Chapter III:6: Knowledge as a Necessary Act of Religion

Against the Socinians and Remonstrants, our AUTHOR advises us to hold that Religion is not summed up in two Acts, in the Observance of Commandments and the Hope of the promises; but that a third Act of the Knowledge of the things to be believed ought to be added. Thus, of course, Socinus,[1] de Auctoritate Scripturæ, chapter II, opera Socini, tome I, page 272a: “I answer that those opinions, so many, and so diverse or even contrary, do not at all hinder that a certain summary of that [Christian] Religion is able to be evident: which summary is undoubtedly this, in which all that profess that Religion appear to agree; namely, the most holy precepts that are given in it, and the promises, admirable and truly worthy of God, that are contained in it: in which two matters as duties, the whole of Religion chiefly consists.” The Catechesis Racoviensis de Sacra Scriptura, chapter I, pages 10, 11, agrees: “I would wish it to be demonstrated to me that this Christian Religion is divine. This…is readily taught from those matters in which this Religion consists, namely, from the precepts and the promises.” Jonas Schlichting[2] is added, de Articulis Fundamentalibus, page 59: “Then we deny that an understanding of the satisfaction of Christ pertains unto faith in Christ. This alone pertains to it, constitutes it, that we both believe the promises of Christ, and expect those from Him; and, having been set ablaze by the hope and desire of those promises, are obedient to His precepts.”

From this thesis of the Socinians the Remonstrants do not differ, who therefore contend that the Knowledge of God is to be less esteemed than the rest of the Worship of God and piety, in their Apologia, chapter II, page 40, where they assert, “Concerning Knowledge it is not able to be said that it is no less necessary than piety.” Indeed, in Apologia, chapter VII, page 82, you will find it manifestly declared: “For the sum of Religion is contained in the precepts of obedience, and the promises of rewards and threats of punishment.”

The πρῶτον ψεῦδος, fundamental error, of the Socinians and Remonstrants is that we are justified through works of obedience. Their Scope/Goal is to decline the fundamental theoretical Heads of Religion; and to introduce the Indifference of all Religion, by luring and admitting whomever into their society, who only hold those most common heads, which among Christians neither are controverted, nor are able to be drawn into controversy, no matter how much other articles might go wrong. In which manner their assemblies attempt to extend as widely as possible their walls; in an arrangement not at all dissimilar to what formerly Romulus, with pardon offered for crimes and to criminals, and with an asylum set up, invited and drew a great many to his empty city, which then began its enlargements and splendor.[3]

On the other hand, we hold that the Precepts and their observation, and the Promises and the hope of them, are indeed parts of Religion, but that the Knowledge of the truth, and especially the knowledge of God, and of His Nature, inasmuch as, to whatever extent He has not vainly revealed Himself, He is to be known by us (whose precepts and promises those are also), is not to be separated from the business of Religion in such a way that it does not even constitute a part of Religion, even indeed the first part, that is, which should come in the first place, and without which the rest would not be. Our position we prove,

1. From the Revelation of God in Sacred Scripture. For what Sacred Scripture teaches and treats no less than the doctrine of the precepts and promises, that ought no less to be esteemed a part of Religion: but Sacred Scripture teaches and treats the Knowledge of the truth concerning God, Christ, and Man himself, no less than the doctrine of the precepts and promises. Therefore. For that is the method of Sacred Scripture, that before all things and always in the first place it teaches the truth, and then builds practice on top of that: neither does it treat the doctrines to be known and believed only in passing, but as seriously, diligently, and copiously as those things that have regard unto the obedience to precepts and the promises. The Epistles to the Romans and to the Hebrews furnish abundant proof of this. Ὠφέλιμος ἡ γραφὴ, the Scripture is profitable, no less πρὸς διδασκαλίαν, for doctrine/ teaching, than πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ, for instruction in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16.

2. What God teaches, commends, and urges no less than the rest of Religion, that ought no less to be held as a part of Religion: but God teaches, commends, and urges the Knowledge and Belief of the truth: Therefore. The Major is of itself altogether certain. The Minor is proven by a five- or sixfold argument by our AUTHOR: α. From the Divine Commandments, which expressly command the Knowledge and Belief of the truth, 1 Timothy 2:4; 1 John 3:23; 2 Peter 1:5, on which passage see Commentarium meum. β. From the Promises, even indeed from that covenant promise, Jeremiah 31:33, 34. In addition to the promise of His favor, and of His Spirit, by whose grace and power they might learn to fulfill the conditions of the covenant, God also promises the Knowledge of Himself as a covenanted party, in which they might excel, no less than through the Holiness of the covenanted God, and might be manifest to the world. γ. From the Salvation annexed, which is joined to the Knowledge and Faith of the things to be believed, and to saving wisdom drawn from Scripture, in such a way that without it no certain hope of obtaining it is given, John 17:3; 2 Timothy 3:15. δ. From the Rebukes and Threats on account of ignorance, so grievous and severe that whether the Knowledge of faith also constitutes a part of Religion may no longer be doubted, Isaiah 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:8. And I will not now mention, ε. the Prayers for increasing knowledge. ϛ. From the appellation or description of Religion. For by what God takes care that the whole of Religion be often described, and what in other respects obtains the first place in the description of Religion; that He wished in this way to commend as of great moment in religion and a more principal part of it. But by Knowledge He takes care that the whole of Religion be described, or Knowledge obtains the first place in the description of Religion. Therefore. See Psalm 36:10; Isaiah 11:9; Titus 1:1.

3. If the principal Virtues of Religion, Faith, Hope, and Love, cohere in an indissoluble bond, according to 1 Corinthians 13:13. Therefore, Faith in and Knowledge of the truth are not able to be separated from the Hope of the promises and Observance of the commandments. This obtains all the more, the more certainly it is able to be shown that the Observance of the commandments and the Hope of the promises are not at all able to subsist without a Knowledge of and Faith in the things to be believed: for, α. with respect to the Observance of the Commandments, among the Commandments the first is that of Faith, from which the remaining commandments ought to be fulfilled, John 6:29; Acts 16:31; 1 Timothy 1:5: the Commandments themselves, if they are going to be observed, must be distinctly known: the manifold obligation of the Commandments is to be learned also from God’s majesty and blessings. β. No less does the Hope of the Promises, in addition to the Knowledge of and Faith in the Promises as of the highest veracity, necessarily presuppose Faith in God as Redeemer through Christ: for those that live χωρὶς Χριστοῦ, without Christ, live ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες, καὶ ἄθεοι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, without hope, and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12.

4. Finally, one may see the Socinians and the Remonstrants contradicting themselves in this controversy, in HOORNBEECK’S Socinianismo confutato, book I, chapter VIII, tome I, pages 183-185.

LACTANTIUS indeed takes Religion more narrowly for the Worship of God, and thereby distinguishes it from the Knowledge or Wisdom of God; both which, nevertheless, he wills to be most closely conjoined and not to be torn asunder in any way, Institutionibus divinis, book IV, chapter IV, “Therefore, Religion is not able to be separated from wisdom, neither is wisdom able to be dissociated from Religion: because it is one and the same God, who ought to be understood, which belongs to wisdom, and also to be honored, which belongs to Religion. But wisdom precedes, Religion follows; because the knowledge of God is first, the worship follows.”

What things they Object are of no great weight:

They object, α. that the bare Knowledge of God with the worship of the same is not sufficient, and the Worship of god excels the Knowledge of God. Response: We willingly acknowledge the former; and the latter we would also be able to concede without any detriment to our cause, and with our thesis concerning the necessity of the Knowledge of and Faith in the things to be believed, together with the Observance of the commandments and the Hope of the promises, remaining intact: just as in man the body without the soul is not sufficient, yet the body is nonetheless an essential part of man also; neither does one of the essential or integral parts ever constitute the whole.

They object, β. the Fear of God and pursuit of Righteousness in every nation is pleasing to God even before faith in Christ, according to Acts 10:34, 35: see the Apologiam Remonstrantium, chapter XVIII, page 196. Response: that Fear of God and pursuit of Righteousness presupposes the Knowledge of God and of that Righteousness pleasing to Him. Peter by those words asserts that the distinction of the peoples that had obtained under the Old Testament has now been removed, whence all appearance of προσωποληψίας, respect of persons, was removed by God. Formerly God had suffered all Nations to walk in their own ways, Acts 14:16, now with the dividing wall removed, in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature, Galatians 6:15, in the place of which in Galatains 5:6 is, for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, not uncircumcision, but faith efficacious through love. But that life of the new Creature, that life of faith operative through love, Peter describes in its activity, by to fear God and to work righteousness. 1. For the Fear pleasing to God is filial Fear, which Peter treats in 1 Peter 1:17, with which passage the words of Peter in Acts 10 most closely agree. But that filial Fear obtains in no one without filiation; neither does filiation obtain without adoption and regeneration: but where regeneration is, there is the new Creature in Christ, but which is born by the Word of truth, James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23. 2. Similarly, no one is able to pursue zealously the Righteousness pleasing to God without Faith, through which we may be made more certain both of the commanding will of God, and of God’s reconciliation with us through Christ, Romans 14:23; 1 Timothy 1:5; Hebrews 11:6: compare TRIGLAND’S[4] Antapologiam, chapter XXXV, pages 473b, 474a; LELAND’S Beschouwing van de Schriften der Deisten, tome 1, chapter 13, pages 442-444.

They object, γ. that hence the damnation of a great many follows. Our AUTHOR shall give a response: compare Chapter I, § 19, 20, Chapter VII, § 33.

[1] Fausto Paolo Sozzini, or Faustus Socinus (1539-1604), was the father of Socinianism, a rationalistic heresy (denying the Deity of Christ, the satisfaction theory of the atonement, etc.), an aberration of the Reformation.

[2] Jonas Schlichting (1592-1661) was a theologian of the Socinian Polish Brethren. He wrote commentaries on most of the books of the New Testament.

[3] Romulus was the legendary founder of Rome.

[4] Jacobus Trigland the Elder (1583-1654) was a Dutch Reformed pastor and theologian. He was deputed by the Synod of North Holland to the Synod of Dort; he was a member of the committee appointed to draw up the Canons of Dort. In 1633, he became Professor of Theology at Leiden.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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