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The Second Helvetic Confession (1562) and the Atonement

March 26, 2008

Wiki:

The Second Helvetic Confession (Latin: Confessio Helvetica posterior) was written by Bullinger in 1562 and revised in 1564 as a private exercise. It came to the notice of the elector palatine Frederick III, who had it translated into German and published. It gained a favourable hold on the Swiss churches, who had found the First Confession too short and too Lutheran. It was adopted by the Reformed Church not only throughout but in Scotland (1566), Hungary(1567),France (1571), Poland (1578), and next to the Heidelberg Catechism is the most generally recognized Confession of the Reformed Church.

See also the Bullinger file.

Second Helvetic Confession:

1) “Jesus Christ Is the Only Savior of the World,” and the True Awaited Messiah. For we teach and believe that Jesus Christ our Lord is the unique and eternal Savior of the human race, and thus of the whole world, in whom by faith are saved all who before the law, under the law, and under the Gospel were saved, and however many will be saved at the end of the world. For the Lord himself says in the Gospel: He who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber… I am the door of the sheep (John 10:1 and 7). And also in another place in the same Gospel he says: Abraham saw my day and was glad (ch. 8:56). The apostle Peter also says: There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. We therefore believe that we will be saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as our fathers were (Acts 4:12; 10:43; 15:11). For Paul also says: All our fathers ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ (I Cor. 10:3 f.). And thus we read that John says: Christ was the Lamb which was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), and John the Baptist testified that Christ is that Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Wherefore, we quite openly profess and preach that Jesus Christ is the sole Redeemer and Savior of the world, the King and High Priest, the true and awaited Messiah, that holy and blessed one whom all the types of the law and predictions of the prophets prefigured and promised; and that God appointed him beforehand and sent him to us, so that we are not now to look for any other. Now there only remains for all of us to give all glory to Christ, believe in him, rest in him alone, despising and rejecting all other aids in life. For however many seek salvation in any other than in Christ alone, have fallen from the grace of God and have rendered Christ null and void for themselves (Gal. 5:4). Bullinger, The Second Helvetic Confession – Chapter XI “Of Jesus Christ, True God and Man, the Only Savior of the World.”

2) The Teaching of the Gospel Is Not New, but Most Ancient Doctrine. And although the teaching of the Gospel, compared with the teaching of the Pharisees concerning the law, seemed to be a new doctrine when first preached by Christ (which Jeremiah also prophesied concerning the New Testament), yet actually it not only was and still is an old doctrine (even if today it is called new by the Papists when compared with the teaching now received among them), but is the most ancient of all in the world. For God predestinated from eternity to save the world through Christ, and he has disclosed to the world through the Gospel this his predestination and eternal counsel (II Tim. 2:9f.). Hence it is evident that the religion and teaching of the Gospel among all who ever were, are and will be, is the most ancient of all. Wherefore we assert that all who say that the religion and teaching of the Gospel is a faith which has recently arisen, being scarcely thirty years old, err disgracefully and speak shamefully of the eternal counsel of God. To them applies the saying of Isaiah the prophet: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isa. 5:20). Bullinger, The Second Helvetic Confession – Chapter XIII “Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the Promises, and of the Spirit and Letter.”

3) Satisfactions. We also disapprove of those who think that by their own satisfactions they make amends for sins committed. For we teach that Christ alone by his death or passion is the satisfaction, propitiation or expiation of all sins (Isa., ch. 53; I Cor. 1:30). Yet as we have already said, we do not cease to urge the mortification of the flesh. We add, however, that this mortification is not to be proudly obtruded upon God as a satisfaction for sins, but is to be performed humbly, in keeping with the nature of the children of God, as a new obedience out of gratitude for the deliverance and full satisfaction obtained by the death and satisfaction of the Son of God. Bullinger, Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter XIV “Of Repentance and the Conversion of Man.”

4) Imputed Righteousness. For Christ took upon himself and bore the sins of the world, and satisfied divine justice. Therefore, solely on account of Christ’s sufferings and resurrection God is propitious with respect to our sins and does not impute them to us, but imputes Christ’s righteousness to us as our own (II Cor. 5:19 ff.; Rom. 4:25), so that now we are not only cleansed and purged from sins or are holy, but also, granted the righteousness of Christ, and so absolved from sin, death and condemnation, are at last righteous and heirs of eternal life. Properly speaking, therefore, God alone justifies us, and justifies only on account of Christ, not imputing sins to us but imputing his righteousness to us. Bullinger, The Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter XV “Of the True Justification of the Faithful.”

5) Sacramental Eating of the Lord. Besides the higher spiritual eating there is also a sacramental eating of the body of the Lord by which not only spiritually and internally the believer truly participates in the true body and blood of the Lord, but also, by coming to the Table of the Lord, outwardly receives the visible sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord. To be sure, when the believer believed, he first received the life-giving food, and still enjoys it. But therefore, when he now receives the sacrament, he does not receive nothing. For he progresses in continuing to communicate in the body and blood of the Lord, and so his faith is kindled and grows more and more, and is refreshed by spiritual food. For while we live, faith is continually increased. And he who outwardly receives the sacrament by true faith, not only receives the sign, but also, as we said, enjoys the thing itself. Moreover, he obeys the Lord’s institution and commandment, and with a joyful mind gives thanks for his redemption and that of all mankind, and makes a faithful memorial to the Lord’s death, and gives a witness before the Church, of whose body he is a member. Assurance is also given to those who receive the sacrament that the body of the Lord was given and his blood shed, not only for men in general, but particularly for every faithful communicant, to whom it is food and drink unto eternal life. The Second Helvetic Confession – Chapter XXI “Of the Holy Supper of the Lord.” [C.f., Calvin’s almost identical statement: “Unlimited Expiation…” Part 1, Sect., 2, ‘The Sins of the Many,’ Entry #4.]

On 1 Tim 2:4:

1) The Church Has Always Existed and It Will Always Exist. But because God from the beginning would have men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:4), it is altogether necessary that there always should have been, and should be now, and to the end of the world, a Church. Bullinger, The Second Helvetic Confession – Chapter XVII Of the Catholic and Holy Church of God, and of The One Only Head of The Church Bullinger, The Second Helvetic Confession – Chapter XVII “Of the Catholic and Holy Church of God, and of The One Only Head of The Church.”

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