The Savoy Declaration (1658)

Chapter 1 Of The Holy Scripture
Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation: therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people, being now ceased.

Under the name of holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testament; which are these: Of the Old Testament Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations. Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiab, Jonah, Micab, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Of the New Testament Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 To Timothy, 2 To Timothy, To Titus, To Philemon, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 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 the inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.

The Books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved or made use of, than other human writings.

The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church; 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.

We may he moved and induced by the testimony of the Church, to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things 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 prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old) and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of writing of it was most generally known to the nations) being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in 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 plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one) it must be searched and known by other places, that speak more clearly.

The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other, but the holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit; into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved.

Chapter 2 Of God and of the Holy Trinity

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

God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in, and of himself; and is alone, in, and unto himself, all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures, which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them: He is the alone fountain of all being. of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and bath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest, his 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 him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service or obedience, as creatures, they owe unto the Creator, and whatever he is further pleased to require of them.

In the unity of the God-head there be three Persons, of one substance, power and eternity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. Which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence upon him.

Chapter 3 Of God’s Eternal Decree
God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin. nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed any thing, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

By the decree of God for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death.

These angels and men thus predestinated, and fore-ordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.

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

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

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

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

Chapter 4 Of Creation
It pleased God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom and goodness, in the beginning, to create or make out of nothing the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good.

After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness and true holiness, after his own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Besides this law 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 communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.

Chapter 5 Of Providence
God the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose and govern all creatures, actions and things from the greatest even to the least by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy.

Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

God in his ordinary providence maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them at his pleasure.

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, in that his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men (and that not by a bare permission) which also he most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth in a manifold dispensation to his own most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who being most holy and righteous, neither is, nor can be the author or approver of sin.

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

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

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

Chapter 6 Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof

God having made a covenant of works and life, thereupon, with our first parents and all their posterity in them, they being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and break the covenant in eating the forbidden fruit.

By this sin they, and we in them, fell from original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.

They being the root, and by God’s appointment standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.

From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.

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

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

Chapter 7 Of God’s Covenant with Man
The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

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

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

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

Although this covenant hath been differently and variously administered in respect of ordinances and institutions in the time of the law, and since the coming of Christ in the flesh; yet for the substance and efficacy of it, to all its spiritual and saving ends, it is one and the same; upon the account of which various dispensations, it is called the Old and New Testament.

Chapter 8 Of Christ the Mediator

It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus his only begotten Son, according to a covenant made between them both, to be the Mediator between God and man; the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Saviour of his Church, the Heir of all things and Judge of the world; unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.

The Son of God, the second Person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance: So that two whole perfect and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one Person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which Person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.

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

This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake; which that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered, being made sin and a curse for us, enduring most grievous torments immediately from God in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body, was crucified, and died; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.

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

Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ, till after his incarnation; yet the virtue, efficacy and benefits thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types and sacrifices wherein he was revealed and signified to be the Seed of the woman, which should bruise the serpent’s head, and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, being yesterday and today the same, and for ever.

Christ in the work of mediation acteth according to both natures; by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the Person, that which is proper to one nature, is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the Person denominated by the other nature.

To all those for whom Christ bath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them; and revealing unto them in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, and in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his most wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.

Chapter 9 Of Free-Will
God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to do good or evil.

Man in his state of innocency had freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and well-pleasing to God; but yet mutably, so that he might fall from it.

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

When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that, by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly nor only will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.

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

Chapter 10 Of Effectual Calling

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased in his appointed and accepted time effectually to call by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from any thing 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.

Elect infants dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

Others not elected. although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither do nor can come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess: and to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.

Chapter 11 Of Justification
Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ’s active obedience to the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

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

Christ by his obedience and death did fully discharge the debt of all those that are justified, and did by the sacrifice of himself, in the blood of his cross, undergoing in their stead the penalty due unto them make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in their behalf. Yet in as much as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and 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 in the justification of sinners.

God did from all eternity decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did in the fulness of time die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified personally, until the Holy Spirit doth in due time actually apply Christ unto them.

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

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.

Chapter 12 Of Adoption
All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth in and for his only Son Jesus Christ to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put upon them, receive the Spirit of adoption; have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba Father; are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him as by a father; yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.

Chapter 13 Of Sanctification
They that are united to Christ, effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also further sanctified really and personally through the same virtue, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened, and mortified, and they more and more quickened, and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

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

In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet through the continual supply of strength froin the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome, and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Chapter 14 Of Saving Faith
The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; by which also, and by the administration of the seals, prayer, and other means, it is increased and strengthened.

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

This faith, although it be different in degrees, and may be weak or strong yet it is in the least degree of it different in the kind or nature of it (as is all other saving grace) from the faith and common grace of temporary believers; and therefore, though it may be many times assailed and weakened, yet it gets the victory, growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.

Chapter 15 Of Repentance unto Life and Salvation
Such of the elect as are converted at riper years, having sometime lived in the state of nature, and therein served divers lusts and pleasures, God in their effectual calling giveth them repentance unto life.

Whereas there is none that doth good, and sinneth not, and the best of men may through the power and deceitfulness of their corruptions dwelling in them, with the prevalency of temptation, fall into great sins and provocations; God hath in the covenant of grace mercifully provided, that believers so sinning and falling, be renewed through repentance unto salvation.

This saving repentance is an evangelical grace, whereby a person being by the Holy Ghost made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, doth by faith in Christ humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrence, praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose, and endeavour by supplies of the Spirit, to walk before God unto all well-pleasing in all things.

As repentance is to be continued through the whole course of our lives, upon the account of the body of death, and the motions thereof; so it is every man’s duty to repent of his particular known sins particularly.

Such is the provision which God hath made through Christ in the covenant of grace, for the preservation of believers unto salvation, that although there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; yet there is no sin so great, that it shall bring damnation on them who truly repent; which makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary.

Chapter 16 Of Good Works
Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his holy Word, and not such as without the warrant thereof are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon pretence of good intentions.

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

Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a pecial motion of the Spirit; but they-ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

They who in their obedience attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.

We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins; but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants; and because, as they are good, they proceed from the Spirit, and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.

Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that he looking upon them in his Son is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and to others: yet because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God; they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, nor make a man meet to receive grace from God; and yet their neglect of them is more sinful, and displeasing unto God.

Chapter 17 Of The Perseverance of The Saints
They whom God bath accepted in his Beloved, effeGtually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election; from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, and union with him; the oath of God; the abiding of his Spirit; and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

And though they may, through the temptation of Satan, and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit; come to have their graces and comforts impaired; have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves; yet they are and shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

Chapter 18 Of The Assurance of Grace and Salvation
Although temporary believers and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes, and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and state of salvation, which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.

This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ, revealed in the gospel, and also upon the inward evidence of those graces unto which promises are made, and on the immediate witness of the Spirit, testifying our adoption, and as a fruit thereof, leaving the heart more humble and holy.

This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it; yet being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure; that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished and intermitted; as by negligence in preserving of it; by falling into some special sin, which woundeth the conscience, and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation; by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance; suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness, and to have no light; yet are they neither 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 meantime they are supported from utter despair.

Chapter 19 Of The Law of God
God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart, and a particular precept of not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it; and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

This law, so written in the heart, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall of man; and was delivered by God upon mount Sinai in ten commandments, and written in two tables; the four first commandments containing our duty towards God, and the other six our duty to man.

Beside this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances; partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings and benefits, and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws being appointed only to the time of reformation, are by Jesus Christ the true Messiah and only lawgiver, who was furnished with power from the Father for that end, abrogated and taken away.

To them also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution, their general equity only being still of moral use.

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 contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it: neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned; yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts and lives; so as examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it in like manner show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof, although not as due to them by the law, as a covenant of works; so as a mans doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace.

Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it; the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God revealed in the law required to be done.

Chapter 20 Of the Gospel, and of the Extent of the Grace Thereof
The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life, God was pleased to give unto the elect the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of calling them, and begetting in them faith and repentance: in this promise the gospel, as to the substance of it, was revealed, and was therein effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners.

This promise of Christ, and salvation by him, is revealed only in and by the Word of God; neither do the works of creation or providence, with the light of nature, make discovery of Christ, or of grace by him, so much as in a general or obscure way; much less that men destitute of the revelation of him by the promise or gospel, should be enabled thereby to attain saving faith or repentance.

The revelation of the gospel unto sinners, made in divers times, and by sundry parts, with the addition of promises and precepts for the obedience required therein, as to the nations and persons to whom it is granted, is merely of the sovereign will and good pleasure of God, not being annexed by virtue of any promise to the due improvement of men’s natural abilities, by virtue of common light received without it, which none ever did make or can so do. And therefore in all ages the preaching of the gospel hath been granted unto persons and nations, as to the extent or straitening of it, in great variety, according to the counsel of the will of God.

Although the gospel be the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is as such abundantly sufficient thereunto; yet that men who are dead in trespasses, may be born again, quickened or regenerated, there is moreover necessary an effectual, irresistible work of the Holy Ghost upon the whole soul, for the producing in them a new spiritual life, without which no other means are sufficient for their conversion unto God.

Chapter 21 Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience
The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel, consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the rigour and curse of the law; and in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin, from the evil of afflictions, the fear and sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation; as also in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear, hut a childlike love and willing mind. All which were common also to believers under the law, for the substance of them; but under the New Testament the liberty of Christians is further enlarged in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, the whole legal administration of the covenant of grace, to which the Jewish church was subjected; and in oreater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.

God alone is lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his Word, or not contained in it; so that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

They who upon pretence of Christian liberty do practise any sin, or cherish any lust, as they do thereby pervert the main design of the grace of the gospel to their own destruction; so they wholly destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.

Chapter 22 Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath-Day
The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is just, good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served with all the heart, and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.

Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creatures; and since the fall, not without a Mediator, nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.

Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of natural worship, is by God required of all men; but 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, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and when with others in a known tongue.

Prayer is to be made for things lawful, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.

The reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, singing of psalms; as also the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear. Solemn humiliations, with fastings and thanksgivings upon special occasions, are in their several times and seasons to be used in a holy and religious manner.

Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now under the gospel either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed; but God is to be worshipped everywhere in spirit and in truth, as in private families daily, and in secret each one by himself, so more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly nor wilfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God by his Word or providence calleth thereunto.

As it is of the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time by God’s appointment be set apart for the worship of God; so by his Word in a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one 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 from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished.

This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations; but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

Chapter 23 Of Lawful oaths and Vows
A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person swearing in truth, righteousness and judgment, solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth.

The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence. Therefore to swear vainly, or rashly, by that glorious or dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful and to be abhorred. Yet as in matters of weight and moment an oath is warranted by the Word of God under the New Testament, as well as under the Old; so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority in such matters, ought to be taken.

Whosoever taketh an oath, warranted by the Word of God, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth: neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing, but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform. Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being lawfully imposed by authority.

An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation. It cannot oblige to sin, but in any thing not sinful, being taken it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt; nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics or infidels.

A vow, which is not to be made to any creature, but God alone, is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the ]ike religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.

Popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.

Chapter 24 Of The Civil Magistrate
God the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people for his own glory and the public good; and to this end hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil-doers.

It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: in the management whereof, as they ought specially to maintain justice and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; so for that end they may lawfully now under the New Testament wage war upon just and necessary occasion.

Although the magistrate is bound to encourage, promote, and protect the professors and profession of the gospel, and to manage and order civil administrations in a due subserviency to the interest of Christ in the world, and to that end to take care that men of corrupt minds and conversations do not licentiously publish and divulge blasphemy and errors, in their own nature subverting the faith and inevitably destroying the souls of them that receive them: yet in such differences about the doctrines of the gospel, or ways of the worship of God, as may befall men exercising a good conscience, manifesting it in their conversation, and holding the foundation, not disturbing others in their ways or worship that differ from them; there is no warrant for the magistrate under the gospel to abridge them of their liberty.

It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honour their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their ]awful commands, and to be subject to their authority for conscience sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrate’s just and legal authority, nor free the people from their obedience to him: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, much less hath the Pope any power or jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people, and least of all to deprive them of their dominions or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretence whatsoever.

Chapter 25 Of Marriage
Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband at the same time.

Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife; for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed, and for preventing of uncleanness.

It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry 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 marrying with such as are wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguity or affinity forbidden in the Word; nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man, or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife.

Chapter 26 Of The Church
The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ, the Head thereof, and is the Spouse, the Body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

The whole body of men throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel and obedience unto God by Christ according to it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are, and may be called the visible catholic church of Christ; although as such it is not entrusted with the administration of any ordinances, or have any officers to rule or govern in, or over the whole body.

The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error, and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan: nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have, a visible kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.

There is no other Head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ; nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of Iperdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God, whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

As the Lord in his care and love towards his Church, hath in his infinite wise providence exercised it with great variety in all ages, for the good of them that love him, and his own glory; so according to his promise, we expect that in the latter days, antichrist being destroyed, the Jews called, and the adversaries of the kingdom of his dear Son broken, the churches of Christ being enlarged, and edified through a free and plentiful communication of light and grace, shall enjoy in this world a more quiet, peaceable and glorious condition than they have enjoyed.

Chapter 27 Of The Communion of Saints
All Saints that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by his Spirit and faith, although they are not made thereby one person with him, have fellowship in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection and glory: and being united to one another in love, they have communion in each others gifts nd graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

All Saints are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities: which communion, though especially to be exercised by them in the relations wherein they stand, whether in families or churches, yet as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who in every place call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus.

Chapter 28 Of The Sacraments
Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by Christ, to represent him and his benefits, and to confirm our interest in him, and solemnly to engage us to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word.

There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.

The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it, but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution; which contains, together with a precept authorising the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.

There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the gospel, that is to say, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; neither of which may be dispensed by any but a minister of the Word lawfully called.

The Sacraments of the Old Testament, in regard of the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were for substance the same with those of the New.

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Chapter 29
Of Baptism

Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ to be unto the party baptised a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ to walk in newness of life; which ordinance is by Christ’s own appointment to be continued in his Church until the end of the world.

The outward element to be used in this ordinance, is water, wherewith the party is to be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel lawfully called.

Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.

Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptised, and those only.

Although it be a great sin to conterin or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it; or that all that are baptised are undoubtedly regenerated.

The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will in his appointed time.

Baptism is but once to be administered to any person

Chapter 30 Of The Lord’s Supper
Our Lord Jesus in the night wherein he was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper, to be observed in his churches to the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance, and showing forth of the sacrifice of himself in his death, the sealing of all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto him, and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other.

In this sacrament Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sin of the quick or dead, but only a memorial of that one offering up of himself upon the cross once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominable, injurious to Christ’s own only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.

The Lord Jesus hath in this ordinance appointed his ministers to pray and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.

Private masses, or receiving the sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone; as likewise the denial of the cup to the people; worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use; are contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.

The outward elements in this sacrament duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine as they were before.

The doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called Transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been and is the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.

Worthy receivers outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread or wine; yet as really, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.

All ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Christ, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and cannot without great sin against him, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto; yea, whosoever shall receive unworthily, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgment to themselves.

Chapter 31 Of The State of Man After Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead
The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls (which neither die nor sleep) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting -for the full redemption of their bodies: and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day: Besides these two places for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.

At the last day such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed; and all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls for ever.

The bodies of the unjust shall by the power of Christ be raised to dishonour; the bodies of the just, by his Spirit unto honour, and to be made conformable to his own glorious body.

Chapter 32 Of The Last Judgment
God hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words and deeds, and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.

The end of God’s appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of his mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect, and of his justice in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fulness of joy and glory, with everlasting reward in the presence of the Lord; but the wicked who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.

As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a judgment, both to deter all men from sin, and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity; so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they Imow not at what hour the Lord will come, and may be ever prepared to say, Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, Amen.

On Churchless Evangelicals

I was once a churchless evangelical. As a young Christian I attended a medium-sized (300 member) SBC (Southern Baptist) congregation for a few years without joining. It wasn’t really a problem. Of course they would like to have seen me baptized (as Baptists they did not recognize my baptism as an infant) but it wasn’t a “deal breaker.” In fairness to the congregation, I attended fairly regularly through high school but then my attendance started to lag.

There was a period, as I started to investigate aspects of Reformed theology, when I was “in between” congregations and I drifted. I attended worship services sporadically but was a member of no congregation. For most of my early evangelical existence and even as I began to become Reformed, I was a churchless evangelical. I considered that I was a member of the “invisible” church so I did not have to be a member of a visible congregation. There was even a notion that perhaps the visible church was for those who were less “spiritual.”

In the years since joining St John’s Reformed Church (Lincoln, Neb), especially since becoming a pastor in 1987, I discovered that I was not alone. There are many evangelicals, i.e. they’ve had a personal encounter with the risen Christ, who are members of no congregation and who are quite content to leave things that way.

Why should these churchless evangelicals join a congregation? After all, they say that they love Jesus and they may have private devotions. Some of them even outwardly profess “the doctrines of grace” but to whom?  What does James 2:14, 17 say about such professions?

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? … 17 So also such faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

James was not teaching acceptance with God by works. He was challenging here dead faith, i.e., mere outward profession. He’s calling for evidence of true faith. Works do not save but they do give evidence of true faith.

A private, churchless, profession of faith is not enough. The doctrine of the church (and sacraments) is where most evangelicals, even predestinarian evangelicals, “hit the wall.” They come so far toward the Reformation but no farther. Why? The biblical and confessional doctrine of the church challenges two cultural assumptions of North American evangelicals and two of the most sacred idols of the culture: autonomy, i.e. the notion that one is a law unto oneself, and the evangelical (and liberal) love for a disembodied Jesus.

The doctrine of predestination is inherently anti-modernist, but one can become a predestinarian evangelical without really confronting the issue because autonomy gets shifted from soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) to ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church). Hunting down human autonomy is like trying grab hold of mercury. It keeps squirting away. So, the autonomy of the churchless evangelical, even after having surrendered to the sovereignty of God in salvation, squirts away to reassert itself when it comes to the church.

Were these churchless evangelicals to unite themselves to a local church, they should have to relinquish their autonomy. They should have to submit themselves not only to a particular expression of the historic church (which is distasteful enough) but they should also have submit themselves to a “church order” (a way of doing things) and to elders and to discipline. Even more fundamentally, they should have to agree and submit to “means”  or media of grace, to a human ministry (administration) of the Gospel and the sacraments. No longer can Christianity be a purely private affair. It would now be public and it would entail being accountable to humans and being served by Christ through human ministry.

In the church Christ ordinarily operates through ministers who preach the gospel and from whom we receive the sacraments. In the church, the Spirit has not promised to operate extemporaneously, but through divinely ordained, physical means. We meet Christ in the announcement of the Good News and we are reassured that it’s all really true in the sacraments, real bread and wine, and in real baptismal water.

The very physicality of these means raises another problem for churchless American evangelicals and liberals. As Mike Horton noted in 1991 and as Harold Bloom observed in 1992 that there is another theory about American religion, insofar as it is truly American, that it is gnostic, i.e., it is born of distrust of the material and physical world. Gnosticism and related errors was the great heresy faced by the ancient church. Our great theologians of the second and third century battled gnosticism relentlessly. They consistently defended the goodness of creation (over against the gnostic suspicion of creation as evil), the simplicity of God (that there are not two gods, an earthy OT “demiurge” and a “spiritual” NT loving God), the true humanity of Jesus (against the claim that Jesus merely appeared to be human) and the unity of the covenant of grace. Indeed, Irenaeus and Justin appealed to the biblical teaching on “the covenant” (of grace) in much the same way Reformed theology has done, since the early 16th century, against the Anabaptists and other such groups who radically reject the unity of the covenant of grace.

The theory that American religion, since the late 18th century, is gnostic explains a great deal of American religious history. The Jesus of American Christianity has become increasingly disembodied as American Christianity has become increasingly disembodied.  Stephen Nichols has illustrated this phenomenon in his recent book on images of Jesus in American Christianity. If there is a “Hawaiian Jesus” (I saw a poster many years ago), an Afro Jesus, and a Swedish pietist Jesus (once pictured in living rooms across middle America) then we’re not really talking about the historical Jesus, God the Son incarnate, in time and history.

These two reasons, the American tendencies toward autonomy relative to all external authorities and institutions and the American tendency toward gnosticism, explain why American evangelicals (and, in their own way, liberals) have so little interest in concrete, material institutions such as the church and sacraments. Becoming churchly entails becoming entangled with the historical church, and Americans are suspicious of the past. Becoming churchly entails coming to grips with real sinners and a real, truly human Savior in Jesus the Christ. American religion (whether liberal or evangelical) is not terribly interested in Christ of history. The liberals prefer a disembodied moralist, the Jesus of faith, and the evangelicals prefer a disembodied spirit with whom they can commune privately, subjectively, and ecstatically.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it countless times: “I’m not a member of any local congregation. I’m a member of the invisible church.”  When one hears this, one is tempted to agree with John Murray that it would be better not to speak of the invisible church. As tempting as it is, in face of Bedside Baptists and Prostrate Presbyterians, to reject the distinction between the visible and invisible church, we should resist the temptation. The cost is too high. Further, the abuse of this distinction by the ignorant or the willful is insufficient reason to discard it. The idea that one can be a member of the church invisible without being a member of a particular congregation reveals a profound confusion about what we mean when we speak of the church visible and invisible.

The church has two aspects, visible and invisible, but they are two aspects of the same body. In other words, ordinarily, there are no members of the church invisible who are not also members of the church visible, i.e. an identifiable congregation of believers that bears the marks of a true church (the pure preaching of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, and the administration of church discipline).

Yes, it’s possible for one, in extraordinary circumstances, to be a Christian apart from a congregation and the means of grace, but it’s the exception that tests the rule. Lying in bed on the Sabbath or shopping or whatever one does in place of attending to the means of grace is not the same thing as being on a desert island or being crucified alongside our Savior.

Claiming membership in the church invisible without membership in a congregation is like claiming membership in 24-Hour Fitness without belonging to any particular branch.

“Do you belong to a gym?”

“Yes, I do. 24-Hour Fitness.”

“Great, which branch did you join?”

“Well, I haven’t actually joined any branch, but I like the commercials on TV and I identify with their approach to fitness.”

That’s insane. If you’ve never walked into a particular branch of a gym and signed the papers and paid the fees, you’re not a member. To test this claim try to walk into your local 24-Hour Fitness gym on the basis of your claim to membership in “the invisible gym” or on the basis of your agreement with their approach.

By analogy, the church invisible is composed of those who are, have been, or shall be, members of a visible church. if you’ve never sworn membership vows and confessed a common faith with a congregation, you are not a member of the visible church and if you’re not a member of the church visible, by definition, you are not a member of the church invisible. The former is a prerequisite for the latter.

When we speak of the church invisible, we’re speaking of that great congregation of the elect considered across time and space. It’s a way of speaking of the holy catholic church, that church in all times and places. It’s a way of speaking of the church considered in the past (Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, the Cappadocians, Augustine, Boethius, Gregory, Gottschalk, Bede, Lombard, Thomas, Bradwardine, Wycliffe, Luther, etc.), the church presently scattered across the globe, hidden from the world, and the church as it shall be in the future, until Christ comes. It transcends congregations and denominations but is composed of elect who are members of congregations. It includes people from every tongue, tribe, and nation.

The visible church, on the other hand, is a particular collection of those who profess faith in Christ, who’ve been baptized in recognition of their status as covenant children or who have made profession of faith. The church visible is a mixed, disciplined assembly. This is an important difference from the church considered as invisible. The latter may be said to be composed only of the elect, but there have always been, as our older writers used to say, “hypocrites and reprobates” in the visible community. The visible church has always been made of Jacobs and Esaus. This is why Paul distinguished between Israel outwardly considered and Israel inwardly considered. Not everyone who is Israel outwardly considered is Israel inwardly considered (Rom. 2:28). This is why our theologians, churches, and confessions distinguished between the covenant of grace considered externally and the covenant of grace considered internally.

It’s easy to show the foolishness of speaking about the church invisible in the way that so many do, as if it’s possible to be an “invisible” Christian, as if it’s possible to be a part of the church catholic without being part of the church visible and militant.

To whom were the gospels written? They were written to local congregations in particular places. To whom were the epistles written? They were written to particular congregations in particular places. How does one write an epistle directly to the church of all times and places? They are God’s inspired, infallible, inerrant Word, but that Word was given by the Spirit, through human authors, in a particular time and place. The Word speaks to the church of all times and places but it does so from a particular time and place. The only way to hear that Word, in its original setting, was to be in a congregation.

When Jesus instituted the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16) he gave them to officers (apostles) to whom he gave spiritual authority to bind and loose. When he instituted church discipline he authorized particular congregations to confront sin, and to take steps to correct it (Matt. 18). It is not possible to “tell it to the church” if, in this instance, “church” means “the church” considered in its invisible aspect. The background to the word “church” there is the OT term for the visible covenant assembly gathered in formal session.

Further, the churches gathered occasionally to work together on common problems (Acts 15). That sort of action and the “decree” issued by the assembly would be impossible without the existence of particular, local congregations who sent delegates (including the Apostles!) to assemble together.

It was to visible congregations that our Lord entrusted the ministry of the Word (Matt. 28; Acts 2, 10; 1 Tim; 2 Tim; Titus) and sacraments. The church invisible does not, by definition, observe sacraments. They are observed in congregations, with duly ordained ministers and elders. Jesus commanded us to administer baptism. He commanded us to observe the Lord’s Supper. The apostolic church did that, in congregations (1 Cor. 11). They didn’t always get it right, but they did meet, they did worship, the Word was preached, the sacraments were administered, and discipline was observed (1 Cor. 5). Particularity is essential to these acts.

It has been widely held by liberals and evangelicals alike that the model by which to interpret the NT and the early church is the Kerygma to Dogma model. In this model, the early church (apostolic and early post-apostolic) was a Spirit-led community that was completely spontaneous, without structure, without form, without offices or officers. Only later was that Spirit-led spontaneity lost as the church gradually acceded to the idea that Jesus was not returning in their lifetime and that some formal structure would be necessary to the continuance of the church.

The evidence is overwhelming that the apostolic and early post-apostolic church was highly organized. For example, there is positive evidence of record keeping (membership lists) in the NT church. The problem in the daily distribution of bread in Acts 6:1 assumes some sort of record keeping of eligible widows. In 1 Timothy 5:9-16 Paul speaks explicitly about a list of names of Christian widows who were eligible for financial assistance from the church. He even lays out the qualifications to be on the list. If the church kept such lists for financial aid, can we reasonably assume that these widows were not on a membership roll? Moreover we cannot help but notice that again Paul’s instructions regarding widows presupposes some sort of organized visible body of Christ who administered this aid to its members.

The evidence is that, however vital their expectation of Jesus’ return, they were organized, structured, with offices, officers, sacraments, and discipline. Read on its own terms, without contemporary, evangelical, individualistic anachronism (reading our time and practices back into theirs), there is every evidence that the NT church was a structured, visible, organized (and not mere organism) institution.

We know where the early congregations were. We know what their circumstances were and we have some idea of what happened to them. For example, see Colin Hemer’s Letters to the Seven Churches or Greg Beale’s Commentary on the Revelation or Dennis Johnson’s, Triumph of the Lamb.

If today’s evangelicals would follow the Apostolic model, they should join themselves to a true church. Truly to be an “evangelical” one should be “gospeler” (as the Puritans sometimes put it). The gospel is good news preached by preachers (Rom. 10) who are ordained by Christ’s church to announce that message. It’s an authorized message with authorized messengers in and to a congregation that is united together by a common faith, by mutual submission to the Word and to the church. The faith is necessarily practiced in community, in congregation and not merely individually, separately, privately.

 So far the case has not been terribly difficult or painful. However many evangelicals may be wandering in the churchless wilderness without any congregation whatsoever, there are few responsible evangelical theologians who, however much they may not wish to talk about the doctrine of the church, would actually advocate a policy of avoiding the local church. Thus, the first two posts have been on the order of house cleaning. With this post, however, we go from preaching to meddling. Hold on to your britches.
For decades after World War II we relied on the Gallup Poll numbers that told us that 40% of Americans attend church. This notion was probably behind the popular notion of “Christian America.” More recent studies have found, however, that American church attendance is actually much lower and much more sporadic. The more recent picture makes sense of the fact that, if the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals is correct and there are 60 million evangelicals in the USA, then evangelicals make up close to 20% of American Christians. And were those evangelicals as devoted to the visible church as once thought, church attendance figures should be higher than they actually are. Weekly attendance is probably actually something like 10%. This means that on any given Sunday morning (forget Sunday night!) about 35 million folks are at church. I think there are something like 60 million Roman Catholics in America and let’s say that among the mainliners there are 7 million. If we impute a church attendance of 40% to each group, we get our 10% figure of 35 million. Whatever the actual figures in each of the group (it might be slightly higher in one group than in another), it’s unlikely that much more than 50% of the 60 million evangelicals are actually in church on any given Sunday.

So, as a practical matter, even if most evangelicals are members of congregations, where there is some sort of actual record of membership and some sort accountability structure (i.e. discipline). it seems likely that most evangelicals have unchurched themselves simply by opting for shopping over the means of grace (assuming they exist in our putative evangelical congregations). If we figure for the number of megachurches where the gospel is virtually non-existent, the number of angry fundamentalist churches trying to reclaim their socio-political place in the culture, and Pentecostals and Charismatics blissed out by the Spirit, one can begin to understand why our evangelicals skip the whole thing. They may be doing today what liberals began to do in the ’60s and ’70s– just stay home. What’s the point of hearing the minister do poorly what Bob Schuller or Joel Osteen or Charles Osgood can do much better?

For our churchgoing evangelicals, however, let’s assume that they attend some congregation even if it might not have a formal membership procedure or the practice or possibility of discipline. With this picture in view there is a another way in which most of the 60 million or so American evangelicals may be said to be churchless.

They may be churchless because, despite attending a congregation, that congregation may not have the marks of the church. This language of “marks of the church” is very ancient. In substance it goes back to the Patristic (most ancient post-apostolic) church’s struggle against the Gnostics and other heretical groups claiming to be “the church.” By the time of the Reformation, the Reformed Churches identified three marks of the true church.

The Scots Confession (1560) identified two “notes” (marks or indicators) of the “true kirk” (ch. 18):

So it is essential that the true Kirk be distinguished from the filthy synagogues by clear and perfect notes lest we, being deceived, receive and embrace, to our own condemnation, the one for the other…. The notes of the true Kirk, therefore, we believe, confess, and avow to be: first, the true preaching of the Word of God, in which God has revealed himself to us, as the writings of the prophets and apostles declare; secondly, the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus, with which must be associated the Word and promise of God to seal and confirm them in our hearts; and lastly, ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered, as God’s Word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed and virtue nourished. Then wherever these notes are seen and continue for any time, be the number complete or not, there, beyond any doubt, is the true Kirk of Christ, who, according to his promise, is in its midst. This is not that universal Kirk of which we have spoken before, but particular Kirks, such as were in Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, and other places where the ministry was planted by Paul and which he himself called Kirks of God.

This is the same conception that one finds in the Belgic Confession Art. 29, adopted by most of the European Reformed Churches beginning in 1561. The French Confession of 1559, in Art. 27 uses essentially the same categories. Thus, by the mid-16th century, there was a widespread consensus among the Reformed Churches of Europe and Britain that there are clear, inherent marks by which the true church may be distinguished from the false church and sects (Belgic 29) or from “filthy synagogues” (Scots Kirk).

If this way of thinking about the church seems strange that ought to alert us to how far we have drifted from our Reformation moorings. In practice, however, we use these categories daily. We just fail to apply them to the church. Not everyone who shoots baskets is a basketball player. A true ball player moves a certain way. He or she has a certain fluidity on the court. A true ball player is in the right place at the right time, he or she holds the ball a certain way, dribbles the ball a certain way, plays defense a certain way. There are marks of genuine ball player. Either one has them or one does not.

It’s the same way with a church. Just because folk who love Jesus and claim to have had an encounter with the risen Christ meet on Sunday morning does not make them a church. What is essential to the existence of a “church”? First, according to Scripture, in Gal. 1, it is possible to corrupt the gospel so that it becomes what Paul calls “another gospel.” If a congregation institutionalizes that false message or fails to preach the true message, it lacks one of the essential marks of a church. The gospel is the proclamation or the announcement that Jesus the Messiah has come, that he was born of a woman, under the law (Gal. 4), that he kept that law (Rom. 5), that he was crucified, dead, buried, and raised on the third day (1 Cor. 15) and that he is ascended to the right hand of the Father in glory (Acts 2). The good news is that sinners are justified by the undeserved favor of God, through faith (trusting) in Christ and his righteousness alone (Gal. 2). Anyone who preaches anything other than that or any congregation that routinely ignores or distorts that message lacks an essential mark of a church. They may be a gathering of good Americans and there may be Christians present. They may be earnest. They may be any number of things, but together, without the gospel, they are no church.

So far, so good. I suppose that most thoughtful evangelicals who still remember the teaching of Packer, Stott, Graham, and Henry (the founders of the older British and American neo-evangelical establishment) would probably agree with the first mark of a church. Let’s say a church is gathered around the gospel but there is no structure (either on the pretense of being truly apostolic or because of sinful fear or laziness) and that no one is held accountable for their behavior after they have made a Christian profession. Again, I suppose that most of the older evangelicals would probably have said that such a congregation probably lacks an essential mark of the church. It was the absence of this mark that caused conservatives to leave their mainline churches in droves for sixty years from the 1920s to the ’80s. For decades, in the mainline churches, conservatives were frustrated by the fact that ministers were able to deny the faith publicly without any sanction against them or their errors. Eventually, people voted with their feet and they left the mainline (liberal, Seven Sister) denominations.

After all, the one-two punch of Jesus and Paul on church discipline is hard to miss. Jesus lays out a structure and an order for discipline in Matt. 18, and Paul demands that it be enforced in 1 Cor. 5. If there are members who are openly contradicting their Christian profession, either by denying the faith or by scandalizing the church and its gospel, or by living in open sin and rebellion against the law of God, they must face some sanction (see Heb. 6 and 10)–in the hope that the rebellious one will recognize his need of a Savior, turn to Jesus in faith and begin living in a way that is consonant with his profession of faith. If there is no sanction against open and willful sin or heresy, then there is no church.

Whatever agreement we might have been able to generate on marks 1 and 3 is likely to evaporate as we come to the next mark. It is so difficult that the old neo-evangelicals simply avoided it altogether. It is the line that many contemporary evangelicals will not cross and it is a line that many, perhaps most Reformed folk, will not cross today. It is virtually universally accepted among evangelicals and even among Reformed folk today that we must be pluralists when it comes to the holy sacraments. Indeed, I guess that most people regard the Quakers and the Salvation Army as “evangelical” even though they do not practice the holy sacraments. If one can be an evangelical without sacraments, the movement is certainly not well positioned to say that a certain practice of them is essential to the church.

Nevertheless, that is exactly what the Reformed Churches have done since the middle of the 16th century. I realize that this is scandalous to all evangelicals and to most Reformed people today, but it’s the clear implication of the Reformed confession and it was the standard position of the magisterial Reformers.

The debate is most pointed and painful when it comes to baptism. An overwhelming majority of modern evangelicals hold Baptist convictions of one sort or another. If it is the case that rejecting infant baptism is sufficient to unchurch a congregation, i.e. to deprive them of the status of being a “church,” then there are very few actual churches in North America, to pick but one global region.

To many such a thought is impossible. It was quite difficult for me to reach this conclusion, but I didn’t reach it carelessly or quickly. For most of my life in the Reformed world since 1980, I shared the assumption that, though I disagreed with my evangelical brothers and sisters over the question of baptism, their congregations were still churches. It’s only been in the last few years that the other shoe has dropped.

Consider the Reformation argument against the Anabaptists. The Reformed had a number of issues with the Anabaptists including Christology (many Anabaptists held to a docetic Christology, i.e. they held that Jesus had what they called a “celestial flesh,” a view which has no relation to the catholic doctrine of the true humanity of Jesus), a defective view of the Christian’s role in civil life, and a unanimous rejection of justification sola gratia et sola fide.

On the Christological and soteriological issues alone, the Reformed were warranted in describing the 16th-century Anabaptists as “sects.” There was, however, another issue which the Reformed mentioned consistently as providing grounds for such a label, i.e. the Anabaptist denial of infant baptism.

However orthodox modern Baptists are on the other issues, they continue to share with the Anabaptists this fundamental conviction: that however valid infant circumcision was prior to the incarnation, the New Covenant is such that there is no place for infant baptism as a proper recognition that the children of believers are members of the covenant of grace just as much today as they were in Abraham’s day.

This rejection of the status of Christian children as such introduced (and continues to perpetuate) a principle of radical discontinuity between Abraham and the Christian, i.e. a radical principle of discontinuity in the history of redemption and in the covenant of grace. This principle of radical discontinuity, this denial of the fundamental unity of the covenant of grace as symbolized in the administration of the sign and seal of the covenant of grace to covenant children, is serious enough to warrant saying that any congregation that will not practice infant initiation (baptism) into the administration of the covenant of grace is not a church. The Protestants criticized the Anabaptists on these very grounds. Denial of infant initiation is a denial of the catholicity of the church stretching back to Abraham and it is too much like the Gnostic denial of the unity of the covenant of grace in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

Of course there are great difficulties in applying the Reformed critique of the Anabaptists to modern Baptistic evangelicals, because there are great discontinuities between the two groups. As I say, however, they do have that one thing in common and it is one of the things that the Reformed mentioned consistently in their treatises against the Anabaptists and in their confessional documents. The question is whether the modern Baptist repentance of the other Anabaptist errors and heresies is enough to rescue them from the category of “sect.” Another way to put it is ask whether the administration of the holy sacraments may be so marginalized that they are not a mark of the church any longer. It does not appear that Baptists actually think so, and Reformed folk should not think so.

This is why the Belgic Confession says, in Art. 29, “the pure administration of the sacraments.” The Anabaptists and the Romanists practiced the sacraments, but, according to the Reformed Churches, they did not practice them purely. The adjective “pure” is decisive.

The reader should be aware that the view I’m advocating here is not widely accepted, even within my own NAPARC circles. Doubtless it will seem radical to many, but consider a few things. My Baptist friends and students (of whom I have many) do not consider me baptized. What happened to me in 1961 was, for them, nothing than mere magic or sentiment, but it was not baptism. Therefore, I and all such persons are, in their view, unbaptized. For most of Christian history, to say that someone was unbaptized was to unchurch them. In other words, to call me unbaptized is to say that I am not really a Christian. I may profess faith but if I have not been baptized then my profession is, at best, hollow and hypocritical so long as I persist, in their eyes, in being unbaptized. As an unbaptized person, I certainly have no right to the Lord’s Supper and therefore, on their principles, they quite rightly bar me from the table.

To be clear, because we are not Baptists, because Reformed  Churches recognize all Trinitarian baptisms, we do regard our Baptist friends as Baptized. According to the Westminster Confession (1647), “it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance…” but so long as they are baptized in the triune name, they are baptized, even if it is late in coming. When they gather thus, in congregations, I regard them as being rebellious, as having a poor view of redemptive history, as having an over-realized eschatology (this is not the age for the unmixed church), but I can’t regard their congregations as “true churches.”

From the Baptist point of view, what are congregations of unbaptized persons? Are they true churches? The London Baptist Confession (1689) doesn’t say explicitly, but let’s make some inferences. From the Baptist perspective, we paedobaptist Reformed Churches may have the gospel, and that’s a good thing, but we are necessarily undisciplined. After all we’re all unbaptized and no one is doing anything about it, and, worse, they celebrate our unbaptized status. Certainly, from the Baptist point of view, we corrupt the sacrament of baptism and a correct view of Baptism would seem to be of the essence of being a “Baptist.”

Thus it is not just the Reformed who are bound to insist on the presence of all three marks, the Baptists do as well. At least they unbaptize all baptized only as infants and thus they effectively unchurch us, even if they don’t like to follow their logic to its conclusion. Most evangelicals are not as thoroughgoing about their doctrine and practice as the so-called Reformed (i.e. predestinarian) Baptists, but they do have a common view of baptism, to the degree that evangelicals have any particular view of the sacraments at all.

From a historical perspective, since the 18th century, on this particular question, the Anabaptists have “won.” They haven’t won the theological argument but they’ve won demographically. There are many more “Anabaptists” when it comes to baptism than there are paedobaptists among the evangelicals and Reformed. Thus it seems shocking for the minority to unchurch, as it were, the majority. Yet, this is precisely what the theology of the majority does to the paedobaptist minority: it unchurches us. We cannot both be right. Either God’s promise and command to Abraham is still in effect or it has been abrogated. Either there is a fundamental unity to the substance and administration of the covenant of grace or there is not.

Whoever is right about baptism it isn’t really a matter of narrow-minded Reformed confessionalists unchurching their Jesus-loving evangelical friends. The difference is that, for Reformed confessionalists, the sacraments are at the heart of our theology, piety, and practice, and, because we’re the minority in late Modern America, we feel the tension with the majority.

If the Reformed confessionalists are right, that there are three marks to a church and if they are right that most evangelical congregations lack one or more of those marks, it leaves the relations between most evangelicals and most consistent confessionalists in a very tenuous place indeed.

If Jesus did institute the Holy Sacraments, however, if he really said, “This is my body…take, eat….do this in remembrance of me” and if he commanded the visible, institutional church to administer baptism to converts and to their children (Acts 2:39), then these are not mere options or second blessings but essential to the life of the Christian and to the life of the Christian Church.

Even if the confessionalists are wrong about whether the evangelical congregations are really churches, no one could fairly say that the evangelical congregations are marked by devotion to and rigorous practice of the Holy Sacraments. Even on a more latitudinarian or pluralist approach to the question of the status of evangelical and Baptist congregations, the evangelical piety must be regarded as virtually sacrament free and that alone should give my more broad-minded brothers reason to pause and take stock as to whether most evangelical congregations deserve the title “church.”

[This post first appeared on the Heidelblog in 2008]

Here’s a related post by Jay Adams on “church tramps.”

Westminster Larger Catechism (1648)

Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

Q. 2. How doth it appear that there is a God?
A. The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.

Q. 3. What is the Word of God?
A. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience.

Q. 4. How doth it appear that the Scriptures are the Word of God?
A. The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very Word of God.

Q. 5. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Q. 6. What do the Scriptures make known of God?
A. The Scriptures make known what God is, the persons in the Godhead, his decrees, and the execution of his decrees.

Q. 7. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.

Q. 8. Are there more Gods than one?
A. There is but one only, the living and true God.

Q. 9. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A. There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.

Q. 10. What are the personal properties of the three persons in the Godhead?
A. It is proper to the Father to beget the Son, and to the Son to be begotten of the Father, and to the Holy Ghost to proceed from the Father and the Son from all eternity.

Q. 11. How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father?
A. The Scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names, attributes, works, and worship, as are proper to God only.

Q. 12. What are the decrees of God?
A. God’s decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will, whereby, from all eternity, he hath, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.

Q. 13. What hath God especially decreed concerning angels and men?
A. God, by an eternal and immutable decree, out of his mere love, for the praise of his glorious grace, to be manifested in due time, hath elected some angels to glory; and in Christ hath chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof: and also, according to his sovereign power, and the unsearchable counsel of his own will (whereby he extendeth or withholdeth favor as he pleaseth), hath passed by and foreordained the rest to dishonor and wrath, to be for their sin inflicted, to the praise of the glory of his justice.

Q. 14. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will.

Q. 15. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.

Q. 16. How did God create angels?
A. God created all the angels spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change.

Q. 17. How did God create man?
A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.

Q. 18. What are God’s works of providence?
A. God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.

Q. 19. What is God’s providence towards the angels?
A. God by his providence permitted some of the angels, willfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that, and all their sins, to his own glory; and established the rest in holiness and happiness; employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, mercy, and justice.

Q. 20. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?
A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.

Q. 21. Did man continue in that estate wherein God at first created him?
A. Our first parents being left to the freedom of their own will, through the temptation of Satan, transgressed the commandment of God in eating the forbidden fruit; and thereby fell from the estate of innocency wherein they were created.

Q. 22. Did all mankind fall in that first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression.

Q. 23. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

Q. 24. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.

Q. 25. Wherein consisteth the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually; which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.

Q. 26. How is original sin conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity?
A. Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way are conceived and born in sin.

Q. 27. What misery did the fall bring upon mankind?
A. The fall brought upon mankind the loss of communion with God, his displeasure and curse; so as we are by nature children of wrath, bond slaves to Satan, and justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.

Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?
A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.

Q. 29. What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
A. The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell-fire forever.

Q. 30. Doth God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God doth not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivereth his elect out of it, and bringeth them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.

Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made?
A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.

Q. 32. How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.

Q. 33. Was the covenant of grace always administered after one and the same manner?
A. The covenant of grace was not always administered after the same manner, but the administrations of it under the Old Testament were different from those under the New.

Q. 34. How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?
A. The covenant of grace was administered under the Old Testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all foresignify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised messiah, by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.

Q. 35. How is the covenant of grace administered under the New Testament?
A. Under the New Testament, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the same covenant of grace was and still is to be administered in the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper; in which grace and salvation are held forth in more fullness, evidence, and efficacy, to all nations.

Q. 36. Who is the mediator of the covenant of grace?
A. The only mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father, in the fullness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God’s justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.

Q. 41. Why was our mediator called Jesus?
A. Our mediator was called Jesus, because he saveth his people from their sins.

Q. 42. Why was our mediator called Christ?
A. Our mediator was called Christ, because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure; and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability, to execute the offices of prophet, priest, and king of his church, in the estate both of his humiliation and exaltation.

Q. 43. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in his revealing to the church, in all ages, by his Spirit and word, in divers ways of administration, the whole will of God, in all things concerning their edification and salvation.

Q. 44. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be a reconciliation for the sins of the people; and in making continual intercession for them.

Q. 45. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.

Q. 46. What was the estate of Christ’s humiliation?
A. The estate of Christ’s humiliation was that low condition, wherein he for our sakes, emptying himself of his glory, took upon him the form of a servant, in his conception and birth, life, death, and after his death, until his resurrection.

Q. 47. How did Christ humble himself in his conception and birth?
A. Christ humbled himself in his conception and birth, in that, being from all eternity the Son of God, in the bosom of the Father, he was pleased in the fullness of time to become the son of man, made of a woman of low estate, and to be born of her; with divers circumstances of more than ordinary abasement.

Q. 48. How did Christ humble himself in his life?
A. Christ humbled himself in his life, by subjecting himself to the law, which he perfectly fulfilled; and by conflicting with the indignities of the world, temptations of Satan, and infirmities in his flesh, whether common to the nature of man, or particularly accompanying that his low condition.

Q. 49. How did Christ humble himself in his death?
A. Christ humbled himself in his death, in that having been betrayed by Judas, forsaken by his disciples, scorned and rejected by the world, condemned by Pilate, and tormented by his persecutors; having also conflicted with the terrors of death, and the powers of darkness, felt and borne the weight of God’s wrath, he laid down his life an offering for sin, enduring the painful, shameful, and cursed death of the cross.

Q. 50. Wherein consisted Christ’s humiliation after his death?
A. Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which hath been otherwise expressed in these words, He descended into hell.

Q. 51. What was the estate of Christ’s exaltation?
A. The estate of Christ’s exaltation comprehendeth his resurrection, ascension, sitting at the right hand of the Father, and his coming again to judge the world.

Q. 52. How was Christ exalted in his resurrection?
A. Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that, not having seen corruption in death (of which it was not possible for him to be held), and having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life), really united to his soul, he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power; whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God, to have satisfied divine justice, to have vanquished death, and him that had power of it, and to be Lord of quick and dead: all which he did as a public person, the head of his church, for their justification, quickening in grace, support against enemies, and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day.

Q. 53. How was Christ exalted in his ascension?
A. Christ was exalted in his ascension, in that having after his resurrection often appeared unto and conversed with his apostles, speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and giving them commission to preach the gospel to all nations, forty days after his resurrection, he, in our nature, and as our head, triumphing over enemies, visibly went up into the highest heavens, there to receive gifts for men, to raise up our affections thither, and to prepare a place for us, where himself is, and shall continue till his second coming at the end of the world.

Q. 54. How is Christ exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God?
A. Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God-man he is advanced to the highest favor with God the Father, with all fullness of joy, glory, and power over all things in heaven and earth; and doth gather and defend his church, and subdue their enemies; furnisheth his ministers and people with gifts and graces, and maketh intercession for them.

Q. 55. How doth Christ make intercession?
A. Christ maketh intercession, by his appearing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven, in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice on earth, declaring his will to have it applied to all believers; answering all accusations against them, and procuring for them quiet of conscience, notwithstanding daily failings, access with boldness to the throne of grace, and acceptance of their persons and services.

Q. 56. How is Christ to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world?
A. Christ is to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world, in that he, who was unjustly judged and condemned by wicked men, shall come again at the last day in great power, and in the full manifestation of his own glory, and of his Father’s, with all his holy angels, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, to judge the world in righteousness.

Q. 57. What benefits hath Christ procured by his mediation?
A. Christ, by his mediation, hath procured redemption, with all other benefits of the covenant of grace.

Q. 58. How do we come to be made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured?
A. We are made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured, by the application of them unto us, which is the work especially of God the Holy Ghost.

Q. 59. Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
A. Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.

Q. 60. Can they who have never heard the gospel, and so know not Jesus Christ, nor believe in him, be saved by their living according to the light of nature?
A. They who, having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, or the laws of that religion which they profess; neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, who is the Savior only of his body the church.

Q. 61. Are all they saved who hear the gospel, and live in the church?
A. All that hear the gospel, and live in the visible church, are not saved; but they only who are true members of the church invisible.

Q. 62. What is the visible church?
A. The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children.

Q. 63. What are the special privileges of the visible church?
A. The visible church hath the privilege of being under God’s special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

Q. 64. What is the invisible church?
A. The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head.

Q. 65. What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?
A. The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.

Q. 66. What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.

Q. 67. What is effectual calling?
A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.

Q. 68. Are the elect only effectually called?
A. All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.

Q. 69. What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A. The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.

Q. 70. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

Q. 71. How is justification an act of God’s free grace?
A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet inasmuch as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.

Q. 72. What is justifying faith?
A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

Q. 74. What is adoption?
A. Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of his children, have his name put upon them, the Spirit of his Son given to them, are under his fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow-heirs with Christ in glory.

Q. 75. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.

Q. 76. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, he so grieves for and hates his sins, as that he turns from them all to God, purposing and endeavoring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.

Q. 77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued: the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.

Q. 78. Whence ariseth the imperfection of sanctification in believers?
A. The imperfection of sanctification in believers ariseth from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.

Q. 79. May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace?
A. True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, his continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

Q. 80. Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?
A. Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.

Q. 81. Are all true believers at all times assured of their present being in the estate of grace, and that they shall be saved?
A. Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith, true believers may wait long before they obtain it; and, after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions; yet are they never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking into utter despair.

Q. 82. What is the communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A. The communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is in this life, immediately after death, and at last perfected at the resurrection and day of judgment.

Q. 83. What is the communion in glory with Christ which the members of the invisible church enjoy in this life?
A. The members of the invisible church have communicated to them in this life the firstfruits of glory with Christ, as they are members of him their head, and so in him are interested in that glory which he is fully possessed of; and, as an earnest thereof, enjoy the sense of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, and hope of glory; as, on the contrary, sense of God’s revenging wrath, horror of conscience, and a fearful expectation of judgment, are to the wicked the beginning of their torments which they shall endure after death.

Q. 84. Shall all men die?
A. Death being threatened as the wages of sin, it is appointed unto all men once to die; for that all have sinned.

Q. 85. Death being the wages of sin, why are not the righteous delivered from death, seeing all their sins are forgiven in Christ?
A. The righteous shall be delivered from death itself at the last day, and even in death are delivered from the sting and curse of it; so that, although they die, yet it is out of God’s love, to free them perfectly from sin and misery, and to make them capable of further communion with Christ in glory, which they then enter upon.

Q. 86. What is the communion in glory with Christ which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death?
A. The communion in glory with Christ which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls. Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgment of the great day.

Q. 87. What are we to believe concerning the resurrection?
A. We are to believe that at the last day there shall be a general resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust: when they that are then found alive shall in a moment be changed; and the selfsame bodies of the dead which were laid in the grave, being then again united to their souls forever, shall be raised up by the power of Christ. The bodies of the just, by the Spirit of Christ, and by virtue of his resurrection as their head, shall be raised in power, spiritual, incorruptible, and made like to his glorious body; and the bodies of the wicked shall be raised up in dishonor by him, as an offended judge.

Q. 88. What shall immediately follow after the resurrection?
A. Immediately after the resurrection shall follow the general and final judgment of angels and men; the day and hour whereof no man knoweth, that all may watch and pray, and be ever ready for the coming of the Lord.

Q. 89. What shall be done to the wicked at the day of judgment?
A. At the day of judgment, the wicked shall be set on Christ’s left hand, and, upon clear evidence, and full conviction of their own consciences, shall have the fearful but just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them; and thereupon shall be cast out from the favorable presence of God, and the glorious fellowship with Christ, his saints, and all his holy angels, into hell, to be punished with unspeakable torments, both of body and soul, with the devil and his angels forever.

Q. 90. What shall be done to the righteous at the day of judgment?
A. At the day of judgment, the righteous, being caught up to Christ in the clouds, shall be set on his right hand, and there openly acknowledged and acquitted, shall join with him in the judging of reprobate angels and men, and shall be received into heaven, where they shall be fully and forever freed from all sin and misery; filled with inconceivable joys, made perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul, in the company of innumerable saints and holy angels, but especially in the immediate vision and fruition of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, to all eternity. And this is the perfect and full communion which the members of the invisible church shall enjoy with Christ in glory, at the resurrection and day of judgment.

Q. 91. What is the duty which God requireth of man?
A. The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.

Q. 92. What did God first reveal unto man as the rule of his obedience?
A. The rule of obedience revealed to Adam in the estate of innocence, and to all mankind in him, besides a special command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was the moral law.

Q. 93. What is the moral law?
A. The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding every one to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul, and body, and in performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he oweth to God and man: promising life upon the fulfilling, and threatening death upon the breach of it.

Q. 94. Is there any use of the moral law since the fall?
A. Although no man, since the fall, can attain to righteousness and life by the moral law; yet there is great use thereof, as well common to all men, as peculiar either to the unregenerate, or the regenerate.

Q. 95. Of what use is the moral law to all men?
A. The moral law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and will of God, and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly; to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives: to humble them in the sense of their sin and misery, and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and of the perfection of his obedience.

Q. 96. What particular use is there of the moral law to unregenerate men?
A. The moral law is of use to unregenerate men, to awaken their consciences to flee from the wrath to come, and to drive them to Christ; or, upon the continuance in the estate and way of sin, to leave them inexcusable, and under the curse thereof.

Q. 97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?
A. Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned; yet besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.

Q. 98. Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A. The moral law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments, which were delivered by the voice of God upon mount Sinai, and written by him in two tables of stone; and are recorded in the twentieth chapter of Exodus; the four first commandments containing our duty to God, and the other six our duty to man.

Q. 99. What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the Ten Commandments?
A. For the right understanding of the Ten Commandments, these rules are to be observed:
1. That the law is perfect, and bindeth every one to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin.
2. That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.
3. That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments.
4. That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included.
5. That what God forbids, is at no time to be done; what he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times.
6. That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto.
7. That what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places.
8. That in what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them.

Q. 100. What special things are we to consider in the Ten Commandments?
A. We are to consider, in the Ten Commandments, the preface, the substance of the commandments themselves, and several reasons annexed to some of them, the more to enforce them.

Q. 101. What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
A. The preface to the Ten Commandments is contained in these words, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Wherein God manifesteth his sovereignty, as being JEHOVAH, the eternal, immutable, and almighty God; having his being in and of himself, and giving being to all his words and works: and that he is a God in covenant, as with Israel of old, so with all his people; who, as he brought them out of their bondage in Egypt, so he delivereth us from our spiritual thraldom; and that therefore we are bound to take him for our God alone, and to keep all his commandments.

Q. 102. What is the sum of the four commandments which contain our duty to God?
A. The sum of the four commandments containing our duty to God, is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind.

Q. 103. Which is the first commandment?
A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Q. 104. What are the duties required in the first commandment?
A. The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in anything he is offended; and walking humbly with him.

Q. 105. What are the sins forbidden in the first commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the first commandment, are, atheism, in denying or not having a God; idolatry, in having or worshiping more gods than one, or any with or instead of the true God; the not having and avouching him for God, and our God; the omission or neglect of anything due to him, required in this commandment; ignorance, forgetfulness, misapprehensions, false opinions, unworthy and wicked thoughts of him; bold and curious searching into his secrets; all profaneness, hatred of God; self-love, self-seeking, and all other inordinate and immoderate setting of our mind, will, or affections upon other things, and taking them off from him in whole or in part; vain credulity, unbelief, heresy, misbelief, distrust, despair, incorrigibleness, and insensibleness under judgments, hardness of heart, pride, presumption, carnal security, tempting of God; using unlawful means, and trusting in lawful means; carnal delights and joys; corrupt, blind, and indiscreet zeal; lukewarmness, and deadness in the things of God; estranging ourselves, and apostatizing from God; praying, or giving any religious worship, to saints, angels, or any other creatures; all compacts and consulting with the devil, and hearkening to his suggestions; making men the lords of our faith and conscience; slighting and despising God and his commands; resisting and grieving of his Spirit, discontent and impatience at his dispensations, charging him foolishly for the evils he inflicts on us; and ascribing the praise of any good we either are, have, or can do, to fortune, idols, ourselves, or any other creature.

Q. 106. What are we specially taught by these words, before me, in the first commandment?
A. These words, before me, or before my face, in the first commandment, teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh special notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God: that so it may be an argument to dissuade from it, and to aggravate it as a most impudent provocation: as also to persuade us to do as in his sight, whatever we do in his service.

Q. 107. Which is the second commandment?
A. The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Q. 108. What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A. The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

Q. 109. What sins are forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.

Q. 110. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it?
A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it, contained in these words, For I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments; are, besides God’s sovereignty over us, and propriety in us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, and his revengeful indignation against all false worship, as being a spiritual whoredom; accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations; and esteeming the observers of it such as love him and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generations.

Q. 111. Which is the third commandment?
A. The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Q. 112. What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requires, that the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by an holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others.

Q. 113. What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the third commandment are, the not using of God’s name as is required; and the abuse of it in an ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious, or wicked mentioning or otherwise using his titles, attributes, ordinances, or works, by blasphemy, perjury; all sinful cursings, oaths, vows, and lots; violating of our oaths and vows, if lawful; and fulfilling them, if of things unlawful; murmuring and quarreling at, curious prying into, and misapplying of God’s decrees and providences; misinterpreting, misapplying, or any way perverting the word, or any part of it, to profane jests, curious or unprofitable questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines; abusing it, the creatures, or anything contained under the name of God, to charms, or sinful lusts and practices; the maligning, scorning, reviling, or any wise opposing of God’s truth, grace, and ways; making profession of religion in hypocrisy, or for sinister ends; being ashamed of it, or a shame to it, by unconformable, unwise, unfruitful, and offensive walking, or backsliding from it.

Q. 114. What reasons are annexed to the third commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the third commandment, in these words, The LORD thy God, and, For the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain, are, because he is the Lord and our God, therefore his name is not to be profaned, or any way abused by us; especially because he will be so far from acquitting and sparing the transgressors of this commandment, as that he will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment, albeit many such escape the censures and punishments of men.

Q. 115. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Q. 116. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requireth of all men the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word, expressly one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world; which is the Christian sabbath, and in the New Testament called The Lord’s Day.

Q. 117. How is the sabbath or the Lord’s day to be sanctified?
A. The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.

Q. 118. Why is the charge of keeping the sabbath more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors?
A. The charge of keeping the sabbath is more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors, because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge; and because they are prone ofttimes to hinder them by employments of their own.

Q. 119. What are the sins forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the fourth commandment are, all omissions of the duties required, all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them; all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful; and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.

Q. 120. What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it?
A. The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it, are taken from the equity of it, God allowing us six days of seven for our own affairs, and reserving but one for himself, in these words, Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: from God’s challenging a special propriety in that day, The seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: from the example of God, who in six days … made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: and from that blessing which God put upon that day, not only in sanctifying it to be a day for his service, but in ordaining it to be a means of blessing to us in our sanctifying it; Wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Q. 121. Why is the word Remember set in the beginning of the fourth commandment?
A. The word Remember is set in the beginning of the fourth commandment, partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it, and, in keeping it, better to keep all the rest of the commandments, and to continue a thankful remembrance of the two great benefits of creation and redemption, which contain a short abridgment of religion; and partly, because we are very ready to forget it, for that there is less light of nature for it, and yet it restraineth our natural liberty in things at other times lawful; that it cometh but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it; and that Satan with his instruments much labor to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.

Q. 122. What is the sum of the six commandments which contain our duty to man?
A. The sum of the six commandments which contain our duty to man, is, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to do to others what we would have them do to us.

Q. 123. Which is the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Q. 124. Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?
A. By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.

Q. 125. Why are superiors styled Father and Mother?
A. Superiors are styled Father and Mother, both to teach them in all duties toward their inferiors, like natural parents, to express love and tenderness to them, according to their several relations; and to work inferiors to a greater willingness and cheerfulness in performing their duties to their superiors, as to their parents.

Q. 126. What is the general scope of the fifth commandment?
A. The general scope of the fifth commandment is, the performance of those duties which we mutually owe in our several relations, as inferiors, superiors or equals.

Q. 127. What is the honor that inferiors owe to their superiors?
A. The honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart, word, and behavior; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections; fidelity to, defense, and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may be an honor to them and to their government.

Q. 128. What are the sins of inferiors against their superiors?
A. The sins of inferiors against their superiors are, all neglect of the duties required toward them; envying at, contempt of, and rebellion against their persons and places, in their lawful counsels, commands, and corrections; cursing, mocking, and all such refractory and scandalous carriage, as proves a shame and dishonor to them and their government.

Q. 129. What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?
A. It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God hath put upon them.

Q. 130. What are the sins of superiors?
A. The sins of superiors are, besides the neglect of the duties required of them, an inordinate seeking of themselves, their own glory, ease, profit, or pleasure; commanding things unlawful, or not in the power of inferiors to perform; counseling, encouraging, or favoring them in that which is evil; dissuading, discouraging, or discountenancing them in that which is good; correcting them unduly; careless exposing, or leaving them to wrong, temptation, and danger; provoking them to wrath; or any way dishonoring themselves, or lessening their authority, by an unjust, indiscreet, rigorous, or remiss behavior.

Q. 131. What are the duties of equals?
A. The duties of equals are, to regard the dignity and worth of each other, in giving honor to go one before another; and to rejoice in each others’ gifts and advancement, as their own.

Q. 132. What are the sins of equals?
A. The sins of equals are, besides the neglect of the duties required, the undervaluing of the worth, envying the gifts, grieving at the advancement or prosperity one of another; and usurping preeminence one over another.

Q. 133. What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment, the more to enforce it?
A. The reason annexed to the fifth commandment, in these words, That thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, is an express promise of long life and prosperity, as far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good, to all such as keep this commandment.

Q. 134. Which is the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.

Q. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.

Q. 137. Which is the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Q. 138. What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?
A. The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency, conjugal love, and cohabitation; diligent labor in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.

Q. 139. What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel; prohibiting of lawful, and dispensing with unlawful marriages; allowing, tolerating, keeping of stews, and resorting to them; entangling vows of single life, undue delay of marriage; having more wives or husbands than one at the same time; unjust divorce, or desertion; idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.

Q. 140. Which is the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.

Q. 141. What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
A. The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to every one his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary lawsuits, and suretiship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

Q. 142. What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery, man-stealing, and receiving anything that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, false weights and measures, removing landmarks, injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depredation; engrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor what belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them; envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God hath given us.

Q. 143. Which is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Q. 144. What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
A. The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging talebearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.

Q. 145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful or equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of the truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, talebearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vainglorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any; endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.

Q. 146. Which is the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s.

Q. 147. What are the duties required in the tenth commandment?
A. The duties required in the tenth commandment are, such a full contentment with our own condition, and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto, and further all that good which is his.

Q. 148. What are the sins forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the tenth commandment are, discontentment with our own estate; envying and grieving at the good of our neighbor, together with all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

Q. 149. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.

Q. 150. Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God?
A. All transgressions of the law are not equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
A. Sins receive their aggravations,
1. From the persons offending; if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others.
2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness, and workings; against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them, or any other, and the common good of all or many.
3. From the nature and quality of the offence: if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins: if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, willfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.
4. From circumstances of time, and place: if on the Lord’s day, or other times of divine worship; or immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages: if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.

Q. 152. What doth every sin deserve at the hands of God?
A. Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty, goodness, and holiness of God, and against his righteous law, deserveth his wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come; and cannot be expiated but by the blood of Christ.

Q. 153. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law?
A. That we may escape the wrath and curse of God due to us by reason of the transgression of the law, he requireth of us repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation.

Q. 154. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.

Q. 155. How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

Q. 156. Is the Word of God to be read by all?
A. Although all are not to be permitted to read the word publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families: to which end, the holy Scriptures are to be translated out of the original into vulgar languages.

Q. 157. How is the Word of God to be read?
A. The holy Scriptures are to be read with an high and reverent esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very Word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer.

Q. 158. By whom is the Word of God to be preached?
A. The Word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office.

Q. 159. How is the Word of God to be preached by those that are called thereunto?
A. They that are called to labor in the ministry of the word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.

Q. 160. What is required of those that hear the word preached?
A. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

Q. 161. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered, but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.

Q. 162. What is a sacrament?
A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation; to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces; to oblige them to obedience; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with another; and to distinguish them from those that are without.

Q. 163. What are the parts of a sacrament?
A. The parts of a sacrament are two; the one an outward and sensible sign, used according to Christ’s own appointment; the other an inward and spiritual grace thereby signified.

Q. 164. How many sacraments hath Christ instituted in his church under the New Testament?
A. Under the New Testament Christ hath instituted in his church only two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s supper.

Q. 165. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s.

Q. 166. Unto whom is baptism to be administered?
A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.

Q. 167. How is baptism to be improved by us?
A. The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.

Q. 168. What is the Lord’s supper?
A. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; have their union and communion with him confirmed; testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement to God, and their mutual love and fellowship each with other, as members of the same mystical body.

Q. 169. How hath Christ appointed bread and wine to be given and received in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper?
A. Christ hath appointed the ministers of his word, in the administration of this sacrament of the Lord’s supper, to set apart the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution, thanksgiving, and prayer; to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and his blood shed, for them.

Q. 170. How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?
A. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.

Q. 171. How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?
A. They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.

Q. 172. May one who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord’s supper?
A. One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof; and in God’s account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved; and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.

Q. 173. May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, be kept from it?
A. Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in his church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.

Q. 174. What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper in the time of the administration of it?
A. It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that ordinance, diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions, heedfully discern the Lord’s body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces; in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin; in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fullness, trusting in his merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace; in renewing of their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.

Q. 175. What is the duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper?
A. The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, fulfill their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance: but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time: but, if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterwards with more care and diligence.

Q. 176. Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree?
A. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree, in that the author of both is God; the spiritual part of both is Christ and his benefits; both are seals of the same covenant, are to be dispensed by ministers of the gospel, and by none other; and to be continued in the church of Christ until his second coming.

Q. 177. Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ?
A. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ, in that baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ, and that even to infants; whereas the Lord’s supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul, and to confirm our continuance and growth in him, and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.

Q. 178. What is prayer?
A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit; with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.

Q. 179. Are we to pray unto God only?
A. God only being able to search the hearts, hear the requests, pardon the sins, and fulfill the desires of all; and only to be believed in, and worshiped with religious worship; prayer, which is a special part thereof, is to be made by all to him alone, and to none other.

Q. 180. What is it to pray in the name of Christ?
A. To pray in the name of Christ is, in obedience to his command, and in confidence on his promises, to ask mercy for his sake; not by bare mentioning of his name, but by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer, from Christ and his mediation.

Q. 181. Why are we to pray in the name of Christ?
A. The sinfulness of man, and his distance from God by reason thereof, being so great, as that we can have no access into his presence without a mediator; and there being none in heaven or earth appointed to, or fit for, that glorious work but Christ alone, we are to pray in no other name but his only.

Q. 182. How doth the Spirit help us to pray?
A. We not knowing what to pray for as we ought, the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, by enabling us to understand both for whom, and what, and how prayer is to be made; and by working and quickening in our hearts (although not in all persons, nor at all times, in the same measure) those apprehensions, affections, and graces which are requisite for the right performance of that duty.

Q. 183. For whom are we to pray?
A. We are to pray for the whole church of Christ upon earth; for magistrates, and ministers; for ourselves, our brethren, yea, our enemies; and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead, nor for those that are known to have sinned the sin unto death.

Q. 184. For what things are we to pray?
A. We are to pray for all things tending to the glory of God, the welfare of the church, our own or others’ good; but not for anything that is unlawful.

Q. 185. How are we to pray?
A. We are to pray with an awful apprehension of the majesty of God, and deep sense of our own unworthiness, necessities, and sins; with penitent, thankful, and enlarged hearts; with understanding, faith, sincerity, fervency, love, and perseverance, waiting upon him, with humble submission to his will.

Q. 186. What rule hath God given for our direction in the duty of prayer?
A. The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in the duty of prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which our Savior Christ taught his disciples, commonly called The Lord’s prayer.

Q. 187. How is the Lord’s prayer to be used?
A. The Lord’s prayer is not only for direction, as a pattern, according to which we are to make other prayers; but may also be used as a prayer, so that it be done with understanding, faith, reverence, and other graces necessary to the right performance of the duty of prayer.

Q. 188. Of how many parts doth the Lord’s prayer consist?
A. The Lord’s prayer consists of three parts; a preface, petitions, and a conclusion.

Q. 189. What doth the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us?
A. The preface of the Lord’s prayer (contained in these words, Our Father which art in heaven) teacheth us, when we pray, to draw near to God with confidence of his fatherly goodness, and our interest therein; with reverence, and all other childlike dispositions, heavenly affections, and due apprehensions of his sovereign power, majesty, and gracious condescension: as also, to pray with and for others.

Q. 190. What do we pray for in the first petition?
A. In the first petition (which is, Hallowed be thy name), acknowledging the utter inability and indisposition that is in ourselves and all men to honor God aright, we pray, that God would by his grace enable and incline us and others to know, to acknowledge, and highly to esteem him, his titles, attributes, ordinances, word, works, and whatsoever he is pleased to make himself known by; and to glorify him in thought, word, and deed: that he would prevent and remove atheism, ignorance, idolatry, profaneness, and whatsoever is dishonorable to him; and, by his overruling providence, direct and dispose of all things to his own glory.

Q. 191. What do we pray for in the second petition?
A. In the second petition (which is, Thy kingdom come), acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate; that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.

Q. 192. What do we pray for in the third petition?
A. In the third petition (which is, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven), acknowledging that by nature we and all men are not only utterly unable and unwilling to know and to do the will of God, but prone to rebel against his word, to repine and murmur against his providence, and wholly inclined to do the will of the flesh, and of the devil: we pray, that God would by his Spirit take away from ourselves and others all blindness, weakness, indisposedness, and perverseness of heart; and by his grace make us able and willing to know, do, and submit to his will in all things, with the like humility, cheerfulness, faithfulness, diligence, zeal, sincerity, and constancy, as the angels do in heaven.

Q. 193. What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A. In the fourth petition (which is, Give us this day our daily bread), acknowledging that in Adam, and by our own sin, we have forfeited our right to all the outward blessings of this life, and deserve to be wholly deprived of them by God, and to have them cursed to us in the use of them; and that neither they of themselves are able to sustain us, nor we to merit, or by our own industry to procure them; but prone to desire, get, and use them unlawfully: we pray for ourselves and others, that both they and we, waiting upon the providence of God from day to day in the use of lawful means, may, of his free gift, and as to his fatherly wisdom shall seem best, enjoy a competent portion of them; and have the same continued and blessed unto us in our holy and comfortable use of them, and contentment in them; and be kept from all things that are contrary to our temporal support and comfort.

Q. 194. What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A. In the fifth petition (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors), acknowledging that we and all others are guilty both of original and actual sin, and thereby become debtors to the justice of God; and that neither we, nor any other creature, can make the least satisfaction for that debt: we pray for ourselves and others, that God of his free grace would, through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin, accept us in his Beloved; continue his favor and grace to us, pardon our daily failings, and fill us with peace and joy, in giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness; which we are the rather emboldened to ask, and encouraged to expect, when we have this testimony in ourselves, that we from the heart forgive others their offenses.

Q. 195. What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
A. In the sixth petition (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil), acknowledging that the most wise, righteous, and gracious God, for divers holy and just ends, may so order things, that we may be assaulted, foiled, and for a time led captive by temptations; that Satan, the world, and the flesh, are ready powerfully to draw us aside, and ensnare us; and that we, even after the pardon of our sins, by reason of our corruption, weakness, and want of watchfulness, are not only subject to be tempted, and forward to expose ourselves unto temptations, but also of ourselves unable and unwilling to resist them, to recover out of them, and to improve them; and worthy to be left under the power of them; we pray, that God would so overrule the world and all in it, subdue the flesh, and restrain Satan, order all things, bestow and bless all means of grace, and quicken us to watchfulness in the use of them, that we and all his people may by his providence be kept from being tempted to sin; or, if tempted, that by his Spirit we may be powerfully supported and enabled to stand in the hour of temptation; or when fallen, raised again and recovered out of it, and have a sanctified use and improvement thereof: that our sanctification and salvation may be perfected, Satan trodden under our feet, and we fully freed from sin, temptation, and all evil, forever.

Q. 196. What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us?
A. The conclusion of the Lord’s prayer (which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.) teacheth us to enforce our petitions with arguments, which are to be taken, not from any worthiness in ourselves, or in any other creature, but from God; and with our prayers to join praises, ascribing to God alone eternal sovereignty, omnipotency, and glorious excellency; in regard whereof, as he is able and willing to help us, so we by faith are emboldened to plead with him that he would, and quietly to rely upon him, that he will fulfill our requests. And, to testify this our desire and assurance, we say, Amen.

Source

Westminster Shorter Catechism (1648)

Shorter Catechism

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

Q. 5. Are there more Gods than one?
A. There is but one only, the living and true God.

Q. 6. How many persons are there in the godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Q. 8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

Q. 9. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

Q. 10. How did God create man?
A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

Q. 11. What are God’s works of providence?
A. God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.

Q. 12. What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?
A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.

Q. 13. Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
A. Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.

Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

Q. 15. What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
A. The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created was their eating the forbidden fruit.

Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.

Q. 17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.

Q. 19. What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.

Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a redeemer.

Q. 21. Who is the redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The only redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.

Q. 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 23. What offices doth Christ execute as our redeemer?
A. Christ, as our redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

Q. 24. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

Q. 25. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.

Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

Q. 27. Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?
A. Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.

Q. 28. Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation?
A. Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.

Q. 29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

Q. 31. What is effectual calling?
A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

Q. 32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

Q. 33. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

Q. 34. What is adoption?
A. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of, the sons of God.

Q. 35. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

Q. 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.

Q. 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.

Q. 38. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
A. At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.

Q. 39. What is the duty which God requireth of man?
A. The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to his revealed will.

Q. 40. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
A. The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience was the moral law.

Q. 41. Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A. The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.

Q. 42. What is the sum of the ten commandments?
A. The sum of the ten commandments is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.

Q. 43. What is the preface to the ten commandments?
A. The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Q. 44. What doth the preface to the ten commandments teach us?
A. The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us that because God is the Lord, and our God, and redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.

Q. 45. Which is the first commandment?
A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Q. 46. What is required in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly.

Q. 47. What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment forbiddeth the denying, or not worshiping and glorifying the true God as God, and our God; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone.

Q. 48. What are we specially taught by these words before me in the first commandment?
A. These words before me in the first commandment teach us that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other god.

Q. 49. Which is the second commandment?
A. The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Q. 50. What is required in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.

Q. 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

Q. 52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.

Q. 53. Which is the third commandment?
A. The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Q. 54. What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word and works.

Q. 55. What is forbidden in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.

Q. 56. What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the third commandment is that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment.

Q. 57. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Q. 58. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself.

Q. 59. Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath?
A. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath.

Q. 60. How is the sabbath to be sanctified?
A. The sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

Q. 61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words or works, about our worldly employments or recreations.

Q. 62. What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the sabbath day.

Q. 63. Which is the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment is, Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Q. 64. What is required in the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors or equals.

Q. 65. What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing anything against, the honor and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations.

Q. 66. What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment.

Q. 67. Which is the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Q. 68. What is required in the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

Q. 69. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

Q. 70. Which is the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Q. 71. What is required in the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech and behavior.

Q. 72. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words and actions.

Q. 73. Which is the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.

Q. 74. What is required in the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

Q. 75. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor’s wealth or outward estate.

Q. 76. Which is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Q. 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.

Q. 78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.

Q. 79. Which is the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.

Q. 80. What is required in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor, and all that is his.

Q. 81. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

Q. 82. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No mere man since the fall is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word and deed.

Q. 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Q. 84. What doth every sin deserve?
A. Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.

Q. 85. What doth God require of us that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?
A. To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.

Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.

Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

Q. 89. How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.

Q. 90. How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?
A. That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.

Q. 91. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

Q. 92. What is a sacrament?
A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.

Q. 93. Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?
A. The sacraments of the New Testament are baptism and the Lord’s supper.

Q. 94. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Q. 95. To whom is baptism to be administered?
A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.

Q. 96. What is the Lord’s supper?
A. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.

Q. 97. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s supper?
A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

Q. 98. What is prayer?
A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

Q. 99. What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer?
A. The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord’s prayer.

Q. 100. What doth the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us?
A. The preface of the Lord’s prayer, which is, Our Father which art in heaven, teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.

Q. 101. What do we pray for in the first petition?
A. In the first petition, which is, Hallowed be thy name, we pray that God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known; and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.

Q. 102. What do we pray for in the second petition?
A. In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

Q. 103. What do we pray for in the third petition?
A. In the third petition, which is, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven, we pray that God, by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey and submit to his will in all things, as the angels do in heaven.

Q. 104. What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A. In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread, we pray that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.

Q. 105. What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A. In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.

Q. 106. What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
A. In the sixth petition, which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.

Q. 107. What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us?
A. The conclusion of the Lord’s prayer, which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen, teacheth us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power and glory to him. And in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.

Source

¿Debería Ser Bautizado Otra Vez?

Hace algunos días, me hicieron esta pregunta: ¿Debería ser Bautizado Otra Vez? pero, lo cierto es, que suelen hacérmela muy a menudo. Esto suele ocurrir en el contexto, de una clase con nuevos miembros en la iglesia cuando alguien que, apenas va llegando a una congregación Reformada y que viene de otra congregación diferente a la Reformada, se acerca al pastor para decirle: «Yo fui bautizado por alguien de la universidad, que no fue ordenado al ministerio» o «Fui bautizado por mi vecino» o «en la iglesia Romanista» o «en una congregación Bautista» o «por una persona que en aquel entonces, era apostata de la fe» o «en la iglesia de los Mormones». Y la pregunta que le sigue a estas declaraciones, usualmente es: «¿Debería ser bautizado otra vez?».
La respuesta a esta pregunta, es bastante complicada, puesto que para llegar a ella, uno debe pasar primero por varias “capas”. Una pregunta crucial que uno debe hacerse es, si de verdad fue bautizado del todo. Hasta donde yo puedo decir, el “Re-Bautismo” o el “ser bautizado otra vez”, es algo imposible. Con esto quiero decir que, si el Bautismo no fue llevado a cabo de la manera correcta (es decir, de la manera en que fue instituido por Cristo), no existió tal Bautismo en primer lugar.

Ahora bien, ¿qué es el Bautismo? Es un sacramento[1] de la identificación visible con la muerte de Cristo; es un ritual de muerte; un signo y sello de aquella muerte, que verdaderamente ocurrió en aquellos que creen; un signo y sello de las buenas nuevas de que Cristo, Aquel que obedeció perfectamente a Dios, murió, fue enterrado y resucitó al tercer día. De manera que, todos aquellos que ponen su confianza en la obediencia de Él y no en sus propios méritos, tienen vida eterna; Dios les concede el regalo de la Fe para que puedan creer y, a través de ésta, sean unidos a Él por el Espíritu Santo y son libremente aceptados y declarados justos (justificados) por Dios, únicamente por la obediencia perfecta de Cristo Jesús imputada a su favor.

Las imágenes bíblicas del Bautismo, son actos que se hicieron una vez y que ya no se pueden repetir. Los Israelitas (adultos, niños, familias enteras incluidas en el pacto de Dios con Abraham), fueron «…bautizados en Moisés…» (1 Co. 10:2; es decir, se identificaron ritualmente con él por medio de ese ritual que significa: muerte corporal) en el Mar Rojo, «a pie enjuto» (Literalmente: con los pies secos; Éx. 14:16, 22, 29; 15:19). Definitivamente, esto fue un acto que ocurrió una vez y para siempre. Los Israelitas, estaban muertos; ellos le dieron la espalda al mar. Los ejércitos del Faraón, estuvieron a punto de destruirlos, hasta que el Señor los bautizó a todos y les salvó a través de (no “por”) las aguas divididas del Mar Rojo.
Antes de este episodio, hubo un diluvio (que ya no se repetirá otra vez), en el cual Dios salvó a Su pequeña iglesia a través de (no “por”; 1 Pe. 3:20) las aguas del diluvio; esto fue un ritual que representó la muerte, en el cual el pueblo de Dios, permaneció seco (dentro del Arca) y todos los enemigos del pueblo de Dios, fueron inmersos y ciertamente –no ritualmente- asesinados. Más tarde, los Israelitas pasaron el Río Jordán «en seco» (Jos. 3:17; 4:18, 22). En Romanos 6, Pablo utiliza el Bautismo como una ilustración de nuestra ruptura definitiva, hecha una vez y para siempre, con el pecado y la inauguración de nuestra nueva vida de santificación progresiva por la Sola Gracia, a través de la Sola Fe, en unión con Cristo, por medio de la obra llena de gracia y continúa del Espíritu Santo en los creyentes.

Él enseña exactamente lo mismo, incluso todavía más explícito, en Colosenses 2:11–12, en donde, a fin de explicar la naturaleza de esta ruptura definitiva, él apela a la circuncisión; un ritual tipológico de la muerte que apuntaba a Cristo siendo “cortado” en favor de Su pueblo. Allá en la Cruz, ocurrió una circuncisión, siendo Cristo “cortado” por nosotros, cuando fue hecho inmundo (He. 13) por nosotros fuera del campamento. Este es el por qué Pablo conecta la muerte, la circuncisión y el bautismo en Colosenses 2. Todos ellos son actos que ocurren una sola vez en la vida.

Por eso, Pablo también dice a los Judaizantes[2] que, si la circuncisión es tan poderosa –como aquellos creían-, ellos debían entonces “mutilarse” a sí mismos (es decir, castrarse; Ga. 5:12). Por lo tanto, el Bautismo Cristiano, administrado tal y como lo ordenó Cristo, es aplicar agua conjuntamente con la Palabra de Dios (el Evangelio) en el nombre del Padre, del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo por un ministro debidamente ordenado en una verdadera congregación Católica[3] , Evangélica y Reformada; esto es, un congregación que posea las marcas de la Verdadera Iglesia (Confesión Belga, artículo 29). Obviamente, en los Estados Unidos y en el resto del mundo, se administran bautismos por congregaciones, que no cumplen con las marcas de la Verdadera Iglesia; he allí, la dificultad.

Lo cierto es, que no somos los primeros Cristianos en hacernos esta pregunta del re-bautismo. Muchos Cristianos tuvieron que lidiar con este problema, en los siglos cuarto y quinto (años 300 y 400 d.C) en la controversia Donatista. En el año 302 d.C, el emperador de Roma Diocleciano, ordenó la persecución de los Cristianos; algunos de ellos, se negaban a renunciar a su fe y a entregar las Sagradas Escrituras para que fuesen quemadas. Otros, renunciaban a Cristo y entregaban las Escrituras. Luego que finalizó la persecución, estos últimos eran entregados por “traidores a Cristo” para ser asesinados. Estos acontecimientos, dieron lugar a una controversia sobre qué debía pensarse de aquellos que traicionaban a Cristo y no daban testimonio de su fe; especialmente, cuando se eligió a Ceciliano como Obispo (un término moderno, sería “pastor principal”) de Cartago en el 312.

Ceciliano, fue consagrado/dedicado a tal oficio, por otro obispo que había traicionado a Cristo, negándole y entregando las Escrituras bajo la persecución de Diocleciano. A raíz de esto, Donato dirigió un movimiento separatista del cual él fue Obispo desde el 315, hasta su muerte en el 355. Este movimiento de Donato (denominados “Donatistas”), creía que la correcta administración de los Sacramentos (Bautismo y Cena del Señor), dependía del estado espiritual de la persona que los administraba, es decir, que aquellos que habían rechazado a Cristo y entregado las Escrituras al Emperador Diocleciano, eran “traidores”, “inmundos” y, por tanto, no podían administrar dignamente los sacramentos (si algún Sacramento administraban ellos, no era válido). Esta creencia fue atractiva y abrazada por muchos en el Norte de África.

Agustín (354–430 d.C), quien fue Obispo de Hipona, rechazó y contendió enérgicamente contra esta creencia. Eventualmente, la Iglesia Católica[4] adoptó este rechazo del Donatismo de Agustín, y siglos después, Juan Calvino en su rechazo contra los Anabautistas, también citó a Agustín para el mismo propósito. En su obra Institución de la Religión Cristiana, Juan Calvino se refirió a los Anabautistas, a quienes él llamó “Catabautistas” (Κατά /Catá/ del Griego, que significa “en contra de” y Βαπτισμός, /Baptismós/ “Bautismo”) término que Zuinglio (1484–1531) y otros, ya habían usado para describir a los Anabautistas; por cuanto éstos últimos rechazaban el bautismo de los hijos de los creyentes y –como dice Calvino- también los bautismos administrados en la iglesia Romanista.

Es cierto que Lutero, Bucero, Zuinglio, Melanchthon y Calvino, fueron bautizados en la vieja y medieval comunión Papal anterior a la Reforma pero, también es cierto, que ellos y las Iglesias Reformadas después de ellos, aceptaban los bautismos de la iglesia Romana como válidos

«…nos sirve de firme argumento considerar, que no somos bautizados en nombre de ningún mortal, sino en el nombre del Padre, y del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo (Mt. 28:19); y, por tanto, ese Bautismo no es del hombre, sino de Dios, sea quienquiera el que lo administre. Por más ignorantes e impíos que hayan sido los que nos bautizaron, sin embargo, no lo hicieron en la comunión de su ignorancia e impiedad, sino en la fe de Jesucristo. Porque ellos no nos bautizaron en su propio nombre ni invocaron su nombre, sino el de Dios, y no nos bautizaron en nombre de ninguno otro. Ahora bien, ya que ese Bautismo era de Dios, tuvo sin duda alguna encerrada en sí mismo la promesa de la remisión de los pecados, la mortificación de la carne, la vivificación espiritual y la participación en Cristo. Por tanto, en nada perjudicó a los judíos el ser circuncidados por sacerdotes impíos y apóstatas; ni tampoco por ello el signo de Dios fue dado inútilmente, de manera que fuese necesario repetir la circuncisión; más bien fue un acto suficiente a través del cual, les comunicaba a los participantes que debían volverse a la Verdadera Fuente del Sacramento». [5]

La dignidad de una persona, no valida el Sacramento; más bien son las promesas divinas (el Evangelio) en la Palabra adjuntadas a la señal y sello, que validan el Sacramento. Tal y como Calvino señaló, si abrazamos la creencia Donatista, acabaríamos con la historia de la redención. Este principio Donatista, asumía que ellos podían conocer cosas que en la vida real, nosotros sabemos que no es cierto. Esto es parte de la crítica Reformada de la posición (ana/cata) Bautista: Aunque pospongamos el Bautismo hasta que la persona profese su fe, aun así, conoceríamos únicamente la profesión externa del candidato; puesto que sólo Dios conoce el corazón.

¿Qué pensaríamos de un ministro que no es regenerado y que bautizó a alguien, pero que tiempo después de aquel acto, Dios salva a aquel ministro? ¿Significaría eso que aquel bautismo no fue válido y, por tanto, su próximo bautismo sí será válido ahora que es regenerado? ¿Y qué, si el candidato hubiese descubierto luego de su bautismo, que el ministro no era regenerado y, por tanto, él fue y volvió a ser bautizado ocurriendo esto antes de que Dios salvase al primer ministro que lo bautizó? Luego, en el momento en el que Dios salva al primer ministro, ¿acaso este acto invalidaría el segundo bautismo de aquella persona? Observe el lector, cuán rápida e innecesariamente, se “enreda” este tipo de pensamiento.

Hay personas que me han discutido que el Romanismo posterior al Concilio Vaticano II, con su giro hacia el Modernismo, era más corrupto que el Romanismo de los siglos XV y XVI cuando los Reformadores fueron bautizados; yo lo dudo. La Iglesia Occidental, a principios del siglo XVI, estaba profundamente corrompida desde “la cabeza hasta los pies” (Concilio de Letrán V). La naturaleza de la corrupción puede que haya cambiado pero, el grado de la corrupción, no. En el siglo XVI, los laicos[6] no podían leer las Escrituras en su propio idioma pero, ahora –luego del Concilio Vaticano II- sí pueden. Lo cierto es, que existen tantas versiones de Roma como Romanistas; y todos y cada uno de ellos, eligen aquellos aspectos del dogma[7] de la iglesia al cual se adhieren.

La única cosa que los une es una sumisión externa y formal al Obispo de Roma. En realidad, la estima hacia el Concilio Vaticano II, varía de Papa a Papa. Por ejemplo, Juan Pablo II y Benedicto XVI, buscaron detener la influencia del Concilio Vaticano II, pero Francisco, parece haber determinado de ciertas maneras, defender y promover este Concilio anterior a Juan Pablo II. En esencia, no existe una única iglesia Romanista. Al igual que los Reformadores, no tenemos razones válidas para rechazar los bautismos administrados por la iglesia Romana. ¿Qué acerca de la validez del bautismo llevado a cabo por un Laico? Calvino, trató este problema en tres secciones de su obra La Institución de la Religión Cristiana (Libro IV, capítulo 15, secciones: 19–22).

En la sección 19, él declaró que a pesar de la corrupción que ocasionaron las añadiduras de la iglesia medieval al sacramento (añadiduras que él denominó «pompas y farsas»), aún era un sacramento; todavía era un Bautismo Cristiano Trinitario. En las secciones siguientes, él justamente protesta contra las parteras y otros, que practicaban los denominados “Bautismos de emergencia”. Estos “Bautismos de emergencia”, son impropios porque los que lo administraban, asumían que uno no podía entrar al cielo sin antes ser bautizado; esto es una creencia falsa. El ladrón que estaba colgado en la cruz al lado de Cristo, no fue bautizado y, sin embargo, Cristo le dijo que estaría en el paraíso con Él aquel mismo día.

Imagine el lector por un momento, a una persona que se encuentra en una isla desierta; de repente, se acerca flotando hasta la orilla de la playa, un paquete sellado con una Biblia en su interior. El náufrago, toma la Biblia, comienza a leerla, el Señor lo salva y luego esta persona muere sin ser bautizado por un ministro ordenado. ¡Él estaría con el Señor! El Bautismo es un sacramento santo, un símbolo y sello del pacto de Dios pero, no es ni contiene en sí mismo, la salvación. En este sentido, una etiqueta sobre un recipiente que diga “almuerzo”, no es el almuerzo mismo.

Recientemente, alguien me escribió para preguntarme qué pensar con respecto al caso de una persona que fue bautizada por un (pastor/ líder) Laico, pero que este (pastor/líder) Laico, no era bautizado. Se puede discutir que este laico, estaba sirviendo en favor de una organización, de la cual podríamos decir que le faltaban una o tal vez dos marcas de la Verdadera Iglesia; estas son:

  • La Predicación Pura del Evangelio.
  • La Administración Pura o Correcta de los Sacramentos.
  • La Administración de la Disciplina Eclesiástica.

Podemos decir que faltando una de estas marcas, este ministro laico, estaba actuando en favor de una organización que no tiene relación con la Iglesia Cristiana o en el mejor de los casos, en un cuerpo “paraeclesiástico”. Esto es cierto, incluso en el acto eclesiástico más obvio (por ejemplo, que el ministro es ordenado en una iglesia que carece de una o más marcas). En efecto, esto es lo mismo que el caso del bautismo administrado por un laico que trabaje en la universidad.

Calvino declaró acertadamente que la circuncisión del segundo hijo de Moisés llevada a cabo por Seforá (Éx. 4:25), no es un ejemplo para que los laicos lleven a cabo el Bautismo, sino más bien, que ella realizó una circuncisión que nunca más iba a repetirse. Aquello fue un acto irregular, no común. Calvino escribió que Seforá fue presuntuosa; quizás, la narrativa presenta a Seforá, como si ella le hubiese salvado la vida a Moisés. Es un evento oscuro del cual es arriesgado concluir mucho pero, sí ilustra un buen ejemplo irregular de una administración del sacramento para admisión a la comunidad visible del pacto.

Desde mi punto de vista, asumiendo que los bautismos son llevados a cabo por personas Cristianas conscientes (obviamente, no pueden ser Mormones o de alguna otra secta falsa), entonces tales bautismos, deberían ser tenidos como “irregulares” pero son administraciones válidas a fin de cuentas. Decir que no son Bautismos, nos lleva peligrosamente a la creencia Donatista. Es mejor que los Bautismos sean administrados regularmente por ministros debidamente ordenados, bajo un mandato eclesiástico en una verdadera Iglesia y que el procedimiento para el Bautismo, se lleve a cabo tal y como lo ordenó Cristo, sin corromper Sus órdenes. De otra manera, no existió tal Bautismo en primer lugar. Calvino, aunque se opuso al abuso de bautismos administrados por Laicos, no rechazó tales bautismos del todo como si fuesen inválidos. El bautismo administrado por un Laico, es irregular pero sigue siendo válido (esto está implícito: siempre que lo administre de la manera en que Cristo lo instituyó) [8].

En resumen: ¡No desee Usted ser bautizado de nuevo! Si ya fue bautizado una vez, no desee hacerlo de nuevo; únase a una congregación que tenga las marcas de la Verdadera Iglesia y sométase a su gobierno y disciplina. Aquellos que han sido bautizados de manera irregular, esto es, por algún trabajador de la universidad o cualquier otro Laico, no deberían dudar de su Bautismo. ¿Qué tan lejos debemos llegar en nuestras convicciones anti-Donatistas? ¿Qué acerca del “bautismo” administrado por los Mormones? A mí se me ha objetado que los Mormones sí pronuncian el nombre Trino pero, ellos niegan en la práctica, la doctrina Cristiana de la Trinidad. Ellos re-definen la Trinidad, diciendo que Dios es Uno en cuanto a voluntad o propósito pero, que no lo es en esencia. Que el Dios Trino es Uno en esencia, es la enseñanza del Credo de Atanasio, por ejemplo.
Por lo tanto, aunque los Mormones empleen agua en su bautismo y aunque utilicen palabras de la doctrina Cristiana, no es un bautismo; no es válido. Esto nos lleva a decir que, cuando una persona se convierte del Mormonismo al Cristianismo, el bautismo que él reciba, no será un “segundo bautismo” porque en primer lugar, nunca fue bautizado de la forma instituida por Cristo.

Es cierto que tanto el ministro Cristiano como la (regadera / ducha), ambos derraman agua sobre la cabeza de alguien pero, eso no significa que ambos son bautismos. Todas estas preguntas realizadas al principio son difíciles pero, la posición anti-Donatista, es la correcta. El estatus espiritual de alguien, no define un sacramento; tampoco lo hace el que una persona haya sido ordenada. Sin embargo, aún estamos obligados a decir que los Laicos, no deben actuar presuntuosamente. Ellos no están autorizados por Dios para administrar los sacramentos; la administración, pertenece a la Iglesia visible e institucional. Jesús, no comisionó a cada creyente a predicar, evangelizar y a administrar el Bautismo (Mt. 28:18–20).

Él autorizó y ordenó a la Iglesia visible e institucional, para hacer estas cosas. Pero, si alguien de forma irregular predica y las personas abrazan la obediencia de Cristo a su favor y ya no su obediencia propia, ¡bendito sea Dios! A través de este acto, no podemos decir que el mensaje no fue enviado y que el Espíritu Santo no usó ese mensaje para traer vida nueva y fe verdadera. ¿Cuál cuerpo eclesiástico envió Billy Graham? ¿Acaso estamos negando que Dios el Espíritu Santo usó a Graham para, a través de su predicación, salvar personas? No. ¿Fue la predicación de Graham algo irregular? Sí. ¿Acaso debió él haber ido sin mandato eclesiástico y sin supervisión? No. Esto es la distinción entre lo que es y lo que debe ser.

…cuando viene a nosotros un cismático o un hereje, para hacerse católico, procuramos abolir con la disuasión y la refutación su cisma y su herejía; pero lejos de nosotros atentar contra los sacramentos cristianos que encontramos en ellos, y contra cualquier verdad que conserven; lejos de nosotros reiterar lo que reconocemos debe darse sólo una vez, no sea que, preocupados por los vicios humanos, condenemos las medicinas divinas, o buscando curar lo que no está herido, vayamos a herir al hombre enfermo precisamente en la parte sana. Augustinus, El único bautismo (Réplica a Petiliano) III,4.
___________________________________________________________________
Notas:

[1] La palabra “Sacramento” en nuestro Español, proviene del Latín Sacramentum (que tradujo Jerónimo en la Vulgata), y ésta a su vez, proviene de la palabra Griega μυστήριον /mustérion/ del Nuevo Testamento (Ef. 1:9; 3:3, 9; 5:32; 1 Ti. 3:16; Ap. 1:20). Morfológicamente, Sacramentum, es una derivación del verbo sacrare (hacer santo) mediante el sufijo denominalizador mentum (instrumental, “medio para”), esto es, Sacramentum, equivale gramaticalmente a: instrumento para hacer santo. Este vocablo, se usaba a la llegada del cristianismo a Roma, para designar un juramento de los soldados romanos de servicio incondicional al ejército imperial. En cuanto a μυστήριον, se refiere a lo que hoy en día llamamos con la palabra “misterio” o “algo que es secreto”. El Griego bíblico, hace referencia a lo que, estando fuera de la comprensión natural, puede ser conocido solo por revelación divina. (Nota del traductor).

[2] Como los Judaizantes exigían que los Gálatas convertidos del paganismo recibieran la circuncisión, Pablo alude irónicamente a la castración ritual practicada por los sacerdotes de la diosa Cibeles. (Comentario a Gá. 5:12 de la Cantera — Iglesias)

[3] La palabra “Católico”, es una transliteración de la palabra Griega Καθολικός /cazolicós/ y significa literalmente: “Algo que está disperso por todo el mundo y, por tanto, no está limitado a un país, región, pueblo, etc. y además que siempre ha existido y nunca dejará de existir”. Aplicando este concepto a la Iglesia de Cristo, decimos que es “Católica”, porque no está limitada solamente a Roma (no hay Cristianos solamente en Roma) sino que está dispersa por todo el mundo, siempre ha existido y siempre existirá (hay cristianos en otros países aparte de Roma; siempre han existido y siempre –por la gracia de Dios- existirán). De manera que el lector no debe asociar la palabra “Católico” exclusivamente con la Iglesia Romana; porque no es así. De hecho, la palabra “Católico Romano”, es una contradicción de términos. En Ap. 5:9, aparece el concepto de la “Catolicidad” de la Iglesia. Las iglesias de la Reforma del siglo XVI reclamaron esta palabra para que se devuelva el sentido original de la misma. Nosotros ciertamente creemos en la santa fe católica enseñada en las Sagradas Escrituras y confesada por verdaderas iglesias en todo momento y lugares. (No en la definición romana que hace referencia a la comunión y sujeción al obispo romano. ) . (Comentario del traductor).

[4] Considerar comentario en la nota anterior, sobre la palabra “Católico”

[5] Institución de la Religión Cristiana. Libro IV. Capítulo 15. Sección 16.

[6] Los λαϊκός-laicos , eran y son las personas que no están o no fueron ordenadas o consagradas para ejercer el oficio de ministros en la Iglesia. (Nota del traductor).

[7] Proviene del verbo Griego δόγμα /dógma/ que aparece en la Septuaginta y en el Nuevo Testamento, cuyo significado es: mandatos firmes en la esfera de la conducta práctica; decretos gubernamentales (Ester 3:9; Daniel 2:13; 6:8–10; Lucas 2:1); regulaciones apostólicas (Hechos 16:4) y ordenanzas mosaicas (Colosenses 2:14; Efesios 2:15). Para más información, consultar Introducción a la Teología Sistemática de Louis Berkhof (Nota del traductor).

[8] Lo escrito entre paréntesis, fue agregado por el traductor, como algo que el Dr. R. Scott Clark ya da por sentado.

Trans. Jose Covalky and Andrés García.

You’ve Been Invited To A [Fill In The Blank]: Should You Go?

Introduction
As the culture descends further into post-Christianity and even the memory of Christianity fades in the minds of most Westerners, Christians will find themselves facing many of the same questions faced by the Christians of the first and second centuries. Many of us are probably finding ourselves in a circumstance where we’re being invited to attending homosexual weddings, the ordination of persons who are not biblically qualified for office, a cultic/pagan/non-Christian ritual, or some other event that is equally problematic.

How should we respond? There are two things that we must do: communicate our genuine love for those involved and our resolute commitment to honor Christ and his Word in every circumstance Let’s start with the latter. How do we honor Christ in a difficult circumstance, when by saying “No” we may seem to be unloving and thus perhaps judgmental, uncharitable, and even unchristian? The answer is that if we act on biblical principles we honor Christ even when it is painful to do so.

As Christians we are free to do a great number of things. In Galatians 5:1 Paul wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1 ESV).” To the Colossians, who were being falsely taught and thus tempted to the spiritual bondage of man-made rules (Col 2), e.g., “do not touch, do not taste…” the Apostle Paul re-asserted the Christian’s liberty to enjoy God’s good creation within the bounds of his law, in the freedom of the gospel. In 1Corinthians 8, Paul defended the Christian’s freedom to eat meat offered to idols, even when others think that we should not. Nevertheless, there are things we are not free to do. We are not free to do things that may cause a brother or sister stumble back into paganism, unbelief, or into gross sin. Some believers understand that pagan gods and idols are nothing but figments of the imagination.

Not all, however, possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do (1 Corinthians 8:7–8 revised from the ESV)

We are also free not to eat if the exercise of the freedom to eat will cause a brother or sister to stumble. We are free to eat until that eating becomes a competing communion. The moment our pagan host says, “We offered this to the gods” then we must say, “Thank you for your kind invitation but I cannot participate.”

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are cone body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that fan idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1Cor 10:14–22; ESV)

Believers are already in communion with the Lord. Just as the Israelites (infants and adults) were baptized into Moses, and just as they communed in the wilderness between redemption and the promised land, so we have been identified with Christ and are sojourning between redemption and consummation (1Cor 10:1–13). So, too, we’ve been initiated into Christ’s covenant community (the visible church), identified with his death in baptism. We’ve made profession of faith and have eaten his ascended, proper and natural body and blood (John 6:53; Belgic Confession Art. 35) by the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, through faith. Our loyalties have been bought with a price. Therefore we honor God with our bodies (1Cor 6:20).

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:23-33 ESV).

As Paul says, we are free from the opinions of men and from bondage to the same but we are not free to damage brothers and sisters by leading them back into sin and we are not free to participate in rituals which rival those instituted by Christ. On this principle Reformed folk have historically refused to participate in the Masonic Lodge and related and parallel societies, their youth auxiliaries and the like. On this principle Reformed folk have refused to commune in a Roman Catholic mass (see Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 80).

Paul is clear that it’s not that we must withdraw from the world (1Cor 5:10) but there are limits to our freedoms. We cannot participate in a competing religious ceremony or communion.

Whether attending an ordination service constitutes participating in a competing communion is a judgment call but it’s hard to attend such ceremonies (e.g., a homosexual wedding) without signaling approval. If something is really wrong then to do it is to act against truth and conscience. We know that the Apostle Paul would not participate in a meal in which the host said, in effect, this meal is no longer purely common, it is a religious meal.” Would he attend the ordination of a homosexual male or of a female of any sexual orientation? Uncomfortable as it makes late moderns (and, according to surveys, Millennials in particular), the Apostle Paul categorized both homosexual orientation and behavior as sin. It’s hard to imagine that he would sanction a homosexual wedding with his presence—not because he was a prude but because his conscience is bound to the Word of God. Arguably, the same is true for the question of the ordination of females. There are writers whose work I really like, outstanding female scholars who are also ordained ministers. I appreciate and value their persons and their work without endorsing their ordination or their defense of the ordinate of females. Try as they may, the advocates of the ordination of females to the ministry have not been able to make 1Timothy 2 disappear from Holy Scripture:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve… (1 Timothy 2:12-13 ESV).

Steve Baugh has effectively refuted the argument that Paul was responding to a particular kind of feminism in Ephesus—with the consequence that Paul’s prohibition in 1Timothy 2:12–13 no longer applies today. As my dear friend Don Treick always says, “It’s in the Bible.” Indeed, as a practical matter, life would be easier if it wasn’t but it is and it’s there for a reason and this is one of those pressure points that will continue to cause friction between Christians and the broader culture. If we allow 1Timothy 2 to be swept away for the sake of getting along, then the rest of Scripture must necessarily go by the boards.

As the liberals long ago caved in and evangelicals have conceded the ordination of females, those who resist will be regarded with even great suspicion: “What’s wrong with you? Why won’t you go along with the program?” At that point, it’s clear that the real issue is no longer: what is the truth, what does Scripture teach, how has the church historically understood this passage, what do we confess? Now the question is why some stubborn folks won’t conform. That’s exactly the challenge faced by the early Christians in the 2nd century. As in the martyrdom of Polycarp, the Romans weren’t typically asking Christians to believe that Caesar is a god but. They were only asking us to say that he is. They weren’t typically asking us to stop believing in Jesus. They were only asking us to renounce Christ outwardly. They were asking us to conform outwardly. Those who refused paid for it with blood. We’re not there yet but we don’t have to look far to see it, do we?

According to 1John 4, there is a connection between words and what they signify. They signify spiritual realities with spiritual consequences. Therefore there are limits to what we may say and sometimes we are called upon to confess the faith in the face of moral and theological error, even when it is uncomfortable to do so.

How To Disagree Without Being Disagreeable
Above we considered the problem created by movement of the prevailing culture away from Christian-theistic assumptions and the associated descent of the culture into neo-paganism. How do Christians respond to the pressure to conform to social and religious events and other gatherings that are contrary to Christian ethics? The first thing we must do is to understand the antithesis between belief and unbelief and when we must stand on and assert that antithesis. The second question before us is how to respond when we find ourselves in a state of confession, i.e., when our non-Christian friends, relatives, co-workers, or others ask us to or even seek to require us to do that which the moral law of God does not permit.

We are not the first believers to face these questions and challenges. The first Christians faced them in the first several centuries after the ascension of Christ and well beyond as Christianity moved beyond the Mediterranean to Western Europe, where it again came into contact with paganism. We did not always navigate these seas well. Sometimes we assimilated pagan ideas and practices into our theology, piety, and practice. Sometimes this happened in the attempt to communicate the gospel to pagans and sometimes it happened out of desire to be accepted by pagans, as a way of minimizing the friction between Christianity and paganism.

After Scripture, which we considered in part 1, one of the more helpful guides to these question is the Treatise to Diognetus. This document was written sometime in the mid-2nd century (c. 150AD) by an author who called himself simply “the disciple” (Mathetes) Scholars disagree about who the author probably was but my favorite suggestion, defended brilliantly by Charles Hill, is that it was most likely Polycarp. Whoever “the disciple” was he gives us a wonderful pattern for engaging our non-Christian friends, neighbors, relatives, and even civil authorities in a winsome way. Like Christians in northern Nigeria, throughout the Middle East, and the Far East the Christians of the 2nd century were under increasing pressure to conform to the prevailing paganism and sometimes that pressure to conform came from the pointy end of a sword. In his appeal for toleration Mathetes wrote the following:

For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric way of life…For while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. The live in their own countries but only as nonresidents, they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws. They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted.

In this passage (from chapter 5) Mathetes does two things: He acknowledges that we do, in fact, have things in common with unbelievers and he asserts the anthesis, i.e., the reality that, when it comes to ultimate matters, Christians have loyalties and commitments that transcend our commitments to this world.

Notice his rhetorical strategy. He did not appeal first to the antithesis, that which separates Christians from non-Christians but to that which we have in common. One mistake that new Christians (or sometimes those who have newly discovered the Reformed confession) is the temptation to deny that Christians and non-Christians have anything in common whatever. This is understandable. When we first come to faith we see how blind, how ignorant we were, that we lived in moral and spiritual darkness. Now that, by God’s free, sovereign favor, we see what we were and what we are and who Christ is and who he is to us—our Savior and the Lord of all!—it’s tempting to think that we no longer have anything in common with our unbelieving past or our unbelieving friends, relatives, or co-workers. That’s not true. We do. Both of us, believers and unbelievers alike, continue to live in God’s world together. In that respect nothing has really changed. What has changed is that, by God’s free favor in Christ, by the work of the Spirit in us, by which we were granted new life, we now see things differently but Christ was Lord all along. Our coming to new life and faith and union with Christ did not make Lord. He was. We just see it now. We were God’s image bearers before we came to faith—even though the image was defaced and we were busily trying to deny that reality and to suppress the knowledge of God that all image bearers carry (Gen 2). Our non-Christian friends et al are also image bearers. They are in rebellion to the Lord but that rebellion doesn’t change the facts. It just adds to the chaos and confusion of this world.

Because we share a common, shared status as image bearers, because believers and unbelievers live together under God’s general providence (he makes the rain to fall on believers and unbelievers alike; Matt 5). Recently, in San Diego County, we endured some unseasonable wildfires. Many acres have been burned so far but, thanks to God, relatively few homes or businesses have burned. Did God spare only Christians? No. He spared Christians and non-Christians and likely both Christians and non-Christians lost homes. We live in God’s world together. We stop at the same traffic lights. We experience the same weather. We eat the same food. We were the same clothes (although we may we them a bit differently sometimes). We speak the same language. We drive the same cars. We use the same phones. We obey the same laws.

So, as we try to communicate to our non-Christians friends why we cannot join them in their celebration, we should be sure to begin with that which unites us, which we have in common. One of the the things that has always irritated non-Christians most about Christians is that it has seemed to them that we have nothing whatever in common with them, that we are “special,” that we are exempt from this affairs of this world. From those places where we must separate from the world or distinguish ourselves from it, unbelievers sometimes (perhaps often) infer that we do so because we are intrinsically better than they, that we think that God loves us (and not them) because we are good and hates them because they are bad. This is because the natural impulse is to relate to God on the basis of works (being good). We were made to relate to God on the basis of works (Heidelberg Catechism, Q/A 6, 9). We confess that we “were made in righteous and true holiness that we might rightly know our Creator, heartily love with him” and, upon completing the probation, “live with him in eternal blessedness” because we had obeyed what the Belgic Confession (ch. 14) calls “the commandment of life.”

Unfortunately, sometimes those who profess the Christian faith give unbelievers reason to think that is how the world works, that we really do relate to God on the basis of our personal obedience when the truth is quite opposite: after the fall we are accepted only and ever on the basis of Christ’s perfect righteousness earned for us and imputed to us and received through faith (resting, trusting) alone.

Of course unbelievers may be misinterpreting our assertion of the fundamental spiritual (and consequently epistemic) difference between believers and non-believers as a claim that we have nothing in common. Perhaps, however, we have unintentionally given the impression that we have nothing in common? Sometimes Christians (and even some in the Reformed community) sometimes speak about the antithesis in a way that gives that impression.

There is a most profound difference between believers and unbelievers. It is the difference between spiritual blindness and sight, between spiritual life and death. The only reason the dead come to life (Ezek 37) and the blind are made to see (Matt 11) is free, sovereign Spirit of God who raises the dead and grants sight to the blind. The dead have no prior claim on God and he does not give sight to the blind because of any quality in them or even because of the quality of their faith. Therefore, we must not ever ascribe the difference to anything but God’s free favor and sovereign good pleasure.

Nevertheless, as humans made in the image of God, as fellow sinners as judged by the law of God, as fellow recipients of God’s general providence and mercy by which he gives gifts and restrains evil, we do have genuine areas of community and as we try to articulate our differences and our convictions we do well to begin with those things we have in common.

How To Communicate Our Differences
So far we have looked at Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians about the limits of their ability to relate to non-Christians and his defense of Christian freedom in the same. We have also looked at the defense of the faith by a certain Disciple (Mathetes) c. 150AD as part of which he explained briefly what Christians have in common with non-Christians and what they do not. In this final part of the series we will consider how this early Christian articulated the spiritual, theological, and moral antithesis to his non-Christian neighbors.

As we try to explain to our non-Christian friends, neighbors, and loved ones why we cannot join them in their event, as I tried to explain in part 2, we need to by express the antithesis that exists between belief and unbelief. Paul says:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

(2 Corinthians 6:16&ndsah;18 ESV)

Before we express the antithesis we need to try to communicate our genuine appreciation for those who have offered to include in a significant event in their lives. Though they know, in their conscience (Rom 1–2), that God is and there is something wrong and that they are ultimately accountable to God they are also busily suppressing that knowledge. They do live in real darkness (Eph 2). Their affections are misdirected and confused. They, as we before God graciously gave us new life and opened our eyes, hate God and do not want to submit to his creational order and moral law. Yet, as image bearers, in the general providence of God, they can be genuinely kind and none of us is as evil as we might otherwise be without the restraining hand of God.

We need to say to those who’ve included us in their lives, “We love you. We care for you as a fellow image bearer and as a friend/neighbor/co-worker/family member. We genuinely appreciate your invitation to participate in [fill in the blank]. We appreciate how important this event is to you and how important it is to you to have your friends and loved ones present.” It would be good to articulate what it is in particular about your non-Christian friend that you value—as I’ve mentioned before, we ought to value folk not just for their potential to become Christians, for then they become mere notches on one’s evangelistic belt—but rather we ought to love them for what they are (fellow image bearers) and who they are to us.

We have good warrant for thinking and speaking this way. God loves sinners. Jesus, God the Son incarnate, loved sinners—the very sinners, for whom he came to obey, die, and for whose justification he was raise. He loved those who turned on him in a mob, the same mob that shouted for Bar-Abbas out of spite.

After we have expressed our affection for those who’ve sought to include us in their lives in this way, we should also explain why we cannot participate. It is not because we are morally superior or without sin but because we are not our own. We’ve been bought with a price (1Cor 6). We may be relatively autonomous with respect to civil authorities and others in this world but relative to God we are servants, we are slaves. We are to “have this mind” in us that Christ Jesus had (Phil 2). Even if we might otherwise be minded to it, because we have been purchased with the precious blood of Christ (1Pet 1:19) there are limits, there are things we may not do.

Mathetes wrote:

For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric way of life…For while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. The live in their own countries but only as nonresidents, they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws. They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted.

The limits of our participation in are determined by our dual citizenship. We are free to do a great many things but insofar as our heavenly citizenship (Phil 3:20) limits us there simply are things we cannot do. As Americans (or where ever the reader might be) we love our country but we love another country, a heavenly city-state (Gal 4) even more and we are ambassadors from that place to this. We must live before our unbelieving friends, neighbors, and relatives as if we represent the heavenly kingdom because we do. The Ambassador for Whatevertania might like to appear before the president in flip-flops and sunglasses but he dare not because he is, with respect to his office, a public person. So it is with us. We live fully in this place and time, under the Lordship of Christ but as Mathetes says, our heavenly citizenship prevents us from sharing our wives, from putting our (unborn and born) children to death, and from indulging in sexual immorality and from sanctioning that which is contrary to the creational pattern—a pattern which is binding upon all image bearers.

During the course of this brief series some correspondents have written to ask about Christian liberty in these matters. Yes, of course, there is liberty (1Cor 6:12) but that liberty is circumscribed by God’s moral law and when not limited by law it is limited by wisdom. Even if, under God’s law, you might believe yourself to be free to do this or that you should still ask yourself: “is it wise? Is it profitable?” I understand the temptation to react to legalism but not all limits are legalism.

We Are Not Polishing Brass On A Sinking Ship

More than 30 years ago, when I first came into contact with Reformed theology, piety, and practice (the Reformed confession broadly defined), I also came into contact with a movement within the Reformed world known as “Christian Reconstructionism” and its child “theonomy.” In those days, as we discussed and argued eschatological views (mainly a version of postmillennialism that looks forward to the gradual Christianizing of the world prior to the return of Christ and amillennialism, that anticipates both periods of spiritual prosperity and famine prior to Christ’s return but which doesn’t typically anticipate global Christianization) one of the objections that my Reconstructionist/theonomic friends, who tended to hold the postmillennial view, made against amillennial (and anti-Reconstructionist/theonomic) position is that it reduced the role of the Christian in the world to  polishing brass on a sinking ship.” The image, of course, is meant to symbolize futility. The phrase is widely attributed (following Gary North’s attribution) to the late Dispensational radio preacher, J. Vernon McGee (1904–88). Though deceased for 25 years, his voice lives online and on the air. A search of the Through the Bible site doesn’t show the expression but it captures the way many evangelicals came to see their role in the world.

The dominant eschatology (view of last things) among American evangelicals and fundamentalists, in the 19th and 20th centuries, was a form of premillennialism that anticipated the imminent return of Christ over a series of events including a secret rapture, in which believers would be taken bodily from the earth—made famous in the Left Behind songs (“Larry Norman’s, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”) books, and movies, a tribulation, and Christ’s earthly millennial reign in Jerusalem. Since Christ was soon to return and Christians were to be delivered from the earth, cultural engagement came to be regarded as futile. This view of Christian cultural engagement was further reinforced by a view of God that suggested that God is selectively sovereign or that his in his ability to control events is limited by the exercise of the human will. Associated with these views was a sort of quasi-Manichean dualism that thought of the world as subject to two competing powers, God and Satan. Much of the world, including daily life, was regarded as subject to Satan and even inherently evil. The material world was with suspicion and sense experience was likewise suspect. Finally, these views were associated with a view of the OT that regarded it not only as expired but as practically irrelevant to Christian theology and living. There developed among groups holding these ideas a strong dichotomy between the Old and New Testaments.

The reader who has some familiarity with the history of ideas will recognize the influences of a few ancient Christian heresies and even pagan ideas in this complex of ideas. It was the Gnostics (c. mid-2nd century AD) who taught that the created, material world was inherently evil, that the god of the OT was a demiurge, a demi-god who is utterly distinct from the God of love of the NT. The Gnostics were a Christian heresy, who appropriated Christian ideas but re-defined them and re-contextualized them under the strong influence of pagan Greek notions. Behind them lie the influence of Plato’s skepticism about the reliability of our senses and a general suspicion of the created world. Where the Christians taught that God is not only the Creator and sustainer of all that is, the Manichaeans (3rd century AD), divided the world into competing principles, good and evil (dualism). Where Christianity taught that creation was inherently good, because God is good and he made it so, the Platonic traditions (middle and neo-Platonism) taught a sort of continuum of being, a hierarchy wherein the material world is less good because it has less being) and the immaterial world is better because it has more being. These ideas were incorporated into medieval theology to various degrees, finding expression in the Albigensian movement, to which the Western church responded strongly in the 13th century.

Nevertheless, for reasons that cannot be described in a brief blog post, this complex of ideas came to be regarded even as standard Christian orthodoxy among evangelicals and fundamentalists by the turn of the 20th century. Even though the church has always been divided on the question of the millennium, until very recently, the doctrine of the pre-tribulational, premillennial return of Christ were a touchstone of Christian orthodoxy in evangelical institutions and churches. Until the 1970s, with a few notable exceptions (e.g., Carl Henry and the early Christianity Today) fundamentalist and evangelical cultural engagement consisted of warning parishioners about the dangers of “the world” which was code for booze, cigarettes, movies, and dancing. Evangelicals and fundamentalists, with the liberals, supported the 18th Amendment (establishing prohibition of the sale of alcohol; 1920) but otherwise they tended to regard engagement with broader social concerns (e.g., racism, poverty) as someone else’s business.

In the 1970s evangelicals and fundamentalists, the line between which began to blur, emerged from their social and political isolation. In reaction to the “sinking ship” mentality, some fundamentalists and evangelicals rejected many of the distinctive views with which they had been raised and they embraced aspects of the Reformed theology and piety but they brought with them their old ethos. They transferred the old Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty (QIRC) from cards and films to the correct application of the Mosaic civil law and the coming transformation of the culture through Christian political action (via Christian reconstruction). The rise of this group, emerging from the mainline PCUSA in the 1950s, gave former dualists a way to think about culture. Pessimism became optimism. World flight became dominion.

There are alternatives to both world flight and Reconstruction/theonomy. One alternative is the somewhat milder version of social transformation offered by the (usually amillennial) neo-Kuyperians (followers of Abraham Kuyper), the relations to Kuyper himself (Kuyper v the neo-Kuyperians) and to the older Reformed tradition are disputed. The attraction of some versions of neo-Kuyperianism is that they affirm God’s sovereignty over all thing and they seek to integrate faith and life, to work out a coherent Christian view of the world (worldview). Whether the neo-Kuyperians have achieved their vision of a distinctly Christian view of every human activity is open to question but the desire to recognize Christ’s lordship over all things and to seek to interpret reality through the lenses of Scripture is commendable.

Another approach to accounting for Christ’s lordship over all of life has come to be self-described as the “Two-Kingdoms” theory. Its leading proponents argue that it is faithful to Abraham Kuyper’s vision (as distinct from that of the neo-Kuyperians) by recognizing both that which, under God’s sovereign providence, is common to Christians and non-Christians (common grace; Dutch, Gemeene Gratie), while recognizing the fundamental distinction between belief and unbelief, which Kuyper called the “antithesis.” There is a believing, biblical, obedient, Christian interpretation of reality, a way of looking at things (Weltanschauung) which is at odds with the non-Christian view of things. At the level antithesis, believers and pagans, are irreconcilably opposed. This approach, however, in its best expressions, seeks to account for both that which is common to all humans, under God’s sovereignty, as bearers of the divine image, and that which is not, and to account for the distinct ways or the distinct spheres in which God administers his good providence in the world.

Just as it was possible, however, for ex-evangelicals fleeing the world-flight of fundamentalism, to run straight into the arms of Christian dominionism, so too, it’s possible for ex-evangelicals, fleeing the Christian triumphalism of post-1976 evangelicalism to flee to the arms of a kind of over-realized eschatology and world-flight.

Above I sketched briefly, in broad strokes, why and how many American evangelicals came to see cultural engagement as fruitless. According to scholars of American evangelicalism, the world-flight that marked fundamentalism and evangelicalism began to shift after World War II. Carl Henry’s call to re-engage the culture is symbolic of the shift. Thirty years later, after Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, it seemed as if everyone was “born again.” Through the 1980s the Moral Majority and other like organizations announced plans to “take back America,” wherein the neo-evangelicals would take their place once again in a place of influence in the culture. Jimmy Carter had proved a disappointment, but with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 it seemed as if the campaign was succeeding. During the next 12 years of the Reagan and G. H. W. Bush administrations it seemed as if the Republican Party might indeed be the evangelical church at prayer. In their success, however, were planted seeds of future discontent and reaction.

In the same post-World War II culture that saw the re-engagement of fundamentalism (Henry’s term) with the culture also saw a growing influence of neo-Kuyperianism in the broader evangelical world. Those evangelicals who lacked a grammar and categories to account for cultural engagement found it in the way Kuyper had been appropriated. By the 1980s “worldview” was a buzzword. During the 1980s evangelicals had also turned to the theonomy and Christian reconstruction movements for inspiration and intellectual leadership. Those two sources of engagement, neo-Kuyperianism and theonomy/reconstructionism, both tended to speak in triumphalist terms relative to the future and relative to the broader, largely non-Christian culture. Supported by their postmillennialism, theonomy/reconstructionism looked forward to a future Christian “dominion“ through the gradual leavening of the culture by Christian cultural and political influence. In their own way, in contrast to the culturally pessimistic Dispensational versions of pre-millennialism, the neo-Kuyperians also looked optimistically at the future. They spoke of “transforming” the culture and “redeeming” the culture.

Nevertheless, Washington and American culture more broadly proved to be harder to reform than some, perhaps many, evangelicals had anticipated. Just as evangelicals (including, for the sake of this discussion, theonomists/reconstructionists, and neo-Kuyperians of various sorts) were positioned close to the levers of political and cultural influence, the culture squirted, as it were, through their collective fingers. During the Reagan administration broadcasting was deregulated, cable television exploded in popularity, and suddenly the sources of cultural influence were not three broadcast networks but a growing number of cable outlets that were not subject to the same sorts of regulations that had governed the broadcast stations. Radio stations, which once aired a considerable amount of religious programming as part of their “public affairs” commitment dumped it in favor of revenue-producing commercial programming. The market for media became increasingly fragmented. Then, came public access to the Internet in the early 90s. The speed at which media sources proliferated, at which niche marketing became the norm, increased exponentially so that today, just as the Big 3 (or 4) broadcast networks no longer set the agenda for television, not longer do two newspapers (The New York Times and the Washington Post) set the agenda for print (as it were) journalism.

Thus, the “Christian Right” did not achieve much of what it had hoped. 20 years after the inauguration of Jimmy Carter, another Southern Democrat was in the White House and he was seeking to reverse the Reagan Revolution. A series of scandals, his impeachment (does anyone remember that a president was impeached in our lifetime?) and opposition by a Republican House of Representatives slowed his momentum in his second term. The 9/11 attacks plunged the West into a long war with a hard-to-find, religiously motivated enemy that, for some—perhaps unfairly—cast doubt on very idea of social engagement fueled by a deeply held religious rejection of Modernity.

Those born after the first Reagan inaugural have grown up assuming the post-Reagan prosperity as a given but they’ve also grown up with a president who did not have sex with “that woman” (even when it turned out he had) and who wanted to deconstruct the verb “is.” They’ve grown up under the specter of 9/11. The city shining on a hill had lost some of its luster. The decades of religious scandals and embarrassments (Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy, Robert Tilton, Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn ad nauseam) had diminished the credibility of the evangelical project of Christian cultural renewal. The parents and grandparents of the Millennials (18–34) have been ambivalent about late modernity. Mom works because they like the new standard of living but she feels guilty about it. Many of their friends are divorced, so heterosexual marriage hasn’t fared well during the very period when evangelical political-cultural influence was at its height. The children and grandchildren of the Baby Boomers seem largely to accept a high divorce rate among heterosexuals and homosexual marriage as inevitable and even as a good thing. As a group, the Millennials tend toward subjectivism. Even the true believers, the theonomists/reconstructionists seem to have given up their original program of cultural transformation through direct political action (Rushdoony’s followers). Instead, they’ve turned to a program of cultural transformation through sacerdotalism, via their theology of baptismal election-union-justification etc ostentatiously self-glossed as  “The Federal Vision.” Jerry Falwell spins in his grave. Despite the evangelical rhetoric of triumph, renewal, and transformation, the culture today seems largely dominated by low-information voters who are more like Snooki than Groen van Prinsterer (1801–76).

There were cracks in the intellectual foundation of the post-WWII evangelical social re-engagement. The evangelical appropriation of Kuyper was thin. It borrowed bits of his vocabulary without his theology and especially without his ecclesiology (doctrine of the church and sacraments). Fuller Seminary isn’t the Free University of Amsterdam. The American evangelicals weren’t much interested in the antithesis and common grace as much as they were in practical, political, cultural, and social outcomes. Where, for Kuyper, “worldview” had referred to a comprehensive interpretation of the meaning of God’s world in light of God’s Word as understood and confessed by the Reformed churches, it became, among American evangelicals, a fairly shallow cliché, a symbol that stood of evangelical-Republican politics and a return to the Eisenhower years. It’s not an accident that Happy Days was one of the more popular TV shows of the 1970s.

It is one thing, however, to write of “redeeming” culture but it is another thing to justify that way of speaking from Scripture and the Christian tradition. Biblically, “to redeem” is to purchase from slavery or to deliver from bondage. Where does Scripture speak of the redemption of the arts or commerce? It does not. According to Scripture we have been redeemed from the curse of the law. Believers have been redeemed from lawlessness and we have been redeemed from transgressions.

It is difficult to see how speaking of redeeming or “taking back” culture doesn’t imply the very sort of dualism against which the neo-Kuyperians and theonomists/reconstructionists were reacting. If someone removes food from my plate, I might reach across the table to take it back. It was mine, then it was lost, then it was recovered. That’s simply not true if we’re speaking of God’s sovereign providence. Nothing has been removed from his control and dominion. Christ was Lord when the West (at least nominally) recognized him under Christendom. He was Lord when the Enlightenment rebelled against him and he is Lord now that most of the culture, most of the time, seems completely ignorant of him.

Of course, what is usually intended by the verbs “to redeem” and “to take back“ is actually something like “to acknowledge Christ’s Lordship over all things.” Where or among whom should Christians expect to see the Lordship of Christ openly acknowledged? Did the apostles expect Herod, Pilate, Claudius, Nero, or Domitian to acknowledge Christ the Lord as a matter of their office? Nothing about Romans 13 even hints that only those are truly God’s civil ministers who acknowledge Christ as Lord.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

The great difficulty, however, is that most of the time evangelicals haven’t been thinking principally in biblical or confessional Reformed categories but in Constantinian categories. Consider the prevalence of the imagery and ethos of the crusades among evangelicals. It is so deeply engrained in our way of looking at the broader culture, the non-Christian culture, that, particularly in reaction to the cultural rebellion of the 1960s and the sexual hedonism of the 1970s, we adopted a crusade stance without even realizing it. How many Christian organizations continue to use the image of crusading? Campus Crusade for Christ may now be Cru but it’s just an abbreviation. How often has post-WWII Christian cultural engagement been cast as a crusade? Do a Google search using the terms “Christian,” “school,” and “crusaders.”1 In turn, the renewed adoption of the “crusade” provoked a renewed, if more sophisticated, sort of world flight.

So, the question persists: Is there a way for Christians to engage the culture that gets us off the whipsaw of world-flight (monasticism, Anabaptism, pietism) and dominion/transformation (Christendom, theonomy/reconstruction, neo-Kuyperianism)?

So far I have sketched the basis for evangelical rejection of political/cultural-engagement. I have also briefly outlined the transformational-theonomic-reconstructionist reaction. Next I want to address three theological errors and their practical consequences.

First, however, let’s establish a biblical-theological foundation for the discussion. In Genesis 1 and in John 1 God’s Word teaches unequivocally that God sovereignly spoke creation into existence by the power of his Word and that everything that has come into being did so through the personal agency of God the Son, the Word of God. Creation was an act of the Triune God. The Holy Spirit hovered over the face of the deep. God spoke into nothing and made all that is. That same Triune God exercises the same sovereign power in sustaining and governing creation. Creation has always been and shall always be utterly dependent and contingent upon the sovereign providence of the Triune God. There is no basis in Scripture for thinking that, after the act of creating that God retreated from his sovereign control over all things. This means that he is sovereign when bridges collapse and when bombs explode. We also understand that God exercises his sovereignty through human agents and other second causes. He operates with and through the free choices that human beings make. God is always in control and humans are always morally responsible for their free acts. He flooded the world that then was (Gen 6–9). He hardened Pharaoh’s heart and, in turn, he hardened his own heart. He led the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry ground (Ex 14). The Holy Spirit came in sovereign power, not in contingency. According to Psalm 2, God rules the nations the nations with a rod of iron (Ps 2). Civil rulers are his servants (Rom 13), in their sphere, just as ecclesiastical ministers are God’s servants in their sphere (Eph 3:7; Col 1:25). God’s Word is sufficient for all that it intends to do.

For these reasons, the church universal (catholic) confesses “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth” (Apostles’ Creed). In our Heidelberg Catechism Q. 27 we confess,

27. What do you understand by the providence of God?

The almighty, everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds heaven and earth with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things come not by chance, but by His Fatherly hand.

We also understand that God administers his sovereign control over all things in different spheres. The church does not administer civil law or justice and the state does not administer the means of grace. We understood that during the Reformation, even under the influence of Constantinianism. From the Reformed tradition we have always understood that, in God’s providence, there are aspects of life that believers and unbelievers have in common. All humans, believers and unbelievers alike, eat, drink, sleep, travel, and conduct business together. Nevertheless, there is an antithesis between the way believers and unbelievers interpret God’s world. Believers understand that the blessings we receive from God’s hand are not the result of chaos and chance. Believers acknowledge that the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps 19:1).

Because creation and everything in it was created by God, is upheld by God (Acts 17) it all belongs to God by right, even when rebellious creatures refuse to acknowledge him (Rom 1:21). Further, God the Son incarnate, through whom all things came into being, who upholds and governs all things (Ps 2; Acts 2:36; 10:36; 1Cor 8:6; Eph 4:8. NB: Jesus is called Lord about 95 times in the NT). He came announcing the Kingdom God (Mark 1:15), not a radically democratic cooperative. A kingdom is a hierarchy. The king rules and the people obey. That’s the nature of a kingdom.

In light of these basic Christian truths then we can address three errors that distort the Christian engagement with the broader culture.

  • The notion that Christ is not actually sovereign over all things but he will be at some later point.
  • To affirm Christ’s present dominion over all things but to ignore the movement of redemptive history so that post-canonical civil rulers are regarded as if they were canonical, Israelite kings fulfilling a role in redemptive history.
  • To conclude that, because Christ administers his dominion in multiple spheres that somehow we cannot speak from God’s Word to every area of life.

First, theologically considered, it does not matter how long one postpones Christ’s Lordship or to what point, whether a future millennial reign or during a future golden era ushered in by the global spread of the Christian faith. The Scriptures teach and the Reformed faith confesses that Christ is Lord presently and nothing happens apart from his sovereign decree. The great error in virtually every modernist account of the doctrine of God is that they make him part of the process of history. In one way or another God is said by modernists to “become.” The God of the Bible, of creation, providence, and redemption, who sovereignly raised Jesus from the dead, who sovereignly elects and reprobates (Rom 9; Eph 1–2), is not “becoming” or in process. The God of the Bible is. He says, “I am who I am (Ex 3:14). God is the only entity who can say “I AM.” The rest of us are creatures and we must all confess, there was when I was not. I am contingent. God is. He has always been. He shall always be. He isn’t becoming Lord. He is Lord. There is not a future time when, under the right conditions, he will become Lord. He is Lord right now. His kingdom is now. That the kingdom does not meet some expectations is not God’s problem. Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom and neither the Jews nor Pilate were impressed. Jesus didn’t much care.

Second, God established Israel to perform a unique, temporary role in the history of redemption. The function of the Israelite kings was not to establish a pattern for post-canonical, secular rulers. Their primary function was to point to Christ. Thus, we cannot read the history of the kings of Israel and Judah and then draw a straight line between them and post-canonical kings, whether Caesar or Charlemagne or the President of the United States. That is an abuse of Scripture, i.e., putting Scripture to a use for which it was never intended. Yes, it is certainly true that Christians, including Reformed Christians, have a long history of reading Scripture this way. It was a mistake. People read Scripture in a given context and that context, with all the assumption it entails, is a powerful influence on the way God’s people read Scripture at a given time. For about 1500 years the church read Scripture in the context of or under the influence of the Constantinian assumption, that the civil ruler, as God’s minister, is ordained by God to establish a church or to punish heretics. Exegetically and theologically those assumptions were in error. There is not a shred of evidence in the NT or in the way the NT teaches us to read the Old Covenant that intends to cause us to think that God intends for civil rulers, after the expiration and abrogation of the Israelite economy, to establish the church, enforce orthodoxy, or punish heretics. When the Psalms speak of the king (e.g., Ps 2), according to the NT (Acts 2) we’re to understand that king is Jesus and he is ruling now. Peter preached that “This Jesus whom you crucified, God has made him both Lord and Christ.” He isn’t becoming Lord. He doesn’t become Lord when we recognize him as such. He is Lord, now. He is ruling now. He was ruling when Herod, Pilate, and Nero plotted against believers. Peter interprets David’s life as a pointer to Christ’s life and present reign. He does not move from David to Jesus to Caesar. He stops with Jesus. Paul doesn’t move from the Israelite kings to Caesar in Romans 13. He grounds Caesar’s role in nature, not in redemption. It is the failure to distinguish these two spheres of God’s sovereign operation that contributes to this confusion.

Finally, there is a temptation among those who distinguish between the spheres in which God administers his sovereign rule, perhaps in reaction to the second error, to restrict unduly the ways in which God’s Word is applied to every sphere of life. To be sure, there are proper and improper applications of God’s Word. Sometimes one gets the impression that some think that because God is sovereign, and because I think God’s Word applies to a certain situation this way, anyone who disagrees with my application of Scripture is denying God’s sovereignty. Obviously that is a non sequitur. God is sovereign but your application of Scripture is not. There is a difference. There are limits on the sort so of things to which ministers should speak. Ministers are not ordinarily physicians or physicists. We are not called, in our office as ministers, to give medical advice or to speak authoritatively on the latest developments in physics. The law and the gospel were true under the pre-modern physics, under Newtonian physics, and under post-Newtonian physics. However many scientific revolutions have happened since the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople (I), the Nicene-Constantinoplitan Creed has not changed. Medicine has changed dramatically but the law and the gospel have not.

Rather, we should think and say that everything to which his Word intends to speak is a proper object of the ministry (proclamation and application) of the Word. We are called to preach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:21). We are called to speak to cultural developments as God’s people are called to live out their faith in their daily lives. Faithful living will bring engagement with the broader, unbelieving culture. That intersection should raise questions. “The prevailing non-Christian culture says x, but the Scriptures and the faith say y. How should we respond? ” The application of God’s Word requires wisdom, patience, and care but we cannot shrink back from our vocation.

This is not a call for a Jihad (nor to turn the pulpit into a partisan political organ) against unbelievers or for an undue focus on their behavior—that’s like shooting ducks on the water—but where a passage speaks or necessarily implies (by good and necessary inference) a contrast between the biblical view and a pagan view of a matter, we shouldn’t hesitate to follow God’s Word where ever it leads. Consider, for example, the practice of abortion. I doubt the wisdom of a pro-life Sunday just as I doubt the observance of Mothers Day on the Sabbath. It is the Lord’s Day and it shouldn’t be co-opted by this or that interest. Nevertheless, a consistently Christian interpretation of reality (worldview) will yield a view of the inherent value of humans as image bearers. The prevailing pagan ideology and practice of abortion denies the humanity and image-bearing status of infant humans and thus sees no reason to protect them. There is a Christian view of humanity and there are pagan views of humanity. Those different views lead to different ethical systems and thence to different practices. When we come to a biblical text that speaks to the Christian view of humanity or to the inherent value of human life, we should speak to this issue. Now, we should do so carefully, recognizing that there may be those in the congregation who may have made serious mistakes (even sins) in their past. We trust that such are penitent but we should be as gracious with the grieving as we are firm with the impenitent. Nevertheless, ministers are called to serve the Word. We must go where the Word leads. We should refrain from carefully applying the Word because some might not like it.

This is God’s world. Christ has established his kingdom. He sustains everything by his providence and has established a mission representing his kingdom in the world. As kingdom citizens we are his emissaries to the world. As king he has spoken and interpreted all things. Christ is returning and he will bring his reign to consummation in glory. Until that moment, however, we are left to die to sin, live to Christ, and by his Spirit, read the Word with the church and to acknowledge his Lordship by serving him in every aspect of our lives, in each sphere, to his glory. We are not polishing brass on a sinking ship because the world is not a sinking ship. It is the theatre of his glory. We are serving Christ the King as his people, in the station to which he has called us. He is accomplishing his purposes. He will be glorified.

NOTES

  1. It’s interesting to observe, however, how frequently the Christian Coalition uses the crusade metaphor to describe its ideological opponents. In this case, the coalition isn’t describing itself as crusading entity but rather positioning itself as the victim of crusading.

Computers In The Classroom

Note: This essay first ran as a series on the Heideblog (2007–12).

I’m developing a(n) hypothesis about laptop computers in the (seminary) classroom. My theory, based on my observations of college and seminary students since 1995, is that student reliance upon notebook/laptop computers for taking notes is not helping them to learn.

Since I began teaching at WSC in 1997 the use of laptop computers has become more common among students. Only a few students used them at Wheaton when I was there. When I first came here in 1997 most but not all students used them to take notes. Now, in a typical lecture, virtually all the students are taking notes by computer. At the same time computers have become more prevalent grades on short-essay mid-terms and final exams have dipped.

Can I prove a cause-and-effect relation? No, not yet. My theory is that students are so busy hearing the lecture so that they can transcribe it verbatim that they are not actually listening to what is being said. I theorize that the sound goes into their heads, through their finger tips, as it were, and onto the keyboards. As result, for some students, they seriously engage the material for the first time when they began reviewing their lecture notes.

Of course this means that instead of reviewing familiar material before an exam, some students are learning new material in the days leading up to the exam. I have other evidence that suggests that this theory may be correct. Last Spring I asked the students in Medieval-Reformation history to take notes by hand. Some even went so far as to buy a fountain pen from Steve Baugh! Those who took notes by hand said that they thought that they learned more and engaged the lectures more completely (i.e. they heard and analyzed them, made decisions about what was and wasn’t important to know) than they normally do when taking notes on the computer.

My concern isn’t the computer. My concern is that students listen and learn. The ease of the modern computer keyboard leads students to try to create a complete transcript. There is a transcript of some of Bob Godfrey’s courses floating around, named after the student to made it some years back, that even includes his jokes! Presumably one who takes notes by hand cannot transcribe everything. So he has to make a decision about what to write down and what to ignore. He has to prioritize and analyze information. As a result of this initial engagement with new material on the front end of the learning process, as it were, when he comes to preparing for the final exam he should be reviewing familiar material and refreshing his memory rather than learning material from scratch.

As a consequence of last Spring’s experiment–I confess I failed to follow through and have the handwritten note students mark their blue books so I could develop some sort of correlation–and as a consequence of grading this fall’s Doctrine of God exams, I think I am going to require my Medieval-Reformation students to take notes by hand, unless they can demonstrate to me that they can achieve the same level of initial engagement with the lecture material by using their computer.

–I mark my exams. If I don’t know which notes were done by hand and which were done by computer, how can I generate a correlation? I don’t expect this to be strictly scientific and I think I can be objective enough. I don’t care which they use so long as they learn. My concern is that they may not actually be learning as well as they should/could.

–I agree that, ideally, the classroom should be more than data transmission. i fear that’s what students want to make it, hence the transcript. I discourage them from making a transcript. i encourage them NOT to regard the lecture as mere transmission of data but as a construct for understanding data. Naturally the lectures include data, sometimes quite a lot of it. I hope that by taking strategic and selective notes the student will be able to jog his memory when it comes time to review.

–I wonder if all the stimuli to which students are subject (TV, web, email, cell phone, text messages etc) teaches them that they don’t really have to pay close attention to anything. A lecture or classroom discussion becomes just another ephemeral bit of data in a constant stream.

–Then there is the phenomenon of students refusing to answer the questions asked in the exam. I’ve had students answer the questions that they consider more important. Sometimes students answer the questions that they hoped I would ask. I understand that phenomenon. The technical name for it is “lazy student syndrome.” That some students seem to think that they get to decide what they should learn makes me de Zengotita has a point. Students are convinced that they are the arbiters of what they should have to learn. When I demand that they learn what I think is important, we’re actually engaged in a kind of battle of the wills. They’ve been conditioned to think that they are autonomous “deciders” (to quote the president) so they don’t cotton to being told that they have to learn things the immediate value of which they cannot see. They don’t believe me when I tell them that someday they will realize the value of what they’re being made to learn and they will be glad I made them do it.

–I also suspect that students can’t or don’t distinguish clearly enough between what is important and what is ephemeral. For example, students who read assigned readings online do not seem to read them closely enough to learn the material. Because I’ve noticed this, I tell them to print out the assigned online reading but apparently only a few do because only a few are able to demonstrate that they’ve actually done the reading they tell me they have completed.

Thanks to the good offices of Dennis Johnson, I see that the latest news on this front is from The Chronicles of Higher Education 54.40 (June 13, 2008): A1, A18. The headline reads, “Law Professors Rule Laptops Out of Order in Class.” Reporter Andrea L. Foster quotes Don Herzog, professor in the University of Michigan Law School as saying, “Not only I was stunned by how much better the class was, the students volunteered that it was much better.”  

What began as began as an experiment for Prof. Herzog has become a policy. According to Foster other profs are also trying out the “no-laptops” approach to teaching at Georgetown Law, Harvard Law and the University of Wisconsin Law school. The profs who support the ban argue that students tapping out their notes (or worse, shopping, playing games, or emailing) are not able to participate in the Socratic dialogue necessary to law-school education. The profs who support the use of laptops in the classroom argue that banning them now is like trying to put the horse back in the barn and cutting students off from important learning opportunities.

The cynic in me wants to answer the latter by saying, “Yes, like who is dating whom or what the latest updates are on Facebook?”

This year in Medieval-Reformation Church History (CH602) I guess about 50% of the students voluntarily gave up their laptops. I didn’t impose a ban but I did try to persuade them to take notes by hand. As I’ve argued before, my main interest is in getting students to pay attention.

After grading the latest crop of blue books it’s clear to me that only about 10% of students pay close attention in class. About 10% of the class ignore me (so 10% nail it, 10% fail it and the rest are distributed across the middle) I suspect that a good number of them are distracted. I suspect that at least some of them are distracted by their computers. Others are still caught in the trap of trying to transcribe every word of the lecture/discussion. The anecdotal evidence from my experience thus far suggests that those students who’ve gone back (or begun) to taking notes by hand (preferably using a decent fountain pen from Steve Baugh our resident fountain pen guru—let the record show your honor that counsel brought back two fountain pens from the UK and tried to interest Dr Baugh in them many years ago at which time he was told, “Bah, humbug!”) testify that they now prefer to take notes by hand.

I haven’t established a correlation and I don’t know that I ever will but I am more convinced than ever that students need to pay attention, take judicious notes that will remind them of what was said. This business of making a complete transcription to be reviewed de novo at the end of the semester doesn’t work. It’s too much information to process (and memorize) in too little time. Regular reviewing is more effective.

Neither am I excited about study groups. Every year, despite my warnings, I get several answers that are virtually identical and often wrong. Why? I suspect that students succumb to the most confident and assured voice in the study group. Other students must defer to that voice, even if it’s wrong. What some students don’t seem to understand is that there are a variety of ways to answer the questions correctly and there are a variety of ways to answer the questions incorrectly but what is essential is to learn to listen, to learn to pay attention, and to learn to discern what is important.

This is been a thread on the HB since 2007. Since that time enthusiasm for technology in classroom (“teach-nology”?) seems only to have grown. I have had opportunity re-consider my concerns but those concerns haven’t dissipated. Since I began encouraging students to put away their laptops in favor of pen and paper most have responded well. In some cases students have special needs that require the use of computers but most students do better to listen to the prof, make a decision about what is being said, what is most significant, what needs to be remembered, and to take notes to help stimulate the memory.

I’m encouraged by this report (HT: William Jacobsen’s College Insurrection) about NYU Prof. Vincent Renzi’s decision to ban laptops from his classroom. He does so for three reasons:

  • Laptops create a physical barrier between the instructor and the student
  • It encourages students to think that the point of note-taking is to take transcription rather than taking notes
  • It tempts students to aimlessly browse the internet instead of paying attention

These are the very reasons why I’ve discouraged students from bringing laptops to class. I’ve sometimes used a laptop to teach—my notes wouldn’t print or I was away from a printer before class but I usually teach from notes.

The second is the greatest problem. I first noticed it about 6-7 years ago. Students were transcribing everything I said in class, even the dumb jokes but they weren’t listening as carefully and critically as needed. Then, when time came to study for exams, they were overwhelmed with material they had not analyzed before. Those who’ve chosen to take notes by hand report that they’re getting more out of class.

In this connection I’ve also observed a clear correlation between the medium in which a text as read and the ability of students to be able to discuss it well in exams. Students used to answer an exam question based on a printed article and did very well. When that same material went online scores on the same question dropped significantly. The rest of the readings did not change. The exam question did not change. Only the medium changed (onscreen vs. paper).

It’s true that students have always daydreamed and doodled during class but there is a qualitative difference between doodling and shopping, texting, tweeting, or updating a Facebook status. The distractions available via a laptop are far more enticing and varied than those presented by pen and paper.

At first students were anxious about closing their laptops. Some students insist (see the comments) that it’s more efficient to take notes by computer. Perhaps, if the goal is a transcript but that’s not what a good teacher wants. What we want is for students to pay attention. We understand that this is increasingly difficult. We also understand that teachers and students probably work with different definitions of “pay attention.” Students are tempted to think, “I’ll pay attention when he’s saying something that interests me.” Working through this challenge wants another post but suffice it to say for now that the premise behind the complaint needs to be challenged. Learning is often interesting but it isn’t always entertaining and if we don’t learn the difference we shall lose the art of learning altogether as it is swallowed up by the entertainment monster.

Gregory I (c.540–604 AD) Epistles 5.18 To The Bishop Of Constantinople

Gregory to John, Bishop of Constantinople.

At the time when your Fraternity was advanced to Sacerdotal dignity, you remember what peace and concord of the churches you found. But, with what daring or with what swelling of pride I know not, you have attempted to seize upon a new name, whereby the hearts of all your brethren might have come to take offence. I wonder exceedingly at this, since I remember how thou wouldest fain have fled from the episcopal office rather than attain it. And yet, now that thou hast got it, thou desirest so to exercise it as if thou hadst run to it with ambitious intent. For, having confessed thyself unworthy to be called a bishop, thou hast at length been brought to such a pass as, despising thy brethren, to covet to be named the only bishop. And indeed with regard to this matter, weighty letters were addressed to your Holiness by my predecessor Pelagius of holy memory; in which he annulled the acts of the synod, which had been assembled among you in the case of our once brother and fellow-bishop Gregory, because of that execrable title of pride, and forbade the archdeacon, whom he had sent according to custom to the threshold of our lord, to celebrate the solemnities of mass with you. But after his death, when I, unworthy, succeeded to the government of the Church, both through my other representatives and also through our common son the deacon Sabinianus, I have taken care to address your Fraternity, not indeed in writing, but by word of mouth, desiring you to restrain yourself from such presumption. And, in case of your refusing to amend, I forbade his celebrating the solemnities of mass with you; that so I might first appeal to your Holiness through a certain sense of shame, to the end that, if the execrable and profane assumption could not be corrected through shame, strict canonical measures might be then resorted to. And, since sores that are to be cut away should first be stroked with a gentle hand, I beg you, I beseech you, and with all the sweetness in my power demand of you, that your Fraternity gainsay all who flatter you and offer you this name of error, nor foolishly consent to be called by the proud title. For truly I say it weeping, and out of inmost sorrow of heart attribute it to my sins, that this my brother, who has been constituted in the grade of episcopacy for the very end of bringing back the souls of others to humility, has up to the present time been incapable of being brought back to humility; that he who teaches truth to others has not consented to teach himself, even when I implore him.

Consider, I pray thee, that in this rash presumption the peace of the whole Church is disturbed, and that it is in contradiction to the grace that is poured out on all in common; in which grace doubtless thou thyself wilt have power to grow so far as thou determinest with thyself to do so. And thou wilt become by so much the greater as thou restrainest thyself from the usurpation of a proud and foolish title: and thou wilt make advance in proportion as thou art not bent on arrogation by derogation of thy brethren. Wherefore, dearest brother, with all thy heart love humility, through which the concord of all the brethren and the unity of the holy universal Church may be preserved. Certainly the apostle Paul, when he heard some say, I am of Paul, I of Apollos, but I of Christ (1 Cor. 1:13), regarded with the utmost horror such dilaceration of the Lord’s body, whereby they were joining themselves, as it were, to other heads, and exclaimed, saying, Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul (ib.)? If then he shunned the subjecting of the members of Christ partially to certain heads, as if beside Christ, though this were to the apostles themselves, what wilt thou say to Christ, who is the Head of the universal Church, in the scrutiny of the last judgment, having attempted to put all his members under thyself by the appellation of Universal? Who, I ask, is proposed for imitation in this wrongful title but he who, despising the legions of angels constituted socially with himself, attempted to start up to an eminence of singularity, that he might seem to be under none and to be alone above all? Who even said, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven: I will sit upon the mount of the testament, in the sides of the North: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High (Isai. 14:13).

For what are all thy brethren, the bishops of the universal Church, but stars of heaven, whose life and discourse shine together amid the sins and errors of men, as if amid the shades of night? And when thou desirest to put thyself above them by this proud title, and to tread down their name in comparison with thine, what else dost thou say but I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven? Are not all the bishops together clouds, who both rain in the words of preaching, and glitter in the light of good works? And when your Fraternity despises them, and you would fain press them down under yourself, what else say you but what is said by the ancient foe, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds? All these things when I behold with tears, and tremble at the hidden judgments of God, my fears are increased, and my heart cannot contain its groans, for that this most holy man the lord John, of so great abstinence and humility, has, through the seduction of familiar tongues, broken out into such a pitch of pride as to attempt, in his coveting of that wrongful name, to be like him who, while proudly wishing to be like God, lost even the grace of the likeness granted him, and because he sought false glory, thereby forfeited true blessedness. Certainly Peter, the first of the apostles, himself a member of the holy and universal Church, Paul, Andrew, John,—what were they but heads of particular communities? And yet all were members under one Head. And (to bind all together in a short girth of speech) the saints before the law, the saints under the law, the saints under grace, all these making up the Lord’s Body, were constituted as members of the Church, and not one of them has wished himself to be called universal. Now let your Holiness acknowledge to what extent you swell within yourself in desiring to be called by that name by which no one presumed to be called who was truly holy.

Was it not the case, as your Fraternity knows, that the prelates of this Apostolic See, which by the providence of God I serve, had the honour offered them of being called universal by the venerable Council of Chalcedon. But yet not one of them has ever wished to be called by such a title, or seized upon this ill-advised name, lest if, in virtue of the rank of the pontificate, he took to himself the glory of singularity, he might seem to have denied it to all his brethren.

But I know that all arises from those who serve your Holiness on terms of deceitful familiarity; against whom I beseech your Fraternity to be prudently on your guard, and not to lay yourself open to be deceived by their words. For they are to be accounted the greater enemies the more they flatter you with praises. Forsake such; and, if they must needs deceive, let them at any rate deceive the hearts of worldly men, and not of priests. Let the dead bury their dead (Luke 9:60). But say ye with the prophet, Let them be turned back and put to shame that say unto me, Aha, Aha (Ps. 69:4). And again, But let not the oil of the sinner lard my head (Ps. 140:5).

Whence also the wise man admonishes well, Be in peace with many: but have but one counsellor of a thousand (Ecclus. 6:6). For Evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Cor. 15:33). For the ancient foe, when unable to break into strong hearts, looks out for weak persons who are associated with them, and, as it were, scales lofty walls by ladders set against them. So he deceived Adam through the woman who was associated with him. So, when he slew the sons of the blessed Job, he left the weak woman, that, being unable of himself to penetrate his heart, he might at any rate be able to do so through the woman’s words. Whatever weak and secular persons, then, arc near you, let them be shattered in their own persuasive words and flattery, since they procure to themselves the eternal enmity of God from their very frowardness in being seeming lovers.

Of a truth it was proclaimed of old through the Apostle John, Little children, it is the last hour (1 John 2:18), according as the Truth foretold. And now pestilence and sword rage through the world, nations rise against nations, the globe of the earth is shaken, the gaping earth with its inhabitants is dissolved. For all that was foretold is come to pass. The king of pride is near, and (awful to be said!) there is an army of priests in course of preparation for him, inasmuch as they who bad been appointed to be leaders in humility enlist themselves under the neck of pride. But in this matter, even though our tongue protested not at all, the power of Him who in His own person peculiarly opposes the vice of pride is lifted up for vengeance against elation. For hence it is written, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (Jam. 4:6). Hence, again, it is said, Whoso exalteth his heart is unclean before God (Prov. 16:5). Hence, against the man that is proud it is written, Why is earth and ashes proud (Ecclus. 10:9)? Hence the Truth in person says, Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased (Luke 14:11). And, that he might bring us back to the way of life through humility, He deigned to exhibit in Himself what He teaches us, saying, Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart (Matth. 11:29). For to this end the only begotten Son of God took upon Himself the form of our weakness; to this end the Invisible appeared not only as visible but even as despised; to this end He endured the mocks of contumely, the reproaches of derision, the torments of suffering; that God in His humility might teach man not to be proud. How great, then, is the virtue of humility for the sake of teaching which alone He who is great beyond compare became little even unto the suffering of death! For, since the pride of the devil was the origin of our perdition, the humility of God has been found the means of our redemption. That is to say, our enemy, having been created among all things, desired to appear exalted above all things; but our Redeemer remaining great above all things, deigned to become little among all things.

What, then, can we bishops say for ourselves, who have received a place of honour from the humility of our Redeemer, and yet imitate the pride of the enemy himself? Lo, we know our Creator to have descended from the summit of His loftiness that He might give glory to the human race, and we, created of the lowest, glory in the lessening of our brethren. God humbled Himself even to our dust; and human dust sets his face as high as heaven, and with his tongue passes above the earth, and blushes not, neither is afraid to be lifted up: even man who is rottenness, and the son of man that is a worm.

Let us recall to mind, most dear brother, this which is said by the most wise Solomon, Before thunder shall go lightning, and before ruin shall the heart be exalted (Ecclus. 32:10); where, on the other hand it is subjoined, Before glory it shall be humbled. Let us then be humbled in mind, if we are striving to attain to real loftiness. By no means let the eyes of our heart be darkened by the smoke of elation, which the more it rises the more rapidly vanishes away. Let us consider how we are admonished by the precepts of our Redeemer, who says, Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matth. 5:3). Hence, also, he says by the prophet, On whom shall my Spirit rest, but on him that is humble, and quiet, and that trembleth at my words (Isai. 66:2)? Of a truth, when the Lord would bring back the hearts of His disciples, still beset with infirmity, to the way of humility, He said, Whosoever will be chief among you shall be least of all (Matth. 20:27). Whereby it is plainly seen how he is truly exalted on high who in his thoughts is humbled. Let us, therefore, fear to be numbered among those who seek the first seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the market, and to be called of men Rabbi. For, contrariwise, the Lord says to His disciples, But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your master; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your Father upon the earth, for one is your Father (Matth. 23:7, 8).

What then, dearest brother, wilt thou say in that terrible scrutiny of the coming judgment, if thou covetest to be called in the world not only father, but even general father? Let, then, the bad suggestion of evil men be guarded against; let all instigation to offence be fled from. It must needs be (indeed) that offences come; nevertheless, woe to that man by whom the offence cometh (Matth. 18:7). Lo, by reason of this execrable title of pride the Church is rent asunder, the hearts of all the brethren, are provoked to offence. What! Has it escaped your memory how the Truth says, Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Ib. v. 6)? But it is written, Charity seeketh not her own (1 Cor. 13:4). Lo, your Fraternity arrogates to itself even what is not its own. Again it is written, In honour preferring one another (Rom. 12:10). And thou attemptest to take the honour away from all which thou desirest unlawfully to usurp to thyself singularly. Where, dearest brother, is that which is written, Have peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14)? Where is that which is written, Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God (Matth. 5:9)?

It becomes you to consider, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. But still, though we neglect to consider, supernal judgment will be on the watch against the swelling of so great elation. And we indeed, against whom such and so great a fault is committed by this nefarious attempt,—we, I say, are observing what the Truth enjoins when it says, If thy brother shall sin against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of one or two witnesses every word may be established. But if he will not hear them, tell it unto the Church. But if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican (Matth. 18:15). I therefore have once and again through my representatives taken care to reprove in humble words this sin against the whole Church; and now I write myself. Whatever it was my duty to do in the way of humility I have not omitted. But, if I am despised in my reproof, it remains that I must have recourse to the Church.

Wherefore may Almighty God show your Fraternity how great love for you constrains me when I thus speak, and how much I grieve in this case, not against you, but for you. But the case is such that in it I must prefer the precepts of the Gospel, the ordinances of the Canons, and the welfare of the brethren to the person even of him whom I greatly love.

I have received the most sweet and pleasant letter of your Holiness with respect to the case of the presbyters John and Athanasius, about which, the Lord helping me, I will reply to you in another letter; for, being surrounded by the swords of barbarians, I am now oppressed by such great tribulations that it is not allowed me. I will not say to treat of many things, but hardly even to breathe. Given in the Kalends of January; Indiction 13.

Gregory the Great, “Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great,” in Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. James Barmby, vol. 12b, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1895), 166–69.

Three Messages To Millennials: Marriage, Church, And Work

Marriage
On March 7, 2014, the Pew Research Center published the results of a new Survey:Millennials in Adulthood. Bradford Wilcox has a summary in the NRO. According to the study, Millennials have become disconnected from some basic institutions: marriage, church, and work—though not in exactly the same way in each instance. In response, I thought it might be helpful to address Millennials (aged 18–34) directly on these issues.

According to Pew (via Wilcox),

Only 26 percent of Millennials are married, a record low for their age group. By contrast, back in 1980, when they were the age that Millennials are now, 48 percent of Baby Boomers were married. The Millennial retreat from marriage is particularly worrisome because it hasn’t stopped many of them from having children. In 2012, 47 percent of births to Millennial women took place outside marriage, a troubling trend because such children are much more likely to end up in single-parent families that put them at higher risk of educational failure, poverty, and emotional distress.

Millennials seem to have given up on marriage. In their defense, a Millennial might argue, “We’re just being consistent. The Boomers showed us that marriage is a joke. They gave us “no-fault” divorce, the Gen-Xers were a half-way house and we’re consistent. We spent our youths shuttling between angry and disappointed parents. Why would we want that for ourselves and our children?” Fair enough. The Boomers could argue that their parents, “the Greatest Generation” (World War II) were trapped in cold, stifling marriages that made a mockery of true love and romance.” There’s probably some truth in that characterization but most of the (now aging) Boomers were raised in stable, two-parent households whose greatest mistake was spoiling their children in reaction to wartime deprivation. We could go back to the Dustbowl Generation and fault them for giving up on the fundamental convictions that undergirded the institution of marriage. The sins of one generation reverberate through history to the next and the next.

So, the Millennials are not entirely at fault. They are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of previous generations who weakened the institution of marriage. Still, are the Millennials right to give up on marriage? No. Why? Because God instituted marriage for a reason. In this fallen world nothing will ever be perfect. One of the more basic reasons that we’ve lost faith in marriage as an institution is that we have been sold a bill of goods about what is possible in the life. The Christian faith has a vision of the future, of how things will be one day. We call that vision “eschatology” or “the doctrine of last things” or “of ultimate things.” Despite what you may have heard and read, this life is not the “ultimate thing.” This life is a penultimate (next to last) thing.

Modernity has offered us a series of competing visions of heaven on earth: Marxism (when the proletariat are in charge), Romanticism (when we’re all experiencing the most sublime experiences), and so on. They’re all cheap replacements for the Christian doctrine of judgment and glorification. The problem with these competing visions of the end is that they have inflated expectations about what is possible in this life. One advantage the older (pre-Boomer) generations had is that the tended to expect a little less from this world and so weren’t as easily disappointed. The life of the Dust Bowl generation was more like that of the Founding Fathers than it was like ours. They were still getting used to electricity. They likely couldn’t imagine a world where we expected a new pocket telephone-television-computer every 12 months. The computerized technological revolution has only fueled those visions of what is possible in this life that tend to make mundane, routine, and ordinary life seem inherently bound for failure.

So, why should you, Millennial, re-think your suspicion of the institution of marriage? That’s a fair question. The first part of the answer is, despite all the corruption and effects (and affects) of the fall, marriage is still a divine institution. It is built into the nature of things. Scripture says,

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” …The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So Yahweh Elohim caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Yahweh Elohim had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:18, 20–25; Revised from the ESV)

Marriage was instituted before the fall. Even before the fall it was not good for us to be alone. The human fall into sin brought with it deception, broken relationships, and pain but after the fall there was something else: mercy and grace. Though he did bring to pass the threatened curse for our covenant breaking (death) he also showed mercy in not destroying us. He showed mercy in restraining the effects of the fall. As bad as things have sometimes been in this world (e.g., the Black Death of the 14th century) they’ve never been as bad as they might be. God’s restraining mercies toward his rebellious creatures does make a difference.

As part of his restraining mercy, God continues to make marriage a good that men and women are intended to share. As a young Christian I once thought that marriage must only be for believers but a dear friend gently pointed out that heterosexual marriage (which should be redundant but must be made explicit in our confused age) is for all of God’s image bearers. Even to non-Christians marriage points back to the original state and to a future state. At its best, it is a witness that things have not always been this way and shall not always be as they are.

Beyond the restraint of evil, from which all humans benefit, he also showed undeserved favor to rebellious humans by promising deliverance from the judgment we had brought upon ourselves. We call that undeserved favor grace. God promised to pour out his last days (eschatological) wrath upon the child of the Eve and that child would conquer the Evil One, who, in God’s mysterious and all-wise and utterly good providence, had introduced corruption into the world (Gen 3:14–16).

The Apostle Paul, who himself was a widower, said that Christian marriage is a signpost to believers of the way Christ loves his church. Reflecting on the very institution of marriage that we saw in Genesis 2, Paul says:

This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Eph 5:32–33 ESV).

The second part of the answer is that, despite all appearances, marriage is still good. They are complicated and messy. Your own experience of your parents’ marriage may have been quite blessed or perhaps not. Whatever your experience you should be a little skeptical of the story the mass media has been telling about marriage and divorce. Things are bad but they aren’t quite as bad as they are made to seem on TV. There are good marriages out there. It’s not true that you have only a 50% chance of staying married. The statistical likelihood of your marriage surviving is much greater than 50% (here’s a summary).

God is good. Despite what you’ve been told, creation (though fallen) is good too. Marriage is one of those creational goods in which God intends for most of us to participate.1 I know you’re nervous. That’s okay. I know that most of your friends don’t seem interested in marriage. That’s unfortunate but they’re confused and misinformed. A million Frenchmen can be wrong. Your desire for sexual union with someone of the opposite sex is normal and it needs to be ordered in the divinely intended way.

Church
In the first part we looked at the some of the challenges Millennials face relative to marriage. According to the recent Pew Study, Millennials identify with organized religion at a lower rate than previous generations. To quote Billy Joel, they “didn’t start the fire,” as it were, but they have added to it. Millennial suspicion of the visible church is a part of the pattern we noted previously: suspicion of existing institutions generally.

Why should Millennials (and everyone else) value the visible church? Because God values the visible, institutional church. The prima facie biblical evidence is overwhelming. Our Lord Jesus said, in Matthew 18, “tell it to the church.” That instruction only makes sense relative to a visible covenant community. It was not possible to “tell it to” all believers everywhere. It is possible to make an announcement about church discipline to a congregation, an expression of the church catholic (universal).

We know that God values the visible, assembled church because he gathered Israel, whom, by his sovereign grace, he had saved from bondage in Egypt, at the foot of Sinai. Deuteronomy 9:10 says,

Yahweh gave to me the two tablets of stone written by the finger of God. On them were all the commandments Yahweh proclaimed to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the day of Ha Qahal (i.e., the assembly, See Deut 10:4; 18:16).

Ha Qahal is Hebrew for “the covenant assembly.” These were the people whom God had baptized, as it were, in the Red Sea, when he brought them through on dry ground (Ex 14:22). These were they whom Yahweh fed with quail (1Cor 10). In other words, the visible church is ancient. Sacraments are ancient. We could look at the church under Abraham, Noah, and even Adam before and after the fall. In other words, there has always been a visible people, assembled by the Lord himself, organized by God’s Word, with appointed visible signs and seals (sacraments).

Though it is widely thought that the early church was unstructured and purely spontaneous, that such is definition of “spiritual” is much more the product of assumption. When our Lord Jesus spoke of the ecclesia he was picking up on an ancient thread in Scripture. The New Testament speaks repeatedly to and about the visible, organized assembly where the Word is read, preached, and administered in the sacraments. I’ve summarized that data here. The church is a body but it is also organized and disciplined. Our Lord commissioned his disciples to represent him in official functions (Matt 28:18–20). At Pentecost, those disciples became apostles, with a special, unique endowment of the Holy Spirit and with the authority of Christ they established the offices of minister, elder, and deacon.

Americans are independent by inclination. Church growth experts tell new congregations to downplay their denominational identity in order to appeal to Americans, who tend to be suspicious of denominations. The corollary for individuals is the tendency of Americans to identify themselves as “spiritual” but to say that they are not interested in organized religion. American Christians like to be free agents but that isn’t the biblical view and it isn’t the historic Christian view.

When, in the Apostles’ Creed, Christians confess,

I believe the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins…

we are saying that the same Holy Spirit who hovered over the face of the deep, who hovers over the church (1 Peter 4) is still creating or re-creating a community of the redeemed. In the Heidelberg Catechism Reformed Christians confess:

That, out of the whole human race, from the beginning to the end of the world, the Son of God, by His Spirit and Word, gathers, defends and preserves for Himself to everlasting life a chosen communion in the unity of the true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain a living member of the same.

In other words, in Scripture and in Christian theology there is no dichotomy between the Spiritual and the material (and the organized). Spontaneity might be fun and exciting but it isn’t inherently spiritual. It isn’t necessarily biblical. It is in these assemblies that we find the communion of the saints. Again, in the Heidelberg Catechism we confess:

What do you understand by the ‘communion of saints’?

First, that believers, one and all, as members of the Lord Jesus Christ, are partakers with Him in all His treasures and gifts; secondly, that each one must feel himself bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the advantage and welfare of other members.

Honesty compels us to admit that the visible churches have made great mistakes. Ministers have sinned. The assemblies are composed of sinners, of broken people. There are hypocrites in the visible church but Jesus spent considerable time with one of the greatest and most notorious hypocrites in human history: Judas Iscariot. We should not seek to be more holy than God the Son incarnate.

Are there grounds for being disappointed with the visible, organized church? Yes. Is there a reason to be connected to it anyway? Yes. We go back to our understanding of eschatology. Last time we saw that we’re in the in-between, penultimate time. The visible church is part of that in-between existence. Christ intends for us Christians to spend that time together, in congregations, hearing the Word read and preached, in praying and singing his Word in response, and in celebrating his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and future return in his appointed signs and seals.

Work
Above we looked at the way, according to a recent Pew Study, Millennials relate to the visible, institutional church. The third major topic is work. As Bradford Wilcox summarizes the results of the study he notes that 80% of those aged 24–29 are employed. Only 44% of those aged 18–29 are employed full-time. That latter number seems quite low. I’m not a social scientist and I don’t play one on the web (as an undergrad I used to social “science” when required but I was more interested in arguments than statistics). One study claims that Millennials are about four years behind the previous generation in reaching the same level of income. According to this study, one reason is that, even though they are nominally educated (i.e., they’ve gone through late-modern educational process) young men particularly have failed to develop the necessary skills to flourish in the workplace. Paul Solman claims

Millennials aren’t employed at lower rates because they’re lazy or bad at math; they’re the most educated generation ever. But they’re also the first generation to face the new demands for education and skill — and a bad economy, a much higher cliff to climb than previous generations.

Anecdotal evidence suggests to me that might be an overly optimistic assessment. The educational system has largely failed the Millennials. They have gone through the process but I doubt that they are as highly educated as Solman claims. Since the arrival of the modern, industrial age, many generations have had to adapt to changing conditions and market demands. There have been bad economies before, though this seems to be the worst post-Reagan economy by a longshot. I’m having flashbacks to the Carter years.

Vince Ginn is probably correct, however, that the job market is working against them. This is not the go-go 80s where young people can expect to find a good job easily upon graduation from college. They are competing for low-skill jobs once thought to be the domain of High School graduates or even High School dropouts. Millennials certainly face an uphill climb. Obamacare, rising college costs (and the resulting loan debt—many grads are now carrying the equivalent of a mortgage as they graduate from college),  apparently failed policies such as the Affordable Care Act, and a generally unsettled economy (which makes companies reluctant to take risks, to invest, to expand or to recover some of the workforce they laid off after the crash of ’07–’08) seem poised to make the economic future of Millennials darker than previous generations.

Even with all that, the Great Recession was not the Great Depression. This was a post-Reagan recession. The Malls remained relatively full. Yes, there were some empty shops but I recall recessions under Nixon-Carter-Reagan (’80–81) where there were empty shelves, empty stores, gas lines and the deprivation and poverty of the Great Depression was markedly worse than than anything we’ve experienced since.

One thing has changed, however, since the Great Depression: the work ethic. There are two great social changes afoot that will mark this generation. Homosexual marriage, which the Millennials generally support partly because it makes them feel enlightened and morally superior to support what they see as a cause of liberation (allowing people to do what they want). It seems like a pain-free way to say: follow your bliss. They don’t, however, seem to grasp the significance of what it means to re-define marriage in purely affective terms, without reference to nature. They will.

The second great social change that marks this generation is the legalization of pot. As an GenXer (you’re not a Boomer if you didn’t see Howdy Doody or if you can’t remember where you were when JFK was assassinated) raised with some Dustbowl economic values, I worry about what the legalization of weed signifies. Perhaps it means nothing but weed does nothing if not destroy one’s desire to work and accomplish. That’s not true for a glass of wine or even a beer—a six-pack maybe or a whole bottle of wine but now we’re not comparing apples with apples.

Recently we’ve had national leaders extolling the virtues of unemployment. We’ve heard national political figures sounding very much like Marx regarding the virtues of leisure. It wasn’t that long ago that mainstream politicians of both parties sounded very different. That they can now speak like Marx makes one think that there has been a fundamental cultural shift relative to work and it’s hard not to think that people (including Millennials) no longer view work as inherently good and valuable.

As I argued back in September, however, work is inherently good. God is a worker, a Creator. We were made in his image. We are given work to do in the garden even before the fall. Work is an important way in which we express our status as bearers of the divine image. Work continued after the fall, even if it became difficult and frustrating. When the Apostle Paul learned that some believers were quitting their jobs because they thought that Jesus was coming immediately, he told them to get back to work and that if they didn’t work, they shouldn’t eat.

Then there is the ancient biblical and Christian idea of vocation. Where the medieval and Roman churches tended to locate vocation only in the sacred, in Monasteries and in the call to ministry, the Protestants argued that every image bearer has a vocation, that secular work is not inherently defiled or defiling. It is just an honorable as sacred work. We’re called in Scripture to do our work to the glory of God and to the well-being of our neighbor.

All business people are not Gordon Gekko. Starting a business, selling a service or a product, meeting a need in the marketplace at a fair market price is a good thing. Business is noble, not evil. Investing and getting a return on that investment is a good thing. Being successful and employing others is a good thing. One of the fastest growing segments of our economy is the non-profit segment. That’s all well and good but who is going to fund all these non-profits? Business people. We can’t all work in non-profits and I say this as an employee of a non-profit. I’m deeply grateful to those business people who make it possible for me to do what I do at work and here at the HB.

I fear that the reaction to excess (real or perceived) is grounded not in a Christian evaluation of work and leisure but in a sort of Gnostic, docetic denial of human reality. As a largely urban and suburban culture, Americans don’t seem to understand clearly any more, e.g., from where food comes. They think it appears magically in the grocery. It doesn’t. A farmer risked his capital (money) to buy/rent land, to buy equipment and animals, to buy seed and materials. That farmer got out of bed (sometimes in awful weather), grew it, sold it, and a company processed it and turned it into food. People risked themselves and capital (money and resources) in order to produce it. So, of course, they aren’t going to give it away. They can’t even if they wanted to or they wouldn’t be able to continue growing food.

The same is true of something as apparently simple as a pencil.

All those people, through whom a pencil eventually comes into existence, are doing something valuable. That’s the way God made the world. Work is not greedy or money grubbing. It’s one of the reasons we exist, to fulfill our vocation, whatever it may be and to play our part, to the glory of God and the well-being of our neighbor.

NOTES

1. Singleness is a gift from God (1Cor 7:8) but it is the exception rather than the rule. If God has called you to singleness, then praise God. If not, praise God but please don’t confuse fear and uncertainty about the future for a call to singleness.

This essay first appeared in three parts on the Heidelblog in 2014.

Less A Problem Of What The Spirit Is Doing And More A Problem Of What We Say

How Do We Assess What The Spirit Is Doing?
Since the early 19th century American Christianity has been largely dominated by a revival of the original Anabaptist theology, piety, and practice. One can transpose much of what took place in the 19th century over the fist generation Anabaptists (1520s) and it matches up quite well. The original Anabaptists would have understood completely the Millerite eschatological fervor of the 1820s–40s. They would understand completely the claims of continuing revelation made by Joseph Smith and the Mormons in the same period. At least some of the original Anabaptists would have understood the bald Pelagianism of Charles Finney (1792–1875). The Cane Ridge Revival (1801) would have made perfect sense to the original Anabaptists as it fit their vision of piety almost perfectly.

Evangelical Christianity in America as it has been received in the 20th and 21st centuries is very much the product of that revived Anabaptist theology, piety, and practice. The Second Great Awakening was a radically democratic, egalitarian, entrepreneurial, enterprise. Theologically, it was by turns mystical and rationalist. Further, the Second Great Awakening didn’t just happen out of the blue. It did not fall out of the sky like golden plates and magic spectacles. There’s a direct, organic connection between the 1GA and the 2nd but we’ll press on lest we move from preaching to meddling.

The enthusiastic (in the strict sense) piety of the 2GA faded in the second half of the 19th century but “fresh light” broke forth again in the revivals in Topeka, KS and Azusa Street (Los Angeles) at the turn of the 20th century. The patterns established in the earlier “revivals” have been formative for American evangelicalism.

One aspect of that revivalist pattern is the claim to renewed apostolic phenomena. Suggestions were made in the 18th century and proclaimed loudly in the 19th and 20th centuries that the apostolic phenomena had been restored to those with faith to receive and exercise them. Since the 19th century at least evangelical Christianity (defined broadly) has been divided between the “haves” and “have nots,” i.e., those who claim to have recovered the Apostolic gifts and powers.

As a consequence of these claims many evangelicals simply assume that when a contemporary leader claims to have the gift of “tongues” that what is seen and accepted as “tongues” is identical to what occurred in Acts and what is described in Acts. Such assumptions of continuity between the apostolic period and contemporary expressions of religious piety and enthusiasm have strongly colored evangelical assumptions about the nature of piety. It is a paradigm: it is assumed that spiritual vitality means reproducing apostolic phenomena. Any Christian who is not receiving direct revelations from the Spirit, exercising apostolic gifts and power is reckoned either to lack faith, to be missing out on a potential benefit, or to be making a false profession of faith.

Since the 1970s a somewhat milder version of neo-Pentecostalism has come to great influence in evangelical circles: the charismatic movement. This varied movement usually asserts less continuity between the Apostolic period and the post-canonical period. It has eliminated some of the more socially embarrassing aspects of neo-Pentecostalism (e.g., being slain in the Spirit) in favor of a moderated, more middle-class, suburban piety of direct revelations that are not considered necessarily equivalent to the canonical Scriptures and occasional exercises of prophetic gifts that may (or may not) be considered authoritative. When it comes to healing, the line separating the older Azusa Street piety from the Calvary Chapel charismatic piety is a little fuzzy.

Even in Reformed circles, which are typically cessationist, i.e., which typically do not accept the widely-held assumption of strong continuity between the apostolic period and the contemporary church, there are attempts to mediate between the neo-Pentecostalists, charismatics, and non-Pentecostalists by adopting the vocabulary of the charismatic movement. It is common for Reformed folk to say, “The Lord led me” or “The Lord showed me” or even “The Lord told me.”

Sometimes one suspects this is a defense mechanism. If we speak this way then perhaps we will not be accused of denying the ongoing work of the Spirit. In the neo-Pentecostal/charismatic paradigm, the assumption is that anyone who does not speak thus is implicitly denying the abiding presence, activity, and work of the Spirit. Some of this is cross-cultural or cross-paradigm communication. We’ve taken to speaking like charismatics in order communicate our conviction that the Spirit is at work in our communions and people.

The adoption of charismatic language to describe our experience comes at a cost, however, because we come to believe that what is being said is literally true. As Reformed folk read Scripture, the apostolic gifts and powers ended with the close of the apostolic age. As best we can tell, no one is actually speaking in natural foreign languages (Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12–14) by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. None of us is being carried about from place to place by the Spirit (Acts 8:39) or healing the lame (Acts 8 and 9). None of us is putting people to death (Acts 5) or raising people from the dead (Acts 20) and none of us is impervious to the bite of poisonous snakes (Acts 28). None of us even is so indwelled by the Spirit that others are healed merely by touching our handkerchiefs (Acts 19).

How Should We Speak?
Above I began to sketch a case that for a way between neo-Pentecostalism/Charismatic piety and a sterile piety. Genuine, confessional Reformed piety is warm, Spiritual, and vital but we understand that the Spirit works through means (Word and sacraments). This means that there are two distinct paradigms before us. Christ’s presence mediated v the unmediated experience of God (QIRE). In some cases, however, the issue is less a matter of genuine difference but rather about how we should speak.

Historically, even though the church has often and rather conveniently fuzzed the boundary between the canonical and post-canonical periods (e.g., the hagiographies of the early church) as a matter of doctrine the main Patristic writers tended to recognize a distinction between the apostolic and post-apostolic periods. The scandal of the Montanists was that they claimed to represent a revival of the apostolic phenomena, a claim that most rejected.

As Warfield showed in 1918, the so-called “miracles” claimed by the neo-Pentecostalists simply don’t measure up to apostolic standards. The apostolic miracles were of a different order than anything that is claimed today. It wasn’t a matter of “so and so said that he heard that in Pakistan in 1937 x happened.” That’s what passes for the miraculous in our day. There’s word for that: credulity. The genuine thing was obvious, public, and empirically verifiable. They had nothing to hide because they had real power. They didn’t need ear pieces (Robert Tilton) or camera tricks and the like. There was no agony of deceit.

The truth is that those leading evangelical proponents of gifts tacitly admit that they aren’t really apostolic. One leading advocate admitted to a gathering of theologians that his first attempt to heal failed because he lacked sufficient faith. That’s not apostolic. Paul shook off the serpent at Malta because he had apostolic power not because he had sufficient faith (as if he would have died had his faith flagged for a moment). Paul sustained several stonings and other attempts on his life. We would not. We’re not apostles.

Please hear me. I am not saying that the Spirit cannot do today what he did in the first century, in the Exodus, in the flood, or in the resurrection. I quite expect to see Jesus return bodily. I expect to see a bodily resurrection and a metaphorical flood (1 Peter) but we’re not there yet. God has not promised to do in our age, in the post-canonical time between the ascension and the parousia, what he did in the canonical age.

What happens is that contemporary evangelical and charismatic folk describe ordinary phenomena in extraordinary, apostolic terms. They identify non-apostolic phenomena as apostolic. That’s cheating but it’s rhetorically powerful and persuasive. Many evangelicals don’t want to live in the post-canonical, in between time. It’s a drag. People want a power religion. Judged against the neo-Pentecostal and charismatic claims, Reformed Christianity seems decidedly weak and powerless (see all of 2 Corinthians).

So, what should we do? I propose that we speak the truth in love. Instead of making claims that we can’t back up we should speak simply. Instead claiming implicitly that we know what the Spirit is doing just now (we don’t know where the Spirit comes from or where he is going) we should say what is true. Instead of saying “the Spirit told me” or “the Spirit led me” we should say what actually know to be true. “I had a strong desire to pray” or “in the providence of God it turns out that as I was praying x was happening at the same time.”

Does the Spirit lead us, give promptings? Sure. That’s not in question. What is in question is what we should claim about them. The Word tells us that the Spirit is constantly, powerfully, and actively accomplishing his purposes. Confessing that truth is one thing. Claiming that we know just what he is about at any given moment is quite another. We say, “The Spirit was really present” when what we know to be true is that “we had an intense experience.” In fact the Spirit is always present. We may become conscious of certain intense feelings or experiences and if those are good and holy, praise God.

Implicit in the claim to know what the Spirit is doing is an unstated knowledge and claim to power. “It’s not in the Scripture but I know what the Spirit is doing in this instance.” I say that doesn’t accord with what we believe about the immensity of God, the omnipresence of God, and our doctrine of the providence of God. He is always sustaining, governing, upholding all things. We know that he is with his covenantal people is a particular way. That presumes knowledge of the Spirit’s work that we don’t have. It’s powerful and seductive but it’s powerful precisely because it fills in the sorts of blanks we want to have filled in. It sounds and seems more “spiritual” to say, “The Spirit led me to do/say/think” rather than “after prayer and study I did/said/thought.” The latter is corrigible and the former is less so. It’s really a sort of implicit claim to power, authority, and knowledge that, as far as I know, in the post-canonical era, no one has.

Why can’t we simply do good, useful, edifying things without attributing it directly to the inspiration of the Spirit? Why do we have to know whether it was directly from the Spirit? Partly, I think, because we feel guilty for being cessationists because the non-cessationists seem to having all the fun.

Brothers and sisters, we are not charismatics or neo-Pentecostals. We have a different paradigm. We should learn to be content with Scripture and with our own paradigm instead of seeking to plunder the Pentecostals. We do not believe that God occasionally drops into history to do the spectacular but rather we believe that he is constantly with us. We believe that he accomplishes extraordinary things through the ordained and regular (Rom 10). Which takes more faith? To believe that the Spirit is knocking people over, inspiring them to make incorrect prophecies, or to believe that God uses the foolishness of the preached Gospel (1 Cor 1-2) to raise spiritual dead (Eph 2) sinners to new life and to grant them faith and through it union with the risen Christ?


This essay first appeared in 2013 on the Heidelblog.

Molly Worthen on Mark Driscoll (and Calvin)

You should probably read Molly Worthen’s essay on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill (HT: Justin Taylor). I don’t know if she gets Driscoll right. If (that’s a big condition. It means if the condition isn’t met then what follows is irrelevant) what she says about how they practice discipline is true, however, I suggest they look into a Reformed church order. Reformed Churches do not practice discipline that way. It usually takes us a couple years before someone is actually excommunicated and shunning is an Anabaptist practice. We have local, regional, and national assemblies to hear appeals and to give advice on matters of discipline. In our polity, our consistory cannot proceed to the final steps of discipline without consulting the regional assembly of ministers and elders!

More to the point, she resurrects the worst caricatures of Calvin. I suppose her resuscitation of them a good reminder that we have to keep repeating the history. I admit, I don’t remember hearing or reading any story about Calvin making “a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness.”  As far as I know the polity in Geneva, he didn’t have that sort of authority. Typically the Consistory fined people. I’ve never seen any instances of this sort of discipline. If everyone who criticized Calvin in Geneva was made to do this there would have been no place to walk!

Update

As a follow-up, I admit that I don’t know much about Mark Driscoll. As a historian I’m generally much more interested in dead people than the living. I do think, however, that the R&R folks need to dig a little more deeply into the Reformed confession. We have a theology, a piety, and a practice. I’m glad that folk are enthused about aspects of the Reformation but welding those aspects to American revivalism and pietism and evangelicalism will probably create a monster. If these emerging/R&R guys want to be “Reformed” why don’t they identify themselves with the Reformed Churches? I have my guesses as to why not but it says something about folk who like Calvin’s soteriology but who reject his church.

Ms Worthen was kind enough to respond to a query about her about this passage:

The Reformed tradition’s resistance to compromise and emphasis on the purity of the worshipping community has always contained the seeds of authoritarianism: John Calvin had heretics burned at the stake and made a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness. [Benedict cites the Calvini Opera 21:21, 367, 370-77 and several secondary texts as evidence for this episode].

In fairness, Worthen has a word count and an editor so things get compressed. Nevertheless, this compressed account of Calvin’s authority in Geneva reinforces the old and false stereotypes about Calvin, Calvinism, and the Reformed Churches as inherently authoritarian and tyrannical.

Here’s the text of my reply:

Hi Molly,

I won’t detain you long.

Thanks for the quick reply and the lead. I appreciate the difficulties and compromises required by editors! You can imagine, however, that my concern is that the sort of shorthand you used feeds what P. E. Hughes called “the popular fantasy” of Calvin as tyrant of Geneva. Calvin was more refugee than tyrant. At any rate, church-state relations in Geneva were fluid and complex.

I have Benedict (Christ’s Churches Purely Reformed) in front of me (very good memory you have!) and on p. 103 he says,

“When Ameaux’s words found their way to Calvin, he demanded action from the council. It decided to have Ameaux apologize on bended knees to Calvin before the assembly of the Two Hundred, but this was not a public penance enough to suit the minister. He refused to present himself for the ceremony and was not satisfied until the council condemned Ameaux to process through the city, kneeling at every major square or intersection to proclaim his regret at having dishonored the Word of God, the magistrates, and the ministers.”

Yes, it happened because Calvin insisted, but technically it was the city council who effected the sentence and, more importantly, it was part of a metaphorically bloody political fight, dating to the mid-40s, over the direction of the city and the church. This was less about Calvin’s person than it was about the authority of the church to make ecclesiastical policy. Ameaux was a member of a party contesting the Consistory’s authority and especially Calvin’s. Benedict’s account, in this respect, is a little overdrawn. In a survey a certain amount of nuance goes by the boards.*

As to authoritarianism and Calvinism generally, there’s a serious argument, that Bruce Gordon, I, and others have advanced that Calvinism in the period was a religion of refugees not tyrants. After all no other group suffered more martyrs in that period than the Reformed.

As to Driscoll and Mars Hill, he would not be admitted as a member of most [confessional] Reformed Churches much less as a minister. He’s a typical evangelical religious entrepreneur, part of a long line of such going back to the 18th century, but he’s hardly Reformed. The Calvin-Driscoll link, in that respect, is quite tenuous.

Thanks for your time,

Best,

Scott

ps. I see Gordon has a biography of Calvin appearing in May. I expect it will be terrific.

*I should add that this followed a legal and an ecclesiastical case (Register of the Company of Pastors, 1.309-10) concerning Ameaux’s wife, so there was some history there. Further, Ameaux wasn’t just “some guy.” He was a member of the city council (i.e., a member of either the Petit Conseil or the Two Hundred, it’s not clear) and a leading member of the “Libertine” party seeking to discredit Calvin and the Reformation in Geneva. Pierre Ameaux was a businessman who manufactured playing cards. According to Bernard Cottret, Calvin, 187, “he was sentenced to make a circuit of the city, his head bare, a lighted torch in his hand.” This is a translation CO 21.377, Registres du Conseil 41, fol. 68.

Here is the text of the French:

Ameaulx. Ayans vheu le contenuz de ces responces par lesquelle nous appert que il a meschamment parle contre Dieu le magestral et M. Calvin ministre etc. comment amplement est conpensez voz que ce pays soyt vostre? il est a moy tenus en ces responces: Ordonne qui soyt conet a mes compagnyons et serez gouvernés par nous dampne a debvoyer fere le tour a la ville en chemise teste nue une torche allumee en sa maien et dempuys devant le tribunal venyr crie mercy a Dieu et a la justice les genoulx a terre confessant avoyer mal parle le condampnant aussy a tous despens et que la sentence soyt profere publiquement.

Surely it strikes us as severe today—It wasn’t for nothing that Calvin was called “The Accusative Case” by his fellow students—but remember the times and the context. See Parker, John Calvin: A Biography, 99. According to Parker, what was at stake was the authority of the Word. Was it a confusion of the two kingdoms for Calvin to demand civil penalties for being identified with the sufferings of Christ? Absolutely! From the perspective of the 2 kingdoms, Calvin might have had a case before the Consistory but not before the Two Hundred.


This post first appeared in two parts, in 2009, on the Heidelblog.