The Belgic (or Netherlands) Confession of Faith
This is historically the first of our “Three Forms of Unity” (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession of Faith, and the Canons of Dordt), having been composed in 1561. It is often called the Belgic Confession because it was written in the southern Lowlands, now known as Belgium. Its chief author was Guido de Bres, on of the several itinerant preachers during those days of persecution, who died a martyr’s death.
Under Philip II, of Spain, an ally of the Romish Church, the Reformed believers in the Lowlands were sorely persecuted as revolutionaries. This Confession was written primarily as a testimony to the Spanish king to prove that the Reformed believers were not rebels, as was charged, but law-abiding citizens who professed only those doctrines which were the teachings of Holy Scripture. In 1562 a copy was sent to the Spanish king, accompanied by a petition for relief from persecution, in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, although they would “offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to fire,” rather than deny the truth of God’s Word.
The Confession and the petition had no effect on the Spanish authorities. However, it served well as a means of instruction of Reformed believers and thus became an expression of the faith of a people enduring suffering for Christ’s sake. This is also reflected in its language. For while this confession follows the objective doctrinal order in its articles, its profoundly personal element is evident from the fact that every article begins with such words as, “We believe…,” “We believe and confess…,” or, “We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth….”
The confession was adopted by several National Synods in the sixteenth century, and, after careful revision of the text, was approved and adopted by the Synod of Dordrecht, 1618-1619, and ever since that time included among our “Three Forms of Unity.”
Article 1: That there is One Only God.
Article 2: By what means God is made known unto us.
Article 3: Of the written Word of God.
Article 4: Canonical Books of the Holy Scripture.
Article 5: From whence the Holy Scriptures derive their dignity and authority.
Article 6: The difference between the canonical and apocryphal books.
Article 7: The sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, to be the only rule of faith.
Article 8: That God is one in Essence, yet nevertheless distinguished in three Persons.
Article 9: The proof of the foregoing article of the Trinity of persons in one God.
Article 10: That Jesus Christ is true and eternal God.
Article 11: That the Holy Ghost is true and eternal God.
Article 12: Of the Creation.
Article 13: Of Divine Providence.
Article 14: Of the Creation and Fall of man, and his Incapacity to perform what is truly good.
Article 15: Of Original Sin.
Article 16: Of Eternal Election.
Article 17: Of the Recovery of Fallen Man.
Article 18: Of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Article 19: Of the union and distinction of the two Natures in the person of Christ.
Article 20: That God hath manifested his justice and mercy in Christ Jesus.
Article 21: Of the satisfaction of Christ, our only High Priest, for us.
Article 22: Of Faith in Jesus Christ.
Article 23: Of Justification.
Article 24: Of man’s Sanctification and Good Works.
Article 25: Of the abolishing of the Ceremonial Law.
Article 26: Of Christ’s Intercession.
Article 27: Of the Catholic Christian Church.
Article 28: That every one is bound to join himself to the true Church.
Article 29: Of the marks of the true Church, and wherein she differs from the false Church.
Article 30: Concerning the Government of, and Offices in the Church.
Article 31: Of the Ministers, Elders, and Deacons.
Article 32: Of the Order and Discipline of the Church.
Article 33: Of the Sacraments.
Article 34: Of Holy Baptism.
Article 35: Of the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Article 36: Of Magistrates.
Article 37: Of the Last Judgment.