The Sentiments of the Church of England...
...as Prefixed to the New Testament of Queen Elizabeth's
Bible, 1584, in Certain Questions and Answers, Touching the Doctrine of
Predestination, the Use of God's Word, and Sacraments.
QUESTION. Why do men SO much vary in matters of religion?
ANSWER. Because all have not the like measure of knowledge, neither
do all believe the gospel of Christ.
Q. What is the reason thereof?
A. Because they only
believe the gospel and doctrine of Christ, which are ordained unto Eternal
Q. Are not all ordained unto eternal life?
A. Some are
vessels of wrath ordained unto destruction, as others are vessels of mercy
prepared to glory.
Q. How standeth it with God's justice that some are
appointed unto condemnation?
A. Very well; because all men have in themselves
sin, which deserved no less, and therefore the mercy of God is wonderful,
in that he vouchsafed to save some of that sinful race, and to bring them
to the knowledge of the truth.
Q. If God's ordinance and determination must of necessity
take effect, then what need any man to care, for he that liveth well must
needs be damned if he be thereunto ordained, and he that liveth ill must
needs be saved if he be thereunto appointed?
A. Not so; for it is not
possible that either the elect should always be without care to do well,
or. that the reprobate should have any will thereunto, for to have either
good will or good work, is a testimony of the Spirit of God, which is given
unto the elect only, whereby faith is so wrought in them, that being grafted
in Christ, they grow in holiness to that glory whereunto they are appointed.
Neither are they so vain as once to think that they may do as they list
themselves, because they are predestinate unto salvation; hut rather they
endeavour to walk in such good works as God in Christ Jesus bath ordained
them unto, and prepared for them to he occupied in, to their own comfort,
stay, and assurance, and to his glory.
Q. But how shall I know myself to be one of those whom God
hath ordained unto life eternal?
A. By the motions of spiritual life,
which belongeth only to the children of God, by the which that life is perceived
even as the life of this body is discerned by the sense and motions thereof.
Q. What mean you by the motions of spiritual life?
I mean remorse of conscience joined with the loathing of sin and love of
righteousness; the hand of faith reaching unto life eternal in Christ, the
conscience comforted in distress, and raised up to confidence in God by
the work of his Spirit, a thankful remembrance of God's benefits received,
and the using of all adversities as occasion of amendment sent from God.
Q. Cannot such perish as at some time or other feel these
motions within themselves?
A. It is not possible that they should; for
as God's purpose is not changeable, so he repenteth not of the gifts
and graces of his adoption, neither doth he cast off those whom he hath
Q. Why then should we pray by the example of David that
he cast us not from his face, and that he take not his Holy Spirit from
A. In so praying we make protestation of the weakness of flesh,
which moveth us to doubt; yet should not we have courage to ask, if we were
not assured that God would give according to his purpose and promise, that
which we require.
Q. Do the children of God feel the motions aforesaid always
A. No, truly; for God, sometimes to prove his, seemeth to leave
them in such sort, that the flesh over-matcheth the spirit, whereof ariseth
trouble of conscience for the time, yet the spirit of adoption is never
taken from them that have once received it, else might they perish, But,
as in many diseases of the body, the powers of bodily life are letted; so
in some assaults these motions of spiritual life are not perceived, because
they lie hidden in our manifold infirmities as the fire covered with ashes.
Yet, as after sickness cometh health, and after clouds the sun shineth clear,
so the powers of spiritual life will more or less be felt and perceived
in the children of God.
Q. What if I never feel these motions in my soul, shall
I despair, and think myself a cast-away?
A. God forbid; for God calleth
us at what time he seeth good, and the instruments whereby he usually calleth
have not the like effect at all times, yet it is not good to neglect the
means whereby God hath determined to work the salvation of his. For as wax
is not melted without heat, nor clay hardened but my means thereof, so God
useth means both to draw those unto himself whom he hath appointed unto
salvation, and also to betray the wickedness of them whom he justly condemneth.
Q. By what means useth God to draw men to himself that they
may be saved?
A. By the preaching of his word and the ministering of
his sacraments thereunto annexed.
Q. What mean you by the word of God?
A. I mean the doctrine
of the prophets. and apostles, which they received of the Spirit of God,
and have left written in that book which we commonly call the Old and New
Q. How may I be assured that it is the word of God which
that book containeth?
A. By the majesty of God appearing in that plain
and simple doctrine; by the pureness, uprightness, and holiness thereof;
by the certainty of every thing therein affirmed; by the success of all
things according to it; by perpetual consent which is to be seen in every
part thereof; by the excellency of the matter uttered; but especially by
the testimony of God's Spirit, whereby it was written, who moveth the
hearts of those in whom it resteth to consent unto the word and reverently
to embrace it.
Q. How doth this word of God serve to draw men unto him?
A. When it is so preached and heard, that men may understand and learn
what God teacheth, accept and receive thankfully that which is thereby given,
promised, and assured, and be moved with desire and diligence to do that
which it commandeth.
Q. Do the sacraments also serve to this end?
verily, that by sight, taste, and feeling, as well as by hearing, we might
be instructed, assured, and brought to obedience.
Q. How cloth our baptism serve hereunto?
A. It teacheth
us to put on Christ, that with his righteousness our sinfulness may be hidden;
it assureth us that we are so graft into Christ that all our sins by him
are washed away; it chargeth us to die to sin, to continue in the profession
of Christ, and to love each other.
Q. Hath the Lord's Supper also this use?
doubtless; for it teacheth that the body and blood of Christ crucified is
the only food of the new born children of God; it assureth that Christ is
wholly theirs to give and to continue life spiritual and heavenly to body
and soul, to nourish, strengthen, refresh, and to make cheerful the hearts
of the elect; it requireth thankful remembrance of the death of Christ,
unity among them that do profess him, with a free confession of his truth.
Q. Why is not this use of the sacraments commonly known?
A. Because they are abused for form, for fashion, for, custom, and company,
without regard unto the word, whereunto they are so annexed, that they ought
not upon any necessity by any person be severed from it, which teacheth
the right use of every thing.
Q. I perceive that nothing is more necessary than the word
of God; therefore, I pray you, show me how I may attain to some knowledge
and profit thereby.
A. By diligent hearing of such as preach it; by
continual and orderly exercise of reading and praying.
Q. What orderly exercise think you most convenient to be
A. That as every day, twice at least, we most commonly
receive food to the nourishment of this corporal life, so no day be let
pass without some reading, in such sort that occasion thereby may be taken
to speak again unto God by prayer as he in his word speaketh unto us, so
that at least two chapters would be orderly and advisedly read every day,
all other business, impediments, and lets set apart.
Q. This seemeth very easy to be done; what think you else
A. That some special places of scripture be so committed
to memory that the mind may ever be furnished with some good matter against
all temptations. To which end I note these scriptures unto you, whereunto
you may join other at your own choice: Ps. cxxxix. 37, 50; Essay (sic -
Isaiah) liii.; John xvii.; Rom. viii.; 1 Tim. iv.
Q. But the scriptures are hard, and not easy to understand.
A. Discourage not yourself herewith, for God maketh them easy to such
as in humility seek him; and that hardness that you find serveth to move
you to the more diligence, and to make inquiry of such as have knowledge
when any doubt ariseth. That which you perceive not at one time God will
reveal at another, so that you shall have your growing in grace, knowledge,
and godliness, to God's glory and your own comfort in Christ, whose
name for ever be praised.