- Of the Holy Scriptures. The Bible was given for our guidance in life and is inspired by God. It consists of sixty-six books, as we have them. The Apocrypha, and other writings of early times, are regarded by us as merely human historical documents. The Holy Spirit uses the Bible to teach us all we need for Salvation, so the Word points to Christ. Our Ministers are skilled in ancient languages to ensure they teach it accurately and faithfully.
- Of God the Holy Trinity. God is not just One Person but Three-in-One Equal Persons. He is One in Purpose and in Being: undivided. He is supreme, wise, holy, loving and just: no Person of the Trinity should be exalted above another. God deserves all our worship.
- Of God’s Eternal Decree. God is supremely knowing and just, and so He has ordained who will be saved and who will not. These decisions are not forced on us unjustly but are revealed in how we choose to live our lives and respond to God’s righteous call to repent.
- Of Creation. God made the universe and all things visible and invisible. All people, and some angels, have fallen from Grace, and we all deserve God’s punishment. The evidence for this, in all human beings made in God’s image, is our discerning conscience.
- Of God’s Providence. God is so much in control that He has ordained everything without doing any violence to human free will. We will choose, and the choices will confirm in us the way we take, to Eternal Life or Death. God allows Christians to make mistakes to teach them lessons; yet by Grace we still tend towards Heaven. His enemies go from bad to worse, blaming God for everything they don’t like or understand. The circumstances that make a Christian draw near to God drive confirmed unbelievers away.
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- Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and Sin’s Punishment. By falling away from God, in seeking their will, not His, human beings brought on themselves spiritual deadness and were tainted with sin. We tend towards it in every area of life and thought. This deadness means that human beings cannot do anything without God’s Grace to help them and so, by rejecting God as they do as if He were dispensable, not giving him due honour, they attract to themselves the misery and destruction after death which sin merits. Christians, commit sins too but though faith experience a death-blow to Sin’s power to enslave them.
- Of God’s Covenant with Man. God’s first agreement with humankind, symbolised by Eden, was the Covenant of Works, an agreement to do the right thing, which humans never kept, as the later Old Testament Hebrews’ failure to keep the Law of Moses plainly shows. The last covenant, The Covenant of Grace is by faith in Christ, because his merits save us despite our failings. Towards the earlier ways, many world religions still tend, teaching followers that they can please God by religious and moral works. Christian Faith reveals it is not so: only by True Faith, trusting in God’s Son and His Sacrifice, and living by Word & Sacrament (Baptism, Communion) is the Old Covenant fulfilled in The New.
- Of Christ the Mediator. God’s people in all ages have benefited from the work of Christ, God’s true Son. He became incarnate by the Virgin Mary, was crucified, rose from the dead, ascended to Heaven, and was glorified at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. He was fully divine, yet fully human: He worked miracles not by his own will (magic), but in the anointing of the Spirit. As the fulfilment of everything the Old Testament meant by prophets, priests and kings, Christ became the Perfect Mediator between God and us. Christ’s work on the Cross is unique.
- Of Free Will. Our free will tends towards sin, because of the Fall. When someone becomes a Christian, they are set free from sin’s tyranny yet not so completely that they cannot commit sins. Only in the final bliss of Glory will they be made perfect, like Christ.
- Of Effectual Calling. Effectual calling means simply that it really saves us. God calls people by His Word and Spirit to repentance. If they are babies who die within the circle of faith, or if they are people who for some reason cannot be called in the normal way by the Gospel, but are predisposed to serve God, God can save them by some extraordinary means. This should not make us despise the necessity of God’s intervention to save us. Nor should we assume that other religions are self-justifying works, bringing Salvation.
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- Of Justification. When God saves someone, it is not by “making them good”but by pardoning their sins through faith in Christ alone and His saving work on the cross. The work is His; we receive it by faith. Christ died to pay for the sin of all His people, and willingly entered the Hell we deserve, in the darkness of His spiritual torment over three days, giving a justification that is by faith in Christ and in His finished work alone. Only the Holy Spirit can apply Christ’s work to each one savingly, justifying us before God. If we believers offend God, He may withdraw from us a while to teach us the value of Salvation, but He will never leave us nor forsake us and it is false to teach that He will.
- Of Adoption. Those who are born on earth are natural children, but also dead in sin, and under God’s anger. Those who receive the Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ are the true children of God, created by the Spirit’s Adoption. They can call God their true Father and expect Him not only to care for them, but also, like a Father, to discipline them well.
- Of Sanctification. Those who are effectually called are saved by conversion, or new birth (John 3:3). This is a spiritual change in them which sets God on the throne of their lives. Sin in them begins to be weakened or put to death (mortification) so that they live a new life of holiness, without which none of us shall see the LORD. Growing in holiness is called ‘sanctification’ (from Latin ‘sanctus’ – meaning ‘holy’). This results in an inner war between temptation and God’s will that last life-long, and have various victories and temporary defeats in it. However, its end result in God’s people is that by the Holy Spirit’s leading and the Word’s encouragement, they learn to obey God, overcome Sin and live an increasingly holy life for Him. Many ripen slowly towards Heaven. It may be that, in some cases, Sin takes them captive for a while, even until near the end, but they yield before death, because God’s people can go to no other place than Heaven. Romans 10:13 says that ‘all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (cf. Luke 22:40-43).
- Of Saving Faith. The grace of faith, by which God’s people are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ alone. Normally it is done by the Ministry of the Word of God; it is strengthened by reading the Word, by the true administration of the Sacraments, and Prayer. These are called the Means of Grace. By this faith a Christian believes everything to be reliable that is revealed by God’s Word, in that God’s own authority speaks by it, responding appropriately to each message and, most of all, resting on Christ alone for Justification, Sanctification and Eternal Life. This can be a struggle, as faith can be attacked from different quarters, but it makes us stronger in the end. A sense of belonging to Christ should grow into an inner certainty that we are His. This inner peace about God’s work in our life is called the Full Assurance of Faith.
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- Of Repentance Leading to Life. Repentance leading to life is an evangelical grace and every Minister should preach this, along with the doctrine of faith in Christ alone. By this grace, a sinner sees and feels the danger of his sins, their abhorrent nature and their contradiction of God’s holiness and power. He grasps God’s mercy in Christ, and turns from his sins, determined to walk in His ways. This free grace is God’s alone to give. No sinner deserves Heaven by his own repentance because it is not his work, but God’s work in him, that leads to genuine repentance and life, and it is essential for our Salvation that God does that work in us Himself. The smallest sin will keep complacently unforgiven people out of Heaven; by contrast, the largest sin will not damn those who have truly repented before God. General repentance should be followed by particular repentance, so we must have private confession before God, and public confession where it is necessary.
- Good Works. Good works are those which God commands (Eph. 2:8-10). Our capability of doing good works is not from ourselves, but is by the Spirit of Christ alone, who gives believers the will and ability to do the things that please God. However, they must work with the Spirit and not wait for any special leading to do something which is manifestly good or taught clearly in the Bible as the duty of Christians. In any case, our works are feeble compared to the majesty of God and the glory to come, and so our labours cannot deserve forgiveness or merit Eternal Life, nor advance us before God in a commendatory way. We simply do what we are asked to do - and inadequately. Yet such is God’s gracious love that, through Christ, He accepts our worship and works. By contrast, those who have not repented before God but believe in their own virtue and do it for self-glory or a sense of personal well-being, do not please God. They do good works which are only unintentionally for His Glory (since they result from common gifts and grace which He gave to Mankind) but they are of no eternal benefit nor profit to the doer.
- Of The Perseverance of the Saints. People who have been accepted by God in His Beloved Son, effectively called and sanctified by His Spirit can never fully or finally fall out of the state of grace but will certainly continue to the end and be eternally saved. This perseverance of the saints does not result from their free will but from God’s faithfulness to the change He has worked in them as a result of the eternal covenant made with His people. So God’s people may fall into serious sins and suffer for it (and others along with them) because of the temptations of Satan, and of the World, but they will still be saved.
- Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation. Although worldly people may deceive themselves in their pride that they are bound for Heaven, it is possible for true Christians to have assurance in the God who will never disappoint them, based on the evidence in the Word and the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit, who is the pledge guaranteeing our inheritance. Nevertheless, such are the battles of the Christian life that a Christian may wait long and hard before experiencing the assurance and peace he longs for. Therefore, each Christian should make due regular use of the Means of Grace (i.e. Worship, Praying, the reading of the Bible, hearing it preached) and not grow careless, because the struggle of the Christian life can see our joys robbed by personal failures and sorrowful events, as well as God’s testing times sent upon us. Yet, true believers are kept from despair and are not deprived of the graces which, in due time, will revive them, by God’s Spirit.
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- The Law of God. The story of Adam and Eve reveals that human beings had another way to heaven, theoretically, in the beginning, which was by keeping God’s commands perfectly. However, although they were empowered with free will, they did not take that route, but fell prey to temptations of the knowledge of good and evil. After this Fall, this was the only law, though it was consistently broken. On Mt. Sinai, in later Old Testament times, Ten Commandments were given in stone, four of them about our duty to God and six of them about duty to other people. This ethical code is usually called the Moral Law. In addition, God gave regulations for ritual and offerings. These, called the Ceremonial Law, have been discontinued since Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, which ended sacrifice as formerly practised. There were also laws for Israel at that time: the Judicial Law. In them we see general principles of justice and right which can be adapted and applied, but the judicial laws are not, in themselves, obligatory today. The Moral Law, however, is still binding: the Ten Commandments were not abolished, but strengthened, by Christ. Yet unlike the Old Testament situation, God’s Moral Law does not condemn believers, but acts for them, as guide and warning. It tells them about God’s will and reveals unseen sins as they reflect on the law’s implications, teaching them to avoid or mortify sins. It is not a contradiction to Christ’s Covenant of Grace as the Spirit gives us power to follow it.
- Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience. The freedom which Christ has bought under the Gospel means freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemnation of God’s anger and the curse of the Moral Law. It can include deliverance from the present, evil world, from bondage to Satan and Sin, and from afflictions and the sting of death. The Christian has victory over the grave and does not fear damnation, has free access to God greater than the saints of the Old Testament, and serves Him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not Fearful Judge. God alone is Lord of the human conscience, and has left it free from human demands contrary to his Word, or blind, irrational obedience. Since Salvation brings responsibility, no-one may cherish sins or lusts under the excuse of ‘freedom of conscience’ without dishonouring the Lord of the conscience whom he should serve in reverence. He does this not only as a Church member, by maintaining the peace and good order of the Kirk, but as a citizen under God-given authority, upholding Christian values in the community. In a Christian State, the Kirk and Government should do this together.
- Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day. God’s revelation in nature shows he is all-powerful, good and kind. He is to be respected, loved, praised, called on, trusted and served with all your heart, soul and strength. The acceptable way of worshipping God is revealed in his Word. It should not be according to human inventions, suggestions of Satan, visible representations, or other unscriptural means. Religious worship is for the Triune God alone, through Christ the only Mediator. It is not to be given to angels, saints or created things. Prayer with thanksgiving is a special act of worship which God requires of all people. It is to be made appropriately in the name of Christ the Son, by the Spirit, in accordance with God’s will, in a known language, for people living now or in the future, but not for the dead or evil objects. Worship consists of reading the Scriptures with godly fear, sound preaching and conscientious and obedient hearing, with faith, understanding and reverence, singing of psalms, true administration of the Sacraments, with other biblical practices, such as vows, fasting and thanksgiving. Worship is not tied to buildings but should be done everywhere, daily, by individuals and families. However, public worship is not to be neglected, as it is a solemn responsibility. One day in seven is ordained as an especially holy time for rest and worship, and although Christ’s resurrection has changed this to the first day of the week (Sunday) it is to continue to the end of the World as a Christian Sabbath: on it we do only works of necessity and mercy.
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- Of Lawful Oaths and Vows. A lawful oath, or promise, is part of Christian worship: on proper occasions, for a good purpose (i.e., not boasting, or to cover up a sin), a person asks God to witness what he swears. Lawful authority, like a court, has power to require him to so swear. The name of God is the only name by which we are to swear. We must do so reverently, in holy fear. Lawful promises, even to heretics and unbelievers, are not to be broken. We must perform what we said, even if it does us harm doing it (Psalm 15). A vow is a promise to do something, and it should be done with the same spiritual care, made only to God, and arising from faith and duty, expressing thankfulness or a request. No-one may vow to do anything forbidden in God’s Word, or unwarranted by it: for this reason, vows of celibacy in monastic orders are superstitions (1st Tim. 4:3; 1st. Cor. 7).
- Of Civil Government. Civil authority is established by God, its justice upheld by God and answerable to God. Christians may hold public office and defend civil authority by just war. Civil authorities may not control sacraments or government of the Church, but in a Christian country, civil government should aid the Church in preserving conditions of true Christian worship, suppress heresy, and ensure that ordinances are established and well administered. In emergencies, Christian civil authorities have power to call synods according to the mind of Christ if the Church falls into disorder and corruption. It is the duty of every Christian to pray for those in the State, honour them, pay taxes, obey lawful commands, and be subject to authority for the sake of conscience. Individual religious belief, or even unbelief, does not free the conscience from such service. The Pope has no power to dictate to rulers, nor deprive anyone of property or life on religious grounds.
- Of Marriage and Divorce. Monogamy is God’s plan for the mutual help of husband and wife, the legitimate increase of humankind, the production of holy children for the Church and the prevention of immorality. Anyone can marry, on their informed consent, yet it is the duty of Christians to marry in the Lord, within degrees of blood relationship permitted by the Word of God since incestuous marriages can never be made legitimate by human law. If adultery or fornication is committed by someone promised to marry, before the wedding, the innocent party has just cause to withdraw from the agreement. If it occurs after marriage, the innocent party has the right to sue for divorce, and remarry. It is only by adultery or desertion that divorce is justified, and it must be done legally.
- Of The Church. The True Catholic or Universal Church is invisible to us, for it consists of the full number of God’s people (or Elect) who were, are, and shall be called into the One Church under Christ, its Head and Bridegroom. The Catholic Church on earth is visible and consists of all those throughout the world who profess the True Faith, together with their children. It is the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the House and family of God, and there is no ordinary possibility of salvation out of it. In order to gather His people, and to perfect the saints in this life to the end of the world, Christ has given to this universal, visible Church: the message to be proclaimed, and the ordinances of God to be observed, all of which He makes effective for His purposes by His Spirit. In the visible Church the invisible, true more is more or less seen as it reflects it faithfully, but the best of churches are mitigated by errors and sins, and some may fall away so completely that they lose the Gospel and become Satanic delusions and pretences to the True Faith. However, there will always be a Church on Earth to worship God according to His will. There is no other Head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-18; Ephesians 1:22). The Pope of Rome cannot be the Church’s Head. The general spirit of the Papal system represents a departure from Christian truth and practice, as any Head of The Church or Vicar (substitute) of Christ claims a position due to Christ alone.
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- Of The Communion of The Saints. All the saints (i.e. believers made holy by their profession of Christ, who became a substitute for them on the cross) are united to Jesus Christ, and have fellowship with him in His grace, suffering, death, resurrection and glory. United also to one another in love, they share each other’s gifts and graces and are obliged to help one another in both spiritual and everyday matters, but a Christian should not view another Christian’s property as automatically bound to be shared by him. They are bound to maintain fellowship in worship, and build each other up in spiritual things, not only at congregational level, but in terms of the whole world Church. The fellowship they have with Christ does not make them sharers in the Godhead, or equal with Christ, or ‘gods within’, and to assert that of yourself, or anyone else, is blasphemous impiety.
- Of Sacraments in General. Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace, directly instituted by God, and representing Christ and His benefits. They make a visible distinction between the World and Christian members, solemnly engaging them for the service of God in Christ, according to His Word. In every sacrament there is a spiritual relationship between the sign and what it represents (Gen 17:10; Matt 26:27-28). Yet, the effectiveness of a sacrament does not flow from the sign itself, by magic. Nor does it derive from the character, or the intention, of the Minister. The effectiveness of the sacrament comes from the Holy Spirit, through the Word of Institution and the work of the sacrament, in believers who receive the sacraments rightly (Matt 28:19-20). Old Testament signs, like circumcision, pointed towards Christ and His benefits, and these, in the New Testament, are represented by only two sacraments: Christian Baptism and Holy Communion. These were instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, on earth, and are not to be celebrated by anyone but a lawfully-ordained Minister of The Word.
- Of Baptism. Baptism was ordained by Christ to be observed in the Church, from its institution to the ending of the world, in order to mark the admission of someone into the visible Church, and to be a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace, of their grafting into Christ, of their regeneration, of the remission of their sins, and of their surrender to a new life. Baptism is to be by water, in the Name of The Father, and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit, by a lawfully-called Minister of the Gospel (Matt 3:11 and 28:19-20; John 1:33). Dipping into the water is not necessary; it is enough to pour or sprinkle water on the person. Not only those who actually profess faith in, and obedience to, Christ, are to be baptised but also the infants of one or both believing parents. Although it is a great sin to despise baptism, because it is wisely commanded by Jesus Christ for his own reasons, salvation is not so linked to baptism that anyone who is not baptized is automatically lost; nor is someone who is baptized automatically saved by it, independently of professed faith. In the grace of God, however, what it signifies to believers and children destined also to believe, is set forth, and also conferred, but in God’s time and way. The Sacrament of Baptism is not to be administered to anyone more than once during his/her lifetime.
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- Of The Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion). This sacrament, also ordained by Christ to endure until the end of the world, is for the perpetual remembrance of his sacrificial death. It was also instituted as the seal of the benefits of Christ’s death to true believers, and to promote their spiritual nourishment, increased commitment, and unity with Him and all true believers, as members of his Body (1 Cor 10:16-17, 21; 11:23-26; 12:13). In this sacrament, Christ is not offered again by us, and so the Roman Catholic Doctrine of the Mass, by insisting it has that power, overthrows the Gospel of God’s Grace in Christ alone, by faith. Ministers are set apart: to preach His Word of Institution to the people (1 Cor 11:23-26); to pray; to bless the elements of bread and wine; to take and break the bread; then to take the cup and give both elements to the communicants, and they are to partake with the congregation, but the elements are not to be given to any person who is not present in the congregation. Private masses, receiving the Sacrament from a priest alone, or anyone else, denying the cup to the people, worshipping the bread and wine, or ‘reserving them’ (i.e. laying them aside) for religious use are contrary to the nature of the Sacrament, and to Christ’s plan. The bread and wine communicate Christ to the believer, but they still remain bread and wine in their substance. The Roman ‘Doctrine of Transubstantiation’ that they are changed, by the act of a priest’s consecration, into the actual Body and Blood of Christ in some corporeal sense, is contrary both to Scripture and to Reason. It has occasioned superstitious abuses and idolatries. However, true believers do partake of Christ’s Body and Blood by Faith, inwardly and spiritually, not physically. Because it is only done by faith, in relationship, ignorant and unbelieving persons can neither benefit from the sacrament, nor abuse Christ by it. Indeed, when they do partake, illegitimately, they eat and drink condemnation to themselves: therefore, such people should not to be admitted to the Lord’s Table; nor should they ever partake of it.
- Of Church Discipline. Church rule is separate from civil rule, but it is established by Christ. The Church Office-bearers have the Keys of the Kingdom committed to them, and have power, as occasion requires, to declare sins forgiven or not, to shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against the impenitent person, both by the Word and discipline, and to open it to penitent sinners, by the Ministry of the Gospel and the release of discipline. Discipline is necessary for reclaiming offending believers, for deterrence of similar offences in others, for vindicating the honour of Christ, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might fall on the Church, justly, should it allow His covenant and seals to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders. To achieve good results, the office-bearers of the Church are to proceed appropriately to the offence and its seriousness, and to admonish offenders, to suspend the offenders from the Lord’s Table, or even excommunicate them.
- Of Synods and Councils. For running the Church better, and for building up the members, the Lord has established ruling bodies of Ministers and other suitable people to decide on religious affairs, not civil (although that does not obstruct lawful petitioning by the Church to the State, and both the Church offering, and the State seeking, Christian advice). Such ruling councils operate in a more or less organized way, depending how organized the Church is, in a local area. They meet by inherent right and authority, given by Christ, and may disregard prohibitions of secular authority. Church councils have made mistakes from the earliest ages and so decisions are subject to validation by Christ.
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- Of The State of the Dead, and The Resurrection. After death, the bodies of human beings return to dust and decay, but their souls, being inherently immortal, immediately return to God, who gave them (Eccles. 12). The souls of believers in Christ are perfected in holiness at death and received into Heaven, where they behold the face of God and wait for the redemption of their bodies. The souls of the unbelievers are thrown into Hell, where they stay in torments and utter darkness, reserved for the judgment of the Great Day. Scripture does not recognize a third place called Purgatory. Those who are living on earth on the last day will not die, but be changed. All will be raised up in the bodies with which they died, with different qualities, and their bodies will be forever united to their souls. By His power, bodies of the unjustified will be raised to dishonour. By His Spirit, Christ will raise those of the justified to honour, and make them like His glorious body.
- Of The Last Judgment and the Eternal State of the Dead. God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world by righteousness, by Jesus Christ, to all authority to judge the living and the dead has been given by God the Father. At that tribunal apostate angels will be judged, but also all who live(d) on earth shall give account of their actions. God’s purpose in appointing that day is to make His mercy and justice known. On that day, the first sentences conferred on the souls of the dead will be confirmed to the souls and bodies re-united: the blessed will go to heaven, and joy, in the presence of the Lord; the unjustified will be thrown into eternal torments and be shut out from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of His power. To deter everyone from sin and for the comfort of Christians in adversity, Christ would not only have us to believe there is a day of judgment, but asks us, although we do not know when that is, to wait for it faithfully.
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