The Zurich Consensus

THE CONSENSUS TIGURINUS
WRITTEN BY CALVIN, 1549
FOR THE PURPOSE OF UNITING ALL BRANCHES OF THE REFORMED CHURCH IN A COMMON DOCTRINE AS TO THE LORD’S SUPPER

HEADS OF CONSENT

The whole Spiritual regimen of the Church leads us to Christ

I. Since Christ is the end of the Law, and the knowledge of Him comprehends in itself the entire sum of the Gospel, there is no doubt bat that the whole spiritual regimen of the Church is designed to lead us to Christ; as through Him alone we reach God, who is the ultimate end of a blessed (holy) life; and so whoever departs in the least from this truth will never speak rightly or fitly respecting any of the ordinances of God.

A true knowledge of the Sacraments from a knowledge of Christ

II. Moreover since the Sacraments are auxiliaries (appendices) of the Gospel, he certainly will discuss both aptly and usefully their nature, their power, their office and their fruit, who weaves his discourse from Christ; not merely touching the name of Christ incidentally, but truthfully holding forth the purpose for which He was given to us by the Father, and the benefits which He has conferred upon us.

Knowledge of Christ, what it involves

III. Accordingly it must be held, that Christ, being the eternal Son of God, of the same essence and glory with the Father, put on our flesh in order that, by right of adoption, He might communicate to us what by nature was solely His own, to wit, that we should be sons of God. This takes place when we, ingrafted through faith into the body of Christ, and this by the power of the Holy Spirit, are first justified by the gratuitous imputation of righteousness, and then regenerated into a new life, that, new-created in the image of the Heavenly Father, we may put off the old man.

Christ, Priest and King

IV. We must therefore regard Christ in His flesh as a Pries:, who has expiated our sins by His death, the only Sacrifice, blotted out all our iniquities by His obedience, procured for us a perfect righteousness, and now intercedes for us that we may have access to God; as an expiatory Sacrifice whereby God was reconciled to the world; as a Brother, who from wretched sons of Adam has made us blessed sons of God; as a Restorer (Reparator), who by the power of His Spirit transforms all that is corrupt (vitiosum) in us, that we may no longer live unto the world and the flesh, and God himself may live in us; as a King, who enriched us with every kind of good, governs and preserves us by His power, establishes us with spiritual arms, delivers us from every evil, and restrains and directs us by the sceptre of His month; and He is to be so regarded, that He may lift us up to Himself, very God, and to the Father, until that shall be fulfilled which is to be at last, that God be all in all.

How Christ communicates Himself to us.

V. Moreover in order that Christ may manifest Himself such a one to us and produce such effects in us, it behooves us to be made one with Him and grow together in His body. For He diffuses His life in us is no other way than by being our Head; “from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body” (Eph. 4:16).

Communion spiritual. Sacraments instituted.

VI. This communion which we have with the Son of God, is spiritual; so that He, dwelling in us by His Spirit, makes all of us who believe partakers of all the good that resides in Him. To bear witness of this, both the preaching of the Gospel and the use of the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Holy Supper were instituted.

The Ends of the Sacraments

VII. The Sacraments, however, have also these ends:—to be marks and tokens of Christian profession and (Christian) association, or brotherhood; to incite gratitude (thanksgiving), and to be exercises of faith and a pious life, in short, bonds (sealed contracts) making these things obligatory. But among other ends this one is chief, that by these Sacraments God attests, presents anew, and seals to us His grace. For while they indeed signify nothing more than is declared in the word itself, yet it is no small matter that they are presented to our eyes as lively symbols which better affect our feeling, leading us to the reality (in rem), while they recall to memory Christ’s death and all the benefits thereof, in order that faith may have more vigorous exercise; and finally, it is of no little moment that what was proclaimed to us by the month of God, is confirmed and sanctioned by seals.

Thanksgiving

VIII. Moreover, since the testimonials and seals of His grace, which the Lord has given us, are verities, surely He himself will beyond all doubt make good to us inwardly, by His Spirit, what the Sacraments symbolize to our eyes and other senses, viz., possession of Christ as the ountain of all blessings, then reconciliation to God by virtue of His death, restoration by the Spirit unto holiness of life, and finally attainment of righteousness and salvation; accompanied with thanksgiving for hese mercies, which were formerly displayed on the cross, and through aith are daily received by us.

The signs and the things signified are not separated, but distinct

IX. Wherefore, though we rightly make a distinction between the signs and the things signified, yet we do not separate the verity from the signs; but we believe, that all who by faith embrace the promises therein offered, do spiritually receive Christ and His spiritual gifts, and so also they who have before been made partakers of Christ, do continue and renew their communion.

In the Sacraments the promise is chiefly to be kept in view

X. For not to the bare signs, but rather to the promise which is annexed to them, it becomes us to look. As far then as our faith advances in the promise offered in the Sacraments, so for will this power and efficacy of which we speak exert itself. Accordingly the matter materia) of the water, bread or wine, by no means present Christ to us, nor makes us partakers of His spiritual gifts; but we must look rather to the promise, whose office it is to lead us to Christ by the right way of faith, and this faith makes us partakers of Christ.

The Elements are not to be superstitiously worshipped

XI. Hence the error of those who superstitiously worship (obstupescunt) the elements, and rest therein the assurance of their salvation, falls to the ground. For the Sacraments apart from Christ are nothing but empty masks; and they themselves dearly declare to all this truth, that we must cling to nothing else but Christ alone, and in nothing else must the free gift of salvation be sought.

The Sacraments (per se) have no efficacy

XII. Furthermore, if any benefit is conferred upon us by the Sacraments, this does not proceed from any virtue of their own, even though the promise whereby they are distinguished be included. For it is God alone who works by His Spirit. And in using the instrumentality of the Sacraments, He thereby neither infuses into them His own power, nor abates in the least the efficiency of His Spirit; but in accordance with the capacity of our ignorance (ruditas) He uses them as instruments in such a way that the whole efficiency (facultas agendi) remains solely with Himself.

God uses the instrument but in such a way that all the power (virtus) is His

XIII. Therefore, as Paul advises us that “neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase” 1 Cor. 3:7); so also it may be said of the Sacraments, that they are nothing, for they will be of no avail except God work the whole to completion (in solidum omnia efficiat). They are indeed instruments with which God works efficiently, when it pleases Him, but in such a manner that the whole work of our salvation must be credited solely to Him.XIV. We have therefore decided that it is solely Christ who verily baptizes us within, who makes us partakers of Him in the Supper, who, in fine, fulfils what the Sacraments symbolize, and so uses indeed, then instruments, that the whole efficiency resides in His Spirit.

How the Sacraments confirm

XV. So the Sacraments are sometimes called seals, are said to nourish, confirm, and promote faith; and yet the Spirit alone is properly the seal, and the same Spirit is the originator and perfecter of our faith. For all these attributes of the Sacraments occupy a subordinate place, so that not even the least portion of the work of our salvation is transferred from its sole author to either the creature or the elements.

Not all who participate in the Sacraments partake also of the verily

XVI. Moreover, we sedulously teach that God does not exert His power promiscuously in all who receive the Sacraments, but only in the elect. For just as he enlightens unto faith none but those whom He has foreordained unto life, so by the hidden power of His spirit. He causes only the elect to receive what the Sacraments offer.

The Sacraments do not confer grace

XVII. This doctrine refutes that invention of sophists which teaches that the Sacraments of the New Covenant confer grace on all who do not interpose the impediment of a mortal sin. For besides the truth that nothing is received in the Sacraments except by faith, it is also to be held that God’s grace is not in the least so linked to the Sacraments themselves that whoever has the sign possesses also the reality (res); for the signs are administered to the reprobate as well as to the elect, but the verity of the signs comes only to the latter.

God’s gifts are offered to all; believers alone receive them

XVIII. It is indeed certain that Christ and His gifts (dona) are offered to all alike, and that the verity of God is not so impaired by the unbelief of men that the Sacraments do not always retain their proper virtue (viz); but all persons are not capable of receiving Christ and His gifts (dona). Therefore on God’s part there is no variableness, but on the part of men each one receives according to the measure of his faith.

Believers have communion with Christ, before and without the use of the Sacraments

XIX. Moreover, as the use of the Sacraments confers on unbelievers nothing more than if they had abstained therefrom, indeed, is only pernicious to them; so without their use the verity which they symbolise endures to those who believe. Thus in Baptism were washed away Paul’s sins, which had already been washed away before. Thus also Baptism was to Cornelius the washing of regeneration, and yet he had already received the gift of the Holy Spirit. So in the Supper Christ communicates himself to us, and yet He imparted himself to us before, and abides continually in us forever. For since each one is commanded to examine himself, it hence follows that faith is required of each before he comes to the Sacraments. And yet there is no faith without Christ; but in so far as in the Sacraments faith is confirmed and grows, God’s gifts are confirmed in us, and so in a measure Christ grows in us and we in Him.

Grace is not so joined to the act of the Sacraments, that their fruit is received immediately after the act

XX. The benefit also which we derive from the Sacraments should by no means be restricted to the time in which they are administered to us; just as if the visible sign when brought forward into view, did at the same moment with itself bring God’s grace. For those who are baptized in early infancy, God regenerates in boyhood, in budding youth, and sometimes even in old age. So the benefit of Baptism lies open to the whole course of life; for the promise which it contains is perpetually valid. It may, also, sometimes happen, that a partaking of the Supper, which in the act itself brought us little good because of our inconsiderateness or dullness, afterward brings forth its fruit.

Local imagination should be suppressed

XXI. Especially should every conception of local (bodily) presence be suppressed. For while the signs are here in the world seen by the eyes, and felt by the hands, Christ, in so far as He is man, we must contemplate as in no other place but heaven, and seek Him in no other way than with the mind and faith’s understanding. Wherefore it is a preposterous and impious superstition to enclose Him under elements of this world.

Exposition of the words of the Lord’s Supper, “This is my body.”

XXII. We therefore repudiate as absurd interpreters, those who urge the precise literal sense, as they say, of the customary words in the Supper, “This is my body,” “This is my blood.” For we place it beyond all controversy that these words are to be understood figuratively, so that the bread and the wine are said to be that which they signify. And verily it ought not to seem novel or unusual that the name of the thing signified be transferred by metonomy to the sign, for expressions of this land are scattered throughout the Scriptures; and saying this we assert nothing that does not plainly appear in all the oldest and most approved writers of the Church.

Concerning the eating of the body of Christ

XXIII. Moreover, that Christ, through faith by the power of His Holy Spirit, feeds our souls with the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood, is not to be understood as if any commingling or transfusion of substance occurred, but as meaning that from flesh once offered in sacrifice and blood once poured out in expiation we derive life.

Against Transubstantiation and other silly conceits

XXIV. In this way not only is the invention of Papists about transubstantiation refuted, but also all the gross fictions and futile subtleties which are either derogatory to His divine glory or inconsistent with the verity of His human nature. For we consider it no less absurd to locate Christ under the bread, or conjoin Him with the bread, than to transubstantiate the bread into His body.

Christ’s body is in heaven as in a place

XXV. But in order that no ambiguity may remain, when we say that Christ should be contemplated as in heaven, the phrase implies and expresses a difference of place (a distance between places). For though, philosophically speaking, “above the heavens” is not a locality, yet because the body of Christ—as the nature and the limitation of the human body show—is finite, and is contained in heaven as in a place, it is therefore necessarily separated from us by as great an interval as lies between heaven and earth.

Christ is not to be worshipped in the bread

XXVI. But if it is not right for us in imagination to affix Christ to the bread and wine, much less is it lawful to worship Him in the bread. For though the bread is presented to us as a symbol and pledge of our communion with Christ, yet because it is the sign, not the reality, neither has the reality enclosed in it or affixed to it, they therefore who bend their minds upon it to worship Christ, make it an idol.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
This entry was posted in Calvin. Bookmark the permalink.