“They (papists) say we have revolted from the Catholic Church, that we might follow divers imaginations of men. They cry aloud that we are heretics, schismatics, and sectaries, and they often times in mockery call us Confessionists. And moreover they lay in our dish that we neither agree with ourselves nor with others who detest the Bishop of Rome, but there are as many religions among us as there are confessions of faith.
They are no schismatics who intirely cleave to God’s church such an one as the Prophets and Apostles do describe unto us, nor to be accounted sectaries who embrace the truth of God, which is one and always like it self. What do they mean, I pray you, by the name of Confessionists so often repeated?
For if every man be commanded to make confession of his faith so often as God’s glory, and the edifying of the church shall require, what a wonderful or strange thing ought it to seem, if cities, if provinces, if whole kingdoms have made profession of their faith, when they were falsely charged by the Popish sort, that they had gone from the doctrine of the true believing Church?
But they will say, there ought to be one confession of faith and no more. As though forsooth a confession of faith were to be valued rather by the words, then by the thing it self. What therefore will they say to our ancestors, who when they had the Apostles’ Creed, yet for all that set out the Nicene, Chalcedonian, and many more such like creeds? Those creeds, say you, were general. Yea, surely, but so general that a great part of the world in those elder times followed the frantic heresies of the Arrians, whom the godly forefathers by setting forth those creeds desired to bring home into the church again. “The truth,” says Hilary, “was by the advice and opinions of Bishops many ways sought, and a reason of that which was meant was rendered by several confessions of faith set down in writing.” And a little after, “It ought to seem no marvel right well-beloved brethren, that men’s faiths began to be declared so thick—the outrage of heretics lays this necessity upon us.” Thus much said Hilary. What, that Athanasius, Augustine, and many other ancients set forth their creeds also, that the purity of the Christian faith might more and more shine forth.
Therefore if kingdoms, cities, and whole provinces have privately made confession of their faith, this was the cause thereof, for that hitherto the state of times hath not suffered, that a general counsel of all those who profess the reformed religion, might be held. But if it once come to pass (and the Lord grant that the churches may at length enjoy so great a benefit) then there may be one only confession of faith extant, conceived in the same words, if the state of the churches shall seem to require it.
Let them therefore leave off in mockery to term us Confessionists, unless perhaps they look for this answer at our hands, that it is a far more excellent thing to bear a name of confessing the faith, than of denying the truth. For even as many small streams may flow from one spring, so many confessions of faith, may issue out from one and the same truth of faith.”
From “An Harmony of the Confessions of Faith of the Christian and Reformed Churches,” 1586. Spelling has been updated.