The Confession of Faith (P.J. Twisck, 1617)

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The oldest fully developed confession of faith of the Mennonites is probably the Belydenisse near Godts heylig woort. It appeared first in the Hoorn Martyr Book (Historie der warachtighe getuygen) of 1617, then separately at Hoorn in 1620 and 1626, was, according to Hans Alenson's Tegenbericht, the product of two Old Frisian preachers, Sijwaert Pietersz and Peter J. Twisck.

The confession was printed in the Martyrs' Mirror in 1660 (1950 English ed., 373-410), and in 1837 was first published in English at Winchester, Virginia, as The Confession of Faith. It contains 33 articles, and presents the content of the Christian faith in great detail with thorough, exhaustive biblical argumentation. When and where it originally appeared, and by whom it was drawn up is not stated, but it was probably first printed about 1600.

Peter Jansz Twisck was a preacher and elder in the Old Frisian Mennonite Church at Hoorn beginning in 1592. He was conservative in theology against more liberal leaders like Hans de Ries. Twisck defended Menno Simons' doctrine of the Incarnation (Article 14), maintained the practice of banning, opposed marriage outside the church, and generally opposed unity efforts by other Mennonite groups. Sijwaert Pietersz was a co-worker in the Old Frisian Church; Twisck credited him for the composition of the confession, though Twisck's influence is clear.

This Confession is primarily composed of sentences borrowed from the works of Menno Simons. It has been influential because of its inclusion in the Martyrs' Mirror. The Church of God in Christ, Mennonites most often reprinted the English translation in the 20th century.

Contents

Text of the Confession

Confession of Faith, According to the Holy Word of God

Of the only God of heaven and earth

By the grace of God, according to the import of the holy Scriptures, we believe with the heart, and confess with the mouth, that there is one only, eternal, almighty, and true God; who is the Creator of heaven and earth, with all things visible and invisible; so that all things derive their origin and being from Him alone, and are all sustained, governed and upheld by His almighty word. He is a just, perfect, holy, incomprehensible and indescribable, spiritual Being; consisting of or through Himself (Exodus 3:14), and not needing the help or assistance of any thing; but is Himself the origin and fountain of every good thing. From His overflowing goodness every good and perfect gift proceeds and descends. And He is the living One, eternal, without beginning or end, an almighty, true God and Lord of Hosts, a commanding King over all, and above us all in heaven and earth, a terrible judge, and an avenging, consuming fire; the true Light just, righteous, and holy, full of grace and peace, and a God of love and of all comfort, longsuffering and of great mercy.

And this only good, and only wise, exalted God, who is all in all, dwells with his worshipful, glorious existence above in heaven, in a light which no man has seen, nor can see, and is present everywhere with His Spirit and power, filling heaven and earth, so that heaven is His throne, and the earth His footstool. From His all-seeing eye nothing is hid, but He is an omniscient hearer and beholder of the hearts and secret intents and thoughts of all men; all things being naked and open unto His eyes (1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:13).

And since He is such an omniscient God, full of all grace and mercy, and a God of all comfort, with whom alone the fountain of wisdom and all good gifts are to be found; and since He will not give this His divine honor to another, therefore all men are in duty bound, to seek, by ardent prayer and with a desiring heart, all grace, peace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, in God alone and in none other.*

And to this only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, before whose worshipful majesty the angels stand with trembling; whose word is true, and whose command is powerful; who is a righteous judge over all; finally every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that He alone is Lord, to the praise of His glory.

And this only, eternal, true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, consists in one true Father, and one true Son, and one true Holy Ghost. And besides this only God there never has been another, nor ever will be.

Concerning this only, eternal God, read: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29).

Through Isaiah He speaks: "For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me" (Isaiah 46: 9; 45:5; 44:6; 43:11; 41:4).

Through Paul He says: "That an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one" (1 Corinthians 2:4; 12:6; Ephesians 4:6).

And in this only God we must necessarily believe to salvation, as the beginning and foundation of the Christian faith. Read: "For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).

To believe in this God, is also called a principle of the Christian doctrine. (Read: Hebrews 6:1; James 2:19; John 17: 8; 14:1; Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:9.)

Of the eternal birth and Godhead of the only and eternal Son of God

That the Son of God was born and proceeded from all eternity, in an ineffable manner, from the true God, his Father; of the essence and substance of the almighty God, as a Light from the true Light, true God from the true God; being in the form of God, the likeness of the invisible God, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person; so that He was born and proceeded from God His Father as the brightness of the everlasting light, the immaculate reflection of the power of God, and the image of His goodness; being equal with His Father in essence, form, and attributes; as eternal, almighty, holy, and the like. For it is an inevitable consequence that like produces like.

Thus, as the stone spoken of by the prophet Daniel, which was cut out of the mountain without hands, and itself became a great mountain, is of the same essence and substance with the mountain; so also the precious, elect corner stone, Jesus Christ, was born or proceeded from God the almighty Father (who is called a mountain and rock forever), and is of the same essence and substance with Him. Hence, Christ Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, is to be believed in, confessed, served, honored, and worshiped by all believers, as the true God with His Father. But as this is also a matter of faith, and not of reason or comprehension, all this must be viewed, believed, judged, and spoken of, not humanly, nor carnally, but divinely and spiritually.

Concerning this high, eternal birth, issue, and Godhead of the Son of God, read: "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Psalms 2:7). "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son. And again, When he bringeth in the first begotten into the world" (Hebrews 1:5,6).

"So also Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee" (Hebrews 5:5).

"And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee" (Acts 13:32, 33). Observe, that this passage of Paul has reference not only to the raising up of Christ from the dead, but chiefly to His eternal birth from God His Father.

The prophet Micah, speaking of Bethlehem, says: "Out of thee shall he come forth that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2; John 16:28, 30).

Again Paul says: "Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born (mark, the first-born) of every creature" (Colossians 1:15; Revelation 3:14).

Also John: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son (mark, the only begotten Son) which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (John 1: 18 and 14).

Read also: Proverbs 8:23; Daniel 2:34, 45; Sirach 24:13; Romans 8:29. Concerning the Godhead of Christ, read: Psalms 45:6; Hebrews 1:8; John 1:1 and 20:28; Romans 9:5; 1 John 5:20.

Of the Holy Ghost

How Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are to be distinguished in certain attributes

That these three true witnesses are but one only true, God.

Of the creation of all things visible and invisible, and of the creation of man

Of the fall and punishment of man

Of the restoration or justification of man.

Of the free will or power of man before and after the fall; and of the saving grace of God.

Of the providence of God, the election of believers, and the rejection of unbelievers.

Of the written word of God, the law of Moses, and the Gospel of Christ.

Of saving faith.

Of regeneration and the new creature.

Of the incarnation of the eternal and only begotten Son of God.

Of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, God and man in one person, and the necessity of believing it.

Of the life, suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and of his again receiving his glory with his Father.

Of the office of Christ, and the specific reason of His coming into the world.

Of the church of God and the communion of believers.

Of the signs of the church of God, by which it may be distinguished from all other peoples.

Of the ordinance of the church of God, and the sending and electing of ministers.

Of Christian baptism.

Of the Lord's Supper or the breaking of bread.

Of the feet-washing of believers.

Of good works.

Of marriage.

Of the swearing of oaths

Of the office of magistracy, and secular power

Of the discipline of the Christian Church and separation of offending members.

Of the withdrawing from and avoiding of apostate and separated members.

Of the last day and the second coming of Christ front heaven.

Of the Death of the body and the Resurrection of the dead.

Of the last judgment; of hell, and the damnation of unbelievers.

Of the kingdom of heaven and eternal life.

Bibliography

  • Zijpp, N. van der. "Twisck, Peter Jansz." Mennonite Encyclopedia, 4. Scottdale, Pa. : Mennonite Pub. House, 1959: 757-759.
  • Zijpp, N. van der. "Pietersz, Syvaert." Mennonite Encyclopedia, 4. Scottdale, Pa. : Mennonite Pub. House, 1959: 176.
  • Martyrs Mirror. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press, 1950: 373-410.
  • The Thirty-three Articles of Faith as Published in the Martyrs' Mirror. Hillsboro, Kan. : Publication Board of the Church of God in Christ (Mennonites), n.d.