In 1559, John Knox returned to his homeland, marking a new effort in the battle to
reform Scotland. Throughout the nation, Protestants joined together in a solemn covenant,
pledging their lives and fortunes for the cause of Christ.
The Queen Regent, Mary of Guise, was a hardened Papist, and she opposed all endeavours
to reform Scotland. The Queen Regent died in 1560, and the Scottish Parliament convened in
Edinburgh in August, to address many issues confronting the restless nation.
In response, the Parliament directed the Protestant noblemen and ministers to draw up
"in plain and several heads, the sum of that doctrine which they would maintain, and
would desire that present Parliament to establish as wholesome, true, and only necessary
to be believed and received within that realm."
Over the next four days, the Scottish Confession was drafted by six ministers: John
Winram, John Spottiswoode, John Willock, John Douglas, John Row, and John Knox. On 17
August 1560, the document was read twice, article by article, before the Parliament; and
the Protestant ministers stood ready to defend the cause of truth, in the event that any
article of belief was assailed.
When the vote was taken, the Confession was ratified, with only a few dissenting
voices, who "yet for their dissenting could produce no better reason but, 'We will
believe as our fathers believed.' The bishops (papistical, we mean), spake
The Scottish Confession of 1560 is a lively testimony to the truth. The Church of
Scotland approved the Westminster Standards over 80 years later; but the ratification of
the Westminster Standards was in no way a repudiation of the previous testimony of the
Church. Rather, the combined documents present a united testimony respecting the doctrinal
landmarks of the Protes tant Reformation. And since the latter standards are among the
offspring of the former Confession, all persons of the Reformed faith should find it
profitable to study the Scottish Confession of 1560.
1. John Knox, History of the Reformation in Scotland, in Knox's Works
(Edinburgh, 1895), Vol. 2, p. 91.
2. John Knox, History, in Works, Vol. 2, p. 92.
3. John Knox, History, in Works, Vol. 2, p. 121-22, 28.
And these glad tidings of the kingdom shall be preached
through the whole world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.
The Estates of Scotland, with the inhabitants of the same, professing Christ Jesus'
holy evangel: to their natural countrymen, and unto all other realms and nations,
professing the same Lord Jesus with them, wish grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the spirit of righteous judgment, for salutation, etc.
Long have we thirsted, dear brethren, to have notified unto the world the sum of that
doctrine which we profess, and for the which we have sustained infamy and danger. But such
has been the rage of Satan against us, and against Christ Jesus' eternal verity lately
born amongst us, that to this day no time has been granted unto us to clear our
consciences, as most gladly we would have done. For how we have been tossed a whole year
past, the most part of Europe (as we suppose) does understand. But seeing that of the
infinite goodness of our God (who never suffers his afflicted utterly to be confounded),
above expectation, we have obtained some rest and liberty, we could not but set forth this
brief and plain confession of such doctrine as is proponed unto us, and as we believe and
profess; partly for satisfaction of our brethren, whose hearts, we doubt not, have been
and yet are wounded by the despiteful railing of such as yet have not learned to speak
well; and partly for stopping of the mouths of impudent blasphemers, who boldly damn that
which they have neither heard, nor yet understand.
Not that we judge that the cankered malice of such is able to be cured by this our
simple confession. No, we know that the sweet savour of the evangel is, and shall be,
death unto the sons of perdition. But we have chief respect to our weak and infirm
brethren, to whom we would communicate the bottom of our hearts, lest that they be
troubled or carried away by diversity of rumors, which Satan spreads contrary [against]
us, to the defeating of this our most godly enterprise; protesting that, if any man will
note in this our confession any article or sentence repugning to God's holy word, that it
would please him of his gentleness, and for Christian charity's sake, to admonish us of
the same in writing; and we, of our honour and fidelity, do promise unto him satisfaction
from the mouth of God (that is, from his holy scriptures), or else reformation of that
which he shall prove to be amiss. For God we take to record in our consciences, that from
our hearts we abhor all sects of heresy, and all teachers of erroneous doctrine; and that,
with all humility, we embrace the purity of Christ's evangel, which is the only food of
our souls; and therefore so precious unto us, that we are determined to suffer the
extremity of worldly danger, rather than that we will suffer ourselves to be defrauded of
the same. For hereof we are most certainly persuaded, that whosoever denies Christ
Jesus, or is ashamed of him in presence of men, shall be denied before the Father, and
before his holy angels. And therefore, by the assistance of the mighty Spirit of the
same our Lord Jesus, we firmly purpose to abide to the end, in the confession of this our
faith, as by articles follows.
We confess and acknowledge one only God, to whom only we must cleave, whom only we must
serve, whom only we must worship, and in whom only we must put our trust: who is
eternal, infinite, immeasurable, incomprehensible, omnipotent, invisible; one in
substance, and yet distinct in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;
by whom we confess and believe all things in heaven and in earth, as well visible as
invisible, to have been created, to be retained in their being, and to be ruled and guided
by his inscrutable Providence, to such end as his eternal wisdom, goodness, and justice
has appointed them, to the manifestation of his own glory.
1. Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:6; Deut. 4:35; Isa. 44:5-6.
2. 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chron. 6:18; Ps. 139:7-8; Gen. 17:1; 1 Tim. 6:15-16;
3. Matt. 28:19; 1 John 5:7.
4. Gen. 1:1; Heb. 11:3; Acts 17:28; Prov. 16:4.
The Continuance, Increase,
and Preservation of the Kirk
We most constantly believe that God preserved, instructed, multiplied, honoured,
decored, and from death called to life his kirk in all ages, from Adam, till the coming of
Christ Jesus in the flesh. For Abraham he called from his father's country; him he
instructed; his seed he multiplied; the same he marvelously preserved, and more
marvelously delivered from the bondage and tyranny of Pharaoh; to them he gave his
laws, constitutions, and ceremonies; them he possessed in the land of Canaan; to
them, after Judges and after Saul, he gave David to be king, to whom he made promise, that
of the fruit of his loins should one sit for ever upon his regal seat. To this same
people, from time to time, he sent prophets to reduce them to the right way of their
God, from the which often times they declined by idolatry. And albeit for their
stubborn contempt of justice, he was compelled to give them in the hands of their
enemies, as before was threatened by the mouth of Moses, insomuch that the holy city
was destroyed, the temple burnt with fire, and the whole land left desolate the space
of seventy years; yet of mercy did he reduce them again to Jerusalem, where the city
and temple were reedified, and they, against all temptations and assaults of Satan, did
abide till the Messiah came, according to the promise.
1. Ezek. 6:6-14.
2. Gen. 12:1; 13:1.
3. Ex. 1, etc.
4. Josh. 1:3; 23:4.
5. 1 Sam. 10:1; 16:13.
6. 2 Sam. 7:12.
7. 2 Kings 17:13-19.
8. 2 Kings 24:3-4.
9. Deut. 28:36, 48.
10. 2 Kings 25.
11. Dan. 9:2.
12. Jer. 30; Ezra 1, etc.; Hag. 1:14; 2:7-9; Zech. 3:8.
For that same Eternal God and Father, who of mere grace elected us in Christ Jesus his
Son, before the foundation of the world was laid, appointed him to be our Head, our
Brother, our Pastor, and great Bishop of our souls. But because that the enmity
betwixt the justice of God and our sins was such that no flesh by itself could or might
have attained unto God, it behoved that the Son of God should descend unto us, and take
himself a body of our body, flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bones, and so become the
perfect Mediator betwixt God and man; giving power to so many as believe in him to be
the sons of God, as himself does witness: I pass up to my Father and unto your
Father, to my God, and unto your God. By which most holy fraternity, whatsoever we
have lost in Adam is restored to us again. And for this cause are we not afraid to call
God our Father, not so much that [because] he has created us (which we have
common with the reprobate), as for that he has given to us his only Son to be our
brother, and given unto us grace to acknowledge and embrace him for our only Mediator,
as before is said.
It behoved further the Messiah and Redeemer to be very God and very Man, because he was
to underlie the punishment due for our transgressions, and to present himself in the
presence of his Father's judgments, as in our person, to suffer for our transgression and
disobedience, by death, to overcome him that was author of death. But because the only
Godhead could not suffer death, neither yet could the only manhead overcome the same,
he joined both together in one person, that the imbecility [weakness] of the
one should suffer, and be subject to death (which we had deserved), and the infinite and
invincible power of the other (to wit, of the Godhead) should triumph and purchase to us
life, liberty, and perpetual victory. And so we confess, and most undoubtedly believe.
1. Eph. 1:11; Matt. 25:34.
2. Eph. 1:22-23.
3. Heb. 2:7-8, 11-12; Ps. 22:22.
4. Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:24; 5:4.
5. Ps. 130:3; 143:2.
6. 1 Tim. 2:5.
7. John 1:12.
8. John 20:17.
9. Rom. 5:17-19.
10. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5-6.
11. Acts 17:26.
12. Heb. 2:11-12.
13. 1 Pet. 3:18; Isa. 53:8.
14. Acts 2:24.
15. John 1:2.; Acts 20:20; 1 Tim. 3:16; John 3:16
We undoubtedly believe that, insomuch as it was impossible that the dolours of death
should retain in bondage the Author of life; that our Lord Jesus Christ crucified,
dead, and buried, who descended into hell, did rise again for our justification, and
destroying him who was the author of death, brought life again to us that were subject to
death and to the bondage of the same. We know that his resurrection was confirmed by
the testimony of his very enemies; by the resurrection of the dead, whose sepulchres
did open, and they did arise and appear to many within the city of Jerusalem. It was
also confirmed by the testimony of angels, and by the senses and judgments of his
apostles, and of others, who had conversation, and did eat and drink with him after his
1. Acts 2:24.
2. Acts 3:26; Rom. 6:5, 9; 4:25.
3. Heb. 2:14-15.
4. Matt. 28:4.
5. Matt. 27:52-53.
6. Matt. 28:5-6.
7. John 20:27; 21:7,12-13; Luke 24:41-43.
We nothing doubt but that the selfsame body, which was born of the virgin, was
crucified, dead, and buried, and which did rise again, did ascend into the heavens, for
the accomplishment of all things; where, in our names, and for our comfort he has
received all power in heaven and in earth, where he sits at the right hand of the
Father inaugurated in his kingdom, Advocate and only Mediator for us: which glory,
honour, and prerogative he alone amongst the brethren shall possess, till that all his
enemies be made his footstool, as that we undoubtedly believe they shall be in the
final judgment; to the execution whereof we certainly believe that the same our Lord Jesus
shall visibly return, as that he was seen to ascend. And then we firmly believe, that
the time of refreshing and restitution of all things shall come, insomuch that those
that from the beginning have suffered violence, injury, and wrong for righteousness' sake,
shall inherit that blessed immortality promised from the beginning.
But contrariwise, the stubborn, disobedient, cruel oppressors, filthy persons,
idolaters, and all sorts of unfaithful shall be cast in the dungeon of utter darkness,
where their worm shall not die, neither yet their fire shall be extinguished. The
remembrance of which day, and of the judgment to be executed in the same, is not only to
us a bridle, whereby our carnal lusts are refrained; but also such inestimable comfort,
that neither may the threatening of worldly princes, neither yet the fear of temporal
death and present danger, move us to renounce and forsake that blessed society, which we,
the members, have with our Head and only Mediator Christ Jesus: whom we confess and
avow to be the Messiah promised, the only Head of his kirk, our just Lawgiver, our only
High Priest, Advocate, and Mediator. In which honours and offices, if man or angel
presume to intrude themselves, we utterly detest and abhor them, as blasphemous to our
Sovereign and Supreme Governor, Christ Jesus.
1. Mark 16:9; Matt. 28:6; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9.
2. Matt. 28:18.
3. 1 Jn. 2:1; 1 Tim. 2:5.
4. Ps. 110:1; Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42-43.
5. Acts 1:8.
6. Acts 3:19.
8. Rev. 21:27; Isa. 66:24; Matt. 25:41; Mark 9:44, 46,48; Matt. 22:13.
9. 2 Pet. 3:11; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; Luke 21:27-28; John 14:1, etc.
10. Isa. 7:14; Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18; Heb. 9:11,15; 10:21; 1 John 2:1; 1 Tim. 2:5.
Faith in the Holy Ghost
This our faith, and the assurance of the same, proceeds not from flesh and blood, that
is to say, from no natural powers within us, but is the inspiration of the Holy Ghost:
whom we confess God, equal with the Father and with the Son; who sanctifies us, and
brings us in all verity by his own operation; without whom we should remain for ever
enemies to God, and ignorant of his Son, Christ Jesus. For of nature we are so dead, so
blind and so perverse, that neither can we feel when we are pricked, see the light when it
shines, nor assent to the will of God when it is revealed, unless the Spirit of the Lord
Jesus quicken that which is dead, remove the darkness from our minds, and bow our stubborn
hearts to the obedience of his blessed will. And so, as we confess that God the Father
created us when we were not; as his Son, our Lord Jesus redeemed us when we were
enemies to him; so also do we confess that the Holy Ghost does sanctify and regenerate
us, without all respect of any merit proceeding from us, be it before or be it after our
regeneration. To speak this one thing yet in more plain words: as we willingly spoil
ourselves of all honour and glory of our own creation and redemption, so do we also of
our regeneration and sanctification; for of ourselves we are not sufficient to think one
good thought; but he who has begun the good work in us, is only he that continues us in
the same, to the praise and glory of his undeserved grace.
1. Matt. 16:17; John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13.
2. Acts 5:3-4.
3. Col. 2:13; Eph. 2:1; John 9:39; Rev. 3:17; Matt. 17:17; Mark 9:19; Luke 9:41; John
6:63; Micah 7:8; 1 Kings 8:57-58.
4. Ps. 100:3.
5. Rom. 5:10.
6. John 3:5; Titus 3:5; Rom. 5:8.
7. Phil. 3:7.
8. Phil 1:6.
2 Cor. 3:5.
9. Eph. 1:6.
The Cause of Good Works
So that the cause of good works we confess to be, not our free will, but the Spirit of
the Lord Jesus who, dwelling in our hearts by true faith, brings forth such good works as
God has prepared for us to walk into. For this we most boldly affirm, that blasphemy it is
to say that Christ Jesus abides in the hearts of such as in whom there is no spirit of
sanctification. And therefore we fear not to affirm that murderers, oppressors, cruel
persecutors, adulterers, whoremongers, filthy persons, idolaters, drunkards, thieves, and
all workers of iniquity, have neither true faith, neither any portion of the spirit of
sanctification, which proceeds from the Lord Jesus, so long as obstinately they continue
in their wickedness.
For how soon that ever the Spirit of the Lord Jesus (which God's elect children receive
by true faith) takes possession in the heart of any man, so soon does he regenerate and
renew the same man; so that he begins to hate that which before he loved, and begins to
love that which before he hated. And from thence comes that continual battle which is
betwixt the flesh and the spirit in God's children; while the flesh and natural man
(according to their own corruption) lust for things pleasing and delectable unto the self,
grudge in adversity, are lifted up in prosperity, and at every moment are prone and ready
to offend the Majesty of God. But the Spirit of God, which gives witnessing to our
spirit, that we are the sons of God, makes us to resist filthy pleasures, and to groan
in God's presence for deliverance from this bondage of corruption; and finally, to
triumph over sin that it reign not in our mortal bodies.
This battle have not the carnal men, being destitute of God's Spirit; but [they] do
follow and obey sin with greediness, and without repentance, even as the devil and their
corrupt lusts do prick them. But the sons of God (as before is said) do fight against sin,
do sob and mourn, when they perceive themselves tempted to iniquity; and if they fall,
they rise again with earnest and unfeigned repentance. And these things they do not by
their own power, but the power of the Lord Jesus, without whom they were able to do
1. Eph. 2:10; Phil 2:13; John 15:5; Rom. 8:9.
2. Rom. 7:15-25; Gal. 5:17.
3. Rom. 8:16.
4. Rom. 7:24; 8:22.
5. Rom. 6:12.
6. 2 Tim. 2:26.
7. John 15:5.
What Works are Reputed
Good before God
We confess and acknowledge that God has given to man his holy law, in which not only
are forbidden all such works as displease and offend his godly Majesty, but also are
commanded all such as please him, and as he has promised to reward. And these works are
of two sorts: the one are done to the honour of God, the other to the profit of our
neighbours; and both have the revealed will of God for their assurance.
To have one God; to worship and honour him; to call upon him in all our troubles; to
reverence his holy name; to hear his word; to believe the same; to communicate with his
holy sacraments, are the works of the first table. To honour father, mother, princes,
rulers, and superior powers; to love them, to support them, yea, to obey their charges
(not repugning to the commandment of God); to save the lives of innocents; to repress
tyranny; to defend the oppressed; to keep our bodies clean and holy; to live in sobriety
and temperance; to deal justly with all men, both in word and in deed; and, finally, to
repress all appetite of our neighbour's hurt, are the good works of the second table,
which are most pleasing and acceptable unto God, as those works that are commanded by
The contrary whereof is sin most odious, which always displeases him, and provokes him
to anger: as, not to call upon him alone, when we have need; not to hear his word with
reverence; to contemn and despise it; to have or to worship idols; to maintain and defend
idolatry; lightly to esteem the reverent name of God; to profane, abuse, or contemn the
sacraments of Christ Jesus; to disobey or resist any that God has placed in authority
(while they pass not over the bounds of their office); to murder, or to consent
thereto; to bear hatred, or to suffer innocent blood to be shed if we may gainstand it;
and, finally, the transgressing of any other commandment in the first or second table, we
confess and affirm to be sin, by the which God's anger and displeasure are kindled
against the proud and unthankful world. So that good works we affirm to be these only that
are done in faith, at God's commandment, who in his law has expressed what be the
things that please him. And evil works, we affirm not only those that expressedly are done
against God's commandment, but those also that, in matters of religion and worshipping
of God, have no other assurance but the invention and opinion of man: which God from the
beginning has ever rejected, as by the prophet Isaiah, and by our master Christ Jesus,
we are taught in these words: In vain do they worship me, teaching the doctrines and
precepts of men.
1. Ex. 20:3, etc.; Deut. 5:6, etc.; 4:8.
2. Luke 10:27-28; Micah 6:8.
3. Eph. 6:1,7; Ezek. 22:1,etc.; 1Cor. 6:19-20; 1 Thess. 4:3-7; Jer. 22:3, etc.; Isa.
50:1, etc.; 1 Thess. 4:6.
4. Rom. 13:2.
5. Ezek. 22:13, etc.
6. 1 John 3:4.
7. Rom. 14:23; Heb. 11:6.
8. 1 Sam. 15:22; 1 Cor. 10:31.
9. 1 John 3:4.
10. Isa. 29:13.
11. Matt. 15:9.; Mark 7:7.
The Perfection of the Law
and Imperfection of Man
The law of God we confess and acknowledge most just, most equal, most holy, and most
perfect: commanding those things which, being wrought in perfection, were able to give
life, and able to bring man to eternal felicity. But our nature is so corrupt, so weak,
and so imperfect, that we are never able to fulfill the works of the law in perfection.
Yea, If we say we have no sin (even after we are regenerate), we deceive
ourselves, and the verity of God is not into us. And therefore it behoved us to
apprehend Christ Jesus, with his justice and satisfaction, who is the end and
accomplishment of the law, by whom we are set at this liberty, that the curse and
malediction of the law fall not upon us, albeit we fulfill not the same in all points.
For God the Father, beholding us in the body of his Son Christ Jesus, accepts our
imperfect obedience, as it were perfect, and covers our works, which are defiled with
many spots, with the justice of his Son.
We do not mean that we are set so at liberty, that we owe no obedience to the law (for
that before we have plainly confessed). But this we affirm, that no man in earth (Christ
Jesus only excepted) has given, gives, or shall give in work, that obedience to the law
which the law requires. But when we have done all things, we must fall down and
unfeignedly confess, that we are unprofitable servants. And therefore whosoever
boast themselves of the merits of their own works, or put their trust in the works of
supererogation, boast themselves of that which is not, and put their trust in damnable
1. Lev. 18:5; Gal. 3:12; 1 Tim. 1:8; Rom. 7:12; Ps. 19:7-9; 19:11.
2. Deut. 5:29; Rom. 10:3.
3. 1 Kings 8:46; 2 Chron. 6:36; Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:22; 1 John 1:8.
4. Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:13; Deut. 27:26.
5. Phil 2:15.
6. Isa. 64:6.
7. Luke 17:10.
Of the Kirk
As we believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; so do we most constantly believe
that from the beginning there has been, now is, and to the end of the world shall be, a
kirk: that is to say, a company and multitude of men chosen of God, who rightly worship
and embrace him, by true faith in Christ Jesus, who is the only Head of the same kirk,
which also is the body and spouse of Christ Jesus; which kirk is Catholic that is,
universal because it contains the elect of all ages, all realms, nations, and
tongues, be they of the Jews, or be they of the Gentiles; who have communion and society
with God the Father, and with his Son Christ Jesus, through the sanctification of his Holy
Spirit; and therefore it is called the communion, not of profane persons, but of
saints, who, as citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, have the fruition of the most
inestimable benefits: to wit, of one God, one Lord Jesus, one faith, and of one
baptism; out of the which kirk there is neither life, nor eternal felicity. And
therefore we utterly abhor the blasphemy of them that affirm that men which live according
to equity and justice shall be saved, what religion that ever they have professed. For as
without Christ Jesus there is neither life nor salvation, so shall there none be
participant thereof, but such as the Father has given unto his Son Christ Jesus, and those
[that] in time come unto him, avow his doctrine, and believe into him (we comprehend
the children with the faithful parents). This kirk is invisible, known only to God, who
alone knows whom he has chosen, and comprehends as well (as said is) the elect that are
departed (commonly called the kirk triumphant), as those that yet live and fight against
sin and Satan as shall live hereafter.
1. Matt. 28:20; Eph. 1:4.
2. Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:23-24, etc.; Rev. 7:9.
3. Eph. 2:19.
4. Eph. 4:5.
5. John 3:36.
6. John 5:24; 6:37; 6:39; 6:65; 17:6.
7. Acts 2:39.
8. 2 Tim. 2:19; John 13:18.
9. Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20; Heb. 12:4.
The Immortality of the Souls
The elect departed are in peace and rest from their labours: not that they sleep and
come to a certain oblivion (as some fantastics do affirm), but that they are delivered
from all fear, all torment, and all temptation, to which we and all God's elect are
subject in this life, and therefore do bear the name of the kirk militant: as
contrariwise, the reprobate and unfaithful departed, have anguish, torment, and pain, that
cannot be expressed. So that neither are the one nor the other in such sleep that they
feel not joy or torment, as the parable of Christ Jesus in the sixteenth [chapter] of
Luke, his words to the thief, and these words of the souls crying under the
altar, O Lord, thou that art righteous and just, how long shalt thou not revenge our
blood upon them that dwell upon the earth! doth plainly testify.
1. Rev. 14:13.
2. Isa. 25:8; Rev. 7:14-17; 21:4.
3. Rev. 16:10-11; Isa. 66:24; Mark 9:44, 46, 48.
4. Luke 16:23-26.
5. Luke 23:43.
6. Rev. 6:9-10.
Of the Notes by Which the True Kirk
is Discerned from the False
and Who Shall be Judge of the Doctrine
Because that Satan from the beginning has laboured to deck his pestilent synagogue with
the title of the kirk of God, and has inflamed the hearts of cruel murderers to persecute,
trouble, and molest the true kirk and members thereof as Cain did Abel; Ishmael,
Isaac; Esau, Jacob; and the whole priesthood of the Jews, Christ Jesus himself, and
his apostles after him; it is a thing most requisite that the true kirk be discerned
from the filthy synagogue, by clear and perfect notes, lest we, being deceived, receive
and embrace to our own condemnation the one for the other. The notes, signs, and assured
tokens whereby the immaculate spouse of Christ Jesus is known from that horrible harlot,
the kirk malignant; we affirm are neither antiquity, title usurped, lineal descent, place
appointed, nor multitude of men approving an error for Cain in age and title was
preferred to Abel and Seth; Jerusalem had prerogative above all places of the earth,
where also were the priests lineally descended from Aaron; and greater multitude followed
the scribes, Pharisees, and priests, than unfeignedly believed and approved Christ Jesus
and his doctrine; and yet, as we suppose, no man (of whole judgment) will grant that
any of the forenamed were the kirk of God.
The notes, therefore, of the true kirk of God we believe, confess, and avow to be:
first, the true preaching of the word of God, into the which God has revealed himself to
us, as the writings of the prophets and apostles do declare; secondly, the right
administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus, which must be annexed unto the word and
promise of God, to seal and confirm the same in our hearts; last, ecclesiastical
discipline uprightly ministered, as God's word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed, and
virtue nourished. Wheresoever then these former notes are seen, and of any time
continue (be the number [of persons] never so few, about two or three) there, without all
doubt, is the true kirk of Christ: who, according to his promise is in the midst of
them: not that universal [kirk] (of which we have before spoken) but particular; such
as were in Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, and other places in which the ministry
was planted by Paul, and were of himself named the kirks of God.
And such kirks we, the inhabitants of the realm of Scotland, professors of Christ
Jesus, confess ourselves to have in our cities, towns, and places reformed; for the
doctrine taught in our kirks is contained in the written word of God: to wit, in the books
of the New and Old Testaments: in those books, we mean, which of the ancient have been
reputed canonical, in the which we affirm that all things necessary to be believed for the
salvation of mankind are sufficiently expressed. The interpretation whereof, we
confess, neither appertains to private nor public person, neither yet to any kirk for any
preeminence or prerogative, personal or local, which one has above another; but appertains
to the Spirit of God, by the which also the scripture was written.
When controversy then happens, for the right understanding of any place or sentence of
scripture, or for the reformation of any abuse within the kirk of God, we ought not so
much to look what men before us have said or done, as unto that which the Holy Ghost
uniformly speaks within the body of the scriptures, and unto that which Christ Jesus
himself did, and commanded to be done. For this is a thing universally granted, that
the Spirit of God (which is the Spirit of unity) is in nothing contrary unto himself.
If then the interpretation, determination, or sentence of any doctor, kirk, or council,
repugn to the plain word of God written in any other place of scripture, it is a thing
most certain, that there is not the true understanding and meaning of the Holy Ghost,
supposing that councils, realms, and nations have approved and received the same. For we
dare not receive and admit any interpretation which directly repugns to any principal
point of our faith, or to any other plain text of scripture, or yet unto the rule of
1. Gen. 4:8.
2. Gen. 21:9.
3. Gen. 27:41.
4. Matt. 23:34; John 15:18-20,24; 11:47,53; Acts 4:1-3; 5:17, etc.
5. Gen. 4:1.
6. Ps. 48:2-3; Matt. 5:35.
7. John 12:42.
8. Eph. 2:20; Acts 2:42; John 10:27; 18:37; 1 Cor. 1:13; Matt. 18:19-20; Mark 16:15-16;
1 Cor. 11:24-26; Rom. 4:11.
9. Matt. 18:15-18; 1 Cor. 5:4-5.
10. Matt. 18:19-20.
11. 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:2.
12. Gal. 1:2.
13. Eph. 1:1; Acts 16:9-10; 18:1, etc.; 20:17, etc.
14. John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16-17.
15. 2 Pet. 1:20-21.
16. John 5:39.
17. Eph. 4:3-4.
Of General Councils, of Their Power, Authority,
and Causes of Their Convention
As we do not rashly damn that which godly men, assembled together in general councils,
lawfully gathered, have proponed unto us; so without just examination dare we not receive
whatsoever is obtruded unto men under the name of general councils. For plain it is, as
they were men, so have some of them manifestly erred, and that in matters of great weight
and importance. So far then as the council proves the determination and commandment
that it gives by the plain word of God, so far do we reverence and embrace the same. But
if men, under the name of a council, pretend to forge unto us new articles of our faith,
or to make constitutions repugning to the word of God, then utterly we must refuse the
same as the doctrine of devils, which draws our souls from the voice of our only God to
follow the doctrines and constitutions of men.
The cause, then, why general councils convened, was neither to make any perpetual law
(which God before had not made), nor yet to forge new articles of our belief, neither to
give the word of God authority much less to make that to be his word, or yet the
true interpretation of the same, which was not before by his holy will expressed in his
word. But the cause of councils (we mean of such as merit the name of councils), was
partly for confutation of heresies, and for giving public confession of their faith to the
posterity following: which both they did by the authority of God's written word, and not
by any opinion or prerogative that they could not err, by reason of their general
assembly. And this we judge to have been the chief cause of general councils. The other
was for good policy and order to be constituted and observed in the kirk, in which (as in
the house of God) it becomes all things to be done decently and into order.Not
that we think that any policy, and one order in ceremonies can be appointed for all ages,
times, and places: for as ceremonies (such as men have devised) are but temporal, so may
and ought they to be changed, when they rather foster superstition than that they edify
the kirk using the same.
1. Gal. 2:11-14.
2. 1 Tim. 4:1-3; Col. 2:18-23.
3. Acts 15:1, etc.
4. 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:2.
5. 1 Cor. 14:40.
Of the Sacraments
As the fathers under the law (besides the verity of the sacrifices) had two chief
sacraments to wit, circumcision and the Passover, the despisers and contemners
whereof were not reputed for God's people so do we acknowledge and confess that
we now, in the time of the evangel, have two sacraments only, instituted by the Lord
Jesus, and commanded to be used of all those that will be reputed members of his body: to
wit, baptism and the supper, or table of the Lord Jesus, called the communion of his body
and blood. And these sacraments (as well of the Old as of the New Testament) were
instituted of God, not only to make a visible difference betwixt his people, and those
that were without his league; but also to exercise the faith of his children and, by
participation of the same sacraments, to seal in their hearts the assurance of his
promise, and of that most blessed conjunction, union, and society, which the elect have
with their head, Christ Jesus.
And thus we utterly damn the vanity of those that affirm sacraments to be nothing else
but naked and bare signs. No, we assuredly believe that by baptism we are engrafted in
Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his justice, by the which our sins are covered and
remitted; and also, that in the supper, rightly used, Christ Jesus is so joined with us,
that he becomes the very nourishment and food of our souls. Not that we imagine any
transubstantiation of bread into Christ's natural body, and of wine in his natural blood
(as the Papists have perniciously taught and damnably believed); but this union and
conjunction which we have with the body and blood of Christ Jesus, in the right use of the
sacraments, is wrought by operation of the Holy Ghost, who by true faith carries us above
all things that are visible, carnal, and earthly, and makes us to feed upon the body and
blood of Christ Jesus, which was once broken and shed for us, which now is in heaven, and
appears in the presence of his Father for us. And yet, notwithstanding the far distance
of place which is betwixt his body now glorified in the heaven, and us now mortal in this
earth, yet we most assuredly believe that the bread that we break is the communion of
Christ's body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of his blood. So that we
confess, and undoubtedly believe, that the faithful, in the right use of the Lord's table,
do so eat the body and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus, that he remains in them and they
in him: yea, that they are so made flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones, that as
the Eternal Godhead has given to the flesh of Christ Jesus (which of its own condition and
nature was mortal and corruptible) life and immortality, so does Christ Jesus' flesh
and blood eaten and drunken by us, give to us the same prerogatives. Which, albeit we
confess are neither given unto us at that only time, neither yet by the proper power and
virtue of the sacrament only; yet we affirm that the faithful, in the right use of the
Lord's table, have such conjunction with Christ Jesus, as the natural man cannot
Yea, and further we affirm, that albeit the faithful, oppressed by negligence, and
manly infirmity, do not profit so much as they would in the very instant action of the
supper, yet shall it after bring fruit forth, as lively seed sown in good ground. For the
Holy Spirit (which can never be divided from the right institution of the Lord Jesus) will
not frustrate the faithful of the fruit of that mystical action; but all this, we say,
comes by true faith, which apprehends Christ Jesus, who only makes this sacrament
effectual unto us. And, therefore, whosoever slanders us, as that we affirm or believe
sacraments to be only naked and bare signs, do injury unto us, and speak against the
But this liberally and frankly we must confess, that we make a distinction betwixt
Christ Jesus, in his natural substance, and betwixt the elements in the sacramental signs;
so that we will neither worship the signs in place of that which is signified by them;
neither yet do we despise and interpret them as unprofitable and vain; but do use them
with all reverence, examining ourselves diligently before that so we do, because we are
assured by the mouth of the apostle, That such as eat of that bread, and drink of that
cup, unworthily, are guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord Jesus.
1. Gen. 17:10-11; Ex. 23:3,etc.; Gen. 17:14; Num. 9:13.
2. Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor.
3. 1 Cor. 10:16; Rom. 6:3-5; Gal. 3:27.
4. Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:11; 3:21.
5. 1 Cor. 10:16.
6. Eph. 5:30.
7. Matt. 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30.
8. John 6:51; 6:53-58.
9. 1 Cor. 11:27-29.
Of the Right Administration
of the Sacraments
That sacraments be rightly ministered, we judge two things requisite: the one, that
they be ministered by lawful ministers, whom we affirm to be only they that are appointed
to the preaching of the word, or into whose mouths God has put some sermon of exhortation,
they being men lawfully chosen thereto by some kirk. The other, that they be ministered in
such elements, and in such sort, as God has appointed; else, we affirm that they cease to
be right sacraments of Christ Jesus.
And therefore it is that we flee the society of the Papistical kirk, in participation
of their sacraments: first, because their ministers are no ministers of Christ Jesus; yea
(which is more horrible) they suffer women, whom the Holy Ghost will not suffer to teach
in the congregation, to baptize. And, secondly, because they have so adulterated both the
one sacrament and the other with their own inventions, that no part of Christ's action
abides in the original purity: for oil, salt, spittle, and suchlike in baptism, are but
men's inventions. Adoration, veneration, bearing through streets and towns, and keeping of
bread in boxes or buists [chests], are profanation of Christ's sacraments,
and no use of the same. For Christ Jesus said, Take, eat, etc. Do ye this in
remembrance of me. By which words and charge he sanctified bread and wine, to be
the sacrament of his body and blood, to the end that the one should be eaten, and that all
should drink of the other; and not that they should be kept to be worshipped, and honoured
as God, as the blind Papists have done heretofore, who also committed sacrilege, stealing
from the people the one part of the sacrament: to wit, the blessed cup.
Moreover, that the sacraments be rightly used, it is required that the end and cause
why the sacraments were instituted be understood and observed, as well of the minister, as
the receivers. For if the opinion be changed in the receiver, the right use ceases: which
is most evident by the rejection of the sacrifices; as also if the teacher plainly teaches
false doctrine, which were odious and abominable before God (albeit they were his own
ordinances), because that wicked men use them to another end than God has ordained. The
same affirm we of the sacraments in the Papistical kirk, in which we affirm the whole
action of the Lord Jesus to be adulterated, as well in the external form, as in the end
and opinion. What Christ Jesus did, and commanded to be done, is evident by the
evangelists, and by Saint Paul. What the priest does at his altar we need not rehearse.
The end and cause of Christ's institution, and why the selfsame should be used, is
expressed in these words: Do this in remembrance of me. As oft as ye shall eat of this
bread and drink of this cup, ye shall show forth, that is, extol, preach, magnify, and
praise, the Lord's death till he come. But to what end, and in what opinion, the
priests say their Mass, let the words of the same, their own doctors and writings witness:
to wit, that they, as mediators betwixt Christ and his kirk, do offer unto God the Father
a sacrifice propitiatory for the sins of the quick and the dead. Which doctrine, as
blasphemous to Christ Jesus, and making derogation to the sufficiency of his only
sacrifice, once offered for purgation of all those that shall be sanctified, we utterly
abhor, detest, and renounce.
1. Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24.
2. 1 Cor. 11:24-26.
3. Heb. 9:27-28; 10:14.
Of the Civil Magistrate
We confess and acknowledge empires, kingdoms, dominions, and cities to be distinguished
and ordained by God: the powers and authorities in the same (be it of emperors in their
empires, of kings in their realms, dukes and princes in their dominions, or of other
magistrates in free cities) to be God's holy ordinance, ordained for manifestation of his
own glory, and for the singular profit and commodity of mankind. So that whosoever goes
about to take away or to confound the whole state of civil policies, now long established;
we affirm the same men not only to be enemies to mankind, but also wickedly to fight
against God's expressed will.
We further confess and acknowledge, that such persons as are placed in authority are to
be loved, honoured, feared, and held in most reverent estimation because they are the
lieutenants of God, in whose sessions God himself does sit and judge (yea even the
judges and princes themselves), to whom by God is given the sword, to the praise and
defense of good men, and to revenge and punish all open malefactors. Moreover, to
kings, princes, rulers, and magistrates, we affirm that chiefly and most principally the
conservation and purgation of the religion appertains; so that not only they are appointed
for civil policy, but also for maintenance of the true religion, and for suppressing of
idolatry and superstition whatsoever: as in David, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah,
Josiah, and others, highly commended for their zeal in that case, may be espied.
And therefore we confess and avow, that such as resist the supreme power (doing that
thing which appertains to his charge), do resist God's ordinance, and therefore cannot be
guiltless. And further, we affirm that whosoever denies unto them their aid, counsel and
comfort, while the princes and rulers vigilantly travail in the execution of their office,
that the same men deny their help, support and counsel to God, who, by the presence of his
lieutenant, craves it of them.
1. Rom. 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-14.
2. Rom. 13:2.
3. Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17.
4. Ps. 82:1.
5. 1 Pet. 2:14.
6. 1 Chron. 22-26.
7. 2 Chron. 17:6, etc.; 19:8, etc.;
8. 2 Chron. 29-31.
9. 2 Chron. 34-35.
The Gifts Freely Given to the Kirk
Albeit that the word of God truly preached, and the sacraments rightly ministered, and
discipline executed according to the word of God, be the certain and infallible signs of
the true kirk; yet do we not so mean that every particular person joined with such a
company be an elect member of Christ Jesus. For we acknowledge and confess, that
darnel, cockle, and chaff may be sown, grow, and in great abundance lie in the midst of
the wheat: that is, the reprobate may be joined in the society of the elect, and may
externally use with them the benefits of the word and sacraments; but such being but
temporal professors in mouth, but not in heart, do fall back and continue not to the
end; and therefore have they no fruit of Christ's death, resurrection, nor ascension.
But such as with heart unfeignedly believe, and with mouth boldly confess the Lord
Jesus (as before we have said) shall most assuredly receive these gifts: first, in this
life, remission of sins, and that by only faith in Christ's blood, insomuch that, albeit
sin remains and continually abides in these our mortal bodies, yet is it not imputed unto
us, but is remitted and covered with Christ's justice. Secondly, in the general
judgment there shall be given to every man and woman resurrection of the flesh; for the
sea shall give her dead, the earth those that therein be enclosed; yea, the Eternal, our
God, shall stretch out his hand upon the dust, and the dead shall arise incorruptible,
and that in the substance of the selfsame flesh that every man now bears, to receive
according to their works, glory or punishment. For such as now delight in vanity,
cruelty, filthiness, superstition, or idolatry, shall be adjudged to the fire
unquenchable, in which they shall be tormented for ever, as well in their own bodies, as
in their souls, which now they give to serve the devil in all abomination. But such as
continue in well doing to the end, boldly professing the Lord Jesus, we constantly believe
that they shall receive glory, honour, and immortality, to reign for ever in life
everlasting with Christ Jesus, to whose glorified body all his elect shall be made
like, when he shall appear again to judgment, and shall render up the kingdom to God
his Father, who then shall be, and ever shall remain all in all things, God blessed for
ever: to whom, with the Son, and with the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, now and
Arise, O Lord, and let thy enemies be confounded: Let them flee from thy presence
that hate thy godly name: Give thy servants strength to speak thy word in boldness; and
let all nations cleave to thy true knowledge.
So be it.
1. Matt. 13:24, etc.
2. Matt. 13:20-21.
3. Rom. 10:9,13.
4. Rom. 7.
2 Cor. 5:21.
5. John 5:28-29.
6. Rev. 20:13.
7. Job 19:25-27.
8. Matt. 25:31-46.
9. Rev. 14:10; Rom. 2:6-10.
10. Phil. 3:21.
11. 1 Cor. 15:24,28.
12. Num. 10:35; Ps. 68:1; Acts 4:29.