In our preceding article, quoting from the creeds of the Reformed Churches, we quoted from the Second Helvetic Confession. In this article, our first quotation, in re the doctrine of sin, will be from the Gallican Confession, A.D. 1559. Concerning the history of this Confession, Schaff writes the following in his Creeds of Christendom, Vol. I, 429-492; and we quote:
But it was only after Calvin, himself the greatest Protestant of France, had taken up his permanent abode in Geneva, that the Reformation movement was organized into a separate Church, and acquired a national importance. He therefore, and his friend and successor, Beza, may be regarded as the fathers of the Reformed Church of France. Geneva became an asylum for their persecuted countrymen, and the nursery of evangelists. Henceforward French Protestantism assumed a Calvinistic type in doctrine and discipline, but, owing to the hostile attitude of the government, it was kept separate and distinct from the state. Although cruelly persecuted, and numbering its martyrs by thousands, it spread rapidly among the middle and higher classes, and in 1558 it embraced four hundred thousand followers. The first national Synod was held in Paris, May 25-28, 1559, under the moderatorship of Francois de Morel, then pastor of Paris, a friend and pupil of Calvin. It gave the Reformed Church a compact organization by the adoption of the Gallican Confession of Faith, in connection with a Presbyterian form of government and discipline, which remained the firm basis of the Church as long as she was allowed to exist and to hold national Synods, twenty-nine in all, the last being that at Loudun, 1659.
From this Gallican Confession of Faith we now quote Articles IX, X and XI. Art. IX reads as follows:
We believe that man was created pure and perfect in the image of God, and that by his own guilt he fell from the grace which he received, and is thus alienated from God, the fountain of justice and of all good, so that his nature is totally corrupt. And being blinded in mind, and depraved in heart, he has lost all integrity, and there is no good in him. And although he can still discern good and evil, we say, notwithstanding, that the light he has becomes darkness when he seeks for God, so that he can in nowise approach him by his intelligence and reason. And although he has a will that incites him to do this or that, yet it is altogether captive to sin, so that he has no other liberty to do right than that which God gives him.
This article speaks for itself. We do well to bear in mind that this Gallican Confession was composed when Calvin was 50 years old, and the reformer lived only some five years beyond that. In this article we read that man’s nature is totally corrupt, that he has lost all integrity, that the light he has becomes darkness when he seeks for God, so that he can in nowise approach Him by his intelligence and reason, and that he is altogether captive to sin.
Article X also speaks for itself, setting forth the result of Adam’s sin for his posterity, and we quote:
We believe that all the posterity of Adam is in bondage to original sin, which is an hereditary evil and not an imitation merely, as was declared by the Pelagians, whom we detest in their errors. And we consider that it is not necessary to inquire how sin was conveyed from one man to another, for what God had given Adam was not for him alone, but for all his posterity; and thus in his person we have been deprived of all good things, and have fallen with him into a state of sin and misery.
In this article, the Confession declares that they detest the Pelagians in their errors. And the same absolute presentation of the truth we have in Article XI:
We believe, also, that this evil is truly sin, sufficient for the condemnation of the whole human race, even of little children in the mother’s womb, and that God considers it as such; even after baptism it is still of the nature of sin, but the condemnation of it is abolished for the children of God, out of His mere free grace and love. And further, that it is a perversity always producing fruits of malice and of rebellion, so that the most holy men, although they resist, are still stained with many weaknesses and imperfections while they are in this life.
The Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England, A.D. 1563 and 1571, with the American Revision, 1801, devoted two articles to this subject of sin, Art. IX and X. Article IX reads as follows:
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk); but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and I therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh called in Greek the mind of the flesh (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized (if this be a quotation of
then the undersigned, H.V., prefers the text: there is no condemnation for them which are in Christ Jesus); yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.
Also in this article, the error of Pelagianism is condemned. Article X, speaking of free will, reads as follows:
The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he can not turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength, and good works, to faith, and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, A.D. 1647, also calls attention to the subjects of sin and free will. Chapter VI speaks of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment therefore:
I. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.
II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.
III. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generations.
IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
V. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself and all the motions thereof are truly and properly sin.
Also in these articles we read that man became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. And we also read that we are utterly indisposed and disabled, and wholly inclined to all evil. This utter corruption of man certainly receives emphasis in all the articles we have quoted until now.
And the same emphasis upon man’s depravity appears in Article IX of this Confession, which treats the subject of man’s free will:
I. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil.
II. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which is good and well-pleasing to God, but yet mutably, so that he might fall from it.
III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.
It is true that these articles speak of man’s inability to do any spiritual good. This could conceivably leave the impression that the natural man is able to do good in the things that are civil. However, we do read that he is dead in sin, cannot do anything of himself unto his salvation, or to prepare himself thereunto.
Of interest also is what we read in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1647:
Question 14. What is sin?
Answer. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.
Ques. 15. What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
Answer. The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.
Ques. 17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
Answer. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.
Ques. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
Answer. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
In question and answer 19 the Catechism calls attention to the misery into which man fell. But also in these answers we read of the corruption of man’s whole nature. It is obvious from all these creeds, quoted until now, that our churches are in good company when they emphasize the truth that the natural man is wholly under the power of sin, and that he is unable to do any good in the sight of the Lord.