The First Helvetic Confession (Second Basel Confession) (1536)

We Are Reformed

This Confession was composed by a number of Swiss divines (Bullinger, Grynæus, Myconius, and others), delegated and assembled for the purpose, in the city of Basle, A.D. 1536. It is the first Confession which represented the faith of all the Reformed cantons of Switzerland; the preceding ones had merely a local authority. It is called the First Helvetic Confession to distinguish it from the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), which acquired still greater authority. It is also less aptly called the Second Confession of Basle (Conf. Basileensis Posterior), from the place of its composition and publication, in distinction from the First Confession of Basle, or of Mühlhausen (1534), which continued in force in these two cities.

This confession has been translated from the original Latin to English. The Latin text was published first under the title: Ecclesiarum per Helvetiam Confessio Fidei summaria et generalis.

I. On the Sacred Scripture.

Canonical Scripture contains the Word of God, delivered by the Holy Spirit, and proposed to the world by the prophets and apostles, the most perfect and most ancient philosophy of all, all piety, and every aspect of life alone.

II. On the Interpretation of Scripture.

This interpretation must be sought from itself alone, so that it is a self-directed interpreter, governed by the rule of charity and faith.

III. Of the Ancient Fathers.

From this kind of interpretation, so far as the holy Fathers have not departed, we receive them not only as interpreters of Scripture, but as worshiping the chosen organs of God.

IV. On the Traditions of Men.

By the rest of the traditions of men, no matter how spectacular and accepted, whatever things lead us away, we reply the Lord’s saying thus, In vain do they worship me, who teach the teachings of men.

V. The scope of Scripture.

The status of this canonical scripture is that God wants well for the human race and has expressed that benevolence through his Son Christ. Through faith she reaches us and is received only, and is expressed in love for our neighbors.

VI. God.

We feel thus of God, that there is one substance: that he is three in the persons, and that he is Almighty. Who, as he created by his Word, that is, his Son, all things out of nothing, so by his providence, justly and truly and wisely, will he govern, preserve, and cherish all things.

VII. Man and his strengths.

Man is the most perfect image of God on earth, and having the first of all visible creatures, consisting of soul and body, of whom this mortal, the former, is immortal; rendered liable to calamity.

VIII. Original Sin.

And this plague, which they call original, spread so much to the whole human race, that the son of God, and the enemy of God, could be cured by no means of wrath, except the divine through Christ. For if any good corn survives here, it is continually weakened by our vices, it faces the worse. For the power of evil surpasses, and permits neither to pursue reason nor to cultivate the divinity of mind.

IX. Free will.

Whence we give man free will so that we who, knowing and willing to do good and evil, experience ourselves, we may indeed do evil of our own free will, and embrace and pursue good things, unless we, being enlightened by the grace of Christ, driven by his Spirit, we cannot. For it is God who works in us both to will and to act according to his good will. And salvation from God, from us is destruction.

X. The Eternal Counsel of God on the Restoration of Man.

This man, therefore, addicted to this fault of condemnation, and incurs a just indignation, yet God the Father never ceased to take care of it. That which is from the first promises, and the whole law (which arouses sin, does not extinguish it) is also evident from Christ destined for this.

XI. Jesus Christ and the things that come through Christ.

This Christ, the true Son of God, and the true God, and true man, since at the predetermined time he assumed the whole man, that is, consisting of soul and body, in one individual person possessing two but intermixed natures, so that he might restore the dead to life, and make us heirs of God he became our brother.

By the sacred union of the Godhead, our flesh (except for sin alone, since it was necessary for the sacrifice to be unsullied) in all respects like that, from the untouched Virgin Mary, working with the Holy Spirit, she delivered us to death for the expiation of all sin.

That the same hope and confidence in us might be full and perfect of our immortality, he himself placed his flesh, raised from death, into heaven at the right hand of the Almighty Father.

Here, triumphing over death, sin, and all those below, the conqueror and our leader, and our head, and the truly supreme Pontiff, sitting at the right hand of the Father, protects and drives our cause forever, while he restores us to the image in which we were created.

We expect him to come to the end of all ages, and to bring the true and upright judge, and judgment upon all flesh, to that judgment, which was first aroused, and to raise the godly to heaven, and to condemn the ungodly in body and soul to eternal destruction.

As he is the only mediator, mediator, victim, and also our high priest, master, and king, so we acknowledge him alone and believe with all our heart that reconciliation, redemption, sanctification, atonement, wisdom, protection, our only assertion: all here simply for our life and safety the middle, except Christ alone.

XII. The scope of the Evangelical Doctrine.

Therefore, in every doctrine of the Gospel this ought to be instilled first and foremost, that we alone should be saved by the mercy of God and the merit of Christ. In order that men may understand what they need, their sins must always be most clearly indicated by the law and the death of Christ.

XIII. Christian and his Responsibilities.

But we do not obtain these divine benefits, and the true sanctification of the Spirit of God, until by mere faith in God, we obtain by no means either our strength or our merits.

XIV. Faith.

This certain and unmistakable faith of all things to be hoped for is the substance and apprehension of God’s benevolence. From love springs forth, and soon the fruit of all the distinguished virtues springs up. We do not, however, attribute anything to these services, although to the pious, but to ourselves simply the justification and the salvation gained by the grace of God.

And thus indeed is the only true worship of God: faith, I say, is no confidence in works, the most beautiful of works.

XV. Church.

And out of such stones upon this living rock, in this manner unbuilt, built church, and we hold that the holy collection of all the saints is the bride of Christ and the immaculate, which Christ washes and purifies with his blood, and at length places and delivers it to his Father without blemish and wrinkle.

And since it is known by the eyes of God alone, yet by certain external rites, instituted by Christ himself, and by the public and lawful discipline of the Word of God, it is not only discerned, but so established, that no one is esteemed without them, except the singular privilege of God.

XVI. On the Ministry of the Word.

And for this reason we acknowledge that the ministers of the church are co-workers of God (which Paul also acknowledges), through whom he administers both the knowledge of himself and the remission of sins, turning men to himself, erecting, comforting, frightening and even judging. In such a way, however, that we may ascribe all virtue and efficacy to the Lord in these things, we still serve the ministers. For it is certain that this virtue and effectiveness are not bound to any creature, but are dispensed with by the free condescension of God, and to whom it is certain that he will. [For there is nothing that waters, nor he that plants, but God that gives growth.]

XVII. Ecclesiastical power.

And the very word and feeding of the Lord’s flock, which is the proper power of the keys, prescribing to all, both the highest and the lowest, to be most sacred and inviolable, and even divine the vote of God must be entrusted to the minister only by a fixed and deliberate vote of the church.

XVIII. Election of Ministers.

For this function is to no one, whom both the skill of divine law, and the innocence of life, and the zeal of Christ’s name have learned and judged, are to be given to the ministers of the church, and to those to whom this business has been entrusted in the name of a Christian magistrate of the church. And since this is the true election of God, it is rightly proved by the vote of the church and the imposition of the hands of the priests.

XIX. Who is the shepherd.

Christ himself, the true head and pastor of his church, is the only one who gives pastors and teachers of his church who has been entrusted with this power of keys legitimately and legitimately in the external church. Whence we by no means acknowledge them by title only as shepherds and the capital of Rome.

XX. The Responsibility of the Ministers.

The chief task of this mission is to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins through Christ: to pray for the people incessantly, to watch tirelessly in the holy pursuits and word of God, and to protect the healthy citizens of Christ by the sword of the Spirit and by art of all kinds. but to warn the vicious, to reprove, to coerce, and to lurk at a greater distance, to the church, that is, in the conspiracy of the confederates of Christ, with pious consent, to cast out and proscribe the whole dominion; For he returned to the church of a sickly citizen of Christ, if, acknowledging his error, he confessed his error, turning his minds and interests, and confessing his error, and already requiring sound discipline, and exhilarating all the pious with a new zeal of piety.

XXI. On the Strength and Effectiveness of the Sacraments.

There are two signs, which are called [in the Church of Christ] and the sacraments, baptism and the Eucharist. These symbols of esoteric things consist not of bare signs, but at the same time signs and things. For in baptism water is a sign, but the thing itself is regeneration and adoption to the people of God. In the Eucharist the bread and wine are signs, but the thing is the communion of the body of the Lord, salvation gained and forgiveness of sins. These things, indeed, are perceived as signs by the mouth of the body, so by the faith of the spirit. For in the things themselves the whole fruit of the sacraments is.

Whence we assert that the sacraments are not only tokens of a Christian society, but also to be symbols of divine grace, by which the ministers, the Lord, will cooperate to that end which he promises, offers and performs; is transcribed.

XXI. Baptism.

After the institution of the Lord, baptism is a bath of regeneration, which the Lord offers and represents to his elect with a visible sign through the service of the Church, as said and explained above.

In this holy bath we baptize our children because it would be unfair that we should deprive those who are born of us, a people of God, from the fellowship of the people of God, who are destined by the divine word and are those who are who are to be presumed to have been chosen by God.

XXIII. The Eucharist.

But the mystical supper, in which the Lord offers his body and blood, that is, himself to his own, truly in order that he may live more and more in them and in him. Not that the body and blood of the Lord are naturally united to the bread and wine: either they are included here locally, or any carnal presence is established here. But that bread and wine are symbols of the institution of the Lord, to which by the Lord Himself, through the ministry of the church, the true communion of body and blood is offered, not to the food of the perishing belly, but to the food of eternal life.

We use this sacred food often, because at the warning of this crucified death and blood, looking at the eyes of faith and our salvation, not without the taste of the heavenly life and the true sense of eternal life, we are refreshed by this spiritual, life-giving and deepest food We exult in words of unspeakable joy, for the sake of finding this life, and we are poured out on all our strength and by all our might, in thanksgiving for so wonderful the kindness of Christ toward us.

And so it is rightly done to our greatest man, which some think that we attribute little to the sacred symbols. For these things are holy and authentic, since they were instituted and accepted by Christ the high priest, presenting the things signified in the manner in which we have spoken, presenting the evidence of their achievements, presenting such lofty achievements, and bringing to light these mysteries by a wonderful analogy of things signified most clearly. To these they supply aid and support to the faith, and, finally, instead of an oath which has been initiated, bind the head of Christ and the church. We feel so sacred about the sacred symbols. But we give the power and the power of the one who gives life and the sanctifying life forever to him, who is life, to whom be praise forever and ever. Amen.

XXIV. The Sacred Congregation.

We think that the Sacred Congregation should be performed in such a way that, above all, the Word of God is proclaimed daily in public to the people, the hidden scriptures are to be brought to light and produced daily by qualified ministers.

The other unprofitable and innumerable intricacies of ceremonies, vessels, veils, garments, torches, altars, gold, and silver, to the extent that they serve to pervert religion, especially idols and images, which are for worship and scandal, and all that kind are profaned, far from our sacred assembly let us keep away.

XXV. The Middle.

Those which are called means, and are properly so, that even though a pious man can freely use them everywhere and at all times, he will use them only knowingly and out of charity, for edification alone.

XXVI. Of the Heretics and Dissidents.

We also keep away from those who depart from the holy society of the church, they either impose on others or follow the tenets of the church. Catabaptists 1 today suffer from this evil in the first place. And if they do not persistently obey the admonition of the church and Christian doctrine, let them be restrained by the magistrate, lest they infect the flock of God by contact.

XXVII. The Magistrate.

Since every magistrate is from God, his duty (unless he prefers to exercise tyranny) is the chief thing, to defend and procure religion, to repress every blasphemy; In this respect, they must chiefly watch over him, that the pure Word of God may be preached to the people pure, sincerely, and truly to the people, and that the truth of the Gospel should not be precluded to any man. He will soon take steps to ensure that the entire youth is found and formed by the upright and diligent training and discipline of the citizens, so that there is just provision for the ministers of the church, and a careful care for the poor. Here they look for ecclesiastical feasibility.

Then to judge the people according to equal laws: to protect the peace, the republic, to promote the republic, to fine the guilty for the reason of the offense, with wealth, body, and life. When she does the duty, she pays homage to God.

To him (even if we are free in Christ) we know that we must be subjected to all our body and faculties, and to the true zeal of mind and faith (so long as the commands of this man do not openly fight with him, for whom we honor him), we know.

XXVII. The Holy Marriage.

We think that marriage was instituted by all men suitable and not called by any other god, incompatible with the sanctity of any order. And just as the church inaugurates and sanctions with solemn exhortation and prayer, so it is the interest of the magistrate that he be duly entered and worshiped, and that he should not be released except for just reasons.

Accordingly, we reject that monastic celibacy and the impure chastity of those (whom spirituals) and this whole kind of cowardly life, the abominable invention of superstitious men, far from being aloof, and equally repugnant to the church and the commonwealth.

  1. one who opposes baptism []