Confession of Faith:
English Baptist General Confessions
A Short Confession or a Brief Narrative of Faith, 1691
In the West Country during the last quarter of the seventeenth century there was a remarkable current away from Calvinism among some Particular Baptist churches founded by Thomas Collier, the "Apostle to the West." Explanation for this drift may be found in Collierís change of views and his desire to comprehend General as well as Particular Baptists in his circle. London Particular churches sent deputations to the West to persuade Collier of his error and to halt the tide of his influence. A few churches were reclaimed, some joined the Particular Baptist General Assembly in 1689. Others followed Collier in remaining aloof from it. These seem to have prepared the Somerset Confession of 1691 in response to the Assembly Confession of two years earlier, against which Collier dissented at a number of points.
The Somerset Confession could not have been prepared by a General Baptist group, as McGlothlin says, in spite of the General Baptist tone of some of its articles. General Baptists were few in the Somerset area in 1691, and they do not seem to have had an associational life until after 1693. What is more important, the Confession clearly shows its authorís Calvinistic patterns of thought, and in its longest chapter (XXIII) it speaks with deliberate criticism of a learned ministry. The Particular Baptist General Assembly had recently given much attention to the problem of raising up a trained ministry, and this article apparently gives the answer of the extra-Assembly Particular churches of the West to this emphasis. Two reasons were stated for publishing the Confession: to provide a basis of agreement for churches in the area and to clear the authors of suspicion in the eyes of Baptists that they were "a people degenerated from almost all other baptized congregations."
The Confession is notable for its clarity and force of expression. It is concerned primarily with doctrine, though there is an elaborate and informative article on the Church. The order and form of the articles are entirely independent; neither the Westminster nor the 1656 Somerset Confession is followed. The Confession probably did not find use beyond the West of England. Its significance lies in the departure shown in it by one Particular Baptist group from the heightening Calvinism of the late seventeenth century, and in its attempt to speak for both Particular and General Baptists.
Baptist Confessions of Faith", Lumpkin
The History of the English Bapitsts", Vol. II, Crosby)
(confession text is from, "
1. We believe that there is but one only living and true God, and that this one God, is a spiritual being and substance, hath his being in and of himself, and in omnipotent, omnipresent, or by his spirit present everywhere, omnisicient, or knoweth all things, invisible, eternal, immortal, incomprehensible and glorious, the great creator and preserver of all things, throughout, the rewarder of them, that diligently seek him; the Lord of hosts in his name.
2. As we do believe this one God to be an infinite, eternal, glorious, self-being, invisible, immortal, and incomprehensible, to, according to the Scriptures of truth, we do believe the father, son, and spirit, to be this one God, so that this one God subsisteth in three, to wit, father, son, and holy spirit, and these three are oneí each of them is God, and yet there is but one God. Concerning each we shall give our thoughts distinctly, yet very briefly.
I. Concerning God the Father, we believe him to be the original, or great efficient cause of all things. To us there is one God, the father of whom are all things, for all things; one God the father of all.
II. Concerning God the Son, our LordJesus Christ, we believe him to be the son of God, and the son of man, truly God, and truly man, the Messiah promised; that as to his divine nature, it was and is of an eternal existence, of and with the father, an so truly God, and this Godhead vailed itself in a human Body, and took upon him the nature and sunstance of man, in all its parts and infirmities, sin only excepted. And as he was thus vailed in a human body united in that one person, so he is truly, not only the son of God, but the son of man. And we do believe that our redeemer never was revealed or discovered to any man, but in the union of natures, as he came forth in time, nor never will be. Thus he was in all the promises that God made concerning him; it was as he was manifested in time, and no otherwise. In the first promise, it was the seed of the woman. When renewed to Abraham, it was to his seed. The same was renewed to Isaac, and the same to Jacob. And the same promise to David, that his seed should endure forever. And thus was he prophetically spoken of as a prophet, or in his prophetical Office, and so he performed his priestly office upon the cross, and is still performing of it at his fatherís right hand. And so he is prophesied of in his kingly office; from all which we conclude that our Lord Jesus Christ, before he was manifested in the flesh, and since his manifestation therein, and in the day of glory, was not, is not, nor ever will be, known to any man, in any of his titles, offices, power, and glory, but only in the union of natures; and so we own him to be the object of our faith, and our redeemer.
III. Concerning the Holy Spirit, we believe, suitable to the scriptures that speak thereof, that the holy spirit is of God, and is God, of the divine essence, coeternal with the father and the son and proceeding from both, God of the same nature, the enlightner, convincer, converter, sanctifier, strengthener, and comforter of his people, in and by the means appointed for that end, namely, the word of, truth, and doctrine of the gospel.
Of the Holy Scriptures.
Concerning the holy scriptures, we believe, that the scriptures of the old and new testament are the written word and will of God, given by inspiration to the holy prophets and apostles; and are left upon record for our learning, that we through patience, and confort of the scriptures, nmight have hope; and that they are a perfect rule, containing all things necessary to salvation; they being the counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, and the eternal good of souls, relating both to matters of faith and practice, especially the doctrine of the gospel therein contained.
Of the Creation.
Concerning the creation we believe, that in the beginning it pleased God almighty, for reasons best known to himself to create or make the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, ans all very good.
After God made the heavens and the earth, and all other creatures, he made man, male and female, after his own image, in a state of glorious perfection, free from sin, but a little lower than the Angels; having dominion over the works of his hands. And the Lord having made man, places him in the garden of Eden, where the Lord had provided all things necessary to his accommodation, that might tend to make his state or condition altogether happy. In which state of innocency, happiness, and felicity, he might have continued, any decree of God in any wife notwithstanding.
Of the fall of Man.
Concerning the fall of man we believe,
1. That notwithstanding God made man upright, in a perfect state, not only free from sin, but also from all those miseries that now are the portion of mankind, as the sad effects of sin, and gave him a perfect law, which had he kept it, it had been unto life, and threatned death upon the breach thereof; yet, through the instigation of the serpent, and the subtilty of Satan in and by him; man continued not in that state, but without any compulsion, did wilfully fall from it by transgressing the righteous law of his maker, in eating the forbidden fruit. Which transgression of our first parents, God was pleased, according to his most wise and holy counsel, to permit, knowing how to order it to his own glory.
2. By which transfression our first parents fell from their original righteousness, and became guilty of that sin, commonly known by the name of original sin, and in them all their posterity, being then in their loins.
3. Man having thus fallen, by transgressing the law of his maker, God, as a righteous law-executor proceeds after an orderly manner to pronounce sentence, 1. Against the serpent, 2. Against the woman, 3. Against the man.
4. As this transgression did not only reach the cafe of our first parents, but also their posterity, being then in them; so likewise did the sentence that the Lord past upon them, concern not only the persons of our first parents, but in them all those generations of men, that in succeeding ages were to descend from them. Judgment came upon all men, etc. The same penalties that were inflicted upon our first parents for that sin, which penalties are death, together with those temporal miseries that came upon them as an effect of that sin, do certainly come upon their posterity. They are brought forth in a mortal dying state, liable to all the miseries of this life, and in fine to death itself. Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Mortal man could not procreate an immortal feed; he begat a son in his own likeness, in his own image.
5. From whence we conclude, that our first parents, by virtue of the first transgression, brought not only themselves but their whole posterity, into a state of sin and death; together with those many inconveniencies and miseries that are now come upon mankind as the sad effects of sin. But that this transgression did procure n itself the second death,viz. in the lake of fire, or hell torments, either to Adam, or any of his posterity, as is by some not only imagined but affirmed; as it's a doctrine that is altogether scriptureless, and so false, so it's altogether irrational; from whence it hath no room in our faith. We shall here set down a saying of Dr. Jer. Taylor, taken out of his discourse of Original Sin, in opposition to those that were of the judgment, that all infants dying without baptism, are sentenced to hell torments for original sin: His words are these:
Error! Bookmark not defined. but no sin.
1. Original sin is not an inherent evil, not a sin properly, but metonymically, that is, it is the effect of one sin, and the cause of many; a (frain?)
6. This sin did not only concern mankind in general, but also the creation that was made with man for his use, is by virtue thereof fallen under the curse, is brought into a decaying dying state, and made subject to vanity.
Of the Love of God.
Concerning the Love of God, we believe, that man being fallen into a state of sin, and misery, and death, as an effect thereof, God of his own free grace and love, when none desired it as his hands, did contrive the way of man's recovery out of his fallen state. No sooner had man fallen from his created innocency, but the Lord finds out a way of recovery; and before he pronounces the sentence against him, promises that the seed of the woman should break the serpent's head; which feed of the woman we understand to be the LordJesus Christ, who was the seed and son of the woman; whom God the father, of his own free grace and love to sinful fallen man, did send into the world, not to condemn the word, but that the world through him might be saved: The love of God the father we understand to lie at the foundation of all gospel grace. And that God, by Jesus Christ, design'd not the recovery of a few only, as some inagine, but of all mankind. We have seen, and do testify, that the father sent the son to be the saviour of the world. He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.
Of the Extent of the Death of Christ.
Concerning the extent of the death of our dear redeemer, we believe, that suitable to the great end of God the father in sending him into the world, he gave himself a ransom for all mankind; for the world, the whole world; and that thereby the world have its present being; and that thereby there is a way of reconciliation, acceptiation, and salvation opened for all men: From whence we conclude, that if any man come short of obtaining reconciliation, acceptation, and salvation, it is not for want of grarce in the father, nor a sacrifice in the son.
Of the Gospel.
Concerning the gospel we believe, that the gospel is in itself glad or good tidings; and that there is no bad tidings therein to any man except it be to those that do wilfully reject and neglect the grace therein tendered and sincerely offered untothem, by their own wilful inbelief and disobedience; and that this glad tidings or good news is to be published or made known to all men throughout all ages.
Of the Power and Will of Man.
Concerning the power and will of man, we believe,
1. That the power and will of man are proper attributes and faculties of the soul; and if so, then it's God's workmanship, and properly of and from God; so then man hath neither will nor power, but what he receives from the Lord, tho he improves it to contrary ends, and not for that end for which it was and is given him.
2. Notwithstanding all the power and abilities that men have, are of and from the Lord, yet we are strobly inclined to believe, that the will and power of man is gretly debilitated by the fall, but no wholly lost; man, in all his parts, is weaken'd by the fall, but no part wholly lost.
3. We believe that there remaineth still in man, a power to will his own good.
4. Yet we believe, that man knoweth not what is good any otherwise but as he is taught of the Lord.
5. Man being taught of God what is good, and how and when to will this good, being thus shewed of the Lord, he hath now capacity, in the use of the means that God hath appointed, to bring his will to an inclinable frame, truly to be seeking after his etrnal well-being; so, in short, we sum up all this: That man hath neither power nor will, nor a matter what to will for his own good, nor how, nor when, in respect of a seasonable time, but what he hath from God, for all power belongeth to God; yet we believe, that man ought to employ his will, yea, all the powers and faculties of his soul, in and about spiritual things, which if men were faithful in, God would have the glory and they the advantage.
Of free Grace.
I. Concerning free grace, we believe, that whatsoever a good man does, or shall enjoy, either temporal, spiritual, or eternal, is freely given to him of God, without the least desert on man's part; therefore wholly of free grace, or the effects of God's great love to man. As, 1. The gift of his son is a gracious and a free gift. 2. The gift of his holy law of grarce is a free gift. 3. The gift of his holy spirit is a free gift. 4. The giving of ordinances are free gifts; yea, all the graces and qualifications of a christian are freely given to him of God; for man could not do any thing, no not in any wise, whereby he could deserve the least favour that he now does, or hereafter shall enjoy; and therefore all our enjoyments here, and eternal llife hereafter, are freely given to us of our good God; and yet not to be obtained without our accepting of God's free grace; byJesus Christ, and living to God by him, as the holy terms thereof; yet not so as by doing or accepting meritoriously to procure eternal life; for when we have done all we are but unprofitable servants and therefore we deserve nothing from the Lord as a just and meritorious recompense; but eternal Life is freely given to us of God, as an act of his own free grarce and mercy, designed by him in the way of our duty; and we believe that this grace of God, by his son, and in his law, is truly tendered to the world in general.
Concerning faith we believe, that justifying saving faith does not only consist in a bare believing in God, Christ, etc. but also in the truth of God's word, as it is verbally declared to us in the scriptures, which is the rule of our faith; so that whatsoever is plainly stated in the scriptures concerning the grarce and love of God towards man, and the sacrifice ofChrist for the world, and the duty of man towards the Lord, with whatever else is plainly stted in the word of God, we are to beleive it, as it is therein delivered, and to endeavour to bring our understandings to submit to the plain word of the Lord, and not make the plain express word of God to stoop to our understandings and interpretations; for so to do, is to exalt our interpretations above the word of the Lord, which always ought to have the preheminence. It's true, such sayings in scripture, as are spoken by way of allegory, metaphor, etc. ought to have a sense given to them, which always ought to be such a one, as does comport and agree with the plain and express word of the Lord, and the great design of God therein; and not to understand such sayings in the scripture, so as do in any wise derogate therefrom; so that divine faith, is really to believe the trugh of what the Lord hath spoken in his word; or to be fully persuaded and satisfied in our own judgments and consciences, that whatsoever is declared to us by the Lord in holy scripture, is absolutely and really true, without any kind of reservation whatsoever. this was the faith of Abraham, the father of the faithful, and therefore must be the faith of his children; which faith, if attended with love to God, and sincere obedience to his will, we take to be that faith which is of a justifying saving nature.
Concerning repentance we believe,
1. That it is a gospel duty of great and weighty concern to all those of whom it is required, and from whom it is expected, without which they can have no expectation before the Lord; which repentance we understand thus,viz., To be truly and sincerely humble before the Lord, in a deep and thorough sight and sense of our sins, not for some sins only, but for all our actual and personal transgressions against God and his holy law.
2. That this repentance is the duty of all actual sinners.
3. Wherever the scripture does require men to repent, we understand that it intends them considered as actual sinners against God; and that no repentance is required in the word of the Lord, for that sin which we could in no wise prevent,viz. original sin, but for mens own actual sins and transgressions against the holy word and will of the Lord, it's their duty and great concern to repent.
4. We believe that where this repentance is in truth and power, it doth effect a change, and is accompanied, not only with a forsaking of the sins repented of, but with an utter detestation and abhorrence of them, from a deep sense and apprehension that they are offensive to the Lord.
Concerning baptism we believe,
1. That there is but one baptism properly so called; and that this one baptism is a holy ordinance, ordained by our LordJesus Christ himself, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him in his death and resurrection, of his being engrafted into him, of remission of sins, and of his giving up of himself to the Lord to walk in newness of life.
2. Those that do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to our LordJesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this holy ordinance.
3. The outward element to be made use of in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized, in the name of the father, son, and holy ghost.
4. Immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the right administration of this ordinance.
5. From whence we conclude, that sprinkling a little water in the face is no baptism, neither are infants the proper subjects of it.
Of the Lord's Supper.
Concerning the supper of the Lord, we believe,
1. That it was instituted by him, the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in his churches unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of his dying llove, in offering up himself upon the crofs once for all.
2. The materials to be made use of in this holy ordinance, are bread and wine, which figuratively do represent the body and blood ofChrist.
3. That none ought to communicate in this holy ordinance but such as are orderly members of the church ofChrist, made so by repentance, faith, and baptism, and then they have a lawful right unto it; which holy ordinance ought to be duly observed and kept up in the orderly church of Christ, only for the ends for which it was appointed.
Of the Work of the Holy Spirit.
Concerning the work of the holy spirit, we believe,
1. That God does give the blessings of his spirit in and with his word; the word being the spirit's ministration, so that where the word is in truth, light, and power preached, there it is attended with the spirit.
2. That there is an absolute necessity of the workings of the spirit, both in bringing and keeping souls to the Lord.
3. Yet we do believe, that the holy spirit is not so given, but that it may be resisted, and hath been to mens destruction. And we have just cause to believe that multitude of souls do still resist the motions of the spirit, or they would not go on, and wilfully persist in the practice of sin and wickendess as they do.
4. We do believe that God does give greater measures of his spirit, after believing and obeying, than before; which he is pleased to communicate unto them in the way of their duty in seeking, asking, and waiting upon the Lord, in the way of his own appointment; which seems evident by the light of these scriptures. We desire to honour God in the gifts and graces of his holy spirit; yea, we believe that we ought to submit to its motions and operations upon our souls, lest we reject the council and work of the Lord to our own destruction.
Concerning justification, we believe that men are not justified, before and without faith.
2. That no man is or can be justified by the works of the law, as delivered by Moses.
3. That no man is justified by faith alone.
4. We do believe, that the terms on which men are justified, are faith and gospel works; which, according to the doctrine of the gospel, are the terms of our interest in the justification and life therein promised, and that so absolutely the condition thereof, as that without which none that are capable subjects can obtain it. Yet not as the meritorious or deserving cause, that being alone inChrist Jesus; which terms in short are, 1. Faith, without which it is impossible to please god. 2. Repentance, without which we must perish. 3. Love to Jesus Christ in his ways, and people, without which we are cursed. 4. Holiness, without no man shall see the Lord. From whence we argue thus. Whatsoever is the terms of our acceptation before the Lord, is the terms of our justification; but faith, repentance, love to Christ, and holiness, without which no man can see the Lord, are the terms of our acceptation, ergo, so they are of our justification. 5. In short we understand that men are justified. 1. By the grace of God, as the primary efficient cause. 2. By the death and suffering of Christ, as the meritorious and deserving cause. 3. By the word of the Lord, with its ministry, as the instrumental cause, to beget faith and obedience. 4. By faith and obedience, as the conditional cause, or the holy terms on which they are justified.
Concerning sanctification we believe, that as God hath a people in the world, whom he doth accept and own for his own people, whom he hath chosen out of all the world besides, to be a peculiar people to himslef; so he doth not only afford unto them the grace of justification but also of sanctification. Whom he justified, them he also sanctified. God, who is a holy God, will have his people to be a holy and sanctified people. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification. This was one great end of the Lord in giving himself for his church; and to the same end hath he given forth unto his people a holy law of grrace; tending to nothing more than the promotion of holiness, in which he hath ordained holy ordinances for his people to be observing, and doth communicate unto them his holy spirit, that they may be a holy and sanctified people, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing (the spots and blemishes of sin, is that which renders persons unlovely in the eyes of the Lord) the great design of God in the gospel, is to prepare a holy people now in this day of grrace, by the powerful operation of his word and spirit, fitted and prepared not only to be espoused to the holy Jesus while here, but to be with him where he is, or shall be, in his holy habitation hereafter in glory. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? and who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart, etc.
2. This sanctification is wrought in God's people as an effect of the Lord's undertaking, by the word and spirit, in and through the exeercise of faith; by virtue of which the body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof more and more weakened and mortified, and they the more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice and exercise of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
3. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life: While here, in this imperfect flate, there abideth still the remainders of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual war, the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.
4. In which war, although the remaining corruption may at times, through tempation prevail against the best of God's servants; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying spirit ofChrist, communicated to them, in the way of their duty, in waiting upon the Lord in his holy ordinances, the regenerate part doth overcome, and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord; and are pressing after a heavenly life, in obedience to all the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ their head and king.
Concerning perseverance we believe, That it is absolutely necessary, in order to the obtaining of the end (namely salvation with eternal glory) for believers to cleave to the Lord, and to keep close to him in the way of duty.
1. To watch and pray. 2. To keep close to the publick worship and service of God. 3. To be mortifying the corrupt deeds of the body. 4. To be continuing n the exercise of faith. 5. To be growing and increasing in all the graces of the new convenant. In which way of keeping close to the Lord, watching and praying, worshipping and serving God, mortifying the corrupt deeds of the body, growing and increasing in all the graces of the new covenant; to wit, faith, love, humility, patience, etc. they shall be supplied with sufficiency of grace here, to preserve them safely to the kingdom of glory hereafter.
2. Yet we believe, that it's possible for true believers, through their remisness or negligence in point of duty towards God, through the temptations of Satan, and corruptions of their own deceitful hearts, finally to apostatize from the truth they once made profession of, and in so doing render their latter end to be worse than their beginning.
Of God's decrees.
Concerning God's decrees we believe, that the word of God is his decreed will; and that there is no secret will or decree of God contrary to his revealed word and will; and that his decree is, that whosoever believeth and obeyeth him, persevering therein to the end, shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned.
2. We believe, that whatsoever God hath absolutely decreed, shall certainly and inevitably come to pass. But then,
3. We believe, that many things that do come to pass are not decreed of God. For it seems to us not only unscriptural, but also altogether irrational, to imagine, that the righteous and holy God should decree any sin, or unholiness, either in angels or men; that being not only contrary to his word, which commands men to be holy, but also to his name and nature, which is most holy; and therefore could decree no unrighteousness. From whence we conclude, that all the wicked and ungodly actions, either of angels or men, tho' God doth permit them to come to pass, yet there is no decree of his, that do necessitate the being of them. It might suit the nature of the Devil, or wicked men, to decree wickendess; but far be it from the righteous God so to do; shall not the judge of all the earth do right?
Of Providence, or Foreknowledge.
Concerning providence or foreknowledge we believe, that notwithstanding God foreknoweth whatsoever cometh to pass, yet we believe, this foreknowledge is not so exercised, as to necessitate the coming to pass of things; but that they may, or may not be, may come to pass, or may be prevented. As for instance in the case of David. David being king in Keilab, and Saul was coming to take him, David asked of the Lord, whether Saul would come down? and whether the men of Keilab would deliver him into his hands? The Lord answered that Saul would come down, and the men of Keilab would deliver him. The David with his men departed, and prevented both Saul, and the men of the town; so what the Lord said to David would come to pass, did not, etc. Another instance we have, That at what instant God should speak concerning a nation, to pluck up, to pull down, or to build or plant; if the people against whom the Lord would repent of the evil; and when he did promise to build, etc. if the people did do evil, he would repent of the good he promised to do to, and for them. The truth of which is evident in the case of Nineveh. Jonah preach'd, that Ninefeh in forth days should be overthrown, and yet on thier repentance it was prevented, God repented him of the evil that he thought to do. Another Instance is concerning Israel: They sinned, for which the Lord would have destroyed them; but on the intercession of Moses, the Lord was entreated, and repented him of the evil, which he thought to have done unto them. Many more scriptures might be made use of to the same purpose; yea, all the promises and threatnings in God's word do prove the same; that is to say, that god;s providence, or foreseeing of things, doth not necessitate the being of them, but that in the use of means it might be prevented, God having to do with men capable to understand him, both in his promises and threatnings, and not with stocks or stones, neither with vegetive or merely sensitive creatures.
Concerning election we believe, not as some who express themselves after this manner, in these words, y the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated or fore-ordained to eternal life, thro'Jesus Christ; and that these angels and men, thus predestinated and fore-ordained, are particularly, and unchageable designed, and their number so certain, and definite that it cannot be either increased or deminished.
2. And affirmatively we believe, that the infinitely wise and holy God, suitable to his name and nature, did elect or choose unto himself from eternity, and (merely of his own good pleasure) out of the whole body and bulk of mankind, an entire species, or sort of men, namely those that in time do believe, and sincerely obey him, patiently continuing in the way of well doing unto the end.
3. We believe this election to be inChrist Jesus, of God;s eternal purpose and grace, before the foundation of the world.
4. We do believe that God's electing grace doth extend itself to the whole number of the godly in all nations throughout all ages, under the various dispensations, under which they live.
Concerning reporbation we believe, that God hath not decreed, from eternity, the reporbation of any person of mankind, considered as such, who may not very possible be saved, notwithstanding any decree in God; much less do we hold a decree of reprobation, from eternity, of the greatest part of mankind, excluding a possibility of their being saved; for we believe that God doth not hate or reprobate any man, as his creature, before he considers him as an actual sinner.
2. We believe, that whensoever God doth reject or reporbate any person of mankind, it is for their own wilful and actual transgressions, as the just deserving cause thereof, and not from his own will, any otherwise considered.
3. That the intent (at least the promary or antecedent intent) of God in his decree of reprobation, is the salvation and not the damnation of men. The Lord declares that he had rejected or reprobated them, yet exhorts them to duty, with promises on thier performance; and if ever the Lord does finally reprobate any person or persons, it is for their final rejecting him, in his many calls, and gracious invitations.
4. From whence we conclude, that those whtat own personal election, and personal reprobation before time, so as to deny the love of God to the world, do not own the faith of the gospel.
5. We believe, that God hath not decreed the reprobation of any infant, dying before the commission of actual sin.
Of God's governing of the World.
Concerning God's governing of the world, we believe, that God is the supreme Lord and governor of the whole world.
2. As to the method that the Lord makes use of in his governing the world (we mean the world of mankind) we believe that, 1. For the keeping up and maintaining of all civil society amongst men, in natural and moral things, the Lord hath set up governors, ordained by himself, unto whom he hath given power and authority to execute judement and justice amongst men; which governors, in respect of that power and authority which the Lord hath given them, are in scripture called gods, being his deputies; whose work is to be a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well; to keep up, maintain, and cherish all civil, natural, and moral principles amongst men, and to punish the breach thereof; for the law is made for the lawless and disobedient; that is, for those that transgress the law; and the magistrate is the Lord's executioner, and beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon them that do evil. And thus far the governors of the world ought to exercise their authority over men, viz. in all things of human and civil concern; and so far it's the duty and great concern ofChristians, to be obedient and subject to them, and to render to them all that honour that by the ordinance of God is due to them. 2. As to spiritual things, of religious, ecclesiastical, or divine concrn, we believe, that God, by Jesus Christ, doth govern the world: We mean thus; That government herin (according to the will of the Lord) is not left to the will of men, but the Lord hath provided and instituted holy and spiritual laws for men to believe in, cleave to, and be saved by; and that these laws are given forth by the Lord Jesus Christ, as the alone legislator, or law-giver; and these holy and spiritual laws are, by virtue of the Lord's commission, to be preached to the whole world, as a rule for them, not only to believe, but also to walk by. And those amongst men that do obey the Lord in these his spiritual laws, he espouseth to himself to be his church and spouse, in and with whom his spiritual kingdom is exercised and kept up. And those that believe not, nor obey the Lord in these his holy laws, that will not have him to reign over them, but are enemies to him and his government, the Lord will destroy, when he shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, nor obey his gospel.
So that the punishements of men, for the breach of gospel laws belongs to God alone, and not in any wise to man; we mean in such things as concern God;s worship only. Yet we believe that where the gospel doth not come, that if men be govern'd by the law of God written in their hearts, and by the works of God without them, which are sufficient to teach them taht there is a God, and to endeavour to live to God, suitable to the light they have received, no doubt but they shall be accepted, though they are not under the ministration of the gospel, and in the gret day of judgment rewarded according to their works.
Of the Church of Christ.
Concerning the church ofChrist, we believe, that the Lord Jesus Christ hath a church in the world, which we understand to be taken, 1. more generally, for the whole number of the godly throughout all ages; 2. more particularly, for a particular assembly of people, gathered out of the world by the ministry of the gospel, to the visible profession of faith in Christ, and obedience to his will, in all his holy institutions. Such a people, so gathered into a partucular congregation, continuing stedfastly in the doctrine of Christ, and his holy apostles, we understand to be a gospel church.
2. We believe that the Lord JesusChrist is the alone head of his church whether we understand it more generally for all God's people, or more particularly for any particular congregaiton of them; and no other Lord or law-giver do we own in religion and divine things, that do concern the worship and service of God, but the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
3. As to the way of entrance into the church ofChrist, we understand it to be by faith, repentance, and baptism, and that none ought to enter in but in that way.
4. We believe, that to each of these churches, or particular congregations thus gathered, according to the mind and will of the Lord declared in his word, he hath given all that power and authority, which is any ways necessary and needful for their carrying on of that order in worship and discipline, which he hath instituted for them to observe, with commands and rules for the right and due exercising and executing of that power.
5. As all believers are bound by the law ofChrist to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do; so all that are admitted to the privileges of a church, are also under the government and cunsures thereof, according to the rule of Christ.
6. We believe, that no church-members upon any offence taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offened at, ought to make any breach in church order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of any such offence at anay of his fellow-members; but to keep his place and duty in the church, and to wait upon the Lord in their further proceedings with such members against whom the offence is taken.
7. We believe, that as it is the duty of each church to pray continually for the good of all the churches; so the churches, when planted by the providence of God, so as they may have opportunity for it ought to hold communion with each other for their preace, increase of love, and mutual edificaiton.
8. We believe, that a particular church gathered, and completeatly fitted, or accomplished, for the worship and publick service of God, consistes of officers and member' and the officers appointed byChrist to be chosen and set apart by the church, for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power of duty in any respect which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, ore biships, or elders, and deacons.
9. We believe, that the churches ought to take great care, that the persons they chuse and set apart to office in the churches, be such as are suitably quialified and gifted for that work, according to the mind ofChrist.
10. The way appointed byChrist for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the holy spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is , that he be chosen thereunto by the general consent of the curch itself; and solemnly set apart, by fasting, prayer, and impolition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there by any before constituted therein; and of a deacon, that he be chosen by like consent, and set apart by a prayer, and the like imposition of hands.
11. As we do believe that the churches ought to take great care, and be very heedful that the persons they chuse and set apart to the work and office of elders in the congregations, be such as be gifted, and suitably qualified, according to the mind of the Lord, for that office; so we do believe that the learning of the languages, to wit,Hebrew, Greek, Latin, etc. is no qualification so absolutely necessary to the being of a minister, or elder, but that t person may very possibly be sufficiently qualified for that office without it; tho' we readily grant, that the learning of the languages my be useful in its place, as a servant to help, etc. but to make it a qualification, absolutely necessary to the being of a minister, we dare not. Our reasons are, 1. Because the gospel was at first preached and brought forth into the world by unlearned men; such were the apostles. 2. Because amongst the many qualifications required in the scriptures, to be found in those that are set apart to the work and office of an elder, we never find this recorded as one of those qualifications. 3. Because experience testifies, that men unlearned in the languages, have been very useful in the Lord's hands, and have been famous instruments for the good of souls. Have not many souls been converted? Have not many famous churches been gathered by unlearned men? Why then such persons should be laid aside, as not suitably qualify'd for the Lord's work, in point of ministry, or eldership, we see no reason? 4. Because the confining to a learned ministry seems greatly contrary to the mind of the Lord, and his method in bringing forth the gospel; and this appears, in that the scripture lets us know, that the Lord hath chosen foolish and weak things to confound those that are mighty; and things that are not, to bring to naught things that are. Have not the great things of the gospel been hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes; viz. to such as were little in the world's eyes, that so men might not look after gospel things for the excellency of the persons that do bring it forth, but for the worth and excellency that is therein; and that the faith of God's people might not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God, that so no flesh might glory in his presence. Had the Lord made choice of the wise and learned only to have been employed in the great Work of gospel-preaching, had ne not then chosen the wise to confound the foolish, and the mighty to confound the weak, and things that are esteem'd in the world's eyes, to bring to naught things that are not? And had not our faith then stood in the wisdom of men, and not in the power of God? Adn then might not flesh have glorified in his presence, contrary to the Lord's design? What great and good effects have we seen of learning? Why should men be so fond of it? Was not the Apostacy brought into the world by learned men? Has it not been maintain'd and carried on by such ever since? And may there not be great cause to fear, that the bringing of persons to a great degree of learning, on purpose to qualify them for the work of the ministry, is that which will be degrees usher in another Apostacy? And that this of learning, which now is pretended as a servant to help, will, after a while, become a lord to rule; so that those that have it not, tho' otherwise ever so well qualified and gifted for the work of the ministry, will be rejected from that work, meerly because they are not learned men: And may not this be a means, in time, to reduce the few faithful labourers the Lord hath in his vineyard to a smaller number?
But as to the qualifications that ought to be found in those that are called to the ministry, read and ponder, 1Tim. iii.2, &c. and 2 Tim. xxxiv.25. compared with Tit. i. 6,7, &c. and of a deacon, 1 Tim. iii. 8,9, &c.
12. As we do believe it to be the work of pastors, constantly to attend the service ofChrist in his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to him; so we do believe, that its a duty of great concern for the churches to whom they mininster, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things, according to their ability; so as they may have a comfortable supply without being themselves entangled in secular affairs, that so they may have a sufficiency of opportunity to be faithful in the discharge of a good conscience towards God, in the great work he hath called them to; and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express command of our Lord who hath ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
13. Although we do believe it to be incumbent on the pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the word by way of office; yet the work of preaching the word is not so confined to them, but that others also, gifted and fitted by the holy spirit for it, and approved, and called by the church, may, and ought to perform it.
14. As we do believe it to be the duty ofChristians earnestly to desire spiritual gifts, but rather that they may prophisy; so we do believe, that every church of Christ ought to be a nursery, to nurse up and cherish gifts amongst themselves, and to embrace any among them, whether learned or unlearned, that tare likely to be usefull in the Lord's work.
Of the resurrection of the dead.
Concerning the resurrection of the dead we believe, according to the scriptures, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
2. That the same persons that sleep in the dust of the earth, even all the generations of men, from one end of the world to the other, shall be raised in the resurrection; the same body shall rise again and not another.
3. In this resurrection, the vile bodies of the saints shall be changed and fashioned like unto the glorious body of the Lord himself.
4. The end of this resurrection is to the saints, the perfecting of the restoration of the new covenant, and receiving their end of their faith,&c. And to the wicked that they may receive the due and just recompence of their wickedness and rebellion against the Lord.
5. We believe, that there will be an order in the resurrection,Christ is the first fruits, then next or after, they that are Christ's at his coming, then or afterwards cometh the end.
Of the eternal Judgment.
Concerning the eternal Judgment we believe, that God havt appointed a day wherein he will judge the world byJesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the father, in which day not only the apostate angels shall be judged; but likewise all persons that have lived upon the earth, shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an accoune of all their thoughts, words and deeds, and to receive according to what they have done in the body.
2. We believe, that as all men shall give an account unto the Lord, so the matters then to enquired into, and for which they must be accountable, will be their own willful and personal sins, either of omission or commission; and that whosoever at that day shall be sentenced to condemnation, will then know, that it was their wilfulness, not weakness, actual, nor original sin, that was the procuring cause thereof, or they will not be left inexcusable, the truth of which appeareth from the light of the aforementioned scriptures.
3. We believe, that whomsoever of all the sons and daughters of Adam, shall in the great day of judgment appear without actual sin, which is the case only of those that die in infance, shall not in that day fall into condemnation; but shall be saved with such a degree of salvation, as the righteous and merciful Lord and judge shall see fit to confer upon them; all the reason we shall here render in this matter is, 1. They have no sin of their own to condemn them. 2. They have the grace of the father, and the merits of the son to save them. 3. The Lord tells us of such (meaning little children) are the kingdom of heaven. 4. Because the contrary is a merciless principle, contrary to God's name and nature.
4. We believe, that sutable to mens improvement of their time and talents here, will their judgments be hereafter; from whence we conclude, that there will be very great degrees of reward, both in glory and punishment.
5. We believe, that in this great judgment, the eternal state both of angels and men will be determined; so that suitable to the sentence, then given by the righteous Lord and judge, will be their eternal state, and that there will be no revoking or altering of the sentence, which shall then pass upon either angels or men; and so it will be an irrevocable and eternal judgment, and men will know in the judgment, when the sentence is past how it will be with them for ever after.
Of the restitution of all things.
Concerning the restitution we believe, that there shall be a restitution of all things. And he that sat upon the throne said, behold I make all things new. God made the first or old world, both heaven and earth, and all things therein, for the use of man, and then made man to possess it; but man fell by sin, and the whole creation with him for his sin, as a just judgment of God upon him. Now inasmuch as this old creation was lost and fallen, the design of God by the manChrist Jesus, was the recovery and restauration of all again, and to make all new, not of new matter, but the old things must be made new, for it will be a restitution, or renovation, not properly a creation, which restauration, will wonderfully tend to set forth the power and godhead of the great creator, not only in making and preserving but also in restoring of so wonderful a creation, and his wisdom will illustriously be seen not only in contriving and creating of such various and many sorts of creatures, and to bring all out of nothing, but also his wisdom and power will be wonderfully declared by his works in the restitution for ever more.
Of the Reign of Christ.
Concerning the kingdom and reign of our LordJesus Christ, as we do believe, that he is now in heaven at his fathers right hand, so we do believe, that at the time appointed of the father, he shall come again in power and great glory; and that at, or after his coming the second time, he will not only raise the dead, judge and restore the world, but will also take to himself his kingdom, and will, according to the scriptures, reign on the throne of his father David, on mount Sion in Jerusalem for ever.
2. We believe, that this kingdom of our Lord will be an universal kingdom and that in this kingdom the Lord JesusChrist himself will be the alone visible supreme Lord and King of the whole earth.
3. We believe, that as the kingdom will be universal, so it will also be an everlasting kingdom, that shall have no end, nor cannot be shaken; in which kingdom the saints and faithful in Chjrist Jesus shall receive the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls; where the Lord is, they shall be also.
4. We believe, that the newJerusalem, that shall come down from God out of heaven, when the teabernacle of God shall be with them, and he will dwell among them, will be the metropolitan city of this kingdom, and will be the glorious place of residence, of both Christ, and his saints for ever, and will be so situated, as that the kingly palace will be on mount Sion, the holy hill of David, where his throne was.
5. We do believe, that this kingdom will be a peaceable and a very glorious kingdom, beyond conception, and much more beyond expression, of whichSolomons kingdom was a type.
6. We believe, that this kingdom of our Lord, will be, that that shall succed the fourth monarch spoken of, and will be the stone cut out of the mountain without hands which shall fill the whole earth.
7. We believe, that this kingdom ought not to be set up by the material sword, that being so exceeding contrary to the very nature ofChristianity; for which we shall give these following brief reasons. 1. Because a Christians life is to love our enemies, and to pray for them, and not destroy them; to pray for all men. 2. To be subject to government in all sases of civil concern; and patiently endure and suffer tribulation and persecution for the kingdom of Christ's sake. 3. Because Christ's kingdom is not of the world, therefore his servants ought not to fight. From whichb considerations, we cannot chearfully have communion with those that own the setting up Christ's kingdom by the power of the sword; believing that his spiritual kindom, which is his church here on earth; ought not to be set up or forced, either by the sword, or any civil law whatsoever, but by the preaching of the gospel, which is the sword of the spirit, the word of God. And, 4. his eternal kindom on the throne of his father David, of which we are speaking, himself will set up at his appearing and kingdom, when the great men and noblemen, bondmen, and freemen shall run to the rocks and mountains to fall upon them, and hide them from the presence of the lamb. This will be the day of the Lord's vengeance; and it belongs to him to execute it, and not unto us.
1From the original document the word is indiscernible
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