The Confession of Faith (P.J. Twisck, 1617)
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.
- 1 Text of the Confession
- 1.1 Confession of Faith, According to the Holy Word of God
- 1.1.1 Of the only God of heaven and earth
- 1.1.2 Of the eternal birth and Godhead of the only and eternal Son of God
- 1.1.3 Of the Holy Ghost
- 1.1.4 How Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are to be distinguished in certain attributes
- 1.1.5 That these three true witnesses are but one only true, God.
- 1.1.6 Of the creation of all things visible and invisible, and of the creation of man
- 1.1.7 Of the fall and punishment of man
- 1.1.8 Of the restoration or justification of man.
- 1.1.9 Of the free will or power of man before and after the fall; and of the saving grace of God.
- 1.1.10 Of the providence of God, the election of believers, and the rejection of unbelievers.
- 1.1.11 Of the written word of God, the law of Moses, and the Gospel of Christ.
- 1.1.12 Of saving faith.
- 1.1.13 Of regeneration and the new creature.
- 1.1.14 Of the incarnation of the eternal and only begotten Son of God.
- 1.1.15 Of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, God and man in one person, and the necessity of believing it.
- 1.1.16 Of the life, suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and of his again receiving his glory with his Father.
- 1.1.17 Of the office of Christ, and the specific reason of His coming into the world.
- 1.1.18 Of the church of God and the communion of believers.
- 1.1.19 Of the signs of the church of God, by which it may be distinguished from all other peoples.
- 1.1.20 Of the ordinance of the church of God, and the sending and electing of ministers.
- 1.1.21 Of Christian baptism.
- 1.1.22 Of the Lord's Supper or the breaking of bread.
- 1.1.23 Of the feet-washing of believers.
- 1.1.24 Of good works.
- 1.1.25 Of marriage.
- 1.1.26 Of the swearing of oaths
- 1.1.27 Of the office of magistracy, and secular power
- 1.1.28 Of the discipline of the Christian Church and separation of offending members.
- 1.1.29 Of the withdrawing from and avoiding of apostate and separated members.
- 1.1.30 Of the last day and the second coming of Christ front heaven.
- 1.1.31 Of the Death of the body and the Resurrection of the dead.
- 1.1.32 Of the last judgment; of hell, and the damnation of unbelievers.
- 1.1.33 Of the kingdom of heaven and eternal life.
- 1.1 Confession of Faith, According to the Holy Word of God
- 2 Bibliography
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
That there is a true, real Holy Ghost, also comprehended in the only, eternal, divine essence; who proceeds from the Father and the Son and is the power of the Most High, by whom the Father and the Son operate, and through whom heaven and earth, and all the heavenly host were made. Hence, the divine attributes are ascribed to Him; as eternal, almighty, holy, omniscient; who searches the deep things of the Godhead, knows what is in God, and goes through and searches all spirits, however subtle they may be. He is therefore confessed as the true God with the Father and the Son. And He is the subtle breath of the power of God, who with His divine inspiration illuminates and enkindles the heart of man, and confirms and leads him into all truth. He is given by God unto all who obey Him. All that am led by this Spirit, are the sons of God. He that has not this Spirit, does not belong to God. He is called the real and earnest of the inheritance of all true children of God. He who blasphemes this Spirit, must never expect forgiveness. Christ also commands to baptize believers in the name of the Holy Ghost.
Concerning this only Spirit of God, read: "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the -earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:1, 2).
Through Paul we are taught: "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:4). "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:11, 13. Read also: 2 Samuel 23:2; Ephesians 4:4; Matthew 10:20; Luke 12:12; Matthew 3:16; John 1:32; Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16).
How Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are to be distinguished in certain attributes
Of this we confess: That in the only eternal Divine Being there are not three mere names; but that each name has its true signification and attributes; so that there is a true, real Father, of whom all things are; and a true, real Son, by whom are all things; and a true, real Holy Ghost, through whom the Father and the Son operate. The Father is the true Father, who begat the Son before all time, and from whom the Son proceeded and came, and by whom he (the Father) created and made all things; and through whom the Son was sent to be the Savior of the world. The Son was born of, proceeded and came from the Father; by whom the Father created all things, and who was sent by the Father, and came into the world, and through the effectual power of the Most High was conceived by Mary, and born as man. He suffered, was crucified, died, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of His Almighty Father in heaven. The Holy Ghost is He that proceeds from the Father and the Son, and is sent by them; through whom the Father and the Son operate and work. He speaks not of Himself, but whatsoever He has heard from the Father; He takes of the things of Christ, to show them to His own.
Hence there are, in the same divine essence, in heaven, three true witnesses: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; of whom the glory of the only begotten Son of God appeared really and distinctively, in the form of a servant, on earth, and was also seen by John the Baptist, at the Jordan. And the Holy Spirit was also distinctively seen by the same John to descend, in the form of a dove, from God out of heaven, upon Christ and abide upon Him. And the Father who is an invisible Spirit, and cannot be seen by mortal eye, let His voice be heard from heaven: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." These three true witnesses are distinctively spoken of as follows: "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness, of me" (John 5:31, 32).
"I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me, beareth witness of me" (John 8: 16-18, 29, 54; 1 John 5:20; John 16:32 and 15:24).
Again, Paul says: "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 2:5). "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the -doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son" (2 John 1:9).
Of the Holy Ghost, Christ says: "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive" (John 14:11, 17; Matthew 12:32).
"But if I depart I will send him unto you. For he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:7, 13, 14).
How John, the man of God, saw the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove, read: "And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22).
"And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him and I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God" (John 1:32-34). Read also Mark 1:10.
"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him" (Matthew 3:16).
Mark, how awfully they sin against the Most High, who, contrary to all these express words of the Holy Ghost, still dare say and maintain that John did not see the Holy Ghost, but only a natural or created dove.
Hear also how the voice of the Father was heard from heaven: "And lo a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).
"For he received from God the Father honor and. glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory" (2 Peter 1:17. Read also: Psalm 110:1; 2 Esdras 13:32; John 1:1; 1 Corinthians 12:5; 1 John 5:7).
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost" (1 John 5:7; 1 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 3:14).
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 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.
- 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.