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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Confession of Faith
A list of the several articles of the belief of any church. There is some difference between creeds and confessions. Creeds in their commencement were simply expressions of faith in a few of the leading and undisputed doctrines of the Gospel. Confessions were on the contrary the result of many an hazardous and laborious effort, at the dawn of reviving literature to recover these doctrines, and to separate them from the enormous mass of erroneous and corrupted tenets, which the negligence or ignorance of some, and the artifices of avarice and ambition in others, had conduced to accumulate for a space of 1000 years, under an implicit obedience to the arrogant pretensions of an absolute and infallible authority in the church of Rome. Objections have been formed against all creeds or confessions of faith, as it is said they infringe Christian liberty, supersede the Scriptures, exclude such as ought not to be excluded, and admit such as ought not to be admitted; are often too particular and long; are liable to be abused; tempt men to hypocrisy; preclude improvement; and have been employed as means of persecution. On the other hand, the advocates for them observe, that all the arts and sciences have been reduced to a system; and why should not the truths of religion, which are of greater importance?
That a comendious view of the chief and most necessary points of the Christian religion, which lie scattered up and down in the mind, as well also to hold forth to the world what are in general the sentiments of such a particular church or churches; they tend to discover the common friends of the same faith to one another, and to unite them; that the Scriptures seem to authorize and countenance them; such as the moral law, the Lord's prayer, the form of doctrine mentioned by Paul, Romans 6:17; and again, "the form of sound words, " in 2 Timothy 1:13 &c.; that their becoming the occasion of hypocrisy is no fault of the articles, but of those who subscribe them; that persecution has been raised more by the turbulent tempers of men than from the nature of confessions. Some think that all articles and confessions of faith should be expressed in the bare words of Scripture; but is replied, that this would have a tendency to make the ministry of the word useless; in a great measure cramp all religious conversation; and that the sentiments of one man could not be distinguished from another in some points of importance. Some of the most noted confessions and canons of the church of England; the Westminster Assembly's Confession of Faith; the Savoy Confession, or a declaration of the faith and order, owned and practised in the congregational churches in England.
See also Corpus et Syntagma confessionum fidel, quae in diversis regnis et nationibus ecclesiarum nomine, fuerunt authentice editae, which exhibits a body of numerous confessions.
See likewise, An Harmony of the confessions of Faith of the Christian and Reformed Churches; Watt's Rational Foundation of a Christian Church, qu. 8; Graham on Establishments, p. 265, &c.; Bishop Cleaver's Sermon on the Formation of the Articles of the Church of England; the Articles of the Church of England; Paley's Phil. vol. 2. p. 321.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Confession of Faith'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/c/confession-of-faith.html. 1802.