Locate within this confession:
- Jesus Christ
- The Bible
- Christian Living
- The Church
- Ordinances and Sacraments
In 1561, Heinrich Bullinger, a minister of the church of Zurich. wrote the Second Helvetic
Confession. He was a skilled exegetical preacher and a prolific author of Latin commentaries on both the
Old and New Testament. In 1563, because of the Heidelberg Catechism that he commissioned, Frederick III,
ruler of the German province Palatinate, was accused of heresy by Lutherans who found the document too
Reformed. Frederick III sought Bullinger's help who, in turn, offered his Second Helvetic Confesssion as the
basis for Frederick III's defense. In 1566, Frederick III was exonerated by the ruling Imperial Diet of
Germany. Moderate in tone and with an emphasis on the church, the confession addresses such issues as worship,
church order, sacraments, and marriage. Many churches of Switzerland and Europe have adopted this confession
as their own.
Chapter 1 - Of the Holy Scripture Being the True Word of God
Canonical Scripture. We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets
and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves,
not of men. For God himself spoke to the fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through
the Holy Scriptures.
And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all
that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this
respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing either be added to or taken from the same.
Scripture Teaches Fully All Goodness. We judge, therefore, that from these Scriptures are
to be derived true wisdom and godliness, the reformation and government of churches; as also instruction
in all duties of piety; and, to be short, the confirmation of doctrines, and the rejection of all
errors, moreover, all exhortations according to that word of the apostle, "All Scripture is inspired
by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof," etc. (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Again, "I am writing these
instructions to you," says the apostle to Timothy, "so that you may know how one ought to behave in
the household of God," etc. (1 Tim. 3:14-15).
Scripture is the Word of God. Again, the selfsame apostle to the Thessalonians: "When,"
says he, "you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of
men but as what it really is, the Word of God," etc. (1 Thess. 2:13.) For the Lord himself has said
in the Gospel, "It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of my Father speaking through you"; therefore
"he who hears you hears me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Matt. 10:20; Luke 10:16;
The Preaching of the Word of God Is the Word of God. Wherefore when this Word of God is now
preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe the very Word of God is proclaimed,
and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be
expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister
that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true
Neither do we think that therefore the outward preaching is to be thought as fruitless because
the instruction in true religion depends on the inward illumination of the Spirit, or because it is
written "And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor …, for they shall all know me" (Jer. 31:34),
and "Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Cor.
3:7). For although "no one can come to Christ unless he be drawn by the Father" (John 6:4), and unless
the Holy Spirit inwardly illumines him, yet we know that it is surely the will of God that his Word
should be preached outwardly also. God could indeed, by his Holy Spirit, or by the ministry of an
angel, without the ministry of St. Peter, have taught Cornelius in the Acts; but, nevertheless, he
refers him to Peter, of whom the angel speaking says, "He shall tell you what you ought to do."
Inward Illumination Does Not Eliminate External Preaching. For he that illuminates inwardly
by giving men the Holy Spirit, the same one, by way of commandment, said unto his disciples, "Go into
all the world, and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15). And so in Philippi, Paul
preached the Word outwardly to Lydia, a seller of purple goods; but the Lord inwardly opened the
woman's heart (Acts 16:14). And the same Paul, after a beautiful development of his thought, in Rom.
10:17 at length comes to the conclusion, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of
God by the preaching of Christ."
At the same time we recognize that God can illuminate whom and when he will, even without the
external ministry, for that is in his power; but we speak of the usual way of instructing men, delivered
unto us from God, both by commandment and examples.
Heresies. We therefore detest all the heresies of Artemon, the Manichaeans, the Valentinians,
of Cerdon, and the Marionites, who denied that the Scriptures proceeded from the Holy Spirit; or did
not accept some parts of them, or interpolated and corrupted them.
Apocrypha. And yet we do not conceal the fact that certain books of the Old Testament were
by the ancient authors called Apocryphal, and by others Ecclesiastical; inasmuch as
some would have them read in the churches, but not advanced as an authority from which the faith
is to be established. As Augustine also, in his De Civitate Dei, book 18, ch. 38, remarks
that "in the books of the Kings, the names and books of certain prophets are cited"; but he adds
that "they are not in the canon"; and that "those books which we have suffice unto
Chapter 2 - Of Interpreting the Holy Scriptures; and of Fathers, Councils,
The True Interpretation of Scripture. The apostle Peter has said that the Holy Scriptures
are not of private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20), and thus we do not allow all possible interpretations.
Nor consequently do we acknowledge as the true or genuine interpretation of the Scriptures what is
called the conception of the Roman Church, that is, what the defenders of the Roman Church plainly
maintain should be thrust upon all for acceptance. But we hold that interpretation of the Scripture
to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the
language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set
down, and expounded in the light of like and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages) and
which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man's salvation.
Interpretations of the Holy Fathers. Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of
the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises concerning sacred
matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures; but we modestly dissent from them when they are
found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to, the Scriptures. Neither do we
think that we do them any wrong in this matter; seeing that they all, with one consent, will not
have their writings equated with the canonical Scriptures, but command us to prove how far they agree
or disagree with them, and to accept what is in agreement and to reject what is in disagreement.
Councils. And in the same order also we place the decrees and canons of councils.
Wherefore we do not permit ourselves, in controversies about religion or matters of faith, to
urge our case with only the opinions of the fathers or decrees of councils; much less by received
customs, or by the large number who share the same opinion, or by the prescription of a long time.
Who is the judge? Therefore, we do not admit any other judge than God himself, who proclaims
by the Holy Scriptures what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what to be avoided.
So we do assent to the judgments of spiritual men which are drawn from the Word of God. Certainly
Jeremiah and other prophets vehemently condemned the assemblies of priests which were set up against
the law of God; and diligently admonished us that we should not listen to the fathers, or tread in
their path who, walking in their own inventions, swerved from the law of God.
Traditions of Men. Likewise we reject human traditions, even if they be adorned with
high-sounding titles, as though they were divine and apostolical, delivered to the Church by the
living voice of the apostles, and, as it were, through the hands of apostolical men to succeeding
bishops which, when compared with the Scriptures, disagree with them; and by their disagreement show
that they are not apostolic at all. For as the apostles did not contradict themselves in doctrine,
so the apostolic men did not set forth things contrary to the apostles. On the contrary, it would
be wicked to assert that the apostles by a living voice delivered anything contrary to their writings.
Paul affirms expressly that he taught the same things in all churches (1 Cor. 4:17). And, again,
"For we write you nothing but what you can read and understand." (2 Cor. 1:13). Also, in another
place, he testifies that he and his disciples--that is, apostolic men--walked in the same way, and
jointly by the same Spirit did all things (2 Cor. 12:18). Moreover, the Jews in former times had
the traditions of their elders; but these traditions were severely rejected by the Lord, indicating
that the keeping of them hinders God's law, and that God is worshipped in vain by such traditions
(Matt. 15:1ff.; Mark 7:1 ff.).
Chapter 3 - Of God, His Unity and Trinity
God Is One. We believe and teach that God is one in essence or nature, subsisting in himself,
all sufficient in himself, invisible, incorporeal, immense, eternal, Creator of all things both visible
and invisible, the greatest good, living, quickening and preserving all things, omnipotent and supremely
wise, kind and merciful, just and true. Truly we detest many gods because it is expressly written:
"The Lord your God is one Lord" (Deut. 6:4). "I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods
before me" (Ex. 20:2-3). "I am the Lord, and there is no other god besides me. Am I not the Lord, and
there is no other God beside me? A righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me" (Isa. 45:5,
21). "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast
love and faithfulness" (Ex. 34:6).
God Is Three. Notwithstanding we believe and teach that the same immense, one and indivisible
God is inseparably and without confusion distinguished as Father, Son and Holy Spirit so, as the Father
has begotten the Son from eternity, the Son is begotten by an ineffable generation, and the Holy Spirit
truly proceeds from them both, and the same from eternity and is to be worshipped with both.
Thus there are not three gods, but three persons, consubstantial, coeternal, and coequal; distinct
with respect to hypostases, and with respect to order, the one preceding the other yet without any
inequality. For according to the nature or essence they are so joined together that they are one God,
and the divine nature is common to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For Scripture has delivered to us a manifest distinction of persons, the angel saying, among other
things, to the Blessed Virgin, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High
will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
And also in the baptism of Christ a voice is heard from heaven concerning Christ, saying, "This is
my beloved Son" (Matt. 3:17). The Holy Spirit also appeared in the form of a dove (John 1:32). And
when the Lord himself commanded the apostles to baptize, he commanded them to baptize "in the name
of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). Elsewhere in the Gospel he said:
"When the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who
proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me," etc. (John 15:26). In short, we receive the
Apostle’ Creed because it delivers to us the true faith.
Heresies. Therefore we condemn the Jews and Mohammedans, and all those who blaspheme that
sacred and adorable Trinity. We also condemn all heresies and heretics who teach that the Son and Holy
Spirit are God in name only, and also that there is something created and subservient, or subordinate
to another in the Trinity, and that there is something unequal in it, a greater or a less, something
corporeal or corporeally conceived, something different with respect to character or will, something
mixed or solitary, as if the Son and Holy Spirit were the affections and properties of one God the
Father, as the Monarchians, Novatians, Praxeas, Patripassians, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Aetius,
Macedonius, Antropomorphites, Arius, and such like, have thought.
Chapter 4 - Of Idols or Images of God, Christ and The Saints
Images of God. Since God as Spirit is in essence invisible and immense, he cannot really
be expressed by any art or image. For this reason we have no fear pronouncing with Scripture that
images of God are mere lies. Therefore we reject not only the idols of the Gentiles, but also the
images of Christians.
Images of Christ. Although Christ assumed human nature, yet he did not on that account
assume it in order to provide a model for carvers and painters. He denied that he had come "to abolish
the law and the prophets" (Matt. 5:17). But images are forbidden by the law and the prophets (Deut.
4:15; Isa. 44:9). He denied that his bodily presence would be profitable for the Church, and promised
that he would be near us by his Spirit forever (John 16:7). Who, therefore, would believe that a
shadow or likeness of his body would contribute any benefit to the pious (2 Cor. 5:5)? Since he abides
in us by his Spirit, we are therefore the temple of God (2 Cor. 3:16). But "what agreement has the
temple of God with idols?" (2 Cor. 6:16).
Images of Saints. And since the blessed spirits and saints in heaven, while they lived here
on earth, rejected all worship of themselves (Acts 3:12f.; 14:11ff.; Rev. 14:7; 22:9) and condemned
images, shall anyone find it likely that the heavenly saints and angels are pleased with their own
images before which men kneel, uncover their heads, and bestow other honors?
But in fact in order to instruct men in religion and to remind them of divine things and of their
salvation, the Lord commanded the preaching of the Gospel (Mark 16:15)--not to paint and to teach
the laity by means of pictures. Moreover, he instituted sacraments, but nowhere did he set up images.
The Scriptures of the Laity. Furthermore, wherever we turn our eyes, we see the living and
true creatures of God which, if they be observed, as is proper, make a much more vivid impression on
the beholders than all the images or vain, motionless, feeble and dead pictures made by men, of which
the prophet truly said: "They have eyes, but do not see" (Ps. 115:5).
Lactantius. Therefore we approved the judgment of Lactantius, an ancient writer, who says:
"Undoubtedly no religion exists where there is an image."
Epiphanius and Jerome. We also assert that the blessed bishop Epiphanius did right when,
finding on the doors of a church a veil on which was painted a picture supposedly of Christ or some
saint, he ripped it down and took it away, because to see a picture of a man hanging in the Church
of Christ was contrary to the authority of Scripture. Wherefore he charged that from henceforth no
such veils, which were contrary to our religion, should be hung in the Church of Christ, and that
rather such questionable things, unworthy of the Church of Christ and the faithful people, should
be removed. Moreover, we approve of this opinion of St. Augustine concerning true religion: "Let
not the worship of the works of men be a religion for us. For the artists themselves who make such
things are better; yet we ought not to worship them" (De Vera Religione, cap. 55).
Chapter 5 - Of the Adoration, Worship and Invocation of God Through the Only
Mediator Jesus Christ
God Alone Is To Be Adored and Worshipped. We teach that the true God alone is to be adored
and worshipped. This honor we impart to none other, according to the commandment of the Lord, "You
shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve" (Matt. 4:10). Indeed, all the prophets
severely inveighed against the people of Israel whenever they adored and worshipped strange gods,
and not the only true God. But we teach that God is to be adored and worshipped as he himself has
taught us to worship, namely, "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23 f.), not with any superstition,
but with sincerity, according to his Word; lest at any time he should say to us: "Who has required
these things from your hands?" (Isa. 1:12; Jer. 6:20). For Paul also says: "God is not served by human
hands, as though he needed anything," etc. (Acts 17:25).
God Alone Is To Be Invoked Through the Mediation of Christ Alone. In all crises and trials
of our life we call upon him alone, and that by the mediation of our only mediator and intercessor,
Jesus Christ. For we have been explicitly commanded: "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will
deliver you, and you shall glorify me" (Ps. 1:15). Moreover, we have a most generous promise from
the Lord Who said: "If you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you" (John 16:23), and:
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). And since
it is written: "How are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed?" (Rom. 10:14), and since
we do believe in God alone, we assuredly call upon him alone, and we do so through Christ. For as
the apostle says, "There is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ
Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5), and, "If any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ
the righteous" etc. (1 John 2:1).
The Saints Are Not To Be Adored, Worshipped or Invoked. For this reason we do not adore,
worship, or pray to the saints in heaven, or to other gods, and we do not acknowledge them as our
intercessors or mediators before the Father in heaven. For God and Christ the Mediator are sufficient
for us; neither do we give to others the honor that is due to God alone and to his Son, because he
has expressly said: "My glory I give to no other" (Isa. 42:8), and because Peter has said: "There
is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved," except the name of Christ
(Acts 4:12). In him, those who give their assent by faith do not seek anything outside Christ.
The Due Honor To Be Rendered to the Saints. At the same time we do not despise the saints
or think basely of them. For we acknowledge them to be living members of Christ and friends of God
who have gloriously overcome the flesh and the world. Hence we love them as brothers, and also honor
them; yet not with any kind of worship but by an honorable opinion of them and just praises of them.
We also imitate them. For with ardent longings and supplications we earnestly desire to be imitators
of their faith and virtues, to share eternal salvation with them, to dwell eternally with them in
the presence of God, and to rejoice with them in Christ. And in this respect we approve of the opinion
of St. Augustine in De Vera Religione: "Let not our religion be the cult of men who have died.
For if they have lived holy lives, they are not to be thought of as seeking such honors; on the contrary,
they want us to worship him by whose illumination they rejoice that we are fellow-servants of his
merits. They are therefore to be honored by way of imitation, but not to be adored in a religious
Relics of the Saints. Much less do we believe that the relics of the saints are to be adored
and reverenced. Those ancient saints seemed to have sufficiently honored their dead when they decently
committed their remains to the earth after the spirit had ascended on high. And they thought that the
most noble relics of their ancestors were their virtues, their doctrine, and their faith. Moreover,
as they commend these "relics" when praising the dead, so they strive to copy them during their life
Swearing by God's Name Alone. These ancient men did not swear except by the name of the
only God, Yahweh, as prescribed by the divine law. Therefore, as it is forbidden to swear by the names
of strange gods (Ex. 23:13; Deut. 10:20), so we do not perform oaths to the saints that are demanded
of us. We therefore reject in all these matters a doctrine that ascribes much too much to the saints
Chapter 6 - Of the Providence of God
All Things Are Governed by the Providence of God. We believe that all things in heaven and
on earth, and in all creatures, are preserved and governed by the providence of this wise, eternal
and almighty God. For David testifies and says: "The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory
above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down upon the
heavens and the earth?" (Ps. 113:4 ff.). Again: "Thou searchest out... all my ways. Even before a word
is on my tongue, lo, O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether" (Ps. 139:3 f.). Paul also testifies and
declares: "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28), and "from him and through him
and to him are all things" (Rom. 11:36). Therefore Augustine most truly and according to Scripture
declared in his book De Agone Christi, cap. 8, "The Lord said, 'Are not two sparrows sold for
a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will'" (Matt. 10:29). By
speaking thus, he wanted to show that what men regard as of least value is governed by God's omnipotence.
For he who is the truth says that the birds of the air are fed by him and the lilies of the field
are clothed by him; he also says that the hairs of our head are numbered (Mat. 6:26 ff.).
The Epicureans. We therefore condemn the Epicureans who deny the providence of God, and
all those who blasphemously say that God is busy with the heavens and neither sees nor cares about
us and our affairs. David, the royal prophet, also condemned this when he said: "O Lord, how long
shall the wicked exult? They say, 'The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.' Understand,
O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He
who formed the eye, does he not see?" (Ps. 94:3, 7-9).
Means Not To Be Despised. Nevertheless, we do not spurn as useless the means by which divine
providence works, but we teach that we are to adapt ourselves to them in so far as they are recommended
to us in the Word of God. Wherefore we disapprove of the rash statements of those who say that if all
things are managed by the providence of God, then our efforts and endeavours are in vain. It will be
sufficient if we leave everything to the governance of divine providence, and we will not have to
worry about anything or do anything. For although Paul understood that he sailed under the providence
of God who had said to him: "You must bear witness also at Rome" (Acts 23:11), and in addition had
given him the promise, "There will be no loss of life among you... and not a hair is to perish from
the head of any of you" (Acts 27:22, 34), yet when the sailors were nevertheless thinking about
abandoning ship the same Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers: "Unless these men stay in the
ship, you cannot be saved" (Acts 27:31). For God, who has appointed to everything its end, has ordained
the beginning and the means by which it reaches its goal. The heathen ascribe things to blind fortune
and uncertain chance. But St. James does not want us to say: "Today or tomorrow we will go into such
and such a town and trade," but adds: "Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live
and we shall do this or that'" (James 4:13,15). And Augustine says: "Everything which to vain men
seems to happen in nature by accident, occurs only by his Word, because it happens only at his command"
(Enarrationes in Psalmos 148). Thus it seemed to happen by mere chance when Saul, while seeking
his father's asses, unexpectedly fell in with the prophet Samuel. But previously the Lord had said
to the prophet: "Tomorrow I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin" (1 Sam. 9:16).
Chapter 7 - Of the Creation of All Things: Of Angels, the Devil, and Man
God Created All Things. This good and almighty God created all things, both visible and
invisible, by his coeternal Word, and preserves them by his co-eternal Spirit, as David testified
when he said: "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of
his mouth" (Ps. 33:6). And, as Scripture says, everything that God had made was very good, and was
made for the profit and use of man. Now we assert that all those things proceed from one beginning.
Manichaeans and Marcionites. Therefore, we condemn the Manichaeans and Marcionites who impiously
imagined two substances and natures, one good, the other evil; also two beginnings and two gods contrary
to each other, a good one and an evil one.
Of Angels and the Devil. Among all creatures, angels and men are most excellent. Concerning
angels, Holy Scripture declares: "Who makest the winds thy messengers, fire and flame thy ministers"
(Ps. 104:4). Also it says: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake
of those who are to obtain salvation?" (Heb. 1:14). Concerning the devil, the Lord Jesus himself
testifies "He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there
is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father
of lies" (John 8:44). Consequently we teach that some angels persisted in obedience and were appointed
for faithful service to God and men, but others fell of their own free will and were cast into destruction,
becoming enemies of all good and of the faithful, etc.
Of Man. Now concerning man, Scripture says that in the beginning he was made good according
to the image and likeness of God, that God placed him in Paradise and made all things subject to him
(Gen. 2). This is what David magnificently sets forth in Psalm 8. Moreover, God gave him a wife and
blessed them. We also affirm that man consists of two different substances in one person: an immortal
soul which, when separated from the body, neither sleeps nor dies, and a mortal body which will nevertheless
be raised up from the dead at the last judgment in order that then the whole man, either in life or
in death, abide forever.
The Sects. We condemn all who ridicule or by subtle arguments cast doubt upon the immortality
of souls, or who say that the soul sleeps or is a part of God. In short, we condemn all opinions of
all men, however many, that depart from what has been delivered unto us by the Holy Scriptures in
the apostolic Church of Christ concerning creation, angels, and demons, and man.
Chapter 8 - Of Man's Fall, Sin and the Cause of Sin
The Fall of Man. In the beginning, man was made according to the image of God, in righteousness
and true holiness, good and upright. But when at the instigation of the serpent and by his own fault
he abandoned goodness and righteousness, he became subject to sin, death and various calamities. And
what he became by the fall, that is, subject to sin, death and various calamities, so are all those
who have descended from him.
Sin. By sin we understand that innate corruption of man which has been derived or propagated
in us all from our first parents, by which we, immersed in perverse desires and averse to all good
are inclined to all evil. Full of all wickedness, distrust, contempt and hatred of God, we are unable
to do or even to think anything good of ourselves. Moreover, even as we grow older, so by wicked thoughts,
words and deeds committed against God's law, we bring forth corrupt fruit worthy of an evil tree (Matt.
12:33 ff.). For this reason by our own deserts, being subject to the wrath of God, we are liable to
just punishment, so that all of us would have been cast away by God if Christ, the Deliverer, had not
brought us back.
Death. By death we understand not only bodily death, which all of us must once suffer on
account of sins, but also eternal punishment due to our sins and corruption. For the apostle says:
"We were dead through trespasses and sins... and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of
mankind. But God, who is rich in mercy... even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive
together with Christ" (Eph. 2:1 ff.). Also: "As sin came into the world through one man and death
through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12).
Original Sin. We therefore acknowledge that there is original sin in all men.
Actual Sins. We acknowledge that all other sins which arise from it are called and truly
are sins, no matter by what name they may be called, whether mortal, venial or that which is said
to be the sin against the Holy Spirit which is never forgiven (Mark 3:29; 1 John 5:16). We also confess
that sins are not equal; although they arise from the same fountain of corruption and unbelief, some
are more serious than others. As the Lord said, it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for the
city that rejects the word of the Gospel (Matt. 10:14 f.; 11:20 ff.).
The Sects. We therefore condemn all who have taught contrary to this, especially Pelagius
and all the Pelagians, together with the Jovinians who, with the Stoics, regard all sins as equal.
In this whole matter we agree with St. Augustine who derived and defended his view from Holy Scriptures.
Moreover, we condemn Florinus and Blastus, against whom Irenaeus wrote, and all who make God the
author of sin.
God Is Not the Author of Sin, and How Far He Is Said to Harden. It is expressly written:
"Thou art not a God who delights in wickedness. Thou hatest all evildoers. Thou destroyest those who
speak lies" (Ps. 5:4 ff.). And again: "When the devil lies, he speaks according to his own nature,
for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Moreover, there is enough sinfulness and corruption
in us that it is not necessary for God to infuse into us a new or still greater perversity. When,
therefore, it is said in Scripture that God hardens, blinds and delivers up to a reprobate mind, it
is to be understood that God does it by a just judgment as a just Judge and Avenger. Finally, as
often as God in Scripture is said or seems to do something evil, it is not thereby said that man
does not do evil, but that God permits it and does not prevent it, according to his just judgment,
who could prevent it if he wished, or because he turns man's evil into good, as he did in the case
of Joseph's brethren, or because he governs sins lest they break out and rage more than is appropriate.
St. Augustine writes in his Enchiridion: "What happens contrary to his will occurs, in a
wonderful and ineffable way, not apart from his will. For it would not happen if he did not allow it.
And yet he does not allow it unwillingly but willingly. But he who is good would not permit evil to
be done, unless, being omnipotent, he could bring good out of evil." Thus wrote Augustine.
Curious Questions. Other questions, such as whether God willed Adam to fall, or why he
did not prevent the fall, and similar questions, we reckon among curious questions (unless perchance
the wickedness of heretics or of other churlish men compels us also to explain them out of the Word
of God, as the godly teachers of the Church have frequently done), knowing that the Lord forbade
man to eat of the forbidden fruit and punished his transgression. We also know that what things are
done are not evil with respect to the providence, will, and power of God, but in respect of Satan
and our will opposing the will of God.
Chapter 9 - Of Free Will, and Thus of Human Powers
In this matter, which has always produced many conflicts in the Church, we teach that a threefold
condition or state of man is to be considered.
What Man Was Before the Fall. There is the state in which man was in the beginning before
the fall, namely, upright and free, so that he could both continue in goodness and decline to evil.
However, he declined to evil, and has involved himself and the whole human race in sin and death,
as has been said already.
What Man Was After the Fall. Then we are to consider what man was after the fall. To be
sure, his reason was not taken from him, nor was he deprived of will, and he was not entirely changed
into a stone or a tree. But they were so altered and weakened that they no longer can do what they
could before the fall. For the understanding is darkened, and the will which was free has become an
enslaved will. Now it serves sin, not unwillingly but willingly. And indeed, it is called a will,
not an unwill(ing).
Man Does Evil by His Own Free Will. Therefore, in regard to evil or sin, man is not forced
by God or by the devil but does evil by his own free will, and in this respect he has a most free will.
But when we frequently see that the worst crimes and designs of men are prevented by God from reaching
their purpose, this does not take away man's freedom in doing evil, but God by his own power prevents
what man freely planned otherwise. Thus Joseph's brothers freely determined to get rid of him, but
they were unable to do it because something else seemed good to the counsel of God.
Man Is Not Capable of Good Per se. In regard to goodness and virtue man's reason
does not judge rightly of itself concerning divine things. For the evangelical and apostolic Scripture
requires regeneration of whoever among us wishes to be saved. Hence our first birth from Adam contributes
nothing to our salvation. Paul says: "The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of
God," etc. (1 Cor. 2:14). And in another place he denies that we of ourselves are capable of thinking
anything good (2 Cor. 3:5). Now it is known that the mind or intellect is the guide of the will, and
when the guide is blind, it is obvious how far the will reaches. Wherefore, man not yet regenerate
has no free will for good, no strength to perform what is good. The Lord says in the Gospel: "Truly,
truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). And the apostle says:
"The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it
cannot" (Rom. 8:7). Yet in regard to earthly things, fallen man is not entirely lacking in understanding.
Understanding of the Arts. For God in his mercy has permitted the powers of the intellect
to remain, though differing greatly from what was in man before the fall. God commands us to cultivate
our natural talents, and meanwhile adds both gifts and success. And it is obvious that we make no
progress in all the arts without God's blessing. In any case, Scripture refers all the arts to God;
and, indeed, the heathen trace the origin of the arts to the gods who invented them.
Of What Kind Are the Powers of the Regenerate, and in What Way Their Wills Are Free. Finally,
we must see whether the regenerate have free wills, and to what extent. In regeneration the understanding
is illumined by the Holy Spirit in order that it may understand both the mysteries and the will of
God. And the will itself is not only changed by the Spirit, but it is also equipped with faculties
so that it wills and is able to do the good of its own accord (Rom. 8:1 ff.). Unless we grant this,
we will deny Christian liberty and introduce a legal bondage. But the prophet has God saying: "I will
put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts" (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:26 f.). The Lord
also says in the Gospel: "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). Paul also
writes to the Philippians: "It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not
only believe in him but also suffer for his sake" (Phil. 1:29). Again: "I am sure that he who began
a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (v. 6). Also: "God is at
work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
The Regenerate Work Not Only Passively but Actively. However, in this connection we teach
that there are two things to be observed: First, that the regenerate, in choosing and doing good, work
not only passively but actively. For they are moved by God that they may do themselves what they do.
For Augustine rightly adduces the saying that "God is said to be our helper. But no one can be helped
unless he does something." The Manichaeans robbed man of all activity and made him like a stone or
block of wood.
The Free Will Is Weak in the Regenerate. Secondly, in the regenerate a weakness remains.
For since sin dwells in us, and in the regenerate the flesh struggles against the Spirit till the
end of our lives, they do not easily accomplish in all things what they had planned. These things
are confirmed by the apostle in Rom. 7, and Gal. 5. Therefore that free will is weak in us on account
of the remnants of the old Adam and of innate human corruption remaining in us until the end of our
lives. Meanwhile, since the power of the flesh and the remnants of the old man are not so efficacious
that they wholly extinguish the work of the Spirit, for that reason the faithful are said to be free,
yet so that they acknowledge their infirmity and do not glory at all in their free will. For believers
ought always to keep in mind what St. Augustine so many times inculcated according to the apostle:
"What have you that you did not receive? If then you received, why do you boast as if it were not a
gift?" To this he adds that what we have planned does not immediately come to pass. For the issue of
things lies in the hand of God. This is the reason Paul prayed to the Lord to prosper his journey
(Rom. 1:10). And this also is the reason the free will is weak.
In External Things There Is Liberty. Moreover, no one denies that in external things both
the regenerate and the unregenerate enjoy free will. For man has in common with other living creatures
(to which he is not inferior) this nature to will some things and not to will others. Thus he is able
to speak or to keep silent, to go out of his house or to remain at home, etc. However, even here
God's power is always to be observed, for it was the cause that Balaam could not go as far as he
wanted (Num. 24), and Zacharias upon returning from the temple could not speak as he wanted (Luke 1).
Heresies. In this matter we condemn the Manichaeans who deny that the beginning of evil was
for man [created] good, from his free will. We also condemn the Pelagians who assert that an evil man
has sufficient free will to do the good that is commanded. Both are refuted by Holy Scripture which
says to the former, "God made man upright" and to the latter, "If the Son makes you free, you will
be free indeed" (John 8:36).
Chapter 10 - Of the Predestination of God and the Election of the Saints
God Has Elected Us Out of Grace. From eternity God has freely, and of his mere grace, without
any respect to men, predestinated or elected the saints whom he wills to save in Christ, according to
the saying of the apostle, "God chose us in him before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). And
again: "Who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of
his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through
the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 1:9 f.).
We Are Elected or Predestinated in Christ. Therefore, although not on account of any merit
of ours, God has elected us, not directly, but in Christ, and on account of Christ, in order that
those who are now ingrafted into Christ by faith might also be elected. But those who were outside
Christ were rejected, according to the word of the apostle, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you
are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless
indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Cor. 13:5).
We Are Elected for a Definite Purpose. Finally, the saints are chosen by God for a definite
purpose, which the apostle himself explains when he says, "He chose us in him for adoption that we
should be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption to be his sons through
Jesus Christ that they should be to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Eph. 1:4 ff.).
We Are to Have a Good Hope for All. And although God knows who are his, and here and there
mention is made of the small number of elect, yet we must hope well of all, and not rashly judge any
man to be a reprobate. For Paul says to the Philippians, "I thank my God for you all" (now he speaks
of the whole Church in Philippi), "because of your fellowship in the Gospel, being persuaded that
he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is also
right that I have this opinion of you all" (Phil. 1:3 ff.).
Whether Few Are Elect. And when the Lord was asked whether there were few that should be
saved, he does not answer and tell them that few or many should be saved or damned, but rather he
exhorts every man to "strive to enter by the narrow door" (Luke 13:24): as if he should say, It is
not for you curiously to inquire about these matters, but rather to endeavor that you may enter into
heaven by the straight way.
What in This Matter Is To Be Condemned. Therefore we do not approve of the impious speeches
of some who say, "Few are chosen, and since I do not know whether I am among the number of the few,
I will enjoy myself." Others say, "If I am predestinated and elected by God, nothing can hinder me
from salvation, which is already certainly appointed for me, no matter what I do. But if I am in the
number of the reprobate, no faith or repentance will help me, since the decree of God cannot be changed.
Therefore all doctrines and admonitions are useless." Now the saying of the apostle contradicts these
men: "The Lord's servant must be ready to teach, instructing those who oppose him, so that if God
should grant that they repent to know the truth, they may recover from the snare of the devil, after
being held captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:23 ff.).
Admonitions Are Not in Vain Because Salvation Proceeds from Election. Augustine also shows
that both the grace of free election and predestination, and also salutary admonitions and doctrines,
are to be preached (Lib. de Dono Perseverantiae, cap. 14 ff.).
Whether We Are Elected. We therefore find fault with those who outside of Christ ask whether
they are elected. And what has God decreed concerning them before all eternity? For the preaching of
the Gospel is to be heard, and it is to be believed; and it is to be held as beyond doubt that if
you believe and are in Christ, you are elected. For the Father has revealed unto us in Christ the
eternal purpose of his predestination, as I have just now shown from the apostle in 2 Tim. 1:9-10.
This is therefore above all to be taught and considered, what great love of the Father toward us is
revealed to us in Christ. We must hear what the Lord himself daily preaches to us in the Gospel, how
he calls and says: "Come to me all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt.
11:28). "God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not
perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Also, "It is not the will of my Father that one of these
little ones should perish" (Matt. 18:14).
Let Christ, therefore be the looking glass, in whom we may contemplate our predestination. We
shall have a sufficiently clear and sure testimony that we are inscribed in the Book of Life if we
have fellowship with Christ, and he is ours and we are his in true faith.
Temptation in Regard to Predestination. In the temptation in regard to predestination,
than which there is scarcely any other more dangerous, we are confronted by the fact that God's promises
apply to all the faithful, for he says: "Ask, and everyone who seeks, shall receive" (Luke 11:9 f.).
This finally we pray, with the whole Church of God, "Our Father who art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9), both
because by baptism we are ingrafted into the body of Christ, and we are often fed in his Church with
his flesh and blood unto life eternal. Thereby, being strengthened, we are commanded to work out our
salvation with fear and trembling, according to the precept of Paul.