[K:NWTS 22/3 (Dec 2007) 35-49]

Rudimenta Pietatis

Andrew Duncan

Introduction by James T. Dennison, Jr.

Translation by Richard Bishop III

We are printing below, the first English translation (to our knowledge) of Andrew Duncan's Rudimenta Pietatis ("First Principles of Piety"). The translation is based upon the Latin version published by Thomas F. Torrance in his The School of Faith (1959) 283-90. We have included the summaries of the Questions and Answers as italicized headings, where Duncan has placed them on the margins of his text. The Scholia are notes on select questions expanding the explanations found in the answers; hence they should be read in concert with the corresponding question as numbered.

Andrew Duncan was born in Scotland ca. 1560.1 Neither Cameron's authoritative dictionary nor Scott's famous Fasti list a place of birth. Duncan breaks upon us as Regent of St. Leonard's College at St. Andrews and, from 1591, Rector of the Grammar School of Dundee. In other words, he began his career as a schoolmaster and the Rudimenta is one small fruit of his desire to instruct Scottish pupils in the basics of the Reformed faith. So successful were his efforts in this regard that the Rudimenta was and remained the most popular and frequently reprinted catechism in Scottish Grammar Schools, being used well into the 18th century.

While Duncan taught at Dundee, he became a close friend of Andrew Melville (1545-1622), the successor to John Knox (ca.1514-1572) as leader of the Reformed Kirk. Duncan was ordained to the ministry in 1597 at Crail in Fife. These were days of contention in which the King (James VI of Scotland/from 1603, James I of England, 1566-1625) was pitted against the Presbyterian leaders of the Kirk. James, ever the divine-right royalist and closet Episcopalian, was no friend of Scottish Presbyterian independence. Duncan and several others defied him by participating in the 1605 Aberdeen (General) Assembly. This General Assembly was illegal because James had forbidden its sederunt. The royal policy was for "union" between the kirk elders and the bishops of the Anglican communion—hence a Presbyterian assembly of ministers and elders would forestall the ecumenical royalist design. Aided by Archbishop John Spottiswoode (1565-1639), James was urged to forbid the meeting of the Presbyterian General Assembly scheduled for July 1605. Spottiswoode argued because "they intended to call in question all the conclusions taken in former assemblies for the Episcopal government" (MacDonald 109). The specter of a tyrannical kirk was beginning to resemble that of a tyrannical monarch.

On July 2, 1605, despite intimations to the contrary (recall Andrew Melville's quip that King James was "God's silly vassal"), the Aberdeen Assembly was prorogued. Nonetheless, twenty-seven ministers from fourteen presbyteries appeared at Aberdeen between July 2 and 5 to convene the Assembly. While the Assembly was dissolved, a new date for gathering in September was determined. James declared the business "seditioun and plaine contempt of us and our authoritie" (MacDonald 112). Seventeen ministers were arrested and jailed, the most famous being the six remanded to Blackness Castle (Andrew Duncan, John Forbes, John Welsh, Robert Durie, Alexander Strachan and John Sharp). On January 10, 1606, these six appeared at the assizes in Linlithgow. Asked to submit to the King, they refused and were tried for treason before the Lord Justice Depute and the Privy Council. Adjudged guilty, they were sentenced to forfeiture of "estates and goods" as well as banishment from Scotland. On September 26, 1606, the sentence was imposed by James, who noted his royal leniency, since the rebels deserved the capital punishment. On November 8, they "embarked at Leith" for exile (MacDonald 126).

Duncan found refuge in France. He took up residence in Bordeaux and was appointed Professor of Theology at the College of Rochelle there in 1607. About 1612 or 1613, Duncan was permitted to return to Scotland upon making concessions to King James. But on April 13, 1619, he was convened by the Court of High Commission at St. Andrews. On this occasion, the charge was his opposition to the Perth Articles (1618) which James had contrived in order to impose "episcopalian worship ceremonies" on the Kirk (Cameron 654). Specifically, these five infamous articles included: kneeling (not sitting) at the Lord's Supper; private communions; private baptisms; bishops to confirm church members; and observance of ecclesiastical holy days. In cahoots with James on this occasion was his notorious chaplain, William Laud (1573-1645).

Duncan was deposed for refusing to submit to the High Commission and before he was imprisoned at Dundee declared to the commissioners: "Pity yourselves for the Lord's sake; lose not your own souls, I beseech you, for Esau's pottage" (M'Crie 181). "I have done nothing of this business, whereof I have been accused by you, but have been serving Jesus Christ, my Master" (Howie 288-89). He was deposed once more on May 10, 1620.

In July 1621, he presented a petition on behalf of himself and some other ministers to Sir George Hay, Clerk Register of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He was summarily arrested and imprisoned at Dumbarton Castle from July to October 2. On his release, he was granted permission to settle anywhere in Scotland save Crail or Edinburgh. He moved to Kilrenny parish, but was banished from there to Berwick-upon-Tweed where he died in 1626.

Rudimenta Pietatis


Threefold state of man:

1. In holiness and soundness
2. Under sin and death
3. Under the grace of Christ

1. Man free when created.

Q. 1 Who created man? A. God.

Q. 2 In what condition did he create him?
A. Holy and sound, and lord of the world.

Q. 3 For what purpose was he created?
A. To serve God.

Q. 4 What kind of service did God require of him?
A. Fulfilling the requirements of his law.

Q. 5 Did he persevere in fulfilling the requirements of God's law?
A. Not at all; instead he shamefully transgressed it.

2. Captive when he sinned.

Q. 6 What was the punishment for this transgression?
A. Eternal death of both soul and body for himself and his descendents.

3. Liberated when he believes in Christ.

Q. 7 How are we liberated from this punishment?
A. By the mere grace of God in Christ Jesus, apart from our merits.

Q. 8 What sort of person is Christ?
A. True God and true man, in one person.

Mode of liberation, through Christ's death.

Q. 9 How did he liberate us?
A. By his death, for in our stead he underwent the death we owed, and rescued us.

Who are liberated, the faithful.

Q. 10 Are all liberated by Christ?
A. By no means, rather only those who embrace him by faith.

What faith is.

Q. 11 What is faith?
A. It is when I am persuaded that God loves me and all the saints, and that he gives Christ to us, with all his good gifts.

Sum of the faith.

Q. 12 Recite the sum of your faith.
A. "I believe in God the Father, etc."

Author of faith, the Holy Spirit.

Q. 13 Who produces this faith in us?
A. The Holy Spirit through the Word and sacraments.

Instruments of faith, Word and sacraments.

Q. 14 How does he produce it through the Word and sacraments?
A. He opens the heart that we might believe in God who speaks in the Word and sacraments.

What the Word of God is, i.e., Scripture.

Q. 15 What is the Word of God?
A. Whatever is contained in the books of the Old and the New Testament.

Parts of the Word of God: law, gospel.

Q. 16 How many parts of the Word of God are there?
A. Two, law and gospel.

What the law is.

Q. 17 What is the law?
A. The doctrine of God that requires a debt from us, and, because we cannot pay it, damns us.

What the gospel is.

Q. 18 What is the gospel?
A. The doctrine that offers Christ with all that he possesses, and proclaims that our debt was paid by him, and that we are free.

What the sacraments are.

Q. 19 What are the sacraments?
A. They are seals of God that signify and give Christ to us, with all that he possesses.

Benefits sealed by the sacraments.

Q. 20 What are these possessions of Christ?
A. The love of God, the Holy Spirit and our union with Christ; from which come the forgiveness of sins, the healing of our nature, spiritual nourishment and life eternal.

Number of sacraments.

Q. 21 How many sacraments of the New Testament are there?
A. Two, baptism and the Lord's Supper.

What baptism is.

Q. 22 What is baptism?
A. The sacrament of our engrafting into Christ and cleansing from sins.

What our engrafting into Christ is, and its effects.

Q. 23 What is our engrafting into Christ?
A. Our union with Christ, from which flow the forgiveness of sins and continual repentance.

Use of baptism for faith.

Q. 24 How does baptism help faith?
A. It testifies that, as the body is washed with water, so also, by the working of the Holy Spirit, we are cleansed from the root and guilt of our sins, through faith in the blood of Christ.

What the Lord's Supper is.

Q. 25 What is the Lord's Supper?
A. The sacrament of our spiritual nourishment in Christ.

Use of the Supper for faith.

Q. 26 How does the Lord's Supper help faith?
A. It testifies that, as our bodies are nourished and grow by bread and wine, so also, by the body and blood of Christ crucified, our souls are nourished and strengthened for life eternal.

Mode of our spiritual nourishment.

Q. 27 How are we nourished by the body and blood of Christ?
A. When we perceive them by faith, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, who is also present, apply them to ourselves.

Q. 28 When do we perceive by faith and apply to ourselves the body of Christ crucified?
A. When we are persuaded that the death and crucifixion of Christ pertain no less to us than if we ourselves had been crucified for our own sins; that indeed is the persuasion of true faith.

Test of true faith by good works.

Q. 29 How is true faith discerned?
A. By good works.

Test of good works by the law of God.

Q. 30 How are good works recognized?
A. If they accord with the law of God.

Q. 31 Recite the law of God.
A. "Hear, O Israel, I am the Lord, etc."

Sum and use of the law.

Q. 32 To what does this law bid you?
A. To my duty to God and to my neighbor.

First table.

Q. 33 What duty do you owe to God?
A. That I love him above all things.

Second table.

Q. 34 What do you owe to your neighbor?
A. That I love him just as I love myself.

Fulfillment of the law by man impossible on account of indwelling sin.

Q. 35 Are you able to fulfill these duties?
A. By no means, for as long as we live here, sin dwells in us.

Inner dissension in man between flesh and spirit.

Q. 36 Then what exists in the sons of God?
A. A perpetual struggle between flesh and spirit.

Prayer the remedy.

Q. 37 How are we to conduct ourselves in this struggle?
A. We are to pray continually that God would forgive our sins and support us in our weakness.

Prayer of Christ.

Q. 38 How are we to pray?
A. As Christ taught us, "Our Father, etc."

Source of confidence in prayer, namely, from the command and promise of God.

Q. 39 Why are you persuaded that God will grant what you ask?
A. Because he commanded me to pray and has promised that he will lavish on me whatever I ask in the name of Christ.

What we owe to God for so many benefits, namely, thanksgiving and service.

Q. 40 What do you owe to God in return for so many benefits?
A. That I thank and serve him always.

Norm of service to God, Scripture.

Q. 41 How is God to be served?
A. According to the rule of his own Word, as has already been said.

The End.


1. The original benefits of God to man were: (1) That he should exist. (2) That he should be human. (3) That he should be like God—namely, holy and sound, and lord of the world.

2. On account of the fall, we fell both into sin and into sickness and death. For we were not only polluted by sin and stripped of dominion, but also grievously wounded and even slain. See then from whence wretched man fell! He was blessed, first of all, internally and eternally, and then externally. Holiness and soundness in all parts of body, soul, etc. were internal. Dominion, riches, wealth, etc. were external. But by the deceit of the devil, he was diverted from all these things and became wretched.

3. For (1) what is more just than that a workman's work should serve him? (2) What is more advantageous for us than that we attain to the end for which we were created? For that is our felicity. (3) You were made for no other end than serving God. Wherefore if you do not serve him, you are of no use, unless it be to perish forever in order to demonstrate his justice.

6. Death is twofold: of the soul and of the body. In this life, the soul dies as soon as it sins, since it forsakes God, who is the life of the soul. The body dies when it is forsaken by the soul. In the future, each will die when the whole man is punished with the most severe and eternal torments.

This punishment was inflicted on Adam's descendents because in Adam we all sinned, and he who sins is justly punished. For, since justice takes vengeance, punishment is the concomitant of sin.

8. He was man so that he could die and pay man's debt; he was God that by dying he might conquer death, so that death, the enemy of God and man, might rule over man no longer.

9. We incurred a debt on account of sin; wherefore we have been made liable to die an eternal death, but Christ bore this death for us and set us free.

10. For the just man lives by faith, and he who lacks faith must dwell under death and under the wrath of God forever.

11. For in faith there is a twofold persuasion: (1) Concerning the love of God towards us. (2) Concerning the benefits of God, which flow from his love—namely, Christ with all that he possesses. Hence there are two parts of the creed: (1) Concerning the love of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit towards us, which shines forth in the things they provide for our sake. (2) Concerning the benefits of God conferred upon us. And from that double persuasion, trust is born, since we are completely dependent on God. Consider the creed.

14. The heart of man is obstructed in every part, in darkness, and crammed full of every perversity, so that there is no access for the Word of God or for any good thing. But when the Spirit of God draws near and opens it, he introduces the beauty of heavenly truth, and cleans out that Augean stable.

16. In the law, God requires his debt. Now the debt is that we either fulfill the law or perish forever; in this the justice of God shines forth. In the gospel he declares, and in the sacraments he seals, that this debt has been paid by Christ, and that we are free if Christ is ours. And he is ours, if we believe. It is especially here that the mercy of God shines forth, but in both cases, there is misery for man apart from Christ.

19. For the sacraments not only signify Christ, they also bestow him with all that he has. More precisely, they confirm and seal that he has been given to us in the Word, for they are seals. What, then, if I define it in this way? The sacraments are seals of God, which make me certain that Christ has been given to me with all that he possesses. For in the Word, God offers us Christ with all that he has. We receive and possess him by faith. Moreover the Holy Spirit seals this possession in the sacraments.

22. Baptism seals our heavenly birth, the Supper our training in the church.

23. Since we have been made one with Christ, we receive whatever he has. Whatever has been accomplished by him, God judges us to have accomplished it all. Therefore in Christ we ourselves have made satisfaction for sin; with Christ we ourselves have crucified sin so that it might no longer exercise its tyranny in us; in him we ourselves are as pleasing to God as if we had never sinned.

Christ liberated us both from the damnation of sin, as well as from its dominion or tyranny; for he died both to sin and for sin. In that he died for sin, he merited our forgiveness, for he made satisfaction. As a result, he destroyed both guilt and damnation. And in that he died to sin, he shattered the tyranny of sin and, at the same time, purified our nature; for with him, sin has been crucified and abolished; we are liberated. Hence there is a continual repentance in us and a renovation of our whole nature.

24. In sin there are two things: its guilt and root. Guilt is the liability to punishment on account of sin. The root is the corrupt nature from which sins flow. By his death Christ has done away with both: guilt, since he merited the forgiveness of sins; the root, since sin was nailed to the cross and destroyed by the power of his own death.

25, 26. As in baptism, we are born sons of God, so also in the Supper, we are nourished and grow into hearty and mature men.

27. We receive from God nothing that pertains to salvation except by the interposition of faith. For if you are not persuaded that you are receiving it, you are not receiving it.

What Christ merited by his death, we only receive by the working of the Holy Spirit. For it is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63).

28. Why would we not be persuaded of this? If Christ is ours, then all that Christ has becomes ours, and that rightfully. If Christ, not his members, is the head, then God credits to us whatever Christ has done or suffered. Thus the death, the merits and, in short, all that belongs to Christ are ours by the judgment of God, such that God now has nothing more against us than against Christ himself.

29. For faith cannot coexist with evil works; because (1) he who is faithful is necessarily a good man, and it is the nature of a good man to do good. (2) Where faith is, there the Spirit of God reigns; but where works are evil, there the devil reigns. (3) He who has faith has Christ; but will he who possesses Christ be evil? Did God give you his Son and the Holy Spirit for you to serve the devil?

30. In a good work, there are two points: (1) that it is good; (2) that it is done well—namely, from faith and to the glory of God. If someone gives alms ostentatiously (as in Matthew 6:2), he does a good work but does not do it well.

33, 34. You ought to love God above yourself, but your neighbor as yourself. Therefore you ought to promote the glory of God even if it should mean your destruction. How much more when it is our highest good, and produces singular felicity?

36. Flesh is all the corrupt affections in man and corruption itself; the Spirit is holiness and soundness of nature and all the good impulses that proceed from it by the working of the Spirit of God. But this holiness is imperfect as long as we live, so that the inner man is unable to drive out the corruption or to overcome it. This, then, is the fight—for the Spirit is from God; the flesh is from the devil.

37. There are within us two foes with which we must continuously wrestle: (1) sins; (2) the corruption of our nature, from which come temptations. Therefore in the Lord's Prayer, we ask for the forgiveness of sins and victory over temptations.

38. This ought to be the norm for all prayers, which, though they may differ as to words, certainly should not differ as to meaning and sense.

39. Two things should make us certain that God will hear us: (1) that he so often and so earnestly commanded us to pray. Would any man who is more than a little human (to say nothing of the Father) command a request that he is unwilling to grant? (2) That he promised often, and of his own accord, that he himself would grant it. Why would he have promised? Does he glory in disappointing faith and deceiving us?

40. Before the benefits are received, he wants us to pray for them; after they are received, to give thanks. For so many benefits, he requires nothing more.

41. If you do what is commanded in Scripture, there is no doubt but that you will be pleasing to God, and attain salvation; therefore what work of others (O Papist) pertains to the worship of God?

The End.


1 The chief sources for information on his life and career are: Nigel M. de S. Cameron, ed., Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology (1993) 261-62; Hew Scott, Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae (1925), vol. V:192; Thomas M'Crie, Sketches of Scottish Church History (1846) 1:181-82; John Howie, The Scots Worthies (1860) 288-90; Alan R. MacDonald, The Jacobean Kirk, 1567-1625 (1998) 106-37.