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Declaration of Faith of the National Council of Congregational Churches, held at Boston, Mass., June 14–24, 1865.

[This Declaration was adopted at Plymouth, Massachusetts, on the spot where the first meeting-house of the 'Pilgrim Fathers' stood. The text is taken from the Debates and Proceedings of the National Council of Congregational Churches (Boston, 1866), pp. 401–403, as compared with the Congregational Manual on Ecclesiastical Polity, published by the Congregational Board, Boston, 1872, pp. 76–80.]

Standing by the rock where the Pilgrims set foot upon these shores, upon the spot where they worshiped God, and among the graves of the early generations, we, Elders and Messengers of the Congregational churches of the United States in National Council assembled—like them acknowledging no rule of faith but the Word of God—do now declare our adherence to the faith and order of the apostolic and primitive churches held by our fathers, and substantially as embodied in the confessions and platforms which our Synods of 1648 and 1680 set forth or reaffirmed. We declare that the experience of the nearly two and a half centuries which have elapsed since the memorable day when our sires founded here a Christian Commonwealth, with all the development of new forms of error since their times, has only deepened our confidence in the faith and polity of those fathers. We bless God for the inheritance of these doctrines. We invoke the help of the 735Divine Redeemer, that, through the presence of the promised Comforter, he will enable us to transmit them in purity to our children.

In the times that are before us as a nation, times at once of duty and of danger, we rest all our hope in the gospel of the Son of God. It was the grand peculiarity of our Puritan fathers that they held this gospel, not merely as the ground of their personal salvation, but as declaring the worth of man by the incarnation and sacrifice of the Son of God, and therefore applied its principles to elevate society, to regulate education, to civilize humanity, to purify law, to reform the Church and the State, and to assert and defend liberty; in short, to mold and redeem, by its all-transforming energy, every thing that belongs to man in his individual and social relations.

It was the faith of our fathers that gave us this free land in which we dwell. It is by this faith only that we can transmit to our children a free and happy, because a Christian, commonwealth.

We hold it to be a distinctive excellence of our Congregational system that it exalts that which is more above that which is less important, and by the simplicity of its organization facilitates, in communities where the population is limited, the union of all true believers in one Christian church, and that the division of such communities into several weak and jealous societies, holding the same common faith, is a sin against the unity of the body of Christ, and at once the shame and scandal of Christendom.

We rejoice that, through the influence of our free system of apostolic order, we can hold fellowship with all who acknowledge Christ, and act efficiently in the work of restoring unity to the divided Church, and of bringing back harmony and peace among all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.'

Thus recognizing the unity of the Church of Christ in all the world, and knowing that we are but one branch of Christ's people, while adhering to our peculiar faith and order, we extend to all believers the hand of Christian fellowship upon the basis of those great fundamental truths in which all Christians should agree.

With them we confess our faith in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost [the only living and true God];20602060The words in brackets were inadvertently omitted in the volume of Proceedings, but inserted in the text of the Manual. See Cong. Quarterly, Vol. X. p. 377, where Dr. Quint shows that they belong to the original MS.—Ed. in Jesus Christ, the in Jesus Christ, the 736incarnate Word, who is exalted to be our Redeemer and King; and in the Holy Comforter, who is present in the Church to regenerate and sanctify the soul.

With the whole Church, we confess the common sinfulness and ruin of our race, and acknowledge that it is only through the work accomplished by the life and expiatory death of Christ that believers in him are justified before God, receive the remission of sins, and through the presence and grace of the Holy Comforter are delivered from the power of sin and perfected in holiness.

We believe also in the organized and visible Church, in the ministry of the Word, in the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, in the resurrection of the body, and in the final judgment, the issues of which are eternal life and everlasting punishment.

We receive these truths on the testimony of God, given through prophets and apostles, and in the life, the miracles, the death, the resurrection of his Son, our Divine Redeemer—a testimony preserved for the Church in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which were composed by holy men, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Affirming now our belief that those who thus hold 'one faith, one Lord, one baptism,'20612061The Apostle puts 'Lord’ before 'faith'—Eph. iv. 5.—Ed. together constitute the one catholic Church, the several households of which, though called by different names, are the one body of Christ, and that these members of his body are sacredly bound to keep 'the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,' we declare that we will co-operate with all who hold these truths. With them we will carry the gospel into every part of this land, and with them we will go into all the world, and 'preach the gospel to every creature.' May He to whom 'all power is given in heaven and earth' fulfill the promise which is all our hope: 'Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the World.' Amen.

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