Bethel Evangelical Church has its roots in the Forward Movement of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church. The following statement of faith was adopted by the Calvinistic Methodists in 1823.
1. Of the being of God.
There is one God and only one true and living God. The light of nature in man proves the being of God. All nations acknowledge a God or god’s. Natural conscience, accusing or else excusing, proves the being of God, and Man’s responsibility to Him for his actions. The creation proves the being of God, as an effect proves it has a cause. The creation could not have come into being of itself : it must have had cause. The being of man himself proves the being of God : forasmuch as one man is the offspring of another man, the first man must have existed; consequently, he must have had a Creator.
The order, beauty, adaption, harmony, and consistence of the creation proves that a wise God gave it being, and upholds and governs all things. All creatures answer purposes which they could not themselves have ordained or designed; it is evident, therefore, that one great Governor rules over all. The terrible retributions that have befallen some of God’s enemies in this world, and the terrors that have dismayed their consciences at death, after a life spent in denying God, prove his existence.
2. Of the Scriptures.
The Holy Scriptures – that is, the written word of God, the book commonly called The Bible – consists of all the books of the Old and New Testaments.
The books of the Old Testament are 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, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
The books of the New Testament are the gospels according to Matthew , Mark, Luke and John, The Acts, Paul’s Epistles : to the Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Epistle to the Hebrews, Epistle of James, First and Second Epistles of Peter, First Second and Third Epistles of John, Epistle of Jude, Revelation of John.
All the Scriptures – that is to say, the books of the Old and New Testaments – are the word of God. From him they came; they were spoken by holy men of God; they contain a full, sufficient, and perfect revelation of the mind and will of God, concerning all things that are necessary to be know for our salvation; and they are the only infallible rule of faith and obedience. The truths which they contain respecting God and the perfections of his nature are so exceedingly broad and deep, that no one could have revealed them, except him who has a perfect knowledge of himself; the godliness and self denial of the writers, the purity and holiness of all the truths contained in the Scriptures, the consistency of all the parts, though written by various persons and in various ages of the world, the continued preservation of the Scriptures, though the strongest authorities on earth have assailed and sought to destroy them, the fact that it is their main design to manifest God’s greatness and glory, their authority and influence over the hearts and lives of men, and the superiority of those nations which have had the Scriptures, in every age of the world, over other nations, in morals, knowledge, and all else that adorns humanity, – all these things prove beyond a doubt that the infinite God is their author.
Besides, we have no grounds for thinking that either men or angels are the authors of the Holy Scriptures; we cannot suppose that bad men, in early times, were the authors of the Scriptures, without supposing also that evil had changed its former nature; and it is very certain that evil spirits never fashioned these weapons which are destined to subvert their kingdom in the hearts of men; and it would not be consistent with the holiness of the elect angels, nor with the holiness of godly men, to utter a lie in the name of The Lord of Hosts; it is, therefore, abundantly evident that the Scriptures come from God, and from no other source.
3. Of the Attributes of God.
Though the light of nature in man, and the works of creation etc., clearly prove the being of God, and though reason proves that there is but one true God, still we cannot know his attributes without a special revelation from himself. No one knows God perfectly except himself. In the Holy Scriptures we have God’s witness concerning himself; and as he has witnessed in his word, so ought we to think and believe concerning him. The true God is a pure, invisible, self-subsisting Spirit; without body, parts, or passions; eternal, without beginning, change, or end; infinite, and incomprehensible; absolute, omnipresent, omniscient, and almighty; perfect in holiness, righteousness, wisdom, and goodness; long-suffering, gracious, and merciful; forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; but terrible in his wrath; for he will not at all acquit the wicked, but will visit sin with righteous judgement.
By the attributes of God we are to understand his properties. All his attributes are infinite; and all perfections belong to God, and are his properties.
4. Of the Persons of the Trinity.
Though there is but one God, and though there cannot be more than one true God, still it is the clear testimony of Holy Scripture that there are in the Godhead THREE Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that these three are co-eternal and co-equal, not one before or after another, not greater or less than another, but one God.
Everyone of these persons is true God, and the one person is not the other person; nevertheless, there is only one God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are not names, offices, or attributes, but divine Persons; the Father an eternal Person, the Son an eternal Person, the Holy Ghost an eternal Person; but the three Persons one eternal God. And while distinct offices and operations belong to one Person more than to another in the plan of salvation, still the three Persons have the same divine attributes; the three divine Persons have the same eternity, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence etc.; the three have the same holiness, goodness, love, etc.; the objects of the love of the three Persons are the same; and the eternal decree is the decree of the Trinity. And though we cannot comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity, we ought to believe it, because God so testifies concerning himself. God knows himself perfectly, and is the God of truth; consequently, we ought steadfastly to believe his testimony concerning himself
5. Of God’s Decree.
God, from eternity, after the council of his own will, and for the manifestation and exaltation of his glorious attributes, decreed all that he would do in time and to eternity, in creation, in the government of his creatures, and in the salvation of sinners of the human race; yet so that he is not the author of sin nor constrains the will of his creature in its actions. The decree of God depends not in the least upon the creature nor upon the foreknowledge of God himself; on the contrary, God knows that certain things will be, because he has decreed that they should be. God’s decree is infinitely wise, and perfectly just; eternal, free, comprehensive, secret, gracious, holy, good, unchangeable, and effectual.
6. Of the Creation.
In the beginning God (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) created the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that therein is, for himself : “For his pleasure they are and were created.” “He hath done whatsoever he pleased.” “The things which are seen were not made of things which do appear;” but he “spake the word, and so it was; he commanded, and it stood fast;” and all things were made in six days, and everything was very good.
7. Of God’s Providence in the Preservation and Government of the World.
God, in his wise, holy, and righteous providence, upholds and governs all creatures and their actions. His providence extends over all places, all events, all changes, and all times. His providence, in its operation, is full of eyes to behold, and powerful to perform, and makes all things work together for good to them that love God. It overrules the sinful actions of men; nevertheless, it neither causes nor occasions the sinfulness of any of them.
8. Of Man in his original state of Innocence.
The Lord God formed the first man, Adam, as to his body, of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, spiritual, rational, and immortal. He and in him all his offspring were made upright, in the image and after the likeness of God, endowed with knowledge, holiness, and righteousness. The law of God was implanted as an instinct in his heart, and he was both endowed with power, and placed in advantageous circumstances, to keep it; yet capable of changing and falling. He stood only so long as he kept the commandment. He was perfectly happy, at peace with God, and enjoying his fellowship, and had dominion over all creatures on earth.
9. Of the Covenant of Works.
It pleased God to condescend to enter into covenant with the first man, Adam, adapted to his state of innocence, and consisting of a command, a threat, and a promise. The special command, which was the pledge of his obedience, was not to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree; the threat was that, if he ate thereof, he should die. The nature of the command and the threat leads us to infer that this covenant contained a promise also of life and happiness, if man obeyed the command, in contradistinction to the death threatened as the penalty of disobedience. The law of our nature was all contained in this covenant, so that it was impossible to transgress the special command of the covenant without transgressing, at the same time, the entire law of our nature. Adam stood, in this covenant, not only as a natural root of all his offspring, but also as their covenant head and representative; so that their happiness or misery, as well as his own, depended upon his obedience or disobedience.
10. Of the Fall of Man and Original Sin.
Though man, when God made the covenant of works with him, had power to obey and fulfill the conditions of the covenant, yet he disobeyed God and broke the covenant. The serpent deceived Eve, and Adam hearkened unto the voice of his wife and wilfully transgressed the commandment of his Creator by eating of the forbidden fruit; and by this means he broke God’s covenant, forfeited his right to the promised life, became subject to the threatened death, lost his original uprightness and fellowship with God, and became totally corrupt in soul and body. As he was the root and representative of mankind, his first sin is imputed to them, and his corruption flows into all his seed, who spring from him by natural generation. In consequence of this natural corruption, mankind are become incapable of goodness, yea, opposed to all goodness and prone to all evil; and from this depraved nature springs all actual sin. Original sin and all actual sins, in soul or body, are transgressions of God’s holy law, bring the sinner under a curse, and expose him to the wrath of God, and to spiritual, temporal, and eternal misery.
11. Of the State of Man by Nature.
All mankind are by nature in a guilty, sinful, and miserable state. By their relation to the first Adam they are under the law, as it is sanctioned in the covenant of works : and through his first transgression, all of them, forasmuch as they are in him, have been brought under the curse of the law, which declares everyone cursed that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. And by nature all are dead in trespasses and sins, enemies in their mind by wicked works, every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts being only evil continually, without any desire to know the Lord or to obey him, and justly deserving of eternal death.
12. On the Election of Grace.
God from eternity elected and appointed Christ to be the covenant head, mediator, and surety of his church, to redeem and save it. God elected also in Christ a great multitude, which no man can number, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, to holiness and eternal life : and appointed all the means necessary to accomplish this end. This election is eternal, righteous, sovereign, unconditional, particular or personal, and unchangeable. The election of grace wrongs no one : though God in righteousness left some persons unpredestinated, yet, he did them no injustice; they are in the same condition in which they would have been, if there had been no election; and if there had been no election of grace, no flesh would have been saved.
13. Of the Eternal Covenant of Grace.
God from eternity made a gracious covenant or plan, ordered in all things and sure, for the salvation of men. The parties to this covenant are the blessed Persons of the Trinity – the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father represents the honour and the glory of God’s attributes and government, contemned and dishonoured by man; the Son, as their covenant Head and mighty Surety, represents and stands in the stead of all those of the human race who are elected and believe in him unto salvation; the Holy Ghost engages to work in the elect as the Spirit of Christ, as Sanctifier and Comforter. The conditions of this covenant on the part of Christ, the Surety of his people, were that he should perform on their behalf all that was owing from them to God and his law. Exceeding great and precious promises have been given by the Father in the covenant to Christ and his seed; the entire sum of all the promises which were given to the Surety, and will be fulfilled to his covenant seed, is eternal life.
God in his own time reveals this covenant through the gospel to all his people, and, by bringing them to approve and embrace it, brings them into the bond of the covenant, and into actual possession in their own persons of its grace, gifts, and privileges. The covenant of grace was revealed by degrees, and under various dispensations; but the gospel dispensation is the last and most glorious. This covenant is free, sure, holy, advantageous, and eternal.
14. Of the Person of the Father and the Work Ascribed to Him in the Plan of Salvation.
The Father is called a Person. He is called Father, to set forth his relation to Christ, his only-begotten Son, who is in his bosom; and the union between the Father and the Son is such that he that denies the Son, denies the Father also. The Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father. As Persons they are distinct, but Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one essence. “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father : and no man knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him”. To the Father is ascribed, in the plan of salvation, the election of Christ to be the Saviour of sinners, the preparation of his human nature, his ordination to be a propitiation, the laying on him the iniquity of his people, the bruising him for their sins, his resurrection from the dead, to declare that he was satisfied in his death, the election of sinners in Christ, the drawing them unto him, and the glorification of Christ and, in him, his people in the end.
15. Of the Person of Christ, The Mediator.
In the fullness of time, God’s own Son, eternally begotten, an infinite Person in the Godhead, equal with the Father, the express image of his Person, true God, took upon him human nature, in the Virgin’s womb, – true, entire humanity, but holy and free from its defilement. A body was prepared for him by the Father, and formed by the Holy Ghost, of the substance of the Virgin, free from all taint of impurity; and this body the Son assumed into union with his own Person. Thus a divine Person and human nature have been indivisibly united in the one Mediator, without conversion or confusion of the Divine and human natures. The infinite Person, Christ Jesus, is true God and true man; yet, one Mediator, between God and men, EMMANUEL. It was necessary that the Mediator should be God-man, because it was necessary that the Surety should be made under the law in our stead, obey it perfectly, suffer its curse, and die for those whom he represented, which he could not have done if he had not been man; it was also necessary that his obedience, sufferings, and death should be infinitely efficacious and precious, which they could not have been if he had not been God. But, inasmuch as he was God-man, he magnified the law, satisfied justice, honoured all the attributes and the government of God, and made reconciliation by his perfect obedience and sacrifice. In the mediation of Christ both natures performed each its own proper work; nevertheless, in virtue of the union between them, the acts of the one or the other are ascribed to the Person. The union of both natures remains, and will remain for ever, in the person of Christ. He will be forever God-man.
16. Of the Offices of the Mediator.
Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and men. He is the Mediator of the new covenant (or Testament), a Saviour, Deliverer. Shepherd; ordained in covenant according to the good pleasure of God. All fulness and glorious fitness are found in him, in virtue of the greatness of his Person, his eternal appointment, and his anointing with the graces and gifts of the Holy Ghost, without measure. He fulfills this extensive office as Prophet, by declaring God and his whole council and purpose in Holy Scripture, through the instruments which he used; in his personal ministry in the days of his flesh; and in the abiding work of his Spirit, through the instruments and means which he appointed for savingly enlightening his whole church, concerning those things which are necessary to be known in order to salvation.
As Priest, in his state of humiliation, in the stead of his people, and under the imputation of their sins, he offered up, by his active and passive obedience, a Sacrifice, Offering, and Atonement, perfect and without spot to God, for his whole church. In his state of exaltation, he intercedes in heaven for all the transgressors that were given him, whom he purchased with his precious blood. He will continue to intercede until he sees of the travail of his soul and is satisfied.
As King, he is the head over all things to his church; rules over all things for its good, its continuance, and increase; gathers together and bring sinners into subjection to himself; reigns graciously in their souls; protects, defends, and saves to the uttermost all his redeemed; and rewards them at the end of their course.
17. Of the Humiliation and Exaltation of Christ.
Christ, according to the eternal decree and covenant, had been appointed Mediator, and administered the office, from the time when the promise of the seed of the woman was given to the time of his incarnation; and was required to administer and fulfill his mediatorial offices in two states – that is, his state of humiliation and his state of exaltation.
In his state of humiliation, he who was true God came into the world, assumed human nature, became true man and partaker of flesh and blood; he who was in the form of God took upon him the form of a servant; he who knew no sin was made sin for sinners. He assumed humanity in a poor virgins womb; when he was born, he was laid in a manger; his enemies sought to destroy him; he was brought up in poverty; he endured slander, false accusations, and reproach; he suffered the greatest shame and pain in soul and body, at the hands of men and devils; he was smitten by God as by a righteous Judge. He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; in his humiliation, sufferings, and death, he magnified the law, satisfied justice, glorified all the attributes of God, conquered the devil, destroyed death, suffered the utmost penalty of sin, gave himself an offering and a sacrifice, sufficient and without spot, so that he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; he bought his church, wrought for it an everlasting righteousness, and opened a fountain for its thorough cleansing.
Christ fulfilled all his mediatorial offices in his state of humiliation : he taught the multitudes, but especially his disciples; he conquered men and evil spirits, controlled the elements, subdued diseases, and overcame death itself; he ruled and protected his people; he sacrificed himself, and thereby abolished all sacrifices; he interceded for transgressors and blessed his people.
When the Mediator had wholly finished the work which he had been given to do in his state of humiliation, God highly exalted him above all. As God he could not be exalted; for as God he was above all when he was in the form of a servant and in the depth of his humiliation. But as Mediator he was very highly exalted in his glorious resurrection, triumphant ascension, joyous session on the right hand of the Father, and appointment to be the Judge of all.
Christ is Mediator in his state of exaltation : he is the only way to the Father, and through him only are saving blessings brought to men. He stills fulfills all his mediatorial offices on the right hand of the Father; as Priest, he appears before God and intercedes for transgressors; as Prophet, he sends his Spirit and endows men with gifts sufficient for teaching his people; as King, he rules and protects them, and governs all things for their good.
18. Of Redemption.
As the law was magnified, justice satisfied, the divine government honoured, and all God’s attributes were glorified, in the life and death of Christ, so also the church was wholly redeemed from the earth, from among men, from under the curse, from all iniquity – redeemed to God with a price, by payment of a ransom, even the precious blood of Christ. The original cause of this redemption is the infinite love and grace of the Trinity. In an eternal decree and council between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for the redemption of sinners, the Son was chosen to be the Redeemer, and it was ordained that he should assume human nature, in order to become our kinsman, with the right to redeem his brethren. It was ordained that his Person should stand in the stead of those persons (and those only) who had been given him to redeem. In the fulness of time he was made of a woman, made under the law, that, by the imputation of their sins to him, he might redeem those who were given to him : “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all – and he bare the sins of many”. “He hath made (by imputation) him to be sin for us, who knew no sin (by corruption of nature, thought, or deed)”. “I lay down,” said Christ, “my life for the sheep”. He suffered in his own Person the penalty due for the sins which were imputed to him. “Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us (for whom he suffered) to God.” He thus redeemed a countless multitude, by making a full atonement for all their sins. Men were redeemed, but all things – that is, grace and glory – are obtained for them through the Redeemer, and through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Thus the redemption ensures their calling, justification, sanctification, perseverance, adoption, and glorification. Though it is improper to say that the Holy Ghost was purchased for his people, yet it is in virtue of the redemption purchased and the atonement made by Christ for their sins, that the Holy Ghost and every good gift pertaining to their salvation are bestowed upon them; the redemption removed all obstacles out of the way, and established communion between heaven and earth. Thus through that ransom, that is to say, the blood of Christ, they are saved from sin and all its consequences, and brought into everlasting glory.
Addendum ((ADDED IN 1874) We also recognize in addition to the form referred to in article 18 : None will perish because of insufficiency in the atonement, but all because they will not come unto Christ to be saved; and these will have no excuse to make for their neglect of Christ.)
19. Of the Intercession of Christ.
Christ, in the nature of his people, ever makes intercession for them before the Father. When on earth Christ furnished us with a beautiful pattern of his intercession in heaven. The intercession of Christ on earth was adapted to his state of humiliation; and, in like manner, his intercession in heaven befits the glory of his exaltation to the right hand of the Father. Christ intercedes before his Father and his people’s Father; the Person of the Advocate is infinitely glorious, and beloved and accepted by the Father; his intercession is perfectly righteous, because it is the intercession of Jesus Christ the righteous, and because he is the Propitiation; and he intercedes for those whom the Father himself loves. His intercession is, therefore, effectual and all-prevailing. He intercedes not only for his church generally, but also for every one of his people individually, in all their circumstances and temptations, for the maintenance and increase of all their graces, that they faint not. It is through the virtue and efficacy of his intercession they are kept in the peace and favour of God, and their service is acceptable before God.
20. Of the Person and Work of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost is true God and a true and distinct Person in the Godhead, equal in power and glory with the Father and the Son; for he bears a divine name, and has divine attributes; divine worship is paid him; and divine acts have been and are being done by him, which none but God could have done or can do. Though it is the Godhead of the three Persons that works all things, yet distinctive operations are ascribed to each Person : creation and election to the Father, redemption to the Son, sanctifying and sealing to the Holy Ghost. To the Holy Ghost is also ascribed the forming of Christ’s human nature holy in the Virgin’s womb, and the endowing of it with every grace and gift without measure. The writers of Scripture spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. He calls and endows men for, and sends them into the work of ministry, and gives them success. He convinces and regenerates sinners, guides and comforts the children of God, and will raise them up at the last day.
The work of the Holy Ghost in those who will be saved to eternal life is a gracious, holy, effectual, and abiding work, according to the eternal covenant, the effect of eternal love, and the fruit of the meritorious redemption.
21. Of the Necessity for the Work of the Holy Spirit to Apply the Plan of Salvation.
To save sinners, it is as necessary to apply as it was to provide the plan of salvation. To prepare and provide a plan of salvation without applying it would have been a vain thing. It must be applied, as well as provided, by an infinite Person. Men will not accept or make use of it, though it be prepared; and God, foreseeing this from eternity, in decreeing, in his eternal love, the salvation of sinners, not only appointed his Son to provide a full salvation for them, but also, in the same eternal plan, appointed the Holy Ghost to apply it; that none of the objects of his love should perish for want of applying any more than for want of preparing and providing it. The Spirit is an infinite Person, and loves the objects of the divine mercy as much as the Father and the Son do, and is equally faithful to fulfil the work given him to do in the eternal covenant.
22. Of the Call of the Gospel.
The call of the gospel contains a general proclamation of glad tidings to lost sinners, through Jesus Christ, and sets before them strong encouragements to return unto him for their eternal salvation. Where this call is effectual, the power of God works through it in a gracious, irresistible, and saving manner, to quicken those who were dead in sin, to cast down imaginations in the minds of men, to deliver them from the power of darkness and translate them into the kingdom of his dear Son, to make them willing in the day of his power, and guide them into all truth. Moreover all those, to whom the gospel is the power of God to bring them to him in the day of grace, will be brought at last to eternal glory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
23. Of Union with Christ.
Those who are effectually called are brought into a mystical union with Christ. Though they were elected in Christ from eternity, and represented by him in the eternal covenant, nevertheless they are by nature the children of wrath, even as others, enemies of God, and far from Christ, until the Holy Ghost is sent to convince them of sin, show them their state of misery, reveal Christ to them, draw them to him, and create them in him; then will they be members of his mystical body, and will be in him as the branches are in the vine; then Christ and his salvation become theirs; the Holy Ghost dwells in them; and they receive every grace from the fulness of Christ. This union is intimate and loving; quickening and fruitful; strong and eternal : because the Head lives, the members shall live also. They are no more in the first Adam, as their covenant-head, nor under that covenant or its curse; but they are in Christ, the head of the covenant of grace, and have a right to all the blessings of the covenant.
24. Of Justification.
Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he accounts and declares a man righteous by imputing to him the righteousness of Christ, which the sinner receives by faith. In the justification of sinners, God manifests his righteousness and the honor of his law as well as his grace and mercy; inasmuch as he justifies them “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus”. The righteousness of Christ, whereby sinners are justified, is called “the righteousness which is of God by faith”. It is not befitting to ascribe to faith the merit that belongs only to the righteousness of Christ : that would be to confound the sun with the window that transmits the light. Justification contains in itself pardon of all the sinner’s transgressions, that he perish not because of them; the acceptance of his person in the sight of God, and the giving him a lawful claim to the enjoyment of eternal happiness. It is called “justification of life”, and the transgressor is thereby made the “heir of eternal life”.
25. Of Adoption.
Those whom God justifies, he adopts through Jesus Christ to himself, receives them as his children, and gives them the liberty and privileges of children. He calls them by his name, sends forth the spirit of adoption into their hearts, and gives them liberty to come boldly unto the throne of grace, and strength to cry, Abba, Father. He pities them, provides for them, teaches them, protects them, and, when necessary, chastises them as their Father; but he will not cast them out : he seals them unto the day of redemption. They are children, and also heirs.
26. Of Regeneration.
Regeneration consists in a gracious and supernatural change, wrought by the Spirit of God in all those who are saved to eternal life, by making them partakers of the divine nature, which is the principle of a holy life, effectually working in the whole man, and for that reason called “the new man”. The holy nature received in regeneration acts in all those who are made partakers of it in direct opposition to every form of corruption, and after God who created it. This change produces in the whole man a lively impress of God’s holiness, as a child bears the image of his father. God alone is the author of this change. It is generally wrought by means of the word, and is set forth in Scripture under several names; such as quickening, forming Christ in the heart, partaking of the divine nature, and circumcising the heart. This change is wrought in order that men may glorify God by bringing forth the fruits of righteousness, and purifying the soul, so as to be meet to enjoy fellowship with God for ever.
27. Of Sanctification.
All those who are united to Christ and justified through his righteousness are also sanctified. They receive virtue from his death, and from his resurrection, that they may be mortified to sin, and quickened to righteousness. Their sanctification is personal and real, not imputative. The word and the Spirit of God dwell in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin has been destroyed; their several lusts are mortified and weakened from day to day; and every grace is strengthened for every holy exercise; for “without holiness no man shall see the Lord”. Sanctification is carried on throughout the whole man, yet is imperfect in this life, by reason of the corruption that also remains in every part. Hence arises the continual warfare in the saints between the flesh and the spirit. Though the warfare continues and corruption is exceeding strong, and the saints are oftentimes sorely wounded, yet through the intercession of Christ on their behalf, and the renewal of strength from the Spirit of grace, the regenerate nature is strengthened until it overcomes. They grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God; the good work begun in them will be finished. Then shall they be without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.
28. Of Saving Faith and its Fruits.
Saving faith is a gracious instinct or principle, wrought in the heart by the Spirit of God; whereby the soul is brought to believe the testimony of God in his Word concerning all that he has spoken; to believe the commandments so as to obey, the threatenings so as to tremble, the promises so as to accept and embrace them, and especially to believe that we are utterly sinful, lost, and undone, without the Lord Jesus, and that through his propitiation and righteousness alone we are saved; inasmuch as it is by this faith we receive and rest upon Christ alone for our salvation. This is the faith of God’s elect; it is this faith that God gives, that saves, justifies, works by love, purifies the heart, and overcomes the world. This faith is unfeigned, abides, looks unto the Lord, flees for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before it, takes hold of the Lord’s strength, trusts him, puts on the Lord Jesus, feeds upon him, and lives to him. This faith differs in degree in different Christians, and in the same Christian at different times. But the least degree of it differs in kind from the faith of hypocrites, and accompanies salvation. This faith is never without good works, which spring from it as its necessary and natural fruits.
29. Of Repentance Unto Life.
God, in calling by his grace those who have arrived at years of discretion, gives them repentance unto life; that is to say, a change is wrought in their thoughts, belief, and lives; and deep, unfeigned sorrow produced, because they have sinned against him. And inasmuch as corruption remains in the best of men on earth, and that they through the deceitfulness of their sins within and the temptations of the devil, offend in many things, God has provided, in the covenant of grace, that, when believers offend, they shall be renewed again through repentance.
Through the evangelical grace of repentance the Holy Spirit makes the believer sensible of the great evil of sin, and through faith in Christ humbles and abhors himself because of it, and in godly sorrow hates it, and earnestly prays for pardon of his past sins, and to be strengthened through grace against sin; and he fully resolves, with the help of the Spirit, to walk before God unto all pleasing in all things.
Repentance must needs continue during the whole life of the Christian, because the body of death continues. It is his duty to repent, not only of sin in general, but also of all his particular sins.
Such is the provision in the covenant for the safety of believers, that, as there is no sin so small but deserves condemnation, there is no sin so great that it can bring condemnation upon him who truly repents. The preaching of repentance is, therefore, at all times necessary.
30. Of the Moral Law.
Though Christ redeemed all his people from the curse of the law, as it was sanctioned in the covenant of works, yet the moral law, the substance of which was written in the heart of man at his creation, which was proclaimed by God from Mount Sinai in ten commandments, to declare God’s authority over men and cause the offence to abound, to show the necessity for a mediator and to be a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ; which was also proclaimed by Christ in the gospel in two great commandments, love to God and love to our neighbour, the latter springing from and being evidence of the former – this law ever continues to be the rule of man’s obedience to his Creator, in no degree changed under any dispensation. This perfect law is spiritual, righteous, holy, and good, and contains in itself all that the Lord requires of men; no change being possible in one of its commandments, while God is Creator and man a creature. To magnify this law Christ was manifested in the flesh and fulfilled the work of redemption; and this is the law that the Holy Ghost writes in the hearts of the redeemed, when they are restored to the image of God.
31. Of Good Works.
Good works are such works only as are commanded by God and are according to his will : such as spring from a good and upright principle, and are done in faith and directed to a right end, that is, the glory of God : for as the tree must be good before it can bring forth good fruit, so a sinner must be reconciled to God, united to Christ, and made a partaker of his Spirit, before he can do one good work. The best works of the best men are imperfect, and therefore neither merit anything from God nor obtain salvation for men. Notwithstanding, good works are very necessary to be done at all times and to the utmost of our power, inasmuch as they have been ordained and commanded by God, and are the adornment and beauty of our profession, an example to others, and a means to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
32. Of Peace of Conscience.
Believers in this world enjoy peace of conscience. Though their consciences have been truly awakened to bear witness for God, with the truth, against every sin in their hearts and lives, and declare the great evil of sin, the miserable state of the sinner, who deserves the wrath of God, yet, because the sinner receives the atonement and rests by faith on the sacrifice and propitiation of Christ, his conscience is satisfied in what has satisfied God, enjoys true peace through the blood of the cross, and testifies that we have peace with God. An appeased conscience does not permit the believer to live in sin, but is a tender, awakened, and faithful conscience, to bear witness against sin of every kind – against the enticements of the devil and the corruption of the heart.
Those who profess to have peace of conscience, and yet live in sin, deceive themselves. Though peace of conscience is not founded on the man’s experience, the purity of his motives, or the strictness of his life, pure motives and a strict walk in the ways of God are very helpful to keep and enjoy peace of conscience. Conscience sometimes accuses the believer of sin and testifies that he deserves the frown and chastisement of God, though it does not pronounce sentence of condemnation upon him. An appeased conscience is precious in prayer, in trouble, and in death.
33. Of the Assurance of Hope.
The assurance of hope follows upon true peace of conscience and a strict walk with God by faith. Hypocrites may deceive themselves with false hope and a carnal presumption of being in the favour of God and in a state of salvation, but their hope shall perish. But all that believe in Christ, and love him in sincerity, and endeavour to walk before him in all good conscience, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; and their hope shall never be put to shame. This is not a doubtful conjecture, grounded on a false and feeble hope : it is “the full assurance of faith,” resting on the blood and righteousness of Christ, as it is revealed in the gospel; an inward evidence of saving grace in the soul; and the witness of the Spirit to their adoption. The effect of this assurance is to make their hearts more humble and holy. A true believer may have to wait long and strive with many difficulties before he enjoys this assurance; but being enabled by the Spirit rightly to use the means of grace and divine ordinances, and being taught to know the things which are “freely given him of God,” he can attain it without a miraculous revelation of any kind; and it is the duty of every Christian to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that he may largely experience the love of God and joy in the Holy Ghost, and more boldly, usefully, and cheerfully walk in the path of duty. The Christian’s assurance may in divers ways be shaken and impaired : if he falls into any sin and grieves the Spirit, he loses the light of God’s countenance, and walks in darkness. But the Christian can never lose that seed of God which is in him, or the life of faith, or the love of Christ. The Spirit restores him in God’s good time, and meanwhile keeps him from utter despair. The evil of his sin is revealed to him, and he is chastened by the Lord, that he may not be condemned with the world. But he is strengthened in all his affliction to hope in God; yea, he has hope in his death.
34. Of Perseverance in Grace.
Those whom God has made accepted in the beloved, has effectually called, and sanctifies by his Spirit, cannot totally and finally fall away from a state of grace, but will certainly be enabled to persevere to the end and shall be saved. Their perseverance depends, not upon their own will, but upon the immutability of God’s decree, the election of grace, the strength of the Father’s love, the sufficiency of Christ’s propitiation, the efficacy of his intercession, their union with Christ, the indwelling of the Spirit, the seed of God within them, the nature and steadfastness of the covenant, and the promise and oath of God. It follows that their perseverance is certain and infallible. It is true they may, through the temptations of Satan and the world, the great strength of their inward corruption, and their neglect of the means of grace, fall into sins, and, for a time, continue therein, and thereby incur God’s displeasure, grieve the Holy Spirit, impair their grace, lose their comfort, harden their hearts, wound their consciences, involve themselves in temporal judgments, do injury to others, and give occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. Nevertheless, they will be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation; yet their fall will be made very bitter to them.
Those who continue to live undisturbed in sin, and flatter themselves that they are in a state of grace, have much reason to fear that they deceive themselves. For perseverance in grace implies, not only continuance in the possession and enjoyment of privileges, but also continuance in holiness, diligence, and watchfulness, in a holy walk and conversation, in earnest devotion to all duties, and in the use of all means of grace. Nothing is more opposed to sin than perseverance in grace; and he that so endures in grace to the end shall be saved.
35. Of the Church.
God has his church in every age, and under every dispensation. It consists of all the people of God in heaven and earth, and may, therefore, be regarded as militant and triumphant. That portion of the church which is on earth, the church militant, consists of all professing Christians throughout the world, and may be divided into the visible church and mystical church.
The universal visible church on earth are all those who have been called out and set apart for holy ends, to profess the christian religion, to read the word of God, and to observe the ordinances of the gospel; that is, all who profess themselves believers, together with their children, – unless their parents, through neglect, deprive them of the privileges of the kingdom of heaven, or they themselves despise their birthright, as profane Esau did, or grow up to be persecuting scoffers, who shall be cast out, as Ishmael.
A particular visible church is a congregation of faithful men, and their children, assembling with their officers in one place, where the true doctrine is preached, and the ordinances and discipline, which Christ instituted in his church, are observed and enforced.
The mystical church is that which God loved, Christ purchased, and the Holy Ghost sanctifies, and which Christ will present to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The true church can be but one; for “She is one”; and Christ is her only Head, Prophet, Priest, and King.
36. Of the Church Fellowship.
Through their union with Christ, their head, the saints are united to one another, have special communion in each other’s spiritual gifts and graces, and are bound to perform such duties towards each other as conduce to their mutual profit and edification. It is the duty of those who profess godliness to maintain fellowship and communion with each other in the public worship of God, to love each other as brethren, and to do good especially unto them who are of the household of faith, by relieving, according to their ability, and several stations in life, each other’s necessities.
But this spiritual or religious union and fellowship in church-membership does not annul any tie of natural relationship, or take away or lessen in the slightest degree, the title of any member of the Church to his possessions and goods, personal or civil.
37. Of the Ordinances of the Gospel.
Christ, the head of the church, has instituted ordinances, means of grace, and an order of worship, to be used in the church by all his people, – in private, in the family, and in the congregation. Through these ordinances, God gives grace, and nourishes and increases grace given. They are the ordinances of preaching, reading and hearing the word, prayer, praise, mutual instruction, conversation, (cydymddiddan), the exercise of every part of church discipline, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
These ordinances are to be observed especially on the Lord’s day (that is, the first day of the week), which was sanctified to be wholly spent in the service of God. They are to be observed at other times also. No specific rules have been given respecting the length of the service, the manner of conducting it, and every matter of detail; but the church is to judge and act according to the general rules:- “Let all things be done with charity, unto edification, decently, and in order”.
38. Of Baptism.
Baptism is an ordinance which Christ, as King, instituted in his church, to be observed to the end of time, and to be administered only by ministers appointed and sent by Christ himself. It is duly administered by sprinkling or pouring water on the baptised person, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It should be administered but once on the same person. All who profess themselves believers, and their infant children, have a scriptural right to this ordinance. It is an emblem of their death unto sin, and of newness of life unto righteousness. This ordinance is not essentially necessary to salvation; yet it is a sin wilfully to neglect it, inasmuch as that would be an act of disobedience to a positive command of Christ. It should be administered publicly in the congregation, except when circumstances require it otherwise.
39. Of the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper is, equally with baptism, an ordinance symbolical and sacramental; and no other ordinance than these two is such. In this ordinance, by breaking, giving, and receiving bread, by giving, receiving, and drinking of the cup, is shown in the church our Lord’s death till he come in the clouds. This is done by his command, in remembrance of him, – of his person, his love, his humiliation, his sufferings, his death, and his all-sufficient propitiation. By this means we profess that we truly receive him, believe in him, love him, feed upon him by faith, are united to him, and, in him, to one another; and, as good soldiers of Christ, live unto him who died for us.
This is an ordinance for the nourishment and growth of believers in grace, to be often observed in the church by all who can discern the Lord’s body, examine themselves, and do this in remembrance of Christ. It is to be administered by ministers of the gospel, as Christ has prescribed. It is for them to set apart the elements of bread and wine with prayer and thanksgiving, break the bread, take the cup, partake themselves of the elements, and then distribute them to the congregation. Ignorant persons and the openly profane, or those who, professing godliness, have fallen into sin, are unworthy, till they repent and amend their ways, to partake of the Lord’s Supper : and, if they partake, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, and eat and drink damnation to themselves.
40. Of Obedience to the Civil Government.
God, the Supreme Ruler and King of all the world, has ordained kings and all that are in authority to be, under him, rulers of men, for his own glory, and the common weal of the people. He also invests them with authority, to be a terror to evil doers, and, when necessary, to execute wrath upon them. They are also sent by him for the praise and protection of them that do well. It is the duty of all the subjects to reverence and honour them; to obey them in all things that are in accordance with the word of God; to pray and give thanks for them, to honour and obey their laws, to pay whatever tax or tribute they impose, without murmur, concealment or fraud. We should consider our duty to honour and obey the king to rest upon the ordinance and authority of God, whose minister he is, and not upon the king’s personal virtues.
41. Of Death and the State of Men after Death.
Death consists in the separation of body and soul for a time. Though man in his original state was not subject to death, every man, in consequence of sin, is subject to death : “it is appointed unto men once to die”. The godly and the ungodly, the one as well as the other, are subject to death; but the godly are delivered by Christ from the hurt of death, and to them death is turned into gain, whereas to the wicked it will be an unutterable loss, and the entrance into death everlasting. At death the bodies return to the earth and see corruption; but the souls are a spiritual substance, and neither die nor sleep, but are brought at once before the throne of God. Then will the spirits of the righteous, made perfect, be received into glory, there to wait, in the full enjoyment of God in Christ, for the redemption of their bodies.
But the souls of the unrighteous are cast into hell, where they are reserved in torments and outer darkness for the judgment of the great day. There is no other place for souls departed from the body than these two.
42. Of the Resurrection.
All the dead will be raised at the last day, the righteous and the unrighteous; and those that are then alive, not having died, will all be changed. However many the bodies that will have been buried, and turned to dust, and mingled with the dust of the earth, they will all be raised, individually, completely, and universally. They that have done good and they that have done evil will all come forth at the voice and by the power of the Son of God; and every soul will be again united to its own body. The body that returned to the earth will be raised, the same in substance, but different in properties and condition. This truth is established by the clear testimony of Scripture, and by instances mentioned in the Old and New Testaments of men raised from the dead. Moreover, the body is the soul’s companion, whether in sin or in holiness; and since there will be a general judgment, there must needs be a general resurrection. The resurrection of Christ proves the resurrection of the saints. He rose as their first fruits. He redeemed the whole man, body and soul. The whole person of the believer, as well as the true church, is united to him. In virtue of their union with Christ, and of his resurrection, as their Head, all believers will be raised in power, glory, and incorruption, fashioned like unto his glorious body. The bodies of all the wicked also will be raised by Christ, as a righteous and powerful Judge, to everlasting shame, contempt, and torments. To the natural man, the resurrection of the dead seems improbable, if not impossible. But they that believe the word of God, believe that the dead shall be raised; yea, the doctrine is most important and full of comfort to the children of God. The denial of it casts contempt upon the truth and power of God, and subverts the hope of the saints.
43. Of the general Judgment.
God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained. The justice of God demands the appointment of such a day; the accusations of natural conscience witness to it; the relation subsisting between God and his creatures shows its necessity; the ascension of Christ and the positive testimonies of Scripture certainly prove it and place the doctrine beyond all doubt or question. God appointed a day of judgment to manifest the glory of his love and grace in the salvation of his church, the glory of his justice and power in the condemnation of impenitent sinners, and the equity of his government over all men, in all things, throughout all ages. God has appointed Jesus Christ to be the Judge of the world in order that he, who, at his first appearance, humbled himself, obscured his glory, and endured the shame, may appear to all in infinite greatness and glory. Christ, therefore, will be the Judge, and men and fallen angels will be judged. The rule of the judgment will be the books that shall be opened; and the time of the judgment will be the day appointed for that purpose. This judgment will, it is certain, be a general, righteous, and final judgment on all things for ever and ever.
Christ desired to declare the certainty of a day of judgment, to deter men from presumptuous sin, and to comfort the godly in their afflictions. But, though a day is appointed in which he will judge the world, he did not wish it known when the day would come, that men might not be careless, but ever watchful and ready.
44. Of the Eternal State of the Wicked and the Godly.
At the general judgment, the wicked and the godly will be fixed in their eternal habitations, and their place, state, and condition will never be changed. By the power of the sentence pronounced by the Judge at the great day upon the wicked on his left hand, “Depart from me, ye cursed,” etc., they “shall go away into everlasting punishment”; and their punishment will certainly be righteous because it proceeds from the Omniscient, who sees all secret things, the Judge of all the earth, the essentially righteous God, for whom it is impossible to subvert a man in his cause. Their punishment involves the total loss of all happiness, all consolation, and all hope of being ever saved. It involves also unutterable torment, for they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power”; and Scripture says “that their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” that they shall be cast into “the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone,” and into outer darkness, bound hand and foot : there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; and their punishment will be everlasting.
But as to the godly, they shall go, at the gracious call of the Judge, into life eternal. This will be a life perfectly free from sin and all its consequences; and it will bring with it the full fruition of all happiness, glory, and consolation that human nature made perfect is capable of enjoying. This glory will essentially consist in beholding the glory of the Lord shining in all the perfections of his nature, in enjoying his peace without ceasing, in admiring and loving him, rejoicing in him, serving him and becoming like him; and its endless duration will be the crown of its excellence. Various expressions are used in Scripture to set forth the eternal glory of the saints; such as “entering into the joy of their Lord”; “the eternal weight of glory”; “being satisfied with the likeness of God”; “reigning with the Lord,” and that without ceasing and for ever.