Chapter III:20: The Free Confession of True Religion

True Religion requires the Confession of it, 1. Free and Constant, unto Martyrdom, according to the divine declaration of the Lord Himself, Matthew 10:32, 33, compared with Mark 8:38, and the grave command of the same, Revelation 2:10: which things are confirmed by the Apostles, when they teach that the Faith of the heart and Confession of the mouth are to be conjoined, Romans 10:9, 10; they will each believer always to be prepared to give an ἀπολογίαν/apology/answer, 1 Peter 3:15, and foretell the unhappy end of those denying Christ, 2 Timothy 2:12. Whence with good reason the Apostolic Constitutions,[1] book V, chapter IV, say, ἀρνεῖσθαι Χριστὸν, φρικτὸν καὶ ὀλέθριον, to deny Christ is dreadful and deadly, which Confession they hence commend, chapter VI, not that there is to be a rash rushing unto Martyrdom, but that there is not to be a concealing of our Confession because of fear, when we are called by God to suffering and persecution. And the wonderful constancy of the ancient Christians in the confession of their faith is able to be discussed here, drawn out from the monuments of the first ages by CAVE,[2] Primitive Christianity, book II, chapters VI, VII, pages 423-489.


Now, this is to be held, α. both against the ancient Basilidians,[3] whom, among others departing, CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA refutes, book IV of Stromata, while he himself by diverse argument exhorts to Martyrdom. And also against the Priscillians, heretics of the fourth Century, so called after Priscillian, of Hispania, a Layman of Noble Birth, later Bishop of Avila; of whom AUGUSTINE, de Hæresibus, chapter LXX, makes mention of why they decline a free and sincere Confession of the Religion that they held: “In order to hide their pollutions and indecencies they hold also these words among their dogmas: Swear, forswear, do not reveal the secret.”


β. And also against whatever more recent Libertines, in particular those that pertain to the Family of Love,[4] who do not judge an external Profession of Religion to be necessary; but they say that it belongs to Love to join themselves with whatever sect, professing even false Religion, and not to contend or suffer anything hard for Religion: see HOORNBEECK’S Summam Controversiarum, book VI, pages 420-422. While Libertines in general say that the external rites and ancient ceremonies have been abrogated, and so external actions, now to be placed among τὰ ἀδιάφορα, the adiaphora or things morally indifferent, are not able to be evil; and that Christians are no longer held to any certain Confession of the truth, but that this Confession is able to be accommodated to places and times: see the Most Illustrious VAN DE WYNPERSSE,[5] in his Dissertatione de Libertinismo, § V, pages 11, 12. Thus in particular Hobbes does not dread to assert, “In Confession of Faith there is no place for private judgment; but everyone ought to confess whatever the highest Governor might command. Indeed, he commands us to say what we may not believe, if the Prince should prohibit us to believe upon Christ: for the voice of man is only an external matter. Indeed, if a believer should be commanded by his legitimate prince to deny Christ, it is lawful to obey; while this deed is to be imputed to the King, not to the believer. At the same time, the private man within his own breast is free either to believe, or not to believe, what he confesses at the commandment of the King. He denies that there is any proper Martyr for Christ, except he that is a witness of the Resurrection of Christ: but to that, says he, no one is able to testify, except he that went about with Him on earth, or saw Him after His Resurrection. And no one on account of this matter is obliged to suffer death, who was not sent to preach that Article:” see LELAND’S Beschouwing van de Schriften der Deisten, tome 1, chapter 3, pages 64, 65. COCQUIUS stands against this impious doctrine in his Anatome Hobbesianismi, locus V, chapters X, XI, pages 97-102. Concerning Indifferentism in Religion see STAPFER discoursing at greater length, Theologicis polemicis, tome 4, chapter XIII, pages 1-66; BUDDEUS’ Theologiæ Moralis, part I, chapter I, section II, § 28, 29, pages 56-58. LELAND refutes Chubb[6] as the patron of Indifferentism, Beschouwing van de Schriften der Deisten, epistle XIII, pages 442-448. Concerning Indifferentism and Skepticism in Religion, and the Universal Syncretism flowing from this, see BUDDEUS’ Isagogen ad Theologiam universam, book II, chapter VII, § 10, tome 2, pages 1390b-1393. The Walloon Synod, held in Amsterdam in August of 1690, professes that they abhor, and under the threat of most grievous censure prohibit to be taught, the following theses, defending Libertinism and Indifference in Religion: “That salvation may be found in whatever Religion, if only good faith and a good intention be had. That one does not sin, if he follows the motions of conscience: neither does it matter that the act that is performed is evil. That one is not a blasphemer against God, unless he blasphemes against his own principles. That piety and reason oblige us to tolerate whatever heresies, with respect to the state, as much as the church. That the Magistrate has no right to make use of his power to extirpate Idolatry or to prevent the spread of Heresies. That every private individual has the right not only to believe what pleases him as a private individual, but also of teaching whatever; and it is not free to the Magistrate to prohibit or impede:” see see LEYDEKKER’S Præfationem ante Ludovici de Dieu Aphorismos theologicos, section IV, E. 6.


If you should object on behalf of Indifferentism, that God does not need external Worship. I respond: 1. God does not need our internal Worship either, as being in Himself All-Sufficient and Infinitely blessed, Acts 17:24, 25. 2. Nevertheless, He will that He be glorified by us in body and soul together, 1 Corinthians 6:20.

[1] The Apostolic Constitutions is a collection of eight treatises on church order. It was probably written around 375 in Syria.


[2] William Cave (1637-1713) was an Anglican churchman and theologian, and patristic scholar. His Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Historia Literaria is held in high esteem.


[3] The Basilidians were a second century Egyptian, dualistic Gnostic sect; they were followers of Basilides of Alexandria.


[4] The Family of Love (members were sometimes known as Familists) was founded by Henry Nicholis circa 1539. Nicholis was seeking to establish a doctrinally indifferent fellowship of peace.


[5] Dionysius van de Wynpersse (1724-1808) was a Dutch Reformed Theologian and Philosopher, Professor of Logic, Physics, and Metaphysics at Groningen (1752-1769).


[6] Thomas Chubb (1679-1747) was an English Deist.

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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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