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§ 50. The Reformed Confessions.


I. Collections of Reformed Symbols.

Harmonia | Confession | Fidei | Orthodixarum, et Reformatarum Ecclesiarum, | quæ in præcipuis quibusque Europæ Regnis, Nationibus, et Provinciis, sacrum Evangelii doctrinam pure profitentur: quarum catalogum et ordinem sequentes paginæ indicabunt. | Additæ sunt ad calcem brevissimæ observationes: quibus turn illustrantur obscura, tum quæ in speciem pugnare inter se videri possunt, perspicue atque modestissime conciliantur: et si quæ adhuc contraversa manent, syncere indiciantur. | Quæ omnia, Ecclesiarum Gallicarum, et Belgicarum nomine, subjiciuntur libero et prudenti reliquarum omnium judicio. Genevæ apud Petrum Santandreanum. MDLXXXI. (4to).

This is the first attempt at comparative Dogmatics or Symbolics. It grew out of a desire for one common Creed, which was modified into the idea of a selected harmony. In this shape it was proposed by the Protestants of Zurich and Geneva, intrusted to Beza, Daneau, and Salnar (or Salnard, or Salvart, minister of the Church of Castres), and chiefly executed by the last of the three. It was intended as a defense of Protestant, and particularly Reformed, doctrine against the constant attacks of Romanists and Lutherans. It does not give the Confessions in full, but extracts from them on the chief articles of faith, which are classified under nineteen sections. It anticipates Winer's method, but for harmonistic purposes. Besides the principal Reformed Confessions, three Lutheran Confessions are also used, viz., the Augsburg, the Saxon, and the Würtemberg Confessions. The work appeared almost simultaneously with the Lutheran Formula of Concord, and may be called a Reformed Formula of Concord, though differing from the former in being a mere compilation from previous symbols. (I imported a well-bound copy, which seems to have been the property of the Elector John Casimir, whose likeness and escutcheon are impressed on the cover. He suggested the preparation of such a work.)

An English translation of this irenic work appeared first at Cambridge, 1586 (12mo), and then again in London, 1643 (4to), under the title: 'An Harmony of the Confessions of Faith of the Christian and Reformed Churches, which purely profess the holy doctrine of the Gospel, in all the chief kingdoms, nations, and provinces of Europe, etc. All which things, in the names of the Churches of France and Belgia, are submitted to the free and discreet judgment of all the Churches. Newly translated out of Latin into English, etc. Allowed by public authority.' According to Strype (Annals of the Reformation, ad a. 1586), Archbishop Whitgift, owing to some jealousy among publishers, first forbade the publication of the Harmony, but afterwards allowed it.

A new edition by Rev. Peter Hall (Rector of Milston, Wilts), under the modified title: The Harmony of Protestant Confessions: exhibiting the Faith of the Churches of Christ, Reformed after the pure and holy doctrine of the Gospel, throughout Europe. Translated from the Latin. A new edition, revised and considerably enlarged. London, 1842 (640 pages, large 8vo).

Corpus et Syntagma | Confessionum | Fidei, | quæ in diversis regnis et nationibus, ecclesiarum nomine fuerunt authentice editæ: in celeberrimis conventibus exhibitæ, publicaque auctoritate comprobatæ, etc. (first ed. Aureliæ Allobrog. 1612). Editio nova, Genevæ, sumptibus Petri Chouët, 1654.

The first edition of this rare and valuable book was probably compiled by Gaspar Laurentius, who is not named on the title-page, but who signs himself in the dedicatory Epistle to Elector Frederick III. of the Palatinate, before the 'Orthodox Consensus' (in Part III.), and says, in the 'General Preface,' that he edited this Consensus a. 1595, and now (1612) in a much improved form. His object was the same as that of the Harmony, viz., to show the essential unity of the evangelical faith in the multiplicity and variety of Confessions which, as the Preface says, in the absence of conspiracy, only strengthen the harmony, and mutually illustrate and supplement each other, like many orthodox expositions of the Scriptures. The second edition, of which I have a copy, is a large quarto volume, consisting of three main parts, the several documents being paged separately. It contains the principal Reformed Confessions down to the Synod of Dort, three Lutheran Confessions, and several other documents, as follows: 1. The Harmonia sive Concordantia Confessionum Fidei per (xiii.) Articulos digesta, with the Symbolum Apostolicum, as the basis of a general consensus, supported by Scripture texts and references to the various Confessions of the collection (8 pp.); 2. Confessio Helvetica posterior, reprinted from a Zurich edition of 1651: 3. Confessio Helvetica prior (or Basileensis II.), 1536; 4. Confessio Basileensis I. (or Mylhusiana), 1532; 5. Confessio Gallica, from the Latin edition of 1566; 6. Confessio Anglicana, 1562; 7. Confessio Scotica of 1560, and the second of 1580; 8. Confessio Ecclesiarum Belgicarum, 1559; 9. Confessio Czengerina, the Hungarian Confession, 1570; 10. Confessio Polonica, or Consensus Poloniæ (Sendomirensis) 1570; 11. Confessio Argentinensis S. Tetrapolitana, 1531; 12. Confessio Angustana, from the Wittenberg edition of 1540; 13. Confessio Saxonica, s. Misnica, 1551; 14. Confessio Wirtembergica, 1552; 15. Confessio Illustrissimi Electoris Palatini, Friderici 355III., 1576; 16. Confessio Bohemica (the first of the two Bohemian Confessions, which was presented to King Ferdinand in 1535. It contains a Preface by Luther. The second was compiled 1575); 17. Consensus Ecclesiarum Majoris el Minoris Poloniæ, Lithuaniæ, etc., 1583. Appended: Acta et Conclusiones Synodi Generalis Thoruniensis; 18. Articuli Confessionis Basileensis of the year 1647; 19. Canones Synodi Dordrechtanæ, 1619; 20. Confessio Cyrilli Patriarchæ Constantinop., 1631; 21. Catholicus Consensus, viz., A Harmony of Christian Doctrine, compiled from the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers, under the following heads: (a) On the Word of God as the Rule of Faith; (b) On God, the Trinitarian and Christological Doctrines; (c) On Divine Providence; (d) On the Head of the Church; (e) On Justification; (f) On Free Will, Original Sin, Election and Predestination; (g) On the Sacraments; (h) On Idolatry, the Worship of Images, etc.; (i) On the True Way of Worshiping and Serving God; (k) On the Church and the Ministry; (l) Resurrection and the Future State.

Confessiones Fidei Ecclesiarum Reformatarum. Græce et Lat. Ecclesiarum Belgicarum Confessio, interpr. Jac. Revio, et Catechesis interpr. F. Sylburgio. Lugd. Bat. Elzev. 1635, 12mo; Amstel. 1638, 12mo. Ultrajecti, 1660, and often. (This little volume contains a Greek translation of the Belgic Confession by Revius, and a Greek translation of the Heidelberg Catechism by Sylburg, both with the Latin text in the second Column, for the use of schools in Holland.)

A Collection of Confessions of Faith, Catechisms, Directories, books of Discipline, etc., of Publick Authority in the Church of Scotland. Together with all the Acts of the Assembly which are Standing Rules concerning the Doctrine, Worship, Government, and Discipline of the Church of Scotland. [By William Dunlop.] Edinburgh, 1719, 1722, in 2 vols. (A third volume was promised, but never appeared, as far as I know.) This rare and valuable collection contains, in the first volume, the Westminster Standards; in the second volume, the Confession of Faith of the English Congregation at Geneva, the Scotch Confession of 1560, the Scotch Confession of 1580, the National Covenant of 1638, Calvin's Catechism, the Heidelberg, and some other Catechisms and Books of Discipline. The first volume has also a long Preface (153 pp.) on the Purpose and Use of Creeds.

Sylloge Confessionum sub tempus Reformandæ Ecclesiæ editarum. Oxon. 1804. Ed. altera et auctior (under the revision of Bishop Lloyd). Oxon. 1827. No editor mentioned. This Collection (suggested by Bishop Cleaver) is very elegantly printed in the Clarendon Press, but has no critical value, and is incomplete. It contains: The Profession of the Tridentine Faith, the Second Helvetic Confession, the Basle Confession (1532), the Altered Augsburg Confession of 1540 (to which, in the second edition only, was added the Augustana of 1530), the Saxon Confession, the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of the Synod of Dort, all in Latin, and without a translation or introduction.

Corpus Librorum Symbolicorum qui in Ecclesia Reformatorum auctoritatem publicam obtinuerunt, Ed. J. Chr. G. Augusti. Elberfeldi, 1827, 8vo. Contains three Helvetic, the Gallic, the Anglican, the Scotch, the Belgic, the Hungarian, Polish, and Bohemian Confessions, the Canons of Dort, the Consensus Helveticus, and the Geneva and Heidelberg Catechisms, with an historical and literary dissertation.

Die Symbolischen Bücher der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche. Zum ersten Male aus dem Lateinischen vollständig übersetzt und mit histor. Einleitungen und Anmerkungen begleitet. . . . Für Freunde der Union und für alle, die über Entstehung, Inhalt und Zweck der Bekenntniss-Schriften sich zu belehren wünschen. (By Friedrich Adolph Beck.) 2 Theile. Neustadt a. d. Orla, 1830; 2te wohlfeile Ausg. 1845. A good edition, with brief introductions and notes. The Augsburg Confession and the Creed of Pius IV. are appended to the Second Vol., pp. 350–410.

Sammlung Symbolischer Bücher der evang.-reformirten Kirche für Presbyterien, Schullehrer, Confirmanden, und alle welche eine Union auf dem Grunde der heilsamen Lehre und in der Einheit der alten wahren Kirche Christi wünschen. Herausgeg. von J. J. Mess. 3 Theile. Neuwied, 1828, 1830, and 1846, 8vo.

H. A. Niemeyer: Collectio Confessionum in Ecclesiis Reformatis publicatarum. Lips. 1840 (851 pages large octavo, with 88 pages of Introductory Preface), and Collectionis Confessionum Appendix, qua continentur Puritanorum Libri Symbolici. Lipsiæ, 1840 (pp. 113). This is the most complete Latin collection of Reformed Symbols, and contains thirty-one in all, including the Zwinglian and early Swiss Confessions. It is, however, poorly edited, without an index and table of contents. Niemeyer had completed the large volume before he had seen a single copy of the Westminster Standards, and he published them nine months afterwards in an Appendix.

Die Bekenntniss-schriften der evangelisch-reformirten Kirche. Mit Einleitungen und Anmerkungen, herausgegeben von E. G. Adolf Böckel (Oberhofprediger and General Superintendent in Oldenburg). Leipzig, 1847 (884 large octavo pages). The best German collection, containing thirty-two Reformed Symbols, including the Anglican Catechism and the Arminian Confessions, which Niemeyer omits.

Die Bekenntniss-schriften der Reformirten Kirchen Deutschlands. Herausgegeben von Dr. Heinrich Heppe. Elberfeld, 1860 (310 pp.). Contains the Confession of Elector Frederick III. of the Palatinate (1577), the Repetitio Anhaltina (1581), Anfrichtige Rechenschaft von Lehr und Ceremonien (1593), Consensus Ministerii Bremensis Ecclesiæ (1595), the Confession of the General Synod held at Cassel (1608), a Report on the Faith of the Reformed Churches in Germany (1607), the Confession of John Sigismund of Brandenburg (1614), another Confession of the same (1615), and the Emden Catechism (1554), all in German.

J. Rawson Lumby (Cambridge): The Confessions of the Sixteenth Century, with Special Reference to the Articles of the Church of England (in preparation; to be published in Cambridge and London, 1875).


II. Historical and Doctrinal Works Bearing on the Reformed Confessions.

1. The doctrinal works of Zwingli, Calvin, Beza, Œcolampadius, Bullinger, Ursinus, Olevianus, Knox, Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Hooper, Grindal, Jewell, Hooker, and other Reformers and standard divines of the sixteenth century.

2. Leben und ausgewählte Schriften der Väter und Begründer der reformirten Kirche. Biographies of Zwingli, Calvin, Œcolampadius, and the other Reformers, by Baum, Christoffel, Hagenbach, Heppe, Pestalozzi, Schmidt, Stähelin, Sudhoff, etc. Elberfeld, 1857–1862. Ten Parts. One volume of this series—Christoffel's Life of Zwingli—is translated into English, but without the extracts from his writings.

3. Older Controversial Works of Reformed Divines:

J. Hoornbeek: Summa controversiarum religionis cum infidelibus, hæreticis, schismaticis. Utrecht, 1658. 1676, 1689; Francf. a. O. 1697, 8vo.

Fr. Turretin: Inst. theologiæ elenchticæ. Geneva, 1682, 1688, 3 vols. 4to; Utrecht, 1701, 4 vols. 4to, etc.

B. Pictet: De consensu et dissensu inter Reformatos et Augustanæ Confessionis fratres. Genev. 1700.

F. Spanheim: Controversiarum de religione cum dissidentibus elenchus hist. theol. Leyd. 1687; fifth edition, Leyd. 1757, 4to.

Du Gerdes: Elenchus veritatum, circa quas defendendas versatur theol. elenchthica. Gröningen, 1740, 4to.

J. F. Stapfer: Institutiones theologicæ polem. Zurich, 1743–47, 5 vols. 8vo.

Du Wyttenbach: Theol. elenchticæ initia. Francf. a. M. 1763, 1765, 2 vols. 8vo.

Comp. also the list of older dogmatic works of the Reformed Church in Heppe's Dogmatik der evang.-reform. Kirche, at the end of Preface, and in Schweizer's Glaubenslehre der evang.-reform. Kirche, Vol. I. pp. xxi.-xxiii.

4. Recent Historico-Dogmatic Works:

H. Heppe (Marburg): Dogmatik der evang.-reform. Kirche dargestellt und aus den Quellen belegt, Elberfeld, 1861; and his Dogmatik des Deutschen Protestantismus im 16ten Jahrh. Gotha, 1857, 3 vols.

Alex. Schweizer (Zurich): Die Protestantischen Centraldogmen in ihrer Entwicklung innerhalb der Reformirten Kirche. Zurich, 1854–56, 2 vols. Also his Glaubenslehre der evang.-reform. Kirche dargestellt und aus den Quellen belegt. Zurich, 1844–47, 2 vols.

Aug. Ebrard (Erlangen): Das Dogma vom heil. Abendmahl und seine Geschichte (Frankfurt a. M. 1846), the second vol.; and also his Christliche Dogmatik. Königsberg, 1851, 1852, 2 vols.

Charles Hodge (Princeton): Systematic Theology. New York, 1873, 3 vols.

J. J. van Oosterzee (Utrecht): Christian Dogmatics. Translated from the Dutch by Watson and Evans. London and New York, 1874, 2 vols.


The Reformed Confessions are much more numerous than the Lutheran, because they represent a larger territory and several nationalities—Swiss, German, French, Dutch, English, and Scotch—each of which produced its own doctrinal and disciplinary standards, since the geographical and political divisions and the close relations to the civil government determined also the number of ecclesiastical organizations. The productive period of the Reformed movement, moreover, extended far into the seventeenth century, especially in England, and some of the most important confessions, as the Canons of Dort and the Westminster Standards, were made long after the symbolic development of the Lutheran Church had reached its culmination and rest in the Formula of Concord. Finally the Reformed Church departs further from the authority of ecclesiastical traditionalism than the Lutheran, and allows more freedom for the development of various types of doctrine and schools of theology within the limits of the Word of God, to which it more rigidly adheres.

But with all this variety, the Reformed symbols are as much agreed in the essential articles of faith as the Lutheran, and differ even less 357than the Augsburg Confession, as explained by its author and his school, differs from the Formula of Concord.711711   This doctrinal consensus of the Reformed Creeds has been shown as early as 1581 in the Harmonia Confessionum above quoted. They exhibit substantially the same system of doctrine, and are only variations of one theme according to the wants of the national Churches for which they were intended. The Reformed Churches were never organically united under one form of government, and even every little canton in Switzerland (as every Lutheran principality in Germany) has its own ecclesiastical establishment;712712   In this respect the Churches of the United States, being free from government control, are much better organized, according to creeds, without allowing the State boundaries to interfere with their organic unity. but they recognized each other as branches of the same family, and kept up a lively intercommunion. Even the leading divines and dignitaries of the Episcopal Church of England, during the sixteenth century, freely corresponded with the Reformed Churches of Switzerland, France, and Holland, and the difference in church polity was no bar to church fellowship.

There are in all over thirty Reformed creeds. But many of them had never more than local authority, or were superseded by later and maturer forms. None of them has the same commanding position as the Augsburg Confession in the Lutheran Church. Those which have been most widely accepted and are still most in use are the Heidelberg or Palatinate Catechism, the Thirty-nine Articles, and the Westminster Confession. The second Helvetic Confession and the Canons of Dort are equal to them in authority and theological importance, but less adapted for popular use. All the rest have now little more than historical significance.

As to origin and theological character, the Reformed Confessions may be divided into Zwinglian and Calvinistic. The earlier were the product of Zwingli and his Swiss coadjutors, the later date from Calvin or his pupils and successors, and exhibit a more advanced and matured state of doctrine, with a difference, however, as to the extent to which they are committed to the Calvinistic system; some accepting it in full, while others maintain a reserve in regard to its angular points and rigorous logical consequences.

As to the country in which they originated and for which they were 358chiefly intended, we may divide them into Swiss, German, French, Dutch, English, and Scotch Confessions.

To the Swiss family belong the Confessions which proceeded from the Churches of Zurich, Basle, Berne, and Geneva, partly of Zwinglian and partly of Calvinistic origin.

The German family embraces the Tetrapolitan Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Brandenburg and Anhalt Confessions, and a few others. They are less pronounced in their Calvinism, and mediate between it and the Lutheran Creed.

To France and the Netherlands belong the French and the Belgic Confessions, the Canons of the Synod of Dort, and also the Arminian Articles, which differ from the Calvinistic creeds in five points.

The English family embraces the Thirty-nine Articles, the old Scotch Confessions, and the later Westminster Standards.

Besides, there are Bohemian, Polish, and Hungarian Confessions of lesser importance.


Note.—We take the term Reformed here in its catholic and historical sense for all those Churches which were founded by Zwingli and Calvin and their fellow-reformers in the sixteenth century on the Continent, and in England and Scotland, and which agreed with the Lutheran Church in opposition to the Roman Catholic, but differed from it in the doctrine of the real presence, afterward also in the doctrine of predestination. By their opponents they were first called in derision Zwinglians and Calvinists, also Sacramentarians or Sacramentschwärmer (by Luther and in the Formula of Concord), and in France Huguenots. But they justly repudiated all such sectarian names, and used instead the designations Christian or Evangelical or Reformed, or Evangelical Reformed or Reformed Catholic. The term Reformed assumed the ascendency in Switzerland, France, and elsewhere. Beza, e.g., uses it constantly. Queen Elizabeth, in sundry letters to the Protestant courts of Germany in 1577, speaks throughout of ecclesiæ reformatæ, and once calls the non-Lutheran Churches ecclesiæ reformatiores, more Reformed, implying that the Lutheran is Reformed also.

The Lutherans, before the last quarter of the sixteenth century, called themselves likewise Christian and Evangelical, sometimes Reformed, and since 1530 the Church or Churches of the Augsburg Confession, or Verwandte der Augsburgischen Confession. For a long time they disowned the terms Lutheranus, Luthericus, Lutheranismus, which were first used by Dr. Eck, Cochlæus, Erasmus, and other Romanists with the view to stigmatize their religion as a recent innovation and human invention. (A Papist once asked a Lutheran, 'Where was your Church before Luther?' The Lutheran answered by asking another question, 'Where was your face this morning before it was washed?') Erasmus speaks of Lutherana tragædia, negotium Lutheranum, factio Lutherana. Hence the Lutheran symbols never use the term Lutheran, except once, and then by way of complaint that the 'dear, holy Gospel should be called Lutheran.'713713   Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Art. XV. (VIII. p. 213 ed. Müller): 'Das liebe, heilige Evangelium nennen sie [the Papists] Lutherisch.' The name of Luther, however, is often honorably mentioned, especially in the Formula of Concord. Luther himself complained of this use of his name; nevertheless he had 359no objection that it should be duly honored in connection with the Word of God, and thought that his followers need not be ashamed of him.714714   'Wahr ist's,' he says (Works, Erl. ed. Vol. XXVIII. p. 316), 'dass du bei Leib und Seele nicht sol1st sagen: ich bin Lutherisch oder Päpstisch; denn derselben ist keiner für dich gestorben, noch dein Meister, sondern allein Christus, und sollst dich (als) Christen bekennen. Aber wenn du es dafür hältst, dass des Luthers Lehre evangelisch und des Papstes unevangelisch sei, so musst du den Luther nicht so gar hinwerfen. Du wirfst sonst seine Lehre auch mit hin, die du doch für Christi Lehre erkennest; sondern also musst du sagen: der Luther sei ein Bube oder heilig, da liegt mir nichts an; seine Lehre aber ist nicht sein, sondern Christi selbst.' And in another place (Vol. XL. p. 127): 'Und wiewohl ich’s nicht gern habe, dass man die Lehre und Leute Lutherisch nennt, und muss von ihnen leiden, dass sie Gottes Wort mit meinem Namen also schänden, so sollen sie doch den Luther, die Lutherischen Lehre und Leute lassen bleiben und zu Ehren kommen.' They thought so, too; and, forgetting St. Paul's warning against sectarian names, they gradually themselves appropriated the term Lutheran, or Evangelical Lutheran, as the official title of their Church, since about 1585, under the influence of Jacob Andreæ, the chief author of the Formula of Concord, and Ægidius Hunnius, and in connection with the faith in Luther as a special messenger of God for the restoration of Christianity in its doctrinal purity. See the proof in the little book of Dr. Heinrich Heppe, Ursprung und Geschichte der Bezeichnungen 'reformirte' und 'lutherische' Kirche, Gotha, 1859, pp. 28, 35, 55.

The negative term Protestant was used after 1529 for both Confessions by friend and foe, and is so used to this day; but it must be explained from the historical occasion which gave rise to it, and be connected with the positive faith in the Word of God, on the ground of which the evangelical members of the Diet of Spires protested against the decision of the papal majority, as an encroachment on the rights of conscience and an enforcement of the traditions of men.

On the Continent of Europe it is still customary to divide orthodox Christendom into three Confessions or Creeds—the Catholic (Greek and Roman), the Lutheran, and the Reformed—and to embrace under the Reformed all other Protestant bodies, such as Methodists and Baptists, or to speak of them as mere sects. But this will not do in England and America, where these sects, so called, have become powerful Churches. Reformed is sometimes used among us in a more general sense of all Protestant Churches, sometimes in a restricted sense of a particular branch of the Reformed Church. The Continental terminology suits the ecclesiastical statistics of the sixteenth century, but must be considerably enlarged and modified in view of the greater number of Anglo-American Churches. We shall devote a separate chapter to those Protestant evangelical bodies which have taken their rise since the Reformation.

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