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Title: A Confession of Evangelical Principles - in a letter to a friend
Author: Church, John
Language: English
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Transcribed from the [1808] J. Cheney edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org  Many thanks to the Bodleian for allowing their copy to
be consulted.

                        [Picture: Pamphlet cover]

                         Evangelical Principles,
                                   IN A
                           LETTER TO A FRIEND;


                               _J. CHURCH_,

                         MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL,



                                * * * * *

    “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you, of the common
    Salvation; it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you,
    that ye should earnestly contend for the Faith, which was once
    delivered unto the Saints.”  _Jude_ 3.

                                * * * * *


                      PRINTED AND SOLD BY J. CHENEY,
          _Printer to His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence_.

                                * * * * *

                             PRICE SIXPENCE.

                                * * * * *


                                          _Banbury_; _February_ 1st, 1808.


AS you have solicited me to vindicate myself from the things laid to my
charge, I take this opportunity of making public the sentiments I hold;
and I will answer the rest of the charges at the close of my confession
of faith.  The charges brought against me, are these four; _First_, That
I hold and propogate Antinomian sentiments.  _Secondly_, That I create
divisions wherever I preach.  _Thirdly_, That after People come to hear
me preach, they cannot with pleasure hear their own Ministers again.
And, _Fourthly_, That I do not preach to Sinners.  These are heavy
charges indeed!  With respect to the _first_, as my sentiments are deemed
Antinomian, I think it my duty to make them public: the rest of the
charges are not worth an answer.  But, I can assure you, Sir, that the
leading doctrines I preach, are in harmony with the Word of God, which is
the only rule of faith and practice: I embrace and propogate no other
doctrines than these, set forth in the doctrinal Articles of the Church
of England; the Westminster Confession of Faith; and what your own
Ministers, who belong to the Associations, generally hold, as appears
upon their circular letters; namely, receiving the Scriptures of the Old
and New Testament, as their only guide in faith and practice; and thence
deriving their belief, in the important doctrines of three equal Persons,
in one divine essence; Eternal and personal Election; Original Sin;
Justification, by the imputed righteousness of Christ; Efficacious Grace
in Regeneration; the final perseverance of Believers to eternal Glory;
the resurrection of the Dead; the last Judgment; the everlasting
happiness of the Righteous; and the punishment of the Impenitent.  These,
Sir, are the leading doctrines I preach, and they stand in no need of an
apology: but, as I am set for the defence of that gospel I have felt and
enjoyed, I am not ashamed of one of its glorious doctrines; nor did I
ever intentionally deviate from them in one sentence I ever pronounced,
since I have felt their power, seen their beauty, and have been enabled
to declare them; and that good hand that instructed me in them, and has
owned and blest them, by me, as an instrument, I trust, will enable me to
maintain them to the close of life; then, I hope to feel them supporting
my soul, comforting my heart, and giving me a sweet assurance of an
entrance into that kingdom, that cannot be moved.

The following doctrines I have been enabled to declare amidst great
opposition, and, as they are a part of the revealed will of God, those
who oppose them, are fighting against God himself.  As to the loss of the
favor and friendship of those Ministers who are strangers to the power of
Godliness, and averse to the humiliating doctrines of the Cross of
Christ, this, I hope, will not break my heart; and while they are loading
me with reproach, I shall not render railing for railing; for while they
curse, I will bless; while they condemn, I hope God will justify; while
they oppose, I know he will lead on; and, I hope, I shall be enabled to
put up that charitable prayer for my enemies, which the Redeemer did for
his; “Father, forgive them:” in the language of dying Stephen, “Lord, lay
not this to their charge:” and in the pious breathings of the Church of
England Litany, I would pray, “That it may please thee, to forgive our
enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts.”  And
while many in our day are shy of the doctrines of the gospel, (which is
an awful proof they never felt their power, and never tasted their
sweetness, so that they are but little consequence to them;) I hope, I
shall be enabled to stand fast in the faith, and hold the beginning of my
confidence firm, unto the end; not at all terrified by any of my
adversaries, however popular they may be.  If I could palliate and comply
with their dead barren dry system of legality, I believe that they would
cease to reproach me.  But, because I maintain and declare the whole
counsel of God, I am deemed an Antinomian; a Troubler of Churches; a
Sower of Dissentions; a Creator of Divisions; One that Disaffects Hearers
with their own Ministers; One that does not preach to Sinners; and, in
fact, every thing that is disrespectful in the estimation of proud
Legalists, and self-righteous Pharisees.

The following Confession, I read at my Ordination, with a few additions;
and as many of my friends have so repeatedly intreated me to make it
public, I take this opportunity of doing it, praying that the best of
blessings may accompany the same, as they are sentiments calculated to
display the glory of God, and bring joy and peace to that Sinner who is
made sensible of his lost condition.

A Confession of Faith.

I.  I believe, that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the
word of God, and the only rule of faith and practice.

II.  I believe, that there is but One only, living, and true God; that
there are Three Persons in the Godhead, who are equal in nature, power,
and glory; and, that the Son and Holy Ghost, are as truly and properly
God, as the Father.  These Three divine Persons are distinguished from
each other by peculiar relative properties.  These Three divine distinct
Persons, I profess to reverence, serve, and worship, as the One true God.

III.  I believe, that before the World began, God did elect a certain
number of Mankind unto everlasting life, whom he did predestinate to the
adoption of Children, by Jesus Christ, of his own free grace, and
according to the good pleasure of his will; that he appointed holiness as
the means; and that no one has a right to consider himself as a chosen
vessel, till he is effectually called by the grace of God. {6}

IV.  I believe, that God made all things in Creation, out of nothing, to
display his goodness, wisdom, power, and glory; and, that by the same
power, he upholds and governs, rules and directs all things in Heaven and
Earth; and, that he displays his sovereignty according to the counsel of
his own will, or his eternal plan, formed before all Worlds.

V.  I believe, that there is one Mediator between God and Man; the Man,
Christ Jesus; that he stood in his mediatorial capacity as our
representative and head, in the covenant of eternal redemption and grace;
engaged to be all that to his people, they could possibly need in time,
and their bliss through eternity.

VI.  I believe, that God made Man upright; but mutable and liable to
fall: and, being left to the freedom of his own will, through the
influence of Satan, he broke the covenant of works, and fell from the
Image of God; that all Mankind sinned in him and fell with him, as their
head and representative; and both him and his posterity became liable to
the curse and penalty of a violated law.

VII.  I believe, that all Mankind are conceived and born in sin, Children
of disobedience, enemies to God, violaters of his commands, averse to
good, prone to evil, Children of wrath, obnoxious to the justice of God,
and the condemnation of his law: and I believe, that no Creature can help
or deliver himself, out of that wretched state into which he has fallen.
I solemnly believe, that this is the state of all Men by nature.

VIII.  I believe, that according to the eternal appointment of God the
Father, and the Covenant engagements of the dear Redeemer, that, in the
fulness of time, God sent his Son into the world to redeem fallen Men;
that part of the human race, that was given him in eternity; that their
redemption was obtained by the shedding of his blood; that this
redemption is special and particular, designed only for the elect of God,
the Sheep of Christ, who only share the special and peculiar blessings of
it.  And, in order to accomplish our redemption, I believe, it was
necessary that the Redeemer should take upon him our nature, a human body
and soul, created and formed by God the Spirit, conceived in the womb of
the Virgin Mary, born of a Woman, made under the law, that he might
redeem his people from it; work out a righteousness adequate to its
demands, make an atonement by suffering the death of the Cross, satisfy
divine Justice, glorify all the attributes of Deity, and open a way, for
the communication of all those blessings, which are needful for the
Saints of God, both for time and eternity.

IX.  I believe, that the matter of the Sinners’ justification before a
holy God, is the righteousness of Christ imputed to them; which is, his
perfect, spotless obedience to the law, in their room and stead, without
the consideration of any works done by them; and, that the full and free
pardon of all their sins, past, present, and to come, is only through the
blood of Christ, according to the riches of his grace; and, that none can
be justified in any other way.  This righteousness being seen by the eye
of faith, and embraced by the hand of faith, we are manifestly justified
and freed from the law; that, being dead wherein we were held, we live to
God, and by love serve the Lord, having our fruit unto holiness, and the
end, eternal life. {9}

X.  I believe, that all the objects of eternal love, the subjects of his
choice, and the purchase of the Redeemer’s blood, are effectually called
in one way or another, by the efficacious and irresistible grace of God
the divine Spirit; and not by an act of Man’s free will and power.  I
believe they are washed, justified, and sanctified, in the name and by
God the Spirit, in some part of their lives.

XI.  I believe, that all Saints are kept by the mighty power of God,
through faith, to eternal Salvation; and, that as sure as they are
called, justified, and sanctified, they will infallibly persevere:
because of the perpetuity of God’s love, the liability of his covenant,
and his faithfulness to his absolute promises.

XII.  I believe, that the Church of Christ consists of true believers in
his name; that these are his mystical body, of which, he is the only
head, and there is no other: and, that all the Children of God derive
spiritual life from him, by virtue of union to him; that he is our life;
and in consequence of that, we are now quickened by his life-giving power
in conversion; our bodies shall be quickened in the last day, and all
Believers shall enjoy eternal life, in glory for ever.

XIII.  I believe, that in the new testament Church of Christ, there are
but two Sacraments; Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.  I believe,
Baptism to be an outward and visible sign; first, of the sufferings,
death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; secondly, of an
inward and spiritual operation of the Holy Ghost, upon the hearts of
believers; and is a grand emblem of a death unto sin, and a new birth
unto righteousness; for being by nature the children of wrath, we are by
regeneration, manifested to be children of grace.  I believe, that only
those who profess the name of Jesus, have any right thereto.  That it
should be administered to Adults alone, in the name of the adorable
Trinity; and, that it is to be performed by immersion.  I believe, that
the Lord’s Supper was instituted the night on which he was betrayed, to
represent his sufferings and death; and is to be attended too by all
Believers, until his second coming.

XIV.  I believe, that it is the duty of every Christian to obey the laws
of their Country; not to speak evil of Dignities; but, to pray for the
King, his Family, and the Government under which we live; to study to be
quiet, peaceable, and submissive, according to the laws of Jesus Christ,
which is our rule of conduct: and, who has said, “Render unto Cæsar, the
things which are his;” and, by his holy Apostles, has commanded “That
every Soul should be subject to the higher powers; that we should honor
all Men, love the Brotherhood, fear God, honor the King.”

XV.  I believe, that it is the duty of all Believers, to take the
commands of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as their rule of conduct;
that, while they are relying on his Righteousness, for justification; on
his Blood, for pardon; and, on the Spirit, for internal sanctification;
they, from a principle of love shed abroad in their hearts, are made
willing to obey his laws, as King in Mount Zion: and, that his
commandments are the Believer’s rule of life: that it is their duty to
stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith
of the gospel: that it is their duty to walk in wisdom, to them that are
without; to exercise a conscience void of offence towards God and Man, by
living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world: that it is
their duty to walk with each other in all humility and brotherly love; to
watch over each other’s conversation; to stir up one another to love and
to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as we
have opportunity; to worship God, according to his revealed will; and,
when the case requires, to warn, rebuke, and admonish one another,
according to the rules of the gospel: and, that it is our duty to
sympathize with each other, to bear with one another’s weaknesses,
failings, and infirmities; and, particularly to pray for one another.
All these duties we are bound to perform, and every other law of Christ’s
spiritual house, through the gracious influence of a Spirit of love, of
power, and of a sound mind; ever remembering, that we are to obey the
laws of our Sovereign, as King, on his holy hill of Zion. {12}

XVI.  I believe, that all the Ordinances of divine appointment ought to
be attended unto, by all that profess their faith in, and love to our
Lord Jesus Christ, as the head of his Church; hearing the Word, public
Prayer, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper: singing of Psalms, Hymns, and
Spiritual Songs, vocally; this is an ordinance of the gospel, to be
performed by Believers; but, as to time, place, and manner, every one
ought to be left to their liberty in using it.

XVII.  I believe, that there will be a Resurrection, both of the just and
unjust; and, that Christ will come a second time, to judge both quick and
dead; when he will take vengeance on the wicked, and introduce his own
People into his kingdom and glory, where they shall be for ever with him;
and, then shall the mediatorial kingdom be delivered up to the Father, by
the Redeemer; the mystery of God be finished: Heaven will be the Saints
final home; and, God, Father, Son, and Spirit, be all in all, for ever
and ever.

XVIII.  I believe, that the felicity of the Saints will be eternal; and I
as firmly believe, such will be the eternity of misery; unless, the never
dying worm dies, and the unquenchable fire goes out; which will not,
cannot be; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

                                * * * * *

The above Articles are the doctrines I preach, which I did not learn of
Man; but, by the teachings of the Spirit, by the Word.  The rest of the
Charges are not worthy my notice, as they arise from pride and envy; and,
I shall only remark, that all faithful preaching ever did create
divisions.  God having put an enmity between the seed of the Woman, and
the seed of the Serpent; this enmity is stirred up wherever these two
seeds meet.  The history of Truth, in all ages, prove that this is no new
thing.  The dear Redeemer, asks an important question, “Suppose ye, that
I am come to give peace on the earth?  I tell you, nay; but rather
divisions;” see the 12th chapter of Luke, from the 40th to the 54th
verse.  As to the disaffection of the People to their own Ministers,
after hearing me preach, as Ministers inform you; how can I help that?  I
do not speak against them; but, advise my hearers to follow after truth,
in its beauty, simplicity, and power.  But I am not accountable for the
imprudencies of my hearers.  None ever heard me in public or in private,
drop a disrespectful hint of any Ministers around me; although, I am
informed, they have said many cruel things of me: for which, I trust, the
good Lord will pardon them, for I do; as I know, God, for Christ’s sake,
hath forgiven me.  As to the last Charge you intimate, that I do not
preach to Sinners.  This is an absurd accusation indeed!  For who do I,
or who can I preach to, but fallen Sinners, by nature and practice; as
faith the voice of wisdom, “Unto you, O Men, I call, and my voice is to
the Sons of Men.”  But, I suppose the meaning of this Charge is, that I
do not command dead Sinners to quicken their own souls; and suppose I
did, would they obey me?  That I do not tell blind Sinners to open their
own eyes?  If I thought they could do it, I would tell them to do it,
from the pulpit.  That I do not tell all Men it is their duty to believe?
Whereas, God says of many, they never shall believe.  That I do not
command carnal Persons to perform spiritual acts? and how should they?
seeing they are enemies to God, and the slaves of sin and error.  That I
do not tell all Mankind, that Christ is offered to them, if they will but
accept of him?  No.  Sir.  I leave all this Baxterian stubble, and
declare the whole counsel of God.  Whereas, the above Calls to Sinners,
form no part of that counsel.  God does not condemn Men because he has
been pleased to withold that precious gift of faith from them: there is
sin enough in all Men, to render them obnoxious to the curse of the law:
and the Saviour himself says, “Think not, that I will accuse you to the
Father; there is one that accuseth you already, even, Moses, in whom ye
trust.”  To command all Men, where the gospel comes, to obey the internal
call of it, is not my work: but, to tell People, it is their duty to be
found in the means, is another thing.  The former, I shall not do; the
latter, is in harmony with many parts of God’s Word.  But I know it is
fashionable, to tell Sinners to believe, and to receive an offered
Christ; to open the door of their hearts to him; and, in fact, the Sinner
is set to do that, which the Holy Ghost only can do for him.  This is the
modern doctrine so much admired in our day; which is calculated to
cherish the pride of Man, and make Sinners contented with a form of
godliness without the power.  But, “From all false doctrine, heresy, and
schism, good Lord deliver us.”

                       I am yours, in gospel bonds,

                                                                J. CHURCH.

                                * * * * *

                        Cheney, Printer, Banbury.


{6}  This doctrine is clearly revealed in the Scriptures, embraced by our
Reformers, as set forth in the 17th Article of the Church of England, and
in the Westminster Confession of Faith.  The Seventeenth Article of the
Church, thus expresseth this doctrine:—“Predestination to Life, is the
everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world
were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to
deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out
of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as
vessels made to honour.  Wherefore, they which be endued with so
excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God’s purpose by his
Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they
be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made
like the image of his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ: they walk
religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to
everlasting felicity.”—This is the noble testimony of our Reformers, as
agreed and subscribed to by every conscientious Churchman; to this agree,
the Westminster Confession of Faith, as exprest in the 20th Article of
the shorter Catechism.  God having out of his mere good pleasure, from
all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a Covenant
of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to
bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.  A vast many
passages of scripture can easily be brought to prove this important
Article; and, happy for those, who have got the sweet evidence of God’s
Spirit, witnessing their adoption into his family.  If this is
Antinomianism, I am willing to bear the name, and enjoy the blessings of
an everlasting Covenant of Election and Sovereign Grace.

{9}  This doctrine of a Sinner’s justification before God, as exprest in
this Article, is held forth in almost every part of God’s Word that
relates to our Salvation.  This doctrine, however despised in our day by
modern Pharisees, is a glorious and a precious truth: it was received by
our Reformers, as noted in the Eleventh Article of the Church of England,
on the justification of Man.  “We are accounted righteous before God,
only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and
not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by
faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as
more largely is expressed in the Homily of justification.”  See also, the
Thirty-third Article in the Assembly’s Catechism: “Justification is an
act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth
us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ
imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”  Happy Believer, that can
say in sweet assurance,

    “Jesus, thy blood and righteousness,
    My beauty are, my glorious dress;
    ’Midst flaming Worlds, in these array’d,
    With joy shall I lift up my head.”

And this honor have all the Saints.

{12}  If it can be proved, that this Article has a grain of Antinomianism
in it, I ask, are not these the practical truths of the gospel, which we,
as Believers, are to obey, as a proof we are passed from death unto life,
and are brought to serve the Lord, in newness of Spirit, and not in the
oldness of the letter; not working for life, but from a principle of life
received, as being not without law to God, but under the laws of our
present Husband, Christ.  The moral law being fulfilled in our stead, we
are by faith enabled to serve him, who has done so great things for us.
It is the Believer’s desire, that the moral law should be fulfilled; and,
to use the language of a good and great Man, it is evident this law is
fulfilled in a fourfold sense; First, “In precept and penalty, by the
Redeemer himself.”  Secondly, “In the Believed, when the love of God is
shed abroad in his heart.”  Thirdly, “In the exercise of a conscience
void of offence, by the internal operations of the Spirit, enabling us to
walk in our degree, as he walked.”  Fourthly, “In the execution of its
awful sentence upon the wicked; and Heaven and Earth shall pass away,
before a tittle of this law can fail, till it be fulfilled.”  It is
strange, that those Ministers, who maintain the holiness, goodness,
truth, and justice of the moral law, should be traduced as Antinomians;
whereas, they are the only characters that handle the law, lawfully; by
representing it to Believers as fulfilled in their stead, by their
covenant Head and Husband; laying them under eternal obligations to love
and serve him in newness of the Spirit.  The term Antinomian, cannot
belong to the above characters, but to all Men in a state of nature,
whether professors or prophane, they are in a state of enmity against the
law, and its adorable giver; and, although they may plead for it, they
are enemies to it, ignorant of it, and condemned by it.  It is evident,
this was the case of Paul, before his conversion, “I was alive without
the law once;” he was ignorant of its nature, its author, its demands,
and its curse: but, when God led him to see himself in that glass, he
exclaimed, “The law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.”  When
David was taught the same lesson, he crys out, “I have seen an end of all
perfection, but thy commandments are exceeding broad.”  All that are
cleaving to this law, as a covenant of works, are enemies to the Lord
Jesus Christ; and, all that die under it, must be judged by it.  Now,
because I hold forth the grand doctrines of the gospel, and enforce a
knowledge of this law, by the teachings of the Spirit of God, that
Sinners may be brought to see their need of a Mediator, and a Surety
righteousness; for this, I am condemned as an Antinomian!  But, if this
Article of my Confession, teaches anything like it, I must say it is the
Antinomianism of the gospel, which I shall consider as my duty to
enforce, as ornamental to the Religion of the Son of God.  I shall only
add, that I was much pleased to see this subject ably handled, in that
best of monthly publications, the Gospel Magazine: one paragraph I shall
insert, see vol. 9, page 372.  “The doctrine of the total abolition of
the covenant of works, and the perfect deliverance of all true Believers
from its power and authority, by the substitution, obedience, and
atonement of Christ, breaks the arms of ungodliness, demolishes the whole
empire of sin, and makes the church of the first born fruitful to God.
Fruitful in heart, fruitful in life, fruitful in every good work.  The
proof which the Scriptures afford of the truth of these assertions, mocks
all contradiction, and bids defiance to all assault.”

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