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Westminster Confession of Faith 1647

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CHAPTER XXXI - Of Synods and Councils

I. For the better government, and further edification of the Church, there ought to be such assemblies as are commonly called synods or councils.

Acts 15:2, 4, 6.

II. As magistrates may lawfully call a synod of ministers, and other fit persons, to consult and advise with, about matters of religion; so, if magistrates be open enemies to the Church, the ministers of Christ of themselves, by virtue of their office, or they, other fit persons, upon delegation from their Churches, may meet together in such assemblies.

Isa 49:23; 1Tim 2:1, 2; 2Chron 19:8, 9, 10, 11; 2Chron 29, 30 chapters; Matt 2:4, 5; Prov 11:14; Acts 15:2, 4, 22, 23, 25.

III. It belongs to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith and cases of conscience, to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of His Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.

Acts 15:15, 19, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31; Acts 16:4; Matt 18:17, 18, 19, 20.

IV. All synods or councils, since the Apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice; but to be used as a help in both.

Eph 2:20; Acts 17:11; 1Cor 2:5; 2Cor 1:24.

V. Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude, nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth; unless by way of humble petition, in cases extraordinary; or by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.

Luke 12:13, 14; John 18:36.

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CHAPTER XXXII - Of the State of Men after Death and the Resurrection of the Dead

I. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust and see corruption; but their souls (which neither die nor sleep) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them: the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Beside these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledges none.

Gen 3:19; Acts 13:36; Luke 23:43; Eccl 12:7; Heb 12:23; 2Cor 5:1, 6, 8; Php 1:23 and Acts 3:21 and Eph 4:10; Luke 16:23, 24; Acts 1:25; Jude 6, 7; 1Pe 3:19.

II. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls for ever.

1Thess 4:17; 1Cor 15:51, 52; Job 19:26, 27; 1Cor 15:42, 43, 44.

III. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonor; the bodies of the just, by His Spirit, unto honor; and be made conformable to His own glorious body.

Acts 24:15; John 5:28, 29; 1Cor 15:43; Php 3:21.

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CHAPTER XXXIII - Of the Last Judgment

I. God hath appointed a day, wherein He will judge the world in righteousness, by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.

Acts 17:31; John 5:22, 27; 1Cor 6:3; Jude 6; 2Pe 2:4; 2Cor 5:10; Eccl 12:14; Rom 2:16; Rom 14:10, 12; Matt 12:36, 37.

II. The end of God’s appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of His mercy, in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of His justice, in the damnation of the reprobate who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fullness of joy and refreshing, which shall come from the presence of the Lord: but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.

Matt 25:31-46; Rom 2:5, 6; Rom 9:22, 23; Matt 25:21; Acts 3:19; 2Thess 1:7, 8, 9, 10.

III. As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all men from sin, and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity; so will He have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly Amen.

2Pe 3:11, 14; 2Cor 5:10, 11; 2Thess 1:5, 6, 7; Luke 21:27, 28; Rom 8:23, 24, 25; Matt 24:36, 42, 43, 44; Mark 13:35, 36, 37, Luke 12:35, 36; Rev 22:20.

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