Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

January 1588 A.D. The Confession of Guanabara signed by French Huguenots who were executed by Jesuit priests

January 1588 A.D.  The Confession of Guanabara signed by French Huguenots who were executed by Jesuit priests.  

The Guanabara Confession of Faith was the first Protestant writing in the Americas (1558). It was written by French Huguenots, Jean du Bourdel, Matthieu Verneuil, Pierre Bourdon and André la Fon, who were taken under arrest by Villegagnon, in Brazil, answering some specific points given to them in writing. Within 12 hours after this confession was written, its authors were hanged. The authors knew they were writing and signing their own death sentence.

The Confession of Guanabara

According to the doctrine of St. Peter, the apostle, in his first letter, all Christians must be ready to give an answer of the hope that they possess, with all meekness and benevolence; we, the undersigned, Mr. Villegagnon, unanimously (according to the measure of grace upon us bestowed by the Lord), are giving an answer, point by point, as you have thus requested and ordained, beginning with the first article:

  1. We believe in one God, immortal, invisible, creator of heaven and earth, and of all things, visible and invisible, who is identified in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; who constitute nothing else but the same substance in essence, eternal and of the same will; the Father, source and beginning of all good; the Son, eternally generated by the Father, who, in the fullness of time, manifested Himself in the flesh to the world, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born of the Virgin Mary, made under the law to rescue those that were under it, in order that we would be received by adoption as God’s own sons; the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, teacher of all truth, speaking through the mouths of the prophets, bringing the things that were said by our Lord Jesus Christ to the apostles. He is the only comforter in affliction, imparting steadfastness and perseverance in all good.

We believe that it is necessary to worship solely, perfectly love, cry to and call upon the majesty of God in faith, and in a personal manner.

  1. Worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ, we are not separating one nature from the other, but confess both natures, namely: the inseparable divine and human natures.
  2. We believe, concerning the Son of God and concerning the Holy Spirit, that which the Word of God and apostolic doctrine and the symbol teach us.
  3. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, in a visible and human form, as He ascended to heaven, executing such judgment in the form which has been predicted in the 25th chapter of Matthew; and that the Father has given Him, being man, all power to judge.

And concerning what we say in our prayers, that the Father will come at last in the Person of the Son, we understand, by that, that the power of the Father, given to the Son, will be manifested in this judgment; nevertheless we do not want to confuse the persons, knowing that they are distinct one from another.

  1. We believe in the holy sacrament of the Supper, as corporal figures of bread and wine, and that faithful souls are actually fed with the very substance of our Lord Jesus, as our bodies are fed by food; thus, we do not understand the saying that the bread and wine are actually transformed or transubstantiated in their body, because the bread continues with its nature and substance; likewise the wine, there is no change or alteration.

We differentiate, nevertheless, this bread and wine from other bread and wine dedicated to the common usage, understanding that these are, for us, sacramental signs, under which truth is infallibly received. The reception of this truth, however, is not possible except by faith, and it is not proper to imagine anything carnal, nor to prepare the teeth to eat, as we learn from Saint Augustine, when he says, "Why do you prepare the teeth and the stomach? Believe, and you have eaten."

The sign, therefore, does not give us the truth nor the signified thing; but our Lord Jesus Christ, by His power, virtue and goodness, feeds and preserves our souls and makes them share in His own flesh and blood, and all His benefits.

Let us see the interpretation of the words of Jesus Christ: "This is my body." Tertullian, in his fourth book Against Marcion, explains these words: "this is the sign and the figure of my body."

St. Augustine says, "The Lord didn’t avoid saying—'This is my body,' when he was merely giving a sign of his body."

Therefore (as it is ordained in the first canon of the Nicean Council), in this holy sacrament, we should not imagine anything fleshly, nor distract ourselves with the bread and wine, which are in them proposed as signs, but lift our spirits to heaven so that we can contemplate, by faith, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus, who sits at the right hand of God, His Father.

In this sense we could subscribe to the article of the Ascension, alongside many other statements of Saint Augustine, which we omit for we fear they are too lengthy.

  1. We believe that if it was necessary to add water to the wine, the gospel writers and Saint Paul would not have omitted such an important matter.

And as what the earlier doctors have observed (concerning the blood mixed with water that flowed from Jesus Christ’s side, considering that such an observance has no basis in Scripture, and seeing that this happened after the institution of the Lord’s Supper), we cannot necessarily admit this practice today.

  1. We believe that there is no other consecration except that which is performed by the minister, when he celebrates communion, when he speaks to the people, in a known tongue, the literal institution of this Supper, as per the form prescribed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, admonishing the people as to the death and passion of our Lord. Even as it is taught by St. Augustine, consecration is the word of faith that is preached and received in faith. Therefore, it follows that the words secretly pronounced about the signs cannot be their consecration, as it appears from the institution that our Lord left to His apostles, speaking His words to His disciples who were there, present, whom He ordered to take and eat.
  2. The Holy Sacrament of the Supper is not food for the body as it is for the souls (for we cannot conceive anything fleshly about them, as we declared in the fifth article) which receives them by faith, which is not carnal.
  3. We believe that baptism is a sacrament of repentance, and is an entry into the Church of God, so that we can be incorporated in Jesus Christ. It represents to us the remission of all our sins, past and future, which is fully acquired only through the death of our Lord Jesus.

Moreover, the mortification of our flesh is there represented, and the washing, represented by the water sprinkled on the child, is the sign and seal of the blood of our Lord Jesus, who is the true purification of our souls. Its institution is taught to us in the Word of God, which the saints have observed, using water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As to exorcisms, abjurations of Satan, confirmation, spit and salt, we record these as traditions of men, and we are pleased, only, with the form and institution left by our Lord Jesus.

  1. As to free will, we believe that the first man, created in the image of God, had freedom and will, both to do good as well as evil. Only he knew what was free will, for he was possessed of full abilities. Nevertheless, he did not even keep this gift of God, for it was taken away from him on account of his sin, and from all that descend from him, such that no one from the seed of Adam has a spark of good.

For this reason, Saint Paul says that the natural man does not understand the things of God. And Hosea cries to the children of Israel: "You have fallen by your iniquity." And we understand that this is true about the man that is not regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

As to the Christian man, baptized in the blood of Jesus Christ, who walks in newness of life, our Lord Jesus Christ restores to him free will, and reforms his will for all good works; nevertheless, not in perfection, for the performing of good will is not in his power, but comes from God, as fully this holy Apostle declares, in the seventh chapter of Romans, saying, "but to will is present with me, but to perform that which is good, I find not."

The man predestined to eternal life, even though he sins on account of his human frailty, nevertheless cannot fall into impenitence.

Speaking about this, St. John says that he does not sin because His seed remains in him.

  1. We believe that forgiveness of sins belongs only to the Word of God, of which, says St. Ambrose, man is just the minister; therefore, if he condemns or absolves, it is not him, but that which is announced by the Word of God.

St. Augustine, in this area, says that it is not by merits of men that sins are forgiven, but by virtue of the Holy Spirit. For the Lord said to his apostles, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," and he adds, "whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them, etc."

Cyprian says that a servant cannot forgive an offence against the Lord.

  1. As to imposition of hands, this has served its time, and there is no need of preserving it now, for through the imposition of hands one cannot bestow the Holy Spirit, for this belongs only to God.

As to ecclesiastical orders, we believe that which has been written by St. Paul in the first letter to Timothy and in other places.

  1. The separation between a man and a woman legitimately united by marriage cannot be done, except on account of adultery, as is taught by our Lord (Mathew 19:5). And not only is this cause for separation, but also, with the cause properly examined by authorities, the non-guilty party, if cannot contain himself, should marry, as it is taught by St. Ambrose, on the seventh chapter of the first letter of Corinth. The authority, however, must proceed in this matter with mature counsel. [NB. Remarriage while one's spouse is living is forbidden (Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39). Click here for the biblical doctrine of marriage and remarriage.]
  2. St. Paul, when teaching that the overseer must be the husband of one wife, is not saying that another marriage is not proper, but he is condemning bigamy, which attracted many in those days; nevertheless, we will leave the concluding judgment on this matter to ones more knowledgeable in the Holy Scriptures, and we will not base our opinion in this matter solely on our faith.
  3. It is not right to vow a promise to God, unless it is that which He approves. In this way the monastic vows tend to corrupt the true service to God. It is also a fearful thing for a man in presumption to vow something beyond the measure of his calling, seeing that Scripture teaches us that continence is a special gift (Matthew 19 and I Corinthians 7). Therefore, it follows that those who impose on themselves this necessity, renouncing matrimony throughout all their lives, cannot be excused of extreme temerity and excessive and insolent confidence in themselves.

And through this means, they tempt God, considering that the gift of continence is, in some, merely temporal, and that which is temporal does not last throughout a whole life. Thus, monks, priests, and others who oblige themselves to live in chastity, tempt God, for it is not in themselves to fulfill what they have promised. St. Cyprian, in his chapter eleven, says, "If virgins dedicate themselves in good will to Christ, they persevere in chastity without defect; if they so remain, strong and constant, they can expect the reward prepared for their virginity; if they do not want or cannot persevere in their vow, it is better for them to marry than to be thrown into the fire of luxury, on account of its pleasures and delights." As to the passage written by St. Paul, it is true that the widows separated to take care of the church would submit to a vow of not marrying again while they would be engaged in those duties; not because this would impart to them, or because it would be attributed to them, any holiness, but because they would not be able to perform those duties, if they were married; and, if they felt like marrying, they should renounce that calling to which God had led them; nevertheless, fulfilling the promises made in the church, without breaking the promises made at baptism, in which this is included: "Every one should serve God in the place where he has been called." Widows, therefore, did not vow continence, for marriage was unbecoming to their duties, and they had no other choice but to observe that. They were not so constrained to the point that they were forbidden to marry and burn themselves, falling into infamy or dishonesty.

But, to avoid such inconvenience, the Apostle Paul, in the aforementioned chapter, forbids that they be allowed to vow such vows unless they reached sixty years of age, which is an age generally considered outside of the incontinence bracket. And he adds that the elect should be married only once, so as in this manner they receive already an approval of continence.

  1. We believe that Jesus Christ is our only mediator, intercessor and advocate, by whom we have access to the Father, and that, justified by His blood, we will be free from death; and reconciled by Him we will have full victory against death.

As to the saints who died, we say that they desire our salvation and the fulfillment of the kingdom of God, and that the number of elect is completed; nevertheless, we must not direct ourselves to them, as intercessors to obtain something, because we would be disobeying the commandment of God. As to us, the living, while we are united as members of one body, we should pray one for another, as we are taught by many passages of Scriptures.

  1. As to the dead, St. Paul, in the first letter to the Thessalonians, in its fourth chapter, forbids us to mourn for them [excessively], for this is a pagan custom, who have no hope of a resurrection. The Apostle does not command nor teach us to pray for them, something which he would not have forgotten, if it would be convenient. St. Augustine, speaking about Psalm 48, says that the spirits of the dead receive according to what they have done in life; and that if they have not done anything, and are still living, they will receive nothing, when dead.

This is the answer that we give to the articles that we have received from you, according to the measure and proportion of faith, which God has given us, praying that he may be pleased that this faith may not be found dead in us, but bearing fruits worthy of His children, and that we may grow and persevere in it, so that we will render praises and thanksgiving to Him forever. Amen.

Jean du Bourdel, Matthieu Verneuil, Pierre Bourdon, André la Fon

More about the story of the French Huguenots in Brazil, in English, can be found in:

The Martyrs of Guanabara, by John Gillies
: 9780802451873
ISBN10: 080245187X
Published: Moody Press
Year of Publication: 1976
Edition: Illustrated
Pages: 174

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