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every one will acknowledge, that if the mild and benevolent religion of Jesus had a general and complete influence, not only private quarrels and dissensions, but public wars also, would cease throughout the world.
ARTICLE THE THIRTY-EIGHTH.
Of Christian Men's Goods, which are not
THE RICHES AND GOODS OF CHRISTIANS ARE NOT COMMON, AS TOUCHING THE RIGHT, TITLE, AND POSSESSION OF THE SAME, AS CERTAIN ANABAPTISTS DO FALSELY BOAST. NOTWITHSTANDING, EVERY MAN OUGHT, OF SUCH THINGS AS HE POSSESS ETH, LIBERALLY TO GIVE ALMS TO THE POOR, ACCORDING TO HIS ABILITY.
THIS article consists of two parts; the former declares that private property is not inconsistent with the profession of the Gospel; and the latter asserts the Christian duty of charity to the poor.
THE RICHES AND GOODS OF CHRISTIANS ARE NOT COMMON, AS TOUCHING THE RIGHT, TITLE, AND POSSESSION OF THE SAME, AS CERTAIN ANABAPTISTS DO FALSELY BOAST. The admonitions in the New Testament to the practice of charity; the particular precepts addressed to the high and to the low, to the rich and to the poor; and the commendation of those virtues,
virtues, which can be displayed only in the lower ranks of life, all plainly prove that the Gospel was not designed to introduce a community of goods. It appears, that in the days of the Apostles several of the new converts delivered up all their wealth and possessions for the use of their Christian brethren (a); but this was a voluntary act; a charitable contribution springing from their own zeal, and not commanded by their inspired teachers; on the contrary, St. Peter said to Ananias, "While it remained, was it not thine own? After it was sold, was it not in thine own power (b)?" Thus St. Peter admitted the right of Ananias to have retained the whole of his property, although he reproved and punished him for his dissimulation and falsehood. It is evident that private property is essential to the very existence of civil society; and it is not to be believed that the Gospel, which "has the promise of this life as well as of that which is to come (c)," would destroy, or in any respect weaken, a principle which is the foundation of every social comfort; and indeed none of the early sectaries ever thought of maintaining such an opinion. But in the beginning of the sixteenth century the Anabaptists of Germany, among other absurd and dangerous
(a) Acts, c. 4. v. 32. c) 1 Tim. c. 4. v. 8.
(b) Acts, c. 5. v. 4.
gerous tenets, contended for the necessity of a community of goods among Christians. This doctrine was warmly and successfully opposed by the most enlightened part of the Reformers upon the continent; it made but very little progress in this country; and our present Anabaptists entirely reject it. Luther gives the following account of the Anabaptists of his time: "Docentes Christiano nihil esse possidendum, non jurandum, nullos magistratus habendos, non exercenda judicia, neminem tuendum aut defendendum, uxores et liberos deserendos, atque id genus portenta quamplurima (c)."
No duty is more frequently or more earnestly inculcated in the New Testament than charity; and therefore EVERY MAN OUGHT, OF SUCH THINGS AS HE POSSESS ETH, LIBERALLY TO GIVE ALMS TO THE POOR, ACCORDING TO HIS ABILITY.
No specific rule is laid down in Scripture concerning the proportion which a man is bound to give of his property in acts of benevolence : but the great importance annexed to the performance of this duty by Christ and his Apostles, makes it highly incumbent upon every one to practice it to the utmost of his means.
(c) Pref. ad Ex. in Mat. 5, 6, 7.
ARTICLE THE THIRTY-NINTH.
Of a Christian Man's Oath.
AS WE CONFESS THAT VAIN AND RASH SWEARING IS FORBIDDEN CHRISTIAN MEN BY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST AND JAMES HIS APOSTLE, SO WE JUDGE THAT THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION DOTH NOT PROHIBIT, BUT THAT A MAN MAY SWEAR WHEN THE MAGISTRATE REQUIRETH, IN A CAUSE OF FAITH AND CHARITY, SO IT BE DONE ACCORDING TO THE PROPHET'S TEACHING, IN JUSTICE, JUDGMENT, AND TRUTH.
AS WE CONFESS THAT VAIN AND RASH
SWEARING IS FORBIDDEN CHRISTIAN MEN BY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST AND JAMES HIS
APOSTLE: The passages here referred to are the following; our Saviour in his sermon upon the Mount says, "Swear not at all, neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for for it is the city of the great King; neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black; but let your communication be yea, yea, nay, nay, for what