Confession of Elector Frederick III (1577)

Author:  We Are Reformed
Date: March 2, 2022

This confession is part of a series or collection of what's commonly labeled as the "Minor German Reformed Confessions" or "The Confessional Writings of the Reformed Churches in Germany".

This confession specifically is The Confession of Elector Frederick III. of the Palatinate, 1577. -- It was his last will and testament, and was published after his death by his son, John Casimir. It may be regarded as an explanatory appendix to the Heidelberg Catechism. It is a clear and strong testimony of his catholic and evangelical faith, and contains some wholesome warnings against the unchristian intolerance of the princes and theologians of his age.

This collection is available for free in Latin on Google Books here. You can easily translate and read them.


In the name of the holy, indivisible, divine Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.
I, Frederic, who by the grace of God am Count of the Rhine Palatinate, Archduke and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, and Duke of Bavaria, do, by way of this letter, make public confession to all mankind.

Let me begin by reminding you in a Christian manner from the Word of God that the eternal and temporal well-being, as well as peace, quietness, harmony, and general well being of all regiments, principalities, countries, and peoples - including that of their leaders, members, and subjects - do originate, grow, increase, inasmuch as one remains focused on God and His Word, promoting it, and ordering all actions and matters according to this Word as being the true and infallible guide. Even the heathen, who lack the true knowledge of this, do yet, by virtue of an innate, natural light see and acknowledge this in some measure.

Initially the ordinance or declaration of a last will, referred to as testament, proceeded primarily from the old fathers, patriarchs, and other godly men and women. This was formulated so that they could leave to their children, heirs, and posterity a sure testimony. Thereby they gave a sure testimony to said heirs concerning the religion and faith of their forefathers, which they received from God’s Word; and public confessions, by which they lived a godly life, were graciously sustained, protected, and upheld by God, and died at last. However, they also had all the more cause and reason for this, being both obligated and committed to follow in the Christian footsteps of their beloved and godly parents by emulating their example. They must therefore also see to it that the nation and people entrusted to them shall remain steadfast therein, insofar as they would be worthy of and enjoy in the same measure the temporal and eternal blessing of God Almighty.

This becomes manifest in the last words and testament of the beloved David (as well as of other patriarchs), when he says to his son Solomon, “I go the way of all the earth: be strong therefore, and show yourself a man; and keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do, and wherever you turn yourself: that the Lord may continue his word which he spoke concerning me, saying, If your children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you (said he) a man on the throne of Israel” (1 Kings 2:2–4).

Therefore, as a God-loving, Christian Elector, that which is eternal and imperishable is of far greater value to me than that which is temporal and perishable. We are therefore obligated to set forth our testament, it being our heart’s desire that our sons should have a thorough knowledge of this our fatherly testament and last will, not depriving them of our true confession - all to the glory of God, to the comfort of our conscience, as an eternal testimony regarding our faith, and as a faithful memorial to our dear and beloved sons, heirs, descendants, and entire posterity, as well as to our dear and beloved subjects and all of humanity, and whoever else this will reach.

And this is all the more necessary since in these last days numerous errors and religious disputes are instigated by restless individuals who are causing us (as well as others in our government) all manner of trouble, thereby causing confusion in the churches, and persuading many of the common folk that we are subscribing to and have affinity with erroneous views.

Not only do we wish to demonstrate that this our confession is founded on the true rock Christ Jesus our Savior and His divine Word, but it is also our desire that our dear children would yearn all the more joyfully and heartily to persevere steadfastly in this our Christian faith. It is also our desire that they would not depart from this in consequence of opposition and boisterous storm winds - which our government recently has had to endure, but which, to the praise of God, we, with the help of the Almighty, have been able to overcome - or that in the pursuit of their calling this could cause them to become fainthearted, fearful, or become negligent in fostering the continuance of such true, scriptural religion. We are therefore personally no less committed to the same truth which we, by the grace of the Most High, have acknowledged and confessed, and will adhere to until our last day.

Furthermore, with a true and steadfast heart, we begin by making the general confession that we assuredly believe everything that has been revealed, comprehended, taught, affirmed, and grounded in the divine, prophetic, and apostolic Scriptures and doctrines, doing so with a true, faithful, and uncorrupted understanding of Scripture. In like manner, the church, since the time of the apostles, has summarized the chief doctrines of the Christian faith in our Christian Creed (referred to as Symbolum Apostolorum), and subsequently gave a true and faithful exposition of this apostolic faith in the Symbolo Nicaeno and Athanasii.

This is the main foundation upon which we, in addition to all other faithful creeds (past, present, and future), build our faith. We confess that we shall thereby be saved according to Athanasius’s statement in his Symbolo: “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith.”

And since this confession of our Christian faith, together with all the submitted Apologia derived from the aforementioned prophetic and apostolic doctrine (as well as the symbolis just referred to), has been publicly endorsed in our time (in 1530), by Emperor Charles V in Augsburg as being a summarium, resting upon this as the incorruptible and chief cornerstone - which is the incorruptible, only, sure, and steadfast guiding principle. After having acknowledged and embraced the divine truth and having confessed the same, we have, being of a sound mind, subscribed to and sealed this declaration, along with other like-minded princes, for the preservation of Christian unity, and have accordingly also given orders that this truth must be taught and preached in our jurisdictions. In so doing, we acknowledge before everyone that this must be done in accordance with, and in conformity to, the divinely inspired prophetic and apostolic Scriptures.

We are specifically referring to our published catechism and church order, in which all the issues pertaining to Christian doctrine have been summarized in a clear, plain, and orderly fashion, and have partly been expounded in more detail.

However, we hereby declare more fully what lives in our hearts, so that our beloved children, our entire posterity, and everyone may know in summary what we specifically subscribe to and believe, and so that no one after our death would accuse us of endorsing erroneous and deceitful views, as well as sects - as is true in our evil world and for many restless people. We must say that even the Augsburg Confession and its Apologia in several points subscribe to another meaning than is according to the letter, mind, and teaching of the Word of God from which it draws and upon which it is founded. We thus believe, embrace, and confess from the bottom of our hearts the articles of our ancient, catholic, Christian faith, which are the following:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary: suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell (1): the third day He arose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead: I believe in the Holy Ghost: I believe an holy catholic church: the communion of saints: the forgiveness of sins: the resurrection of the body: and the life everlasting.

Apostle's Creed

That is, We believe and confess that the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, out of nothing created heaven and earth, and all that is comprehended in it, also upholds and governs it according to His eternal counsel and providence; and that He, not for any merit or worthiness in us, but purely out of grace and according to His divine providence, for the sake of His only and beloved Son Jesus Christ, is also our God and Father, in whom we trust so fully that we do not doubt but that He, no less than He has done hitherto, will provide us with all that we need for body and soul. Furthermore, since He has overruled for good all evil inflicted upon us by the Devil and his bride, the world, He will no less be inclined to do so from here on in, being able to do so as an almighty God, and willing to do so as a faithful Father.

Moreover, we believe and confess that Jesus Christ - who is the Son of the almighty God and has eternally been begotten of the Father, is the one and only God, coequal with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and who at the appointed time, decreed in the eternal counsel of God - was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the eternally pure virgin Mary, thereby assuming our flesh, and was subsequently born in this world. All this transpired for the purpose that He would be our King and High Priest (for which reason He is called Christ), and our Mediator and Brother, so that we could be received in grace, and that He, as a faithful Jesus and Savior, could reconcile us with His Father. We also believe that to that end He suffered a most shameful death under the judge, Pontius Pilate, so that He could deliver us from eternal death, in which we otherwise would have remained; and that He has fully set us free from the curse which, by virtue of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, has been passed upon all men.

We also believe and confess that the efficacy of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross is such that, by virtue of this and through the operation of the Holy Ghost, our old man is crucified, dead, and buried with Him, so that the evil lust of the flesh would no longer reign in us, but rather, that we would give ourselves as a thank offering to Him.

We believe furthermore that He was buried, and therefore truly died - yes, also that He descended into hell (2) - so that in our greatest tribulations, we might be assured that our Lord Jesus Christ, by His inexpressible anguish, pain, and terror which He also suffered in His soul on the cross, would deliver us from hellish fear and pain, so that neither hell nor the devil can do harm to our salvation. We also believe wholeheartedly that on the third day He arose from the dead. From this we know first of all that He, by His resurrection, has overcome death, so that He could make us partakers of that righteousness which He merited for us by His bitter suffering and death. Second, we believe that by His power we are thereby resurrected unto a new life. And third, we believe that the resurrection of Christ yields the steadfast assurance that, He first of all having risen from death, we also will arise unto eternal life on the last day.

In light of this we also believe that Christ the Lord truly, visibly, and in His glorified humanity has ascended into heaven and has seated Himself at the right hand of His heavenly Father; that is, that with heavenly and divine glory, He showed Himself before all holy angels and men to be the head of His entire church. From thence He will, on the last day, as visibly and truly as He ascended, come again on the clouds in the glory of His Father to judge the living and the dead. However, we know with no less certainty that although the Lord Jesus Christ (who is very man and very God) according to His human nature is no longer on earth, but rather, in heaven, He will nevertheless at no time depart from us according to His Godhead, majesty, grace, and Spirit. But do not charge us with saying that both natures of Christ are separated, for it is not the human nature which is everywhere present, but rather the divine nature; for since this divine nature is infinite and therefore omnipresent, it necessarily follows that it must extend beyond His assumed humanity to which He is yet personally united. Thus the divine nature never departed from heaven - not even when Christ was conceived in the virgin Mary. And concerning all that the Lord Christ has suffered and done, we believe that He has done so on our behalf, and that He has given Himself to us for that very purpose. It is especially this truth that comforts us supremely in that we are assured that our flesh is already in heaven, and that our Savior Christ from there grants us His Holy Spirit as a pledge, by whose power we seek that which is above where Christ is at the right hand of God the Father, and not that which is upon earth.

Third, we believe and confess that the Holy Ghost, together with God the Father and God the Son, is the true, eternal, and only God. Furthermore, He has been given unto us, so that by a true faith in Christ we should be partakers of all His benefits, and that as our Comforter He will be and remain with us unto eternity.

Concerning the catholic, Christian church, we believe that the Son of God, by the Holy Ghost and His divine Word, gathers unto Himself, from the beginning of the world until the end, a congregation, chosen unto eternal life and united in true faith, from the entire human race; that He is still gathering, protecting, and sustaining her; and that we also are, and will eternally remain, a living member of the same.

Regarding the communion of saints, we believe and confess that, together with all believers, and as members of the Lord Christ, we are partakers of all His treasures and benefits. We therefore acknowledge ourselves to be indebted to use all the gifts God has communicated to us to the benefit and salvation of our other fellow members, and that we do so willingly and joyfully.

Furthermore, we believe and confess that God the Father, for the sake of the satisfaction and complete atonement of Christ, will nevermore remember our sins, nor our sinful nature with which we are engaged in a life long battle. Rather, [God the Father] will all the more graciously bestow upon us the righteousness of Christ, so that we have nothing to fear before the tribunal of God.

Regarding our corporal resurrection, we believe and confess not only that our soul will be separated from our body by virtue of temporal death, and will be taken at once to Christ her head, but also that our flesh through the power of Christ will be reunited to our soul, and will be conformed to the glorious body of Christ. Regarding eternal life, we believe and confess that since we now already experience the beginning of eternal joy in our hearts, that we also, after this life, will be partakers of a perfect salvation which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man to conceive; and that, to praise God therein for ever. To this end, help us God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the one eternal and true God, Amen.

And since there are many who render our innocence suspect - as if we maintain and believe concerning the most worthy and holy sacraments that which is contrary to what the Scriptures require us to maintain and believe regarding them - therefore, in addition to the aforesaid confession of our faith, we also wanted to make a simple and yet written confession regarding these points.

Therefore, we believe and confess with our mouth as well as with our heart that all the sacraments of both the Old and the New Testaments have been ordained and instituted by God Himself, having as their purpose that all of them would point us to (as by a finger) and signify the bloody sacrifice of Christ, once performed upon the cross. It is thus beyond doubt that all the patriarchs and believers of the Old Testament have only been comforted in believing when they slew their lambs and other cattle, considering the seed of the woman (the Lord Jesus Christ) as being slain, who would make full payment for the sins of the entire world. We thus view the holy sacraments as Sacrae rei Symbola (“symbols of sacred things”) and invisibilis gratiae visibilia signa (“visible signs of invisible grace”); that is, they are visible signs or seals of holy things, namely, the grace of God in Christ, by which we are assured and confirmed that all of this is promised to us in His Word by God Himself and His holy prophets and apostles. We therefore believe and hold for certain that God the Lord purposed to be mindful of the foolishness of the human race, knowing how difficult it would be for the children of men to believe the naked Word of God and the preaching of the holy gospel. It has therefore pleased Him to place things before our eyes with which we interact daily, so that in so doing we would be all the more acquainted with this, and our faith would thereby be stirred up and strengthened and we be all the more prepared to believe the preached Word. All of this can be easily explained and understood by making a comparison with worldly things. Upon receiving a letter or document from an emperor, king, or other great lord, even though this has been signed by such a dignitary himself, we will not be satisfied with it unless a seal is attached. However, when a seal is attached to such a letter, we will be satisfied and we then may say that such an emperor, king, etc., is addressing me in what he has written.

But now we must speak of the use of the sacraments. We therefore believe and confess that the holy sacraments of the New Testament (that is, Holy Baptism and the Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ) have been instituted by Christ to the end that Christians would use and highly value them, and not despise them. For not only are they symbolic of the Scriptures and a public affirmation before God and man of the covenant and grace of God, but they are also preeminently and primarily a sign and witness of the grace of God toward us personally. Thus, when young children are born to us in this world, we must not, as many do, let them become eight, nine, or ten years old until they arrive at a reasonable understanding, and only then baptize them. Rather, we ought to be much more comforted by the fact that Christ said to His disciples in Mark 10:14, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” If, however, the kingdom of God includes our children, which is undoubtedly true, why should we then be in doubt that they are also included and comprehended in the covenant which God made with the father of all the faithful, holy Abraham? Therefore, they shall in no wise be excluded from Holy Baptism.

Regarding the efficacy and functioning of Holy Baptism, we believe and confess that our children (who are comprehended in the aforementioned covenant), upon having been baptized in accordance with the article of our ancient, catholic, Christian faith, and shall be instructed therein accordingly, shall also become partakers of the bloody death of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all His benefits which He has merited thereby. This means accordingly that when the external sign, the holy sacrament (which is but ordinary water), is applied to their body by the minister of the Word of God, they are simultaneously baptized spiritually, that is, internally, by Christ Himself with His shed blood, and are regenerated by the Holy Ghost and are thereby made a new creature. No more is the ordinary water of the holy sacrament of baptism either the blood of Christ or the Holy Spirit than that the Holy Spirit or the blood of Christ is the ordinary water itself. Furthermore, though the ordinary water according to its nature and characteristics can do no more than only cleanse the body externally, and thus have no effect upon the soul, yet the blood of Christ does internally cleanse the soul unto eternal life. Thus the minister does the one thing, and Christ the other. The holy John the Baptist testified of this in Matthew 3:11: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” This can also be proven from the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:2–4, namely, that in a figure the Israelites were baptized in a cloud and in the sea; they were all fed by the manna, and they all drank from the water that flowed from the rock.

When speaking of the most venerable and holy Supper of our Lord Christ, we readily believe and confess with all Christians that the Lord Christ initially instituted such a supper and celebrated it with His disciples. Therefore it ought not to be despised by Christians, but rather, should be highly esteemed by them. The Lord Christ thus instituted this distribution and partaking of the bread and wine to that end that they would remember His suffering and testify of His death until He comes. Thus, they should first of all be reminded and be assured of, and accordingly and thereby before God and man, acknowledge and praise this greatest of all benefits, namely, that upon taking hold and appropriating both the body of Christ, given over unto death for them, and His blood shed for them - all this for the forgiveness of their sins - as truly become spiritual food and drink unto eternal life, just as the visible bread and wine are food and drink for temporal life. This proceeds from being in Christ as members are in their head and the branch is in the vine, having been ingrafted by His Spirit, and therefore for His sake securing the pardon of their sins, righteousness, and eternal life. We also believe that presently we do not have another Lord’s Supper as when the Lord Christ Himself instituted the same in His own last supper and celebrated it with His disciples. There is therefore no other supper, and much less should we celebrate something other than this, unless we would willfully act contrary to the institution of Christ.

It is, however, undeniable, and must be acknowledged by all (who neither willfully nor stubbornly wish to argue) that the Lord Christ did not, as He was seated at the table and was not yet crucified, have His disciples eat His natural and physical body with their physical mouth. Much less did He give them His blood to drink which was still in His body and had not yet been shed; nor did He at all command that they should eat His body which would be nailed to the cross the next day, and drink His blood which first of all would have to be shed, as the words of the Lord Christ sufficiently indicate. (Such is the dreadful confusion one is causing in the church of Christ by insisting that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are eaten and drunk in their natural and physical essence with the physical mouth. And they who can neither believe nor confess this, and who cannot believingly embrace this, are maligned as being desecrators of the sacrament and the worst of blasphemers.) It is beyond doubt for us that the disciples had previously been sufficiently instructed in Capernaum what it meant to eat His body and to drink His blood, so that there was no reason for them to have the least doubt at this occasion. Peter himself made a glorious confession when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.”

From this confession of Peter (which he did not merely make for himself but on behalf of all twelve apostles) it is evident that he had sufficiently comprehended this sermon in Capernaum, and thus neither he nor the other eleven had any cause to ask what the Lord Christ meant with such an expression.

We therefore believe and confess that in the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ, as it was observed according to His own ordinance, believers (for whom alone this supper has been instituted), as well as the disciples at this first Lord’s Supper, the truly surrendered and crucified body of Christ, with all of its heavenly treasures and benefits which He has merited by His death, was given as food for their hungry souls; and that His blood which He had shed for the forgiveness of their sins was given and dispensed by Christ as a drink for their souls. The time difference (distantia temporis) did not hinder the disciples; that is, He neither had yet surrendered His body to be crucified nor had shed His blood. And yet, according to the command of Christ, the disciples ate and drank His true, natural human body which had been born of the eternally pure virgin Mary, and as yet had to be sacrificed on their behalf, as well as His true blood, which as yet had to be shed for them, as if it had already been given and shed for them. Likewise, we and all believers are not hindered by the distantia loci, that is, the difference of location, so that together with the beloved apostles, in accordance with the Lord’s institution, we, in like fashion, eat this body of Christ and drink His blood. We do so even though the Lord Christ with the same natural body is no longer here on earth, but rather, is at the right hand of His heavenly Father from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead—as is taught and confirmed by the articles of our Christian faith. Therefore we ought not to ask here whether He could be physically present on earth at our celebration of the Lord’s Supper as was true for the first Lord’s Supper with His disciples, but rather, it should suffice us that upon His word we know that with such a body He does not wish to be present on earth in either a visible or invisible [form], or in either a comprehensible or an incomprehensible form. It is no less true, however, that as the almighty Son of God, He is at all times and in all places present with His grace and Holy Spirit, primarily [so] also at His Holy Supper, where He is both the host and the nourishment. Therefore, as the minister distributes this most worthy sacrament and sign (sacramenta; sigilla), that is, the holy bread and the cup of the Lord, in like fashion the Lord communicates Himself as food and drink to those who believe on Him; that is, not as far as their temporal life is concerned, since the holy signs of wine and bread simply cannot be the true food and drink for man, but rather, that their hungry, thirsty, and contrite souls, in the midst of and with the acknowledgement of their sins and the wrath of God, may be nourished and refreshed unto eternal life and salvation.

Immediately this question surfaces: Beloved, how can Christ the Lord, as He is bodily in heaven above, just as we all are here on earth, nourish us with this very body? With the holy Ambrose we reply: Though we are with our feet upon earth, we are nevertheless with our head in heaven above. And with Paul we say that by one Spirit we have been baptized into one body, and are all refreshed by one Spirit. In this our confession we are referring to and drawing from the holy, divine Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, and thereby acknowledge freely and before God’s countenance, in whose presence no one can lie, that we consider it to be undoubtedly true that if we believed and confessed otherwise regarding the most holy sacraments, we would be overturning the article of our ancient, true, and Christian faith, and would therefore not be able to have any standing before the judgment of Christ on the last day. Since, therefore, we confess in the articles of our undoubted, Christian faith that there is only one, eternal, almighty, incomprehensible God, subsisting in three Persons, who has created all things and governs and sustains them, it must be without a doubt (and thus not as many claim), that the human nature of the Son of God, and thus of our Lord Christ, or rather, that the man Christ, according to His divine nature, is omnipotent, omnipresent, and is active everywhere. Since the eternal, only begotten Son of God, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, took upon Himself from the virgin our body and soul along with all the properties of such an identical human nature - a nature which He will retain eternally, doing so for our salvation and comfort—He, after His resurrection, ascension, and glorification, is without a doubt at the right hand of the Father in the same human nature; that is, visibly, tangibly, and at all times in one location. According to His good pleasure, He is present there, as He testifies of Himself in Luke 24. If this Jesus Christ alone is our Savior, Mediator, High Priest, King, and Prophet, if He is our Lord and the Head of His church, then ministers, by the use of their hands, will not be able to baptize us with the Spirit and blood of Christ, but rather, only with external water. They will also not be able to feed and refresh us with the body and blood of Christ, but rather, only with the visible bread and wine. Christ alone, by His Spirit, is able to make us partakers of His body and blood unto the forgiveness of sins and unto eternal life.

Given that He truly suffered for us, was truly crucified, and truly died, His humanity at the time of His suffering was subject to weakness, suffering, and death. Since His body was truly placed in the grave, He neither in the grave nor after His burial was external to the grave and thus alive at all places.

If He truly, for our benefit, descended into hell(2), then He was not simultaneously seated at the right hand of the Father in heavenly bliss and majesty.

If He truly arose from the grave and from death, then His soul was not in His body immediately prior to that, just as He was then not beyond the boundaries of the grave, nor did He remain there afterwards.

If He truly ascended into heaven, and is seated there as a genuine man at the right hand of the Father, then He was not there in His humanity prior to this moment, nor did He after His ascension remain invisibly below, nor was everywhere present and yet intangible. Instead, He manifests Himself visibly and tangibly in the heavenly realm before the countenance of holy angels and men. Thus He cannot, unless we be guilty of public and abominable idolatry, be present in the bread of the Lord’s Supper, or somewhere at a given location, and then again be in heaven above - and thus, when seeking Him in prayer, He is worshiped and honored by us as being physically present.

If He is truly to descend from heaven in the clouds as He ascended there, then He cannot already be invisibly present here below, nor will He be visibly and invisibly everywhere present. Rather, in His humanity He will be at one location, namely, upon the clouds, and will manifest Himself as the Judge of the living and the dead.

Since He sends His Holy Spirit into the hearts of His elect, gathering from the beginning until the end of the world a universal church out of the entire human race, making them partakers of one and the same fellowship with their head Christ, and of all His heavenly benefits, then such communion of saints does not come to pass by the body of Christ entering our body, either visibly or invisibly, but rather, as the Spirit of Christ dwells and operates within Him and us. Furthermore, we who attend the Lord’s Table shall not enjoy any other indwelling and communion of Christ than has been experienced by all believers, who from the beginning of the world have been saved, or who are not able to attend the Lord’s Table, but who nevertheless have and will eternally retain the same. Christ will neither communicate nor give Himself to be enjoyed by us in any other way so that He, also upon partaking of His Supper, will remain and dwell in us not only in this present [life] but also eternally in the life to come. It is therefore certain and sure that He does not give Himself to be enjoyed by us and that He then soon departs from us again, which to the great dishonor of the Son of God, has been fabricated by popery(3). Rather, He will eternally be and remain in us.

Given the fact that He has merited for us the forgiveness of sins only through the bitter suffering and death of the cross (that is, insofar as we receive the same with a true faith and appropriate this as our satisfaction and payment for our sins), then it cannot be that He had a deified and omnipresent humanity, but that He was a true, visible, and tangible man who was also mortal, and thus had in every respect a body like unto our own, sin excepted. Else we would not have been delivered by Him from our sins (Heb. 2).

If our flesh is to be resurrected from the dead, and if we are to be partakers of eternal life through Christ, then our Head Christ Jesus could not have transformed His true humanity into a spiritual, invisible, and omnipresent nature. Instead, He will eternally retain a unique human nature that is identical to ours so that we will eternally be His brethren, His members who are engrafted into Him as branches into the vine, and will be and remain His flesh and bone.

And finally, since that communion with Christ and all His benefits and blessings (that is righteousness and eternal life) could not have been merited in any other way than through the death of Christ on the cross, and cannot be experienced except by way of true faith, wrought by the Holy Ghost in our hearts, it is certain that neither the use of the sacrament nor any other internal or external activity can make us partakers of Christ Himself and His benefits ex opere operato (that is, by virtue of the working it is done); but rather, the holy sacraments are divine signs and seals and are thus external instruments of the Holy Ghost whereby He strengthens our faith, leading us and pointing us to the only sacrifice of Christ made on the cross for us. There can be no different communion with Christ when we believe the visible word, or the promise of the sacrament, as when we believe and experience the preached and audible word of the gospel. This means that even though the visible signs can be abused by the ungodly and unbelievers to their damnation, the invisible heavenly gifts and benefits, as they are presented to our faith, can only be and remain the portion of believers.

And upon having made such a confession of our Christian and true faith, we now, and at all times, commend our soul when it will be separated from the body to the holy, indivisible Trinity: God the Father, our Creator, God the Son, our Redeemer, Mediator, and only Savior Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Ghost, our true Comforter. We do so with the highest desire and attention of our hearts, humbly praying that our only Redeemer and Savior would extend His gracious, merciful, and saving hand over us, increase our faith, and grant to us a Christian, good, and fitting end. When we shall then bid farewell to this earthly body and this wretched vale of tears, He will surely carry and receive us into the eternal rest, joy, bliss, and into His Father’s kingdom which He merited, prepared for, and promised to all believers by His bitter death and the shedding of His precious blood, and will surely bring and take us to all His saints and the gathering of all Christian believers.

We believe that with the Christian confession we have just articulated, we shall be saved, and will appear with a joyful countenance before the judgment seat of Christ. We therefore exhort, remind, and beseech our beloved children, heirs, and descendants hereby in a friendly and fatherly manner; and we urge our God-given subjects, relatives, and next of kin, officers, especially of our university, schoolteachers and ministers, whatever their values, ideas, positions may be, and their posterity, that they would graciously decree and also engage and direct their loved ones, doing so in the power of God’s unchangeable command, as God said concerning Abraham, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him” (Gen. 18:19). And we also, with the greatest zeal and earnestness, desire that they would not only personally persevere until their end in confessing the truth of the holy gospel and the aforementioned Christian confession, which is acknowledged and confessed to be that truth that only saves—by which, due to God’s inexpressible grace and loving-kindness, the dreadful darkness of the papacy has been unraveled and rebutted - but also that, to their comfort, they would confess this before God and the world, and will never permit themselves to be deprived of this. Thus we wish with all our heart that, with us, they would be partakers of this eternal salvation. It is, however, also our desire that they would expeditiously and preeminently, as Christian, godly princes and rulers, to whom the protection and propagation of this divinely sanctioned truth has been solemnly entrusted and commanded by God Almighty as their highest and preeminent obligation, be engaged in this with extraordinary zeal, so that this holy and salvific gospel and this incontrovertible, incorruptible, and everlasting truth of God as embodied in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, be taught and preached purely, transparently, and in undiluted form to all their beloved subjects and relatives. May the result be that by and by, with the blessing of the Almighty, this may be implanted in and inherited by their posterity, so that they may also become partakers of the gracious promise of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). We also desire that they would faithfully remember God’s command and words of comfort communicated to our beloved Joshua, when he said, “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded you: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein” (Josh. 1:7–8).

Second, when everything transpires in such a fashion, that is, when God’s Word and also His holy sacraments are proclaimed, administered, and presented in a manner that is pure, undiluted, transparent, and, unadulterated, and when God Almighty by His salvific Word gathers a church unto Himself, so soon will the enemy of Christianity, the loathsome Satan, on the one hand sow weeds among her, and on the other hand with all his power oppose and assault such divinely ignited light. He does so not only with external force, but also by stirring up all manner of grievous division, discord, and heretical and seductive opinions, seeking to overthrow and extinguish this light. Many in our government are conscious of the fact that both are occurring, and are facing this not without danger. Specifically, there are several troublemakers who, driven by pure ambition and determined hatred, are spreading abroad (referring to the books which they themselves have printed), and are doing their utmost to slander our Christian church order and catechism (both of which are grounded in God’s Word), as being heretical doctrine; and are seeking to render them suspect among many of the common people. We, however, with the help and grace of the Almighty, will not allow ourselves to be led astray from the infallible rule of His divine Word, nor will we allow ourselves to be frightened by external violence, but rather, we will engage faithfully and steadfastly in our office and calling. Finally, in a wonderful way, and to the great and evident temporal and eternal benefit, blessing, and well-being of our subjects who have obediently embraced this confessed truth, we have also resisted and prevailed against those who, as stated, have opposed our Christian catechism and church order, and have closed their mouths by means of the Word of God. Consequently, the eyes of many were opened, and they were led to confess the true doctrine, as well as to a correct understanding of our true, Christian religion.

Therefore, we beseech, admonish, and remind our beloved sons, as well as our councilmen, tradesmen, servants, subjects, and especially our university and church in Heidelberg, that since the deceit and devices of the Devil and his cohorts increasingly and daily endanger all believers in Christ, they must, in the face of such danger, be all the more faithful, industrious, and diligent in exercising their oversight, so that in the discharge of their task they would avoid provoking the severe wrath and displeasure of God, as well as eternal and temporal punishment. And thus they must promote the eternal well-being of themselves and all their descendants, and be engaged with the highest zeal not to be intimidated and frightened by the threats of the abounding and offensive squabbling and discord, fear of man, violence, and the threats of a vain world in regard to the acknowledged and confessed truth. Instead, exercise your oversight, be watchful, and be vigilant all the more, and diligently exercise yourself therein, so that this divine truth would be steadfastly upheld and propagated throughout our jurisdictions in which it has already been proclaimed and embraced. However, until now this truth has neither been sufficiently acknowledged nor taken root due to the aforementioned interference of a loathsome Satan and other deficiencies; and therefore by means of blessed, Christian means we have introduced, expounded, and planted the same unto the eternal and temporal well-being of our subjects and others.

Specifically, however, and in the third place, our beloved sons should be cautious for and be on guard against restless clergymen and school teachers who presently have the audacity in matters of religion and faith to stir up all manner of offensive strife, verbal squabbling, and harmful condemnations in Christian churches and schools which fundamentally, and in regard to the preeminent points of our Christian religion, are one with us, and who, when it comes to the salvation of their souls, also trust in our only Redeemer and Savior Jesus Christ. However, driven by pure ambition and misguided zeal, they are implementing matters for which they lack authority, under the pretext of the discipline of the Holy Ghost, and are no less guilty of lording over the consciences of both the authorities and the citizens as is true for the accursed papacy, thereby creating a new hierarchy. This not only results in unsettled and embittered hearts in both the worldly and spiritual domain, as well as their disturbance and demise, but it also gives the Pope and his followers reason to persecute our Christian religion with fire, sword, and the elimination of countless other martyrs, and sanctioning his tyrants to do so. Regretfully, also on our side there are too many examples at hand in royal families, also in foreign and neighboring nations where our beloved gospel either has been in vogue already for a long time or partially has just begun to flourish, where wretched confusion, grief, and calamities have been ignited. It is therefore reasonable that all Christian governments, churches, and schools should examine themselves in light of this. They should diligently protect themselves against such troubling, disturbing, and hostile individuals, and never allow themselves to be bewitched by them to their own detriment and by either stirring up and embittering others, or causing them to separate. Rather, they should flee from and shun such individuals; when upon patient waiting there is no improvement, they should be banished so that they will not be complicit in the horrible and dreadful persecution and shedding of blood, both in the German nation as well as in foreign nations, all of which issue forth from such unchristian slandering and condemning of one another. For pressing and other more Christian and important reasons, we have therefore frequently, together with other rulers and princes compared, united ourselves, and then departed, so that the godly ministers, upon the execution of the appropriate discipline for such occurring and destructive evil, will also be at liberty to refute such prevailing error from God’s Word with Christian humility - not to stir up discord, but rather, that its aim be edification and improvement. (4)

  1. What does the Apostles' Creed mean that Jesus descended into hell? []
  2. What does the Apostles' Creed mean that Jesus descended into hell? [][]
  3. the doctrines, practices, and ceremonies associated with the Pope or the papal system; Roman Catholicism. []
  4. Translated by Bart Elshout []
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