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Macpherson, John, 1847-1902. 
The Westminster confession 
of faith 

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Mills lutrotructioii anU Notes 

















VII. OF god's covenant WITH MAN, 





f XXV. OF THE CHURCH, . . .... 



ixXVIII. OF BAPTISM, ....... 

I XXIX. OF THE lord's SUPPER, . . . 




) TION OF THE DEAD, ..... 


INDEX, ....... 



















r N sending forth a new edition of this Handbook, I have little to 
say by way of preface. The announcement from the Publishers 
that the first issue was nearly exhausted came upon me unexpectedly, 
and I have not been able to give anything like a thorough revision 
to the book Many friends have favoured me during the past year 
with communications regarding my work, from which, had more time 
been allowed, I might have profited more largely. I cannot forbear 
expressing my special indebtedness to Principal Douglas, — my only 
surviving divinity Professor, — who kindly called attention to certain 
imperfections in my notes, some of which I have endeavoured to 
correct in this new edition. The sale of a large issue within twelve 
months is to me peculiarly encouraging, as it shows that this Hand- 
book has been the means of awakening considerable interest in the 
Westminster Confession, and giving a new impetus to its systematic 


FiNUHOKN, FoRRHS, t8M March 1882. 





1. Confessions of Faith — Subordinate Standards. — The Confession of 
Faith adopted by any church may be in certain respects compared 
to a set of rules accepted by an ordinary association as a term of 
membership. If these rules have been carefully and wisely drawn 
up, they will make prominent those principles which are specially 
to characterize the society ; and reluctance on the part of any one 
to observe the fundamental articles of association would imply un- 
willingness to join or to remain in its membership. Society rules, 
however, may be purely arbitrary. Even if some reason may have 
determined their original adoption, this reason may be unknown to 
persons accepting them. It may not be a term of membership that 
each one who adopts the rules of the association must have acquainted 
himself with the grounds on which they rest, or the circumstances 
under which they were originally framed. To the members of such 
associations, the set of rules which they have adopted is their 
supreme standard of reference, and they have nothing to do with 
the source from which he who originally drafted them may have 
drawn. A Confession of Faith, however, is accepted by members 
of churches acknowledging it, simply as a subordinate standard. 
This designation in no way modifies its authority or relaxes the 
obligation of those who join the communion of the church by 
which it is received. The subordination intended is that of deriva- 
tion. The members of the church receive the Confession as a 
statement of the truth contained in Scripture, and not as a docu- 
ment in itself authoritative apart from its scriptural ground. In 
entering into the communion of a church holding by any particular 
Confession, we not only agree to maintain the doctrinal positions 
therein contained, as the members of an association promise to 
observe the adopted rules,, but we further make the affirmation that 
we hold the statement of doctrine in that Confession to be in 


accordance with the truth of Holy Scripture. To appeal from the 
Confession to Scripture on doctrinal points in the way of repudiating 
the confessional statement in favour of the scriptural, involves the 
abandonment of that communion of which the Confession is the 
bond. If any particular doctrine has been carefully formulated in 
the Confession, our adoption of that Confession is an expression 
of our belief that the doctrine thus formulated is the very truth 
revealed in Scripture. We must not therefore suppose that by calling 
our Confession of Faith a subordinate standard, we give ourselves 
liberty to set its exposition of doctrine aside in favour of any other 
interpretation of Scripture passages bearing on that doctrine. If 
we feel compelled to do so, we repudiate the Confession as a 
standard altogether. While careful to avoid the Romish notion of 
the indefiniteness of Scripture, which led to the introduction of an 
infallible interpreter, we must guard against the abandonment of 
those definite views of Scripture truth to which the church has 
attained by painful discussion and sustained investigation. The 
demand for a return to Scripture is virtually a plea for individualism, 
and is inconsistent with Church organization. This has been a 
favourite resort of those who wished to introduce novelties of belief 
without sacrifice of position. The Remonstrants at the Synod of 
Dort, in the endeavour to render plausible their Arminian doctrine, 
were wont to disparage the authority of Covenants and Confessions 
under pretence of accepting Scripture only as their rule. To a 
similar pretext of the Erastian Coleman, we find George Gillespie 
making a very pointed rejoinder in his controversial tract Maic 
Audis. ' It is in vain for them,' says he, ' to palliate or shelter their 
covenant-breaking with appealing from the Covenant to the Scrip- 
ture, for S2ibordinata iioji ptigiiant. The Covenant is norma recta, — 
a right rule, though the Scripture alone be norma recti, — the rule of 
right. If they hold the Covenant to be unlawful, or to have anything 
in it contrary to the Word of God, let them speak out.' We do ac- 
knowledge only one authoritative rule of faith — the Holy Scriptures. 
No church Confession is ever set forth as co-ordinate with Scripture 
in authority. The Confession simply expresses our view of the 
teaching of Scripture on important doctrines, and the acceptance of 
this basis of a common faith becomes a convenient bond of union, 
a fitting term of communion for those thus doctrinally agreed. In 
an Act of Parliament there is commonly a clause inserted for the 
purpose of interpreting the terms employed throughout. In the 
administration of that law, the meaning authoritatively given to terms 
occurring therein must be accepted. It will not avail to say that 
these terms may possibly convey certain other impressions. Now 
the Confession is an interpretative clause, which the particular 
church accepting it appends to the Scripture. We find in Scripture, 
for example, such terms as these, — counsel of God, sin, the wages of 
sin, justification, faith, etc. Various interpretations have been given 
of those terms, and they have been employed in the setting forth of 


doctrinal views diametrically opposed to one another. All claim 
the Bible as favouring their particular doctrinal opinions. The 
Confession authoritatively interprets such terms for our church, and 
definitely states what form of doctrine, in the use of these terms, may 
be maintained in the church. 

2. What the Adoption of a Confession implies. — It is important to 
determine as nearly as possible what the acceptance of a Confession of 
Faith ought to be regarded as implying. All the great and influential 
church creeds have been produced in peculiar crises of the church's 
history, and each necessarily reflects to some extent the local 
colouring and the accidental circumstances of its origin. Without 
in the least impairing the integrity of the document, we may dis- 
tinguish between that in it which is merely local and occasional, and 
that which is essential and characteristic. This is the distinction 
commonly made between the substance and the details of doctrinal 
formularies. The American formula of subscription explicitly limits 
the adoption of the authorized standards to an acceptance of the 
system of doctrine. It must be admitted that such a phrase is 
capable of being used in a very vague and uncertain way. It is also 
very evident that any such general distinction as that between the 
spirit and the letter, the substance and the particular details, is 
liable to great abuse, and has been often sadly misapplied. Yet that 
a difference must be made between divergencies from certain acci- 
dental modes of expression and view, and divergencies from points 
of doctrine fundamental to the general course of doctrine represented 
in the symbol, must be clear to every candid mind. This distinction 
between type and formula has been well expressed by Martensen ; 
and what he says of Lutheran standards may, of course, be with 
equal truth applied to our own Calvinistic standards : ' By the type 
of Lutheranism we mean its ground form, its inextinguishable, 
fundamental, and distinctive features. As we recognise in a man or 
in a people an inward peculiarity, an impress, which belongs to them 
from eternity, never appearing in perfect clearness in time, and yet 
recognisable even amidst temporal imperfections ; so w^e can detect 
in the Christian Confessions a church individuality, a fundamental 
abiding form, which, amidst change and growth, is constantly repro- 
ducing itself; whereas the theological/^;';;////^ in which this form 
is expressed are more or less characterised by relativity and transi- 
toriness' (C//r. Dogmatics^ p. 55). When this distinction is honestly 
made, room will be found under the same Confession for independent 
thinkers, w'ho, while holding by the same general type of doctrine, 
have their own way of explaining the several points of the common 
faith. On a careful examination of the Westminster Confession, it 
is found that certain doctrines are therein maintained, no one of 
which may be denied without involving the overthrow, or at least a 
breach in the integrity, of the general system which they together 
constitute. Dr. Hodge has enumerated eighteen distinctive doc- 


trinal statements from the Confession, in regard to each one of which 
the Confession maintains a specific form of doctrine which every one 
accepting the formulary is bound loyally to support.^ 

In the previous section we noticed how latitudinarians in doctrine, 
disliking the exactness of confessional utterances, make an illegiti- 
mate appeal from the Confession to Scripture, thinking to find ap- 
parent support for their views in a partial presentation of scriptural 
expressions. To maintain the view, however, just indicated in re- 
gard to the interpretation of a subscribed creed is, when rightly 
understood, not only not latitudinarian, but genuinely conservative. 
It is the conservation of the essential principles embalmed in the 
Confession. This implies the genuine spiritual appreciation of those 
principles, the hearty adoption of those doctrines as our own deepest 
spiritual convictions. Dr. Cunningham has clearly expressed this 
position of true liberalism, which distinguishes the fundamental from 
the occasional, that which belongs to the explanation or presentation 
of a doctrine from the doctrine itself. Towards the close of his 
essay on Calvin and Beza, in which he had been showing at length 
the theological developments of the latter divine, Dr. Cunningham 
maintains that, while he considers those additional determinations of 
Beza to be strictly in accordance with Scripture truth, and fair 
logical deductions from the principles laid down by Calvin, it would 
nevertheless be inexpedient that those precise and definite expressions 
should find a place in symbolical books, or be made a term of com- 
munion. The individual Christian is required to make diligent 
search in order to acquire all truth attainable in regard to details as 
well as to general principles ; but the Church must only formulate 
those statements of truth to which the many individuals belonging 
to her community may yield assent, and in regard to which unity 
of belief may be expected and claimed. One who goes with Calvin 
might refuse to go with Beza. No formulary should occasion 
divisions of such a kind. ' Calvin probably would have made a 
difficulty about adopting precise and definite deliverances on some 
points, concerning the truth of which the great Calvinistic divines 
of the seventeenth century had no hesitation. But it will probably 
be admitted that he was qualified for the ofifice of a minister in a 
Calvinistic church, even in this advanced nineteenth century.' {Re- 
formers and Theology of the Reformation^ p. 412.) 

3. A Confession should be, not vague, but definite. — It has been 
necessary to show that theological refinements and explanatory 
theories should have no place in a church formulary, and that, so 
far as these do appear in such a document, a certain freedom may 
be exercised regarding them, which may not be extended to state- 
ments affecting the very substance and characteristic type of the 

1 ' What is meant by adopting the Westminster Confession ? '—an article by 
Dr. Hodge in Priucctoti Review for 1867, reprinted as an Appendix to Dr. A. A. 
Hodge's Comme7itary on the Confession of Faith. 


Confession. We must, however, guard against the notion that the 
interests of freedom are to be advanced by rendering the formulary 
short and vague in expression. It is quite a fallacy to suppose that 
greater liberty is enjoyed under a brief statement of beliefs than 
under a detailed enumeration of doctrines. When care is taken in 
admitting doctrinal statements only on leading and fundamental 
points, definiteness and fulness in a symbolical book will prove a 
high recommendation. What hampers is not the definiteness with 
which characteristic and essential doctrines are stated, but the 
unwise selection of materials to which this definite expression is 
given. Thus, for example, in regard to the Westminster Confession, 
containing, according to Dr. Hodge, express and definite statements 
in reference to eighteen characteristic doctrines of Calvinism, as 
the symbol of a Calvinistic Church, it is desirable that the position 
to be maintained on each of these points be clearly laid down. If 
vaguely expressed, one, interpreting some of these positions in a 
special way, might find himself in a communion, the members of 
which, interpreting those truths otherwise, were out of sympathy 
with him, and he might find his expressions of belief subjected to 
an interpretation of which he had not himself conceived. Now it is 
just to avoid such uncertainties that church Confessions are framed. 
The supreme standard of the Scripture is appealed to by all Chris- 
tians, but by our own particular church creed it is authoritatively 
declared in what sense the doctrinal statements of Scripture are 
understood. If the expression given to such interpretation l3e vague, 
its right of existence cannot be vindicated. Granted, then, that into 
our Confession no doctrinal positions are put to which Confessional 
authority should not be given, it is impossible to state those positions 
with too great definiteness and precision. 

The prime difficulty in compiling a Confession, and in vindicat- 
ing one already compiled, lies in answering the question, What 
precisely are the doctrines that ought to be formulated ? By some 
it has been thought that the number of these should be reduced 
to a minimum. Repeatedly the so-called Apostles' Creed has been 
proposed as most fit for a general church symbol. During the 
second quarter of the present century there was a remarkable move- 
ment conducted within the Danish Church, by Grundtvig, a vigorous 
and popular theologian, who insisted upon the adoption of this 
ancient and simple doctrinal formulary. He did so on very peculiar 
grounds. As the church owes its origin to Christ, and its con- 
tinuance to His promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail 
against it, even so, he argues, must it have for all times one faith 
and one baptism, as well as one Lord. The authoritative expression 
of this one faith exists in the baptismal formula as slightly expanded 
in the Apostles' Creed. This Creed, on the basis of the baptismal 
formula, he supposes to have been dictated word for word by the 
risen Saviour to the apostles during the forty days. Grundtvig 
maintains that church power can be continued only while this bond 


between the living Saviour and the church endures ;— a peculiar fancy 
somewhat parallel to that of Apostolical Succession. This is utterly 
unhistorical, and evidently the simple formulary in question cannot 
be received as a divinely prepared and sanctioned creed. It must 
be judged of according to its doctrinal sufficiency and comprehen- 
siveness. On examination, however, we find in it no doctrine of 
Holy Scripture, of divine decrees, or of divine Providence ; no state- 
ment of the doctrines of grace. It is simply a 7'esume of leading his- 
torical truths. The incarnation and suffering of Christ are related, 
but there is no reference whatever to the purpose for which He lived 
and died. The existence of the church is acknowledged, but there 
is no doctrine of the sacraments. Belief in the forgiveness of sins is 
expressed, but it is not said that this is in any way connected with 
the redemption wrought by Christ. The resurrection and everlast- 
ing life are confessed, but how the resurrection of the just is to be 
attained unto, we are not told. These characteristic doctrines of 
Christian faith were not among the special attainments of the post- 
apostolical age. Upon the whole, the Westminster divines assigned 
to this document its right place. At the end of the Shorter Cate- 
chism they printed the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and 
the Creed. They appended the following explanatory note : — ' Albeit 
the substance of that abridgment, commonly called the Apostles' 
Creed, be fully set forth in each of the Catechisms, so as there is no 
necessity of inserting the Creed itself ; yet it is here annexed, not as 
though it were composed by the Apostles, or ought to be esteemed 
canonical Scripture, as the Ten Commandments and the Lord's 
Prayer, but because it is a brief sum of the Christian faith, agreeable 
to the Word of God, and anciently received in the churches ol 
Christ.' This is all that can be said of it. Certainly there is no 
heresy in it ; but of the heresies that have actually appeared through- 
out the history of the church, there are few which those adopting 
the Apostles' Creed as their symbol might not maintain. As a term 
of communion, acceptance of so general a formulary has no meaning. 
It would be just as well to say, ' I believe the doctrines of Scripture, 
interpreting these in my own fashion,' as to say, ' I subscribe to such 
a general statement of doctrine as is given in the Apostles' Creed.' 

A question now arises as to the advantage or disadvantage afforded 
by such a summary presentation of doctrine as respects the liberty 
of the individual church member. Professor Macgregor has clearly 
shown, in an able and useful article on ' Revision of the Westminster 
Confession,' that a short creed may prove to the individual an instru- 
ment of great tyranny (see British and Foreii:^n Evaiig. Review for 
1877, pp. 692-713). If such a short Confession as the Apostles' 
Creed, of which we have spoken, be adopted, whenever any mem- 
ber proclaims heretical views regarding those vital doctrines not 
formulated, he must be tried and convicted by means of laws laid 
down there and then. Entering a communion in which such a 
general formulary is received, one comes under, not only the Confes- 


sion, but the unwritten understanding of the church in regard to all 
other doctrinal questions which have never been formally set before 
him. When one is asked to sign a document, a petition, a cautionary 
obligation, or the like, he requires that the statements in it be clear 
and express. He knows then what his obligation amounts to. Even 
so in regard to a church symbol. That which is expressly set down 
in it as an essential and necessary part of it, — to that should every 
one accepting it feel himself bound. As for matters unexpressed 
therein, he must not be held to these, notwithstanding the notion of 
some in the church that they are the proper and becoming comple- 
ment of the doctrines expressed. Doctrines unexpressed may have 
more or less consideration shown them according as they receive the 
general consensus of belief in the church. When any such doctrine 
has actually gained universal acceptance in a church, it may be 
added to the church creed as a new theological attainment. Until 
thus formulated, however, it cannot be used as a legislative or 
disciplinary instrument. When, therefore, a church presents to one 
entering her communion a detailed exposition of her accepted 
doctrines, he may understand that so long as his convictions accord 
with those formulated beliefs, his freedom on other doctrinal points 
will not be interfered with ; whereas in the case of a church with a 
vague and too summary creed, a member never knows what point 
in his belief may one day be ruled unsound. 



1. The Confession of Knox. — The earliest Confession of Faith 
adopted by the Scottish Reformed Church was that commonly called 
Knox's Confession. The five ministers who were appointed to draw 
up the Books of Discipline were apparently engaged upon the Con- 
fession, but it undoubtedly bears the special impress of the genius 
and individuahty of Knox. It was presented to Parliament assembled 
at Edinburgh, on the 17th July 1560, read aloud article by article 
twice over, and adopted by the Three Estates of the realm as the 
authoritative doctrinal formulary of the Reformed Church of Scot- 
land. It consists of twenty-five chapters. The arrangement of topics 
seems to have been mainly determined by an endeavour after simplicity 
of statement ; yet there is also observable a certain system of historical 
sequence. It may be divided into two general portions. The first 
division embraces eleven chapters, and in the arrangement of these 
a purely historical development is observed : — (i) Of God ; (2) Of the 
Creation of Man ; (3) Of Original Sin (which treats of Adam's fall, 
hereditary guilt, and regeneration by the Spirit of Christ) ; (4) The 
Revelation of the Promises ; (5) The Continuance of the Church ; 
(6) Incarnation of Jesus Christ ; (7) The Mediator, — very God and 


very man ; (8) Election (our election in Christ, His brotherhood with 
man, what the manhood and the Godhead in the Saviour, severally 
and combined, effect) ; (9) Christ's Death, Passion, and Burial ; 
(10) Resurrection; (11) Ascension. The second division embraces 
fourteen chapters, and may be described as in its arrangement mainly 
doctrinal rather than historical. Here the opposition to Romanism 
is specially apparent : — (12) Faith in the Holy Ghost 5(13) The Cause 
of Good Works; (14) What Works are reputed good before God; 
(15) The Perfection of the Law and Imperfection of Man; (16) Of 
the Church; (17) On the Immortality of the Soul (evidently suggested 
by what was said of the Church triumphant); (18) Notes of the 
True Church (owing to the circumstances of the nation and age, 
this subject is treated with great care and unusual minuteness) ; 
(19) Authority of Scripture; (20) General Councils; (21-23) Of the 
Sacraments (their administration, and admission to partake of them) ; 
(24) Of the Civil Magistrate; (25) Of Gifts freely given to the Church. 

From the titles of the chapters it will be seen that there is less 
appearance of any attempt to secure an outward or formal unity in 
the formulary as a whole than is evident in the preparation of sub- 
sequent Confessions. This circumstance has been insisted upon of 
late in a most superficial manner. Some of those who are never 
weary of reiterating the popular objections to the exactness of doc- 
trinal definition which characterizes the Westminster Confession, are 
pleased to refer approvingly to this old Scottish Confession in a way 
which suggests their acquaintance with its chapter headings rather 
than with its contents. Considering the auditory which Knox had 
to address, consisting indeed of the highest nobles of the land, but 
most of them rude and untutored, though proud and dignified 
enough, and considering that the whole document had to be received 
after a hearing merely, and not after careful and minute study, we 
may easily understand how indispensable it was, not only that the 
leading doctrines should be very simply stated, but also that, as far 
as possible, each article might be viewed by itself as a separate pro- 
position. If this need for the detachment of the articles be taken 
into account, it may satisfactorily explain why special chapters are 
not assigned to such theological commonplaces as are found in 
almost all other Protestant symbols. Thus, for example, we have no 
separate chapter on Justification, — articuliis stantis vel cadentis 
ccdesicz, — and indeed we observe a characteristic avoidance of all 
abstract theological terms. Had Justification been treated of in a 
special section, it must have been closely articulated with doctrinal 
statements going before, and so expressed as to be subsumed in the 
treatment of doctrines following. The peculiar character, therefore, 
of the age in which this Confession was prepared, and specially the 
circumstances in which it was to be presented, rendered the method 
adopted in its composition a necessity. 

Yet if we pass from the mere chapter headings and the arrange- 
ment of sections to the contents of this old Scottish Confession, we 


shall find that we have here the same type of doctrine fundamen- 
tally as that set forth in later and more detailed Reformed symbols. 
The peculiar form of Protestant doctrine originally introduced into 
Scotland was undoubtedly Lutheran, but the earlier Lutheranism is 
not to be distinguished from the strictest Calvinism. Indeed, it is 
interesting to notice that the three earliest influential teachers of the 
Reformed religion in Scotland, Patrick Hamilton, George Wishart, 
and John Knox, had respectively come under the influence of the 
three great continental teachers, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. The 
relation of Knox to Calvin, however, is not that simply of an 
admirer and follower, but rather that of a fellow - labourer in the 
same general line. The type of doctrine developed by Calvin 
and Knox was Augustinian, and it is well known that Knox was 
a diligent and admiring student of the great Latin Father. The 
thorough agreement of Knox with Calvin on fundamental doctrinal 
questions may be seen from his chief theological treatise — Of God's 
Predestination. That the Scottish Confession was regarded by 
those who adopted it as in harmony with the most pronounced 
formularies of the Reformed Church, is beyond all reasonable 
dispute. Attention has been called by Professor Mitchell to this 
important fact recorded by Knox himself, that Erskine of Dun, a 
well-known superintendent of that time, along with other superin- 
tendents and ministers, in 1 566 acknowledged the later Swiss Confes- 
sion, as fairly representing the doctrine, which for three years 
previously, under their own Confession, they had taught. This 
clearly shows how the Scottish Confession was understood, and 
how its doctrinal position was interpreted by some of the most in- 
telligent of its original subscribers. To appreciate the importance of 
the parallel between the Scottish and the later Swiss Confession, it is 
necessary to state a few particulars concerning the latter formulary. 

The Cojifessie Helvetica Secimda drawn up by Bullinger in 1562 is 
generally regarded as one of the most exact and detailed of all the 
Reformed Confessions. It has a peculiar interest, too, as originating 
not in any attempt to meet an ecclesiastical emergency, but as a 
calm and deliberate endeavour to satisfy the writer's own spiritual 
needs, and to give expression to his personal convictions of doctrinal 
truth. For four years it had lain aside in its author's desk, till cir- 
cumstances of Church and State called it forth. Though not pre- 
pared in view of those circumstances, it was found admirably to suit 
the occasion. The Reformed type of doctrine represented in this 
formulary is in every respect at least as elaborate and advanced as 
that of the Westminster Confession, and, as we have seen, the 
most intelligent of the Scottish divines accepted it not as an 
advance upon their own Scottish Confession, but as setting forth 
the very same doctrine. They felt that those who honestly and 
intelligently accepted the one could not reasonably decline to 
receive the other. We m?y well regard the Swiss Confession as the 
doctrinal equivalent of both the Scottish Confession and the West- 


minster Confession. He who does not scruple to receive the doctrinal 
contents of Knox's Confession need have no scruples in adopting 
the doctrinal standards prepared by the Westminster divines. 

2. The Aberdeen Confession.— The Confession of which we have 
spoken, continued to be recognised in the Church of Scotland, and 
there was no attempt to replace it by any other till 1616, when the 
Assembly met in Aberdeen, and drew up a series of articles, which 
were offered to the Presbyterian party as a compromise by those 
who had a leaning toward Prelacy. Speaking of this Assembly, 
Hetherington says : ' It is chiefly remarkable on account of a new 
Confession of Faith drawn up by the prelatic party, sufficiently 
orthodox in its doctrines, but meagre and evasive in respect of 
church government and discipline, for a very evident reason.' 
{History of Church of Scotland, p. 219.) This statement is not to 
be unreservedly accepted. The meagre character of its positions in 
reference to church government is evident enough, but besides this, 
a careful examination of its doctrinal utterances will show that, 
under an apparent reverence for the most strictly-expressed ortho- 
doxy, room is left for at least a variety of belief on questions of vital 
importance to the maintenance of a true and healthy Protestantism. 
It was evidently so understood by the Prelatists and those with 
Romish tendencies, who unhesitatingly subscribed the new Articles. 
The time chosen for drawing up such a Confession was most oppor- 
tune. The most capable and zealous of the Presbyterian party felt 
that Knox's Confession must now give place to a more exact and 
detailed representation of their characteristic beliefs. The Pre- 
latists, however, by a trimming poHcy sought to appear agreed with 
the Presbyterians on doctrinal points, without too far committing 
themselves. Thus, for example, the Aberdeen Confession gives forth 
vague and inconclusive statements regarding justification, which, 
while apparently laying down the Lutheran doctrine, by no means 
exclude the Romish view that confounds justification and sanctifica- 
tion. It was an attempt to deceive true Presbyterians in regard both 
to doctrine and to discipline. The projected For?mda ConcordicE 
was unsuccessful, because it was hollow and untrue. The Aberdeen 
Confession exercised no real influence over the Church ; but the 
leading theologians of that time had their hearts still set upon the 
production of a Confession sufficiently minute and detailed to meet 
the requirements of the Church. Already the thought of having 
such a Confession prepared seems to have occupied the mind of 
Henderson, and as the most influential divine in the Scottish 
Church, he availed himself of every opportunity to keep the idea 
prominently before the Church Courts. In the Assembly of 1639, 
Henderson secured the appointment of a committee to prepare 
a full Confession of Faith. The unsettled state of affairs probably 
prevented much progress being made. In 1641, however, Hender- 
son was allowed to retire from pastoral work in order to give his 


whole attention to the framing of such a Confession. When in 
1643 called, with like-minded brethren, to join the Westminster 
Assembly, undoubtedly these preliminary studies would be found 
most helpful 



1. The Westminster Assembly — Its Appointment and its Purpose, — 

During the twenty years that preceded the meeting of the West- 
minster Assembly, Laud had been systematically and energetically 
labouring to enforce uniformity in the observance of certain outward 
ceremonies. Against the violence and persistency of this rule, not 
only pronounced Puritans, but generally even those other earnest 
and spiritually-minded men who were well content to maintain a 
moderate Episcopacy, entered, as opportunity allowed, a vigorous 
and decided protest. The Reforming party, to the members of which 
the name of Puritan was indiscriminately given, sought to secure, as 
far as possible, uniformity in the expression of their doctrinal beliefs ; 
and only in subordination to this did they aspire after uniformity in 
discipline. While the High Church section, under the leadership of 
Laud, had directed its efforts to the attainment of external harmony, 
and from the enforcement of ceremonies proceeded to the uprooting 
of all doctrinal peculiarities that might discord with these, the 
Evangelical section within and without the Episcopal Church 
showed an interest primarily in doctrine, and took to do with ques- 
tions of order and ceremonial only in so far as these were supposed 
to affect favourably or unfavourably the purity of doctrinal belief. 
' In all the complex varieties of Puritanism, the heart of man is 
addressed through the intellect. Laud addressed it through the eye. 
External order and discipline, the authority of existing law and 
existing governors, were the tests to which he appealed.' (Gardiner, 
Purita?i Revoltitioft, p. 75.) The ceremonies contended for by the 
Prelatists were regarded by the more thoroughgoing and self-con- 
sistent of the Puritans as essentially popish. Their rejection was 
therefore sought on doctrinal grounds. Against their continuance 
George Gillespie argued most ably in his earliest published treatise, 
entitled A Dispute against the English Popish Cei'emonies (1637). 
By some of those who urged their adoption, it was maintained that 
they were necessary ; others were satisfied with maintaining their 
expediency ; others ventured to say no more than that they were 
lawful. Gillespie shows elaborately that they are not necessary, 
nor yet expedient, nor even lawful. The most moderate of all the 
advocates of a modified Episcopacy argued that these ceremonies 
might be ranked among things indifferent, and therefore such cere- 
monial observances might be agreed to for the sake of uniformity. 
Of course, one who regarded the observance of these ceremonies as 


essentially unlawful, and calculated to influence the intellect for 
error through the senses, could not admit their indifferency. 

The endeavour was now to be made to secure doctrinal uniformity 
among the several Protestant Churches of Britain and Ireland. 
This was the main object for which the Westminster Assembly 
was called. In addition to this, it was hoped that the result of the 
labours of its members would be to bring them into closer relations 
with the Reformed Churches on the Continent. The time for such a 
Convention, too, was most happily chosen, when, to use the words of 
Professor Mitchell, 'Conformist and Nonconformist were not yet 
formally separated, when men, trained in the study of the Father* 
yet familiar with the tendencies and principles of the Reformation, 
were not so rare as they now are, when the Church was still undei 
the influence of a marvellous revival.' {Mijiiites of Assembly^ Introd. 
Ixxv.) Under the Commonwealth — when the sectaries, Nonconfor- 
mists of the most extreme type, gained an overweening ascendency, 
and every one was forced to take a determined stand with one or 
other of the two parties in the State — such an assembly would have 
been impossible. 

The arrangements connected with the calling of the Assembly 
bring us into full view of the unhappy relations in which King and 
Parliament then stood to one another. The Parliament, at a sitting 
held on the 12th day of June 1643, published an ordinance in which 
the 1st of July of that year was fixed for the meeting of ' an Assembly 
of learned and godly divines and others, to be consulted with the 
Parliament for the settling of the government and liturgy of the 
Church of England, and for vindicating and clearing of the doctrine 
of the said Church from false aspersions and interpretations.' As 
Hetherington shows, this Assembly was of necessity called by Parlia- 
ment, for Prelacy had been already abolished, and no other consti- 
tuted church system had yet taken its place. Some ten days after 
the issuing of the Parliamentary ordinance, the king, acting on 
what he regarded as his royal prerogative, issued a proclamation 
forbidding those to meet who had thus been summoned by the Parlia- 
ment. When the ist of July arrived, the Puritan section of those 
invited obeyed the summons, and met in Henry the Seventh's Chapel 
at Westminster. On the roll as originally fixed by Parliament there 
were 151 members, comprising 121 clergymen and 30 lay assessors. 
The first meeting for the special business of the Assembly was held 
on Thursday the 6th July. A considerable time was spent in revising 
the Thirty-nine Articles, as they had been ordered by Parliament to 
do. 'But being limited,' the revisers explain in their preface to 
these Articles, ' by the same orders, only to the clearing and vindi- 
cating of them, though we found ourselves necessitated for this end to 
make some, yet we made fewer alterations in them, and additions to 
them, than otherwise we should have thought fit to have done, if the 
whole matter had been left to us without such limitation, conceiving 
many things yet remaining to be defective, and other expressions 


also fit to be changed. And herein we proceeded only to the finishing 
of fifteen Articles, because it pleased both Houses, by an order bearing 
date October 12, 1643, to require us to lay aside the remainder, and 
enter upon the work of Church Government. And afterwards, by 
another order, to employ us in framing a Confession of Faith for the 
three kingdoms, according to our Solemn League and Covenant ; in 
which Confession we have not left out anything, that was in the 
former Articles material, necessary to be retained.' Though these 
Articles were found unsuitable for an immediate basis of a national 
Confession, this work spent upon them undoubtedly helped to pre- 
pare the minds of members for their subsequent labours. At an 
early sitting it was agreed to ask the co-operation of representatives 
from the Scottish Presbyterian Assembly, in order that the design of 
their own meeting — to procure nearer agreement with the Church of 
Scotland — might be accomplished. On August 7, Commissioners 
appeared before the General Assembly of the Scottish Church met 
at Edinburgh, requesting aid in the work on which they were engaged. 
As a bond of union around which both Scotch and English Reformers 
might gather, the Solemn League and Covenant was drawn up. In 
the composition of this document, Alexander Henderson, who was 
Moderator of the Assembly, had a principal share. This was at once 
a league formed for the establishment and defence of civil liberty, 
and a covenant entered into for the maintenance of doctrinal purity 
and religious truth. The Solemn League and Covenant was adopted 
on the 17th August by the General Assembly, and ratified that same 
day by the Convention of the Estates of the realm. On the 15th 
September the Commissioners appointed took their places in the 
Westminster Assembly. These were — Robert Baillie, George Gil- 
lespie, Alexander Henderson, and Samuel Rutherford, ministers ; 
Lord Maitland and Johnston of Warriston, elders. The Covenant 
was taken by all the members of the Assembly and of Parliament on 
September 25, and soon afterward subscription was required of all 
people both in England and in Scotland. Its terms are not violent 
and fanatical, as some seem to imagine. It consists of six articles, 
requiring every subscriber to endeavour to secure conformity in 
doctrine and discipline, to extirpate Popery, Prelacy, and everything 
opposed to sound doctrine, to preserve Parliamentary rights and the 
royal authority, to discover and bring to punishment all malignants 
causing faction between the king and the people, to maintain peace 
and preserve union between the two kingdoms, and to support one 
another in prosecuting the ends contemplated in the forming of that 
League and Covenant. The substance of it was summed up in the 
resolution to endeavour the reformation of religion according to the 
Word of God, and the example of the best Reformed Churches. A 
nobler end could not be sought than that which those divines had in 
view, when they accepted this Covenant as a common basis of opera- 
tions, and in its phrases i^ave expression to those aspirations which 
they hoped to realize. 


2. The Westminster Assembly — Its Composition. — Among the theo- 
logians who met together as members of this Assembly were men of 
great learning, and not a few of singular breadth and liberality of 
mind. Of those most celebrated for their learning may be named 
the Prolocutor or President, Dr. Twisse, distinguished very highly 
as a philosophic and systematic theologian ; Urs. Lightfoot and 
Coleman, celebrated as Orientalists ; Dr. Gataker, still remembered 
for his successful demonstration of the difference between New 
Testament and classical Greek ; and such generally eminent divines 
as Gouge, Goodwin, Tuckney, and Burroughs. Among those whose 
praise is still in all the churches for their genial liberalism and 
catholicity of spirit, it may be enough to mention Reynolds, Calamy, 
and Arrowsmith. Without any exaggeration, it may be said that in 
no previous or subsequent Assembly has there been present such a 
galaxy of talent as in the Assembly of Westminster. Of the Scotch 
members, Henderson, Gillespie, and Rutherford were all singularly 
able and scholarly men, and all of them contributed largely to the 
debates and to the practical efficiency of the Assembly. The English 
members seem to have been originally chosen by the Parliamentary 
representatives according to a certain local distribution, so that two 
members were elected to represent each county. An honest endea- 
vour was made to render the composition of the Assembly truly 
representative of all the varying shades of Protestant opinion. 
Royalist divines were chosen as well as Puritan ; but when the king 
forbade their meeting, they preferred to obey the king rather than the 
Parliament. That the Prelatic party was not represented in the 
Westminster Assembly cannot, therefore, be fairly attributed to the 
partiality of Parliament, or to any sinister design carried through by 
the more powerful Puritans. As actually constituted, we find this 
Assembly singularly well chosen, and representative of varying 
opinions in a remarkable degree. The members certainly were 
not men who had stood neutral in the national and ecclesiastical 
struggles. The leading members had all been prominent in these 
controversies. But they were fair men, not fanatical ; amenable to 
reason and open to conviction, though deeply exercised and already 
well established in the truth. Among the calmest and most judicial 
minds in that venerable Assembly, the Scotch members deserve a 
conspicuous and honourable place. They had very definite opinions 
of their own on points" of doctrine as well as on points of discipline, 
yet we find them wisely using their influence to moderate disputes 
and heal differences, willing to secure agreement on points of im- 
portance by making ready accommodation on points of detail. For 
example, in debating about the decree of God, it appeared that some 
held that there were two decrees, one to life and the other to de- 
struction, while others held that there was but one eternal decree. 
This seems really a difference only in terminology. Rutherford held 
that probably there was only one decree, but thought it not fit to 
enter this opinion in the Confession. Gillespie followed on the same 


side. The Scotch divines thus took a position alongside of Calamy 
and Reynolds, the most liberal and conciliatory of all the members 
of Assembly. Among these divines there were certainly men who 
had pet theories of their own on various heads of doctrine, but they 
did not obtrude their private views or seek for them symbolic recog- 
nition. Thus, for example, Dr. Twisse was the most celebrated 
defender of Supralapsarianism, and had written in its support a folio 
volume of 800 pages ; yet no effort seems to have been made to 
secure for its expression a place in the Westminster formulary. 
Rutherford and Gillespie had asserted in their works the divine 
right of Presbytery, but they did not insist that their theory should 
have expression given to it in the Confession. In glancing over the 
list of English members, we do certainly miss some very eminent 
names, both on the Episcopal and on the Puritan side. Bishop Hall, 
Archbishop Usher, and such like, would certainly have been welcomed 
as most important aid by the divines ; but though orthodox in doc- 
trine, they were rendered ineligible by their persistent adherence to 
the cause of the king. Owen was yet a young man and comparatively 
unknown. Such a one as Baxter would be very likely, in depreciation 
of himself, to prevent his name from being put into the list. In his 
Life and Tiines^ Baxter gives the following admirable account of the 
character and worth of this Assembly : ' The divines there congre- 
gate were men of eminent learning and godliness, and ministerial 
abilities and fidelity ; and being not worthy to be one of them myself, 
I may the more freely speak that truth which I know, even in the 
face of malice and envy, that, as far as I am able to judge by the 
information of all history of that kind, and by any other evidences 
left us, the Christian world, since the days of the Apostles, had 
never a Synod of more excellent divines (taking one thing with 
another) than this Synod and the Synod of Dort were.' 

3. The Westminster Assembly — Its Controversies. — During the first two 
years of its sittings the Assembly was mainly occupied with discus- 
sions regarding church polity and government. The great majority 
of the members of Assembly entertained strong convictions in 
favour of the Presbyterian form of church government, as both 
scriptural and peculiarly suited to the circumstances of the age and 
nation. The views of the Presbyterians, however, met with opposi- 
tion from two parties in the Assembly. The Erastians, on the one 
hand, objected to the co-ordination of the ecclesiastical with the civil 
power. The Independents, on the other hand, objected to the insti- 
tution of classical Assemblies or Presbyteries as courts of review, 
maintaining that each separate congregation was completely indepen- 
dent and under the control of no superior judicatory. 

(1.) The Erastian Controversy. — In order to estimate aright the 
importance of the Erastian controversy carried on in the Assembly, 
we must not limit our vie a^ to the contention of the few Erastians 
among its members. The only thoroughgoing Erastian among the 


clerical members was Coleman, though Dr. Lightfoot supported these 
views to a certain extent. Of the lay assessors the only one who 
argued in the Assembly on behalf of these opinions was the learned 
Selden. We must remember, however, that these single champions 
of the supremacy of the civil power were backed up by the almost 
unanimous sympathies of the members of Parliament. The Liberal 
party, as liberalism was then understood, was in power ; but while 
sincerely desirous to secure a general reformation in the doctrine and 
discipline of the church, the leaders in reform could not fail to 
remember what they had suffered from the tyranny of ecclesiastical 
courts and officers. They were therefore extremely jealous of clerical 
interference, and determined to resist every demand that savoured 
of clerical pretension. Selden had shown himself an earnest defender 
of the rights of Parliament in opposition to royal encroachments, 
and was now equally determined in opposing what he considered the 
illegitimate claims of the clergy. In his treatise On Tithes he had 
denied that these were levied, as the Bishops maintained, by any 
divine right, but only because imposed by the law of the State. 
Anti- royalist therefore as he was, Selden was also keenly anti- 
clerical. Erastianism may, of course, be maintained even by a 
republican in as pronounced a form as by an extreme supporter of 
the divine right of kings. Selden drew his argument for the sub- 
ordination of the church under the state from the circumstances of 
the Je^yish Commonwealth. His oriental studies had been wondrously 
extensive ; but to a modern eye, his critical powers seem somewhat 
jejune, and his learning cumbrous and undigested. Dr. John Light- 
foot (1602-1675) is still remembered as having made solid contribu- 
tions to the advancement of Hebrew studies, and amid much that is 
purely fanciful, and even utterly absurd, his quaint illustrations of 
the New Testament from rabbinical sources furnish many valuable 
suggestions. Coleman, though now forgotten, had a great reputation 
in his own time, and was justly ranked with Selden and Lightfoot, as 
a most distinguished and erudite orientalist. His discussion was 
interrupted by illness, and when visited by members of Assembly, he 
expressed his wish to resume his argument on his return. He was 
never able to appear again in the Assembly, and died toward the 
end of March 1645. In their discussions in favour of the Erastian 
theory, all these scholars laid chief stress upon Jewish customs and 
traditions as illustrating the divine idea of government. One of the 
members of Assembly (Mr. Vines), replying to Lightfoot's arguments 
against the exercise of ecclesiastical power in excommunication, 
indicated the unsatisfactoriness of this mode of reasoning. ' I desire,' 
he says, ' he would not tell us how he finds in Jewish authors, but 
what he finds in the Word of God, whether judging finally (in regard 
to leprosy) and acting upon that judgment were not in the priests.' 
{Minutes of Assembly, p. 442.) 

The defence of Erastianism by Coleman was not confined to his 
speeches in the Assembly. He gave great offence to his brethren by 


insisting upon Erastian principles in the most pronounced way in bis 
sermon preached before the House of Commons. A pamphlet war 
was carried on between George Gillespie and Coleman, which re- 
sulted in a most triumphant vindication of the doctrine of spiritual 
independence. In the Assembly itself a keen debate followed the 
delivery of Coleman's sermon, and was closed by the expression of a 
conviction that all the Erastian arguments had been thoroughly 
answered. Immediately after this debate in the Assembly, a Parlia- 
mentary ordinance concerning church government was issued (see 
Minutes of Assembly for March 20, 1645). Against this the 
members of Assembly took exception, both for what it contained and 
also for the assumption of power in issuing it. Consequently a peti- 
tion, respectful but firm in tone, was addressed to Parhament. The 
Ordinance proposed to appoint commissioners to judge of scandals 
and administer discipline. This, the petitioners maintain, would be 
to give the power of discipline to those to whom it does not belong, 
and to this, conscience would not allow them to yield. Parliament 
resented the presentation of the petition, and voted it a breach of 
privilege. The House of Commons thought it necessary to vindicate 
itself against the Assembly, the City, and the Scotch, assuring them 
of its sincerity in maintaining the Covenant, and its desire to main- 
tain the peace of the country, but at the same time declaring that to 
accede to the views of the Assembly would be to grant an arbitrary and 
unlimited power to ecclesiastical courts which rightly belonged to the 
jurisdiction of Parliament. Gillespie admirably answered this charge 
in his Aaron^s Rod Blossoming (1646), where he shows that Presby- 
terian church government is the least arbitrary and most fitted for a 
limited monarchy of all forms of ecclesiastical rule (see Book ii. 
chap. 3). The Anti-Erastian views of the Assembly have been clearly 
expressed in the Confession in the special chapter on Church 
Censures (xxx.), and will be found more in detail in the Form of 
Presbyterial Church Government, usually bound up with the Con- 

(2.) The Independent Controversy. — Among the original members 
of the Assembly there were certain very staunch opponents of the 
Presbyterial form of church government, who argued most per- 
sistently on behalf of congregational independency. These were 
known as the five dissenting brethren. Though few in number, their 
singular abilities and well-sustained reputation for piety and general 
worth secured for them respectful consideration and an honourable 
position in the Assembly. Some of their names are not yet forgotten : 
— Thomas Goodwin, Jeremiah Burroughs, William Bridge, Philip 
Nye, and Sydrach Simpson. Goodwin is now highly esteemed by all 
lovers of Puritan theology as one of the very ablest theologians of 
that eminently theological age. Bridge is a practical writer whose 
treatises are peculiarly fragrant and savoury, and show admirable 
skill ill speaking words 0/ tenderness to the weary and downcast. 
Burroughs is still known for his Commentary 071 Hosea, and exhibits 



all the tenderness of Bridge with much greater force and strength. 
Nye, though most prominent of them all in debate, is in himself the 
least attractive. His worldly craft and cunning, his incessant intrigues 
with political dissenters, acted more injuriously than any other in- 
fluence in retarding, and in some particulars frustrating, the work of 
the Assembly. Several names were added later until the Independents 
in the Assembly numbered ten or twelve. The only name among those 
who seem to have taken any part in the debates is that of William 
Greenhill, known by his Commentary on Ezekiel. He was Burroughs' 
colleague at Stepney ; Burroughs being known as the morning star, 
Greenhill as the evening star. The characteristic point for which they 
contended in the matter of church government was that the congre- 
gation or congregational eldership is to be regarded as the highest 
authoritative ecclesiastical court ; that from this session there can be 
no appeal. Synods, composed of ministers and elders from different 
congregations, having only power of consultation and advice. So far 
as church government is concerned, there is in Independency no gra- 
dation of courts, there is indeed no plurality of courts. The Congre- 
gational Union is an association of ministers and elders, which, like 
any other association, may show its disapprobation of the conduct oi 
views of any individual member by ejecting him from its member- 
ship. The Independent controversy arose over such questions as the 
right and power of excommunication as an act proper to the church 
courts (Erastians denying wholly the ecclesiastical character of the 
office, and the Independents limiting its exercise to the particular 
congregation immediately interested), and also in regard to Courts of 
review, Classical Assemblies or Presbyteries, Synods and Church 
Councils, the Independents urging their special views against such 
judicatories. Unfortunately lending themselves, as it would seem, to 
the crafty influence of Nye, these dissenting brethren were too apt to 
take advantage of every possible occasion to dispute the position of 
the majority of the House, and so greatly hindered the Assembly's 
work. On reading the Minutes of the Asse7nbly one is painfully struck 
with the readiness shown by those brethren to enter their dissent even 
on the most trivial points. The forbearance and extreme courtesy 
exercised toward them by the Presbyterian majority cannot be too 
highly praised. 

4. Preparation of the Westminster Confession. — Special care was 
taken in making preliminary arrangements for the great work of the 
Assembly. Some of the most moderate and learned members were 
chosen to form a committee for drawing up an outline of doctrinal 
matter for the projected Confession. As originally constituted this 
small committee was entirely composed of men whose names are 
still remembered with honour. Dr. Gouge, one of the most highly 
esteemed of all the London preachers ; Dr. Temple ; Dr. Hoyle, an 
able divine and accomplished professor of theology ; Gataker and 
Arrowsmith, both celebrated for their scholarship ; Burroughs, 


Burgess, Vines, and Goodwin — such were the distinguished men 
who were required to prepare material and sketch an outHne for the 
Confession. Appointed on 20th August 1644, this committee on 4th 
September made a report to the Assembly, and asked that their 
number should be increased. Among those added at this time, we 
find such well-known names as these : Reynolds, Herle, Tuckney. 
And finally, on the 12th May 1645, we find that a report had been made 
of the progress gained by the committee in tabulating the heads of 
doctrine, and probably also in arranging the subdivisions of the work. 
Then, for the actual framing of a first draft of the Confession, a small 
committee was formed, comprising several leading members of the 
former committee. To these were added the Scottish Commissioners. 
We have no means for determining precisely the method pursued by 
these divines in carrying on the important work with which they had 
been entrusted. Their previous labours, however, in revising the 
English Articles, must have proved of signal service. Their judg- 
ments were formed and their minds were enriched by the doctrinal 
debates then carried on; the records of their discussions would 
undoubtedly contain abundant dogmatic material ; and the tact so 
necessary to indicate what exactly should be included, and what 
should be passed over, must have been largely developed and refined 
by these previous laborious studies upon such carefully-prepared 
doctrinal articles. It is highly probable that, when revising the 
Thirty-nine Articles, they would engage in the comparative study of 
the Protestant Confessions. They would thus be warned by the 
incompleteness or over-minuteness of the earlier church symbols, and, 
most important of all, they would be in large measure delivered from 
that narrow sectarianism which, expecting no good outside of its 
own church, looks for none. When the actual preparation of the 
Confession was commenced, it was proceeded with most deliberately 
and with admirable considerateness. The committee of singularly 
gifted men, to which we have already referred, having first of all 
arranged a general scheme for the distribution of the doctrine under 
appropriate chapter headings, resolved itself into sub-committees, 
to each of which from time to time certain heads of doctrine were 
committed. No statement now appearing in our Confession can be 
regarded as the result of any rash and ill-considered judgment. Revi- 
sion after revision took place. The several sub-committees laid their 
conclusions before the general committee, and those statements of 
doctrine which passed such review were next submitted to discus- 
sion and debate in the full Assembly. And these reviews were no 
mere formal affairs. We find that the original drafts of the com- 
mittee, though upon the whole accepted in the form in which they 
were presented, were yet subjected in the Assembly to minute 
and careful criticism, certain phrases relating to points of detail were 
omitted, certain particulars added, and various modifications intro- 
duced. Thus an unusual amount of labour — skilled labour — was 
expended upon the Confession. Drafted by some of the ablest of the 


divines, each section was considered and separately voted upon by 
the whole Convention. On the 25th September 1646, nineteen 
chapters of the Confession, being then finished and finally revised, 
were sent up for approval to the House of Commons. On the 26th 
November of the same year, the Confession was completed, ordered 
to be transcribed, and then laid before both Houses of Parliament. 
It only secured a qualified approval, the anti-clerical and Erastian 
spirit which prevailed in the Commons showing itself jealous of such 
passages as seemed to claim for church officers a power such as Parlia- 
ment insisted belonged to itself alone. Objections were specially 
made against certain expressions in the twenty-fourth chapter ; while 
chapters thirty and thirty-one were condemned, and by the Parliament 
of 1659 these obnoxious chapters were re-committed. What is of 
special interest to us as Scottish Presbyterians is the adoption of 
this Confession by the Presbyterian Assembly in Scotland. When 
the General Assembly met at Edinburgh in August 1649, the West- 
minster Confession was presented, carefully examined, and solemnly 
ratified, as being agreeable to God's Word, and in nothing contrary 
to the received doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the 
Scottish Kirk. Presbyterianism, however, being overturned in 1661, 
a period of thirty years followed, during which the Presbyterian 
Standards and the enactments authorizing them were completely 
ignored. In 1690 came the great Revolution Settlement, and an 
Act was passed in Parliament in June of that year ratifying the 
Confession of Faith, and settling Presbyterian Government. Since 
that time to this day, the Westminster Confession continues to be 
the avowed symbol of our church, acknowledged by English-speaking 
Presbyterians in every quarter of the globe. 

5, Doctrinal Characteristics of the Confession. — W^hen we compare 
the Confession with the Catechisms prepared by the same Assembly, 
we certainly find in the latter special elaborations of doctrinal points 
which are either omitted or expressed more vaguely in the Confession. 
On a careful examination it will appear that this was purposely done, 
for several of those points which are passed over in the Confession 
were fully debated during its preparation, and were excluded after 
mature deliberation. Such doctrinal statements as were afterwards 
set down in the Catechisms secured the almost unanimous approval 
of the divines, but to give them a place in the Confession they con- 
sidered to be unwise. Almost a year passed between the completing 
of the Confession of Faith and the issuing of the Larger Catechism. 
Hence the latter has been commonly regarded as, in a sense, a 
higher authority in doctrine than even the Confession. Not unfre- 
quently we find an appeal made from the Confession to the Catechism 
in such a way as to imply that the earlier document must be in- 
terpreted and supplemented from the later. Those who do so 
generally maintain that the Catechism is just as authoritative a 
standard of doctrine in our church as the Confession. This state- 


ment, however, is not quite exact. The Free Church Assembly of 
1 85 1 passed an Act containing a declaration in reference to the 
publication of the Subordinate Standards and other authoritative 
documents ; and in that declaration it is acknowledged that a 
difference in degree of binding authority must be made between 
these several documents. To the Confession of Faith every office- 
bearer must testify in solemn form his personal adherence. To the 
Catechisms, sanction is given simply as directories for catechising. 
These Catechisms, therefore, are to be our guides in imparting 
catechetical instruction ; but, when we seek to describe the type of 
doctrine which is accepted by our church, this must be done by a 
simple reference to her Confessional utterances. 

When we examine the Westminster Confession in the light of its 
t)wn express statements, and in connection with the known views 
of those more immediately engaged upon it, we shall find its general 
doctrinal tone extremely moderate. Of all the Reformed formularies, 
it is perhaps not too much to say, the Westminster Confession is 
the most correct and balanced in its representation of genuine 
Calvinism, — not, as some, overlooking any essential truth, nor, as 
•^others, including what might well be omitted. Several doctrinal 
points which were not developed by Calvin himself were elaborated 
with great minuteness by Beza, his own immediate successor, and by 
Turretine and other great systematizers of the seventeenth century. 
It is in regard to these elaborations that differences have arisen 
among those who claim to call themselves Calvinists. Such an out- 
line of doctrinal truth as will admit of a diversity of view in regard 
to details and the adoption of explanatory theories, is just what a 
Confession of Faith ought to exhibit. Certain far-reaching truths, 
which must be held by all maintaining that general type of doctrine, 
ought to be laid down with minuteness and precision ; theories in 
explanation of those central truths, which may or may not be ac- 
ceptable to men holding by those truths, ought to have no place in 
a general formulary. The moderate Calvinists accept the positions 
laid down by Calvin himself, but more or less demur to the detailed 
determinations of those who profess to have carried on his work. 
The Confession, as representing mainly the simple and original 
doctrine of Calvin, and leaving open those questions not precisely 
determined by him, should prove a rallying - point for all parties 
belonging to that school. Among those accepting the Westminster 
formulary, opinions on these points, varying from those of the most 
moderate to those of the most extreme type, may be entertained, so 
long as Confessional expression for them is not demanded. The 
church holding by this Confession may comprise those contrasted 
parties, just as the Assembly which framed it embraced such men 
as Twisse and Calamy. 

Calvinism has been too often judged by the foolish extravagances 
of extreme men. It is possible so to state Calvinistic doctrine as 
to render it repulsive and inconceivable to thoughtful and cultured 


minds. This may be done without importing any actually new 
doctrinal element, but simply by the disproportionate treatment of 
certain unquestionable and fundamental truths. A careful and dis- 
passionate examination of the Westminster Confession will show 
that while its type of doctrine is decided and pronounced Calvinism, 
it has been so wisely drawn up that there is scarcely a doctrinal 
statement made which could have been omitted without destroying 
its title to the name Calvinistic, and that, with singular propriety, 
the several doctrines have had their due place assigned them^ in 
the system. It is not unusual to speak of Calvinism^ as being 
gradually toned down, and of its upholders as not venturing npw to 
maintain views which once on a time were fearlessly proclaimed. 
Such language is extremely misleading. To say, as Dr. Schaff did 
before the Pan- Presbyterian Council, that ' the five knotty points of 
Calvinism have lost their point,' may be a smart saying, but, like 
many other smart sayings, it is, to say the least, overdrawn. They 
may not be stated now in exactly the same phraseology, but the 
points themselves remain as theological attainments, constituting 
the very essence of the Calvinistic creed. All true Calvinists cling 
to those characteristic expressions of doctrine as tenaciously as 
their precursors did in the Synod of Dort and in the Westminster 
Assembly. He who renounces the doctrinal positions underlying 
those so-called knotty points does not thereby pass from high to 
moderate Calvinism, but actually passes over to the ranks of the 
anti - Calvinists, and abandons the standpoint of the Reformed 

By way of illustrating what we regard as the Calvinism of our 
Standards, — a Calvinism that is at once moderate and genuine,— -we 
may take a hasty survey of the special teaching of the Confession 
on these characteristic and testing doctrinal points :— i. Predestina- 
tion. 2. Original Sin. 3. The Extent of Redemption. 

I. The Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination is clearly set forth 
in the Confession. Upon no point of doctrine perhaps has there 
been so much discussion, accompanied by violence and exaggera- 
tion of statement. It is often urged as an objection against the 
Westminster Confession, that so prominent a place is assigned in 
it to the doctrine of Predestination. In answer to this objection, 
we have to say, that a simple alternative is presented us. Either 
this doctrine of Predestination is not true, and if so, ought to have 
no place prominent or obscure ; or this doctrine is true, and if so, 
then from the very nature of it, the place which it takes must be 
conspicuous, and its presence must in large measure colour our 
statement of other doctrinal positions. The danger lies, not in the 
prominence given to it, but in its unguarded and inexact enunciation. 
On the one hand, it may be so expressed as to appear identical with 
the heathen doctrine of arbitrary fate. On the other hand, it may 
be so expressed as to be evacuated of all theological importance ; 
the name being retained, while the doctrine is really repudiated. 


The Westminster divines carefully avoided both extremes. The true 
doctrine is set forth by means of a broad statement, accompanied 
by necessary explanations and qualifications. Too often opponents 
quote simply the broad statement, and so apply it as if no guarding 
and explanatory clause had ever been inserted. Now the West- 
minster doctrine can only be fairly represented when the West- 
minster expression of it is given complete. It is open to objectors 
to say that these qualifications militate against the substance of the 
statement they are meant to qualify. But if such a statement be 
made, we demand that proof for it be advanced. The general state- 
ment is : — That God from eternity chose a definite number out of 
the fallen race of Adam to everlasting life, rendering in time the 
means of grace effectual to their salvation, and that this choice is 
on the part of God an act of sovereign grace. The qualifying 
terms which are added, have reference to the case both of those who 
are not elected and of those who are elected to life. Every state- 
ment regarding the doctrine is so to be understood that these three 
propositions may be maintained : i. God is not the author of sin ; 
2. No violence is offered to the will of the creature ; 3. The liberty 
or contingency of second causes is not taken away. The special 
characteristic of Calvinism is the maintaining of the consistency of 
the doctrine of an eternal sovereign divine decree with the full 
assertion of these three propositions. The divine sovereignty and 
human responsibihty, — Calvinism is interested in the one as well 
as in the other, — each is maintained in its full integrity. Whoever 
thinks that of these two statements the one is inconsistent with 
the other is Anti-Calvinist. The Westminster divines could not 
have put less into the third chapter of their Confession without 
abandoning the Calvini^tic and Augustinian platform. While, then, 
one who holds by less than this is no Calvinist, and therefore 
cannot accept the Confession, there is nothing to prevent one who 
is inclined to determine points left here indeterminate accepting 
this formulary. The distinction of Supralapsarianism and Infralap- 
sarianism may seem of little importance ; but if either of these 
theories had express and exclusive sanction given it in the Confession, 
those attached to the other theory would be harassed and hampered. 
If the statement of our Confession, ' They who are elected, being 
fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ,' naturally suggests 
sympathy with the Infralapsarian doctrine, it does not at least con- 
demn the other ; and so Supralapsarians, accepting the Confession, 
may hold their own favourite theory as a private view. Another 
illustration of the liberal tone which characterizes the Westminster 
exposition of the doctrine of Predestination is seen in the statement, 
often ignorantly objected to, regarding the salvation of elect infants. 
All who honestly and intelligently hold a doctrine of election, of 
necessity maintain that only the elect are saved. Salvation is the 
palpable proof of election. When the term elect is applied to those 
dying in infancy or having their intellect undeveloped, it does not 


necessarily imply any restriction. Those who believe that all who 
die in infancy and all who have been denied the gift of reason are 
saved, thereby declare that they regard all such as elected to life ; 
and so they find their position covered by the statement in the 
Confession. Yet this absolute assertion is not made an article of 
faith, so that if any one should have a scruple or difficulty about 
this, he will not be disturbed by any dogmatic deliverance of the 

It might at first seem as if the very express repudiation of the 
notion of a conditional decree rendered the doctrinal position of 
the divines unnecessarily narrow and severe. Such limitation, how- 
ever, is absolutely necessary if a self-consistent scriptural type of 
doctrine is to be maintained. To found election on foreknowledge 
is as essentially Arminian as to repudiate a special election alto- 
gether. Predestination, as Calvinists understand the doctrine, is an 
absolute, irrespective decree. In the order of nature it precedes, 
and those gifts of grace necessary to the realization of the salvation 
decreed come after. The term ' conditional decree ' is a mere sham 
and make-believe. It would be no better than a prophecy after the 
event. The conception of it is a denial of the divine prerogative. 
The repudiation of such a notion is no Ultraism, but an essential 
condition of Calvinism. 

2. Original Sin. The doctrine of the imputation of Adam's sin to 
his posterity, in so far as it is the statement of a fact, is an accepted 
belief of all professing Christians. Differences arise w^hen the 
attempt is made to define more exactly the idea of imputation. How 
precisely the first man is related to the race, and what the amount of 
injury the fall of Adam has wrought to individuals of that race in 
consequence of this relation, — these are questions that have occa- 
sioned keen debates even between those who claim alike the name 
of Calvinist. The doctrine of man's complete inability and utter 
moral depravity is a characteristic doctrine of Calvinism. On this 
point our Confession gives no uncertain sound. But the question of 
the precise nature of the relation in which individuals of the fallen 
race stand to him who first fell, is nowhere in the Confession ex- 
pressly determined. Our first parents are described as the root of 
all mankind. Dr. Cunningham acknowledges that these terms are 
not so definite and precise as those generally employed by the divines 
of the seventeenth century. The words sound more like a statement 
such as Calvin would have used, than like one such as Turretine 
would have fully approved. Even Placccus, who advocated the doc- 
trine of mediate imputation, might have unhesitatingly subscribed it. 
Though almost two years elapsed from the discussion of Placasus' 
doctrine in the Synod of Charenton to the issuing of our Confession, 
Dr. Cunningham rather gratuitously assumes that the Westminster 
divines 'were not yet much acquainted with the discussions which 
had been going on in France, and were in consequence not im- 
pressed with the necessity of being minute and precise in their 


deliverance upon this subject.' {Reformers and Theol. of Ref. p. 383.) 
He even thinks it necessary to refer to the more detailed utterances 
of the Catechism, as if these might be taken to supplement and 
determine the doctrine of the Confession. May we not rather 
suppose that the more definite form of the doctrine proposed for 
catechetical instruction was purposely omitted from the formulary 
that was to be so particularly and solemnly accepted by its signa- 
tories? When thus understood, the Confession is relieved of a 
doctrinal theory which has occasioned scruples in some, who are 
inclined to regard it as an extreme development of Calvinism, to 
which they could not conscientiously subscribe. As it is, all who 
maintain the fact of universal sinfulness, and believe that in some 
way this springs originally from the connection which individuals of 
the human race bear to Adam, will readily accept the moderate 
statement of the Confession. The express doctrine of the Catechisms 
(compare Larger Catechism^ Qu. 22 and 25 ; Shorter Catechism^ 
Qu. 16 and 18) shows how definite were the opinions of the 
divines in regard to all the points involved in the presentation of 
this great Scripture truth ; their reference to it in the Confession 
shows how wisely they had discriminated between the statement ol 
doctrinal facts and the elaboration of explanatory theories. 

3. The Extent of Redemption. In the Westminster Assembly 
there were several distinguished members who were avowed 
disciples of Davenant, and held views regarding the extent of 
Redemption which the stricter Calvinists opposed, as incHning to 
Arminianism. In the Minutes of Assembly we find the record of 
1 long-continued debate on this question, in which Calamy, Arrow- 
smith, Seaman, and other moderate Calvinists were opposed by the 
Scottish divines, Reynolds, and others, who were more pronounced, 
and more decidedly attached to those views usually regarded as 
Calvinistic. Mr. Calamy said : ' I am far from universal redemption 
in the Arminian sense ; but that that I hold is in the sense of our 
divines in the Synod of Dort, that Christ did pay a price for all, — 
absolute intention for the elect, conditional intention for the repro- 
bate in case they do believe, — that all men should be salvabiles, nan 
obstante lapsii Adami.^ Mr. Seaman explains : * He doth not say a 
salvability quoad homines^ but quoad Deum .... so far reconciled 
himself to the world that He would have mercy on whom He would 
have mercy. All in the first Adam were made liable to damnation, 
so all are liable to salvation in the second Adam.' These views were 
not recognised, and certainly they got no place in the Confession ; 
yet that formulary was so framed that Calamy and his party found 
no difficulty in accepting it. The opinion of the great majority of 
members was undoubtedly in favour of what we call, in the strictest 
sense of the term, the doctrine of a limited atonement, that Christ^ 
died for the elect only ; yet even the express statement (iii. 6), that I 
the elect alone are saved by Christ, is not so put as necessarily to 
offend evangelical men, who demand an unchallengeable ground fori 


' the unrestricted offer of salvation. ' Those who in modern times 
have pronounced most confidently that the more restricted view is 
exclusively intended, seem to me,' says Dr. Mitchell, 'to have un- 
consciously construed or interpreted the words, " neither are any 
other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, 
sanctified, and saved, but the elect only," as if they had run, 
" neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, or 
justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only." But 
these two statements do not necessarily bear the same meaning. 
Calamy, Arrowsmith, and the others who agreed with them, may 
have felt justified in accepting the former, though they might have 
scrupled to accept the latter' (Introd. to Minutes^ p. Ivii.). We have 
adduced the positions maintained by our Confession on these three 
important and characteristic heads of doctrine as a specimen of the 
tone and spirit which pervade the entire formulary. The Calvinistic 
principle is consistently maintained throughout, but the extremes 
which many respected theologians advocated under one or more of 
those heads were most carefully avoided by the Westminster 
divines. We therefore feel quite warranted in styling the doctrine of 
our Standards, not modified, but moderate Calvinism. The system 
of doctrine developed in our Confession is thoroughly self-consistent. 
There is no indecision ; no attempt to combine contrary tendencies. 
We find no concession to Arminianism, nor any departure from 
what is essential to the Calvinistic system. The Westminster 
Confession, in short, presents a pure and simple Calvinism, unen- 
cumbered by the private opinions and pet notions of individual 

Views entertained by the Westminster Divines in regard to Christian 
Liberty. — Under the chapters where this subject is specially treated, 
the expressions of the Confession are examined in detail. It is 
only proposed in the conclusion of this introduction to indicate the 
characteristic position maintained in our Standards, as conceived 
by those who framed them, and by those who subscribe them. To 
determine exactly the Westminster doctrine of Christian Liberty, or, 
as it is often styled, the doctrine of Toleration, is no easy task. 
Extreme estimates have been formed as to the teaching of the Con- 
fession on this subject. On the one hand, we find certain enthusiastic 
vindicators of our church Standards speaking as if it were both 
necessary and possible to show that the divines entertained, and 
intended to express, a thoroughly-developed doctrine of toleration 
in the modern sense of the term. Such critics generally determine 
first of all what is to be regarded as the true notion of toleration, 
and then proceed to manipulate the statements of the Confession so 
as to make it appear that this modern attainment had been fully 
anticipated by those precocious liberals of the seventeenth century. 
On the other hand, we find not a few who, while sympathizing with 
the doctrinal substance of the Confession, yet maintain that certain 


of its statements are not only deficient, but essentially antagonistic 
to the principles now adopted and approved in those churches which 
accept the Westminster formulary as their doctrinal standard. 
[Read the able, though extreme, controversial treatise by Dr. 
Marshall, of Coupar - Angus, Pri7iciples of the Westminster Stan- 
dards Persecuting^ A fair estimate of the matter in question can 
be formed only by considering the statements of the divines in 
relation to the opinions regarding toleration generally prevalent 
during their era. The doctrine which we now understand by the 
term toleration was not then formulated. Toleration, as we conceive 
it, is essentially a recent attainment. Contributions, however, were 
being made by individual members of different religious com- 
munities, among whom both Independents and Presbyterians in the 
Westminster Assembly were conspicuous ; and these have now been 
tabulated and wrought out into something like a consistent system. 
If we compare the Westminster divines with other religious parties 
of their time, we shall find that their views of Christian liberty, 
imperfect and inadequate as they may sometimes seem to us, indi- 
cated a very decided advance. Legislative measures which were 
passed under their influence, harsh as they now appear, are still to 
be reckoned essentially liberal movements, inasmuch as they miti- 
gate and relax the severity of earlier enactments. It was no easy 
task, in passing from a system of the most stringent restrictions, to 
determine the mean between the repression of the bigot and the 
licence of the indifferent. It is not easy even now to express, without 
danger of misunderstanding, at once our respect for individual 
freedom, and our earnest devotion to the interests of pure and unde- 
filed rehgious truth. The Westminster divines, as we understand 
their writings, more fully and more successfully than any other con- 
siderable body of men in their own or immediately subsequent times, 
enunciated the fundamental principle out of which our own doctrine 
of toleration has been constructed. So much it was necessary to 
say in vindication of the Westminster divines, to show that, judged 
by any standard that can fairly be applied, they deserve to be held 
in honour as, up to their time and beyond their time, the true-hearted 
supporters of the principles of civil and religious liberty. But 
having said this, we have still to face the question whether the 
expression which they give to this principle, however noble com- 
paratively, however advanced and creditable for the seventeenth 
century, is adequate and suitable for a formulary to which subscrip- 
tion is still required. In order to answer this question we must recur 
to the central and general expression which they have given to their 
principle. That principle, just as affirmed in the Confession, will 
suffice for all ages. That no statements are to be found in the Con- 
fession irreconcilable with their central utterance on this subject, we 
are far from supposing. We are not, however, pledged to accept all 
the detailed utterances of the Confession. The true principle of 
Christian liberty clearly laid down in the oft-repeated phrase, ' God 


alone is Lord of the conscience/ is binding upon us, not according 
to the interpretation of the divines, which from their circumstances 
may have been restricted and imperfect, but according to the hght 
which has been shed upon it in our own days. We have here a 
vahd argument against Dr. Marshall. He objects to the quotation 
of this statement, unless we append to it other clauses, that show 
how the Westminster divines would have applied it. He instances 
such phrases as these, ' For their publishing of such opinions, etc., 
they may lawfully be called to account and proceeded against,' ' It 
is the civil magistrate's duty to take order that the truth of God 
be kept pure and entire,' and declares that all who accept the Con- 
fession pledge themselves to the acceptance of these express opinions. 
Our position, on the contrary, is this. We accept the general state- 
ment laid down without qualification. Our notion of Christian liberty 
is that laid down in the phrase, ' God alone is Lord of the conscience.' 
If any particular applications, elsewhere made in the Confession, are 
shown in modern light to be inconsistent with a proper understand- 
ing of this, we are not bound to these, but may so qualify our ac- 
ceptance of them as to make our statement of the doctrine clear and 
self-consistent. So the Assembly of 1647 limits the statement of 
the magistrate's power to convene Synods more expressly than the 
divines had done to unsettled times ; and the Free Church Assembly 
of 1846 declares that ' while the Church firmly maintained the same 
scriptural principles as to the duties of nations and their rulers in 
reference to true religion and the Church of Christ, for which she 
has hitherto contended, she disclaims intolerant or persecuting 
principles, and does not regard her Confession of Faith, or any 
portion thereof, when fairly interpreted, as favouring intolerance or 
persecution, or consider that her office-bearers, by subscribing it, 
profess any principles inconsistent with liberty of conscience and 
the right of private judgment.' Of course the question may be 
raised, whether it were not better to alter or omit any phrase in the 
Confession which may be liable to construction in favour of perse- 
cution. This the American churches have done. But so long as 
we maintain the principle that acceptance of the Confession as a 
church symbol binds us to principles, and not to deductions or 
to details, we may rather express our satisfaction with the noble 
statement of the principle, and, by a declaratory deliverance like 
that of the Act of our Assembly above quoted, indicate in what 
spirit and to what extent we are prepared to make its application. 




I. — Although the light of nature^ and the works of creation and 
provide7ice^ do so far manifest the goodness, wisdojn, and power 
of God, as to leave men inexctisable j yet they are not sufficient 
to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary 
unto salvation : therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, 
and in divers mannos, to reveal himself, and to declai'e that 
his %uilltuito his Church j and afte7'wards,for the better preservins^ 
and propagati7ig of the trjith, and for the more sure establishment 
and comfort of the Church against the corruptio7i of the flesh, a7id 
the 77ialice of Sata7i a7id of the world, to co77wiit the sa77ie wholly 
tmto writiiig; which maketh the holy sc7'ipture to be most 
necessary; those for77ter ways of God^s reveali7ig his will unto 
his people bei7ig now ceased. 

This chapter seems to have received from the Westminster divines 
more than ordinary consideration. They made it the subject of long 
dehberation and debate, and the deHverance to which they came 
regarding Holy Scripture was evidently viewed by them as very much 
like the issuing of a programme. Their whole system may be 
estimated by an examination of their first article. The Confession 
is characteristically Bibhcal, and consistently with this character it 
opens with the article ' Of the Holy Scripture,' — while most other 
Confessions, as for example the Thirty-nine Articles, open with 
chapters on God and the Trinity. 

The first section of this chapter deals with the general question of 
Revelation, — the communication of God's will to man. It treats 
of three important points regarding revelation, i. Natural religion, 
what it is and what it teaches. 2. Divine revelation, for what it is 
needed and in what it consists. 3. Revelation in the form of Scripture. 

I. Full acknowledgment is made of the importance of natural 
religion within its own province. Apart from a divine revelation as 
an oral communication of God's will, man may arrive at a knowledge 
of God's being, and at least a partial perception of His character. 
The statement of our Corfession sufficiently guards against errors 
in two extreme directions. On the one hand, some pious men were 


led to deny altogether the reality of natural religion. Hutchinson 
(a.d. 1724) and his followers, including the well-known Bishop 
Home, maintained that all true knowledge in science and philosophy, 
as well as in religion, is to be derived immediately from the Bible. 
On the other hand, the English Deists started with the assertion 
that all true knowledge, that of religion as well as of science and 
philosophy, is derived irom the same revelation, — understanding by 
revelation simply the discoveries of man in the exercise of his natural 
powers. Thus Matthew Tindal used in the title of his well-known 
book the phrase that was then current in his school, Christia^iity as 
old as the Creation^ or the Gospel a Re-piiblication of the Religion of 
Nature (A.D. 1730). These contrary errors sprung from a confusion 
of the natural and supernatural, the one ultimately ignoring the 
natural, the other ultimately ignoring the supernatural. [Illustrate 
by reference to the divergent courses of individual histories in the 
Oxford movement ; also to the careers of Edward Irving and Macleod 
Campbell.] The results of that natural theology, which is recognised 
in our Confession, are reached by a twofold process of intuition and 
observation. There are certain mental aptitudes and moral con- 
victions which belong to human nature, and together constitute an 
internal instinct. Of this, Bacon says that by means of it ' the soul 
receives some light for beholding and discerning the perfection of the 
moral law, though the light be not perfectly clear, but of such a 
nature as rather to reprehend vice than give a full information of 
duty ' {Advancement of Learning^ Book ix.). Then there are indica- 
tions of God from outward nature. Young has said, 'An undevout 
astronomer is mad.' 

2. Revelation is the discovery which God makes of Himself and of 
His will for our salvation. The necessity for such a revelation 
becomes evident so soon as we come to deal with the problem of 
sin. This problem cannot be properly understood until we get the 
idea of grace, and this becomes first possible in an immediate revela- 
tion of God. Those revelations of saving truth which He gives, 
have a history and a development. They were repeated as often as 
necessary for retaining a correct knowledge of them, and new 
discoveries were made as fresh needs arose. The form, too, of those 
revelations varied according to the circumstances of the age and the 
recipients. Though in this place our Confession seems to speak 
expressly only of oral revelation, yet elsewhere (see chap. vii. 5) 
other modes for the saving revelation of God's will by divine institu- 
tions and ritual ordinances are fully recognised. But while thus the 
revelations were made at sundry times and in divers manners, it was 
still one revelation as to substance and purpose. In all ages the 
need to be satisfied was the same. And so, under all its varying forms, 
divine revelation made known to man God and His gracious will. 

3. The Westminster divines with their usual caution do not seek 
to af^rm at what time revelation first assumed the form of Scripture- 
[Read Hooker, Eccles. Polity^ Bk. i. c. xiii.] They had no interest 



in doing so, for revelation, though not yet written, being fully inspired, 
had for them all the authority of Scripture. It was to the revelation 
rather than to the writing of it that the inspiration belonged. That 
the written word should take the place of oral revelations handed 
down, or frequently renewed by direct divine utterances, is not 
viewed as in itself necessary. Hence the position of those who 
follow the light afforded by remnants of those primitive revelations, 
is left here quite undetermined. On their condition the Confession 
does not dogmatize. Its declaration has reference only to the circum- 
stances of those to whom the word of salvation in the form of Scripture 
has been sent. That divine revelation should assume the form of 
Scripture is declared to be necessary, though not for salvation, yet 
for the maintenance of a sound type of doctrine, for the successful 
propagation of the truth, and for the proper equipment of the behever 
in his warfare against the world, the Devil, and the flesh. It is 
necessary, in short, that the Word should be written, for the higher 
interests of the individual believer, the Church, and the world. What 
then would otherwise have been merely something desirable, must 
be regarded as a necessity, at least for Christendom, when we consider 
that no longer does God reveal Himself as in former days, but that, 
under the ministry of His Spirit, He uses the Word of Scripture as 
the only revelation of His will. This statement is given here in only 
a general form, and is repeated more particularly in section vi., where 
the completeness of the Scripture revelation is affirmed. 
II. — Uftder the name of Holy Scripticre^ or the Word of God written^ 

are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testament^ 

which are these : — 



I. Kings. 



IL Kings. 

The Song of Songs. 


I. Chronicles. 



II. Chronicles. 




. oshua. 









I. Samuel. 



IL Samuel. 




The Gospels accord- 

Paul's Epistles to the 

Thessalonians I. 

ing to 


Thessalonians II. 


Corinthians I. 

To Timothy I. 


Corinthians II. 

To Timothy II. 



To Titus. 



To Philemon. 

The Acts of the 


The Epistle to the 













The Epistle of James. 
The first and second 

Epistles of Peter. 
The first, second, 

and third Epistles 

of John. 
The Epistle of Jude. 
The Revelation. 

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


The Rule of Faith {kccvuu rvi^ '^ianag, regiila fidei) was the term 
used to indicate the sum of saving knowledge. Then as the subject- 
matter of this canon or rule was wholly derived from Holy Scripture, 
the inspired writings were distinguished from all others as canonical. 
The Canon, therefore, does not mean merely a catalogue of Scriptures 
received in the church, but the accepted rule or measure of Christiam 
doctrine. [Comp. Westcott's Bible i7i the Church, p. no.] 

The enumeration of books in our Confession is given according to 
the distribution of these in our ordinary English Bibles. The Hebrew 
Bible followed another arrangement, grouping the books of the 
Old Testament according to subject, style, and date, under a threefold 
division, i. Torah : the Law, comprising the five books, Genesis, 
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. 2. The Prophets, com- 
prising — (i) Earlier Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings; 
(2) Later Prophets : Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve Minor 
Prophets. 3. Hagiographa (the sacred writings), comprising Psalms, 
Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, 
Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles. It was to this early 
distribution of the Old Testament books that our Lord alluded when 
He claimed that things concerning Him had been written in the law 
of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms (Luke xxiv. 44). 
According to our present arrangement, the historical books of the last 
division of the Hebrew Bible are classed with the earlier Prophets : 
Daniel gets the fourth place among the more directly prophetic 
writings, and Lamentations is placed beside Jeremiah. This distri- 
bution originated with the Septuagint, was thence adopted in the 
Vulgate, was followed by Luther, and has thus come to be regarded 
with general favour. It is supposed to correspond well with the 
distribution of the books of the New Testament. Thus in our Old 
Testament we have — (i) Historical Books: Genesis to Esther; (2) 
Didactic Books : Job to Ecclesiastes ; (3) Prophetic Books : Isaiah 
to Malachi. In the New Testament we have — (i) Histories : Gospels 
and Acts ; (2) Didactic Treatises or Epistles : Romans to Jude ; (3) 
A Prophetic Book : The Apocalypse. 

The caution shown by the Westminster divines in their choice of 
designations for the several books of the Canon of Scripture is very 
admirable. Wherever they found no author's name prefixed to a 
particular book, they have been careful to insert none ; and in this 
they have been scrupulously consistent. They showed their wisdom 
in refusing to imperil the position of any single book in the Canon 
by fixing for it an authorship which it did not itself claim — an author- 
ship which, having been maintained by tradition in one age, might 
probably be repudiated by criticism in another. 

Although no test of eanonicity is here explicitly enounced, yet when 
the clause ' all which are given by inspiration of God, to be,' etc., is 
compared with the opening words of sec. 3, 'The Books commonly 
called Apocrypha, not being of Divine inspiration, are no part of the 
canon of the Scripture,' it appears that the framers of the Confession 


understood inspiration to be the test of canonicity. Writings which 
are inspired are canonical, writings which are not inspired are not 
canonical. This leaves us confronted by the further and formidable 
question, How are we to ascertain what writings are inspired ? 

There are two processes by which we can arrive at the conclusion 
that a writing is inspired. The internal evidence afforded by the 
marks appealed to in sec. 5 may be sufficient to warrant the conclu- 
sion. Or we may believe in the inspiration of a writing, because we 
first of all believe in Christ, and find that He authorized certain per- 
sons to speak in His name, and with His Spirit. But there are books 
in our Canon whose claims are justified by neither of these tests ; of 
such books as Chronicles and Esther we neither know the authorship 
nor can we unhesitatingly say that they carry in themselves indubit- 
able marks of Divine origin. We are driven, therefore, to some test, 
such as Luther's, * conformity to the main end of revelation.' If by 
* canonical writings ' we mean the writings through which God con- 
veys to us the knowledge of the revelation He has made, — if this be 
the prominent idea, and if their being the rule of faith and life be an 
inference from this, — then we find a broader basis for the Canon, and 
can admit into it all writings which have an immediate connection 
with God's revelation of Himself in Christ. If the book in question 
gives us a link in the history of that revelation, or if it represents aj 
stage of God's deahngs, and of the growth His people made under these 
dealings, and if it contains nothing which is quite inconsistent with 
the idea of its being inspired, then its claim to be admitted seems valid. 

The Jewish teachers did not consider the Old Testament Canon 
fixed until after the fall of the Temple. The New Testament Canon 
was not finally adjusted till the end of the fourth century ; and even 
then the canonicity of certain books was disputed by one and another 
leader of the church. Those books that were universally accepted 
w^ere entitled Homologoumena, and those that for a time had their 
place questioned, Antilegomena. The Reformers, notably Luther, 
were surprisingly free in their use of this distinction. In the latter 
division were placed James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revela- 
tion. The claims of these books to bear apostolic names are now almost 
universally admitted by evangelical scholars ; and with this the ground 
for the distinction has disappeared. Hence in our Confession all the 
books enumerated are regarded as having equal canonical rank. In 
order to determine the question of canonicity, we have to trace the 
history of the reception of the several books in the ancient church, 
and then the list thus arranged according to the authority of tradition 
must be subjected to criticism, to determine whether the writings 
contained in it really reflect apostolic doctrine. Apostolic origin, 
either as to writing or as to spirit, is indispensable to the securing 
for any book a place in the Canon. This was so early recognised as 
a mark of canonicity, that heretical works seeking canonical authority 
were put forth under the names of apostles. 

The Westminster Confession, in common with most of the doctrinal 



symbols of the Reformed or Calvinistic Churches, while not going 
into argument, accepts the definite results of tradition and criticism 
in the church, and so gives the list arrived at by those means. Luther 
stood free in regard to the Canon ; and Lutheran standards, in order 
to preserve this freedom, even from the earliest Reformation times, 
forbear to give an enumeration of the books of Scripture lest they 
should fetter critical inquiry. Dorner brings it as a reproach against 
the Reformed Confessions that they have inserted such lists. 

The relation between Inspiration and Canonicity is very much like 
that between Creation and Providence. Each writing is the product 
of divine inspiration, — a creation of God's Spirit ; and the preserva- 
tion and grouping together of these writings must be regarded as the 
result of a divine providence employing as instruments the spiritual 
and critical discernment of man. In regard to Inspiration the Con- 
fession gives its imprimatur to no particular theory, but clearly and 
strongly affirms the fact. All the books enumerated form one Canon, 
one rule of faith and life. ' The perfect and canonical authority of 
Holy Scripture does not depend upon any one writing, but upon the 
whole collection of writings, which supplement one another, and must 
therefore be taken together ; and in this dogma regarding Scripture 
is involved the truth, that we have in the New Testament, not merely 
fragments of the Apostolic Age, which have by chance been preserved 
to us, but a harmonious whole, complete within itself, wherein no 
principle of apostolic consciousness is wanting.' ^ The ' all ' of our 
section involves exclusion of whatever is extra-canonical, and the 
doctrinal completeness of that circle of writings which forms the Canon. 

III. — The Books commonly called Apocrypha^ not being of divine in- 
spiration^ are no part of the canoji of the scripture j a7id therefore 
are of7io authority in the Church of God, 7tor to be a7iy otherwise 
approved, or made use of than other human writings. 

The books called Apocrypha here referred to are those writings 
for which a place has been sought in or alongside of the Old Testa- 
ment Canon. Their subjects are in the same line with those of the 
canonical Scriptures. Hence we have apocryphal histories — Ezra, 
Esther, Daniel, giving romantic additions to the books bearing these 
names, and the Books of the Maccabees, giving historical records of 
the period from 175 B.C. to 135 B.C. ; apocryphal prophecies — Baruch 
and Epistle of Jeremiah ; apocryphal books of wisdom — Ecclesiasti- 
cus and Wisdom of Solomon ; and finally, pure romances in historical 
form, with a purpose either directly religious (Tobit) or directly 
patriotic (Judith). These are not found in the Hebrew Canon, but 
only in the Greek. Yet through the use of the LXX. they were 
printed side by side with canonical books, which was never done 
with the so-called New Testament Apocrypha — pseudo-gospels, acts, 
epistles, and apocalypses [although the Apostolic Fathers are some- 
' Martensen, Christia?i Dogtnatics, page 402. Edinburgh, 1866. 


times found in one MS. with the canonical writings of the New 
Testament]. In many of the apocryphal books there is an air of 
extravagance, and in even the best, the simple majesty and pro- 
found religious power of Scripture are absent. The Protestant 
Standards generally indicate a clear distinction between Canonical 
Scripture as inspired, and the Apocrypha as uninspired ; and though 
in some churches, as the Anglican, portions from the Apocrypha are 
still read, they are not allowed to have independent authority in 
matters of faith. When this is admitted, the position of our own 
Standards is the only consistent one. Like other writings, useful and 
instructive, they should be relegated to private use and have no 
ecclesiastical sanction conferred upon them. Adopting this principle, 
the directors of the British Bible Societies, after long discussion, de- 
cided in 1825, that no copies of Scripture should be circulated by them 
in which the Apocrypha was bound up with the canonical books. 

W. — The authority of the holy scripture^ for which it ought to be 
believed and obeyed, dependeth not up07i the testimony of any 
man or chiirch, but wholly upon God {who is truth itself), 
the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received^ because 
it is the word of God. 

The ultimate authority of Holy Scripture is declared to rest upon 
God Himself, from whom it comes. His Spirit inspires it, and this 
renders it infallible. Romanists, however, and Romanising Angli- 
cans attribute to human testimony — either that of the church or that 
of patristic tradition — what our Confession, in consistency with the 
whole Protestant type of doctrine, attributes only to the testimony of 
God Himself. ' Men sometimes talk as if they had a vague notion of 
the early Fathers having had some inferior species of inspiration, — 
some peculiar divine guidance differing from that of the Apostles and 
Evangelists in degree rather than in kind, — and somehow entitling 
their views and statements to more deference and respect than those 
of ordinary men. All notions of this sort are utterly baseless, and 
should be carefully rejected. Authority, properly so called, can be 
rightly based only upon inspiration ; and inspiration is the guidance 
of the Spirit of God, infallibly securing against all error. . . . The 
Fathers, individually or collectively, were not inspired ; they therefore 
possess no authority whatever ; and their statements must be estimated 
and treated just as those of any other ordinary men. . . . Most of 
them have given interpretations of important scriptural statements 
which no man now receives ; many of them have erred and have 
contradicted themselves and each other in stating the doctrines of 
the Bible.' ^ The attribute, therefore, which specially characterises 
authentic Scripture is its inspiration ; and as this is a divine opera- 
tion — the energy of the Holy Spirit — it cannot be dependent for its 
authority upon human t'istimony. The Holy Spirit just as well as 
* Cunningham, Historical Theology^ vol, i. pp. 174, 175, 


Christ receives not testimony from man. Hence the Scripture as the 
product of the Spirit's inspiration gives testimony to the behever and 
lends authority to the church, instead of receiving from the church 
its authority. Protestantism rightly understands the words of our 
Lord to Peter — upon this rock I will build my church — as referring 
not to the individual addressed, but to the truth which that individual, 
through the Spirit's influence, had recognised. According, therefore, 
to this fair interpretation of the locics classicus, the establishment of 
the authority of the church is made to depend upon the Word. The 
written Word, when understood in the spirit of Peter's highly com- 
mended confession, must be regarded as the reflex of the living Word. 
[Read Pressense, The Martyrs and Apologists^ reporting and criti- 
cising Clement's view of Scripture, pp. 557-561.] Christ, who said, 
' I am the truth,' is the centre of all Scripture ; and so the authority of 
Scripture is properly made to rest wholly upon God, who is truth. 

V. — We may be inoved and induced by the testimony of the Chttrch 
to an high afid reverend esteem of the holy scripture^ and the 
heavenlitiess of the matter^ the effi,cacy of the doctrine^ the ma- 
jesty of the style^ the consent of all the parts^ the scope of the 
whole {which is to give all glory to God)^ the full discovery it 
makes of the only way of mail's salvation^ the many other 
incomparable excellencies^ and the enti?'e perfection thereof are 
arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the 
word of God; yet, notwithstandi?ig, our full persuasio?i and 
assurance of the i?fallible truth, afid divine authority thereof, 
is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, beaiing witness 
by and with the word in our hea?is. 

This revelation specially commends itself to us by means of its 
adequacy for that which it professes to accomplish. It comes as a 
revelation of God, and the only satisfactory evidence of its worth is 
the result which it effects in us. Our Confession, therefore, gives 
only a subordinate place to external evidences in support of the 
authority of Scripture, such as the testimony of the church ; it gives 
a higher place to arguments from the manifest characteristics of 
Scripture itself, which declare its perfection ; and the highest place 
of all to the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. According to the 
teaching of this section, therefore, we may say that, while we do not 
overlook the aids to faith in Scripture which we obtain from external 
sources, while we lay emphasis upon the importance and truth of that 
which Scripture records, we are mainly influenced in our acceptance 
I of Scripture as the ultimate and absolute rule of faith by the experi- 
ience which we and other believers in the Christian church have had 
■vof the spiritual power of its doctrines. And here we might find a 
vindication of the wisdom of the compilers of the article on the 


Canon in not laying any stress upon the question of the human 
authorship of the several books. The internal evidence, which, on 
the one hand, brings into view the special characteristics of Scripture, 
and on the other, insists upon reverent attention to the voice of the 
Spirit in the believing heart, is of primary importance in establishing 
for us, as believers, the supreme authority of the canonical Scrip- 
tures. [See Halyburton's Reason of Faith.'] 

VI. — The whole coiuisel of God., concerning all things necessary for 
his ow?i glory., man's salvation., faith., and life., is either ex- 
pressly set down in scriptiwe., or by good and necessary cojise- 
qitence may be deduced from scripture: tmto which nothing at 
any time is to be added., whether by new revelations of the Spirit., 
or traditions of me7i. Nevertheless., we acknowledge the inward 
illumination of the SpiiHt of God to be necessary for the saving 
tmderstanding of such thijigs as are revealed in the word; 
and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship 
of God., and government of the Church., common to human 
actions and societies., which are to be ordered by the light of 
nature and Christian prudeiice., according to the general rules 
of the word., which are always to be observed. 

This article states very clearly the Protestant doctrine of the per- 
fection and completeness of Scripture as the rule of faith. There 
are two theories that very evidently conflict with this doctrine — the 
theory of fanatical and pietistic sects regarding new revelations, and 
the theory of Rome regarding the value of ecclesiastical traditions. 
Luther showed that these were really two sides of the same theory. 
The history of Irvingism shows how the one passes into the other. 
Both are repudiated here, yet in a moderate manner. The Quakers 
maintain that though revelations to the pious individual can never 
contradict the true sense of Scripture, yet these revelations are not 
to be subjected to the Scripture as though they were in any way 
subordinate. These subjective spiritual experiences are viewed as 
co-ordinate in authority with the written Word ; the subject-matter 
of these may be something outside of Scripture, and so they may 
render one wise beyond what is written. This extravagance the 
Westminster divines refused to countenance ; yet they show how 
indispensable the illumination of the Holy Spirit is if we are to know 
the Scripture savingly. The Romanists again hold that in Scripture 
alone we have not a sufficient rule of faith and life, and that conse- 
quently the written Word must be supplemented by what they call 
divine, apostolical, and ecclesiastical traditions ; meaning by these 
respectively, as explained by Bellarmine — those given by Christ 
Himself to the apostles, yet not recorded ; those given by apostles 
under the Spirit's guidance, yet not in their epistles ; and ancient 


customs or views which, by general consent, have received in the 
church the force and importance of laws. According to Quakers, 
the individual believer, — according to Romanists, the church, — pos- 
sesses an inspiration like that of the apostles, which has an equal 
authority in matters of faith and life. Our Confession, in the true 
spirit of Protestantism, regards Scripture as the complete rule for us, 
in the examination of which we must use indeed the Spirit's guidance 
and all available helps from human thought and history, but with 
which we may co-ordinate nothing. In religious matters, and mani- 
festly in these alone, we maintain the sufficiency of the written Word, 
which contains all that is necessary to salvation, all that is necessary 
to constitute a perfect rule of faith and morals. 

VII. — All things in scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor 
alike clear unto allj yet those things which are necessary to be 
kjiown, 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 sufft-cient understanding 
of them. 

Not all alike plain. — Mysteries in doctrine and varying natural 
capacities in readers are admitted. The perspicuity attributed to 
Scripture is relative, on the one hand, to the matter treated of — e.g., 
large portions of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation are obscure — and 
on the other, to the condition of the person who reads the Word. 

Necessary to be known for salvation. — Perspicuity is affirmed 
absolutely in regard to those truths that constitute the Rule of Faith 
— the leading doctrines of the Gospel. The knowledge of these being 
indispensable to all classes of men, each is found expressed in some 
particular part of Scripture with unmistakable clearness. The 
Romish Church maintains that Scripture is not in itself intelligible 
to the people in matters of faith, and insists that only the church 
tradition can give the true interpretation. What Rome thus affirms 
of the church and her tradition. Protestantism attributes to the 
individual reader of the Word who uses the ordained means. 

The ordinary means. — What these means are depends on our idea 
of the understanding of Scripture, — whether we regard it as a merely 
literal or as a spiritual understanding. To understand the letter of 
Scripture we must know the language in which we read it, our natural 
powers must have reached some degree of maturity, and our minds 
must be unbiassed by prejudices and erroneous views. To under- 
stand the spirit of Scripture, and so to receive spiritual profit from our 
reading, we must have spiritual discernment through the indwelling 
of the Spirit, and even by the spiritual man prayer must be used as a 
means to secure enlightenment. 


VIII. — The Old Testament in Hebrew {which was the native lan- 
guage of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in 
Greek {which at the time of the writing of it was most gene- 
rally known to the nations)^ being immediately inspired by God, 
and by his singular care and providefice kept pure in all ages, 
are therefore authentical j so as in all controversies of religion, 
the church is finally to appeal tinto them. But because these 
original tongues are not k?iow?i to all the people of God, who 
have right tmto and i7iterest in the scriptures, and are com- 
matided, i7t the fear of 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 dwelling plenti- 
fully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable maimer, and, 
throtcgh patience and comfort of the scripticres, may have hope. 

Authenticity of original texts. — The principle here affirmed com- 
mends itself to every fair mind. Our final appeal in all controversies 
must be to the original sources. The Romish Church has given 
preference to the Latin translation called the Vulgate, and dis- 
courages, if it does not absolutely prohibit, all appeals to the Hebrew 
and Greek texts. The object of this was to gain some advantage 
over the Protestants by the use of a text that had been manipulated 
by Romish authorities and so reflected a Romish type of doctrine. 
Bellarmine holds that, as few and sometimes none in the general 
councils of the church knew Hebrew, it was necessary for the church 
that full confidence should be claimed in all important questions for 
the Latin Version. In opposition to his further assertion of the 
absolute correctness of the Vulgate, errors have been pointed out and 
divergences noted between the Clementine and Sixtine editions. 
The translators of our English Version used the originals as then 
accessible. ' These,' say they in their preface of 161 1, ' these are the 
two golden pipes or rather conduits, wherethrough the olive branches 
empty themselves into the gold. St. Augustine calleth them precedent 
or original tongues, St. Hierome, fountains.' Augustine, it may be 
mentioned, knew Greek but not Hebrew, so he used the LXX. and 
praised it ; Jerome, knowing Hebrew, used and valued the Hebrew 
text, — each using the oldest form of Scripture within his reach. It 
is also to be remembered that Hebrew and Greek being almost 
unknown during the greater part of the Middle Ages, when Latin was 
familiarly known, the original texts were not so liable to intentional 
and doctrinal corruption as the Latin texts were, and slips of copyists, 
being often the result of sheer ignorance, are therefore the more 
easily corrected. 

Right and use of trarslations. — Protestantism commends and 
enjoins the reading of the Bible by the people, and, in consequence, 


approves of the diffusion of translations of Scripture in all languages. 
In the early centuries no restriction was placed on the use of Scrip- 
ture, but, as ignorance prevailed, it was first neglected by the people 
themselves, and then prohibited by their rulers. For popular in- 
struction translations are indispensable ; and our own version, viewed 
as the result of the combined labour of most competent men, and 
as having stood most searching criticism, may be guaranteed as 
correct on all important points of doctrine. 

IX. — T/ie infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scrip- 
ture itself J and therefore^ when there is a question about the 
true and full sense of any scripture {which is 7iot manifold^ 
but one\ it 7nust be searched and known by other places that 
speak 7nore clearly. 

In this section we have it clearly asserted that we do not require 
to go beyond Scripture itself, either to decisions of councils or to 
current views in the church, in order to determine the sense of 
Scripture : comparing Scripture with Scripture, the clearer parts will 
explain the more difficult ; and in order to this, we must avoid all 
obscuring of Scripture by imagining in it a variety of senses. 

Scripture its own interpreter. — This position does not overlook 
but really implies the careful use of all means of enlightenment and 
illustration. 'This statement seems to be founded on that of the 
Confessio Helvetica Posterior^ where the rule of explaining Scripture 
by itself is stated to include the consideration of the genius of the 
language, and the circumstances in which it was written, as well as 
the comparison of similar passages, to throw light on each other. 
This rule, therefore, is virtually the sound principle of grammatico- 
historical exegesis.'^ This is a necessary consequence of the Pro- 
testant doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. Only if itself 
essentially obscure, and hence calculated to mislead simple readers, 
would it be necessary that it should be authoritatively interpreted 
as to meaning and doctrine by any outward authority. The Old 
Scottish Confession has well said that, in order to gain the right sense 
of a passage, it concerns us to see not so much ' what men before us 
may have said or done, as what the Holy Spirit uniformly says in the 
body of the sacred Scripture.' The principle maintained here is that 
generally known as the Analogy of Faith. 

- Dark places to be explained by the clearer.—This is merely the 
carrying out of the principle referred to. We may, for example, have 
revelations of a truth, in a certain passage, in which some subordinate 
aspects of that truth are brought out, and yet that passage may be 
less clear than some others regarding the same general truth, in 
which, however, those particular aspects are not considered. The 
special teaching, then, of such a passage must be understood in a 

1 Professor Candlish, ' The Westminster Confession on Scripture,' in British and 
Foreign Evangelical Review for 1877, p. 177. 


way that will harmonize with the general type of doctrine contained 
in the clearer passage. 

The sense of Scripture one. — Some of our older divines so treated 
Scripture that they could take out of it anything they pleased. Many 
assumed a fourfold sense, and some even went further, — distinguish- 
ing the literal, analogical, allegorical, and tropological. By this sort 
of treatment the perspicuity of Scripture was utterly destroyed. If 
we are not to bring complete confusion into the contents of divine 
revelation, we must maintain only one sense for Scripture, and that 
the literal sense, reached by careful examination of the text itself. 
The spiritual truth is contained in the proper sense of Scripture 
language, and is lost instead of being rendered more conspicuous by 
the introduction of a mystical sense into our interpretation. A pro- 
phetic utterance may have an immediate reference and also the 
suggestion of some other thing, but this we may hold without tam- 
pering with the language of the prophet. 

X. — The supreme Jtidge, by which all controversies of religion are 
to be determined^ and all decrees of councils, opinio7is of aiicient 
writers, doctrines ofme7t, a7id private spirits, are to be examined, 
a7id i7i whose se7ite7ice we are to rest, ca7i be no other but the 
Holy Spirit spcaki7ig i7i the scripture. 

The last three sections of this chapter of our Confession are 
occupied in determining how we should use Scripture. We have 
seen in section viii. how Scripture should be used in dealing with the 
letter of the Word, whether original or translated. We have seen in 
section ix. how we must use Scripture in order to reach an under- 
standing of its meaning or real contents. And now in section x. 
we have a statement in regard to the application of principles and 
views gained from Scripture to particular cases as they occur. When 
controversies arise, materials for a decision must be sought in that 
rule of faith which, according to the second section of this chapter, 
has been identified with the inspired Scriptures ; but for the applica- 
tion of the contents of this rule in detail, we want something more 
than a mere impersonal written standard. Romanists, insisting upon 
the need of a living personal arbiter, find this in the person of the 
Pope speaking authoritatively for the church. Protestants find it in 
the presence of the Holy Spirit accompanying the Word, but not 
becoming identified with it. We have here, then, the illumination of 
the Spirit which was spoken of in section vi. as necessary for the 
saving understanding of Scripture. Controversies therefore must be 
decided, and the conclusions of church councils as well as all 
individual opinions must be tested by an appeal to the tribunal of 
Scripture, from which we shall hear the living Spirit speak ; and in 
all ages, believing hearts, while reading the Word, will listen to what 
the Spirit saith unto the churches. [Comp. Prof. Robertson Smith's 
The Old Testa77ie7it i7i the Jewish Church, Lect. i. pp. 1 1-16.] 




I. — There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in 
beitig and perfection, a most pure spirit, iiivisible, without body, 
parts, or passions, iin7nutable, iniinetise, eternal, incomprehen- 
sible, almighty, most wise, 7nost holy, inost free, most absolute, 
working all things according to the cotmsel of his own 
imniutable and most righteous will, for his own glory ; most 
loving, gracious, merciful, lotig-suffering, abimdant ift goodness 
and truth, forgivitig iniquity, transgression, and sin j therewarder 
of them that diligently seek himj and withal most just and 
terrible in his judgmetitsj hatijtg all sin, and who will by no 
means clear the guilty, 

\\.— God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself j 
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 thein, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and 
upon them : he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, 
through who7n, and to whom, are all things ; and hath most 
sovereign doininion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon 
them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are 
open and manifest j his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and 
independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent 
or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his 
works, and in all his commands. To Imn is due from angels 
and jnen, and every other creature, whatsoever wor'ship, service, 
or obedience he is pleased to require of them. 

The fact of God's existence had been assumed as the basis of the 
Confession. That God has spoken, — this is the first proposition, and 
all subsequent propositions claim to be simply an unfolding of what 
He has spoken. This chapter professes to bring together what He 
has said directly regarding Himself. 

The first two sections are inseparable. They treat of God, — His 
unity and His attributes. 

(i.) In the writings of the purer and more spiritual of the classical 
writers, both poets and philosophers, we find an eager groping after 
the notion of the divine unity. They could not rest in the thought 
that a power which divides itself among several beings is the last 


and highest of all. That God is one, was the most profound convic- 
tion of their souls, as the discovery of this one God was the deepest 
longing of their hearts. If only the idea of God as absolute and 
personal were reached, or even approached, the necessary conse- 
quence would be the affirmation of the unity of God. Indeed, the 
assertion of the divine personality — the acceptance, that is to 
say, of theism — leads necessarily to the recognition of deity as 
absolute being, and this, again, if intelligently entertained, to the 
adoption of a strict monotheism. From a purely speculative point of 
view, therefore, the doctrine that there is but one God may be placed 
beyond dispute among all who reject naturahsm, whether in the form 
of materialism or in the form of pantheism. It is to be noted, how- 
ever, that our Confession states this doctrine in immediate connec- 
tion with the claims which God makes upon His creatures for 
their undivided homage. We are taught to regard Him as the foun- 
tain of our being, as the Lord who has dominion over us, the 
Searcher of our hearts, and the God to whom our worship, service, 
and obedience are due. Thus the doctrine of His unity is emphasized 
chiefly in order that we may recognise in Him the God with whom 
alone we have to do. 

(2.) The enumeration of the divine perfections, given in these 
sections, is singularly lengthy ; but there is no discoverable method 
or principle of arrangement. The attributes of God have been 
variously classified by different dogmatists ; but as no attempt at 
classification is made in our Confession, we need take no notice of 
such schemes. In looking over the list of the divine perfections 
given here, we are at once impressed with its decidedly biblical aspect. 
Some of the terms indeed are not immediately biblical in form, but 
seem rather to have been derived from the Scholastic theology, — for 
example, Immense, Fountain of all being, — yet the ideas indicated by 
such phrases are very easily translated into well-known expressions 
of Scripture. On the other hand, we find that, repeatedly, complete 
clauses are introduced in their full and precise scriptural form. 
Without seeking formally to classify that which was not originally 
the subject of classification, we may notice the careful balancing of 
seemingly contrasted elements in the divine character, most free and 
most absolute, most loving, etc., and withal most just, etc. ; and also 
the singular accuracy with which God's self-sufficiency is maintained 
consistently with a living and evangelical view of His relations to His 
creatures. To say of God that He does not derive any glory from 
His creatures, is at first sight somewhat startling, till we observe that 
the term 'derive' is used in its most exact and proper sense of obtain- 
ing from an original source. Thus understood, it is evident that from 
the creature no glory of God can take its origin, for that glory had its 
origin earlier in the very creative act itself. This is further explained 
in the phrase which follows : ' manifesting His own glory in them.' 
Whatever in the creature co .itributes to the glory of God, is really an 
exhibition of God's own glory by means of His own creation. Thus 


we have a sober and moderate view of man's place and dignity. It 
is man's high honour and privilege to show forth God's glory, yet he 
is prevented from boasting, as if he himself, God's creature, were 
regarded as of himself and independently contributing to the glory of 
God. Man has dignity, but it is creaturely dignity ; he can make no 
claim of being profitable to God. It was the grave error of m.ysticism 
to insist in an unguarded manner upon the importance of the creature 
for the Creator. One of the mystics of the Middle Ages ventured 
plainly to say, what is generally implied in those systems of mysticism 
that tend to Pantheism, ' God has as much need of me as I of Him.' 
As intended by its author, this saying is not impious ; but it is over- 
bold, and liable to be understood in accordance with the ordinary 
meaning of its terms in a sense that is nothing short of blasphemy. 
Our Confession, on the other hand, goes carefully upon scriptural 
lines. It is only the ignorant idolater that can suppose that God 
needs anything, and yet, when His creature turns away from Him, 
He cries out, ' How shall I give thee up ?' Martensen has indicated 
a fair solution of the difficulty of reconciling God's independence 
of and interest in His creatures, by assuming that God has a 
twofold life, ' a hfe in Himselt of unclouded peace and self-satis- 
faction, and a life in and with His creation.' To the one, we 
refer all those scriptural expressions that imply limitation, or the 
appearance of human passions in God ; and to the other, which is the 
fundamental and ultimately triumphant form of the divine life, we 
ascribe that complete independence of His creation in which the 
attribute of unchangeableness is fully realised. 

In the closing part of these sections, we have the three doctrinally 
most important of the divine attributes— Sovereignty, Omniscience, 
and Holiness — expressed in almost the very words of Scripture, and 
their meaning explained with immediate reference to man. We find 
here a fit prelude to the chapter on the Divine Decrees. There is here 
a forecast of the same pure type of doctrine, and the exhibition thus 
made of God's sovereignty, absolute knowledge, and all-pervading 
holiness, yields all the essential elements of the doctrine of Predesti- 
nation which characterizes the whole of the Calvinistic symbols. In 
the declaration regarding God's sovereignty, the charge of arbitrari- 
ness is guarded against by the declaration as to the holiness of all His 
counsels. The perfection of His knowledge is explained, on the one 
hand, by His access to the most secret springs of human action, and 
on the other, by His independence of all creaturely conditions which 
introduce elements of contingency. 

III. — In the unity of the Godhead there be thj'ee perso7is^ of one sub- 
stance, power, a7id eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and 
God the Holy Ghost. The Father is ofno7ie, neither begotten nor 
proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy 
Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. 


1. The unity of God is maintained in this section from quite another 
point of view from that of the former section. It was there made 
with an immediately practical, here it is made with an immediately 
doctrinal, intention. The unity of the Godhead is affirmed in full 
view of the personal distinctions which are recognised in it. In this 
unity, without disturbing it, those distinctions exist. We are not, 
however, to separate between Godhead and God. This had been 
attempted by the mystics when they distinguished the incompre- 
hensible, abstract unity of God that cannot be revealed, and the 
manifestation of God under personal acts. It reappears in Delitzsch, 
who speaks of a divine doxa as the undivided centre of trinitarian 
distinctions. The same tendencies are found in Gregory of Nyssa 
and others, who viewed the relations of the divine unity to the divine 
personal distinctions as similar to the relation of the general notion 
of humanity to individual men. But just as the fulness of humanity 
is never realised in any individual, if we follow out such analogies, 
the fulness of divinity could not be found in each of the three persons. 
According to the indications of Scripture we may simply speak of one 
God, the unity of the Godhead, not bringing into view the distinctions 
of Father, Son, and Spirit, nor yet assuming any abstract ground 
separate from these distinctions. The God of Israel, who certainly 
related Himself to His people in a trinitarian manner, says, ' Hear, O 
Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.' 

2. Equality in substance, power, and eternity is ascribed to each of 
the divine persons. We must guard against a false subordinationism 
in regard to the second and third persons of the Trinity. Wc dis- 
tinguish between the essential Godhead in which each person equally 
shares, and the economic manifestation of personal distinctions in 
which a relative subordination is ascribed to the Son and Spirit. 
The true doctrine is expressed by Jesus Himself when He explains His 
relation to the Father — in respect of being and dignity, I and the 
Father are one ; in respect of economic manifestation in the work of 
redemption, my Father is greater than I. More generally the 
equality of the persons is shown in this, that for each of them are 
claimed the same names, attributes, actions, and worship. In Scrip- 
ture we have indications both of the essential and of the economic 
Trinity. We have the essential Trinity when the Word is shown to 
be God from the beginning and with God, and when the Spirit that 
searches the deep things of God is also acknowledged to be God. 
We have the economic Trinity in the whole scheme and work of 
redemption, and specifically in the terms of the Baptismal Formula 
and the ApostoHc Benediction. 

Various attempts were made by the Fathers to represent by means 
of some familiar figure what seemed to them expressible in the grand 
mystery of the Trinity. Gregory of Nyssa (331-394) regarded the 
name God as applicable to the Godhead, just as the name man is appli- 
cable to mankind as including individual men : the three persons are 
one Godhead, as individual men constitute the human race. Such a 


representation evidently endangers the doctrine of the Divine Unity, 
and tends towards Tri theism. Augustine (354-430) thought to dis- 
cover in man created in the image of God an analogue of this divine 
mystery. In the union of being, knowledge and love, or of memory, 
intelligence, and will, in man, he seemed to find an analogy to the 
trinity of persons in the Godhead. Here evidently there is a danger 
of falling into a monarchian conception of God, and through a 
doctrine of abstract unity of losing the thought of personal distinc- 
tions. Similar analogies were attempted by most of the Schoolmen 
with no better success. It may be interesting to refer to two attempts 
made by poets of the Middle Age to elucidate this doctrine. Dante's 
(1265-1321) figure of the rainbow, its reflection, and a radiance pro- 
ceeding from both, is well known {Parad. xxxiii. 107-112). Less 
known, but interesting as illustrating old English thought and also for 
its own quaint ingeniousness, is that of Langland in Piers Plo'W7}ian''s 
Vision (written about 1362), where he represents the trinity of persons 
by the parts of the human hand— fist, palm, and fingers : — ' Thus are 
thei alle but oon. As it an hand weere. And thre sondry sightes In oon 
shewynge, The pawme for it putteth forth fyngres, And the fust 
bothe.' [The whole section is instructive and highly suggestive. 
Read especially 11. 11,644-11,865.] Hooker {Eccles. Polity, v. 51) 
expresses the doctrine thus : ' The substance of God with this pro- 
perty to be of none doth make the Person of the Father ; the very self- 
same substance in number with this property to be of the Father 
maketh the Person of the Son ; the same substance having added 
unto it the property of proceeding from the other two maketh the 
Person of the Holy Ghost. So that in every Person there is implied 
both the substance of God which is one, and also that property which 
causeth the same person really and truly to differ from the other 



I. — God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his 
own will, freely ajid unchaiigeably ordaiji whatsoever comes to 
pass : yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, 7tor is 
violence offered to the will of the creatures, 7ior is the liberty or 
contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. 

We have here, in the first place, a clear statement of the doctrine 
of the divine decrees, and in the second place, this doctrine guarded 
against misapprehension and abuse. 

(i.) The divine decree (which being divine must have the divine 
characteristics — most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute) has 
reference to all that occurs, whether good or bad. It is the divine 

OF god's eternal decree. 47 

plan of the world comprising not only the holy counsels of the divine 
will, but also whatever evil designs might arise threatening to thwart 
the divine will. The earliest expression given to this decree, with 
which we have to do, is the divine utterance in the creation of man : 
' Let us make man.' The creature so called into being has given 
him the power of originating, if he will, that which opposes the will 
of the Creator. In thus ordaining the existence of man, God ordains 
the possibility of a contradiction to His own will ; and in this state- 
ment, we have all that we can say of the mystery in regard to the 
divine permission of evil. (See note on following section.) 

(2.) The principle which characterises the saving clause of the 
section is this : — God cannot contradict Himself. He cannot ordain 
sin, for that is the contradiction of Himself, and though He has 
ordained the being who has originated sin, yet He is in no sense the 
author of it. He cannot override human freedom, for He is the 
author of this freedom, and if He ignored it. He would contradict 
and nullify His own creative act. ' Violence is done to the will of a 
creature,' says John Knox, ' when it willeth one thing, and yet by 
force, by tyranny, or by a greater power, it is compelled to do the 
things which it would not.' God cannot infringe upon the freedom 
of action in second causes, for this would militate against the good 
faith of the appointment of means, both natural and spiritual, which 
men are commanded to use. The divine decree has no determining 
power over us. As Milton says of our first parents, ' Foreknowledge 
had no influence on their fault. Which had no less proved certain, 
unforeseen,' In all this we find the conclusions of last chapter re- 
produced. What God is, determines what God's counsels are. 

II. — AWwiigh God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon 
all supposed conditions; yet hath he not decreed a7iything because 
he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass 
zipon such conditions. 

This statement seems to have been introduced in order to guard 
against a theory of conditional decrees, put forth by the Jesuits, and 
adopted by Arminians and others, under the name of scientia media. 
In history a certain event happens, and the result is important for 
all subsequent ages. If that event had happened not then, but at 
another time, and in different circumstances, the future course of 
history would have been quite different. There are various instances 
of important events, far-reaching in their consequences, being made 
dependent upon certain conditions. If David would remain at 
Keilah, he would be delivered up to Saul. If the sailors remained 
not in the ship, Paul and his fellow-travellers could not be saved. 
[See this subject admirably treated by Dr. Chalmers, Sermojis 
preached i7i St. John's^ Glasgow., Sermon on Acts xxvii. 31.] Ac- 
cording to the theory oi 'scientia media, these conditions depend 
wholly upon the human wiilj and, as possibilities, are outside of the 


divine purpose. What God foreknows is the result which will follow 
the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of these conditions. A certain 
freedom is thus vindicated for man at the expense of the perfection 
and the reality of the divine knowledge. The doctrine of the Con- 
fession is the doctrine of the Reformed Churches, and maintains that 
nothing in the future is undetermined before God. David and Paul 
were told what the conditions of their safety were ; but the fulfilment 
of these conditions was already part of the divine plan, and had a 
place unconditionally in the divine decree. 

111.— By the decree cf God, for the manifestatio7t of his glory, some 
men a7td aitgels are predestinated unto everlasting life^ and others 
foreordained to everlasting death. 

IV. — These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are 
partictdarly and tmchangeably desigtiedj and their nninber is 
so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or 

The decree of God is here set forth, (i) As to its end, — the mani- 
festation of God's glory ; (2) As to its issue in regard to mankind, — 
the distinguishing between the saved and the unsaved ; (3) As to its 
finality, — it is in itself unchangeable, and in regard to its objects 
perfectly definite. That everything is designed to contribute to 
God's glory is regarded as an accepted and undisputed position ; and 
because God Himself is unchangeable, His decree with all that is 
really included in it must also be unchangeable. The one point 
requiring special attention here is the distinction made in the use 
of the terms predestination and foreordination. It is to be noticed 
that nowhere throughout this chapter is the term predestination used 
in reference to the evil, while foreordination is used of good and evil 
alike. Now there is nothing in the words to vindicate such a dis- 
tinction in their use ; but evidently the Westminster divines wished 
to make it clear that they regarded God's proceedings in regard to 
the elect, and in regard to the reprobate respectively, as resting upon 
entirely different grounds. In the one instance, we have an act of 
grace, determined purely by God's good will ; in the other, an act of 
judgment, determined by the sin of the individual. 

v.— Those of ma7iJiind that are predestinated tmto life, God, befo)-e 
the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal 
and immutable purpose^ and the secret coimscl a7id good pleasure 
of his will, hath chose7t i7i Christ 7mto everlasti7ig glory ^ otct of 
his mere free grace a7id love, without a7iy fo7'csight of faith or 
good works, or persevera7ice i7i either of the7n, or a7iy other thi7ig 
i7i the creature, as co7iditio7is, or catises moving hi7n theretmto ; 
a7id all to the p7'aisc of his glorious grace. 


This section speaks of election unto life ; and in it we have brought 
together those characteristic points which really distinguish our 
Standards as at once Evangelical and Calvinistic. The section that 
follows only develops the principle already contained in this. The 
two special points in it are these : The election is in Christ, and 
this election takes place without reference to any merit on the part 
of those elected, whether of faith or of works. 

(i.) ' Chosen in Christ' is an expression used by the Apostle Paul, 
when he insists upon the eternity of the choice, the pure grace that 
characterises it, and its destination to everlasting glory (Eph. i. 4). 
The whole section in our Confession is thoroughly Pauline in 
language as well as in doctrine. While the cause of the election is 
God's free grace, the condition which had to be fulfilled, and which 
had necessarily a place in the eternal decree, is the substitutionary 
merit of Christ. 

(2.) When we have repudiated the notion of a conditional decree, we 
have guarded against the error of supposing that election, which is 
an eternal act, is grounded on any foreseen faith. Besides, this would 
render our deliverance no more of grace but of works, — faith being 
in that case regarded as the meritorious cause of our election and 
subsequent salvation. The evangelical doctrine as expressed in this 
sentence of our Confession, and as similarly stated in a later chapter 
(see chap. xi. i), views faith not as the cause of election, but as one 
of its most blessed fruits, sovereignly ordained as the condition of 
our justification. 

VI. — As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by 
the etcinial and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all 
the means thereimto. Wherefore they who are elected being 
fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ j are effectnally called 
tinto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in dne season; are 
justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power throtigh faith 
unto salvation. Neither are any other redee?ned by Christ, 
effectually called, jtistified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the 
elect only. 

There is here a careful definition of the relation which God, who 
disposes all things according to His own good pleasure, bears to 
established conditions and appointed means. He has chosen some 
to life everlasting, but for the attaining of this end He has appointed 
certain means ; and the reality of the election to glory rests in this, 
that He effectually applies to the elect the means that He requires to 
be employed. The redemption of the elect is complete, inasmuch as all 
the means are efficiently used ; and this redemption is only of the elect. 

The statement that they who are elected being fallen in Adam are 
redeemed by Christ, is ir teresting as having given occasion to a 
keen debate in the Assembly. It had been proposed to say at this 



place, ' To bring this to pass God ordained to permit man to fall/ 
From the Minutes of Assembly we learn that Calamy very reasonably 
objected to these words, that they made man's fall the means of the 
divine decree. God allowed man to fall in order to show man his 
neediness, and so magnify the riches of His own grace in redemption. 
This was the theory of Supralapsarianism. It has appeared under 
varying forms of expression in all ages of the church. The fall is 
sometimes spoken of even as a happy occurrence {felix culpa), inas- 
much as it led to the manifestation of redeeming grace. This notion 
is contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture, where sin is consistently 
regarded as the cause only of misery, and God's holy love, which could 
never work by sin, the alone cause of man's redemption through Christ. 
This Supralapsarian view was held by Twisse, the president of the 
Assembly, and by other members, but their opinions were not pressed. 
The theory of Infralapsarianism, which the language of our Confes- 
sion here naturally suggests, seems to have most countenance from 
Scripture, which speaks of the subjects of the divine decrees as 
already sinners. 

VII. — The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the tm- 
searchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or with- 
holdeth mercy as he pleas eth, 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. 

The subject of this paragraph is a peculiarly solemn one, and th? 
Westminster divines have expressed themselves in regard to it with 
admirable caution and moderation. The doctrine here enunciated 
has provoked much opposition, and the representations given of it 
by objectors are generally little better than gross caricatures. In 
his History of Eiiropean Morals (vol. i. p. 96), Lecky has absurdly 
coupled together, in his condemnation, the Romish doctrine of the 
Damnation of Unbaptized Infants and the Calvinistic doctrine of 
Reprobation. In very pleasing contrast to the passionate and ir- 
rational tirades of rejectors of the doctrine stands the calm and 
measured statement of our Confession. It is an utter misrepresenta- 
tion of the doctrine of our Standards when election and reprobation 
are described as respectively the cause of faith and the cause of 
unbelief. Calamy, one of the members of the Assembly, preaching 
before the House of Commons, said that it was most certain that 
God was not the cause of any sinner's damnation ; and others of the 
divines called attention to the way in which the vessels of wrath are 
only said to be fitted for destruction without naming by whom,— God, 
Satan, or themselves ; whereas God Himself is expressly said to have 
prepared His chosen vessels of mercy unto glory. (Compare Mitchell, 
Introduction to Minutes of Assembly, p. Ixi.) It is well to dis- 
tinguish carefully between election and reprobation, according to the 

OF god's eternal decree. 51 

distinctions indicated in the statement now before us. The points 
of difference have been very clearly stated by Amesius. Under three 
heads he has summed up {Medulla, 1. xxv. 31-40) the particulars in 
which reprobation is not to be co-ordinated with election, (i.) In 
reprobation the end in view is not properly the perdition of the 
creature, but the manifestation of God's justice ; while in election 
the immediate end is not so much the glory of God's grace as the 
salvation of men. (2.) In reprobation certain men are ordained to 
show forth God's justice, there being no communication of anything, 
but only privation ; while in election God communicates good in 
His grace. (3.) In reprobation there are simply granted the means 
whereby God's justice may be exhibited, the permission of sin and 
hardening in sin, so that reprobation is not the cause of condemna- 
tion nor of the sin that merits condemnation ; while in election as 
the electing love of God, we have the cause not only of salvation, 
but also of all that leads to it. 

VIII. — The doctrine of this high mystery of predestinatio7i is to be 
handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the 
will of God revealed in his word, and yielding obedience there- 
unto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured 
of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of 
praise, j'everence, and admiration of God, and of humility, dili- 
gejice, ajid abundant consolation, to all that sincerely obey the 

The use of this doctrine, which is here called a high mystery, is 
limited to those who savingly avail themselves of the Gospel. What 
we are required to do is to observe and obey God's revealed will. 
This produces in us a certainty of our effectual calling, and this 
certainty again assures us of our election (comp. John vii. 17). Let 
us love indeed and in truth (i John iii. 18, 19); and hereby we 
know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before 
Him. It is after declaring his remembrance of the works of faith 
and labours of love of the Thessalonians, that Paul (i Thess. i. 4) 
affirms his knowledge of their election. In treating of such matters 
as those treated of in this chapter of our Confession, we should 
carefully observe the limitations and the sage counsel of this last 
section. ' In these matters,' said the martyr Ridley (as quoted by 
Eadie O71 Ephesians), ' I am so fearful that I dare not speak further ; 
yea almost none otherwise than the text does, as it were, lead me by 
the hand.' [Read a beautiful argument and earnest appeal in behalf 
of caution and reverence in dealing with divine mysteries in 
Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, Bk. i. chap, ii.] If this manner of 
using the doctrine be observed, it will prevent the possibility of any 
fatalistic tendency, whethe: in the form of indolent indifference or 
hardening despair. 




\.— It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the jnani- 
/est at ion of the glory of his eternal fower, wisdom, and goodness, 
in the beginning, to C7'eate, or make of nothing, the world, and 
all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six 
days, and all very good. 

The Confession here speaks of the plan of the world and the creation 
which accomplished that plan as the work of the Godhead. Some 
have too hastily sought to determine which of the divine persons 
ought to be regarded as officially concerned in the creation. Calvin 
is too intent upon the fanciful parallel suggested by the reference in 
the original narrative to the Word of God as instrumental in the 
creative act, and the use of the same name as applied to the Son of 
God in the prologue to the Gospel of John. Jn recent times this 
view has been frequently re-asserted. It, however, undoubtedly tends 
toward a Sabellian theory of the Godhead. A parallel is also 
sometimes maintained between the natural creation and the divine 
revelation in Christ, on the ground that the world was created by the 
Word of God. But while refusing to regard creation as in any 
exclusive manner the work of the Son, we must not view its accom- 
plishment as effected apart from the Son. If we say we believe in 
God the Father, Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, just because 
we view the Creator as Father, we cannot conceive the work as 
wrought apart from the co-operation of the Son and the Spirit. 

To make of nothing is used simply to explain the word create. 
The presupposition of all created things is found in the unbounded 
sources of the divine omnipotence. In idea there originally exists 
nothing but God. The statement of our Confession is nothing more 
than a denial of the eternity of all that is not God. Let it be noted 
that 'nothing' is not represented as the source of the creation, — ex 
nihilo nihil fit. The idea or notion of thing is necessarily a temporal 
idea, and out of time, before the beginning of time, it cannot be 

Much unreasonable opposition has been shown against the 
retention in our Confession of the statement, ' in the space of six 
days.' It might be answer enough to those who thus complain, to 
remark that their complaint must tell equally against the Scriptures, 
and also that whatever fair explanation can be given of the scriptural 
account is equally available for that of the Confession. This has 
been from earliest times a much debated point from the side of 
science and from the side of theology. Philo regards the scriptural 
expression as indicating merely the succession and order of events. 
This notion gained general acceptance in the Christian church, and 


with sundry modifications is the view now generally entertained. 
The early Protestant theologians are commendably cautious here, 
and while generally not denying, do not affirm the view that the world 
was created in six successive days. Some (as Amesius, Medulla^ 1. 
viii. 28) suggest that the active creative periods were six natural 
days, with indefinite intervals between them. So also Martensen 
says {Christian Dogmatics, p. 117) : 'Each new day dawned when 
the time was full, when all the conditions and presuppositions of its 
dawn had been developed.' This theory is not in Scripture nor in 
the Confession, but it is not inconsistent with either ; and this ought 
to show how little such a statement as that complained against in 
our Confession excludes fairly-attempted schemes of reconciliation 
with discovered facts of science. However, it should be observed 
that the notion of the six days as indicating the order of succession 
is still as obnoxious as ever to men of science. One period seems to 
overlap the other ; and it appears utterly inconceivable, as well as 
unscientific, that the works represented as belonging to one creative 
day should be declared finished, and then an immense period inter- 
vene before the work of the next day should be finished ; — that 
creations should remain for ages in themselves perfect, yet absolutely 
without the conditions of their efficient operation. The student of 
God's Word need not pledge himself to any theory. The statement 
of the Confession is purely biblical. ' According to the more obvious 
interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis, this work was accom- 
plished in six days. This therefore has been the common belief of 
Christians. It is a belief founded on a given interpretation of the 
Mosaic record, which interpretation, however, must be controlled 
not only by the laws of language but by facts. This is at present an 
open question. The facts necessary for its decision have not yet 
been duly authenticated. The believer may calmly await the result.' 
(Hodge, Systematic Theology^ vol. i. p. 557.) 

II. — After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male 
and female, with reasonable and immortal sotcls, endued with 
knowledge, righteotcsness, and true holiness, after his own image, 
having the law of God writtefi in their hearts, and power to 
fulfil it J and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left 
to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. 
Beside this laiu written in their hearts, they received a command 
not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which 
while they kept, they were happy in their communio7t with God, 
and had dominion over the creatures. 

The image of God, according to the statement of this section, 
is evidently intended to include moral endowments (knowledge, 
righteousness, and holiness), and the capacity for receiving divine 



impressions,— all, in short, that affords a ground for human responsi- 
bihty. These characteristics, it will be observed, are taken from the 
description of the new man. This is quite legitimate, for the new 
rnan is represented as a renewal after the image of Him that created 
him. Our Confession further indicates that communion with God 
and dominion over the creatures are those consequences of the 
possession of the divine image that are immediately lost in the fall. 
We may therefore identify full human consciousness with the divine 
image in man, if we are prepared to maintain that this conscious- 
ness, when possessed in its completeness, includes intellectual, moral, 
and religious elements. We shall then find the ground of man's 
dominion oyer creation in his possession of these endowments. His 
superiority is the condition of his supremacy. [Consider wherein man's 
true dignity consists. See Pascal's Thoughts on the Greatness of Man.'] 

When, therefore, Romanists make the divine image to consist in 
free-will, they simply seize upon that in the original constitution of 
man which renders change of condition possible. The law in the 
heart, and power to fulfil it, together constitute man's original 
righteousness ; which we regard as an essential element in man's 
being, and not as a merely superadded gift. It was only to a 
creature possessing in his very nature this moral character that God 
could address the commands of a moral law— commands which 
might be obeyed or disobeyed on ethical principles. This possession 
of an alternative choice distinguishes the subject of moral from the 
subject of mere natural law. Man's true dignity is thus seen to 
consist in his personal moral power. Positive law in the form of an 
express command may bring into view man's relation to that law 
written in the heart, just as a well-chosen question may test one's 
proficiency in a whole department of science. 

The original condition is described as one of happiness. There 
are two extremes which ought to be guarded against. [Consult 
Martensen, Dogmatics, § 78.] An exaggerated Augustinianism tends 
to regard the primitive innocence as perfected holiness ; while 
thoroughgoing Pelagianism confounds this original innocence with 
the absence of all spiritual manifestations. Our Confession does not 
indicate the degree of this original happiness. It is, however, a 
mutable state, and could therefore be enhanced by being rendered 
permanent as the reward of obedience. [On the image of God in 
man, see the third chapter of Dr. Laidlaw's Bible Doctrine of Man, 
especially p. 134.J 



■Cod, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, 
and govern all creatures ^ actions, and things, front the gj-eatcst 


eveji to the least, by his most wise and holy p7'ovidence, according 
to his infallible for ek7iowledge, and the free and immutable counsel 
of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power ^ 
justice, goodjiess, and mercy. 

The subject of this chapter is really the problem of the present day. 
God's relation to the world is the most absorbing question under 
discussion in popular theology. It is here that the relations of science 
and religion present themselves for examination. 

Providence is coextensive with creation. The constant and con- 
sistent recognition of God's care as extending to all persons and 
things both great and small is characteristic of Christian theology. 
The popular doctrine of Pagan antiquity acknowledged a divine 
oversight only of the more important persons and events. * Great 
things,' says Cicero, * the gods care for, small things they neglect.' 
In the doctrine of Providence the distinction is generally observed 
between preservation and government — the continued existence and 
the regular development of creation. 

(i.) God in providence upholds His creation. The personal act of 
God in His preservation of the world is distinguished from those 
impersonal agencies in nature (influences, powers, tendencies) which 
Pantheistic modes of thought represent as supporting and continuing 
the life and properties of created beings ; and also from the action of 
mere natural energies originally set in motion by the first cause, 
according to the theory of the Deists. 

(2.) God in providence directs, disposes, and governs His creatures. 
The personal God is here represented as exercising His attributes of 
wisdom and power on behalf of His creation. He directs to a given 
end, disposes separate acts and individuals so as to produce certain 
determinate results, and so controls all actions, separate or compli- 
cated, that, in ways that are holy and wise, His own counsels are 

II. — Althoicgh, 171 relatio7i to the for ek7io'iul edge a7id decree of God, the 
first cause, all thi7igs co7ne to pass i7)i7nutably a7id i7ifallibly j yet, 
by the sa7ne provide7ice, he ordereth the7n to fall out acco7-di7ig 
to the 7tature of seco7id causes, either 7iecessarily, freely, or 

Here we have stated the relations of divine providence and human 
freedom. It is the simple statement of a mystery that cannot be 
explained : the consistency of a belief in the supreme all-determining 
first cause, and a belief in the reign of law in nature, and the 
freedom of action among intelligent creatures. We know, from 
revelation and also from partial and fragmentary intimations of 
experience, that these twc positions are true ; how perfectly to recon- 
cile them, we do not know. [Show from practical instances that our 


knowledge of fact is not dependent on our knowledge of a theory to 
account for the fact.] When we consider the laws of nature we find 
in these a wondrous flexibility, so that the results may be modified 
by the rearrangement and new combination of these laws. All such 
combinations are not fully known to us, nor can we estimate exactly 
the results of certain arrangements of established laws. Hence to us 
the results obtained must often be contingent and uncertain. What 
is variable to us, however, is certain and determinate before Him from 
whom these several laws and their combinations take origin as the 
expression of His will. 

III. — God in his ordinary provide7ice maketh use ofmeaits^yet is f?'ee 
to work without^ above, and against the7n, at his pleasure. 

This section maintains the possibility of miracles. In His providence 
God is pleased usually to employ means which either by association 
or by inherent quality are recognised as immediately fitted to secure 
the result aimed at. Yet such employment of means is wholly 
dependent upon the divine pleasure. In describing the divine 
freedom in regard to the accompHshment of God's work, our Con- 
fession determines the essential idea of a miracle. It consists in 
God's working without, above, and against ordinary means. This 
exactly corresponds with the scholastic description of a miracle as 
something prater 7iattiram, supra naturam, contra naturani. In 
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the contra was frequently 
omitted. Properly understood, however, no miracle can be conceived 
as so against nature as to be unnatural. Yet in a sense the cont7'a 
is indispensable. 'If an effect occurs,' says Steinmcyer, 'which 
certainly would not have happened if the laws of nature had been 
left to their own organic processes, we must then agree that it has 
resulted contra leges natures ' (Steinmeyer, Miracles, p. 14). In this 
' against,' therefore, there is no conflict of powers, but the suspension 
of the operation of ordinary laws. We should distinguish between 
the definition of a miracle as something against nature, — meaning 
thereby the actings of the ordinary laws of nature, — and the contention 
of those who deny the miraculous, that the idea of the miracle is a 
notion of something contrary to reason. Our phrase ' law of nature ' 
expresses our expectation of the uniformity of nature. Mozley, 
however, argues that as the expectation of general uniformity is no 
dictum of reason, a miracle cannot be regarded as an offence against 
reason. ' And now,' he concludes, ' the belief in the order of nature 
being thus, however powerful and useful, an unintelligent impulse, of 
which we can give no rational account, in what way does this 
discovery aftect the question of miracles ? In this way : that this 
belief not having itself its foundations in reason, the ground is 
gone on which it might have been maintained that miracles as 
opposed to the order of nature were opposed to reason.' (Miracles, 
p. 38.) 


IV. — The almighty power ^ tmsearchable wisdoin^ a7id infinite goodness 
of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it 
extendeth itself eve?t to the first fall, and all other sins of angels 
and men, and that not by a bare permission, but stich as hath 
joined with it a most wise a7id powofid bounding, and otherwise 
orde?'ing and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to 
his own holy ends; yet so as the sinfubiess thereof proceedeth 
07ily from the creature, and not from God; who, being most holy 
and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver ofsiji. 

This section treats of the relation which God's holy providence 
bears to the appearance of evil in the world. The Westminster 
divines take advantage of every opportunity to renew the assertion 
first made in chapter iii. i, that God is not the author of sin. It is 
often brought as a charge against the doctrine of Divine Providence, 
that it makes God the immediate cause of evil. Here note a dis- 
tinction between God as Creator and God as Providence. In creating, 
His action is causal ; in providence, His action necessarily has respect 
to the characteristics and rights of His own creatures. Evidently, if 
there were anything bad in creation, the responsibility would rest 
upon the creator ; but in the domain of providence something bad 
may result from the presence of an element not belonging to the 
divine creation. [Consult Calderwood, Handbook of Mo7'al Philo- 
sophy, pp. 256-259. J God's relation to evil is only permissive, and 
not causal ; yet not merely permissive in the sense that He in no wise 
interferes in the course of a sinful development. When, from other 
causes than divine, evil has originated, God is pleased to show His 
power over sinners and their sins, and so orders these, whether by 
limiting their scope or directing their course, that the end is not the 
overthrow, but the establishment of His holy rule. All things take 
place according to the will of God in providence. He wills the trials 
which test men and under which many fall. The assertion that God 
permits those falls which indicate failure under trial, is not inconsistent 
with the declaration that God would have all men repent and come to 
a knowledge of the truth. 

V. — The 7710 st wise, righteous, a7id gracious God, doth ofte7iti77ies leave 
for a seaso7i his ow7i childre7t to 77ia7iifold te77iptatio7is, a7id the 
corruptio7i of their 0W7i hearts, to chastise the77i for their former 
si7is, or to discover tmto the7n the hidde7i stre7igth of corruption, 
a7id deceitful7iess of their hearts, that they 77iay be hu77ibled; 
a7id to raise the77i to a 77iore close a7td co7ista7it depe7ide7ice for 
their supp07't up07i hi77iself, a7id to 77iake the7n 77iore watchful 
agai7ist all future occa nons of si7i, a7idfor simdry other just a7id 
holy C7ids. 


God's dealings in providence with His own children often seem dark 
and severe. In these, however, when they are understood, He shows 
Himself wise, righteous, and gracious. The full contents of this section 
may be distributed under two heads. 

(i.) Instruments in the hand of providence. According to the 
doctrine of the preceding section, God maintains His authority over 
all the powers of evil so that He can use their energies and overrule 
their actions for His own ends. Those evil powers which are per- 
mitted to assail God's own children are distinguished in the present 
section as manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own 
hearts ; that is, temptations from without and from within. This 
distinction is not thoroughgoing. No temptation is wholly from 
without, and none wholly from within. There are Satanic and fleshly 
elements in all temptations. Under one form or another, and by the 
predominant use of one instrument or another, the great tempter, as 
the determined opponent of God, is found working. But just as 
material things are morally indifferent, and can form an element in 
temptation only when brought into relation to the heart and desires 
of man, so the endeavours of Satan can be regarded as temptations 
only when they come into contact with something within man to 
which they make appeal. In order to extinguish the very possibility 
of temptation in the regenerate, not the destruction of Satan, but rather 
the utter destruction of the corruption of the heart, is necessary. 

(2.) The purpose of God in permitting such trials is to remind His 
people of His hatred of sin, their own weakness, and the unfailing 
source of strength, (a) He shows His hatred of sin by chastising 
them so often as He finds it in them. It is the punishment of sin, 
but the spirit of the child recognises in it the action of the loving 
Father chastising that He may remove that which, if it remain, 
must call down eternal judgment, (d) He shows them their own 
weakness in their falls, especially when they fall at that very 
point at which they were regarded as particularly strong. (Illus- 
trate from histories of Moses, Elijah, Peter.) 'Those who did 
eat the bread of angels,' says A'Kempis, ' I have seen delight- 
ing themselves with the husks of swine. There is, therefore, no 
holiness, if Thou, O Lord, withdraw Thine hand. No wisdom 
availeth, if Thou cease to guide. No courage helpeth, if Thou leave 
off to defend. No chastity is secure, if Thou do not protect it. No 
vigilance of our own availeth, if Thy sacred watchfulness be not present 
with us.' (c) The ultimate end which God intends by all His trials 
of His people is the firm establishment of their trust in Him. They 
are driven out of sin and self, that they may find rest and strength in 
God. The believer's fall brings into view the horrors of perdition ; 
his restoration brings into view the glories of heaven. 

VI. — As for those wicked and tmgodly men, ivhoni God as a righteous 
judge, for former sins, doth blind and harde7i,from them he not 


07ily iviihlioldeih his grace, ivJiei'eby they 7mght have been 
enlightened in thei?' tmderstandifigs, and wi'ought upon in their 
hearts J but sometimes also ivithdraweth the gifts -which they had, 
a7td exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes 
occasion of sin j and withal, gives them over to their ozvn lusts ^ 
the temptations of the worlds and the power of Satan: whereby 
it comes to pass, that they haj'den themselves, even under those 
meajis which God useth for the softe7iing of others. 

This section shows how judicial hardening in sin is embraced in 
the divine providence. Such hardening is judicial, inasmuch as it is 
the act of the righteous God upon men on account of their former 
sins. This dispensation of providence might be fully described as 
the withholding of divine influences. This, however, must be under- 
stood as implying not only that further gifts of grace have ceased, 
but also that what was given before has been withdrawn. Reproofs 
and warnings have been addressed in vain, and now in judgment 
God causes these to cease. * When He sees,' says Calvin, ' that it 
is altogether lost labour to reason any longer with us, and that His 
admonitions have no effect, He holds His peace, and by this teaches 
us that He has ceased to make our salvation the object of His care.' 
Just as in nature organs not exercised lose their power, so that even 
when the outward conditions of their exercise recur they can no 
longer be taken advantage of ; so in the moral and religious sphere 
spiritual capacities unused are removed, or become so inoperative 
that the means of grace prove altogether ineffectual. And while by 
guilty and determined resistance of grace men may deprive them- 
selves of opportunities of grace, so by guilty fostering of their 
corruptions they may render themselves incapable of resisting 
temptations through the presentation of certain objects. God in 
judgment allows the presentation of those objects before which the 
Spirit-forsaken and self-weakened soul will assuredly fall. The out- 
ward means of grace may be continued, but to those from whom the 
Spirit has been judicially withdrawn they are no longer means of 
grace, nor yet merely things indifferent. The gospel message that 
does not prove a savour of life must prove a savour of death. The 
prayer of faith would bring deliverance ; but they cannot believe, 
and they cannot pray. The hardened soul may be thoroughly con- 
vinced of the truth of revelation, and may feel himself lost ; but the 
divine influences needed to soften the heart, and to form in it sincere 
desires, have been withdrawn. The day of grace may be shorter 
than the term of the earthly life. Rollock describes in his own 
vigorous way the influence which Satan gains over such a one : 
* The first turne that ever he dois he bindis him. Quhat bindis he, 
his handis or his feit ? Na, he lets them louse, and lets him work 
on with them his awin luine, and run on to his awin perditioun. 
Bot he bindis his eies, or rather pullis them out, that the miserabill 


bodie may not see the gracious face of Christ. Quhairfour is he 
send to him ? The cause is nocht onhe in the ordinance of God, hot 
in the cative himself that mahtiousHe repynis to the hcht, and will not 
receive the gospell, thairfoir the God of hevin sends the Divil, to put 
out his eies that he suld not see' (IVor/cs, vol. i. p. 394). ' Self-will 
brings on itself the curse of blindness' (Sophocles, Antigone^ 1028), 
This miserable state shows itself in the form either of hardened 
indifference, or of violent and inconsolable despair. [Illustrate from 
the case of the man in the iron cage, in the Pilgrim's Progress j or 
by an instance from real life in the case of the apostate Spira in the 
Italian Reformation. Show, on the other hand, how far the state- 
ment may be received, that while there is life there is hope (Eccles. 
ix. 4) ; and what practical application of it is legitimate.] 

VII. — As the providence of God dothy iti gejieral^ reach to all creatures ; 
so, after a most special ma7iiier, it taketh care of his church, and 
disposeth all things to the good thereof 

The distinction has generally been made between a general and a 
special providence. It is, however, really improper to distinguish 
between the care God has for His universe and the care He has for 
individual creatures. The whole is conserved only in so far as each 
individual is maintained in the place and for the time assigned to 
him in the general plan. But this distinction is valid when employed 
to indicate a difference between God's care for the world, and God's 
care for those whom He has chosen out of the world. The exercise 
of divine providence upon those without is made to tell directly upon 
the development of His own elect. All things work together for good 
to those who love God. What falls upon the hardened for judgment, 
secures the advancement and further development of the saved. 
While, therefore, in regard to the world at large, we have in provi- 
dence a mingled display of mercy and judgment, we have in regard to 
the elect unmingled mercy, — what seems judgment being fatherly 
chastisement. The course of providence in the world is not regular 
and progressive ; but the course of providence among the redeemed 
is steadily directed to their establishment and growth in grace. The 
course of the world is, according to the divine plan, always sub- 
ordinate to that of the church. 



I. — Our first parents being seduced by the subtil ty and temptation of 
Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God 
was pleased, acco?'ding to his wise and holy counsel, to pertnitj 
having purposed to order it to his own glo?y. 


We have here an extremely condensed statement regarding the 
nature and the origin ofsjii. 

(i.j Sm consists lii^cTisobedience. As to the ultimate essence of \ 
this disobedience and the spirit out of which it springs, our Con- 
fession gives no indication. Two theories have been proposed. 
According to the one, sin is sensuousness — giving an undue place to 
the lower elements of our nature. For this we might find some 
apparent ground in the material nature of the original test. Accord- 
ing to the other theory, sin is selfishness — giving prominence to the 
spiritual forms of evil desire. For this we might find support in the 
spiritual element introduced into the first temptation in the promise 
of equality with God. This latter theory has been ably maintained 
by Miiller (see Christian Doctrine of Sin, Part I. c. iii. sees. 2-4). 
The statement of our Confession embraces the principles of the 
sensuous and of the selfish theories, which, viewed separately, do 
not render a complete account of the nature of sin. The biblical 
declaration that this first sin consisted in eating the forbidden fruit, 
gives a broad basis for our doctrine of the nature of sin as at 
once sensuous and selfish — transgression of the law and disobedience 
against God. [As against the charge that the particular act ot 
disobedience is trifling, compare remarks on Shibboleth in Dods' 
IsraeVs Iron Age, pp. i ii-i 1 5.] 

(2.) The origin of sin. No complete answer can be given to the 
question, How was it possible for the holy creatures of God to fall ? 
The Confession therefore does not attempt this, but confines itself 
to repeating the statements of Scripture referring to this. The fall 
was brought about by the seduction of Satan, which could take place 
only under the divine permission ; but Satan's seduction and God's 
permission secured only the possibility of a fall — the realising of it 
is man's own act [see chap. ix. 2]. Our first parents sinned : it 
was their sin. God's relation to human sin, therefore, has to do with 
the possibility of it only, and not with its reality. This must be our 
doctrine if we hold by the personahty of God. It is only when, 
drifting into Pantheism, we confound God and the universe, that we 
are forced to regard God as necessarily involved in the realising of 
the evil. And when thus evil is viewed as not only permitted but 
created by God, it in consequence loses for us its guiltiness. Much 
of our popular literature is pervaded by pantheistic tendencies, and 
sin is viewed in an unscriptural way as a Hmitation consequent upon 
our finite existence, a weakness inhering in our nature, unfortunate 
but inevitable. 

II. — By this sin they fell from their original righteousness, and com- 
munion with God, and so became dead in si?i, and wholly defiled 
in all the faculties a7id parts of soul and body. 

The very terms emplo) ed in this section connect it closely with 
chapter iv. 2. The original condition is described as one of com- 


mimion with God ; the present condition, as a fallen state of utter 
corruption. This doctrine of Total Depravity has been the subject ot 
attacks in every age. In modern times, opposition to this doctrine 
has been manifested under the most contradictory views of the 
original state of mankind. Rousseau in his own extreme and violent 
style denies anything like original sin. According to him, the state 
of nature is a state of innocence ; we have only to lay aside the 
results of a false culture and return to nature in order to have all 
imperfections and guilt removed. This notion had its day among 
the sentimentalists of the eighteenth century, but now it is seriously 
maintained by none. The other extreme is somewhat popular in 
our own day. Lubbock and his school regard the primitive condition 
as a state of general savagery. Whatever ill is yet present in man, 
and in human society, is the remains of this primitive state, and 
whatever good has been attained is the result of culture and civilisa- 
tion. When this culture has become complete and universal, evil 
will have disappeared. The assumption of an original universal 
savage state has not been proved by Lubbock ; and the array of 
professed discoveries of utterly savage peoples has been shown in 
detail to be unwarranted. This school of investigators has failed to 
bring forward a single undisputed instance of an utterly atheistic 
people — a race exhibiting none of the higher longings and beliefs of 
the human spirit. The biblical doctrine, as reflected in our Con- 
fession, maintains, in opposition to such a view, that man's original 
state was pure and noble — a condition, however, very different from 
that state of nature of which Rousseau had dreamed. 

We find here, too, the distinctively Protestant doctrine in opposi- 
tion to that of Rome. The loss suffered in the fall, according to 
Romish theologians, was simply that of a superadded gift, involving 
a certain general enfeebling of the nature. Protestant theology, on 
the other hand, regarding original righteousness, with the right and 
privilege of divine communion, as an endowment of man's nature, 
viewed the consequence of the fall as affecting the whole being of 
man. Original sin with the Romanists is the deprivation of a super- 
natural gift, and so is merely negative ; the Protestant doctrine 
re ards it as the positive removal of what had been natural to man, 
the loss of which involves spiritual death and utter corruption. 

III. — They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was 
imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature co7t- 
veyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary 

The transmission of original sin. This section speaks of the con- 
sequences to the race of that original sin defined in the previous 
section. This consequence is twofold ; the imputation of the guilt of 
Adam's sin, and the derivation of a corrupted nature. The doctrine 
of the Confession is here most pronouncedly Augustinian and Anti- 


Pelagian. The controversy known as the Pelagian controversy was 
concerned with the question of the imputation of Adam's sin to his 
posterity. This Pelagius denied, while Augustine affirmed it. The 
Romish theologians have advocated a more or less modified Pelagian- 
ism ; the Reformed Churches have generally maintained the Augus- 
tinian doctrine. In regard to the utterance of our Confession here, 
it is to be noted that the imputation of guilt, because of the sin of 
Adam, is first mentioned and made prominent, and that the statement 
regarding the inheriting a corrupted nature comes after, and is made to 
rest upon the doctrine of Immediate Imputation. What Miiller {Chr. 
Doctr. of Sin, vol. ii. p. 334) claims for Lutheranism, — that it finds a real 
basis for mediate imputation in the positive depravity of individuals, 
and explainshereditaryguiltonthe principle of immediate imputation, — 
maybe applied to this statement of our Confession. Placaeus is not sup- 
ported, nor is he condemned. (See Introd. p. 24. Read also Dorner, 
Hisf, of P rot. TheoL, ii. pp. 26-28.) But Adam is viewed by the West- 
minster divines as not only natural but also moral head of mankind. 
He is natural head, and consequently from him as fallen we inherit 
a corrupted nature ; he is moral head, and consequently the guilt of 
his sin is imputed to us. To indicate in what sense Adam is regarded 
as the moral head and representative of his race, theologians have 
employed various figurative expressions. Here our first parents are 
spoken of as the root of all mankind. This figure corresponds well 
with the use of the symbol of the vine-stock by our Saviour. [Compare 
John XV. 5 with Rom. v. 19: all in Adam=all men; all in Christ 
= all believers.] 

IV. — From this original con'uption, whereby 7ve are utterly indis- 
posed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly in- 
clined to all evil, do proceed all actual tra7isgressions» 

This is a characteristic and summary statement of man's inability. 
[See a somewhat more emphatic statement in chapter xvi. 7.] The 
doctrine here maintained is the necessary consequence of that already 
expressed in regard to original sin. Where a Pelagian theory of sin 
is accepted, this doctrine of Human Inability is denied. An Arminian 
view of sin leads to what has been called Synergism in a more or less 
developed form : man has not ability, for his nature has been weak- 
ened by the fall, but he can co-operate with the Spirit in doing good. 
The Westminster doctrine of sin as Total Depravity leads necessarily 
to the doctrine of Total Inability. This inability, which, while the 
characteristic of our fallen nature, is essentially moral, involves the 
commission of actual sin. Out of the heart, which has lost its 
original righteousness and is thoroughly corrupted, proceed evil 
thoughts and their consequences, which are here described as actual 
transgressions. We cannot have original sin without actual sins 
following ; nor could we account for the beginning of actual sin apart 
from original corruption. 


V. — This corruption of nature^ during this life, doth reinain 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. 

It is here affirmed that a particular element in original sin— the 
corruption of the nature — adheres to man even after regeneration ; 
and that this remaining corruption in the believer is properly regarded 
as sin. The corruption of original sin is not in this life wholly- 
removed by grace, but only its imputation. That imperfections 
remain in believers is surely beyond reasonable dispute. Scripture 
gives no countenance to Perfectionism. Paul represents perfection 
as the goal striven after in the earthly life, but only attained at the 
resurrection and in the heavenly existence (Phil. iii. ii, 12). The 
justification of the sinner, indeed, is complete, and this constitutes 
evangelical perfection. The believer's holiness is developing from 
stage to stage, and is complete at no point on this side the grave — 
when completed, it constitutes sinless perfection. [Read a very 
valuable paper — Rae, ' Christian Doctrine of Perfection,' in British 
and Foreign Evangelical Review for January 1876.] In the regene- 
rate, says our Confession, the corruption of nature remains, denying 
legal or sinless perfection ; through Christ it is pardoned and modified, 
affirming evangelical perfection. (For a most admirable application 
of this doctrine to devotional uses, see Imitation of Christy chap. Iv., 
*0f the Corruption of Nature and the Efficacy of Divine Grace.') 
Sin is always exceeding sinful, and must be spoken of and treated 
as sin under whatsoever form it may appear. Paul does not suggest 
any new name for his indwelling corruption after his conversion to 
distinguish it from what had appeared in him before. 

VI. — Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of 
the righteotts law of God, and contrary theremito, doth, in its 
own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound 
over to the wrath of God, a7id curse of the laiv, and so made 
subject to death, with all miseries, spiritual, te?nporal, and eternal. 

The description of sin as involving the consequences here mentioned 
is very definite and comprehensive : original sin involving guilt as 
well as actual sin ; and sin being viewed as comprising sins of omis- 
sion and of commission,— transgression, that is, evasion of the law, 
and also being contrary, that is, actively committed offences against 
the law. 

Sin thus comprehensively understood involves the sinner in guilt. 
Properly the guilt of sin does not mean its pollution, but its rendering 
us amenable to penalty. So here the sinner's guilt is his subjection 
to God's wrath, expressed in the curse and the doom of the law. It 
is misleading to speak of death as the natural lot of man ; it is the 

OF god's covenant with man. 65 

lot only of fallen man. It has been well said, ' Death is not from God 
as ordering nature, but is from God as avenging sin.' (Amesius, 
Medulla^ 1. xii. § 31.) Death, at least as man knows it, can only be 
regarded as the wages of sin. The miseries involved in this sin- 
wrought death are described as threefold — spiritual, temporal, and 
eternal. It is evident that the first includes the other two. Just as 
sin beginning in the spirit soon manifests itself in the flesh, so spiritual 
decay, which is the immediate consequence of sin, soon manifests 
itself in the debihtation of the body. Death spiritual thus manifests 
itself outwardly, first of all, in temporal enfeeblement -and death ; 
and eternal death can be nothing else than the permanence of this 
spiritual death. 


OF god's covenant with man. 

I. — The distance between God atid the creature is so great ^ that 
although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as 
their Creator^ yet they could 7iever have any fruition of him as 
their blessedness and rezuard, but by some voluntary condescen- 
sio7i on God^s part, zuhich he hath bee?i pleased to express by 
way of covenant. 

In this statement the Westminster divines have distinctly connected 
their theological system with that known as the covenant scheme. 
The Fcederal theology (so called from fa^dus, a covenant) was first 
thoroughly elaborated by Cocceius in the middle of the seventeenth 
century, who made the twofold covenant of works and of grace the 
middle point of his system. This principle, however, was generally 
recognised in Reformation theology, and is in reality, though not 
always in phraseology, reproduced in modern systems reflecting the 
spirit of the Reformation. 

The propriety of making the notion of a covenant the central point 
in theology has been disputed by many who are thoroughly in 
sympathy with the doctrinal substance of the covenant theology. 
The conclusion really depends upon the proved adequacy or inade- 
quacy of the notion as a category to comprehend all the essential 
points of theology. In our Confession no one principle has been 
adopted according to which the distribution of the whole matter 
should be made. It follows, as is appropriate in a Confession, and 
almost inevitable, the local method, — treating severally the main 
heads of doctrine without closely articulating them. But the im- 
portance of the covenant relation is acknowledged as afl'ording a 
convenient principle of arrangement for the doctrines of grace. 
(Compare with this, chapter xix.) The representation of the relation 
between God and man Ly means of the notion of a covenant is 



undoubtedly scriptural. It has biblical warrant both from express 
statements, and still more convincingly from a fair induction of 
scripture facts. [Give illustrations from Scripture of these two 

In this opening section the origin of the covenant relation between 
God and man is very clearly set forth. It is not implied that man 
was under no obligation until this covenant agreement had been 
made, but it is rather affirmed that man, simply as creature, owed 
obedience, and that the entering into a covenant was on God's part a 
voluntary act of condescension. Man's obligation was not thereby 
originated, nor rendered more strict, but, for man's sake, through 
God's grace, it was rendered more evident. The law written on the 
heart (see chap. iv. 2), when viewed by itself, represents the state of 
man before any covenant was entered into ; the receiving of the 
command not to eat of the fruit of the tree represents the position 
under the covenant. Absolute obedience is required in either case. 
God, therefore, does not bind man under any new obligation, but by 
some voluntary condescension he places Himself under covenant 
obligations and promises. The difference between the position of 
God and the position of man in the making of the covenant is well 
stated by Patrick Gillespie in his work, Ark of the Testament Opened: 
' It is condescension on God's part that He will enter in covenant 
with man, and make promises to him for anything performed by man, 
which He might require of him by His sovereignty over him ; yet 
there is not such a freedom upon the other part, whereby man may 
indifferently engage with God or not, as pleaseth him ; for he is 
otherwise engaged to God than by covenant, yea, he is so far engaged 
to his Maker that he is bound to the same things by God's giving 
him a law, which are required of him by covenant, and when it 
pleaseth the Lord to propound to him a covenant upon whatsoever 
terms and conditions it be, he is bound to accept the terms and to 
obey the same.' (Page 100.) 

II. — The first cove7ia7it made with man was a covetiant cf works, 
wherem life was pro?nised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, 
iip07i co7idition of perfect and personal obedie7ice. 

The statements of this section have been for the most part antici- 
pated by the previous chapter. What is special is the exact expression 
given to the condition of the covenant of works. The obedience 
rendered must be perfect ; so far as this covenant goes, if only it be 
broken, there can be no recognition of degrees in the breach. The 
obedience must be personal ; no special aids are promised or allowed, 
but by the creature's own natural strength is the covenant to be 
fulfilled. Grace may have been shown in the condescension that 
entered into a covenant, but the covenant in its terms is not of grace 
but of works. 

Many who do not deny that we have scriptural ground for treating 

OF god's covenant with man. 67 

the doctrine of Redemption under the category of a covenant of grace, 
object to the statement that a covenant was made with Adam. They 
regard this as going beyond Scripture. It should be noticed, however, 
that the idea of a covenant is necessarily present to the mind when 
we conceive the probationary state of our first parents as described 
to us in Scripture. The very same doctrine as is stated here is 
expressed before (chap, vi. 1-3) in more strictly biblical terms ; it is 
here simply reproduced in another connection. The arrangement 
with Adam possesses all the characteristics of a covenant. At the 
same time, as Dr. Hugh Martin has very properly remarked, the 
covenant of works comes into view from the analogy and antithesis 
to the covenant of grace, rather than from any very express or direct 
evidence of its own. Our perception of the principle of the covenant 
of works depends upon our perception of the principle of the covenant 
of grace. 'It will uniformly be found,' says Dr. Martin, 'that the 
theology which is meagre in reference to the covenant of grace, is 
still more so as to the covenant of works. The first Adam was lout 
the type of Him that was to come, the shadow of the last Adam. 
And where the last Adam is little recognised as a Covenant Head, 
there can be little reason or inducement to recognise the first in that 
light either.' {Atojteinefit, p. 35.) 

For the race, the covenant of works, regarded as a dispensation, 
ended with the address of the evangelical promise to fallen Adam ; 
for the individual sinner, it only ends when, by union with Christ, he 
enters into the covenant of grace. 

III. — Mafi by his fall havmg made Jmnself incapable of life by that 
covena?it, the Lord was pleased to make a second, coimnonly called 
the Cove7iani of Grace : whereby he freely offereih to sinners life 
and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, 
that they may be saved j and promising to give unto all those thai 
are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit^ to make thejn willing attd 
able to believe. 

The covenant of works being set aside on account of the breach 
of its imperative condition, God was pleased in its place to make a 
new covenant, a covenant of grace. This covenant of grace was 
made with Christ as the second Adam ; and therefore the condition 
of this covenant, properly speaking, is the satisfaction rendered by 
the obedience of Christ. He is the representative head of His 
church, and on His fulfilment of the condition of the covenant all 
those who are in Him as members share in the purchased blessing. 
In regard to man, however, the condition of this covenant is not 
their perfect obedience to the law, but faith in their covenant head ; 
and the promise to those who fulfil this condition is the same as that 
given under the covenan. of works on condition of obedience, that 
is, salvation. When the truth is thus carefully stated, the need is 


removed for distinguishing the covenant of redemption, as between 
God the Father and Christ, and the covenant of grace, as between 
God and the elect. This new covenant then, as related to us, is dis- 
tinguished from the old, not only by the change in the condition from 
works to faith, but also in this, that a special promise of effective 
spiritual help is made to those who are ordained to life, so that this 
saving faith — the condition for them of this covenant — may be 
wrought in them. 

The question may here be fairly raised, as to whether the idea of 
a covenant is really helpful in solving any difficulty regarding the 
substitution for us of Christ and His righteousness. To this it may 
be safely answered, that while it does not remove the difficulty, it 
affords a convenient scheme for the representation and collocation of 
well-established facts of scripture revelation. There seems good 
ground for maintaining with Dr. Martin, that many of the objec- 
tions brought against the doctrine of the Atonement in recent times 
would lose their plausibility if, in presenting the doctrine of the 
Atonement, care was taken to make prominent those characteristics 
which belong to it when viewed under the category of the covenant. 

It ought to be noticed, that while the covenant is said to be a cove- 
nant of grace, and its benefits said to be offered freely, this is not 
regarded as inconsistent with the appointment of certain conditions. 
This grace and this freeness are attributed to a covenant into which 
only those ordained to life enter, and that through the exercise of faith. 
The nature of this condition as pertaining to a covenant of grace is 
very clearly apprehended by Rollock as comprising faith with Christ 
and Christ with faith. ' These three,' says he, ' are one in substance, 
the ground of the covenant of grace, the condition of it, and the 
cause wherefore God performeth the condition. Yet in reason they 
differ something. For Jesus Christ is the ground, being absolutely 
considered, without any respect of application unto us. But Christ 
is the condition of the covenant, as He is to be applied unto us, and 
must be embraced by faith, for every condition is of a future thing 
to be done. And the cause also of the performance of the covenant 
is Jesus Christ already embraced and applied unto us by faith.' 
{Treatise on Effectual Callmg, pp. 40, 41.) 

IV. — This covena7it of grace is frequently set forth in the script ii7'e by 
the name of a Testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ 
the testator, and to the everlasting i?iheritance, luiih all things 
belonging to it, therein bequeathed. 

It is here affirmed that the name Testament as given to the cove- 
nant of grace is appropriate on the twofold ground that there is a 
Testator, and that there are benefits bequeathed. This has been 
clearly and briefly expressed by Patrick Gillespie : * So is the cove- 
nant of grace a testament, because the same things which the cove- 
nant requireth from us as conditions to be performed on our part, the 

OF god's covenant with man. 69 

same things are bequeathed to us among Christ's goods, which by His 
testament and latter will He disponed and left to His people abso- 
lutely.' {The Ark of the Testament Opened^ p. 302.) What our 
Confession maintains is not the synonymity of two scripture words, — 
for the same word is rendered sometimes covenant, sometimes testa- 
ment, — but the sameness of the idea conveyed. 

V. — This covenant was diffe7'ently administered in the time of the laWy 
and in the time of the gospel j tender the law it was administered 
by p7vmises, prophecies, sac?'i/ices, circumcino7i^ the paschal lamh^ 
and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jezus^ 
all fore-signifying Christ to come, which were for that time suffi- 
cient a7id efficacious, through the operatio7i of the Spirit, to 
i7istruct a7id build up the elect i7i faith i7i the pro7nised Messiah, 
by who77i they had full re7Jiissio7i of si7is, a7id eter7ial salvatio7t; 
a7id is called the Old Testa77ie7it. 

VI. — U7ider the gospel, whe7i Christ the substance was exhibited, the 
0}di7ia7ices i7i which this cove7iant is dispe7ised are the preachi7ig 
of the W07dy and the adnn7iistratio7i of the sacra77ie7its of Baptis7}i 
a7id the Lo7-d's Supper; which, though fewer in nu77iber, a7ia 
ad)ni7iistered with 7nore si77iplicity a7td less outward glory, yet i7t 
the77i it is held forth i7i 7]iore fulness, evide7ice, a7id spiritual 
efficacy, to all 7tatio7is, both Jews a7td Ge7itilesj a7id is called the 
New Testa77ie7it, There a7'e 7iot therefore two cove7ia7its of grace 
differi7ig i7i substa7ice, but 07ie a7id the sa77ie U7ider various dis- 

We have seen that the reign of the covenant of grace begins as 
soon as the condition of the covenant of works had been broken. The 
covenant of works can exist as an effective arrangement only for un- 
fallen man. Adam being representative head of the race, his failure 
under the covenant of works is the failure of mankind. Fallen man, 
therefore, though formally under the covenant of works, stands not 
under the promise of this covenant, but only under the penalty of its 
breach. According to the doctrine of our Confession (xix. i, 2), the 
law requiring strict obedience was a covenant of works for Adam, As 
such it continues to fallen man still unregenerate, promising life for 
works of perfect righteousness done by nature, and pronouncing doom 
on sin. To regenerate man under the dispensation of the covenant of 
grace the law presents itself as a perfect rule of righteousness. 

In distinguishing the position of God's people living before the 
time of our Lord's appearing in the flesh, and that of those living 
after it, we ought, in order to avoid confusion, to employ the terms 
old and new dispensatiois, rather than old and new covenants. 
Some speak as if the covenant of works had been made not with 


Adam, but with Abraham or Moses, thus identifying it with the dis- 
pensation of law in Israel. The law, however, is a dispensation of 
the covenant of grace, under which the same conditions appear, though 
differently administered. The Old Testament saints were not justi- 
fied by the observance of a covenant of works, but in accordance with 
the conditions of the covenant of grace, which according to the 
eternal decree took historical origin when the promise of redemption 
was made to the fallen creatures. It was indeed necessary that in 
these different dispensations there should be differences of adminis- 
tration. Its earliest form was that of the promise referred to ; then 
its provisions were shown in fuller detail, and, in immediate applica- 
tion to the rise of particular needs, in prophecy, sacrificial ceremonies, 
sacramental ordinances, and other Messianic types. Yet the condi- 
tion of salvation was essentially the same as that required under the 
later dispensation. It is said that Abraham was justified by faith, 
and that under the dispensation of the law only by shedding of blood 
was there remission of sins. The administration of this covenant of 
grace under the new or gospel dispensation, though still essentially 
the same, is fuller and clearer than that under the old dispensation. 
The ordinances are simpler just because the substance to which they 
refer is no longer hidden under a veil. 

In chap. viii. 6 and in chap. xi. 6 the doctrines of this section are 
consistently carried out. 



I. — // pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and oj-dain the 
Lord Jesus, his 07ily begotten So7i, to be the Mediator betzveen 
God and manj the Prophet, P?'iest, and King ; the Head and 
Saviour of his Church; the Heir of all things; and Judge of the 
world; unto whojn he did front all eternity give a people to be 
his seed, and to be by him in tiine redeemed.^ called, justified, 
sanctifed, and glorified. 

The work which Christ has to do is described as that of a Mediator, 
and in the discharge of this office He acts in the threefold capacity of 
Prophet, Priest, and King, and has all power committed to Him. This 
latter characteristic may be reduced under the head of His kingly 
authority. We have then here to do simply with the threefold repre- 
sentation of Christ as to person and work. The distinction of the 
prophetic, priestly, and kingly elements in Christ's mediatorial work 
in so many offices is one with which we have become very familiar. 
It was hinted at by some of the Fathers, partially developed by the 
Schoolmen, and very generally adopted and carried out by theologians 
since the Reformation. Yet we must ever remember that in every 


official act of the Mediator there is something prophetic, something 
priestly, something kingly. It is the one person, the one Mediator 
between God and man, who is Prophet, Priest, and King ; and in 
every mediatorial act His whole person is concerned. It is important, 
too, to notice that the idea of priesthood does not fully correspond to 
that of Christ's sacrificial work, inasmuch as that sacrifice, viewed 
as a supreme act of obedience, affords the most glorious revelation ot 
God's will, and, viewed as a purely voluntary act on the part of Him 
who gave Himself, gives a most vivid representation of Christ's kingly 
power. Thus even in His death Christ must be regarded not only as 
Priest, but also as Prophet and King. The distinction, thus under- 
stood, is convenient and useful. When the unity of the person, who 
exercises these three offices, is clearly and vigorously maintained, we 
shall be able under the usual threefold division to present a most 
comprehensive view of the saving work of Christ. 

II. — The Son of God, the second persojt 171 the Trinity, being very and 
eternal God, of one substance, aiid equal with the Father, did, 
when the fulness of time was come, take upon him maji's iiature, 
with all the essential properties ajid common infirmities thereof, yet 
without sin; being conceived by thepowerofthe Holy Ghost, in the 
womb of the Virgi7t Mary^ of her substa?ice. So that two whole, 
perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were 
insepa7'ably joined together in one person, without co7iversion, 
co77ipositio7i, or confusio7i. Which perso7i is very God a7id very 
77ia7t, yet 07ie Christ, the 07ily Mediator betwee7i God a7td 77ia7i. 

We have here very clearly stated the doctrine of the distinctness of 
the natures and the unity of the person in Jesus Christ the Mediator. 
The careful and well-balanced statement of our Confession may be 
considered as guarding against two extreme views that troubled the 
early church. The heresy known under the name of Nestorianism 
sacrificed the unity of the person of Christ in order to maintain the 
completeness of His humanity, so that the supporters of it were charged 
with making two persons as well as two natures. This view was 
condemned at the Council of Ephesus in a.d. 431. There was now 
a recoil from this error, and the opponents of Nestorius, in their zeal 
for orthodoxy, sought to get as far as possible from the condemned 
heresy. As the result of this, Eutyches, exaggerating the position of 
Cyril the great opponent of Nestorianism, rushed to the other extreme 
of Monophysitism. The heresy known under the name of Eutychianism 
laid emphasis so extravagantly on the unity of the person, that the 
truth of the duality of natures was lost to view. This error was con- 
demned finally at the Council of Chalcedon in a.d. 451. The Chalce- 
donian symbol gives a very complete expression to the orthodox 
doctrine in opposition both to Eutychianism and to Nestorianism ; 


and in the statement of our Confession in the section before us it has 
been almost verbally reproduced. This doctrine rests wholly on 
revelation, and cannot be rationally explained. But as to the biblical 
doctrine there can be no doubt. The Son of man is perfect man ; 
there is no defect in His humanity ; for in all points He is made like 
unto His brethren. The Son of God is perfect God, and as such 
claims full equality with God. There is no such intermingling of 
these natures that the one is modified or impaired by the other. 
Nevertheless we have but the one person — the man Christ Jesus. 

' Four principal heresies there are which have in those things with- 
stood the truth : Arians, by bending themselves against the Deity of 
Christ ; Apollinarians, by maiming and misinterpreting that which 
belongeth to His human nature ; Nestorians, by rending Christ 
asunder, and dividing Him into two persons ; the followers of 
Eutchyes, by confounding in His person those natures which they 
should distinguish. Against these there have been four most famous 
general councils : the council of Nice to define against Arians ; 
against Apollinarians, the council of Constantinople ; the council of 
Ephesus, against Nestorians ; against Eutychians, the Chalcedon 
council. In four words, d'hYi&ug, rsT^U);, dlioapiro};, davyxt'rug, truly ^ 
perfectly^ iiidivisibly^ distinctly j the first applied to His being God, 
and the second to His being man; the third to His being of both One, 
and the fourth to His still continuing in that one Both : we may fully 
by way of abridgment comprise whatsoever antiquity hath at large 
handled either in declaration of Christian belief, or in refutation of 
the foresaid heresies.' (Hooker, Eccles. Polity^ v. 54.) 

III. — The Lord Jesus, in his human 7iature thus united to the 
divi7ie, was sanctified ajid anointed with the Holy Spirit above 
measures having in him all the treasures of wisdom and know- 
ledge J in whom it pleased the Father that all fubiess should 
dwell: to the end, that being holy, har-mless, ujidefiled, and full of 
grace and truth, he might be thoroughly fttriiished to execute the 
office of a Mediator and Surety. Which office he took not unto 
himself but was thereimto called by his Father j who put all 
power and judgment into his hand, a?id gave him co7nma}idment 
to execute the same. 

In this section we have enumerated the qualifications found in the 
God-man for His mediatorial office, and his appointment of God to 
this work. 

(i.) His equipment for the office of Mediator. To say that He 
had the Spirit bestowed on Him above measure, really comprises all 
that has to be said on this point. This Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom 
and knowledge. He is also the Spirit of holiness ; and the unlimited 
outpouring of the Spirit upon the Saviour secures the sinless perfec- 
tion of our Lord's humanity The gift of the Spirit above measure to 


the Son is the result of the Father's love, and involves His thorough 
equipment for His work (John iii. 34, 35). 

(2.) His designation to this work. His appointment is from the 
Father, and in His official position He receives authority and power 
from the Father. This is the true biblical doctrine of Subordina- 
tionism. In essential being, the Son is the equal of the Father ; in 
relation to His official work, the Son takes on Him the form of a 
servant. And just as truly as the form of God in Him was a reality, 
so also was the servant's form. He receives from God what He will 
exercise for men. Throughout Scripture, and especially in the 
writings of Paul, the name of God is used not to designate the God- 
head generally, but rather the Father. In a specially noticeable 
manner, in Trinitarian passages, the Father is called God (i Pet. 
i. 2) ; in the benediction and other such expressions. So Paul says 
Christ is God's, the head of Christ is God. Our Lord Himself, under 
varying phrases, repeatedly declares, ' Of myself I can do nothing ; ' 
' My Father is greater than I.' All these expressions of Christ regard- 
ing Himself, and of the apostles about him, refer not to His eternal 
existence, and in no way militate against it. It is as Mediator, as 
manifested to us in the incarnation, that He subordinates Himself to 
His Father's will, in order that the Father, by the execution of that 
will, may secure our salvation. 

IV. — TJiis office the Lo7'd Jesics did most willingly undertake j which 
that he may discharge^ he was made under the law, and did per- 
fectly fulfil it; e7idu7'ed most gjdevous to7inents i77wiediately ifi 
his soul, and 7710s t pai7iful sujferi7igs i7i his body j was crucified, 
a7id died J was buried, a7id re77iai7ied U7ider the power of death, 
yet saw no corruptio7i. 07t the third day he rose fro77i the dead, 
with the sa77ie body i7i which he suffered; with which also he 
asce7ided i7ito heave7i, a7id there sitteth at the right ha7id of his 
Father, 77iaki7ig i7itercessio7i j a7id shall ?'etur7t to judge 77ien a7td 
a7igels at the e7id of the wo7'ld. 

His discharge of the office of Mediator is described as — (i.) Volun- 
tary ; (2) Embracing both doing and suffering ; (3.) Extending to 
both states of humiliation and exaltation. 

(i.) The voluntariness of Christ's service is everywhere throughout 
the Scriptures made most clear. He willingly undertook the office 
of Mediator, assuming a nature which was subject to weakness and 
pain, and a position that necessarily involved suffering unto death. 
This voluntariness of the Redeemer does not mean that He allowed 
Himself to show occasional signs of weakness and fatigue, and per- 
mitted temptation to approach Him. It applies rather to His willing 
entrance into and continuance upon that path in which all these real 
trials had of necessity to be encountered. 

(2.) A distinction has been made between the active and the passive 


obedience of Christ. It is here clearly shown that Christ as 
Mediator yielded a perfect obedience to God throughout a life in 
which He was called both to do and to suffer. Those two forms of 
obedience are so blended in the life of Christ that they cannot really 
be separated. In every official act of the incarnate Son there is 
something of suffering, and in every instance of suffering there is 
some work done. To His active obedience belongs His sinlessness, 
but His perfect fulfilment of the law is to be regarded not as rendered 
for Himself in order to deliver Him from death, but for man ; and 
thus His active obedience is coupled with His sufferings to constitute 
His work of satisfaction. Only Socinians maintain that He required 
as a man to obey the law for Himself in order to secure personal merit. 
(3.) The work of the Mediator is described as carried out in both 
states of humiliation and exaltation. And just as in the case of the 
distinction between active and passive obedience, so also here, we 
should be careful not to think of the two states as completely separ- 
able. In what we regard as the state of humiliation there is pecuHar 
exaltation and glory. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, our Lord's 
tasting of death for men is described as His coronation in glory and 
honour (chap. ii. 9). This passage has been applied by several able 
exegetes immediately to the state of exaltation, but it is much more 
in accordance with the whole scope of the passage to interpret it of 
the exaltation inherent in the outward lowliness of the Mediator. 
Humiliations are experienced at every stage of the work of the 
Mediator, but the office itself is unspeakably dignified, and the 
appointment to such an office is the most conspicuous favour. ' It 
is the honour and glory of being appointed to the high office ot 
apostle and high priest of the Christian profession, the Moses and 
the Aaron of the new dispensation. That office doubtless involves 
humiliation, inasmuch as it imposes on Him who holds it the 
necessity of tasting death ; but even in that respect His experience 
is not exclusively humiliating. For while it is a humiliation to die, 
it is glorious to taste death for others ; and by dying to abolish 
death, and bring life and immortality to light.' (Bruce, Hiwiiliatioii 
of Christy p. 39.) In this section of our Confession, this truth of the 
glory that is visible amid, and even because of, humiliation in the 
historical development of our Lord the Mediator, is implied by the 
continuous history of the two states, the one gradually passing with- 
out hiatus into the other. In the grave — yet seeing no corruption : 
here is glory amid humiliation. 

V. — The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself 
which he through the eter?tal Spi?'it once offered up tmto God, 
hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased 
not o?ily reco7iciliation, but an everlasting ijiheritance in the 
kingdom of heaven, for all those who7n the Father hath given 
unto hifn. 


This section opens with the reassertion of the combination of the 
active and passive forms of obedience in the atoning work of Christ. 
This atonement is declared to be a perfect satisfaction to God's 
justice, and the securing of a sufficient title to an everlasting in- 
heritance for those who believe. Our Confession does not say 
(although Hodge strangely affirms that it does) that by His sufferings 
Christ purchased for us reconciliation, and that by His fulfilling of 
the precepts of the law He purchased for us an everlasting inherit- 
ance in the kingdom of heaven. The precision with which this 
section is worded seems intended to guard against this partition of 
Christ's atoning work. It is most distinctly affirmed that by means 
of His whole work, — comprising His active and His passive obedience, 
— He satisfies justice, and purchases for us an inheritance. All the 
work was needed in order to render satisfaction, and when this satis- 
faction was rendered, it was seen to carry with it the eternal reward. 
According to strictly scriptural phraseology, the purchased inheritance 
is the company of the Redeemed. In the midst of them in the 
kingdom of heaven, Christ shall say, * Behold I and the children 
whom God has given me.' 

VI. — Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by 
Christ till after his iiicariiatio7t^ yet the virtue^ efficacy^ and 
benefits the7'eof were communicated ujito the elect in all ages 
successively from the beginfting of the world, in and by those 
promises, types, ajid sacrifices, whereiti he was 7'evealed and 
signified to be the Seed of the woman, which should bruise 
the serpent's head, afid the Lamb slain from the beginning 
of the world, being yesterday and to-day the same, and for 

We have here a statement regarding the effects of the work of 
Christ on those who lived before His incarnation, the Old Testament 
believers. It has been already affirmed (chap. vii. 5), that by faith 
in the promised Messiah, the Old Testament saints had full re- 
mission of sins [compare what is said in regard to the implied 
limitation in the notes on Justification, chap. xi. 6]. The promise 
made immediately after the fall is regarded as the basis of all 
further revelations under the covenant of grace. The doctrinal 
utterances of the Old Testament believers as they are recorded in 
Scripture show that they exercised faith, were deeply conscious of 
sin, and understood the need and the reality of forgiveness. The 
doctrinal expressions in their devotions were just the same as those 
cf believers in the present day — so thoroughly the same that 
believers now find that they can give most suitable utterance to the 
feelings of their devoutest moments by using the sweet and hallowed 
words of Psalmists and Prophets. 


VII. — Christy in the work of mediation^ adeih according to both 
natures J by each nature doing that tuhich is p7'0per to itself : 
yet, by reaso?t of the unity of the person, that which is proper to 
one nature is sonietwies in scrlpttcre attributed to the person 
de7Wjnmated by the other nature. 

Lutherans maintain that, as a consequence of the intimate union 
between the two natures in the person of Christ, there is what they 
call coninumlcatlo idlomatum, — an interchange of properties between 
the two natures. They apply this principle only to the imparting of 
divine properties to the human nature, and so they claim for our 
Lord's humanity certain attributes of deity. This section of our 
Confession asserts the true Reformed doctrine, that each nature in 
the one person of Christ retains its own properties, and does its own 
peculiar work. If this doctrine be not asserted, we lose the idea of 
the perfection of those natures. Our view of Christ's humanity be- 
comes purely Doketic ; He is man only in appearance. For if pro- 
perties of deities, such as omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, 
are to be attributed to the human nature of Jesus, then it is evidently 
something very different from ours, and His experiences of human 
weakness in body and spirit cannot prove helpful to us. We hold, 
therefore, that the human nature of Christ is true human nature with 
no intermixture of divinity ;— that literally He has become one with 
us, that He was made like unto His brethren. At the same time, we 
must constantly affirm the reality of the union of those two natures 
in the one person. Hence we find in Scripture that where a pro- 
perty belonging strictly to one nature is attributed to the person, 
the name used may be one taken from the other nature. The 
person is the God-man ; now what is wrought by the God-man ac- 
cording to His human nature is sometimes attributed to the Son of 
God (Rom. v. lo), and what is wrought according to His divine 
nature is attributed to the Son of man (John iii. 13, vi. 62). Yet 
these interchanges are comparatively rare in Scripture, and generally 
the designation most characteristic of the circumstance or act is used. 
And the reason for the occasional departure from the usual phrase- 
ology lies in this, that when we regard the Saviour in His person 
as Mediator, we rise above distinctions of the natures, and seeing 
that the one nature as well as the other is a necessary and con- 
stituent element in His personality, the names derived from the 
several natures may be applied indifferently to the person. This 
evidently is very different from a confusion in regard to the actions 
proper to the different natures. 

VIII. — To all those for whom Christ haih pU7'chascd redemption, he 
doth certainly a7id effectually apply a7id C077i77iimlcaie the sa7ne ; 
i7iaki7ig i7itercessio7i for the7nj a7id revealmg u7ito the7n, i7t a7id 
by the wordy the 77iysieries of salvatio7tj effectually persuading 


them by his Spirit to believe and obey j and governing their hear is 
by his word and Spirit ; overcoming all their enemies by his 
almighty power ajid wisdom^ in such manjier and ways as are 
most conso7ia7it to his wojiderftil and unsearchable dispensation. 

In the Westminster Assembly there was a long-continued debate 
regarding the redemption of the elect only by Christ. Calamy and 
several distinguished members inclined to a modified form of the 
doctrine sometimes called Universal Redemption, — holding that 
' Christ did pay a price for all, with absolute intention for the elect, 
with conditional intention for the reprobate in case they do believe, 
that all men should be salvabiles non obstante lapsu Adami; that 
Jesus Christ did not only die sufficiently for all, but God did intend 
in giving of Christ, and Christ in giving Himself did intend, to put 
all men in a state of salvation in case they do believe.' In view of 
such a statement, however, it is important to guard against the 
notion, which seems in some quarters to gain favour, that the work 
of Christ merely renders God reconcileable, ready to be reconciled 
to men generally, and that in this sense the sufferings of Christ 
secured the redemption of the whole world. This is unscriptural ; 
and the immediate result of such a notion is the false doctrine 
repudiated by the apostle, that by works of righteousness that we 
have done God has saved us. The statement in our Confession 
is cautiously expressed. It is simply an anticipation of the doctrine 
of Effectual Calling. It really leaves untouched the question of the 
worth of Christ's work, which is surely in itself infinite, and thus, 
viewed in its essential worth, abundantly sufficient to satisfy the 
justice of God for the sins of the whole world. Arminians hold a 
theory that has been called Acceptilatio, according to which the 
death of Christ had no expiatory power in itself, but God was pleased 
to reckon it satisfactory. The Westminster divines heartily re- 
pudiated such a notion, and maintained the doctrine of a full satis- 
faction rendered by Christ's death. Passing from the question of 
the intrinsic value of Christ's life and sacrifice, this section of our 
Confession determines the extent of its actual apphcation, limiting 
this to the elect, who are the effectually called. The merit of Christ 
which is without measure is sufficient for the reconciliation unto 
God of all those whom the Father has given unto Him. It is worthy 
of notice that in the wisdom of our fathers attention is directed, 
both in this section and also in the fifth section, to the sufficiency of 
Christ's work for all His own, yielding to them a precious ground 
of comfort ; not to its limitation, which might foster in them an 
undue self-gratulation, and an offensive and hurtful spirit of self- 
righteous exclusivenesst 




I. — God hath enmied the will of ina7i with that nattiral liberty, thai 
it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity oj nattire de- 
termined, to good or evil. 

There are two rival philosophical theories of the will, the Liber- 
tarian and the Necessitarian, either of which may be held quite 
consistently with the statement of this section of our Confession. 
According to the former, the will has a self-determining power ; 
according to the latter, self-determination of the will is denied. 
Among theologians who accept this Confession and at the same 
time maintain the doctrine of Philosophical Necessity, are Chalmers 
and Edwards. They maintain that self-determination of the will is 
utterly untenable as a philosophical theory, and that upon such a 
hypothesis we lose all grounds of certainty, and endanger the doc- 
trines of Divine Providence and Foreknowledge. They reject there- 
fore at once the notion of self-determination of the will, the liberty 
of indifference, and the contingency of volitions (see Edwards, 
Freedom of the Will, Fart II.). Cunningham has admirably shown 
that it is unwise to hamper our theological system by absolutely 
binding up with it any purely philosophical theory, and that the 
Westminster divines avoided this error (/Reformers and Theol. oJ 
Reform, pp. 511, 512). The doctrines actually maintained in this 
section of our Confession are these : — (i) That the general constitu- 
tion of man's nature has not been so changed that the power of 
choice, which forms an essential element in the very idea of a moral 
agent, has been taken away ; and (2) That no outward force has 
been exercised to deprive man of this endowment. There is no 
necessity from the nature of the human will to choose evil. Man 
is free from any compulsion ; and so the determination to evil is his 
own act of will. It is held that such a statement as this lays a 
sufficient basis for the doctrine of Human Responsibility. The con- 
servation of this important truth forms the practical reason for a 
properly-conceived doctrine of the Freedom of the Will. One of the 
characters met by Dante in Purgatory, having defended the doctrine 
of Free- Will, concludes, ' If, then, the present race of mankind err, 
seek in yourself the cause and find it there.' {Ptirgatorio, xvi. 66-85.) 
The affirmation is made in the Confession that the will is a real and 
not a mere phantom power. It has its own legitimate place in the 
human constitution. 'Appetite,' says Hooker, ' is the Will's solicitor, 
and Will is Appetite's controller.' [The whole section may be read 
here with profit, Eccles. Polity, Book I. chap, vii., ' Of Man's Will, 
which is the thing that laws of action are made to guide.'] 

The four following sections, as most commentators seem to have 


observed, describe the condition of the human will in choosing be- 
tween good and evil, according to man's fourfold state — in innocence, 
in sin, in grace, and in glory. 

II. — Mail, in his state of innocency^ had freedom and power to will 
and to do that which is good ajtd well-pleasing to Godj but yet 
mutably^ so that he might fall from it. 

Man's will in its original purity was efficient for good, and yet 
from its very nature arose the possibility of the loss of this efficiency. 
When man was first called to exercise his power of will, he was 
surrounded by good, and he himself was in sympathy with it. In 
the good he lived and moved. Yet there was in this a certain 
bondage of the will to good. Man must have his freedom 
vindicated, and this he could have only when an opportunity had 
been afforded him of independently attaching himself to good or to 
evil. In the exercise of this liberty he chose to free himself from 
righteousness, and to attach himself dependently to evil. There was 
a need be for the presentation of a choice ; there was no need be 
for the particular choice actually made. An opportunity for change 
was given. Indeed, a change must be made ; unfree goodness— a 
mere childish innocence — must be changed for something free, 
which may be either righteousness or sin. In the state of innocence, 
therefore, there was, first of all, an increated fellowship with good, 
which had straightway to be personally and freely ratified, or else to 
be personally and freely repudiated, 

III. — Maii^ by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost aU, 
ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation j so 
as a natu7'al man, beiiig altogether averse from that good, and 
dead in si?i, is not able, by his owjt strength, to convert himself, 
or to prepare himself thereunto. 

This section treats of the bondage of the human will in the fallen 
state. Loss of power to will what is good is regarded as an imme- 
diate consequence of sin. The sinful state involves aversion to good, 
and spiritual death ; and in consequence, the loss of ability to do 
anything toward his own conversion. Under the covenant of works 
there is thus no hope for fallen man. By his own strength, — by the 
unaided exercise of his own faculties implanted in him as a creature, 
— man could in innocence will and do God's pleasure. This he has 
lost by sin. Our Confession speaks of this loss as a loss of ability 
to will w^hat is good. Edwards warns us against the literal signifi- 
cation of the term ability. ' The thing wanting,' he says, ' is not a 
being able, but a being willing. There are faculties of mind and 
capacity of nature, and everything else sufficient, but a disposition ; 


nothing is wanting but a will.' This statement well accords with 
that given in the first section of this chapter. 

The will of man under sin is w^ak, but this has been determined 
by its own act. The blame, therefore, of all that happens on account 
of our weakness of will falls upon ourselves because we voluntarily- 
resigned our strength. ' We finally fall into the abyss,' says 
Rousseau (and his own miserable experience sadly illustrates the 
truth of his words), ' saying to the Almighty, Why hast Thou made 
me so weak ? But notwithstanding our vain pretext, He addresses 
our conscience, saying, I have made thee too weak to rise from the 
pit, because I made thee strong enough not to fall therein,' Hence 
it is that man may be described as in one sense free, and in 
another, unfree. He is free, as we have seen, from all outward con- 
straint, and also from all inner necessity of nature ; but he is unfree 
in regard to his evil inclination which is the product of his own will. 
Yet he has freely come under obligation to this evil inclination, and 
for the formation of this inclination by which he is now enslaved he 
is himself responsible. 

The special religious interest in the statement before us lies in 
this, that it affords a ground for the doctrine that we owe our salva- 
tion wholly to divine grace. In so far as the accomplishment of 
God's pleasure is concerned, it is necessary that God should work 
in us, not only to do, but also to will. 

IV. — IV/ieu God converts a siimer, and translates Mm into the state 
of grace ^ hefreeth him from his natural bojidage under sijt^ and 
by his grace alone enables him freely to will ajtd to do that 
which is spirittcally goodj yet so as that, by reason of his 
remainijig corruptioti, he doth not perfectly nor only will tha: 
which is good, but doth also will that which is evil. 

We have here the condition of the will described in the case of 
a sinner saved by grace. Deliverance of the human will from the 
bondage of sin is viewed as purely an act of divine grace. To 
establish this doctrine, both Luther and Calvin, in the interest of 
the cardinal doctrine of Protestantism, Justification by Faith only, 
felt called on to discuss in special and elaborate treatises the doc- 
trine of the Bondage of the Human Will. This natural bondage can 
be undone only by supernatural grace. What grace does, however, 
is not merely to restore to man the ability to will good which he 
possessed before the fall. This would be merely to place the indi- 
vidual in that state of probation in which the head of the race had 
failed. This would not be desirable. If Adam failed, there is no 
reason to suppose that any individual among his descendants, if 
again placed on trial, would succeed. What God actually does by 
His grace in conversion, is to place the Redeemed under the covenant 
of grace. No longer by his own strength is he required to will 


what is good, but by God's grace he is enabled to will and to 
do God's pleasure. His condition is not now probationary, but 

But while it is maintained that the condition of the will in the 
regenerate is confirmed, this only applies to its general tendency 
or ultimate destination. There are fluctuations in the actual 
working of the will under grace. Indwelling sin prevents alike the 
perfection and the constancy of a good will. The most powerful 
expression ever given to this truth is found in Rom. vii. In that 
chapter we have set forth, not the essential and normal experience 
of a Christian, but rather the outlines of an occasional experience 
not inconsistent with a genuine Christian character and condition — 
an experience that can be understood only from the Christian stand- 
point. Sin which, though indwelling, is repudiated by the believer 
as not himself, nor anything that he would wish to tolerate, is yet 
recognised as working in a direction contrary to that of the renewed 
will. ' There is,' says Delitzsch, ' as our every-day experience teaches 
us, in our life referred to God, a region pervaded by grace, and a 
region only, so to speak, shone upon by grace. Certainly, in the 
regenerate person, an all - powerful might of good shows itself 
effectual ; but, opposed to it, there is also a power of evil, which, 
although overcome, is still constantly needing to be restrained.' 
(^Biblical Psychology,^. 455.) Even during such experiences, how- 
ever, the believer realizes in that grace which he actually has in 
possession a power which will finally prevail over and completely 
remove every corrupting element from his nature. 

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

There are in this section two statements. It is said that perfect 
freedom of will to do good is realized in heaven, and that this per- 
fection is realized only there. This latter statement necessarily 
follows from what was said in the last section regarding the imper- 
fection of saints during the earthly life. 

To speak of the will as immutably free may seem at first sight a 
contradiction in terms. Reflection, however, will show that it is 
quite consistent with the scriptural view of freedom to predicate of it 
immutability in doing and wilhng good, and that only when this 
immutable condition of the will has been reached can its state be 
regarded as perfect. An act of freedom brings us into a condition 
of freedom. By a free act we choose between good and evil, and 
choosing good we thereby become free from evil. We therefore 
have no longer any reference to evil ; we are free from it, no longer 
under its dominion. The alternative of choice has ceased. Having 
put away the one side of the alternative, there is nothing left to 
appeal to the renewed wiL but good only. This is the Christian 
ideal ; not perfectly attained unto on earth, but realized in the 



State of glory. (How far would the distinction here apply to the 
condition of the saint on earth, and in heaven, — posse non pcccare^ 
and noil posse peccare ?) When we say that all evil is excluded 
from the heavenly state, which surely is our chief certainty as 
regards that state, we must consider the statement of this section 
self-evident. We have through grace freefy excluded evil. On 
earth its dominion, but not its presence, is excluded ; in glory the 
exclusion is absolute. This is simply one feature of the divine nature 
that is imparted to the glorified saint. He is like God his Saviour 
in this ; he cannot, because he will not, sin. He cannot look upon 
sin, for he looks only on Him in whom is no sin ; he cannot will to 
do evil, for he has willed that evil be shut out for ever. 



I. — All those tvliom God has predestmated unto lifc^ 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 7iature^ to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ ; 
enlightening their miiids spiritually and savijigly to understand 
the things of God j taking away their heart of stone ^ and giving 
2mto them an heart of flesh; renewijtg their wills, aiid by his 
almighty power determiiiing them to that which is good; and 
effe£tually drawing them to fxsus-Ckrist ; yet so as they can coine 
most freely f being made willing by his grace. 

This section does not speak of general, but only of efficacious 
grace. The common operations of the Spirit are referred to in the 
fourth section. Preparatory grace {gratia prceveniens) is recognised, 
by means of which the soul is awakened, rendered susceptible to 
impressions, placed in circumstances advantageous, and brought 
under the influence of the means of grace. This was what older 
practical divines called the law-work. [Illustrate from the experience 
of Augustine prior to his conversion as described in his Confessions ; 
from that of Halyburton in his Memoirs ; or from that of Christian 
before he reached the Cross.] All these preparatory movements are 
operations of the Spirit. Yet they may be all opposed, and by the 
reprobate are actually rejected. The awakened are not always led 
on to conversion ; nnt nil the rolled arf^ rhnqpn. The good pre- 
sented by the Spirit may be received only to be perverted ; the 
means of grace used as a cloak to sin. The condition of the 
awakened soul is therefore a critical one. ' Here he is placed in 
that critical and testing position in which he may resist grace. He 
may be unwilling to surrender himself self-denyinglv to the obedience 


of truth, although he was willing for a season to rejoice in its light ; 
or by indolence he may let slip and lose the acceptable time of grace ; 
or by self-will he may arrest the awakening in its progress, instead 
of letting it lead him on to regeneration.' (Martensen, Dogmatics, 
p. 385.) Those, however, who are predestinated unto life are enabled 
by the Spirit to use aright this prtevenient grace. At the accepted 
time those preparations of grace take the form of efficient grace for 
those who are both called and chosen. From the scope of the 
present section it will be seen that the chapter on Effectual Calling 
forms an important and comprehensive division in theology. When 
its various contents are examined, we shall be able to appreciate the 
treatment given to it by such divines as Rollock, who under this 
head deals with such questions as the Word of God, Sin, Faith, 
Repentance, the Human Will, and Free Grace. All these subjects 
are referred to in the present section. 

The effectual call is distinguished from the general call by this, 
that it is to salvation. It is simply the carrying out of the provisions 
of the eternal decree. 

The effectual call is accomplished by means of the Word and 
Spirit. These two powers are here conjoined, not identified. It is 
the main error of the Arminians that they confound the agency of the 
Word and of the Spirit in conversion. They speak of the spiritual 
power of the Word, which by moral suasion effectually appeals to 
the heart and conscience ; whereas Calvinists speak besides of the 
separate power of the Spirit, by which he works mightily on the 
human will. 

What in effectual calling is wrought by Word and Spirit, accord- 
ing to our Confession, may be arranged under three heads. 

1. Illumination. The call affects the intellect. Preparatory grace 
first passes into efficacious grace by producing spiritual enlighten- 
ment. This illumination involves the supplying of a new light, and 
not merely rendering clear and available something previously 
possessed. The effectually called sees sin in the light of God, and 
realizes his own position as a sinner. There is thus furnished, 
spiritual discernment of the truth. The light that shineth on all 
only lighteth upon some ; but, in the case of the effectually called, 
it enters into the man, and appeals to an organ or spiritual sense, by 
which it can be used. 

2. Repentance. The call affects the heart. As the seat of the 
affections, the heart of the called is awakened to hate and to love — 
to hate what, by enlightenment of mind, he is enabled to discern as 
sin, and to love what, by the same influence, he recognises as holi- 
ness. The effectually called hates the darkness, and that which 
endures the darkness, and loves the light, and that which endures 
the light. 

3. Renewal. The call affects the will. The Spirit in the effectual 
call not only overcomes tl e enmity and opposition of the will, but 
deUvers from impotence, and imparts the power to will and to do 


that which is good. This is the most completely determining act of 
the Spirit. ' Grace,' says Vinet, ' is a divine eloquence that per- 
suades the free will.' By this power brought to it by the Spirit the 
will acquires a new tendency, and is enabled to make a free self- 
surrender to Christ. 

These three operations of grace, which are only separable in idea, 
not in reality or in point of time, constitute together that effectual 
calling which finds its fullest expression in the union of the believer 
with Christ {iinio mysticd). The salvation that is by Christ is found 
at last to consist in rest in Christ. 

II. — This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not 
f7'07n any thitig 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. 

Care has been taken in this section to show that the doctrine 
maintained secures for man in regard to the will, the recognition of 
the active and the passive in its operations and condition. Man 
remains passive until quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit. 
But the new man possesses the renewed will, and by the exercise of 
this new power he is able to give a hearty response to the call, and 
to embrace the offered grace. The theologians at Dort (1618) 
give in their canons a clear definition of this doctrine, avoiding the 
extremes that in the interests of grace deny freedom, or in the 
interests of freedom practically ignore divine grace. ' As man by 
the fall has not ceased to be man, so also this divine grace of 
regeneration acts not on man as on stocks and stones, nor takes 
away his will and properties, but makes him spiritually alive, heals, 
amends, and bends him in a way which is alike gracious and potent ; 
so that, where previously the violence and resistance of the flesh 
exercised an absolute sway, now a voluntary and sincere obedience 
of the Spirit begins to rule.' The doctrine of our Confession is 
highly reasonable. We acknowledge that the Spirit must be 
received before any act can be done by us well-pleasing to God. 
Then our receiving the Spirit in His first operation of grace cannot 
be regarded as an act on our part, otherwise we would have done 
something at the very outset toward our own salvation. In this 
sense the human spirit is described as altogether passive before 
experiencing the quickening and renewing influence of the Holy 
Spirit. Thus we hold that the Spirit, which is the free gift of God's 
grace, has been already received before any gracious act is performed 
by man. Amesius sententiously expresses this truth regarding the 
state of the will on the first receiving of grace : ' Voluntas neque libere 
agentis, neque naturaliter patientis rationem habet, sed obedienlialis 
tantum subjectionis.' 


Grace is rightly called irresistible in its action upon those pre- 
destinated unto life. This does not imply any overbearing force 
{coactid) that works outside of, or apart from, the human will, but it 
indicates an effectual working in and through the will, which in the 
end assuredly produces the aimed-at results. Resistance may be 
long continued, but at last the corruption of will is overcome, the 
rebellious spirit throws down his weapons, and yields himself in 
willing surrender. 

III. — Elect infa7its^ dymg ift infancy^ are regeiierated and saved by 
Christ through the Spirit^ who worJzeth 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. 

This statement has been the subject of much misunderstanding. It 
is often referred to as a denial of infant salvation. Because elect 
infants are specified, it is supposed that this necessarily implies that 
there are non-elect infants who perish. This does not follow. 
Election of some certainly involves the non-election of others. We 
refer election, however, to that choice made by God out of the 
human race. To this election, we may believe that all infants dying 
in infancy belong. In this case we would properly call them elect 
infants. Our Confession merely indicates that the case of such does 
not come under the ordinary rules. In ordinary cases, where the 
human will is in a condition sufficiently developed to render the 
individual a responsible being, God's call is addressed so that it 
becomes operative through the will of the creature. But in cases of 
immaturity and of imbecility, the personal will cannot be so acted 
upon ; and therefore God deals with such cases in special ways 
according to His righteousness and grace. Beyond this we cannot 
safely go. Only it is to be remembered that it is original sin, and 
not actual transgression, that lies upon such. The Romish church 
has dogmatized here, beyond what scripture has affirmed. According 
to Roman Catholic theology, this original sin is removed by baptism, 
and the unbaptized cannot be saved. Lecky, in his History of 
Europeati Morals, has collected some most atrocious utterances of 
recent Romish theological writers describing the agonies of infants 
condemned to eternal misery (vol. ii. pp. 223-225) ; interesting as a 
warning against dogmatizing where Scripture gives no warrant ; all 
the horrid blasphemies of these Romish diabolical romances spring- 
ing from the doctrine of the absolute necessity of the sacraments for 
salvation. In Dante we find the same type of doctrine, though set 
forth in a form as little revolting as possible. All the unbaptized are 
necessarily found in the Inferno, as they have no hope of deliver- 
ance ; but infants share with the most virtuous of the heathen, a 
place where the suffering consists simply in privation of heavenly 
bliss. Of this company i^ is said that whether void of sin, or even 
deserving, ' it profits not, since baptism was not theirs.' {Inferno^ 


iv. 24-39.) [Consider the force of Christ's comparison of the salvable 
condition to that of a little child, and His declaration that of such is 
the kingdom of heaven — in relation to the question of infant 

IV. — Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry 
of the word, atid may have some commo7i operations of the Spirit, 
yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be 
saved: much less can me7i not professing the Chris tia7t religion 
be saved i7i a7ty other way whatsoever, be they ever so dilige7it to 
f7'a77ie their lives accordi7ig to the light of7iature^ a7id the law of 
that religio7t they do profess j a7td to assert a7id mai7itai7i that 
they 77iay, is ve7y pe7'7iicious, a7id to be detested. 

Many are called who are not chosen. Salvation is only through 
Christ. Beyond these undisputed statements, our Confession here 
refers directly to the question of the salvability of those who have 
never been favoured with gospel privileges. This is a matter on 
which we should not dogmatize. The anathema of this section 
(strange that it should just appear on such a question as this !) 
against rash conclusions on the one side should apply equally to 
rash conclusions on the other. ' These things are beyond the reach 
of man, neither is it in the power of any reason or disputation to 
search out the judgments of God. When, therefore, the enemy 
suggesteth those things unto thee, or some curious people raise the 
question, let thy answer be that of the prophet : Thou are just, O 
Lord, and Thy judgment is right.' (A'Kempis, Bk. iii. chap. Iviii.) 
As to the statement regarding the condition of the heathen world, 
it has been variously understood, either as a severely exclusive 
utterance, or as a less determinate deliverance, almost equivalent 
to a suspension of judgment. When, however, we place this section 
side by side with the opening section of the Confession, we feel 
disposed to adopt the latter interpretation. Professor Candlish, in 
vindicating the judiciousness and moderation of the doctrinal 
positions of our Standards, indicates his opinion that the statement 
of the opening section would have been enough, as this later utter- 
ance has been so generally interpreted (wrongly, as he thinks) in 
the narrowest and severest sense {B7'itish a7td Foreig7i Eva7igelical 
Review for 1877, p. 169). Professor Bruce, again, considers that the 
statement in the first chapter seems to make the balance incline in 
favour of the severer interpretation, on the ground that there ' the 
insufficiency of the light of nature to give that knowledge of God 
which is necessary for salvation is affirmed, and the affirmation is 
made the basis of the doctrine of Revelation.' (See Trai7ii7tg of the 
Twelve^ pp. 386, 387.) In all ages, we believe, there have been rays 
of light emanating from primitive revelations, generally so meagre 
and distorted that only the slightest vestige appeared ; yet this would 


be something more than the light of nature or mere natural religion, 
and in it there might be that element of truth according to which 
those who availed themselves of it should, for the sake of Christ, be 
saved. The main point to be insisted upon is that there is salvation 
in no other but in Christ only. Whoever are saved, are saved for 
His sake, and will celebrate His praise in their deliverance. Baxter's 
words (as quoted by Bruce) are sober and wise : ' I am not much 
inclined to pass a peremptory sentence of damnation upon all who 
never heard of Christ, having some more reasons than I knew of 
before to think that God's dealings with such is much unknown to 
us.' It is interesting to notice how Dante, when assigning to 
Ripheus the Trojan, and Trajan the Roman emperor, places in 
Paradise, is careful to affirm that both had on earth exercised 
Christian faith. 

' They quitted not their bodies, as thou deem'st, 
Gentiles, but Christians ; in firm rooted faith, 
This, of the feet in future to be pierced, 
That, of feet nailed already to the cross. ' [Paradiso, xx. 95-98, ) 



I. — Those wJiom God effectually call eth he also f7'eely just ifieth; not 
by infusing righteousness into thcjn, but by pai'doning thci)- sins, 
and by accounting and accepting their 'persons as righteous : not 

for any thing lurought in them or done by theni^ but for CJwisfs 
sa/ce alone : not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or 
a7iy other evangelical obedience, to them as their righteousjiess j 
but by imputing the obedierice and satisfaction of Christ U7ito 
ihejn, they receiving arid resting on him and his righteousness by 

faith : which faith they have not of themselves ; it is the gift of 

The leading propositions maintained in this section are these : (i.) 
Justification is an imputed, not an infused, righteousness ; (2.) Not 
faith but only Christ's work is the meritorious ground of justification. 

(i.) Justification in the sense of our Standards has been called a 
forensic or judicial act. By such a designation it is distinguished 
from that which is called justification in the Romish theology. By 
Romanists justification and sanctification are confounded, but in 
Protestant theology they are clearly distinguished. According to 
the scripture doctrine, justification is simply acquittal, there is no 
condemnation, sins are forgiven, and the persons of the guilty are 
accepted. The doctrinal statement agreed upon in the Council of 


Trent was that justification is not simply remission of sins, but also 
the sanctification and renewal of the inner man by the voluntary 
acceptance of grace and gifts. Reformed theology, however, nowhere 
regards justification as merely remission of sins, but adds to forgive- 
ness the accounting and accepting the persons as righteous. Thus 
our definition is twofold : forgiveness of sins and imputation of 
righteousness. Justification from its very nature must be complete, 
otherwise it is of no use whatever. Now if justification be identified 
with sanctification, then it is clear we cannot have it complete in this 
life. We maintain the doctrine of Counter-imputations, — the imputa- 
tion of Christ's righteousness to the sinner, and the imputation of the 
sinner's sin to Christ ; but if imputation meant infusion, we should be 
maintaining the blasphemous doctrine that our sins were infused 
into Christ. They are counted to Him, and just so, according to 
the Protestant doctrine of Justification, His righteousness is counted 
to us. 

(2.) It is an immediate consequence of the Romish doctrine of 
Justification to regard faith as itself the ground of our acceptance, 
and not, as we maintain, simply the instrumental means. In Protes- 
tant theology, faith is not regarded as a work which may carry with 
it a ground of merit. [Distinguish the different meanings of the 
word work in John vi. 28, 29.] Faith is not imputed as a work of 
righteousness done by us : for even if faith saved, faith is the gift of 
God. Not faith, however, but only Christ saves. Justification can 
only result to us in consequence of the work of one who can of himself 
do the works of righteousness. By faith we do not mean mere assent 
to a truth, but trust in a person who is himself the centre of the 
truth. Justification therefore rests on a person. ' Is faith a person ? ' 
asked Dr. John Duncan ; ' was faith crucified for you ? ' That faith 
which is the gift of God, also rests in God. The Reformed theologians 
have always shown themselves as eager to maintain that all the merit 
as a ground for justification lay in the work of Christ, as they were to 
maintain that the means for appropriating this meritorious ground 
was the exercise of faith, 

II. — Faith ^ thus receiving and 7-estmg on Christ and his righteottsjtess, 
is the alofie itistriunent of justification; yet it is not alone in 
the perso7i justified^ but is ever accompanied with all other saving 
graces y and is no dead faith, but ivorketh by love. 

In this place it is shown how works are excluded from the ground 
of our justification, and how good works afterwards necessarily 
appear in the life of the justified. We may attend to these two main 
propositions : (i.) Faith is the only instrument in justification ; (2.) Faith 
manifests its genuineness by means of the good works which follow. 

(i.) When we rightly understand what the function of faith is in 
reference to our justification, we shall find no difficulty in declaring 
that faith alone can justify. To say, in this sense, that faith justifies, 


is to say that Christ justifies. And all Protestants at least, and even 
Romanists in their express doctrinal treatises, admit that there is 
salvation in Jesus, and in no other. It is the error of Romish 
theology, however, to join works to faith, and thus to corrupt the 
simplicity that is in Christ, and open the way for the admission of 
other mediators besides the one appointed. Let us hold firmly that 
faith alone means Christ alone : and that the introduction of addi- 
tions to faith means the introduction of additions to Christ as the 
Saviour. The Romish distinction between mere faith {fides infor??tis), 
and faith developed by love {fides for??iata), as used in Romish 
theology, is utterly false. Only faith— without any additions, is 
saving faith. 

(2.) Romanists have objected to this Protestant doctrine that it 
is dangerous, that it opens the door to licentiousness and moral 
indifference. But the Protestant theologian is just as careful to 
maintain the indissoluble association of justification and sanctifica- 
tion, as he is to resist any confusion of the two. The same Christ 
whose righteousness is imputed in justification is the fountain of all 
holy actions in the life of the justified. Good works are the effects of 
faith and the evidence of justification. [Illustrate this doctrine from 
the admirable representation of it in the Pilp-im's Progress^ — the 
conversation of Christian and Ignorance regarding justification.] 

III. — Christy 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 satisfaction to his Father's justice in their behalf Yet, in as 
much as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience 
and satisfactio7t accepted ill their stead, aiid both freely, not for 
any thing in them, their justification is only of free grace; that 
both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified i?i 
the justificatioji of sinners. 

This section maintains that the justification of sinners is wholly a 
work of God's free grace. The price is fully paid, but it is God Him- 
self who paid it. 

(i.) The debt of the justified has been fully paid. The West- 
minster divines wisely confine themselves to the statement of the 
actual efficiency of the atonement. As to the sufficiency of Christ's 
death, orthodox theologians generally admit that its worth was so 
great that, to use the words of Owen, 'it was every way able and 
perfectly sufficient to redeem, justify, reconcile, and save all the 
sinners in the world, to satisfy the justice of God for all the sins of all 
mankind, and to bring them every one to everlasting glory.' In per- 
fect consistency with such views, reference is here made simply to 
those in whose case this all-sufficient atonement becomes actually 
efficient. This is really the practical point ; and here the special 
characteristic of Calvinism appears to advantage. The Arminian 


says that the atonement renders salvation possible to all ; the Cal- 
vinist asserts the same, as a position of comparatively subordinate 
interest, because he goes beyond possibilities to certainties, and 
affirms that the atonement actually and efficiently secures salvation 
to all the elect. 

(2.) And that is all of grace. The term grace has been used in two 
senses. It means generally the free, unmerited favour or good-will 
that God has for man, and in a restricted sense, the spiritual character 
inwrought in man. There is justifying grace and sanctifying grace. 
Romanists have for a purpose restricted the use of the term to the 
latter. [Show that this restriction is unwarrantable ; and that 
certain effects of grace are changes of relation to God and not infused 
graces. Buchanan, Justificatio7i, page 342.] In this section of our 
Confession, grace is used to mean justifying grace. Justification is 
the fruit of it, and by means of it every prerequisite of complete 
justification is provided. 

IV. — God did, Jrom all eternity, decree to jttstify all the elect; and 
Christ did, i?i the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise again 
for their justification : nevertheless they are not justified, tmtil the 
Holy Spirit doth in due time actually apply Christ unto them. 

It is here affirmed that while the eternal decree, and the death of 
Christ in time, are the presuppositions of the salvation of the indi- 
vidual, the efficiency of this redemption is only experienced through 
its personal application by the Holy Spirit. Among the older divines, 
in their discussions regarding the operations of grace, it was usual 
elaborately to distinguish between the order of nature and the order 
in time. It was maintained generally, that in the order of nature 
regeneration preceded justification, though in order of time they were 
contemporary. The distinction may not seem very profitable or im- 
portant, yet, if carefully made, it contributes to clearness of definition 
in theology. Our Confession indicates that prior to justification 
there must be the effectual and personal application of Christ, con- 
sidered as the source and seat of all gracious influence. The justifi- 
cation of all the elect is provided for by the decree, and the ransom for 
all such is fully paid and secured by the death and resurrection of 
Christ, yet there is also a time determined by the decree for the actual 
conferring of those purchased blessings, and till such time, even those 
elected to be justified remain under the curse. And the reason of 
this is, as Halyburton says, ' that all these privileges, being contrived 
and provided by a concert betwixt the Father and Son, without the 
sinner's knowledge, or any contribution of counsel, performance, or 
consent, it did belong to them who had brought about all this, by the 
best of rights, to give out, at what time or in what order they pleased, 
the good things designed, which was accordingly fixed in the cove- 
nant of redemption, all being adjusted as to order and time.' 
{\Vorhs, p. 550.) 


V. — God doth contuiue to forgive the sins of those that are justified : 
and although they cafi never fall from the state of justifcatio7i, 
yet they may by their sins fall under God's fatherly displeasure^ 
a7id not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, 
until they humble theinselves^ co?ifess their sins, beg paj-don, and 
renew their faith and repentance. 

This section shows particularly how God deals with the sins of 
believers, i. It assumes as a fact of experience that sin does con- 
tinue to exist in the justified. Its dominion is broken ; and ignorance 
of it, and insensible indifference toward it, are no longer possible. 
The experience it produces expresses itself first in wretchedness, and 
then in thanksgiving (Rom. vii. 24, 25). The need of forgiveness for 
all such acts of sin is keenly felt ; and believers are taught to pray 
for daily forgiveness of daily committed sin. 2. Sin in the justified 
has no power to destroy the reality of their justification. This, we 
have already seen, depends not on anything wrought in them or done 
by them ; so that it cannot be destroyed even by their falhng into sin. 
Yet the sins of the justified, no less than the sins of others, must be 
punished. God, as a Father, shows His displeasure, so that the 
child may abhor and abandon that which displeases Him : He with- 
draws the light of His presence until the offending one realizes in its 
absence his need of it, and in penitence cries out for restoration. 
The experience of the Psalmist, as given in Psalm xxx. 6-11, has 
been traced with deep spiritual insight and sympathy by the author 
of the Imitation of Christ (see book ii. chap. ix. 5). 3. The gracious 
results of such fatherly dealings show themselves in the chastened 
believer's increased humbleness of mind, sense of sins, realized need 
of forgiveness, and in the general development of the graces of the 

VI. — The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in 
all these respects, one and the same with the justification of 
believers under the New Testament. 

We have here a more general and comprehensive statement regard- 
ing the justification of Old Testament saints than that given before in 
chapter vii. 5. 

' Not by works ' applies to them as well as to the saved under the 
new dispensation. The great number of outward rites and cere- 
monies, and the imposing and obtrusive form of these, might lead 
one to suppose that by works of righteousness, ritual or moral, which 
they had done, they secured acceptance with God. This, however, is 
an error resulting from a superficial view of their histories. The 
animating principle which underlay those acts was faith ; the same 
as the New Testament grac?, though under their peculiar circum- 
stances it necessarily assumed pecuhar forms of manifestation. In 


two Epistles (Rom. iv. and Gal. iii.) Paul insists upon Abraham's 
faith and not his works being the ground of his justification. The 
case of Abraham is thus singled out for the sake of his argument, 
because the Jews with one consent traced their spiritual privileges 
from him. 



I. — All those that are justified, God voiichsa/eth, in and fo7' his only 
Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption ; by 
which they are taken into the number, afid e?tJoy the liberties and 
privileges of the childreji of God; have his 7iame put upon them, 
receive the spirit of adoption J have access to the throne of grace 
with boldness; are enabled to cry, Abba, Father; are pitied, 
protected, provided for, and chastened by him as by a father; yet 
7iever cast off, but sealed to the day of rede?nption, afid ittherit the 
promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation. 

The complaint has been very often raised, that in the Confession 
no attempt has been made to define adoption, and that the present 
section is little more than the statement of an identical proposition. 
The subject has certainly been much more fully discussed and more 
frequently referred to in this century than in Reformation times. It 
could not, therefore, be expected that it should receive in the seven- 
teenth century the same careful and elaborate examination that was 
given to the subject of justification. At the same time, it should be 
said that in a Confession of Faith adoption should not receive so 
detailed a treatment as justification. In general or practical theo- 
logical works it may be desirable to give it a very large place, but 
here we have to do with it only as it concerns the general fabric of 
the church faith. But, though no formal definition of adoption is 
given here, we have a sufficiently detailed and exact description. 
Adoption is described as a grace, it proceeds from God, is conferred 
on all the justified, is received by them in and for the sake of Christ, 
and it secures to them at once the right to and the enjoyment of all 
the privileges of children of God. No better formal definition has 
been given than that of Amesius : Adoption is a gracious sentence 
of God, whereby for the sake of Christ He receives believers into the 
rank of sons. This definition gives no more than the Confession's 

It is here stated that justification is presupposed. In the order of 
nature we have justification preceding and securing a ground for the 
act of adoption. In following the course of development in the 
regenerate, we have first of all justification as that change in the 
relations between God and man which is indispensable to all further 


experiences of grace ; and then, as rendered possible on the part of 
those who are in this state of justification, we have the exercise of the 
graces of faith and repentance ; and in return for the exercise of these 
respective graces, we have the rewards of grace conferred, — the grace 
of adoption and the forgiveness of sins. 

Then, again, it is said that God vouchsafes this grace in and for His 
only Son Jesus Christ. When He who is expressly called the only 
Son of God took on Him the nature of man, and that of man under 
the curse, He rendered it possible that the members of that race, into 
which He came without foregoing His Sonship, might become sharers 
of His Sonship. The Incarnation, ideal in the eternal decree and 
realized in the earthly life of Jesus Christ, is at once the device 
according to which God will communicate to the justified participation 
in the divine nature, and the reason for which He will confer on them 
the grace of adoption. ' The only way by which a man receives 
that new life from God that has nothing to do with sin, and that 
consciousness of kindred with God which makes the name *' Father " 
natural to his heart, is by simple faith in Christ, who gives power to 
become sons of God to as many as receive Him.' (Maclaren's Sermons^ 
3d series, — a striking sermon on John viii. 35.) 

It is customary to draw a parallel between human and divine 
adoption. In human adoption there is ordinarily a defect supplied 
and a mere outward advantage conferred ; in divine adoption there 
is, on the one hand, no want in God to supply, but the movement is 
one of pure grace, and, on the part of man, there is received no mere 
outward advantage, but an inner spiritual gift of a new life. More 
important is this other distinction. In human adoption there is no 
right to the inheritance, anterior to the act of adoption, and so in this 
case the privilege and the spirit of adoption are separable ; in divine 
adoption the right to the inheritance, as embracing all the privileges 
of children, is founded on a previous spiritual birth, and consequently 
the spirit of adoption in this case is not separable from participation 
in and enjoyment of its privileges. This latter distinction leads us to 
notice that too much attention is usually paid to the relation between 
the act of adoption and the act of justification, and too little to the 
relation between the spirit of adoption and the operation of the new 
birth. When adoption is viewed as the act of receiving into the rank 
of the sons of God, it is evident that it should be described as formal ; 
like justification^^it is a declaratory and forensic act.. But just as the 
forensic act of justification presupposed the previous spiritual operation 
of regeneration, so this forensic act of declaring the sonship of the 
justified by which justification is immediately followed up, is grounded 
upon the previous conferring of the Spirit of the Son, which is but 
another way of expressing the great change of nature on which the 
change of relation is based. 

The latter part of the section, which treats of the privileges of 
believers as children of Go i, is ill arranged, and not quite grammatical 
in its structure. The apostle's figure of the seal might have been 


made more prominent. The sealing involves the ideas of ownership 
and security, — has a side toward God, and a side toward man. The 
privileges of adoption enumerated here may be grouped under two 
heads, (i) God discharges for us the duties of a Father — gives us 
His name, pities, protects, provides for, and chastens. (2) He enables 
us to fulfil the duties of children — gives the spirit of adoption, boldness 
to draw near, and grace to use the promises. 

Adoption links together justification and sanctification. The grace 
of adoption is the immediate result of justification, and the spirit of 
adoption is the real germ of sanctification. The title to life eternal 
evidently rests upon justification alone, yet the presence of the spirit 
of adoption is an unfailing test of the reality of our justification, 
inasmuch as it is received by all the justified. 

It is the special service rendered to theology by the late Dr. 
Candhsh that he called attention to the great truth of the adoption of 
the justified. In almost all his published works the practical aspects 
of this blessed truth are strikingly illustrated. See especially The 
Fatherhood of God; and a more recent volume of sermons, The 
Sons hip and Brotherhood of Believers, 



I. — They who are effectually called and regenerated^ having a new 
heart a?td a new spirit created in them, are farther sanctified 
really and personally, through the virtue of Chrisfs death and 
resurrection, by his word and Spirit dzuelling in them; the 
dominion of the whole body of sift is desti^oyed, and the several 
lusts thereof are jnore and more weakened and mortified, and they 
vw7'e and more quickened and streiigthened in all saving graces, 
to the practice of true holiness, without which no mafi shall see 
the Lord. 

We have here two main points of doctrine : ist. The idea of sanctifi- 
cation ; and 2d. The means whereby sanctification is secured. 

I. The idea of sanctification, — that in which sanctification consists, 
— is here described in reference to sin and in reference to holiness. 
The gradual destruction of remaining corruptions, and the growth of 
the saving graces, are evidently two sides of the same process. It is 
the development of the saving graces that accomplishes the death of 
indwelling sin in the believer. The proportion in which the one is 
present, determines the proportion in which the other is present. Let 
the saving graces — the graces of the Christian life — be increased 
sevenfold, then just in that proportion is corruption in the heart of 


the believer checked and destroyed. Here wc come upon the main 
distinctions between justification and sanctification. In justification, 
we speak of saving grace ; in sanctification, of saving graces : in 
justification, of grace immediately sufficient ; in sanctification, of 
graces that are quickened and strengthened more and more. In 
justification, of the complete removal of condemnation ; in sanctifi- 
cation, of the weakening more and more of the lusts of sin. In 
justification, of forgiveness and acceptance ; in sanctification, of 
holiness in the hfe. These differences are admirably stated in the 
Larger Catechism, Question ']']. The righteousness of justification 
and the righteousness of sanctification have been carefully dis- 
tinguished by Hooker : ' The righteousness, wherewith we shall be 
clothed in the world to come, is both perfect and inherent. That 
whereby here we are justified is perfect, but not inherent. That 
whereby we are sanctified is inherent, but not perfect.' {Discourse 
of Justificatio7t, sect, iii.) The Romish Church, overlooking this 
distinction, has described justifying righteousness as an infused grace ; 
and so justification is confounded with sanctification. 

2. This sanctification of the believer is accomplished by means of 
the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit is secured by the merits of 
Christ, and is the fruit of personal justification. Hence the Spirit is 
called the Spirit of Christ, because the Spirit dwells in Christ. By 
necessary consequence, then, this Spirit dwells in all who are in 
Christ. If we observe here the connection between justification and 
sanctification, as we have before considered their differences, we shall 
best understand how sanctification is said to be through the virtue of 
Christ's death and resurrection. The elect are viewed from eternity 
as one in the body of Christ, and the decree of justification has 
reference to this body of Christ as one whole. ' This is what Calvinists 
call justification in general ; and the particular justification of each 
member is effected at the moment of his union with this justified body 
of Christ, since he therein comes to have communion in the merit 
and justification of Christ the head. The church stands in the state 
of union, yea, of unity with Christ ; and as each member is added, 
he is admitted to communion in Christ's grace and glory.' ^ Now 
the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and when the justified sinner 
becomes a member of Christ's body, the Spirit which belongs to the 
person of Christ must enter into and pervade this new member. 

The gift of the Spirit is thus the condition of sanctification. He is 
also the efficient agent of the work of sanctification that proceeds in 
the soul of the believer. All that we have of Christ's must necessarily 
exert a sanctifying influence upon us. Hence His Word as well as 
His Spirit, though never apart from the Spirit (for the word that is 
separated from His Spirit is not His Word), works sanctification by 
its truth. 

' 2 lie Glory of the Holy Ghos. , by Rev. P. M 'Laren, late of Lossiemouth, page 


II. — This sandification is throughout iji the whole man, yet imperfect 
in this life J there abideth still some renmants of corruption in 
every part: whence ariseth a cojititiiial and irreconcilable 
war; the flesh lusting against the spirit^ and the spirit against 

III. — In which war, although the remaini^ig corruption for a time 
may nmch prevail, yet, through the contitiual supply of stre7igth 
from the sa7ictifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth 
overcome : and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in 
the fear of God. 

These two sections treat of the imperfection of the saints in this 
present life. What is here laid down may be arranged under 
three heads. 

1. Imperfection, though all-pervading, does not exclude an all-per- 
vading sanctification. Those complementary truths are clearly stated 
in the first two clauses of the second section. No faculty of the man 
remains unaffected by regeneration. This ought to show that religion 
cannot fairly be regarded as a matter merely of intellect, or merely of 
feeling, or even merely of will. The religious spirit shows itself 
under each of these powers, because each has been powerfully 
affected by the new birth. Yet in none of these faculties is holiness, 
as the product of this new life, perfected. 

2. Imperfection occasions a continual struggle. The end striven 
after being perfection in every part, there is of necessity in the 
regenerate a continual war throughout the whole being. The presence 
of the Spirit in every part alongside of remaining sin involves a state 
of war. Whether we describe the Christian life as a pilgrimage or as 
a war, the idea of struggle forms an essential element. Compare 
Banyan's Holy War and Pilgrim^ s Progress. This struggle is carried 
031 within the man. It is a struggle for the mastery. Sin in the 
regenerate has not the dominion as it had in the unregenerate ; 
but so long as it is present at all, it will be seeking to regain that 
dominion. If it did not so, it would no longer be sin, — it would no 
longer exist as a lust. Sin implies contrariety to holiness. The 
Spirit and the flesh war against each other ; and so long as any 
element of the fleshly life continues, — that is, throughout the earthly 
existence, — this struggle will continue. The knowledge of this should 
lead to the exercise of patience. This time is for struggle, not for 
rest, for wrestling against evil especially within. ' Dispose not 
thyself,' says A'Kempis, 'for much rest, but for great patience.' The 
best illustration and description of this war carried on in the believer'5 
heart, is found in Rom. vii. 14-25. [Read Fraser On Sanctification j 
especially the Dissertation on Rom. vii. and the admirably explana- 
tory Paraphrase of vv. 14-25.] This, however, is not the normal 
experience of the Christian. Paul aspires to the experience of 


chap, viii, ; to which indeed he passes in the thanksgiving wiih 
which he closes the previous chapter. 

3. Imperfection in the behever is gradually overcome, and will be 
at last completely removed. The third section thus represents the 
true aim and goal of sanctification. Victory is in view, and this 
should encourage the struggling saint. He has within him the holy 
seed. He and sin will never be identified. It is indeed already true 
that he who is remaining in Christ cannot sin. Dwelling in Christ, 
who is without sin, and dwelling in sin are necessarily contradictory. 
The regenerate has a powxr within him which will yet render him 
free from sin ; and so he engages in a conflict, the end of which is 
not doubtful. The result of each act of wrestling is to weaken sin 
and strengthen the saving graces. The increase of grace is the 
earnest of the fulness of grace in bliss. 



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 
hea?'ts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the wo?'d: 
by which also, and by the administration of the sacramejiis, a?ia 
prayer, it is ijic?'eased and stre?igthened. 

This section treats of the origin, and the increase of faith. 

(i.) As to its origin, faith is a grace, the gift of God, enabling the 
elect to exercise and accomphsh the condition of salvation. The 
origin of faith is thus from God Himself working by the Spirit of 
Christ. The message is delivered to all, but the natural man cannot 
receive it, and his whole nature rises in rebellion against it. ' From 
this message,' says O'Brien, ' fallen man naturally recoils with an 
aversion just proportioned to the degree in which he understands it. 
And if this be the case, — if it be that when this message of mercy 
is best understood, it is naturally most distasteful, — there is plainly 
an obstacle to trust in the Redeemer, which no degree of knowledge 
and no strength of conviction can of themselves overcome ; which 
nothing but the power of God's Spirit can effectually subdue.' 
{Nature a7id Effects of Faith, p. 38.) As to the origin of faith, this 
section further shows, that the Spirit of God ordinarily works medi- 
ately on the heart of man, employing the ministry of the Word. The 
relation of faith and the Word is more fully brought out in the fol- 
lowing paragraph. Justification by faith and the supreme authority 
of Scripture constitute the evangelical principle — the ultimate 
principle of Protestantism, md are distinguished as respectively the 
material and the formal principle. 



(2.) The increase of faith is secured by the continued use of the 
Word under the Spirit's blessing, and by the use in addition of 
means of grace appropriated to believers — the sacraments and 
prayer. It was through prayer that the disciples sought increase of 
faith (Luke xvii. 5); and this prayer was offered just when the 
enumeration of moral requirements made evident the insufficiency 
of the faith which they possessed. The prayer was addressed to 
Christ for faith. [The relation of Christ, faith, and the ordinances 
has been illustrated by reference to the story of the woman of 
Samaria : Christ, the well ; the ordinance, the pitcher ; and faith, 
the muscular action which lifted the pitcher. See Goulburn, 
Thoughts on Personal Religion, Part I. chap. 3.] It belongs to the 
very idea of ordinances, but very specially to the idea of the sacra- 
ments, to be viewed as means for securing increase and confirma- 
tion of grace. The strength of faith depends upon the measure in 
which we possess Christ. That faith is perfect which rests on 
Christ without exception. Now, just as divinely-appointed ordi- 
nances enable us to draw out of His fulness more than we had 
before, their rightful use secures the increase of faith. 

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 differe7itly upon that which each particular passage 
the7'eof C07itai7ieth J yieldi7ig obedie7ice to the C077i7na7ids, tre7}ibli7ig 
at the threatenings, a7id e77ibraci7ig the pro77iises of God for this 
life a7id that which is to co7ne. Bui the pri7icipal acts of saving 
faith a7'e, accepting, receivings and resting up07i Christ alone for 
justificatio7i, sanctifcation, a7id eter7tal life, by virtue of the 
covena7it of grace. 

We have here what has been called the formal reason or ground 
of faith. Why does the Christian believe the Scriptures ? The 
ultimate ground of belief cannot be found in human testimony 
whether of a man or of the church, nor in rational conviction of 
their truth, nor in any private revelation, nor in any single text 
bearing witness to the rest, nor in the suitableness of the matter of 
Scripture to our circumstances. (See Halyburton, Essay on Faith, 
chap, iii.) On no one of these reasons does our faith in Scripture 
finally rest. But when we acknowledge with our Confession that 
the ultimate ground is the authority of God Himself speaking 
therein, we recognise as essential conditions to our believing accept- 
ance of Scripture, the spirit of faith in us, and the personal witness 
in us of the Holy Spirit, rendering us capable of beholding the 
divine light in the Word, which only then is known to us as self- 

When our Confession says that the Christian by faith acteth 
differently upon that contained in each particular passage, Hodge 


Strangely misses the meaning, and discourses of something entirely 
different. He proceeds as if he had read acteth indifferently, and 
goes on to affirm that the Word of God must in all its parts be 
accepted with equal faith. After having so precisely stated that the 
Christian's faith extends to whatsoever is revealed, it is not likely that 
the Westminster divines would bring in a new sentence to repeat in 
a feebler way the same thing. What this clause actually says, as is 
clearly explained by what follows, is that faith so accepts each par- 
ticular passage as to understand and use it in accordance with its 
evident intention — if it be a command, obeying it ; if a threatening, 
taking warning by it ; if a promise, laying hold on it, and applying 
it either to this life or to the future life, as a fair interpretation 
requires. The principle is a most useful one, and most evidently 

III. — This faith is diff'erent in degrees, weak or strong; may be often 
and inany ways assailed and weakened, but gets the victory j 
growing up in ?nany to the attaifinient of a full assurance 
through Chfist, who is both the author and finisher of our faith. 

Faith is here declared to vary in degree ; and this is true whether 
we regard different individuals in the Christian church, or the same 
individual at different stages of his history. The development of 
faith is not in appearance a regular advancement and steady growth. 
It is so in reality; but often, not only the immediate movement of 
the Christian, but his whole tendency for a time may seem retrograde. 
When the entire life is viewed, however, the course of the develop- 
ment of faith will be seen to have been really progressive. Some 
Christians never make the same evident attainment in faith as 
others. Yet the weak may be no less genuine than the strong ; and 
real faith is saving faith. [Consider the experience of Mr. Little 
Faith ; also that of Feeble Mind and Ready to Halt, in Pilgrim's 
Progress?^ Speaking of genuine believers in darkness, Hooker ex- 
presses this true and comfortable doctrine : ' Their faith, when it is 
at the strongest, is but weak ; yet even then, when it is at the 
weakest, so strong that utterly it never faileth.' If we have faith, it 
is God's gift, His work in us ; and He will take care that His work 
will not fail. The assurance of faith — to be afterwards fully treated 
of — is here set in its true relation to faith, as its final product. It 
comes from the repeated experience of His faithfulness in whom we 
have beheved, and His sufficiency for upholding us in trial and giving 
us the victory over all that opposes. 




I. — Repe)itance unto life is aji evangelical grace , the doctrine whereof 
is to be preached by every minister of the gospel^ as well as that 
of faith ill Christ. 

This section states the relation between repentance and faith. 
Like faith, repentance is an evangelical grace. ' Faith,' says 
Boston, ' is the spring and source of repentance, so that though the 
graces of faith and repentance are given together and at once in 
respect of time, yet in the order of nature, faith goes before repent- 
ance, and the acting of faith before the exercise of repentance, and 
he that would repent must first believe in Christ that he may repent.' 
We do not then co-ordinate repentance with faith as the instru- 
mental grace in a sinner's justification ; but as a sister grace \\q 
maintain that it is never wanting where true faith is found. But if 
we say that repentance cannot be without faith, we must also say 
that without repentance there can be no faith. Hence in Scripture 
the call to repentance, as necessarily implying faith, is sometimes 
put for the full sum of gospel preaching. The admonition of this 
section is strictly in accordance with Scripture practice. 

The grace of repentance is the indispensable bridge between justi- 
fication and sanctification. In the very moment of justification the 
grace of repentance takes origin, and the active development of 
this grace is sanctification. * Repentance,' says Thomas Fuller, ' is 
the younger brother of innocence itself.' 

II. — By it a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the da?iger, 
but also of the filthiness a7id odioiisness of his sins, as contra?y 
to the holy 7iatuj-e and righteous law of God, and upon the ap- 
p7'ehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penite7it, so 
grieves for a7id hates his si7is, as to tu7'7i fro7n them all taito 
God, purposi7tg a7id e7ideavoicri7tg to walk with him in all the 
ways of his C07n7na7idme7its, 

This statement does full justice to both influences that are at work 
in moving to genuine evangelical repentance. These are — the terrors 
of the Lord, and the persuasions of grace. We find in the history 
of the church instances of a tendency to onesidedness in describing 
the origin of repentance. Agricola (1527), carrying out some rather 
unguarded utterances of Luther, maintained that evangelical re- 
pentance has no connection whatever with the law, that it is awakened 
simply by a view of the offence committed against God's grace and 
love in Christ, and that it is therefore of faith in the sense of not 


being produced by any representation of the divine justice and anger. 
This error both Luther and Calvin vigorously opposed, and they 
introduced special statements into their writings to guard against 
any such violent misapplication of the evangelical doctrine. Re- 
pentance is an evangelical grace ; but the law is not to be regarded 
as anti - evangelical. It forms an introductory discipline. The 
spiritually awakened is rendered conscious of the danger, odiousness, 
and filthiness of his sins, by having these brought into contrast with 
the holy and righteous law of God. In order of nature, these con- 
victions of sin, as an element in repentance, have precedence of the 
apprehension of God's mercy in Christ ; but in actual occurrence 
these two are simultaneous. The one is the emotion of penitence ; 
the other, the assurance that God will receive the penitent. The 
full exercise of the grace of repentance is possible only when this 
emotion, having been awakened in the soul, is encouraged by a 
view of God's grace. It consists in grief for, and forsaking of, sin — 
the turning to, and following after, God. It has thus a reference 
to the past and a reference to the future. The godly sorrow is an 
indispensable element in true repentance. As Henry Taylor says in 
Philip van Artevelde : — 

• He that lacks time to mourn, lacks time to mend. 
Eternity mourns that. 'Tis an ill cure 
For life's worst ills, to have no time to feel thcrn. 
Where sorrow's held intrusive and turned out, 
There wisdom will not enter, nor true power, 
Nor aught that dignifies humanity.' 

That genuine repentance involves the quitting not only of sinful 
practices, but also of those possessions that have been sinfully 
obtained, was clearly recognised by Shakespeare : * May one be 
pardoned and retain the offence ? ' etc. (Read Hamlet^ Act iii. Scene 
iii. 11. 36-72.) 

III. — Although 7'epentance be not to be rested in^ as any satisfaction 
for sin^ or any cause of the pardon thereof which is the act of 
God's free grace in Christ] yet is it of such necessity to all sinners, 
that none may expect pardon without it. 

Faith and repentance, though very frequently mentioned together 
in God's Word, are not, as we have seen from the first section, co- 
ordinated as means of salvation. Christ saves, and faith as uniting 
to Christ, is saving faith. We cannot in the same sense say that 
repentance saves. Neither faith nor repentance, however, are to be 
viewed as meritorious means of salvation. The Bible ' calls upon 
all to repent and to believe ; and brings to act upon all, forces fitted 
to move in all remorse and alarm. But it treats our sorrow and 
fear not as means of propitiating an offended Deity, but as the course 
through which sinners are to be brought to confide in a reconciled 


God.' (O'Brien, Nature and Effects of Faith, p. 44.) The emotions 
in repentance separable from faith, when viewed apart, could only 
produce despair, which is first removed by the entrance of faith. 
'All repentance,' says Harless, 'is the consciousness of not being 
righteous before God.' ' Justification is the silencing of our despair.' 
{Chr. Ethics, p. 218.) 

Though not the ground of the sinner's justification, there can be 
no justifying faith that is not accompanied by repentance. It is a 
negative condition {conditio sine qua non), not the meritorious cause 
of pardon. ' Let no man,' says Hooker, ' look for pardon which doth 
smother and conceal sin where in duty it should be revealed.' 

IV. — As thet'e is no sin so small but it deserves damiiationj so there 
is no sin so g?'eat, that it can bring dainnation upon those who 
truly 7'epent, 

In the statement of this section we have a preservative against 
frivolity and hopelessness in view of our sins. What an old divine 
said of the story of the penitent thief, may be said of the twofold 
statement now before us. It is given so that no one may presume, 
and so that no one need despair. The doctrine of the aggravation of 
sin is indeed here recognised. Sins are relatively distinguished as 
great and small. Yet this difference is not such that the least any 
more than the greatest lies out of the range of God's condemnation. 
Every sin deserves God's wrath and curse. Nor is the difference 
such that the greatest any more than the least lies beyond the range 
of God's mercy promised to the penitent. The only apparent ex- 
ception is that sin which is called unpardonable. When we resolve 
this into persistent unbelief, the exception is seen to be only apparent. 
One of the Westminster divines, speaking of the absoluteness of the 
proposition that whosoever believes not shall be damned, says : 
' This is so positively set down as it implies not only to be a sin 
against a law, but a sin against a remedy.' {Minutes of Assembly^ 
p. 159.) Hence, while it is true that in every act of sin, sinners sin 
against their own souls, this is in a special sense true regarding the 
rejection of the only hope of recovery. Where faith is necessary, 
repentance is necessary. In reference to our need of Christ, accord- 
ing to Paul's doctrine there is no difference between one and another, 
between the great sinner and the less. Where no distinction can be 
made as to the need of faith, none can be made as to the need of 
repentance. This evidently does not affect the question of varying 
forms and degrees of faith and repentance in different individuals. 
It may be held that a great sinner, who has realized the greatness of 
his sin, and trusted the all-sufficient Saviour, will manifest his faith 
and repentance in deeper form than he will who had not sinned so 
grievously. Varying temperaments and differences of spiritual 
constitution must be taken into account. [Illustrate this by con 
trasting the experiences of Augustine and Pelagius, Luther and 


Erasmus — showing how different courses in life, both moral and 
social, combined with varying personal characteristics to produce 
different spiritual experiences ; and how these again were reflected 
in their diverse types of doctrine.] It must be remembered, too, that 
these differences depend on the quality of our sense of sin, rather 
than on the relatively less or more heinous character of our sins. 
Consider Paul's estimate of himself as a sinner. 

V. — Men ought not to content ihe7nselves with a general repentance^ 
but it is every inaji's duty to e^ideavour to repent of his particidar 
sins particularly. 

Such a particular enumeration and remembrance of our faults is 
necessary to produce in us a proper and becoming frame. 'A 
general persuasion that thou art a sinner,' says Hooker, ' will neither 
so humble nor bridle thy soul, as if the catalogue of thy sins 
examined severally be continually kept in mind.' Without this we 
cannot preserve sufficiently clear views of the heinousness of all sin 
as such, apart from all distinctions greater or less, few or more. 

At the same time one may be thoroughly penitent, and yet be in 
certain circumstances unable to individualize particular acts of sin. 
He may be disturbed, profoundly moved by the thought of his 
general sinfulness. It was so with Luther, who, while groaning 
under the load of his sins, could not name any in the Confessional. 

It is necessary, on the other hand, to guard against a view of 
repentance which would make it consist simply in isolated acts of 
penitence on account of separate acts of sin. ' Repentance,' says 
Luther, 'goes not to work piecemeal in regard to particular deeds 
which thou hast openly committed against the ten commandments, 
but deals with the whole person, with all its life and character, yea, 
with the entire nature, and shows to thee that thou liest under God's 
wrath and art condemned to hell.' (See Harless, p. 215.) True 
repentance is no mere external thing. It does not essentially consist 
in lopping off, but in rooting out ; not in reforming the sinful life, 
but in removing the sinful heart. Thoroughness in repentance, how- 
ever, can only follow that hatred of the sinful principle which renders 
one jealous of every single manifestation thereof. 

VI. — As eve7y man is boimd to make private confession of his sins to 
God^ praying for the pardon thereof; upon which, and the for- 
saki?ig of them, he shall find 7nercyj so he that scandalizeth his 
brother^ or the church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private 
or publick confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repent- 
ance to those that are offended; who are thereupon to be recon- 
ciled to hi7n, and in love to receive him. 

We have here first of all the general statement that all sins without 


exception ought to be confessed to God. This act of confession, 
properly understood, comprises prayer for pardon and penitent 
resolve ; real prayer and true repentance are invariably followed by 
the exercise of divine mercy. God refuses forgiveness to all who 
refuse to confess their sin. We are next told in \vhat special cases 
confession should be made not only privately to God, but also 
publicly before men. The main errors of the Romish doctrine are 
the prescribing confession before the priest as a habitual practice, 
and the destroying the voluntary character of the act by systematic 
questioning, and ranging over all manner of conceivable offences. 
The Reformed Church makes such confessions exceptional, and 
their form less or more public according as an individual or a com- 
munity has been offended by the sin committed. If a brother is 
offended, go to him ; if the church, go to the church. The term 
scandal was commonly employed by theologians in the Westminster 
Assembly period to indicate anything, especially in doctrine or ritual, 
that was calculated to give offence or encourage abuse. That 
which scandalized a brother or the church at large is here applied, 
not to things in themselves indifferent, but to sins. Such sins have 
special aggravation from this, that the evil effects have evidently 
spread to others, who have, to some extent, been compromised by 
them. If we have wronged a man, be it by personal violence, evil 
speaking, purloining of his goods, or any other injury, we are bound 
to make confession before him, with such reparation as is possible, 
to show the honesty of our confession. If our offence is such that 
it would, when brought to light, bring special reproach upon the 
church to w^hich we belong, we are required to tell it to the church. 
Then, lastly, w^e have here laid down the duty of those to whom such 
confession is made. The penitent is to be received in the spirit of 
love. By such a reception his penitence will be deepened. Where 
there is a lack of love among Christians, there will be a lack of 
sinners repenting. Iniquity abounding is as much the effect as the 
cause of the waxing cold of the love of many. 

There is, however, no contradiction between faithfulness and 
fervent love. Of the members of the early church it was said, ' See 
how those Christians love one another ; ' yet their mode of dealing 
Avith delinquents was most rigorous, and their discipline prescribed a 
long and humiliating course. [See a vigorous sketch of the stern 
discipline of the first Christian centuries in Pressense's Life and 
Practice in the Eai'ly Churchy Bk. I. chap, iii.] 



\. — Good works are only such as God hath commajidcd in his holy 
word^ and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised 


by mc7t out of blind zeal^ and iipoti any pretence of good in- 

The rule of obedience is God's own Word. That which is done 
because required of God can alone be regarded by Him as a good 
work. Thus in this section we have the first exclusion of things 
irrelevant by way of fixing the definition of a truly good work in the 
evangelical sense — all that is done according to merely human 
impulse must be set aside. If one misinterpret the will of God, his 
work, not being in accordance with the Divine will, cannot be called 
good ; but his misinterpretation is rather charged against him inas- 
much as some element of selfishness, or some sinful inclination, has 
biassed him in his interpretation. So, for example, Saul of Tarsus, 
and all the nobler and more conscientious spirits among persecutors 
in every age. 

Under humanly-devised works here condemned may be included 
the Counsels of Perfection, as distinguished in the Romish Church 
from commands of duty. In so far as they may be reducible under 
commands, they are simply of ordinary obligation. In so far as they 
are not commanded, they are no better than the burdens which the 
Pharisees were condemned for laying upon men. 

II. — These good works., done in obedience to Gods commandments., are 
the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith : and by them 
believers manifest their thankfulness^ strengthen their assurance., 
edify their brethrejt, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop th& 
mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God., whose workmanship 
they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto ; that., having their 
fruit unto holiness, they may have in the end eternal life. 

This section treats of the place and uses of good works. The 
statement here given is very decidedly opposed to a false legalist 
doctrine, as well as to all Antinomian extremes. When Romanism 
proclaimed salvation by works, and the Anabaptists proclaimed 
salvation without works, the true Protestantism re-echoed the doctrine 
of the New Testament— salvation by faith, not through, nor without, 
but unto good works. Those works, then, which according to the 
Gospel are reckoned good, are not meritorious, but result from our 
fellowship with Him in whom is the sole ground of merit. 

The uses of good works may be distinguished as partly personal 
and partly social. They are viewed as affording an expression to 
the grace of thankfulness, and as contributing to the comfort and 
establishment of the graces of the believer. They are viewed also 
as furnishing means for the encouragement, growth, and blessing of 
brethren, and as commending the Gospel to those who are without. 
For those necessary uses good works are enjoined. 

The end is that, by means of them, God's glory is advanced, and 
the believer's sanctification is carried on. 


III. — Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but 
ivhollyfi'om 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 
a7iy dicty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit j but they 
ought to be diligent iti stirring up the grace of God that is in 

In this and in the following sections we are shown that whatever 
good results appear in the Christian life, the praise belongs to God, 
as they are the fruits of His Spirit ; and inasmuch as all the best en- 
deavours of the saints are marred by their own sinful imperfections, 
shame belongs to them. 

Here we have the doctrine laid down that the good works of 
regenerate men are the immediate result of the Spirit's influence. 
The good work is not the result of the simple operation of our 
Christian graces. This doctrine in regard to the Spirit, would be 
like that which regards the Creator, after the manner of the Deists, 
as giving a movement to the world and then withdrawing. Just as 
God the Creator continues in providence to uphold and govern His 
creation, so does God the Spirit continue to strengthen and direct 
His new creation in its spiritual course. He who will daily accom- 
plish good works before God, must have his inward man renewed 
day by day. 

Dependence on the Spirit, however, must not be made an excuse 
for sloth. It is true of the regenerate especially, as it is in a general 
way of all men, that God helps those who help themselves. If His 
offers of help previously made have been cheerfully accepted, and 
powers hitherto bestowed by Him diligently used. He will more 
readily grant further help and qualify for greater occasions. He who 
is faithful in little, will have ampler opportunities given, and will be 
fitted for showing his faithfulness in much. Those who honestly 
address themselves to the discharge of any duty, not sparing them- 
selves any more than if all had to be done by them, and yet 
humbly and heartily acknowledging before God that only His 
Spirit's power can secure success, will have that spiritual influence 
bestowed if the work is for God's glory and should be done by them. 
And it is only under such condition that the saint can desire to work. 

IV. — They who iji their obedience attain to the greatest height which 

is possible in this life, are so far f'om being able to supererogate., 

and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much 

which in duty they are boimd to do. 

Those good works done do not come up to God's demands. Not- 


withstanding the special influence of the Holy Spirit, the sinful 
element remaining in the regenerate (see chap. xi. 5) renders the 
work done imperfect according to the standard of God's law. Those 
who think otherwise must have very false views of the condition of 
their own hearts, or very low views of the holiness of the Divine 
law. Our Confession opposes the doctrine of Rome. According to 
Bellarmine, Avorks of supererogation are the fulfilment of the Counsels 
of Perfection. Others use the term more generally for the super- 
abundant graces of the saints. In either case, it is implied that the 
believer may possibly do more than the law of God absolutely 
requires. The Counsels of Perfection {cojisilm evangelicd) are not 
commanded but commended by Christ. According to Bellarmine, 
they are more difficult than and superior to ordinary commandments : 
if done, they secure a great reward ; if left undone, they bring no 
punishment ; — while ordinary commands, if obeyed, bring a reward ; 
if not obeyed, call down punishment. He compares the counsels 
to heroic enterprises on which no one is obliged to enter, for which, 
however, special premiums are offered. Out of such notions sprang 
the commendation of monastic vows. Asceticism was the endeavour 
to supererogate. Despising bounden duties as common and mean, 
it left these undone ; and surely the observance of vows, Avhich ac- 
cording to their definition were not duties, could not reasonably be 
expected to supply the defect. Hence by the omission which it 
occasioned, apart altogether from the question of its positive merits 
or demerits, monasticism inust be pronounced a failure. 

V. — We cajtJtot^ by our best works ^ merit f)ardo7i of sin, or eternal 
life, at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportio7i that 
is between them and the glory to come, and the inffiite distance 
that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit 
nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins j but when we have 
done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable 
servants J 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 weak?tess and imperfectioit, that they cannot 
endure the severity of God's judgment, 

VI. — Yet notwithsta7idi7ig, the persons of believers being accepted 
through Christ, their good works also are accepted in hint; not 
as though they we7'e ift this life %vhoUy tmbhnneable and imre- 
proveable in God's sight j but that he, looki7ig upo7i the77i i7i his 
Son, is pleased to accept mid 7'eward that which is si7tcerey 
although acco77ipa7iied with 77ia7iy weak7tesses a7id imperfectio7is. 

The fifth section re-states what has been already commented on 
under the third and fourth sections. The reasons are more par- 


ticularly given why the good works of believers cannot be regarded 
as affording a ground of merit. Supposing they had a vahie, the 
reward of eternal life is out of all proportion beyond their worth. 
Besides, they cannot be regarded as profitable to God. Only if all 
commands were first obeyed, and counsels of perfection kept, could 
we be called profitable servants. 

These sections indicate very clearly what place must be resolutely 
refused to good works, and what place must be assigned to them. 
On the one hand, care must be taken that in no way is the pure 
Scripture doctrine of Justification by Faith alone imperilled ; that no 
countenance is given to the legalist doctrine, which appeared first of 
all in a false Judaism, and then in the teaching of the Romish Church, 
according to which we are not saved by faitli only, but by faith and 
works. On the other hand, care must be taken to avoid the con- 
trary extreme by which a healthy Christian morality is placed in 
danger, — the onesided appreciation of the bare act of faith apart 
from any understanding of its necessary contents ; which was seen 
in the Antinomian licence of enthusiasts, especially in the early 
church, and in Reformation times. No better single example of the 
careful avoidance of those contrary errors can be pointed to than 
that of Luther. His controversial activity may be represented under 
a twofold division— his polemic against the unevangelical legalism 
of Rome, and his polemic against the immoral rejection of the law 
by the Anabaptist sects. Without in the least modifying his doctrine 
of Justification by Faith only, Luther maintained the necessity of 
good Avorks, inasmuch as the principle of faith carried in it both 
the inclination and the power, and therefore, by consequence, the 
obligation to perform good works. 

To him that worketh not, but believeth (Rom. iv. 5) ; — this repre- 
sents the one side of the truth. The Reformers, however, called 
attention to the connection in which it was uttered by Paul, and 
showed that it had reference only to v/orks of the law done in the 
hope of securing and meriting salvation. Nicholas Amsdorf (1559) 
maintains the thesis that good works are injurious to salvation 
{perniciosa ad salute?n) as a good Christian proposition. This, of 
course, was intended to refer to works done in a legal spirit, but was 
fitted to mislead and encourage error, and was therefore condemned 
by all wiser Protestants. 

It has been shown by Dorner {History of Protestant Theology, 
vol. i. p. 352), that in the Lutheran Church, Antinomianism, when it 
appeared, arose from an unwise fear of depreciating the all-sufficiency 
of faith for salvation ; while in the Reformed or Calvinistic Church, 
it arose from the unbalanced statement of an absolute doctrine of 
Predestination, which lays stress upon the irrespective character of 
God's choice. Thus, different as the tendencies of those doctrines 
might seem, the exaggeration of them leads to the same error. A 
warning this against all onesidedness in doctrine. 

Our Confession speaks here of rewards ; yet these are not of 


debt but of grace. It is by grace that we are joined to Christ, and 
it is in Christ that the reward is enjoyed. He is rewarded for His 
righteousness ; and as those who are in Him share His righteousness, 
so also they share His rewards. 

VII. — Works done by tmregener ate men^ although^ for the matter of 
thein^ they may be thmgs which God coimnajids^ and of good use 
both to themselves ajid others j yet, because they proceed not from 
an heart pu?ified by faith; nor are done i7t a right mamte?', 
according to the word; nor to a right ejid, the glojy of God; 
they are therefore sinful^ and camtot please God, or make a man 
meet to receive grace from God. And yet their neglect of them is 
more sinful, aftd displeasittg unto God. 

This is no extreme doctrine, as some would represent it. That 
among unregenerate men there are great differences of natural character 
and temperament is admitted. While all the unregenerate are sinful 
before God, their sinfulness is greater or less. The unconverted 
man who reaches a high moral standard is more pleasing to God 
than one who is callously and carelessly making no effort. And 
yet the one no more than the other is to be called righteous, nor can 
his works be really pleasing to God. Even more the improvement of 
God's gifts of common grace before regeneration, and the diligent use 
of talents and opportunities given, are taken into account. In God's 
election we mark the recognition of certain useful characteristics in 
the subjects of His choice. ' Because,' says Luther, ' Paul did the 
work (the persecution of the Christians) so earnestly, our Lord Jesus 
had Him in His thoughts, and said thus to Himself, " This man may 
become good, for what he does he does in earnest." In the same 
manner,' he adds, ' our Lord and God makes use of me at this day 
against the Pope and his whole party.' ^ Yet in regard to claims 
upon God, there is among natural men no difference. If we admit 
the doctrine of Total Depravity and Inherited Corruption (see chap, 
vi. 4), we must accept the doctrine of this section. Without faith it 
is impossible to please Him. Hence, though unregenerate men do 
acts which in themselves are good and beneficial, — relieve the dis- 
tressed, support and advance by contributions a good cause, — yet 
for want of faith in the heart of the worker, and that love which 
characterizes faithful work, they cannot be pleasing or acceptable to 

i Sec jMartensen, Dogmatics, pp. 378, 379. 




I. — They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved^ effectually called 
and sajictified by his Spirit^ can neither totally 7ior Ji7tally fall 
away froin the state of grace j but shall certainly persevere 
the?'ein to the end^ and be eternally saved. 

The term perseverance, as here used, evidently suggests first of all 
the necessity of continuing to the end in the exercise of those graces 
which characterize the state of the regenerate. To begin well is not 
enough ; he that endures to the end shall be saved. This doctrine 
is both scriptural and reasonable. But then immediately the ques- 
tion arises, 'Is it possible that one should begin well, — not in 
appearance merely, but in reality, — and nevertheless so fall away as 
to come short of eternal life ? ' This is a fundamental question as 
to the character of that grace received by the regenerate and justi- 
fied. Is this grace defectible or indefectible? Calvin maintains 
that, however small and weak faith may be in the elect, still the Spirit 
of God is so to them an earnest and seal of their adoption, that His 
impress can never be removed from their hearts (see Institutes^ Book 
iii. chap. ii. sec. 12). Our Confession here lays down the same 
doctrine, carefully guarding against any unwarrantable extreme by 
affirming the impossibiUty only of a total and final fall from grace. 
The certainty of salvation at last to all who have been recipients of 
justifying grace, is firmly maintained. In the third section it is 
shown in what ways there may be a partial and temporary fall from 
grace. God's Word abounds with warnings and encouragements to 
believers ; and both are addressed for the purpose of rendering a 
complete apostasy impossible. Records of utter falling away are 
certainly given ; but John explains these cases by saying that their 
going out showed that they never belonged to Christ (i John ii. 19). 

II. — This perseverance of the saints depejids not upo7i their own 
free will, but upon the iinvmtability of the decree of electio7i, 
fiowi7ig fro7}i the free a7id U}icha7igeable love of God the Father; 

up07i the efficacy of the 77ierit a7id i7itercession of Jestis Christ; 

the abidi7tg of the Spirit., a7id of the seed of God withi7i them; 

a7id the 7iature of the cove7ia7it of grace : fro77t all which ariseih 

also the ce7'tai7ity a7id i7ifallibility thereof 

It is only on the ground of the doctrine of Predestination that the 
doctrine of Perseverance can be consistently maintained. The elec- 
tion which we affirm as the biblical doctrine, is an election unto 
life. If this end be not determined by an immutable decree, it is 


evidently left undetermined. If the endurance of the believer in 
his faith be made to depend on anything mutable, it is no longer 
indefectible, — it may be lost. Had faith been created in us by an 
act of free will, then indeed another act of free will might undo it. 
When, however, we accept the doctrine of the Immutable Divine 
Decree, faith is recognised as bearing an indestructible character 
{character i7idelebilis). ' Free grace,' says Boston, ' will fix those 
whom free will shook down into a gulf of misery.' Faith is not 
viewed as a magical influence, which has any inherent virtue of 
perseverance. All depends on God's grace, whereby, according to 
the Divine decree, salvation in the end is secured to all the chosen. 
As we have seen, this decree takes the form of a covenant of grace, 
which involves the impetration of Christ's work, and the effectual 
calling of those predestinated to life. [The doctrine that perse- 
verance in faith unto the end is wholly from God's grace, is 
admirably illustrated by Bunyan, in the scene at the Interpreter's 
house, where Christ, by pouring in oil, checks the malicious efforts 
of the enemy to quench the fire.] 

III. — Nevertheless they 77iay ^ through the teinptati07is of Satan and 
of the worlds the prevalency of cor7'Uptio7i remai7ti7tg i7t the7n^ 
a7id the 7teglect of the 7fiea7is of their preservatio7i^ fall z7tto 
grievoiis si7ts j a7id for a ti77ie C07iti7iue therei7i : whereby they 
i7ictir God's displeasure^ a7id grieve his Holy Spirit j co77ie to 
be deprived of so77ie 77ieasure of their graces and co77iforts j have 
their hearts harde7ied^ and their C07iscie7ices wounded j hurt a7id 
sca7tdalize others, a7id bri7ig te77iporal judg77ie7its up07i the77tselves. 

Here the possibility of believers falling into sin is fully recognised, 
and the causes and consequences of such falls are enumerated. 

The possibility is admitted of believers falling into grievous sins. 
There has been a distinction made between mortal and venial sins. 
According to Romish theologians, venial sins are distinguished from 
mortal sins as to their nature, inasmuch as they do not affect the 
state of grace, and occasion not eternal, but only temporal punish- 
ment. They are further generally described as those acts which, 
though wrong, do not offend against the love of God and our neigh- 
bour, but rather arise from some small imperfection. This sort of 
distinction is utterly repudiated by Protestants. The very use of 
the terms mortal and venial is regarded with considerable jealousy. 
If the distinction is admitted at all, it is not applied as by the 
Romanists to different classes of sins, but to different classes of per- 
sons. In the unregenerate no offence is venial, but every one mortal ; 
and in the regenerate no sin can be regarded as mortal, in the full 
and accurate sense of the term, though in its own nature every sin 
is so. It is to be remembered, however, that Protestants do not 
therefore regard all sins in the regenerate as equal ; but every sin 


in the regenerate is punished in proportion to the heinousness and 
dangerous character of the offence, — in proportion to the damage 
which it is calculated to inflict upon the spiritual life of the indi- 
vidual committing it, and in proportion to the scandal it would bring 
upon the cause of Christ. The object of such temporal punishment 
is to remove from the heart of the believer that remaining corruption 
the presence of which disturbs that communion with Christ which 
it is the purpose of God never will be so disturbed as to be finally 
broken off. [Winer, Confessions of Christejido?n, xii., gives a clear 
summary of views on this subject.] 

The causes of such falls are here enumerated under three heads. 
It is evident, however, that these three are resolvable into the in- 
cornpleteness of the believer's sanctification. (i.) Temptations,— 
which can only have power when they appeal to some natural feel- 
ing or inclination of the heart. (2.) Indwelling corruption,— which 
is that within which corresponds or answers to the temptations pre- 
sented from without. (3.) Neglect of means provided for the preser- 
vation of grace, — which is generally the result of the collusion of 
temptation and inward corruption. 

The consequences of such falls are damage to the offender and 
injury to others. The very essence of such a fall consists in the 
displeasing of God and grieving His Spirit, (i.) There befalls the 
offender— loss of the comforts of grace and endurance of some 
spiritual damage. 'Though the enemies cannot break down the 
walls of salvation, and kill you, yet if ye look unwarily out over 
them, some one enemy or other may throw a dart at you, which, 
though it kill not, may leave blue marks. Though sin cannot dis- 
possess the Spirit entirely, yet it may grieve Him ; and if ye grieve Him, 
He will grieve you.' (Halyburton, Works, p. 628.) We have many 
instances, too, of sore bodily suffering falling upon undoubted saints 
in consequence of their sins ; even temporal death may be the 
penalty of waywardness in believers. We refer for illustration to 
the case of the man of God at Bethel (see the poem on this incident 
in Keble's Christia7t Year). Many are inclined to interpret literally 
what Paul says of many being sickly, and some having fallen asleep, 
because of carelessness in their approaches to the Lord's table. 
(2.) Such falls are the occasion of offence and damage to others. 
How often do we hear the inconsistencies of believers put forward 
as a plea by those who refuse to identify themselves with the 
Christian church ! While such taking of offence is inexcusable, he 
who is the occasion of it must feel it to be a most bitter consequence 
of his fall. 




I.— Although hypocrites, ajid other unregenerate me?!, may vainly 
deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of 
being in the favour of God ajid estate of salvation; which hope 
of theirs shall pej'ishj yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, 
and love hi?n in sincerity, endeavourittg to walk in all good con- 
science before hiin^ may in this life be certainly assured that they 
are in the state of grace, ajid may rejoice in the hope of the glory 
of God; which hope shall never make them ashamed. 

The false assurance by which hypocrites deceive themselves, being 
altogether different from the assurance of true faith, should not lead 
to a depreciation of the doctrine. The main characteristics of a state 
of grace are given here : true faith, a sincere love, and a consistent 
walk. Edwards, in his excellent Treatise on the Religious Affections, 
has, under the division on Signs of Truly Gracious and Holy Affections, 
a section entitled, ' Christian Practice is the Chief Sign to Ourselves.' 
He shows that holy practice is the evidence of the presence of all the 
Christian graces. It is the best proof of saving knowledge, true 
repentance, genuine faith, gracious love, and godly fear. Not by 
prying into Divine secrets, but through attention to the duties of the 
practical Christian life, is the comfort of true assurance to be gained. 
The following from the Imitation of Christ is instructive : ' When 
one that was in anxiety of mind, often wavering between hope and 
fear, did once, being oppressed with grief, humbly prostrate himself 
in a church before the altar, in prayer, and said within himself, "Oh, if 
I knew that I should yet persevere ! " he presently heard within him 
an answer from God, which said, "If thou didst know it, what wouldst 
thou do ? Do now what thou wouldst do then, and thou shalt be 
secure. '^ And being herewith comforted and strengthened, he com- 
mitted himself wholly to the will of God, and his anxious wavering 
ceased. Neither had he the mind to search curiously any farther to 
know what should befall him ; but rather laboured ' to understand 
what was the perfect and acceptable will of God for the beginning 
and accomplishing of every good work.' (Bk. i. chap. xxv. 2.) 

II. — This certainty is 7iot a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, 
grounded tipoji a fallible hope; but an ijtfallible assu fiance of 
faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvatioji, 
the inwaj'd evidence of those graces unto which these promises are 
made, the testimony of the Spij-it of adoptiojt witnessitig with our 
spirits that we are the children of God : which Spirit is the 



earnest of our inheritance^ whereby we are sealed to Tfie day of 

This Christian assurance has a firm foundation ; having a twofold 
certainty from the presence of the saving graces in the believer, and 
from the testimony of the Holy Spirit. ' Tiie believer attains to 
reflex faith,' says Pontoppidan, an old Danish writer quoted by 
DeUtzsch, ' that is, to faith Avhich recognises and experiences itself in 
the Divine light with joy, partly by proving himself according to God's 
Word (2 Cor. xiii. 5), and finding himself standing in the faith {rejlexio 
activa, rationalis vet syllogistica) ; partly by receiving without his 
own agency impressions of the Holy Spirit, which in the ground of 
his heart give to him the sweet and comforting assurance of his 
standing in grace, and assure him that he is a child of God {rejlexio 
mere passiva et sjtpemattcralis). The reflex faith in this latter sense is 
separated from the direct faith, just as the repeating echo is dis- 
tinguished from the voice that calls it forth.' {Bibl. Psych, p. 178.) 
There is a necessity for self-examination in order to discover whether 
we have those saving graces — those graces which characterize the 
saved— faith in Christ, love to Him. If we find these really present, 
although we may have to bewail their feebleness, yet their presence, 
apart from their development, affords a sure ground of assurance. We 
believe — then let us remember the promise, 'He that believeth on me 
hath everlasting life.' We love — then let us not forget Jesus' words, 
'If a man love me, my Father will love him.' False confidence trusts 
to mere subjective emotions ; true confidence finds these authenti- 
cated by the Spirit which brings assurance of God's love and father- 
hood, witnessing convincingly and comfortingly to our position before 
God. (See Sermo7i on the Witness of the Spirtt, M'Laren, ist series.) 

III. — This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence oj 
faith^ but that a true believer may wait long., ana conflict with 
many difficulties., before he be partaker of it : yet., being enabled by 
the Spirit to know the things which are freely given hi? ft of God, 
he may, without extraordinary revelation., itt the right use of ordi- 
7tary means., attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty oJ 
every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election 
sure; that thereby his heart may be eidarged in peace and joy 
in the Holy Ghost., in love and thankfulness to God., and in 
stj^ength and cheerfulness iti the duties of obedience., the proper 
fruits of this assurance : so far is it from inclining me?i to 

The distinction is here made between faith and the assurance of 
faith. Divines have been in the habit of distinguishing the direct 
act of faith {actio fidei directa), by which we lay hold upon or 


believe in Christ, and the reflex act of faith {actio Jidei rejlexa), 
by which we gain a comforting experience and assurance of our 
faith. It is the direct act, the act of faith in Christ, that justifies ; 
not the persuasion that we have of our faith. ' The faith is in 
its essence,' says Dehtzsch, ''Jidtcda siipplex (assurance of refuge), 
not fiducia triinnphans sen gloriosa (assurance of experience). 
The faith is God's agency, as well in the former state as in the 
latter : in the one, it is the operation of His grace condescend- 
ing toward man ; in the other, it is the operation of that grace 
apprehended, and assuring itself, and giving itself to be appre- 
hended by man.' {Bibl. Psych, p. 413.) It is highly desirable that 
we should realize the importance for our comfort and spiritual 
health of a true and unshaken assurance of our faith and interest in 
Christ, and at the same time remember that the absence of that 
assurance may be accounted for without denying the genuineness and 
sincerity of the faith professed. In his Trial of a Saving Interest in 
Christy Guthrie shows that it is an error to suppose that every one in 
Christ knows that he is in Him, or that all who know this have equal 
certainty in their knowledge, or that assurance is regularly main- 
tained in equal strength, or that real assurance is inconsistent with an 
inability to answer some objections that may be brought against it. 
(See chap. i. sect, iii.) 

Though in particular cases God may be pleased to give special 
revelations (see quotation from A'Kempis in the first section), yet it is 
in the use of the ordinary means that this assurance is to be sought. 
Compare what is said at the close of the opening section of our Con- 
fession. The words of Abraham to the rich man form a suitable 
warning here. Old practical writers give frequent examples of those 
who, seeking help from miraculous utterances, were afterwards satis- 
fied with some communication out of the written Word. [Give illus- 
trations of such morbid tendencies from the histories of Swedenborg, 
Edward Irving, and modern spiritualism.] 

IV. — True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers 
ways shaken, diminished^ and intermitted; as, by negligence in 
iyreserving of it J by fallijig into so7ne special sin, which woundeth 
the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some stcdden or vehement 
temptation ; by God's withdrawing the light of his cotmtenancCy 
and suffering even such as fear hiin to walk in darkjiess, 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 
sincerity of heart and conscience of duty, out of which, by the 
operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due time be revived, 
and by the which, in the tnean time, they are supported from utter 

This section shows what shakes the believer's assurance of his 


salvation and takes away for a time its comfort. This is, in short, the 
presence of sin. There may have been an actual fall into sin. The 
Spirit is grieved and withdraws His witness ; the saving graces are 
enfeebled, so that the believer is no longer able to grasp the comfort of 
the promises. Or the mere presentation of sin in sore temptation may 
occasion discom-agement, so that our sense of God's faithfulness and 
love maybe lessened, and our enjoyment of His presence be dimmed. 
There is danger too of reaction after strenuous spiritual effort, and this 
reaction leads to loss of spiritual comfort. Christian, after climbing 
half-way up the hill Difficulty, rests in the arbour and sleeps. Then 
he loses his roll. He goes on, but soon misses his roll, and sacrifices 
time and energy returning to find it. ' This roll was the assurance 
of his life and acceptance at the desired haven.' With the roll in 
possession again, he was able to face the lions, and all other dangers 
by the way. [Read Imitation of Christy Bk. ii. chap, ix., ' Of the 
Want of all Comfort.'] The leading Reformers, in their protest 
against the Romish view which denied the possibility of assurance by 
use of the ordinary means, went too far in the direction of identify- 
ing faith and the assurance of salvation. This extreme as well as the 
other is guarded against in our Confession. The statement con- 
tained in the latter portion of the above section indicates that while 
full assurance may be lost, assurance is never wholly lost by the 
true believer. It is only the hypocrite's hope that is cut off : in the 
believer, the endurance of the assurance of hope is the earnest of the 
reawakening in due time of the full assurance of fait^ 



I. — God gave to Adam a law^ as a covenant of works^ by ivJiich he 
bound liim^ and all his posterity^ to personal^ ejitire^ exact, and 
perpetual obedience j p7'omised life upon the ftdfilling, and 
threatened death upon the breach of it; and endued him with 
power and ability to keep it. 

A more explicit statement is here made regarding the covenant of 
works already referred to (chap. vii. 2). The obligation, as we had 
occasion before to notice, has its origin prior to any covenant agree- 
ment. The natural relation of the creature to his Creator obliges 
him to render obedience, and this was only rendered more evident by 
the word of promise and threatening expressed in the covenant. Adam 
possessed, what no man since has had, power sufficient in his own 
strength to do the works required. By the exercise of his own powers 
he might have fulfilled the condition and received the blessing of the 
covenant. [Show the precise meaning of the terms personal, entire, 


exact, and perpetual, as characterizing the required obedience.] 
Had Adam rendered the obedience, he would simply have fulfilled 
an obligation of his nature, without acquiring any merit by his works. 
Still his righteousness, viewed as his original righteousness confirmed 
and elevated, would have been secured by his works. 

II. — This law, after his fall^ continued to be a perfect rule of 
righteousness J and^ as such., was delivered by God icpon Mount 
Sinai in ten C07n?na?id?ne?tts, and written in two tables; the 
first four coinmandmcjits containing our duty towards God^ and 
the other six our duty to ?nan. 

The promulgation of the law to Israel is often called the Sinai 
Covenant. We have certainly scripture authority for calHng it a 
covenant (Ex. xix. 5 ; Deut. v. 2). At the same time we must beware 
of confusing this use of the word with its use in reference to the two 
great dispensations — the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. 
The Sinai Covenant is not to be co-ordinated with these. The 
question is. What relation does it bear to them.'' Is it in some way 
related to both, or is it subsidiary to the one, or to the other "i Some 
appear to regard the Sinai Covenant as neither wholly under the 
covenant of works, nor wholly under the covenant of grace. It has, 
they suppose, a tincture of the covenant of grace in the preface to the 
Decalogue, and in the Decalogue itself there is a simple reproduction 
of the covenant of works. This would make God the author of con- 
fusion. There can be no mingling of the two covenants which are 
necessarily exclusive of one another. Some, again, view the Sinai 
Covenant as a peculiar exhibition or republication of the covenant of 
works. It was the error of legalist Jews so to misconceive the pur- 
pose of the Mosaic dispensation, and against this position the apostle 
argues (Gal. iv. 21, 31). This is not the view of our Confession. 
For, under the covenant of works the law was not merely a rule of 
righteousness, such as it remains under the covenant of grace (sec. 
6), but rather a rule of judgment according to which those under it 
were justified or condemned. Some, again, identify the Sinai 
Covenant with the covenant of grace, regarding it as simply a dis- 
pensational form of that covenant. This seems the true and only 
tenable position. Israel was God's redeemed people, the type of the 
church ; and it was to this people, as the chosen and redeemed, that 
the law was addressed. Evidently this is the view of our Confession. 
That law which to the world is a standard for judgment, is, to those 
under the covenant of grace, a rule of righteousness. [See for an 
interesting resjune of opinions on this subject, ' The Sinai Covenant,' 
by Rev. R. G. Balfour, in British and For. Evan. Review for 1877, 
p. 511.] 

The latter part of the section describes the contents of the moral 
law, distributing these contents into two parts— our duty to God, 
and our duty to man. It is a wise remark of Fairbairn, that as we 


know not where one table ended and the other began, so we are not 
entitled to make any absolute division between these two parts, but 
that w^e are called rather to recognise the essential unity by which 
those two great commandments constitute one perfect law. 

III. — Besides this law, coinvionly called moral, God was pleased to 
give to the people of Israel, as a church tmder age, ceremonial 
laws, contaijti?ig several typical ordinances ; partly of worship, 
prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, suffe7-ings, and benefits ; 
and partly holdi?ig forth divers inst7'uctions of moral duties. 
All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated tmder the New 

IV. — To them also, as a body politick, he gave sundry judicial 
laws, which expired together with the state of that people, 7iot 
obliging a7iy other now ^further than the general equity the^'eof 
may require. 

These sections treat of what is mutable in the Divine law. The 
confusion between the elements that are immutable and those that 
are mutable has been the occasion of many unsatisfactory and 
extreme views in regard to the purpose and the present significance of 
the Old Testament. Our Confession here very distinctly classifies 
under the division of mutable laws — (i) all that were purely cere- 
monial, and (2) all that were merely judicial, — which are both said to 
have been given besides the moral law. [Perhaps the very best dis- 
cussion of the subject now before us is to be found in Hooker's 
Ecclesiastical Polity, where there is a section very ably proving that 
neither God's being the author of laws, nor His committing them to 
Scripture, nor the continuance of the end for which they were insti- 
tuted, is any reason sufficient to prove that they are unchangeable. 
Book iii. chap, x.] 

(i.) Purely ceremonial observances belong to the mutable part 
of Divine legislation. They characterized a particular prepara- 
tory dispensation, and were peculiarly Jewish. The condition of 
those so dealt with under the dispensation of the law is quaintly 
described as that of a church under age. (Gal. iv. i, 2.) As to the use 
of such ceremonies, they were partly liturgical and partly ethical. 
In correspondence with those uses, they were in their nature pre- 
paratory and provisional. 

(2.) Judicial laws or political maxims delivered to the Jews are no 
longer as such binding. These are in many cases evidently provisional. 
In Israel's own history they were modified from time to time as 
circumstances required, and the principle was elevated and rendered 
purer according as those addressed appeared to the Divine wisdom 
able to bear. [Illustrate this by pointing out variations and signs of 
development in the revelation of law in Scripture. Compare Ex. 


xxi.-xxiii. with Deut. xii.-xxvi. Also, Christ's ' But I say unto 
you,' Matt. v. 21-48.] It is very evident that the circumstances 
of modern society demand very different regulations from those which 
suited national conditions under the Jewish monarchy ; and on all 
hands it is allowed that the increase of enlightenment warrants the 
application in many directions of a higher standard. Yet whatever 
principles of eternal justice appeared in those laws are now obligatory, 
— yet not because found there, but because of their own nature. The 
adventitious, circumstantial, formal, perishes ; the substantial endures. 
Our Confession is strictly consistent in applying this principle. In 
chapter xxi. 7, the continued obligation to observe the Sabbath is not 
made to rest simply on the fact that it formed part of the Jewish law, 
but rather on the fact that it belonged to the law of natural obligation 
existing for man from the beginning. The same principle, again, is 
recognised in chapter xxiv. in regard to the law of marriage. 

V. — The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as 
others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of 
the matter cofitained 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 obligation. 

This moral law is said to have a twofold binding force — in regard 
to the matter, and in regard to its author. Yet these two are one ; for 
the moral law is the same as that law originally written on man's 
heart by his Creator. That moral consciousness which causes us to 
regard the matter of the law as for ever binding, is itself, as well as 
the several precepts of the law, from God. 

That all men, both unregenerate and regenerate, are under obligation 
to this moral law, is a principle that ought to be most emphatically 
maintained. Subjection to law does not characterize any class of 
men, justified or unjustified. It is characteristic of man as such. 
Regard for law is demanded by the very nature of man, who is 
conscious of realizing his true freedom only in submitting to and in 
applying to himself the terms of the law. (Kant, Metaphysic of 
Ethics, pp. 112, 113.) The universal reference of the binding force of 
the moral law is meant to mark the inclusion not only of unregene- 
rate persons who may afterward become regenerate, but also that of 
reprobates. The effects, however, of the law upon these two classes 
are very different. ' In the elect,' says Rollock, ' the acknowledg- 
ment of sin and condemnation which they have hy the covenant of 
works, is unto them a preparative to embrace the covenant of grace ; 
but in the reprobate it is the way to extreme desperation.' (Effectual 
Calling, page 47.) 

VI. — Although true belieiiers be not under the law as a covenatit of 
works, to be thereby justified or condemned; yet is it of great 


use to them, as well as to others j 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 ; discoverijig also the sinful 
pollutions of their 7iature, hearts, and lives; so as, exaiiiining 
themselves thereby, they may come to further convictio7i of , humili- 
ation for, a?id hatred agaifist sin J together with a clearer sight 
of the 7ieed they have of Christ, a7id the perfection of his obedience. 
It is likewise oficse to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, 
171 that it forbids sin; a7id the threateni7igs of it serve to shew 
what eve7i their si7is deserve, and what aflictions in this life 
ihey i7iay expect for the77i, although freed fro77i the curse thereof 
ihreate7ied i7i the law. The pro77iises of it, in like ma7t7ter, show 
the77i God's approbation of obedie7ice, a7id what blessings they 77iay 
expect upon the pe7for77ia7ice thereof, although not as due to the7n 
by the law as a cove7ia7it of works : so as a t7ta7i's doing good, 
a7id refrai7ii7ig fro77i evil, because the law e7icourageth to the 07ie, 
a7id deterreth fro77i the other, is 7io evidetice of his being under the 
law, a7idnot tmder grace. 

Here are set forth the sense in which believers are under the law, 
and the uses of the law to them. It is not by the law that they are 
justified or condemned, but according to its precepts they are guided 
in life. The grand distinction between the unbeliever and the 
believer, as related to the law, is that to the one it is a covenant of 
works, to the other a covenant of grace. The unregenerate is under 
obligation to keep it perfectly, and to do this solely in his own 
strength ; and failing this, he must endure its curse. The regenerate, 
again, are required to keep its precepts in order to please God, and 
enjoy His unbroken favour ; yet this is to be done not in their own 
strength, but through grace sought and obtained in fellowship with 
Christ. The works done in the one case, were it possible to do them, 
would be works of nature ; the works done in the other case are 
works of grace, the fruits of the Spirit. 

To the believer the uses of the law are these : — i. In general, the 
law affords to them a clear discovery of God's will, and, inasmuch 
as they are rightly exercised thereby, it awakens and deepens a 
sense of their own sinfulness, and recommends to them the perfect 
righteousness of Christ's obedience. 2. In particular, the law has a 
twofold efficiency by way of threatening and promise, (i.) The 
threatening of punishment on account of sin is universal as sin itself. 
The regenerate receive punishment in the form of chastisement on 
account of their sins, are made to endure bodily, mental, and spiritual 
distress, and vividly to realize the desert of their sin. Those threaten- 
ings which imply God's discipline are to the believer very real : so 
that while through weakness he sins, he cannot enjoy sin, his after- 


thoughts are harassing, because from his spiritual knowledge of the 
law he knows what sin is. This vivid sense of sin, though they 
know themselves freed from its condemning power, accounts for the 
burdened experience of so many true Christians. (Read Owen O71 
l7idzvelU7ig Si7i.) (2.) The promises of reward in return for obedience 
are encouragements, inasmuch as through faith we believe the end is 
attainable, being dependent not on our own strength but on God's 
grace, and inasmuch as the recognition of blessed enjoyments as 
promised rewards gives further assurance of the reality of the union 
between the believer and Christ. 

These uses the law has to the believer for encou' agement, because 
his faith is not perfect : he is urged by them to continue struggling 
against unbelief. 

W\,— Neither are the fore77ie7itioned uses of the law co7itrary to the 
grace of the gospel^ but do sweetly co7nply %vith it j the Spirit of 
Christ subdui7ig a7id e7iabli7ig the will of 77ia7i to do that freely 
aTtd cheerftclly which the will of God revealed i?i the law requireth 
to be done. 

The strict requirements of the law, when regarded by the unre- 
generate man, seem bondage. To him who is under grace, and views 
the law and its requirements from that point, God's commandments 
are not grievous. The law does not militate against the gospel, but 
shows rather to what perfection grace will carry those in whom it 
works. Hence the presentation of so perfect a rule of righteousness 
is most happily described as exercising on the regenerate a sweet and 
attractive influence. Consider the peculiarly affectionate terms in 
which the Psalmist refers always to the law. This is because it is 
regarded as the direct expression of God's will : the believer is 
therefore affected by the law as by the personal presence of God 
Himself. The Spirit of God within teaches the believer to recognise 
the Spirit of God in the law. 

We may conclude our notes on this whole chapter with the glowing 
words of Hooker in praise of the law : ' Of law there can be no less 
acknowledged, than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the 
harmony of the world : all things in heaven and earth do her homage, 
the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted 
from her power ; both angels and men, and creatures of what condition 
soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all, with 
uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy.' 
{Eccles, Polity^ Book i. chap, xvi.) 




I. — The liberty nvliich Christ hath pic7'chased for believers under 
the gospel^ consists in their freedom from the guilt of siti, the 
condefnning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law; a7td in 
their being delivered f'om this present evil world, bondage to 
Satan, a7id dominion of sin, from the evil of afflictioiis, the sting 
of death, the victory of the grave, and everlastijig da7n7iationj as 
also 271 their free access to God, and their yieldi7ig obedie7tce tmto 
hi7n, 7iot out of slavish fear, but a child-like love, and willi7ig 
mi7td. All which were co77i7no7i also to believers under the law; 
but under the new testa7ne7it, the liberty of Christia7ts is further 
e7ilarged i7i their freedo77i fro77t the yoke of the cere77to7iial law, 
to which the Jewish Church was subjected, a7id i7i greater bold7iess 
of access to the thro7ie of grace, a7id in fuller communications oj 
thef-ee Spirit of God, tha7i believers imder the law did ordi7iarily 
partake of. 

This section treats of Christian hberty, showing what it is, and who 
they are that enjoy its benefits. From its very nature it necessarily 
belongs to all true believers, but under different dispensations it is 
enjoyed in varying degrees. That which is essential to Christian 
liberty is deliverance from the guilt and dominion of sin. The 
consciousness of this deliverance was not so clear to the Old Testa- 
ment believers as to those under the New, and hence the joyousness 
of liberty was neither so full nor so constant in them ; yet the fact of 
their liberty through Christ was no less a reality. Christian liberty 
is alone worthy of the name of liberty. ' He is the freeman whom 
the truth makes free, And all are slaves beside.' The stages of the 
realization of this freedom are clearly stated, i. Freedom through 
justification, — there is no condemnation. 2. Freedom through sancti- 
fication, — remaining bonds are gradually broken as the earnest of 
final emancipation. 3. Freedom through the Spirit of adoption, — 
the development of the feelings of a free-born child. All this is 
Christ's gift purchased by Him for believers, and dispensed to them 
under the gospel. 

1 1. — God alo7ie is Lord of the conscience, and hath left itfreefro7n the 
doctri7tes a7id C077t77ta7id77ie7its of 7ne7i which are in a7ty thi7ig 
co7itrary to his word, or beside it, i7i 7)iatters of faith or worship. 
So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such C077wia7td7ne7its 
out of co7iscie7ice^ is to betray true liberty of co7iscience; and the 


requiring ofa?t implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedieme^ 
is to destroy liberty 0/ conscience, and reason also. 

This statement has been the subject of very general and hearty 
approval. Its diction is peculiarly felicitous. It affords a very clear 
and satisfactory definition of what is meant by the right of private 
judgment as claimed for every Christian man. This is a fundamental 
principle of Protestantism. The Christian conscience cannot be 
coerced. It may be instructed, it may be appealed to, but it may 
not be forced. All enforced conformity, inasmuch as it does not 
recognise the rights of the individual conscience, is firmly repudiated. 
God alone, whose image is reflected in the conscience, stands over it 
as Lord and superior. [Read on the right of private judgment, R. 
W. Dale, Ultimate Pri7iciples of Protesta7itism.'\ God speaking in 
His Word should direct and rule the human conscience. When the 
Romish Church demands the surrender of the individual conscience, 
she puts herself in God's place. The subjection of conscience to God 
secures the freedom of man's whole personality, but subjection to any 
other is slavery. Not only in things directly opposed to God's Word, 
but even in regard to things not determined by God's Word, the 
individual conscience must have its rights respected. This was the 
plea urged by those who objected to imposing upon the members of 
the church conformity in the observance of outward ceremonies. 
Gillespie, in his Dispute against the Cere?no7iies (1637), argued that 
the imposition of these ceremonies bereft the Christian of his liberty : 
I. Because his practice was adstricted ; 2. Because his conscience 
was bound ; 3. Because his conscience, which condemned them, 
was violated ; 4. Because they were pressed upon them by naked 
will and authority, without any reason being given to satisfy the 
conscience. All this will be found in thorough accordance with the 
covenant obligation undertaken by each member on entering the 
Assembly, to endeavour reformation of religion according to the Word 
of God, and the example of the best Reformed churches. 

111. — They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practise any 
siti, or cherish afty lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian 
liberty J which is, that, being delivered out of the hajids of our 
enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness arid 
righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 

The freedom which belongs to a rational and spiritual creature is 
deliverance from all that would hinder the attainment of the end of 
his being. ' Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for 
ever.' The freedom wherewith Christ maketh His people free con- 
sists in the new presentation of this end as the determined and 
secured goal of Christian jLttainment. Deliverance from the yoke of 
bondage, from the slavery and dominion of sin, is simply a means 


to the end of holiness and righteousness in the life. Through the 
enslaving dominion of sin, law had become a bondage. The 
Christian is delivered from this bondage, not that he should be hence- 
forth without law to God, but that he should place himself under the 
law to Christ. Christian liberty, like every Christian privilege and 
grace, must be spiritually discerned. Wanting spiritual enlighten- 
ment, outward freedom is mistaken for spiritual freedom. Speaking 
of the insurrectionary peasants of Germany, who, in Reformation 
times, adopted Anabaptist views, Dorner says : ^ The preaching of 
Christian liberty had touched them, but only stirred their carnal 
nature ; they desired to know nothing of true repentance, but only of 
judgment, in their dark hatred against nobles and rulers — a hatred 
begotten indeed of long oppression. They sought to draw from the 
principle of the Reformation only a Divine sanction for their desire of 
temporal freedom.' {History of Protesta7it Theology ^\, 135.) Illustra- 
tions of the tendency to mistake licence for liberty may be taken 
from the histories of any of the Antinomian sects which are invari- 
ably developed alongside of Reformation struggles and religious 

IV. — And because the powers which God hath ordained^ and the 
liberty which Christ hath purchased^ are not intended by God to 
destroy^ but ?mitually to uphold a7id preserve 07ie atiotherj they 
who, upon prete7ice of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful 
power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or 
ecclesiastical, resist the ordifiance of God. A?idfor their ptcblish- 
ing of such opijiions, or maintaini7ig of such practices, as are 
contrary to the light of nature, or to the k7iow7t pri7iciples 
of Christia7tity , whether C07icer7ii7ig faith, worship, or co7iversa- 
tionj or to the power of godli7iess j or such erro7ieous opi7iions or 
practices, as either i7i their ow7i 7iature, or i7i the 77ia7mer of 
publishi7ig or 77iai7itai7iing thc77i, are destructive to the exter7ial 
peace a7id order which Christ hath established i7t the church; 
they 77iay lawfully be called to accoimt, a7id proceeded agai7ist 
by the ce7isures of the church, a7id by the power of the civil 

Our Confession here lays down very clearly the position that the 
civil power is a Divine ordinance, and that as such it has its own 
legitimate sphere. This the Christian in the right use of his liberty 
must respect. The general statement made above refers to all regu- 
larly-constituted authorities, whether civil or ecclesiastical, and asserts 
their rights as against every kind of onesided individualism. 

The second part of the section simply explains how the civil and 
ecclesiastical authority must in particular cases be exercised. The 


main difficulty in connection with this is to determine whether the 
civil power as well as the ecclesiastical should have any place 
assigned to it in controversies regarding doctrine and church order. 
The reference of all the above enumerated offences even to an 
ecclesiastical tribunal was a subject of a prolonged debate in the 
Assembly, lasting throughout three days ; when it was concluded 
that all such offenders should be proceeded against by the censures 
of the church. The debate was then opened as to the power of the 
civil magistrate in matters of Christian faith and practice. This 
discussion lasted for six days. Arguments advanced against putting 
this statement into the Confession were at last held to have been 
sufficiently answered, and so the section was closed as it now stands. 
Against this conclusion four somewhat prominent members entered 
their dissent. It must be admitted that the opening clauses of this 
section might be so understood as to favour persecuting principles. 
Yet it is only fair to interpret the phrase, ' practices contrary to the 
principles of Christianity in faith, worship, or conversation,' by what 
follows regarding practices destructive of external peace and order. 
Disorderly practice is often the direct outcome of the dissemination 
of false doctrine. In regard, for example, to the subjects of the 
following chapters of the Confession, it is evident that the authority 
which insists upon the outward observance of the Sabbath, visits the 
perjurer with punishment, and maintains the sanctity of the marriage 
bond, deals at once with questions of doctrine and of practice. 
Further, too, the magistrate must see to it that the contentions of 
sects do not reach a violation of outward order required by law. 
(See Professor Mitchell, Mz?mtes of Assembly^ Introd. p. Ixx.) That 
the Westminster divines as a whole should have had views of 
toleration such as are now held, it would be unreasonable to expect. 
In the circumstances of the nation, indeed, toleration as we under- 
stand it was practically impossible. People were being educated 
for liberty, but meantime they had to be restrained from rushing on to 
licence. Toleration in things indifferent was now proclaimed by 
members of the Assembly ; but certain religious views were so 
associated with tendencies in the state either to tyranny or to 
anarchy, that neither divines nor patriotic statesmen could see their 
way yet to tolerate them. Just while the Assembly was sitting 
(1644), Milton published his Areopagiticaj yet even he, in all his 
enthusiasm for liberty, did not go beyond this in his demands. His 
plea is that many be tolerated rather than all compelled. ' I mean 
not tolerated Popery,' he adds in explanation, ^ and open supersti- 
tion, which, as it extirpates all religious and civil supremacies, so 
itself should be extirpate, provided first that all charitable and com- 
passionate means be used to win and regain the weak and misled ; 
that also which is impious or evil absolutely, either against faith or 
manners, no law can possibly permit, that intends not to unlaw 
itself; but those neighbou'-ing difterences, or rather indifferences, 
are what I speak of, whether in some point of doctrine or of discipline, 


which though they may be many, yet need not interrupt the unity of 
the Spirit, if we could but find among us the bond of peace.' 

It is, however, for the Church now to declare in what sense she 
accepts any statement in her Confession. In order to obviate all 
misunderstanding, the American churches, in revising their Standards 
in 1787, simply struck out the last clause. Our own Church, by an 
Act of Assembly, 1846, disclaims all intolerant and persecuting 
principles, and holds that office-bearers in subscribing the Confession 
do not profess any principles inconsistent with liberty of conscience 
and the right of private judgment. 



!• — The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship 
and sovereignty over all j is good, and doeth good unto all j and 
is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and 
sei'ved, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the 
might. But the acceptable way of worshippi7tg the true God is in- 
stituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he 
may not be worshipped accordifig to the imaginations and devices 
of men, or the suggestions of Satati, under any visible representa- 
tion, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture. 

II. — Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son^ and 
Holy Ghost : and to him alone : not to ajtgels, saints, or any 
other creature ; and, since the fall, not without a Mediator: nor 
in the mediatioji of any other but of Christ alone. 

In these sections we have a restatement of the two first command- 
ments of the moral law. We have in the first section the second com- 
mandment, its precept being decidedly maintained against all Romish 
and Romanizing tendencies. In the second section we have the first 
commandment ; the Godhead being now, however, viewed under its 
Trinitarian manifestation, as Father, Son, and Spirit. The restate- 
ment of the first commandment is also made with a reference to 
Romish error in giving w^orship to the Virgin, and regarding her and 
other saints as mediators, whereas Christ alone is Mediator. The 
fonnal distinction made by Romanists between worship {latria) and 
reverence {doulia) is of no practical importance. 

All forms of false worship originate in the breaking of one or other 
of these two commandments. Romanists worship God by images, 
and so break the second commandment. Socinians give not worship 
to the Son as to the Father, and acknowledge not the personality of 
the Spirit, and thus not worshipping the one God in three persons, 


they break the first commandment. When once any departure has 
been made from the purity of worship prescribed by God, it is only 
possible to keep up the appearance of obedience to the one com- 
mandment by manifest disobedience to the other. Compare what 
Stanley says of Jeroboam — to keep the first commandment he broke 
the second ; to preserve the belief in the unity of God, he broke the 
unity and tampered with thespiritual conception of the national worship. 

III. — Prayer^ with thanksgiving.^ being one special pari of religious 
worship^ is by God required of 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, according to his will, with understanding, reverence, 
humility, ferve7icy, faith, love, and perseverance j and, if vocal, in 
a kiiown tongue, 

IV. — Prayer is to be made for thiftgs lawful, and for all sorts of men 
living, or thai shall live hereafter ; but not for the dead, nor for 
those of whom it 7nay be know Ji that they have sinned the sin unto 

These two sections treat very fully of prayer as a duty and 
privilege of the Christian. As a duty, indeed, it is incumbent upon 
all men. It is not limited here, as by some narrow-minded and ill- 
informed sectaries, who have troubled the church in every age. 
Note the error of those who, at revival meetings, persistently cry, 
* Believe and then pray.' There is to be prayer for faith — prayer for 
the Spirit. So Peter enjoined Simon Magus, who was in the gall of 
bitterness, to pray. The prayer of the unconverted for conversion, 
however, is not without the influence of the Spirit. 

True Christian prayer is next described. The Spirit's help has 
been now consciously obtained. By His presence the understanding 
has been enlightened, the will subdued, the graces of the soul 
developed. Christian prayer is offered in the name of Christ. * In 
proportion as the prayer offered is really prayer in His name, it will 
be heard ; for in like proportion it is Jesus who prays the prayer 
through us.' (Martensen, p. 416.) As to the privilege of prayer in 
the case of believers, it extends, always subject to the will of God, to 
all things lawful, and to all persons living or yet to live. The only 
exceptions are the dead, and those so dead in sin as to be past 
restoration. Prayers for the dead in the ordinary sense are clearly 
inconsistent with the doctrine of Protestantism, which regards the 
destiny of all as sealed by the close of the earthly life. All who deny 
the theory of restitution must acknowledge the illegitimacy of such 
prayers. (See further remarks in notes on chapter xxxii. i.) It had 
been better, probably, had the last clause not been put into the Con- 
fession. It is stated certainly in Scripture language (i John v. 16), 
but there is some uncertainty as to its precise meaning. The most 


satisfactory explanation seems to be that given by the late Dr. 
Candlish {Epistle of John, Lect. xlii.). The sin unto death is not 
anything so definite and known to us, as to prevent us praying for 
ourselves or for our brother ; but the warning is against the exclusive 
consideration of the wellbeing of the sinner to the neglect of God's 
rights and claims. There is a danger lest we view sin as not deadly 
or as easily excusable. No prayer is inadmissible which puts God 
first and man second. The two cases excluded by the Confession 
really stand closely together. Though we do not pray for the dead, 
we are tempted to indulge a hope sometimes of a less rigorous 
application of God's law. To ask for a brother grace to repent is 
always lawful ; to ask, or even to indulge the hope, that even apart 
from repentance mercy should be shown, is not lawful. This last is 
what our Confession may be regarded as condemning. 

V. — The reading of the scriptu7'es with godly fear j the sound preach- 
ing, and co7iscio7iable hea?'i7ig of the word, in obedience unto God, 
"with understanding J faith, and reverence j singing of psalms with 
g?-ace in the heart j as also the due administratio7i and worthy 
receiving of the sacra77ients instituted by Christ; are all parts of 
the ordi7tary religious worship of God; besides 7'eligious oaths 
a7id vows, sole77i7t fasti7igs, a7id tha7iksgivi7igs upo7i special 
occasio7is, which are, i7i their several ti7nes a7id seaso7is, to be used 
i7i a holy a7id religious 77ia7i7ier. 

This section treats of the several parts of religious worship, — 
ordinary, including the use of the Word and the dispensation of 
sacraments ; and occasional, including the observance of oaths, fasts, 
and thanksgivings. Prayer is regarded as the condition underlying 
the profitable use of the Word and the sacraments. These form the 
ordinary means of grace. It is characteristic of apostolic Christianity 
and Protestantism to bring the Word to the front. A notion of some 
magical influence inhering in the sacraments led Romanists to set 
the Scriptures aside. It was to Paul the great occasion of rejoicing 
that the Word was preached ; and the Reformation struggle has 
always signalized itself by re-establishing the importance of the 
ministry of the Word. (See Shorter Catechis7n, Ou. 89, 90.) 

The administration of the sacraments, and thelawfulness of oaths 
and vows, under special circumstances, are treated of in subsequent 

We have here affirmed further the propriety of occasional observ- 
ance of fasts and thanksgivings. It must, however, be noticed that 
these are observed truly only where there is a real humiliation of 
soul, or genuine gratitude among members of the church. In such 
a case the keeping of those days will prove a spiritual benefit, and 
will deepen those feelings which first prompted it. Occasions are 
ever occurring to render such fasts and festivals appropriate. If the 


churches are not in a state to observe them profitably, it indicates a 
very low development of spiritual life. It should be remarked that 
the Westminster divines, opposed as they were to all superstitious 
rites and ceremonies, and to all undue multiplication of holy days, 
had sufficient breadth of view to recognise and approve such as 
were seemly and appropriate. 

VI. — Neither prayer, nor any other part of religions 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 every where in spirit and 
in truth J as in private families daily, and in secret each ojte by 
hiinselfj so more solem7ily ift the publick assemblies, which are 
not carelessly or wilfully to be neglected or forsaken, whejt God, 
by his word or providence, calleth thereunto. 

The early church maintained the doctrine stated in the opening 
clause of this section. Special places of worship were not essential 
to worship, which could be as acceptably performed in private houses. 
At first they were created merely for convenience. The buildings 
got the name of churches simply because they accommodated the 
members of the church. As spirituality became less intense, the 
external began to assert an importance over the internal. Gradually 
church buildings came to be regarded as sanctuaries in the Jewish 
sense of the term, and so reverenced as places sacred in themselves 
apart from the assemblies. (See Pressensd's Life a7id Practice in the 
Early Church, Bk. ii. chap. iii. § 2.) Our Confession gives here a 
singularly happy statement, avoiding all ultra-spiritual disparagement 
of the solemnities of public worship, and at the same time showing 
that the special solemnity of public worship is not such that accept- 
able worship may not be rendered in the privacy of home. Each 
form of worship has a solemnity and significance of its own. The 
observance of the one will not excuse the neglect of the other. 

VII. — As it is of the laiv 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, ajid perpetual com7nandment, binding all men 
in all ages, he hath particularly appoi^ited 07te day in seven for a 
sabbath, to be kept holy unto him : which, from the beginning of 
the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the 
week; and,f7'om the resurrectio7i of Christ, was cha7iged into the 
first day of the week, which i7i scripture is called the Lord' s Day , 
a7id is to be C07iti7tued to the e7id of the world, as the Christian 

We have here a statement of the origin and Divine authority of 



the day of rest. Its obligation rests on a law of nature, and is there- 
fore immutable. That it belongs to the very nature of man as a 
creature to devote a portion of his time to the worship of his Creator, 
is the natural basis of the Sabbath law. Besides this, God as 
lawgiver was pleased to make that principle of natural law which 
demands the worship of the creature, the basis of a positive legislation. 
The original appointment of the Sabbath at the close of the creation, 
the re-enactment of this precept on Sinai, and the change of the day 
to be observed under the Christian dispensation, may be viewed 
conjointly as constituting one law, — the positive law of the Christian 
Sabbath. We find here mutable and immutable elements. As a 
positive law, God could from time to time modify it to suit the 
circumstances of His creatures. The change of the day we believe 
to have been made under the direct inspiration of God. The early 
Christians, guided by apostolic example, observed the first day of 
the week ; and gradually the real identity of the Sabbath, spiritually 
appreciated, and the Lord's day as divinely instituted, was recognised 
by the church. The history of the worship of the early church shows 
that the Lord's day was by many observed alongside of the seventh- 
day Sabbath. While Christian feeling was strong and active, every 
morning the earnest Christian enjoyed his short church service and 
eucharistic feast preparatory to engaging in the work of the day. 
' Sunday,' says Pressens^, ' was to the other days what the bishop 
of this age (second century) was to his brethren, — simply primus 
inter pares. ^ 

VII L — This sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, ivheti 7nen^ 
after a due prepari?ig of their hearts, and orderi7ig of their 
common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all 
the day from their own works, words, a?td thoughts about their 
worldly employments and recreations ; but also are taken up the 
whole time in the publick and private exercises of his worship, 
a?id in the duties of necessity and mercy. 

The Christian Sabbath should be observed as the ideal of the 
Christian's daily life. This ideal will be realized not by secularizing 
the Lord's day, but by infusing into everyday life a higher spiritual 
tone. To a large extent this tone will be the reflection of a heavenly 
restfulness from well-spent Sabbaths. The ideal striven after in 
Christian practice is such an observance of our Sabbaths as will 
make them days of heaven upon earth. Yet Sabbath exercises should 
be such as aim at the formation of such tempers and habits of the soul 
as may practicably be developed in the world. They should be such 
that we might reasonably expect to find on the following Sabbath 
that we had not been retarded but advanced by our life in the world. 
Views of unearthly virtue are mere dreams, — not devout imaginations, 
but vain imaginings. If we spend our Sabbaths in framing such 


airy fancies, the week day will find us less capable than before of 
work for God in the daily life. Our religious meditations must 
be of such a nature as will help us to be more religious in life and 
conversation in the world. Too often they are pietistic reveries 
about an unreal state which we call spiritual and heavenly, but which 
only exists in our imaginations. Much of the generally approved 
Sabbath reading fosters this tendency, and is therefore thoroughly 
unhealthy in tone. The statement of the Confession as to the way 
in which the Sabbath should be sanctified is moderate and wise. 
The devotional and the practical are not sundered. The obligation 
of the second great commandment is recognised as well as that of the 
first, the worship of God and the duty owing to our fellow-men. The 
religious and secular theories of the day are apt to overlook one or 
other. The secularist professes to worship by the simple discharge 
of relative duties. The extreme religionist sometimes gives us the 
impression that he is inclined to minimize the claims of necessity 
and mercy. 



I. — A lawful oath is a pm't of religious worships tvhereijt^ upon just 
occasion^ the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness 
what he asserteth or pro7niseth j and to judge him accordi?ig to 
the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth. 

The New Testament prohibition of swearing is to be understood 
of the unnecessary and frivolous use of oaths. In all the ordinary 
affairs of life the precept of Jesus and of the apostles holds good, — 
' Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay.' That in special circum- 
stances an oath for confirmation, or to render an important statement 
more impressive, is warrantable, may be shown from the example of 
Paul. An oath necessarily and solemnly taken is a religious act. 
It takes the form of a confession of our faith in God's power, 
righteousness, and holiness. When we make an assertion of fact on 
oath, we honour God by declaring that what may be beyond the 
reach of human knowledge is known to Him. When we make a 
promise on oath, we declare that in our heart we regard God as the 
ultimate ground of all truth and faithfulness. When we, in the oath, 
invoke God's judgment according to the truth or falsehood of that to 
which we swear, we must as Christians realize the awfulness of the 
doom which perjury involves. 

II. — The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear ^ and 
the7'ei?i it is to be used with all holy fear and 7'everencej therefore 
to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name^ or 


to swear at all by a?iy other things is sinful^ and to be abhorred. 
Yet as, in matters of weight and jnoine7it, an oath is warrantea 
by the word of God under the New Tesfa?nent, as well as under 
the Old J so a lawful oath, being imposed by lazvful authority^ in 
such matters, ought to be taken. 

Here we have asserted the sanction and solemnity of a lawful oath. 
Our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount, and also the Apostle James, 
clearly repudiate distinctions which the quibbling casuists among the 
Jews sought to make between different oaths as more or less binding. 
The appeal in a truly religious oath is to the heart-searcher. The use 
therefore of any other name than that of God implies that he who 
uses it, either is giving God's glory to another, or is swearing rashly 
and frivolously. Christ shows that those who swear by other names 
than that of God will be held guilty of profanity. That no other 
name than God's is allowed in an oath must render all who reverence 
that great and terrible name particularly careful to use an oath only 
in cases of strict necessity, and under circumstances the most solemn 
and impressive. 

III.— Whosoever taketh an oath, ought duly to consider the weightittess 
of so solemn an act, a7id therei?t to avouch nothing but what he is 
fully persuaded is the truth. Neither may any man bind himselj 
by oath to any thi?tg 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 a7i oath touching any thing that is good 
and just, being imposed by lawful authority. 

Limits within which an oath may be taken and kept. No oath 
should be taken in regard to anything of which one has any reason 
to believe that he is not in possession of all the truth. An oath is 
absolute in contrast to a simple assertion. We may declare that 
to the best of our knowledge it is as we affirm, and then show the 
grounds of our confidence. But when under oath we dare only state 
that of which we have no doubt, nor can conceive the possibility of 
error. Hence the oath must relate to matters of fact, or to under- 
takings which we have the power to fulfil. The second clause 
evidently applies to cases in which he who takes the oath is free from 
compulsion. In matters morally indifferent there is to be no oath 
taken. The decision must therefore be made between the alternatives, 
good or bad, right or wrong. All this refers to promissory oaths, as 
the previous clause to assertory oaths. One on oath must promise 
to do only what he knows to be right and good ; and he may only 
promise what he believes himself capable of performing. The last 
clause excludes the error of the Quakers, who refuse to take oaths to 
the civil magistrate. It was probably originally directed against the 
Anabaptists, who declared oaths illicit. 


IV. — An oath is to be takett in the plaint and common sense of the 
ivords^ without egtiivocation or me7ital reservation. It cannot 
oblige to si?t; but iti any thing not sinful^ bei7ig taken^ it binds to 
performance^ although to a man''s own hurt; nor is it to be 
violated^ although made to hereticks or i7ifidels. 

The obligation of an oath cannot be escaped by attaching to the 
words used a meaning that would not naturally have been given them 
by the party interested. Paley tells of Temures, who promised the 
garrison of a besieged city that if they would surrender no blood 
should be shed, and on their surrender he had them buried alive. 
Many such acts of treachery are told in history. The actual breach 
of an oath in such a case is aggravated by mockery. Notorious 
instances of the violation of oaths have been excused and approved 
of by Roman casuists. [On the Romish doctrine of Mental Reserva- 
tion, read Pascal's Provittcial Letters, ix.] Similar to this are lies of 
omission ; Paley instances the case of a writer on history who, in a 
book professing to tell the story of Charles i., would suppress all 
allusion to the king's despotic measures. {Moral Phil. Bk. iii. 
chap. XV.) If something sinful has been promised by oath (as Herod 
unguardedly promised what included that which he had no lawful 
right to give), the sinful oath should be repented of. To perform it, 
is to add sin to sir. This second clause touches on a difficult point. 
It deals with the question of the binding obligation of oaths when 
made under error or compulsion. That one should only swear to 
that which he is able and resolved to perform, is evidently true. The 
question, however, is. Should this statement rule absolutely ? One 
may by force be compelled to swear to do what he may regard as 
unjust. For example, a robber may allow his prisoner to go free 
under promise on oath to send a sum of money for ransom. Bishop 
Sanderson, who is a great authority on these questions, determines 
that this should be done. ' If the matter required, by force or sad 
fear, be not unlawful or injurious to any, but only somewhat dis- 
advantageous to the swearer, — as, if one travelling should fall among 
robbers that with drawn swords would threaten his life unless he 
would promise them such a sum of money with an oath ; in this case 
it is lawful both to promise the money and to confirm the promise 
with an oath. I say, such an oath doth oblige.' The unlawfulness 
lay with him who imposed the oath ; the condition is not unlawful to 
him who took it. 

According to the Romish doctrine, the church must determine 
what oaths are to be kept, and what not. As superior, the church 
undertakes to free the individual conscience. Protestantism in the 
spirit of Apostolic Christianity, while it gives the dignity of true 
liberty to the Christian conscience, makes the individual conscience 
answerable for all personal acts. Hence the sacredness of the oath 
depends not on the character to whom the oath is sworn, but on the 


individual assurance given in the great name of God. Abundant 
illustrations may be found in the history of Romish persecutions of 
the use made of the infamous maxim, ' No faith with heretics.' 

V. — A vow is of the like 7iature with a promissory oath^ and ought to 
be made with the like 7'eligious care, and to be pet'formed with 
the likefaithfiibtess. 

VI. — // is not to be inade 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 otir selves to necessary duties, or to other things, so far and 
so long as they may fitly cottduce thereunto. 

Much of what was said regarding the oath applies to the vow. 
Its use is moral and subjective, — for some result in the individual 
life, and must not be regarded as extending farther. The most 
satisfactory and most thoroughly religious vow is that of more com- 
plete consecration as an expression of thankfulness for experience of 
God's mercy. Thus often in the Psalms. Jacob's vow is a good 
example of one made in view of obtaining something. 

VII. — No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the word oj 
God, or what would hinder any duty therein commajtded, or 
which is not in his power, and for the performance whereof he 
hath no promise of ability from God. In which respects. Popish 
monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and 
regular obedience, are so far from beijig degrees of higher per- 
fection, that they are superstitious and sinful sjtares, in which no 
Christian 7nay efttangle hiinself 

An evil practical result of the misuse of vows is the inevitable 
collision of duties which follows. If the letter of the vow is fulfilled, 
the performance of some evident duty may be prevented. Vows 
made consciously, for such an end, are anathematized by Jesus as 
hypocritical pretences. Illustration : the Jewish custom of saying, 
Corban. The second clause refers to vows such as are made by 
Romanists in fulfilling the so-called Counsels of Perfection. That 
these are worthy of the description given above, the history of 
Christendom under the Romish regime abundantly proves. 




I. — God^ the supreme Lord ajid King of all the worlds hath ordained 
civil magistrates to be lender him over the people^ for his own 
glory ^ and the publick good; and, to this end, hath armed them 
with the power of the sword, for the defence aftd encouragement 
of them that are good, and for the ptmishment of evil-doers. 

The Christian recognises magisterial authority as of God. This 
recognition, however, imposes a limit, while it yields a peculiar 
sanction to that authority. It is not only his appointment that is 
acknowledged as from God, but also the special end for which this 
appointment is made. The ancient Apologists for Christianity, such 
as Tertullian and Origen, very clearly seized this principle. ' That 
which thus exalts the dignity of the state,' says Pressensd, reporting 
the views of the early church as to its relations with the state, ' is 
at the same time that which limits its power ; for as it is appointed 
by God, it forfeits its claim when it fails to fulfil its end. If the 
prince makes use of his authority, not to uphold justice, but to gratify 
evil passions, he becomes a tyrant, and consequently places himself 
in opposition to the very idea of the state as instituted by God.' 
{Life ajid Practice of Early Church, p. 452.) The recognition of 
magisterial authority given in our Confession is carefully guarded, 
so that it lends no countenance to despotic absolutism. The power 
is acknowledged only while the duty of the office is discharged. The 
distinction between a tyrant and a wise constitutional ruler is 
admirably shown by George Buchanan in his Rights of the Crown in 

II. — It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a 
magistrate, when called thereunto : in the 7nanaging whereof, as 
they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, accord- 
ifig to the wholesofne laws of each commonwealth j so, for that 
end, they 7nay lawfully, 7iow under the New Testament, wage 
war up07ijust a7id 7tecessary occasio7is. 

The history of the Reformation supplies us with illustrations of 
the mischievous results of error in regard to the duties of Christians 
in relation to the state. Romanists and Anabaptists, holding in 
some respects views diametrically opposed to one another, were 
agreed in denying all independent importance to the state. The 
Romanist, regarding the state as simply a department of the church, 
was quite ready to take civil offices, not, however, as our Confession 
puts it, ' when called thereunto.' The churchman claimed the right 


of addressing the call, and taking to himself the civil office, or be- 
stowing it as he pleased. The Anabaptist, again, would refuse 
formally to take any office in the state, or to recognise in any way 
civil and military arrangements ; but that very force which he 
declines to acknowledge in civil government, he does not scruple 
himself to use. (Compare Dorner, History of Protestant Theology ^ 
i. 140, 141.) This confusion, tending either to absolutism or to 
anarchy, so evident in Romanism and in Anabaptism, was avoided 
by the Reformers, in their enunciation of the duties of the Christian 
citizen. The office of the magistrate is fully recognised as of Divine 
appointment. Our Confession speaks of a call to such an office 
being indispensable to the legal occupancy of such a position. It 
does not expressly declare who the party is by whom such a call 
may be addressed. Very enlightened and advanced views will be 
found maintained by Rutherford in his Lex Rex (1644), published 
during the sitting of the Assembly, of which he was a member. ' The 
power of creating a man a king is from the people.' He holds that 
inferior magistrates are not under the king so far as the discharge of 
their particular duties is concerned. ' The servants of the king are 
his domestics, the judges are ministri regni^ non regis ; the ministers 
and judges of the kingdom, not of the king.' 

Compare the history of the Burgher and Antiburgher controversy. 
The stricter party refused to take office or show any sympathy with 
the government of the country, lest a general approval of the British 
constitution might be supposed to involve approval of prelatical and 
Erastian principles. [The lawfulness of war is asserted against the 
Anabaptists. Quakers now decline military service and disapprove 
of war.] 

III. — The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administra- 
tion of the word and sacraments^ 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 be preserved in the church, 
that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies 
ajid hej^esies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship 
and discipline prevc7ited or refori7ied, a7id all the ordinances of 
God duly settled, administered, ajid observed. For the better 
effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be prese7it at 
them, and to provide that whatsoever is t?'a?isacted i?i them be 
according to the mind of God, 

Erastians seldom claim for the civil magistrate the right of dis- / 
pensing the sacraments and preaching the Word, and Mr. Coleman l/ 
expressly repudiated this notion. Erastus himself, however, did not 
scruple to say that even this belonged to the jurisdiction of the civil 
magistrate. There is no doubt that Erastian principles consistently 


carried out will not admit any such exception ; for if it be allowed, 
there is a distinction thus made between the functions of the church 
and the state, which requires the anti-Erastian position of co- 
ordination of jurisdictions. (Compare Aaroii^s Rod Blossomings 
Book ii. chap, iii.) r/ 

The first entire sentence in the above section indicates the West- 
minster doctrine of the relation of civil and ecclesiastical authorities 
in regard to the maintaining of a profession of religion in the world. 
The words employed are certainly capable of a harsh interpretation, 
if, for example, the suppression of heresies be understood in the 
more rigorous and vulgar sense. Brown of Wamphray, writing in 
1660, quotes a declaration of James vi., uttered in 1585, as quite 
expressing the claims of the Puritan and Covenanting party. The 
king had said that he, for his part, should never, and that his 
posterity ought never, to cite, summon, or apprehend any pastor for 
matters of doctrine in religion, salvation, heresies, or true interpreta- 
tion of Scripture, but avoucheth it to be a matter purely ecclesiastical, 
and altogether impertinent to his calling. {Apologetical Narration^ ! 
sect. V.) In light of such a statement as this, which fairly represents ' 
the mind of the Westminster divines, the deliverance of the Con- 
fession must be understood of moral support and encouragement to 
ecclesiastical officers in the administration of doctrine and discipline. , 
This at least is the sense authoritatively attributed to the passage by 
an Act of the Free Church Assembly which disclaims all intolerant 
and persecuting principles. (Act xii. Assembly 1846.) The American 
Confession has, in the revised form of this section, limited the duties 
of the civil magistrate in reference to the church, to protecting 
members of ecclesiastical assemblies in the discharge of their special 
duties, and abstaining from all interference in such processes. [An 
admirable statement and argument in favour of the anti-Erastian 
and tolerant character of this chapter is to be found in Dr. Cunning- 
ham's Disctcssioiis on Church Principles^ chap, viii., ' The West- 
minster Confession on the Relations between Church and State.' 
The view that this chapter maintains intolerant and really Erastian 
principles is keenly expressed in Dr. Marshall's Principles of the 
Westminster Standards persecuting^ chap, v.] 

The right of the magistrate to call synods is limited by Act of 
Assembly, 1647, to kirks not constituted and settled ; at other times 
the magistrate is free to advise with synods of ministers and elders, 
who meet upon delegation from their churches. The right of 
ordinarily calling synods is thus reserved to the church ; only in 
peculiar circumstances and emergencies is it allowed to the civil 
magistrate. (See chapter xxx. i.) 

IV. — 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. 


hifidelity^ or difference in religion^ doth not make void the 
magistrate's just and legal authority^ nor free the people from 
their due obedience to hi?n ; from which ecclesiastical persons are 
not exempted J much less hath the Pope any power or jurisdiction 
over the?n in their dominions, or over any of their people j and 
least of all to deprive the?n of their dominions or lives, if he shall 
judge them to be hereticks, or upon any other pretence whatsoever. 

In this section the errors of Levellers and Ultramontanes are alike 
condemned. Notwithstanding the keen dislike and well-grounded 
jealousy entertained by the Reformed Church against all forms of 
Erastian encroachment, they were careful to avoid the contrary 
extreme. Those holding civil offices have rights which should be 
recognised and respected. Sectaries are not to be encouraged in 
refusing the lawful commands of rulers, who may in religious opinions 
differ from themselves. In a particular direction this was the Ultra- 
montane practice. Especially from the time of Hildebrand (eleventh 
century), the spiritual power centred in the Pope assumed absolute 
supremacy over the state. The prince had to acknowledge himself 
and his treasury as at the disposal of the Roman pontiff, who could 
relieve the people of their oath of allegiance, and, by placing a 
refractory civil ruler under excommunication, could remove him from 
the protection of the laws. The Cardinal's words, when threatening 
King John with excommunication, illustrate the terrible assumption 
denounced in our Confession : — 

' Meritorious shall that hand be called, 
Canonised and worshipped as a saint, 
That takes away by any secret course 
Thy hateful life." {King John, Act ill. Scene i.) 



I. — Marriage is to be between one man a?td one woman : neither is 
it lawful for a?iy man to have more thatt one wife, nor for any 
woman to have 7nore than o?ie husband at the same time. 

II. — Marriage was ordaijied for the mutual help of husbaiid and 
wife ; for the increase of 7nankind with a legitimate issue, aftd 
of the chu?'ch with a7i holy seed; and for p7'eve7tti7tg of unclea?t- 


The rule of monogamy laid down here is now, in every civilised 
land, regarded as a fundamental principle, about which there need 
be no dispute. In certain quarters an attempt is made to disparage 
the Old Testament morality by referring to the polygamy of several 


of its prominent and well-approved characters. The answer that 
now most commends itself to Christian apologists is that the morality 
of the Bible is, like that of the race, regularly progressive. What did 
not offend the conscience in earlier days, would oft'end the conscience 
now ; and what was allowed, though not expressly approved, in earlier 
times, may without any inconsistency be now expressly forbidden. 
Further, it is notorious that in all cases on record in Scripture, 
polygamy was the fruitful source of domestic misery. By this, men 
are taught the folly, as by express command they are taught the 
offensiveness before God, of such practices. 

The statement of the second section guards against a danger that 
showed itself in the reaction from pagan licence. In the exaltation 
of the spiritual side of human nature, there was a temptation to 
ignore or unduly repress the corporeal. In the early Christian 
church, however, there was much done for the elevation and purifi- 
cation of domestic life. The Christian family contrasts beautifully 
and strikingly with the pagan family. In the days when pure doc- 
trine prevailed, members of the same family were taught to recognise 
the special duties they owed to one another. ' We can walk in the 
footsteps of Christ,' says Clement of Alexandria, ' when our wife and 
children walk with us. A family is no hindrance to progress in the 
Christian course when all follov/ the same guide. The wife who 
loves her husband learns to walk with him step by step.' (See 
Pressense, Life afid Practice in the Early Chii7'ch^ p. 412.) It would 
have been well for the church and society generally had such true 
and ethically beautiful sentiments continued to prevail. 

III. — // is lawful for all sorts of people to marry who are able with 
ii(dgme7it 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 be unequally 
yoked, by ynarrying with such as are notoriously wicked in theif 
life, or maintai?i damnable heresies. 

Lecky remarks that mixed marriages may do much to assuage the 
rancour and asperity of sects, but only after a considerable measure 
of tolerance has been already attained. Now if this were said 
merely of differences of sects, implying only lesser denominational 
divergencies, — differences on matters not essential to salvation, — we 
might indeed accept it as a true position. As intended, however, it 
must appear only as the recommendation of indifferentism. The 
writer's real meaning appears from the following sentence : ' In a union 
in which each partner believes and realizes that the other is doomed 
to an eternity of misery there can be no real happiness, no sympathy, 
no trust ; and a domestic agreement that some of the children should 
be educated in one religion, and some in the other, would be im- 


possible when each parent believed it to be an agreement that some 
children should be doomed to hell.' {European Morals, ii. p. 354.) 
It is just with differences of this sort that our Confession deals. 
Earnest and conscientious believers in the Reformed doctrine are 
heartily convinced that infidel opinions and Romish superstitions, 
inasmuch as they interfere with or prevent reliance upon Christ for 
salvation, involve condemnation and eternal loss. The practical 
result of such marriages is either a domestic life embittered in the 
way described above, or the growth of an indifference, commendable 
in the eyes of such as Mr. Lecky, but in the view of all evangelical 
spirits, most deplorable. Observation may convince any one of the 
truth of the words of Thomas Adams : ' One religion matching with 
another not seldom breeds an atheist, one of no religion at all.' 
We should, however, carefully note, that not only false views, but 
also faults in life and character, are regarded by our Confession as a 
bar to Christian marriage. In a worldly age like the present, where 
so much is sacrificed to position and wealth, the warning cannot be 
too eagerly urged against the marriage of such as profess godliness 
with those who are notoriously wicked in their lives. It should be 
observed, too, that our Confession is very moderate and cautious in its 
statements prohibitory or dissuasive of marriage, and carefully guards 
against the dangerous extreme of undue restriction. There is danger 
in insisting upon a full maturity of Christian character in young 
persons as a condition to Christian marriage. Thoroughly incom- 
patible religious views, an evident indifference to religion, and mani- 
fest wickedness in life, — these may be laid down as universal grounds 
upon which Christian friendship will feel entitled to urge objection. 
Beyond this, the Christian friend or the church counsellor may not feel 
called upon to go, and to more than this the individuals interested 
may not be required as Christians to yield obedience. We may 
sum up these remarks with the wise words of Harless : ' Instead of 
wishing to recognise in outward behaviour the presence of the grace 
of God, one will at once proceed in God's name to the bond of wed- 
lock, where no actual evidence is given in word or deed, in sentiment 
or mode of behaviour, that the object of our choice has consciously 
abandoned the grace of that kingdom in whose community he has 
been planted by the sacrament of Baptism.' {Christian Ethics, p. 436.) 

IV. — Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity 
or affinity forbidden i7i the word; nor caft such ittcestuous 
marriages ever be made lawful by any law of matt, or co7isent 
of parties, so as those persons may live together as matt and wife. 
The man may not marry any of his wife's kindred nearer in 
blood tha7i he inay of his owtt, nor the wo?na?i of her husband' i 
ki7idred fiearer in blood than of her own. 

We have here affirmed very strongly and distinctly the principles 


which those maintain who oppose what is known as the Marriage 
Affinity Bill. The Free Church of Scotland has by the resolutions 
of her Assemblies very determinedly taken up this position, and this 
has been argued on precisely the same lines as our Confession. 
The arguments that have generally been employed in support of this 
thesis are these : — i. That it is in accordance with the express re- 
quirement of Scripture ; the well-known passage in Leviticus being 
regarded as the only direct statement, but others being referred to 
as involving the same principle. 2. That the assertion of this 
position is essential to the maintenance of social morality ; any 
change here, it is held, would seriously affect the present freedom 
and purity of family life. 3. That any alteration of the present 
law would be the abandonment of the principle on which alone any 
prohibition can consistently rest ; inasmuch as prohibition on any 
other ground would be arbitrary, and could not appeal to the natural 
convictions of mankind. [This whole subject is ably treated by 
the late Professor Gibson in a publication entitled The Marriage 
Affinity Qitestionj see also another by the late Professor Lindsay.] 

V. — Adultery or fornicatio7i cominitted 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 

VI. — Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study 
arguments, unduly to put asimder those whom God hath jointed 
together in marriage; yet notJmig but adultery, or such luilful 
desertiojt as can no way be remedied by the church or civil 
magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage : 
wherein a publick a7id orderly course of proceedi?ig is to be 
observed, and the persons concerned in it not left to their own 
wills a?td discretio?t in their ow7t case. 

The Romish Church, consistently with her view of the sacramental 
character of marriage, pronounces the marriage tie absolutely in- 
dissoluble ; yet, the facilities given for effecting separation, and the 
ingenuity exercised in devising proofs of nullity of marriage, have 
rendered the Romish practice as lax as its doctrine is severe. 
Hodge, quoting from Dens, mentions sixteen causes that render 
marriage null. Our Confession, in conformity with most Protestant 
Confessions, allows divorce on either of the two grounds of adultery or 
wilful desertion. The law of divorce differs in England and Scotland. 
In the former, only adultery, and that in the case of the husband 
aggravated by cruelty or desertion, is valid ground for divorce ; in 


the latter, the law is precisely in accordance with that laid down in 
our Confession, — wilful desertion being also recognised as affording 
good ground for divorce. [A good resu?ne of laws is given in 
Chambers's Encyclopcedia^ art. Divorce. See also a clear and very 
summary statement of the position taken up by the early church 
against the unbounded liberty of divorce prevailing at Rome, in 
Lecky, European Morals^ ii. p. 352.] 



I. — The catholick or U7tiversal church, which zs invisible^ consists of 
the whole member of the elect that have beeji, are, or shall be 
gathered into otie, tmder Christ the head thereof; atid is the 
spouse, the body, the fulness of him that fillet h all in all. 

II. — The visible chu7xh, which is also catholick or universal under 
the gospel {not co7ifined to 07te nation, as before under the law), 
consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true 
religioji, together with their children ; atid is the ki7igdom of the 
Lord Jesus Christ, the house a7id fa77iily of God, out of which 
there is no 07-di7iary possibility of salvatio7t. 

The word church (kirk) is from the Greek kuriake, and means the 
Lord's house. This corresponds with the expression in the close of 
the second section. 

These sections treat of the church as visible and invisible. This 
distinction may be traced in the practice of the early church, though 
it had not then received formal expression. When a member had 
suffered a second excommunication for any fault, there was no 
restoration allowed. Yet it was admitted that such a one might 
on repentance receive forgiveness from Christ. He might thus be 
restored to the membership of the invisible church, or rather, if, 
notwithstanding his falls, he were a real Christian, he continued 
throughout a member of the invisible church, though he could no 
longer claim membership in the visible church. Thus the distinction 
was recognised. (Comp. Pressensd, Heresy a7id Ch7'istia7i Doctri7ie, 
Bk. ii. chap. iv. § 5.) The express statement of the distinction 
properly belongs to the Reformation. When this question came to 
be generally discussed, the Romanists did not hesitate to declare 
the church at once a community of believers, and an organization 
for the dispensation of Word and sacraments. With them, how- 
e^ cr, the idea of a saintly fellowship was quite subordinate to that 


of an outward organization. This view is reversed by the Pro- 
testants. With them, the church is first the fellowship of the saints, 
and secondly, an institution. Here the idea of the invisible church 
first gained any real importance. 

The statement made in the first section regarding the Catholic or 
universal church, that it is invisible, should not be so understood as 
to imply that the idea of the invisible church is something entirely 
separate and distinct from that of the visible church. These are 
simply two aspects under which the church is view^ed. The church, 
as distinguished from the church of to-day, must necessarily be 
regarded as invisible. Statistics cannot be applied to it. Of this 
ideal community there are members in glory, and there are members 
still unborn. It is not, however, without relation to the visible 
church, inasmuch as it includes all on the earth who are members 
of Christ, the Head. In the invisible church, the idea and the 
reality perfectly correspond. There is a portion of the invisible 
church which belongs to the visible, — that portion presently existing 
on the earth. This and nothing more constitutes the real member- 
ship of the visible church according to its idea. In it, however, the 
idea and the reality do not perfectly correspond, as in the invisible 
church. Profession of religion, as something of which man can 
judge, and not the actual presence of religious principles, which 
can be perfectly known only to the searcher of hearts, is the con- 
dition of membership in that outward organization which we call 
the visible church. Those professing religion constitute together 
the kingdom of Jesus Christ. To such as profess themselves 
members of this community, Christ as king addresses the laws of 
His kingdom. Those who do not yield themselves to His rule, and 
obey His laws, are cast out. Their excommunication shows that 
they have never been truly in communion, (i John ii. 19.) Those 
who truly belong to the kingdom of God (as distinguished from 
those who are only not far from it), are memlDers in common of the 
visible and of the invisible church. 

When we say that out of the visible church there is no ordinary 
possibility of salvation, w^e guard against the error of supposing 
that connection with the church as an institution necessarily secures 
salvation, and equally against the notion that God regards the use 
of His own appointed means of grace as of slight importance. By 
sovereign power He can work savingly apart from those means, 
but ordinarily He does not. Cyprian said, 'He who has not the 
church as his mother has not God as his Father.' When the church 
is viewed primarily as an institution, such a maxim leads to an 
ecclesiasticism at once formal and exclusive. 

III. — Unto this catholick visible church Christ hath giveti the 
ministry^ oracles, and ordi7iances of God, for the gathering and 
perfectiiig of the saints in this life, to the end of the wo?idj and 


doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise^ 
make them effectual thereunto. 

This section describes the end for which the church and its 
ordinances have been appointed. In Christ as the God-man the 
church has its origin. Its final end also is in Him, and church 
membership is meaningless unless it is understood of a fellowship 
with Jesus which finally effects a real communication of His own 
character to us, so that we may be said to be partakers of the Divine 
nature. (2 Pet. i. 4.) Between this beginning in Christ, and ending 
in Him, there lies the course of the visible church in the world. In 
this the human and Divine elements are variously mingled. No 
saint in that church is wholly free from sin, and yet in it there is 
evidently a power that is a Divine power working for righteousness, 
and that righteousness is the righteousness of God. 

It belongs to this visible church to administer the ordinances of 
grace. These owe their authority to the appointment of God, and 
are by Him designed for the conversion of sinners and the edifica- 
tion of true members of the church. Because these means of grace 
have been committed to the church, there is ordinarily no salvation 
out of it. To the sinner the church addresses in God's name the 
gospel invitation ; and to the believer, the church, through the pro- 
mised presence of the Spirit, brings nourishment, and affords the 
means of growth. The preaching of the Word, and the dispensation 
of sacraments, constitute the external notes of the church. 

IV. — This catholick church hath been sometimes 7nore, sometimes less 
visible. Aftd particular churches, which are members thereof, 
are inore or less pure, according as the doctri^ie of the gospel 
is taught afid embraced, ordinances admi7iistered, and publick 
worship perfor7ned more or less purely in them. 

V. — The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture 
and error J afid some have so degenerated as to become no 
churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there 
shall be always a church on earth to worship God according to 
his will. 

This statement may be easily and profitably illustrated from the 
history of the church : that the church is sometimes more, sometimes 
less visible, from the story of Pagan persecution and attempted 
suppression ; that it is sometimes more, sometimes less pure, from 
the story of Romish persecutions, the corruptions that prevailed in 
the church during pre-Reformation times, and the state of various 
sects in the present day. No absolute perfection in doctrine and 
practice is admitted of any church. ' The church is absolutely 
faultless as regards her pj'inciple and her beginning; absolutely 
faultless also as to hQx final aim ; but in the interval between these 


extremes, in her historical and free development, her relative falli- 
bility lies. The historical development of the church is not, as 
Catholicism asserts, normal ; it is subject, like a ship on the billows, 
to the undulations of the times.' (Martensen.) The notion that 
perfect purity of communion is attainable in the visible church has 
led to most injurious errors of sectarianism. The various forms of 
Plymouthism are irreconcilable with our Lord's teaching in the 
parable of the Tares of the field. The degree of purity more or less 
in a church depends on the purity of her Confession of Faith, and 
on the exactness with which the faith confessed is put in practice ; as 
Calvin : Jidei professio et mtcE exempliun. ' That church which has 
most power with God, and then, next, the most sympathetic power 
with men, is the truest church.' (Beecher.) Stanley eulogizes the toler- 
ance of this article. (See MacmillarHs Mag. for 1881, pp. 290, 291.) 

VI. — There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jestcs Christ : 
nor can the Pope of Rome in a?iy sense be head thereof j but is 
that antichrist, that man of sijt, and son of perdition, that 
exalteth himself in the church against Christy and all that is 
called God. 

This is an important doctrine of Protestantism. It is the behef 
of all Christians, out of the communion of Rome, that the church 
has no visible head. The one head of the church visible and 
invisible (which is one), is the Lord Jesus Christ. It was usual with 
the Puritans, in their opposition to Episcopalian Erastianism, to 
maintain a twofold headship of Christ, — over the church, as Son of 
man ; over the nations, as Son of God. This distinction was prac- 
tically applied : — ' In the church as man He hath officers under 
Him, which officers are ecclesiastical persons.' The use of the term 
Head of the Church as applied by the Church of England to the 
sovereign, though not intended as in Rome, shows how incomplete 
the Protestantism of that church is, and how confused her notion of 
the relation of the church to Christ. (See Hooker, Eccles. Polity, 
Bk. viii.) When Cranmer was questioned about the headship of 
the church, he showed that he intended to make the king head of 
ecclesiastical persons as well as civil, but not head of the church. 
This is what our Confession clearly affirms. It condemns alike all 
Hierarchical and all Erastian tendencies. 



I. — All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head by his Spirit, 
and by faith ^ have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, 
death, rcsurrectioji, and glory. And being united to one another 


171 love, they have conunimion in each other's gifts and graces ; 
and are obliged to the performance of such duties, ptiblick and 
private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward 
and outward matt. 

The fellowship of believers with one another is made to rest on 
the reality of their fellowship with Christ. By means of those 
graces which are gained through a saving relation to Christ, indi- 
vidual believers are enabled and constrained to maintain a new 
relation with each other. Those graces have been bestowed on 
them not merely as individuals, but as members of a family, — the 
household of God, — and must therefore be exercised for the common 
good. The advantage of the individual is inseparably connected 
Avith that of the community. ' Rendering blessing, knowing that ye 
are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.' (i Pet. iii. 9.) 

II. — Saints, by profession, are bound to maintain an holy fellowship 
and communion in the worship of God, and in perfonning such 
other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as 
also in relievi7ig each other in outward things, according to their 
several abilities a7id necessities. Which co7nmunion, as God 
offe7'eth opporttmity, is to be exte7tded tmto a ll those who in ev ery 
place call up07t the 7ia7ne of the Lord Jesus. 

Here we have the mutual offices of members of the church 
enumerated under two classes, spiritual and temporal. The general 
principle is that each member should seek the other's benefit, as 
he is able, in all things. The range of this obligation is not to be 
restricted by narrowing the circle of our denomination. This com- 
munion is not limited to the members of the sect to which we may 
belong, but the offices of such Christian fellowship are to be ex- 
tended, as opportunity is given, to all who by profession acknowledge 
the name of Jesus. 

An interesting statement was made by the covenanters Henderson 
and Dickson, in reply to the charge of the Aberdeen opposers of 
the covenant, that out of their own parishes they exercised their 
gifts. ' Even he who is not universall pastor of the kirk is pastor of 
the universall kirk ; and the apostle hath taught us that we are 
members one of another.' The special attention that is claimed for 
our Christian brethren (Gal. vi. 10), does not in the least conflict with 
any properly-conceived philanthropy. Scripture precepts are equally- 
remote from inculcating a cosmopolitanism, whose vagueness and 
generality deprive it of all efficiency, and from approving a sectarian 
spirit, even should profession of Christianity be that sect. A Chris- 
tian, who is a father, is required to be tender and helpful toward all 
children as he has opportunity, but he may not make the calls of 


this general affection an excuse for overlooking the special duties 
which he owes to his own family. 

III. — This coimnimio7t which the saints have with Christ, doth not 
make them in any wise partakers of the substance of his God- 
head, or to be equal with Christ iti any respect : either of which 
to affirm is impious and blasphemous. Nor doth their cojn- 
munion 07ie with another, as saints, take away or infringe the 
title or property which each matt hath in his goods and posses- 

This section indicates a further parallel between the fellowship 
of behevers with Christ and their fellowship with one another. 
There is in neither case any confusion of personalities. Though 
behevers are said to be one with Christ, yet He is ever distinct from 
them, and He has over them, as members of His body, the pre- 
eminence of the head. Even so, individual believers have their 
several endowments to conserve and cultivate, and their several 
functions to perform. Each one, using his own gifts, will profit 
himself and the church at large ; failing to use them, he will have 
personal loss and further condemnation because of the loss which 
the church sustains by his neglect. The Communism condemned 
in the latter clause has no place in Scripture. Renan {Life of 
fesus^ chap, x.) seeks to represent Jesus as denouncing all posses- 
sion of property. He denounces covetousness and oppression, and 
riches only as they may foster these sins. The Communism of the 
early Jerusalem church (Acts iv. 32-37) was only temporary, and 
determined by local circumstances. It was suited to the condition 
of a church, still small in membership, which could be modelled 
after the pattern of the apostolate, with its treasurer and common 
purse. This plan was not tried again or elsewhere even in the 
apostolic church. 


OF THE SACRAMENTS. V>^ <^*:'' ^ 

I. — Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of graced 
immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ a?td his benefits, 
and to confirm our interest in him ; as also to put a visible differ- 
ence between those that belong unto the church and the rest of the 
world J and solemnly to etigage them to the service of God in 
Christ, according to his word. 

The name sacrament here given to certain symbolical ordinances 
observed according to Christ's appointment in the church is not a 


biblical word. The early Fathers applied the word sacramentiim to 
rites and doctrines which Avere at once peculiarly sacred, and involved 
in some degree of mystery. Gradually its use was restricted to 
symbolic ordinances, though opinions differed as to the number of 
these. Our Confession takes here a thorough and comprehensive 
view of the significance and purpose of the sacraments. They are 
first of all means of grace, representing Christ's benefits, and con- 
firming our interest in them, setting forth and emphasizing the grand 
vital truths of Christianity — regeneration, and the forgiveness of sins. 
They are, secondarily, signs of a religious profession, marking off the 
church from the w^orld. [See Candlish, The Sacraments?^ 

II. — There is m every sacrament a spiritual relation^ or sacramental 
union J between the sign and the thijig signified; whe^ice it comes 
to pass ^ that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the 

The false notion of baptismal regeneration, so prevalent both in 
Lutheran and in Anglican churches, results from overlooking the 
principle of interpretation laid down in this section. What is said 
of the elements used in the sacrament, and generally of the sacra- 
mental action, is strictly true only of that which the action represents. 
The washing with water is not regeneration, but has a sacramental 
relation to the receiving of the Holy Ghost, which constitutes the 
principle of regeneration. The partaking of bread and wine is not 
the securing of the gift of forgiveness, but has a sacramental relation 
to that saving act of Christ. To identify the sacramental elements 
and the spiritual blessings would be to confound the sign with the 
thing signified. 

III. — The grace which is exhibited i7i or by the sacra7nents, rightly 
used^ is not confe7'red by any power in them; neither doth the 
efficacy of a sacramejit depend upon the piety or intention of him 
that doth administer it^ but upoji the work of the Spirit^ a7id the 
word of institution; which co?ttains^ together with a precept 
atithoriziftg the use thereof a promise of benefit to worthy 

The efficacy of the sacraments is here described negatively and 
positively, (i) The power does not lie in the sacrament viewed 
per se, nor is it conditioned by the character of him who administers 
it. The Romish theory makes the sacrament efficacious in itself, ex 
opere operato^ and thus gives what may be called a magical view of 
the sacrament. (Candhsh, The Sacraments, p. 35.) The notion that 
all depends upon the intention of the officiating priest, ex opei'e 
operantis, led to great abuse in the Romish Church, and left it 
ordinarily uncertain whether one had at any time received the 



communion or not. (2) The Protestant doctrine places the efficacy 
in the observance of the acts prescribed in the institution, and in the 
fulfilment of the condition of faith on the part of the receiver as 
therein implied. 'All receive not the grace of God, which receive the 
sacraments of His grace. Neither is it ordinarily His will to bestow 
the grace of sacraments on any but by the sacraments ; which grace 
also, they that receive by sacraments, or with sacraments, receive it 
from Him, and not from them.' (Hooker, Eccles. Polity^ Bk. v. ch. Ivii.) 

IV. — The7'e be only two sacj'ainents ordai?ied by Christ our Lord in 
the gospel^ that is to say^ Baptis7n, and the Supper of the Lord; 
fieither 0/ which ?nay be dispensed by a7iy but by a minister of the 
word^ lawfully ordai?ted. 

The Romish Church recognises seven sacraments. This was 
attained after various proposals had been put forward. At different 
times we find four and six suggested as the proper number ; then 
twelve ; once even as many as thirty ; but finally Petrus Lombardus 
secured the general approval of the church for seven, as the perfect 
number ; though besides these there are many sacramental acts — 
sacra7nentalia — recognised. Protestants rightly renounce Confirma- 
tion, Penance, Orders, Marriage, and Extreme Unction, inasmuch 
as they do not conform to the strict idea of a sacrament. They are 
sacred acts, and may be viewed as symbolical of spiritual truth, but 
they are not institutions of Christ in the same sense as Baptism and 
the Lord's Supper. They may be all grouped as secondary under 
the two proper sacraments as primary. It may be noticed, too, that 
certain of those so-called sacraments refer only to special epochs and 
peculiar relations of life, — Marriage and Orders, — whereas the true 
sacraments recognise no distinction of rank, sex, or calling. (Comp. 
Martensen, Chr, Dog7natics, sect. 248.) The question has been 
elaborately discussed (Hooker, Eccles. Polity^ Bk. v. ch. Ixi.), whether 
a layman or female may not in an emergency baptize. To assert 
that this may be done is essentially Romish, and is based on the 
idea, whether consciously entertained or not, of the absolute necessity 
of the sacraments to salvation. 

V. — The sacra77ie7its of the Old Testa77ie7it^ i7i regard of the spiritual 
thi7igs thereby sig7iified a7id exhibited, were, for stebstance, the sa7ne 
with those of the New. 

It is very evident that there is a close resemblance between 
circumcision and baptism (only the exigencies of controversy caused 
some Baptists to deny this), and between the Passover and the Lord's 
Supper. Scripture passages may be collected which express, imply, 
or suggest these parallds. The statement of our Confession is 
moderate and guarded. It does not sav that the New Testament 


sacraments are simple reproductions of the Old Testament sacra- 
ments, but that they are substantially the same. In the new 
dispensation they occupy the same place as those others did in the 
old. To both Old and New Testament sacraments the twofold 
description given in the first section will apply ; — they are means of 
grace and tokens of adherence to the church. 



I. — Baptism is a sac7'ainent of the New Testament^ ordaitted by yesus 
Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized 
into the visible church, btct also to be tmto him a sign and seal of 
the covetiant of grace, of his i7igrafting i7tto Christ, of regeneration, 
ofre7nission ofsi?ts, a7td of his giving up tmto God through Jesus 
Christ, to walk in new7iess of life : which sacra7ne7tt is, by Chris fs 
ow7t appoi7it77ie7it, to be co7iti7iued i7i his church until the e7id of 
the world. 

Here we have the twofold character of the sacrament attributed to 
Baptism. It is not, as Socinians describe it, merely an initiatory cere- 
mony, but it is also a sign and seal of spiritual benefits and a means 
of grace. If we regard Baptism as simply an initiatory rite, we make 
it either a merely formal act, as indicating something like a hereditary 
religious status, or a magical operation, working effectively of itself 
apart from moral conditions. (See Pressense, Life a7id Practice in 
the Early Church, Bk. i. ch. i. sect. 2.) Baptism is primarily the 
sacrament of regeneration, and some have limited it to this, and 
objected even to the mention of remission of sins. However, re- 
generation cannot be conceived of, nor can the sign of regeneration 
be conceived of, apart from the remission of sins. Regeneration is 
potential sanctification, the initiation of a spiritual process which has 
for its end complete deliverance from sin. We cannot think of this 
process begun or carried on apart from the revelation of the Divine 
forgiveness. It is no contradiction to make Baptism the initiatory 
rite, and at tKe same time, the sign and seal of those blessings of the 
covenant of grace afterwards to be developed. 

II. — The outward ele7}ie7it to be used i7i this sacra77ie7it is water^ 
wherewith the party is to be baptized i7i the 7iame of the Father, 
a7id of the So7i^ a7id of the Holy Ghost, by a mi7nster of the 
gospel, lawfully called thereunto. 

Only watisr is recognised as the element to be used. Besides this 
in the Romish Church an elaborate ceremonial was introduced ; 


comprising — the sign of the cross, salt, touching ear and nose with 
spittle, anointing with oil, dressing in a white robe and carrying a 
burning torch. All these, as unordained, whatever their symbolical 
suitability, must be regarded as at least unessential to the administra- 
tion of the sacrament. Three things essential are enumerated here : 
(i) The simple use of water as the element in the sacrament ; (2) The 
use of the name of Father, Son, and Spirit; (3) The administration 
of the ordinance at the hand of one lawfully ordained. Where these 
conditions are observed, the baptism must be regarded as valid. 

III. — Dipping of the j[)erson into'^the water is not necessary; but 
baptism is rightly adfuinistered by pouring or sprinkling water 
upon the person. 

The position here taken in regard to the mode of baptism is 
extremely moderate. There is no denunciation of immersion ; no 
denial of the validity of baptism so administered. It is simply said 
that such a form is not necessary. The mode is rightly regarded as 
immaterial, because not strictly determined by any express injunction. 
When this is granted, then the most convenient mode will be pre- 
ferred, as the more troublesome has nothing special to recommend 
it. In controversy with Baptists, we should content ourselves with 
showing that no clear example from Scripture can be adduced in 
favour of immersion, without claiming any such in favour of sprink- 
ling. [On this and following sections, read Witherow, Scriptural 
Baptism^ its Mode atid Subjects.'] 

IV. — Not 07ily those that do actually profess faith in and obediettce 
tmto Christ, bid also the ijtfants of one or both believing parents 
are to be baptized. 

This section refers to the subjects of baptism. It is the chief con- 
tention of Baptists that the ordinance should be granted only to 
those who can profess personal faith. Now our Confession claims 
the rite of baptism for infants, not on the ground of personal faith. 
It is conferred because of their parents' faith, but as a sacrament it 
has reference to an expected development of faith in the baptized. 
Faith in any proper sense cannot be predicated of children who receive 
baptism. The position above stated rests on the inclusion of children 
in the covenant promises of God, the analogy from the practice of 
circumcision among the Jews, Scripture references to the baptism of 
whole families, without any hint that in all these cases there were 
none but adult members, etc. 

V. — Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, 
yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed tmto it, as 


that 710 person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all 
that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated. 

While God is free according to His sovereign grace to confer 
salvation as He pleases, with or without the observance of any 
ordinance, it is always incumbent upon the believer and the church 
to observe the ordinances enjoined. Baptism cannot be neglected 
without sin, but the sin is his who neglects to seek or confer the 
sacrament. That the unbaptized must be regarded as unsaved is a 
notion which results only from the false view of Augustine, that 
baptism alone and efficiently removes original sin. On this theory 
the unbaptized infant dying has still the guilt of original sin, and for 
that must suffer. Compare the old canon in opposition to this : noti 
privatio, sed conteinfus sacramenti damnat. Luther says : ' God has 
not bound Himself to the sacraments so as not to be able to do 
otherwise without the sacrament. So I hope that the good and 
gracious God has something good in view for those who, not by any 
guilt of their own, are unbaptized. What He will do with them, He 
has revealed to none, that baptism may not be despised, but has 
reserved to His own mercy ; God does wrong to no one.' (Comp. 
Dorner, Hist, of P rot. Theology^ vol. i. p. 172.) The doctrine of the 
absolute necessity of the Sacraments involves the twofold error 
repudiated above — the destruction of all the unbaptized, and the 
actual regeneration of the baptized. Our view of the necessity of the 
sacrament is that this necessity is non absoluta sed ordinata. 

VI. — The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that 7noinent of time wherein 
it is administered J yet notwithstandi7tg, by the right use of this 
ordina7tce, the grace pro7nised is 7iot only offered, but really 
exhibited a7id C07if erred by the Holy Ghost, to such {whether of 
age or i7ifants) as that g7'ace belo7igeth tmto, accordi7ig to the 
counsel of Gods own will, in his appoi7tted ti77ie. 

The grace of baptism may not be conferred when it is adminis- 
tered, yet it will prove ef^cacious at any time when the grace is 
bestowed. * The Protestant doctrine of the Efficacy of Baptism, as 
held by the Westminster divines, does not imply that, even in cases 
in which baptism is not only valid but effectual, its effect must take 
place at once. But, on the other hand, in such cases the grace is as 
really connected with the sacrament as if it had been given at the 
very moment of its administration.' (Candlish, The Sac7-ame7its, 
p. 73.) The word ' exhibited ' is here used in an old sense to mean 
' conferred.' 

VH. — The sacra7nent of baptism is but 07ice to be ad7ni7tistered to any 
Even the Church of Rome admits the validity of heretical baptism, 

OF THE lord's SUPPER. 1 53 

and refuses to rebaptize. So careful are Romanists in this, that in 
any case where it is uncertain whether a party has been baptized or 
not, they use the formula : ' If thou hast been baptized, I baptize thee 
not ; if thou hast not been baptized, I baptize thee/ In the early 
church it was common to baptize those who were admitted from 
heretical sects ; and this was proper, because those sects generally 
denied the doctrine of the Trinity, and thus their baptism, wanting 
an essential part, was invalid. The rule of administering baptism 
only once to a person, results from the very meaning of the 



I. — Otir Lord Jesus, in the night ivhereiii he was betrayed, instituted 
the sacramejit of his body and blood, called the Lord's Supper, to 
be observed iti his church unto the end of the world, for the 
perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself i7i his death, the 
sealiftg all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual 
nourishjnejtt a7td growth in hii7i, their fttrther engageme?it in attd 
to all ditties which they owe unto him, and to be a bond and 
■pledge of their cofnmimion with hi?n, and with each other, as 
members of his mystical body. 

We have here what may be called the simple biblical doctrine of 
the Lord's Supper. This holy sacrament is described as to — (i) Its 
institution by Christ immediately before His death ; (2) Its continu- 
ance in the church provided by the words of institution unto the end 
of the world ; (3) Its significance and purpose, — a commemoration 
and communion, — a memorial of Christ's death, and a seal of spiritual 
benefits, involving the intensifying of Christian obligations. 

II. — hi this sacrament Christ is not offe7-ed up to his Father, nor any 
real sacrifice made at all for 7'e77iissio7i of si7is of the quick or 
dead J but 07ily a c^iwi^torqiipn of that 07ie ofieri7ig up ofhifn- 
self by hi7nself up07i the cross, once for all, and a spiritual 
oblatio7i of all possible praise unto God for the sa77ies so thai the 
Popish sacrifice of the 77iass, as they call it, is most abo77ii7iably 
i7ijii7'ious to Ch7'isfs 07ie 07ily sacrifice, the alo7ie p7'opitiatio7i for 
all the sins of the elect. 

The sacrament of the Supper is not a sacrifice, as is represented 
in the mass. (The name mass is supposed to be derived from the 


form of dismissal — missa est)} If we use the term sacrifice at all 
in connection with the sacrament, we only mean that it is a sacrifice 
of praise for the one sacrifice offered up once for all on Calvary. 
This constitutes a fundamental difference between the Romish and 
Protestant doctrines of the sacrament. At the same time (see sect, v.) 
we are not prevented from speaking of the signs in the sacraments in 
terms strictly applicable to that which the signs signify. The bread 
and wine as sacramental elements do not form a sacrifice, but they 
represent the great sacrifice. ' So great, so new, and so joyful ought 
it to seem unto thee, when thou comest to these holy mysteries, as if 
on this same day Christ first descending into the womb of the Virgin 
were become man, or hanging on the cross did this day suffer and 
die for the salvation of mankind.' {Imitatio7i of Christy Bk. iv. ii. 6.) 
The author of the Wisdom of Solomon, referring to the incident of 
the brazen serpent, says that the people had in it 'a sign of salva- 
tion, to put them in remembrance of the commandment of the law ; 
for he who turned himself toward it was not saved by the thing that 
he saw, but by Thee, who art the Saviour of all ' (chap. xvi. 6, 7). 

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 ajtd break the breads to take 
the cup, and {they communicating also themselves) to give both to 
the com77iunicants J but to none who are not theji present in the 

The first part of this section indicates what is meant by the con- 
secration of the elements in the administration of the communion. 
It is to be noted that the consecration applies to the elements as 
tised. Romanists consider the elements as consecrated apart from 
their use, as having a certain physical sacredness independent of the 
spiritual state of the recipient. 

Further, this section describes the symbolical acts, breaking the 
bread, giving the poured out wine ; and the giving of both elements 
to all communicants. Each of these acts is necessary to the right 
dispensation of the ordinance. Each has its own symbolic import, 
and the benefit of the sacrament consists in the enjoyment of all 
those spiritual realities which these acts symbolize. 

The sacramental elements are only to be given where the com- 
munion is pubhcly dispensed. This injunction is given because of 

1 ' But it is at least an ingenious explanation that it is a phrase taken from the 
food placed upon the table, missus, or possibly from the table itself, 7nensa, and 
thence perpetuating itself in the Old English word "mess of pottage," "soldier's 
mess," and in the solemn words for feasts, as C\\visi7/ias,' etc. (Stanley's Christian 
Institutions, p, 44) ; or may it not simply be derived from massa, the dough or 
paste used in the form of loaf or wafer? 

OF THE lord's SUPPER. 1 55 

the danger attending the reservation of communion elements for the 
use of the sick and the dying. Such a practice would be likely to 
foster the notion that the communion is necessary to salvation, that 
the elements have a magical influence, and that the partaking of the 
sacrament before death will procure an entrance into glory. If this 
danger could be guarded against, we can quite appreciate the desire, 
which many express, to gratify afflicted saints, who have been long 

IV. — Private masses, or receivmg this sacrament by a priest^ or any 
other ^ alone J as likewise the denial of the cup to the people; 
worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them 
about for adoratio7i, a7id the reserving them for afty pretetided 
religious use; are all contrary to the 7iature of this sacrament, 
and to the institution of Christ. 

The first portion of this section gives a more explicit statement of 
matters referred to in the previous section. Notice here particularly, 
the objection to withholding the cup from the communicants. The 
doctrine of the church in regard to the consecration of the sacra- 
mental elements was that the receiver enjoyed the real presence of 
Christ. The Romanists explained their view of the real presence by 
the theory of Transubstantiation ; the Lutherans, by the theory of 
Consubstantiation, — the actual presence of Christ's body and blood 
in, with, and under the substance of the elements ; the Reformed 
Church, by the doctrine of Christ's Spiritual Presence, real to those 
who exercise faith. The Romish theory was further in need of 
explanatory theories to account for the wonderful change in the 
substance of the elements. That which was finally accepted was 
proposed by Thomas Aquinas, co?ico7nitantia, — the body has the 
blood, the whole Christ is present in the consecrated bread. Taking 
this view, the Romish ecclesiastics, superstitious and scrupulous in 
their care over the elements which they supposed to be now really 
the body and blood of Christ, lest a crumb of bread should fall, had 
it made into tiny wafers, each communicant receiving one ; and lest 
the wine should be spilt in passing from one to another, withheld the 
cup, comforting the communicants with the assurance that in the 
bread they partook of a whole Christ. For Protestants, all that is 
important here is covered by the apostolic injunction, ' Let all things 
be done decently.' 

V. — The outward ele77ie7its i7i this sacrament, duly set apart to the 
uses ordai7ied by Christ, have such relatio7i to hiui crucified, as 
that truly, yet sacrame7itally 07ily, they are so7netimes called by 
the 7ia77ie of the tJmtgs they represe7it» to wit, the body and blood 


of Christ J albeit, i7i substance and nature, they still remain truly 
and only bread and wine^ as they were beforr* 

Much confusion has resulted from not attending to the distinction 
laid down here between a sacramental relation and a substantial 
identity. Luther insisted on the words, ' This is my body/ and refusing 
all explanations, never quite rose above the fundamentally Romish 
conception. Lutherans call this a simple child-Hke faith ; others 
have called it dogged obstinacy. Because of this elementary position, 
the Lutheran mysticism is essentially materialistic. The notion of 
the real presence in the Reformed Church is purely spiritual. 

VI. — That doctrine ivhich inaintains a change of the substance of 
bread and wine ijtto the substajice of Chrisfs body and blood 
{co7nmonly called Transubstantiatiofi) by consecration of a priest, 
or by any other way, is repugna7tt 7tot to scripture alo7ie, but eve7i 
to C077W1071 sense a7id reaso7is overthrow eth the nature of the 
sacra77ie7it J a7id hath bee7i a7id is the cause of 77umifold super- 
stitio7is, yea, of gross idolatries. 

The doctrine of Transubstantiation is here rightly regarded as at 
the basis of all those Romish errors about the sacrament condemned 
in the previous sections. If it be so that consecration of the elements 
converts these into the very body and blood of Christ, then it is right 
that we should pay adoration to the elevated host, and that we should 
regard the sacramental action — the breaking and pouring out — as a 
renewed sacrifice. This doctrine crept gradually into the church. 
The foundation of it was laid in the mystical expressions of certain of 
the Greek Fathers. It had so taken hold of the church before the 
middle of the eleventh century that Berengarius of Tours was con- 
demned for denying it. Formal church sanction was given to the 
doctrine in 121 5 at the Fourth Lateran Council, and from that time 
it has been a central and characteristic dogma of Rome. It is 
repudiated by our Confession on a threefold ground — (i) Being 
irrational in the exact sense that involves being unscriptural ; (2) Con- 
tradicting the idea of a sacrament, because it identifies the sign and 
the thing signified ; (3) Occasioning many superstitions and idolatries 
— adoration of the host, and signs of reverence due only to God. 

W\. — Worthy receivers^ outwardly partaki7ig of the visible ele7)ients 
in this sacra77ie7it^ do the?i also inwardly by faith, really a7id 
indeed, yet 7iot car7ially a7id corporally, but spiritually, receive 
a7idfeed upon Christ crucified, a7id all be7iefits of his death : the 
body a7id blood of Christ bei7ig the7i 7iot corporally or carnally Z7i, 
luithf or imder the bread a7id wi7iej yet as really, but spiritually ^ 


present fo the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements 
themselves are to their outward senses. 

Here we have an express repudiation of the Lutheran doctrine of 
Consubstantiation. According to this Lutheran theory, the substance 
of the bread and wine is not destroyed, as in the theory of Transub- 
stantiation, but really continues, while in, with, and under these 
substances, — bread and wine, — when consecrated as sacramental 
elements, there are presented the actual body and blood of Christ. 
This is, if possible, less satisfactory than the Romish theory. Like 
most attempts at compromise, it only introduces a new difficulty. 
The main objection to Transubstantiation is that it destroys the idea 
of a sacrament — identifying the sign with the thing signified. The 
same objection applies to Consubstantiation. It so joins sign and 
thing signified that both together are taken in the hand, both 
together are eaten by the teeth. That this is so, is apparent from the 
Lutheran doctrine that the body and blood of Christ are present in 
the sacramental elements, in consequence of their consecration, in- 
dependently of any faith on the part of the recipient. Our Confession, 
on the contrary, emphasizes the necessity of faith in order to secure 
the real presence, which is therefore conceived as a spiritual presence. 
There is a true relation — a sacramental relation — between the sign 
and the thing signified. Just as the bread and wine are present to 
the outward senses, so the body and blood of Christ, as spiritual 
nourishment, are present to the spiritual apprehension of those who 
receive the outward elements in faith. 

VII L — Although igjiorant ajid wicked men receive the outward 
elements in this sacrament, yet they receive not the thing signified 
thereby J but by their unworthy comi7tg thereunto are guilty of 
the body ajid blood of the Lord, to their own dainnation. Where- 
fore all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy 
cojnmunion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord^s table, 
a7id cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remaifi 
such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto. 

The distinction between the sign in the sacrament and the grace 
which is the thing signified is very clearly stated by Calvin, that is, 
the distinction between partaking of the elements of the sacrament 
and enjoying the benefits of the sacrament. In his treatment of 
this point he has closely followed Augustine. Sacramentum is 
distinguished from res sacramenti j the benefit of the sacrament is 
only for the elect ; for while, as in the case of the Jews, the sacrament 
may be common to all, the grace which constitutes the efficiency of 
the sacrament is not common ; and when we partake of the outward 
elements, the sacrament is one thing, and the efficiency of the 
sacrament another : the elements partaken of may be life to one, and 


death to another ; but the very substance of the sacrament,— that of 
which the elements are a sacrament, — ministers hfe to all who partake 
of it, and death to none ; he dies not who partakes, but the partaking 
must be of the real substance of the sacrament, not of the mere 
visible sacrament, not outwardly with the teeth, but inwardly with 
the heart. (See Calvin, histitutes, Bk. iv. chap. xiv. § 15.) That 
which is appointed by God does not indeed suffer change, yet what 
is really presented may not be that which is actually received ; or, 
to use the words of Augustine, ' If you receive it carnally, it ceases 
not to be spiritual, but it is not so to thee.' The reality of the 
sacrament is in no way affected by the unworthy faihng to obtain the 
blessing, or rather to share in the substance of the sacrament. Just 
as the gospel invitation is addressed to all, so is the sacrament 
presented or offered to all ; but, as in the one case, so in the other, 
while the reality of the power to bless is fully maintained, this 
blessing— the actual presence of Christ in grace and forgiveness— is 
communicated only to those who exercise faith. Any number of 
unbelieving guests at the table cannot so affect the reality of the 
sacrament, that one behever there will fail to enjoy for himself the 
very presence of Christ. 

The closing passage regarding unworthy communicating is carefully 
expressed. Ignorant and ungodly persons, while remaining such, 
cannot come forward without great sin— that is, such a rash and 
irreverent approach is an aggravation of their sin of ignorance and 
ungodhness ; and they cannot be admitted— that is, the admission of 
those known to be ignorant and ungodly will be reckoned a sin to 
the church so admitting. Too often, however, abstaining from 
communicating is put in place of the discontinuance of the life and 
practice inconsistent with that holy action. Such abstaining is itself 
the sign of a further sin, inasmuch as it indicates the absence of that 
penitence which would have rendered profitable communion possible. 



I,— The Lord Jestis, as king and head of his churchy hath /herein 
appointed a government in the hand of chioxh-officers^ distinct 
f7'om the civil magistrate. 

This statement is singularly well conceived, and has been the 
subject of very general approval. The position of the Westminster 
divines was a dehcate one. In opposition to the violent and tyranni- 
cal prelatic party that had just been removed, there was a temptation 
to give expression to a one-sided anti-hierarchical tendency, and thus 
to neglect the claims of the great Head of the church. Or, in their 
opposition to the proud and dictatorial worldly statesmen then in 


power, there was a danger of their putting their anti-Erastian views in 
such a form as would seem irreconcilable with the orderly conduct of 
national government. Notwithstanding their decided opposition to 
all hierarchical pretensions and to all Erastian encroachments, the 
divines succeeded admirably in giving to each its due, — rendering to 
Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are 
God's. It was a favourite argument with those who wished to have 
either the civil or the ecclesiastical power supreme, that otherwise 
there would be an iinperium in iinperio, and that the two jurisdictions 
would inevitably clash with one another. The possibility of recog- 
nising the full import and jurisdiction of both ecclesiastical and civil 
power is admirably illustrated by Gillespie. A prince, during a sea 
voyage, though still a prince, and in this respect supreme governor 
of all on board, does not assume the government of the ship, which 
is exercised by one who is the prince's subject. ' And as the governor 
of a ship acknowledgeth his prince for his only supreme governor 
even then whilst he is governing and directing the course of the ship 
(otherwise while he is governing her course he should not be his 
prince's subject), yet he doth not thereby acknowledge that his prince 
governeth his action of directing the course of the ship (for then 
should the prince be the pilot) ; so, when one hath acknowledged the 
prince to be the only supreme governor upon earth of all ecclesiastical 
persons in his dominions (see Conf. chap, xxiii. 4), even whilst 
they are ordering and determining ecclesiastical causes, yet he hath 
not thereby acknowledged that the prince governeth the ecclesiastical 
causes.' {The English Popish Ceremonies, chap. viii. 4.) This is 
precisely the spiritual independence claimed by the Free Church. 
Presbyterians are loyal subjects according to the principles of their 
church government. The orderliness of their self-government in 
ecclesiastical and spiritual matters should rather be regarded as a 
promise and assurance of like behaviour under the civil government 
which they acknowledge. The danger of seeking to blend spiritual 
and temporal power in one may be shown from the history of the 
Papacy. There is an instructive passage in Dante, which illustrates this. 
Marco Lombardo speaks of two suns, the Emperor and the Bishop of 
Rome, who had shed their lights respectively on the world's way and 
on God's ; but the one had quenched the other, — the sword had been 
grafted on the crook, — and for want of mutual restraint both grew worse. 
' The Church of Rome, 

Mixing two governments that ill assort, 

Hath missed her footing, fallen into the mire, 

And there herself and burden much defiled.' {Purgatorio, xvi. 129-132.) 
Though objecting to the statement of this section, Stanley claims the 
Westminster Confession as an Erastian document. (See Maonillati's 
Magazine for 1 881, p. 291.) 

//. — To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are conwiitied^ 
by virtue ivhereof they have poiuer respectively to retain and 
7'e?nit sins J to shut that kingdom against the i?npenitentj both by 


the word and censures ; and to open it tmfo penitent sinners, by 
the ministry of the gospel^ and by absolution from censure's^ as 
occasion shall require. 

Those church - officers for whom the former section clahned a 
special jurisdiction, have here their special duties laid down. The 
power which they exercise is called the Power of the Keys (Matt. xvi. 
19), to distinguish it from the Power of the Sword — a ministerial as 
distinguished from a magisterial power. These officers exercise this 
power, not as individuals, but as ranged in their official positions, 
though the Confession does not particularly determine the form and 
constitution of church judicatories. Church discipline is essentially 
an act of the church as such (i Cor. v. 4). The divines distinguish 
between magisterial power, as one delegated by God as supreme 
ruler to kings and princes as His deputies on earth, and ministerial 
power, which is no delegation of authority, but a commission as to 
servants given by the God-man, the Mediator, not authorizing the 
making of laws, but simply the making of them known. [Read on 
this subject, Rutherford's Lex Rex, — especially chap, xlii.] This 
section makes it clear that the Power of the Keys is not understood 
exclusively of the employment of church power in retaining and 
remitting sins, but rather of the exercise of the general ministerial 
functions, the ministry of the Gospel, — that is, the preaching of the 
Word, the dispensation of the sacraments, and the administration of 
discipline. When rightly understood, the power of binding and 
loosing, opening and shutting, here intended, is not different from 
the full declaration of the Gospel, which denounces doom upon the 
impenitent, and gives assurance of forgiveness to the penitent. 

In the Romish Church, excommunication was converted into an 
engine of tyranny and extortion. Dante denounces the avarice of 
Popes who made war not with the sword, but by ' taking the bread 
away,' and who wrote ecclesiastical censures just to be paid for 
cancelling them. {Paradiso, xviii. 123-132.) 

III. — Church censures are necessary for the reclaiming and gaining 
of offending brethren; for deterring of others from the like 
offejicesj for purging out of that leaven which might i7ifect the 
whole lump J 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 shoidd suffer his 
covenant, and the seals thereof to be profaned by notorious a?id 
obstinate offenders. 

The end for which church discipline is to be exercised is the 
salvation of souls : the power is given to edification and not to 
destruction. (2 Cor. xiii. 10.) It is only when its gracious intention 
is frustrated that destruction ensues. According to our Confession, 


this power is committed to the church in order that the knowledge of 
this may deter from sin, or strengthen endeavours at resistance among 
those who are tempted. If, notwithstanding the knowledge of this 
power committed to the church, members of the church still fall into 
sin, the power must be positively exercised for a threefold purpose : 
(i.) To do what is possible to arrest at the earliest stage, what might 
become a serious and widespread defection ; (2.) To protect Christ's 
honour by repudiating the sin in His name, and showing that He 
will give no favour or countenance to sin ; (3.) To save the church as 
a whole from that just visitation of God which is denounced not only 
against the original offender, but also against all who are partakers 
in the sin. Familiar illustrations : Achan in the camp ; Jonah in 
the ship. 

IV. — For the better attaijiing of these ends ^ the officers of the church 
are to proceed by admonition^ suspension from the sacrament of 
the Lords Supper for a season^ and by excommunication front 
the churchy accoi'diiig to the nature of the crime ^ and demerit of 
the person. 

This section lays down the method to be pursued as most likely 
to attain these ends. We have here three stages in the exercise of 
discipline, (i.) Simple admonition in cases where it may seem that 
solemn words of warning and counsel may be helpful in checking 
the beginning of declension. (2.) Temporary suspension from the 
communion, if a member has been walking in an unseemly way, and 
his approach just then to the table might give just offence and cause 
scandal. (3.) Regular excommunication, the removal of the name 
from the communion roll, — in case the offence be a special, serious, and 
notorious one, or the person dealt with have aggravated his guilt by 
repeated falls. No evangelical church regards excommunication 
as final ; the end in view is ultimate restoration of the individual, 
strengthened and purified by the discipline. 



I. — For the better government^ and further edif cation of the churchy 
there ought to be such assemblies as a?-e commonly called Sy?tods 
or Coujicils. 

The Avord synod originally means simply an assembly, and is so 
used in this place. The divines, careful not to render their formulary 
sectarian, avoided such close determination of the form of church 
government as might render the Confession, otherwise suitable, 



unacceptable to some. In those Scottish Presbyterian Churches 
whose supreme court is a General Assembly, ' Synod ' means a 
subordinate provincial assembly of ministers and elders. We have 
here simply the assertion of the right of the church to have ecclesi- 
astical assemblies to provide for good government and the general 
welfare of the church. 

II. — As magistrates may lawfully call a synod of ministers^ and other 
fit pei'sons^ to cojistilt and advise with about matteis of religion ; 
so if magistrates be open eftemles to the chtwch^ the ministers of 
Christy of themselves^ by virtue of their office^ or they, with other 
fit persons upon delegation from their churches, vuiy meet to- 
gether In such assemblies. 

This section determines the question as to the parties in whom the 
right of calling such synods is vested. 

The first part of the section has been objected to as countenancing 
Erastianism. When we consider the general tenor of the passage, 
we may be assured that no such view was intended. To prevent 
misunderstanding, however, the Assembly of the Scottish Church 
which adopted the Confession (A.D. 1647) distinctly stated that this 
clause was understood to refer only to kirks not settled or con- 
stituted in point of government, and affirmed that in kirks constituted 
and settled a synod should not be called merely by magisterial authority, 
nor without a delegation from the churches to the ministers so to 

The latter part of the section shows clearly how advanced and 
liberal the views of the divines were in regard to legitimate popular 
control exercised over monarchs. No more satisfactory statement 
of the case can be given than that which we have from Rutherford. 
He entitles one of his chapters, ' Whether or no the convening of the 
subjects without the king's will be unlawful.' * Convention of the 
subjects, in a tumultuary way, for a seditious end, to make war 
without warrant of law, is forbidden ; but not when religion, laws, 
liberties, invasion of foreign enemies, necessitateth the subjects to 
convene, although the king and ordinary judicatures, going a corrupt 
way to pervert judgment, shall refuse to consent to their conventions.' 
[Lex Rex, p. 233.) And he goes on to say that refusing the liberty 
would be as foolish as to require people to wait for an express Act of 
Parliament before going to quench a fire or to pursue a wolf. This 
principle was immediately applied to religious assemblies ; and it 
was a saying among our covenanting forefathers, that if denied the 
liberty of calling religious assemblies and meeting in these, they 
might as well be denied the Gospel. Those Aberdeen professors of 
divinity and ministers who refused the covenant, vigorously opposed 
Henderson and Dickson, who had been sent as delegates to per- 
suade them to sign that document, maintaining that all manner of 


leagues apart from royal sanction were forbidden, and clinging to 
the statement of a civil enactment on that point. ' In this you will 
so precisely adhere to the letter of the law/ answered the covenanters, 
' that you will have no meetings without the king's consent, even in 
the case of the preservation of religion, of his majesty's authority, 
and of the liberties of the kingdom, which we are sure must be con- 
trary to the reason and life of the law : since the safety of the people 
is the sovereign law.' 

III. — // belongcth to synods and councils mittisterially to de ten nine 
controversies of faith, and cases of conscience j to set down rules 
a?id directions for the better ordering of the publick worship of 
God^ and governine7it of his chinxlLj to receive complaints in 
cases of vialadfninistration^ and authoritatively to determine the 
same : which decrees and determiiuitions^ if consotiant to the 
word of God, are to be i-eceived with 7-evere7ice afui submission^ 
not only for their agreejnent with the word, but also for the 
fower whe?'eby they are made, as being aft ordinance of God, 
appointed thereunto in his wo?'d. 

This section states the functions of synods and the authority 
belonging to their legislative decrees. Ecclesiastical synods may 
legitimately take cognizance of three different orders of cases, i. 
The settling of disputes and uncertainties in matters of faith, — 
determining in cases of suspected heresy, whether the statements 
challenged are in accordance with the expressed doctrinal positions 
of the church Standards. (The reference to cases of conscience 
indicates the right of the church by means of her assemblies to 
resolve doubts and explain difficulties ; this, however, should 
ordinarily be left to pastoral dealing, and only when difficulty in 
determining a point has become general in the church, should the 
superior courts deal with the question.) 2. The maintenance of 
church order, — if in details any modification seems desirable in 
regard to the form of conducting worship, or managing the affairs of 
the church. 3. The hearing of appeals and reviewing the decisions 
of the inferior courts. Our General Assembly reviews proceedings 
of presbyteries and synods, when these have been appealed against, 
and may reverse or confirm the decisions of these courts ; and parties 
must receive its sentence as final. 

All this is done ministerially, — the members of Assembly acting as 
ministers, servants of God ; but such decisions, when agreeable to 
God's Word, are to be received for a twofold reason : (i) because 
consonant with God's Word ; (2) because the ministerial authority is 
itself an ordinance of God, 

\Y.— All synods or councils since the apostle^ times, whether general 
or particular, may err, and matiy have erred; therefore they are 


not to be made the rule of faith and p?'actice, but to be used as an 
help in both. 

Ecclesiastical councils are not infallible. The Romish Church for 
a time maintained that, while particular or provincial synods had 
erred, (Ecumenical or general synods had never erred. It was 
afterwards asserted that infallibility belonged to decisions of 
CEcumenical councils only when they had the sanction of the Pope, 
and only when they referred to matters of faith and morals, and 
not to mere details of discipline. The Vatican Council in 1870 
decreed the Pope's infallibility, and so authoritatively settled the 
question as to the relative importance of Pope and General Council. 
Even before this, Hefele, the historian of church councils, wrote : 
' To appeal from the Pope to a council, an authority usually very 
difficult to constitute and to consult, is simply to cloak ecclesiastical 
insubordination by a mere formality.' Our Confession repudiates the 
doctrine of human Infallibility unreservedly. The Westminster 
divines were far from claiming this to themselves ; and their work in 
the Confession they do not offer as a rule of faith and practice 
(which the Bible alone is), but only as a guide and directory to the 
meaning and truth of Scripture. 

\. — Synods and councils are to handle or conclude notJung but thai 
which is ecclesiastical J and a7'e not to intermeddle with civil 
affairs^ which concern the conmiomuealth, unless by way oj 
humble petitio7i^ in cases extraordinary j or by way of advice for 
satisfaction of conscience, if they be the?'eunto required by the civil 

While claiming liberty of meeting and discussion for ecclesiastical 
courts, our church is careful to show that the charge of danger to 
government, as in the case of an itiiperium in impei'io^ is unfounded. 
Synods are to limit their deliberations as far as possible to purely 
ecclesiastical matters, and to avoid the domain of politics. In times 
of persecution, the members of ecclesiastical courts had of necessity 
to express their views on rulers and acts of government, because 
these tyrannically interfered with ecclesiastical causes. (See Brown 
of Wamphray's Apologetical Narration, sect, vi.) It was the error 
of the Papacy to interfere with and seek to dominate civil affairs by 
their ecclesiastical decisions. The Reformers, and after them our 
Puritan and Covenanting forefathers, sought carefully to avoid this 




I. — The bodies of me7i after death reiurji to dust, a7id see corruption ; 
but their souls {which neither die nor sleep), having ajt iinmof'tal 
subsistence, ivmiediately retu7'7t to God who gave the77i. The 
souls of the righteous, bei7ig then 7nade perfect i7i holi7iess, a7'e 
received into the highest heave7is, where they behold the face of 
Cod ijt light a7id glo7y, waiti7ig for the full 7'edeniptio7i of their 
bodies ; a7id the souls of the wicked are cast i7ito hell, whet'e they 
re77iai7i i7i tor77ie7its a7id utter dark7iess, 7'ese7'ved to the judgnioii 
of the great day. Besides these two places for souls separated 
f7'07n their bodies, the scriptiwe ack7wwledgcth 7i07ie. 

In this section there are three doctrinal positions laid down, 
(i.) The Immortality of the Soul. The state of the soul after the 
death of the body is described in Scripture figuratively as a sleep 
(i Thess. iv. 14). The idea of the sleep of souls, however, is rejected 
as inconsistent with passages that speak of departed spirits as active, 
and describe the scene of their activity as the immediate presence of 
Christ. The notion of the sleep of souls was entertained by sects in 
the third century opposed by Origen, and again by certain sects in 
the sixteenth century against whom Calvin wrote a treatise. It is 
still maintained by Delitzsch and a few others. (2.) A State of Re- 
wards and Punishments. The doctrine of Immortality, as applied 
to all souls, contradicts the annihilation theory. Those who hold 
that theory speak of immortality as not natural, but conditional. 
While we hold that Scripture clearly teaches that man as man is 
immortal, we are careful to distinguish, against Restitutionists of all 
kinds, that immortality is not synonymous with eternal life. It is 
the express doctrine of Revelation that there are dift'erent destina- 
tions for the souls of men : Heaven for the righteous, into which, as 
a fixed condition of bliss, the souls of the just immediately pass, — 
Hell for the wicked, into which, without hope of reprieve, the souls 
of the unjust are immediately driven. (3.) No Intermediate Con- 
dition. When we speak of an intermediate state of souls, we do not 
mean a probationary state, but simply the condition of those souls 
intermediate between the periods of their own death and of the final 
judgment. The idea of purgatory appears in the writings of the 
early Fathers. Later, by the school divines, divisions were supposed 
in this region : — Li7}ibus I7fa7itiuin, the place of unbaptized infants, 
practically hell, as there is no release, though there is absence of 
actual pain ; Liinbus Patru7n, the place of the Old Testament saints, 
where they waited the completion of Christ's work. 


11.— A/ the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be 
changed ; and all the dead shall be raised up with the self -same 
bodies, ami 7ione other, although with different qualities^ which 
shall be united again to their souls for ever. 

III. — The bodies of the imjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised 
to disho7iourj the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, tmto hofioury 
a?ui be made coviforinable to his own glorious body. 

These sections affirm — (i.) The resurrection of the body ; (2.) The 
different destinations of the bodies raised up. 

The essential identity of the resurrection body and that which had 
been laid in the grave is clearly stated. The expression ' the self-same 
bodies ' does not necessarily imply that those several material atoms 
which make up our present body will be gathered up and placed to- 
gether. That such material identity is not intended is seen from the 
use of the apostle's expression regarding those who remain alive on 
the earth at the period of the judgment, that they shall be changed. 
The substance, too, of bodies is constantly changing, yet our bodies 
from infancy to old age are regarded as the self-same bodies. The 
identity of the resurrection body and the body laid in the grave may 
be similar to that of the body of our earthly life in all its stages. 
The identity is like that of the seed-corn and its fruit. The qualities 
of the resurrection body will be such as will fit the conditions of tiie 
risen life. Our only hints regarding those modifications are such as 
may be gathered from what is told us of our Lord's body after His 
resurrection ; yet even on this there would be a certain change when 
He had ascended unto His Father. 

As to whether any real change of place or condition will occur 
after the judgment, Scripture is silent. Dante indulges in specula- 
tions as to a change of condition at the judgment, in the case of 
those who, in the other world, wait the coming of that day, (Read 
Inferno, vi. 102-117.) Gary appends this quotation from Augustine : 
— ' At the resurrection of the flesh, both the happiness of the good 
and the torments of the wicked will be increased. ' 



■God hath appointed a day whe7-ein he will judge the world in 
right eous7iess by Jesus Christ, to who77i all power a7id judg77ie7it 
is given of the Father. I71 which day, not 07ily the apostate 
a7igels shall be judged, but likewise all perso7ts that have lived 
upo7i earth shall appear befve the t7'ibu7ial of Ch7ist, to give 
an accoimt of their thoughts^ wo7'ds, a7ul deeds, a7ui to 7'eceive 


according to what they have done in the body, tvhcther good or 

The statement above given runs very closely on scriptural lines : 
a day of judgment appointed by God, judgment committed to the 
Son, angels and men to be judged, and judgment to be given ac- 
cording to deeds done, — thereby the two classes, already separated 
at death, being now even more conspicuously distinguished. The 
points here emphasized are the reality, the certainty, and the prin- 
ciple of the judgment. The imagery employed in Scripture is not to 
be pressed and interpreted literally, inasmuch as the precise form 
and method of procedure on that day are among the secret things 
of God. ' Even in the Middle Ages,' says Oosterzee, referring to 
Thomas Aquinas, ' it w^as readily granted : totttin illtcd judicium, 
et quoad disctissionein et quoad sententiain, non vocaliter sed men- 
ialiier perJicieturJ {Christian Dogmatics, p. 802.) ' The wicked,' 
says Matthew Henry, ' took up with left-hand blessings, riches and 
honour ; and so shall their doom be.' 

II. — The e7id of God^s appointing this day is for the majtifestation of 
the glory of his mercy i7i the eternal salvation of the elect, and 
of his justice in the damnatio7i of the reprobate, who are wicked 
and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlast- 
ing life, and receive that fulness of joy and refreshing which 
shall come from the presence of the Lordj but the wicked, who 
know not God, atid obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall 
be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting 
destruction from the presence of the Lojd, and from the glory 
of his power. 

The chief end or purpose of this judgment is to assert the truth 
and hohness of God, — His mercy in the case of the righteous, and 
His justice in the case of the wicked. Conspicuously in regard to 
the righteous, He shows Himself at once a just God and a Saviour. 
Fulness of joy on the one hand, actual eternal torments on the other 
hand, are not ignored ; yet refreshing and destruction are regarded as 
determined by the presence or absence of the Lord. ' The blessed 
strike the root of their life in the eternal life of God. . . . Their 
present is God. To be deprived of this present, and still to subsist 
without end — this in itself alone is a torment of hell for the con- 
demned.' (Delitzsch, Bibl. Psych, p. 557.) 

III. — As Christ would have us to be cei'tainly persuaded that there 
shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all 7nenfrom sin, a7ul 
for the g7-eater consolation of the godly i7i their adve7'sity ; so will 
he have that day u7ik7iOW7t to 7nen, that they 77iay shake off all 


ca7'nal secttrity, and be always luatchful, because they know not 
at what hoitr the Lo7'd will come j and may be ever prepared to 
say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly . Ame7i. 

The end of the judgment as concerns men, subordinate to that of 
the Divine glory, is to deter from sin, and encourage to works of hoH- 
ness. Terror may paralyze or it may restrain from evil courses, just 
according to the spirit of the subject of it, gracious or reprobate. 
This twofold result from a view of the judgment day is vividly de- 
picted in the Pilgrim's Progress. In the Interpreter's house Christian 
is brought to see a man shaking with fear because of a vision he had 
of this great day, being himself unprepared ; and the Interpreter in 
sending Christian away says to him that he must keep in mind the 
things he had seen — ' that they may be as a goad in thy sides to prick 
thee forward in the way thou must go.' 

The apostle (2 Pet. iii. 3) shows that denial or forgetfulness of the 
coming judgment is intimately connected with careless and sinful 
walking, and that (vv. 11, 12) thoughtful anticipation of that day is 
helpful in securing godliness and holiness of conversation. 


Acceptilatio, theory of, 'j'j. 
Adoption, a Christian grace, 92. 

,, its nature, 93, 

,, its privileges, 93. 
Antinomianism, 100, 108. 
Apocrypha, uninspired writings, 34. 
Apostasy, iii. 

Apostles' Creed, incompleteness of, 5. 
Assurance, from the Spirit's witness, 114. 

,, not of the essence of faith, 1 14. 

,, what disturbs, 115. 

,, what warrants it, 113. 

Authenticity of original Scripture texts, 

Authority of Scripture, 35. 

Baptism, doctrine of, 150. 
,, mode of, 151. 
,, subjects of, 151. 
, , not necessary to salvation, 152. 
,, to be administered only once, 
Body, resurrection of the, 165. 

state of, after death, 165. 
Bondage of the will, 79. 

Calvinism of the Confession, 21. 

Canon of Scripture, 32. 

Canonicity, test of, 33. 

Censures of the Church, 158, 

Church as institution, 144. 

Church buildings, idea of their sacred- 

ness, 129. 
Church, salvation ordinarily in the, 143. 

,, visible and invisible, 142. 
Churches, their relative perfection, 144. 
Communicatio idiomatum, 76, 
Communion of saints with Christ, 146. 
,, ,, with one another, 

Community of goods not enjoined, 147. 
Conditional decree, 47. 
Confession of Aberdeen, 10. 
,, of Knox, 7. 

,, of Westminster, 11. 

Confessions of Faith, their relation to 

Scripture, i. 
Confessions of Faith, what acceptance 

of, implies, 3. 
Confession of Faith should be definite, 4. 
Confession of sin, 103. 
Conflict of believers with sin, 97. 
Consubstantiation, Lutheran theory of, 

Counsels of perfection, 107. 
Counter-imputation, 88. 
Covenant, general idea of a, 65. 
,, of grace, 67 . 

,, conditions of, 68, 
,, of works, 66. 

,, uses of a, 66. 

Creation, the biblical doctrine of, 52. 

Death, the wages of sin, 64. 
Decree, God's eternal, 46. 

,, ,, ,, relation of, to free 

dom, 47. 
Decree, not conditional, 47. 
Discipline in the Church, 136, 160. 
Dispensations of the covenant of grace. 


Effectual calling, 82. 

Elect infants, 85. 

Elect only redeemed, 49. 

Election in Christ, 49. 

Erastian controversy, 15. 

Erastianism condemned, 136, 158. 

Eternity of punishment, 165. 

Eutychian view of person of Christ, 71. 

Everlasting life, 165. 

Excommunication, 160. 

Faith a saving grace, 97. 
,, necessary to worthy communicat- 
ing, 157. 

Faith not the ground but the fruit of 
election, 49. 

Faith, the increase of, 98. 

,, the instrument in justification, 88. 
1G9 1^2 



Faith, reason or ground of, 98. 

,, varying degrees of, 99. 
Falls of believers, iii. 

,, causes of, 112. 

,, consequences ot, 112. 

Fasts, observance of, 128. 
Foederal theology, 65. 
Foreordination and predestination, 48. 
Forgiveness of sins of believers, 91. 
Freedom of the will, 78. 

God, attiibutes of, 43. 
,, tripersonality of, 44. 
, , unity of, 42. 
Good works rewarded, 108. 

,, theirrelationtof;^ith,88,ioS. 

Grace, extent of meaning, 50. 
,, growth in, 96. 
,, irresistible, 85. 
Grundtvig's plea for a short creed, 5 
Guilt of sin, 64. 

Heaven, the place of souls of righteous, 

Hell, the place of souls of w icked, 165. 
Hereditary guilt, 62. 
Humiliation, state of, 74, 

Identity of resurrection body, 166. 
Image of God in man, 53. 
Immortality of the soul, 165. 
Imputation an element in justification, 87. 
Imputation of Adam's sin, 62. 
Inability, doctrine of, 63. 
Independent controversy, 17, 
Indwelling sin, 64, 81, 
Infallibility of Church councils denied, 

Infant baptism, 151. 
Infant salvation, 85. 

Judgment-day, 167. 

,, why the time of, con- 

cealed, 168. 
iudgment-day, certainty of, 168. 
udgment, principle of the, 167. 
ustification by application of the Spirit, 
Justification by faith, 88. 

,, doctrine of, 87. 

of Old Testament saints, 

75. 91- 
Justification, Romish doctrine of, 89. 
,, tlirough merits of Christ, 80. 

Keys, power of the, 136, i6a 

Law of God nt Sinai, 117. 
,, to Adam, 116, 

l>aw, relation of, to believers, 120. 
Laws, what mutable, 118, 

,, what immutable, 119. 
Liberty, doctrine of Christian, 26, 122. 
Licence distinguished from liberty, 123. 

Magistracy open to Christians, 135. 
Magistrate, limitsof his jurisdiction, 136. 
Magistrate oweshisauthority to God, 135, 
Magistrate's power to call synods, 137. 

Magistrates, Christian's duty toward, 138. 
Man in the image of God, 53. 
Marriage affinity question, 140. 
Marriages, mixed, 139. 
Mediate imputation, theory of, 63. 
Mediatorial work of Christ. 70. 
Mental reservation, 133. 
Ministerial power. 163. 
Ministry of the Word, 128. 
Miracles, possibility of, 56. 
Monogamy, 138. 

Natural religion, insufficiency of, 29. 30, 

Nestorian view of person of Christ, 71. 

Oaths, meaning of, 131. 

obligation of, 133. 
Oaths, only to be made in God's name, 

Oaths, when warrantable, 132. 
Obedience of Christ, active and passive, 

73. 75. 
Oflices of the Redeemer, 70. 

Papal claims as to jurisdiction, 138. 
Perfection, Christian doctrine of, 64. 
Perfection of Scripture, 37. 
Perseverance, doctrine of, no. 

,, on what it depends, no. 

Person of Christ, 71. 
Perspicuity of Scripture, 38. 
Prayer, the duty and the privilege, 127. 
Predestination and foreordination, 48. 
Predestination, how expressed in Con- 
fession, 22. 
Predestination to be handled with care, 51. 
Private judgment, right of, 123. 
Providence as care for the Church, 60. 

,, in relation to evil, 57. 

Providence in relation to judicial harden - 

ing- 59. 
Providence in relation to temptation, 58. 



Providence, relation to human freedom, 

Providence, upholding and disposing, 55. 
Punishment, eternal, 165. 
Purgatory, introduction of the idea of, 


Reason of faith, the, 98. 
Redemption, extent of, 25, 77. 

, , only of the elect, 49. 

Regeneration and justification, 90. 
Repentance, doctrine of. 100. 

,, its range, 102. 

,, necessity of, loi. 

,, ofparticularactsofsin, 103. 

,, relation to faith, 100. 

Reprobation, 50. 

Resurrection body, identity of, 166. 
Resurrection of the dead, 165. 
Revelation, 29. 
Righteousness, original, 61. 

Sabbath, law of the, 129. 

sanctification of the, 130. 
Sacraments, doctrine of the, 147. 
Sacraments, no magical power in the, 

Sacraments of Old Testament same as 

those of the New, 149. 
Salvation only through Christ, 86. 
Sanctification, doctrine of, 94. 

,, imperfect in this life, 96. 

,, relation to justification, 95. 

,, the work of the Spirit, 95. 

Scientia media, 47. 
Scripture, authenticity of original texts 

of, 39. 
Scripture, authority of, 35. 
,, interpretation of, 40. 

,, perfection of, 37. 

,, perspicuity of, 38. 

,, revelation written, 30. 

,, translations of, 39. 
,, uses of, in controversy, 41. 
Sin, nature and origin of, 61. 
Sin, original, 24, 62. 
Sinai covenant, 117. 
Sinlessness of Jesus, 72. 
Sins of believers, 64. 
Six days of creation, 52. 
Soul, immortality of tlie, 165. 
Soul, sleep of the, 165. 
States of humiliation and exaltation, 74, 
Subordinate Standards, i. 
Subordinationism, 45, 73. 
Subscription, what it implies, 3. 

Supererogation, works of, 106. 
Supper, the Lord's, doctrine of, 153. 

, , elements continue 

unchanged, 156, 
Supper, the Lord's, not a sacrifice, 153. 
,, relation to word and 

prayer, 154. 
Supper, the Lord's, to be publicly ob- 
served, 155. 
Supralapsarianism, theory of, 23. 
Synergism, 63. 
Synods, calling of, 162. 
,, fallibility of, 164, 
,, uses and functions of, 163. 

Testament in sense of covenant, 68. 
Thanksgiving-days, observance of, 128. 
Toleration, necessary limits to, 124. 

,, principles of Christian, 26. 

Translations of Scripture to be used, 39. 
Transubstantiation, Romish theory cf, 

Trinity, attempted illustrations of the 

doctrine of, 45. 
Trinity, doctrine of the, 44. 

Unworthy communicating, 157. 

Voluntariness of Christ's suffering, 73. 
Vow compared to the oath, 134. 
Vows, when illegitimate, 134. 

War, when lawful, 135. 

Westminster Assembly, arrangements for 

meeting, 11. 
Westminster Assembly, composition and 

membership of, 14. 
Westminster Assembly, controversies of, 

Westminster Confession, 18. 

its doctrines 

characterized, 20. 
Will, bondage of the, 79 
Will in the glorified, 81. 
Will of man in innocency, 79. 

,, natural liberty of, 78. 

Will, state of, in the converted man, 80, 

Word, reading and ministry of the, 128. 
Works, good, the fruit of the Spirit, 

105, 106. 
Works of supererogation, 106. 

,, of unregenerate man, sinial, 109. 
Works, what are good, 88, 105. 
Worship due to God only, 126. 
Worthy communicating, 157 



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and others who may not have time to read larger books.' — Church Bells. 

'Among the many books on the life of our Lord which have issued from 
the press of late years this handbook will take a definite place. . . . Students 
and teachers will find it a reliable volume.' — Watchman. 

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FREE ST. George's, Edinburgh. 
'Eeally good. In every Scotch family this oup,ht to be found. Our 
English folk are not so well acquainted with " Tbe Shorter Catechism;" but 
those who are will be glad to have a handbook upon it, so clear, so true, and 
so lively. . . . Theology of this stamp will do us all good. Scatter it; its 
leaves are for the healing of the nation. Half-a-crown laid out in this book 
will purchase no regrets.' — Mr. Spurgeon. 

T. and T. Clark's Publications. 


Just published, in post 8vo, price 6s., 


^fubies m (IToIour anti 2Ealits about Jloincrs. 


CONTENTS:— CiiAr. I. The Blue of the Sky.— 11. Black and White.— 
III. Purple and Scariet. — IV. Academic Official Robes and their Colours. 
— V. The Talmud and Colours. — VI. Gossip about Flowers and their 
Perfume.— VII. A Doubtful Nosegay.— VIII. The FloAver-Eiddle of the 
Queen of Slieba. — IX. The Bible and Wine. — X. Dancing and Criticism 
of the Pentateuch as mutually related. — XI. Love and Beauty. — XII. 
Eternal Life : Eternal Youth. 

' The subjects of the folloAving papers are old pet children, Mhich have 
grown up with me ever since 1 began to feel and think. ... I have collected 
them here under the emblematical name of Iris. The prismatic colours of 
the rainbow, the brilliant sword-lily, that wonderful part of the eye Avhich 
gives to it its colour, and the messenger of heaven who beams with joy, 
youth, beauty, and love, are all named Iris. The varied contents of my book 
stand related on all sides to that wealth of ideas which are united in this 
name.'— Ekanz Delitzsch. 

' A series of delightful lectures. . . . The pages sparkle with a gem-like 
light. The thoughts on the varied subjects touched upon fascinate and 
interest, their mode of expression is full of beauty.' — Scotsman. 

Now ready. Second Edition, crown 8vo, price (is., 


<a practical fHeiiitattan. 



' Its devotional element is robust and practical. The thought is not thiu, 
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telling illustrations.' — The Churchman. 

Dr. Theodore Cutler, of Brooklyn, writes: — ' His keen and discriminating 
spiritual insight insures great accuracy, and imparts a priceless value to the 
work. ... It is the very book to assist ministers of the gospel in the study 
of the Model Prayer ; it is equally stimulating and quickening to private 
Christians in their quiet hours of meditation and devotion.' 

Mr. 0. H. Spurgeon writes : — ' Evangelical and jiractical through and 
through. . . . Many sparkling images and impressive passages adorn the 
pages ; but everywhere practical usefulness has been pursued.' 

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but also depth of research. Some of the deepest questions of philosophical 
theology are discussed with keen insight and admirable temper. Much 
thought is compressed into small space, and even into few words, which burn 
oftentimes with white heat.' 

' The author's well-knoAvn catholicity, evangelical fervour, and firm 
adherence to evangelical principles, are conspicuous features of this really 
stimulating and suggestive exposition. An amount of freshness which is 
wonderful.'— Christian. 

T. and T. Claris Publications. 

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CONTENTS: — Chap. I. Tlie Beginniug and tlie Euding. — II. The Seers 
and Prophets. — III. The Old Testament in the Light of the New. — IV. 
The Son of Man.— V. The Kisen Christ.— VI. The Holy Ghost.— VII. 
Manifestations of the Holy Ghost.— VIII. The Spirit of Tiiith. 


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Professor ALEX. V. G. ALLEN, D.D., 


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and as a theologian, a task -which has not been hitherto attempted. I have 
thought that something more than a mere recountal of facts was demanded in 
order to justify the endeavour to rewrite his life. What we most desire to 
know is, what he thought and how he came to think as he did.' 

First Period.— The Parish Minister, 1703-1735. 

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Third Period.— The Philosophical Theologian. 

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Bv A. B. BRUCE, D.D., 

puorrssoR of new testament exegesis in the 


CONTENTS:— Critical Introduction.— Chap. I. Christ's Idea of the King- 
dom.— II. Christ's Attitude towards tlie Mosaic Laws. — III. The 
Conditions of Entrance. — IV. Christ's Doctrine of God. — V. Christ's 
Doctrine of Man. — VI. The Relation of Jesus to Messianic Hopes and 
Functions.— VII. The Son of Man and the Son of God.— VIII. The 
Righteousness of the Kingdom— Negative Aspect. — IX. The Right- 
eousness of the Kingdom — Positive Aspect. — X. The Death of Jesus 
and its Significance. — XI. The Kingdom and the Church. — XII. The 
Parousia and the Christian Era. — XIII The History of the Kingdom 
in Outline.— XIV. The End.— XV. The Christianity of Chi-ist.— Index. 

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' Dr. Mair has made an honest study of Strauss, Renan, Keim, and "Super- 
natural Religion," and his book is an excellent one to put into the hands i>f 
doubters and inquirers.' — English Churchman. 

'Will in every way meet the wants of the class for whom it is intended, 
many of whom are "wayworn and sad," amid the muddled speculations of 
the current day.' — Ecclesiastical Gazette. 

' This book ought to become immensely popular, . . . That one chapter 
on " The Unique Personality of Christ" is a masterpiece of eloquent writing, 
tliough it is scarcely fair to mention one portion where every part is excellent. 
The beauties of the volume are everywhere apparent, and therefore will 
again attract the mind that has been once delighted with the literary feast. 
— TheEocL 

' An admirable popiihir introduction to the study of the evidences. . . . 
Dr. Mair has made each line of evidence his oavti, and the result is a 
distinctly fresh and living b jok. The style is robust and manly ; the treat- 
ment of antagonists is eminently fair; and we discern throughout a soldierly 
straightness of aim.' — The Baptist. 

' A most useful series of Handbooks. With such helps as these, to be 
an inefBcient teacher is to be blameworthy.' — Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, 


Edited by Rev. Professor Salmond, D.D. 

In paper covers, 6d. each; free by post, 7d. In cloth, 8d. each; free by post, 9d. 

Historical Connection between the Old and New Testaments. 

By Kev. John Skinnek, M.A. 
The Life of Christ. 

By Eev. Professor Salmond, D.D. 
The Shorter Catechism. Part I. (Q. 1-38), Part II. (Q. 39-81), Part 

By Eev. Professor Salmond, D.D. [III. (Q. 82-107. 

The Period of the Judges. 

By the Rev. Professor Paterson, M.A., Edinburgh. 
Outlines of Protestant Missions. 

By John Robson, D.D. 
'We have found it all that a teacher could want.' — Ecclesiastical Gazette. 

Life of the Apostle Peter. 

By Rev. Professor Salmond, D.D. 

'A work which only an accoiiiplished scholar could have produced.' — Christian 


Outlines of Early Church History. 

By the late Rev. Henky Wallis Smith, D.D. 

'An admirable sketch of early Church history.' — Baptid. 

Life of David. 

By the late Rev. PtxER Thomson, M.A. 
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Stanley Leathes, D.D. 

Life of Moses. 

By Rev. James Iverach, M.A. 
'Accurately done, clear, mature, and scholarly.'— CTin'siian. 

Life of Paul. 

By Paton J. Gloag, D.D. 

'This little hook could not well he surpassed.'— I>ai^!/ Review. 

Life and Reign of Solomon. 

By Rev. Raynek Winterbotham, M.A., LL.B. 

' Every teacher should have it.'— Rev. C. H. Spurgeon. 

The History of the Reformation. 

By Rev. Professor Witherow. 
'A vast amount of information set forth in a clear and concise manner.'- United 

Presbyterian Magazine. 

The Kings of Israel. 

By Rev. W. Walker, M.A. 

' A masterpiece of lucid condensation.'— Christian Leader. 

The Kings of Judah. 

By Rev. Professor Given, Ph.D. 

'Admirably arranged; the style is sufficiently simple and clear to be quite witliin 
the compass of young people.' — British Messenger. 

Joshua and the Conquest. 

By Rev. Professor Croskery. 
' This carefully written manual wdl be much appreciated.' — Daily Review. 

Bible Words and Phrases, Explained and Illustrated. 

By Rev. Charles Micihe, M.A. 18iao, cloth, Is. 

'Will be found interesting and instructive, and of the greatest value to young 
students and tc&cli(:TS.'—Athcnce'um. 

Date Due 

JAN 2 8 'ST 

FE3 1 1 y^i 

ns 2 5 'S? 


MAR 11 

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