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Westminster Confession of Faith 1647

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CHAPTER XXI - Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day

I. The light of nature shows that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.

Rom 1:20; Acts 17:24; Ps 119:68; Jer 10:7; Ps 31:23; Ps 18:3; Rom 10:12; Ps 62:8; Josh 24:14; Mark 12:33; Deut 12:32; Matt 15:9; Acts 17:25; Matt 4:9, 10; Deut 4:15 to 20; Ex 20:4, 5, 6; Col 2:23.

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

Matt 4:10 and John 5:23 and 2Cor 13:14; Col 2:18; Rev 19:10; Rom 1:25; John 14:6; 1Tim 2:5; Eph 2:18; Col 3:17.

III. Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men: and that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of His Spirit, according to His will, with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and, if vocal, in a known tongue.

Php 4:6; Ps 65:2; John 14:13,14; 1Pe 2:5; Rom 8:26; 1Jn 5:14; Ps 47:7; Eccl 5:1, 2; Heb 12:28; Gen 18:27; James 5:16; James 1:6, 7; Mark 11:24; Matt 6:12, 14, 15; Col 4:2; Eph 6:18; 1Cor 14:14.

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

1Jn 5:14; 1Tim 2:1, 2; John 17:20; 2Sam 7:29; Ruth 4:12; 2Sam 12:21, 22, 23 and Luke 16:25, 26; Rev 14:13; I John 5:16.

V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings, upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in a holy and religious manner.

Acts 15:21; Rev 1:3: 2Tim 4:2; James 1:22; Acts 10:33; Heb 4:2; Isa 66:2; Col 3:16; Eph 5:19; James 5:13; Matt 28:19; 1Cor 11:23-29; Acts 2:42: Deut 6:13 and Neh 10:29; Isa 19:21 and Eccl 5:4, 5; Joel 2:12; Esther 4:16; Matt 9:15; 1Cor 7:5; Ps 107 chap; Esther 9:22; Heb 12:28.

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

John 4:21; Mal 1:11; 1Tim 2:8; John 4:23, 24; Jer 10:25; Deut 6:6, 7; Job 1:5; 2Sam 6:18, 20; 1Pe 3:7; Acts 10:2; Matt 6:11; Matt 6:6; Eph 6:18; Isa 56:6, 7; Heb 10:25; Prov 1:20, 21, 24; Prov 8:34; Acts 13:42; Luke 4:16; Acts 2:42.

VII. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, He hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto Him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

Ex 20:8, 10, 11; Isa 56:2, 4, 6, 7; Gen 2:2, 3; 1Cor 16:1, 2; Acts 20:7; Rev 1:10; Ex 20:8, 10 and Matt 5:17, 18.

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

Ex 20:8; Ex 16:23, 25, 26, 29, 30; Ex 31:15, 16, 17; Isa 58:13; Neh 13:15-19, 21, 22; Isa 58:13; Matt 12:1-13.

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CHAPTER XXII - Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

I. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calls God to witness what he asserts, or promises; and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he swears.

Deut 10:20; Ex 20:7; Lev 19:12; 2Cor 1:23; 2Chron 6:22, 23.

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

Deut 6:13; Ex 20:7; Jer 5:7; Matt 5:34, 37; James 5:12; Heb 6:16; 2Cor 1:23; Isa 65:16; 1Kg 8:31; Neh 13:25, Ezra 10:5.

III. Whosoever takes an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act; and therein to avouch nothing, but what he is fully persuaded is the truth. Neither may any man bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform. Yet is it a sin to refuse an oath touching anything that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.

Ex 20:7; Jer 4:2; Gen 24:2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9; Num 5:19, 21; Neh 5:12; Ex 22:7-11.

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

Jer 4:2; Ps 24:4; 1Sam 25:22, 32, 33, 34; Ps 15:4; Ezek 17:16, 18, 19; Josh 9:18, 19 and 2Sam 21:1.

V. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.

Isa 19:21; Eccl 5:4, 5, 6; Ps 61:8; Ps 66:13, 14.

VI. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want; whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties; or to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.

Ps 76:11; Jer 44:25, 26; Deut 23:21, 22, 23; Ps50:14; Gen 28:20, 21, 22; 1Sam 1:11; Ps 56:13, 14; Ps 132:2, 3, 4, 5.

VII. No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God. In which respects, Popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.

Acts 23:12, 14; Mark 6:26; Num 30:5, 8, 12, 13; Matt 19:11, 12; 1Cor 7:2, 9; Eph 4:28; 1Pe 4:2; 1Cor 7:23.

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CHAPTER XXIII - Of the Civil Magistrate

I. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates, to be, under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good; and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers.

Rom 13:1, 2, 3, 4; 1Pe 2:13, 14.

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

Prov 8:15, 16; Rom 13:1, 2, 4; Ps 2:10, 11, 12; 1Tim 2:2; Ps 82:3, 4; 2Sam 23:3; 1Pe 2:13; Luke 3:14; Rom 13:4; Matt 8:9, 10; Acts 10:1, 2; Rev 17:14, 16.

III. (The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide, that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.)

2Chron 26:18 with Matt 18:17 and Matt 16:19; 1Cor 12:29, 29; Eph 4:11, 12; 1Cor 4:1, 2; Rom 10:15; Heb 5:4; Isa 49:23; Ps 122:9; Ezra 7:23, 25, 26, 27, 28; Lev 24:16; Deut 13:5, 6, 12; 1Kg 18:4; 1Chron 13:1 to 9; 2Kg 23:1 to 26; 2Chron 34:33; 2Chron 15:12, 13; 2Chron 19:8, 9, 10, 11; 2Chron 29 and 30; Matt 2:4, 5.

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

1Tim 2:1, 2; 1Pe 2:17; Rom 13:6, 7; Rom 13:5; Tit 3:1; 1Pe 2:13, 14, 16; Rom 13:1; 1Kg 2:35, Acts 25:9-11 ; 2Pe 2:1, 10, 11 ; Jude 8-11 ; 2Thess 2:4 ; Rev 13:15, 16, 17.

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CHAPTER XXIV - Of Marriage and Divorce

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

Gen 2:24; Matt 19:5, 6; Prov 2:17.

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

Gen 2:18; Mal 2:15; 1Cor 7:2, 9.

III. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet is it the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord: and therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

Heb 13:4; 1Tim 4:3; 1Cor 7:36, 37, 38; Gen 24:57, 58; 1Cor 7:39; Gen 34:14; Ex 34:16; Deut 7:3, 4; 1Kg 11:4; Neh 13:25, 26, 27; Mal 2:11, 12; 2Cor 6:14.

IV. Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden in the Word; nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife. The man may not marry any of his wife’s kindred nearer in blood than he may of his own; nor the woman of her husband’s kindred nearer in blood than of her own.

Lev 18 chapter; 1Cor 5:1; Amos 2:7; Mark 6:18; Lev 18:24, 25, 26, 27, 28; Lev 20:19, 20, 21.

V. Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, gives just. occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce; and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.

Matt 1:18, 19, 20; Matt 5:31, 32; Matt 19:9; Rom 7:2, 3.

VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage; yet nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage; wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills and discretion, in their own case.

Matt 19:8, 9; 1Cor 7:15; Matt 19:6; Deut 24:1-4.

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CHAPTER XXV - Of the Church

I. The catholic or universal Church which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all.

Eph 1:10, 22, 23; Eph 5:23, 27, 32; Col 1:18.

II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

1Cor 1:2; 1Cor 12:12, 13; Ps 2:8; Rev 7:9; Rom 15:9, 10, 11, 12; 1Cor 7:14; Acts 2:39; Ezek 16:20, 21; Rom 11:16; Gen 3:15; Gen 17:7; Matt 13:47; Isa 9:7; Eph 2:19; Eph 3:15; Acts 2:47.

III. Unto this catholic visible Church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world; and doth by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto.

1Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11, 12, 13; Matt 28:19, 20; Isa 59:21.

IV. This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular Churches which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

Rom 11:3, 4; Rev 12:6, 14; Rev 2 and 3 chapters; 1Cor 5:6, 7.

V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth, to worship God according to His will.

1Cor 13:12; Rev 2 and 3 chapters; Matt 13:24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 47; Rev 18:2; Rom 11:18, 19, 20, 21, 22; Matt 16:18; Ps 72:17; Ps 102:28; Matt 28:19, 20.

VI. There is no other head of the Church, but the Lord Jesus Christ; nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church. against Christ and all that is called God.

Col 1:18; Eph 1:22; Matt 23:8, 9, 10; 2Thess 2:3, 4, 8, 9; Rev 12:6.

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