The Formula Consensus Helvetica


The divine apostle to the Gentiles earnestly impressed on his true child (γνηστω τεκννω) Timothy that he “continue in those things which” εμαθε και επιστωθηη that is, “which he had learned and which had been entrusted to him” (2 Tim. 3:14). In these lamentable and exasperating times, it is entirely appropriate that the very same thing frequently enter our recollection and call itself to mind. All the more so since sad experience shows that the faith once delivered to the saints by the Word of God is being perverted from the form of sound words (ιύποτυπωσει) and is contracting no slight blemish from the errors that are cropping up not in one principle division of the truth but on every side.

For our part, since the heavenly Father has honored us (unworthy as we are) with divine grace and goodness to a greater extent than many other nations, it is right that we gratefully put down the following circumstance to that account: he has hitherto endowed our leading men (προεστωτας), especially the very eminent nobles, the fathers of our country, and the very upright guardians of the church, with the spirit of piety, wisdom and courage. As a result, they religiously guard the store (κειμηλιον) of truth that they received from our forefathers out of the Word of God; they grip it tightly, as they say, in their hands, and they do not allow doctrinal corruption to have any access to our churches. But since constancy is nothing less than to desire to maintain what has been acquired and every day we hear the same angel that cried out to the church in Philadelphia, “Behold, I am coming quickly. Hold fast to what you have so that no one will take your crown” (Rev. 3:11), therefore it is right that we bend our knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and fervently pray that in these difficult times he might mercifully preserve this special advantage (πλεονεκτημα) and benefit for us, even to the end of the age.

Nevertheless opinions that are inferior in several matters of importance, but especially in the doctrine that concerns the extent of divine grace, could gather strength, infect impressionable young men and thus with the passage of time also infect our churches themselves. Moreover (seeing as how scarcely any crop is more fruitful, more fertile than error) the toleration of these opinions by reason of an excessive leniency could cause other, worse opinions to spring up, as has happened at other times, such as the sad example of Remonstrantism can show. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us, by the authority and instruction of the elders, to give consideration to some effective and sacred barrier. The canons that deal with the doctrine of universal grace, as well as with several related matters of importance, were born of this consideration, and we have endorsed them by unanimous consent. In adopting a suitable arrangement, we have been particularly concerned that truth should join love in a most welcome synergy (ήδιστη συζυγια) and contend with uncertainties, as they say, for the palm.

Nor indeed is there a reason for the honorable foreign brothers, whom we otherwise cherish and fraternally esteem as having obtained a faith of equal standing (ίσοτιμον πιστιν λαχοντας), to be angry with us about a disagreement that has been brought to light for good and weighty reasons, or to keep saying that we are furnishing anyone with an opportunity for schism. For on both sides, by the grace of God, the foundation of the faith remains, and in both cases, gold and silver and not a few precious stones have been built upon it out of the Word of God. The unity of the mystical body and of the Spirit is secure, “Just as we were called in one hope of our calling; for us there is one Lord, one special faith”–and in that same faith a holy concord and bond of hospitality is to be preserved–”one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all things, and in all of us” (Eph 4:4-6). Accordingly, among us the chain and bond of a most tender love will always remain secure, and, by the grace of God, the most sacred obligations of the communion of the saints will remain in a state of good repair.

As to what follows, we will not cease to call upon God, the Father of Lights, in pious petition that he might determine and grant that our instruction be salutary and that he might deign to bless it through Jesus Christ, the only inaugurator and consummator of our faith and salvation.

“Preface” to the “Formula Consensus Helvetica” in, Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed., James T. Dennison, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 4:518-519. [Underlining Mine.]

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