 
call themselves Unitarians, the disciples of Dr Priestley, have 
gone still further in degrading the Son of God. They main- 
tain that Christ is a mere man, that he was the human off- 
spring of Joseph and JVIary, that he is no proper object of 
religious worship, but only the most excellent of human cha- 
racters, — the most eminent of all the prophets of God. They 
go along with the old Socinians in maintaining that Jesus 
had no existence prior to his birth, but they disclaim the 
notion of Socinus, that, since his resurrection, he has been 
advanced to the government of the universe ; and contend 
that, as he diflf'ered in no respect from other men in his mode 
of coming into the world, so he can have no dominion or 
superiority over men in the world of spirits. In oppo- 
sition to adversaries, earlier and later, our Confession asserts 
that the Son is God, of one substance, power, and eternity, 
with the Father. This might be evinced by a great variety 
of arguments, which we can only indicate in a very summary 

1. Divine names are applied to him. He is expressly called 
Ood, — John i. 1 ; Rom. ix. 5 ; he is called the mighty God, 
— Isa. ix. 6 ; the true God, — 1 John v. 20 ; the great God, 
— Tit. ii. 13. The Lord, or Jehovah, the incommunicable 
name of God, is frequently applied to the Son, — Isa. vi. 1, 
applied to Christ, — John xii. 41 ; Isa. xl, 3, applied to 
Christ, — John i. 93 ; Numb. xxi. 6. 7, applied to Christ, — 
1 Cor. x. 9. 

2. Divine attributes are ascribed to the Son no less than to 
the Father. Eternity is ascribed to him, — ;Mic. v. 2 ; Rev. 


i. 8; omniscience, — John ii. 24, xxi. 17; omnipresence, — 
Matt, xxviii. 20; omnipotence, — Rev. i. 8; Phil. iii. 21; 
immutability, — Ps. cii. 25-27, compared with Heb. i. 10-12, 
and xiii. 8. 

3. Divine works are ascribed to him. The production of all 
things out of nothing, — John i. 3 ; the preservation and 
government of all things,— Col, i. 17 ; Heb. i. 3 ; John v. 17,27 ; 
the purchasing of eternal redemption, — Heb. ix. 12 ; the 
forgiveness of sins, — Mark ii. 5 ; the raising of the dead at 
the last day, — John v. 28, 29 ; the judging of the world. 
— Rom. xiv. 10. 

4. We are commanded to give the same dimne worship to 
the Son that is due to the Father. The established law of 
worship is, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and 
him only shalt thou serve." But divine worship is expressly 
commanded to be rendered to the Son. — John v. 23. Angels, 
the highest of created beings, are enjoined to worship him, — 
Heb. i. 6 ; and we have numerous instances of divine wor- 
ship being given to him. — Acts vii. 59 ; 2 Cor. xii, 8 ; 
2 Thess. ii. 16. 

5. As an additional proof that the Son, no less than the 
Father, is the supreme God, it may be observed, that he 
is expressly affirmed to be equal with the Father. He 
claimed equality with God, and for so doing was accused of 
blasphemy by the Jews ; yet he never charged them with 
misconstruing his words, but appealed to his works in proof 
of his claim. — John v. 18, x. 30, 38. He thought it no 
robbery to be equal with God, — Phil. ii. 6 ; and his eternal 
Father acknowledges him to be his felloAV and equal — Zech. 
xiii. 7. 

We may here observe, that when Christ saith that " his 
Father is greater than he" (John xiv. 28), he does not mean 
that he is greater with respect to his nature, but with respect 
to his office as Mediator ; in which respect Christ sustains the 
character of the Father's servant, and acts in virtue of a 
commission from him. — Isa. xiii. 1. But as the second per- 
son in the undivided Trinity, he is in all respects equal to his 
Divine Father. 

The divinity of the Holy Spirit is also denied by Socinians ; 
but it may be evinced by the same arguments which prove 
the Deity of the Son. 

1. Divine names are ascribed to the Spirit equally with 
the Father and the Son. He is called God. In Acts 
V. 3, Ananias is said to "lie unto the Holy Ghost;" and 
in ver. 4 he is said to " lie unto God." True Christians 
are said to be temples of God, inasmuch as " the Spirit of 
God dwelleth in them." — 1 Cor. iii. 16. The name Jeho- 


vah is also given to him Isa. vi. 8, 9, compared with Acts 

xxviii. 25. 

2. Divine attributes are ascribed to the Spirit. Eternity is 
ascribed to him, — Gen. i. 1,2 ; omnipresence, — Ps. cxxxix. 7 ; 
omniscience, — 1 Cor. ii. 10, 11. In fine, the apostle attributes 
to the Spii'it the most sovereign icilL and omnipotent piower. — 
1 Cor. xii. 11. 

3. Divine works are ascribed to the Spirit. Creation is 
ascribed to him, in reference to the world in general, and to 
man in particular. — Gen. i. 2 ; Job xxxiii. 4. The preserva- 
tion of all things is as much the work of the Spirit as of the 
Father and the Son. — Ps. civ. 30. The apphcation of re- 
demption is peculiarly ascribed to the Spirit. — Tit. iii. 5 ; 
1 Cor. vi. 11. 

4. Divine worship is ascribed to him. Prayer, one of the 
most solemn parts of worship, is addressed to him. — Rev. i. 4, 
5. By the seven spirits, in this passage, are not intended any 
created spirits, but the third jierson of the Godhead, who is 
so called on account of the variety and perfection of his gifts 
and graces. Baptism is administered in the name of the 
Holy Ghost, as well as in the name of the Father and the 
Son ; and the apostolical benediction is pronounced in his 
name 2 Cor. xiii. 14. 

The same glory, then, is due to the undivided Three, — to 
the Sou no less than to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit 
equally with the Father and the Son. 


OF god's eternal decree. 

Section I. — God from all eternity did, by the most 
wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and un- 
changeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass : ' yet so 
as thereby neither lis God the author of sin, ^ nor is 

» Eph. i. II. Rom. xi. 33. Heb. vi. I 2 James i. 13. 17. 1 John i. 5. 
17. Kom. ix. 1.=), 18.: 

SECT. 1, 2.^ OF god's eternal DECREE. 43 

violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the 
liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but 
rather established.^ 

Section II Although God knows whatsoever may 

or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions;* yet 
hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as 
future, or as that which would come to pass upon such 

3 Actsii. 23. Matt. xvii. 12. Acts !* Acts xv. 18. 1 Sam. xxiii. 11, 12. 
iv. 27, 28. John xix. 11. Prov. Matt. xi. 21, 23. 

xvi. 33. I 6 Rom. ix. 11, 13, 16, 18. 


By the decree of God is meant his purpose or determi- 
nation with respect to future things ; or, more fully, his 
determinate counsel, whereby, from all eternity, he fore- 
ordained whatever he should do, or would permit to be done, 
in time. 

This subject is one of the most abstruse and intricate in i 
theology, and it has been the fruitful source of a variety of 
controversies in the Christian Church. But whatever diver- 
sity of opinion may obtain respecting the details of the doc- 
trine, " no man will deny that there are divine decrees, who 
believes that God is an intelligent being, and considers what 
this character implies. An intelligent being is one who knows 
and judges, who purposes ends and devises means, who acts 
from design, conceives a plan, and then proceeds to execute 
it. Fortune was worshipped as a goddess by the ancient 
heathens, and was represented as blind, to signify that she 
was guided by no fixed rule, and distributed her favours at 
random. Surely no person of common sense, not to say piety, 
will impute procedure so irrational to the Lord of universal 
nature. As he knew all things v,'liich his power could accom- 
plish, there were, undoubtedly, reasons which determined him 
to do one thing, and not to do another; and his choice, which 
was foimded upon those reasons, was his decree." * 

That God must have decreed all future things, is a con- 
clusion which necessai'ily flows from his foreknowledge, inde- 
pendence, and immutability. " The foreknowledge of God 
will necessarily infer a decree ; for God could not foreknow 
that things would be, unless he had decreed they should be; 
and that because things would not be future, unless he had 
* Dick's I ectures on Tlieology, vol. ii., p. 167. 


decreed they sliould be." * If God be an independent 
being, all creatures must have an entire dependence upon 
him; but this dependence proves undeniably that all their 
acts must be regulated by his sovereign will. If God be of 
one mind, which none can change, he must have unalterably 
fixed everything in his purpose which he effects in his provi- 

This doctrine is plainly revealed in the Scriptures. They 
speak of God's foreknowledge, his purpose, his will, the de- 
terminate counsel of his will, and his predestination. " Whom 
he did foreknow, he also did predestinate." — Rom. viii. 29. 
" He hath made known unto us the mystery of his will, accor- 
ding to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in him- 
self." " He worketh all things after the counsel of his own 
will." — Eph. i. 9, 11. "Christ," says an apostle, "was de- 
livered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of 
God."— Acts ii. 23. 

" The decrees of God relate to all future things, without 
exception ; whatever is done in time was foreordained be- 
fore the beginning of time. His purpose was concerned with 
everything, whether great or small, whether good or evil ; 
although, in reference to the latter, it may be necessary to 
distinguish between appointment and permission. It was 
concerned with things necessary, free, and contingent ; with 
the movements of matter, which are necessary ; with the 
volitions and actions of intelligent creatures, which are free ; 
and with such things as we call accidents, because they take 
place undesignedly on our part, and without any cause which 
we could discover. It was concerned about our life and 
our death ; about our state in time and our state in eter- 
nity. In short, the decrees of God are as comprehensive as 
his government, which extends to all creatures, and to all 
events." f 

The decrees of God axe free. He was not impelled to de- 
cree from any exigence of the divine nature ; this would be 
to deny his self-sufficiency. Neither was he under any 
external constraint ; this would be destructive of his inde- 
pendence. His decrees, therefore, must be the sovereign and 
free act of his will. By this it is not meant to insinuate that 
they are arbitrary decisions ; but merely that, in making his 
deci-ees, he was under no control, and acted according to his 
own sovereignty. 

The decrees of God are most icise. They are called " the 
counsel of his will," to show that, though his will be free, yet 

* Edwards' Miscellaneous Observations, p. 114. 
t Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. ii,, p. 170. 

SECT. 1, 2.J OP god's eternal decree. 4.'> 

he always acts in a manner consummately wise. He needs 
not to deliberate, or take counsel with others, but all his de- 
crees are the result of unerring wisdom. " O the depth of 
the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God ! how un- 
searchable are his judgments, and his ways past-finding out !" 
" Wisdom is discovered in the selection of the most proper 
ends, and of the fittest means of accomplishing them. That 
this character belongs to the decrees of God is evident from 
what we know of them. They are disclosed to us by their 
execution ; and every proof of wisdom in the works of God 
is a proof of the wisdom of the plan in conformity to which 
they are performed." 

The decrees of God are eternal. This our Confession expli- 
citly affirms : — " God,/?-om all eternity ^ did ordain whatsoever 
comes to pass." This is asserted in opposition to the Soci- 
nians, who hold that some, at least, of the decrees of God are 
temporary. Those decrees which relate to things dependent 
on the free agency of man, they maintain, are made in time. 
But what saith the Scripture ? It expressly declares, that every 
thing which has happened, and everything which is to happen, 
was known to God from everlasting. " Known unto God are 
all his works, from the beginning of the world." — Acts xv. 18. 
To suppose any of the divine decrees to be made in time, is 
to suppose the knowledge of the Deity to be limited. If from 
eternity he knew all things that come to pass, then from 
eternity he must have ordained them ; for if they had not 
been determined upon, they could not have been foreknown 
as certain. 

The decrees of God are absolute and unconditional. He has 
not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future; and 
the execution of his decrees is not suspended upon any 
condition which may or may not be performed. This is 
the explicit doctrine of our Confession, and it is this prin- 
ciple which chiefly distinguishes Calvin ists from Arminians, 
who maintain that God's decrees are not absolute but condi- 

" It is granted, that some of the decrees of God are condi- 
tional, in this sense, that something is supposed to go before 
the event which is the object of the decree, and that, this 
order being established, the one will not take place without 
the other. He decreed, for example, to save Paul and the 
companions of his voyage to Italy ; but he decreed to save 
them only on condition that the sailors should remain in the 
ship. — Acts xxvii. He has decreed to save many from the 
wrath to come ; but he has decreed to save them only if 
they believe in Christ, and turn by him from the error of 


their "ways. But these decrees are conditional only in appear- 
ance. They merely state the order in which the events 
should be accomplished ; they establish a connection between 
the means and the end, but do not leave the means uncertain. 
When God decreed to save Paul and his companions, he 
decreed that the sailors should be prevented from leaving 
the ship ; and accordingly gave Paul previous notice of the 
preservation of every person on board. When he decreed 
to save those who should believe, he decreed to give them 
faith ; and, accordingly, we are informed, that those whom 
he predestinated he also calls into the fellowship of his Son. 
— Rom. viii, 30. That any deci-ee is conditional in the sense " 
of Arminians, " that it depends upon the will of man, of 
which he is sovereign master, so that he may will or not will 
as he pleases, — we deny. 'My counsel,' says God, ' shall stand, 
and I will do all my pleasure.' — Isa. xlvi. 10. But he could 
not speak so, if his counsel depended upon a condition which 
might not be performed.'** Conditional decrees are incon- 
sistent with the infinite wisdom of God, and are in men the 
effects of weakness. They are also inconsistent Avith the 
independence of God, making them to depend upon the free 
will or agency of his creatures. The accomplishment of 
them, too, would be altogether uncertain ; but the Scripture 
assures us, that " the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, 
and the thoughts of his heart to all generations." — Ps. 
xxxiii. 11. All his purposes are unalterably determined, 
and their execution infallibly certain. " There are many 
devices in a man's heart," which he is unable to accomplish, 
" nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." — 
Prov. xix. 21. 

It has been often objected to the doctrine respecting the 
diAdne decrees taught in our Confession, that it represents 
God as the author of sin. But the Confession expressly 
g-uards against this inference, by declaring that God has so 
ordained whatsoever comes to pass as that he is not thereby 
the author of sin. The decree of God is either effective oi- 
permissive. His effective decree respects all the good that 
comes to pass ; his permissive decree respects the evil that 
is in sinful actions. We must also disting-uish betwixt an 
action 'purely as such, and the sinfulness of the action. The 
decree of God is effective with respect to the action abstractly 
considered ; it is permissive with respect to the sinfulness of 
the action as a moral evil. 

It has also been objected, that if God has foreordained 
whatsoever comes to pass, human liberty is taken away. To 
* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol, ii., pp. 175, 176, Sec. 

SECT. 3, 4.] OF god's eternal decree. 47 

this it has been commonly replied, that it is siifficient to 
human liberty, that a man acts without any constraint, and 
according to liis own free choice ; that the divine decree is 
extrinsic to the human mind ; and, while it secures the futu- 
rition of events, it leaves rational agents to act as freely as 
if there had been no decree. This answer, it must be ac- 
knowledged, merely amounts to an assertion that, notwith- 
standing the decree of God, man retains his liberty of 
action. AVe still wish to know how the divine pre-ordina- 
tion of the event is consistent with human libei-ty. " Upon 
such a siibject," says Dr Dick, " no man should be ashamed 
to acknowledge his ignorance. We are not required to 
reconcile the divine decrees and human liberty. It is 
enough to know that God has decreed all things which 
come to pass, and that men are answerable for their ac- 
tions. Of both these truths we are assured by the Scrip- 
tures ; and the latter is confirmed by the testimony of con- 
science. We feel that, although not independent upon God, 
we are free ; so that we excuse ourselves when we have 
done our duty, and accuse ourselves when we have neglected 
it. Sentiments of approbation and disapprobation, in refer- 
ence to our own conduct or that of other men, would have 
no existence in our minds if we believed that men are neces- 
sary agents. But the tie which connects the divine decrees 
and human liberty is in-\asible. ' Such knowledge is too 
wonderful for us ; it is high, we cannot attain unto it.' " — Ps. 
cxxxix. 6. 

It may be further observed, that, although God has un- 
changeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass, yet this does 
not take away the contingency of second causes, either in 
themselves or as to us. Nothing can be more contingent 
than the decision of the lot, — yet " the lot is cast into the 
lap ; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." — Prov. 
xvi. 33. 

Section III. — By the decree of God, for the mani- 
festation of his glory, some men and angels ^ are pre- 
destinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained 
to everlasting death." 

Section TV. — These angels and men, thus predesti- 
nated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably 

« 1 Tim. V. 21. Matt. sxv. 41. j » Rom. ix, 22, 23. Eph. i. r,, 6. Prov. 


designed, and their number is so certain and definite, 
that it cannot be either increased or diminished.^ 

Section Y. — Those of mankind that are predestinated 
unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was 
laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, 
and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, 
hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory,^ out of his 
mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith 
or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any 
other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes 
moving him thereunto;^" and all to the praise of his 
glorious grace.^^ 

» 2 Tim. ii. 19. John xiii, 18. I lo Rom. ix. 11, 13, 16. Eph. i. 4, 9. 

» 1 Eph. i. 4, 9, 11. Rom. viii. 30. ii Eph. i. 6, 12. 
2 Tim. i. 9. 1 Thess. v. 9. 


The decree of God, with respect to the everlasting state 
of angels and men, is known by the name of predestination ; 
and this consists of two branches, generally distinguished by 
the names of election and reprobation. 

That part of the angels were elected is inferred from that 
passage of Scripture in which the elect angels are mentioned. 
1 Tim. V. 21. Of the fallen angels two apostles make ex- 
press mention. 2 Pet ii. 4; Jude 6. Thus the election of 
a part of the angels is explicitly taught in Scripture, and the 
non-election of others is necessarily implied ; for election is 
a relative term, and necessarily involves the idea of rejection. 

Of the decree of election, as it relates to men, the above 
sections contain a full statement, and a subsequent section 
states the doctrine of Scripture respecting what is usually 
termed the decree of reprobation. That there is such a thing 
as election, in some sense or other, must be admitted by all 
who believe the Scriptures ; but many who retain the word, 
completely explain away the doctrine which the Bible 
teaches upon the subject. 

Some will allow of no election but that of nations, or of whole 
Churches, in their collective capacity. That the Scripture 
speaks of such a general election is admitted ; but this is not 
inconsistent with a particular and personal election. The 
Jews were a chosen generation, separated from among the 
other nations of the world, to be, in a peculiar manner, the 
peoj^le of God ; but our Lord intimates that among them 


there was a remnant chosen in a superior sense. — jNIatt. xxiv. 
22. The Apostle Paul also saith, " Even at this present time 
there is a remnant according to the election ofgrace." — Rom. 
xi. 5. That it is of the Jews, the chosen nation, the apostle 
speaks, and that he distinguishes a remnant from the great 
body of them, is sufficiently manifest ; and he plainly inti- 
mates, that the former were chosen in such a sense as the 
latter were not. 

Some allow only of an election to external_ privileges. 
Holding that the Scripture speaks solely of ari~election of 
communities, they maintain that they are only chosen to the 
enjoyment of the external means of salvation. But we are 
assured from Scripture, that they who believe " were or- 
dained to eternal life," and that they were " chosen to salva- 
tion." — Acts xiii. 48 ; 2 Thess. ii. 13. 

Some, by election, understand no more than a separation 
of persons from the world, made in time, and thus identify 
it with their calling, or conversion. But in Scripture, election 
and calling are clearly distinguished; and the latter is repre- 
sented as the effect of the former. Persons are said to be 
" called according to God's purpose," and " whom he did pre- 
destinate, them he also called." — Rom. viii. 28-30. Now, 
predestination and the purpose of God must be very different 
from calling, which proceeds from it, unless the cause and 
the effect are the same thing. To put such interpretations 
upon the word election, is to wrest the language of Scripture, 
and to impose upon it a sense contrary to its ob\-ious mean- 

It would be tedious, and would serve no good purpose, to 
enumerate the multifarious opinions which have been held 
on this subject. It will be sufficient to mention the opinion 
of the Socinians, and of the Arminians. The Socinians deny 
the certain prescience of future contingencies, such as the 
determinations of free agents ; and, therefore, the only de- 
cree respecting the salvation of men which they will admit 
to have been made from eternity, and to be unchangeable, \ 
is a general conditional decree, that such as believe and obey 
the gospel shall be saved ; and, according to them, a special 
decree concerning particular persons, is only made in time, 
when persons perform the condition contained in the general 
decree. The Arminians, or Remonstrants, as they are also 
called, are distinguished from the Socinians, by admitting 
that contingent events, such as the determinations and actions 
of men, are foreseen by God ; but they also deny absolute 
and unconditional election, and maintain, that whatever God 
has decreed respecting men, is founded on the foresight of 


their conduct. Having foreseen, without any decree, that 
Adam would involve himself and his posterity in sin and its 
consequences, he purposed to send his Son to die for them 
all, and to give them sufficient grace to improve the means 
of salvation ; and knowing beforehand who would believe 
and persevere to the end, and who would not, he chose the 
former to eternal life, and left the latter in a state of con- 
demnation. There is, however, a diversity of opinion among 
the holders of this general system ; and some of them coin- 
cide with Socinians, in maintaining, that the decrees of God 
respecting men are not eternal, but are made in time ; that 
men are elecied to eternal life after they have believed, and 
that, if they fall into a state of unbelief and impenitence, the 
sentence or decree is reversed. 

In opposition to these systems, our Confession teaches that 
God made choice of, and predestinated a certain and definite 
number of individuals to everlasting life ; that he predesti- 
nated them unto life before the foundation of the world was 
laid ; that in so doing, he acted according to his sovereign 
will, and was not influenced by the foresight of their faith or 
good works, or perseverance in either of them ; and that this 
purpose is immutable, it being impossible that any of the 
elect should perish. That these doctrines are in accordance 
with Scripture may be easily CAdnced. 

1. God made choice of, and predestinated, a certain and 
definite number of individuals to everlasting life. Accord- 
ing to the Socinians, God predestinated to eternal life, not 
any particular individuals of mankind, but a certain sort or 
description of men ; not persons, but characters. The Scrip- 
ture, however, clearly teaches that God made choice of a 
certain determinate number of persons from among the rest 
of the human race, and ordained them to eternal life. It is 
said, "The Lord knoweth them that are his." — 2 Tim. ii. 19. 
He perfectly knows how many, and who in particular, his 
elect are. Hence their names are said to be enrolled in a 
book, called the Book of Life ; for it is the book in which are 
registered the names of all the individuals of mankind who 
were chosen to everlasting life. A person's name is that 
whereby he is known and distinguished from others ; when, 
therefore, their names are said to be written in a book, it 
intimates that God has an exact knowledge of all the indivi- 
duals whom he has chosen. 

2. God predestinated these individuals to life from eter- 
nity. According to Socinians, and some Arminians, as has 
been already noticed, special election only takes place in 
time, when persons actually believe and obey the gospel. 

SECT. 5.] OF god's eternal DECREE. 51 

But an election in time is at direct variance with the 
doctrine of Scripture. It is said (Eph. i. 4), " God hath 
chosen us in him before the foundation of the world;" and 
this emphatical phrase is evidently expressive of eternity. 
Thus Paul addresses the Thessalonian Christians, " God 
hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation." — 2 Thess. 
ii. 13. That the phrase "from the beginning" denotes 
eternity, is evident from Prov. viii. 23, where Christ is 
introduced saying, " I was set up from everlasting, from 
the beginning, ere ever the earth was." That the phrase 
" from the beginning," is here equivalent to the phrase 
" from everlasting," is manifest. Indeed, w^e cannot con- 
ceive of any new determinations arising in the divine mind, 
without supposing the Divine Being defective in know- 
ledge, or mutable in his perfections, — suppositions utterly 
incompatible with the nature of that Being, whose name is 

3. In making this choice, God acted from his own sovereign 
will, and was not influenced by any foresight of their faith 
or other qualifications. According to Arminians, God's de- 
cree respecting the salvation of men is founded upon their 
foreseen faith and good works. Thus, " the decree of God, 
although prior in time, is posterior in order to the actions of 
men, and is dependent upon the determination of their will. 
But to this opinion, so derogatory to the supreme dominion 
and absolute authority of God, the doctrine of Scripture is 
directly opposed. Election is ascribed to grace, to the ex- 
clusion of works ; and these two causes are represented as 
incompatible and mutually destructive. * Even so then at 
this present time, there is a remnant according to the election 
of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works; 
otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, 
then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.' 
— Rom. xi. 5, 6. How is it possible to reconcile with these 
words the opinion that the foresight of men's good works 
was the cause of their election ? Besides, it is worthy of 
particular attention, that faith and holiness which the advo- 
cates of conditional decrees make the causes of election, are 
expressly said in Scripture to be the effects of it. — 2 Thess. ii. 
13 ; Eph. i. 4. In Rom. ix. 10-13, Paul produces the case 
of Jacob and Esau as an illustration of the subject, and 
traces the predestination of individuals to happiness or 
misery to the sovereignty of God, without any consideration 
of their works. As the lot of the two sons of Isaac was 
settled prior to their personal conduct, so the apostle signi- 
fies, that the appointment of particular persons to salvation, 


depends solely iipon the good pleasure of God."* That 
election is founded on the good pleasure of God, and not on 
anything in its objects, is clearly stated, verse 16 of the same 
chapter : " It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that 
runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy :" and also in verse 
18 : " Therefore he hath mercy on whom he will," &c. Were 
it otherwise, there would be no shadow of objection to the 
doctrine. " How could men say it was unjust, if God chose 
one and rejected another according to their works ? And how 
could any one object, as in verse 19, Hhat as the will of God 
could not be resisted, men were not to be blamed,' if the de- 
cision in question did not depend on the will of God, but on 
that of men ? How easy for the apostle to have answered the 
objector, ' You are mistaken, the choice is not of God, he 
does not choose whom he wills, but whom he sees will choose 
him ! It is not his will, but man's that decides the point.' 
Paul does not so answer, but vindicates the doctrine of the 
divine sovereignty. The fact, therefore, that Paul had to 
answer the same objections which are now constantly urged 
against the doctrine of election, goes far to show that that 
doctrine was his."f 

4. The purpose of God respecting his elect is immutable. 
As Arminians hold that saints may fall from a state of grace, 
so they maintain that a person who is one of the elect to-day, 
may become one of the reprobate to-morrow. They affirm 
that " men may make their election void," — that " as they 
change themselves from believers to unbelievers, so the 
divine determination concerning them changes." But the 
Scripture expressly declares, that " the counsel of the Lord 
standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all genera- 
tions." — Ps. xxxiii. 11. Besides this general assurance of 
the immutability of his counsel, it is affirmed that " the 
foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal. The Lord 
knoweth them that are his." — 2 Tim. ii. 19. The purpose of 
God, according to election, shall stand ; so that the number 
of the elect can neither be increased nor diminished. 

There is one circumstance connected with election that 
remains to be noticed. The elect are stated to have been 
" chosen in Christ," which, indeed, is the express language 
of Scripture. — Eph. i. 4. This cannot mean that the media- 
tory work of Christ was the cause of their election ; for, as 
has been already shown, election proceeds from the mere 
sovereign will of God; and the Scripture represents the 
mission of our Saviour as the effect of the love of God. — 

* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. ii., pp. 189, 190. 
t Hodge's Commentary on the Romans. 





John iii. 16. The mediation of Christ was necessary, in 
order that the effects of electing love might be bestowed 
upon God's chosen, in a consistency with the rights and 
honour of his justice ; but election itself originated in divine 
sovereignty, and had no other cause than the good pleasure 
of God's will.— Eph. i. 5. The divine purpose is one, em- 
bracing the means as well as the end ; but according to our 
conceptions of the operations of the divine mind, the end is 
first in intention, and then the means are appointed by which 
it is to be carried into effect. The phrase, " chosen in Chrkt" 
signiiies therefore, we apprehend, that God had a respect to 
the mediation of Christ, not as the cause of their election, 
but as the means by which the purpose of election was to be 

Section YI — As God hath appointed the elect unto 
glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose 
of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. ^^ 
Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam, 
are redeemed by Christ ; ^^ are effectually called unto 
faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; 
are justified, adopted, sanctified,^^ and kept by his power 
through faith unto salvation.^^ Neither are any other 
redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, 
sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.'® 

1* 1 Pet. i. 2. Eph. i. 4, 5; ii. 10. 

a^Thess. ii. 13. 
12 ] Thess. V. 9, 10. Tit. ii. 14. 
»* Rom. viii. 30. Eph. i. 5. 2 Thess. 

ii. 13. 

IS 1 Pet. i. 5. 

'6 John xvii. 9. Rom. viii. 28. John 

vi. 64, 65 ; X. 26; viii. 47. 1 John 

ii. 19. 


In this section we have, first, a general statement, that, in 
the divine purpose, the means and the end are inseparably 
connected. As God appointed the elect to glory, so he 
appointed them to obtain that glory in and through Christ, 
and on account of his merits alone. — 1 Thess. v. 9. He like- 
wise appointed them to all those means which are indispen- 
sably necessary to the enjoyment of that glory ; such as faith 
and sanctification, and perseverance therein to the end. — 
2 Thess. ii. 13. Thus, though the mediation of Christ was 
not the cause of their election, yet his obedience and death 
were the grand means appointed for the execution of that 
gracious purpose ; and though the Almighty chose no man 


to glory because of his future faitli and holiness, yet provi- 
sion was made in the eternal purpose of God for the faith 
and sanctification of all his chosen, prior to their enjoyment 
of bliss. It is, therefore, a gross abuse of the doctrine of 
election, for persons to expect that they shall attain the end, 
while they neglect to use the appointed means. No man 
acts in this manner in regard to the common affairs of life, 
and to do so in matters of infinitely higher importance would 
bo the highest presumption and folly. 

This section next states more particularly the means by 
which the elect are brought to glory. They are redeemed 
by Christ, and his redemption is effectually applied to them 
by the working of his Spirit. In order to determine the im- 
port of the phrase " redeemed by Christ," it is necessary to 
ascertain in what sense the word redeemed is here used. The 
term redemption in Scripture frequently signifies actual deli- 
verance from sin and all its penal consequences ; but primarily 
and properly it means a deliverance effected by i\\e payment 
of a ransom. Hence, theologians have usually distinguished 
between redemption by price, and redemption by p)ower ; the 
latter coincides with actual deliverance; the former denotes the 
payment of the price, by which Christ meritoriously procured 
the deliverance of his people. When the Westminster Con- 
fession was compiled, the term redemption was generally 
used as almost exactly equivalent to the modern term atone- 
ment ; and, of course, what was then called general and 
particular redemption, corresj)onds to the modern phrases, 
general and limited atonement. Some have contended that 
in this section the term redemption is equivalent, not to the 
payment of a price, but to the deliverance obtained through 
the payment of a price ; or, that the word redeemed is used as 
equivalent to saved. But the section clearly distinguishes 
between the elect being redeemed, and their being saved ; 
and it represents their redemption by Christ as being effected 
and completed previous to their being effectually called unto 
faith in Christ. Their justification, adoption, sanctification, 
and final salvation, are just the blessings which constitute 
the deliverance obtained for them through the death of 
Christ ; and, therefore, their redemption by Christ must sig- 
nify, not the deliverance itself, but the payment of the price 
which procured their deliverance. Their redemption by 
Christ is already complete, — it was finished by Christ on the 
cross ; but their actual deliverance is to be effected in due 
season, — namely, when they are united to Christ by faith. 

In this section, then, we are taught, — 1. That Christ, bv 
his death, did not merely render the salvation of all m'^n 

SECT. 6.] OF god's eternal DECREE. 55 

])0ssible, or bring them into a salvable state, but purchased 
and secured a certain salvation to all for whom he died. — 
John xvii. 4; Heb. iv. 12. 2. That Christ died exclusively 
for the elect, and purchased redemption for them alone; in 
otiier words, that Christ made atonement only for the elect, 
and that in no sense did he die for the rest of the race. Our 
Confession first asserts, positively, that the elect are redeemed by 
Christ; and then, negatively, that none other are redeemed hy 
Christ hut the elect only. If this does not affirm the doctrine of 
particular redemption, or of a limited atonement, we know 
not what language could express that doctrine more expli- 
citly. It is diametrically opppsed to the system of the Armi- 
nians, who hold, " that Jesus Christ, by his death and suf- 
ferings, made an atonement for the sins of all mankind in 
general, and of every individual in particular." It is not less 
opposed to the doctrine maintained by many, that though the 
death of Christ had a special reference to the elect, and, in 
connection with the di\ine purpose, infallibly secures their 
salvation, yet that it has also a general reference, and made 
an equal atonement for all men. The celebrated Richard 
Baxter, who favoured general redemption, makes the fol- 
lowing remark upon this and another section of our Confes- 
sion : — " Chap. iii. sec. 6, and cliap. viii. sec. 8, which speak 
against universal redemption, I understand not of all redemp- 
tion, and particularly not of the mere bearing the punishment 
of man's sins, and satisfying God's justice, but of tliat special 
redemption proper to the elect, which w^as accompanied with 
an intention of actual application of the saving benefits in 
time. If I may not be allowed this interpretation, I must 
herein dissent."* The language of the Confession, in my 
opinion, will not admit of this interpretation ; and, what is 
more, the Bible is silent about this general redemption, or 
the genei-al reference of the death of Christ. The Saviour 
himself declares, " I lay down my life for the sheep ; " and 
ne affirms that the sheep for whom he laid down his life are 
the definite number chosen by God, and given to him in the 
eternal covenant, and to whom he will eventually give eter- 
nal life.— John x. 15, 28, 29. "It is true, the Christian reli- 
gion being to be distinguished from the Jewish in this main 
point, that whereas the Jewish was restrained to Abraham's 
posterity, and confined within one race and nation, the 
Christian was to be preached to every creature, universal 
words are used concerning the death of Christ ; but as the 
words, ' preaching to every creature,' and to * all the world,' 
are not to be understood in the utmost extent, — for then they 
* Baxter's Confession of his Faith, p. 21. 


have never been verified, since the gospel has never yet, for 
aught that appears to ns, been preached to every nation un- 
der heaven, — but are only to be explained generally of a 
commission not limited to one or more nations, none being 
excluded from it ; the apostles were to execute it, in going 
from city to city, as they should be inwardly moved to it 
by the Holy Ghost ; so ' Calvinists ' think, that those large 
words that are applied to the death of Christ, are to be un- 
derstood in the same qualified manner ; that no nation, or 
sort of men, are excluded from it, and that some of all kinds 
and sorts shall be saved by him. And this is to be carried 
no further, without an imputation on the justice of God ; for 
if he has received a sufficient oblation and satisfaction for 
the sins of the whole world, it is not reconcileable to justice, 
that all should not be saved by it, or should not at least have 
the offer and promulgation of it made them ; that so a trial 
may be made, whether they will accept of it or not." * 

3. We are further taught, that salvation shall be effectually 
applied by the Holy Spirit, to all those who were chosen of 
God, and redeemed by Christ ; and that it shall be effectually 
applied to them alone. The elect are all in due time, by the 
power of the Spirit, effectually called unto faith in Christ. 
" All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." — John 
vi. 37. " As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." 
— Acts xiii. 48, They are all justified, adopted, sanctified, 
and shall be enabled to persevere in grace, and at length 
their salvation shall be consummated in glory. " Whom he 
did predestinate, them he also called ; and whom he called, 
them he also justified ; and whom he justified, them he also 
glorified." — Rom. viii. 30. 

Thus our Confession, agreeably to Scripture, represents 
each of the divine persons as acting a distinct part in the 
glorious work of human redemption, and as entirely concur- 
ring in coiinsel and operation. The Father chose a definite 
number of mankind sinners to eternal life ; the Son laid 
down his life for those who were chosen in him before the 
foundation of the world, and obtained for them eternal 
redemption ; and the Holy Spirit applies the purchased re- 
demption to them in due season. Here all is perfect har- 
mony. The Son fulfils the will of the Father, and the Spirit's 
work is in entire accordance with the purpose of the Father 
and the mediation of the Son. But according to the scheme 
of general redemption, or of universal atonement, this har- 
mony is utterly destroyed. The Son sheds his blood for 
multitudes whom the Father never purposed to save, and the 
* Burnet on the Thirty- Nine Articles, Art. 17. 

SECT. 7.] OP god's eternal decree. 57 

Spirit does not piit forth the influence necessary to secure 
the application of salvation to all for whom Christ died ! 

Section VII. — The rest of mankind, God was pleased, 
according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, 
whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he 
pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his 
creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonour 
and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious 
justice. ^^ 

" Matt. xi. 25, 26. Rora. ix. 17, 18, 21, 22. 2 Tim. ii.'19, 20. Jude i. 
1 Pet. ii. 8. 


This section describes what is usually called the decree of 
reprobation. This term is not used in the Confession, and 
when it occurs in Scripture, bears a different sense from the 
theological ; but for the sake of convenience, it is used to ex~ 
press that act of God's will by which, when he viewed all man- 
kind as involved in guilt and misery, he rejected some, while 
he chose others. Some who allow of personal and eternal 
election, deny any such thing as reprobation. But the one 
unavoidably follows from the other ; for the choice of some 
must necessarily imply the rejection of others. "Election 
and rejection are co-relative terms ; and men impose upon 
themselves, and imagine that they conceive what it is impos- 
sible to conceive, when they admit election and deny repro- 
bation, . . . There are many passages of Scripture in which 
this doctrine is taught. We read of some whose names are 
* not written,' and who, consequently, are opposed to those 
whose names are written, ' in the Book of Life ; ' who are 
' vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ;' who were ' before of 
old ordained to condemnation ; ' who * stumble at the "Word, 
being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed ;' of 
persons whom God is said to hate, while others he loves. Let 
any man carefully and dispassionately read the 9tli and the 
11th chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, and he will 
entertain no more doubt that some are ordained to death, 
than that others are ordained to life," * 

Our Confession speaks of God's passing by some, and also 
ordaining them to wrath ; and we apprehend there is an 
important distinction betwixt the two. If the reason be in- 
quired why God ^;assec? by some of mankind sinners, while he 
* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. ii., pp. 197, 193. 


fleeted others to life, it must be resolved into the counsel of 
his own will, whereby he extends or withholds mercy as he 
pleases. No doubt those whom God passed by were con- 
sidered as fallen and guilty creatures ; but if there was sin 
in them, there was sin also in those who were chosen to 
salvation ; we must, therefore, resolve their opposite allotment 
into the will of God : " He hath mercy upon whom he will 
have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." — Rom. ix. 18. 
As it would have been just in God to pass by the whole of 
our race, and to deal with them as he did with the angels 
who sinned, it must be manifest that, in electing some to life, 
he did no injustice to the non-elect, whose case would have 
been just as bad as it is, even supposing the others had not 
been chosen at all. But if the reason be inquired why God 
ordained to dishonour and wrath those whom he passed by, this 
must be resolved into their own sin. In this act God appears 
as a judge, fixing beforehand the punishment of the guilty; 
and his decree is only a purpose of acting towards them 
according to the natural course of justice. Their own sin is 
the procuring cause of their final ruin, and therefore God 
does them no wrong. The salvation of the elect is wholly 
" to the praise of his glorious grace," and the condemnation 
of the non-elect is " to the praise of his glorious justice " 

Section VIII. — The doctrine of this high mystery of 
predestination is to be handled with special prudence 
and care,^^ that men attending the will of God revealed 
in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, 
from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured 
of their eternal election.^^ So shall this doctrine afford 
matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God,^" 
and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation, 
to all that sincerely obey the gospel.^' 

18 Rom. ix. 20; xi. 33. Deut. xxix. I 20 Eph. i. 6. Rom. xi. 33. 

29. 21 Rom. xi. 5, G, 20. 2 Pet. i. 10. 

»» 2 Pet. i. 10. 1 Rom. viii. 33. Luke x. 20. 


The doctrine of predestination is, indeed, a high mystery 
— one of the deep things of God, which our feeble intellects 
cannot fully comprehend. In our inquiries about it, we 
ought to repress a vain curiosity, and not attempt to be wise 
above what is written. But, since the doctrine is revealed by 
God in his Word, it is a proper subject for sober investigation, 

SECT. 8.] OF god's eternal DECREE. 59 

aud ought to be published from the pulpit and the press. 
Calvin justly remarks, "That those things which the Lord 
hath laid up in secret, we may not search; those things 
which he hath brought openly abi'oad, we may not neglect; 
lest either on the one part we be condemned of vain curio- 
sity, or on the other part, of unthankfulness." "Were this 
doctrine either dangerous or useless, God would not have 
revealed it; and for men to attempt to suppress it, is to 
arraign the wisdom of God, as though he foresaw not the 
danger which they would arrogantly interpose to prevent. 
" Whosoever," adds Calvin, " laboureth to bring the doctrine 
of predestination into misliking, he openly saith evil of God; 
as though somewhat had unadvisedly slipped from him which 
is hurtful to the Church."* This doctrine, however, ought to 
be handled with special judgment and prudence, avoiding 
human speculations, and adhering to what is plainly revealed 
in the Scriptures. When prudently discussed, it will neither 
lead to licentiousness nor to despair; but will eminently con- 
duce to the knowledge, establishment, and comfoi-t of Chris- 

It ought ever to be remembered, that no man can know his 
election prior to his conversion. Wherefore, instead of pry- 
ing into the secret purpose of God, he ought to attend to his 
revealed will, that by making sure his vocation, he may as- 
certain his election. The order and method in which this 
knowledge may be attained is pointed out by the Apostle 
Peter, when he exhorts Christians to " give all diligence to 
make their calling and election sure." — 2 Pet. i. 10. Their 
eternal election must remain a profound secret until it be 
discovered to them by their effectual calling in time ; but 
when they have ascertained their calling, they may thence 
infallibly conclude that they were elected from eternity. 
Election, then, gives no discouragement to any man in refe- 
rence to obeying the calls and embracing the offers of the 
gospel. The invitations of the gospel are not addressed to 
men as electa but as sinners ready to perish; all are under the 
same obligation to comply with these invitations, and the 
encouragement from Christ is the same to all, — " Him that 
cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." And the doctrine 
of election must have a sanctifying and consoling influence 
on all who sincerely obey the gospel. It is calculated to in- 
spire them with sentiments of reverence and gratitude to- 
wards God; to humble their souls in the dust before the 
eternal Sovereign; to excite them to diligence in the dis- 
charge of duty; to afford them strong consolation under the 
* Caivin's Institutions, book iii., ch. 21, sec. 4. 


temptations and trials of life ; and to animate them with a 
lively hoi)e of eternal glory. 



Section I. — It pleased God the Father, Son, and 
Holy Ghost,^ for the manifestation of the glory of his 
eternal power, wisdom, and goodness,^ in the beginning, 
to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things 
therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six 
days, and all very good.^ 

» Heb. i. 2. John i. 2, 3. Gen. i. 2. I 2 Rom. i. 20. Jer. x. 12. Ps. civ. 
Job xxvi. 13 ; xxxiii. 4. | 24 ; xxxiii. 5, 6. 

8 Gen. i. 1 to end. Heb. xi. 3. Col. i. 16. Acts xvii. 24. 


By the word creation we are to understand the production 
and formation of all things. I use two words, because crea- 
tion is twofold, — primary and secondary, or immediate and 
mediate. By the former, is meant the j)roduction of some- 
thing out of nothing ; by the latter, the foi-mation of things 
out of pre-existing matter, but matter naturally indisposed 
for such productions, and which never could by any power 
of second causes have been brought into such a form. This 
section teaches us : — 

1. That the world had a beginning. This will now be con- 
sidered one of the most obvious truths that can be stated, 
but it is one that required to be confirmed by divine revela- 
tion. That the world existed from eternity was generally 
maintained by the ancient heathen philosophers. Some of 
them held, that not only the matter of which the world is 
framed existed from eternity, but that it subsisted in that 
beautiful form in which we behold it. Others admitted that 
the heavens and the earth had a beginning in respect of their 
present form, but maintained the eternity of the matter of 
which they are composed. That the world had a beginning 

is the uniform doctrine of the Scri])tures Gen. i. 1 ; Ps. xc. 

2. 'J'his is implied in the phrases, " before the foundation 


of the world," " before the world began." — Eph. i. 4 ; 
2 Tim. i. 9. 

According to the generally received chronology, the Mosaic 
creation took place 4004 years before the birth of Christ. 
If, indeed, the accounts of the Egyptians, Hindoos, and 
Chinese, were to be credited, we should believe that the 
universe has existed, in its present form, for many millions of 
years ; but these accounts have been satisfactorily proved to 
be false. And as a strong presumption that the world has not 
yet existed 6000 years, it has been often remarked that the 
invention of arts, and the erection of the earliest empires, are 
of no great antiquity, and can be traced back to their origin. 

2. That creation is the work of God. Often does God 
claim this work as one of the peculiar glories of his Deity, to 
the exclusion of all others. — Is. xliv. 24, xlv. 12. The work 
of creation, however, is common to all the three persons of 
the Trinity. It is ascribed to the Father, — 1 Cor. viii. 6; to 
the Son, — John i. 3; to the Holy Ghost. — Gen. i. 2; Job xxvi. 
13. All the three persons are one God. AVe must not, 
therefore, suppose that in creation the Father is the principal 
agent, and the Son and the Holy Ghost inferior agents, or 
mere instruments. In all external works of Deity, each of 
the persons of the Godhead equally concur. 

3. That creation extends to "the world, and all things 
therein, whether visible or invisible." This is expressly 
declared in many passages of Scripture : " God made the 
world, and all things therein." — Acts xvii. 24. " By him 
were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in 
earth, visible and invisible." — Col. i. 16. This certainly in- 
cludes angels. We have no reason to think that their crea- 
tion preceded the period of the Mosaic creation; and they 
are generally supposed to have been created on the first day. 

4. That the world, and all things therein, were created 
" in the space of six days." This, also, is the express lan- 
giiage of Scripture : " For in six days the Lord made heaven 
and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." — Ex. xx. 11. 
The modern discoveries of geologists have led them to assign 
an earlier origin to the materials of which our globe is com- 
posed than the period of the six days, commonly known by 
the name of the Mosaic creation ; and various theories have 
been adopted in order to reconcile the geological and Mosaic 
records. Some have held that all the changes which have 
taken place in the materials of the earth occurred eitbc 
during the six days of the Mosaic creation, or since that 
period ; but, it is urged, that the facts which geology esta- 
blishes prove this view to be utterly untenable. Others have 


held that a day of creation was not a natural day, composed 
of twenty-four hours, but a period of an indefinite length. 
To this it has been objected, that the sacred historian, as if 
to guard against such a latitude of interpretation, distinctly 
and pointedly declares of all the days, that each of them had 
its " evening and morning," — thus, it should seem, expressly 
excluding any interpretation which does not imply a natural 
day. Others hold that the materials of our globe were in 
existence, and under the active operation of creative powers, 
for an indefinite period before the creation of man; and that 
the inspired record, while it gives us no information respect- 
ing the pre-existing condition of the earth, leaves ample 
room for a belief that it did pre-exist, if from any other 
source traces of this should be discovered by human research. 
The first verse of the 1st chapter of Genesis, in their opinion, 
merely asserts that the matter of which the imiverse is com- 
posed was produced out of nothing by the power of the 
Almighty, but leaves the time altogether indefinite. The 
subsequent verses of that chapter give an account of the 
successive process by which the Eternal, in the space of six 
days, reduced the pre-existing matter to its present form, 
and gave being to the plants and animals now in existence. 
This explanation, which leaves room for a long succession of 
geological events before the creation of the existing races, 
seems now to be the generally received mode of reconciling 
geological discoveries with the Mosaic account of the 

5. That all things were created terij good. Everything 
was good ; for it was agreeable to the model which the great 
Architect had formed in his infinite mind from everlasting ; 
it answered exactly the end of its creation, and was adapted 
to the purpose for which it was designed. 

6. That God made all things for the manifestation of Ms 
own glory. " The Lord hath made all things for himself," for 
the manifestation of his infinite perfections ; and all his 
works proclaim his almighty power, his unbounded goodness, 
and his unsearchable wisdom. His glory shines in every 
part of the material universe ; but it would have shined in 
vain, if there had been no creature to contemplate it with an 
eye of intelligence, and celebrate the praises of the omnipo- 
tent Creator. Man, therefore, was introduced into the habi- 
tation which had been prepared for him, and of his creatiop 
the next section gives an account. I 

* The geological opinions of M. Agassiz are corifistent with this explai | 
tion. See also Candlish on Genesis, i. 20, and Dr Duncan's (of Ruthw 
Geological Lecture lo Young Men. Glasgow, 1842. 


Section II. — After God had made all other creatures, 
he created man, male and female,^ with reasonable and 
immortal souls/ endued with knowledge, righteousness, 
and true holiness, after his own image,° having the law 
of God written in their hearts,'' and power to fulfil it;*^ 
and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to 
the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto 
change-* Beside this law written in their hearts, they 
received a command not to eat of the tree of the know- 
ledge of good and evil; *° which while they kept, they 
were happy in their communion with God, and had 
dominion over the creatures.^^ 

4 Gen. i. 27. I « Eccl. vii. 29. 

^ Gen. ii. 7. Ecc. xii. 7. Luke ^ Gen. iii. 6. Eccl. vii. 29. 

xxiii. 43. Matt. x. 28. | lo Gen. ii. 17 ; iii. 8-11, 23. 

6 fien. i. 26. Col. iii. 10. Eph. iv.24. I n Gen. i. 26, 28. 

7 Rom. ii. 14, 15. | 


Man was formed after God had made all other creatures ; 
and this strongly marks the dignity of his character, and the 
exuberant bounty of his Creator. Before he was brought 
into existence, the earth, which was designed for his tem- 
porary residence, was completely prepared, and amply fur- 
nished for his reception. God created man, male and female, — 
one man and one woman, — man out of the dust of the ground, 
and woman out of a rib taken from man's side. It should 
seem that of the rest of the creatures God made many couples, 
but of man he made only one ; and from this Christ brings 
an argument against divorce. — Mai. ii. 15 ; Matt. xix. 4, 5. 
Man is a compound existence, made up of two great parts, 
a soul and a body. His body, though formed of mean mate- 
rials, is apiece of exquisite workmanship ; but his soul is the 
noblest part of his nature. By his soul he is allied to God 
and angels ; by his body, to the beasts that perish, and to the 
dust under his feet. 

Man was originally created after the image of God. This 
could not consist in a participation of the divine essence ; 
for that is incommunicable to any creature. Neither did it 
consist in his external form; for God, having no bodily parts, 
could not be represented by any material resemblance. The 
image of God consisted partly in the spirituality of the soul 
of man. God is a spirit, — an immaterial and immortal being. 
The soul of man also is a spirit, though infinitely inferior to 


; the Father of spirits. Thus, in immateriality and immor- 
tality the soul of man bears a resemblance to God. The 
image of God in man likewise consisted in the dominion 
.: assigned to him over the creatures, in respect of which he 
was the representative and vicegerent of God upon earth. 
God is the blessed and only potentate, and he gave to man a 
delegated sovereignty over the inferior creatures. He was 
constituted the ruler of this lower world, and all the creatures 
were inspired with respect for him, and submitted to his 
< government. But the image of God in man principally con- 
^ I sisted in his conformity to the moral pei'fections of God, or 
'■ in the complete rectitude of his nature. From two passages 
in the New Testament, it appears that the image of God, 
after which man was at first created, and to which he is 
restored by the Holy Spirit, knowledge, righteous- 
ness, and holiness. — Eph. iv. 24 ; Col. iii. 10. Man had 
knowledge in his understanding, righteousness in his will, 
and holiness in his affections. His imderstanding was illu- 
minated with all necessary knowledge. He knew God and 
his will ; he knew himself, his relations to God, his duty to 
him, and his dependence upon him. That he had also an 
extensive and accurate knowledge of natural objects, may 
be inferred from his giving distinctive names to the inferior 
creatures when they passed in review before him. His will 
was in conformity to the will of God. As he knew his duty, 
so he was fully disposed to the performance of it. And his 
affections were holy and pure ; they were placed upon proper 
objects, and exercised in a regular manner. There was then 
no need that the moral law should be written on tables of 
stone, for it was engraven on the heart of man in fair and 
legible characters. He had likewise sufficient ability to fulfil 
it ; but his will was entirely free to act according to his 
original light and holy inclinations, or to turn aside to evil. 
Besides the natural law written on the hearts of our first 
parents, they received a command not to eat of the tree of 
the knowledge of good and evil. This prohibition, with the 
penalty annexed, will come imder our notice in a subsequent 
chapter ; and at present we only remark, that while our 
first parents retained their original integrity, and obeyed the 
positive command which God had imposed upon them, they 
were supremely happy. The garden in which they were 
placed furnished them with every external comfort ; they 
were called to engage in easy and delightful employments ; 
they were exempted from the least degree of languor and of 
j)ain ; they knew no guilt; they felt no shame; they were, 
strangers to fear ; and no angry passions disturbed their ^ 

SECT. 1.] 



souls. But their happiness chiefly consisted in the favour of 
God, and in the intimate fellowship with him to which they 
were admitted. "What an- illustrious creature was man when 
he came from the hand of his Maker ! but how sadly changed 
now ! " God made man upiight ; but they have sought out 
many inventions." 



Section I. — God, the great Creator of all things, 
doth uphold,^ direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, 
actions, and things,^ from the greatest even to the least,^ 
by his most wise and holy providence,* according to his 
infallible foreknowledge,* and the free and immutable 
counsel of his own Avill,^ to the praise of the glory of his 
wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy .^ 

1 Heb. i. 3. 

2 Dan. iv. 34, 35. Ps. cxxxv. 6. Acts 

xvii. 25, 2G, 28. Job xxxviii., 

xxxix., xl., xli. 
s Matt. X. 29-31. 
* Prov. XV. 3. Ps. civ. 24. ; cxlv, 17. 

s Acts XV, 18. Ps. xciv. 8-11. 

« Eph. i. 11. Ps. xxxiii. 10, 11. 

f Is. Ixiii. 14. Eph. iii. 10. Rom. 

ix. 17. Gen. xlv. 7. Psalm 

cxlv, 7. 


In opposition to Fatalists and others, who maintain that, 
in the original constitution of the universe, God gave to the 
material creation physical, and to the intelligent creation 
moral laws, by which they are sustained and governed, in- 
dependently of his continued influence ; this section teaches 
that there is a providence, by which God, the great Creator 
of all things, upholds and governs them all ; and that this 
providence extends to all creatures, actions, and things, from 
the greatest even to the least. 

1. That there is a providence may be inferred from the 
nature and perfections of God; from the dependent nature of 
the creatures; from the continued order and harmony visible 
in all parts of the universe; from the remarkable judgments 


that have been inflicted on wicked men, and the signal 
deliverances that have been granted to the Church and 
people of God; and from the prediction of future eveiHs, and 
their exact fulfilment. In the Bible, the providence of God 
is everywhere asserted. " His kingdom ruleth over all," 
and he " worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" 
— Ps. ciii. 19; Eph. i. 11. 

Two things are included in the notion of providence, — the 
preservation and the government of all things. God preserves 
all things by continuing or upholding them in existence. 
The Scripture explicitly asserts, that " he upholds all things 
by the word of his power," and that " by him all things con- 
sist." — Heb. i. 3; Col. i. 17. He preserves the diiferent 
species of creatures, and sustains the several creatures in 
their individual beings; hence he is called " the Preserver of 
man and beast." — Job. vii. 20 ; Ps. xxxvi. 6. God governs 
all things by directing and disposing them to the end for 
which he designed them. " Our God is in the heavens, he 
hath done whatsoever he pleased." — Ps. cxv. 3. " He doeth 
according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the 
inhabitants of the earth : and none can stay his hand, or 
say unto him, What doest thou ?" — Dan. iv, 35. The govern- 
ment of God may be considered in a twofold view, — natural 
and moral. This twofold view of his government arises 
from the two general classes of creatures which are the ob- 
jects of it. The irrational and inanimate creatures are the 
subjects of his natural government. The rational part of 
the creation, or those creatures who are the fit subjects of 
moral law, as angels and men, are the subjects of his moral 

2. The providence of God extends to all creatures, actions, 
and things, from the greatest even to the least. " Some," says 
Dr Dick, " maintain only a general providence, which consists 
in upholding certain general laws, and exclaim against the idea 
of a particular providence, which takes a concern in indi-\d- 
duals and their affairs. It is strange that tlie latter opinion 
should be adopted by any person who professes to bow to the 
authority of Scripture, — M'hich declares that a sparrow does 
not fall to the ground without the knowledge of our heavenly 
Father, and that the hairs of our head are all numbered, — or 
by any man who has calmly listened to the dictates of reason. 
If God has certain designs to accomplish with respect to, or 
by means of, his intelligent creatures, I should wish to know 
how his intention can be fulfilled without particular attention 
to their circumstances, their movements, and all the events of 
their life ? . . . . How can a whole be taken care of without 


taking care of its parts ; or a species be preserved if the in- 
dividuals are neglected ? " 

The providence of God extends to the inanimate creation. 
He who fixed the laws of nature, still continues or suspends 
their ojjeration according to his pleasure ; they are dependent 
on his continued influence, and subject to his control; and 
to assert the contrary would be to assign to the laws of nature 
that independence which belongs to God alone. — Ps. cxix. 91, 
civ. 14 ; Job xxxviii. 31-38. The providence of God like- 
wise reaches to the whole animal creation. "The beasts of 
the forest are his, and the cattle upon a thousand hills." 
They are all his creatures, and the subjects of his providence. 
— Ps. civ. 27, 28. Angels, too, are the subjects of God's pro- 
vidence. The good angels are ever ready to obey his will, 
and are employed by him in ministering, in various ways, to 
the saints on earth. — Heb. i. 14. The evil angels are subject 
to his control, and can do no mischief without his peniiission. 
— Job. i. 12. The providence of God also extends to all 
human affairs ; the affairs of nations are under his guidance 
and control. "He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth 
them : he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again. 
He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the 
mighty." — Job xii. 19, 23. This the humbled monarch of 
Babylon was taught by painful experience, and was con- 
strained to acknowledge " tliat the Most High ruleth in the 
kingdom of meri, and giveth it to whomsoever he will." — 
Dan. iv. 25. TJie providence of God is also to be recog- 
nised in the affairs oi families. " God setteth the solitary in 
families," — " he setteth the poor on high from affliction, and 
maketh him families like a flock ; again they are minished 
and brought low, through oppression, affliction, and sorrow." 
— Ps. Ixviii. 6, cvii. 39, 41. The providence of God likewise 
extends to indinduals, and to their minutest concerns. The 
birth of each individual, the length of his days, and all 
the events of his life, are regulated and superintended by 
the most wise and holy providence of God. — Acts xvii. 28; 
Job xiv. 5. 

" As the doctrine of a particular providence is agreeable 
both to Scripture and to reason, so it is recommended by its 
obvious tendency to promote the piety and the consolation 
of mankind. To a God who governed the world solely by 
general laws, we might have looked iip with reverence, but 
not with the confidence, and gratitude, and hope, which arise 
fi-om the belief that he superintends its minutest affairs. The 
thought that he * compasses our paths and is acquainted 
with all our ways ; ' that he watches our step.s, and orders 


all the events in our lot ; guides and protects us, and supplies 
our wants, as it were, with his own hand ; this thought 
awakens a train of sentiments and feelings highly favourable 
to devotion, and sheds a cheering light upon the path of life. 
We consider him as our Guardian and our Father ; and, re- 
posing upon his care, we are assured that, if we. trust in him, 
no evil shall befal us, and no real blessing shall be with- 
held." * 

Section II. — Although, in relation to the foreknow- 
ledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come 
to pass immutably and infallibly;® yet, by the same 
providence, he ordereth them to fall out according to the 
nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or con 

^ Acts ii. 23. I Exodus xxi. 13. Deut. xix. 5. 

* Genesis viii, 22. Jer. xxxi. 35. | 1 Kings xxii. 28, 34. Is. x. 6, 7. 


Since all things were known to God from the beginning 
of the world, and come to pass according to the immutable 
counsel of his will, it necessarily follows that, in respect of 
the foreknowledge and decree of God, all things come to pass 
infallibly. But, by his providence, he orders them to fall 
out according to the nature of second causes. Every part 
of the material world has an immediate dependence on the 
will and power of God, in respect of every motion and opera- 
tion, as well as in respect of continued existence ; but he 
governs the material world by certain physical laws, — com- 
monly called the laics of nature, and in Scripture the ordinances 
of heaven, — and agreeably to these laws, so far as relates to 
second causes, certain effects uniformly and necessarily follow 
certain causes. The providence of God is also concerned 
about the volitions and actions of intelligent creatures ; but 
his providential influence is not destructive of their rational 
liberty, for they are under no compulsion, but act freely ; and 
all the liberty which can belong to rational creatures, is 
that of acting according to their inclinations. Though there 
is no event contingent with respect to God, "who declareththe 
end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things 
which are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and 
I will do all my pleasure;" yet many events are contingent 
or accidental with regard to us, and also with respect to 
second causes. 

* Dick's Lectures on Tlienlogy, vol. ii., p. 302. 

SECT. 3, 4.] OF PROVIDENCE. 6*9 

Section III. — God in his ordinary providence maketh 
use of means,^" yet is free to work without,'* above/^ 
and against them,*^ at his pleasure. 

10 Acts xxvii. 31, 44. Is. Iv. 10, 11. I ,, Hos. i. 7. Matt. iv. 4. Job xxxiv. 
Hos. ii. 21, 22. | 10. 

12 Rom. iv. 19-21. i"* 2 Kings vi. 6, Dan. iii. 27. 


The providence of God is either ordinary or miraculous. 
In his ordinary providence God works by means, and accord- 
ing to the general laws established by his own wisdom : we 
are, therefore, bound to use the means which he has appointed, 
and if we neglect these, we cannot expect to obtain the end. 
But though God generally acts according to established laws, 
yet he may suspend or modify these laws at pleasure. And 
when, by his immediate agency, an effect is produced above 
or beside the ordinary course of nature, this we denominate 
a miracle. The possibility of miracles will be denied by none 
but Atheists. To maintain that the laws of nature are so 
absolutely fixed, that they can in no case be deviated from, 
would be to exclude God from the government of the world, 
— to represent the universe as a vast machine, whose move- 
ments are regulated by certain laws which even the great 
Architect cannot control. 

Section IV. — The ahnighty power, unsearchable wis- 
dom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest 
themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself 
even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and 
men,*^ and that not by a bare permission,'^ but such as 
hath joined with it a most wise and powerful' bound- 
ing,'^ and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in 
a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; "■ yet so 
as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the crea- 
ture, and not from God ; who being most holy and 
righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver 
of sin.*^ 

1* Rom. xi. 32-34. 2 Sam. xxiv. 1. 1 ^^ Acts xiv. 16. 

1 Chron. xxi. 1. 1 Kings xxii. i« Ps. Ixxvi. 10. 2 Kings xix. 28. 
22, 23. 1 Chron. x. 4, 13, 14. 1 ^' Gen. 1. 20. Is. x. 6, 7, 12. 

2 Sam. xvi. 10. Acts ii. 23; iv. is James i. 13, 14, 17. 1 John ii. 16. 
27,28. I Ps. i. 21. 



That the providence of God is concerned about the sinful 
actions of creatures must be admitted. Joseph's brethren 
committed a most wicked and unnatural action in selling 
him to the Midianites ; but Joseph thus addressed his 
brethren : " Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that 
ye sold me hither : for God sent me before you to preserve 
life." — Gen. xlv. 5. The most atrocious crime ever perpe- 
trated by human hands Avas the crucifixion of the Lord of 
glory; yet it is expressly affirmed that God delivered him 
into those wicked hands which were imbrued in his sacred 
blood : " Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel 
and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked 
hands have crucified and slain." — Acts ii. 23. At the same 
time, it is indisputable that God cannot be the author nor 
appi'over of sin. To solve the difficulty connected with this 
point, theologians distinguish between an action and its 
quality. The action, abstractly considered, is from God, 
for no action can be performed without the concurrence of 
Providence; but the sinfulness of the action proceeds en- 
tirely from the creature. As to the manner in which the 
providence of God is concerned about the sinful actions of 
creatures, it is usually stated, that God permits them, that 
he limits them, and that he overrules them for the accom- 
plishment of his own holy ends. But the full elucidation 
of this abstruse subject, so as to remove every difficulty, 
surpasses the human faculties. We are certain that God is 
concerned in all the actions of his creatures ; we are equally 
certain that God cannot be the author of sin ; and here we 
ought to rest. 

Section V. — The most wise, righteous, and gracious 
God, doth oftentimes leave for a season his own child- 
ren to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their 
own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to 
discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption, 
and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be 
humbled ; '^ and to raise them to a more close and con- 
stant dependence for their support upon himself ,and to 
make them more watchful against all future occasions of 
sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.^'' 

'=> -2 Chron. xxxii. 25, 26, 31. 2 Sam. 1 20 2 Cor. xii. 7-9. Ps. Ixxiii. ; Ixxvii. 
xxiv. 1. 1, 10, 12. Mark xiv. 6G, to end. 

I John xxi. 15 17. 


Section YI. — As for those wicked and ungodly men 
whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sins doth 
blind and harden,^^ from them he not only withholdeth 
his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in 
their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts,^ 
but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they 
had,^^ and exposeth them to such objects as their cor- 
ruption makes occasion of sin,-* and withal, gives them 
over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, 
and the power of Satan; ^^ whereby it comes to pass 
that they harden themselves, even under those means 
which God useth for the softening of others.^® 

2i Rom. i. 24, 26, 28; xi. 7, 8. I 2« Ex. vii. 3; viii. 15, 32. 2 Cor. ii. 

'^" Dent. xxix. 4. 15, 16. Is. viii. 14. I Pet. ii. 7, 

23 Matt. xiii. 12; xxv. 29. | 8. Is. vi. 9, 10. Acts xxviii. 

2* Deut. ii. 30. 2 Kings viii. 12, 13. I 26, 27. 
^ Ps, Ixxxi. 11,12. 2Thess.ii.l0.12. | 


God cannot possibly solicit or seduce any man to sin ; for 
this is inconsistent with the purity of his nature. — James i. 
13, 14. But, in righteous judgment, God sometimes permits 
persons to fall into one sin for the punishment of another. 
He deals in this way even with his own dear, but undutiful, 
children. Sometimes he leaves them for a season to tempta- 
tions, and to the lusts of their own hearts, for their trial, or 
to discover to themselves the latent corruptions of their 
hearts, to himible them, and to excite them to more fervent 
prayer and unremitting watchfulness. Thus, God left Heze- 
kiah to try him, that he might know, or make known, all that 
Avas in his heart. — 2 Chron. xxxii. 31. Sometimes God deals 
in this manner with his own children to chastise them for 
their former sins. Thus, " The anger of the Lord was kindled 
against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go 
number Israel and Judah." — 2 Sam. xxiv. 1. In Scripture, 
God is frequently said to harden wicked men for their former 
sins. This he does, not by infusing any wickedness into their 
hearts, or by any direct and positive influence on their souls 
in rendering them obdurate, but by withholding his grace, 
which is necessary to soften their hearts, and which he is 
free to give or withhold as he pleases ; by giving them over 
to their own hearts' lusts, to the temptations of the world, 
and the power of Satan ; and by providentially placing them 
in such circumstances, or presenting such objects before them, 


as their corruption makes an occasion of hardening them- 

Section VII — As the providence of God doth, in 
general, reach to all creatures ; so, after a most special 
manner, it taketh care of his Church, and disposeth all 
things to the good thereof.^ 

= ' 1 Tim. iv. 10. Amos ix. 8,9. Rom. viii. 28. Is. xliii. 3-5, 14. 

The providence of God may be considered as general and 
as special. His general providence is exercised about all his 
creatures ; his special providence is exercised, in a particular 
manner, about his Church and people. " The eyes of the 
Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show 
himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect to- 
wards him." — 2 Chron. xvi. 9. God has the interests of his 
own people ever in view; he knows what is most conducive 
to their happiness; and he will make all things, whether 
prosperous or adverse, to co-operate in promoting their 

good Rom. viii. 28. In all past ages, God has watched 

over his Church with peculiar and unremitting care ; he has 
sometimes permitted her to be reduced to a very low condi- 
tion, but he has also wrought surprising deliverances in her 
behalf. The very means which her enemies intended for 
her destruction and ruin have, by an overruling Providence, 
been rendered subser\dent to her edification and enlarge- 
ment. — Acts viii. 4. The preservation of the Church, in spite 
of the craft and malice of hell, and of all the pernicious 
errors and bloody persecutions which have threatened her 
ruin, is no less wonderful than the spectacle which Moses 
beheld, — a hush burning but not conmtned. And let us still con- 
fide and rejoice in the promise of Christ, that the gates of 
hell shall never prevail against his Church. 




Section I. — Our first parents being seduced by the 
subtilty and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating 
the forbidden fruit.^ This their sin God was pleased, 
according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having 
purposed to order it to his own glory.^ 

» Gen. iii. 13. 2 Cor. xi. 3. | 2 Rom. xi. 32. 


That man is now in a very corrupt and sinful state, uni- 
versal experience and observation attest. That he was not 
originally formed in this degraded state might be inferred 
from the character of his Maker ; and the Scriptures expli- 
citly affirm that he was at first created in the image of God — 
in a state of perfect rectitude. The question then arises, How 
was moral evil introduced into the world ? To this important 
question reason can give no satisfactory answer. Pagan 
philosophers could not fail to observe the degeneracy of 
human nature ; mournful experience taught them that evil 
had come into the world ; but to assign the source of evil, 
was knowledge too wonderful for them ; numerous were their 
conjectures, and all remote from the tinith. Divine revela- 
tion, however, sets this matter in a clear and certain light ; 
and our Confession, in accordance with the inspired record, 
traces the entrance of sin to the seduction and disobedience of 
our first parents. They " sinned in eating the forbidden fruit." 
This supposes that the fruit of a certain tree was prohibited. 
The moral law was impressed upon the heart of man at his 
creation, and entire conformity to it was his indispensable 
duty ; but, besides this natural law, God was pleased to give 
man a positive law, restricting him from the use of the fruit 
of a particular tree in the garden. " The Lord God com- 
manded the man, saying. Of every tree of the garden thou 
mayest freely eat : but of the tree of the knowledge of good and 
evil, thou shalt not eat of it." — Gcn.ii. 16, 17. Without loosen- 
ing his obligation to yield obedience to the whole moral law, 
God summed up the duty of man in this single positive in- 
junction, and constituted his abstaining from the fruit of a 
certain tree the test of his obedience. The thing forbidden was 


in its own nature quite indiffei-ent, neither good nor evil ; the 

prohibition was founded solely on the sovereign will of God ; 

it was, therefore, a most proper trial of man's obedience to 

the divine authority. 

The occasion of man's violating this express injunction of 
his Sovereign, was the temptation of Satan. The inspired 
historian, in the 3d chapter of Genesis, makes mention only 
of the serpent as concerned in seducing om* first parents; 
but since we find Satan represented, in manifest allusion to 
the transactions of the fall, as " a murderer from the begin- 
ning," and as " the old serpent and dragon" (John viii. 44 ; 
Rev. xii. 9, and xx. 2), we are led to the conclusion that 
Satan was the real tempter, and that he made use of the literal 
serpent as his instrument in carrying on the temptation. 
The various methods of fraud and cunning whereby he con- 
ducted his plot are stated in the sacred history, and have 
been illustrated by many eloquent writers.* It was not by 
force or compulsion, but only " through his subtlety that the 
serpent beguiled Eve." Seduced by the tempter, Eve " took 
of the fruit, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband 
with her, and he did eat." — Gen. iii. 6. Thus the eating of 
the forbidden fruit was the first sin actually committed by man 
in our world. No doubt, our first parents were guilty of sin 
iu their hearts, before they committed it with their hands ; 
but the eating of the forbidden fruit was the first sin that 
was finished. " When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth 
sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." — 
James i. 15. 

To some the eating of an apple may appear a very trivial 
matter, and often have attempts been made to turn this grave 
subject into ridicule ; but, in judging of this act of our first 
parents, we must remember that they thereby transgressed ^ 
an express prohibition of the Most High. Their abstaining 
from the tree of knowledge was the criterion by which their 
fidelity was to be tried, and their eating of the fruit of that 
tree was a violation of the whole law; for it was rebellion 
against the Lawgiver, and a renunciation of his authority. 
" This grand transgression,'' says a judicious author, " though 
in its matter — to wit, eating a little fruit — it may be looked 
upon as a most mean and insignificant action ; yet, if we 
consider it in its formal nature, as disobedience to an express 
divine command, which precept was particularly chosen out 
and enjoined as the test of man's pure love, just gratitude, 
and absolute obedience to God, it was certainly a most 
lieinous sin. For behold what monstrous infidelity, ingra- 
* Berry Street Sermons, Serm. 10; Dwight's Theology, Senn. 27. 


titude, and diabolical pride, were all at once implied in the 
same."* " It was aggravated," says another, " by the Being 
sinned against, — a Benefactor so bountiful, a Master so indul- 
gent; by the persons guilty of it, — creatures fresh from God's 
hand, untainted by sin, and laden with benefits; by the pre- 
cept violated, — so plain and simple ; by the place where it was 
committed, — a place where every plant, every creature, and 
every scene, displayed the bounty of the Lord, and pro- 
claimed his goodness; and by its results, which were not to 
be limited to themselves, but to extend to their descendants, 
whom, for a momentary gratification, they ruined for ever."f 
Is it asked, How could upright man be seduced to commit 
this great transgression ? The answer is, Man, though per- 
fectly holy, was mutable. He had power to stand, but was 
liable to fall. God left him to the freedom of his own will, 
and that freedom he abused. No doubt God could have 
prevented his fall if he had pleased, by giving such in- 
fluences of his Spirit as would have been absolutely effectual 
to hinder it; but this he was under no obligation to do. He 
did not withdraw from man that ability with which he had 
furnished him for his duty, nor did he infuse any vicious 
inclinations into his heart, — he only withheld that further 
grace that would have infallibly prevented his fall. If it be 
inquired, Why God permitted the fall of man to take place ? 
" Probably the best answer ever given to this question in the 
present world, is that which was given by Christ concerning 
one branch of the divine dispensations to mankind : ' Even 
so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.' It was a 
dispensation approved by infinite wisdom, and seen by the 
Omniscient Eye to be necessary towards that good which 
God proposed in creating the universe.''^ 

Section II. — By this sin they fell from their original 
righteousness and communion with God,^ and so became 
dead in sin,^ and wholly defiled in all the faculties and 
parts of soul and body.^ 

» Gen. iii. 6-8. Eccl. vii. 29. Rom. I « Tit. i. 15. Gen. vi. 5. Jer. xvii. 9. 

iii. 23. Rom. iii. 10-18. 

* Gen. ii. 17. Eph. ii. 1. | 


This section points out the consequences of the sin of our 
first parents, in regard to themselves. They " fell from their 

* Principal Blackwell's Sacred Scheme, p. 199. 

t Belfrage's Exposition of the Shorter Catechism, vol. i., p. 178. 

t Dwight's Theology, Serm. 27. 


original righteousness," and became wholly corrupted in all 
the faculties of their souls and members of their bodies. The 
understanding, once a lamp of light, was now overwhelmed 
in darkness. The will, once faithful for God, and regulated 
by his will, now became perverse and rebellious. The affec- 
tions, once pure and regular, novv became vitiated and dis- 
ordered. The body, too, was corrupted, and its members 
became instruments of unrighteousness unto sin. Our first 
parents likewise lost the happiness which they had formerly 
possessed. They were expelled from that pleasant and de- 
lightful abode in which God had placed them, the ground 
was cursed witli barrenness for their sake, they were doomed 
to lead a life of toil and sorrow, and at last to return to the 
earth from which they were taken. But this was the least / 
part of the misery into which they fell. They lost commu-'^ 
nion with God, the chief good; they forfeited his favour, and 
incurred his righteous displeasure. They became dead in sin v 
— obnoxious to that death which is the wages of sin, and which 
had been threatened as the penalty of their disobedience. 
" In the day thou eatest thereof," said God, " thou shalt surely 
die." This threatening included temporal death, consisting r' 
in the dissolution of the union between the soul and the . 
body; spiritual death, consisting in the loss of the favour and 
the image of God; and eternal death, consisting in the ever- "^ 
lasting separation of both soul and body from God. The 
very day in which our first parents sinned, the sentence of 
death, though not immediately executed in its fullest ex- 
tent, began to lay hold upon them. They became mortal, and 
were exposed to the disorders of a vitiated constitution; the 
principle of spiritual life was extinguished in their souls, and 
they were bound over to eternal wrath; and, had not a 
Mediator been provided, not only would they have returned 
to the dust, but they would have been "punished with ever- 
lasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from 
the glory of his power." 

Section III. — They being the root of all mankind, 
the guilt of this sin was imputed,^ and the same death 
in sin and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their poste- 
rity, descending from them by ordinary generation.^ 

Section IV. — From this original corruption, whereby 
we are utterly indisposed, disal3led, and made opposite 

« Gen. i. 27, 28; ii. 16, 17. Acts xvii. I » Ps. li. 5. Gen. v. 3. Job xiv. 4; 
26. Rom. V. 12, 15-19. 1 Cor. | xv. 14. 

XV. 21, 22, 45, 49. 

SECT. 3, 4.] OF THE FALL OF MAN. 77 

to all good,^ and wholly inclined to all evil/ do proceed 
all actual transgressions. '° 

s Rom, V. 6; viii. 7; vii. 18. Col. I i" James i. 14, 15. Eph. ii. 2, 3. 

i. 21. Matt. XV. 19. 

» Gen. vi. 5 ; viii. 21. Rom. iii. 10-12. | 


These sections point out the consequences of the sin of our 
first parents in regard to their posterity. These consequences 
are restricted to those " descending from them by ordinary 
generation." This restriction is obviously introduced in order 
to exclude our Lord Jesus Christ, who, as man, was one of 
the posterity of Adam, but did not descend from him by ordi- 
nary generation. The genealogy of Christ is traced up to 
Adam (Luke iii. 38), but his human nature was supernatu- 
rally framed in the womb of the Virgin, by the power of the 
Holy Ghost. — Luke i. 35. In his birth, therefore, as well as 
in his life, he was " holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated 
from sinners." But the effects of Adam's first transgression 
extend to all his natural posterity ; and, according to our Con- 
fession, the guilt of this sin is imputed, and a cornipt nature 
is conveyed, to them. This is what is commonly called Ori- 
ginal Sin. Though that phrase is often restricted to the 
corruption of nature derived to us from Adam, yet, in its 
proper latitude, it includes also the imputation of guilt. 

The doctrine of original sin was universally received by 
the Church of God until the beginning of the fifth century, 
when it was denied by Pelagius. He maintained " that the 
sins of our first parents were imputed to them alone, and not 
to iheir posterity ; that Ave derive no corruption from their fall, 
but are born as pure and unspotted as Adam came out of the 
forming hand of his Creator." * This opinion was adopted by 
Socinus in the sixteenth century, and is held by the modern 
Socinians. The Arminians, who derive their name from 
Arminius, a divine of the seventeenth century, may not 
speak in the same unqualified terms of the purity of the 
descendants of Adam, but they do not admit that then- na- 
ture is wholly vitiated, or that they have entirely lost their 
power to do good. In opposition to such tenets our Con- 
fession teaches, that a corrupt nature is conveyed to all the 
posterity of Adam ; and that, by this original corruption, 
" we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to 
all good, and wholly inclined to all evil." 

It may be proper to remark, that it is not the doctrine^ of 
* Mosheim's Churh History, ccent. v., p. 2, ch. 5. 


tlie Scriptures nor of our standards that the corruption of 
nature of wliich they speak is any depravation of the soul, 
or any essential attribute, or the infusion of any positive evil. 
The Confessions of the Reformers teach " that original righ- 
teousness, as a punishment of Adam's sin, was lost, and by that 
defect the tendency to sin, or corrupt disposition, or corrup- 
tion of nature, is occasioned. Though they speak of original 
sin as being, jfirst, negative — i.e., the loss of righteousness — 
and, secondly, positive, or corruption of nature, yet by the 
latter, they state, is to be understood, not the infusion of any- 
thing in itself sinful, but an actual tendency or disposition to 
evil, resulting from the loss of righteousness." * The uni- 
versal corruption of mankind is amply confirmed by the 
Scriptures: "The imagination of man's heart is e-sdl from his 
youth." — Gen. viii. 21. " Behold, I was shapen in iniquity: 
and in sin did my mother conceive me." — Ps. li. 5. " The 
wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon 
as they be born, speaking lies." — Ps. Iviii, 3. " That which 
is born of the flesh is flesh," — John iii, 6. " The carnal mind 
is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, 
neither indeed can be." — Rom. viii. 7. These, Avith many 
other places of Scripture, fully show that all mankind are 
infected with a corrupted nature. And the Scriptures no 
less clearly ascribe this corruption to the apostas}' of Adam. 
The first man was created in the image of God, but after his 
fall " he begat a son in Ids own likeness." — Gen. v. 3. " By 
one man sin entered into the Avorld, and death by sin." — 
Rom. v. 12. 

The corruption of human nature, which the Scriptures so 
clearly teach, may also be inferred from the fact that men, 
in all countries and in all varieties of situation, are sinners. 
" The way we come by the idea of any sucli thing as dispo- 
sition or tendency, is by observing what is constant or general 
in event, especially under a great variety of circumstances." 
Now, it is a fact, " that all mankind come into the world in 
such a state as without fail co7nes to tliis issue, namely, the 
universal commission of sin ; or that every one who comes 
to act in the world as a moral agent, is, in a greater or less 
degree, giiilty of sin." From this we infer " that the mind 
of man has a natural tendency or propensity to that event 
which so universally and infallibly takes place ; and that this 
is a corrupt or depraved propensity." + The universal pre- 
valence of sin cannot be accounted for, as Pelagians have 

* Hodge on the Romans, p. 158. 

t Edwards on Original Sin, part i., sect. 1, 2. Tliis argument, so ably con- 
ducted by President Edwards, has been illi'.strated, with his usual eloqaence, 
by Or Chalmers, in his Lectures on the lloinans, vol. i., pp. 3()7-370. 

SFXT. 3, 4.]] OF THE FALL OF MAN. 70 

alleged, by the influence of bad example ; for, as President 
Edwards has justly argued, " this is accounting for the cor- 
ruption of the world by the corruption of the world." There 
are manifestations of moral depravity so very early in child- 
hood as to anticipate all capacity for observing and following 
the example of others. There also frequently appear in chil- 
dren propensities towards those vices of which they have 
seen no examples. Besides, there are many examples of 
eminent virtue in the world, which yet are not so frequently 
or easily imitated as those of a vicious nature, which plainly 
shows an innate tendency towards vice. 

Another branch of original sin is the imputation of the l/^ 
guilt of Adam's first transgression. This is rejected by many 
who admit original corruption.* By the imputation of Adam's 
first sin, it is not intended that his personal transgression 
becomes the personal transgression of his posterity; but that 
the guilt of his transgression is reckoned to their account. 
And it is only the guilt of his fist sin, which was committed 
by him as a public representative, that is impiited to his 
posterity, and not the guilt of his future sins, after he had 
ceased to act in that character. The grounds of this im- 
putation are, that Adam was both the natural root and tlie 
federal head or representative of all his posterity. The for- 
mer is the only ground mentioned in this section of the Con- 
fession, probably, because the representative character of 
Adam in the covenant of works has not yet been brought 
into view ; but in the succeeding chapter this is distinctly 
recognised. And both in i\\Q Larger Catechism (Quest. 22), and 
in the Shorter (Quest. 16), the representative character of 
Adam in the covenant made with him, is explicitly assigned 
as the principal ground of the imputation of the guilt of his 
first sin to all his posterity. 

We do not see how the universal corruption of mankind 
can be accounted for, without admitting that they are in- 
volved in the guilt of his first transgression. It must be 
some sin which God punishas with the deprivation of ori- 
ginal righteousness; and that can be no other than the first 
sin of Adam. The doctrine of imputation is clearly taught 
in Scripture ; particularly in Ilom. v., it is so plainly stated, 
so often repeated, and so formally proved, that it must be 

* In the seventeenth centurj', De la Place affirmed, " that original sin is indi- 
rectly, and not directly, imputed to mankind." (Mosheim's Church History, 
cent, xvii., sect. 2, p. 2, ch. 2. ) By this is meant, that the personal transgres- 
sion of Adam is not imputed to mankind, but that they derive from him a 
corrupted nature, and that this corruption is imputed to them. Among re- 
cent authors, we may mention Dr Dwight, who denies the imputation of 
Adam's first sin to his posterity, and limits the consequonces of his fall, as 
regards them, to the conveyance of moral Jepravity. — Serm, 32. 


acknowledged to be the doctrine of the apostle. In support 
of this doctrine, we might appeal to the universality of the 
effects of sin; especially to the death of infants. The apostle 
affirms, in the most express terms, that death is the eflfect of 
sin (Rom. v. 12); and experience as well as Scripture shows 
that death passes upon all men. It passes even upon those 
who are incapable of committing actual sin ; for " death 
reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not 
sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression." — Rom. 
V. 14. This is generally understood as referring to infants, 
who are incapable of sinning personally and actually, as 
Adam did ; and since they have never in their own persons 
violated any law, their exposure to death can only be ac- 
counted for on the ground of the imputation to them of the 
sin of Adam. This doctrine also derives confirmation from 
the analogy betwixt Adam and Christ, as stated by the 
apostle in the same chapter. In verse 14, he affirms that 
Adam " is the figure of him that was to come," and he traces 
the analogy in the subsequent verses, particularly in verses 
18, 19. " Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came 
upon all men to condemnation ; even so by the righteous- 
ness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justifica- 
tion of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were 
made sinners ; so by the obedience of one shall many be 
made righteous." " These verses," says Dr. Chalmers, " con- 
tain the strength of the argument for the imputation of 
Adam's sin. As the condemnation of Adam comes to us, 
even so does the justification by Christ come to us. Now we 
know that the merit of the Saviour is ascribed to us, else 
no atonement for the past, and no renovation of heart or of 
life that is ever exemplified in this world for the future, will 
suffice for our acceptance with God. Even so, then, must the 
demerit of Adam have been ascribed to us. The analogy 
affirmed in these verses leads irresistibly to this conclusion. 
The judgment that we are guilty is transferred to us from the 
actual guilt of the one representative, even as the judgment 
that Ave are righteous is transferred to us from the actual 
righteousness of the other representative. We are sinners 
in virtue of one man's disobedience, independently of our 
own personal sins; and we are righteous in virtue of another's 
obedience, independently of our own personal qualifications. 
We do not say, but that through Adam we become personally 
sinful — inheriting as we do his corrupt nature. Neither do 
we say, but that through Christ we become personally holy — 
deriving out of his fulness the very graces which adorned his 
on-n character. But, as it is at best a tainted holiness that 


we have on this side of death, we must have something more 
than it in which to appear before God; and the righteous- 
ness of Chi'ist reckoned unto us and rewarded in us, is that 
something. The something which corresponds to this in 
Adam, is his guilt reckoned unto us and punished in us — so 
that, to complete the analogy, as from him we get the in- 
fusion of his depravity, so from him also do we get the im- 
putation of his demerit."* " Adam is not merely the cor- 
rupt parent of a corrupt offspring, who sin because of the 
depravity wherewith he has tainted all the families of the 
earth; but who have sinned in him, to use the language of 
our old divines, as their federal head — as the representative 
of a covenant which God made with him, and through him 
with all his posterity ."f 

Section V. — This corruption of nature, during this 
life, doth remain in those that are regenerated," and 
although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, 
yet both itself, and all *the motions thereof, are truly 
and properly sin.'^ 

11 1 John i. 8, 10. Rom. vii. 14, 17, ! ^2 Rom. vii. 5, 7, 
18,23. Jamesiii. 2. Prov. XX.9. I 17. 

Eccl. vii. 20. 


This section teaches us, that corruption of nature remains 
in those that are regenerated, and is commensurate with this 
life. This condemns the tenet of jChristian ■perfection ; and it 
is supported by the plainest declarations of Scripture. " If 
we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the 
truth is not in us." — 1 John i. 8. Paul himself says, "Sin 
dwelleth in me," and affirms, that "when he would do 
good, evil is present with him." — Rom. vii. 17-21. It has, 
indeed, been disputed, whether Paul, in that chapter, describes 
his own feelings, or personates another. We have no doubt 
that Paul speaks of himself as regenerated, and describes 
his own state, and consequently the state of every regenerated 
person; but we do not rest the doctrine upon this single 
passage, for the confiiet there described is represented in 
othei places in language which, by common consent, can 
only be applied to true Christians. We shall only refer to 
Gal. -v. 17 : "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the 
Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the 
other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." 

* Chahners" Lectures on the Romans, vol. ii,, pp. 22, 23. 
t Ibid., vol. i., p. 422. 



This section also a-ffirms tliat, even in the regenerated, this 
corruption, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly 
sin. The guilt of it is, no doubt, removed by the blood of 
Christ, and the power of it subdued by his Spirit and grace; 
but, in itself, it retains the character of sin. This is affirmed 
in opposition to a tenet of the Church of Rome. That uni- 
versal propensity to sin, which we call the corruption of 
nature, Roman Catholic writers denominate concupiscence ; and 
this, they maintain, is no part of original sin, and is not in 
itself sinful. As they believe that original sin is taken away 
by baptism, and nevertheless find that this corrupt disposi- 
tion remains in the regenerated, they conclude that it is no 
part of original sin, but that it is the natural state in which 
Adam was made at first ; only, that in us it is without the 
restraint of supernatural assistance which was given to him, 
and which, in consequence of his transgression, was with- 
drawn from him and his posterity. In answer to this, it is 
argued that lust or concupiscence is, in several places of the 
New Testament, spoken of as sin; particularly in Rom. vii. 7, 
Paul declares that "he had not known mi but by the law;" 
he then gives an instance of this, — "he had not known hist, 
except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." Here he 
expressly asserts that lust is sin.* 

Section VI — Every sin, both original and actual, 
being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and 
contrary thereunto,^^ doth, in its own nature, bring guilt 
upon the sinner,'^ whereby he is bound over to the wrath 
of God,'^ and ciirse of the law,'^ and so made subject to 
death, ^'^ with all miseries spiritual,^^ temporal, ^^ and 

'■■' 1 John iii. 4. I »^ Rom. vi. 23, is Eph. jv. 18. 

«* Rom. ii. 15; iii. 9, 19. i^ Horn. viii. 20. Lam. iii. 39. 

»« Eph. ii. 3. i« Gal. iii. 10. | -'^ Matt. xxv. 41. 2 Thess. i. 9. 


This section relates to the cleseit of sin. Being a trans- 
gression of the law of God, it must, in its own nature, bring 
guilt upon the sinner, or render him liable to punishment. '^ 
It exposes him to the irrath of God, for " the children of dis- 
obedience " are also " children of wrath," i. e., they deserve 
and are obnoxious to the wrath of God. It subjects him to j 
the curse of the law, by which we may undei-stand the con- 

* Burnet on the Thirty- Nine Articloa, Art. 9. Hill's Lectures in Divinity 
vo3. ii., p. 16. 


demnatory sentence of the broken law, which binds over the 
guilty sinner to all the direful effects of the wrath of God. 
It likewise subjects him to death, or the dissolution of the 
mysterious union between the soul and the body. Pelagians 
and Socinians hold that death is not the punishment of sin 
— that Adam was mortal from the beginning ; and for this 
reason, those who are born of him must also be mortal. 
Others, again, both in former and later times, have held that 
temporal death was the only penalty threatened to Adam, 
and that this is the only death which results from his sin. 
Both these opinions are so plainly contradictory to the ex- 
press declarations of the Word of God, that they are unworthy 
of serious refutation. In addition to this, our Confession 
states, that sin exposes the sinner to numerous miseries, both 
in this life, and in that which is to come. Among the spiri- 
tual or inward miseries to which it renders the sinnej- liable 
in this world, the compilers of our Confession elsewhere 
mention "blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong de- 
lusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, ar.d vile 
affections;" and among the tempored or outward miseries, 
they mention " the curse of God upon the creatures for our 
sakes, and all other evils that befal us in oiar bodies, names, 
relations, and employments." * And the miseries to which 
sin exposes in the world to come, they sum up in " everlasting 
separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most 
grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in 
hell-fire for ever." f 

When we reflect on the loss which Adam sustained by his 
fall, and on the guilty and corrupted state in which we are 
thereby involved, and on the manifold miseries to which we 
are liable, both here and hereafter, let us be deeply impressed 
with a sense of the dreadful malignity and demerit of sin, — 
the source of all our woe. Let us not dare to repine against 
God, or to impeach his goodness or equity, for permitting sin 
to enter into the world, and making us responsible for the 
transgression of the first Adam ; but rather let us admire the 
di\'ine wisdom and grace displayed in providing the second 
Adam, by whose obedience we may be made righteous, as by 
the disobedience of the first we were made sinners. Let us 
cordially receive the Lord Jesus Christ, that, being found in 
him, we may not only be acquitted from the guilt of the first 
man's transgression, but may be brought, through " the abun- 
dance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, to reign in 
life by one," even by Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

* The Larger Catechism, Quest. '2S. f Ibitl , O'lest. 29. 


OF god's covenant with man. 

Section I The distance between God and the crea- 
ture is so great, that although reasonable creatures 
do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet 
they could never have any fruition of him as their 
blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary con- 
descension on God's part, which he hath been pleased to 
express by way of covenant.' 

Section II. — The first covenant made with man was 
a covenant of works,^ wherein life was promised to 
Adam, and in him to his posterity,^ upon condition of 
perfect and personal obedience.* 

» Is. xl, 13-17. Job ix. 32, 33. 1 Sam. I 2 Gal. iii. 12. 

ii. 25. Ps. cxiii. 5, 6; c. 2, 3. | 3 Rom. x. 5; v. 12-20. 
Job xxii. 2,3; XXXV. 7,8. Luke | * Gen. ii. 17. Gal. iii. 10. 
xvii. 10. Acts xvii. 24, 25. ; 


Man is naturally and necessarily under a law to God. This 
results from the necessary and unalterable relation subsisting 
between God and man, as the one is the Creator, and the 
other his creature. God might, therefore, if he had pleased, 
demanded all possible obedience of man, without making any 
promise securing his establishment in a state of innocence 
and enjoyment, and his advancement to a state of still higher 
felicity, as the reward of his obedience. And though man had 
gone tlirough a long course of obedience, without a single 
failure, he could not have laid his Creator under any obliga- 
tion to him, or been entitled to any recompense. But God 
graciously condescended to deal with man by way of cove- 
nant, and thus gave him an opportunity to secure his happi- 
ness by acquiring a right to it — a right founded upon stipu- 
lation, or upon the promise. " Man," says the celebrated 
Witsius, " upon his accepting the covenant, and performing 
the condition, does acquire some right to demand of God the 
promise ; for God has, by his promises, made himself a debtor 
to man ; or, to speak in a manner more becoming God, he 
was pleased to make his performing his promises a debt due 

SKCT. 1, 2.] OF god's covenant WITH MAN. 85 

to himself, — to his goodness, justice, and veracity. And to 
man, in covenant, and continuing stedfast to it, he granted 
the right of expecting and requiring that God should satisfy 
the demands of his goodness, justice, and truth, by the per- 
formance of the promises." * 

A covenant is generally defined to be an agreement be- 
tween two parties, on certain terms. In every covenant 
there must be two parties, and consequently two parts — a 
conditionary and a promissory ; the one to be performed by 
the one party, and the other to be fulfilled by the other 
party. If either of the parties be fallible, a penalty is often 
added; but this is not essential to a covenant. 

There are two important truths to which our attention is 
here directed. First, That God entered into a covenant with 
Adam, promising him life upon condition of his perfect and 
personal obedience. Secondly, That this covenant was made 
with Adam, not only for himself, but for all his natural pos- 

I. That God entered into a covenant with Adam in his 
state of innocence, appears from Gen. ii. 16, 17: " The Lord 
God commanded the man, saying. Of every tree of the gar- 
den thou mayest freely eat : but of the tree of the knowledge 
of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it : for in the day that 
thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." Here, indeed, 
there is no express mention of a covenant; but we find all 
the essential requisites of a projier covenant. In this trans- 
action there are hco parties; the Loj'd God on the one hand, 
and man on the other. There is a condition expressly stated, 
in the positive precept respecting the tree of the knowledge 
of good and evil, which God was jjleased to make tlie test of 
man's obedience. There is a ^^ewa^ij/ subjoined : " In the 
day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." There is 
also a 2^i'07nise, not distinctly expressed, but implied in the 
threatening ; for, if death was to be the consequence of dis- 
obedience, it clearly follows that life was to be the reward of 
obedience. That a promise of life was annexed to man's 
obedience, may also be inferred from the description wdiich 
Moses gives of the righteousness of the law : " The man that 
doeth these things shall live by them," — Rom. x. 5 ; from our 
Lord's answer to the young man who inquii-ed what he should 
do to inherit eternal life : " If thou wilt enter into life, keep 
the commandments," — INIatt. xix. 17; and from the declara- 
tion of the apostle, that " the commandment was ordained to 
life." — Rom. vii. 10. We are, therefore, wai-ranted to call 
tlie transaction between God and Adam a covenant. We may 

» Witsiuson tke Economy of the Covenants, book i., ch. I. sect. 14 


even allege, for the use of this term, the language of Scrip- 
ture. In Hos. vi. 7 (margin), we read, " They, like Adam, 
have transgressed the covenant." This necessarily implies 
that a covenant was made with Adam, and that he violated it. 

II. That this covenant was made with Adam, not only for 
himself, but also for all his natural posterity, is a doctrine 
which has met with much opposition. It is denied by Pela- 
gians and Socinians, who maintain that he acted for himself 
alone, and that the effects of his fall terminated upon him- 
self. Arminians admit that the whole human race is injured 
by the first sin, but at the sametime controvert the proposi- 
tion, that Adam was their proper representative. This truth, 
however, may be easily established. The Scripture repre- 
sents Adam as a figure or type of Christ, — Rom. v. 14 ; and 
wherein does the resemblance between them co;isist ? Simply 
in this, that as Christ was a federal head, representing all his 
spiritual seed in the covenant of grace, so Adam was a federal 
head representing all his natural seed in the covenant of 
works. In 1 Cor. xv. 45, 47, the one is called i\\Q first Adam, 
the other, the last Adam; the one the first man, the other the 
second man. Now, Christ was not the second man in any other 
sense, but as being the federal head or representative of his 
seed ; and, therefore, the first man must have sustained a 
similar character, as being the federal head or representative 
of all his natural posterity. The extension of the effects of 
Adam's first sin to all his descendants, is another sti'ong 
proof of his having represented them in the covenant made 
with him. That he has transmitted sin and death to all his 
posterity, is clearly taught in the 5th chapter of the Epistle 
to the Romans ; and unless his public character, as a repre- 
sentative in the covenant, be admitted, no satisfactory reason 
can be assigned why we are affected by his first sin in a way 
that we are not affected by his subsequent transgressions, or 
the transgressions of our more immediate progenitors. We 
know that " the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father" 
(Ezek. xviii. 20); and had Adam been merely a private per- 
son, his sin could have affected us no more than that of our 
immediate parents. The conclusion is ine\dtable, — that, in 
the covenant of w^orks, our first parent not only acted for 
himself, but represented all his natural posterity. 

Often has this part of the divine procedure been ar- 
raigned by presumptuous man. The supposition that God 
called Adam to represent us in a covenant, into which he 
entered with him long before we had a being, and to the 
making of which we could not personally consent, is, it has 
been alleged, inconsistent with the divine goodness, and 

SECT. 3.]] OF god's COVENAiST WITH MAN, 8? 

contrary to moral justice and equity. To this it might be 
sufficient to reply, that this transaction being the proposal 
and deed of God, it must be fit and equitable, " Shall not 
the Judge of all the earth do right ? " " He is a God of truth, 
and without iniquity, just and right is he." But though we 
ought to acquiesce in the propriety of this transaction, simply 
because it was the will of God, yet it might be evinced, by 
various considerations, that it was not only consistent with 
equity, but manifested much of the divine goodness. If 
Adam had fulfilled the condition of the covenant, and thus 
secured happiness, not only to himself, but also to all his pos- 
terity, no one, certainly, would have complained that Adam 
was constituted his representative; and why should that 
thausaction, which, in this event, would have been deemed 
just, be pronounced imjust on the contrary event ? Adam, 
being made after the image of God, was as capable of keep- 
ing the covenant as any of his posterity could ever be sup- 
posed to be; that he should fulfil it was as much his per- 
sonal interest as that of any of his descendants, his own 
felicity, no less than theirs, being at stake ; and he was inti- 
mately related to the persons whom he represented, and had 
the strongest inducement to take care of his numerous ofi- 
spring, as well as of himself. Adam having such peculiar 
advantages and inducements to perform the demanded obe- 
dience, it may be fairly presumed, that, had it been possible 
for us to be present when the federal transaction was entered 
into, we would have readily agreed that it was more eligible 
and safe for us to have our everlasting felicity insured by 
the obedience of our first parent, as our covenant head, than 
that it should depend upon our own personal behaviour. 
And who would complain of his being represented by Adam 
in the covenant of works, since God has opened up a way for 
our recovery from the consequences of the breach of that 
covenant, by another and a superior covenant ? 

Section III. — Man, by his fall, having made himself 
incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased 
to make a second,* commonly called the Covenant of 
Grace : whereby he freely oifereth unto sinners life and 
salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, 
that they may be saved; ^ and promising to give unto all 
those that are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit, to 
make them willing and able to believe.'' 

«GA\.iii.21. Rom. viii. 3; iii.20, 21. I « Markxvi. 15, 16. John iii. If.. Rom. 
Gen. iii. 15. Is. xlii. 6. | x. 6, f. On!, iii. 11. 

' Ezek. xxxvi. 2G, 27. John \i. M 1.5. 



In entering upon the exposition of this section, it is proper 
to remark, that, at the period when our Confession was framed, 
it was generally held by the most eminent divines, that there 
are two covenants connected with the salvation of men, which 
they called the covenant of redemption, and the covenant of 
grace; the former made with Christ from everlasting, the 
latter made with sinners in time ; the righteousness of Christ 
being the condition of the former, and faith the condition of 
the latter covenant. This distinction, we conceive, has no 
foundation in the Sacred Scriptures, and it has long since 
been abandoned by all evangelical divines. The first Adam 
is said to have been a. figure of Christ, who is called the second 
Adam. Now, there was not one covenant made with Adam, 
the condition of which he was to perform, and another made 
with his posterity, the condition of which they were to fulfil; 
but one covenant included both him and them. It was 
made with him as their representative, and with them as re- 
presented in and by him. In like manner, one covenant in- 
cludes Christ and his spiritual seed. The Scriptures, accord- 
ingly, everywhere speak of it as one covenant, and the blood 
of Christ is repeatedly called " the blood of the covenant," not 
of the covenants, as we may presume it would have been 
called, if it had been the condition of a covenant of redemp- 
tion and the foundation of a covenant of grace. — Heb. x. 29, 
xiii. 20. By the blood of the same covenant Christ made 
satisfaction, and we obtain deliverance. — Zech. ix. 11. We 
hold, therefore, that there is only one covenant for the sal- 
vation of fallen men, and that this covenant was made with 
Christ before the foundation of the world.* The Scriptures, 
indeed, frequently sj^eak of God making a covenant wdth 
believers, but this language admits of an easy explication, in 
consistency with the unity of the covenant. " The covenant 
of grace," says a judicious wi-iter, " was made with Christ in 
a strict and proper sense, as he was the party-contractor in 
it, and undertook to fi\lfil the condition of it. It is made 
with believers in an improper sense, when they are taken 
into the bond of it, and come actually to enjoy the benefit of 

* The distinction between the covenant of redemption and the covenant 
of grace was mainiaiiied by Owen, Charnock, Flavel, and many others. By 
them it was explained in a sense consistent with the perfections and grace of 
God. But by others, the covenant of redemption has been represented as the 
foundation for God's entering into another covenant with sinners, of which 
faith, repentance, and sincere obedience, are made the terms. That the cove- 
nant made with Christ and with believers is one and the same covenant, has 
been maintained by Boston, K. and E, Erskine, Adam Gib, Hill of London, 
Brown of Haddington, Dick, Belfrage, and, indeed, by all modern evangeli- 
cal divines. 


it. How it is made with them may be learned from the 
words of the apostle,— »Acts xiii. 34 : ' I will give you the sure 
mercies of David,' which is a kind of paraphrase upon that 
passage, — Is. Iv. 3 : 'I will make an everlasting covenant 
with you, even the sure mercies of David.' God makes the 
covenant with them, not by requiring anything of them in 
order to entitle them or lay a foundation for their claim to 
the blessings of it, but by making these over to them as a 
free gift, and putting them in possession of them, as far as 
their present state will admit, by a faith of his own opera- 
tion." * 

The supposition of two covenants for the salvation of man- 
kind sinners, is encumbered with various difficulties. One is 
obvious. In every proper covenant, there are two essential 
parts — a conditionary and a promissory. If, therefore, there 
be a covenant made with sinners, different from the covenant 
made with Christ, it must have a condition which they them- 
selves must perform. But though our old divines called 
faith the condition of the covenant made with sinners, they 
did not assign any merit to faith, but simply precedence. 
" The truth is," as Dr Dick has remarked, " that what these 
divines call the covenant of grace, is merely the administra- 
tion of what they call the covenant of redemption, for the 
purpose of communicating its blessings to those for whom 
they were intended ; and cannot be properly considered as a 
covenant, because it is not suspended upon a proper condi- 
tion." The Westminster Assembly, in this section, appear 
to describe what was then usually designated the covenant 
of grace, as distinguished from the covenant of redemption. 
But, though they viewed the covenant under a twofold con- 
sideration, as made with the Surety from everlasting, and as 
made with sinners in time, they certainly regarded it as one 
and the same covenant. " The covenant of grace," say they, 
" was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him 
with all the elect as his seed." f The doctrine of our stan- 
dards on this deeply interesting subject, may be summed up 
in the following propositions : — 

1. That a covenant was entered into between Jehovah the 
Father and his co-eternal Son, respecting the salvation of 
sinners of mankind. The reality of this federal transaction, 
appears from Ps. Ixxxix. 3: " I have made a covenant with 
my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant." The 
speaker, in this passage, can be no other but the Lord, who 
is mentioned in the beginning of the Psalm ; and it cannot 

* Wilson's (of London) Sermons, p. 72. 
+ The Larger Catechism, Quest. 31 


reasonably be questioned, that the words spoken have their 
ultimate and principal fulfilment in Jesus Christ, and assert 
a covenant made with him, of which the covenant of royalty 
made with David, King of Israel, was typical. In other 
places of Scripture, though the word covenant does not 
occur, we have a plain intimation of all the essential parts of 
a proper covenant. In Is. liii. 10, we have the two great 
parts of the covenant — the conditionary and the promissory ; 
and the two glorious contracting parties — the one undertak- 
ing for the performance of its arduous condition — the other 
engaging for the fulfilment of its precious promises : " If 
his soul shall make a propitiatory sacrifice, he shall see a 
seed which shall prolong their days ; and the gracious pur- 
pose of Jehovah shall prosper in his hands." — (Bishop Lowth's 

2. That this covenant was made with Christ, as the head, 
or representative, of his spiritual seed. This is confirmed by 
the comparison between Christ and Adam, which is stated 
by the apostle, — Rom. v.; 1 Cor. xv. 45, 47; which clearly 
establishes the truth, that Adam and Christ severally sus- 
tained a public character, as the federal heads of their re- 
spective seeds. Christ and his spiritual seed are called by 
the same name (Isa. xlix. 3), — a plain evidence of God's 
dealing with him as their representative in the covenant. 
Christ is likewise called the Surety of the covenant (Heb. 
vii. 22); and the promises of the covenant were primarily 
made to him. — Gal. iii. 16; Tit. i. 2. 

3. That this covenant originated in the free grace and 
sovereign will of God. The Scriptures uniformly ascribe 
this transaction to the good pleasure of Him who worketh 
all things according to the counsel of his own will, and re- 
present it as conducing to the praise of the glory of his 
grace. — Eph. i. 3-6. On this account this covenant is, with 
great propriety, called tlie covenant of grace, because it ori- 
ginated in the free grace of God, and conveys the blessings of 
salvation to sinners in a manner the most gratuitous. 

4. That this covenant was established from eternity. The 
covenant of grace is called the second covenant, as distin- 
guished from the covenant of works made with Adam ; but 
though the second in respect of manifestation and execution, 
yet, with respect either to the period or the order in which 
it was made, it is the first covenant. The Head of this cove- 
nant is introduced (Prov. viii. 23), saying, " I was set up 
from everlasting, from the beginning, ere ever the earth 
was;" i. <?., he was set apart to his mediatory office and work, 
—in other words, to be the head of his spiritual seed in the 

8KCT. 3.] OF god's COVENANT WITH MAN. 01 

covenant of grace from everlasting. The promise of eternal 
life is said to have been given us in Christ " before the world 
began" (Tit. i. 2); and the covenant is frequently styled an 
everlasting covenant. — Heb. xiii. 20. 

5, In the administration of this covenant, God "freely 
offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, re- 
quiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved." 
Though Christ, in this covenant, represented only a definite 
number of mankind, who were "chosen in him before the 
foundation of the world," yet, in the administration of the 
covenant, a free offer of salvation by Jesus Christ is addressed 
to sinners of mankind indefinitely and universally. — John 
vi. 32; Is. Iv. 1; Rev. xxii. 17. This offer is not restricted, 
as Baxterians allege, to sensible sinners, or those who are 
convinced of their sin, and their need of the Saviour; for it 
is addressed to persons sunk in total insensibility as to their 
OAvn miseries and wants. — Rev. iii. 17, 18. This offer is made 
as really to those who eventually reject it, as it is to those 
v/ho eventually receive it ; for, if this were not the case, the 
former class of gospel-hearers could not be condemned for 
their unbelief. — John iii. 18, 19. 

That God " requires of sinners faith in Christ that they 
may be saved," admits of no dispute. The part assigned to 
faith, however, has been much controverted. Many excellent 
divines, in consequence of the distinction which they made 
between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of 
grace, were led to speak of faith as the condition of the latter 
covenant. But the term, as used by them, signifies not a 
meritorious or procuring cause, but simply something which 
goes before, and without which the other cannot be obtained. 
They consider faith merely as a condition of 07xler or con- 
nection, as it has been styled, and as an instrument or means 
of obtaining an interest in the salvation offered in the gospel. 
This is very different from the meaning attached to the term 
by Arminians and Neonomians, who rejaresent faith as a con- 
dition on the fulfilment of which the promise is suspended.* 
The Westminster Assembly elsewhere afiirm, that God re- 
quires of sinners faith in Christ, " as the condition to interest 
them in him."t But this is very different from affirming 
that faith is the condition of the covenant of grace. That 
faith is indispensably necessary as the instrument by which 

* The se?itiraents of difierent writers on this important point are stated by 
Dr Fraser, in his excellent notes on Witsius' Dissertations on the Apostles' 
Creed, vol. i., note 44. To the writers mentioned by him may be added, Bos- 
ton (View of the Covenant of Grace, head iii., sect. 1); Wilson of London 
(Sermons, p. 71 ) ; and Ur Dick (Lectures, vol. ii., p. 43-1 j. 

t The Larger Catechism, Quest. 32. 


•we are savingly interested in Christ, and personally instated 
in the covenant, is a most important truth, and this is all that 
is intended ])y the Westminster divines. They seem to have 
used the term condition as synonymous with instrument; for, 
while in one place they speak of faith as the condition to in- 
terest sinners in the Mediator, in other places they affirm, that 
" faith is the alone instrument of justification,"* and teach, that 
" faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, only as it is an in- 
strument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his 
righteousness."t As the word condition is ambiguous, apt 
to be misunderstood, and is frequently employed in an un- 
sound and dangerous sense, it is now disused by evangelical 

6. That God promises his Holy Spirit to work in his elect 
tliat faith by which they come to have a special interest in 
the blessings of this covenant. This implies, that a certain 
definite number were ordained to eternal life, and that all 
these shall in due time be brought to believe in Christ. — 
Acts xiii. 48. It also implies, that they are in themselves 
unwilling and unable to believe (John vi. 44); but God pro- 
mises to give them the Holy Spirit to make them willing and 
able. — Ezek. xxxvi. 26. Faith, therefore, instead of being 
tlije condition of the covenant of grace, belongs to the pro- 
missory part of the covenant.— Rom. xv. 12. It is the gift 
of God, wlio worketh in us both to will and to do of his good 
pleasure.— Eph. ii. 8; Phil. ii. 13. 

Section I Y. — This covenant of grace is frequently set 
forth in the Scripture by the name of a Testament, in 
reference to the death of Jesus Christ the testator, and 
to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging 
to it, therein bequeathed.^ 

« Heb. ix. 15-17; vii. 22. Luke xxii. 20. 1 Cor. xi. 25. 

In the authorised English version of the New Testament, 
the covenant of grace is frequently designated a testament; 
and it is generally admitted, that the original word signifies 
both a covenant and a testament. There is, at least, one 
passage in which it is most properly rendered testament, 
namely, Heb. ix. 16, 17. Some learned critics, indeed, have 
stienuously contended against the use of that term even in 

* Confession, ch. xi., 2. t The Larger Cateciiism, Quest. 73. 

SECT. 4-6.] OF god's covenant with man. i'o 

this passage ; but the great majority allow that the common 
translation is unexceptionable.* 

Section V. — This covenant was differently adminis- 
tered in the time of the law, and in the time of the 
gospel : ^ under the law it was administered by promises, 
prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, 
and other types and ordinances delivered to the people 
of the Jews, all fore- signifying Christ to come,'" which 
were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through 
the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the 
elect in faith in the promised Messiah,^' by whom they 
had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation ; and 
is called the Old Testament.'^ 

Section VI. — Under the gospel, when Christ the 
substance,'^ was exhibited, the ordinances in which this 
covenant is dispensed are, the preadbing of the Word, 
and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism 
and the Lord's Supper; *^ which though fewer in number, 
and administered with more simplicity and less outward 
glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fulness, evi- 
dence, and spiritual efficacy,'^ to all nations, both Jews 
and Gentiles ; '^ and is called the New Testament.'^ 
There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing 
in substance, but one and the same under various dis- 

9 2 Cor. iii. 6-9. 
'o Heb. viii, ix. x. Rom. iv. 11. 

Col. ii. 11,12. ICor. V. 7. 
'1 1 Cor. X. 1-4. Heb. xi. 13. John 

viii. 56. 
12 Gal. iii. 7-9, 14. i"* Col. ii. 17. 
»* Matt, xxviii. 19, 20. 1 Cor. xi. 


^« Heb. xii. 22-27. Jer. xxxi. 33, 34, 

i« Matt, xxviii. 19. Eph. ii. 15-19. 

1^ Luke xxii. 20. 

18 Gal. iii. 14, 16. Acts xv, H. Rom. 
iii. 21-23, 30. Ps. xxxii, 1. Rom, 
iv. 3, 6, 16, 17, 23, 24. Hebrews 
xlii. 8. 


The doctrines laid down in these sections are the follow- 

1. That there are not two covenants of grace, diifering in 

* The reader will find a summary of the views of critics on this subject in 
a long and able article by Dr Eraser, appended to his Translation of Witsius* 
Dissertations on the Apostles' Creed, vol. i., note 42. The learned Professor 
Stuart of Andover (in his Commentary on the Hebrews) also mentions the 
commentators who prefer the word covenant in the p;tssap;e referred to, arid 
declares that " his difficulties in admitting it are insuperable." 


substance, but that the Old and New Testament economies 
are only two dispensations of the same covenant. The Jewish 
and the Christian dispensation are meant by the first and 
second — the old and new covenant. — Heb. viii. 7, 13. 

2. That believers who lived under the old dispensation, as 
well as those who live under the gospel, were saved by faith 
in Christ, and lived and died in the hope of a blessed immor- 

3. That the New Testament dispensation of the covenant 
of grace is, in many respects, superior to that which preceded 
the coming of Christ in the flesh. The present dispensation 
exceeds the past, in the superior clearness of its manifesta- 
tions — in its substantial ratification by the death of Christ — 
in the more abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit — in the 
introduction of a more spiritual form of worship, and in its 
extension to all nations.* 

In concluding this chapter, let us I'eflect how admirably 
adapted the covenant of grace is to the situation of those 
who are ruined by the violation of the first covenant. Its 
condition being fulfilled by the glorious Surety, a full salva- 
tion is freely offered to the chief of sinners. But what will 
it avail us that this gracious covenant has been revealed, 
unless we obtain a personal interest in it, and are made par- 
takers of its invaluable blessings? Let us, therefore, "take 
hold of God's covenant," and let us labour after the fullest 
evidence of our interest in this blessed covenant. Then, 
amid all the troubles of life, we may " encourage ourselves 
in the Lord our God ;" and, even when all other things fail 
us, Ave may experience that strong consolation which David 
enjoyed under his complicated trials, and in the immediate 
prospect of dissolution ; and to which he gave utterance in 
these his last words : " Although my house be not so with 
God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, 
ordered in all things, and sure ; tliis is all my salvation, and 
all my desire." 

* The sameness of the covenant of grace under both di^^pensations, the 
blessings and defects of the Old Testament, and thesiiperior advantages of the 
New, are fully discussed by Calvin (Institutes, book ii., ch. 9- II), and by Wit- 
sius (Economy of the Covenants, book iv., ch. 11, 12, 13, 15). 




Section I. — It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, 
to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten 
Son, to be the Mediator between God and man:' the 
Prophet,^ Priest,^ and King ; ^ the Head and Saviour 
of his Church;' the Heir of all things;^ and Judge 
of the world : ^ unto whom he did from all eternity 
give a people to be his seed,*^ and to be by him in 
time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glori- 

1 Is. xlii. 1. 1 Pet. i. 19, 20. John I f Acts xvii. 31. 

iii. 16. 1 Tim. ii. 5. 8 John xvii. 6. Ps. xxii. 30. Is. 

2 Acts iii. 22. ^ Heb. v. H, G. \ liii. 10. 

* Ps. ii. 6. Luke i. 33. I » 1 Tim. ii. 6. Is. Iv. 4, 5. 1 Cor. 

5 Eph. V. 23. « Heb. i. 2. | i. 30. 


A mediator is one who interposes between two parties at 
variance, to prociu-e-a reconciliation. Before the fall, there 
was no need of a mediator betv/een God and man ; for, 
thqngh there was an infinite distance in nature, yet, there 
was no variance between these parties. But upon the fall 
the case was altered ; God was dishonoured, and highly 
offended ; man was alienated from God, and subjected to his 
judicial displeasure ; and as man was unable to satisfy the 
claims of tlie divine law which he had violated, if he was to 
be restored to the favour of his oifended sovereign, the 
interposition of another person was requisite, to atone for his 
guilt, and lay the foundation of peace. This is the office 
and work assigned to Jesus Christ, the one mediator between 
God and man ; and the present section relates to his divine 
appointment to this office, and the donation of a people to 
him as his seed. 

I. It pleased God, from all eternity, to choose and ordain 
the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the mediator 
between God and man. God being the party oifended by 
the sin of man, to him belonged the right of admitting 
satisfaction by another in the room of the personal trans- 
gressors. But he not only admitted of a vicarious satisfaction ; 
he also, in the exercise of boundless grace and unsolicited 


love, provided one equal to the arduous undertaking, in the 
appointment of his own Son to his mediatory office. Our 
Lord did not engage in the work of mediation without a 
special call and commission from his Father. From eter- 
nity he was chosen and appointed to execute the office of 
mediator between God and man ; hence he is said to be 
"set up from everlasting," and "fore-ordained before the 
foundation of the world."— Prov. viii. 23 ; 1 Pet. i. 20. When 
he was on earth he often declared, that what he did in ac- 
complishing the work of our redemption, he did by a special 
commission from the Father, and in obedience to his will. 
— John. vi. 38. The divine appointment of Christ to his media- 
tory office affords a striking proof of the love of the Father, 
who " sent his only begotten Son to be the propitiation for 
our sins," and lays a firm foundation for our trust in Christ. 
Without the appointment of his Father, his work would not 
have been valid in law for our redemption ; but this appoint- 
ment assures us, that the whole work of his mediation is 
most acceptable to God, and affords us the highest encourage- 
ment to rely upon his finished work for our eternal salvation. 
II. The Father, from all eternity, gave to Christ a people 
to be his seed, and to be by him brought to glory. That a 
definite number of mankind, who were chosen by God in the 
exercise of rich and sovereign grace, were given to Christ, is 
manifest from the distinction made betwixt them and the 
world. Christ designates them" the men that were given 
him out of the world," and declares that he prayed "not for 
the world, but for them whom the Father had given him." — 
John xvii. 6, 9. In these passages the world is opposed to those 
that were given to Christ, and this must convince every un- 
prejudiced mind that the persons given to Christ are a definite 
number, selected by God from the v/orld of mankind. They 
Avere given to Christ to be his seed. It was not left uncer- 
tain whether Christ, as the reward of his mediatory work, 
would have a people to serve him ; it was stipulated that he 
should have a seed, in whom he would see the travail of his 
soul. — Is. liii. 10, 11. They were given to him that he 
might redeem them, and bring them to glory. He was not 
merely to procure for them a possibility of salvation, but to 
secure for them a full and final salvation ; and none that 
were given to him shall -be lost. " This is the Father's will 
which hath sent me," says Christ, " that of all which he hath 
given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again 
at the last day." — John. vi. 39. 

•Section II. — The Son of God, the second person in 


the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one sub- 
stance, and equal with the Faither, did, when the fulness 
of time was come, take upon him man's nature,^" with all 
the essential properties and common inlirmities thereof, 
yet without sin;" being conceived by the power of the 
Holy Ghost, in the w^omb of the Virgin Mary, of her 
substance. ^^ So that two whole, perfect, and distinct 
natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were insepa- 
rably 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.^* 

I Johni. 1, 14. IJohnv. 20. Phil. M' Luke 1.35. Col. ii. 9. Rom. ix. 
ii. 6. Gal. iv. 4. | 5. 1 Pet. iii. 18. 1 Tim. iii. 16. 

II Heb. ii. 14, 16, 17 ; iv. 15. I '* Rom. i. 3, 4. 1 Tim. ii. 5. 
12 Luke i. 27, 31,35. Gal. iv. 4. | 


This section relates to the constitution of the person of the 
Mediator. In opposition to Socinians and Unitarians, who 
maintain that Christ was merely a man, and had no exis- 
tence before he was born of Mary; and in opposition to 
Arians, who, though they admit the pre-existence of Christ, 
maintain that he is a creature, and existed prior to his in- 
carnation only as a super-angelic spirit ; our Confession 
teaches, that Christ not only existed before his incarnation, 
but was from all eternity the Son of God, of one substance, 
and equal with the Father ; and that, in the fulness of time, 
he assumed a complete human nature into union with the 
divine, so that he is both very God and very man, having 
two distinct natures, yet but one person. 

I. Jesus Christ not only existed prior to his incarnation, 
but is the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal 
with the Father. The pre-existence of Christ is confirmed 
by numerous testimonies of Scripture. That he existed bo- 
fore John the Baptist, is affirmed by John himself, who " bare 
witness of him," saying, " He that cometh after me is pre- 
ferred before me : for he was before me." — John i. 15. That 
he existed before Abraham is affirmed by Christ himself, who 
told the Jews, " Before Abraham was, I am." — John viii. 58. 
That he existed before the flood is evident from the words 
of the Apostle Peter, who affirms, that by the Spirit Christ 
" went and preached unto the spirits in prison ; which some- 
time were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God 
waited in the days of Noah, while the ark Avas a-preparing."— 


1 Pet. iii. 19, 20. That he existed before the foundation of 
the world is no less evident, for the Scripture teaches us that 
all things were created by him, and in his valedictory prayer 
he thus expressed himself: "Now, O Father, glorify thou me 
with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee 
before the world was." — John xvii. 5. Christ also declares 
that he " came doAvn from heaven," and speaks of his " as- 
cending up where he was before " (John iii, 15, vi. 62) ; 
which cleiirly imports, that he had a residence in heaven 
before he took our nature.* 

We are not left to conjecture what that nature was in 
which Christ subsisted prior to his incarnation. We are as- 
sured that " he was in the form of God, and thought it not 
robbery to be equal with God ;" that " in the beginning was 
the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was 
God." — Phil. ii. 6 ; John i. 1. But tjie supreme Deity of 
Christ has been established in a preceding chapter, and we 
shall not now resume that subject. It will be proper, how- 
ever, in this place, to offer a few remarks concerning the 
Sonship of Christ. The title of sons of God is applied in 
Scripture to various orders of beings, but Christ is styled the 
Sou of God in a sense altogether peculiar to himself ; hence he 
is called God's own 'Son — his proper Son — the only begotten 
of the Father. Ills Sonship is not founded upon his mission, 
no^' upon his miraculous conception, nor upon his resurrection, 
as is supposed by many; but he is the Son of God by an eter- 
nal, necessary, and ineffable genrvation. This truth is con- 
firmed by many passages of Bcripture, the application of 
Avliich to the eternal generation of the Son of God has been 
vindicated by many learned divines.f We can only refer the 
reader to Ps. ii. 7 ; Prov. viii. 24, 25 ; Mic. v. 2 ; John i. 14. 
The denial of our Lord's eternal Sonship tends to subvert 
the doctrine of the Trinity ; it also throws a veil over the 
glory of the worlc of redemption ; for the grace of the second 
person in becoming incan.iate, obeying, and suffering — the 
love of the first in sending him, and delivering him up to suf- 
ferings and death for us — and the infinite value of his atone- 
ment, are all in Scripture made to turn upon his essential 
dignity as the Sou of God. We cannot pretend to explain 
the manner of the eternal generation of the Son ; but to deny 
it upon the ground that it is incomprehensible by us would 
be prepostei-ous ; for, upon the same ground, we might a« 

* The pie-existence of Christ is ably treated in Archbishop Magee's cele- 
brated work on Atonenient,— Illustrations, No. I; Hill's Lectures, vol i, 
p. 289 ; Wilson on the Person of Christ, ch. ii. 

t See Witsius on ti)e Creed, Diss. 12 ; Gib's Contemplations, pp. 207-227. 


well deny the subsistence of three distinct persons in one 
Godhead. Though the eternal generation of the Son be to 
us an inconceivable mystery, yet of one thing we are certain, 
that it necessarily implies the Son's equality with the Father. 
The Jews understood our Lord's claim to Sonship as a claim 
to equality with the Father, and consequently to proper Deity ; 
and he sanctioned the interpretation which they put upon 
his words, by declaring, " I and my Father are one." — Jolin 
X. 30, 33. 

II. In the fulness of time, the Son of God assumed a com- 
plete human nature into lanion with his divine person. This 
article of our faith has been opposed by heretics of various 
descriptions,and the statements of our Confession are iiitended 
to meet the heresies which have been broached in dilFerent 

1. The Son of God took upon him man's nature — a real 
and perfect humanity. In the primitive times of the Chris- 
tian Church this was denied by various sects, called Docetse, 
who held that Christ had not a real, but a mere shadowy 
body; while others, in later times, affirmed that Christ had 
a body, but not a soul.^' But the Scriptures declare that 
"the Word was made flesh," — that "God sent forth liis Son, 
made of a woman" — and that, " forasmuch as the children are 
partakers of flesh and blood, he himself likewise took part of 
the same." It would be impossible to find language that 
could more explicitly assert the reality of Christ's human 
nature. His apostles, who were admitted to familiar con- 
verse with him, were certain that it was not a mere phantom 
which they beheld, and were as fully persuaded of the reality 
of his body as of their own. " We have looked upon, and 
our hands have handled the Word of life." — 1 John i. 1. 
That Christ had a human soul is equally unquestionable. 
He " increased in wisdom and stature ;" the one in respect 
of his body, the other in respect of his soul. In his agony, 
he said, " My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;" 
and on the cross, he committed it to his Father, saying, 
" Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit." 

2. Christ was subject to the common infirmities of our 
nature, but was altogether without sin. He was subject to 
hunger and thirst, to weariness and pain, and other natural 
infirmities. On this account, he is said to have been sent 

* The Arians and Eunomiaiis held that Christ had no part of the human 
nature, except merely the flesh ; but that the place of the soul was supplied 
by the indwelling of the Word. The AppoUinarians distinguished man into 
three parts— the bofiy, the sensible soul, and the rational soul ; the latter 
they held Christ did not possess, but the Word was substitiitedin its place.— 
Newland's Analysis of the Thirty- Nine Articles, p. 57. 


into the world " in the likeness of sinful flesh." — Rom. \'iii. 3. 
JJut it was only the likeness of sinful flesh, for he had no sin 
in reality ; hence he is called " the holy one," " the holy 
child Jesus," and "a lamb without blemish and without spot." 
The perfect purity of our Lord's human nature was neces- 
sary to qualify hina for his mediatory work; for if he had 
been himself a sinner, he could not have satisfied for the 
sins of others. " Such an high priest became us, who is 
holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners." — 
Heb. vii. 26. 

3. The human nature of Christ was conceived by the power 
of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and 
was formed of her substance. The body of Christ was not 
created out of nothing, neither did it descend from heaven, 
but was formed, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, of the 
substance of the Virgin; hence Mary is called the mother 
of Jesus, and he is called " the fruit of her womb," and " the 
seed of the woman." * — Luke i. 42, 43; Gen. iii. 15. 

4, The Son of God assumed the human nature into union 
with the divine, so that two distinct natures, the Godhead 
and the manhood, are inseparably joined together in one per- 
son. This is asserted in opposition to certain errors whicli 
were broached in the fifth century. The Nestorians held 
that in Christ, " there w^ere two persons, of which the one was 
flimne, even the eternal Word ; and the other, which was 
human, was the man Jesus." A strong aversion to this error 
led the Eutychians into the opposite extreme. They taught 
that in Christ " there was but one nature;" his human nature 
being absorbed by the divine.f That the Godhead and the 
manhood are united in the one person of Christ, is confirmed 
by all those passages of Scripture which speak of two 
natures as belonging to our Saviour. — Isa. ix. 6; Rom. ix. 5; 
Matt. i. 18. The human nature of Christ never had a sepa- 
rate subsistence or personality of its own, but, from its first 
formation, was united to, and subsisted in, the person of 
the Son of God. This is called the hypostatical or personal 
union. Though this is an intimate union, yet the two natures 
ai-e not confounded, but each retains its own essential pro- 
perties. But, in consequence of this union, the attributes 
and acts which are proper to one nature are ascribed to the 
person of Christ. He could only obey and suffer in the 
human nature, but his obedience and sufferings are predi- 

* Besides some ancient heretics, certain Anabaptists, who appeared in Eng- 
land about the time of the Reformation, asserted that Christ brought down 
his human nature from heaven, and that it only passed through Mary, as the 
beams of the sun through glass. 

t Mosheim's Eccl. Hist., cent, v., p. 2, ch. 5. 

PECT. 3.] OF CHRIS 1' nil:: mediator. 101 

cated of him as the Son of God— as the Lord of glory.— Heb. 
V. 8; 1 Cor. ii. 8. To represent our Saviour as having a 
human person distinct from his Godhead, is to divest his 
obedience and sufferings of their inherent value, and conse- 
quently, to subvert the grand doctrine of the redemption of 
the Church by his blood. It is, therefore, a most important 
article of our faith, that our blessed Sa-viour is " very God 
and very man, yet one Christ."* To this it is subjoined, that 
he is "the one mediator between God and man." The 
Papists would associate saints and angels with Christ in the 
work of mediation. They allow, indeed, that Christ is the 
only mediator of redemption, but they allege that there are 
other mediators of intercession. But the Scripture makes 
no such distinction; on the contrary, it expressly asserts that 
there is only one mediator, as there is only owe God. — 1 Tim. 
ii. 5. 

Section III. — The Lord Jesus, in his human nature 
thus united to the divine, was sanctified and anointed 
with the Holy Spirit above measure ; ^^ having in him 
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge ; ^^ in whom 
it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell : ^^ to 
the end, that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of 
grace and truth,^^ he might be thoroughly furnished to 
execute the office of a Mediator and Surety.^^ AVhich 
office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called 
by his Father;^" who put all power and judgment into 
his hand and gave him commandment to execute the 

IS Ps. xlv. 7. John iii. 34. I -« Heb. v. 4, 5. 

^« Col. ii. 3. ^^ Col. i. 19. I ^i John v. 22, 27. Matt, xxviii. 18. 

18 Heb. vii. 26. John i. 14. I Acts ii. 36. 

19 Acts X. 38. Heb. xii. 24 ; vii. 22. | 


This section relates to the qualification of Christ for his 
mediatory work. The Father, who called him to this work, 
furnished him with all requisite qualifications for its per- 
formance. Not only did he " prepare a body for him," that 
he might be capable of suffering and dying ; he also con- 
ferred upon his human nature tlie gifts and graces of the 
Holy Spirit in an immeasurable degree, that he might be 
thoroughly furnished to execute his mediatorial office. " God 
giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." — John iii. 34. 

* On this subject the reader may consult Hurrion's Sermons, vol. i. ; and 
Owen on th/L- Person of Christ, chap, xviii. 


In his miraculous conception, his human nature was formed 
by the Holy Spirit with initial grace in its highest degree of 
perfection ; and when about to enter upon his public minis- 
try in our nature, to seal his commission, and to qualify him 
in that nature for his work, the Spirit descended upon him 
in a bodily shape.* — Luke iii. 21, 22. 

Section IY. — This office the Lord Jesus did most 
willingly undertake ;^^ which that he might discharge, 
he was made under the law/^ and did perfectly fulfil it ;^ 
endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul,^^ 
and most painful sufferings in his body;^^ was crucified, 
and died;"'^ was buried, and remained under the power 
of death, yet saw no corruption.-^ On the third day he 
arose from the dead,^^ Avith the same body in which he 
suffered ; ^^ with which also he ascended into heaven, 
and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father,^^ 
making intercession;^^ and shall return to judge men 
and angels at the end of the world .^^ 

-2 Ps, xl. 7, 8. Heb. x. 5-10. John ] ss Acts ii. 23, 24, 27. Acts xiii. 37. 

Phil. ii. 8. Rom. vi. 9. 

==■■' Gal. iv. 4. 1 2M Cor. xv. 3-5. so John xx. 25,27. 

-* Matt. iii. 15; v. 17. I ^i Mark xvi. 19. 

=5 Matt xxvi. 37, 38. Luke xxii. 44. ^^ Rom. viii. 34. Heb. ix. 24; vii, 25. 

Matt, xxvii. 46. j ss Rom. xiv. 9.10. Acts i, 11 ; x. 

2<5 Matt. xxvi. xxvii. I 42. Matt. xiii. 40-42. Jude 6. 

-' Phil ii. 8. I 2Pet. ii. 4. 


It demands our special attention, that Christ " engaged his 
heart to approach unto God " as tlie surety of sinners — not, 
indeed, of mankind sinners univeisally, but only of those 
whom the Father gave to him, and whom he received as his 
spiritual seed. The present section is closely connected with 
the preceding, and affirms that Christ willingly undertook 
the office, not only of a mediator, but also of a surety. A 
surety is one who engages to pay a debt, or to suffer a pen- 
alty, incurred by another. Such a surety is our Lord Jesus 
Christ. He undertook, in the everlasting covenant, to be re- 
sponsible to the law and justice of God for that boundless 
debt which his elect were bound to pay. And having be- 
come their surety, by his Father's appointment and his own 
voluntary engagement, their guilt was legally transferred to 
him, and all his obedience and sufferings in their nature were 
vicarious, or in tlie room of those whom he represented be- 
fore God. " Our Lord's suretyship is denied by the Soci- 
* See Owen nn the Holy Spirit book ii.. ch. 4. 


niaus, who maintain, that he did not suffer and die in our 
stead, but only for our good; or to confirm his doctrine, and 
to leave us an example of patience and resignation to the 
will of God under our sufferings. His proper suretyship is 
also denied by the Neonomians, who maintain, that 'he only 
satisfied divine justice for sinners, in so far as it was neces- 
sary to render it consistent with God's honour to enter into 
lower terms of salvation wath them.' And it is likewise de- 
nied by all those who are opposed to the doctrine of the im- 
putation of our sins to Christ, and are the advocates of a 
general and indefinite atonement." * They may speak of 
Christ as the substitute of sinners, and of his sufferings as 
vicarious, but the doctrine of his proper sureti/ship, which 
necessarily involves the imputation to him of the guilt of his 
people, and his endurance of the punishment which they had 
incurred, can have no place in their system. In Scripture, 

however, the term surety is expressly applied to Christ Heb 

vii. 22. And he is not, as Socinians allege, a surety /or God, 
to secure the performance of his promises to us, but a surety ?o 
God for elect sinners; and, as such, engaged to pay the debt of 
obedience which they owed to the law, as a covenant of works, 
and the debt of punishment which they had contracted by 
sin. That the sins of his people were imputed to him, 
is plainly affirmed : " The Lord laid on him the iniquity 
of us all." — Isa. liii. 6. It is declared, that Christ suffered, 
for sins, for the unjust, for the transgressions of his people,; 
which necessarily supjDOses that he was charged with their 
guilt. — 1 Pet. iii. 18; Isa. liii. 8. All the sacrifices offered 
by divine appointment, under the legal dispensation, were 
typical of the death of Christ; but all the legal sacrifices 
were vicarious — the guilt of the offender was transferred to 
the sin-offering, which was signified by laying his hands on 
the head of the victim; and, to show that the type is realized 
in our Lord's substitution in the room of his people, he is 
said to have borne their sins in his body on the tree. — 1 Pet. 
ii. 24. It is impossible to account for the sufferings and 
death of Christ, in consistency with the goodness and equity 
of God, in any other way than by admitting the doctrine of 
his suretyship; for, he had no sin of his own, and must, 
therefore, have suff"ered in the stead of others, that he might 
make a proper satisfaction to divine justice for their sins. 
This alone lays a foundation for the imputation of Christ's 
satisfaction to his people. He obeyed and suffered as their 
surety: and, upon this ground, what he did and suffered is 
placed to their account, and becomes effectual for their sal- 
* Stevenson on the Offices of Christ, p. 140. 


vation. — 2 Cor. v. 21. From this it necessarily follows, that 
Christ suflfered and died only for the definite number of our 
race that were given to him by the Father, unless we em- 
brace the system of universal salvation. If Christ stood as 
the surety of every individual of the human race, the con- 
clusion is inevitable, either that all mankind must be saved, 
or that Christ has failed in accomplishing the work which he 

This section further states what Christ did in the discharge 
of his mediatory office, and that both in his humbled and in 
his exalted state. In the former state — 

1. He was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it. 
The law under which Christ was made was the moral law, 
not as a rule of life, but under the form of a covenant, de- 
manding perfect obedience as the condition of life, and full 
satisfaction for man's transgression. Christ was not origi- 
nally a debtor to the law, but he voluntarily came into a state 
of subjection to it, as the surety of sinners ; and he both ful- 
filled its precept and endured its penalty. All his obedience 
and sufferings, as the subject of law, were in no respect for 
himself, but entirely in the stead of his people^ and by his 
service, the law was not merely fulfilled, but magnified and 
made honourable. — Isa. xlii. 21. 

2. He suffered both in soul and in body. His sufferings 
were various in kind, and extreme in degree. Throughout 
his life, he was " a man of sorrows, and acquainted with 
grief." He suffered much from men, not only from avowed 
enemies, but also from pretended friends, and even from his 
own disciples. He was also assailed by Satan's temptations. 
But, besides what he endured by the agency of creatures, he 
suffered from the more immediate hand of God himself as a 
rectoral judge. " It pleased the Lord to bruise him, and to put 
him to grief." As Socinians deny the penal nature of our 
Lord's sufferings, so they limit them to what he endured 
through the agency of creatures ; but unless we admit that 
he suffered in his soul from the immediate hand of God, as an 
offended judge, exacting of him satisfaction for the sins of 
those whose cause he had undertaken, we cannot account for 
his dreadful agony in the garden of Gethsemane, and for his 
bitter lamentation on the cross. He sustained, for a season, 
the loss of the sensible manifestations of his Father's love, 
and the awful pressure of God's judicial displeasure on 
account of sin. This it was that drew from him these dole- 
ful complaints : " iMy soul is exceeding sorroAvful, even unto 
death ;" " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?" 


3. He Wcas crucified, and died. Death was the penalty of 
the law, and the just wages of sin ; death, therefore, behoved 
to be endured by the surety of sinners. Though Christ had 
obeyed the precept of the law, and endured the most exquisite 
sufferings in the course of ]iis life, yet, had he not submitted 
to death, all had been unavailing for our redemption. But, 
" he became obedieut unto death ;" and the death to which 
he was subjected was, of all others, the most lingering, the 
most painful, and the most ignominious, " even the death of 
the cross." It was also an accursed death; for it was written 
in the Jewish law, " He that is hanged is accursed of God." — 
Deut. xxi. 23. A curse seems to have been annexed to this 
mode of execution, in order to signify beforehand the curse 
under which Christ lay when he underwent this kind of death. 
— Gal. iii. 10. His death was violent, in respect of the instru- 
mentality of men, who "slew him with wicked hands ;" but, 
on his own part, it was voluntary. — John x. 18. And, let us 
never forget, that his death was vicarious; for, if it had not 
possessed this character, we could have derived no higher 
benefit from his death than from that of prophets, apostles, 
and martyrs. " Christ died for our sins, according to the 
Scriptures." — 1 Cor. xv. 3. 

4. He was buried, and remained under the power of death 
for a time. Had he revived as soon as he was taken down 
from the cross, his enemies might have pretended that he 
was not really dead, and his friends would not have had 
sufiicient evidence that he was actually dead. Therefore, to 
prove the reality of his death, upon which the hopes and hap- 
piness of his people depend, he was laid in a sepulchre, and 
continued under the power of death for three days and three 
nights. He was buried, also, to sanctify the grave to his 
followers, that it might be to them a place of repose, where 
their bodies may rest till the resurrection. 

Lfet us think of the dreadful malignity and awful desert of 
sin, which was the procuring cause of the sufferings and 
death of our Saviour. Let us admire " the grace of our Lord 
Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes be- 
came poor, that we through his poverty might be rich." 
And though it was only in the human nature that he was 
capable of suffering and dying, let us never forget the dignity 
of his person. He who was crucified on Calvary, was " the 
Lord of glory," and when he lay in Joseph's tomb, he was 
still " the Lord."— 1 Cor. ii. 8; Matt, xxviii. 6. 

The Spirit of Christ in the Old Testament prophets, testi- 
fied beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that 
shoixld follow; his humiliation was, accordingly, succeeded by 


a glorious exaltation, both that he might receive inconceivable 
glory for himself, as the reward of ]iis work on earth, and 
also that he might continue to exercise all his mediatory- 
offices for the good of his Church. The several steps of his 
exaltation are here enumerated, on each of which we shall 
offer a few brief remarks. 

1. He rose from the dead on the third day. The resur- 
rection of Christ was necessary, that ancient i^redictions 
might be fulfilled, and ancient types realized; and, also, that 
we might be assured of the perfection of that satisfaction 
and righteousness which he finished upon the cross. His 
resurrection is a well attested fact. The number of the wit- 
nesses was amply sufficient — they could not be themselves 
deceived, and it is equally incredible that they could intend 
to deceive others — they gave the best proof men could give 
that they firmly believed what they testified; for they pub- 
lished the fact at the hazard of their lives, and many of them 
sealed their testimony w^ith their blood, Christ rose with 
the same body that had been crucified and laid in the grave; 
this was evinced by its bearing the marks of the wounds 
which he received by the nails and the spear. — John xx. 20. 
The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord, and his 
resurrection is a soui-ce of unspeakable joy to his followers 
in every age. His supreme Deity was thereby vindicated — 
his divine mission and the truth of the doctrine which he 
taught was fully confirmed — the sufficiency and acceptable- 
ness of the sacrifice which he offered up was attested — incon- 
testible evidence was given of his decisive victory over death 
and the grave — and believers have now a certain i^ledge and 
infallible assurance of their joyful resurrection to eternal 

2, He ascended into heaven. After his resurrection, he 
continued forty days on earth, that he might afford his dis- 
ciples infallible proofs of his being alive after his passion, 
and that he might instruct them in the things pertaining to 
the kingdom of God. He then ascended from the mount 
called Olivet, in the presence of his disciples, attended by a 
glorious retinue of angels, by a local translation of his human 
nature from earth to heaven, into which he was welcomed 
by the shouts and acclamations of its inhabitants. Ps. xlvii. 
5, He ascended on high, that he might take possession of 
the glory which he had so justly merited; that he might 
send down the Holy Spirit in his miraculous gifts and sanc- 
tifying influences upon his Church and people ; that he might 
rule, govern, and defend his people, as their exalted king ; 
that he might make powerful intercession for them ; and 


that he might pi-epare a place for them, and take possession 
of the lieavenly inheritance in their name, 

3. He sitteth at the right hand of God. This phrase must 
obviously he understood in a figurative sense ; for God, 
being a spirit, has no bodily parts. Among men, the right 
hand is the place of honour and respect, and Christ is repre- 
sented as set down at the right hand of God, to denote the 
inconceivable dignity and glory to Avhich, as God-man, he is 
now advanced, and the sovereign authority and dominion 
with which he is invested. — Eph. i. 20, 22. His sitting at the 
right hand of God, implies the perfection of his rest, his 
security from all adversaries, and the everlasting continu- 
ance of his glorious state. — Heb. x. 12. 

Is Christ so highly exalted ? Then we have no reason to 
be ashamed of the cross of Christ; for he who " endured the 
cross is now^ set down at the right hand of the throne of God." 
We may be assured of the preservation of his Church on earth, 
and that all the plots of his and her enemies must prove vain 
devices. — Ps. ii. 1-4. And, as Christ ascended and sat 
down at the right hand of God, as the head and representa- 
tive of his people, in his exaltation they may behold the 
pledge and j)attern of their own exaltation. — Eph. ii. 6. 

4. He is now making intercession for his people. His in- 
tercession consists in his appearing before God in the nature 
and name of his people, presenting the merit of his atoning 
sacrifice as the ground of his pleadings in their behalf, and 
intimating his desire to the Father, in a manner suited to 
his exalted state, that the blessings which he has purchased 
for them may be enjoyed by them. He intercedes, " not for 
the^orld, but for them which the Father hath given him ;" 
and^he pleads for every one of them particularly, in a suitable- 
ness to their diversified circiimstances. — John xvii. 9 ; Luke 
xxii. 32. His intercession is as extensive as the promises 
of the new covenant, and the blessings which he hath pur- 
chased by his death ; parti cvilarly, he prays that those who 
are not yet converted may be brought to the knowledge of 
the truth; that the converted may be preserved in a state 
of grace, and upheld in the hour of temptation; that their 
persons and services may be accepted with God; that they 
may be progressively sanctified; and that they may, in due 
time, be glorified. — John xvii. His intercession is ever pre- 
valent and successful. — Ps. xxi. 2 ; John xi. 42. The pre- 
valent efficacy of his intercession may be inferred from the 
dignity of his person, and the endearing relation in which he 
stands to the Father. Not only is the advocate dear to the 
Father, but the clients for whom he pleads are also the ob- 


jects of tlie Father's special love. — John xvi. 27. Christ's 
pleadings in their behalf are always conformable to his Fa- 
ther's will — they are founded upon the sacrifice which he 
offered up, with which the Father has declared himself well 
pleased ; the Father has also bound himself by promise to 
grant unto Christ all his requests, and his covenant shall 
stand fast with him, and his faithfulness shall not fail. This 
should engage us to love Christ with a supreme affection ; 
it should attract our hearts from earth to heaven, and fix 
our affections and desires on things above ; it should encou- 
rage us to " come boldly to the throne of grace ;" and it 
should constrain us to live to Christ, to plead his cause, and 
promote his interests on earth. 

5. He shall return to judge men and angels at the end of 
the world. This is a truth clearly revealed, and fully at- 
tested in the Sacred Records. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, 
foretold it in solemn language. — Jude 14. The Old Tes- 
tament Scriptures abound with promises of the second as 
well as of the first coming of Christ — Ps. 1. 3, xcvi. 13, 
xcviii. 9. The apostles, with one voice, proclaim this truth. 
— 1 Thess. iv. 16 ; 2 Thess. i. 7-9. Angels bear witness to 
the same truth — Acts i. 11. It is confirmed by the infal- 
lible testimony of Christ himself. — Matt. xxvi. 64 ; Rev. 
xxii. 7, 12, 20. He will come personally and visibly — with 
great power and glory. The time of his coming, though fixed 
in the councils of heaven, is to us unknown; but it will be 
sudden and unexpected, and should be regarded by us as 
near at hand. — Matt. xxv. 13; James v. 8, 9. The great 
end of his coming is to judge the world, when he will pro- 
nounce the final doom of angels and men, and will consum- 
mate the salvation of his jDcople Heb. ix. 28. 

We should accustom ourselves to frequent and serious 
thoughts about the coming of our Lord; for it is an event in 
which we are deeply interested, since " we must all appear 
before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may re- 
ceive the things done in his body, according to that he hath 
done, whether it be good or bad." We should occupy our 
talents till our Lord come, that we may receive from him 
that best of plaudits — " Well done, good and faithful ser- 
vant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Let us endea- 
vour to maintain the Christian graces in lively and vigorous 
-exercise, and to be always in a posture of preparation for 
the coming of Christ. — Luke xii. 35, 36. And, let us " abide 
in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, 
and notbe ashamed before him at his coming." — I.John ii. 28.* 
* See Hurrion's Sermons, vol. ii. 


Section V. — The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience 
and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal 
Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the 
justice of his Father; ^ and purchased not only recon- 
ciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom 
of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given 
unto him.^^ 

»♦ Rom. V. 19. Hebrews ix. 14, 16; I 35 Dan. ix. 24, 26. Col. i. 19, 20. 
X. 14. Eph. V. 2. Rom. iii. Eph. i. 11, 14. John xvii. 2. 

25^26. I Heb. ix. 12, 1.5. 


This section relates to the ends gained, or the eifects ac- 
complished, by the obedience and sacrifice of Christ. It is 
affirmed — 

1. That he hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father. 
Retributive justice is essential to God, as a moral governor ; 
and the exercise of it, upon the entrance of sin, was indis- 
pensably necessary. Christ, as the surety of those whom the 
Father had given unto him, made a true and proper satisfac- 
tion to divine justice, by enduring in their stead the very 
punishment which their sins deserved. " He put away sin 
by the sacrifice of himself" " He finished transgression, 
made an end of sins, and made reconciliation for iniquity." 
" He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being 
made a curse for us." — Heb. ix. 26; Dan. ix. 24; Gal. iii. 13. 

" Our Lord's sufferings, as our surety, possessed everything 
requisite to a true and proper satisfaction for sin; he suffered 
by the appointment of God, who alone had a right to admit 
of the death of a surety in the room of transgressors; he 
suffered in the same nature that had sinned; his sufi'erings 
were voluntary and obediential, and therefore possessed a 
moral fitness for making reparation to the injured honours 
of the divine law; he was Lord of his own life, and had a 
right to lay it dow^u in the room of others; and his sufi'erings 
were, from the dignity of his person, of infinite value for the 
expiation of our sins." 

That the sacrifice of Christ was fully satisfactory to divine 
justice, cannot be questioned. An apostle testifies, that the 
sacrifice which he offered up was "for a sweet-smelling 
savour unto God." — Eph. v. 2. Christ himself announced 
that the satisfaction was complete, when, on the cross, he 
proclaimed, "It is finished." And we have a most decisive 
proof of the satisfactory nature of his sacrifice, in his resur- 
rection from the dead, and his glorious exaltation in heaven. 


2. He purchased reconciliation for his people. This ne- 
cessarily flows from the former; for if justice is fully satis- 
fied, God's judicial displeasure must be turned away. It is 
sin which separates between God and sinners; and, there- 
fore, Christ made reconciliation by satisfying divine justice 
for sin — the cause of the separation. God was not merely 
rendered reconcileable, but fully reconciled, by the death of 
Christ. If God were only reconcileable, then some acts of 
our own must be the proper ground of our reconciliation. 
But such a sentiment is subversive of the gosijel, which 
everywhere declares, that Christ made reconciliation by his 
death. — Rom. v. 10. From this, however, it Avill by no means 
follow, that the elect are in a state of actual reconciliation, 
either from the time of Christ's death, or from the first mo- 
ment of their own existence. The Scripture represents them 
as being "by nature children of wrath, even as others." A 
sure foundation for their reconciliation was laid by the death 
of Christ; but they are only actually reconciled to God when, 
by that faith which is of divine operation, they accept of 
pardon and peace as obtained by Christ, and freely exhibited 
to them in the gospel. " We joy in God," says an apostle, 
" through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now re- 
ceived the atonement," or rather the reconciliation — Rom. 
v. 11. 

3. He purchased for his elect an everlasting inheritance in 
the kingdom of heaven. Christ not only sustained the full 
infliction of the penalty of the law, to obtain for his people 
deliverance from condemnation, but also perfectly fulfilled 
its precept, to procure for them a title to the eternal inheri- 
tance. Indeed, his endurance of the penalty, and his obe- 
dience to the precept of the law, though they may be distin- 
guished, cannot be separated, and constitute that one ligJi- 
teousness which is meritorious of their complete salvation. 
" Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by 
Jesus Christ our Lord." — Rom. v. 21. " By Christ's satisfac- 
tion," says the accurate Witsius, " deliverance from sin, and 
all the happy effects of that immunity, were purchased at 
once for all the elect in general."* 

Section YI. — Although the work of redemption was 
not actually wrought by Christ till after liis incarnation, 
yet the virtue, efficac}^, and benefits thereof, Avere com- 
municated unto the elect in all ages successively from the 
beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, 

* Witsius on the Economy of the Covenants, book ii., ch. 7. See !x\so the 
excellent Dissertations of Turretin, vol. iv.— I>e Satisfactiotte Christi. 



and sacrifices, wherein he was revealed and signified to 
be the Seed of the woman which should bruise the ser- 
pent's head, and the Lamb slain from the beginning of 
the world, being yesterday and to-day the same, and for 

36 Gal. iv. 4, 5. Gen. iii. 15. Rev. xiii. 8. Heb. xiii. 8. 

This section asserts the efficacy of the death of Christ for 
the salvation of sinners before, as well as since, he actually 
laid down his life. Though foiu' thousand years elapsed be- 
fore he actually appeared in the flesh, and put away sin by the 
sacrifice of himself, yet he was exhibited from the beginning 
of the world, in promises, predictions, and types ; and be- 
lievers under the Old Testament were saved by the merit of 
his sacrifice, as well as those under the New. Abraham 
" rejoiced to see his day," and was justified by faith in him. 
** His death is not more efficacious now, nor will be to eter- 
nity, than it was before ; for he is the same in point of virtue 
yesterday, in the ages past, as he is to-day, at present, and will 
be in the ages to come"*" — Heb. xiii. 8. Let us rejoice that 
his death still possesses the same virtue and efficacy that 
ever it had ; nothing more is required but the application of 
faith for the communication to us of its fruits and effects. 

Section YII. — Christ, in the work of mediation, 
acteth 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 some- 
times in Scripture attributed to the person denominated 
by the other nature.*' 

3T Heb. ix. 14. 1 Pet. iii. 18. 1 ^s Actsxx. 28. John iii. 13. 1 John 

I iii. 16. 


In opposition to Roman Catholics, who maintain that Christ 
is mediator only as man, this* section asserts that Christ, as 
mediator, acteth according to both natures. The Scriptures 
teach us that he acted as mediator prior to his assumption 
of human nature. It is a mediatorial act — the act of a pro- 
phet, to reveal the will of God ; and it cannot be questioned 
that Christ was the author of revelation under the old as 
well as the new dispensation. It is a mediatorial act to in- 
tercede for the Church ; but this Christ did long before his 
incarnation. — Zech. i. 12. And since his incarnation the 
* Charrock's Works, vol. ii., p. 563. 


mediator acts as God-man, and the works peculiar to each 
natm-e are ascribed to the person of Christ, in which both 
natures are united. The human nature alone could suffer 
and die ; yet it is said, " The Lord of glory was crucified ;" 
and, "God purchased the Church with his own blood." — 1 Cor. 
ii. 8 ; Acts xx. 28. This claims our special attention ; for 
upon the communion of the two natures in the person of 
Christ, in all mediatory acts, especially as a surety, the in- 
herent value of his work principally depends. 

Section VIII. — To all those for whom Christ hath 
purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually 
apply and communicate the same;^ maldng intercession 
for them;^ and revealing unto them, in and hy the 
Word, the mysteries of salvation;^' effectually persua- 
ding them by his Spirit to believe and obey ; and 
governing their hearts by his AVord and Spirit ;^^ over- 
coming all their enemies by his almighty power and 
wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant 
to his w^onderful and unsearchable dispensation.*^ 

39 John vi. 37, 39; x. 15, 16. I *2 John xiv. 16. Heb. xii. 2. 2 Cor. 

*o 1 John ii. 1, 2. Rom. viii, 34. I iv. 13. Rom. viii. 9, 14 ; xv. 18, 

*i John XV. 13, 15. Eph. i. 7-9. John | 19. John xvii. 17. 

xvii. 6. 1 *•■' Ps. ex. 1. 1 Cor. xv. 25, 26. Mai. 

I iv, 2, 3. Col. ii. 15. 


This section relates to the extent of Christ's death with 
respect to its objects, and in opposition to the Arminian 
tenet, that Christ died for all men — for those who shall 
finally perish, as well as for those who shall be eventually 
saved ; it affirms that the purchase and application of redemp- 
tion are exactly of the same extent. In the fifth section we 
were taught that Christ purchased redemption only for "those 
whom the Father hath given unto him;" and here it is asserted, 
that, " to all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemp- 
tion, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate 
the same." It was formerly remarked, that, at the period 
when the Confession was framed, the phrase to jmrchase re- 
demption was nearly synonymous with the phrase to make 
atonement for sin. What lang-uage, then, could affirm more 
explicitly than that here employed, that the atonement of 
Christ is specific and limited— that it is neither universal 
nor indefinite, but restricted to the elect, who shall be saved 
from wrath through him ? 

The sacrifice of Christ derived infinite value from the 


dignity of his person ; it must, therefore, have been intrinsi- 
cally sufl&cient to expiate the sins of the whole human race 
had it been so intended ; but, in the designation of the Father, 
and in the intention of Christ himself, it was limited to a 
definite number, who shall ultimately obtain salvation. This 
important truth may be confirmed by the foUowing argu- 
ments : — 

1. Restrictive terms are frequently employed in Scripture 
to express the objects of the death of Christ : "He bare the 
sin of many." " He gave his life a ransom for many." — Isa. 
liii. 12 ; ]Matt. xx. 28. Does not this intimate that Christ 
died, not for all men, but only for many ? 

2. Those for whom Christ died are distinguished from 
others by discriminating characters. They are called the 
sheep, — John x. 15; the church, — Eph.v. 25; God's e?ecf, — Rom. 
viii. 33 ; the children of God. — John xi. 52. 

3. Those whom Christ redeemed by his blood are said to 
be " redeemed /rom ajHow^ men" (Rev. xiv. 4), which, if Christ 
had redeemed all men, would be an unmeaniug and incon- 
sistent phrase ; they are also said to be " redeemed otit of 
every kindred," &c. (Rev. v. 9), which certainly implies that 
only some of every kindred are redeemed. 

4. The redemption obtained by Christ is restricted to those 
who were " chosen in him," and whom the Father gave to him 
to redeem by his death. — Eph. i. 4, 7; John xvii. 2. 

5. Christ died in the character of a surety, and therefore 
he laid down his life only for those whom he represented, or 
for his spiritual seed. — Isa. liii. 10. 

6. The intention of Christ in laying down his life was, not 
merely to obtain for those for whom he died a possibility of 
salvation, but actually to save them — to bring them to the 
real possession and enjovment of eternal salvation. — Eph. v. 
25, 26 ', Tit. ii. 14 ; 1 Pet. iii. 18 ; 1 Thess. v. 10. From this, 
it inevitably follows, that Christ died only for those who shall 
be saved in him with an everlasting salvation. 

7. The intercession of Christ proceeds upon the ground of 
his atoning sacrifice ; they must, therefore, be of the same 
extent with regard to their objects ; but he does not pray 
for the world, but only for those who were given him out of 
the world ; his sacrifice must, therefore, be restricted to that 
definite number. — 1 John ii. 1, 2 ; John xvii. 9. 

8. An apostle infers from the gi-eatness of God's love in 
delivering up his Son to death for sinners, that he will not 
withhold from them any of the blessings of salvation ; we 
must, therefore, conclude that Christ did not die for all man- 
kind. — Rom. viii. 32. 


9. The same apostle infers the certainty of our salvation 
by the life of Christ, fi*om our reconciliation to God by his 
death ; now, since all are not saved by his life, we must 
conclude that all were not reconciled by his death. — Rom. 
V. 10. 

10. Christ, by his death, procured for his people not only 
salvation, but all the means leading to the enjoyment of it; 
consequently, his intention in dying must be limited to those 
who do repent and believe, and not extended to the whole 
human race. 

11. The doctrine that Christ died for all men leads to 
many absurd consequences, such as, — That Christ shed his 
blood for many in vain, since all are not saved; that he 
laid down his life in absolute uncertainty whether any of 
the human race would be eventually saved ; that he shod 
his blood for millions who, at the very moment of his death, 
were consigned to the pit of everlasting destruction; that 
he died for those for wliom he does not intercede ; that he 
died for those to whom he never sent the means of salvation, 
yea, to some of whom he even forbade his gospel to be 
preached, — Matt. x. 5; Rom. x. 14; and that God acts un- 
justly in inflicting everlasting punishment upon men for 
those very transgressions for which he has already received 
full satisfaction by the death of Christ. To affirm any of 
these things, would be blasphemous in the highest degree ; 
and, therefore, that doctiine which involves such conse- 
quences must be unscriptural. 

Universal terms are sometimes used in Scripture in refer- 
ence to the death of Christ; but reason and common sense 
demand that general phrases be explained and defined by 
those that are special, and which can only admit of one inter- 
pretation. The meaning in each case may usually be ascer- 
tained from the context; and one oljvious reason for the use 
of indefinite and universal terms in relation to the death of 
Christ is, to intimate that the saving effects of his death ex- 
tend to some of all nations — to Gentiles as well as Jews — to 
all classes and descriptions of men.* 

* On this topic numerous publications have lately appeared ; among the 
earlier productions, we would refer to Hurrion's Four Sermons in the Lime- 
street Lectures, and especially to Dr Owen's Treatise, Salus Electorum, 
Sanguis Jesu, which, in fact, exhausts the subject. 

SECT. 1.] OF FREE WILL. 115 



Section I. — God hath endued the will of man with 
that natural liberty that it is neither forced, nor l>y any 
absolute necessity of nature determined, to good or 

1 Matt. xvii. 12. James i. 14. Deut. xxx. 19. 

The decision of most of the points in controversy between 
Calvinists and Arminians, as President Edwards has observed, 
depends on the determination of the question^-W here in con- 
skis that freedom of will ichich is requisite to moral agencij f Ac- 
cording- to Arminians three things belong to the freedom of 
the will : — 1. That the will has a self-determining jwirer, or a 
certain sovereignty over itself, and its own acts, whereby it 
determines its own volitions. 2. A state of indifference, or 
that equilibriiim, whereby the will is without all antecedent 
bias, and left entirely free from any prepossessing inclination 
to one side or the other. 3. That the volitions, or acts of 
the will, are contingent, not only as ojjposed to all constraint, 
but to all necessity, or any fixed and certain connection with 
some previous ground or reason of their existence. Calvinists, 
on the other hand, contend that a power in the will to deter- 
mine its own determinations, is either unmeaning, or supposes, 
contrary to the first principles of philosophy, something to 
arise without a cause ; that the idea of the soul exerting an 
act of choice or preference, while, at the same time, the will 
is in a perfect equilibrium, or state of indifference, is full of 
absurdity and self-contradiction ; and that, as nothing can 
ever come to pass without a cause, the acts of the will are 
never contingent, or without necessity — understanding by 
necessity, a necessity of consequence, or an infallible connection 
with something foregoing.* According to Calvinists, the 
liberty of a moral agent consists in the j^ower of acting ac- 
cording to his choice ; and those actions are free which are 
performed without any external compulsion or restraint, in 
consequence of the determinations of his own mind. "The 
necessity of man's willing and acting in conformity to his 
apprehensions and disposition, is, in their opinion, fully con- 
sistent with all the liberty which can belong to a rational 
* See Edwards' Inquiry into Freedom of Will. 




nature. The infinite Being necessarily wills and acts accord- 
ing to the absolute perfection of his nature, yet with the 
highest liberty. Angels necessarily will and act according 
to the perfection of their natures, yet with full liberty ; for 
this sort of necessity is so far from interfering with liberty 
of will, that the i^erfectiou of the will's liberty lies in such a 
necessity. The very essence of its liberty lies in acting con- 
sciously, choosing or refusing without any external com- 
jiulsion or constraint, but according to inward principles of 
rational apprehension and natural disposition." * 

Section II Man, in his state of innocency, had free- 
dom and power to will and to do that which is good and 
Avell pleasing to God; ^ but yet mutably, so that he might 
fall from it.^ 

Section III. — Man, by his fall into a state of sin, 
hath wholly lost all ability of wall to any spiritual good 
accompanying salvation;^ so as a natural man, being 
altogether averse from that good,^ and dead in sin,^ is 
not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to 
prepare himself thereunto."^ 

Section IY. — When God converts a sinner, and trans- 
lates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from 
his natm-al bondage under sin,^ and by his grace alone 
enables him freely to will and to do that which is 
spiritually good; ^ yet so as that, by reason of his remain- 
ing corruption, he doth not perfectly nor only will that 
which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.^° 

Section V. — The will of man is made perfectly and 
immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory 

- Eccl. vii, 29. Gen. i. 26. 
•■» Gen. ii. 16,17; iii. 6. 
* Rom. V. 6 ; viii. 7. John xv. 5. 
6 Rom. iii. 10, 12. 
« Eph. ii. 1, 5. Col. ii. 13. 
"> John vi. 44, 65. Eph. ii. 2-5. 1 Cor. 
ii. 14. Tit. iii. 3-5. 

8 Col. i. 13. John viii. 34, 36. 

9 Phil. ii. 13. Rom. vi. 18, 22. 

10 Gal. V. 17. Rom. vii. 15, 18,' 19, 

21, 23. 
" Eph. iv. 13. Heb. xii. 23. IJohn 

iii. 2. Jude 24. 


The human will is not a distinct agent, but only a power 
of tlie rational soul. It is essential to a soul to have a moral 
* Adam Gib on Liberty and Necessity ; Contemplations, p. 484. 

SECT. 2-5.] OF FREE WILL. 1 1 7 

dlsjMsition, good or bad, or a mixture of both ; and, according 
to what is the prevailing moral disposition of the soul, must 
be the moral actings of the will. Hence there is a great 
diflPerence in regard to the freedom of the will in the diffe- 
rent states of man. In the state of innocence, the natural 
inclination of man's will was only to good ; but it was liable 
to change through the power of temptation, and therefore 
free to choose evil. In his natural cornipt state, man freely 
chooses evil, without any compulsion or constraint on his 
will ; and he cannot do otherwise, being under the bondage 
of sin. In the state of grace, he has a free will partly to 
good and partly to evil. In this state there is a mixture of 
two opposite moral dispositions, and as sometimes the one, 
and sometimes the other, prevails, so the will sometimes 
chooses that which is good, and sometimes that which is 
evil. In the state of glory, the blessed freely choose what 
is good ; and, being confirmed in a state of perfect holiness, 
they can only will what is good. 

The important truth laid down in the third section con- 
cerning man's inability, in his fallen state, to will or do that 
which is spiritually good, claims some further notice. It has 
been opposed by various sects. The Pelagians maintained 
" that mankind are capable of repentance and amendment, 
and of arriving to the highest degrees of piety and virtue by 
the use of their natural faculties and powers." The Semi- 
Pelagians, though they allowed that assisting grace is neces- 
sary to enable a man to continui in a course of religious duties, 
yet they held " that inward preventing grace was not necessary 
to form in the soul the first beginnings of true repentance and 
amendment ; that every man was capable of producing these 
by the mere power of his natural faculties ; as also of exer- 
cising faith in Christ, and forming the purposes of a holy and 
sincere obedience." * The Arminians, in words, ascribe the 
conversion of the sinner to the grace of God ; yet they ulti- 
mately resolve it into the free-will of man. In opposition to 
these various forms of error, our Confession asserts that man, 
in his natural cornipt state, " has lost all ability of will to 
any spiritual good accompanying salvation," and that " a 
natural man is not able, by his own strength, to convert 
himself, or to prepare himself thereunto." This may be 
confirmed, — 1. By the representations given in Scripture of 
the natural condition of mankind sinners. They are said to 
be " dead in trespasses and sins ;" to be not only blind, but 
" darkness" itself ; to be " the servants of sin ;" to be " ene- 
mies of God," who are not, and cannot be, subject to his law. — 
* Mosheim, cent, v., p. 2, ch. 5. 


Eph. ii. 1, V. 8 ; Rom. vi. 17 ; Col. i. 21 ; Roin. viii. 7. 2. The 
Scripture contains explicit declarations of man's inability to 
exercise faith in Christ, or to do anything spiritually good — 
John vi. 44, xv. 5. 3. God claims the conversion of sinners 
as his own work, which he promises to accomplish. — Ezek. 
xi. 19, 20, xxxvi. 26, 27; Jer. xxxi. 33, 4. The conversion 
of sinners is uniformly ascribed to the efficacy of divine 
grace. — Acts xvi. 14 ; 1 Thess. i. 5. 5. The conversion of the 
soul is described in Scripture by such figurative terms as 
imply that it is a divine work. It is called a creation, — Eph. 
ii. 10; a resurrection, — John v. 21; a new birth, — John i. 13. 
6. If the sinner could convert himself, then he would have 
something of which he might boast — something which he 

had not received 1 Cor. i. 29, 30, iv. 7. 7. The increase 

of Chiistians in faith and holiness is spoken of as the work 
of God ; which must more strongly imply that the fii'st begin- 
nings of it is to be ascribed to hira. — Phil. i. 6, ii. 13; Heb. 
xiii. 20, 21. We only add, that man's incapacity of willing 
or doing that which is spiritually good, being a moral inability^ 
is not inconsistent with his responsibility. 



Section I. — AH those whom God hath predestinated 
unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed 
and accepted time, effectually to call,^ by his Word and 
Spirit,^ out of that state of sin and death in which they 
are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ;' 
enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to un- 
<ierstand the things of God;* taking away their heart of 
stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh ; ^ renew- 
ing their wills, and by his almighty power determining 
them to that which is good,'' and effectually drawing 

1 Rom. viii. 30; xi. 7. Eph. i. 10. 11. I * Acts xxvi. 18. 1 Cor.ii. 10, 12. Eph. 

2 2 Thess. ii. 13, 14. 2 Cor. iii. 3, 6. | i. 17, 18. « Ezek. xxxvi. 06. 

2 Rom. viii. 2. Eph.ii. 1 5. 2 Tim. I « Ezek. xi. 19. Phil. ii. 13. Deut. 
'• 9- If*. I XXX. 6. Ezek. xxxvi. 27. 


them to Jesus Christ;^ yet so as they come most freely, 
being made willing by his grace.** 

Section II. — This effectual call is of God's free and 
special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in 
man;^ who is altogether passive therein, until, being 
quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit,^" he is thereby 
enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace 
offered and conveyed in it." 

' Eph. i. 19. John vi. 44, 45. I ^^ 1 Cor. ii. 14. Rom. viii. 7. Eph. 

8 Cant. i. 4. Ps. ex. 3. John vi. 37. | ii. 5. 

Kom. vi. lG-18. ^'- John vi. 37. Ezek. xxxvi. 27. John 

9 2 Tim. i. 9. Tit. iii. 4, 5. Eph. ii. v. 25. 

4, 5, 8, 9. Rom. ix. 11. 


There is an external call of the gospel, whereby all who hear 
it are called to the fellowship of Christ, and to receive a full 
salvation Id him, without money and without price. — Isa. Iv. 1. 
This call is not confined to the elect, nor restricted to those 
who are sensible of their sins, and feel their need of a Sa- 
viour, or who possess some good qualifications to distinguish 
them from others ; but it is addressed to mankind sinners as 
such, withoT\t distinction, and without exception. All who 
come under the general denomination of men, whatever be 
their character and state, have this call directed to them : 
" To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of 
men." — Prov. viii. 4. " Look imto me, and be ye saved, all 
the ends of tlie earth" — sinners of every nation, of every . 

rank, and condition. — Isa. xlv. 22. To reconcile the unli- C) ny 
mited call of the gospel with the doctrines of particular J ^ j 
election and a definite atonement, seems to exceed the efforts 
of the human mind. But though we cannot discover the 
princijile which reconciles them, the doctrines themselves 
are clearly taught in the Word of God; and are, therefore, to 
be received with unhesitating confidence. That the call of 
the gospel is indefinite and universal, that God is sincere in 
addressing this call to all to whom the gospel comes, and 
that none who comply with the call shall b'e disappointed ; 
these are unquestionable truths. But the outward call by 
the Word is of itself ineffectual. Though all withoiit excep- 
tion are thus called, yet multitudes refuse to hearken, and 
in this respect " many are called, but few are chosen;" that 
is, few are determined effectually to embrace the call. But 
there is also an internal call, in which the Holy Spirit accom- 
panies the external call with power and efficacy iipon the 


soul ; and tliis call is always effectual. This effectual work of 
the Spirit is termed a calling, because men are naturally 
at a distance from Christ, and are hereby brought into fellow- 
ship with him. They are called " out of that state of sin and 
death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by 
Jesus Christ" — out of darkness into marvellous light — out of 
the world that lieth in wickedness into the family of God — 
from a state of bondage into a state of glorious liberty — from 
a state of sin unto holiness — and from a state of w^rath unto 
tlie hope of eternal glory. Concerning this calling Ave are 
here taught, — 

1. That the elect alone are partakers of it : " All those 
whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he 
is pleased effectually to call." The subjects of this work are 
said to be " called according to God's purpose," and " whom 
he did predestinate, them he also called," — Rom. viii. 28, 30; 

2 Tim. i, 9. Those who dispense the Word know not who 
are included in " the election of grace," and must, therefore, 
address the calte and invitations of the gospel to men indis- 
criminately. They draw the bow at a venture, but the Lord, 
who " knoweth them that are his," directs the arrow, so as 
to cause it to strike home to the hearts of those whom he 
" hath chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world." 

2. That this calling is under the direction of the sovereign 
will and pleasure of God as to the time of it. He is pleased to 
call his elect " in his appointed and accepted time." Some 
are called into the vineyard at the third hour, some at the 
sixth, some at the ninth, and some even at the eleventh hour 
of the day. Some, like good Obadiah, have feared the Lord 
from their youth ; others, like Saul of Tarsus, have been born, 
as it were, out of due time. There is also a diversity with 
respect to the maimer of this calling. Some, like Lydia, have 
been secretly and sweetly allured to the Saviour, and could 
hardly declare the time or manner in which the happy 
change began ; others, like the Philippian jailer, have for a 
season suffered the terrors of the Lord, and been made to 
cry out, trembling and astonished, " What shall I do to be 
saved ?" — Acts xvi. 

3. That this calling is effected by the Word and Spirit. 
The Word is visually the outward means employed, and the 
Holy Spirit is always the efficient agent, in calling men into 
the kingdom of grace. If, in any instance, the call of the 
gospel proves successful, it is not owing to the piety or 
persuasive eloquence of those who dispense the gospel 
(1 (!!or. iii. 7); neither is it on account of one making a better 
use than another of his own free will (Rom. ix. 16) ; it is 


solely to be ascribed to the power of the Divine Spirit ac- 
companying the outward call of the Word, — 1 Thess. i. 5. By 
means of the law, the Spirit convinces them of their sinful- 
ness, shows them the danger to which they are exposed, 
and discovers to them the utter insufficiency of their own 
works of righteousness as the ground of their hope and trust 
for acceptance before God. By means of the gospel, he en- 
lightens their minds in the knowledge of Christ — discovers 
to them the glory of his person, the perfection of his righ- 
teousness, the suitableness of his offices, and the fulness of 
his grace ; shows them his ability to save to the uttermost, 
his suitableness to their condition, and his willingness to re- 
ceive all that come to him. He also takes away their heart 
of stone, and gives unto them an heart of flesh — renews their 
wills, and effectually determines and enables them to em- 
brace Christ as their OAvn Saviour. 

4. That in this calling no violence is offered to the will. 
While the Spirit effectually draws sinners to Christ, he deals 
with them in a Avay agreeable to their rational nature, " so 
as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace." 
The liberty of the will is not invaded, for that would destroy 
its very nature; but its obstinacy is overcome, its perverse- 
ness taken away, and the whole soul powerfully, yet sweetly, 
attracted to the Saviour. The compliance of the soul is 
voluntary, while the energy of the Spirit is efficient and 
almighty : " Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy 
power." — Ps, ex. 3. 

5. That in this calling the operations of the Holy Spirit are 
invincible. As Arminians and others maintain that God 
gives sufficient grace to all men, upon the due improvement 
of which they may be saved, if it is not their own fault, so 
they also hold that there are no operations of the Spirit in 
conversion which do not leave the sinner in such a state as 
that he may either comply with them or not. It is obvious 
that this opinion makes the success of the Spirit's work to 
depend on the sinner's free will, so that those who do ac- 
tually obey the call of the gospel are not more indebted to 
God than those who reject it, but may take praise to them- 
selves for having made a better use of their power, in direct 
opposition to Scripture, which declares that " it is not of him 
that willeth, but of God that showeth mercy." We admit 
that there are common operations of the Spirit which do not 
issue in the conversion of the sinner ; but we maintain that 
the qncial operations of the Spirit overcome all opposition, 
and effectually determine the sinner to embrace Jesus Christ 
as he is offered in the gospel. If the special operations of 


the Spirit were not invincible, but might be effectually re- 
sisted, then it would be uncertain whether any would believe 
or not, and consequently possible that all which Christ had 
done and suffered in the work of redemption might have 
been done and suffered in vain. 

6. That this calling proceeds from the free grace of God. 
The term grace is sometimes used to denote the influence of 
the Holy Spirit on the heart, and sometimes to denote the 
free favour of God, as opposed to all merit on the part of 
his creatures. It is to be understood in the latter sense 
when this effectual call is said to be " of God's free and 
special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in 
man." Previous to their vocation, men can perform no work 
that is spiritually good ; and, after their conversion, their best 
works are imperfect, and cannot entitle them to any reward. 
God is not, therefore, influenced to call them on account of 
any good works which they have already done, nor from the 
foresight of anything to be afterwards done by them. — 2 Tim. 
i. 9 ; Tit. iii. 5. To manifest that this call is entirely owing 
to the free grace of God, and to display the exceeding riches 
of his grace, God is sometimes pleased to call the very chief 
of sinners. 

7. That in this calling the sinner is altogether fa^slve, until 
he is quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit. Here it is 
proper to distinguish between regeneration and conversion ; 
in the former the sinner is passive — in the latter he is active, 
or co-operates with the grace of God. In regeneration a 
principle of grace is implanted in the soul, and previous to 
this the sinner is incapable of morai activity; for, in the 
language of inspiration, he is " dead in trespasses and sins." 
In conversion the soul turns to God, which imports activity; 
but still the sinner only acts as he is acted upon by God, who 
" worketh in him both to will and to do." 

Section III. — Elect infants, dying in infancy, are 
regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit,^^ 
who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth.^' 
So also are all other elect persons, who are incapable of 
being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.^* 

»2 Luke xviii. 15, 16. Acts ii. 38, 39. I " John iii. 8. 

John iii. 3, 5. 1 John v. 12. i* 1 John v. 12, Acts. iv. 12. 
Rom. viii. 9. I 


The Holy Spirit usually works by means ; and the Word, ^^ 
read or preached, is the ordinary means which he renders 

SECT. 4.^ 



effectual to the salvation of sinners. But he has immediate 
access to the hearts of men, and can produce a saving change 
in them without the use of ordinary means. "As infants 
are not fit subjects of instruction, their regeneration must be 
effected without means, by the immediate agency of the Moly 
Spirit on their souls. There are adult persons, too, to whom 
the use of reason has been denied. It would be harsh and 
unwarrantable to suppose that they are, on this account, 
excluded from salvation ; and to such of them as God has 
chosen, it may be applied in the same manner as to infants." * 

Section IV. — Others not elected, although they may 
be called by the ministry of the Word,'^ and may have 
some common operations of the Spirit,^® yet they never 
truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: '^ 
much less can men not professing the Christian religion 
be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they ever so 
diligent to frame their lives according to the hght of 
nature and the law of that religion they do profess; '^ 
and to assert and maintain that they may, is very per- 
nicious, and to be detested.''' 

15 Matt, xxii, 14. 

16 Matt. vii. 22; xiii. 20, 21. Heb. 

vi. 4, 5. 
'^ John vi. 64-66; viii. 24. 

Acts iv. 12. Johnxiv. 6. Eph. ii. 

12. Johniv. 22; xvii. 3. 
2 John 9-11. 1 Cor. xvi. 22. Gal. 

i. 6-8. 


The doctrines stated in this section are the following : — 

1. That though those who are not elected have the exter- 
nal call of the gospel addressed to them, in common with 
those who are elected, yet " they never truly come to Christ, 
and therefore cannot be saved." 

2. That there are "common operations of the Spirit," which 
produce convictions of sin, by means of the law in the con- 
science; and joyous emotions, by means of the gospel, in the 
affections of men in their natural state ; which do not issue in 

3. That those cannot be saved who are totally destitute of 
revelation. " Though the invitation which nature gives to 
seek God be sufficient to render them without excuse who do 
not comply with it (Rom. i. 20), yet it is not sufficient, even 
objectively, for salvation ; for it does not afford that lively 
hope which maketh not ashamed, for this is only revealed by 
tlie gospel; whence the Gentiles are said to have been with- 
out hope in the world. — Eph. ii. 12. It does not show the true 

* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. iii., p. 265. 


way to the enjoyment of God, which is no other than faith in 
Christ. It does not sufficiently instruct us about the manner 
in which we ought to worship and please God, and do what 
is acceptable to him. In short, this call by nature never did, 
nor is it even possible that it ever can, bring any to the saving 
knowledge of God ; the gospel alone is the ' power of God 
nnto salvation, to every one that believeth.' — Rom. i. 16. 
We are persuaded there is no salvation without Christ 
(Acts iv. 12) ; no communion of adult persons with Christ, 
but by faith in him (Eph. iii. 17) ; no faith in Christ without 
the knowledge of him (John xvii. 3 ;) no knowledge but by 
the preaching of the gospel (Rom. x. 14) ; no preaching of 
the gospel in the works of nature ; for it is that mystery which 
was kept secret since the world began." — Rom. xvi. 25. * 

Let us be thankful that we are favoured with the revela- 
tion and free offer of Christ in the gospel. Let us give all 
diligence to make sure our election, by making sure our call- 
ing; and if we have, indeed, been made "partakers of the 
heavenly calling," let us "walk worthy of the vocation where- 
with we are called," and " worthy of God, who hath called 
us unto his kingdom and glory." 



Section I. — Those whom God effectually calleth he 
also freely justifieth; ^ not by infusing righteousness into 
them, but by pardoning their sins, and b}^ accounting 
and accepting their persons as righteous : not for any 
thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's 
sake alone : not by imputing faith itself, the act of 
believing, or any other evangelical obedience, to them as 
their righteousness ; but by imputing the obedience and 
satisfaction of Christ unto them," they receiving and 

1 Rom. viii. 30; iii. 24. I Titus iii. 5, 7. Eph. i. 7. Jer. 

2 Rom. iv. 5-8. 2 Cor. v. 19, 21. xxiii. 6. 1 Cor. i. 30, 31. Rom, 

Rom. iii, 22, 24, 25, 27, 28. I v. 17-19, 

* Witsius* Economy of the Covenants, book iii., ch. 5, sect. 13, 14. 


resting on him and his righteousness by faith: which 
faith they have not of themselves ; it is the gift of God.^ 

Section II. — Faith, thus receiving and resting on 
Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of 
justification;* yet is it not alone in the person justified, 
but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, 
and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.^ 

3 Acts X. 44. Gal. ii. 16. Phil. iii. 9. | * John i. 12. Rom. iii. 28; v. 1. 
Acts xiii. 38, 39. Eph. ii. 7, 8. | « James ii. 17, 22, 26. Gal. v. 6. 


I The doctrine of justification by faith holds a most im- 
I portant place in the Christian system. It was justly termed 
by Luther, articuliis stantis xel cadentis ecclesice — the test of a 
standing or of a falling Church. In the Church of Rome 
this doctrine was most grossly corrupted ; and it was emi- 
nently through the preaching of the scriptural doctrine of 
justification that the reformation from Popery was effected. 
Even in the Protestant Churches, however, pernicious errors 
in regard to this subject have been widely disseminated, 
and at difi^erent periods have produced much acrimonious 
controversy. In our Confession, the scriptural doctrine of 
justification is accurately discriminated from the various 
forms of error ; and, in the progress of our exposition, we 
shall point out the errors to which the statements of the Con- 
fession are opposed. 

I. Justification is a judicial act of God, and is not a change 
of nature, but a change of the sinner's state in relation to the 
law. The Church of Rome confounds justification with sanc- 
tification, and represents justification as a physical act, con- 
sisting in the infusion of righteousness into the souls of men, 
making them internally and personally just. But though 
justification and sanctification be inseparably connected, yet 
they are totally distinct, and the blending of them together 
perverts both the law and the gospel. Justification, accord- 
ing to the use of the word in Scripture, must be understood 
forensically ; it is a law term, derived from human courts of 
judicature, and signifies, not the making of a person righteous, 
but the holding and declaring him to be righteous in law. 
The forensic sense of the word is manifest from its being fre- 
quently ojiposed to condemnation. — Deut. xxv. 1 ; Prov. xvii. 
15; Rom. v. 16, viii. 33, 34. Condemnation lies not in infus- 
ing wickedness into a criminal, or in making him guilty, 
but in judicially pronouncing sentence upon him according 
his transgression of the law; so justification does not lie 


iu infusing righteousness into a person, but in declaring hiin 
to be righteous on legal grounds; and, like the sentence of a 
judge, it is completed at once. 

Socinians, and some others, represent justification as con- 
sisting only in the pardon of sin. In opposition to this, our 
Confession declares that God justifies those whom he eifec- 
tually calls, not only " by pardoning their sins," but also "by 
accounting and accepting their persons as righteous." The 
pardon of sin is unquestionably one important part of justi- 
fication. It consists in the removal of guilt, or the absolution 
of the sinner from the obligation to punishment which he 
lay under by virtue of the sentence of the violated law. The 
pardon which God bestows is full and complete. It includes 
all sins, be they ever so numerous, and extends to all their 
aggravations, be they ever so enormous. Thus saith the 
Lord, " I will pardon all their iniquities whereby they have 
sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me." — 
Jer. xxxiii. 8. All the sins of the believer are at once par- 
doned in his justification ; his past sins are formally forgiven, 
and his future sins will not be imputed, so that he cannot 
come into condemnation. — Ps. xxxii. 1, 2; John v. 24. 
But the pardon of sin alone would only restore the believer 
to such a state of probation as that from which Adam fell ; 
he would be under no legal charge of guilt, but still he would 
have no legal title to eternal life. But when God justifies a 
sinner, he does not merely absolve him from guilt, or from a 
liableness to eternal death; he also pronounces him righteous, 
and, as such, entitled to eternal life. Hence, it is called 
" the justification of life;" and they who " receive the gift of 
righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." — 
Rom. V. 17, 18. 

II. No man can be justified before God, in whole or in 
part, on the ground of a personal righteousness of any kind. 
Romanists, Socinians, and Pelagians, maintain that we are 
justified either by a personal inherent righteousness, or by 
our own works.* In opposition to this, our Confession teaches 
that persons are not justified " for anything wrought in them, 
or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone." That we 
cannot be justified by an inherent righteousness, is manifest, — 
1. Because we can only be justified on the ground of a per- 
fect righteousness, and our inherent righteousness is imper- 

* The Church of Rome pleads for a double justification. The first, con- 
sisting in the remission of sin and the renovation of the inward man, is said 
to be by faith, in a sense, however, which does not exclude merit and predis- 
posing qualifications ; the sp.cond, whereby we are adjudged to everlasting 
Mfo, is said to be by inherent righteousness and by works, performed by the 
aid of that grace wliich was infused in the first. Concil. Trident., sess. v'x.^de 


feet ; for the Scripture saitli, " There is no man that sinneth 
not." — 1 Kings viii. 46. 2, Because the righteousness by 
which we are justified is not our own. — Phil, iii. 9. 3. Be- 
cause the sentence of justification must, in the order of 
nature, though not of time, precede the implantation of in- 
herent hoHness. 4. Because, if we were justified by an 
inherent righteousness, it could not be said that God "justi- 
fieth the ungodly." — Rom. iv. 5. 

That we cannot be justified by our own works is no less 
manifest, — 1. Because our personal obedience falls far short 
of the requirements of the law. The law demands obedience 
in all respects perfect; but " in many things we offend all." — 
James iii. 2, 2. Because our obedience, tkough it were com- 
mensurate to the high demands of the law, could not satisfy 
for our past transgressions. The law requires not only the 
fulfilment of its precejil^but also the endurance of its penalty: 
" Without shedding of blood there is no remission." — Heb. 
ix. 22. 3. Because we are justified freely by grace, and 
grace and works are diametrically opposed.— Rom. iii. 24, 
xi. 6. 4. Because justification by works not only makes 
void the grace of God, but also renders the death of Christ 
useless, and of no effect. — Gal. ii. 21.*' 5. Because we are 
justified in such a way as excludes all boasting. — Rom. iii. 
27. 6. Because justification by works is in direct contradic- 
tion to the uniform testimony of Scripture. The Apostle 
Paul fully discusses the subject of justification in his Epistles 
to the Romans and to the Galatians; and in both of these 
Epistles he explicitly declares, that " by the deeds of the 
law there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God." — 
Rom. iii. 20; Gal. ii. 16. In answer to this argument, it has 
been often urged, that the works which the apostle excludes 
from the ground of the sinner's justification before God, are 
only works of the ceremonial, not of the moral, law. This 
" witty shift," Calvin says, the " wrangling disputants" of his 
time borrowed from Origen and some of tlie old writers; and 
he declares it is " very foolish and absurd," and calls upon 
his readers to " maintain this for a certain truth, that the 
whole law is spoken of, when the power of justifying is taken 
away from the laAv."f " The reference," says Mr Haldane, 
" is to every law that God has given to man, whether ex- 
pressed in words or imprinted in the heart. It is that law 
which the Gentiles have transgressed, which they have 
naturally inscribed in their hearts. It is that law which the 
Jews have violated, when they committed theft, adulteries, 

* See the excellent Sermons of Robert Traill on this text. 
t Calvin's Instit., book iii., ch. 11, sect. 19. 


and sacrileges, which convicted them of impiety, of evil 
speaking, of calumny, of murder, of injustice. In one word, 
it is that law which shuts the mouth of the whole world, as 
had been said in the preceding verse, and brings in all men 
guilty before God." * 

Others have contended that the works which the apostle 
excludes from any share in our justification are merely works 
not ijcrformed in faith. This allegation is equally groundless; 
for the apostle excludes works in general — works of every 
sort, without distinction or exception (Eph. ii. 9, 10); and 
the most eminent saints disclaim all dependence upon their 
own works, and deprecate being dealt with according to their 
best performances. — Ps. cxliii. 2; Phil. iii. 8, 9. 

Arminians maintain that faith itself, or the act of believ- 
ing, is accepted as our justifying righteousness. In opposi- 
tion to this our Confession teaches, that God does not justify 
us " by imirating faith itself, the act of believing, as our 
righteousness." And in confirmation of this, we observe, 
that faith, as an act performed by us, is as much a work of 
obedience to the law as any other ; and, therefore, to be jus- 
tified by the act of faith, would be to be justified by a work. 
But this is contrary to the express declarations of Scripture, 
which exclude all sorts of works from the affair of justifica- 
tion. — Gal. ii. 16. Besides, faith is plainly distinguished 
from that righteousness by which we are justified. We read 
of " the righteousness of God which is hy faith of Jesus Christ," 
and of " the righteousness which is of God hy faith." — Rom. iii. 
22; Phil. iii. 9. No language could more clearly show that 
righteousness and faith are two difi^erent things. " Nothing," 
says Mr Haldane, " can be a greater coi-ruption of the truth 
than to represent faith itself as accepted instead of righteous- 
ness, or to be the righteousness that saves the sinner. Faith 
is not righteousness. Righteousness is the fulfilling of the 
law." f 

Neonomians allege, that though we cannot fulfil that per- 
fect obedience which the law of works demanded, yet God 
has been graciously pleased, for Christ's sake, to give us a 
oiew laic ; according to which, sincere obedience, or faith, repen- 
tance, and sincere obedience, are accepted as our justifying 
righteousness. It may be here remarked, that the Scripture 
nowhere gives the slightest intimation that a new and milder 
law has been substituted in place of the law of works ori- 
ginally given to man. Christ came " not to destroy the law, 

* Haldane on the Romans, vol. i., p. 261. On this point see also Owen on 
Justification, ch. 14; Jonathan Edwards' Sermons, pp. 33-52; Rawlinon Jus- 
tification, p, 39 ; and Chalmers on the Romans, pp. 193-199, 

t Haldane on the Romans, vol. i., p. 350. 


but to fulfil it." The gospel was never designed to teach 
sinners that God will now accept of a sincere instead of a per- 
fect obedience, but to direct them to Jesus Christ as " the 
end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.'* 
The idea of a new law, adapted to the present condition of human 
nature, reflects the greatest dishonour both upon the law and 
the Lawgiver; for it assumes that the Lawgiver is mutable, 
and that the law first given to man demanded too much. 

III. The righteousness of Jesus Christ is the sole ground 
of a sinner's justification before God. It is not his essential 
righteousness as God that we intend,* for that is incom- 
municable; but his mediatory or surety- righteousness, which, 
according to our Confession, consists of his " obedience and 
satisfaction." That sinners are justified only on this ground 
might be demonstrated by a multiplicity of proofs. None 
can be justified without a perfect righteousness; for the de- 
mands of the law cannot be set aside or relaxed. The judg- 
ment of God, in pronouncing the sinner righteous, would not 
be according to truth, unless the sentence were founded upon 
a righteousness adequate to the requirements of the law. In 
the Old Testament, the Messiah is mentioned under this en- 
dearing name, " The Lord our Righteousness" (Jer. xxiii. 6) ; 
and it is predicted that he should " bring in everlasting righ- 
teousness." — Dan ix. 21. In the New Testament, Christ is 
said to be " made unto us righteousness;" and we are said to 
be "made the righteousness of God in him." — 1 Cor. i. 30; 
2 Cor. V. 21. It is declared that "by the obedience of one 
shall many be made righteous," and that " by the righteous- 
ness of one, the free gift comes upon all men unto justifica- 
tion of life." — Rom. v. 18, 19. 

IV. Sinners obtain an interest in the righteousness of 
Christ, for their justification, by God imputing it to them, 
and their receiving it by faith. The doctrine of the im- 
putation of Christ's righteousness is rejected, not only by 
Romanists and Socinians, but by several authors of widely 
different sentiments.f Let it be observed, that we plead for 
the imputation of the righteousness of Christ itself, and not 
merely of its effects. " To say that the righteousness of Christ, 
that is, his obedience and sufferings, are imputed to us only 
as to their effects, is to say, that we have the benefit of them, 
and no more; but imputation itself is denied. So say tiie 
Socinians; but they know well enough, and ingenuously grant, 

* This was the opinion ofOsiander, a learned man, who appeared in Ger- 
many in the beginning of the Keformatidn, and who gave Luther and 
Melancthon much annoyance with his notions.— See Mosheitn, cent, xvi., sect. 
3, p. 2, ch. i.,c. 3.5. 

t Among tiie authors here referred to, Dr Dwight and Professor Stuart 
may be mentioned. 



that tliey overthrow all true, real imputation thereby."* The 
effects of Christ's righteousness are communicated to us upon 
the ground of the imputation of his righteousness itself; but 
they are really imparted, and not imputed to us. Many, we 
apprehend, oppose the doctrine of in.putation, owing to their 
misconception of its proper nature. It does not signify the 
infusion of holy dispositions, or the actual ti'ansference of 
the righteousness of Christ to believers, so that it becomes 
inherently and subjectively theirs — that is impossible, in the 
nature of things ; but the meaning is, that God reckons the 
righteousness of Christ to their account, and, in considera- 
tion of it, treats them as if they were righteous. God does 
not reckon that they performed it themselves, for that would 
be a judgment not according to truth; but he accounts it to 
them for their justification. " There are certain technical 
terms in theology," says Dr Chalmers, " which are used so 
currently, that they fail to impress their own meaning on the 
thinking principle. The term ' impute ' is one of them. It 
may hold forth a revelation of its plain sense to you, when 
it is barely mentioned that the term impute in the 6th verse 
(Rom. iv.), is the same in the original with what is employed 
in that verse of Philemon where Paul says, ' If he hath 
wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account.' 
To impute righteousness to a man without works, is simply 
to put righteousness down to his account, though he has not 
performed the works of righteousness."f 

The doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness 
is clearly taught in Scripture. We are represented as being 
constituted righteous by the obedience of Christ, as we are 
constituted sinners by the disobedience of Adam; and this 
can only be by imputation. — Rom. v. 19. We are also said 
to be made the righteousness of God in Christ, as he was 
made sin for us ; and this, likewise, could only be by imputa- 
tion. — 2 Cor. V. 21. We are expressly told that God im- 
puteth righteousness without works. — Rom. iv\ 6. This im- 
putation proceeds upon the grounds of the believer's federal 
union with Christ from eternity, and of his Tital union with 
him in time. Christ, as the surety of his si)i ritual seed, en- 
gaged from everlasting to fulfil this rigliteousness for them; 
he fulfilled it in their nature, and in their room ; and when 
they become vitally united to him by tlie S[)irit and by faith, 
(jod graciously accounts his righteousness to them for their 

V. Faith is the alone instrument of the sinner's justifica- 

* Owen on Justification, ch. 7. 
, \ Chalmers' Lccture6 OB the Romans, vol. i., p. 208. 


tion. That we are justified hy faith is so frequently and ex- 
pressly declared in the Scriptures, that no one who professes 
to receive the Word of God as the rule of his faith can ven- 
ture to deny it. There are very different opinions, however, in 
regard to the office of faith in the justification of a sinner. 
Some say that a sinner is justified by faith, as it is an act 
performed by him ; as if faith came in the room of perfect 
obedience, required by the law. This we have already dis- 
proved; and "it is well known," says Witsius, "that the 
Reformed Churches condemned Arminms and his followers 
for saying that faith comes to be considered, in the matter 
of justification, as a work or act of ours."* Some hare said, 
that faith is to be considered as the condition of our justifi- 
cation. Th& " condition " of anything usually signifies that 
which, being done, gives us a right and title to it, because it 
possesses either intrinsic or conventional merit. To call 
faith, in this sense, the condition of our justification, would 
introduce human merit, to the dishonour of divine grace, and 
would entirely subvert the gospel. Some worthy divines 
have called faith a condition, who were far from being of 
opinion that it is a condition properly so called, on the per- 
formance of which men should, according to the gracious 
covenant of God, have a right to justification as their reward. 
They merely intended, that without faith we cannot be justi- 
fied — that faith must precede justification in the order of 
time or of nature. But as the term "condition" is very 
ambiguous, and calculated to mislead the ignorant, it should 
be avoided. Others have said that faith justifies, as it is in- 
formed and animated by charity. This is the language of the 
Romanists; and here we may fitly use the words of the heroic 
champion of the Reformation. Commenting on Gal. ii. 16, 
he says : " This is the true mean of becoming a Christian, 
even to be justified by faith in Jesus Christ, and not by the 
works of the law. Here we must stand, not upon the wicked 
gloss of the schoolmen, which say, that faith justifieth when 
charity and good works are joined withal. "With this pes- 
tilent gloss, the sophisters have darkened and corrupted this 
and other like sentences in Paul, wherein he manifestly 
attributeth justification to faith only in Christ. But when 
a man heareth that he ought to believe in Christ, and yet, 
notwithstanding, faith justifieth not except it be formed and 
furnished with charity, by and by he falleth from faith, and 
thus he thinketh : If faith without charity justifieth not, 
then is faith in vain and unprofitable, and charity alone justi- 
lieth ; for except faith be formed with charity it is nothing. 
* Witsius on the Economy of the Covenants, book viii., ch. 3, sec. 51. 


. . . "Wherefore we must avoid this gloss as a most deadly 
and devilish poison, and conclude with Paul, ' that we are 
iustified, not by faith furnished with charity, but by faith 
only and alone.' " * 

In opposition to these various views of the relation which 
faith bears to justification, our Confession teaches that " faith, 
receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the 
alone instrument of justification." Some have misrepresented 
this expression, as if it meant that faith is the instrument 
wherewith God justifies. But it was never intended that 
faith is an instrument on the part of God, but on our part. 
Some have also inaccurately spoken of faith as the instru- 
ment by which we receite justification. Faith is more properly 
the instrument by which we receive Christ and his righteous- 
ness.f Our Confession clearly teaches, that faith is " the 
instrument of justification," only as it " receives and rests on 
Christ and his righteousness." This, according to Mr Traill, 
is " the plain old Protestant doctrine, That the place of faith 
is only that of a hand or instrument receiving the righteous- 
ness of Christ, for which only we are justified.":}: The lan- 
guage of modern evangelical divines entirely accords with 
this " old Protestant doctrine." " Faith," says Mr Haldane, 
" does not justify as an act of righteousness, but as the in- 
strument by which we receive Christ and his righteousness." § 
" When we read that we are justified by faith," says Dr 
Chalmers, " one should understand that faith is simply the 
instrument by which we lay hold of this great privilege." || 
" As the hand is said to nourish," says Dr Colquhoun, " be- 
cause it is the instrument of applying food to the body; so 
faith justifies, as the hand or instrument of applying the 
Redeemer's righteousness to the soul."^ 

It is to be carefully observed, that our Confession not 
merely describes faith as the instrument, but as the alone in- 
strument of justification. This is directed against an error 
of tlie Romanists, who hold that hope, and love, and repen- 
tance, are included in faith as justifying, and concur with 
faith, stiictly so called, to justification. That we are justified 
by faith alove, is proved by such arguments as these: — We 
are justified by faith, in opposition to works (Rom. iv. 2, 3) — 
faith alone receives and applies the righteousness of Christ ; 
we are justified freely by grace,and therefore by faith alone — 

* Luther's Commentary on the Galatians. " A book," saj-s Mr Traill, 
" that hath mure plain sound gospel, than many volumes of some other 

t See President Edwards* Sermons, p. 13. % Traill's Works, vol. i., p. 298. 

§ Haldane en the Komans, vol. i , p. 33.3. 

II Chalmers on the liomans, vol. i., p. :^22. 

^ Colquhoun's Sermons, p. 147. 

SECT. 3.] 



because this alone is consistent with its being by grace 
(Rom. iii, 24, iv. 16); Abraham obtained the blessing of 
justification by faith alone, and he was designed as a pattern 
of the way in which all others, in succeeding ages, were to 
be justified. — Gal. iii. 6-9. 

The advocates of the doctrine of justification by faith alone 
were grossly calumniated, as if they had denied the necessity 
of good works. To guard against this injurious misrepre- 
sentation, our Confession teaches, that though " faith is the 
alone instrument of justification, yet it is not alone in the 
person justified." The faith that justifies is a living and 
active principle, which works by love, purifies the heart, and 
excites to universal obedience. It is accompanied with every 
Christian gi-ace, and productive of good works. " Works," 
says Luther, "are not taken into consideration when the 
question respects justification. But true faith will no more 
fail to produce them, than the sun can cease to give light." 
This suggests a distinction, which enables us to remove the 
apparent discrepancy between the Apostles Paul and James ; 
but we forbear entering on that subject.* 

Section III. — Christ, by his obedience and death, 
did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus 
justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfac- 
tion, to his Father's justice in their behalf.^ Yet, inas- 
much as he was given by the Father for them,^ and his 
obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead/ and 
both freely, not for anything in them, their justification 
is only of free grace ; ^ that both the exact justice and 
rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification 
of sinners.'" 

Rom. V. 8-10, 19. 1 Tim. ii. 5, 6. 

Heb. X. 10. 14. Dan. ix. 24,26. 

Isa. liii. 4-6, 10-12. 
Rom. viii. 32. 

« 2 Cor. V. 21. Matt. iii. 17. Eph. 

V. 2. 

» Rom. iii. 24. Eph. i.7. 

'<» Rom. iii. 26. Eph. ii. 7. 


Socinians deny that Christ made any real and proper satis- 
faction to divine justice in behalf of his people ; and their 
grand objection to this doctrine is, that it leaves no room for 
the exercise of grace in the salvation of sinners. Many 
modern writers, of a different class, deny that Christ satisfied 
retributive justice, and insist that he only satisfied public jus- 

» See Owen on Justification, ch. xx. ; Dick's Lectures, vol. iii., pp 380-385 ; 
Hill's Lectures, vol. ii.. pp. 284,285 ; Tiirretin's Inst. Thee, L. 16, Q. 8; also 
Turretin's Exerc. Theol. text.— De Concord. Paul, et Jac. 


tice ; consequently, they must maintain, that he neither dis- 
charged the debt of those who are justified, nor made a 
proper satisfaction in their behalf. Indeed, they hold that a 
debt of obedience or a debt of punishment, is, in its nature, 
intransferable ; of course, neither was transferred to Christ, 
and neither was paid by him. The demands of the law, in 
respect both of obedience and satisfaction, instead of being 
exacted by Jehovah, and fulfilled by Christ, are, in their 
opinion, by an act of divine sovereignty, " suspended, super- 
ceded, overruled." And the chief argument which they urge 
against the doctrine of " a proper, real, and full satisfaction" 
to divine justice is, " its excluding anything of the nature of 
grace from every part of the process of a sinner's salvation, 
excepting the original appointment of the Surety." The 
statement of our Confession, in this section, is directly op- 
posed to these views; and in confirmation of it, we need 
only refer to the explicit testimony of the Scriptures. " By 
the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." — Rom. 
v. 19. What stronger proof could we desire that Christ 
discharged the debt of obedience due by those who are jus- 
tified ? " By his knowledge shall my righteous servant 
justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities," — Isa. liii, 11. 
" Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being 
made a curse for us."' — Gal. iii. 13. What words could more 
clearly convey the sentiment, that Christ endured the very 
penalty of the broken law, and thereby made " a proper, real, 
and full satisfaction to his Father's justice," in behalf of all 
whom he represented? But the justification of sinners, 
" through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," instead of 
excluding or obscuring, serves rather to illustrate the glory 
of the grace displayed in it. Grace shines in God's conde- 
scending to accept of the righteousness of a surety; still 
more in his providing the surety; above all, in giving his 
only begotten Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Be- 
sides, that faith by which we receive the righteousness of 
Christ is the gift of God.— Eph. ii. 8. " The glory of the 
gospel is, that g7-ace reigns through righteousness. Salvation is 
of grace ; but this grace comes to us in a way of righteous- 
ness. It is grace to us ; but it was brought about in such 
a way that all our debt was paid. This exhibits God as just 
as well as merciful. Just, in requiring full compensation to 
justice; and merciful, because it was he, and not the sinner, 
who provided the ransom." * 

Section IV. — God did, from all eternity, decree to 

* Haldane on the Romans, vol. i., p. 320. 


justify all the elect; " and Christ did, in the fulness of 
time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justifica- 
tion ; ^^ nevertheless they are not justified, until the 
Holy Spirit doth in due time actually apply Christ unto 

»» Gal. iii. 8. 1 Pet. i. 2, 19, 20. Rom. | 12 Gal. iv. 4. 1 Tim. ii. G. Rom. 
viu. 30. I iv- 25. 

13 Col. i. 21, 22. Gal. ii. 16. Tit. iii. 4-7. 


This section is directed against the Antinomian error, that 
the elect were justified from eternity, or when the price of 
their redemption was paid by Christ. It is readily admitted 
that God, from eternity, decreed to justify the elect ; but till 
the period of effectual caUing they are in a state of wrath 
and condemnation.— Eph. ii.3; John iii. 18. The righteous- 
ness by which they are justified was perfected in Christ's 
death, and the perfection of it was declared by his resurrec- 
tion, and they may be said to have been virtually justified 
when Christ was acquitted and discharged as their head 
and representative ; nevertheless, they are not actually and 
formally justified until they are vitally united to Christ by 

Section Y. — God doth continue to forgive the sins 
of those that are justified : ^* and although they can never 
fall from the state of justification,^^ yet they may by 
their sins fall under God's fatherly displeasure, and not 
have the light of his countenance restored unto them, 
until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg 
pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.^^ 

■♦ Matt. vi. 12. 1 John i. 7, 9; ii. 1, 2. I i« Ps. Ixxxix. 31-33; Ii. 7-12; xxxii. 
»s Lukexxii. 32. John x. 28. Heb. 5. Matt. xxvi. 75. 1 Cor. xi. 

X. 14. I 30, 32. Luke i. 20. 


As justification is an act completed at once, so those who 
are justified cannot come into condemnation : " There is now 
no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." — Rora. 
viii. 1. The sins which they afterwards commit cannot re- 
voke the pardon which God has graciously given them ; but 
they may subject them to his fatherly displeasure, and to 
temporary chastisements. — Ps. Ixxxix. 30—33. Here we must 
advert to the well-known distinction between judicial and 
/atJierly forgiveness. Though God, m the capacity of a judge. 


pardons all the sins of believers, in the most free and uncon- 
ditional manner, in the day of their justification, yet that 
forgiveness which, as a father, he bestows u})on his justified 
and adopted children, is not, in general, vouchsafed without 
suitable preparation on their part for receiving and improving 
the privilege. They ought, therefore, to humble themselves 
before God, make ingenuous confession of their oifences, re- 
new their faith and repentance, and earnestly supplicate the 
removal of his fatherly displeasure, and the restoration of his 
paternal smiles. 

Section YI. — 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 

" Gal. iii. 9, 13, 14. Rom. iv. 22-24. Heb. xiii. 8. 

The reverse of this is maintained by Socinians. We shall 
only observe, that though " the rigliteousness of God" is now 
more clearly manifested by the gospel, yet it was " witnessed 
by the law and the prophets." — Rom. iii. 21. And those, 
under the Old Testament, who laid hold upon that righteous- 
ness by faith, were as really and fully justified as believers 
under the New Testament. Paul, accordingly, adduces the 
justification of Abraham as an example of the method in 
which believers in all ages must be justified. — Rom. iv. 3. 
Though the everlasting righteousness was not actually 
brought in until Christ " became obedient unto death," yet 
the efficacy of his death extended to believers under the 
former as well as under the present dispensation. 

What an invaluable and transcendently glorious privilege 
is justification ! How unspeakably blessed is the man to 
whom God imputeth righteousness without works ! Delivered 
from the awful curse of the broken law, and introduced into 
a state of acceptance and favour with God, all penal evil is 
extracted out of the cup of his affliction, death itself is 
divested of its sting, and all things shall work together for\ 
his good. Adorned with the glorious robe of the Redeemer's 
righteousness, he shall stand before the judgment-seat un- 
dismayed, while the exalted Saviour and Judge shall bid 
him welcome to that state of final and everlasting blessed- 
ness which God hath prepared for him, saying, " Come, ye 
blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom ])repared for you 
from the foundation of the world." But wliei e will the sin- 
ner and the ungodly appear in that day when the Son of 


man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and summon 
them before his august tribunal to receive their final doom? 
How will the impenitent and unbelieving — all who have not 
submitted to the righteousness of God — then " call to the 
mountains and rocks to fall upon them and hide them from 
the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the 
wrath of the Lamb." Let those who have hitherto been 
labouring to establish their own righteousness cease from the 
vain attempt — let them receive the gift of righteousness 
which is presented for their acceptance in the offer of the 
gospel — and let them plead this perfect and glorious righ- 
teousness, and improve it by faith, as the sole ground of all 
their expectations from a God of grace either in time or 
through eternity. Renouncing all dependence on their 
own works of righteousness, let them, like Paul, desire to 
" win Christ, and be found in him, not having their own 
righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, 
the righteousness which is of God by faith." 



All those that are justified, God rouchafeth, in 
and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers 
of the grace of adoption : * hy which they are taken 
into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges 
of the children of God ;^ have his name put upon 
them,^ receive the Spirit of adoption;^ have access 
to the throne of grace with boldness;* are enabled to 
jjjry, Abba, Father;^ are pitied,^ protected,^ provided for,* 
and chastened by him as by a father ; ^^ yet never cast 
off," but sealed to the day of redemption,'^ and inherit 
tlie promises,'^ as heirs of everlasting salvation." 

■" Eph. i. S. GaJ. iv. 4, H. I » Ps. ciii. i; 

2 Rom. viii 17 .loiin i. 12. ® Piov. xiv 

3 Jer. xiv. 9. 2 Cor vi. 18. Rev. | » Matt, vi 3'), 32. 1 Pet. v. 7. 

iii i2. * Knm. viii. 15. I '» lleb. xii. 6. n Lam. iii, 31. 

Eph. iii \>. ll'un. r. 2. 12 Epii. iv. 3). i^ lleb. vi. 12., h* 1 Pet. i. 3, 4. Heb. i. 14. 



All men are the children of God in respect of their creation ; 
for " we are all his oiFspring." " Have we not all one Father ? 
hath not one God created us?" — Mai. ii. 10. The members 
of the visible Church are the children of God in respect of an 
external federal relation. They are the visible family of God 
on earth, and enjoy peculiar privileges. At a very early 
period, the professors of the true religion were denominated 
" the sons of God." — Gen. vi. 2. God having chosen Israel 
for his peculiar people, and conferred upon them many privi- 
leges wliich he did not vouchsafe to other nations, and the 
knowledge and worship of the true God being maintained 
amongst them, while all other nations were sunk in igno- 
rance and idolatry, they were called " the sons of God." The 
Lord commanded Pharaoh to be told concerning Israel, " He 
is my son, even my first-born." — Exod. iv. 22. This is a great 
blessing; but many who enjoy it are not really the children 
of God, and shall at last be cast out into utter darkness. — 
John viii. 44 ; Matt. viii. 12. In a far higher sense are all 
those that are justified the children of God. They are made 
partakers of the grace of adoption. Among men, adoption 
signifies that act by which a person takes the child of 
anooher into the place, and entitles him to the privileges, of 
his own son. Spiritual adoption is that act by which God 
receives sinners into his family, and gives them a right to all 
the privileges of his children. Sinners are naturally " the 
children of the devil," aliens to the family of God, and heirs 
of wrath ; by adoption they are translated out of the family 
of Satan into the family of Heaven, and thus admitted to 
fellowship with Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, 
as their elder brother, with all the holy angels, and with all 
the saints — both those on earth and those in heaven. Thus 
far there is a resemblance between civil and spiritual adop- 
tion ; but there are also important points in which they differ. 
Men adopt a stranger to supply a defect, but God had no 
such inducement to adopt any of the children of Adam ; for 
he is infinitely blessed in himself, and he had " a well-beloved 
Son," who was the object of his ineffable delight. Men 
usually adopt only one to be their son and heir, but God re- 
ceives an innumerable multitude into his family, and " brings 
many sons to glory." Men are always influenced by some real 
or supposed excellence in the person to whom they show this 
kindness ; but those whom God adopts are altogether desti- 
tute of any good qualifications to recommend them to hia 


Adoption, being a change of state, is completed at once, 
and is equally the privilege of all that truly believe in 
Christ. — Gal. iii. 26, 28. Some of the children of God may- 
excel others in gifts and gracious qualities; but the filial 
relation to God is the same in all. This high privilege en- 
tirely flows from the free and sovereign grace of God. In 
the bestowment of this blessing there is a display of love 
and grace which surpasses expression, and calls forth the 
admiration of all who are partakers of it. " Behold, what 
manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we 
should be called the sons of God." — 1 John iii. 1. But divine 
grace could only be dispensed to the guilty in a way consis- 
tent with the claims of justice, and the honour of the law. 
Had God received such rebels into his favour and family 
without demanding a satisfaction for their offences, this 
would have sullied the glory of his perfections, and dis- 
honoured the law which they had violated. This privilege, 
therefore, is bestowed on the ground of the obedience and 
satisfaction of Christ, as the meritorious cause thereof. 
" When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth 
his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem 
them that were imder the law, that we might receive the 
adoption of sons." — Gal. iv. 4, 5. How amazing the conde- 
scension, and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who endured 
the curse of the law, that the forfeiture of our sonship might 
be reversed ! As he procured this privilege for us by an 
invaluable price, so it is only when we are united to him by 
faith that we become actually interested in it. " As many 
as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons 
of God, even to them that believe on his name." — John i. 12. 

We shall now take a cursory view of the inestimable 
privileges of the children of God. 

1. They obtain a new name. A stranger taken into the 
family of another, received the name of the adopter, and 
those whom God adopts " are called by a new name, which 
the mouth of the Lord hath named," even by the honour- 
able and endearing name of " the sons and daughters of the 
Lord Almighty." — Isa. Ixii. 2; 2 Cor. vi. 18. 

2. They receive the spirit of adoption. Rom. viii. 15; 
Gal. iv. 6. The Spirit implants in them the dispositions of 
children, and transforms them into the image of God's dear 
Son — he witnesseth with their spirits that they are the sons 
of God — he seals them to the day of redemption, and is the 
earnest of their inheritance until the redemption of the pur- 
chased possession. — Rom. viii, 16; Eph. i. 13, 14. 

3. They have access to the throne of grace with boldness. 


God allows liis children to draw near to him with freedom, 
to pour out their hearts before him, to make all their requests 
known to him; and they may cherish this confidence, that if 
they ask anything according to his will, he heareth them. — 
1 John V, 14. 

4. They are the objects of God's fatherly sympathy and 
pity. He knows their frame, and remembers that they are 
but dust; and when he sees it necessary to correct them, he 

feels for them with the bowels of parental compassion Ps. 

ciii. 13. 

5. They enjoy the protection of their heavenly Father. 
Numerous are their spiritual enemies, and manifold the 
dangers to which they are exposed; but He who neither 
slumbers nor sleeps, watches over them with unwearied care. 
He gives his angels charge concerning them, who encamp 
around them, and, in ways unknown to us, perform many 
kind offices for them. — Ps. xxxiv. 7; Heb. i. 14. 

6. They are provided for by their heavenly Father. He 
knows they need his providential favours in this world, and 
these he does not withhold. — Matt. vi. 30-32; Ps. xxxiv. 9, 10. 
For their souls he has made suitable provision in his Word, 
and he communicates to them supplies of grace according to 
their diversified circumstances. — Phil. iv. 19. 

7. Paternal correction is not withheld when necessary. — 
Heb. xii. 6. This, indeed, they are apt to regard as a punish- 
ment rather than a privilege; but it is the fruit of paternal 
love, it is intended for their profit, and is promised as a bless- 
ing, — Ps. Ixxxix. 30-34. These corrections, though not for 
the present joyous, but grievous, promote their spiritual ad- 
vantage; and many of God's children have acknowledged, 
from their happy experience, that it was good for them to be 
afflicted. — Ps. xciv. 12; cxix. 67, 71; Job v, 17. 

8. Unfailing establishment in their state of sonship, and 
in all the privileges connected with that state. As their 
heavenly Father will never cast them oiF, so he secures that 

they shall not totally and finally depart from him Jer. 

xxxii. 40. 

9. They are heirs of all the promises. These are exceed- 
ing great and precious; they are adapted to every condition 
in which the children of God can be placed; and faithful is 
He who hath promised. — Heb, vi. 12, 17. 

10. Tiiey are heirs of a rich and glorious inheritance, 
■which is reserved for them in heaven. — 1 Pet. i. 4. They 
are said to be "heirs of salvation."' — Heb, i, 14; "heirs of 
the grace of life," — 1 Pet. iii. 7; "heirs of the kingdom," — 
James ii. 5; and "heirs of God." — Rom. viii. 17. 


How dignified are all true believers ! What character 
so honourable as that of the sons of God ! True, the dignity 
to which they are advanced is not conspicuous to the world, 
nor always discerned by themselves ; but the day of the 
revelation of Jesus Christ will be the day of " the manifesta- 
tion of the sons of God." Then will Christ acknowledge 
them as his brethren before the assembled world, and put 
them in full possession of that inheritance which he has gone to 
prepare for them. Let them, therefore, look for his glorious 
appearing; and, in the meantime, let them act in accordance 
with their high character and their exalted prospects — 
walking as the sons of God, harmless and without rebuke, 
and shining as lights in the world. 



Section I. — They who are effectually called and 
regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit 
created in them, are further sanctified really and per- 
sonally, through the virtue of Christ's death and re- 
surrection,^ by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them ; ^ 
the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed,^ and 
the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened 
and mortified,^ and they more and more quickened and 
strengthened in all saving graces,^ to the practice of true 
holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.® 

Section II. — This sanctification is throughout in the 
whole man,'' yet imperfect in this life : there abideth still 
some remnants of corruption in every part : ^ whence 
ariseth a continual and irreconcileable war; the flesh 
lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the 

Section III In which war, although the remaining 

1 1 Cor, vi. 11. Acts xx. 32. Phil. I « Col. i. 11. Eph. iii. 16-19. 

iii. 10. Rom. vi. 5,6. « 2 Cor. vii. 1. Heb. x:i. 14. 

3 John xvu. 17. Eph, v. 26. 2 Thess. [ ' 1 Thess. v. 23. 

ii, 13, I ** 1 John i. 10. Rom, vii. 18, 23. Phil. 

3 Rom. vi. 6, 14. 1 iii. )2. 

Gal. V. 24. Rom. viii. 13. 9 Gal. v. 17. I Pet, ii. 11 


corruption for a time may much prevail,^" yet, through 
the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying 
Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome : *^ 
and so the saints grow in grace,^^ perfecting holiness in 
the fear of God.^^ 

1" Rom. vii. -23. I ^- 2 Pet. iii. 18. 2 Cor. iii. 18. 

'1 Rom. vi. 14. 1 John v, 4. Eph. '■^ 2 Cor, vii. 1. 
iv. 15, 16. I 


In Scripture, the word sanctification bears a variety of senses. 
It signifies separation from a common to a sacred use, or dedi- 
cation to the service of God. Thus the altar, temple, priests, 
and all the sacred utensils, were sanctified. It also signifies 
purification from ceremonial defilement. — Heb, ix. 13. But 
the sanctification of believers, of which this chapter treats, 
consists in their purification from the pollution of sin, and 
the renovation of their nature after the image of God. 

Antinomians maintain, that believers are sanctified only 
by the holiness of Christ being imputed to them, and that 
there is no inherent holiness infused into them, nor required 
of them. This is a great and dangerous error; and, in opposi- 
tion to it, our Confession asserts, that believers are really and 
personally sanctified. Their sanctification includes " the mor- 
tification of sin in their members," It includes also " the 
fruits of the Spirit, as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentle- 
ness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." — Gal. v. 22. 
These are personal things ; they are wrought in the hearts 
of believers, and produced in their tempers and lives. It 
is absurd to say they are in Christ, and imputed to believers; 
they are the effects of the Holy Spirit imparted to us, whose 
operations are compared, by Christ himself, to " a well of 
water within us, springing up unto everlasting life." 

Romanists, as we formerly noticed, confound justification 
with sanctification; and, as this leads to various dangerous 
mistakes, we shall mention several points in which they 
differ. They differ in their nature: justification is a rela- 
tive change of state ; sanctification is a real change of the 
whole man, soul and body. They differ in their o)-der : justi- 
fication, in the order of nature, though not of time, precedes 
sanctification; for righteousness imputed is, in the order of 
nature, prior to holiness, implanted and inherent. They differ 
in their matter : the matter of justification is the righteousness 
of Christ imputed; the matter of sanctification is an inherent 
righteousness communicated. They differ in their form : jus- 
tification is a judicial act, by which the sinner is pronounced 


righteous ; sanctification is a physical or moral act, or rather 
a series of acts, by which a change is eiFected in the qualities 
of the soul. They differ in their propei'ties : justification is 
perfected at once, and is equal in all believers ; sanctification 
is imperfect at first, and exists in different degrees of ad- 
vancement in different individuals ; hence the former is called 
an act, and the latter a work. Other points of difference might 
be mentioned, but we only add, that in justification we receive 
a title to heaven ; sanctification gives us a meetness for, and a 
capacity of, enjoying it. 

Sanctification is both a privilege and a duti/. In the one 
view it is the work of God, and in the otlier it is the work of 
man, assisted by supernatural grace. As a privilege, it is 
graciously promised in the gospel. — Ezek. xxxvi. 27. As a 
duty, it is required by the law ; hence we are called to 
" make" to ourselves a " new heart," and to " cleanse our- 
selves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting 
holiness in the fear of God." — Ezek. xviii. 31 ; 2 Cor. vii. 1. 

Sanctification may be considered as initial and prog^ressiice. 
Initial sanctification is the same as regeneration, whereby we 
become " new creatures;" — " old things being done away, 
and all things becoming new." In progressive sanctification, 
the several lusts of the old man are more and more weakened 
and mortified. In initial sanctification, the Spirit of Christ 
enters the heart with all his train of graces, and implants 
them there. In progressive sanctification, these graces are 
more and more quickened and strengthened. In initial sanc- 
tification, a principle of spiritual life is implanted, and the 
lineaments of the divine image faintly impressed upon the 
soul. In progressive sanctification, the spiritual life is in- 
creased, and the outlines of the divine image gradually filled 
up. In short, the same work which is begun in regeneration 
is carried on in sanctification, until the new creature attains 
to the full stature of a perfect man in Christ. — Phil. i. 6. 

Sanctification extends to the whole man, including all the 
faculties of the soul, and all the members of the body. — 
1 Thess. V. 23. Our entire nature was originally created in 
the image of God; by the entrance of sin this image was 
utterly defaced and lost; hence corrupted and depraved na- 
ture is called " the old man," because it infects the whole 
man, and defiles both soul and body. Now, as original cor- 
ruption pervades the whole man, so sanctifying grace extends 
to every part; hence our nature, as renewed after the image 
of God, is called " the new man," because the holiness com- 
municated in sanctification possesses and ennobles the whole 


Sanctification is imperfect in this life. There have been 
men, and there still are, who maintain, that sinless perfection 
is attainable in this life. Tliis is held by Antinomians, who 
profess that the perfect holiness of Christ is imputed to be- 
lievers. It is held likewise by Romanists, Socinians, and 
others, who affirm that believers have, or may attain, a per- 
fect inherent holiness.* The doctrine of sinless perfection was 
also held by the founder of the Methodists; and the same opi- 
nion is still held by his followers, f In opposition to such 
views, our Confession decidedly affirms, that sanctification is 
" imperfect in this life." Though it extends to the whole 
man, yet " there abideth still some remnants of corruption 
in every part." The Scriptures abound with the most ex- 
plicit testimonies against the doctrine of sinless perfection. 
— Eccl. vii. 20; James iii. 2; Prov. xx. 9; 1 John i. 8. The 
epithet perfect, is indeed applied to several saints, but it must 
be understood either comparatively, in which sense " Noah 
was perfect in his generation;" or, as synonymous with sin- 
cerity or uprightness, in which sense God said to Abraham, 
" Walk before me, and be thou perfect." That the most 
eminent saints mentioned in Scripture were not free from 
sin, is evident from the defects and blemishes which are dis- 
covered in their conduct. They were far from imagining 
that they had attained to sinless perfection. — Job ix. 20; 
Ps. xix. 12 ; Phil. iii. 12. Every real Christian will certainly 
aspire after perfection; but none can attain to absolute perfec- 
tion in this life. 

As there is both grace and the remainders of corruption 
in every saint, it follows, that there will be " a continual and 
irreconcilable war" between these two opposite principles. 
This conflict is described in a very striking manner. — Rom. 
vii,; Gal. v. 17 Sometimes the one principle prevails, and 
sometimes the other ; but grace will finally overcome. 

The impulsive or moving cause of sanctification is the free 
grace of God. — Tit. iii. 5. The meritorious cause is the blood 
and righteousness of Christ. — Tit. ii. 14. The efficient cause 
is the Holy Spirit.— 1 Pet. 1. 2; 2 Thess. ii. 13 ; 1 Cor. vi. 11. 
The instrumental cause is faith in Christ. — Acts. xv. 9, xxvi. 
18. The external means are, the Word, read and preached, 
the sacraments, and prayer. — John xvii. 17; 1 Pet. ii. 2. 
Providences, especially afflictive dispensations, are also 
blessed for promoting the sanctification of believers. — Rom. 
viii. 28, v. 3-5. 

Holiness, though it cannot give us a title to heaven, is in- 

* For a fuller account of these opinions, see Hill's Lectures, p. 303. 
t Richard Watson's Tlicol. Institutes, vol. iv., p. 140. 


dispensably necessary. It is necessary by a divine and un- 
alterable constitution ; for " without holiness no man shall 
see the Lord." — Heb. xii. 14. God has enacted it as an im- 
mutable law, that nothing which defileth shall enter into the 
heavenly city. — Ilev. xxi. 27. It is necessary, also, as a pre- 
parative for heaven. It is the e\ddence of our title, and 
constitutes our meetness for enjoying the pleasures and en- 
gaging in the work of the heavenly world. " Blessed are the 
pure in heart ; for they shall see God," — Matt. v. 8. 

Let us, then, in the diligent use of appointed means, ear- 
nestly " follow holiness." " This is the will of God, even 
our sanctification." This is his express command : " Be ye 
holy ; for I am holy." Those whom he ordained to glory as 
the end, he chose to holiness as the means, without which 
none shall ever attain that end. — Eph. i. 4. This is, also, the 
end of our redemption by Jesus Christ. — Eph. v. 25, 26. He 
died not only to save us from wrath, but to save us from our 
sins. Holiness was the primeval glory of our nature, and 
shall we not endeavour to recover that glory — to be restored 
to the image of him who created us ? Holiness is eminently 
the glory of God ; and shall Ave not seek to resemble him in 
sanctity ? Holiness is necessary to make us " meet for being 
partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." Pre- 
sumptuous and delusive is that hope of seeing Christ here- 
after, which does not produce an ardent desire and earnest 
endeavour to be conformed to him here. " Every man that 
hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." 
— 1 John iii. 3. 



Section I — The grace of faith, whereby the elect are 
enabled to believe to the saving of their souls,' is the 
work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts,^ and is 
ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word : ^ by 
which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, 
and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.* 

1 Heb. X. 39. 1*1 Pet. ii. 2. Acts xx. 32. Rom. 

3 2 Cor. iv. 13. Eph. i. 17-19^.; ii. 8. iv. 11. Luke xvii. 5. Rom. i. 

» Rom. X. 14, 17. I 16, 17. 



" He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but 
he that believeth not shall be damned," is the solemn an- 
nouncement of the Saviour himself. The place thus assigned 
to faith in the matter of salvation, shows that the subject of 
this chapter possesses the deepest interest. If a Saviour was 
necessary to the recovery of lost sinners, faith in that Saviour 
is no less necessary to the actual enjoyment of salvation. 
The vast importance of having scriptural views of the nature 
of saving faith must, therefore, be obvious. The present 
section teaches us — 

1. That the subjects of this faith are elect sinners. All 
whom God from eternity elected to everlasting life are in 
time brought to believe to the saving of their souls. An 
apostle affirms : " As many as were ordained to eternal life 
believed ;" and Christ himself declares : " All that the Father 
giveth me shall come to me." — Acts xiii. 48; John vi. 37. 
" The faith of God's elect " differs from every other sort of 
faith. Saving faith is supernatural — the act of a renewed 
soul — a living principle, which purifies the heart, works by 
love, and overcomes the M'oiid ; it must, therefore, be widely 
different from a natural, a dead, or a common faith. It is 
denominated " precious faith," " faith unfeigned," " the faith 
of the operation of God ;" and that faith to which the Scrip- 
ture applies so many discriminating epithets must surely 
possess some quality peculiar to itself. Accordingly, we 
read in Scripture of many who believed, and yet did not 
possess saving faith. Simon the sorcerer believed; Agrippa 
believed ; the hearers compared to the stony ground believed; 
and many believed in the name of Jesus, when they saw the 
miracles which he did ; " but he did not commit himself 
unto them, because he knew all men." It is manifest, then, 
that " they do not speak accurately, cautiously, or safely, 
who represent all sorts of faifh to be of the same specific 
nature ; because they may all agree in some bare simple act 
or persuasion of the mind. It must be a great and dange- 
rous mistake to think that the belief of any ordinary fact 
upon human testimony, and every assent given by men, or 
even devils, to any doctrines or facts recorded in Scripture, 
is of the very same kind with that which is saving, although 
wanting so many things essential to the latter, of which so 
much is spoken, and which is so highly celebrated in the 
Book of God.* 

" The late Professor Bruce's (of Whitburn) Evangelical Discourses, p, 106. 
There are some excellent remarks on this point in the " Miscellaneous Ob- 
servations" of President Edwards. After adducing several arguments to 


2. That this faith is wrought in the hearts of the elect hy 
th^ Holy Spirit. Some unequivocally affirm, that every man 
has perfect power to believe the gospel, independently of the 
Spirit's influences; and others, who seem to recognise the 
necessity of divine influence, do yet deny that any direct 
special influence is either needed or bestowed ; and therefore 
ultimately ascribe the existence of faith in one rather than 
another to the free-will of man. That man, in his fallen state, 
" has lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompany- 
ing salvation," we have formerly endeavoured to establish,* 
and shall only now appeal to the explicit testimony of Scrip- 
ture. Faith is declared to be " the gift of God " — to be of 
" the operation of God "—and to require the exertion of 
" mighty power, like that which wrought in Christ when 
God raised him from the dead." — Eph, i. 19, ii. 8 ; Col. ii. 12. 
The Holy Ghost is called " the Spirit of faith" (2 Cor. iv. 13) j 
and faith is mentioned among " the fruits of the Spirit" 
(Gal. V. 22) ; because the production of faith in the hearts of 
the elect peculiarly belongs to him, as the applier of the re- 
demption purchased by Christ. 

3. That faith is ordinarily wrought in the hearts of the 
elect by the ministry of the Word. " Faith cometh by hearing, 
and hearing by the Word of God." — Rom. x. 17. Some 
allow of no other influence in this matter but the outward 
means. They explain away the plain import of those pas- 
sages of Scripture which ascribe the production of faith to an 
immediate divine influence, as if no more were intended than 
that God furnishes men with the truth and its evidence. 
According to their interpretation, that emphatic declaration 
of Christ, " No man can come to me except the Father di-aw 
him," simply means, that the Father gives them the Scrip- 
tures. This is to substitute the means in the place of the 
efficient agent ; and if the work is effected simply by the 
external means, there can be no propriety in speaking of the 
Holy Spirit as having anything to do in the production of 
faith. But our Confession clearly distinguishes between the 
work of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the Word. 
There is a distinct and immediate influence of the Sjiirit on 

prove " that saving faith differs from common faith in nature and essence,' 
he says : " Beware how you entertain any such doctrine as that there is no 
essential difference between common and saving faith ; and that both consist 
in a mere assent of the understanding to the doctrines of religion. That this 
doctrine is false, appears by what has been said; and if it be false, it must 
needs be exceedingly dangerous." A desire to simplify the notion of faith 
has led some late writers to represent saving faith as a simple belief of the 
truth— as nowise diflFerent, in respect of act, from the belief of any ordinary 
historical fact. Those who are disposed to adopt this view of faith, would do 
well to weigh the arguments of the acute Edwards. 
* See page 117. 


the heart ; but the Spirit usually works by means, and the 
Word read or preached is the divinely appointed means by 
which he usually communicates his influence. Lydia, in 
common with others, heard the Word preached by Paul ; but 
" the Lord opened her heart." The apostle clearly distin- 
guishes between the gospel and the power which renders it 
successful : " Our gospel came not unto you in word only, 
but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost." — 1 Thess. i. 5. 

Section II. — By this faith, a Christian believeth to 
be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the 
authority of God himself speaking therein ; ^ and acteth 
differently upon that which each particular passage 
thereof containeth ; yielding obedience to the commands,' 
trembling at the threatenings,'' and embracing the pro- 
mises of God for this life and that which is to come.^ 
But the principal acts of saving faith are, accepting, 
receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, 
sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant 
of grace.^ 

6 John iv. 42. 1 Thess. ii. 13. 1 John I « Heb. xi. 13. 1 Tim iv. 8. 

V. 10. Acts xxiv. 14. 9 John i. 12. Acts xvi. 31. Gal. ii. 

Rom. xvi. 26. ^ Isa. Ixvi. 2. | 20. Acts xv. 11. 


1. The general object of divine faith is the whole Word 
of God. As faith, in general, is an assent to truth upon 
testimony, so divine faith is an assent to divine truth upon 
divine testimony. Saving faith, therefore, includes an assent 
of the heart to all the truths revealed in the Word of God, 
whether they relate to the law or to the gospel; and that, not 
upon the testimony of any man or Church, nor because they 
appear agreeable to the dictates of natural reason, but on 
the ground of the truth and authority of God himself, speak- 
ing in the Scriptures, and evidencing themselves, by their 
own distinguishing light and power, to the mind.* 

2. The special and personal object of saving faith is the 
Lord Jesus Christ. To know Christ, and God as manifested 
in him, is comprehensive of all saving knowledge — a term by 
which faith is sometimes expressed. — John xvii. 3. Hence, 
this faith is called " the faith of Jesus Christ," and the scope 
of the apostle's doctrine is thus described : " Testifying both 
to the Jews and the Greeks repentance toward God, and 
faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." " This faith consists in 

* Owen's Treatise on the Reason of Faith, and Halybiirton's Essay on 


believing the testimony of God concerning his Son, and the 
life that is in him for men. It respects him in his person 
and whole character, according to the revelation made of him, 
and according to the measure of knowledge a person has of 
him as thus revealed, especially as now manifested, and more 
clearly exhibited, and freely offered in the gospel. It views 
him in his supreme Deity as ' Immanuel, God with us ;' as 
vested with all saving offices, so as to bear, in the highest 
sense, the name Jesus or Saviour, Lord or King, the great 
High Priest, Messias, or the Christ ; and as exercising all 
his offices for the benefit of mankind sinners, with whom he 
entered into near affinity, by the assumption of their nature, 
that he might be capable of acting the part of a surety in 
obeying, dying, meriting, and mediating for them." * It will 
not do to limit the object of saving faith to any one 
doctrinal proposition — such as, that Jesus is the Son of God 
— or, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh — or, that Christ 
died for our sins according to the Scriptures. This, at the 
utmost, would only be giving credit to a certain doctrine; but 
saving faith is a believing on the person of Christ, or an 
appropriating of Christ himself, with all the benefits and 
blessings included in him.+ 

3. The principal acts of saving faith are, accepting, re- 
ceiving, and resting upon Christ. Romanists make faith to 
be nothing more than " a bare naked assent to the truth re- 
vealed in the Word." This notion was strenuously opposed 
by our Reformers, and is renounced in the National Covenant 
of Scotland, under the name of a " general and doubtsome 
faith ;" yet, many Protestants, in modern times, represent 
saving faith as nothing more than a simple assent to the 
doctrinal truths recorded in Scripture, and as exclusively an 
act of the understanding. But, although saving faith gives 
full credit to the whole Word of God, and particularly to the 
testimony of God concerning his Son Jesus Christ, as has 
been already stated, yet, its principal acts are " accepting, 
receiving, and resting upon Christ." True faith is the be- 
lief of a testimony ; but it must correspond to the nature of 
the testimony believed. Were the gospel a mere statement 
of speculative truths, or a record of facts in which we have 
no personal interest, then, a simple assent of the mind to 
these truths — the mere crediting of these facts, would con- 

* Professor Bruce's Evangelical Discourses, p. 108. 

t Cudworth's Aphorisms on the Assurance of Faith. A new edition was 
published in 1829, with a Recommendation by the late Rev. John Brown of 
Whitburn, along with two Essays on Faith by American Divines : and they 
have been recently published along with Treatises on Faith by E. Erskine 
and Dr Anderson of Anua-ica. 


stitute the faith of the gospel. But the gospel is not a mere 
statement of historical facts, or of abstract doctrines respect- 
ing the Saviour ; it contains in it a free offer of Christ, and 
of salvation through him, to sinners of every class, who hear 
it, for their acceptance. Saving faith, therefore, that it may- 
correspond to the testimony believed, must include the cor- 
dial acceptance or reception of Christ, as tendered to us in 
the gospel. 

As Christ is exhibited in Scripture under various charac- 
ters and similitudes, so faith in him is variously denominated. 
It is expressed by coming to him — by looking unto him — by 
Jleeing to him for refuge — by eating his flesh and drinking his 
blood— by receicing him, and by resting upon him. It is to be 
observed, that the terms employed in our Confession do not 
denote different acts of faith, but are only different expres- 
sions of the same act. Believing on Christ is called a receiv- 
ing of him, in reference to his being presented to poor sinners, 
as the gift of God to them ; and it is styled a resting on him, 
because he is revealed in the gospel as a sure fuundatio)i, on 
which a sinner may lay the weight of his eternal salvation 
with the firmest confidence. It is manifest, that all the figu- 
rative descriptions of saving faith in Scripture imply a parti- 
cular application of Christ by the soul, or a trusting in Christ 
for salvation to one's self in particular; and this is what some 
have called the appropriation of faith. It is no less evident, 
that in the phraseology of Scripture, faith is not simply an 
assent of the understanding, but implies an act of volition, 
accepting the Saviour and relying on him for salvation. 
This does not proceed upon any previous knowledge which 
the sinner has of his election; nor upon any persuasion that 
Christ died intentionally for him more than for others, for 
it is impossible to come to the knowledge of these things 
prior to believing; nor does it proceed upon the persuasion 
that Christ died equally for all men, and therefore for him in 
particular ; nor upon the perception of any good qualities in 
himself to distinguish him from others ; but it proceeds solely 
upon the free, unlimited offer and promise of the gospel to the 
chief of sinners. 

4. That the true believer receives and rests upon Christ 
alone for salvation. This distinguishes the true believer from 
such as rest their hope of salvation on the general mercy of 
God, without any respect to the mediation of Christ, or upon 
their own works of righteousness, or upon the righteousness 
of Christ and their own works conjoined. 

5. That the true believer receives and rests upon Christ 
for a complete salvation. He trusts in Christ for salvation not 


only from wrath, but also from sin — not onlj for salvation 
from the guilt of sin, but also from its pollution and power — 
not only for happiness hereafter, but also for holiness here. 
In the language of the Confession, he rests upon Christ " for 
justification, sanctification, and eternal life;" and that " by 
virtue of the covenant of grace;" that is, as these blessings 
are exhibited and secured in that covenant. 

Section III. — This faith is different in degrees, weak 
or strong ; '" may be often and many ways assailed and 
weakened, but gets the victory ; ^^ growing up in many 
to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ,'* 
who is both the author and finisher of our faith. -^ 

10 Heb. V. 13, 11. Rom. iv. 19, 20. I " Luke xxii. 31, 32. Eph. vi. 16. 
Matt. vi. 30 ; viii. 10. | 1 John v. 4, 5. 

12 Heb. vi. 11, 12; x. 22. Col. ii. 2. ^s Heb. xii. 2. 


Different interpretations have been put on this section. 
Some have maintained, that " assurance is here plainly made 
a fruit and consequent of saving faith, and not an essential 
act."* Others have held that assurance is here supposed to 
be essential to saving faith, and that it belongs, in some de- 
gree, to every believer, strong or weak, but is always in pro- 
portion to the degree of his faith. " How faith," says the 
illustrious Boston, " can grow in any to a full assurance, if 
there be no assurance in the nature of it, I cannot compre- 
hend." And another, amplifying this idea, says : " If there 
was not some degree of assurance in the nature of faith, it 
could never grow up to full assurance. To what degree 
soever anything may grow, it cannot, by its growth, assume 
a different nature. It may increase to a higher degree of the 
same kind, but not into another kind."+ Perhaps this diffe- 
rence of opinion has arisen from attaching a different meaning 
to the word assurance. Those who deny that assurance be- 
longs to the nature of faith, understand, by that word, an 
assurance that a person is already in a state of salvation; 
but this sense of the term is disavowed by those who main- 
tain that assurance is essential to faith. " It would greatly 
conduce to clear views of this subject," says one of the latter 
class of divines, " were the distinction between the assurance 
of faith and the assurance of sense rightly understood and in- 
culcated. When we speak of assurance as essential to faith, 

* Principal Hadow's Sermon on 1 John v. 11, 12, preached before the Synod 
of Fife, 1719. p. 33. 
t Colquhoun's View of Saving Faith, p. 247. 


many suppose we teach that none can be real Christians who 
do not feel that they have passed from death nnto life, and 
have not unclouded and triumphant views of their own in- 
terest in Christ, so as to joy under the manifestations oi 
his love. ' My beloved is mine, and I am his.' But God 
forbid that we should thus offend agaiust the generation of 
his children. That many of them want such an assurance 
may not be questioned. This, however, is the assurance, 
not of faith, but of sense; and vastly different they are. The 
object of the former is Christ revealed in the Word; the ob- 
ject of the latter, Christ revealed in the heart. The ground 
of the former is the testimony of God without us ; that of the 
latter, the work of the Spirit within ns. The one embraces 
the promise, looking at nothing but the veracity of the pro- 
miser; the other enjoys the promise in the sweetness of its 
actual accomplishment. Faith trusts for pardon to the blood 
of Christ; sense asserts pardon from the comfortable intima- 
tions of it to the soul. By faith, we take the Lord Jesus for 
salvation; by sense, we feel that we are saved, from the 
Spirit's shining on his own gracious work in our hearts." * 
The distinction between these two kinds of assurance has 
been accurately drawn by Dr M'Crie, and extremes on both 
hands judiciously pointed out. " Assurance," says he, " is of 
two kinds, which have been designed the assurance of faith 
and the assurance of sense. The former is direct, the latter 
indirect. The former is founded on the testimony of God; 
the latter, on experience. The object of the former is entirely 
without us ; the object of the latter is chiefly within us. * God 
hath spoken in his holiness, I will rejoice,' is the language 
of the former; * We are his workmanship, created anew in 
Christ Jesus,' is the language of the latter. When a man 
gives me his promissory-note, I have the assurance of faith; 
when he gives me a pledge, or pays the interest regularly, I 
have the assurance of sense. They are perfectly consistent 
with one another, may exist in the soul at the sametime, 
and their combination carries assurance to the highest 

" Those who deny the assurance of faith, appear to labour 
under a mistake, both as to the gospel and as to believing. 
The gospel does not consist of general doctrines merely; but 
also of promises indefinitely proposed to all who hear it; to 
be enjoyed, not on the condition of believing, but in the way 
of believing. * I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy trans- 
gressions, for mine own sake, and will not remember thy 

* Essay on Saving Faith, by the Rev, Dr Mason, New York ; published 
along with Cudworth's Aphorisms, pp. 105, 106. 


Bins.' * I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be 
clean.' * I will put my laws into their mind, and write them 
in their hearts.' * Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great 
joy, which shall be to all people.' Can a person believe these 
promises, tnily and with understanding, without having some 
assurance of the blessings promised ? There appears also to 
be a mistake as to the nature of faith, and the place which 
it holds in the application of redemption. It is a trusting in 
Clirist, a relying upon him for salvation upon the ground of 
the divine testimony respecting him; and does not this always 
imply some degree of assurance or confidence ? 

" Others go to an opposite extreme. They maintain, that 
every true Christian always enjoys an absolute and unwaver- 
ing certainty as to his final happiness — that he is a true be- 
liever, and in a state of salvation; and they dwell on the 
assurance of faith, to the neglect of the evidence which 
arises from Christian experience and growth in holiness. 
This is apt to cherish a spirit of presumption, on the one 
hand, and to throw persons into a state of despondency, on 
the other. There are various degrees of assurance, and in 
some genuine believers it may be scarcely perceptible. lie 
who is the author and finisher of our faith, was careful not 
to break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax. 
"While he rebuked the unbelief and unreasonable doubts of 
his disciples, he never called in question the reality of their 
faith. He received the man who said, * Lord, I believe; help 
thou mine unbelief.' While he said to Peter, * O thou of 
little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt ? * he took him by 
the hand and lifted him out of the water. Grant that doubt- 
ing is sinful; is there a just man on earth that doeth good 
and sinneth not ? Are not the love and patience, and other 
gracious dispositions of a Christian, also sinfully defective I 
Urge the admonition, ' Be not faithless, but believing; ' but 
neglect not to urge also, * Be ye holy, for I am holy.' * Be 
perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.' Would it not 
be dangerous to the interest of holiness, and discreditable to 
religion, if a person were supposed to be in possession of per- 
fect assurance, while subject to imperfection in every other 
respect ? Is there not a proportional growth in all the members 
of the spiritual man ? Would he not otherwise be a mon- 
strous creature ? Or is the exploded doctrine of sinless perfec- 
tion in this life to be revived among us ? He whose faith is 
faultless, and his assurance perfect and unvarying, sees Christ 
as he is, and is already completely like him. He would not 
be a fit inhabitant of earth; and the only prayer he oould 


put up would be, * Now lettest thou thy servant depart in 
peace.' " *" 



Section I. — Repentance unto life is an evangelical 
grace/ the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every 
minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in 

Section II. — By it a sinner, out of the sight and 
sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness 
and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature 
and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension 
of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves 
for and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto 
God,^ purposing and endeavouring to walk with him in 
all the ways of his commandments.* 

1 Zech. xii. 10. Acts xi. 18 I 18, 19. Joel ii. 12, 13. Amos v. 15. 

2 Luke xxiv. 47. Mark i. 15. Acts Ps. cxix. 128. 2 Cor. vii. 11. 

XX. 21, 1 * Ps. cxix. 6, 59, 106. Luke i. 6. 

3 Ezek. xviii. 30. 31 ; xxxvi. 31. Isa. 2 Kings xxiii. 25. 

XXX. 22. Ps. li. 4. Jer. xxxi, | 

The repentance described in this chapter is called repen- 
tance unto life, because it is inseparably connected with the 
enjoyment of eternal life, and to distinguish it from the sor- 
row of the world, which worketh death. It is styled a grace, 
because it is the free gift of God, and is wrought in the heart 
by the operation of his Spirit. " Then hath God also to the 
Gentiles granted repentance unto life." — Acts xi, 18. " Turn 
thou me, and I shall be turned; surely after that I was 
turned, I repented." — Jer, xxxi. 18, 19. This repentance is 
also denominated an evangelical grace, to distinguish it from 
legal repentance. The latter flows from a dread of God's 
wrath ; the former, from faith in God's mercy. In the latter, 
the sinner is chiefly affected with the punishment to which 
his sin exposes him; in the former, he mourns for his sin as 
• M Crie's Sermons, pp. 281-283. 


offensive and dishonouring to God. Cain and Judas repented, 
but it was on account of the consequences of sin to them- 
selves ; whereas the true penitent mourns after a godly sort, 
with a godly sorrow, or a sorrow which directly regards 
God.— 2 Cor. vii. 9, 10. 

That the doctrine of repentance is to be preached by every 
minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ, is 
asserted in opposition to a gross heresy of the Antinomians, 
who maintain that repentance ought not to be preached by 
any minister of the gospel ; alleging that it leads us away 
from Christ, and proves most hurtful and dangerous. How 
opposite is such a sentiment to the example and command 
of Christ himself! He preached the doctrine of repentance 
to those who attended his public ministry. " Repent," said 
he, " and believe the gospel." — Mark i. 15. And in the 
instructions which he delivered to the apostles, when he 
commissioned them to preach the gospel, it was expressly 
enjoined that " repentance and remission of sins should be 
preached in his name among all nations." — Luke xxiv. 47. 
The apostles, accordingly, inculcated the necessity of repen- 
tance both on Jews and Gentiles. — Acts ii. 38, iii. 19, xiv. 15. 
The apostle Paul speaks of " repentance from dead works" as 
one of the first principles of the doctrine of Christ ; and, when 
giving a summary of his doctrine before the elders of Ephesus, 
he comprehends the whole under the two great articles of 
repentance and faith : " Testifying both to the Jews, and also 
to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards 
our Lord Jesus Christ." — Heb. vi. 1 ; Acts xx. 21. 

A shiner is the only subject capable of repentance. Christ 
" came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance;" 
and he intimated that "just men need no repentance." But 
" all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." 
Repentance, therefore, must be universally necessary. " God 
now commandeth all men everywhere to repent ;" and Jesus 
Christ, the faithful and true witness, has solemnly declared 
" Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.". — Acts xvii. 
30; Luke xiii. 3. 

1. True repentance springs from a sight and sense of sin. 
All men will readily acknowledge, in general terms, that they 
are sinners ; but no man can have a clear sight and a feeling 
sense of his sins, until the Holy Spirit becomes his teacher. 
It is his work to convince of sin. — John xvi. 8. This he 
does by means of the law ; for " by the law is the knowledge 
of sin." — Rom. iii. 20. When the Spirit enlightens the mind 
of the sinner to discern the purity, spirituality, and vast extent 
of the divine law, he sees sin to be " exceeding sinful." He 


views it as not only dangerous, but as odious in itself, on 
account of its contrariety to the holy nature and righteous 
law of God. 

2. True repentance flows from an a2:>2:>rehension of the mercy 
of God in Christ to such as are penitent. Had we reason to 
regard God as an inexorable judge, we might, like Adam, 
attempt to flee from his presence, and escape the sword of 
his avenging justice ; but never would we return to him as 
sincere penitents. Blessed be God ! we have the firmest 
grounds on which to rest our faith of his pardoning mercy. 
He has proclaimed his name as " The Lord, the Lord God, 
merciful and gracious, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, 
and sin." — Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. The wicked is invited to 
" forsake his way, and return unto the Lord," encouraged by 
the assurance that " he will have mercy u]X)n him, and will 
abundantly pardon." — Isa. Iv. 7. " Jesus Christ is set forth 
to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood ;" " through 
his name is preached imto us the forgiveness of sins ;" and 
we are assured, " that through his name whosoever be- 
lieveth in him shall receive remission of sins." — Rom. iii. 
25 ; Acts xiii. 38, x. 43. Now, it is an apprehension of the 
mercy of God in Christ, by faith, that melts the heart into 
penitential sorrow for sin. Of so generous a nature is evan- 
gelical repentance, that the penitent soul is never so deeply 
humbled and grieved for sin, as when it has reason to hope 
that a gracious God has freely forgiven it. This generous 
temper is assigned to the true penitent in the Sacred Scrip- 
tures : " Thou shalt remember, and be confounded, and 
liever open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when 
I am pacified toward thee, for all that thou hast done, saith 
the Lord God."— Ezek. xvi. 63. 

With regard to the order of faith and repentance, it may 
be reniarked, that we can form no conception of a moment of 
time when the one exists in the soul separate from the other. 
In point of time, then, faith and repentance necessarily ac- 
company each other ; but in the order of nature, faith must 
precede repentance. Evangelical repentance is a turning 
from sin to God ; but there can be no turning to God, except 
through Christ; and no coming to Christ, but by believing in 
him. — John xiv. 6, vi. 35. Besides, evangelical repentance 
flows from love to God; but the exercise of unfeigned love to 
him proceeds from the exercise of true faith. — 1 Tim. i. 5. 
Add to this, it is only by looking on Him whom we have 
pierced, that we can mourn after a godly sort, according to 
that remarkable promise : " They shall look on me whom 
they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him." — Zech. 


xii. 10. There is, indeed, a conviction of the person's guilt 
and misery, accompanied with a kind of sorrow for sin, and 
resolutions to forsake it, because it exposes him to ever- 
lasting punishment, which, in the nature of things, must 
precede the exercise of faith in Christ ; but this is very 
different from evangelical repentance.* 

3. True repentance includes grief, or deep contrition and 
godly sorrow for sin. There is a false sorrow, which many 
mistake for the genuine. Many are grieved for their sin, 
merely on account of the punishment it is like to bring upon 
themselves ; and those who are most deeply affected with 
this kind of sorrow, if they succeed in allaying their fears, 
often return to a course of sinning with greater freedom and 
impetuosity than before. But the sorrow of a true penitent 
is for sin as committed against God — as rebellion against his 
rightful authority — as a violation of his holy law, and as a 
most base, ungrateful return for all his goodness. — Ps. li. 4. 

4. Time repentance includes hatred of sin, not only as that 
which exposes us to death, but as hateful in itself, as the abo- 
minable thing which God hates, and as that which renders 
us vile and loathsome in his sight. If this hatred of sin is 
genuine, it will lead us to loathe and abhor ourselves, and it 
will extend to all sin in ourselves and others. — Job xlii. 6 ; 
Ezek. xxxvi. 31 ; Jer. xxxi. 19; Ps. cxix. 128, 136. 

5. True repentance includes a turning from sin unto God, 
with a sincere purpose, and endeavour to walk with him in all the 
ways of his commandments. This is the crowning act and the 
grand test of genuine repentance. Paul preached both to 
Jews and Gentiles " that they should repent and turn to 
God, and do works meet for repentance." — Acts xxvi. 20. 
True penitents forsake sin, with a firm resolution to have no 
more to do with idols. They are converted from the love as 
well as from the practice of sin. They particularly guard 
against those sins to which they were formerly most addicted, 
and before whose influence they are most ready to fall. — 
Ps. xviii. 23. They assiduously watch against all occasions 
of sin, and earnestly long for complete deliverance from it. 
They return to God as their rightful Lord and Master, re- 
solving, in dependence upon his grace, to " serve him in 
holiness and righteousness all the days of their lives." They 
form a steady and unshaken purpose in their hearts, and 
sedulously endeavour, by watchfulness and diligence, in the 
constant use of all means, to avoid all sin, and to practise 

* Boston's Miscellany Questions, Quest. 3 ; Colquhoun's View of Saving 
Faith, p. 303; Wilson's (of London) Sermons, p. 390; Anderson's (.of 
America) Precious Truth, p. 180; Black's Sermons, p. 87. 


universal holiness. It is not meant that true penitents have 
attained to sinless perfection ; for " there is no man that 
liveth and siimeth not." They will, therefore, find occasion 
every day for the renewed exercise of repentance. All tears 
vfiW not be wiped from their eyes until all sin is perfectly 
removed fi om their souls. 

Section III — Although repentance be not to be 
rested m, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the 
pardon thereof,^ which is the act of God's free grace in 
Christ ; ° yet is it of such necessity to all sinners, that 
none may expect pardon without it.^ 

« Ezek. xxxvi. 31, 32; xvi. 61-63. | « Hos. xiv.2,4. Rom. iii.24. Eph.i.7. 
^ huke xiii. 3, 5. Acts xvii. 30, 31. 


1. In opposition to the Romanists, who make satisfaction 
one of the essential parts of repentance, and conceive that 
certain acts or penances, performed by an offender, constitute 
a compensation for his transgression, in consideration of 
which it is forgiven; and also in opposition to Socinians, 
who deny the atonement for sin by the death of Christ, and 
maintain that repentance is the only atonement required; 
our Confession asserts, that repentance is not to be rested in 
as any satisfaction for sin, or a cause of the pardon thereof. 
It has already been shown, that it must always be the duty 
of every sinner to repent; now, the discharge of a present 
duty can never atone for past crimes. Repentance is never 
supposed to be a legal ground for remitting the punishment 
due to crimes committed against a civil State. How unrea- 
sonable, then, to suppose that it can form a sufficient ground 
for the pardon of sin as committed against God ! Christ has 
fully satisfied the justice of God by the sacrifice of himself, 
and his blood alone cleanseth us from all sin. — 1 John i. 7. 
To us the pardon of sin is wholly gratuitous — " an act of 
God's free grace in Christ" — and, if it be of grace, then it is 
no more of works; and, therefore, not by repentance, as a 
satisfaction for sin. 

2. True repentance and pardon are inseparably connected. 
Though no one is pardoned for his repentance, yet repen- 
tance is of such indispensable necessity, that an impenitent 
sinner cannot be a pardoned sinner. " They are connected 
in the economy of salvation, not as cause and effect, but to 
show the consistency of a gratuitous pardon with the interests 
of holiness. For any g.)ver.nment to acquit a criminal, and 
restore him to society without some evidence of a change of 


disposition, would be little else than granting him a license 
to commit crimes with impunity. But if this would be un- 
worthy of a human, how much more of the divine government ! 
God, for the vindication of the honour of the plan of mercy, 
has so connected pardon with repentance and confession — 
the expression of repentance — that they are the only certain 
evidences that we are in a pardoned state; while pardon and 
repentance are equally the gift of God through Jesus Christ 
our Lord."* 

Section IY. — As there is no sin so small but it 
deserves damnation ; ^ so there is no sin so great that it 
can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.^ 

8 Rom. vi. 23; v. 12. Matt. xii. 36. | » 7. Rom.viii. 1. Isa. i, 16, 18. 

In opposition, on the one hand, to the Church of Rome, 
which holds that some sins are mortal, and others venial — 
that is, of so trifling a nature, that they may be expiated by 
some temporal infliction — our Confession asserts, that " there 
is no sin so small but it deserves damnation;" and, on the 
other hand, in opposition to certain Anabaptists, and some 
others, who have held that if persons, after baptism and 
grace received, fall into grievous sins, there is no pardon re- 
maining for them, even though they should repent, our Con- 
fession asserts, that " there is no sin so great that it can 
bring damnation upon those who truly repent." We admit 
that a great variety in the degree of guilt attaches to different 
sins; but we maintain that every sin is worthy of death. 
Most explicit are the declarations of an inspired apostle : 
' The wages of sin is death." — Rom. vi. 23. " Cursed is 
every one that continueth not in all things which are Avritten 
in the book of the law to do them." — Gal. iii. 10. Both 
these texts are unquestionably applicable to sin of every 
kind. The chief of sinners, however, may obtain mercy; 
and those who, after grace received, have fallen into grievous 
sins, may tnily repent, and obtain forgiveness. David, after 
his " great transgression," and Peter, after his denial of his 
Master, repented and were pardoned. — 2 Sam. xii. 13 ; 
John xxi. 19. 

Section Y. — Men ought not to content themselves 
with a general repentance, but it is every man's duty to 
endeavour to repent of his particular sins particularly.*" 

10 Pa. xix. 13. Lukexix.8. 1 Tim. i. 13, 15. 
* Stevenson on the Offices of Chritt, p. 244. 



No man can reckon up all his sins in order; for " who can 
understand his errors ? " But it is not enough to acknow- 
ledge in general terms that we are sinners; we should, by a 
strict and impartial examination of our hearts and ways, 
endeavour to obtain a discovery of those jjarticular sins by 
which Ave have oifended and dishonoured God, and should 
" mourn, every one for his iniquity." Thus, when David 
was brought to the exercise of true repentance, he not only 
acknowledged in general that he had sinned, but he had his 
eye upon that particular sin by which he had in a special 
manner dishonoured God : " My sin is ever before me 
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done tJiis evil in 
thy sight." — Ps. li. 3, 4. " I will declare lynne iniquity ; I 
will be sorry for my sin." — Ps. xxxviii. 18. 

Section VI — As every man is bound to make private 
confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon 
thereof; " upon which, and the forsaking of them, he 
shall find mercy ; ^^ so he that scandalizeth his brother, 
or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private 
or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare 
his repentance to those that are offended; ^^ who are 
thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive 

11 Ps. li, 4, 5,7, 9, 14; xxxii. 5,6. I ^^ James v. 16. Luke xvii. 3, 4. 
" Prov. xxviii. 13. 1 John i. 9. | Josh. vii. 19. Ps. li. 

1* 2 Cor, ii. 8. 


In this section we are taught — 

1. That every man ought to make private confession of his 
Bins to God. We cannot discover to God anything that was 
previously concealed from his omniscient eye; but by confess- 
ing our sins we give glory to God, as well as take shame to 
ourselves. Hence Joshua said unto Achan : " INIy son, give, I 
pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession 
unto him." — Josh. vii. 19. To cover our sins is to dishonour 
God, as if he either did not see, or could not punish them; 
whereas, to confess our sins is to honour God's holy law, which 
we have violated — to honour his omniscience, which beheld 
all our transgressions — to honour his justice, which might 
have taken vengeance upon them — and to honour his patience 
and long-suffering, which have forborne to execute tlie merited 

2. That those who privately confess their sins to God, and 


forsake them, shall find mercy, though they do not. also con- 
fess all their sins to a priest. This is -amply confirmed by 
that inspired declaration : " He that covereth his sins shall 
not prosper ; hut whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall 
have mercy." — Pro v. xx^-iii. 13. The experience of David 
corresponded to this declaration. — Ps. xxxii. 5. But the 
Church of Rome holds that the auricular confession of sins 
to a priest, and his absolution thereupon obtained is the 
only means appointed by God for the procuring of pardon of 
all mortal sins committed after baptism.* For such a con- 
fession there is neither example nor command in Scripture, 
The text on which Romanists chiefly rely (John xx. 23) 
says nothing of the confession of sins in the ears of a priest ; 
and the ministers of religion can only remit sins dedaratively, 
not authoritatively. They can absolve from the censures of 
the Church, but not from the guilt of sin, as committed against 
God. In one place we are enjoined to " confess our faults 
one to another" (James v. 16) ; but this confession is mutual, 
not a confession by the people to the priest. Christians ought 
to confess their faults to those whom they have injured ; but 
the confession of all their sins in private to a priest, as re- 
quired by the Church of Rome, is wholly unauthorised by 
Scripture, and it has been the occasion of flagrant abuse. 
" Not only is auricular confession productive of much incon- 
venience to society, by giving the ministers of religion an 
undue and dangerous influence over the minds of the people 
in their most secret affairs ; but it perverts their notions of 
the justification of a sinner, and it provides^a method of quiet- 
ing their consciences, which is so easy of access that it en- 
courages them to sin with little fear."f 

3. Though Christians are only required to confess their 
secret sins to God, who seeth in secret, yet, if they have 
wronged a Christian brother, in his property or good name, 
they are bound to confess their offence to him, and to make 
all the reparation in their power for the injury they have done 
to him ; and upon their repentance he is bound to forgive 
them. — Matt. v. 23, 24 ; Luke xvii. 3, 4. When Christians 
fall into public scandal, they should be willing to make 
a more public confession of their offence, that they may 
openly honour that God by their confession, Avhom they have 
openly dishonoured by their conduct ; and the Church, upon 
their repentance, ought in love to receive them, and restore 

* Some of the grossest corruptions of the Church of Rome respect the doc- 
trine of repentance. According to the tenets avowed in the standards of that 
Church, repentance consists cf three acts — confession of sins to a priest, con- 
trition, or attrition, and satisfaction. 

t Hill's Lectures in Divinity, pp. 292, 293. 


tliem to all their Christian privileges. The Novatians main- 
tained that such as had fallen into grievous transgressions, 
especially those who had apostatized from the faith, in a 
time of persecution, were not to be again received into the 
bosom of the Church * But this opinion is contrary both 
to the precepts and examples of Scripture. If a man be 
overtaken in a fault, they who are spiritual are enjoined to 
restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering 
themselves, lest they also be tempted — Gal. vi. 1. The 
Church at Corinth was required to forgive the incestuous 
person, upon his repentance, and receive him again into com- 
munion, lest he should be swallowed up with over much sor- 
row. — 2 Cor. ii. 7, 8. 



Section I. — Good works are only sucli as God hath 
commanded in his Holy Word,^ and not such as, without 
the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind 
zeal, or upon any pretence of good intention.^ 

1 Micah vi. 8. Rom. xii. 2. Heb. j « Matt. xv. 9. Isa. xxix. 13. 1 Pet. 
xiii. 21. i. 18. Rom. x. 2. John xvi. 2. 

j 1 Sam. XV. 21-23. 


This section states what is necessary to constitute an action 
a good work, as considered in itself. It must be such as God 
has commanded in his holy Word. The law of God is the sole 
rule of man's obedience, and no action, how specious soever 
in appearance, can be properly called good, unless required 
by the supreme legislator. No command of man can make 
a work good, imless it be, at the sametime, virtually or ex- 
plicitly commanded by God. Those actions which have no 
warrant from the Word of God, but are devised by men, out 
of blind zeal, cannot be reckoned good works. On this ground 
Christ rejected those services of the Pliarisees, which had 
no other authority than the traditions of the elders, or their 
own enactments, saying : " Who hath required this at your 
hands." And, on the same ground, those works of supersti- 
• Mosheim's Eccl. Hist., cent iii., ch. 5, p. 2, c. 17, 18. 


tion and will-worship, which are only enjoined by the com- 
mandments of men, in the Church of Rome, must be rejected. 
" In vain," said our Saviour, " do they worship me, teaching 
for doctrines the commandments of men." — Matt. xv. 9. 

Actions which God has not commanded cannot be trans- 
formed into good works (as is maintained by the Church of 
Rome), by the good intention of the agent. Many have pre- 
tended to act from a good intention, when they were acting 
in direct opposition to the revealed will of God. — 1 Sam. 
xiii. 13, XV. 17-23. Men have thought that they were doing 
God good service, when they were committing the most atro- 
cious crimes. — John xvi. 2 ; Acts xxvi. 9. 

A work commanded by God is good, considered in itself; 
but something more is requisite to make it good as performed 
by us. And no action is a good work in the sight of God, 
except it he formally as well as materially good. What things 
are necessary to render a work /orma% good, maybe learned 
from the subsequent sections of this chapter; but we judge it 
proper to state them briefly in this place. 1. They must be 
performed by a person who is justified by the righteousness 
of Christ, and renewed by his Spirit. 2. They must be done 
from a right principle — faith working by love. There must 
be faith or persuasion that what we do is commanded by God ; 
and we must perform it from a respect to his authority. — 
Rom. xiv. 23. There must also be a faith of the acceptance 
of our works only through the mediation of Christ. Our 
obedience must likewise flow from love to God. — 1 John v. 3. 
3. They must be performed in a right manner. They must be 
done in the strength of promised grace, and in dependence 
upon the righteousness of Christ for acceptance — in the 
exercise of gratitude to God for all his benefits, and under a 
deep sense of our own unworthiness. 4. They must be 
directed to a right end. Our works cannot be accounted 
good, except our chief and ultimate end in doing them be 
the glory of God.— 1 Cor. x. 31. 

Section II. — These good works, done in obedience 
to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of 
a true and lively faith : ^ and by them believers manifest 
their thankfulness,* strengthen their assurance,^ edify 
their brethren,^ adorn the profession of the gospel,'' stop 
the mouths of the adversaries,^ and glorify God,^ whose 

3 James ii. 18, 22. I i Tit. ii. 5, 9-12. 1 Tim. vi. 1. 

* Ps. cxvi. 12, 13. 1 Pet. ii. 9. I « 1 Pet. ii 15. 

6 1 John ii. 3, 5. 2 Pet. i. 5-10. » 1 Pet. ii. 12. Phil. i. 11. Jolm 

« 2 Cor. ix. 2 Matt. v. 16. \ xv. 8. 


workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus there- 
unto ; ^'^ that, having their fruit unto hoHness, they may 
have the end eternal life.^^ 

10 Eph. u. 10. 11 Rom. vi. 22. 

Our good works cannot be profitable to God ; for he is in- 
finitely perfect and all-sufficient in himself, and no addition 
can be made to his essential glory or felicity. — Job xxii. 2, 
XXXV. 7. Neither can our good works have any influence 
upon our justification before God ; for " by the deeds of the 
law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." — Rom. iii. 
20. Nor can our good works be the ground of our title to 
heaven, or to eternal life; for " eternal life is the gift of God, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord." 23. Still, however, 
the performance of good works must be constantly inculcated 
and earnestly urged upon all Christians ; and they seive 
many valuable purposes. Hence the solemn injunction which 
Paul laid upon Titus, and in him upon all other ministers of 
the gospel : " This is a faithful saying, and these things I 
will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have be- 
lieved in God might be careful to maintain good works : 
these things are good and profitable unto men." — Tit. iii. 8. 
Several of the important uses of good works are here speci- 

1. They are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith. 
An inoperative faith, which produces not the fruits of 
righteousness, is pronounced by the Apostle James to be 
dead. — James ii. 2, 6. Of a living faith good works are the 
native fruits, and they are the proper evidences that faith is im- 
feigned. " Show me," says the same apostle, " thy faith with- 
out thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works." 
— James ii. 18. 

2. Good works are suitable expressions of gratitude to God. 
None can render any proper recompense to God for his in- 
estimable blessings; but all Christians are indispensably 
bound to glorify him by a imiversal and cheerful obedience 
to his commandments ; and their good works are, as it were, 
thank-ofi'erings to God for his benefits bestowed upon them. 

3. Good works strengthen the assurance of believers. They 
both confirm their assurance of faith, and increase their as- 
surance of personal interest in Christ, and his great salva- 
tion. " Hereby we do know that we know him," says the 
beloved disciple, " if we keep his commandments."-^! John 
ii. 3. 


4. The good works of believers edify their felloici- Christians. 
Those who are careful to maintain good works become pat- 
terns to others, and stir them up to a holy emulation. 
Hence the Apostle Paul informed the believers at Corinth, 
that their zeal, in contributing for the poor saints at Jerusa- 
lem, " had provoked very many." — 2 Cor. ix. 2. 

5. They adorn the profession of the gospel. Practical godli- 
ness is the brightest ornament of the Christian religion. 
Hence Christians are exhorted by the faithful discharge 
of the duties of their station and relation, to " adorn the 
doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." — Tit. ii. 10. 

6. They stop the mouths of adversaries. When professing 
Christians have " a conversation becoming the gospel," and 
are " ready to every good work," they recommend religion 
to others, silence the adversaries of the truth, and convince 
them of the injustice of those reproaches which have been 
cast upon the gospel, as having a tendency to licentiousness. 
" So is the will of God," says an apostle, " that with well- 
doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." — 
1 Pet. ii, 15. 

7. They glorify God. The more fruitful believers are in 
good works, the more is God glorified ; for "herein" says our 
Lord, " is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." — 
John XV. 8. By their good works Christians not only glorify 
God themselves, but may lead others to glorify him also. 
"Let your light so shine before men," says our Saviour, "that 
they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who 
is in heaven." — Matt. v. 16. 

8. Good works are essentially prerequisite to an admission into 
heaven. Though they do not merit everlasting life, yet they 
are indispensably necessary in all who are " heirs of the grace 
of life." Believers, " being made free from sin, have their 
fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." — Rom. 
Ti. 22. 

Section III. — Their ability to do good works is not 
at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of 
Christ. ^^ And that they may be enabled thereunto, 
besides the graces they have already received, there is 
required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to 
work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure : '^ 
yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they 
were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a 
special motion of the Spirit ; but they ought to be 

12 John XV. 4-6. Ezek. xxxvi. 26. 27. 1 1"« Phil. ii. 13, iv. 13. 2 Cor. iii. 5. 


diligent in stirring up the grace of God tliat is in 

»* Phil. ii. 12. Heb. vi. 11, 12. 1 2 Tim. i. 6. Acts xxvi. 6. 7. 

2 Pet. i. 3, 5, 10, 11. Isa. Ixiv. 7. | Jude 20, 21. 


In opposition to Pelagians, Romanists, and Arminians, our 
Confession asserts, that the ability of believers to do good 
works is not of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of 
Christ. It is to be' carefully observed, that a supernatural 
habit, or vital principle of grace, is infused or implanted in 
the souls of all true believers, in the day of their regene- 
ration, whereby they are disposed and enabled to perform 
acts of holy obedience. — Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. But, notwith- 
standing this power or ability, which believers have received 
by habitual grace, there is required an actual influen^^iilf the 
Holy Spirit unto their performance of every sing^^racious 
holy act. Whatever furniture of habitual grace they may 
have received, there is an actual operation of the Holy Spirit 
in them necessary unto the actual gracious performance of 
every duty of obedience. This is confirmed — 1. By the ex- 
press declaration of our Saviour : " Without me ye can do 
nothing." — John xv. 5. Here our Saviour explicitly affirms 
that believers, who are made partakers of habitual grace, can- 
not of themselves, by virtue of any grace they have already 
received, or without new supplies of grace from him, do any- 
thing that is spiritually good or acceptable to God. 2. By 
the acknowledgment of Paul, speaking in the name of be- 
lievers : " Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think any 
thing as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is of God." — 2 Cor. 
iii. 5. 3. By the prayers of the saints for new supplies of 
grace, to enable them to do the will of God. Paul prays on 
behalf of the Hebrews : " The God of peace make you per- 
fect in every good work to do his will, working in you that 
which is well-pleasing in his sight." — Heb. xiii. 20, 21. The 
necessity, and the efficiency of actual grace unto every ac- 
ceptable act of holy obedience, cannot be more directly ex- 

In opposition, on the other hand, to certain enthusiasts, 
who maintain that believers ought not to perform any duty in 
religion, unless the Spirit within move and excite them to 
these duties, our Confession asserts, that believers ought not 
to " grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any 
duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit ; but they 
* Owen's Discourse concerning the Holy Spirit, book iv., ch. 6, 7. 


ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in 
them." This is so amply confirmed by the passages of Scrip- 
ture to which the compilers of our Confession refer, that we 
feel it quite unnecessary to dwell upon it. 

Section lY. — 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.^^ 

16 Luke xvii. 10. Neh. xiii. 22. Job ix. 2. 3. Gal. v. 17. 

This section is levelled against the doctrine of the Church 
of Rome, respecting works of supererogation. That Church 
teaches, that besides those precepts which are binding on all, 
and which none can disobey without sin, there are " counsels 
of perfection" given in the New Testament, which men are 
at hberty to neglect if they please; and, therefore, those who 
comply with these counsels, perform more than they are bound 
to do, and have, consequently, a superfluous degree of merit, 
that may be transferred to others for their benefit. In the 
progress of the corruptions of that Church, it was taught and 
believed, that the whole stocli of superfluous merit, arising 
out of the good works of those who comply with the counsels 
of perfection, is committed to the management of the Pope, 
to be parcelled out according to his pleasure, in such dispen- 
sations and indulgences as the sins and infirmities of other 
members of the Church appear to him to stand in need of. 
The enormous abuses of this discretionary power with which 
the Pope was invested, were the immediate cause of the 
Reformation.* In opposition to this blasphemous doctrine, 
Protestants maintain, that there is not the slightest founda- 
tion in the Scripture for what the Papists call " counsels of 
perfection." This is evident from the nature of the com- 
I mands which devolve upon all men. We are required " to 
love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with 
all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as 
ourself." — Luke x. 27. What more can be conceived than is 
implied in these two commands ? Works of supererogation 
have no existence but in the vain imaginations of ignorant 
and self-righteous men. So far are the most eminent saints 
from exceeding the measure of their duty, that they fall far 
short of what they are in duty bound to do. " In many 
* Hill's Lectures in Divinity, vol. ii., p. 302. 



things we offend all." " If we say that we have no sin, we 
deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." — James iii. 2; 
1 John i. 8. Our Saviour has taught us to pray daily that 
our trespasses may be forgiven; which necessarily implies 
that we offend every day. 

Section V. — We cannot, by our best works, merit 
pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of God, by 
reason of the great disproportion that is between them 
and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is 
between us and God, whom by them we can neither 
profit nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins ; '^ but 
when we have done all we can, we have done but our 
duty, and are unprofitable servants ; ^^ and because, as 
they are good, they proceed from his Spirit ; ^^ and as 
they are wrought by us, they are defiled and mixed with 
so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot 
endure the severity of God's judgment.'^ 

16 Rom. iii. 20; iv. 2, 4, 6. Eph. ii. 
8,9. Tit. iii. 6-7. Rom. viii. 
18. Ps. xvi. 2. Job xxii. 2, 3 ; 
XXXV. 7, 8. 

^^ Lukexvii. 10. 

18 Gal. V. 22,23. 

19 Isa. Ixiv. 6. Gal. v. 17. Rom. 

vii. 15, 18. Ps. cxiiii. 2; cxxx. 3. 


This section is also directed against an error of the Church 
of Rome, which teaches that the good works of the saints are 
meritorious of eternal life.* That we cannot, by our best 
works, merit pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of 
God, appears from the following considerations: — 1. Our Sa- 
viour declares (Luke xvii. 10), that when we have done all 
those things which are commanded us, Ave are unprofitable 
servants, and have only done that which was our duty. 2. 
Our best works cannot be profitable to God, and therefore 
can merit nothing at his hand. — Ps. xvi. 2. 3. All our 
works, as they are good, proceed from the almighty agency 
of the Spirit of grace (Phil, ii. 13); and as they are not per- 
formed in our own strength, they can merit no reward. 4. Our 
best works, as they are wrought by us, have such a mixture 

* The schoolmen in the Church of Rome spake of meritum de congi-uo—a. 
merit of congruity; and meritimi de cundigno—z. merit of condignity. By the 
former, they meant the value of good works previous to justification, which 
it was fit or congruous for God to reward by infusing his grace. By the latter, 
tliey meant the value of good works performed after justification in conse- 
quence of grace infused. These, altliough performed by the grace of God, 
were conceived to have that intrinsic worth which merits a reward, and to 
which eternal life is as much due as a wage is to the tervant by whom it is 
earned. — Hill's Lectures, vol, ii., p. 301. 

SECT. 6, 7.] OF GOOD WORKS. 1 69 

of sin in them, that, instead of meriting anything at the hand 

of God, they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment 

Ps. cxliii. 2. 5. Our best works bear no proportion to the in- 
estimable blessing of eternal life (2 Cor. iv, 17); accordingly, 
the reward is represented " as of grace, not of debt;" and we 
are directed to " look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ 
unto eternal life." — Jude 21. 

Section YI. — Yet, notwithstanding, the persons of 
believers being accepted through Christ, their good works 
also are accepted in him ; ^° not as though they were 
in this life wholly unblameable 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.^ 

20 Eph. i. 6. 1 Pet. ii. 5. Exod. I 21 Job ix. 20. Ps. cxliii. 2. 

xxviii. 38. Gen. iv. 4. Heb. "- Heb. xiii. 20, 21. 2 Cor. viii. 12. 
xi. 4. I Heb. vi. 10. Matt. xxv. 21, 23. 


This section teaches us that the good works of believers, 
although not meritorious, are yet accepted of God, through 
Christ. Here it is only necessary to offer two remarks — Isf, 
That our persons must be accepted, before OTir works of obe- 
dience can be accepted with God. " The Lord had respect 
unto Abel, and to his offering." — Gen. iv. 4. In accepting 
of his offering, God testified that he had respect unto his 
person ; i. e., that he esteemed and accounted him righteous. — 
Heb. xi. 4. 2d, That the best of our works are not accepted 
as they are ours, but only upon account of the merit and 
mediation of Christ. As our persons are " accepted in the 
Beloved," so our works are only " acceptable to God by Jesus 
Christ."—! Pet. ii. 5. 

Section YII. — "Works done by unregenerate men, 
although, for the matter of them, they may be things 
which God commands, and of good use both to them- 
selves and others ; ^^ yet, because they proceed not from 
an heart purified by faith ; ^* nor are done in a right 
manner, according to the Word ; ^^ nor to a right end, 
the glory of God ; ^^ they are therefore sinful, and cannot 

s"* 2 Kings X. 30, 31. 1 Kings xxi. I 2* Gen. iv. 5. Heb. xi. 4, 6. 
27, 29. Phil. i. 1% 16, 18. | 2» 1 Cor. xiii. 3. Isa. i. 12. 

26 Matt. vi. 2. 5, 16. 

Hag. ii. 14. Tit. i 

. 15. 

Amos V. 

21, 22. Hosea i 

. 4. 

Rom. ix. 

16. Tit. iii. 5. 


please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from 
God.^ And yet their neglect of them is more sinful, 
and displeasing unto God.^^ 

28 Ps. xiv. 4 ; xxxvi. 3. Job xxi. 14, 
15. Matt. XXV. 41-43, 45 ; xxiii. 


This section is again levelled against the errors of the 
Church of Rome. The writers of that Church hold that the 
actions of men in an unregenerate state can be so pure as to 
be free from all sin, and to merit at God's hand by what they 
call the merit of congruity. We have formerly made a dis- 
tinction respecting good works, which claims attention here. 
An action may be materially, and yet not formally, good. 
Prayer, reading and hearing the Word of God, distributing 
to the poor, are actions materially good ; but unless these 
actions are done by persons who are " accepted in the Be- 
loved," and " created anew in Christ Jesus" — unless they flow 
from a right principle, are performed in a right manner, and 
directed to a right end, they are not formally good. Now, 
unregenerate men may do many things that are good, for the 
matter of them, because they are things which God com- 
mands, and of good use to themselves and others ; but, as 
performed by them, they are destitute of everything that 
can render an action " good and acceptable in the sight of 
God." Explicit is the declaration of the Apostle Paul : 
" They that are in the flesh cannot please God." — Rom. 
viii. 8. To be in the flesh is to be in a natural, corrupt, de- 
praved state ; and, as a polluted fountain cannot send forth 
pure streams, nor a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit, so 
they that are in the flesh cannot perform any work that is 
spiritually good and acceptable to God. Instead of pleasing 
God, and making them meet to receive grace from him, all 
the works of unregenerate men are sinful, and therefore 
deserve the wrath and curse of God. " All unconverted per- 
sons are said in Scripture to be sinners, or workers of ini- 
quity (Ps. liii. 4) ; and their works, how advantageous soever 
many of them may be to themselves or others, are all, not- 
withstanding, represented as sins, in the account of an infi- 
nitely holy God (Pro v. xxi. 4) ; for although many of them 
may be materially good, yet all of them are formally evil, and 
therefore they are an abomination to him." — Prov. xv. 8. * 
It must not, however, be inferred, that unregenerate men 
may live in the neglect of any duty which God has com- 
* Colquhoun's Treatise on the Law and the Gospel, p. 333. 


manded. Though their prayers, for example, cannot be 
acceptable to God, yet their neglect of prayer would be more 
sinful and displeasing to him. This neglect is always repre- 
sented in Scripture as highly criminal : " The wicked, through 
the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God." — Ps. x.4. 
And as this is their sin, so the wrath of God is denounced 
against them : " Pour out thy fury upon the heathen, that 
know thee not, and upon the families that call not upon thy 
name." — Jer. x. 25. 

In concluding this chapter, we would impress upon the 
reader, that the gospel is " a doctrine according to godliness." 
" The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to 
all men ; teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly 
lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this 
present world." Nothing but the most deplorable ignorance, 
or the most determined enmity against the truth, could ever 
have led men to set the gospel and morality in opposition to 
each other, or to allege that the doctrine of grace tends to 
licentiousness. Such men know not Avhat they say, nor 
whereof they affirm. It is by inculcating morality upon 
gospel principles that we establish it upon the firmest basis. 
" Do we make void the law through faith ? God forbid : yea, 
we establish the law." Though good works are excluded 
from having any meritorious influence in the matter of sal- 
vation, yet, as we have seen, they are of indispensable neces- 
sity, and serve many valuable purposes. Let it, therefore, be 
the study of all who " name the name of Christ" to be " fruit- 
ful in good works," that so they may silence the adversaries 
of the truth, recommend religion to all within the sphere of 
their influence, glorifj^ their Father who is in heaven, and 
promote their own comfort and happiness. 



Section I. — They whom God hath accepted in Lis 
Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, 
can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state 
of grace ; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, 
and be eternally saved.* 

» Phil. i. 6. 2 Pet. i. 10. John x- iis. 29. 1 John iii. 9. 1 Pet. i. 5, 9. 


Section II. — This perseverance of the saints depends 
not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability 
of the decree of election, iSowing from the free and 
unchangeable love of God the Father ; ^ upon the efficacy 
of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ ; ^ the abiding 
of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them ; * and 
the nature of the covenant of grace : ® from all which 
ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.^ 

Section III. — Nevertheless they may, through the 
temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency 
of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the 
means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins ; " and 
for a time continue therein : ^ whereby they incur God's 
displeasure,^ and grieve his Holy Spirit ; ^'' come to be 
deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; " 
have their hearts hardened,^^ and their consciences 
wounded ; ^^ hurt and scandalize others,^* and bring 
temporal judgments upon themselves.^^ 

2 2 Tim. ii. 18, 19. Jer. xxxi. 3. I ' Matt. xxvi. 70, 72, 74, « Ps. li. H. 

« Heb. X. 10, 14; xiii. 20, 21; ix. | » Isa. Ixiv, 5, 7, 9.; 2 Sam. xi. 27. 

12-15. Rom.viii. 33-39. John I lo Eph. iv. 30. 

xvii. 11, 24. Luke xxii. 32. | " Ps. li. 8, 10, 12. Rev. ii. 4. Cant. 

Heb. vii. 25." v. 2-4. 6, 

John xiv. 16, 17. 1 John ii. 27; ^^ isa. Ixiii. 17. Mark vi. 52 ; xvi. 14. 

iii. 9. 6 Jer. xxxii. 40. | i3 pg. xxxii. 3, 4 ; li. 8. 

« John X. 28. 2 Thess. iii. 3. 1 John I i* 2 Sam. xii. 14. 

ii. 19. I " Ps. Ixxxix. 31, 32. 1 Cor. xi. 32. 


The perseverance of the saints is one of the articles by 
which the creed of the followers of Calvin is distinguished 
from that of the followers of Arminius. The latter hold, 
that true believers may fall into sins inconsistent with a state 
of grace, and may continue in apostasy to the end of life, 
and consequently may finally fall into perdition. The same 
doctrine is avowedly supported by the Church of Rome; for 
the Council of Trent has decreed, that " If any person shall 
say that a man who has been justified cannot lose grace, 
and that, therefore, he who falls and sins was never truly 
justified, he shall be accursed." * In opposition to this tenet, 
our Confession affirms, that true believers " can neither 
totally nor finally fall away from a state of grace; but shall 

* Decret. de Justijicatione, canon xxiii. 


certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally 
saved." There may seem to be a redundancy of language in 
this statement; for, if believers cannot fall totally, it follows 
that they cannot fall finally. Both terms, however, are em- 
ployed with the utmost propriety. " They are intended to 
oppose the doctrine of Arminians, who affirm, that although 
a saint may fall totally from grace, he may be restored by 
repentance; but that since this is uncertain, and does not 
always take place, he may also fall finally, and die in his sins. 
Now, we affirm, that the total apostasy of believers is impos- 
sible, not in the nature of things, but by the divine constitu- 
tion; and, consequently, that no man who has been once 
received into the divine favour can be ultimately deprived of 
salvation." * 

For the purpose of explaining the doctrine of the perse- 
verance of the saints, and obviating objections against it, we 
offer the following observations, which will be found embodied 
in the several propositions of our Confession : — 

1. The privilege of final perseverance is peculiar to true believers. 

It is restricted in our Confession " to those whom God 
hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified 
by his Spirit." Many in the visible Church are merely no- 
minal Christians. They are joined to the Church by an 
external profession; but they are not united to the Head of 
the Church by the Spirit of grace, and by a living faith. 
They assume the form of godliness, but are strangers to its 
power. They may have a name to live, but they are spiri- 
tually dead. Now, it is readily granted, that such seeming 
Christians may finally apostatize. They never knew the 
grace of God in tnith, and may, in a season of trial, discover 
their real character by open apostasy. They might have a 
splendid profession of religion, and be possessed of eminent 
gifts, and might thus deceive themselves and impose upon 
others; but they had not "the root of the matter" in them. 
And we may assuredly conclude of all those who fall totally 
and finally away, that they were never really " rooted and 
grounded in Christ." An inspired apostle declares, concern- 
ing such persons : " They went out from us, but they were 
not of us : for if they had been of us, they would no doubt 
have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be 
made manifest, that they were not all of us." — 1 John ii. 19. 

This enables us to explain the several examples of apostasy 
mentioned in Scripture, in perfect consistency Avith the final 
perseverance of the saints. The stony-ground hearers, who 
received the Word with joy, and afterwards fell away, are 
* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. iii. p. 516. 


expressly said to have had no root in themselves, and so en- 
dured only for a while. — Matt, xiii. 21. In Heb. vi. 4-6, 
some are said to be enlightened, and to have tasted of the 
heavenly gift, and to be made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 
and to have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of 
the world to come, and yet it is supposed they may fall away 
and never be restored again; but it is evident, that notwith- 
standing the high things ascribed to them, they never had 
the truth of grace; for there are better things, even things 
that accompany salvation, expressly mentioned (verse 9) in 
conti'adistinction to their attainments. Those mentioned by 
another apostle (2 Pet. ii. 20), who had escaped the pollutions 
of the world, and were again entangled therein, and over- 
come, had evidently never experienced a real change of their 
impure nature, though they had an outward reformation. 
Such examples, or the fall of such mere professors of reli- 
gion as Hymeneus, Philetus, and Demas, do not in the least 
invalidate the doctrine of the final perseverance of true 

It may here be remarked, that as the privilege of perse- 
verance is limited to true believers, so it must be extended to 
every one of them. If one of them could be lost, this would 
sap the foundation of the comfort of the whole ; for the con- 
dition of all would be insecure. Not only those who have 
a high degree of grace, but all who have true grace, though 
but like a grain of mustard seed — not only the strong and 
flourishing, but such as are like " the smoking flax and 
bruised reed," shall be enabled to " hold on their way," and 
shall grow stronger and stronger. The same reasons hold 
for the perseverance of all, as of any who have " obtained 
like precious faith;" and we must either erase this entirely 
from the catalogue of the believer's privileges, or maintain 
that it extends to every one of them. 

II. The perseverance of the saints is not owing to their in- 
herent strength, or to any measure of grace they have already re- 
ceived, hut solely to divine grace. We readily acknowledge, 
that in themselves they are utterly weak, and wholly insuf- 
ficient to withstand the numerous and formidable enemies 
that are combined against them; such as Satan, the world, 
and the corruptions of their own hearts. If left to contend 
with their spiritual adversaries in their own strength, they 
would be easily overcome. If their perseverance depended 
on their own resolution, their faith would soon fail. How 
strikingly is this humbling truth exemplified in the case of 
Peter ! He said with confidence : " Though all men should 
be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended." — 

Sect. 1-3.]] of the perseverance of the saints. 175 

" Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." — 
Matt. xxvi. 33, 35. But how soon was his fortitude shaken ! 
How soon was his good resolution forgotten, and given 
to the winds ! He trusted too much in his own strength, 
and was left to feel his weakness. He was brought to the 
trial, and his presumed strength was gone. He trembled 
at the voice of a maid, and denied his Lord with dreadful 
oaths and horrid imprecations. What but the prevalent 
prayer, and upholding grace of the Divine Redeemer, pre- 
vented him from becoming, like Judas, a perfidious apostate ! 
But such are the best of saints, considered in themselves. 
Their perseverance, therefore, as our Confession states, 
" depends not upon their own free will." They have no 
might in themselves to resist and overcome the powerful 
foes united against them, and they are safest when most 
deeply sensible of their own weakness, and most entirely 
dependent upon divine grace ; for " when they are weak, then 
are they strong." 

III. The perseverance of the saints does not secure them 
from partial falls, but from total and final apostasy. Our Con- 
fession admits, that believers may, " through the temptations 
of Satan, and of the world, the prevalency of corruption re- 
maining in them, and the neglect of the means of their pre- 
servation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue 
therein." The caution addressed to " him that thinketh he 
standeth, to take heed lest he fall," and the ardent prayers 
of the saints, that God would " cleanse them from secret 
faults, and keep them back from presumptuous sins," mani- 
fest, that though none of the saints can fall from a state of 
grace, yet they may fall into very great sins. And the Scrip- 
tures furnish many instances of partial falls in the most emi- 
nent saints. The patient Job cursed the day of his birth. 
The man IMoses, who was " meek above all men which were 
upon the face of the earth," spake unadvisedly with his lips. 
David, the man after God's own heart, was guilty of an 
atrocious and a complicated sin. Solomon, though the 
wisest of men, " did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went 
not fully after the Lord, as did David his father." Peter, a 
bold and zealous disciple, denied his Lord in the most ag- 
gravated manner. But though true saints may fall very 
lo\y, so low that themselves and others may have little hope 
of their recovery, yet they shall not be utterly lost; for the 
hand of the Lord still in a measure sustains them. " Though 
a good man fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the 
Lord upboldeth him with his hand." — Ps. xxx^•ii. 24. " A 
just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again." — Prov. 


xxiv. 16. Though David fell into very grievous sins, and 
appears to have remained in a state of great insensibility till 
he was awakened by the Prophet Nathan, yet, it is manifest, 
that he had not lost entirely what was wrought in him by 
the Spirit of God. For we find him afterwards praying : 
" Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy 
Holy Spirit from me" (Ps. li. 11); which implies, that he 
had then some experience^ of God's presence, and that the 
Holy Spirit had never wholly departed from him. When it 
is said of Solomon, that " he went not fully after the Lord, 
as did David his father" (1 Kings xi. 6.), it seems manifest, 
that his declension is to be understood of an abatement of 
his former zeal, and not of a total and final apostasy. God, 
as still his father, " chastened him with the rod of men, and 
with the stripes of the children of men;" but never suffered 
" his mercy to depart away from him." — 2 Sam. vii. 14, 15. 
Peter, too, was recovered from his lamentable fall. When 
Christ " turned and looked upon him, he went out, and wept 
bitterly." — Luke xxii. 61, 62. When his Lord afterwards 
questioned him respecting his love, he could appeal to him 
as the searcher of hearts, that he did love him in sincerity; 
and Christ having renewed his commission, he laboured 
zealously and faithfully in his Master's service. The fact, 
then, that true saints may fall into grievous sins, is by no 
means incompatible with their final perseverance. The 
Lord promises to " heal their backslidings" (Hos. xiv. 4) ; 
and while this promise implies that they may fall partially, 
it secures that they shall not fall totally and finally. 

IV. The perseverance of the saints secures the preservation 
of the 'principle of grace in their souls, though it may greatly decay 
as to its exercise. In regard to the acting or exercise of grace, 
the believer may sometimes be in a very languishing condi- 
tion ; but the principle of grace shall never be entirely eradi- 
cated. He may appear like a tree almost killed by a long 
and severe winter. He may seem to be without fruit, with- 
out verdure; yea, even without life. But, xmder all the 
witherings of the believer, "his seed remaineth in him;" 
otherwise the promise would fail in wliich it is engaged, 
that " the root of the righteous shall not be moved." — ProA\ 
xii. 3. We see this exemplified in the case of Peter. Christ 
said to him : " I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail 
not." — Luke xxii. 32. We cannot doubt that Peter's faith, 
as to its exercise, did fail, and that in a most lamentable man- 
ner. But to suppose that his faith failed as to its principle 
or habit, would be altogether inconsistent with the success of 
Christ's prayer, which we are sure is always prevalent. As 


a tree in winter has still life in the root, though its branches 
wither, and it appears to be dead; so the believer, in his most 
decayed and languishing condition, has still a vital principle 
of grace within. And as the tree revives and flourishes as 
soon as the spring returns, so the believer's graces revive, 
and act with renewed vigour when " the Sun of Righteous- 
ness" returns with his refreshing influences. The exercise 
of grace may be interrupted, but the principle of grace, once 
implanted, shall never be entirely extirpated. The believer 
may fall into a very languid condition, but he shall never fall 
away from a state of grace. He shall be enabled to persevere 
until grace shall be consummated in glory. 

Having explained the doctrine of the perseverance of the 
saints, as it is exhibited in our Confession, the arguments 
by which it is supported may now be stated. These are 
arranged, in the second section, in the following order : — 

1. The perseverance of the saints is secured by the immutO' 
hility of the decree of election. That a certain definite number 
of mankind sinners were, in sovereign mercy, chosen of God, 
and appointed unto glory, before the foundation of the 
world, is a truth attested by many express declarations of 
Scripture. — Eph. i. 4; 2 Thess. ii. 13; Acts xiii. 48. This 
purpose of God finally to bestow salvation or eternal life 
upon his chosen, necessarily includes a determination to do 
all that is requisite to make them meet for the enjoyment of 
it, and to preserve them amidst all snares and temptations 
to the full possession of it. Now, if one included in the 
election of grace should finally perish, the purpose of God 
would, in that instance, be fnistrated, and in every instance 
in which such an event should take place. But his purpose, 
originating from himself, and being altogether independent 
of his creatures, must be unchangeable as his nature. Hence 
he proclaims, with divine majesty: "I am the Lord; I change 
not." " My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my plea- 
sure." Our Saviour himself, from the election of believers, 
infers the impossibility of their being seduced into a perish- 
ing condition. " There shall arise false Christs, and false 
prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch 
that (if it were possible) they shall deceive the very elect." 
— Matt. xxiv. 24. It is evident that, in this passage, our 
Lord treats of the elect after being brought to the know- 
ledge of the truth, and that he speaks not of any seduction 
whatsoever, but that which is total and final. Now, the 
words, " If it were possible," imply a real impossibility of 
their being so seduced. 

2. It is seciired by the merit of Christ's suiferings and death. 


Christ " purchased the Church with his ovm blood." The 
" iniquities " of all his people " were laid upon him," and, as 
their Surety, " he bore their sins in his own body on the 
tree." He sustained the full infliction of the curse which 
they deserved, and " obtained for them eternal redemption." 
" Now, as a surety stands in the room of the person whom 
he represents, the latter reaps all the benefit of what the 
surety has done in his name ; so that, if his debt has been 
paid by the surety, the creditor cannot demand the payment 
of it from him. Let us apply this illustration to the subject 
before us. If Christ made satisfaction on the cross for the 
sins of his people — not for some of them only, but for them 
all, as we are expressly assured — it would be contrary to jus- 
tice to subject them also to the punishment. But, if the 
saints may fall from a state of gi-ace, and perish in their sins, 
satisfaction will be twice exacted — first, from the surety; and 
secondly, from them. Either Christ did, or did not, make an 
atonement for the sins of his people. If he did not make an 
atonement for them, they must satisfy for themselves ; if he 
did answer the demands of justice in their room, it is impos- 
sible that, under the righteous administration of Heaven, 
they should, by any cause, or for any reason, come into con- 
demnation. Accordingly, the new covenant promises to be- 
lievers complete and irrevocable pardon. I will * be merci- 
ful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities 
will I remember no more.' — Heb. viii. 12. But if the doc- 
trine of the defectibility of the saints is true, the promise is 
false; for their sins may be remembered again. Nay, if this 
doctrine is true, Christ might have died in vain; for, as one 
saint may fall from a state of grace as well as another, it 
might happen that not a single sinner shoidd be actually re- 
deemed by his blood from everlasting destiniction." * 

3. It is secured by the perpetuity and jyj-eralence of Christ's in- 
tercession. As Christ purchased his people by the merit of 
his own blood, so "he ever liveth to make intercession" 
for them. And what is the matter of his intercession on 
their behalf ? He prays for every one of them, as he did for 
Peter, " that their faith fail not." In those petitions which 
he offered up for his followers, while he was yet on earth, 
we have a specimen of his pleadings before the throne. Now, 
he prayed once and again for their preservation : " Holy 
Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast 
given me;" " I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of 
the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." 
— John xvii. 11, 15. Lest any should confine these petitions 
* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. iii., p. 521. 


to liis immediate disciples, or to such as already believed on 
him, he adds (verse 20) : "Neither pray I for these alone, but 
for them also which shall believe on me through their word." 
If, then, there is any efficacy in the intercession of Christ, 
the perseverance of all who believe on him is infallibly se- 
cured. But his intercession, being founded on his satisfac- 
tory death and meritorious righteousness, must be prevalent 
and effectual to obtain for his people all that he asks on their 
behalf. Him the Father always heareth. — John xi. 42. 

4. It is secured by the constant inhabitation of the Spirit. When 
our Lord was about to depart out of this world, he consoled 
the hearts of his disciples by the promise of the Spirit. " 1 
will pray the Father," said he, " and he shall give you another 
Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." — John xiv. 
16. That the gift of the Spirit was not peculiar to the 
apostles, but is the happy privilege of every real Christian, 
is evident from the inspired declaration : " If any man have 
not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." — Rom. viii. 9. 
Now, the Spirit does not enter into the hearts of believers 
as a transient visitant, but " to make his abode with them." 
Hence they are called " the temple of God, because the 
Spirit of God dwelleth in them." And the constant residence 
of the Spirit in believers effectually secures their perseve- 
rance; for his gracious purpose in taking up his residence in 
them is, to make them meet for the inheritance of the saints 
in light, to guard them through life, and conduct them to 
glory. By him they are sealed to the day of redemption, and 
he is the earnest of their future inheritance. — 2 Cor. i. 22; 
Eph. i. 13, 14. An earnest is a part given as a security for 
the future possession of the whole ; and as the Holy Spirit is 
to believers the earnest of the heavenly inheritance, this 
must imply the utmost certainty of their future bliss. If any 
who have received the Spirit were left to fall totally and 
finally from a state of grace, and to come short of the 
heavenly inheritance, then, shocking thought ! the Sj)irit of 
truth would be a precarious and fallacious earnest. 

5. It is secured by the unchangeable nature of the covenant of 
grace. This covenant, being founded in the grace of God, 
and not in our obedience, is " ordered in all things, and sure." 
The tenor of this covenant is clearly expressed : " I will 
make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn 
away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear 
in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." — Jer. 
xxxii. 40. It is worthy of remark, that here is not only a 
promise of the constant affection of God towards his people, 
so that he will never turn away from them to do them good, 


but also a promise that he will put his fear in their hearts, so 
that they shall not depart from him. God not only promises 
that he will continue to be gracious to them, if they continue 
to fear him, but he also pledges himself to put his fear in their 
hearts, or to grant to them such communications of his grace 
as shall preserve them from falling away. The certainty of 
the saints' perseverance could not possibly be expressed in 
stronger terms. 

In addition to these arguments, which are specified in the 
Confession, we may state that the perseverance of the saints 
is also evident — 1. From manifold divine promises. — Isa. liv. 
10; John x. 27-30; Heb. xiii. 5. 2. From the various 
divine perfections. 3, From the connection between the 
effectual calling and the glorification of believers. — Rom. 
viii. 30. 4. From the character of perfection that belongs 
to all the works of God. — Phil. i. 6. 5. From the intimate and 
indissoluble union that subsists between Christ and believers. 
— John XV. 5; 1 Cor. xii. 12; John xiv. 19, 20.* 

The doctrine of the saints' perseverance has been some- 
times represented as unfriendly to the interests of holiness. 
But how it can have this efibct, it is not easy to perceive. 
Although believers "shall certainly persevere in grace to 
the end, and be eternally saved;" yet, if they fall into grie- 
vous sins, they thereby " incur God's displeasure, and grieve 
his Holy Spirit — come to be deprived of some measure of 
their graces and comforts — have their hearts hardened, and 
their consciences wounded — hurt and scandalize others, and 
bring temporal judgments upon themselves." If, then, the 
saints feel any concern about the glory of their heavenly 
Father, the edification of others, and their own comfort, they 
have the strongest motives to " abstain from all appearance 
of evil," and to endeavour to be found " walking in all the 
commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." 
Besides, the perseverance for which we plead is a perse- 
verance in holiness to the end; and how can this doctrine have 
any tendency to make men careless about the commission of 
sin ? Add to this, that the more firmly the believer is 
persuaded that nothing shall be able to separate him from 
the love of God, and the more he feels the love of God shed 
abroad in his heart, the more powerfully will he be constrained 
to live so as to promote the glory of God. — 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. 

The certainty of the saints' perseverance affords no en- 

* This subject is treated by all systematic writers. It is also fully discussed 
in the following works: — Lime Street Lectures, Ser. 9; Berry Street Ser- 
mons, Ser. 24; Elisha Coles On God's Sovereignty; Sam. Wilson's Sermons, 
Ser. 11-15; and President Edwards' Remarks on Important Theological 
Controversies, chap, v. 


couragement to any to neglect the means which God has 
appointed for their preservation. " Watch and pray," said 
our Saviour, " that ye enter not into temptation." " Be- 
ware lest ye fall from your own stedfastness," said his 
apostle. " Look to yourselves, that ye lose not those things 
which ye have wrought." The Scriptures abound with such 
exhortations and admonitions ; and they are greatly mistaken 
who infer, from them, that the saints may fall totally and 
finally away from grace. God deals with his people as ra- 
tional creatures, and these exhortations and admonitions are 
' the very means which he employs, and which he renders 
I eflfectual, for preventing their apostasy, and for promoting 
their final perseverance. God works in believers, both to 
will and to do ; but he requires them to do their part while 
! he is doing his. Let every Christian, therefore, be " sted- 
• fast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, 
i forasmuch as he knows that his labour is not in vain in the 



Section I — Although hypocrites, and other un- 
regenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with 
false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the 
favour of God and estate of salvation ; * which hope of 
theirs shall perish ; ^ yet such as truly believe in the Lord 
Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk 
in all good conscience before him, may in this life be 
certainly assured that they are in the state of grace,^ and 
may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God ; which 
hope shall never make them ashamed.^ 

Section II. — This certainty is not a bare conjectural 
and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope ; ^ 
but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the 

1 Job viii. 13, 14. Micah iii. 11. 1 » IJohn ii.3; iii. 14, 18, 19, 21,24; v. 13. 

Deut. xxix. 19. John viii. 41. * Kom. v. 2, 5. 

2 Matt. vii. 22, 23. 1 « Heb. vi. 11, 19. 


divine truth of the promises of salvation,^ the inward 
evidence of those graces unto which these promises are 
made/ the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing 
with our spirits that we are the children of God : ^ 
which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby 
we are sealed to the day of redemption.^ 

« Heb. vi. 17, 18. I ^ Rom. viii. 15. 16. 

T 2 Pet. i. 4, 5, 10, 11. 1 John ii 3; » Eph. i. 13, 14; iv. 30. 2 Cor. i. 
iii. 14. 2 Cor. i. 12. 1 21, 22. 


By the " assurance of grace and salvation," treated of in 
this chapter, is meant the believer's assurance that he is 
*' in the state of grace," and has a personal interest in the 
salvation of Christ. The statements on this subject are 
directed against certain errors of the Church of Rome, and 
of the Arminians. The Church of Rome deny that it ia 
possible for any man in this life to attain more than a con- 
jectural and probable persuasion of salvation, except by 
extraordinary revelation ; and they build some of the most 
gainful parts of their traffic upon that perpetual doubt and 
uncertainty, with respect to their final salvation, in which 
they keep their votaries, and which they profess in some de- 
gree to remove by the prayers of the Church, the merits of 
saints and martyrs, and the absolution which the priests pro- 
nounce in the name of God. The Arminians, in consistency 
with their denial of the certainty of the saints' final perse- 
verance, hold that it is not possible for any man to attain a 
greater certainty of salvation than this, that, if he shall 
persevere in the faith to the end, he shall be saved. 

1. In opposition to these errors, our Confession teaches, 
that the saints, without any special or immediate revelation, 
in the due use of ordinary means, may attain, not merely a 
conjectural or probable persuasion, but a certain assurance 
of their being in a state of grace, and of their final salva- 
tion. This is confirmed by such considerations as the fol- 
lowing : — 1. In the Scriptures, Christians are enjoined to 
examine themselves, and give all diligence to attain this 
assurance. The Apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthians to 
" examine themselves whether they be in the faitli," and 
speaks of it as an argument of something very blameable in 
them, not to know whether Jesus Christ be in them or not. 
— 2. Cor. xiii. 5. The Apostle Peter directs all Christians 
to " give all diligence to make their calling and election 
sure," not to others, but to themselves ; and informs them 


how they may do this. — 2 Pet. i. 5-11. The exhortation is 
addressed to them that have " obtained precious faith through 
the righteousness of God, even our Saviour Jesus Christ;" 
they are directed to " add to their faith, virtue ; and to 
\artue, knowledge," &c. ; and they are informed, that by so 
doing, they would attain a certain assurance of their calling 
and election, and have a certain admission into the everlast- 
ing kingdom of God in heaven. This direction is of the 
same nature with the exhortation of the Apostle Paul to 
the Hebrews (vi. 11) : "We desire that every one of you 
do show the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope 
unto the end." These exhortations make it manifest, that 
Christians have the means, without any special revelation, of 
assuring themselves of their present piety and future safety. 
2. The Scriptures exhibit many marks or characters of 
genuine believers, by which they may be certainly assured 
that they have believed to the saving of their souls. " Here- 
by we do know that we know him, if we keep his com- 
mandments." " Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is 
the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are 
in him." — 1 John ii. 3, 5. "We know that we have passed 
from death unto life, because we love the brethren." " Here- 
by we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our 
hearts before him." — 1 John iii. 14, 19. The scope of the 
whole of that Epistle is, to propose such sure marks to be- 
lievers, by which they may " know that they have eternal 
life." — 1 John v. 13. 3. We have many examples of the 
attainment of this assurance, in the history of the personal 
experience of the saints. The saints described in Scripture 
were in the habit of expressing their assurance of salvation. 
" As for me," said David, " I will behold thy face in righteous- 
ness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.'' 
— Ps. xvii. 15. " Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life : and I will dwell in the house of the 
Lord for ever." — Ps. xxiii. 6. " Thou shalt guide me with thy 
counsel, and afterward receive me to glory." — Ps. Ixxiii. 24. 
Job, too, in the midst of his accumulated afflictions, spake the 
language of assurance : " I know that my Redeemer liveth," 
&c. — Job xix. 25. The experience of New Testament 
believers is still more plainly expressed. The Apostle Paul 
may serve as an example. These are his triumphant asser- 
tions in behalf of all the saints : " We are more than con- 
querors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, 
that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor 
powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, 
nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate 


US from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'* 
— Rom. viii. 37-39; see also, 2 Cor. v. i. Upon another 
occasion he declares his assurance that he had believed in 
Christ, and his full persuasion of his future felicity : " I 
know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is 
able to keep that which I have committed unto him against 
that day." — 2 Tim. i. 12. So confident was he that, when 
" absent from the body," he should be "presentwith the Lord," 
that he expresses his willingness, nay, his ardent desire, in 
consequence of his assurance, to be released from the body, 
that he might immediately enter upon the heavenly enjoy- 
ment : " I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my 
departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have 
finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there 
is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, 
the righteous judge, shall give me at that day." — 2 Tim. iv. 
6-8; see also 2 Cor. v. 8; Phil. i. 23. These examples 
must be sufficient to establish the general principle, that an 
assurance of salvation is in this life attainable by believers. 

2. This assurance is " founded upon the divine truth of the 
promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces 
unto which these promises are made, and the testimony of 
the Spirit of adoption Avitnessing with our spirits that we are 
the children of God." It is not founded upon any of these 
things singly, but upon all of them combined. The promises 
of salvation in the Word furnish us with the distinguishing 
characters of true Christians, and infallibly assure us, that all 
in whom these characters are found shall be saved. The 
inward evidences of grace assure us that we possess these 
characters ; and we are then warranted to draw the conclu- 
sion, that we are now in a gracious state, and " shall be 
saved with an everlasting salvation." " Assurance is ge- 
nerally attained by a sort of sacred syllogism, or reasoning 
in this manner : — Whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus 
Christ is in a state of grace, and shall be saved. — Acts xvi. 
31; Rom. ix. 33. But I believe in him; therefore, I am 
in a state of grace, and shall be saved. So long as we be- 
lieve the Scriptures of truth, the first of these propositions 
cannot be called in question. All the difficulty respects the 
second, viz., Whether we truly believe in Christ. For it 
cannot be denied, that a man may think himself to be some- 
thing when he is nothing, and so deceive himself. — Gal. vi. 
3. As little can it, that the mental eyes may be holden, as 
sometimes the bodily have (Luke xxiv. 16) ; and in such a 
case, even he that feareth the Lord must walk in darkness 
(Isa. i. 10) ; not knowing that he is in Christ, though he cer- 


tainly is. It is not sufficient that the man is conscious of 
certain acts, as of faith, repentance, love to God and all his 
saints. In order to reach the heights of holy assurance, he 
must be satisfied as to the specific nature of these acts, that 
they are unfeigned, and not hypocritical. But how he can 
attain to this, without the assistance of the Holy Spirit, is 
inconceivable. He who gave him faith and repentance, 
must also make him know the things which are freely given 
him of God. — 1 Cor. ii. 12. As the sun ca,nnot be seen but 
by his own light, neither can we know, but by the Spirit, 
that we have the Spirit."* 

Some have taught, that every man who believes in Christ 
must be immediately conscious that he does so ; and that 
this consciousness is the first evidence which a man has that 
he is in a justified state. Our Confession is altogether silent 
concerning this evidence ; or rather, it plainly indicates, that 
this consciousness is by no means an inseparable concomitant 
of true faith. This consciousness is the same thing that many 
theological writers have termed "the reflex act of faith." 
By this they meant a consciousness of the direct act of faith, 

Ior a knowledge that one has believed, arising from reflection. 
Now, by declaring that the "assurance of grace and salva- 
tion" is not essential to faith, our Confession teaches that a 
person may believe in Christ, and may be justified by his 
faith, before he attain the assurance that he is in a justified 
state ; or, in other words, he may believe in Christ, and not 
be immediately conscious that he has truly believed to the 
•saving of his soul. Faith admits of different degrees, and 
the evidence of it will be proportioned to its strength. When 
large communications of the Spirit are given, by means of 
which faith becomes very strong, then it may carry along 
with it the most convincing evidence of its truth. Doubtless 
the faith of many of the saints recorded in Scripture, as of 
Abraham, the centurion, and the woman of Canaan, was 
such as left no room to doubt of it. But this will not war- 
rant us to assert, that every believer must be instantly con- 
scious of his believing in Christ, and that his faith is unfeigned. 
" If faith consisted merely in an assent of the understanding 
to the truth of a proposition, on perceiving the evidence on 
which it rests, there could be no doubt of the person being 
conscious or certain of it ; but if the heart be in any sense 
the proper seat of saving faith, more uncertainty will attend 
the evidence arising from consciousness. If no opposite dis- 
positions to God and to the way of salvation by grace existed 
in the soul, the matter would be very easy ; but that is not 
* Bell's Notes to Witsius' Irenical Animadversions, pp. 305, 30G. 


the case. The heart, in regenei-ation, is not altogether de- 
livered from the deceit occasioned by sin ; so that it con- 
stantly attempts to deceive and mislead the soul. There is 
not one gracious spiritual disposition or exercise of the heart 
but may be, in some degree, counterfeited by the mere work- 
ing of natural principles; and the remaining deceit of the 
heart may so operate as to render it very difficult for the be- 
liever to discriminate the one from the other. Many morally 
serious persons are deceived in this way, mistaking those 
affections which they sometimes feel, and which are excited 
by various causes, for the work of grace. It must, indeed, be 
past a doubt, that the saving operations of the Spirit must 
produce very different effects on the soul from any other 
cause whatever ; and, therefore, his work may certainly be 
discriminated from every other. Still, however, considerable 
difficulty will remain where faith is weak. Nor can it be 
otherwise, while there is in the believer's members a law 
warring against the law in liis mind ; and while the flesh 
lusts against the Spirit, preventing him from doing the 
things that he would. Nor is the inference fairly drawn 
from the case of the primitive Christians, who seemed to have 
no hesitation about the truth of their faith, and declared 
readily that they believed. Much larger measures of grace 
seem then to have been given, and given to all, than are 
given in general, and since that time."* 

There can be no question in regard to the reality of the wit- 
nessing of the Spirit ; for an inspired apostle expressly declares : 
*' The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we 
are the children of God." — Rom, viii. 16. There are different 
opinions, however, in regard to the manner in which the Spirit 
gives this testimony. Some have thought that the Spirit wit- 
nesses the believer's adoption by inward revelation, or by way of 
immediate suggestion. " The Spirit," says one, " by himself, 
witnesses in a distinct way from that which is by water and 
blood, by shedding abroad the love of God upon the heart 
in a soul-ravishing way." "This is evident," it is added, 
" from the experience of the saints. Many of them have 
been brought to assurance in this immediate way; and not 
merely by reflection upon marks, and signs, and qualifications 
within, which is the Spirit's witnessing by water or sanctifica- 
tion."'!' The greater part of divines, however, concur in the 
opinion, that the Spirit witnesses by means of his operations, 
or by the effects produced by him in the hearts of believers. 
They reject the idea of an immediate testimony, and hold that 

* Thomson's (of Quarrelwood) Sermons, vol. ii., p. 540. 
t R. Erskine's Sermons, Ser. 143, vol. ix., pp. 19!), 200. 


the work of the Spirit is the testimony which he gives, assuring 
believers of their adoption and consequent safety. President 
Edwards speaks very decidedly and strongly against the 
opinion, that the Spirit witnesses by way of immediate sug- 
gestion or revelation, and declares that many mischiefs have 
arisen from this false and delusive notion. " What has mis- 
led many," says he, "in their notion of that influence of the 
Spirit of God we are speaking of, is the word witness, its 
being called the witness of the Spirit. Hence they have taken 
it, not to be any efifect or work of the Spirit upon the heart, 
giving evidence from whence men may argue that they are 
the children of God; but an inward immediate suggestion, 
as though God inwardly spoke to the man, and testified to 
him, and told him that he was his child, by a kind of secret 
voice, or impression : not observing the manner in which 
the word witness or testimony, is often used in the New Testa- 
ment; where such terras often signify, not only a mere de- 
claring and asserting a thing to be true, but holding forth 
evidence from whence a thing may be argued and proved to 
be true. Thus (Heb. ii. 4), God is said to bear witness, with 
signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy 
Ghost. Now these miracles, here spoken of, are called God's 
witness, not because they are of the nature of assertions, but 
evidences and proofs. So also Actsxiv. 3; John v. 36, x. 25. 
So the water and the blood are said to bear witness (1 John 
V. 8), not that they spake or asserted anything, but they were 
proofs and evidences." " Indeed the apostle, when in that 
(Rom. viii. 16), he speaks of the Spirit bearing witness with 
our spirit that we are the children of God, does sufiiciently 
explain himself, if his words were but attended to. What is 
here expressed is connected with the two preceding verses, 
as resulting from what the apostle had there said, as every 
reader may see. The three verses together are thus : ' For 
as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons 
of God; for ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again 
to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby 
we cry, Abba, Father : the Spirit itself beareth witness with 
our spirit that we are the children of God.' Here what 
the apostle says, if we take it together, plainly shows that 
what he has respect to, when he speaks of the Spirit's giving 
us witness or evidence that we are God's children, is his 
dwelling in us, and leading us, as a spirit of adoption, or 
spirit of a child, disposing us to behave towards God as to a 
Father."* ^More recent authors take the same view of this 
• Edwards' Treatise concerning Religious Affections, pp. 131, 137. See 
also Flavel's 4th Sac. Med., vol. ii., p. 455, 456 ;-M'Leod's (New York) Life 
and Power of True Godliness, p. 2C4. 


subject, and it is satisfactory to find such harmony among 
the most eminent theological wiiters upon a point so inte- 
resting. " The Spirit beai-s testimony to the sonship of be- 
lievers," says Dr Dick, "when he brings to light, by his 
operations upon their souls, the evidences of their adoption; 
and thus makes their relation to God as manifest as if he 
assured them of it with an audible voice."* "There is one 
very obvious way," says Dr Chalmers, " in which the Spirit 
may bear witness with our spirit that we are the children of 
God; or in which, according to the translation of many, the 
Spirit may bear witness to, or attest to our spirit that we are 
God's children. It is he who worketh a work of grace in 
our souls, and that work may become manifest to our own 
consciences. We may read the lineaments of our own reno- 
vated character, and it may be regarded as an exercise of 
our own spirit, that by which we become acquainted with the 
new features or the new characteristics that have been formed 
upon ourselves. And we may, furthermore, read in the Bible, 
what be the Scripture marks of the new creature ; and as all 
Scripture is given by inspiration of God, this is one way in 
which a joint testimony may be made out between God's 
Spirit and our spirit upon the subject; or in which a com- 
munication may be made to pass from the one to the other, 
so that they both shall concur in one and the same sentence 
— that we are indeed God's children. The part that the 
Spirit of God hath had in this matter is, that he both graves 
upon us the lineaments of a living epistle of Christ Jesus, 
and tells us in the epistle of a written revelation what these 
lineaments are. The part which our own spirit has is, that, 
with the eye of consciousness, we read what is in ourselves; 
and, with the eye of the understanding, we read what is in 
the Book of God's testimony. And upon our perceiving that 
such as the marks of grace which we find to be within, so 
are the marks of grace which we observe in the description 
of that Word without that the Spirit hath indited, we arrive 
at the conclusion, that we are born of God. But what is more, 
it is the work of the Spirit to make one see more clearly in 
both of these directions, to open one's eyes both that he might 
behold the things contained in the Bible with brighter mani- 
festation, and, also that he might behold the things which lie 
deeply, and to most, im discoverably, hidden in the arcana of 
their own hearts." 

" I could not, without making my own doctrine outstrip my 
own experience, vouch for any other intimation of the Spirit 
of God than that w^hich he gives in the act of making the 
* Dick's Theological Lectures, vol. iii., p. 415. 


Word of God clear unto you, and the state of your own heart 
clear unto you. From the one you draw what are its pro- 
mises — from the other, what are your own personal charac- 
teristics ; and the application of the first to the second may 
conduct to a most legitimate argument, that you personally 
are one of the saved — and that not a tardy or elaborate 
argument either, but with an evidence quick and powerful as 
the light of intuition."* 

Section III. — This infallible assurance doth not so 
belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer 
may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before 
he be partaker of it : '" yet, being enabled by the Spirit 
to know the things which are freely given him of God, 
he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right 
use of ordinary means, attain thereunto." And, there- 
fore, 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 
Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength 
and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience,^^ the proper 
fruits of this assurance : so far is it from inclining men 
to looseness.^* 

Section IY. — True believers may have the assurance 
of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and 
mtermitted ; as, by negligence in preserving of it : by 
falling into some special sin, which woundeth the con- 
i science, and grieveth the Spirit ; by some sudden or 
vehement temptation ; by God's withdrawing the light 
of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him 
to walk in darkness, and to have no light ; ^^ yet are 
they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life 
of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sin- 
cerity of heart and conscience of duty, out of which, by 

10 1 John V. 13. Isa. 1. 10. Mark I i* 1 John ii. 1, 2. Rom. vi. 1, 2. 

ix. 24. Ps. Ixxxviii. ; Ixxvii. Tit. ii. 11, 12, 14. 2 Cor. vii. 1. 

1-12. I Rom. viii. 1, 12. 1 John iii. 

" 1 Cor. ii. 12. 1 John iv. 13, Heb. 2, 3. Ps. cxxx, 4. 1 John i. 

vi. 11, 12. Eph. iii. 17-19. 6,7. 

12 2 Pet. i. 10. I 1- Cant. v. 2. 3, 6. Ps. Ii. 8, 12, 14 

3 Rom. V. 1, 2, 5 ; xiv. 17 ; xv. 13. 1 Eph. iv. 30, 31. Ps. Ixxvii. 

Eph. i. 3, 4. Ps. iv. 6, 7; 1-10. Matt. xxvi. 69-72. Ps. 

cxix. 32. I xxxi 22; Ixxxviii. Isa. 1. 10. 

* Chalmers* Lectures on the Romans, vol. iii., pp. 64-66, 68. 


tlie operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due 
time be revived,'® and by the which, in the meantime, 
they are supported from utter despair.''' 

" 1 John ill. 9. Lukexxii. 32. Job I ^^ Micah vii. 7-9. Jir. xxxii. 40. 
xiii. 15. Ps. Ixxiii. 15 ; li. 8, 12. Isa. liv. 7-10. Ps. xxii. 1; 

Isa. 1. 10. 1 Ixxxvlii. 


That the assurance that one is in a gracious state does not 
belong to the essence of faith, requires no proof. This as- 
surance arises from the perception of the fruits and evidences 
of faith; and it is manifest that faith must exist before its 
evidences can be discerned. All faith is founded on testi- 
mony; but there is no testimony in the Scriptures declaring 
to any man that he is in a state of grace; this, therefore, 
cannot be object of faith. This kind of assurance, as has 
been already shown, is ordinarily obtained by reflection, or 
by a process of reasoning. But, although the assurance de- 
scribed in this chapter is not essential to faith, yet there is 
an assurance which belongs to the essence of faith, and this 
our Confession recognises in the chapter which treats of sav- 
ing faith. It makes the principal acts of saving faith to con- 
sist in " accepting, receiving, and resting " on Christ for 
salvation; and it is impossible for one to rest on Christ for 
salvation without believing or trusting that he shall be saved 
by him. Whoever rests upon a person for doing a certain 
thing in his favour, must have a persuasion, or assurance, 
that he will do that thing for him. Indeed, assurance is so 
essential to faith, that without it there can be no faith, hu- 
man or divine. To believe a report, is to be persuaded or 
assured of the truth of the report; to believe a promise, is to 
be persuaded or assured that the promiser will do as he has 
said. In like manner, to believe in Christ for salvation, is to 
be persuaded or assured that we shall be saved through the 
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

That assurance which is essential to faith, is generally 
termed the assurance of faith ; and the assurance of grace and 
salvation is termed the assurance of sense. By some the former 
is called an objective, and the latter a subjective assurance. 
There is a marked distinction hetween them; the former 
having for its object the faithfulness of God in the gospel 
testimony; whereas the latter has for its object the ex- 
istence of a gracious work in the soul. The former arises 
from a single view of what is contained in the Word of God; 
the latter, from a combined view of his Word without us and 
of his work within us. The former is an assurance that God 


is presently giving Christ, with his salvation to us, in the fi'ee 
oiFer and pi'omise of the gospel; the latter is an assurance 
tliat Christ and his salvation are already ours in real posses- 
sion and enjoyment. That is inseparable from saving faith; 
this is both separable, and often actually separated, from the 
exercise of true faith. 

There are twTD extremes in reference to this subject, which 
ought to be avoided. The one is, that there is no assurance 
in the direct act of faith, and that assurance can only be de- 
rived from the marks and evidences of a gracious state; the 
other is, that the assurance of personal salvation is so essen- 
tial to saving faith, that no one can be a genuine believer who 
has any doubts of his own salvation. We apprehend, on the 
one hand, that while the assurance which arises from marks 
and evidences of a gracious state does not belong to the 
essence of faith, yet there is an assurance in the direc* act 
of faith, foimded upon nothing about the person himself, but 
solely upon the Word of God; and, on the other hand, that 
though there is an assurance essential to faith, yet the be- 
liever may be often perplexed with doubts and fears concern- 
ing his personal salvation, because there is still much unbelief, 
and other corruptions, remaining in him, and these frequently 
prevail against him. 

It will be sufficient briefly to state the other truths con- 
tained in these sections. 

1. As the assurance of their gracious state is attainable by 
believers, in the due use of ordinary means, so it is their 
duty to give diligence, and use their utmost endeavours to 
obtain it. This is incumbent upon them by the command of 
God, and it is necessary to their own comfort, though not to 
their safety. 

2. This assurance is not the attainment of all believers ; 
and, after it has been enjoyed, it may be weakened, and even 
lost for a season. It is liable to be shaken by bodily infir- 
mity, by their own negligence, by temptation, by that visita- 
tion of God which the Scriptures call his hiding his face from 
his people, and by occasional transgression. 

3. Although believers may forfeit their assurance, yet they 
are never entirely destitute of gracious habits and disposi- 
tions, nor left to sink into utter despair; and their assurance 
may, by the operation of the Spirit, be in due time revived. 

4. This assurance, instead of encouraging believers to in- 
dulge in sin, excites them to the vigorous pursuit of holiness. 
Such as boast of their assurance, and yet can deliberately 
practise known sin, are only vain pretenders. True assu- 
rance cannot be attained or preserved without close walking 


with God in all his commandments and ordinances blame- 
less. We must judge of the tendency of the assurance of 
salvation by what the apostles of our Lord have said con- 
cerning it; and they uniformly improve it as a motive to 
holiness.— Rom. xiii. 11-14; 1 Cor. xv. 58; 1 John iii. 2, 3. 



Section I. — God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant 
of works, by which he bound him, and all his posterity, 
to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience ; pro- 
mised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon 
the breach of it ; and endued him with power and 
ability to keep it.^ 

I Gen. i. 26, 27; ii. 17. Rom. ii. I iii. 10, 12. Eccl. vii. 29. Job 

14, 15 ; X. 5 ; V. 12, 19. Gal. | xxviii. 28. 


God having formed man an intelligent creature, and a sub- 
ject of moral government, he gave him a law for the rule of 
his conduct. This law was founded in the infinitely righteous 
nature of God, and the moral relations necessarily subsisting 
between him and man. It was originally written on the heart 
of man, as he was endowed with such a perfect knowledge of 
his Maker's will as was sufficient to inform him concerning 
the whole extent of his duty, in the circumstances in which 
he was placed, and was also furnished with power and ability 
to yield all that obedience which was required of him. This 
is included in the moral image of God, after which man was 
created. — Gen. i. 27. The law, as thus inscribed on the heart 
of the first man, is often styled the law of creation, because it 
was the will of the sovereign Creator, revealed to the rea- 
sonable creature, by impressing it upon his mind and heart 
at his creation. It is also called the moral law, because it was 
a revelation of the will of God, as his moral governor, and was 
the standard and rule of man's moral actions. Adam was 
originally placed under this law in its natural form, as merely 
directing and obliging him to perfect obedience. He was 


brought under it in a covenant form^ -when an express threat en- 
ing of death, and a gracious promise of life, was annexed to 
it ; and then a positive precept was added, enjoining him not 
to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, as the test of his 
obedience to the whole law. — Gen. ii. 16, 17. That this 
coveniint was made with the first man, not as a single person, 
hut as the federal representative of all his natural posterity, 
has been formerly shown.* The law, as invested with a cove- 
nant form, is called, by the Apostle Paul, " The law of 
works" (Rom. iii. 27) ; that is, the law as a covenant of 
works. In this form, the law is to be viewed as not only 
Iprescribing duty, but as promisiug life as the reward of obe- 
dience, and denouncing death as the punishment of trans- 
gression. This law " which was ordained to life," is now 
become " weak through the flesh," or through the corrup- 
Ition of our fallen nature. It prescribes terms which we are 
incapable of performing ; and instead of being encouraged to 
seek life by our own obedience to the law as a covenant, we 
are required to renounce all hopes of salvation in that way, 
and to seek it by faith in Christ. But all men are naturally 
under the law as a broken covenant, obnoxious to its penalty, 
and bound to yield obedience to its commands. The cove- 
nant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but also 
for all his posterity, when he violated it, he left them all 
under it as a broken covenant. Most miserable, therefore, 
the condition of all men by nature ; for " as many as are 
of the works of the law are imder the curse." — Gal. iii. 10. 
Truly infatuated are they who seek for righteousness by the 
works of the law ; for " by the deeds of the law shall no flesh 
be justified in the sight of God." — Rom. iii. 20. 

Section II. — This law, after his fall, continued to be 
a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered 
by God upon Mount Sinai in ten commandments, and 
ivritten in two tables ; ^ the first four commandments 
containing our duty towards God, and the other six oui* 
luty to man.' 

' James i. 25 ; ii,8, 10-12. Rom. xiii. 8, 9. Deut. v. 32 ; x. 4. Exod. xxxiv. 1. 
^ Matt. xxii. 37-40. 


Upon the fall of man, the law, Considered as a covenant of 

A'orks, was disannulled and set a^ide ; but, considered as 

noral, it continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness. 

* See page 86. 



That fair copy of the law which had been inscribed on the 
heart of the first man in his creation, was, by the fall, greatly 
defaced, althongh not totally obliterated. Some faint im- 
pressions of it still remain on the minds of all reasonable 
creatures. Its general principles, such as, that God is to be 
worshipped, that parents ought to be honoured, that we 
should do to others what we would reasonably wish that 
they should do to us — such general principles as these are 
still, in some degree, engraven on the minds of all men. — . 
Rom. ii. 14, 15. But the original edition of the law being 
greatly obliterated, God was graciously pleased to give a new 
and complete copy of it. He delivered it to the Israelites 
from INIount Sinai, with awful solemnity. In this promulga- 
tion of the law, he summed it up in ten commandments; 
and, therefore, it is commonly styled the Law of the Ten 
Commandments. These commandments were written by the 
finger of God himself on two tables of stone. — Exod. xxxii. 
15,, 16, xxxiv. 1. The first four commandments contain our 
duty to God, and the other six our duty to man ; and they 
are summed up by our Saviour in the two great command- 
ments, of loving God with all our hearts, and our neighbour 
as ourselves. — Matt. xxii. 37-40. The Church of Rome as- 
sign only three precepts to the first table, and seven to the 
second. They join together the first and second command- 
ments, and that for an obvious reason. Standing separately, 
the second forbids the use of images in the worship of God, 
and plainly condemns the practice of that Church; but viewed 
as an appendage to the first precept, it only forbids, as they 
pretend, the worship of the images of false gods ; and, con- 
sequently, leaves them at liberty to worship the images 
which they have consecrated to the honour of the true God 
and his saints. Having thus turned two precepts into one, 
in order to make up the number of ten, they split the last 
precept of the decalogue into two, making " Thou shalt not 
covet thy neighbour's house," one, and the words which fol- 
low, another. This division cannot be vindicated. The two 
first precepts obviously relate to distinct things. The first 
points out the object of worship, viz., the living and true 
God, and no other. The second prescribes the means of 
worship — not by images or any other plan of human inven- 
tion, but by the ordinances which are divinely appointed. 
The tenth precept is as clearly one and indivisible. The 
whole of it relates to one subject — covetousness, or unlawful 
desire ; and if it ought to be divided into two, because the 
words " Thou shalt not covet" are twice repeated, it would 
follow that it should be divided into as many commands 


as there are different classes of objects specified ; for the 
words " Thou shalt not covet" must be understood as 
prefixed to each of these objects. The Apostle Paul plainly 
speaks of it as one precept, when he says : " I had not 
known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.** 
— Rom. vii. 7. 

It may be remarked, that the law of the ten command- 
ments was promulgated to Israel from Sinai in the form of a 
covenant of works. Not that it was the design of God to 
renew a covenant of works with Israel, or to put them upon 
seeking life by their own obedience to the law ; but the law 
was published to them as a covenant of works, to show them 
that without a perfect righteousness, answering to all the 
demands of the law, they could not be justified before God ; 
and that, finding themselves wholly destitute of that righ- 
teousness, they might be excited to take hold of the covenant 
of grace, in which a perfect righteousness for their justifica- 
tion is graciously provided. The Sinai transaction was a 
mixed dispensation. In it the covenant of grace was pub- 
lished, as appears from these words in the preface standing 
before the commandments : " I am the Lord thy God, which 
have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house 
of bondage ;" and from the promulgation of the ceremonial 
law at the sametime. But the moral law, as a covenant of 
works, was also displayed, to convince the Israelites of their 
sinfulness and misery, to teach them the necessity of an atone- 
ment, and lead them to embrace by faith the blessed IVIedia- 
tor, the Seed promised to Abraham, in whom all the families 
of the earth were to be blessed. The law, therefore, was 
published at Sinai as a covenant of works, in subservience 
to the covenant of grace. And the law is still published in 
subservience to the gospel, as " a schoolmaster to bring sin- 
ners to Christ, that they may be justified by faith." — Gal. 
iii. 24. 

Section III. — Besides this law, commonly called 
Moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, 
as a Church under age, ceremonial laws, containing 
several typical ordinances : partly of worship, prefigur- 
ing Christ, his graces, actions, sufi'erings, and benefits ; * 
and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral 
duties.^ All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated 
under the New Testament.^ 

* Heb. ix. ; X. 1. Gal. iv. 1-3. Col. I « 1 Cor. v. 7. 2 Cor. vi. 17. Jude23. 
ii. 17. 6 Col. ii. 14, 16, 17. Dan. ix. 27 

Eph. ii. 15, 16. 


Section IY. — To them, also, as a body politic, he 
gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with 
the state of that people, not obliging any other now, fur- 
ther than the general equity thereof may require/ 

Section V. — The moral law doth for ever bind all, 
as well justified persons as others, to the obedience there- 
of; ^ and that not only in regard of the matter contained 
in it, but also in respect of the authority of God, the 
Creator, who gave it.^ Neither doth Christ in the gospel 
any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obliga- 

^ Exod. xxi. ; xxii. 1-29. Gen. I » Rom. xiii. 8-10. Eph. vi. 2. 1 John 
xlix. 10. 1 Pet. ii. 13, 14. | ii. 3. 4, 7, 8. 

Matt. V. 17, 38, 39. 1 Cor. ix. I » James ii. 10. 11. 
8-10. I 10 Matt. V. 17-19. Jamesii. 8. Rom. 

I iii. 31. 


Besides the moral law, God gave to Israel ceremonial and 
judicial laws ; the two latter are of limited and temporary 
use ; the former is of universal and perpetual obligation. 

1. The ceremonial law respected the Jews in their eccle- 
siastical capacity, or as a Church, and prescribed the rites 
and carnal ordinances which were to be observed by them in 
the external worship of God. These ceremonies were chiefly 
designed to prefigure Christ, and lead them to the knowledge 
of the way of salvation through him. — Ileb. x. i. This law 
is abrogated under the New Testament dispensation. This 
appears — 1. From the nature of the law itself. It was given 
to the Jews to separate them from the idolatrous rites of 
other nations, and to preserve their religion uncorrupted. 
But when the gospel was preached to all nations, and Jews 
and Gentiles were gathered into one body, under Christ, their 
Head, the wall of separation was taken down. — Eph. ii. 14, 
15. 2. Because these ceremonies Avere only figures of good 
things to come, imposed upon the Jews until the time of re- 
formation, and were abrogated by Christ, in whom they were 
realized and substantiated. — Heb. ix. 9-12. 3. Because these 
ceremonies were given to the Israelites to typify and repre- 
sent Christ and his death; and, since Christ has come, and has, 
by his death and satisfaction, accomplished all that they pre- 
figured, these types must be abolished. — Col. ii. 17. 4. Be- 
cause many of these rites were restricted to the temple of 
Jerusalem, and the temple being now destroyed, these rites 
must cease along with it. 5. Because the apostles expressly 
taught, that the ceremonial law is abrogated under the 


Christian dispensation. — Acts xv. 24. One chief design of 
the Epistle to the Hebrews is, to prove that this law must 
necessarily be disannulled. — Heb. vii. 12. 

2. The judicial law respected the Jews in their political 
capacity, or as a nation, and consisted of those institutions 
which God prescribed to them for their civil government. 
This law, as far as the Jewish polity was peculiar, has also 
been entirely abolished ; but as far as it contains any statute 
founded in the law of nature common to all nations, it is still 

3. The moral law is so called because it relates to moral 
actions, and to distinguish it from the positive laws, which were 
only of temporary obligation. This law has no relation to 
times and places, or to one nation more than another; but 
being founded in the relations of men to their Creator, and to 
one another, it retains its authority under all dispensations. 
In opposition to the Antinomians, who say that believers are 
released from the obligation of the moral law, our Confession 
teaches that this law is perpetually binding on justified per- 
sons, as well as others. Believers are, indeed, delivered from 
this law in its covenant form; but they are still under it as a 
rule of life, in the hand of the ^Mediator, being " not without 
law to God, but under the law to Christ." — 1 Cor. ix. 21. 
Christ, in the most solemn and explicit manner, declared, 
that he " came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it." — 
Matt. v. 17. He fulfilled it, as a covenant, by his own per- 
fect obedience, and his most grievous sufferings in the room 
of his people ; and its heavenly precepts he has enforced upon 
their minds, by the most cogent motives, as a perfect rule of 
duty. The gospel, instead of weakening the obligation of the 
law, confirms and strengthens its authority, and enforces 
obedience to its precepts by the strongest motives : " Do we 
make void the law through faith ? God forbid ; nay, we 
establish the law." — Rom. iii. 31. Although the moral laAV 
is to believers divested of its covenant form, it remains im- 
mutably the same, in regard both to its matter and its autho- 
rity. And as the law was binding on the first man as a 
rule of life, antecedent to any covenant-transaction between 
God and him, we may easily understand that the law may be 
entirely divested of its covenant form, while it continues in 
full force as a rule of moral conduct. 

Section VI. — Although true believers be not under 
the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified 
or condemned : " yet is it of great use to them, as well 

" Rom. vi. 14. Gal. ii. 16: iu. 13 ; iv. 4, 5. Acts xiii. 39. Rom. viil. I. 



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 pollu- 
tions of their nature, hearts, and lives ; " so as examining 
themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction 
of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin ; '* together 
with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and 
the perfection of his obedience/^ It is likewise of use to 
the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it 
forbids sin ; ^^ and the threatenings of it serve to show 
what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this 
life they may expect for them, although freed from the 
curse thereof threatened in the law.''^ The promises of 
it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of 
obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the 
performance thereof,^^ although not as due to them by 
the law as a covenant of works : ^^ so as a man's doin^ 
good, and refraining from evil, because the law encou- 
rageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no 
evidence of his being under the law, and not under 

Section YIT. — Neither are the fore-mentioned uses of 
the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly 
comply with it ; ^^ the Spirit of Christ subduing and 
enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully 
which the will of God revealed in the law requireth to 
be done.^^ 

12 Rom, vii. 12, 22, 25. Ps. cxix. 4-6. 

1 Cor. vii. 19. Gal. v. 14, 16, 
18 23. 

13 Rom. vii. 7; iii. 20. 

1* James i. 23-25. Rom. vii. 9, 14,24. 
16 Gal. iii. 24. Rom. vii. 24, 25 ; viii. 

i« James ii, II. Ps. cxix. 101, 104,128. 
J' Ezraix. 13, 14. Ps. Ixxxix. 30 34. 

18 Lev. xxvi. 1-14. 2 Cor. vi. 16. 

Eph, vi. 2, 3. Ps. xxxvii. U. 
Matt. v. 5. P.S. xix. 11. 

19 Gal. ii. 16. Luke xvii. 10. 

20 Rom. V). 12,14. 1 Pet.iii.8-12. Ps. 

xxxiv. 12-16. Heb. xii. 28, 29. 

21 Gal. iii. 21. 

22 Ezek. xxxvi. 27. Heb, viii. 10. 

Jer. xxxi. 33. 


It is here affirmed, that true believers are completely de- 
livered from the law, as a covenant of works. Christ, as 
their representative and surety, endured the curse of the 
law in all its bitterness, and in its utmost extent, in his 
sufferings imto death, and thus set them completely free from 
its condemning power. — Gal. iii. 13; Rom. viii. 1. But had 

SECT. 6, 7.] OF THE LAW OF GOD. 3 99 

Christ only endured the curse of the law, and still left his 
people under its commanding power as a covenant, this 
would only have restored them to the same uncertain state 
of probation in which Adam originally stood, and every 
transgression would have again involved them under the 
curse. Christ, however, not only sustained the full infliction 
of the penalty of the law, he also yielded perfect obedience 
to its precepts, and thus obtained for his people deliverance 
from its commanding, as well as its condemning power. To 
show the complete nature of this freedom, we are told that 
they are dead to the law through the body of Christ; that 
Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one 
that believeth; and that they are not under the law, but 
under grace. — Rom. vii. 4, x. 4, vi. 14. 

The doctrine of the believer's freedom from the law, as a 
covenant, has no tendency to licentiousness; for it has already 
been established, that they are under the obligation of the 
»law as a rule of life; and here it is further shown that the 
law is of manifold use to them, as well as to others : " The 
law is good," says the Apostle Paul, " if a man use it law- 
fully" (1 Tim. i. 8); that is, if he use it in a suitableness to 
the state wherein he is, either as a believer or an unbeliever. 
The law serves numerous and important purposes, both to 
the unregenerate and to the regenerate. Some of these uses 
may be briefly stated: — 

First. To the unregenerate the moral law is of use in the fol- 
lowing respects : — 

1. To restrain them from much sin 1 Tim. i. 9. 

2. To convince them of their sinfulness and misery. — 
Rom. iii. 20, vii. 9. 

3. To discover to them their absolute need of Christ, and 
drive them to him as their all-sufficient Saviour. — Gal. iii. 24. 

4. To render them inexcusable, if they continue in their 
sins, and finally reject the only Saviour of lost sinners. — 
Rom. i. 20, ii. 15; John iii. 18, 36. 

Second. The moral law is of use to the regenerate in the 
following respects : — 

1. To render Christ more precious to them, and excite 
their gratitude to him who so loved them as to obey its 
precepts and suffer its penalty, that he might deliver them 
from it as a corenant. — Gal. iii. 13, iv. 4, 5. 

2. To show them the will of God, and regulate their con- 
duct. — Mic. vi. 8. 

3. To serve as a standard of self-examination, in order to 
discover the pollutions of their hearts and lives — to keep 
them self-abased — to lead them to a constant dependence 


upon Christ, and to excite them to a progressive advance- 
ment in holiness. — Phil. iii. 10-14. 

4. To serve as a test of their sincerity, that they may 
assure their hearts that they are of the truth, and that they 
delight in the law of God after the inward man, notwith- 
standing their manifold defects in duty. — 1 John iii. 19; 
Rom. vii. 22, 25 : 2 Cor. i. 12. 



Section I. — The liberty which Christ hath purchased 
for believers under the gospel, consists in their freedom 
from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the 
curse of the moral law ; ^ and in their being delivered 
from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and 
dominion of sin,^ from the evil of afflictions, the sting of 
death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damna- 
tion; ^ as also in their free access to God,^ and their yield- 
ing obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear, but a 
childlike love, and willing mind.^ All which were com- 
mon also to believers under the law; ® but under the New 
Testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged 
in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, 
to which the Jewish Church was subjected,^ and in 
greater boldness of access to the throne of grace,^ and in 
fuller communications of the free Spirit of God than 
believers under the law did ordinarily pai'take of.^ 

1 Tit. ii. 14. 1 Thess. i. 10. Gal. I * Rom. v. 1, 2. 

iii. 13. 6 Rom. viii. 14, 15. 1 John iv. 18. 

2 Gal. i. 4. Col. i. 13. Acts xxvi. 18. | ^ Gal. iii. 9, 14. 

Rom. vi. 14. jT Gal. iv. 1-3. 6, 7; V. 1. Acts xv. 10, 11. 

* Rom. viii. 28. Ps. cxix. 71. 1 Cor. » Heb. iv. 14, 16; x. 19-22. 

XV. 54-57. Rom. viii. 1. | ^ John vii. 38, 39. 2 Cor. iii. 13, 17, 18. 


-Civil liberty is justly esteemed an invaluable privilege, 
and no sacrifice is deemed too great in order to recover it 


when lost, or to secure it when enjoyed. But vakiahle as 
civil liberty is, it cannot be questioned that the hberty 
wherewith Christ makes his people free is much to be pre- 
ferred. In proportion to the vahie of the soul above the 
body, so must the liberty that respects the one surpass that 
which merely relates to the other. Those whom Christ 
makes free are free indeed. — John viii. 36. Christian liberty 
may be considered, either as common to believers in every 
age, or as a special immunity of the children of God under 
the New Testament dispensation. That liberty which is 
common to believers in all ages consists in their freedom — 

1. From the guilt and the dominion of sin. By the guilt 
of sin is meant an obligation to suffer eternal punishment on 
account of sin. From this believers are freed by an act of 
pardoning mercy, which is passed upon the ground of Christ's 
blood. " They have redemption through his blood, the for- 
giveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." — Eph. 
i. 7. But sin is not only accompanied with guilt, it also exer- 
cises a rigorous dominion over the sinner. From the reigning 
power of sin Christ delivers his people in the day of their 
regeneration ; and although sin still dwells in them, its power 
is gradually weakened in their progressive sanctification, and 
its very being shall in due time be abolished. Hence the 
Apostle Paul thus addresses believers : " Sin shall not have 
dominion over you." " Being made free from sin, and become 
servants unto God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the 
end everlasting lite." — Rom. vi. 14, 22. 

2. From the condemning wrath of God. To the wrath of 
God all men are naturally obnoxious. Being children of 
disobedience, they are also children of wrath. — Eph. ii. 2, 3. 
But, upon the ground of the righteousness of Christ imputed 
to them, believers are completely freed from divine wrath. 
" There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ 
Jesus." — Rom. viii. 1. God may hide his face from them, 
but his judicial wrath is for ever turned away from them. — 
Isa. liv. 9, 10; Rom. v. 10. 

3. From the curse of the law as a broken covenant. Under 
that curse all men lie naturally; for it is written : " Cursed is 
every one that continueth not in all things which are written 
in tlie book of the law to do them." — Gal. iii. 10. But Christ, 
having endured that curse as the Surety of his people, delivers 
from it all who are found in him. Hence the Apostle Paul 
saith : " Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, 
being made a curse for us." — Gal. iii. 13. Though believers 
are under the moral law as a rule of life, they are completely 
freed from it as a covenant of works — freed from both iis 


commanding and condemning power; and, therefore, tliey 
cannot be snbjected to its curse on account of their trans- 
gressions. " Ye are not under the law, but under grace." — 
Rom. vi. 14. " Now we are delivered from the law, that 
being dead wherein we were held." — Rom. vii. 6, 

4. F]-om this present evil world. The world is another 
tyrannical master, under whose power and influence all men 
naturally are. But believers are freed from the power of 
this fascinating and destructive foe. This freedom Christ 
has obtained for them, and bestows upon them. " lie gave 
himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this pre- 
sent evil world, according to the will of God and our Father." 
— Gal. i. 4. Through the powerful influence of his cross, 
believers are crucified unto the world, and the world unto 
them. — Gal. vi. 14. 

5. From bondage to Satan. All men are by nature the 
captives of Satan, who is, therefore, called " the god of this 
world." Having taken them in his snare, they are become 
his prey, and are " taken captive by him at his will." But 
Christ " was manifested to destroy the works of the devil;" 
and " through death he destroyed him that had the power of 
death, that is, the devil." In the gospel he proclaims liberty 
to the captives (Isa. Ixi. 1) ; and, in the day of their eftectual 
calling, he actually delivers his people from the power of 
Satan. — Col. i. 13. While in the present world, indeed, they 
are exposed to the assaults of this adversary (1 Pet. v. 8) ; 
but he shall never regain his dominion over them, and, in 
due time, they shall be completely freed from his tempta- 
tions, and placed beyond the reach of his influence; for the 
promise is : " The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your 
feet shortly." — Rom. xvi. 20. 

6. From the evil of afilictions. Christ does not grant to 
believers an entire exemption from the troubles that are 
common to men, but he frees them from all the penal evil of 
afilictions. The cup of their affliction may be large and deep, 
but there is not one drop of judicial wrath mingled in it. 
Their afflictions are designed for their profit ; and, through 
the divine blessing, they are rendered, in various respects, 
highly beneficial to them. Hence the children of God have 
often acknowledged that it was good for them to have been 
afflicted (Ps. cxix. 71) ; and, though they may sometimes be 
at a loss to perceive how their trials are to be rendered pro- 
fitable to them, yet they have the fullest assurance that all 
things shall work together for their good. — Rom. viii. 28. 
See also Heb. xii. 6-11; 2 Cor. iv. 17. 

7. From the sting of death. As death means the dissolu- 


tion of the union between the soul and the body, believers 
are not exempted from its stroke. — Heb. ix. 28 ; Ps. Ixxxix. 
48. Christ, however, delivers his people from death, consi- 
dered as the effect of the law-curse, and the harbinger of 
everlasting destruction. — John xi. 25, 26. He has extracted 
the sting of death, and rendered it powerless to do his people 
any real harm. — 1 Cor. xv. 56. Instead of doing believers 
any real injury, death has a commission to confer upon them 
unspeakable good. It is the termination of all their sorrows, 
their release from warfare, and their departure to be with 
Christ.— Phil. i. 21, 23. 

8. From the victory of the grave. The bodies of believers 
must be laid in the grave, and see corruption. To them, 
however, the grave is not a prison, but a bed of rest; and 
they shall not always remain under the power of corruption, 
but shall be raised up, glorious and immortal, at the last 
day. — Job xix. 26, 27. " Now is Christ risen from the dead, 
and is become the first-fruits of them that slept." — 1 Cor. xv. 
20. His resurrection is the pledge and earnest of the resur- 
rection of all that sleep in him. In due time the promise 
will be fully accomplished : " I will ransom them from the 
power of the grave ; I will redeem them from death (Hos. 
xiii. 14) ; and " then the saying shall be brought to pass, 
Death is swallowed up in victory." — 1 Cor. xv. 64. 

9. From everlasting damnation. The full punishment due 
to sin is never inflicted upon any in this life, but at last " the 
wicked shall be turned into hell." — Ps. ix. 17. At the great 
day, a sentence of condemnation shall be solemnly pronounced 
upon them, and they shall be led away " into everlasting fire, 
prepared for the devil and his angels." — Matt. xxv. 41. But 
believers are secured against coming into condemnation, and 
are delivered from the wrath to come. — John v. 24; 1 Thess. 
i. 10. When the great day of God's wrath is come, they 
shall behold and see the reward of the wicked ; but it shall 
not come nigh unto them. 

10. Believers have also free access to God. They have 
liberty of access to God as a gracious Father, and may pour 
out their hearts, and vent their complaints unto him, with 
filial freedom. " In Christ Jesus Ave have boldness and access 
with confidence, by the faith of him." — Eph. iii. 12. 

11. Believers have freedom of spirit in the service of God. 
The obedience which wicked men pay to God is like that of 
slaves to a tyrant, whom they hate, and whose only motive 
to obedience is a fear of punishment. But believers are 
delivered from a slavish fear of wrath, and serve God from 
a generous principle of love, and with a willing mind. " Where 


the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." — 2 Cor. iii. 17. 
See also Luke i. 74, 75; 2 Cor. v. 14; 1 John iv. 18. 

The liberty which has now been described, belonged to 
believers under the law, as well as under the present dispen- 
sation ; but, under the New Testament, the liberty of Chris- 
tians has been enlarged in several particulars, which are next 
to be briefly noticed, 

1. Christians are now freed from the yoke of the cere- 
monial law. The Jewish Church was kept " in bondage 
under the elements of the world" (Gal. iv. 3) ; but that bur- 
densome yoke is not imposed on the Christian Church. — 
Acts XV. 10, The ancient ceremonies were abrogated, in 
point of obligation, by the death of Christ ; and though, for a 
time, the use of them was indifferent, yet, upon the full pro- 
mulgation of the gospel, and the destruction of the temple 
of Jerusalem, the observance of them became unlawful ; and 
the Apostle Paul exhorted Christians to " stand fast in the 
liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, and not be 
entangled again with the yoke of bondage." — Gal. v. 1. 

2. Christians have now greater boldness of access to the 
throne of grace. The Apostle Paul frequently mentions 
liberty, coniidence, and boldness, in their access to God, as 
an especial privilege of believers under the New Testament, 
in opposition to the state of those who lived under the Old. — 
See Heb, iv. 16, x. 19 ; 1 John iii. 21, iv, 17, v. 14. 

3. Christians enjoy fuller communications of the free Spirit 
of God than were ordinarily granted to believers under the 
law. The Spirit had, no doubt, been dispensed to the Church 
under the Old Testament ; but the more extensive and 
copious effusion of the Spirit was reserved to New Testament 
times. Hence the Spirit is said not to have been given 
before that Jesus was glorified. — John vii. 39. The plenti- 
ful effusion of the Spirit was frequently foretold as the great 
privilege of gospel times. — Isa. xliv. 3 ; Joel ii. 28, 29. Ac- 
cordingly, upon the ascension of Christ, and the commence- 
ment of the Christian dispensation, the extraordinary and 
miraculous gifts of the Spirit were communicated, not only 
to the apostles, but often to common believers; and the 
ordinary gifts and gracious influences of the Spirit are still 
conferred in richer abundance than under the former dispen- 
sation. Hence the Apostle Paul represents it as an eminent 
part of the glory of the New Testament dispensation, that it 
is " the ministration of the Spirit," — 2 Cor, iii. 8. 

How excellent is that liberty we have been describing ! 
If civil liberty be highly prized, sure the glorious liberty of 
the children of God is eminently precious. How highly are 


believers indebted to the Lord Jesus Christ, who obtained 
this freedom for them at the incalculable price of his own 
precious blood ! Sure their hearts should ovei-flow with gra- 
titude to their generous Deliverer, who gave his own life a 
ransom for them. Since he has emancipated them from the 
most degrading servitude, and set them free from those cruel 
masters who formerly tyrannized over them, ought they not 
to take upon them his yoke, which is easy, and his burden, 
which is light ? Every true Christian will reckon it his highest 
privilege, as well as his incumbent duty, to be the devoted 
servant of Christ, whose service is perfect freedom. 

Section II. — God alone is Lord of the conscience," 
and hath left it free from the doctrines and command- 
ments of men which are in anything contrary to his 
Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship." So 
that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such command- 
ments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of 
conscience ; ^^ and the requiring of an implicit faith, 
and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty 
of conscience and reason also.^^ 

»o James iv. 12. Rom. xiv. 4. l ^3 Rom. x. 17. Rom. xiv. 23. Isa. 

11 Acts iv. 19 ^v. 29. 1 Cor. vii. 23. viii. 20. Acts xvii. 11. John 

Matt, xxiii. 8-10. 2 Cor. i. 24. | iv. 22. Hos. v. 11. Rev, xiii. 

Matt. XV. 9. I 12, 16, 17. Jer. viii. 9. 
'« Col. ii. 20, 22. 23. Gal. i. 10; ii. 4, 5 ; 

V. 1. I . 


In this section the doctrine of liberty of conscience is laid 
I down in most explicit terms. The conscience, in all matters 
of faith and duty, is subject to the authority of God alone, 
and entirely free from all subjection to the traditions and 
commandments of men. To believe any doctrine, or obey 
any commandment, contrary to, or beside, the Word of God, 
out of submission to human authority, is to betray true liberty 
of conscience. And be the power and authority whose it 
will — be it that of a magistrate or a minister — of a husband, 
a master, or a parent — that would require an implicit faith 
and an absolute blind obedience, it would destroy liberty of 

The rights of conscience have been frequently invaded by 
rulers, both civil and ecclesiastical. By the Church of Rome 
the statements of our Confession are directly contradicted, 
both in doctrine and in practice. They teach that the Pope, 
and the bishops in their own dioceses, may, by their owq 


authority, enact laws which bind the conscience, and which 
cannot be transgressed without incurring the same penalties 
which are annexed to every breach of the divine law. And 
they have actually imposed many articles of faith, and en- 
joined numberless rites and ceremonies, as necessary in the 
worship of God, which have no foundation in Scripture; and 
they require implicit faith in all their decrees, and a blind 
obedience to all their commands. Against the tyrannical 
usurpations and encroachments of that Church this section 
is principally levelled. 

No person on earth can have authority to dictate to con- 
science ; for this would be to assume a prerogative which 
belongs to none but the supreme Lord and Legislator. 
" There is one Lav/giver, who is able to save and to destroy." 
— James iv. 12. Such a power was prohibited by Jesus 
Christ among his followers : " The kings of the Gentiles 
exercise lordship over them, but ye shall not be so." — Luke 
xxii. 25. It was disclaimed by the inspired apostles : " Not 
that we have dominion over your faith," said the Apostle of 
the Gentiles, " but are helpers of your joy." — 2 Cor. i. 24. 

From the principles laid down in this section, it manifestly 
follows, that a right of private judgment about matters of 
religion belongs to every man, and ought to be exercised by 
every Christian. Christians are expressly required to exa- 
mine and prove every doctrine by the unerring rule of the 
Word of God.— Isa. viii. 20; 1 John iv. 1. They ought to 
be ready to render a reason of the hope which is in them 
(1 Pet. iii. 15) ; and this none can do who receive the doc- 
trines and commandments of men with implicit faith and 
blind obedience. Whatsoever is not done in faith, nor ac- 
companied with a personal persuasion of the obligation or 
lawfulness of it in the sight of God, is pronounced to be 
sin.^Rom. xiv. 23. 

It follows no less clearly, from the principles here laid 
down, that when lawful superiors command what is contrary 
to the Word of God, or beside it, in matters of faith and 
worship, their commands do not bind the conscience. The 
obedience which the Scriptures command us to render to law- 
ful superiors — whether parents, or husbands, ormagistrates — 
is not unlimited ; there are cases in which disobedience be- 
comes a duty. No one doubts that the precept, " Children, 
obey your parents in all things," is a command to obey 
them only in the exercise of their rightful parental authority, 
and imposes no obligation to implicit and passive obedience. 
The case is equally plain with regard to the command, 
" Wives submit to your own husbands." And it cannot be 


questioned that the obedience due to magistrates is also 
limited. The precept, " Let every soul be subject to the 
higher powers," must be understood as a command to obey 
magistrates only in the exercise of their rightful authority, 
and in all things lawful. The same inspired teachers who 
enjoined in such general terms obedience to rulers, them- 
selves uniformly and openly disobeyed them whenever their 
commands were inconsistent with other and higher obliga- 
tions. " We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts v. 29), 
was the principle which they avowed, and on which they 
acted. When the apostles were charged by the Jewish 
Council to speak no more in the name of Jesus, their unhesi- 
tating answer was : " Whether it be right in the sight of 
God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and 
heard." — Acts iv. 19, 20. No command to do anything morally 
wrong can be binding on the conscience. 

From the principles here laid down, some have inferred 
that civil authority is wholly inapplicable to matters of re- 
ligion. Nothing, however, can be farther from the design 
of the Confession than to countenance this notion. That 
there is a lawful exercise of civil power about religious mat- 
ters the compilers of the Confession clearly teach, in the 
fourth section of this chapter, and also in chap, xxiii. And 
as it was not their design, in this section, to condemn this 
exercise of civil authority, so no such doctrine can justly be 
inferred from the words ; for, " if they condemn all exercise 
of civil authority,'' to use the language of Dr ]\['Crie, " then 
they condemn also all exercise of every other species of 
human authority about these things, whether ecclesiastical, 
parental, &c. Is it not equally true, that God hath left the 
conscience *free from the doctrines and commandments of 
men, which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside 
it, in matters of faith or worship,' whether these be the doc- 
trines and commandments of ministers or magistrates, of 
masters or parents ? Is not ' an implicit faith,' or * an ab- 
solute and blind obedience,' unreasonable and sinful, whether 
it be yielded to synods or parliaments ? The design of the 
words is, to teach the subordination of all human power to 
the sovereignty and laws of God, particularly in matters of 
faith and worship. Nay, they seem in that passage to be 
more immediately levelled against invasions by Church au- 
thority, which have been fully as frequent and pernicious io 
religion as those of civil rulers ; such as the assumed lordship 
of popes, councils, prelates, and convocations, in devising 
new articles of faith, decreeing and imposing un&criptural 


rights and ceremonies, canons, &c., here called ' the doctrines 
and commandments of men,' in contradistinction from divine 
institutions ; as the traditions and superstitions of the Scribes 
and Pharisees, superadded to the divine law, are called by 
our Lord. If civil rulers concur in these impositions, or if 
they shall attempt the like by their own sole authority, and 
the claim of an ecclesiastical supremacy, this doctrine equally 
condemns their tyranny, and teaches, that no error, will- 
worship, or any species of false religion, by whomsoever 
commanded in Churches or States, can lay any obligation on 
conscience, which is immediately subject to God alone. But 
no such thing is taught, as that men's consciences are set free 
from obedience to any human authority, when acting in entire 
consistency with the Word of God, and enjoining nothing be- 
side it, or beyond its own proper limits ; which authority of 
any kind may certainly do."* 

Section III. — They who, upon pretence of Christian 
liberty, do practise any sin, or cherish any lust, do 
thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty ; -which is, 
that, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, 
we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness, and 
righteousness before him, all the days of our life.^* 

Section IY. — And because the powers which God 
hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath pur- 
chased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually 
to uphold and preserve one another; they who, upon 
pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful 
power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or 
ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God.^^ And for 
their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such 
practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the 
known principles of Christianity, whether concerning 
faith, worship, or conversation ; or to the power of 
godliness; or such erroneous opinions or practices, as 
either in their own nature, or in the manner of publish- 
ing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external 
peace and order which Christ hath established in the 
Church; they may lawfully be called to account, and 

1* J3a.]. V. 13. 1 Pet. ii. 16. 2 Pet. I i« Matt. xii. 25. 1 Pet. ii. 13, 14, IG. 
ii. 19. John viii. 34, Luke i. Rom. xiii. 1-8. Heb, xiii. 17. 

74, 75. I 

* M'Crie's Statement, pp. 100, 101. 


proceeded against by the censures of the Church,*® and 
by the power of the civil magistrate.*^ 

»« Rom. 1. 32. 1 Cor. V. 1,5,11,13.! 2 John 10. 11. Ezra vii. 23, 

2JohnJ0, 11. 2 Thess. iii. 14. | 25-28. Rev. xvii. 12, 16, 17 

1 Tim. vi. 3-5. Tit. i. 10, 11, I Neh, xiii. 15, 17, 21, 22, 25, 30. 

13; iii. 10. Matt, xviii. 15-17. 2 Kings xxiii. 5, 6, 9, 20, 21. 

1 Tim. i. 19, 20. Rev. ii. 2, 14, | 2 Chron. xxxiv. 33; xv. 12, 13, 

15, 20. Rev. iii. 9. I 16, Dan. iii. 29. 1 Tim. ii. 2. 

" Deut. xiii. 6-12. Rom. xiii. 3, 4. | Isa. xlix. 23. Zech. xiii. 2, 3. 


The liberty pleaded for in our Confession is not absolute 
and uncontrollable. To assert that men have a right to think 
and act as they please, without respect to the moral law, and 
without being responsible to God, would be atheistical. And, 
if men are considered as socially united, and as placed under 
government, their natural rights, in religious as well as in 
civil things, must be Hable to restraint and regulations, so far 
as the interests and>Bnds of society require. Accordingly, 
the Confession, in the above sections, proceeds to guard the 
doctrine of liberty of conscience against abuse, first, in refer- .- 
ence to the authority of God in his law ; and, secondly ^ in 
reference to the authorities on earth, civil and ecclesiastical. 
With respect to the former, it declares, that " they who, upon 
pretence of Christian liberty, do practise any sin, or cherish 
any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty." 
God has not liberated the conscience from the obligation of 
his own law ; on the contrary, he requires every one to yield 
implicit and prompt obedience to all things whatsoever he 
has commanded. To plead for a liberty to practise any 
known sin, is to plead for licentiousness ; and for persons to 
indulge themselves in any corrupt affections and practices, 
under a pretence of Christian liberty, is to " use their liberty 
for an occasion to the flesh," With respect to the latter, 
the Confession mentions certain things for which persons of 
a certain description may be proceeded against, both by the 
civil and ecclesiastical authorities. It is to be observed, 
however, that the intention of this section is not to lay down 
the extent of the provinces of these powers, but only to re- (^ 
move the plea of conscience ; and it ought to be understood, 
in consistency with their acting each in its own province, 
without the one interfering with the causes which come 
under the cognizance of the other. Although civil rulers 
may restrain, and, when occasion requires, may punish the 
more flagrant violations of the first table of the moral law, 
such as blasphemy, the publishing of blasphemous opinions, 
j and the open and gross profanation of the Sabbath ; yet they 


are to repress these evils, not formally as sins, which is the 
prerogative of God, nor as scandals, in which light they come 
under the cognizance of the Church, but as crimes and inju- 
ries done to society. 

All sound Presbyterians disclaim all intolerant or compul- 
sory measures with regard to matters purely religious. They 
maintain that no man should be punished or molested on 
account of his religious opinions or observances, provided 
there is nothing in these hurtful to the general interests of 
society, or dangerous to the lawful institutions of the coun- 
try in which he lives. The section now under consideration, 
however, has sometimes been represented as arming the civil 
magistrate with a power to punish good and peaceable sub- 
jects purely on account of their religious opinions and prac- 
tices, or as favourable to persecution for conscience' sake. 
In vindicating the Confession from this serious charge, we 
shall avail ourselves of the judicious r^jnarks of Dr M'Crie. 
" The design of section fourth," says that eminent author, 
" is to guard against the abuse of the doctrine" of liberty of 
conscience " in reference to public authority. ^ And because 
the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which 
Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, 
but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, 
upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful 
power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or 
ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God.' He who is the 
Lord of the conscience has also instituted the authorities in 
Church and State; and it would be in the highest degree 
absurd to suppose that he has planted in the breast of every 
individual a power to resist, counteract, and nullify his own 
ordinances. When public and private claims interfere and 
clash, the latter must give way to the former ; and when any 
lawful authority is proceeding lawfully within its line of 
duty, it must be understood as possessing a rightful power 
to remove out of the way everything which necessarily ob- 
structs its progress. The Confession proceeds, accordingly, 
to state : 'And for their publishing of such opinions, or main- 
taining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of 
nature, or to the known principles of Christianity, whether 
concerning faith, worship, or conversation, or to the power of 
godliness ; or such erroneous opinions or practices as, either 
in their own nature or in the manner of publishing and 
maintaining them, ai-e destructive to the external peace and 
order which Christ hath established in the Church; they 
may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by 
the censures of the Church, and by the power of the civil 


magistrate.' Now, this does not say that all who publish 
such opinions, and maintain such practices as are mentioned, 
may be proceeded against, or punished (if the substitution of 
this word shall be insisted for) by the civil magistrate ; nor 
does it say that any good and peaceable subject shall be 
made liable to this process simply on the ground of religious 
opinions published, and practices maintained by him. For, 
in the frst place, persons of a particular character are spoken 
of in this paragraph, and these are very different from good 
and peaceable subjects. They are described in the former 
sentence as ^ they who oppose lawful power, or the lawful 
exercise of it,* and ' resist the ordinance of God.' The same 
persons are spoken of in the sentence under consideration, as 
appears from the copulative and the relative. It is not said, 
* Any one for publishing,' &c., but, ' they who ojypose any law- 
ful power,' &c., ' for their publishing,' &c. In the second place, 
this sentence specifies some of the ways in which these per- 
sons may become chargeable with the opposition mentioned, 
and consequently * may be called to account ;' but it does not 
assert that even they must or ought to be prosecuted for 
every avowed opinion or practice of the kind referred to. 
All that it necessarily implies is, that they may be found 
opposing lawful powers, or the lawful exercise of them in the 
things specified ; and that they are not entitled to plead a 
general irresponsibility in matters of that kind. Notwith- 
standing such a plea, ' they may be called to account, and 
proceeded against,' For, be it observed, it is not the design 
of this paragraph to state the objects of Church censure or 
civil prosecution ; its proper and professed object is to inter- 
pose a check on the abuse of liberty of conscience, as ope- 
rating to the prejudice of just and lawful authority. It is 
not sin as sin, but as scandal, or injurious to the spiritual 
interests of Christians, that is the proper object of Church 
censure ; and it is not for sins as such, but for crimes, that 
persons become liable to punishment by magistrates. The 
compilers of the Confession were quite aware of these dis- 
tinctions, which were then common. Some think that if the 
process of the magistrate had been limited to offences ' con- 
trary to the light of nature,' it would have been perfectly 
justifiable ; but the truth is, that it would have been so only 
on the interpretation now given. To render an action the 
proper object of magistratical punishment, it is not enoHgh 
that it be contrary to the law of God, whether natural or 
revealed ; it must, in one way or another, strike against the 
public good of society. He who * provides not for his own, 
especially those of his own house,' sins against ' the light of 


nature,' as also does he who is ' a lover of pleasures more 
than of God ;' but there are few who will plead that magi- 
strates are bound to proceed against, and punish every idler 
and belly-god. On the other hand, there are opinions and 
practices ' contrary to the known principles of Christianity,' 
or grafted upon them, which, either in their own nature, or 
from the circumstances with which they may be clothed, 
may prove so injurious to the welfare of society in general, 
or of particular nations, or of their just proceedings, or of 
lawful institutions established in them, as to subject their 
publishers and raaintainers to warrantable coercion and pu- 
nishment. As one point to which these may relate, I may 
mention the external observance and sanctification of the 
Lord's-day, which can be known only from ' the principles 
of Christianity,' and is connected with all the particulars 
specified by the Confession, ' faith, worship, conversation, the 
power of godliness, and the external order and peace of the 
Church.' That many other instances of a similar desci'iption 
can be produced, will be denied by no sober-thinking person 
who is well acquainted with Popish tenets and practices, and 
with those which prevailed among the English sectaries 
during the sitting of the Westminster Assembly; and he 
who does not deny this, cannot be entitled, I should think, 
upon any principles of fair construction, to fix the stigma of 
persecution on the passage in question."* 



Section I — The light of nature showeth that there 
is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all ; 
is good, and doeth good unto all ; and is, therefore, to be 
feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, 
with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all 
the might.^ But the acceptable way of worshipping the 
true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his 
own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped ac- 
cording to the imaginations and devices of men, or the 

1 Rom. i. 20. Acts xvii. 24. Ps. I xviii. 3. Rom. x. 12. Ps. Ixii 8. 

cxix. 68. Jer. x. 7. Ps. xxxi. 23; | Josh. xxiv. 14. Mark xii. 33. 

* M'Crie's Appendix to Discourses on the Unity of the Church, pp. 134-137. 


suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, 
or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.* 

» Deut xii. 32. Matt. xv. 9. Acts I xv, 1-20. Exod. xx. 4-6 ; Col. 

xvii. 25. Matt. iv. 9, 10. Deut. | ii. 23. 


Keligious worship consists in that homage and honour 
■which we give to God, as a being of infinite perfection; 
whereby we profess our subjection to, and confidence in him, 
as our chief good and only happiness. It may be viewed as 
either internal or external; the former consisting in that 
inward homage which we owe to God, such as loving, be- 
lieving, fearing, trusting in him, and other elicit acts of the 
mind ; the latter consisting in the outward expression of that 
homage, by the observance of his instituted ordinances. Con- 
cerning the external worship of God, our Confession affirms, 
in the first place, that God can be worshipped acceptably only 
in the way of his own appointment. As God is the sole 
object of religious worship, so it is his prerogative to pre- 
scribe the mode of it. Divine institution must, therefore, 
be our rule of worship ; and whatever may be imagined to 
be useful and decent, must be examined and determined by 
this rule. It is not left to human prudence to make any 
alterations in, or additions to, God's own appointments. 
" What thing soever I command you," saith the Lord, " ob- 
serve to do it ; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from 
it." — Deut. xii. 32. To introduce into the worship of God 
what may be deemed significant ceremonies, under the pre- 
text of beautifying the worship, and exciting the devotion 
of the worshippers, is to be guilty of superstition and will- 
worship. In the second place, our Confession particularly con- 
demns the worshipping of God " under any visible represen- 
tation." The worshipping of God in or by images is one of 
the worst corruptions of the Church of Rome. God is a 
spiritual, invisible, and incomprehensible being, and cannot, 
therefore, be represented by any corporeal likeness or figure. 
" To whom will ye liken me, or shall I be equal ? saith the 
Holy One." — Isa. xl, 25. " We ought not to think that the 
Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art 
and man's device." — Acts xvii. 29. The Israelites were ex- 
pressly forbidden to make any image of God. In Deut. ^iv. 
15, 16, Moses insists that " they saw no manner of similitude 
on the day that the Lord spake to them in Horeb, lest they 
should corrupt themselves, and make them a graven image." 
And, therefore, he charges them (ver. 23) "to take heed lest 
they should forget the covenant of the Lord then- God, and 


make them a graven image." The Scripture forbids the 
worshipping of God by images, although they may not be 
intended as proper similitudes, but only as emblematical 
representations of God. Every visible form which is de- 
signed to recall God to our thoughts, and to excite our devo- 
tions, and before which we perform our religious offices, is 

expressly prohibited in the second commandment Exod. 

XX. 4. The Church of Rome, being sensible that this pre- 
cept condemns their doctrine and practice, make it an appen- 
dage to the first commandment, and leave it out in their 
catechism and books of devotion. In the third place, our Con- 
fession not only condemns the worshipping of God by images, 
but also the woj-shipping him " in any other way not pre- 
scribed in the Holy Scripture." Not only has the Church of 
Rome corrupted the worship of God by a multitude of insig- 
nificant ceremonies, but even some Protestant Churches retain 
many of the usages of Popery, and enjoin the wearing of par- 
ticular vestments by the ministers of religion, the observation 
of numerous festival days, the erection of altars in churches, 
the sign of the cross in baptism, bowing at the name of Jesus, 
and kneeling at the Lord's Supper. These practices we justly 
reckon superstitious, because there is no scriptural warrant 
for them, and they are the inventions of men. It were well 
if those who enjoin and those who observe them would con- 
sider the words of God concerning the Jews : " In vain do 
they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments 
of men."— Matt. xv. 9. 

Section II. — Religious worship is to he given to God, 
the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ; and to hira alone : ^ 
not to angels, saints, or any other creature : * and, since 
the fall, not Avithout a Mediator ; nor in the mediation 
of any other but of Christ alone.* 


:t. iv. 10. 

John V. 23. 2 Cor. 

1 * Col. ii. 18. Rev. xix. 


xiii. 14. 

1 i. 25. 

5 Joh 

! xiv. 6. 1 Tim. ii. 5. 

Eph. ii. 18. Col. iii. 17. 


In this section the object of religious worship is defined. 

1. Our Confession affirms that religious worship is to be 
given to God alone. While the first commandment forbids 
us to have any other gods before him, it requires us to wor- 
ship him alone. Most explicit, too, was the answer which 
Chiist gave to Satan, when he would have our Saviour to fall 
down and worship him. " It is written," he replied, " Thou 
shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou 


serve." — IVIatt, iv. 10. And when the Apostle John attempted 
to offer religions worship to an angel, either through surprise, 
or through a mistake of him for .Jesus Christ, the angel said 
unto him, "See thou do it not; worship God" (Rev. xxii. 
8, 9); thereby intimating that God alone is to be worshipped. 

There can be only one true God, but there are three dis- 
tinct persons in the Godhead; these three persons are desig- 
nated the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and religious 
worship is due to each of these persons. Although Chris- 
tians usually address their supplications to the Father, in the 
name of the Son, and by the assistance of the Holy Ghost, 
yet divine worship may be performed to any of the adorable 
Three immediately. And it must ever be remembered, that 
when any one of the persons of the Godhead is immediately 
addressed, the other two are included. These divine persons 
are only one object of worship, because they are only one 
Being — one God. 

2. In opposition to the Papists, who maintain, that not 
only God, but good angels and departed saints, being cano- 
nized by the Pope, ought to be worshipped, even in a religious 
manner, our Confession affirms that neither angels, nor saints, 
nor any other creature, ought to receive religious worship. 
The worshipping of angels is expressly forbidden by the 
Apostle Paul (Col. ii. 18): " Let no man beguile you of your 
reward, in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels." 
And when the Apostle John was going to worship the angel, 
he absolutely refused it, and ordered him to direct his wor- 
ship to God himself : " I fell at his feet to worship him ; and 
he said unto me, See thou do it not : I am thy fellow- 
servant; worship God." — Rev. xix. 10. Papists are likewise 
guilty of gross idolatry, in worshipping saints departed, 
especially the Virgin Mary. To the saints they pray, make 
vows, swear by them, consecrate altars and temples to 
them, offer incense, and, in short, render to them all the 
honours which are paid to God himself. They, no doubt, 
pretend that the worship which they give to the saints is not 
precisely the same in kind and degree with that which they 
give to God ; but, however they may distinguish in theory, 
the greater part make no distinction in practice. To render 
any kind of religious worship to departed saints cannot be 
vindicated by Scripture. Christians are desired to remember 
them that had the rule over them (Heb. xiii. 17), but no in- 
timation is given of worshipping them. Several of the 
apostles and first Christians, particularly James the Great and 
Stephen, had suffered martyrdom when the Epistles were 
written; but no mention is made of offering prayers to them. 


The invocation of saints implies either that they are every- 
where, or that they know all things ; but omnipresence and 
omniscience are divine perfections, incommunicable to any 

Our Confession condemns the worshipping not only of angels 
and saints, but also of " any other creature." And Papists 
have a multiplicity of objects of worship besides those 
here specified. They not only worship departed saints them- 
selves, but even their relics. The Council of Trent authorised 
the adoration of relics ; and they continue in high esteem 
among the Papists to the present day. But as God effectually 
guarded against the superstition into which the Jews might 
have fallen with respect to the remains of Moses, by taking 
care that his body should be buried in such a manner that 
"no man knew of his sepulchre" (Deut. xxxiv. 6); so this 
certainly justifies us in doing no further honour to the bodies 
of saints than merely interring them. We know that the early 
Christians took no further care about Stephen's body than to 
bury it with decency. — Acts viii. 2, And as the worshipping 
of relics is directly contrary to the practice of the primitive 
Christians, so it is utterly irreconcilable with common sense. 
It was also decreed by the Council of Trent, that "due honour 
and veneration " be given to the images of Christ, of the 
blessed Virgin, and other saints.* Papists, accordingly, bow 
down to images, kiss them, offer incense, and pray to them. 
They may tell us that they do not terminate their worship on 
the image itself, but worship God in and by it. The same thing 
might have been said both by enlightened heathens and by the 
Jews, yet this did not exempt them from the charge of ido- 
latry. The Israelites professed to worship Jehovah by the 
golden calf (Exod. xxxii. 5) ; and the calves set up at Dan 
and Bethel, by Jeroboam, were intended only as means 
whereby to worship the true God. — 1 Kings xii. 26. Not 
only the worshipping of images themselves, but the use of 
them in worship, even when the true God is worshipped in 
and by them, is called idolatry in Scripture. 

This section likewise refers to the medium by which accep- 
table worship must be offered to God. In the state of inno- 
cence man had liberty of access to God at all times, and 
needed none to mediate between him and his Creator ; but, 
since the fall, no acceptable worship can be given to God 
without a mediator. And, in opposition to Papists, who 
maintain that angels, departed saints, and chiefly the Virgin 
Mary, are mediators and intercessors between God and man, 
our Confession affirms, that there is no other mediator but 
» Con. Trid., Sess. 25. 


Christ alone. The Scripture expressly assures us that " there 
is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the 
man Christ Jesus." — 1 Tim. ii. 5. Christ declares of himself, 
" I am the way; no man cometh to the Father but by me" 
(John xiv. 6); and " by him we have access to the Father." — 
Eph. ii. 18. Papists grant that Jesus Christ is the alone 
mediator of redemption ; but they join angels and saints with 
him as mediators of intercession. On this point, indeed, they 
are not agreed among themselves. Some hold that, along 
with our now glorified Mediator, the holy angels and de- 
parted saints intercede with God for us. Others hold that they 
only act as mediators between Christ and us. The Scripture, 
however, gives no warrant for these distinctions. It repre- 
sents the intercession of Christ as founded upon the invalu- 
able merit of his atoning sacrifice. He who is our Advocate 
with the Father is also the propitiation for our sins. — 1 John 
ii. 1, 2. He is JSIediator of intercession, because he is Me- 
diator of redemption; and iipon this account his intercession 
is effectual. Glorified saints are indebted to free grace for 
their own admission into heaven, and they have no merit to 
apply to others. To solicit their intercession supposes that 
they hear our prayers and are acquainted with our circum- 
stances; but this is a gratuitous assumption. To employ 
them to intercede for us with God, is highly derogatory to 
the honour of Christ; for it implies that he is either un- 
mindful of his ofiice, or that he has not interest enough to 
obtain from God the blessings we need. To employ them to 
intercede for us with Christ himself is also dishonouring to 
him ; for it must imply, that they are more disposed " to sym- 
pathize with us than our merciful High Priest, who is touched 
with a feeling of our infirmities, and was, in all points, tempted 
like as we are." While the doctrine of the Church of Rome 
upon this subject degrades the Lord Jesus Christ, it invests 
departed saints with the honours and attributes of Deity. It 
must import that they are omnipresent and omniscient; for 
how could the Virgin Mary, for example, otherwise have any 
knowledge of the prayers which are addressed to her at the 
same time in ten thousand places, and, it may be, by millions 
of individuals 1 Protestants, therefore, with good reason, re- 
ject the notion of angelical and human intercessors, and rely 
solely on the intercession of that glorious Mediator whom 
the Father always heareth. 

Section III — Prayer with thanksgiving, being one 
special part of religious worship,^ is by God required of 

« Phil. iv. 6. 


all men ; ^ and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made 
in the name of the Son,^ by the help of his Spirit,^ accord- 
ing to his will,^" with understanding, reverence, humility, 
fervency, faith, love, and perseverance ; ^^ and, if vocal, 
in a known tongue.'^ 

Section IY. — Prayer is to be made for things lawful,'^ 
and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live here- 
after ; ^* but not for the dead,^^ nor for those of whom it 
may be known that they have sinned the sin unto 

1 Ps. Ixv. 2. 112] Cor. xiv. 14. 

8 John xiv. 13, 14. 1 Pet. ii. 5. i'' 1 John v. 14. 

» Rom. viii. 26. i® 1 John v. 14. | i* 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2. John xvii. 20. 
11 Ps. xlvii. 7. Eccl. v. 1, 2. Heb. I 2 Sam. vii. 29. Ruth iv. 12. 

xii. 28. Gen. xviii. 27. James i» 2 Sam. xii. 21-23. Lukexvi.25, 26, 

V. 16; i. 6, 7. Mark xi. 24.1 Rev. xiv. 13. 

Matt. vi. 12, 14, 15. Col. iv, 2. I i« 1 John v, 16. 

Eph. vi. 18. I 


Our Confession having given a general description of reli- 
gious worship, in regard to its object, and the manner in 
which it ought to be performed, proceeds now to give a more 
particular account of the several parts of religious worship; 
and, in the sections under our consideration, it treats of prayer, 
which is one special part of that worship we owe to God. 
Prayer, when taken in its most extensive sense, includes 
adoration, or a devout celebration of the perfections of God, 
and of his works, in which they are displayed; confession of 
our sins to God; thanksgiving for the favours which Ave have 
received from him; and petition for the blessings of which 
we stand in need. But prayer, in the strict sense of the 
word, consists in petition alone; and in this light we shall 
view it in the observations we have to offer in illustration of 
the statements of the Confession. 

I, Prayer is a duty incumbent on all men. As dependent 
creatures we owe this homage to God. " In him we live, and 
move, and have our being ;" and " from him cometh every 
good gift, and every perfect gift." What, then, can be more rea- 
sonable than to acknowledge our constant dependence on him, 
and make daily application to him for the supply of our wants ? 

That God knows our wants before we tell him of them, and 
that his infinite goodness will prompt him to bestow what is 
conducive to our happiness, have been sometimes urged as 
arguments against the necessity and utility of prayer. But, 
although prayer is certainly not necessaiy to give information 


to God, and is not intended to excite the divine benevolence, 
yet it does not follow that it is superfluons; because there may 
be other reasons of great importance for which it is required. 
It may be designed to impress our own minds more deeply 
with a sense of our wants, and to bring them into that state 
in which alone it is proper that the blessings we solicit 
should be bestowed upon us. Besides, prayer is the divinely 
appointed means of obtaining from our heavenly Father 
the blessings we need. He has commanded us to ask, and 
promised we shall receive. — Matt. vii. 7. He has given us 
many exceeding great and precious promises, and he has 
said : " For this will I be inquired of by the house of Israel, 
to do it for them." — Ezek, xxxvi. 37. 

It has also been alleged, " that wicked and unregenerate 
men ought not to pray unto God at all." This error was 
broached by certain sectaries, at the very period when our 
Confession was compiled ;* and it has been revived in our own 
day. It is maintained that, because unbelievers cannot pray 
acceptably, they ought not to pray at all. It will be readily 
admitted that the prayer of faith can alone be acceptable ', 
still we must hold that all men are bound to pray to God. — 

1. Prayer is a duty required by the mere light of nature, and 
must, therefore, be incumbent on all men. — Jonah i. 5, 6, 14. 

2. Prayer is a duty enjoined upon men indiscriminately, and 
universally in the Word of God. — Ps. Ixv. 2 ; Phil. iv. 6 ; 
1 Thess. V. 17. 3. If unbelievers, or unregenerate men 
ought not to pray, then their omission of prayer would not 
be their sin ; but their neglect of prayer is always repre- 
sented in Scripture as highly criminal. — Ps. x. 4 ; Jer. x. 
25. 4. The Apostle Peter required Simon Magus to pray 
unto God, though he was then " in the gall of bitterness, and 
in the bond of iniquity." — Acts viii. 22, 23. 5. Prayer is an 
appointed means of grace which all men ought to improve. 
Though it is not for our praying, yet it is in the way of prayer, 
as God's instituted order, that we may expect any blessing 
from him. — Matt. vii. 7. Every one that needs and desires 
any good thing from God is, therefore, bound to ask it by 
prayer, 6. Though the prayer as well as the ploughing of the 
wicked be sinful, because not done by them in a right man- 
aer, yet the matter of it being lawful and good in itself, their 
aeglect of it is a greater abomination, — Prov. xv. 8, xxi. 4. 
For these reasons we must maintain, agreeably to our Con- 
ession, that " prayer is by God required of all men." 

II. Prayer is to be made for things that are lawful, or accord- 
ng to the will of God. As our petitions ought to be regu- 
* Edward's Gangraena, part i., p. 27. 


lated by the revealed will of God, his "Word must be the rule 
of prayer. Nor by this rule are our prayers circumscribed 
within narrow limits; for nothing really necessary for us can 
be pointed out which is not contained in some diAdne declara- 
tion or promise. We are warranted to ask temporal mer- 
cies of God ; for " our heavenly Father knoweth that we 
have need of these things" (Matt. \i. 32) ; but spiritual mer- 
cies ought to have the preference in our requests ; for thus 
saith our Saviour : " Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and 
his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto 
you." — Matt. vi. 33. If we regulate our petitions by the 
Word of God, then we may feel the utmost confidence that 
there is an entire harmony between his will and our desires ; 
and we may take the full encouragement of that beautiful 
and comprehensive promise : " If ye abide in me, and my 
words abide in you, ye shall ask what you will, and it shall 
be done unto you." — John xv. 7 ; see also, 1 John v. 14. 

III. Prayer is to be made in the name of Christ. Our Sa- 
viour frequently enjoins us to ask all things in his name, and 
assures us that all our lawful desires and requests, presented 

'in his name, shall be granted. — John xiv. 13, 14; xvi. 23, 24. 
It is not enough, however, that we merely introduce the 
name of Christ into our prayers, or that we conclude them 
with the bare words : " All that we ask is for Christ's sake." 
To pray in the name of Christ, is to draw all our encourage- 
ment to pray from Christ alone, to engage in this duty in de- 
pendence upon his strength, and to rely upon his merit and 
intercession alone for access to God, and for acceptance and 
a gracious answer to our prayers. 

IV. Prayer is to be made in dependence upon the assis- 
tance of the Holy Spirit. This is frequently mentioned in 
Scripture as requisite to acceptable prayer, — Eph. vi. 18 ; 
Jude 20. We know not what to pray for as we ought, so 
that, without the assistance of the Spirit, we are in danger 
of asking amiss in regard to the matter of our requests. 
Neither do we know how to pray as we ought. But the 
Spirit is promised to help our infirmities, by enlightening our 
minds in the knowledge of our needs, bringing to our re- 
membrance the promises which are our encouragement to 
ask of God the supply of our wants, and exciting within us 
those affections and graces which are necessary to acceptable 
prayer. — Rom. viii. 26, 29. 

V. If we would have our prayers accepted of God, they 
~must be offered up in a right manner, which includes a va- 
riety of things. We must pray — 1. With understanding (Ps. 
xlvii. 7); with some knowledge of God, the alone object of 



prayer ; of our wants, the subject-matter of prayer ; of the 
person and work of Christ, the alone medium of acceptable 
prayer; and of the promises, which are our encouragement 
in prayer. 2. With reverence (Heb. xii. 28), arising from 
a deep sense of the infinite majesty and unspotted holiness 
of God. 3. With humility (Gen. xviii. 27), arising from a 
deep impression of our own unworthiness and sinfulness. 
4. With fervency (James v. 16), arising from a lively appre- 
hension of our own wants, and of the invaluable nature of 
the blessings which we ask of God. 5. With faith (James 
i. 6), believing that we shall receive what we ask according 
to the will of God. 6. With love (1 Tim. ii. 8), cherishing 
an ardent desire after God's presence with us, and an affec- 
tionate regard to all those for whom we ought to pray. 7. 
With importunity and perseverance (Matt. xv. 22-28 ; Eph. 
vi. 18), pressing our suit, and renewing our petition again and 
again, until a gracious answer is obtained. 8. Hopefully, 
waiting upon God, with submission to his will, and looking 
for an answer to our supplications. — Ps. v. 3 ; Mic. vii. 7. 

VI. Prayer, at least when public and social, ought to be 
offered up in a known tongue. This condemns the doctrine 
and practice of the Church of Rome, which maintains that it 
is not needful that public prayers be in a known tongue, and 
sj-ill continues to perform her service in the Latin language, 
which has ceased to be vernacular for a thousand years. 
This practice is so contrary to common sense, that no argu- 
ment can be necessary to support the statement of our Con- 
fession in opposition to it. It is sufficient to observe, that 
the Apostle Paul occupies nearly the whole of the 14th 
chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians in showing that 
public prayers ought to be offered up in the vulgar tongue. 
He would rather speak: five words which the people could 
understand, than ten thousand in an unknown tongue. 
He lays down this general rule : " Let all things be done 
unto edifying." But how can the people be edified by wor- 
ship performed in a language which they do not understand ? 

VII. Prayer is to be made " for all sorts of men living, 
or that shall live hereafter ; but not for the dead, nor for 
those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the 
sin unto death." We ought to pray " for the whole Church 
of Christ upon earth — for magistrates and ministers ; our 
brethren, yea, our enemies."* And as Chi'ist prayed for those 
that should afterwards believe on him (John xvii. 20), so 
we should pray for the advancement of his kingdom in the 
world until his second coming. — Ps. cii. 18. 

* The Larger Catechism, Quest. 183. 


The statement that we are not to pray for the dead is 
levelled against the Church of Rome, which maintains that 
prayers and masses ought to be performed for departed souls, 
and may really profit them. In Scripture we find no precept 
requiring us to pray for the dead, nor any promise that God 
will hear our prayers for them, nor any example of prayer 
being offered on their behalf ; for when Paul prayed that 
" Onesiphorus might find mercy of the Lord in that day" 
(2 Tim. i. 18), it cannot be proved that Onesiphorus was 
then dead. David ceased praying for his child when once it 
was removed by death. — 2 Sam. xii. 22, 23. The state of 
the dead is unalterably fixed, and therefore our prayers can- 
not profit them. — Luke xvi. 22-26. 

The statement, that we are not to pray for those who are 
known to have sinned the sin unto death, is founded on the 
express words of the Apostle John : " If any man see his 
brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and 
he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. 
There is a sin unto death : I do not say that he shall pray 
for it." — 1 John v. 16. The sin unto death most probably 
is the sin against the Holy Ghost, which alone is pronounced 
to be xmpardonable; and the irremissible nature of that sin 
is evidently the reason why prayer is forbidden for the per- 
son who is known to be guilty of it. 

Section Y. — The reading of the Scriptures with godly 
fear ; ^"^ the sound preaching/^ and conscionable hearing 
of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, 
faith, and reverence ; ^^ singing of psalms with grace in 
the heart ; ^° as also the due administration and worthy 
receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are 
all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God : ^^ 
besides religious oaths,^^ and vows,^ solemn fastings,^* 
and thanksgivings upon special occasions,^^ which are, in 
their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy 
and religious manner.^^ 

IT Acts XV. 21. Rev. i. 3. 
»8 2 Tim. iv. 2. 

J» James i. 22. Acts x. 33. Matt, 
xiii. 19. Heb. iv. 2. Isa.lxvi. 2. 

20 Col. iii. 16. Eph. V. 19. James 

V. 13. 

21 Matt, xxviii. 19, 1 Cor, xi. 23-29. 

Acts ii. 42. I 

22 Deut. vi. 13, Neh. x. 29. 
z-i Isa. xix. 21. Eccl. v. 4,5, 
2* Joel ii. 12. Esth. iv, 16. Matt. 
ix. 15. 1 Cor. vii. 5. 

25 Ps. cvii. Esth, ix, 22. 

26 Heb. xii. 28, 


Our Confession having explained the duty of prayer, pro- 


ceeds to enumerate the other ordinances of religious wor- 
ship; some of which are ordinary and stated, othefrs extra- 
ordinary and occasional. 

1. The reading of the Scriptures. The reading of the 
Word of God ought to be attended to in public (Neh. viii. 
8; Luke iv. 16); in families (Dent. vi. 6-9; Ps. Ixxviii. 5); 
and in secret. — John v. 39. " The Holy Scriptures are to 
be read with a high and reverent esteem of them; with a 
firm persuasion that they are the very Word of God, and that 
he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to 
know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them; 
with diligence and attention to the matter and scope of them; 
with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer."* 

2. The preaching and hearing of the Word. The preaching 
of the Word is a divine ordinance, and appointed to continue 
in the Church to the end of the world. — 1 Cor. i. 21 ; Matt. 
xxviii. 20. That the office of the ministry is of divine 'in- 
stitution, and a distinct ofiice in the Church, appears from 
the following considerations : — 1. Peculiar titles are in Scrip- 
ture given to the ministers of the gospel. They are called 
pastors, teachers, stewards of the mysteries of God, bishops 
or overseers of the flock, and angels of the Churches. 2. 
Peculiar duties are assigned to them. They are to preach 
the Word, to rebuke and to instruct gainsayers (2 Tim. iv. 2, 
ii. 25) ; to administer the sacraments (Matt, xxviii. 19; 1 Cor. 
xi. 23) ; to watch over the flock, as those that must give an 
account (Heb. xiii. 17); to give attendance to reading, to 
exhortation, to doctrine ; to meditate upon these things, and 
give themselves wholly to them. — 1 Tim. ii. 13, 15. 3. Pe- 
culiar duties are required of the people in reference to their 
ministers. They are called to know and acknowledge them 
that labour among them, and are over them in the Lord (1 
Thess. V. 12); to esteem them highly in love for their work's 
sake (1 Thess. v. 13); to obey them that have the rule over 
them, and submit themselves (Heb. xiii. 17); to provide for 
their maintenance (Gal. vi. 6); and to pray for them. — 2 
Thess. iii. 1. These things clearly prove that the ministry 
is a distinct office in the Church. 

Though all may and ought to read the Word of God, yet it 
is to be preached " only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and 
also duly approved and called to that office, "f Christians 
should improve their gifts and opportunities in a private way 
for mutual admonition and edification; but none, whatever 
gifts they may possess, are warranted to preach the gospel 

* The Larger Catechism, Quest. 157. 
t Ibid., Quest. 158. 


unless they have the call of Christ for that purpose. The 
apostles received their call immediately from Christ himself, 
and they were empowered to commit that sacred trust to in- 
ferior teachers; these, again, were commanded to commit it 
to faithful men who should be aible to teach others ; and 
none have a right to preach the gospel, in ordinary cases, 
but those who are thus authorised by Christ through the me- 
dium of persons already vested with official power in the 
Church. In the primitive Church, those who preached the 
Word were solemnly set apart to their office by " the laying 
on of the hands of the presbytery." — 1 Tim. iv. 14. A re- 
gular call to preach the gospel is necessary, on account of the 
people; for all the success of a minister's labours depends 
on the blessing of Christ, and the people have no warrant to 
expect this blessing upon the labours of those who are not 
the servants of Christ. — Jer. xxiii. 32. This call is no less 
necessary for the comfort and encouragement of ministers 
themselves; for as the work of the ministry is a work of pe- 
culiar difficulty and danger, so none are warranted to expect 
divine support and protection in the discharge of that work, 
but those who act under a divine commission. — E,om. x. 14, 
15; Acts xxvi. 16, 17. 

3. Singing of psalms. This was enjoined, under the Old 
Testament, as a part of the ordinary worship of God, and it is 
distinguished from ceremonial worship. — Ps. Ixix. 30, 31. 
It is not abrogated under the New Testament, but rather 
confirmed. — Eph. v. 19; Col. iii. 16. It is sanctioned by the 
example of Christ and his apostles. — Matt. xxvi. 30; Acts 
xvi. 25. The Psalms of David were especially intended by 
God for the use of the Church, in the exercise of public 
praise, under the former dispensation; and they are equally 
adapted to the use of the Church under the present dispen- 
sation. Although the apostles insist much upon the abolition 
tf ritual institutions, they give no intimation that the Psalms 
of David are unsuitable for gospel- worship; and had it been 
intended that they should be set aside in New Testament 
times, there is reason to think that another psalmody would 
have been provided in their room. In the Book of Psalms 
there are various passages which seem to indicate that they 
were intended by the Spirit for the use of the Church in all 
ages. " I will extol thee, my God, O King," says David, 
" and I will bless thy name for ever and ever." — Ps. cxlv. 1. 
This intimates, as the excellent Henry remarks, " that the 
Psalms which David penned should be made use of in prais- 
ing God by the Church to the end of time." We ought to 
praise God with our 11 bs as well as with our spirits, and 


should exert ourselves to do it " skilfully." — Ps. xxxiii. 3. 
As this is a part of public worship in which the whole con- 
gregation should unite their voices, persons ought to culti- 
vate sacred music, that they may be able to join in this exer- 
cise with becoming harmony. But the chief thing is to 
sing with understanding, and with affections of heart cor- 
responding to the matter sung. — Ps. xlvii. 7; 1 Cor. xvi. 15; 
Ps. cviii. 1. 

4. The due administration and worthy receiving of the 
sacraments instituted by Christ. As subsequent chapters 
treat fully of these ordinances, we pass them at present. 

5. Religious oaths and vows. These will come imder our 
consideration in the next chapter. 

6. Solemn fastings and thanksgivings. Stated festival- 
days, commonly called holy-days, have no wan-ant in the 
"Word of God; but a day may be set apart, by competent au- 
thority, for fasting or thanksgiving, when extraordinary dis- 
pensations of Providence administer cause for them. When 
judgments are threatened or inflicted, or when some special 
blessing is to be sought and obtained, fasting is eminently 
seasonable. When some remarkable mercy or deliverance 
has been received, there is a special call to thanksgiving. 
The views of the compilers of our Confession respecting these 
ordinances may be found in " The Directory for the Public 
Worship of God." 

Section YI. — Neither prayer, nor any other part of 
religious worship, is, now under the gospel, either tied 
unto, or made more acceptable by, any place in which 
it is performed, or towards which it is directed : ^^ but 
God is to be worshipped everywhere,^^ in spirit and in 
truth ; ^^ as in private families,^" daily ,^^ and in secret each 
one by himself; ^^ so more solemnly in the public 
assemblies, which are not carelessly or wilfully to be 
neglected or forsaken, when God, by his Word or pro- 
vidence, calleth thereunto.^ 

2^ John iv. 21. I si Matt. vi. 11. 

28 Mai. i. 11. 1 Tim. ii. 8. 32 ^att. vi.6. Eph. vi. 18. 

2 9 John iv. 23, 24. | ss iga. Ivi. 6, 7. Heb. x. 25. Prov. 

30 Jer. X. 25. Deut. vi. 6, 7. Job i. 20, 21, 24 ; viii. 34. Acts 

i. 5. 2 Sam. vi. 18, 20. 1 Pet. xiii. 42. Luke iv. 16. Acts 

iii. 7. Acts X. 2. | ii. 42. 


Under the gospel, all difference of places for religious wor- 
ship is aboUshed. We are required to " worship the Father in 


spirit and in truth" (John iv. 21) ; without respect of places ; 
and " to pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without 
wrath and doubting." — 1 Tim. ii. 8. This condemns the prac- 
tice of consecrating churches, and ascribing holiness to them; 
and also the superstitious opinion, that religious services are 
more acceptable to God and beneficial to men in one place 
than another. 

1. Religious worship ought to be performed in private 
families daily. This is a duty which the light of nature very 
plainly teaches. And the heathens will rise up in judgment 
against the prayerless families of professed Christians; for 
besides their tutelar deities, who were supposed to preside 
over cities and nations, and who had public honours paid to 
them in that character, they had their household gods, whom 
every private family worshipped at home as their immediate 
guardians and benefactors. But the light of Scripture gives 
a more clear discovery of the obligation to this duty. It is 
recommended by the example of the saints recorded in Scrip- 
ture; and good examples as really bind us to the duty as ex- 
press precepts. We find Abraham rearing up altars where- 
ever he came; and his attention to family religion Avas ex- 
pressly commended by God. — Gen xviii. 19. We have the 
examples of Joshua (xxiv. 15); of Job (i. 5); and of DaA-id. 
2 Sam. vi. 20. But we have a still more engaging example 
of family worship on record in Scripture than any of these, 
even the example of our Saviour himself, who, though he 

had no house of his own, yet he had a family Matt. x. 

25. Now we find him retiring from the crowd that followed 
him, and praying with his own family (Luke ix. 18) : " As 
he was alone praying, his disciples were with him." The 
practice of family worship tends to promote even the tem- 
poral prosperity of families ; for it is the blessing of God 
that maketh rich and prosperous; and what more likely way 
to obtain that blessing, than for a whole family to join in 
prayer and ask it daily of God ? — Prov. iii. 33. Much more 
does family worship tend to promote the spiritual and eter- 
nal interests of families; while it is also the most efi'ectual 
means to propagate religion from generation to generation. 
On the other hand, the neglect of this duty will bring the 
curse of God upon families; for " the curse of the Lord is 
in the house of the wicked." — Prov. iii. 33. How awful is 
that text (Jer. x. 25) : " Pour out thy fury upon the heathen 
that know thee not, and upon the families that call not upon 
thy name." Let the head of every family, then, adopt the 
excellent resolution of Joshua: " As for me and my house, 
we will serve the Lord." 


2. Religious worship ought to be performed in secret, each 
one by himself. In Matt. vi. 6, our Saviour plainly incul- 
cates the duty of secret prayer upon all his disciples, and 
directs them how to perform it in a right manner, parti- 
cularly to choose some secret place of retirement for their 
secret devotions. This duty is also most strongly recommended 
by the Saviour's example. — Matt. xiv. 23 ; Mark i. 35. It 
has been practised by the saints of God in every age. We 
have the example of Jacob (Gen. xxxii. 24) ; of Daniel 
(Dan. vi. 10) ; of David (Ps. Iv. 3, v. 17) ; of Hezekiah 
(Isa. xxxviii. 2). Secret prayer, indeed, is inseparable from 
a state of grace ; it is one of the first, one of the plainest and 
strongest symptoms of spiritual life. No sooner was Saul of 
Tarsus convei ted, than it was said of him, " Behold he pray- 
eth." — Acts ix. 11. This is an eminent means to promote 
genuine piety ; and the regular and conscientious practice of 
this duty is one of the best evidences of Christian sincerity. 
But not only ought Christians to engage in secret prayer at 
least every morning and evening, they may also, on other 
occasions, even when employed in their daily occupations, 
frequently lift up their souls to God in devout and fervent 
ejaculations. Of this species of prayer we have many ex- 
amples in the Word of God. — Exod. xiv. 15; 1 Sam. i. 13; 
Nell. ii. 4; 1 Chron. v. 20. 

3. Christians ought to assemble together, at stated seasons, 
for public worship. Under the former dispensation, all the 
males of God's chosen people were enjoined " to appear three 
times in the year before the Lord God." — Exod. xxiii. 1 7. But 
all their worship of a public nature was not confined to the 
temple, or to the celebration of the sacred feasts ; they had 
synagogues erected throughout the land, in which they assem- 
bled, at least on the Sabbath-days, for the service of the 
Lord. — Acts xv. 21. Jesus Christ, while he was on earth, not 
only went up to Jerusalem at the celebration of the great 
feasts, but also attended regularly to the service of the syna- 
gogue on the Sabbath-days. " He came to Nazareth, where 
he had been brought up, and, as his ciTstom was, he went 
into the synagogue on the Sabbath-day." — Luke iv. 16. His 
example lays a strong obligation upon those who profess to 
be his followers, to be regular and conscientious in their 
attendance upon the public worship of God. The primitive 
Christians did not satisfy themselves with worshipi)ing God 
in secret and in their families, but whenever they had an 
opportunity they assembled together for public worship. — 
Acts ii. 46. God is eminently honoured by the social worsliip 
of his people ; and he delights to honour the ordinances of 


his public worship, by making them means of grace. Most 
commonly it is by means of these ordinances that sinners are 
awakened and converted, and that saints are edified and 
comforted. Christians ought, therefore, to put a high value 
upon the public worship of God, diligently to improve their 
opportunities of " going up to the house of the Lord," and 
to beware of " forsaking the assembling of themselves to- 
gether, as the manner of some is." — Heb. x. 25. 

Section VII. — As it is of the law of nature that, in 
general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the 
worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, 
and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all 
ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven 
for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him :^ which, froni 
the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, 
was the last day of the week ; and, from the resurrection 
of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week,^^ 
which in Scripture is called the Lord's-day,^® and is to 
be continued to the end of the world as the Christian 

8* Exod. XX. 8, 10, 11. Isa. hi. 2,1 ss Gen. ii, 2, 3. 1 Cor. xvi. 1,'2. 
4, 6, 7. I Acts XX. 7. 

36 Rev. i. 10. 3^ Exod. xx. 8, 10. Matt. v. 17, 18. 


Our Confession next treats of the time consecrated to the 
worship of God. 

It is a dictate oi the law of nature, that a due proportion of 
our time should be employed in the immediate worship of God. 
The right of determining what exact proportion of time, and 
what particular day of the week should be set apart for this 
purpose, belongs to God. He has, accordingly, interposed his 
authority, and appointed that a seventh part of our time 
should be appropriated to his service. From the beginning 
of the world to the resurrection of Christ, he enjoined that 
the seventh day of the week should be employed in his wor- 
ship, for the special purpose of commemorating his rest from 
the work of creation. The particular day, however, might 
be altered by the authority, and according to the pleasure, of 
the Lawgiver. And from the resurrection of^ Christ, in order 
to commemorate the work of redemption in combination 
with the work of creation, the Sabbath was changed from 
the seventh to the first day of the week ; which is to be con- 
tinued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath. 


From these remarks it will be obvious that the Sabbath is 
partly a moral and partly a positive institution. So far as 
it requires that a certain portion of our time should be de- 
voted to the worship of God, it is moral, being founded in 
the relation subsisting between God and man. So far as it 
appropriates the seventh part of our time, arid determines 
the particular day to be set apart for the service of God, it 
is of positive institution, being founded in the will and ap- 
pointment of God. But it ought to be observed, that a po- 
sitive institution, when once enacted and revealed by God, 
may be of perpetual obligation, and, in this sense, may be 
called moral. Hence it is usual to speak of " the morality 
of the Sabbath," and to distinguish betwixt what is moral 
natural and what is moral positite in the fourth precept of the 
decalogue. As it requires that some stated portion of our 
time should be consecrated to the worship of God, it is moral 
natural; and as it enacts that a seventh portion of our time, 
rather than any other proportion, shall be set apart for this 
purpose, it is moral positive. We call it a positive institu- 
tion, because the observing of one day in seven as a Sabbath 
flows from the sovereign appointment of God ; and Vv'e call 
it MOBAL positive, because the divine appointment is of uni- 
versal and perpetual obligation; and the Sabbath is thus dis- 
tinguished from ceremonial institutions, which were peculiar 
to the Jews, and were abrogated at the death of Christ. The 
morality of the Sabbath, therefore, consists in its binding 
obligation upon all men, in all ages. 

That the appointment of one day in seven for a Sabbath is 
of universal and perpetual obligation, appears from the fol- 
lowing considerations: — 

1. From the original institution of the Sabbath. Of this 
we have an account. Gen. ii. 1-3. At this time none of the 
human race were in being but our first parents ; and since 
the Sabbath was instituted for them, it must be obligatory 
on all their posterity to the end of the world. There is, un- 
questionably, as much reason and as much need for all the 
sons of Adam, in all ages and nations, in their feeble and 
sinful state, to have a day appointed for their own rest, and 
for the worship of God, as there was for Adam in Paradise, 
and in a state of innocence. The Sabbath, as tlien appointed, 
could not be a ceremonial institution; for while man re- 
tained his integrity, there was no need of any types to sha- 
dow forth Christ. This reasoning can only be overturned 
by denying that the Sabbath was instituted in the beginning, 
and proving that it was first given to the Israelites in the 
wilderness. This, accordingly, has been attempted by va- 


rious writers, but the proof entirely fails. There is no rea- 
son to think that, in Genesis, Moses records the institution 
of the Sabbath by anticipation. The manner of the narra- 
tive would naturally lead any reader to suppose that he is 
relating what took place when the work of creation was 
finished. Although there is no record of the observation of 
the Sabbath for a period of 2500 years, or until after Israel 
came out of Egypt, yet it cannot be inferred from this that 
the Sabbath was not instituted from the beginning, or that 
it was not observed in antediluvian and patriarchal times ; 
for neither is there any record of its observation during a 
period of about 500 years, containing the histories of Joshua, 
of the Judges, particularly Samuel, and of Saul ; nor is there 
a single instance of circumcision on record from the time 
that Israel entered into Canaan until the circumcision of 
John the Baptist. In Exod. xvi. 23, the Sabbath is evidently 
mentioned, not as a new institution, but as one already 
known. And when the law was promulgated to Israel, at 
Mount Sinai, the Sabbath was spoken of as an institution 
with which they were formerly acquainted, but which had 
been too much neglected or forgotten. Probably in Egypt 
the observance of it had been in a great measure suspended; 
and therefore they were called to " Remember the Sabbath- 
day, to keep it holy." It may be observed, too, that the di- 
vision of time into weeks of seven days, which subsisted in 
the age of the patriarchs, cannot be satisfactorily accounted 
for, but by the previous institution of the Sabbath. 

2. The binding obligation of the Sabbath may be argued 
from the place which the fourth commandment occupies in 
the decalogue. It is inserted in the very middle of the mo- 
ral pi-ecepts which God delivered to mankind as a perpetual 
rule of their lives. It is one of those commands that were 
spoken by the voice of God himself, that were twice written 
on tables of stone by the finger of God, and that were laid up 
in the ark of the covenant. None of these things can be said 
of any ceremonial institution. 

3. All the reasons annexed to this commandment, as pro- 
mulgated from Mount Sinai, are moral in their nature. 
These reasons had no special reference to the Jews, but 
equally respect all men, in all nations and in all ages. And 
hence we find that strangers, as well as the Jews, were 
obliged to observe the Sabbath ; but they were not bound to 
observe ceremonial institutions. — Exod. xx. 10, 11. 

4. That the observation of the Sabbath was to continue 
after the abolition of the Jewish Sabbath, is implied in the 
words of Jesus Christ (Matt. xxiv. 20) : "Pray ye that 


your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath-day." 
Christ is there speaking, not of the Jewish, but of the Chris- 
tian Sabbath ; for he refers to a flight which should happen 
at the destruction of Jerusalem; and this did not take place 
until forty years after the Jewish Sabbath was abolished. 
But though the Sabbath was then to be changed from the 
seventh to the first day of the week, yet the words of Christ 
certainly intimate that the Sabbath was still to be continued. 

5. The perpetuity of the Sabbath is clearly taught in 
Isa. Ivi. 6-8. Whoever examines the passage, will find that 
the prophet is speaking of New Testament times. Under 
the gospel dispensation, therefore, the Sabbath was still to 
continue a divine institution ; it was still to be a duty to 
keep it from polluting it; and the keeping of it was to be 
blessed, according to the declarations of the unerring Spirit 
of prophecy. 

The morality of the Sabbath is not affected by the change 
of the day. The substance of the institution consists in the 
separation of a seventh portion of our time to the immediate 
worship of God; and the particular day is a thing perfectly cir- 
cumstantial. It is not said, "Remember the seventh day;" but 
" Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy." Neither is it 
said, " God blessed the seventh day;" but " God blessed the 
Sabbath-da,j, and hallowed it." But as the seventh day of 
the week was, by divine appointment, originally appropri- 
ated to the worship of God, the day could only be altered by 
" the Lord of the Sabbath." It is admitted that we have no 
express precept for the alteration of the day, but we have 
convincing evidence that the Sabbath was changed from the 
seventh to the first day of the week at the resurrection of 

1. That the first day of the week should be the Christian Sab- 
bath, was foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures (Ps. 
cxviii. 24): "This is the day which the Lord hath made;" 
not which he has created — for so he has made all other days — 
but which he has consecrated to himself, or made into a holy 
day. And the day referred to is the day of Christ's resur- 
rection, when " the stone which the builders refused was 
become the head stone of the corner.'' — Compare Acts. iv. 
10, 11; see also Ezek. xliii. 27, where the eighth day is men- 
tioned as the day on which spiritual sacrifices were to be offered 
up to the Lord ; and the Christian Sabbath may be called the 
eighth day, because the first day of the week now is the eighth 
day in order from the creation. 

2. After his resurrection, Christ repeatedly met with his 
disciples on the first day of the week.— See John xx. 19, 26. 


Though Christ appeared to several of the disciples on other 
days, yet it is only expressly recorded that on the first day of 
the week he met with them when assembled together. From 
this we may conclude that the disciples had already begun 
to assemble on the first day of the week, and that Christ ap- 
proved of the practice. Many are of opinion that he continued 
to meet with them upon that day of the week till his ascen- 
sion, " speaking to them of the things pertaining to the 
kingdom of God." — Acts, i, 3. 

3. The apostles and primitive Christians statedly met on 
that day for the celebration of divine ordinances. We read 
(Acts XX. 7), that " upon the first day of the week, when the 
disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto 
them;" where their meeting together on that day is not 
spoken of as a thing extraordinary, or merely occasional, but 
as a stated ordinary practice. From 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2, it ap- 
pears that the primitive Christians, on the first day of the 
week, contributed for the rehef of their needy brethren, and 
this by an express apostolical injunction. Thus the collec- 
tion for the poor, which was made in the Jewish synagogues 
on the Sabbath, seems to have been transferred, by apostolical 
authority, to the first day of the week among Christians. 

4. In early times the Christian Sabbath was well known 
by the distinguishing title of "the Lord's-daj" (Rev. i. 10), 
the day which Jesus Christ peculiarly claimed as his own, and 
which was consecrated to his honour. 

5. The first day of the week has been uniformly observed 
as the Christian Sabbath, from the apostolic age down to the 
present time ; and God has remarkably honoured that day by 
conferring precious blessings on his people, when employed 
in the religious observance of it. 

There is an adequate reason for the change of the Sabbath 
from the seventh to the first day of the week. As the seventh 
day was kept holy from the beginning of the world to the 
resurrection of Christ, in commemoration of the work of 
creation, so it is reasonable that, since the resurrection of 
Christ, the first day of the week should be sanctified, in com- 
memoration of the greater and more glorious work of re- 
demption. And as there will be no new work of the Al- 
mighty of superior or equal importance, it is fit that this day 
should continue to the end of the world, as the Christian 

~ Section YIII. — This Sabbath is then kept holy unto 
the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their 
hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand. 


do not only observe an holy rest all the clay from their 
own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly 
employments and recreations ; ^^ but also are taken up 
the whole time in the public and private exercises of 
his worship, and in the duties of necessity arid mercy .^^ 

38 Exod. XX. 8; xvi. 23, 25,26, 29, 30; xxxi. 15-17. Isa. Iviii. 13. Neh. 
xiii. 15-19,21,22. 3" Isa. Iviii. 13. Matt. xii. 1-13. 


This section points out what is requisite to the proper 
sanctification of the Sabbath. After due preparation before- 
hand, the Sabbath is to be kept holy, by resting from all 
worldly employments and recreations — by spending the 
whole time in holy exercises, and in the duties of necessity 
and mercy. 

1. Persons should endeavour so to dispose of their com- 
mon affairs beforehand, that the Sabbath may not be en- 
trenched upon by the cares and business of this world, and 
to prepare their hearts for engaging in the exercises ajDpro- 
priate to the Lord's-day. 

2. As the Sabbath is a day of holy rest, persons ought to 
abstain, during the whole day, from then- worldly employ- 
ments — from all manual labour, and also from the labours 
of the mind about secular studies — and from all unne- 
cessary words and thoughts about such subjects. They are 
also required to abstain from those innocent recreations which 
are lawful on other days, because these would engross a por- 
tion of the time which is sacred to other purposes, and would 
indispose them for the proper duties of the Sabbath. To 
engage on that day in such recreations or amusements as are 
in themselves sinful, must be attended with highly aggra- 
vated guilt. 

3. Persons ought to spend the whole time of the Sabbath, 
when they are awake, in holy exercises — in prayer, in re- 
ligioiis reading, and meditation — in the instruction of their 
families, and pious conversation with them — and in attendance 
upon the public ordinances of grace. It is very wrong to 
appropriate a few hours of the Sabbath to religious exercises, 
and to employ all the rest in a worldly manner. A Sabbath- 
day is of the same duration as the other six days of the week, 
and the same proportion of time that we spend in our own 
works on the other days should be devoted on Sabbath to 
the public or private exercises of God's worship. 

4. Works of necessity and mercy are allowed on the Sab- 


bath. By the former are meant works which could not have 
been done on the preceding day, and cannot be delayed till 
the day following. By the latter are meant those works 
which are performed from compassion to our fellow-crea- 
tures. Under these heads are included such works as these: 
travelling to and from the house of God ; defending a town 
or city that is invaded by enemies; working a vessel at sea; 
quenching a fire, and removing goods which would be de- 
stroyed by it, or by a sudden inundation; feeding cattle, and 
preserving their lives from danger; visiting the sick, and mi- 
nistering to their comfort and necessities; and taking care of 
children. In short, there is nothing of this kind forbidden, 
though it may, in a great measure, sometimes hinder the pro- 
per work of the day; for "God will have mercy, and not sa- 
crifice." Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath-day, and his 
disciples rubbed out the corn from the ears, when they were 
hungry; and though the Pharisees reproved them, yet the 
Lord pronounced them blameless. 

" The Sabbath was made for man." It is not an arbitrary 
appointment, but a most benevolent institution — designed for 
the benefit and advantage of man. Viewed merely as a day 
of cessation from labour, it must be regarded as a merciful 
and beneficial institution. It is intended to give to the la- 
borious classes of mankind an opportunity of resting from 
toil; and the return of the hepdomadal rest is found to be 
absolutely necessary for the preservation of health and 
strength. Every member of the community ought to be se- 
cured in the full enjoyment of that day of rest which God in 
his goodness, and by his authority, has allowed him. But the 
Sabbath is not merely a season of rest from the fatigues and 
anxieties of secular business — it is a cessation from ordinary 
labour, that we may attend with greater diligence to the 
duties of religion. And surely one whole day in seven is 
not too much for the immediate service of God, for the 
improvement of our souls, and for preparation for eternity. 
Scotland has long been honourably distinguished for its de- 
cent observance of the Sabbath. It is to be deplored, how- 
ever, that in this respect a sad deterioration is taking place. 
Sabbath profanation has of late years been making progress 
with fearful rapidity, and as this is the fertile source of 
numerous other evils, we know of nothing more injurious 
to the best interests of our country. The proper observa- 
tion of the Sabbath is a principal means of promoting the 
temporal welfare of individuals and of nations, of elevating 
the tone of public morals, of advancing the interests of reli- 
gion, and of drawing down the divine favour and blessing. 


The desecration of the Sabbath, on the other hand, is detri- 
mental to the temporal interests of men — demoralizes the 
community, lays waste religion, and calls down the displea- 
sure and judgments of God upon a nation. Every one, there- 
fore, should exert all his influence to arrest the progress of 
this increasing evil, and should resolve that, whatever others 
do, he will " keep the Sabbath from polluting it." They, who 
honour God by a strict and diligent observation of that day 
which he claims as his special property, shall obtain the bless- 
ing of the Lord, according to that comprehensive promise 
(Isa. Iviii. 13, 14): " If thou turn away thy foot from the Sab- 
bath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the 
Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and 
shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding 
thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words : then 
shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee 
to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with 
the heritage of Jacob thy father ; for the mouth of the Lord 
hath spoken it." 



Section I — A lawful oath is a part of religious 
worship,^ wherein, upon just occasion, the person swear- 
ing solemnly calleth God to witness what he assertetli 
or promiseth ; and to judge him according to the truth 
or falsehood of what he sweareth.^ 

Section II. — The name of God only is that by which 
men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all 
holy fear and reverence :^ therefore to swear vainly or 
rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear 
at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred.^ 
Yet as, in matters of weight and moment, an oath is 

1 Deut. X. 20. 1 3 Deut. vi. 13. 

.2 Exod. XX. 7. Lev. xix. 12. 2 Cor. ■* Exod. xx. 7. Jer. v. 7. Matt. v. 
i. 23. 2 Chron. vi, 22, 23. 1 34, 37. James v. 12., 


warranted by the Word of God under the New 
Testament as well as under the Old ; ^ so a lawful oath 
being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, 
ought to be taken.^ 

Section III Whosoever taketh an oath, ought duly 

to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and 
therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded 
is the truth.'^ Neither may any man bind himself by 
oath to anything but what is good and just, and what 
he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved 
to perform.^ Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching 
anything that is good and just, being imposed by lawful 

Section IY. — An oath is to be taken in the plain and 
common sense of the words, without equivocation or 
mental reservation.^" It cannot oblige to sin; but in 
anything not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, 
although to a man's own hurt ; " nor is it to be violated, 
although made to heretics or infidels.^- 

6 Heb. vi. 16. 2 Cor. i. 23. Isa. ! » Numb. v. 19. 21. Neh. v. 12. Exod. 

Ixv. 16. xxii. 7-11. 

* 1 Kings viii. 31. Neh. xiii. 25. | i" Jer. iv. 2. Ps. xxiv. 4. 

Ezra x. 5. I "l Sam. xxv. 22, 32-34. Ps. xv. 4. 

' Exod. XX. 7. Jer. iv. 2.' 12 i£zek. xvii. 16, 18, 19. Josh, ix 

8 Gen. xxiv. 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9. [ 18, 19. 2 Sam. xxi. 1. 


These sections embrace the following points : Jirst, The 
nature of a lawful oath; secondly, 'By whose name men ought 
to swear; third! y, The warrantableness of taking an oath; 
fowthly, The manner in which an oath ought to be taken; 
and, fifthly. The binding obligation of an oath. 

1. An oath is a solemn act of religious worship, in which 
the person swearing calls God to witness his sincerity in 
what he asserts or pi-omises, and to judge him according to 
the truth or falsehood of what he swears. When a person 
swears to facts past or present, this is called an assertory oath; 
when one swears that he will perform a certain deed or 
deeds in time to come, this is called a promissory oath. An 
oath may relate to matters civil or ecclesiastical, and, accord- 
ing to its matter, may be denominated a civil or ecclesias- 
tical oath; but to whatsoever matter it may be applied, the 


oath itself 4-etains its high place among the solemnities of re- 

2. An oath is only to be taken in the name of God. ^Ye 
are expressly commanded to " swear by his name" (Deut. 
vi. 13); and to " swear by them that are no gods" is repre- 
sented as highly criminal. — Jer. v. 7. Swearing by the name 
of God implies a belief and acknowledgment of his omni- 
science, omnipotence, and justice; it follows, therefore, that 
to swear by any other besides him, must be utterly unlaw- 
ful, and no less than idolatry. 

3. An oath may be warrantably taken on weighty occa- 
sions, when imposed by lawful authority. The Quakers, and 
some others, deny the lawfulness of swearing an oath in any 
case, under the New Testament. But their opinion is re- 
futed by a variety of arguments. An oath for confirmation 
is warranted by the third precept of the moral law ; for while 
that precept prohibits the taking of God's name in vain, it 
sanctions swearing by the name of God on lawful occasions. 
The practice is confirmed by numerous approved examples 
under the Old Testament. Abraham sware to Abimelech 
that he would not deal falsely with him. — Gen. xxi. 23, 24. 
A king of the same name desired that an oath might be 
between Isaac and him ; and they sware one to another. — . 
Gen. xxvi. 31. In like manner Jacob sware to Laban (Gen. 
xxxi. 53); and Joseph sware to his father. — Gen. xlvii. 31. 
All these examples occurred before the Mosaic law was given 
to the Jews, and therefore an oath can be no peculiarity of 
the Mosaic dispensation. But that law expressly recognised 
the warrantableness of taking an oath (Lev. v. 1), and un- 
der that disi^ensation we have various examples of holy men 
swearing by the name of God. Thus Jonathan required 
David to swear imto him (1 Sam. xx. 17); and David also 
sware unto Saul. — 1 Sam. xxiv. 21, 22. The taking «f an oath 
being no part of the judicial, or of the ceremonial law, it must 
be equally warrantable imder the present dispensation, un- 
less expressly prohibited in the New Testament. But there 
is much in the New Testament to confirm the practice. The 
Apostle Paul frequently appeals to God in these and similar 
expressions : " God is my witness : " — " I say the truth in 
Christ, I lie not" (Rom.i.9, ix. 1): "I call God for a record upon 
my soul." — 2 Cor. i. 23. Christ himself answered the ques- 
tion of the high priest, when he adjured him by the living 
God; which was the common form of administering an oath 
among the Jews. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the 
oath which God sware to Abraham, " who, because he could 
swear by no greater, sware by himself;" and he adds, " An 


oath for confirmation is an end of all strife" (Heb. vi. 13, 16); 
plainly showing that he sanctioned the practice. It must be 
evident, therefore, that our Saviour's words (ISIatt. v. 34), 
"Swear not at all," and the similar words of the Apostle 
James (v. 12), do not absolutely prohibit all swearing on 
necessary and solemn occasions ; but only forbid the practice 
of swearing in common conversation, and particularly of 
swearing by creatures. It must be remarked, however, that 
an appeal to God in trivial matters, and the frequent and un- 
necessary repetition of the same oath, is a taking the name 
of God in vain. And it may also be observed, that as the 
lifting up of the hand is the usual mode of swearing men- 
tioned in Scripture (Gen. xiv. 22; Rev. x. 5, 6), so it 
ought to be preferred ; and all superstitious forms ought to 
be rejected. 

4. An oath ought to be taken " in truth, in righteousness, 
and in judgment." — Jer. iv. 2. In truth ; that is, with an 
entire correspondence between the sentiments of the mind 
and the words of the oath, in their common obvious mean- 
ing, and as understood by those who administer it ; without 
any equivocation and mental reservation. To allow of mental 
reservation in swearing, as the Church of Rome in certain 
cases does, is to defeat the very end of an oath, to destroy 
all confidence among men, and to involve the swearer in the 
heinous sin of perjury. In righteousness; that is, in things law- 
ful and possible for us at the time of swearing, and with a 
fixed intention to perform what we pledge ourselves to do. 
In judgment; that is, deliberately and reverently, well consider- 
ing whether the matter of the oath be good and just, and 
whether the ends proposed be sufiicient to justify us in inter- 
posing the glorious and dreadful name of God for a pledge of 
the truth of our declarations. 

5. A lawful oath binds to performance. Oaths engaging 
persons to what is sinful are in themselves imll and void; 
and they who have rashly taken such oaths ought to repent 
of and renounce them, instead of adding the sin of keeping 
to the sin of making them, as Herod most wickedly did in 
beheading John the Baptist for the sake of his oath. — Mark 
vi. 23, 26. But a lawful oath is binding, though the perfor- 
mance may be prejudicial to a man's temporal interest; and it 
is the character of a good man, that though " he swears to his 
own hurt, he changes not." — Ps. xv. 4. It is a detestable 
pi'iuciple of the Romish Church, that "faith is not to be 
kept with heretics." 

Section Y. — A vow is of the like nature with a pro- 


missory oath, and ought to be made with the like 
religious care, and to be performed with the like faith- 

Section VI — It is not to be made to any creature, 
but to God alone : ^^ and that it may be accepted, it is 
to be made voluntarily, out of faith and conscience of 
duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for 
the obtaining of what we want; whereby we more strictly 
bind ourselves to necessary duties, or to other things, so 
far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto. ^^ 

Section YII. — No man may vow to do anything 
forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder 
any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his 
own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no 
promise of ability from God.^^ In which respects 
Popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, pro- 
fessed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from 
being degrees of higher perfection, that they are super- 
stitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may 
entangle himself.^^ 

13 Isa. xix. 21. Eccl. v. 4-G. Ts. I i« Acts xxiii. 12, 14. Mark vi. 26. 

Ixi. 8; Ixvi. 13, 14. Numb. xxx. 5, 8, 12, 13. 

i< Ps. Ixxvi. 11. Jer. xliv. 25, 2G. | i^ jiatt, xix. 11, 12. 1 Cor. vii. 2, 9. 

16 Deut. xxiii. 21-23. Ps. 1. 14. Gen. Eph. iv. 28. 1 Pet. iv. 2. 1 Cor. 

xxviii. 20-22. 1 Sam. i. 11. Ps. | vii. 23. 

Ixvi. 13j 14; cxxxii. 2-5. I 


These sections relate to the nature, the matter, and the 
obligation of a vow. 

A vow is a solemn promise made to God, and may be 
either personal or social. Although a vow is " of the like 
nature with a promissory oath," yet they admit of being dis- 
tinguished. In an oiith, man is generally the party, and God 
is invoked as the witness ; in a tow, God is both the party 
and the witness. A vow is to be made to God alone; 
and, therefore, to make vows to saints departed, as Papists 
do, is superstitious and idolatrous. Vows ought to be en- 
tered into voluntarily, and in the exercise of faith, or in de- 
pendence upon the grace of Christ for enabling us to per- 
form them.— Phil. iv. 13; 2 Cor. xii. 9. 

Persons may bind themselves by a vow, either to neces- 
sary duties or to other things not expressly required, so far 
and so long as they may be conducive to the better perfor- 


mance of these duties. But no man may vow to do any- 
thing which is either unlawful or which is not in his own 
power, and for the performance of which he has no promise 
of ability from God. 

A vow has an intrinsic obligation, distinct from the obli- 
gation of the law of God. In the law, God binds us by his 
authoritative command; in a vow, we bind ourselves by our 
own voluntary engagement. To represent a vow as laying 
no new or superadded obligation on the conscience, or to 
maintain, as some Popish writers do, that a vow does not 
bind us in moral duties commanded by the law of God, be- 
cause our vow cannot add any obligation to his law, is mani- 
festly absurd. It is equally contrary to Scripture and to the 
common sense of mankind. The law of God obliges; this is 
the primary obligation. But a vow also obliges; this is the 
secondary obligation. And subordinate things oppose not 
each other. The performance of vows is frequently and 
strictly enjoined in the Word of God. " When thou shalt 
vow a vow unto the Lord thy God," says Moses, " thou shalt 
not slack to pay it ; for the Lord thy God will surely require 
it of thee; and it would be sin in thee." — Deut. xxiii.21; see 
also Eccl. v. 4; Ps. 1. 14, Ixxvi. 11. 



Section I. — God, the supreme Lord and King of all 
the vrorld, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under 
him over the people, for his own glory and the public 
good; and, to this end, hath armed them with the 
power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement 
of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil- 

~ Section II. — It is lawful for Christians to accept and 
execute the office of a magistrate, when called there- 

1 Rom.xiii. 1-4. 1 Pet. ii. 13, 14. 



unto : ^ in the managing whereof, as they ought especially 
to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the 
wholesome laws of each commonwealth ; ^ so, for that 
end, they may lawfully, now under the New Testament, 
wage war upon just and necessary occasions.^ 

2 Prov. viii. 15, 16. Rom. xiii. 1, 2, 4. 

3 Ps. ii. 10-12. 1 Tim. ii. 2. Ps. 

Ixxxii. 3, 4. 2 Sam. xxiii. 3. 
1 Pet. ii. 13. 

* Luke iii. 14. Rom. xiii. 4. 
viii. 9, 10. Acts x, 1, 2 
xvii. 14, 16 



The Sacred Scriptures are a perfect " rule of faith and 
manners." They prescribe the duty incumbent upon men 
in every station and relation, whether as members of the 
Church or of the commonwealth — whether as rulers or as 
subjects. Any summary of Christian doctrine, therefore, 
which did not exhibit the duty of civil rulers, especially in 
reference to religion and the kingdom of Christ, wovild be 
extremely defective. This subject, accordingly, occupies a 
prominent place in the Confessions of all the Reformed 
Churches; and the harmony of these Confessions is a strong 
presumptive proof that the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures 
on this interesting topic is neither ambiguous nor " hard to 
be understood." 

It is true that sects have sprung up, at various periods, 
which have held principles subversive of all civil govern- 
ment, and hostile especially to all interference of the civil 
magistrate about matters of religion. The German Anabap- 
tists who, in the sixteenth century, produced such dreadful 
commotions, maintained that, " in the kingdom of Christ 
civil magistrates were absolutely useless." And even after 
their principles were modified by Menno, they " neither ad- 
mitted civil rulers into their communion, nor allowed any of 
their members to perform the functions of magistracy." 
They also denied "the lawfulness of repelling force by 
force, and considered war, in all its shapes, as unchristian 
and unjust." * Similar sentiments were broached by the 
English sectaries, at the period when the Westminster As- 
sembly was sitting. Among the many pernicious errors 
vented at that time, we find the following : — " That 'tis not 
lawful for a Christian to be a magistrate; but, upon turning 
Christian, he should lay down his magistracy : That it is 
unlawful for Christians to fight, and take up arms for their 
laws and civil liberties." + It is well known that the lawful- 

* Mosheim's Eccl. Hist., cent, xvi., sect. 3, part 2, chap. 3, cap. 5, 16. 
f Edward* Gangrjena, part i., pp. 29, 30. 


ness of war is still denied by the Society of Friends, or 

In opposition to such opinions, our Confession here teaches 
— I. That magistracy or civil government is the ordinance 
of God. II. That magistrates are appointed for the promo- 
tion of the public good, in subordination to the glory of 
God, III. That Christians may lawfully accept the office of 
a magistrate. IV. That magistrates ought to maintain piety 
as well as peace and justice. V. That they may lawfully, 
now under the New Testament, wage w^ar upon just and ne- 
cessary occasions. 

I. Magistracy, or civil government, is the ordinance of 
God. Several eminent writers have supposed that govern- 
ment is founded in the social compact; but it has been more 
generally held that government is founded in the will of 
God. * When it is asserted that magistracy is a divine in- 
stitution, it is not meant that it is of direct and express di- 
vine appointment, like the office of the gospel ministry. No- 
thing more is intended than that government is agreeable to 
the will of God. It is his will that the happiness of mankind 
be promoted. But government is indispensable to their hap- 
piness — to the preservation of peace and order — to the safety 
of life, liberty, and property. Nay, it is necessary to th? 
very existence of any considerable number of mankind in a 
social state. The deduction natively follows, that it is the 
will of God that government should exist; and this deduction 
of reason is amply confirmed by the express declaration of 
an inspired apostle : " There is no power but of God ; the 
powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, 
resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God." — Rom. 
xiii. 1,2. It is to be observed, that magistracy was instituted 
by God, as the moral Governor of the world, and is not 
derived from Christ as Mediator. This forms an important 
distinction between the civil and the ecclesiastical powers. 
" The King of nations," says Gillespie, " hath instituted the 
civil power ; the King of saints hath instituted the ecclesi- 
astical power. I mean, the most high God, possessor of 
heaven and earth, who exerciseth sovereignty over the work- 
manship of -his own hands, and so over all mankind, hath in- 
stituted magistrates to be in his stead, as gods upon earth ; 
but Jesus Christ, as Mediator and King of the Church, whom 
his Father hath set upon his holy hill of Zion (Ps. ii. 6), to 
~ * Among those who have pleaded for a social compact as the fouiidation 
of government, the venerable name of Locke may be specified; and among 
those who have advocated the opposite opinion, w^e may refer to Paley 
" Moral and political Philosophy," book vi., chap. 3) and to Dwight 
(Ser. 113). 


reign over the house of Jacob for ever (Luke i. 33), who 
hath the key of the house of David upon his shoulder (Isa. 
xxii. 22), hath instituted an ecclesiastical power and govern- 
ment in the hands of Church officers, w^hom, in his name, he 
sendeth forth." * It may be further remarked, that, although 
God has instituted civil government, yet he has not enjoined 
any one form of government as obligatory upon all commu- 
nities ; he has left it free to the several countries to choose 
that form which they think fittest for themselves ; and in 
this respect the Apostle Peter calls it " the ordinance of 
man."— 1 Pet. ii. 13. 

II. JNIagistrates are appointed for the promotion of the pub- 
lic good, in subordination to the glory of God. Magistrates 
are called " the ministers of God for good." — Rom. xiii. 4. 
They are invested with dignity and power, not for their own 
honour and advantage, but for promoting the welfare of so- 
ciety ; especially " for the punishment of evil-doers, and for 
the praise of them that do well." As this is the design of 
civil government, so this end is in some measure gained even 
by the worst of governments. But when this design is sys- 
tematically and notoriously disregarded — when rulers become 
habitual tyrants, invading and overthrowing the liberties and 
privileges of the nation — the governed must have a right to 
remedy the evil. This is a principle essential to true liberty, 
and it was acted upon in our own country at the Revolution. 

III. Christians may lawfully accept of the office of a magis- 
trate. It cannot be questioned that, under the former dis- 
pensation, some of the most pious men, such as David, 
Josiah, and Hezekiah, exercised this office with the divine 
approbation. There are also many predictions which clearly 
intimate that Christians should execute this office under the 
New Testament dispensation. — Isa. xlix. 23; Ps. Ixxii. 10, 11. 
Those who consider it unlawful for Christians to bear such an 
office, chiefly rest their opinion upon the example of Christ 
(Luke xii. 14), and upon his declaration to his disciples. — 
Matt. XX. 25, 26. But though Christ came not to exercise 
temporal dominion, and though he repressed the ambitious 
temper which then manifested itself among his apostles, and 
interdicted them and the ministers of the gospel in succeed- 
ing ages from holding such an office, this does not exclude 
all Christians from executing that function. Were it un- 
lawful for Christians to accept of the office of a magistrate, 
it would follow, either that there must be no magistrate at 
all in Christian countries — which would involve them in 
anarchy and dissolution — or else, that magistrates who aie not 

• Gillespie's Aaron's Rod p. 185. 


Christians must be established among them ; and who does 
not perceive the absurdity of this ? * 

IV. Christian magistrates ou:j^ht to maintain pieti/, as well 
as justice and peace. The apostle (2 Tim. ii. 1) exhorts, 
that prayers be made by Christians " for kings, and for all 
that are in authority ; that we may lead a quiet and peace- 
able life in all godliness and honesty." " What Christians are 
here to pray for, that magistrates must be bound to promote 
as their end ; and this is not simply * a quiet and peafteable 
life,' but ' in all godliness and honesty.' Rulers are not, in 
their official capacity, to be indifferent to godliness any more 
than to honesty; both ai'e to be countenanced and promoted 
by them. — Ezra vi. 8-10." f 

V. Christian magistrates may lawfully, now under the New 
Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions. War 
must be regarded as a great evil, but in the present state of 
the world it is sometimes necessary; and if a nation were to 
adopt and act upon the principle that war is absolutely un- 
lawful, it would soon become a prey to its ambitious neigh- 
bours. Under the Old Testament, wars were undertaken by 
the express command and with the approbation of God; but 
he could never'^ommand and approve of what is morally 
wrong. In the New Testament, too, there are various cir- 
cumstances stated which countenance the lawfulness of ma- 
gistrates waging war, and of Christians bearing arms. When 
the soldiers inquired of John what they should do, he said 
unto them, " l3o_violence_to_£0_maD, neither accuse any 
falsely ;" but he"did^ not command them to relinquish their 
profession, as unlawful; on the contrary, the precept which 
he added, " Be content with your wages," supposed them to 
continue in their situation. — Luke iii. 14. The first Gentile 
convert who was received into the Christian Church was a 
centurion ; but Peter, when he baptized him, did not require 
him to give up his situation in the Roman army. — Acts x. 
To determine the several cases in which war may be justi- 
fiable would be out of place here ; it may, however, be gene- 
rally stated, that aggressive wars, or such as are undertaken 
to gratify views of ambition or worldly aggrandizement, can- 
not be justified; but that defensive wars, or those which, as 
to the first occasion of them, are defensive, though in their 
progress they must often be offensive, are lawful. 

Section III. — The civil magistrate may not assume 

« Calvin's Inst., book iv., chap. 20, sect. 4, 5. Doddridge's Lectures, vol 
ii.,p. 253. 
t M'Crie's Statement, p, 139 



to himself the administration of the Word and sacra- 
ments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of 
heaven ; ^ yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to 
take order, that unity and peace he preserved in the 
Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, 
that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all 
corruptions and ahuses in worship and discipline pre- 
vented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly 
settled, administered, and observed.^ For the better 
effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be 
present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is 
transacted in them be according to the mind of God.^ 

6 2 Chron. xxvi. 18. Matt, xviii. 17; 

xvi. 19. 1 Cor. xii. 28, 29. Kph. 

iv. 11, 12. 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2. Rom. 

X. 15. Heb. V. 4. 
« Isa. xlix. 23. Ps. cxxii. 9. Ezra 

vii. 23, 26-28. Lev. xxiv. Iti. 

Deut. xiii. 5, 6, 12. 2 Kingi 
xviii. 4. 1 Chron. xiii. 1-9. 2 
Kings xxiv. 1-26. 2 Chron. 
xxxiv. 33; xv. 12, 13. 
'^ 2 Chron. xix. 8-11; xxix., xxx. 
Matt. ii. 4, 5. 


In this section it was manifestly the object of the com- 
pilers of our Confession to guard equally against Erastian 
and Sectarian principles. In opposition to Erastian principles, 
according to which the government and discipline of the 
Church are devolved upon the civil magistrate, they declare 
that the magistrate may not take upon himself either the 
ministerial dispensation of the Word and sacraments, or any 
part of the government of the Church. But while they deny 
to the magistrate all ministerial or judicial power in the 
Church, in opposition to Erastians, yet, to guard against the 
other extreme, they assert, in opposition to the Sectarians 
of that age, that it is his duty to employ his influence and 
authority, in every way competent to him, for the good of 
the Church, and the advancement of the interests of true 

It is somewhat remarkable that parties holding the most 
opposite views, in regard to the power of the civil magistrate 
about religion and the connection between Church and State, 
have concurred in representing this section of our Confession 
as allowing to the civil magistrate a controlling power in and 
over the Church. The defenders of the recent interferences 
of the civil courts in matters strictly ecclesiastical, now homo- 
logated by the State or Legislature, have appealed to this 
section as sanctioning these interferences. The opponents 
of all civil establishments of religion, on the other hand, have 


put the same construction on this section, and have alleged 
that it does allow to the civil magistrate an Erastian power 
in and over the Church. " This, if true, would be very 
strange, considering that the Assembly who compiled it were 
engaged in a dispute against this very claim with the Parlia- 
ment under whose protection they sat ; and that, owing to 
their steady refusal to concede that power to the State (in 
which they were supported by the whole body of Presby- 
terians), the erection of presbyteries and synods in England 
was suspended."* Independently of this important fact, it 
would be easy to adduce numerous declarations from the 
Confession itself more than sufficient to repel the imputation. 
These declarations will come under our consideration after- 
wards, and at present we only remark, that the Confession 
must be presumed to be consistent with itself; and if some 
detached phrases in this section may be thought to admit of 
a construction unfavourable to the freedom and independence 
of the Church, yet if these phrases are susceptible of an in- 
terpretation Avhich harmonizes with other explicit declara- 
tions respecting the independence of the Church and the 
sole headship of Christ over it, that interpretation ought 
certainly to be received as their true and intended import. 

Before proceeding to explain the several clauses of this 
section, it will be proper to offer a few general remarks. In 
the first place, it may be observed, that by the civil magis- 
trate is here meant the State, or supreme civil power of the 
nation. In the Confession, and in theological writings in 
general, the civil magistrate means, not the sovereign, acting 
singly and exclusively, but the government of the country, 
or the power which is entitled to frame the national laws, 
and to reg-ulate national measures. In the second place, it is 
unquestionable, that what the Confession here teaches respect- 
ing the duty of the civil magistrate, belongs to him as a 
magistrate ; for it says, " He hath authority " to do what is 
ascribed to him. lie is to discharge the duty here assigned 
to him, not merely by his advice and example, as a Christian 
placed in an exalted station, but by his official authority and 
influence as a magistrate. But, in the third place, it is not 
less evident, that our Confession here speaks of such a magis- 
trate as is also a Christian, making a profession of the true re- 
ligion. To suppose that any other than a Christian magis- 
trate can do the things here ascribed to the magistrate, is an 
absurdity too gross to be imputed to the Confession. In the 
fourth place, our Confession here teaches, that the advance- 
ment of religion, and the promotion of the interests of the 
* M'Crie's Appendix, p. 138, 


Church of Christ, form an important part of the official duty 
of Christian magistrates. Although the proper and immediate 
end of civil government, in subordination to God's glory, is 
the temporal good of men, yet the advancement of religion 
is an end which civil rulers, in the exercise of their civil 
authority, are bound to aim at; for even this direct end of 
their office cannot be gained without the aids of religion. 
And although magistracy has its foundation in natural prin- 
ciples, and Christianity invests civil rulers with no new 
powers, yet it greatly enlarges the sphere of the operation 
of that power which they possess, as civil rulers, from the 
law of nature. That law binds the subjects of God's moral 
government, jointly and severally, to embrace and reduce to 
practice whatsoever God is pleased to reveal as the rule of 
their faith and duty. And therefore nations and their rulers, 
when favoured with divine revelation, should give their public 
countenance to the true religion; remove everything out of 
their civil constitution inconsistent with it, or tending to 
retard its progress; support and protect its functionaries in 
the discharge of their duty; and provide, in every way com- 
petent to them, that its salutary influence have free course, 
and be diffused through all orders and departments of society. 
The compilers of our Confession had not imbibed the doc- 
trine, that the exercise of the magistrate's authority must 
be limited to the secular affairs of men, and that it is no part 
of his duty, in his official capacity, to aim at the promotion 
of the true religion. " Certainly," said an eminent member 
of the Westminster Assembly, " there is much power and 
authority, which by the Word of God, and by the Confes- 
sions of Faith of the Reformed Churches, doth belong to the 
Christian magistrate, in matters of religion."* 

But wliile our Confession undeniably teaches, that the 
civil magistrate is authorised to do something about religion 
and the Church of Christ ; yet it lays certain restrictions and 
limitations upon the exercise of his authority in regard to 
these matters. According to our Confession, the civil magis- 
trate must not assume a lordly supremacy over the Church; 
for " there is no other head of the Chui'ch, but the Lord Jesus 
Christ." — Chap, xxv., sect. 6. He must not interfere with 
her internal government ; for " the Lord Jesus, as king and 
head of his Church, hath therein appointed a government in 
the hand of Church-officers, distinct from the civil magis- 
trate;" and "to these officers the keys of the kingdom of 
heaven are committed." — Chap, xxx., sect. 1, 2. He must 
not, as a magistrate, sustain himself a public judge of true or 
* Gillespie's Aaron's Rod, p. 181. 


false religion, so as to dictate to his subjects in matters purely 
religious ; for *' it belongeth to synods and councils minis- 
terially to determine controversies of faith and cases of con- 
science," &c. — Chap, xxxi., sect. 3. In the first paragraph 
of the section now under consideration, there is another im- 
portant limitation of the power of the civil magistrate in re- 
gard to the Church. It is expressly declared, that he may 
not take upon himself the administration of her ordinances 
of worship : " He may not assume to himself the administra- 
tion of the Word and sacraments." Neither may he take 
upon himself the administration of the government and dis- 
cipline of the Church: " He may not assume to himself the 
power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven." The keys, in 
the most extensive sense, include the whole ecclesiastical 
power, in distinction from the sword, or the civil power.* 
But " the power of the keys," taken in its more limited sense, 
as it must be here, where it is distinguished from the ad- 
ministration of the Word and sacraments, just means the 
ordinary power of government, in the administration of the 
affairs of the Church; and more particularly, the right of 
authoritatively and judicially determining all questions that 
may arise as to the admission of men to ordinances and to 
office in the Church of Christ, and the infliction and relaxa- 
tion of Church censures."t This is not the only restriction laid 
upon the power of the civil magistrate in the present sec- 
tion. It is also plainly intimated, that, in the execution of 
the duty here intrusted to him, he must be regulated by the 
Word of God. He is not to act arbitrarily, but must be 
guided by the standard of God's Word. In regard to one 
important branch of the functions here assigned to him — that 
which concerns synods — it is expressly declared, that he is to 
see that " what is transacted in them be according to the 
mind of God " — the mind of God, as revealed in his Word, 
being thus distinctly prescribed as a rule to him, as it is to 
the ordinary members of synods. X This principle was 
admitted by the Erastians of former times; for they conceded 
to their opponents, " that the Christian magistrate, in order- 
ing and disposing of ecclesiastical causes and matters of 
religion, is tied to keep close to the rule of tlie Word of God; 
and that as he may not assume an ai'bitrary government of the 
State, so far less of the Church."§ It may be further added, 
that, according to our Confession, the civil magistrate is bound 

*> The civil power is called the power of the sword, and the other (the 
ecclesiastical), the power of the keys. — Second Book of Discipline, chap. i. 

t Cuningham's Remarks on the Twenty-third Chapter of the Confession ot 
Taith. p. 12. 

J Ibid., pp. 15-19. § Gillespie's Aaron's Rod, p. 173. 


to act, in his official capacity, " according to the wholesome 
laws of each commonwealth." — Sect, 2. Now, as our Con- 
fession of Faith is founded upon the Word of God, so it is 
embodied in our Statute-Book ; and, therefore, when civil 
rulers assume a proper jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters, 
which the Confession has denied to them, their proceedings 
must be inconsistent at once with the Word of God and the 
law of the land. 

Keeping these remarks in view, it will not be difficult to 
explain, in full consistency with the liberty and independence 
of the Church, this section of our Confession. The civil 
magistrate, it is declared, " hath authority, and it is his duty, 
to take order," &c. This cannot mean, that he is to accom- 
plish the objects specified by all the ways in which it may be 
attempted; for, in the introductory clause, some of these are 
carefully excepted. It cannot mean, that he has a rightful 
jurisdiction in these matters, and is entitled to judge and 
determine them, not only for himself, but for the regulation 
of the conduct of others; for this would be to usurp the keys 
of the kingdom of heaven. It can only imply, that the 
matters specified are objects which he is entitled and bound 
to aim at, and to effect by such methods as are competent to 
him, without invading the jurisdiction of the Church. 

The Confession specifies certain means which the civil ma- 
gistrate may lawfully employ for effecting the objects men- 
tioned : " For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to 
call synods." From this it cannot be inferred that ministers 
have not a power to meet of themselves in synods and assem- 
blies, without being called by the civil magistrate; for in 
chapter xxxi. it is expressly declared that they have such 
power " of themselves, and by virtue of their office." The 
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, indeed, were of 
opinion that, in the chapter now referred to, the Confession 
is not sufficiently explicit in regard to the intrinsic power of 
the Church to call her own assemblies ; and accordingly, in 
their Act of 1647, by which the Confession was approved, 
they expressly declare that they understood that part of it 
" only of kirks not settled or constituted in point of govern- 
ment ;" and that explanation must apply equally to the sec- 
tion now before us. Our Confession, then, does not assert 
that the magistrate may exercise this power on all occasions, 
and in all circumstances, or whenever there are any evils of 
a religious kind to correct. It is sufficient that there may be 
times and circumstances in which he may warraiitably exer- 
cise this power. When the state of the nation as well as of 
the Church may be convulsed, and its convulsions may be in 


a great degree owing to religious disorders, it is surely a high 
duty incumbent on him to take such a step, provided he finds 
it practicable and advisable. And such was the state of mat- 
ters when the Westminster Assembly was convoked by the 
Parliament of England, 

After stating that the magistrate has power to call synods, 
it is added, " To be present at them, and to pro\^ide that 
whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind 
of God." " Not to insist here," to use the language of Dr 
M'Crie, " that these words ought, in fair construction, to be 
understood of such synods as have been convoked by the ma- 
gistrate, what "-^asonable objection can be made to his being 
present ? May he not claim a right to be present at any 
public meeting within his dominions ? — may he not be present 
in a synod to witness their proceedings, to preserve their ex- 
ternal peace, to redress their grievances, or (why not ?) to 
receive their advice or admonitions ? But, if it be supposed 
that his presence is necessary to give validity to their pro- 
ceedings, and that he sits as preses of their meeting, or as 
director of their deliberations and votes, I shall only say, that 
the words of the Confession give not the slightest counte- 
nance to such claims, which are utterly inconsistent with the 
common principles of Presbyterians, and, in particular, with 
ttie well-known and avowed j^rinciples of the Church of Scot- 
land. A similar answer may be given to the objection against 
the last clause of the paragraph. May not any Christian, 
whatever his station be, ' provide that whatsoever is transact- 
ed,' even in synods, ' be according to the mind of God ?' If the 
legislature or government of a nation have a special care about 
religioUj or if there is any particular duty at all which they 
have to discharge respecting it, and particularly, if they have 
power in any case to call synods, must it not in a special man- 
ner be incumbent on them to see to this ? Nor does this im- 
ply that they are in possession of any ecclesiastical powers, 
or that they pass a public judgment on true and false religion. 
Their private judgment is sufficient to regulate them in their 
public managements in this as well as on many other subjects 
about which they exercise their authority, without sustaining 
themselves as the proper judges of them, as in the case of 
many arts and sciences which they patronize and encourage. 
Must not Christian rulers, judges, and magistrates, provide 
that ^whatsoever is transacted' by themselves 'be according 
to the mind of God?' Is it not highly fit that they should 
be satisfied, and that they should, by every proper means, pro- 
vide, that the determinations of synods be according to the 
mind of God, if they are afterwards to legalize them, or if 


they are to use their authority for removing all external ob- 
structions out of the way of their being carried into effect; 
both of which they may do, without imposing them on the 
consciences of their subjects ? And, in fine, are there not 
various ways in which they may provide, as here stated, 
without assuming a power foreign to their office, or intruding 
on the proper business of synods, or ecclesiastical courts? 
But if it be supposed that the magistrate, as the proper judge 
in such matters, is to control the deliberations of the ec- 
clesiastical assembly — to prescribe and dictate to them what 
their decisions shall be ; or that, when they have deliberated 
and decided, he may receive appeals from their decisions, or 
may bring the whole before his tribunal, and review, alter, 
and reverse their sentences, I have only to say, as formerly, 
that the words of the Confession give not the slightest coun- 
tenance to such claims, which are utterly inconsistent with 
the common principles of Presbyterians, and, in particular, 
with the well-known and avowed principles and contendings 
of the Church of Scotland."* 

Section IY It is the duty of people to pray for 

magistrates,^ to honour their persons,^ to pay them tribute 
and other dues,^" to obey their lawful commands, and to 
be subject to their authority, for conscience' sake." Infi- 
delity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the 
magistrate's just and legal authority, nor free the people 
from their due obedience to him :^' from which ecclesiasti- 
cal persons are not exempted ; ^^ much less hath the Pope 
any power or jurisdiction over them in their dominions, 
or over any of their people ; and least of all to deprive 
them of their dominions or lives, if he shall judge them 
to be heretics, or upon any other pretence whatsoever.^^ 

8 1 Tim. ii. 1,2. » 1 Pet. ii. 17. I ^^ Rom. xiii. 1. 1 Kings ii. 35 Acts 

JO Rom. xiii. fi, 7. I xxv. 9-11. 2 Pet. ii. 1, 10, 11. 

1' Rom. xiii. .5. Tit. iii. 1. I Jude8-ll. 

12 1 Pet. ii. 13, 14, 16. 1 ^* 2 Thess. ii. 4, Rev, xiii. 15-17. 


1. This section, in the first place, states the duty of subjects 
towards their rulers; and the proofs adduced by the compilers 
of our Confession clearly show that it is their duty to pray 
for the divine blessing upon them, to honour their persons, 
to pay them tribute, and to yield them a conscientious sub- 
; jection and obedience in all their lawful commands. 
* MCrie's Appendix, pp. 142. 143. 


2. It is affirmed, in opposition to a Popish tenet, that 
" infidehty, or diiFerence in religion, doth not make void the 
magistrate's just and legal authority, nor free the people from 
their due obedience to him." Christ himself paid tribute to 
Caesar, and his apostles inculcated upon Christians subjection 
to " the higher powers" then existing, although all these 
powers were heathen. It must be admitted, however, that 
nations favoured with supernatural revelation ought, in 
choosing their rulers, to have a respect to religious qualifica- 
tions. And nations that have made great attainments in 
reformation, and pledged themselves, by national vows to the 
Most High, to hold fast their attainments, certainly ought, 
in setting up magistrates, to look out for those who will concur 
with them in the maintenance of the true religion, and rule 
them by laws subservient to its advancement. On this prin- 
ciple our Reformers acted; for they provided, by their deed 
of civil constitution, that the sovereign over these realms 
should be of the same religion with the people, and co-operate 
with them in prosecuting the ends of the national covenants. 
But where a magistrate has authority, by the will and consent 
of the body politic, or majority of a nation (this being what 
renders his authority "just and legal," according to the "Word 
of God), " infidelity, or difference in religion, does not make 
void his authority," nor release individuals, or a minority, 
from subjection and obedience to him in all lawful commands. 
With this principle, so clearly laid down in our Confession, 
accords the practice of " our reforming fathers in Scotland 
under Queen Mary, and of their successors during the first 
establishment of Episcopacy, and after the Restoration, down 
to the time at which the government degenerated into an 
open and avowed tyranny." 

3. It is affirmed that " ecclesiastical persons are not ex- 
empted" from due obedience to the civil magistrate. This 
is an explicit denial of the Popish doctrine of the exemption 
of the persons and property of ecclesiastics from the juris- 
diction of the ordinary criminal and civil tribunals. Our 
Confession decidedly maintains that the civil magistrate may 
not claim authority to control or over-rule the office-bearers 
of the Church in the discharge of their proper functions ; but 
it no less clearly teaches that ecclesiastical persotis are not 
exempted from his authority in matters that fall under his 
rightful jurisdiction, as being of a civil nature. The apostolic 
injunction is general, and extends to all sorts of persons: 
" Let every soul be subject imto the higher powers." — Rom. 
xiii. 1. The expression every soul is very emphatical, and 
seems intended to brino; the idea c( the universality of the 


obligation more strongly out than the use of the ordinary 
phrase, every one, would have done. The civil and ecclesias- 
tical authorities have separate and distinct jurisdictions. In 
ecclesiastical matters, civil rulers have no rightful jurisdic- 
tion ; and in civil matters, ecclesiastical persons, as they are 
members of the commonwealth, are equally bound with others 
to be subject to the ruling authorities. 

4. It is further affirmed, that the Pope hath no power or 
jurisdiction over magistrates in their dominions, or over any 
of their people. The Popes, when in the plenitude of their 
power, usurped a supremacy over the whole earth, in tem- 
porals as well as in spirituals. They pretended to have au- 
thority, by divine right, over kings and their dominions, and 
claimed a power to dispose of crowns and kingdoms at their 
pleasure. This arrogant claim they have, in innumerable 
instances, reduced to practice. They have deposed and ex- 
communicated kings, on the ground of pretended heresy or 
schism — absolved their subjects from their allegiance, and 
transferred their dominions to others. Since the Reforma- 
tion, however, the exorbitant power of the Pope has been 
greatly restrained. Protestants disclaim his authority, not 
only in temporal, but also in spiritual matters ; and even in 
the most of those countries where his spiritual authority is 
still acknowledged, his temporal supremacy is disowned; but 
since Papists boast of the unchangeable ness of their Church, 
and since the Roman Pontiffs lay claim to infallibility, it 
cannot be supposed that they have renounced their right to 
universal dominion; and should they again attain to power, 
it may be presumed that their ancient extravagant principles 
would be openly avowed, and their universal supremacy en- 
forced as rigorously as in the darker ages. Every friend of 
civil and religious liberty ought, therefore, strenuously to re- 
sist eveiy encroachment of " the Man of Sin, who opposeth 
and exalteth himself above all that is called god." 



Section I. — 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.* 

Section II. — Marriage was ordained for the mutual 
help of husband and wife ; ^ for the increase of mankind 
with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy 
seed; ^ and for prev*^.nting of uncleanness.* 

^ Gen. ii. 24. Matt. xix. 5, 6. Prov. I 2 Gen. ii. 18. 

ii. 17. I •■• MaL ii. 15. * 1 Cor. vii. 2, 9. 


Marriage is an ordinance of God, designed for the mutual 
help of husband and wife, for the honourable propagation of 
the human race, and for other important purposes connected 
with the comfort and improvement of the species. It jyas 
instituted before the entrance of sin, and must, therefore, be 
a holy ordinance, and no hindrance to men in the service of 
God. The Lord saw that "it was not good for Adam," even 
in Paradise, " to be alone," and that " there was no help meet 
for him" to be found among all the other creatures. He 
was therefore pleased to form the woman from his side, as 
" bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh," and, having brought 
her to Adam, he joined them together as husband and wife, 
and thus gave an example to be imitated by their descend- 
ants. As God made no more than one woman for Adam, he 
thereby plainly indicated his will that every man should have 
only one vvife, and every woman only one husband. In this 
manner Malachi explains the fact, when he says : " And did 
not he make one ?" — namely one woman — " yet had he the 
residue of the Spirit. And wherefore one ? That he might 
seek a godly seed." — Mai. ii. 15. Polygamy was first intro- 
duced by Lamech, an abandoned descendant of Cain (Gen. 
iv. 19), and, though practised, by the patriax'chs, and other 
pious men, it is contrary both to the divine institution and 
to the law of nature. As God in his providence maintains 
so near an equality between the males and females born into 
the world, it is manifestly his intention that one woman only 
should be assigned to one man ; and wherever polygamy has 
prevailed, it has been attended with numerous evils, both to 
the parties themselves and to the public. It promotes jea- 
lousies and contentions among the wives of the same husband; 
produces distracted afi"ections, or the loss of all affection in 
the husband himself; tends to the degradation of the female 
character, to the neglect of children, and manifold other evils. 
The words of Christ (Matt. xix. 9) plainly imply a prohibi- 





tion of polygamy; for if " whosoever putteth away his wife 
[except it be for incontinence], and murrieth another, com- 
mitteth adultery," he who marrieth another without putting 
away the first, must be no less guilty of adultery. 

SectonIII. — It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry 
who are able with judgment to give their consent: ^ yet 
it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord.^ 
And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion 
should not marry with infidels, Papists, or other idolaters: 
neither should such as are godly l3e unequally yoked, by 
marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their 
life, or maintain damnable heresies.^ 

1 Tim. iv, 3. 1 Cor. 
Gen >xiv, 57, 58. 

Heb xiil. 4. 
vii. 36-3 
1 Cor. vii. 39. 
Gen. xxxiv. 14. E\od. xxxiv. IG. 

Deut. vii. 3, 4. 1 Kings xl. A. 
Neh. xiii. 25-27. Mai. ii. 1 1, 12. 
2 Cor. vi. 14. 


The Church of Rome forbids the marriage of the clergy, 
and of all under the celibate vow. This is one of "the 
doctrines of devils" which is mentioned as characteristic of 
the great apostasy (1 Tim. iv, 1-3): " Now the Spirit speaketh 
expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the 
faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of 
DEVILS, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience 
seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry," «Scc. It 
is a doctrine in direct opposition to the Word of God, Avhich 
allows " all sorts of people to marry, who are able with 
judgment to give their consent." An apostle declares that 
"marriage is honourable in all (Heb. xiii. 4), without except- 
ing those who are employed in the public offices of religion. 
Under the Old Testament, the prophets, the priests, and all 
those who attended more immediately upon the service of 
God, were permitted to marry. Under the New Testament, 
also, the ministers of religion have an express allowance to 
enter into the marriage state. That the Apostle Peter was 
a. married man is evident from Matt. viii. 14. Philip the 
evangelist " had four daughters, virgins, which did proj)hesy." 
Acts xxi. 9. Paul claimed a right to " lead about a sister, a 
wife, as well as the other apostles." — 1 Cor. ix. 5. And it is 
repeatedly mentioned that " a bishop must be blameless, the 
husband of one wife." — 1 Tim. iii. 2 ; Tit. i. 6. It is thus evi- 
dent that the ministers of religion have the same liberty in 
this martter that ether men enjoy. The constrained celibacy 


of the Romisli clergy is one of the chief causes of the aban- 
doned profligacy which has ever existed in that Church. 

Under the former dispensation, the people of God were 
expressly prohibited entering into marriages with heathens, 
and especially with the Canaanites. — Exod. xxxiv. 12-16; 
Deut. vii. 3. Such marriages were reckoned in themselves 
null, and so Ezra and Nehemiah caused the Jews to put away 
their heathenish wives. — Ezra x. ; Neh. xiii. Upon the in- 
troduction of the gospel, it must have frequently happened 
that a husband or a wife embraced the Christian faith, while 
their partner continued attached to idolatry. In this case, 
the Apostle Paul determines that the believing husband or 
wife should continue with the unbeliever : " If any brother 
hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell 
with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which 
hath an husband that believeth not, and he be pleased to 
dwell with her, let her not leave him." — 1 Cor. vii. 12, 13. 
The apostle thus decides, that after marriage, if either the 
husband or the wife embrace the Christian religion, the other 
party still continuing a heathen, this difference in religion is 
not a sufficient ground for a separation. If the idolatrous 
party is still willing to live with the party converted, it is the 
duty of the believer cheerfully and faithfully to perform his 
or her obligations, notwithstanding their different sentiments 
regarding religion. But if a Christian man or woman have 
their choice to make, they are required to marry " only in 
the Lord." The intermarrying of the professors of the true 
with those of a false religion, or of believers with those who 
are evidently strangers to true godliness, is prohibited, at 
least in ordinary cases (2 Cor. vi. 14) : " Be ye not unequally 
yoked together with unbelievers." The disregard of this 
rule is productive of many evils. The Christian who unites 
himself to such a partner exposes himself to many powerful 
temptations. He must necessarily mingle in the society of 
those whose views and pursuits are of a character entirely 
opposite to his own. His opportunities of religious improve- 
ment will be greatly lessened. Family worship can scarcely 
be maintained. His endeavours to train up his children in 
the fear of God will be counteracted by the example and in- 
structions of his unbelieving partner. Instead of an help 
meet for him in his Christian warfare, she will prove a snare 
to his soul. From this cause, many have apostatized from 
the faith, and others who have maintained their integrity 
have pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 

Section IV. — Marriage ought not to be within the • 


degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden in the 
Word ; ^ nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made 
lawful by any law of man or consent of parties, so as 
those persons may live together as man and wife.' The 
man may not marry any of his wife's kindred nearer in 
blood than he may of his own,^° nor the w^oman of her 
husband's kindred nearer in blood than of her own. 

Section V. — Adultery or fornication committed after 
a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just 
occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract." 
In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for 
the innocent party to sue out a divorce,^^ and, after the 
divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were 

Section YI. — Although the corruption of man be such 
as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder 
those whom God hath joined together in marriage ; yet 
nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion as can no 
way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate, is 
cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage : " 
w herein 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.^^ 

8 Lev. xviii. 1 Cor, v. 1. Amos ii. 7. | ^^ Matt. xix. 9. Rom. rii. 2, 3. 

» Mark vi. 18, Lev. xviii. 24-28. | ** Matt. xix. 8, 9, 1 Cor, vii. 15. 

10 Lev. XX. 19-2L I Matt. xix. 6. 

11 Matt, i, 18-20. 12 Matt, v, 31, 32. \ ^^ Deut. xxiv. 1-4. 


In the Mosaic law marriage was expressly forbidden with- 
in certain degrees of consanguinity or affinity (Lev. xviii.); 
and by the laws of our country the prohibition is extended 
to the same degrees. Marriages contracted within these 
degrees are in themselves justly deemed invalid, and may 
properly be dissolved. 

Moses permitted the Jews, " because of the hardness of 
their hearts," to put away their wives, to prevent greater 
evils; but in the ^'ew Testament a divorce is only permitted 
in case of adultery, or of wilful and obstinate desertion. There 
can be no question that adultery is a just ground for " the 
innocent party to sue out a divorce, and, after the divorce, to 
raarry another, as if the offending party were dead ;" for Christ 



has plainly decided this case (Matt. v. 32): " I say unto you, 
That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause 
of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whoso- 
ever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery." 
But whether the wilful and obstinate desertion of one of the 
parties sets the other party at liberty to marry again, may 
admit of dispute. Many divines of great name have main- 
tained the affirmative, and have thought the case to be ex- 
pressly determined by the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. vii. 15) : " If 
the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sis- 
ter is not under bondage in such cases." At verse 11, the 
apostle plainly declares, that the party who wilfully and ob- 
stinately deserted the other, was not at liberty to marry 
again during the other's life. But at verse 15, he appears 
to declare that the party who was deserted, after using due 
means for the return of the party deserting, was free to marry 
again.* And the decision seems just; for by irreclaimable 
desertion the marriage bond is broken, and the ends for 
which marriage was appointed are effectually defeated ; and 
it is not reasonable that the innocent party should be denied 
all relief. Our Confession, accordingly, teaches that not only 
adultery, but also " such wilful desertion as can no way be 
remedied by the Church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient 
for dissolving the bond of marriage ;" and the law of Scot- 
land also allows of divorce in case of wilful and irreclaimable 
desertion. It ought to be observed, however, that even 
adultery does not, ipso factOf dissolve the bond of marriage, 
nor may it be dissolved by consent of parties. The violation 
of the marriage vow only invests the injured party with a 
right to demand the dissolution of it by the competent au- 
thority; and if he chooses to exercise that right, the divorce 
must be effected " by a public and orderly course of pro- 



Section I. — The catholic or universal Church, which 

* This view of the text has been warmly opposed by Dr Dwight (Sermon 
cxxl.); but the interpretation given above has been the general opinion af 
enlightened statesmen as well as theologians in this country. 

SECT. 1-3.] 



is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect 
that have been, are, or shall be, gathered into one, under 
Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, 
the fulness of Him that fiUeth all in all.^ 

Section II. — The visible Church, which is also 
catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined 
to one nation, as before, under the law), consists of all 
those throughout the world that profess the true religion ^ 
together with their children f and is the kingdom of the 
Lord Jesus Christ,^ the house and family of God,^ out 
of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.^ 

Section III — Unto this catholic visible Church 
Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of 
God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints in this 
life to the end of the world ; and doth by his own pre- 
sence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them 
effectual thereunto."^ 

1 Eph. i. 10, 22, 23 ; v. 23, 27, 32j Col. 

i. 18. 

2 1 Cor. i. 2; xii. 12, 13. Ps. ii. 8. 

Rev. vii. 9. Rom. xv. 9-1 '2. 
•■' 1 Cor. vii. U. Acts ii. 39. Ezek. 
xvi. 20, 21. Rom. xi. 16. Gen. 
iii. 15 , xvii. 7. 

* Matt. xiii. 47. Isa. ix. 7. 

6 Eph. ii. 19; iii. 15. 

^ Acts ii. 47. 

' 1 Cor. xii. 28. Eph. iv. 11-13. 

Matt, xxviii. 19, 20. Isa. lix. 



The Greek word Ecclesia, which we render Church, is 
derived from a word which signifies to call out, and denotes 
an assembly called out and convened for any particular pur- 
pose. In democratic states it was applied to the assemblies 
of the people, who were called out by a public herald, and 
gathered into a certain place, in order to deliberate together. 
To specify the various meanings which this word bears in the 
New Testament is at present unnecessary; it is sufficient for 
our purpose to remark, that the term is used to denote an 
assembly or society of men, called by the gospel out of the 
world which lieth in wickedness, into the faith and fellow- 
ship of Jesus Christ. But there is a twofold calling; the 
one externol, merely by the Word — the other internul, by the 
Holy Spirit, which is peculiar to the elect. Hence the Church 
may be considered under a twofold aspect or form; the one 
external or visible — the other internal or invisible. The 
Church, viewed as invisible, consists, according to our Con- 


fession, " of tlie whole number of the elect that have been, 
are, or shall be, gathered into one, under Christ, the head 
thereof." Of this Church the apostle speaks (Eph. v. 25-27): 
" Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it ; that he 
might sanctify and cleanse it, with the washing of water 
by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious 
Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but 
that it should be holy and without blemish." Of the mem- 
bers of this Church some have already finished their course, 
and are now perfected spirits in heaven ; others are still liv- 
ing upon earth, and engaged in the Christian warfare; which 
diversity of condition has given occasion for the ordinary 
distinction between the Church triuniphant, and the Church 
militant. The invisible Church, viewed as comprehending the 
whole number of the elect, will not be completed until that 
day when " tlie Lord shall make up his jewels." This Church, 
viewed as actually existing on earth at any particular period, 
is composed of those who have been called by divine grace 
into the fellowship of the gospel, and sanctified by the truth; 
and these constitute one Church, because, however distant in 
place, and diversified in circumstances, they are vitally united 
to Christ as their head, and to one another as members of 
the same body, by the bond of the Spirit and of faith. " By 
one Sjjirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be 
JeAvs or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have 
been all made to drink into one Spirit." — 1 Cor. xii. 13. 

" This Church is said to be invisible, because it cannot be 
discovered by the eye. It is not sejjarated from the world 
in respect of place, but of state. It lies hidden in the visible 
Church, from which it cannot be certainly distinguished. The 
qualifications of its members are internal; their faith and 
love are not the objects of sense. Towards our fellow-men 
we can exercise only the judgment of charity, founded on 
probable grounds ; but we are liable to err, and, from various 
causes, may suppose saints to be hypocrites, and hypocrites 
to be saints. It is unseen by every eye but that which 
* searches the heart and tries the reins of the children of 
men.' * The Lord,' and he only, ' knows them that are 
his.' " * 

The visible Church, according to our Confession, consists 
" of all those throughout the world that j^rofess the true re- 
ligion, together with their children." Of this Church the 
Apostle Paul speaks, in 1 Cor. xii. 28 : " God hath set some 
in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly 
teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of liealings, helps, go- 
* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. iv., i-i) 309, 310. 

SECT. I -3. J OF THE CHURCU. 20*1 

vernments, diversities of tongues." " This Church is called 
visible, uot only because the persons who compose it are not 
angels or separate spirits, but men dwelling in mortal flesh, 
but because, as a society, it falls under the observation of 
our senses. The members are known ; their assemblies are 
public ; we may be present in them, and observe the cele- 
bration of the several parts of their worship. It is distin- 
guishable, like any other society ; and we can say, Here is 
the Church of Christ ; but there is the Church of the Jews or 
of the iSIohamniedans. Nothing more is necessary to discover 
it than the use of our senses. Having learned, by the peru- 
sal of the Scriptures, what are the discriminating characters 
of the Church, wherever we perceive a society whose creed 
and observances are, upon the whole, conformable to this pat- 
tern, we are authorized to say, This is the Church, or rather, a 
part of the Church."* 

When we speak of the visible and invisible Church, this 
is not to be understood as if there were two Churches, or as 
if one part of the Church were visible and anotlier invisible. 
The former includes the latter, but they are not co-extensive ; 
the same individuals who constitute the Church considered 
as invisible, belong also to the Church considered as visible; 
hut many who belong to the visible, are not comprehended in 
the invisible Church. 

The ministry and ordinances of the gospel, which Christ 
has given to tlie visible Church, are designed for the gather- 
ing of sinners into the Church invisible, and for the perfect- 
ing of the saints ; and, by the concurring influences of his 
Spirit, they are made effectual to these ends. This is clearly 
taught by the Apostle Paul (Eph. iv. 11-13) : " He gave 
some, apostles ; and some, prophets ; and some, evangelists; 
and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the 
saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the 
body of Christ : till we all come in the unity of the faith, 
and of the knowledge of the Sou of God, unto a perfect man, 
unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." 
This being the design for which a gospel ministry was ap- 
pointed in the Church, it will certainly be continued until 
all the elect are gathered to Christ, and every one of them 
brought to perfection. So much is implied in the promise of 
Christ: " Lo, I am witli you alway, even unto the end of 
the world." — JNIatt. xxviii. 20. This also secures the success 
of the gospel. At some periods few may seem to be gathered 
unto Christ ; but, fiom time to time, some are " added to 
the Church of such as shall be saved." All that the Father 
* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. iv., pp. 308, 309. 


gave to Christ shall come unto him, and none of them shall 
be lost. " Other sheep I have," says Christ, " which are 
not of this fold ; them also I must bring, and they shall hear 
my voice ; and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd." — 
John X. 16. 

The epithet "Catholic" — which is here applied to the 
visible Church — does not occur in Scripture, but has been 
used from an early period, although not always in the same 
sense. As employed in our Confession, it is synonymoiis 
with the term universal. It is well known that the Church 
of Rome arrogantly claims to be the catholic Church, and 
pronounces all beyond her pale, or who do not submit to the 
usurped supremacy of the Pope, to be heretics, and accursed 
of God, It might be easily shown that her pretensions are 
unfounded and presumptuous — that in no age has she rea- 
lized the character of universal. But the true Church of 
Christ is not confined to any country or sect ; it comprehends 
all who profess the true religion and observe the ordinances 
of the gospel; and the several particular Churches, when 
regularly constituted in the different parts of the Christian 
world, are integral parts of the catholic or universal 

Having given a general explanation of these sections, the 
several propositions which they embrace may be more par- 
ticularly considered. 

1. There is a universal invisible Church, comprehending 
the whole body of believers, or all the elect of God, as called 
out of the world unto the fellowship of Jesus Christ. This 
is denied by Papists, who maintain that the catholic Church 
is absolutely visible — as really as any of the kingdoms of 
this world, and consists not merely of the elect effectually 
called, but of unbelievers and manifest sinners — even all 
who profess subjection to the See of Rome. But the Church 
of which we now speak consists of such only as are true be- 
lievers. These, it must be admitted, are not visible; and, 
consequently, the Church which they constitute must be 
invisible. As men, believers are the objects of sense ; but 
as believers, they come not under the cognizance of the 
senses. In the visible Church they are mingled with hypo- 
critical professors, and the one cannot be certainly and in- 
fallibly distinguished from the other. The Scripture teaches 
us that there is a Church which is the spouse of Christ, and 
Vhose glory is internal (Ps. xlv. 13); which is the mystical 
body of Christ, conjoined with him by spiritual bonds (Eph. 
i. 23) ; and the individual members of which are joined to- 
gether in one body by one Spirit — 1 Cor. xii. 13. But these 

SECT. 1-3.] OF THE CHURCH. 263 

things cannot be discerned by the senses, and we must, 
therefore, believe that there is a catholic or universal in- 
visible Church, composed of true believers. 

2, There is a universal visible Church, consisting of the 
whole body of professing Christians, dispersed throughout 
all parts of the world. This is denied by the Independents, 
who confine the idea of a visible Church to a single congre- 
gation, which ordinarily assembles in one place for public 
worship. But, in various places of the New Testament, the 
word Church (as applied to the visible Church) cannot be 
restricted to any particular congregational Church. When 
we are told that " Saul made havock of the Church" (Acts 
viii. 3), and that " he persecuted the Church of God, and 
wasted it" (Gal i. 13), it cannot be supposed that it was only 
a single congregation that was exposed to his fury. It is 
related (Acts ix. 31), that, after his conversion, " the 
Churches had rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and 
Samaria;" which certainly intimates that formerly they 
had suflfered by his blind zeal ; yet they are all spoken of as 
one Church persecuted by him. All Christians throughout 
the world are united together in such a way as to constitute 
them one Church. This is evident from the various desig- 
nations given to the catholic visible Church. It is called 
" a body," in allusion to the natural body, consisting of 
various members, all so connected together as to form one 
body. It is termed " the kingdom of God ;" but a kingdom 
is one, though made up of many provinces and subordinate 
governments. It is designated " the house of God ;" which 
implies that, though made up of many parts, it is but one 
spiritual family. As it is impossible that the whole body of 
professing Christians can meet together in one place for the 
observance of the ordinances of religion, it is necessary that 
particular Churches or congregations should be formed for 
this purpose ; but these particular Churches constitute seve- 
ral integral parts of the one catholic or universal visible 

This visible Church comprehends hypocrites and formal 
professors, as well as those that are effectually called and 
regenerated. On this account the Church is compared to a 
floor, in which there is not only wheat but also chaff (Matt, 
iii. 12); to a field, where tares as well as good seed are 
sown (Matt. xiii. 24, 25) ; to a net, which gathers bad fish 
together with the good (ver. 47); to a great house, in which 
are vessels of every kind, some to honour and some to dis- 
honour. — 2 Tim. ii. 20. Such being the state of the visible 
* Whytock's Essays on the Church, essay ii. 


Church, as exhibited in Scripture, there can be no warrant 
to exact from persons positive marks of their regeneration, 
as indispensable to their admission to the fellowship of the 
Church, and to require from them an account of their reli- 
gious experience for the purpose of forming some judgment 
about their spiritual state. Christ has not authorized the 
office-bearers of the Church to make an entire separation 
between true believers and formal professors of religion. — 
Matt, xiii, 30. This is a task to which they are altogether 
incompetent ; for, as the servants of the husbandman could 
not, for a considerable time, distinguish the tares from the 
wheat, so the servants of Christ cannot infallibly distinguish 
hypocrites from sincere believers. They can only judge of 
persons by their external deportment ; and this cannot fur- 
nish evidence sufficient to enable them to pronounce an un- 
erring judgment about their spiritual state before God. 
The ground of admission to the fellowship and privileges 
of the visible Church, is a scriptural profession. Of this 
alone the office-bearers of the Church are capable of judging; 
and to proceed upon a judgment about their spiritual state 
as it is in the sight of God, would be to assume the prero- 
gative of Him who alone " searcheth the heart." 

3. The children of professing Christians are members of 
the visible Church. This is denied by Antipsedobaptists; and 
many Independents, though they admit infants to baptism, 
hesitate about what account is to be made of them ; whether 
they are to be considered as Church members, or only as put 
under the care of the Church in order to their preparation for 
that state. " It is a considerable presumption in favour of 
the Church state of the infants of Church members, that, in 
civil society, the privilege of children is the same with that 
of their parents. The kingdoms of this world consist of 
infants as well as adults; and shall we think that infants 
are excluded from a place in the kingdom of Christ ? The 
children of British subjects are entitled to the same privileges 
as their parents, although, in the meantime, they be not cap- 
able of an understanding, or full enjoyment of them. Is it 
not, therefore, reasonable to suppose that the constitution of 
Christ's kingdom is every whit as favourable to the privilege 
of infants? "VVe are not, however, left to supposition and 
analogy in this matter ; their privilege may be clearly estab- 
lished from the Word of God. God's covenant with his 
Church extends to parents and their children. Infants were 
members of the Church under the Old Testament, and there 
is~no word of their exclusion under the New; nay, in the New 
Testament there are various testimonies that the pririlege 

SECT. 4, 5.] OF THE CHURCH. 265 

of Church membership extends to infants still,"* Our Lord 
himself asserts it most expressly (Luke xviii. 16): "Jesus 
said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them 
not : for of such is the kingdom of God." If, by " the king- 
dom of God," as some contend, be here meant the state of 
glory, we might strongly infer, that children, bein^ heirs of 
glory, ought to be acknowledged as members of the visible 
Church. But it is more probable that, in this passage, by 
"the kingdom of God" is to be understood, the Church on 
earth; and our Lord assigns as the reason why children 
should be suffered to come to him, that he recognised them 
as members of his Church. 

4. There is no ordinary possibility of salvation out of the 
visible Church. This is widely different from the doctrine 
of the Romish Church, which affirms that the Roman Catholic 
is the ONLY Church, and that there is no salvation out of 
that Church. The same arrogant pretensions are frequently 
put forth by proud, uncharitable Prelatists, in the southern 
part of the island; who, assuming that their own society is 
" the Church," pronounce all who do not submit to the govern- 
ment of bishops to be schismatics, and hand them over to the 
uncovenanted mercies of God; or, in other words, exclude 
them from all hope of salvation. But we are not so presump- 
tuous as to confine the possibility of salvation within the 
limits of any particular Church, neither do we absolutely 
affirm that there is no possibility of salvation out of the uni- 
versal visible Church. Our Confession, in terms remarkably 
guarded, only asserts, that " out of the visible Church thei'e 
is no ordinary possibility of salvation." There is, then, a pos- 
sibility of salvation without its pale ; for a person may, by 
some means, such as by the perusal of the Scriptures, be 
brought to the knowledge of the truth, and have no oppor- 
tunity of joining himself to the Church; but such cases are 
extraordinary: and, as God usually works by means, there 
is no ordinary possibility of salvation out of the visible Church, 
because those who are out of the Church are destitxite of the 
ordinary means of salvation. 

Section IY This catholic Church hath been some- 
times more, sometimes less visible.^ And particular 
Churches, Avhich are members thereof, are more or less 
pure, according as the doctrine of tlie gospel is taught 
and embraced, ordinances administered, and public wor- 
ship performed more or less purely in them.^ 

* Horn, xi, 3, 4. Rev. xU. 6, H. » Kev. ii., iii. 1 Cor. v. 6, 7. 

* Whylock's Escays on the Church, essay ix. 


Sj:ction v.— The purest Churches under heaven are sub- 
ject both to mixture and error ; ^'^ and some have so de- 
generated as to become no Churches of Christ, but syna- 
gogues of Satan." Nevertheless, there shall be always a 
Church on earth, to worship God according to his will.^'* 

10 1 Cor. xiii. 12. Rev. ii., iii. I 12 Matt. xvi. 18. Ps. Ixxii. 17; cii. 28. 

Matt. xiii. 24-30, 47. Matt, xxviii. 19,20. 

" Rev. xviii. 2. Rom. xi. 18-22. | 


1. The catholic Church has been sometimes more, some- 
tim-es less visible. It has been already shown that the 
Church, as to its external state, is visible, and it will after- 
wards appear that the Church shall never perish. But 
though the visible Church always exists in some part of the 
world, it is not always equally flourishing and equally con- 
spicuous. As the moon waxes and wanes, so the Church 
sometimes shines forth with splendour, and at other times is 
so obscured as to be scarcely discernible. It may be so re- 
duced iu numbers, and the few that remain faithful may be 
so scattered, or compelled to hide themselves, through the 
violence of persecution, that the most discerning Christian 
shall scarcely perceive the form of a visible Church. This 
we maintain in opposition to the doctrine of the Church of 
Eome, that the Church has been, is, and shall be, most 
gloriously visible to the whole world. This doctrine is re- 
futed by the history of the Church, both under the Old and the 
New Testament. Under the former dispensation, so general 
was the defection to idolatry, and so violent the rage of per- 
secution, during the reign of Ahab, that Elijah supposed he 
was the only worshipper of the true God that survived. God 
had indeed reserved to himself seven thousand men who had 
not bowed the knee to the image of Baal — but they were 
'* hidden ones ;" and Elijah, having failed to discover them, 
came to this conclusion: "I, even I, only am left." — 1 Kings 
xix. 10. Under the latter dispensation, we read of a period 
when two wings of a great eagle were given to the woman 
(that is, to the Church), that she might fly into the wilder- 
ness, to hide herself. — Rev. xii. 14. The Church is always 
liable to be oppressed by persecutions, or corrupted by errors ; 
and both of these must obscure her brightness and glory. 

2. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to 
mixture and error. Papists strenuously maintain that the 
Church cannot err; but as they are not agreed among them- 
selves where this infalUbility resides — whether in the Pope 

SECT. 4, 5.] OF THE CHURCH. 267 

or in a general council, or in both united — we may regard this 
as affording indubitable evidence that the claim is preposte- 
rous and unfoimded. If any individual or Church Avere 
really invested with a privilege so important and distinguish- 
ed as infallibility, it would certainly have been clearly an- 
nounced where it is lodged. We need only appeal to history 
for innumerable proofs that particular Churches have erred, 
and that no Church has erred so egregiously as the Church 
of Rome. "The faith once delivered to the saints" will be 
preserved by some society or other, greater or less, in all 
generations; but no particular Church is secured against 

3. A true Church shall always be preserved upon earth. 
Often has the Church been greatly reduced as to numbers, 
and particular Churches have become so corrupt that they 
might rather be considered as synagogues of Satan; but never 
has the Church of Christ been annihilated. And as the 
Church has subsisted from its first erection in Paradise to 
the present hour, so it will continue throughout all subsequent 
ages, till the second coming of Christ. Earthly kingdoms 
may be overturned, and the mightiest empires laid in ruins ; 
but neither power nor policy can ever accomplish the utter 
destruction of the Church. There is, indeed, no security for 
the permanent continuance of the Church in any particular 
country where it has been once planted; but we have the 
most solid ground for assurance that, in one place or another, 
Christ shall have a seed to serve him and to perpetuate his 
name as long as sun and moon endure. Hitherto the Church 
has, for the most part, been subjected to persecution from the 
powers of this world; but, though like a bush burning, she has 
not been consumed. Power and stratagem may be combined 
to effect her ruin, but in vain; she is "built upon a rock, and 
the gates of hell shall not prevail against her." 

Section VI. — There is no other head of the Church 
but the Lord Jesus Christ :'^ nor can the Pope of Rome 
in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that 
man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself 
in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God." 

13 Col. i. 18, Epli.i. 22. " Matt, xxiii. 8-10. 2 Thess. ii. 3, 4, 8, 9. 

Rev. xiii. 6. 


That the Lord Jesus Christ is the alone head of the Church 
must be maintained, not only in opposition to Papists, who 
affirm that the Pope of Rome* as the successor of Peter and 


the vicegerent of Christ, is the head of the universal Church; 
but also in opposition to Erastians, who make the supreme 
magistrate the head of the Church within his own dominions. 

A universal headship or dominion belongs to Christ. As 
God, he has a natural and essential right to rule and dispose 
of all creatures at his pleasure, and for the manifestation of 
his own glory. As INIediator, he has a universal headship 
by donation from the Father. It is said (Eph. i. 22), the 
Father "gave him to be the head over all things to the 
Church;" where, it is to be observed, the apostle is not 
treating of Christ's headship over the Church, but of his 
imiversal headship as Mediator. He is constituted head 
"over all things;" but this power is delegated to him 
that he may over-rule all things for the good of Ihe Church; 
and therefore he is said to be head " over all things to the 
Church," or for her benefit. But Christ has a peculiar head- 
ship over the Church, which is his body. This is expressly 
asserted (Col. i. 18): "He is the head of Oie body, the 
Church." Here he is compared to the head of the natural 
body; and in Eph. v. 23, he is declared to be the head of 
the Church, as the husband is the head of the wife. 

To the visible Church Christ is a head of government 
and direction. He is the " Ruler in Israel," and " the govern- 
ment shall be upon his shoulder." — Isa. ix. 6. " Yet have I 
set my King," says Jehovah, " upon my holy hill of Zion." 
Ps. ii. 6. To him it belongs to enact laws for his Church 
— to institute the ordinances of worship, and the form of 
government to be observed by her — to appoint her office- 
bearers, and to prescribe the manner of their admission into 
office. To the Church invisible Christ is not only a head of 
government and direction, but also of vital influence. Hence 
he is called " the head, from which all the body, by joints 
and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, 
increaseth with the increase of God." — Col. ii, 19. Christ is 
the sole and exclusive head of the Church, whether considered 
as visible or as invisible. His authority alone is to be ac- 
knowledged by the Church, as her supreme Lawgiver. Her 
language must ever be : " The Holy One of Israel is our king." 
Let men distinguish as they will, but as a body with moi-e 
heads than one would be a monster in nature, so the Scrip- 
ture clearly shows that the body of Christ, whicli is the 
Church, is no such monster. As there is " one body," so 
there is only " one Lord." Christ has not delegated his 
authority either to popes or princes ; and though he is now 
in~heaveu as to his bodily presence, yet he needs no depute 
to act for him in the Church below. Before he ascended up 


on high, he gave this precious promise to his disciples: " Lo, 
I am witli you alway, even unto the end of the world:" and 
"where two or three are gathered together in his name, there 
he is in the midst of them." — Matt, xxviii. 20, xviii. 20. 

Daring encroachments have been often made upon this 
royal prerogative of Christ, both by ecclesiastical and civil 
powers. Long has the Man of Sin and Son of Perdition bias- 
phemously arrogated universal headship and lordly dominion; 
and when the Eeformation took place in England, the head- 
ship over the Church was only transferred from the Roman 
Pontiif to the British Sovereign. Henry VIII. was re- 
cognised as " supreme head of the Church of England ;" and 
it was enacted, " that the king, his heirs, &c., shall be taken, 
accepted, and reputed, the only supreme head on earth of the 
Church of England, called Anglicana Ecclesia; and shall have 
and enjoy, aimexed and united to the imperial crown of this 
realm, as well the title and style thereof as all honours, 
dignities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said 
dignity of supreme head of the said Church belonging and 
appertaining."* It was also enacted, that his majesty hath 
full authority to exercise " ecclesiastical jurisdiction ;" and 
"that the archbishops and bishops, have no manner of juris- 
diction ecclesiastical, but by, under, and from the royal 
majesty." t In the commencement of Queen Elizabeth's 
reign, the metaphorical term head was changed into siq^reme 
governor; but both terms signify the same thing. No part of 
tlie power or authority which had been possessed by her royal 
predecessors was relinquished ; for, at the sametime, it was 
enacted, that " all jurisdictions — spiritual and ecclesiastical — 
should for ever be united and annexed to the imperial crown." 
This sacrilegious usurpation of spiritual authority, and im- 
pious invasion of Christ's sovereignty, is sanctioned by the 
Church of England, in her 37th Article. It runs thus: " The 
queen's majesty hath the chief power in this realm of England, 
and other her dominions; under whom the chief government 
of all estates of this realm, irhether they be ecclesiastical or ciml, 
FN ALL CAUSES doth appertain." Some Churchmen, indeed, 
seem to be ashamed of recognising the sovereign as head or 
supreme governor of the Church, and have attempted to palliate 
or explain away the real import of the title. But the at- 
tempt is vain; of the spiritual jurisdiction which the title 
involves, and of the Erastian bondage under which the Church 
of England is held, numerous proofs can be easily adduced. 
"Who knows not, for example, that the appointnient of all her 
bishops belongs to the sovereign — that her clergy cannot 

♦ The 26th, Henry VIII., cap. 1. t The 37th, Henry VIII., cap. 17. 


meet in convocation without the permission of her majesty ; 
and that the convocation has actually been suspended, or 
virtually abolished, for upwards of a century ? That a Church 
so completely fettered is utterly powerless for the suppres- 
sion of heresy and for the exercise of discipline recent events 
have too clearly demonstrated. 

The Church of Scotland, at the era of the Reformation, nobly 
asserted, and practically vindicated, the sole headship of Christ. 
This was especially the grand and leading principle of the 
Second Reformation; and it was in the way of contending for 
the royal prerogatives of Christ, as her alone king and head, 
and resisting the Erastian encroachments of aspiring princes 
upon her spiritual liberties, that many of her sons suffered 
bonds and exile, and shed their blood in fields and on scaffolds. 
Though the sole headship of Christ is explicitly asserted in 
our Confession of Faith, yet it is deeply to be regretted that 
this vital principle was not more effectually guarded in the 
Revolution Settlement. The Act 1592, upon which the Church 
was erected at this time, contained no acknowledgment of 
the headship of Christ; and it was not formally asserted by 
any act of the General Assembly. Though a regal supremacy 
was neither directly claimed by the Crown nor conceded by 
the Church, yet it was not long till it was virtually exercised. 
The meetings of the General Assembly were repeatedly dis- 
solved and prorogued by the sovei-eign;* and, in 1703, 
when the Assembly had prepared the draft of an act for the 
purpose of asserting the supremacy of Christ, the intrinsic 
power of the Church, and the diviiie right of the Presbyte- 
rian government, it was abruptly dissolved by her majesty's 
commissioner, without any recorded protest. " But ecclesias- 
tical independence was still more invaded, and spiritual in- 
terests more effectually subjected to secular dominion, by the 
restoration of the power of lay-patrons, after it had been 
repeatedly abolished. The power of patronage, when it is of 
any real effect in the settlement of the vacant churches, flows 
from the same spring with the ecclesiastical supremacy, and 
can neither be vindicated nor condemned, but on the same 
principles with it ; and is indeed, when exercised by the 
Crown, a branch of it."+ Without referring particularly to 
those recent struggles of the Church to vindicate her spiritual 
independence, which have issued in the disruption of the 
Scottish Establishment, there is nothing, it may be remarked, 
more clearly evinced by these events, than the determined 
resolution of the State to retain and exercise an Erastian 

- * In 1G91-95. 
t Bruce's Dissertation on the Supremacy of Civil Powers, &c., p. 105. 



power over the Church. But the Christian people of Scotland 
have given the most unequivocal proofs of their continued and 
firm attachment to the sole supremacy of Christ as ** king in 
2ion " — a truth in defence of which their ancestors " loved not 
their lives unto the death." They cannot contend or suffer 
in a nobler cause. Those who assume a headship over the 
Church of Christ, are guilty of an impious usurpation of his 
prerogatives ; and his faithful subjects are bound to display 
their loyalty to him, by asserting his sole right to reign and 
rule in his own Church, and by giving no countenance to a 
claim so degrading to the Church, and so dishonouring to her 
alone king and head. 



Section I. — All saints that are united to Jesus Christ, 
their head, by his Spirit, and by faith, have felloAvship 
with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, 
and glory.' And being united to one another in love, 
they have communion in each other's gifts and graces ; " 
and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public 
and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in 
the inward and outward man.^ 

Section II. — Saints, by profession, are bound to main- 
tain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship 
of God, and in performing such other spiritual services 
as tend to their mutual edification ;* as also in relieving 
each other in outward things, according to their several 
abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God 
offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who 
in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.® 

» 1 John i. 3. Eph. iii. 16-19. John I » 1 Thess. v. 11, 14. Rom. i. 11, 12, 14. 

i. 16. Eph.ii.5,6. Phil. iii. 10. 1 John iii. 16-18. Gal. vi. 10. 

Rom. vi. 5, 6. 2Tim. ii. 12. | * Heb, x. 24, 25. Acts ii. 42, 46. Isa. 
2 Eph. iv. 15,16. 1 Cor. vii. 7; iii. ii. 3. 1 Cor. xi. 20. 

21--3. CoLii. 19. !« Acts ii. 44. 45. 1 John iii. 17. 2 

Cor. viii , ix. Acts xi. 29, 30. 



Communion is founded in union. The above sections em- 
brace — First, The union of the saints to Jesus Christ, and 
their communion with him; Secovdly, The union and commu- 
nion of real saints with one another; Thirdly, The union of 
saints by profession, and the communion which they are 
bound to maintain. 

1. All saints are united to Jesus Christ. This is not an 
essential union, such as subsists between the sacred persons 
of the Godhead; nor a personal union, such as exists be- 
tween the divine and human natures in the person of Christ; 
nor merely a political union, like that between a king and 
his subjects; nor a mere moral union, like that between two 
friends. Between Christ and believers there is a legal union, 
like that betwixt a surety and the person for whom he en- 
gages. This union was formed from all eternity, when Christ 
was appointed their federal head. But, besides this, there is 
a spiritual union formed between them in time, of which our 
Confession here treats. It is a profound mystery, and, for 
this reason, is usually denominated a mystical union. But, 
though deeply mysterious, its reality cannot be questioned. 
Sometimes it is expressed in Scripture by believers being in 
Christ : " There is now, therefore, no condemnation to then; 
which are in Christ Jesus." — Rom. viii. 1. At other times 
Christ is said to be in believers: " Know ye not your own- 
selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be repro- 
bates." — 2 Cor. xiii. 5. Sometimes both modes of expression 
are joined together: " Abide in me, and I in you." — John 
XV. 4. This union is exhibited and illustrated in Scripture 
by various similitudes. It is compared to the union between 
a tree and its branches (John xv. .5) — to the union between 
the building and the foundation by which it is supported 
(1 Pet. ii. 4, 6) — to the union between husband and wife 
(Eph. V. 31, 32) — and to the union between the head and the 
members of the body. — Eph. iv. 15, 16. These similitudes, 
though they come far short of the union which they repre- 
sent, yet clearly import its reality. In all unions, there is 
something which binds together the things or persons united. 
As the union between Christ and his people is spiritual in 
its nature, so are its bonds; and these are the Holy Spirit on 
Christ's part, and faith on their part. Christ apprehends 
them by his Spirit, and they receive him by that faith which 
his Spirit produces in them. Hence he is said to dwell in 
jkheir hearts by faith. So close and intimate is this union, 
that Christ and believers are said to be one spii'it: "He that 


is joined to the Lord is one spirit" with him. — 1 Cor. vi. 17. 
Bnt it is the crowning excellence of this union, that it can 
never be dissolved. The Holy Spirit will never depart from 
any in whom he has taken up his residence. — John xiv. 16, 17. 
Satan and all his agents, with all their combined strength 
and subtilty, cannot separate one soul from Christ. — Rom. 
viii. 38, 39. Death will break all other ties, and separate 
the soul from the body, but it cannot dissolve the imion be- 
tween Christ and believers. Hence they are said to " die 
in the Lord," and to " sleep in Jesus." — Rev. xiv. 13; 1 Thess. 
iv. 14. 

Being thus united to Christ, believers have fellowship with 
him in his sufferings and death, and are therefore said to be 
" crucified and dead with Christ." — Rom. vi. 6, 8. They 
have also fellovv-ship with Christ in his resurrection; for they 
are "raised up together with him," and have communion 
with him in his life. — Eph. ii. 6; Gal. ii. 20. They have fel- 
lowship with him in his victories. He spoiled principalities 
and powers, overcame the world, destroyed death, and van- 
quished the grave for them; and they shall be made more 
than conqxierors over all these enemies, through him. — Rom. 
A-iii. 37. They have communion with him in all the benefits 
wliich he purchased; hence they are said to be " made par- 
takers of Christ," and to be " complete in him who is the 
head of all principality and power" (Heb. iii. 14; Col. ii. 
10); — they have an interest in his righteousness, by which 
he fulfilled the law in their room, and are thus entitled to 
the blessing of justification; — they are adopted into the 
family of heaven, and made heirs of God, and joint heirs 
with his Son Jesus Christ ; — they are sanctified in soul, 
body, and spirit, being enabled by his grace to die more 
and more unto sin, and live unto righteousness; — they now 
sit in heavenly i)laces with Christ as their representing 
head; and, in due time, they shall be glorified in their own 
persons together with him. — Eph. ii. 6; Col. ii. 4. In short, 
uU things are theirs, as the Apostle Paul asserts; and he 
founds their title to all things upon their union to Christ : 
" AH things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, 
or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to 
come; all arc yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is 
God's."— 1 Cor. iii. 22, 23. 

2. All real saints are united to one another, and have 
communion among themselves. They form one body, are 
all united to Christ as their common head, and are partakers 
of one Spirit. They have all obtained like precious faith; 
and their faith, as to the leading doctrines of the gospel, is 


substantially the same. They are also united in love, which 
is called " the bond of perfectness." S9 perfectly were the 
primitive Christians knit together by this bond, that they 
were " of one heart and of one soul," — Acts iv. 32. There 
is nothing which our Saviour more earnestly inculcated upon 
his followers than mutual love ; he represented it as the 
best proof to themselves, and the most decisive evidence to 
others, that they were his genuine disciples : " A new com- 
mandment I give unto you. That ye love one another ; as I 
have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall 
all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one 
another." — John xiii. 34, 35. As the saints " love our Lord 
Jesus Christ in sincerity," so they love all in whom they can 
perceive the image of Christ. Being thus united to one 
another, they have communion with each other in their gifts 
and graces. As the natural body consists of many members — 
some of superior, and others of inferior use, and each mem- 
ber is serviceable to its fellow-members, and contributes to 
the good of the whole — so the mystical body of Christ is 
composed of many members, endued with different gifts and 
graces ; and the several members ought to be profitable to 
each other, and promote the benefit of the whole Church. 
They are obliged to the performance of such duties as con- 
duce to their mutual good. They ought to be " kindly 
aiFectioned one to another, with brotherly love ; in honour 
preferring one another" — to " bear one anothers burdens, 
and so fulfil the law of Christ" — to " rejoice with them that 
rejoice, and weep with them that weep" — to offer up fer- 
vent " supplication for all saints " — and, " as they have 
opportunity, do good to all men, especially to them who are 
of the household of faith." 

3. Saints by profession are also united in one body, and 
bound to maintain a holy fellowship and communion with 
each other. Professed saints compose the Church considered 
as visible ; and of this society unity is an essential attribute. 
This union is not confined to those who live together, and 
can assemble in one place for the observance of religious 
ordinances ; but extends to " all that in every place call upon 
the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." 
The visible bonds of this unity are specified by the Apostle 
Paul : " There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are 
called in one hope of your calling ; one Lord, one faith, one 
baptism ; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and 
through all, and in you all." — Eph. iv. 4-6. Our Confession 
mentions three things in which professed saints are bound 
to hold fellowship and communion with one another : Firstj 


They ought to assemble together for joining in the public 
worship of God. This species of communion was assidu- 
ously maintained by the early Christians : " They continued 
steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, and in 
breaking of bread, and in prayers." — Acts ii. 42. When 
some, at a later period, had become negligent in cultivating 
this communion, the apostle warned them against " for- 
saking the assembling of themselves together, as the manner 
of some is." " The institutions of the gospel were intended 
as a bond of union among Christians; and by the joint 
celebration of them communion is maintained and expressed. 

* By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body;' and 

* being many, we are one bread and one body; for we are 
all partakers of that one bread' in the sacramental com- 
munion. — 1 Cor. X. 17, xii. 13. It is not necessary to this 
unity that Christians should all meet for worship in the same 
place — this is physically impossible; nor are we to conceive 
of Church communion as local. It consists in their celebrat- 
ing the same holy ordinances — in their performing acts of 
worship the same in kind, wherever they assemble; and in 
their being disposed and ready to embrace every proper 
occurring opportunity to join with all * those who in every 
place call on the name of Jesus Christ the Lord, both theirs 
and ours.' Thus it was in the primitive Church; and thus 
it would still be if catholic unity were preserved, and if 
the institutions of Christ, along with the faitli to which 
they relate, were everywhere preserved pure and entire."* 
Secondly, Professed saints ought to perform such other 
spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification. They 
are enjoined to " follow after the things wherewith one may 
edify another." — Rom. xiv. 19. Among the " services 
which tend to mutual edification," may be mentioned 
mutual prayer; spiritual conference; admonishing, exhort- 
ing, and provoking one another to love and good works; 
comforting the feeble-minded, supporting the weak, visiting 
and encouraging the afflicted, — Mai. iii, 16; Col. iii. 16; 
1 Thess. V. 11, 14; Heb. x. 24. Thirdly, Professed saints 
ought to relieve each other in outward things, according to 
their several abilities and opportunities. Not a few who 
are " rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God 
hath promised to them that love him," are poor in this 
world. — James ii. 5. Their Christian brethren, who have 
" this world's good," ought to sympathize with them, and 
minister to their necessities. — 1 John iii. 17. Sometimes 
Christians in one country suffer " the spoiling of their 

* M'Crie on the Unity of the Church, pp. 19, 20. 


goods," and are reduced to great straits, through the vio- 
lence of persecution ; in such cases, their brethren in other 
places ought to contribute liberally for their relief. This 
duty was nobly exemplified by the primitive Christians: "It 
pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain 
contribution for the poor saints which were at Jerusalem." — 
Rom. XV. 25. If professing Christians in one district are 
unable of themselves to provide for the regular dispensa- 
tion of public religious ordinances among them, it is no less 
the duty of their brethren who are placed in more favour- 
able circumstances to afford them pecuniary aid. Thus the 
strong should support the weak, that the abundance of the 
one may be a supply for the want of the other, that there 
may be equality. ^linistering to the saints is expressly 
called " fellowship." — 2 Cor. viii. 4. To this kind of commu- 
nion the concluding sentence of this section of our Confession 
may, perhaps, more especially refer : "Which communion, 
as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those 
who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus." 
This sentence is closely connected with the clause imme- 
diately preceding, which relates to " relieving each other in 
outward things;" and the whole of the Scripture proofs 
adduced refer either to the Church of Jerusalem — which 
" had all things common" — or to the saints in one place 
" sending relief" to those in distant places who were im- 
poverished by persecution. It will be admitted, however, 
that Christian communion of a more extensive nature, in- 
cluding all those services which tend to mutual edification, 
ought to be maintained with all that call on the name of the 
Lord Jesus, as opportunity permits; nay, were the visible 
catholic Church what it ought to be, according to the rule of 
God's Word, one in profession, the members of this or that 
particular Church would be entitled to enjoy, and bound to 
hold. Church communion wherever Providence might order 
their lot. If professed Christians throughout the world, in- 
stead of being divided into diverse and opposing sections, 
were cemented into one holy brotherhood, then, whoever 
was admitted into the fellowship of the Church in one place, 
would be recognised as a member of the catholic Church, 
and would be entitled to claim the privilege of communion 
in any particular Cliurch where his lot was cast. On the 
other hand, whoever was laid under censure in a particular 
Church, would be considered under the same in all others; 
and would not be received into communion till the sentence 
were reversed by the same power, or by a still higher 
authority. Thus it ought to be ; and thus it would be, were 


that unity wliicli should characterize the visible Church, 
fully realized. But in the present state of the Church, 
divided and subdivided as it is into an almost countless 
number of sections, all of them contending for some peculiar 
principle or practice which they deem important, and by 
which they ai-e not only distinguished from, but opposed to,, 
other denominations, such extended Church comnmnion 
cannot be consistently maintained. It will scarcely be 
questioned that separation from corrupt Churches becomes, 
in certain cases, warrantable and necessary; but " where 
communion is lawful, it will not be easy to vindicate separa- 
tion from the charge of schism." * If a particular Church is 
organized for the special purpose of vindicating the sole 
headship of Christ and the spiritual independence of his 
Church — were the members of that Church to join in all the 
intimacies of communion with another Church which had 
either avowedly or practically surrendered these distinguish- 
ing principles, they would virtually declare that they have 
no scriptural and conscientious grounds for separation, and 
expose themselves to the charge of unnecessarily rending 
that body which Christ so fervently prayed might be " one." 
Section III. — This communion which the saints have 
with Christ, doth not make them in any wise partakers 
of the substance of his Godhead, or to be equal with 
Christ in any respect : either of which to affirm is impious 
and blasphemous.® Nor doth their communion one with 
another, as saints, take away or infringe the title or 
property which each man hath in his goods and posses- 

< Col. i. 18, 19. 1 Cor. viii. 6. Isa. 1 "> Exod. xx. 15. Eph. iv. 28. Acts 
xlii. 8. 1 Tim. vi. 15, 16. Ps. v. 4. 

xlv. 7. Heb. i. 8, 9. | 


This section guards against two heretical opinions — the 
one relating to the saints' communion with Christ; the other, 
to their communion with one another. Certain mystics have 
employed impious and blasphemous terms in reference to the 
saints' union and communion with Christ, as if they were 
deified or christified. They have not scrupled to use the 
phrases of being " godded in God," and " christed in Christ," 
and other expressions equally wild. In the beginning of the 
sixteenth century, the Anabaptists of Germany, among other 
absurd and dangerous tenets, contended for the necessity of 
a community of goods among Christians. This doctrine never 
* M'Crie oi» tha Uuitv of the Church, p. 95. 


made much progress in this country, and modem Anabap- 
tists entirely reject it. In opposition to these extravagant 
notions, our Confession teaches : — 

1. That the saints' communion with Christ does not in- 
volve a participation of the substance of his Godhead, nor 
constitute an equality between him and them in any respect. 
The union that subsists between Christ and believers leaves 
them distinct persons; and the communion which believers 
have with Christ does not raise them to an equality with 
him in dignity. They cannot participate in his divine ex- 
cellences, which are incommunicable; neither can they 
share with him in the glory of his mediatory work. He 
had none to cooperate with him in that arduous work, and 
he alone must bear the glory; as the saints are not deified, 
neither are they exalted to be mediators and saviours in con- 
junction with Christ. 

2. That the saints' communion with one another does not 
take away or infringe upon the rights of private property. 
The perpetual obligation of the eighth commandment, the ad- 
monitions of the New Testament to charity and hospitality, 
the particular precepts addressed to the high and to the 
low, to the rich and to the poor — all plainly prove that, under 
the gospel, each man retains a property in his goods and 
possessions. We are told, indeed, that in the primitive 
Church " all that believed had all things common, and sold 
their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as 
every man had need." — Acts ii. 44, 45. From this "it has 
been supposed that there was a real community of goods 
among the Christians of Jerusalem ; or that every man, re- 
nouncing all right in his property, delivered it over to a 
public stock, to which all had an equal claim. It appears, 
however, from the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts v. 4), 
that the disciples were under no obligation, or bound by no 
positive law, to dispose of their property for the benefit of 
the Church ; and that, after it was sold, they could retain 
the whole, or any part of the price, provided that they did 
not, like those unhappy persons, practise dissimulation and 
deceit; and it is further evident, from the passage we have 
quoted, that although in many instances they laid down 
the price at the apostles' feet, intrusting them with the dis- 
tribution, yet they sometimes reserved it in their own hands, 
and gave it to the indigent, according to their own ideas of 
their need. These considerations seem to prove, that there 
vzas not an actual community of goods in the primitive 
Church; but that, in consequence of the fervent charity which 
united their hearts and interests, * no man,' as Luke informs 

SECT. l.J 



US in the fourth chapter, * said that ought of the things which 
he possessed was his own,' or appropriated them to his own 
use, but readily parted with them for the supply of his 
brethren. There is no evidence that the conduct of the 
Church of Jerusalem was followed by any other Church, 
even in the apostolic age ; but as far as it is an example of 
generous love triumphing over the selfish aflPections, and 
exciting men to pursue the welfare of others as their own, it 
is worthy to be imitated to the end of the world." * 


Rom, XV. 8. Exod. xii. 48. Gen' 

xxxiv. 14. 
Rom. vi. 3, 4. 1 Cor. x. 16, 21. 


Section I. — Sacraments are holy signs and seals of 
the covenant of grace/ immediately instituted by God,* 
to represent Christ and his benefits, and to confirm our 
interest in him ; ^ as also to put a visible difference 
between those that belong unto the Church and the rest 
of the world;* and solemnly to engage them to the 
service of God in Christ, according to his Word.^ 

* Rom. iv. 11. Gen. xvii. 7, 10. 
8 Matt, xxviii. 19. 1 Cor. xi. 23. 
» 1 Cor. X. 16; xi. 25, 26. Gal. iii. 
27, 17. 


The word sacrament is not found in the Scriptures, but is 
derived from the Latin language. It was used by the Romans 
to signify their military oath, or the oath by which soldiers 
bound themselves to be faithful to their general, and not to 
desert his standard; and it is supposed to have been applied 
to the symbolical institutions of the Church, because in these 
we, as it were, enlist in the service of Christ, the Captain of 
our salvation, and engage to follow him whithersoever he 
leads us. But it may be remarked, that the early Christian 
writers employed the term sacrament {sacramentum); as 
equivalent to the scriptural term mystery {fiuffrnoiov); and 
in the Vulgate the latter word is always translated by the 
former. There is reason to think that the term mysteries was 
early applied to baptism and the Lord's supper, partly be- 
* Dick's Lectures on the Acts of the Apostles, lect. iii. 


cause, under external symbols, spiritual blessings were vailed, 
and partly also on account of the secrecy with which Chris- 
tians, in times of persecution, were obliged to celebrate them; 
and as the Latins used the word sacrament as synonymous 
with mystery, it has been thought that we are in this way to 
account for its application to these symbolical institutions. 

The express institution of God is essentially requisite to 
constitute a sacrament. No ordinances ought to be observed 
in the Christian Church but such as have been appointed by 
Christ, her alone king and head. He only can have authority 
to institute sacraments, who has power to confer the bless- 
ings which are thereby represented and applied. No rite, 
therefore, can deserve the name of a sacrament, unless it 
bear the stamp of divine institution. 

Socinians represent the sacraments as being merely solemn i 
badges by which the disciples of Jesus are discriminated 1 
from other men. It is readily granted that they are badges | 
of the disciples of Christ, by which they are distinguished 
from Jews, Mohammedans, and Heathens; but this is not their 
chief design. They are principally " signs and seals of the 
covenant of grace." Circumcision is expressly called a sign 
and seal of the righteousness of faith (Rom. iv. 11); and the 
same description is equally applicable to the sacraments of 
the New Testament. As signs, they represent and exhibit 
Christ and the blessings of the new covenant to us; as seals, 
they ratify our right to them, and confirm our faith. 

The principal uses and ends of the sacraments are, to re- 
present Christ and his benefits — to confirm the believer's 
interest in Christ and his blessings — to distinguish between 1 
the members of the visible Church, and those that are with- l 
out — and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in 
Christ, according to his Word. 

Section II. — There is in every sacrament a spiritual 

relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the ^ 

thing signified ; whence it comes to pass that the names j 

and effects of the one are attributed to the other.^ ' 

« Gen. xvii. 10. Matt, xxvi, 27, 28. Tit. iii. 5. 

The parts of a sacrament are two — the sign and the thing 
signified. The sign is something sensible and visible — that 
may be seen and handled. Thus, the outward sign in bap- 
tism is water^ which is visible to us ; and the outward signs 
iir the Lord's supper are bread and icine^ which are also visible, 
and which we can handle and taste. The things signified 


are Christ and the benefits of the new covenant. These are 
called the matter of the sacrament. The form consists in the 
spiritual relation or sacramental union, established between 
the sign and the thing signified by the divine institution. 
Though there is some analogy or resemblance between the 
outward signs and the things signified, yet their sacramental 
union depends entirely upon the institution of Christ. "From 
this union arises what has been called sacramental phraseo- 
logy, or certain expressions in which the names of the sign 
and the thing signified are exchanged. Thus, the name of 
the sign is given to the thing signified, when Christ is called 
* our passover; ' and the name of the thing signified is given 
to the sign, when the bread is called the body of Christ. 
The foundation of this interchange is the sacramental union, 
which so couples them together that the one may be pre- 
dicated of the other." * 

Section III. — The grace which is exhibited in or by 
the sacraments, rightly used, is not conferred by any 
power in them : neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament 
depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth 
administer it,^ but upon the work of the Spirit,^ and the 
word of institution ; which contains, together with a 
precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit 
to worthy receivers.' 

» Rom. ii. 28, 29, 1 Pet. iii. 21. » Matt. iii. 11. 1 Cor. xii. 13 

» Matt. xxvi. 27, 28 ; xxviii, 19, 20. 


This section is levelled against two tenets of the Church 
of Rome. That Church holds that the sacraments, when 
rightly administered, are of themselves effectual to confer 
grace ; and that the intention of the priest or administrator 
is essential to a sacrament ; so that if a priest goes through 
all the forms of administering baptism or the Lord's supper, 
and does not in his own mind intend to administer it, it is in 
fact no sacrament. That the sacraments themselves cannot 
confer saving grace is evident ; for if they had this power in 
themselves, they would be equally effectual to all who receive 
them. But many are partakers of the sacraments, who are 
not partakers of the grace of God. Simon Magus was bap- 
tized, and yet remained in the gall of bitterness, and in the 
bond of iniquity.— Acts viii. 13, 23. That the efficacy of the 
sacraments does not depend upon the intention of the adminis- 
* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. iv , p. 118. 


trator is not less evident; for this would place the adminis- 
trator in God's stead, whose sole prerogative it is to render 
the sacraments effectual for the purposes designed by them. 
Besides, in this case, no one could be certain that he had re- 
ceived the sacraments; because he could not be absolutely 
certain of the intention of another. In opposition to these 
absurd tenets, we maintain that the efficacy of the sacra- 
ments depends upon the working of the Spirit on the souls 
of the receivers ; and upon the word of institution, which 
contains a precept authorizing the use of these ordinances, 
and a promise of benefit by them to the worthy receivers. 

Section IY. — There be only two sacraments ordained 
by Christ our Lord in the gospel ; that is to say, baptism 
and the supper of the Lord ; neither of which may be 
dispensed by any but by a minister of the Word, lawfully 

" Matt, xxviii. 19. 1 Cor. xi. 20, 23; iv. I. Heb. v. 4. 

"We acknowledge only two sacraments instituted by Christ 
in the gospel, and these are baptism and the Lord's supper; 
the former being the sign and seal of our spiritual birth, and 
the latter of our spiritual nourishment. The Church of Rome 
has added five spurious sacraments — ordination, marriage, 
confirmation, penance, and extreme unction. None of these 
have any divine appointment as sacraments; and the three 
last, as used by Papists, have no warrant at all from Scripture. 
None of them are seals of the covenant of grace, and, there- 
fore, they are no sacraments, but are to be considered as 
gross corruptions of the purity and simplicity of the Christian 
ritual. In opposition, also, to the Church of Rome, which 
permits laymen and women to administer the sacrament of 
baptism in cases of necessity, our Confession asserts that 
none but a minister of the Word, lawfully ordained, has any 
warrant to dispense the sacraments. 

Section V. — The sacraments of the Old Testament, 
in regard of the spiritual things thereby signified and 
exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of 
the New.^' 

" 1 Cor. X. 1-4. 

.The ordinary sacraments of the Old Testament were cir- 
cumcision and the passover; the former being now super- 

SECT. 1.] OF BAPTIS3f. 283 

ceded by baptism, and the latter by the Lord's supper. The 
sacraments of the Old Testament represented Christ as to come, 
while those of the New Testament represent Christ as al- 
ready come ; and by the latter spiritual blessings are exhibited 
in a more clear and plain manner than by the former. But 
in opposition to the Church of Rome, which asserts that the 
sacraments of the Old Testament were no more than shadows 
of that grace which those of the New Testament actually 
confer, we maintain that, in respect of the spiritual blessings 
signified and e:xhibited, the sacraments of the Old Testament 
were substantially the same with those of the New. Both 
were signs and seals of the same righteousness of faith. — 
Rom. iv. 11. Both agree in the word of promise.— Gen. xvii. 
7; Acts ii. 38, 39. 



Section I. — Baptism is a sacrament of the New 
Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ,^ not only for the 
solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible 
Church,^ but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the 
covenant of grace,^ of his ingrafting into Christ,^ of re- 
generation,* of remission of sins,^ and of his giving up 
unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of 
life : ^ which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, 
to be continued in his Church until the end of the world.^ 

» Matt, xxviii. 19. 

2 1 Cor. xii. 13. 

s Rom. iv. 11. Col. ii. 11, 12. 

* Gal. iii. 27. Rom. vi. 5. 

6 Tit. iii. 5. 

« Mark i. 4. 

^ Rom. vi. 3, 4. 

8 Matt, xxviii. 19, 20. 


This section, in the first place, AflSrms that baptism is a 
sacrament of the New lestament, instituted by Christ, and 
to be continued in his Church until the end of the world; 
and, secondly,' Declares the ends of baptism. 

I. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, insti- 


tuted by Christ. John, the harbinger of Christ, was the first 
Avho administered baptism by divine authority. The Lord 
" sent him to baptize with water;" and " there went out unto 
him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were 
all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their 
sins." — John i. 33; Mark i. 4. Jesus, after he entered on his 
public ministry, employed his apostles to baptize those who 
came to him ; for " Jesus himself baptized not, but his dis- 
ciples." — John iv. 2. The baptism of John was a sign of faith 
in Christ as shortly to be revealed ; Avhereas the baptism of 
the disciples of Jesus was an expression of faith in him as 
already come. But baptism was not formally appointed as 
a perpetual ordinance in the New Testament Church until 
after the resurrection of Christ, when he gave the following 
commission to his disciples : " Go ye, therefore, and teach," 
or make disciples of, " all nations, baptizing them in the 
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; 
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have com- 
manded you : and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the 
end of the world." — Matt, xxviii. 19, 20. These words not 
Only contain an express institution of baptism, but also a 
plain intimation of the will of Christ that this ordinance 
should be continued in the Church in all succeeding ages; for 
he promised to be with his disciples in executing his com- 
mission, not only to the end of that age, but " to the end of 
the world." Baptism has, accordingly, continued to be prac- 
tised by all sects of Christians, with the exception of the 
Quakers. It appears to them that, as it is the distinguishing 
character of the gospel to be the dispensation of the Spirit, 
the baptism of water was only a temporary institution, and 
is now superseded by the baptism of the Spirit. But it can- 
not be questioned, that the apostles did use the baptism of 
water after the dispensation of the Spirit had commenced. 
The Apostle Peter makes a distinction between being bap- 
tized in the name of Christ and receiving the Holy Ghost j 
and he actually dispensed baptism to those who had pre- 
viously received the Holy Ghost. — Acts ii. 38, x. 47. It 
appears, therefore, to have been the judgment of Peter, that 
the baptism of the Spirit does not supercede the baptism of 

II. This section declares the ends of baptism: — 1. It is a 
solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible 
Church, and to all its privileges. " It supposes the party 
to have a right to these privileges before, and does not 
iiiiake them members of the visible Church, but admits them 
solemnly thereto. And therefore it is neither to be called nor 


accounted christening — that is, making them Christians: for 
the infants of believing parents are born within the covenant, 
and so are Christians and visible Church members ; and by 
baptism this right of theirs is acknowledged, and they are 
solemnly admitted to the privileges of Church membership." * 
2. It is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, and of 
the benefits of that covenant. These benefits are, ingraft- 
ing into Christ, or union with him ; the remission of sins by 
virtue of the blood of Christ ; and regeneration by the Spirit 
of Christ. It is not intended that remission of sins and re- 
I generation are inseparably connected with baptism; for our 
Confession, in a subsequent section, expressly guards against 
the opinion *' that all that are baptized are undoubtedly re- 
generated." 3. It is a sign and seal of the party baptized 
being devoted to God, and engaged to walk in newness of 
life. Baptism is a dedicating ordinance, in which the party 
baptized is solemnly given up to God to be his and for him, 
now, wholly, and for ever. He is, as it were, enlisted under 
Christ's banner, to fight against the devil, the world, and the 
flesh. He is bound to renounce every other lord and master, 
and to " serve God in holiness and righteousness all the days 
of his life." 

! Section II. — The outward element to be used in this 
sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be bap- 
tized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of 
the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gosnel, lawfully 
called tbereunto.^ 

9 Matt. iii. 11. John i. 33. Matt, xxviii. 19, 20 

This section embraces the following points: — l.That the 
)utward element to be used in the sacrament of baptism is 
kvater. This outward sign represents the blood and Spirit of 
I!hrist — Rev. i, 5; Tit. iii. 5. As water has a cleansing vir- 
:ue for removing defilements from the body, so the blood 
)f Christ removes the guilt of sin and cleanses the defiled 
•onscience, and the Spirit of Christ purifies the soul from the 
)ollution of sin. 2. That baptism is to be administered in 
he name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy 
""host. To be baptized hi the name of the Father, and of the 
5on, and of the Holy Ghost, signifies that we are baptized 
)y the authority of the persons of the Holy Trinity; that 
ve are baptized into the faith and profession of the blessed 
.Vinity ; and that we are solemnly devoted to the service 
* Boston's Complete Body of Divinity, vol. iii., p. 307. 


of these divine persons. 3. That baptism is to be dispensed 
by a lawfully ordained minister of the gospel. They only 
have authority to administer baptism who have received a 
commission from Christ to preach the gospel. — Matt, xxviii. 
19. We have no account of any one dispensing the ordi- 
nance in the primitive Church, but such as were called, 
either ordinarily or extraordinarily, to the work of the mi- 
nistry. It is the unfounded opinion that baptism is abso- 
lutely necessary to salvation, that has led the Church of Rome 
to permit this rite to be performed by laymen and women 
in cases of urgent necessity. 

Section III. — Dipping of the person into the water 
is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered bj 
pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.^" 

10 Heb. ix. 10, 19-22. Acts ii. 41; xvi. 33. Mark vii. 4. 

This section relates to the mode of administering baptism. 
This is a subject which has occasioned much controversy 
among Christians, and the dispute is still carried on with un- 
abated zeal. A large and respectable body of Christians 
strenuously contend that baptism can only be valid when 
performed by immersion, or by dipping the whole body under 
water. Our Confession does not deny that baptism may be 
lawfully performed by immersion ; but maintains that it is 
rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water on the 
person. No conclusion can be drawn from the word baptize, 
or from the original term; for it has been most satisfactorily 
proved that it signifies to wash with water in any way. Several 
instances of the administration of baptism are recorded in 
the New Testament; and in some of these cases it is not 
credible that baptism was performed by immersion. When 
three thousand were baptized in one day, it cannot be con- 
ceived that the apostles were capable of dipping all this 
multitude in so short a space of time. When whole families 
were baptized in their own houses, it cannot be thought that, 
on every occasion, a sufficient quantity of water could be ^ 
found for immersion. Besides, the application of the spiritual 
benefit signified by baptism is in Scripture frequently ex- 
pressed by sprinkling and pouring out. — Isa. xliv. 3; Ezek. 
xxxvi. 25; Heb. x. 22 ; xii. 24 ; Tit, iii. 5, 6. It may be added, 
that baptism by immersion cannot, in some cases, be dispensed 
-^with convenience or decorum ; nor in some countries, and at 
certain seasons, without endangering the health of the body. 
This aflfords, at least, a strong presumption against the absolute 

SECT. 4.] OF BAPTISM. 28? 

necessity of dipping the person into the water ; and from all 
these considerations we must conclude that it is sufficient and 
most expedient to administer baptism by sprinkling or pour- 
ing water on the person. 

Section IV. — Not only those that do actually profess 
faith in and obedience unto Christ," but also the infants 
of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.^^ 

11 Mark xvi. 15, 16. Acts viii. 37, 38. 1 Rom. iv. II, 12. 1 Cor. vii. 14. 

12 Gen xvii. 7, 9. Gal. iii. 9, 14. Matt, xxviii. 19. Mark x. 13-16. 

Col. ii. 11, 12. Acts ij. 38, 39. 1 Luke xviii. 15. 


This section relates to the subjects of baptism. That baptism 
is to be administered to all adult persons who profess their 
faith in Christ and obedience to him, and who have not been 
baptized in their infancy, is admitted by all who acknowledge 
the divine institution of this ordinance. But there are many 
who confidently assert that baptism ought to be confined to 
adidts. These were originally called Anabaptists, because they 
rebaptized those Avho had received baptism in their infancy, 
and Antiptedobaptists, because they were opposed to the bap- 
tism of infants. They now assume the name of Baptists ; but 
this designation we cannot concede to them, if it be intended 
to insinuate that others do not baptize, and are not baptized, 
agreeably to the principles of the gospel.* Our Confession 
! affirms, that " the infants of one or both believing parents 
'. are to be baptized." This might be confirmed by numerous 
arguments ; but only a few of them can be here stated with 
the utmost brevity. 1 . The infants of beheving parents are 
j. to be considered as within the covenant, and therefore en- 
titled to receive its seal. The covenant which God made 
with Abraham was substantially the same with that under 
which believers now are. This appears by comparing Gen. 
xvii. 7, where the covenant made with Abraham is expressed, 
with Heb. viii. 10, where the new covenant is expressed. In 
the one, the promise is : "I will establish my covenant be- 
tween me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their genera- 
tions, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and 
to thy seed after thee ; " and in the other : " I will be to them 
a God, and they shall be to me a people." We thus find, 
that when God established his covenant with Abraham, he 
embraced his infant seed in that covenant ; and that the pro- 
mise made to Abraham and to his seed is still indorsed to us 
is evident from the express declaration of the Apostle Peter 
» Dwight, Ser. 147. 


(Acts ii.39): " The promise is unto you, and to your children." 
II" children are included in the covenant, we conclude that 
they have a right to baptism, the seal of the covenant. 2. 
Infants were the subjects of circumcision under the Old Tes- 
tament dispensation ; and as baptism under the New Testa- 
ment has come in the room of circumcision, we conclude 
that infants have a right to baptism under the present dis- 
pensation. That, under the Old Testament, the infants of 
God's professing people were to be circumcised, cannot be 
doubted ; for the command is express : " Every man-child 
among you shall be circumcised." — Gen. xvii. 10. That bap- 
tism has now come in the room of circumcision is evident 
from Col. ii. 11, where it is called " the circumcision of Christ.'* 
It must therefore follow, either that the privileges of the 
Church are now greatly abridged, or else that the children of 
the members of the Church now are to be admitted to bap- 
tism, as they were to circumcision under the former dispen- 
sation. 3. That the children of professing Christians are 
members of the visible Church, and therefore entitled to bap- 
tism, appears from the words of our Saviour (Luke xviii. 16): 
" SuflPer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not ; 
for of such is the kingdom of God." By " the kingdom of 
God," we apprehend is to be here understood the Church on 
earth ; and if children are members of the visible Church, it 
cannot be denied that they have a right to baptism, the sign 
of admission. But if by " the kingdom of God" be under- 
stood the state of glory, the inference is strong that, being 
heirs of eternal life, they ought not to be denied that ordi- 
nance which is the seal of their title to it. 4. The warrant- 
ableness of infant baptism may be inferred from the com- 
mission of the apostles to baptize " all nations," which cer- 
tainly includes infants; and from the practice of the apostles, 
who baptized " households," upon a profession of faith by 
their domestic heads. Paul baptized Lydia " and her house- 
hold," the Philippian jailer " and all his," and " the household 
of Stephanas."— Acts xvi. 1 5, 33 ; 1 Cor. i. 1 6. " Now, though 
we are not certain that there were young children in any of 
these families, it is highly pi*obabIe there were. At any rate, 
the great principle of family baptism^ of receiving all the 
younger members of households 07i the faith of their domestic 
head seems to be plainly and decisively established. This 
furnishes ground on which the advocate of infant baptism 
may stand with unwavering confidence." * 5. That the in- 
fants of believing parents ought to be baptized ; and that it 
is sufficient if one of the parents be a member of the visible 
* Miller on Infant Baptism. 



Church, is evident from 1 Cor, vii. 14: " For the unbelieving 
husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife 
is sanctified by the husband: else were your children un- 
clean ; but now are they holy." " The word unclean, in al- 
most all instances in the Scriptures, denotes that which may 
not be offered to God, or may not come into his temple. Of this 
character were the heathen universally ; and they were, there- 
fore, customarily and proverbially, denominated unclean by 
the Jeics. The unbelievers here spoken of were heathen, 
and were, therefore, unclean. In this sense, the children 
born of tico heathen parents are here pronounced to be unclean 
also, as being, in the proper sense, heathen. To be holy, as 
here used, is the converse of being unclean, and denotes that 
which may be offered to God. To be sanctified, as referring to the 
objects here mentioned, is to be separated for religious purposes, 
consecrated to God — as were the first-born, and vessels of the 
temple ; or to be in a proper condition to appear before God. In 
this text it denotes, that the unbelieving parent is so punfied 
by means of his relation to the believing parent, that their 
mutual offspring are not unclean, but may be offered unto 
God. There is no other sense in which a Jew could have 
written this text, without some qualification of these words- 
The only appointed way in which children may be offered to 
God is baptism. The children of believing parents are, there- 
fore, to be offered to God in baptism." * 

The objections usually brought forward against the war- 
rantableness of infant baptism, are either frivolous in them- 
selves, or proceed from mistaken views of the ordinance. Is 
it urged, that in the New Testament we have no express in- 
junction to baptize the infants of professing Christians ? This, 
we reply, is precisely what might have been expected, be- 
cause the Church-membership of the children of God's pro- 
fessing people was fully established under the Old Testament, 
and their admission by the rite of circumcision was a privi- 
lege well known, and universally extended to them; so that, 
unless it had been designed to abridge the privileges of the 
children of believing parents under the New Testament, there 
was no occasion for any explicit injunction to baptize their 
children. But no hint is given in the New Testament that 
the privilege of infants, which had been so long enjoyed un- 
der the former dispensation, was to be withdrawn ; and as 
the priWlege is not revoked, it must be continued. Is it 
asked. What benefit can infants derive from baptism ? With 
equal propriety, we reply, it might have been asked. What 
benefit can a child, eight days old, derive from circumcision ? 
* Dwighfs Theology, Serm. 158. 


To put such a question is almost impious, because it implies 
an impeachment of the wisdom of God. He appointed cir- 
cumcision to be administered to infants under the Old Tes- 
tament; and with equal propriety is baptism administered to 
them under the New Testament. Is it objected, that we 
have no express example of the baptism of infants under 
the New Testament? All the cases of baptism recorded in 
the New Testament, we reply, are cases in which it was ad- 
ministered to converts from Judaism or Paganism to Chris- 
tianity ; and if we do not find it explicitly stated, that any 
infant born of Christian parents was baptized, as little do we 
find any example of those who were born of Christian parents 
being baptized in adult age. This entirely accords with our 
practice at the present day. We baptize adult converts from 
among Jews or Heathens; and as the apostles baptized "house- 
holds " on the faith of their domestic heads, we also consider 
ourselves warranted to baptize the children of professing 
Christians. But those who defer the baptism of the children 
of professing Christians until they arrive at adult age, have 
no precedent or example for their practice ; for, though the 
Book of the Acts contains the history of the Church for up- 
wards of thirty years, in which time the children of those 
who were first baptized by the apostles must have reached 
maturity, yet we have no record of the baptism of a single 
individual born of Christian parents. From this silence, we 
justly infer that they must have been baptized in their in- 
fancy; and we defy the advocates of adult baptism to adduce 
a single scriptural example of their practice. Is it urged, 
that infants cannot profess their faith in Christ ? We re- 
ply, that when faith, or the profession of it, is spoken of as 
a prerequisite to baptism, it is always supposed that the sub- 
jects of it are capable of instruction ; and that if this proved 
anything, it would prove too much ; for this objection, if 
valid against infant baptism, must also be valid against infant 
salvation, since the Scripture connects faith and the pro- 
fession of it, in the case of adults, with the one as well as 
the other. 

Section V — Although it be a great sin to contemn 
or neglect this ordinance,'^ yet grace and salvation are 
not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person 
can be regenerated or saved without it,^^ or that all that 
are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.^* 

>3 Luke vii. 30. Exod. iv. 24-26. »* Rom. iv. 11. Acts x. 2, 4,22, 31, 45, 47. 
I* Acts viii. 13, 23. 

SECT. 6, 7.] OF BAPTISM. 291 


This section affirms — 1. That baptism is not of such abso- 
lute necessity to salvation, that none can be saved without it. 
God has not made baptism and faith equally necessary. — 
Mark xvi. 16. The penitent thief was saved without being 
baptized. But baptism is an instituted means of salvation, 
and the contempt of it must be a great sin on the part of the 
parents, though the neglect cannot be ascribed to the child 
before he arrives at maturity, and cannot, therefore, involve 
him in the guilt. 2. That baptism is not regeneration, nor 
are all who are baptized undoubtedly regenerated. That 
the baptism of water is regeneration, and that every person 
duly baptized is born again, is the doctrine of the Church of 
Rome; and this doctrine has been embraced by many in 
Protestant Churches, and receives too much countenance 
from the Liturgy of the Church of England. It is a very 
dangerous doctrine; and that it has no warrant from Scrip- 
ture appears from the case of Simon Magus, who after bap- 
tism remained " in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of 
iniquity." — Acts viii. 13, 23. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, 
says : " I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus 
and Gains." But if baptism be regeneration, his meaning 
must be : "I thank God that I regenerated none of you." 
And could Paul really give thanks to God on this account ? 
How absurd the idea! " Christ," says he, "sent me not to 
baptize." But can it be thought that Christ did not send the 
chief of the apostles to promote the great work of regenera- 
tion ? Unquestionably Paul made a great difference between 
baptism and regeneration. 

Section VI. — The efficacy of baptism is not tied to 
that moment of time wherein it is administered; ^^ yet 
notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the 
grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited 
and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age 
or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to 
the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.^^ 

Section YII — The sacrament of baptism is but once 
to be administered to any person.*^ 

i« John iii. 5, 8. " Gal. iii. 27. Tit. iii. 5. Eph. v. 25, 26. Acts ii. 38, il. 
" Tit. iii. 5. 


1. Tlie efficacy of baptism is not confined to the moment 
of administration; but though not effectual at the time it is 


administered, it may afterwards be effectual, through the 
working of the Spirit. — John iii. 5, 8. 

2. Baptism is not to be administered to any person oftener 
than once. This is plain from the nature of the ordinance. It 
is a solemn admission of the person baptized as a member of 
the visible Church; and though those that "walk disorderly" 
are to be cast out, yet there is no hint in Scripture that, when 
re-admitted, they are to be baptized again. The thing signi- 
fied by baptism cannot be repeated, and the engagements 
come under can never be disannulled. 

It may be remarked, that the naming of the baptized person 
is no part of this institution. The custom of publishing the 
child's name at baptism probably arose from the practice of 
the Jews at their circumcision. — Luke i. 59-63. It belongs 
to the parent to give a name to his child, and this may be 
done before baptism. There may be a propriety in publish- 
ing the name of the person baptized, who is then admitted a 
member of the visible Church; but this is by no means essen- 
tial to baptism, nor even any part of the ordinance. 

We ought to improve our baptism, especially when we are 
present at the administration of it to others, " by serious and 
thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for 
which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits confer- 
red and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein ; 
by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short 
of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our 
engagements ; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, 
and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament ; by 
drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, 
into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin and 
quickening of grace ; and by endeavouring to live by faith, 
to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as 
those that have therein given up their names to Christ, and 
to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same 
Spirit into one body." * 


OF THE lord's SUPPER. 

Section I — Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein he 
was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and 

* The Larger Catechism. Quest. 167. 


blood, called the Lord's Supper, to be observed in his 
Church unto the end of the world, for the perpetual re- 
membrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death, the 
sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their 
spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further 
engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto 
him, and to be a bond and pledge of their communion 
with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical 

1 1 Cor. xi. 23-26 ; x. 16, 17, 21 ; xii. 13. 

This chapter treats of the Lord's supper; and the present 
section declares — 1. The author of this sacrament; 2. The 
time of its institution; 3. Its permanent continuance in the 
Church; 4. The uses and ends for which it is designed. 

I. The author of this sacrament is the Lord Jesus Christ. 
It is the prerogative of Christ, as king and head of the 
Church, to institute religious ordinances; and we are not at 
liberty to add to, or to diminish from, his appointments. The 
institution of this ordinance by our Saviour is recorded by 
the three first Evangelists CMatt. xxvi. 26-28; Mark xiv. 
22-24; Luke xxii. 19, 20), and by the Apostle Paul, who 
declares that he " had received of the Lord that which he 
delivered " to the Church.— 1 Cor. xi. 23-26. 

II. This sacrament was instituted by our Lord Jesus " the 
same night in which he was betrayed." It was when Jesus 
was eating the passover with his disciples that he instituted 
this sacred ordinance; from which circumstance we infer 
that the one was changed into the other, and that the latter 
was henceforth to supply the place of the former. This also 
accounts for the designation usually given to this sacrament. 
Being instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ, and being ap- 
pointed by him immediately after eating the passover, which 
was always celebrated in the evening, it is with the utmost 
propriety called the Lord's supper. When we reflect on the 
time of the institution of this ordinance, we have a striking 
view of the fortitude with which Jesus met his unparalleled 
sufferings, and of the singular love which he cherished 
towards his people; and we ought to feel the sacred obliga- 
tion laid upon us to keep this feast. On that night the 
Jewish rulers and the chief priests were met in close cabal, 
to concert measures for apprehending Jesus, and bringing 
him to an ignominious death. In that night he was to be 
perfidiously betrayed by cue of his own disciples, denied by 


another, and abandoned by them all to the rage of his 
malicious foes. He was to be smitten by the sword of Justice, 
and forsaken of his God — to be cruelly mocked and scourged 
— to be led away to a cross, and there to pour out his soul 
unto death. Of all this Jesus was fully apprized; yet in the 
immediate view of the dreadful sufferings he was about to 
undergo, such was the calm serenity of his mind, such his 
matchless love to his people, and such his concern for their 
spiritual benefit, that he instituted this ordinance for their 
encouragement and consolation in all succeeding ages. Did 
he remember them in such affecting circumstances ? — and 
shall not this engage them to remember him ? — shall they un- 
dervalue, by a wilful neglect, an ordinance which he settled 
immediately before his death, and disregard the dying com- 
mand of that friend who laid down his life for them ? 

III. The sacrament of the Lord's supper is to be observed 
in the Church to the end of the world. This is plainly im- 
plied in the words of the Apostle Paul : " For as often as ye 
eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's 
death till he come J' — I Cor. xi. 26. So universally has it 
been undei'stood that the observance of this ordinance is ob- 
ligatory upon all Christians to the end of the world, that, 
with the exception only of the Quakers, it has been observed 
in the Christian Church from the earliest times to the present 

iV. The ends and uses of this sacrament are various. 
1. It was instituted to be a memorial of the death of Christ. 
That it is a commemorative ordinance, appears from the 
Saviour's words: " This do in remembrance of me;" and that 
it is especially a memorial of his death, is evident from his 
words in distributing the elements. While he gave the bread 
to his disciples, he said : " This is my body, which is broken for 
you ; " and of the cup he said : "This cup is the New Testa- 
ment in my blood" The ordinance is eminently fitted to bring 
to our remembrance the reality and the painful nature of 
the death of Christ — to remind us of the vicarious nature of 
his death, of its acceptableness to God as a satisfaction for 
our sins, and of its present and perpetual efficacy. And we 
should remember his death with a lively and appropriating 
faith ; with ardent love to him who first loved us ; with deep 
contrition for our sins, the procuring cause of his death ; with 
holy joy in God; and with the warmest gratitude to Christ, 
who gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God 
for a sweet-smelling savour. 2. This sacrament seals the 
benefits of Christ's death unto true believers. It seals not 
the truth of Christ's death, nor the truth of their faith; but 


it seals the right and interest of faith, as the seal affixed to a 
deed seals the right and interest of the person in the property- 
conveyed by that deed. 3. It promotes the spiritual nourish- 
ment and growth of believers. A devout participation of 
this ordinance is fitted to confimi and invigorate their faith, 
to enflame their love, to deepen their godly sorrow, to enliven 
their joy, and to enlarge and strengthen their hopes of the 
Saviour's second coming, and of the glory then to be revealed. 

4. It is a sign and pledge of the believers' communion with 
Christ. This is evident from the words of Paul (1 Cor. x. 
16): " The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the com- 
munion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is 
it not the communion of the body of Christ? " These words 
certainly import that, in the holy supper, believers have com- 
munion with Christ in the fruits of his sufferings and death. 

5. It is an emblem of the saints' communion with each 
other. All true saints are members of one body, and in 
the holy supper they have communion, not merely with those 
who sit along with them at the same table, but " with all 
that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ," their 
common Lord. " We being many," says Paiil, " are one 
bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one 
bread." — 1 Cor. x. 17. This ordinance is very expressive 
of the communion of saints, and has a powerful tendency to 
cherish it. They meet together at the same table, as bi-ethren 
and children of the same family, to partake of the same 
spiritual feast. 6. In this ordinance believers engage them- 
selves to all the duties which they owe to Christ. They 
acknowledge him as their master, and engage to do whatso- 
ever he has commanded them. Persons may come under 
engagements by performing certain significant actions, as 
well as by expi'ess words. Submission to the ordinance of 
circumcision, under the former dispensation, made a man " a 
debtor to do the whole law." Baptism, in like manner, under 
the Christian dispensation, involves an engagement to be the 
Lord's; and Christians, in partaking of the Lord's supper, 
renew this engagement. They acknowledge that they are not 
their own, but are bought with a price, and bind themselves 
to glorify God with their bodies and spirits which are his. 

Section II In this sacrament Christ is not offered 

up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for 
remission of sins of the quick or dead ; ^ but only a 
commemoration of that one offering up of himself by him- 

2 Heb. ix. 22, 25, 26. 28. 


self, upon the cross, once for all, and a spiritual oblation 
of all possible praise unto God for the same ; ^ so that 
the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is mos^- 
abominably injurious to Christ's one only sacrifice, the 
alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.* 

Section III. — The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, 
appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution 
to the people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread 
and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common 
to 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 ; ^ but to none who are 
not then present in the congregation. ^ 

Section IY. — Private masses, or receiving this sacra- 
ment by a priest, or any other alone ; '' as likewise the 
denial of the cup to the people;^ worshipping the ele- 
ments, the lifting them up, or carrying them aliout for 
adoration, and the reserving them tor any pretended 
religious use ; are all contrary to the nature of this 
sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.^ 

Section Y. — The outward elements in this sacrament, 
duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such 
relation to him crucified, as that truly, yet sacramentally 
only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things 
they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ ; " 
albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly 
and only bread and wine, as they were before.'^ 

Section YI — That doctrine which maintains a change 
of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of 
Christ's body and blood (commonly called Transub- 
stantiation), by consecration of a priest, or by any other 
way, is repugnant not to Scripture alone, but even to 
common sense and reason ; overthroweth the nature of 
the sacrament; and hath been, and is, the cause of 
manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.^^ 

3 1 Cor. xi 24-26. Matt. xxvi. ?6,27. I " Mark xiv. 23. 1 Cor. xi. 25-29. 
Heb. vii. 23, 24, 27; x. 11, 12, 14, 18. » Matt. xv. 9. 

* Matt. xxvi. 26-28. Mark xiv. 22-24. 1 lo Matt, xxvi, 26-28. 

Luke xxii. 19, 20. 1 Cor. xi. | " 1 Cor. xi. 26-28, Matt. xxvi. 

23-26. 29. 

« Acts XX. 7. 1 Cor. xi. 20. 12 Acts iii. 21. 1 Cor.xi. 24-26. Luke 

» 1 Cor. x. 6. xxiv. 6, 39. 

SECT. 2-6.] OF THE lord's SUPPER. 297 


In these sections certain dangerous errors and superstitious 
practices of the Church of Home are condemned ; and we 
have placed all these sections together, that we may include 
the leading error, called transubstantiation, which has given 
rise to the absurd doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass, and 
the various other tenets and practices here rejected. 

I. The Church of Rome holds that the words, " This is my 
body," and, " This is my blood," are to be understood in their 
most literal sense; and that the priest, by pronouncing these 
words, with a good intention, changes the substance of the 
bread and wine into the real body and blood of Jesus Christ; 
which change is known by the name of transubstantiation. This 
doctrine receives no support from Scripture, but is founded 
on a gross perversion of its language. The words, " This is 
my body," and, " This is my blood," were manifestly used by 
our Saviour in a figurative sense; and must have been so un- 
derstood by the apostles, to whom they were immediately 
addressed. Such figurative expressions are of frequent occur- 
rence in Scripture, No one supposes that, when our Lora 
said, '* I am the vine," " I am the way," " I am the door," he 
meant us to understand that he is literally a \dne, a way, and 
a door; and no satisfactory reason can be assigned for under- 
standing the words of institution in a literal sense. Our 
Saviour plainly meant that the bread and wine signify or re- 
present his body and blood; and nothing is more common in 
Scripture than to affix to a type or symbol the name of the 
thing signified by it; thus circumcision is called God's cove- 
nant (Gen. xvii. 10); the paschal lamb, the passover (Exod. 
xii. 11); and the smitten rock, Christ. — 1 Cor. x. 4. But, 
not only is the doctrine of transubstantiation destitute of any 
support from the inspired writings, it is repugnant to Scripture; 
for the Apostle Paul gives to the elements after blessing the 
very same names they had before it ; which certainly inti- 
mates that there is no change of their substance. — 1 Cor. xi. 
26, 28. It is also contradicted by our senses; for we see and 
taste that the bread and wine after blessing, and when we 
actually receive them, still continue to be bread and wine, 
without any change or alteration whatever. It is equally 
repugnant to reason; for this tells us that Christ's body can- 
not be both in heaven and on earth at the same time ; but 
according to the Popish doctrine of transubstantiation, though 
the body of Christ remains in heaven, it is also present, not 
in one place on earth only, but in a thousand places — wherever 
the priest has, with aisood intention, pronounced the words 


of institution. This doctrine likewise overthrows the nature of 
the sacrament. Two things are necessary to a sacrament — a 
sign and a thing signified — an object presented to our senses, 
and some promised blessing which is represented and sealed 
by it. But by transubstantiation the sign is annihilated, and 
the thing signified is put in its place. 

Transubstantiation is not only contrary to Scripture, and 
reason, and common sense, but it has been, and is, the cause of 
manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries. In the fourth 
section, several of these superstitious and idolatrous practices 
are specified. Conceiving that the bread and wine are 
changed into the real body and blood of Christ, Papists 
reserve part of the consecrated wafers, for the purpose of 
giving them to the sick, or other absent persons, at some 
future time. In direct opposition to the command of Christ, 
" Drink ye all of it," they deny the cup to the people; on the 
pretence that, as the bread is changed into the body of Christ, 
they partake, by concomitancy, of the blood together with 
the body. When the priest is supposed to have changed the 
bread into the body of Christ, he adores it with bended knee, 
and rising, lifts it up, that it may be seen and adored by the 
people — which is called the elevation of the host; it is also 
carried about in solemn procession, that it may receive the 
homage of all who meet it; and, in short, it is worshipped as 
if it were Christ himself. All these pi-actices are declared by 
our Confession to be " contrary to the nature of this sacra- 
ment, and to the institution of Christ." They were unknown 
in the primitive ages of the Church, and have evidently 
originated in the absurd doctrine of ti'ansubstantiation. 

II. In the Church of Rome, the priest being supposed to 
have changed the bread and wine into the very body and 
blood of Christ, it is also conceived that, in laying upon the 
altar what has been thus transubstantiated, he offers to God a 
sacrifice which, although it be distinguished from all others 
by being without the shedding of blood, is a true, proper, and 
propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead. This is 
called the sacrifice of the mass. As this is founded upon 
the doctrine of transubstantiation, if the one be imscriptural 
so must the other. But we may adduce a few of those 
pointed declarations of Scripture, by which this particular 
doctrine is refuted. " Once in the end of the world hath he 
appeared, to putaway sin by the sacrifice of himself." " Christ 
was once offered, to bear the sins of many." " We are sancti- 
fied through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for 
all." " By 07ie offering he hath perfected for ever them that 
are sanctified."-^Heb. ix. 26, 28; x. 10, 14. These texts, and 

SECT. 2-6.] OF THE LORd's SUPPER. 299 

they might easily be greatly multiplied, clearly prove that 
the one sacrifice of Christ, once offered by himself, is sufficient 
and perfect; and we are expressly told that "there remaineth 
no more sacrifice for sins." — Heb. x. 26. In the language of 
our Confession, therefore, " the Popish sacrifice of the mass 
is most abominably injurious to Christ's one only sacrifice — 
the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect." 

III. The right manner of dispensing the sacrament of the 
supper is here declared. 

1. The minister is to read the word of institution to the 
people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, 
and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use. 
In instituting this sacrament, according to the evangelist 
Matthew, "Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it.** 
— Matt. xxvi. 26. Some have observed, that it is not neces- 
sary for us to understand this as signifying that Jesus blessed 
the bread, for the pronoun it is r supplement; and as the word 
rendered blessed sometimes means to give tAar«A;s, especially as the 
evangelist Luke employs the phrase, "he gave thanks," they 
conclude that the two expressions are in this case synonymous; 
and that we are to understand that Jesus blessed, not the bread, 
but God, or gave thanks to his Father. We are of opinion, 
however, that the pronoun it has been very properly intro- 
duced by our translators after the word blessed, as it is un- 
questionably repeated with the utmost propriety after the 
word brake; and we conceive that the order of the words re- 
quires us to understand that Jesus blessed the bread. Nor is 
there any more difficulty in apprehending how Jesus blessed 
the bread, than in apprehending how God blessed the seventh or 
the Sabbath-day. — Gen. ii. 3; Exod. xx. 11. Indeed, the two 
cases are exactly analogous; — God blessed the seventh day 
by setting it apart to a holy use, or appointing it to be a day 
of sacred rest; Christ blessed the bread, by setting it apart 
from a common to a holy use, or appointing it to be the 
visible symbol of his body. And while it belonged exclu- 
sively to Christ, as the Head of the Church, to appoint bread 
and wine to be the symbols of his body and blood, yet we are 
persuaded that the servants of Christ, in administering the 
Lord's supper, are warranted, according to the institution 
and example of Christ, to set ajiart by solemn prayer so 
much of the elements as shall be used from a common to a 
holy use. That there is a sense in which the servants of 
Christ may be said to bless the elements, seems plain from 
1 Cor. X. 16, where Paul denominates the sacramental cup 
" The cup of blessing vhich we bless.** It is not pretended that 
any real change is thereby made upon the elements, but only 


a relative change, so that they are not to be looked upon as 
common bread and wine, but as the sacred symbols of Christ's 
body and blood. 

2. The minister is also to take and break the bread. The 
breaking of the bread is an essential part of this ordinance, 
and, when it is wantinfj, the sacrament is not celebrated ac- 
cording to the original institution. It is, indeed, so essential, 
that the Lord's supper is sometimes designated from it alone, 
the whole being denominated from a part. The " breaking 
of bread" is mentioned the institutions of the gospel 
(Acts ii.42); and in Acts xx. 7, we are told that, "upon the first 
day of the week, the disciples came together to break bread:" 
inlsoth of which passages the celebration of the Lord's supper 
is doubtless meant by the " breaking of bread." The rite is 
significant, and we are left in no doubt about the meaning of 
the action. Our Saviour himself explained it when he said, 
" This is my body, which is broken for you;" intimating that 
the broken bread is a tigure of his body as wounded, bruised, 
and crucified, to make atonement for our sins. As an un- 
broken Christ could not profit sinners, so unbroken bread 
cannot fully represent to faith the food of the soul. Where- 
fore, to divide the bread into small pieces called wafers, and 
put a wafer into the mouth of each of the communicants, as 
is done in the Church of Rome, is grossly to corrupt this or- 
dinance, for it takes away the significant action of breaking 
the bread. 

3. The minister is further to take the cup, and give both 
the elements to the communicants. The cup, as well as the 
bread, is an essential element in this ordinance — the one re- 
presenting the blood, and the other representing the body of 
Christ. To give both the elements to all the communicants, 
was the universal practice of the Church of God for about 
1400 years; but the Church of Rome then departed from 
the primitive institution, and the practice of the ancient 
Church, by withholding the cup from the laity. The Council 
of Constance* decreed, "That though Christ did administer 
this venerable sacrament to his disciples under both the 
kinds of bread and wine, yet notwithstanding this, the cus- 
tom of conmiunicating under one kind only is now to be 
taken for a law." And, " Though, in the primitive Church, 
this sacrament was received by the faithful under both 
kinds, yet, notwithstanding this, the custom that is introduced 
of communicating under one kind only for the laity is now 
to be taken for a law." The Council of Trent t also declared, 
" That the laity, and the clergy not officiating, are not bound 

♦ Anno HU, Bess. 13. f Anno 1545, Sess. 21. 

SECT. 7, 8.] OF THE LORDS SUPPER. * 299 

by any divine precept, to receive the sacrament of the 
eucharist under both kinds." " And further declares, that 
although our Redeemer in the last supper instituted this 
sacrament in two kinds, and so delivered it to the apostles, 
yet under one kind only, whol'^ and entire Christ and the 
true sacrament are taken ; and tliat, therefore, those who re- 
ceive only one kind are deprived of no grace necessary to 
salvation." The Church of Rome, it will be remarked, ac- 
knowledges both kinds, the bread and the wine, to have been 
instituted by Christ, and the ordinance to have been thus 
celebrated in primitive times; she is, therefore, guilty of an 
avowed opposition to the authority of Christ, has sacrilegiously 
mutilated this holy sacrament, and infringed the privileges 
of the Christian people. The command of Christ to drink 
the wine is as express as the command to eat the bread; 
nay, as foreseeing how, in after ages, this ordinance would 
be dismembered by the prohibition of the cup to the laity, 
he is even more explicit in his injunction concerning the 
cup than the bread. Of the bread, he simply said, " Take, 
eat;" but when he gave the cup, he said, " Drink ye all of 
it." — Matt. xxvi. 26, 27. According to the divine institution, 
therefore, both the elements are to be given to all the com- 
municants. And as really as the bread and wine are given 
to the communicants, so Christ gives himself, with all his 
benefits, to the worthy receivers; and in taking these ele- 
ments — in eating the bread and drinking the wine — they 
profess to receive Christ by faith, and to rest their hope of 
pardon and salvation solely upon his death. 

Section VII. — Worthy receivers, outwardly partak- 
ing of the visible elements in this sacrament,'^ do then 
also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally 
and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon 
Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death : the body 
and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally 
in, with, or under the bread and wine ; yet as really, 
but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that 
ordinance as the elements themselves are to their out- 
ward senses.'^ 

Section VIII. — Although ignorant and wicked men 
receive the outward elements in this sacrament, yet they 
receive not the thing signified thereby; but by their un- 

" 1 Cor. xi. 28. 1* 1 Cor. x. 16. 


worthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and 
blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore 
all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to 
enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of 
the Lord's table, and cannot, without great sin against 
Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy 
mysteries,*^ or be admitted thereunto.^^ 

i« 1 Cor. xi. 27-29. 2 Cor. vi. 14-16. i« 1 Cor. v. 6, 7, 13. 2 Tliess. iii. 6, 
14, 15. Matt. vii. 6. 


In the preceding sections we have a strong condemnation 
of the Popish doctrine respecting the sacrament of the Lord's 
supper, and hei'e we have an explicit condemnation of the 
Lutheran doctrine. The Lutherans hold, that although the 
bread and wine are not changed into the body and blood of 
Christ, yet that his real body and blood are received by the 
communicants along with the symbols. This is called con- 
substantiation, to signify that the substance of the body and 
blood of Christ is present in, with, or under the substance of 
the elements. " This opinion, although free from some of 
the absurdities of transubstantiation, appears to us to labour 
under so many palpable difficulties, that we are disposed to 
wonder at its being held by men of a philosophical mind. It 
is fair, however, to mention, that the doctrine of the real 
presence is, in the Lutheran Church, merely a speculative 
opinion, having no influence upon the practice of those by 
whom it is adopted. It appears to them that this opinion 
furnishes the best method of explaining a Scripture expres- 
sion; but they do not consider the presence of the body and 
blood of Christ with the bread and wine as imparting to the 
sacrament any physical virtue, by which the benefit derived 
from it is independent of the disposition of him by whom it 
is received; or as giving it the nature of a sacrifice; or as 
rendering the bread and wine an object of adoration to Chris- 
tians. And their doctrine being thus separated from the 
three great practical errors of the Church of Rome, receives, 
even from those who account it false and irrational, a kind 
of indulgence very different from that which is shown to the 
doctrine of transubstantiation." * 

While our Confession rejects the doctrine of the Papists 
and of the Lutherans, respecting the Lord's supper, it teaches 
that " the body and blood of Christ are as really, but spiritu- 
ally, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as 
* Hill's Lectures, vol. ii., p. 352 

SECT 7, 8.] OP THE lord's SUPPER. SOl 

the elements themselves are to their outward senses." 
Christ is not present in body at his table; and, therefore, we 
cannot see him there after the flesh; but he is present 
spiritually, and may be discerned by faith. From this it 
follows that the participation of Christ's body and blood, in 
the holy supper, is spiritual. There is an external repre- 
sentation and confirmation of it, in participating of the 
sacred and instituted elements, which symbolize the broken 
body and shed blood of Christ. And wliile the worthy re- 
ceivers outwardly partake of the visible elements in this 
sacrament, they inAvardly, by faith, receive and feed upon 
Christ crucified, and the benefits of his death. 

From the nature and ends of this sacrament, it is manifest 
that the ignorant and ungodly are unfit for partaking of it. 
They may receive the outward elements; but they receive 
not the thing signified thereby. As they are unfit for com- 
munion with Christ, so they are unworthy of occupying a 
seat at his table. They cannot venture to approach to it 
without contracting a great sin, and exposing themselves to 
the judgments of God. The Scripture declares, that " who- 
soever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord 
unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the 
Lord;" and that such "eat and drink damnation to them- 
selves." — 1 Cor. xi. 27, 29. Not that all unworthy commu- 
nicants must necessarily perish eternally. The word in our 
version unhappily rendered " damnation," properly signifies 
judyment; and the judgment intended must be determined by 
the context. That the judgments inflicted on the Corinthians 
were chiefly of a temporal nature is evident from the words 
that are immediately added : " For this cause many are 
weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." Temporal 
judgments may be still inflicted for the profanation of this 
ordinance, but those of a spiritual nature are chiefly to be 
dreaded; and this sin, if unrepented, must, like other sins, 
expose to eternal punishment. This Iseing the case, it must 
be the duty of the office-bearers of the Church to be careful 
in excluding the ignorant and ungodly from this ordinance. 
All were not permitted to eat of the passover; neither ought 
there to be a promiscuous admission of all to the Lord's 
table. To admit the immoral and scandalous, is to profane 
the ordinance, and to corrupt the communion of the Church. 
But those who have a right to this ordinance in the judg- 
ment of the office-bearers of the Church, who can only judge 
of their knowledge and external conduct, may have no right 
to it in the sight of God. Every one, therefore, ought im- 
partially and faithfully to examine himself as to his state be- 


fore God, and his consequent right to partake of that feast 
which he has prepared for his children. The injunction of 
the apostle is express, and he enjoins self-examination as a 
means of preventing the sin of unworthy communicating: 
" But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that 
bread, and drink of that cup." — 1 Cor. xi. 28. 



Section I. — The Lord Jesus, as king and head of his 
Church, hath therein appointed a government in the 
hand of Church ofl&cers, distinct from the civil magis- 

*Isa. jx. 6, 7. 1 Tim. V. 17. 1 Thess. v. 12. Acts xx, 17, 18. Heb. xiii. 7, 
4 17, 21. 1 Cor. xii. 28. Matt, xxviii. 18-20. 


To suppose, as some have done, that the government of 
the Church is ambulatory, or that no particular form has 
been appointed by Christ, but that he has left it to be 
moulded according to the wisdom or caprice of men, and 
varied according to the external circumstances of the Church, 
is to impeach the love of Christ to his Church, and his fidelity 
to Him who hath appointed him to " reign over the house of 
Jacob." No human society can subsist without government; 
how absurd, then, to suppose that the Church of Christ, the 
most perfect of all societies, has been left by her king desti- 
tute of what is essential to the very being of society ! Un- 
der the Old Testament a most perfect form of government was 
prescribed to the Church; but order and discipline are as 
necessary to the Christian as they were to the Jewish Church. 
And can it be reasonably supposed, that while the govern- 
ment of the latter was minutely prescribed, that of the 
former has been totally neglected ? All sects of Christians, 
indeed, plead the authority of Scripture for that form of 
government which they prefer; and thus they implicitly 
jicknowledge that the outlines, at least, of some particular 
form may be found in the Scriptures. 

Even the advocates of the divine right of ecclesiastical 


government differ widely respecting the precise form of it 
which has been appointed by Christ. Papists, conceiving that 
the Bishop of Rome, as the successor of Peter, and the vice- 
gerent of Christ, is the visible head of the whole Church, main- 
tain that in him the supreme government of the universal 
Church is reposed, and that from him all other bishops de- 
rive their authority. Episcopalians, holding a distinction of 
rank among the ministers of religion, vest the government of 
the Church in bishops, archbishops, &c. Independents, con- 
ceiving that every congregation forms a complete Church, 
and has an independent power of jurisdiction within itself, 
lodge the government of the Church in the assembly of the 
faithful. Presbyterians, holding, in opposition to Episcopa- 
lians, that all the ministers of the Word are on a level, in 
respect of office and authority; and, in opposition to Inde- 
pendents, that particular congregations are only parts of the 
one Church, maintain that the government of the Church is 
committed, under Christ, to the presbytery, or the teaching 
and ruling elders; and that there is a subordination of courts, 
in which the sentence of inferior courts may be reviewed, 
and either affinned or reversed. It would be out of place 
here to examine the claims of these different systems. That 
the Presbyterial form is " founded upon, and agreeable to, the 
Word of God," is, in our judgment, fully established in " the 
Form of Church Government" drawn up by the Westminster 

It is only necessary to advert to the opinion of the Eras- 
tians, who maintain that the external government of the 
Church belongs to the civil magistrate. This opinion is di- 
rectly opposed to all that the Scriptures say about the 
spiritual nature of the kingdom of Christ. That remarkable 
declaration of Christ, " My kingdom is not of this world," 
plainly shows that his kingdom, though in the world, is 
totally and specifically distinct from all others in it; and 
when he forbade the exercise of such dominion over his sub- 
jects as the kings of the Gentiles exercised, the different 
nature of the government to take place in it was clearly 
pointed out. Among the various office-bearere which Christ 
has " set in the Church," the civil magistrate is never men- 
tioned. And were it true that it belongs to the ci\al magis- 
trate to model the government of the Church, Christ must 
have left his Church more than three hundred years without 
any government; for it was not till the fourth century that 
the Church received any countenance from the civil powers. 

" The formal and specific difference betwixt the Church 
and the kingdoms of the world, and, consequently, between 


civil and ecclesiastical authority, in respect of origin, ends, 
subjects, laws, privileges, means, extent, «&:c., has, by many 
writers, been very particularly explained. No doubt, the 
Church on earth hath some things in common with other so- 
cieties, and the authority in both may often have the same 
objects, materially considered; they admit also of a mutual 
respect, and reciprocal acts and duties towards each other; 
but none of these are inconsistent with their formal distinc- 
tion, but rather suppose it; so that all the power and peculiar 
actings of each, whatever matters they respect, must ever be 
of the same nature with that of the society they belong to— 
in the one wholly spiritual, and in the other always and 
wholly secular. When following their proper line, and 
keeping within their proper sphere, they can never jar or 
impede one another by interference: like two straight and 
parallel lines, they can never meet or be confounded together. 
Whatever dangers have arisen, or may arise, from abuse, 
none can arise merely from the distinct and independent 
nature and actings of these societies; so that there can be no 
reason for subjecting one of them to the other. The com- 
mon plea of the necessity of one undivided supreme power in 
all states, and of the danger of an ' imperimn in imperio/ ap- 
plies only to societies and powers of the same nature and 
order, and is impertinently urged for a supremacy of temporal 
rulers over a Church of Christ, whose authority is of a 
different kind."* 

Section II. — To these officers the keys of the kingdom 
of heaven are committed; by virtue whereof they have 
power respectively to retain and remit sins, to shut that 
kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word and 
censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the 
ministry of the gospel and by absolution from censures, 
iis occasion shall require.^ 

Section III. — Church censures are necessary for the 
reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren : for de- 
terring of others from the like offences ; for purging out 
of that leaven which might infect the whole lump ; for 
vindicating the honour of Christ, and the holy profession 
of the gospel ; and for preventing the wrath of God, 
which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should 

2 Matt, xvi, 19; xviii. 17, 18. John xx. 21-23. 2 Cor. ii. 6-8. 
* Bruce on the Supremacy of Civil Powers, &c., p. 23. 

SECT. 2-4.] OF CUUilCH CENSURES. 30-5 

suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned 
by notorious and obstinate offenders.^ 

Section IY. — For the better attaining of these ends, 
the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition, 
suspension irom the sacrament of the Lord's supper for 
a season, and by excommunication from the Church, 
according to the nature of the crime and demerit of the 

»lCor. V. 1 Tim. V. 20. Matt. vii. | ♦ 1 Thess. v. 12, 2 Thess. iii.6, 14, 15 
9. 1 Tim. i, 2J. 1 Cor. xi. 27. I Cor. v. 4, S, 13. Matt, xviii. 17. 

Jude 23. I Tit. iii. 10. 


In opposition to the Erastians, who assign the power of 
inflicting the censures of the Church to the civil magistrate, 
our Confession here affirms, that the keys of the kingdom of 
heaven are committed to the officers whom Christ has ap- 
pointed in his Church. " I will give unto thee the keys of 
the kingdom of heaven," said Christ to Peter, " and whatso- 
ever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and 
whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in 
heaven." — Matt. xvi. 19. By " the keys of the kingdom of 
heaven," we are to understand the power and authority of 
exercising government and discipline in the Church; in virtue 
of which, those intrusted with these keys have power to 
"bind and loose," by inflicting and removing censures; and 
their proceedings, when conducted agreeably to Scripture, 
are ratified in heaven. Presbyterians maintain that these 
keys were given to Peter, as an apostle and elder; and, 
therefore, that the gift extends to all the apostles, and after 
them, to all ordinary elders, to the end of time. The same 
thing that is expressed in the above passage by binding and 
loosing, is elsewhere expressed by remitting and retaining sins. 
But Christ addressed these words to all the apostles : " Peace 
be unto you ; as the Father hath sent me, so send I you. 
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and 
whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." — John xx. 
21, 23. It is true that this power is ascribed to the Church : 
" Tell it unto the Church," &c. (Matt, xviii. 17); but by 
the Church, in this passage, is to be understood the rulers or 
elders of the Church; and this text further confirms the doc- 
trine of our Confession, that the power of discipline is com- 
mitted solely to the office-bearers of the Church. The 
Church and the State may take up the same cases, but under 
a different consideration; it is only when viewed as crimes 


against the State that they come under the cognizance of 
civil rulers, and are to be punished with civil pains; viewed 
as scandals against religious society, they come under the 
cognizance of the rulers of the Church, and can only be re- 
moved by ecclesiastical censures. 

Church censures are necessary for vindicating the honour 
of Clirist and his religion — maintaining the purity of his 
worship — reclaiming offenders — deterring others from the 
like offences — removing contagion from the Church — and 
pj-eventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon 
the Church, if they should suffer the seals of his covenant to 
be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders. 

The censures of the Church are spiritual in their nature 
and effects. They are appointed by Christ for the benefit 
of offenders, and have a tendency, as means, to promote 
their recovery, and not their destruction. As offences differ 
in degi*ees of guilt and circumstances of aggravation, the 
Church is to proceed according to the nature and degree of 
the offence committed. In some cases a simple admonition 
will suffice. — Tit. iii. 10. A greater degree of guilt will call 
for a rebuke, solemnly administered in the name of Jesus 
Christ. — Tit. i. 13; 1 Tim. v. 20. Scandals of greater mag- 
nitude will reqviire the suspension of the offender from the 
sacrament of the Lord's supper for a season. — 2 Thess. iii. 14. 
This is called the lesser excommunication; and the highest cen- 
sure which the Church has the power to inflict is called tlie 
greater excommunioation. — Matt, xviii. 17. We have an ex- 
ample in the case of the incestuous man, who was delivered 
" unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit 
might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." — 1 Cor. v. 5. 
It does not, according to the Popish notion, consist in literally 
delivering up the offender to the devil, but in casting him 
out of the Church into the world, which is described in 
Scripture as Satan's kingdom. 



~ Section I. — For the better government and further 
edification of the Church, there ought to be such 


assemblies as are commonly called synods or coun- 

1 Acts XV. 2, i, G. 

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in their 
act approving of the Confession of Faith, 1647, inserted a 
caveat : " That the not mentioning in this Confession the 
several sorts of ecclesiastical officers and assemblies, shall 
be no prejudice to the truth of Christ in these particulars, to 
be expressed fully in the Directory of Government." The 
views of the Church of Scotland, and also of the Westmin- 
ster Assembly, on this subject, are therefore to be more 
fully ascertained in "The Form of Presbyterial Church 
Government," agreed upon by that Assembly, and usually 
bound up with the Confession of Faith, In that document 
they declare: " It is lawful and agreeable to the Word of God, 
that the Church be governed by several sorts of assemblies, 
which are congregational, classical, and sy nodical;" and also: 
" That synodical assemblies may lawfully be of several sorts, 
as provincial, national, and oecumenical;" and further, that 
" It is lawful, and agreeable to the Word of God, that there 
be a subordination of congregational, classical provincial, 
and national assemblies, for the government of the Church." 
Here we have a distinct specification of the several sorts of 
ecclesiastical assemblies, and also an explicit statement of 
the due subordination of the judicatories of the Church; 
which we are now accustomed to denommate kirk-sessions, 
presbyteries, provincial synods, and General Assemblies. At 
present, however, we have only to notice the statement in 
the section of the Confession under consideration. In oppo- 
sition to the Independents, who maintain that every congre- 
gation has an independent power of government within 
itself, and deny all subordmation of judicatories, our Confes- 
sion asserts that, "for the better government and further 
edification of the Church " (that is, for attaining the end better 
than can be accomplished in smaller meetings of Church 
officers), "there ought to be such assemblies as are com- 
monly called synods or councils." Of this we have an ex- 
ample in the synod which met at Jerusalem to settle the 
question about circumcision. "The question, whether or 
not the Gentiles who had made a profession of the Christian 
religion were bound to submit to circumcision, was of com- 
mon concern, and could only be settled by the judgment and 
decision of office-bearers delegated from the Church as a 


whole ; and we find that the judgment or decision of these 
office-bearers, when met judicially to consider the question, 
was considered as binding upon the whole Church. Nor is 
it any valid objection to this court forming a model for the 
imitation of the Church in after ages, that it was composed 
partly of apostles; for the apostles were also elders, as every 
higher office in the Church includes the official power be- 
longing to inferior offices; and we do not find that, in the 
whole discussion, the apostles, as judges, claimed any supe- 
riority over their brethren, who are called elders. At any 
rate, the decision was promulgated as the joint decision of 
both.— Acts XV. 21-31."* 

Section II. — As magistrates may lawfully call a 
synod of ministers, and other fit persons, to consult and 
advise with about matters of religion ; ^ so if magistrates 
be open enemies to the Church, the ministers of Christ 
of themselves, by virtue of their office, or they, with 
other fit persons upon delegation from their Churches, 
may meet together in such assemblies.^ 

2 Isa. xlix. 23. 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2. 2 Chron. xix. 8-11; xxix., xxx. Matt. ii. 
4, 5, Prov. xi. 14. » Acts xv. 2, 4, 22, 23, 25. 


The Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in the act by 
which they adopted the Confession, make a special reference 
to this section, and expressly declare that they understood 
it " only of kirks not settled or constituted in point of go- 
vernment;" and while they admit that "in such kirks a 
synod of ministers, and other fit persons, may be called by 
the magistrates' authority and nomination, without any other 
call, to consult and advise with about matters of religion," 
they assert that this " ought not to be done in kirks con- 
stituted and settled," and that it is always free to the minis- 
ters and iiiling elders " to assemble together synodically, as 
well pro re nata as at the ordinary times, upon delegation 
from the Churches, by the intrinsical power received from 
Christ, as often as it is necessary for the good of the Church 
so to assemble, in case the magistrate, to the detriment of 
*he Church, withhold or deny his consent." Our Reformers, 
it is well known, were ever jealous of the least encroach- 
ment upon the independence of the Church. Her intrinsic 
power to convene her own Assemblies occupied a prominent 
I'lace in all their contendings with the Crown. Their maxim 
• Stevenson on the Offices of Christ, pp. 347, 318. 


was : " Take from us the freedom of Assemblies, and take 
from us the Evangel." At the period of the first Reforma- 
tion this power was both claimed and exercised. The 
Church held her first Assembly, in 1560, solely in virtue of 
her own proper authority, under Christ her head; and for 
at least twenty years — during which time there were no fewer 
than thirty-nine or forty Assemblies — the sovereign was not 
present, either in person or by a representative, as afterwards 
became the custom. At the era of the second Reformation, the 
intrinsic power of the Church was nobly vindicated by the 
famous Assembly held in Glasgow in 1 638. Although the king's 
commissioner dissolved the Assembly in his master's name, 
and discharged their further proceedings, under the highest 
penalties, yet the Assembly, claiming an intrinsical power 
from the Lord Jesus Christ, continued their sessions and pro- 
ceeded with the important business for which they had met. 
It must be acknowledged, however, that in the Act of 1592 
— which has been considered as the Magna ChaHa of the 
Established Church, and which the Act of 1690 revived and 
confirmed — the right of the Church to appoint her own As- 
semblies was not sufficiently secured. This right is conceded 
only when neither the king nor his commissioner is present. 
Accordingly, immediately after the Revolution, the Assem- 
blies of the Church were often abruptly dissolved, and re- 
peatedly adjourned, by the royal authority. 

" This point (the power of freely meeting and dissolving by 
the Church's own authority), that so often was contested be- 
tween the Crown and the Presbyterian courts in Scotland, is 
of far greater importance to ecclesiastical independence and 
liberty than at first it may appear to be. Without this 
being retained and secured, a little reflection may show that 
the exercise of any other powers they may claim, may be 
rendered, by the will of a superior, not only precarious, but 
altogether nugatory and void. It is well known that this 
arbitrary exercise of prerogative, in calling and dissolving 
Parliaments, had rendered them powerless, and they were in 
danger by it of being utterly abolished ; nor did the nation 
reckon their civil liberties at all secure, till annual or regular 
meetings of Parliament were secured by law. The danger 
would be equal and the effect similar, if ecclesiastical assem- 
blies were made, in this respect, wholly dependent on the 
Crown; of which the history of the English Convocation 
affords a striking evidence." * 

Section III. — It belongeth to synods and councils 

* Bruce on the Supremacy of Civil Powers, &c., p. 103. 


ministerially to determine controversies of faith and 
cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for 
the better ordering of the public worship of God and 
government of his Church ; to receive complaints in 
cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to deter- 
mine the same : which decrees and determinations, if 
consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with 
reverence and submission, not only for their agreement 
with the AVord, but also for the power whereby they are 
made, as being an ordinance of God, appointed there- 
unto in his Word.* 

* Acts XV. 15, 19, 24. 27-31; xvi. i. Matt, xviii. 17-20. 

This section is evidently intended as a decision upon 
another important principle in the controversy with Inde- 
pendents, M'ho, while they admitted that congregations might, 
in difficult cases, consult with advantage synods of ministers, 
denied to these syiiods any authority over the congregations. 
Presbyterians readily grant that the power of Church rulers 
is purely ministerial. Christ is the alone Lord and Law- 
giver in his Church ; so that their business is only to apply 
and enforce the laws which he has enacted. Their delibera- 
tions, however, are to be considered, not as merely consulta- 
tive, but authoritative; and, so far as their decisions accord 
with the laws of Christ, laid down in his Word, being formed 
in his name, and by authority conferred by him, they must 
be binding upon the conscience. The Synod of Jerusalem 
did not merely give a counsel or advice, but pronounced an 
authoritative decision upon the case referred to them. They 
"ordained decrees," "laid a burden" upon the Churches, 
and enjoined them to obsei've certain "necessary things;" 
and their decision was cheerfully submitted to by the 
Churches concerned. — Acts xv. 28, xvi. 4. 

Section IY. — All synods or councils since the apostles* 
times, whether general or particular, may err, and many 
have erred ; therefore they are not to be made the rule 
of faith or practice, but to be used as an help in both.* 

8 Eph. ii. 20. Acts xvii. 11. 1 Cor. ij. 5. 2 Cor. i. 24. 

Although Papists maintain that infallibility is lodged some- 
where in the Church, they are not agreed among themselves 


whether it resides in the Pope, or in a general council, or in 
both united. It is here affinned that all councils may err. 
Councils being composed of men, every one of whom is fal- 
lible, they must also be liable to error when collected to- 
gether. It is also asserted that many of them hate erred; 
and this is sufficiently evident from the fact, that different 
general councils have made decrees directly opposite to each 
other. In the Arian controversy, several councils decreed 
in opposition to that of Nice. The Eutychian heresy was 
approved in the second Council of Ephesus, and soon after 
condemned in the Council of Chalcedon. The worship of 
images was condemned in the Council of Constantinople, and 
was approved in the second Nicene Council, and again con- 
demned at Francfort. Finally, the authority of councils was 
declared, at Constance and Basil, to be superior to that of the 
Pope; but this decision was reversed in the Lateran. * 

Section Y. — Synods and councils are to handle or 
conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical; and 
are not to intermeddle with civil affairs, which concern 
the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition, in 
oases extraordinary, or by way of advice for satisfac- 
tion of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the 
civil magistrate." 

« Luke xii. 13, 14. John xviii. 3G. 

"While our Confession denounces any Erastian interference 
of the civil magistrate in matters purely spiritual and eccle- 
siastical, it no less explicitly disavows all Popish claims, on 
the part of the synods and councils of the Church, to inter- 
meddle with civil affairs, unless by way of petition, in extra- 
ordinary cases, or by way of advice, when required by the 
civil magistrate. Our Reformers appear to have clearly per- 
ceived the proper limits of the civil and ecclesiastical juris- 
diction, and to have been very careful that they should be 
strir^^Iy observed. "The [lower and policy ecclesiastical," 
say they, " is different and distinct in its own nature from 
that power and policy which is call^'^ civil power, and apper- 
taineth to the civil government of the commonwealth; albeit 
they be both of God, and tend to one end, if they be rightly 
used, viz., to advance the glory of God, and to have godly 
and good subjects." " Diligence should be taken, chiefly by 

« Burnet on the Thirty- Nine Articles, Art. 21. 


the moderator, that only ecclesiastical things be handled in 
the Assemblies, and that there be no meddling with anything 
pertaining to the civil jurisdiction."* Church and State may 
co-operate in the advancement of objects common to both; 
but each of them must be careful to act within its own pro- 
per sphere — the one never intermeddling with the affairs 
which properly belong to the province of the other. 



Section I. — The bodies of men after death return to 
flust, and see corruption;^ but their souls (which neither 
die nor sleep) having an immortal subsistence, imme- 
diately return to God who gave them.^ The souls of the 
righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are re 
ceived into the highest heavens, where they behold the 
face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full re- 
demption of their bodies ; ^ and the souls of the wicked 
are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and 
utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great 
day.^ Besides these two places for souls separated from 
their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none. 

1 Gen. iii. 19. Acts xiii. 36. I s Heb. xii. 23. 2 Cor. v. 1, 6,8. PhU 

2 Luke xxiii. 43. Eccl. xii. 7. | i. 23. Acts iii. 21. Eph. iv. 10 

■* Luke xvi. 23, 24. Acts i. 25. Jude 6, 7. I Pet. iii. 19. 


I. It is here supposed that death is an event common to 
all men. " It is appointed unto men once to die." — Heb. ix. 
27. This is the immutable appointment of Heaven, which 
cannot be reversed, and which none can frustrate. When 
meditating upon this subject, the royal Psalmist exclaimed : 
".What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death ? shall 
he deliver his soul from the hand of the gi-ave ?" — Ps. Ixxxix, 
* Second Book of Discipline, chap. i. and vii. 


48. Job speaks of death as an event which certainly awaited 
him, and of the grave as the common receptacle of all man- 
kind: " I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the 
house appointed for all living." — Job xxx. 23. Our own 
observation abundantly confirms the declaration of Scripture. 
Nor are we at a loss to account for the introduction of death 
into our world, and its iiniversal prevalence over the human 
race : " As by one man sin entered into the world, and death 
by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sin- 
ned."— Rom. V. 12. 

There is, indeed, a vast difference between the death of the 
righteous and that of the wicked. To the latter, death is the 
effect of the law-curse, and the harbinger of everlasting de- 
struction; but to the former, death is not the proper punish- 
ment of sin, but the termination of all sin and sorrow, and an 
entrance into life eternal. To them death is divested of its 
sting, and rendered powerless to do them any real injury. 
Not only is it disarmed of its power to hurt them — it is com- 
pelled to perform a friendly part to them. It is their release 
from warfare — their deliverance from woe — their departure to 
be Avith Christ. But although death is no real loss, but rather 
great gain to the righteous; yet, as it consists in the dissolu- 
tion of the union between the soul and the body, it is an event 
from which they are not exempted. 

God could, no doubt, if he pleased, easily save his saints 
from natural death. Of this he gave a proof in the case of 
Enoch and of Elijah. For good reasons, however, he has 
determined otherwise. 1. That the righteous, as well as 
others, should be subjected to temporal death, is best adapted 
to the present plan of the divine government, and seems 
necessary, if not to the preservation, at least to the comfort 
of human society. According to the plan of the divine 
government, rewards and punishments are principally re- 
served for a future world. But if the righteous were 
exempted from death, while the wicked fell under its stroke, 
this would be a manifestation of the final destiny of every 
man that is removed out of this world. Death, therefore, 
happens to the righteous in the same outward form, and 
attended with the same external circumstances, as it hap- 
pens to the wicked, that there may be no visible distinction 
between tliem. 2. Were the righteous to be distinguished 
from the wicked by being translated to heaven without tast- 
ing of death, this would introduce great confusion into society. 
Without producing any salutary effect upon the wicked, it 
would render them more regardless of character, and remove 
one powerful stimulus — the prospect of future fame — which 


animates them to noble exertions for the benefit of society. 
It would also greatly affect the character and the happiness 
of the living. Were the parent singled out as the object of 
the divine displeasure, by being subjected to death, this would 
fix a brand of infamy upon his children; or if the child were 
taken away in a manner so expressive of its future destiny, 
this would pierce the heart of the parent, especially if serious, 
with inexpressible anguish. No class, indeed, would be more 
affected by such a state of things than the righteous them- 
selves. Hence death is the common lot of the godly and of the 
wicked. 3. This arrangement affords occasion for a richer dis- 
play of the power and grace of God. As the hour of death is 
the most trying to men, so the power and grace of God are most 
gloriously displayed, in supporting his people in that solemn 
hour; in enabling them, in the exercise of faith and hope, to 
rise superior to the fear of death, and to triumph over this 
last enemy as conquerors. And how illustriously will his 
power be displayed in raising up their bodies at the last day ! 
4. Another reason, we conceive, why the righteous are sub- 
jected to temporal death, is, that they may be conformed to 
Christ, their glorious head. He tasted of death before he 
was crowned with glory and honour; and they also must 
enter into glory through " the valley of the shadow of death." 

II. The bodies of men after death return to the dust, and 
see corruption. So humiliating and deeply affecting is the 
change which death produces on the human body, that it 
becomes obnoxious to the \'iew, and necessity compels the 
living to remove it from their sight. It is committed to the 
grave, in which it putrefies ; and after a certain time isreduced 
to dust, so that it cannot be distinguished from the vegetable 
mould with which it is mingled. These things, however, are 
offensive only to the living; they occasion no uneasiness to 
the dead. To the wicked, indeed, the grave is a prison, 
where they are kept in close confinement until the resurrec- 
tion; but to believers it is a place of rest, where, exempted 
from all pain and weariness, they shall enjoy profound repose 
till the resun-ection morn, when, awakened as from a long 
refreshing sleep, they shall rise, with renovated life and 
vigour, to enjoy everlasting felicity. 

III. The souls of men survive the dissolution of their bodies, 
and have an immortal subsistence. Some have held that 
death is the utter extinction of man's being; others, that the 
soul shall sleep between death and the resurrection, alike 
inactive and unconscious as the body that is then dissolved 
into dust. In opposition to these notions, equally absurd 
and uncomfortable, our Confession affirms, and the Scripture 


clearly teaches, that the souls of men subsist in a disembodied 
state, after such a manner as to be capable of exercising those 
powers and faculties which are essential to them . " Fear not 
them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." — 
Matt. X. 28. These are the words of Him who made man, and 
who perfectly knows the constituent parts of his nature ; and 
he affirms, not only that the soul is distinct from the body — 
not only that it does not, in fact, die with the body, but that 
it is impossible to kill the soul by any created power. Our 
Saviour taught the same doctrine in parabolical language : 
" It came to pass that the beggar died, and was earned by 
the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, 
and was buried ; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in tor- 
ments." — Luke xvi. 22, 23. Both the beggar and the man of 
wealth died; both left their bodies in the dust; but the souls 
of both retained their existence and their consciousness after 
their separation from their bodies. No doubt the death of 
the righteous is frequently described in Scripture as a sleep ; 
but such language is obviously figurative, and gives no coun- 
tenance to the notion that the soul falls asleep when disunited 
from the body. When the dead are said to be asleep, a 
metaphor is used, founded upon the striking resemblance 
between death and sleep; and, at the sametime, by another 
figure of speech, a part is spoken of as the whole. They are 
said to sleep, and to be unconscious and inactive, because 
these things are true of their bodies. 

IV. The souls of the righteous, immediately after death, 
are admitted into the happiness of the heavenly state. Some, 
who allow that the souls of believers possess consciousness, 
and experience happiness in their disembodied state, conceive 
that at death their souls pass into an intermediate state, and 
that they will enter into heaten only when the final judgment 
takes place. The Church of Rome maintains that the souls 
of the saints, on leaving their bodies, must pass for a time 
into a place called purgatory, that they may be purified by 
fire from the stains of sin, which had not been washed out 
during the present life. That Church further teaches, that 
the pains and sufferings of purgatory may be alleviated and 
shortened by the prayers of men here on earth; by the inter- 
cession of the saints in heaven; and, above all, by the sacri- 
fice of the mass, offered by the priests in the name of sinners ; 
and that, as soon as souls are released from purgatory, they 
are immediately admitted to eternal happiness. Of this doc- 
trine there is no trace in the Bible; it is a cunningly de\ased 
fable, invented by designing men to impose upon the credu- 
lous, and to fill their own treasures. The Scripture speaks 


only of a heaven and a hell, into one of which all departed souls 
have entered; and, accordingly, our Confession affirms: "Be- 
sides these two places for souls separated from their bodies, 
the Scripture acknowledgeth none." 

The immediate admission of the souls of the righteous into 
heaven is confirmed by numerous passages of Scripture. Our 
Lord's promise to the penitent thief: " To-day shalt thou be 
with me in paradise" (Luke xxiii. 43), implies that, ere that 
day was finished, his soul should be in the same place with 
the soul of Christ, and should enjoy all the felicity which the 
word "pai'adise" suggests. Wlien Stephen, with his ex- 
piring breath, called upon God, saying, " Lord Jesus, receive 
my spirit " (Acts vii. 59), he manifestly expected that his 
soul should immediately pass into the presence of his Saviour. 
The same thing is implied in the language of Paul: " For me 
to live is Christ, and to die is gain, I am in a strait betwixt 
two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which 
is far better." — Phil. i. 21, 23. Certainly if he had not ex- 
pected to be admitted into the presence of Christ until the 
resurrection, he would not have judged it gain to die ; and, 
instead of desiring, he would have been loath to depart; for 
While he was in the body he was honourably engaged in the 
service of Christ, and enjoyed delightful communion with 
him. But the apostle tells us that the reason of his desire 
to depart was, that he might be w^Ui Christ — in a state of 
blessedness far superior to anything found in this present 
world. The same apostle says : " We are confident, I say, , 
and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be I 
present with the Lord.'' — 2 Cor. v. 8. No words could ex- ' 
press in a clearer manner the immediate transition of the 
soul from its present habitation into the presence of Christ. 
The believer's absence from the body and his presence with 
Christ are closely connected; the latter succeeds the former |i, 
without any interval. Accordingly, the Apostle John heard 
a voice from heaven, saying to him: " Write, Blessed are the 
dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth " (Rev. xiv. 13) ; 
that is, they are blessed from the time of their death. 

If the souls of believers are admitted into heaven imme- 
diately after death, it is evident that a wonderful change 
must then take place upon them, in order to qualify them 
for the new state into which they are introduced. Unless 
they were completely freed from every stain of impurity, 
they would be imfit for the society of the heavenly world, 
and incapable of enjoying the felicities of that world. Our 
Confession accordingly asserts, that their souls are then 
" made perfect in holiness;" and in Scripture the souls of 


departed saints are called " the spirits of just men made 
perfect."— Heb, xii. 23. 

V. The souls of the wicked are at death cast into hell. 
While some have maintained that the souls of the wicked 
shall never be tormented in hell, others have held that they 
shall not be adjudged to that place of torment till after the 
resurrection ; but, according to the representation of our 
Saviour, as soon as the rich man died, " in hell he lifted up his 
eyes, being in torments," — Luke xvi, 23. The spirits of those 
who in the time of Noah were disobedient, were, when the 
Apostle Peter wrote his epistle, shut up in the prison of 
hell.— 1 Pet. iii. 19. 

Section II — At the last day, such as are found alive 
shall not die, but be changed :^ and all the dead shall be 
raised up with the selfsame bodies, and none other, 
although Avith diiferent qualities, which shall be united 
again to their souls for ever.^ 

Section III. — The bodies of the unjust shall, by the 
power of Christ, be raised to dishonour; the bodies of 
the just, by his Spirit, unto honour, and be made con- 
formable to his own glorious body.^ 

» 1 Thess. iv. 17. 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. ] '' Acts xxiv. 15. John v. 28, 29. 
6 Job xix. 26, 27. 1 Cor. xv. 42-44. 1 Cor. xv. 43. Phil. iii. 21. 


I. Such as remain alive upon the earth at the last day shall 
not die. but undergo a wonderful change. This truth was first 
revealed to the Church in Paul's First Epistle to the Corinth- 
ians (xv. 51): "Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not 
all sleep, but we shall all be changed." When Christ shall 
descend from heaven to judge the world, some will be found 
alive upon the earth ; these shall not die, and sleep for a 
short time in the dust of the earth ; but they will experience 
a change equivalent to that which shall pass on those who 
shall then be raised from the grave; and, as we are informed, 
the dead saints will be raised before the living are changed. 
" The dead in Christ shall rise first : then we which are alive 
and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the 
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air : and so shall we ever be 
with the Lord."— 1 Thess. iv. 16, 17. 

II. There shall be a general resurrection of the dead. 
Tills is a doctrine which unassisted reason could not dis- 
cover. The wisest of the heathen philosophers derided it. 


When Paul preached at Athens, which was called the Eye of 
Greece, the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers mocked when 
he spake of the resurrection of the dead. But it cannot be 
reckoned an incredible thing that God should raise the dead. 
If he be omnipotent and omniscient, as he certainly is, other- 
wise he would cease to be God, this cannot be considered 
impossible. He who formed the human body out of dust, 
and breathed into it the breath of life, must be able to raise 
and animate it again after it has been reduced to dust. To 
the power of God our Saviour referred, as an answer to all 
the cavils which might be brought forward against the doc- 
trine of the resurrection. To the Sadducees, a sect of the 
Jews who denied this doctrine, he said : " Ye do err, not 
knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God." — Matt. xxii. 
29. But it is only by the revelation of the will of God that 
we are infallibly assured of the certainty of the resurrection. 
It was revealed in the writings of the Old Testament. Job 
expressed the strongest confidence of the resurrection of his 
body. — Job xix. 25. The prediction of the Prophet Daniel 
is equally explicit. — Dan. xii. 2. This doctrine held a pro- 
minent place in the discourses of our Lord and his apostles. 
Nothing could be more explicit than our Lord's declaration : 
" The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves 
shall hear his voice, and shall come forth," &c. — John v. 
28, 29. After our Lord's ascension, this was the grand theme 
of the testimony of his apostles, as upon it the truth of the 
whole system of Christianity rested. Hence Paul thus argued 
with the Corinthians : " Now, if Christ be preached that he 
rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is 
no resurrection of the dead ? But if there be no resurrection 
of the dead, then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not 
risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also 
vain." — 1 Cor. xv. 12-14. The resurrection of the saints is 
firmly established by the resurrection of Christ himself. 
In the chapter to which we have now referred, the apostle 
show- the infallible evidence which he and his brethren had 
for thv resurrection of Christ, and then argues that the 
resurrection of believers necessarily follows from the admis- 
sion that Christ their head is risen. The grave cannot 
always retain what is so intimately connected with the living 
Redeemer. " Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become 
the first-fruits of them that slept." — 1 Cor. xv. 20. See also 
1 Thess. iv. 14; Rom. viii. 11. 

. III. The dead shall be raised with the selfsame bodies, 
although with very difi^erent qualities. The very term resur- 
rection implies that the same bodies shall be raised that fell 


by death ; for if God should form new bodies, and unite them 
to departed souls, it would not be a resurrection, but a new 
creation. Our Saviour declares: " All that are in the graves 
shall come forth;" this certainly implies that the same bodies 
which were committed to the graves shall be raised; for, if 
new bodies were to be produced, and united to their souls, 
they coidd not, with tnith, be said to come out of their graves. 
The Apostle Paul affirms, that the same body shall be raised 
which is sown in corruption, and declares: " This corruptible 
must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on im- 
mortality;" pointing, as it were, to that corniptible and mor- 
tal body which he then carried about. But, though the bodies 
of the saints will be the same in all essentials as to substance, 
they will be vastly changed as to qualities. " Flesh and blood," 
in their present state of grossness and frailty, " cannot inherit 
the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incor- 
niption." The resurrection-body, therefore, shall be wonder- 
fully changed, in respect to qualities, that it may be fitted for 
. the employments and felicities of the heavenly state. " It is 
sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in 
dishonour, it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness, it isr 
raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a 
spiritual body." — 1 Cor. xv. 42-44. With regard to the wicked, 
the Scriptures give us no specific information with lespect to 
the state and qualities of their bodies. All that we learn is, 
that they shall rise "to shame and everlasting contempt;" 
from which it is evident that they shall be raised to dis- 

How solicitous should we be to obtain the resurrection of 
the just ! This was Paul's great desire, and the object of his 
earnest pursuit. — Phil. iii. 11. If we would attain to a blessed 
resurrection, let it be our concern to be " found in Christ.'* 
United to him by the inhabitation of his Spuit and by a living 
faith, we need not be slavishly afraid of death or of the grave ; 
for Christ is " the resurrection and the life, and he that be- 
lieveth in him, though he v/ere dead, yet shall he live ; and 
whosoever liveth and believeth in him shall never die." 




Section I. — God hath appointed a day wherein he 
will judge the w^orld in righteousness by Jesus Christ,^ 
to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father.^ 
In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be 
judged,^ but likewise all persons that have lived upon 
earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give 
an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds, and to 
receive according to what they have done in the body, 
whether good or evil,^ 

Section II — The end of God's appointing this day 
is for the manifestation of the glory of his mercy in the 
eternal salvation of the elect, and of his justice in the 
damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and dis- 
obedient. For then shall the righteous go into ever- 
lasting life, and receive that fulness of joy and refreshing 
which shall come from the presence of the Lord ; but 
the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the gospel 
of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and 
be punished with everlasting destruction from the pre- 
sence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.^ 

I Acts xvii. 31. 2 John v. 22, 27. 1 ^ Matt. xxv. 31-46. Rom. ii. 5, 6; 

3 1 Cor. vi. 3. Jude6. 2 Pet. ii. 4. 1 ix. 22, 23. Matt. xxv. 21. Acts 

*2Cor. V. 10. Eccl. xii. 14. Rom. iii. 19. 2 Thess. i. 7-10. 
ii. 16; xiv. 10, 12. Matt. xii. 36, 37. | 


There is a particular judgment which passes upon every 
individual immediately after death ; for " it is appointed unto 
men once to die, but after this the judgment." — Heb. ix. 27. 
There is also a general judgment, which shall take place after 
the resurrection of the dead, at the last day. The present 
sections — 1. Declare the certainty of a future judgment; 
2. Affirm that the administration of this judgment is com- 
mitted to Jesus Christ ; 3. Point out the parties who shall 
-appear before his tribunal; 4. The matters to be tried; 
and, 5. The sentence to be pronounced. 

I. The certaintj/ of a future judgment. We are told that 


Paul reasoned before Felix of judgment to come. — Acts xxiv. 
25. He proved this truth by arguments drawn from the 
nature and reason of things ; and such arguments are not to 
be overlooked by us, though our faith stands upon a more 
sure foundation. 

1. The certainty of a future judgment appears from the 
dictates of conscience. ^len, even when destitute of super- 
natural revelation, apprehend an essential difference between 
good and evil. AVhen they do what is right, their conscience 
approves and commends their conduct ; and when they do 
what is wTong, their conscience reproaches and condemns 
them. If they have committed some atrocious crime, con- 
science stings them with remorse; and this it does although 
the crime be secret, and concealed from every human eye. 
Whence does this arise, but from an awful foreboding ot 
future retribution? The Apostle Paul, accordingl^T^, shows 
that all mankind have a witness in themselves that there 
shall be a future judgment. — Rom. ii. 15. 

2. Reason infers a futiire judgment from the state of 
things in this Avorld. Here we take for granted these two 
fundamental principles of religion — the being of God, and 
his providence in the government of the world. All who 
acknowledge these tniths must, and do, believe that God is 
infinitely just and righteous, infinitely wise and holy, in- 
finitely good and merciful; and that he cannot be otherwise. 
From this it necessarily results that it must be well with the 
righteous, and ill with the wicked. But the most superficial 
view of the present state of things is sufficient to convince 
us that God does not, in this world, disj^ense prosperity only 
to the good, and adversity only to the evil : " There be just 
men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the 
wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it haj^peneth 
according to the work of the righteous." — Eccl. Adii. 14. 
The promiscuous dispensations of Providence have per- 
plexed the minds of men in every age, and tried the faith of 
the children of God. — Ps. Ixxiii. 4-17; Jer. xii. 1, 2; Hab. i. 
13. But reason rightly exercised would lead us to the con- 
clusion that, upon the supposition of the being and provi- 
dence of God, there must be a day coming when these things 
will be brought under review, and when a wide and visible 
difference shall be made between him that serveth God and 
him that serveth him not. 

3. God has given testimony to this truth in all the ex- 
traordinary judgments which he has executed since the be- 
ginning of the world. Though much wickedness remains im- 
punished and undiscerned in this world, yet God someume:^ 


executes judgment upon daring offenders, to show that he 
judgeth in the earth, and to give warning to men of a judg- 
ment to come. In signal judgments, " the wi-ath of God is 
revealed from heaven against the ungodliness of men;" and 
an intimation is given of what he will further do hereafter. — 
2 Pet. ii. 5, 6, iii. 5, 7. 

4. That thei-e is a judgment to come is confirmed by the 
most explicit testimonies of scripture. Enoch predicted the 
approach of this day of universal decision as a salutary 
admonition to that profligate age in which he lived. — Jude 
14, 15. Solomon addressed this solemn warning to the 
voluptuous : " Know that for all these things God will bring 
thee into judgment," — Eccl. xi. 9. Job put his friends in 
mind that there is a judgment; and the Psalmist frequently 
represents it in very solemn language. — Job xix. 29; Ps. 1. 
3-6, xcviii. 9. Our Lord, during his personal ministry, fre- 
quently foretold his coming to judgment; and the testimonies 
to this truth in the writings of his apostles are numerous. — 
Matt. XXV. 31-46; Rom. xiv. 10, 12; 2 Cor. v. 10. 

5. This truth is confirm.ed by the resurrection of Christ. 
The Apostle Paul, having affirmed that " God will judge the 
world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained," 
adds, " whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that 
he hath raised him from the dead." — Acts x%di. 31. The 
resurrection of Christ is a specimen and pledge of a general 
resurrection — that grand preparative for the judgment. It 
is an incontestable proof of our Lord's divine mission, and is, 
therefore, an authentic attestation of all his claims. In the 
days of his humiliation, when he was accused and condemned 
before the tribunal of men, he plainly warned them of a 
future judgment, and declared that he himself would be the 
judge: " Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the 

, right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." — 
jMatt. xxvi. 64. Now, since God hath raised him from the 
dead, although he was condemned as a blasphemer for this 
very declaration, is not this an undeniable proof from heaven 
of the truth of what he then asserted? 

II. The administration of the future judgment is com- 
mitted to Jesus Christ: " He is ordained of God to be the 
judge of quick and dead." — Acts x. 42. It is, indeed, fre- 
quently said, that " God shall judge the world;" and the 
Psalmist declares, " None else is judge but God." — Ps. 1. 6. 
How are these declarations to be reconciled ? The words of 
Paul enable us to solve the difficulty. He has told us that 
**■ God Avill judge the world in righteousness by that man 
whom he hath ordained." — Acts xvii. 31. It t]ius appears 

SECT. 1, 2.] OP THE LAST JUDGaiENT. 323 

that God the Father judges the world by the Son. The 
supreme judiciary power is in the Godhead, and the exercise 
of that power is committed to Christ, as mediator — John v. 22. 
There is a peculiar fitness and propriety in this constitution: 
— 1. It is fit that this high office should be conferred upon 
Christ, as an honorary reward for his extreme abasement and 
ignominious sufferings. 2. Inasmuch as men are to be judged 
after the resurrection in an embodied state, it is fit they should 
have a visible judge. 3. It is also fit that Christ should 
be the supreme judge, as it must contribute greatly to the 
consolation of the saints that they shall be judged by him 
who is a partaker of their nature, who redeemed them to 
God by his blood, and who is their advocate with the 
Father. 4. It may be added, that hereby the condemnation 
of the Avicked will be rendered more conspicuously just; for 
if a Mediator — a Saviour — the Friend of sinners — condemn 
them, they must be worthy of condemnation indeed. 

III. We are next to consider the parties who shall appear 
before the tribunal of Christ. The Scripture says nothing of 
the judgment of good angels, but it clearly teaches that the 
apostate angels will be judged. — Jude 4; 2 Pet. ii. 4. That 
men universally shall stand before the judgment-seat of Christ 
is expressly declared — 2 Cor. v. 10. We are told that 
Christ " shall judge the quick and the dead at his appear- 
ing." — 2 Tim. iv. 1. This expression, '* the quick and the 
dead," comprehends all mankind. By the dead, are to be 
understood all who died before the period of Christ's coming 
to judgment ; and by the quick, such as shall then be found 

IV. The matter to be tried. This is expressed in the most 
comprehensive terms : " God shall bring every work into 
judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or 
whether it be evil." — Eccl. xii. 14. All the works of the 
sons of men will be tried, and they shall receive according to 
what they have done in the body, whether good or evil. Not 
only the actions of the life, but also the words of men shall be 
judged; for our Saviour has assured us that " for every idle 
word which men shall speak, they shall give an account in 
the day of judgment." — Matt. xii. 36. And not only the 
actions and words, but also the very thoughts of men shall 
be brought into judgment; for we are told "God shall 
judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." — Rom. ii. 16. 

V. The sentence to be pronounced will be answerable to 
the several states in which mankind shall be found. They 
shall receive their doom according to their works. — Rev.xx.13. 
It is to be remarked, that the good works of the righteous 


will be produced in that day, not as the grounds of their ac- 
quittal, and of their being adjudged to eternal life, but as the 
evidences of their gracious state, as being interested in the 
righteousness of Christ. But the evil deeds of the wicked 
will be brought forward, not only as evidences of their being 
strangers to Christ, but also as the grounds of ijieir condem- 
nation. To the glorious company on his right hand the King 
will say : " Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the king- 
dom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." 
How different the sentence that will be passed on the guilty 
crowd on his left hand ! To them he will say: " Depart from 
me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and 
his angels." The sentence shall no sooner be passed than it 
shall be executed. While fallen angels and wicked men shall 
be driven from the presence of the Judge into the i)it of eter- 
nal perdition, the righteous shall be conducted into heavenly 
mansions, and " shall go no more out." " These shall go away 
into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eter- 
nal." The same expression being applied to the hapi^iness of 
the righteous and the punishment of the wicked, we may con- 
clude that both will be of equal duration. 

Section III. — As Christ would have us to be certainly 
persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to 
deter all men from sin, and for the greater consolation 
of the godly in their adversity ; ^ so will he have that 
day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal 
security, and be always watchful, because they know not 
at what hour the Lord will come ; and may be ever pre- 
pared to say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.^ 

« 2 Pet. iii. 11, 14. 2 Cor. v. 10, 11. i » Matt. xxiv. 36, 42-44. Mark xiii 
2 Thess.i. 5-7. Luke xxl. 27, 28. 35-37. Luke xii. 35, 36. 

Rom. viii. 23-25. | Rev. xxii. 20. 


The day of the eternal judgment is fixed in the counsels of 
God; but, that we may be kept habitually watchful, the know- 
ledge of that day is wisely concealed from us. Though a long 
series of ages may elapse before Christ shall come in the 
clouds of heaven to jvidge the world, let every one remember 
that the day of his own death is equally important to him as 
the day of the universal judgment ; for where death leaves 
him, judgment will find him. Let him, therefore, " be dili- 
"gent, that he may be found of God in peace, without spot and 
blameless." Let every reader study to improve the talents 


with which he is intrusted, and be solicitous to obtain the 
approbation of his Master in heaven. How highly will he 
commend all those who have been diligent and faithful in 
his service ! He will bestow upon them that best of plaudits : 
" Well done, good and faithful servant;" and will introduce 
them into " the joy of their Lord." AVell may the genuine 
believer " love the appearing" of Christ; for when Christ shall 
appear, he also shall appear with him in glory. And since 
Christ proclaims in his Word, " Surely I come quickly," let 
every Christian joyfully respond, " Amen. Even so, come 
Lord Jesus." 



Absolute, decrees of God are, 45. 

Adam, covenant of works made with him, 85 ; represented all his 

, natural posterity, 86; effects of his fall upon himself and his pos- 
terity, 75-81. 

Adoption, meaning of the term, 138; difference between spiritual 
and human, ib.; flows from the grace of God, 139; the mediation 
of Christ the meritorious cause of, ib. ; the privileges enjoyed by, 
139, 140. 

Anabaptists, the German, their principles, 241, 277. 

Anthropomorphites, their heresy, 26. 

Antinomians, their doctrinerespecting justification, 135; respecting 
sanctification, 142, 144. 

Antipaedobaptists opposed to infant baptism, 287. 

Antitrinitarians, their doctrine considered, 36. 

Apocryphal books, why i-ejected by Protestants, 9. 

Arians, their heresy, 40, 97. 

Arminians, Doctrine of, respecting the divine decrees, 45, 49 ; re- 
specting election, 50-52; respectmg the atonement of Christ, 55; 
respecting original sin, 77; respecting the federal headship of 
Adam, 86; respecting the extent of Christ's death, 112; respect- 
ing free-will, 115; respecting the office of faith in justification, 
128, 131; respecting the perseverance of the saints, 172; respect- 
ing assurance of salvation, 182. 

Ascension of Christ, 106. 

Assurance, difference between that of faith and that of sense, 
151-153, 190; of grace and salvation attainable in this life, 182; 
upon what it is founded, 184; not the attainment of all believers, 

Atonement of Christ, the extent of, in regard to its objects, 112-114. 

Attributes of God, 27-35. 

Authenticity of the Scriptures, 8. 

Baptism, instituted by Christ, 283, 284; the ends of, 284, 285; water 
the outward element, what it represents, 285 ; to be administered 
in the name of the Trinity, ib. ; who may administer, 286; the 
mode of administering, ib. ; infant baptism vindicated, 287-290; 

I not absolutely necessary to salvation, yet not to be neglected 

328 INDEX. 

291; not regeneration, ib.; its efficacy, ib.; only administered 
once, 292; the naming of the person baptized not essential, ib.; 
how to be improved, ib. 

Canon of Scripture, 8. 

Censures, Church, what, 306 ; their use, ib. 

Christ, the Lord Jesus, is a divine person, 40, 41 ; the mediator be- 
tween God and man, 95 ; appointed to his office from all eternity 
by God the Father, ib. ; a people given to him to be his seed, 96 ; 
pre-existence of, 97 ; the eternal Son of God, 98 ; took upon him 
man's nature, 99 ; was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, 
in the womb of the Virgin Mary, 100; the Godhead and manhood 
inseparably united in his person, ib. ; fully qualified for his work, 
101; the surety of his people, 102; made under the law, 104; 
suffered both in soul and body, ib. ; was crucified, and died, 105; 
was bm-ied, ib.; rose from the dead, 106; ascended into heaven, 
ib.; sitteth at the right hand of God, 107; maketh intercession 
for his people, ib.; will return to judge the world, 108, 322; the 
alone head of the Church, 267. 

Christian liberty. See Liberty. 

Christian perfection, not attainable in this life, 81. 

Church, meaning of the term, 259 ; the object of God's special pro- 
vidence, 72; the epithets visible, invisible, and catholic, explained, 
259-262; the invisible, 262; the visible, 263; children of profess- 
ing Christians 'members of, 264 ; no ordinary possibility of salva- 
tion out of the visible, 265 ; sometimes more, sometimes less visible, 
266 ; the purest subject to mixture and error, ib, ; its perpetuity, 
267; Christ her sole head, 267-271. 

Church censures. See Censures. 

Church, Government of the, a particular form appointed by Christ, 
302; different forms stated, 303; is lodged in the hand of Church 
officers, distinct from the civil magistrate, ib. 

Communion of saints with Jesus Christ, 273; does not involve an 
equality with Christ, 278; of saints with one another, 274; of 
saints by profession, 274-277 ; does not infringe upon the rights of 
private property, 278. 

Confession of Faith, vindicated from the charge of intolerance, 

Confession of sin to be made in private to God, 160; when to be 
made to man, 161 ; Popish doctrine of, ib. 

Conscience. See Liberty of Conscience. 

Consubstantiation, Lutheran doctrine of, 300. 

Corruption of nature, what, 75, 76 ; conveyed to all the posterity of 
Adam, 77-79 ; remains during this life in the regenerate, 81 ; all its 
motions, even in the regenerated, are truly sin, 82. 

Councils, or Synods, ought to be, 307; how convened, 308; what 
power they have, 310; not infallible, 311; their determinations 
are to be tried by the Scriptures, 22; how far they may inter- 
meddle with civil affairs, 311. 

Covenant of works, made with Adam in his state of innocence, 85; 

in it Adam represented all his natural posterity, 86. 
^Covenant of grace, one and the same with the covenant of redemp- 
tion, 88, 89 ; made with Christ as the representative of his spiritual 
seed, 89; origmated in the free grace of God, 90; established 
from eternity, ib. ; in it God requires of sinners faith in Christ, 

INDEX. 829 

91; designated a testament, 92; the same under various dispen- 
sations, but differently administered, 93, 94. 
Death of Christ, 105; extent of, with respect to its objects, 112-114; 

efl&cacy of, extends to all ages. 111. 
Death, temporal, the penalty of sin, 83; universality of, 312; diffe- 
rence between that of the righteous and that of the -wicked, 313; 
reasons why the saints are subjected to it, 313, 314; the effects of 
it on the body, 314; the soul survives it, ib.; the souls of the 
righteous immediately after it are admitted into heaven, 315; the 
souls of the wicked are at death cast into hell, 317. 
Decrees of God, 43; extent and properties of, 44-46; consistent with 

human liberty, 46, 47. 
Divinity of Christ, 40; of the Holy Ghost, 41. 
Divorce, grounds of, 257. 

Effectual Calling, 119; the subjects of, 120; effected by the Word 

and Spirit, ib. ; flows from the free grace of God, 122; is under 

the direction of his sovereign will as to the time and manner, 120. 

Elect chosen in Christ, 52; Christ died and purchased redemption 

for them alone, 55; who die in infancy, how saved, 122. 
Election, 48 ; opinions of Arminians and Socinians concerning, 49 ; 
respects a definite number, 50; from eternity, ib.; from the 
sovereign will of God, 51; is immutable, 52; not only to glory, but 
also to the means thereof, 53; knowledge of, how to be attained, 59. 
Erastians, their principles, 245, 268, 303, 305. 
Eternity of God, 29. 

Faith the alone instrument of justification, 130-133; saving, differs 
from every other kind, 146; is the work of the Holy Spirit, 147; 
ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, ib. ; object of, 
148; principal actsof, 149; assurance of, 151-153; good works are 
fruits and evidences of, 164. 
Faithfulness of God, 35. 
Fall of man, 73-75; consequences of, 75-80. 
Family worship, a duty, 226. 
Fasting, solemn, a part of religious worship, 225. 
Free-will, wherein it consists, 115; man's inability, in his fallen 

state, to will or do that which is spiritually good, 117, 118. 
God, his existence, and a number of his perfections may be discover- 
ed by the light of nature, 1-4; the rniity of, 24; the only living 
and true God, 25, 26 ; a most pure spirit, 26 ; perfections of, 27 ; 
infinite, ib. ; self-existent and independent, 28 ; the fountain of all 
being, ib.; eternal, 29; immutable, ib. ; all- knowing, 30; most 
free and most absolute, ib. ; infinitely wise, 31 ; infinitely power- 
ful, ib. ; infinitely holy, 32; infinitely just, 33; infinitely good, 34; 
mfinitely true and faithTul, 35. 
Godhead, the three persons in, 38. 

Goodwoi'ks, what, 162, 163; their important uses, 164, 165; ability to 
perform them is whoUy from the Spirit of Christ, 166; not meri- 
torious of pardon of sin or eternal life, 168; accepted of God 
through Christ, 169. 
Gospel call indefinite and universal, 119. 
Head of the Church, Christ is the only, 267-271. 
Holiness of God, 32. 

Holy Spirit, the inward illumination of the, necessary to the saving 
understanding of the things of God, 18; speaking in the Scripture, 

330 INDEX. 

is the supreme judge by which controversies in religion are to be 
determined, 22; his divinity proved, 41,42; his operations in effec- 
tual calling invincible, 121. 

Imputation of the guilt of Adam's first sin to all his posterity, 79-81 ; 
of the guilt of his people to Christ, 103. 

Independents, their opinion concerning a visible Church, 263; con- 
cerning the authority of synods, 310. 

Intercession of Christ, 107. 

Judgment, the last, the certainty of, 320-322; the Judge, 322; the 
parties, 323; the matter to be tried, ib. ; the sentences pronounced, 
324 ; the time fixed in the counsels of Grod, but wisely concealed 
from us, ib. 

Justice of God, 33; fully satisfied by the obedience and sacrifice of 
Christ, 109, 133. 

Justification, importance of the doctrine of, 125; meaning of the 
term, ib. ; what it includes, 126; not by our own works, ib. ; solely 
on the ground of the righteousness of Christ, 129; office of faith 
in, 130-133; by grace, 134; an irrevocable act, 135; the same under 
the Old Testament as under the New, 136; difference between it 
and sanctification, 142. 

Keys of the kingdom of heaven, what, 305 ; committed to Church 
ofl&cers, ib. ; the civil magistrate may not assume the power of, 

Knowledge of God, 31. 

Law, the ceremonial, what, 196; abrogated tmder the New Testa- 
ment, ib. 

Law, the judicial, what, 197; how far it is abolished, ib. 

Law, the moral, what, 192, 197; Adam was placed under it, 192; 
promulgated from Mount Sinai, 194, 195; believers delivered from 
it in its covenant form, but still under its obligation as a rule of 
life, 197-199; use of it to the unregenerate, 199; use of it to the 
regenerate, ib. 

Liberty, Christian, wherein it consists, 200-203 ; wherein it is enlarged 
under the New Testament, 204; not absolute and uncontrollable, 

Liberty of conscience, wherein it consists, and what opposed to it, 

Light of nature, discovers the being and a number of the perfec- 
tions of God, 1-4 ; the knowledge of God attainable by it serves 
various useful purposes, 4; insufl&cient to give fallen man that 
knowledge of God and of his will which is necessary to salvation, ib. 

Lord's supper, by Avhom, and at what time, instituted, 293 ; a stand- 
ing ordinance, 294 ; its ends and uses, 294, 295 ; how to be admi- 
nistered, 299; who may partake, 301. 

Magistrate, the civil, the obedience due to him is limited, 207; 
Christians may lawfully accept of the ofiice, 243; may wage war 
upon just and necessary occasions, 244; his power in regard to 
Church affairs stated, 245-251 ; the duty of sul>jects towards, 251 ; 
Infidelity or difference in religion does not make void his just and 
lawful authority, 252; ecclesiastical persons not exempted from 
-due obedience to him, ib. ; the Pope has no jurisdiction over him 
or his subjects, 253. 

Magistracy is the ordinance of God, 242; for what end appointed, 

INDEX. 331 

Man, his original state, 63; his fall, 73-75; his inability to will or do 
that which is spiritually good, 117. 

Marriage, the end of it, 254 ; lawful to all s jrts of persons capable 
of giving their consent, 255 ; and not mihin the degrees of con- 
sanguinity or afiinity forbidden in the Scriptures, 257; can only 
be dissolved for adultery, or wilful and obstinate desertion, 257, 

Oath, an, the nature of, 236; may be warrantably taken, 237; to 
be taken only in the name of God, ib. ; when lawful, binds to 
performance, 238. 

Pelagians, then- opinion respecting original sin, 77; respecting the 
federal headship of Adam, 86; respecting man's ability in his 
fallen state, 117. 

Perseverance of the saints, different opinions respecting, 172; ex- 
plained, 173-177; argimients by which it is supported, 177-180; not 
unfavom-able to holiness, 180. 

Polygamy unlawful, 254. 

Popery, See Rome, Church of. 

Power of God, how displayed, 31. 

Prayer, the duty of all men, 218, 219 ; the rule of, 220; to be made in 
the name of Christ, ib. ; by the help of the Spirit, ib. ; to be 

, offered up in a right manner, ib.; in a known tongue, 221; for 
whom it is to be made, ib. 

Preaching of the Word, a divine ordinance, 223. 

Pre-existence of Jesus Christ, 97. 

Predestination, 48 ; a high mystery, and how to be handled, 58, 59. 

Providence, proof of a, 65; what it includes, 66; extent of, ib. ; 
either ordmary or miraculous, 69 ; how concerned about sinful 
actions, 70; in a special manner exercised about the Church, 72. 

Public worshij), a duty, 227. 

Quakers, their opinion as to swearing an oath, 237; as to war, 242; 
as to baptism, 284. 

Reading of the Scriptures, a part of religious worship, 223. 

Reconciliation to God, the effect of Christ's mediation, 110. 

Redemption, for whom purchased, 55 ; to whom applied, 56. 

Repentance, Nature of evangelical, 154-157; not the cause of the 
pardon of sin, 158; inseparably connected with pardon, ib. 

Reprobation, 57, 58. 

Resm-rection of Christ, 106. 

Resurrection of the dead, its universality, 317; that of the saints is 
established by the resurrection of Christ, ib., identity of our 
bodies, ib. 

Revelation of the will of God granted to the Church, 5 ; committed 
to writing, 6 ; no new revelation of the Spirit to be added to the 
Word of God, 16. 

Righteousness of Christ imputed to believers for their justification, 

Rome, Church of, reckons the Apocryphal books of equal authority the Scriptures, 7; maintains that the authority of the Scrip- 
tures is derived from the Church, 13; adds the traditions of men 
to the Word of God, 17; forbids the translation of the Scriptures 
into the vulgar languages, 21 ; maintains the infallibility of the 
Church, 22, 266; that Christ is mediator only as man. 111; con- 
founds justification with sanctification, 125; rejects the doctrine 

232 INDEX 

of the imputation of Christ's righteousness, 129; represents 
saving faith as nothing more than a bare naked assent to the 
truth, 149; distinguishes between mortal and venial sins, 159; 
teaches the necessity of auricular confession of sias to a priest, 
161; holds that a good intention renders actions good, 163; that 
saints may perform works of supererogation, 167; that their good 
works are meritorious, 168; denies the perseverance of the saints, 
172; the possibility of attaining more than a conjectural persua- 
sion of salvation, in this life, 182; teaches that the Pope may 
enact laws which bind the conscience, 205 _; worships angels and 
saints, 215; joins them with Christ as mediators of intercession, 
217; offers prayers and masses for departed souls, 222; holds the 
detestable principle, that " faith is not to be kept wdth heretics," 
238 ; exempts ecclesiastical persons from the jurisdiction of the 
civil magistrate, 252; foroids the marriage of the clergy, 255; 
maintains that the Catholic Church is absolutely visible, 262; 
afl&rms that the Roman Catholic iS the only Church, 265; 
that the Pope of Rome is the head of the universal Church, 268 ; 
that the intention of the administrator is essential to a sacrament, 
and that, when rightly administered, the sacraments are of them- 
selves effectual to confer grace, 281; has added five spurious 
sacraments, 282; permits baptism to be dispensed by laymen and 
women, 286 ; holds transubstantiation, 297 ; the sacrifice of the 
mass, 298; and purgatory, 315. 
Sabbath, the, its morality, 229-231 ; change from the seventh to the 

first day of the week, 231, 232; how to be sanctified, 233. 
Sacraments, meaning of the term, 279 ; the institution, nature, and 
ends of them, 280; their parts, ib. ; how rendered effectual, 281, 282; 
only two of divine institution, 282; those of the Old Testament 
substantially the same with those of the New, 283. 
Saints, perseverance of the. See Perseverance. 
Sanctification, meaning of the term, 142; difference between it and 
justification, ib; both a privilege and a duty, 143; considered as 
initial and progressive, ib. ; extends to the whole man, ib. ; im- 
perfect in this life, 144; indispensably necessary, 145; perfected 
at death, 316. 
Scriptures, the Holy, why necessary, 6; the true canon of, 7; their 
authenticity and genuineness, how ascertained, 8, 9; inspiration 
of, 10; evidences of their inspiration, 13, 14; their perfection, 15, 
16; their perspicuity, 18; originally written in Hebrew and 
Greek, 20 ; have come do-\vn to us uncorrupted, ib. ; should be 
translated into the vulgar languages, 21 ; the infallible rule of in- 
terpretation of, is the Scripture itself, ib. ; are the supreme stan- 
dard of religious truth, 22. 
Secret prayer a duty, 227. 
Sin, of original, 77; wherein it consists, 77-81; the desert of, 82,83; 

the least, deserves damnation, 159. 
Singing of psalms, a part of religious worship, 224. 
Socinians, the opinion of, respecting the supreme standard of re- 
ligious truth, 22; respecting Jesus Christ, 40, 97; respecting the 
~ Holy Spirit, 41; respecting the divine decrees, 45; respecting 
election, 49, 50; respecting original sin, 77; respectmg temporal 
death, 83; respecting the federal headship of Adam, 86; respect- 
ing justification, 126; respecting the atonement of Christ, 133, 
158; respecting the sacraments, 280. 

INDEX. 333 

SonsWp of Christ, remarks concerning the, 88. 

Supererogation, Roman Catholic doctrine regarding works of, 167. 

Supper, the Lord's. See Lord's Supper. 

Surety, what, 102; of his spmtual seed Christ is the, 102, 103. 

Thanksgiring, solemn, a part of religious worship, 225. 

Traditions of men, not to be added to the Word of God, 17. 

Transubstantiation, doctrine of, explained, 297 ; refuted, ib. 

Trinity, meaning of the term, 36 ; the doctrine confirmed, 38 ; per- 
sonal properties of the sacred Three, 39; each of the sacred Three 
is truly God, 40. 

Unchangeableness of God, 29. 

Union of samts to Jesus Christ, 272; of saints to one another, 273; 
of saints by profession, 274. 

Vow, a, what, 239; when lawful, ib.: has an intrinsic obliaration, 

Wisdom of God, 31. 

Witnessing of the Spirit, 186-189. 

Word of God, why the Holy Scripture is so called, 10. See Scrip- 

Works, our own, not the ground of our justification before God, 
127; those of unregenerate men cannot please God, 170. See 
. Good Works. 

World, had a beginning, 60 ; created by God, 61 ; in six days, ib. j 
very good, 62; for his own gloiy, ib. 

Worship, religious, wherein it consists, 213; viewed as external and 
internal, ib.; must be regulated by divine institution, ib.; of 
images unlawful, ib.; God the alone object of, 214; not angels, 
nor departed samts, 215; nor relics, 216; only acceptable through 
the mediation of Christ, 217; the several parts of, 218-225; time 
appointed for, 228; not confined to^ny place, 225. 

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