Outline, Theology and Distinctives of the 1689 LBC
1689 Baptist Confession:
Outline, Theology, and Distinctives
Dr. Sam Waldron
I was so encouraged when I received the invitation to come to the 1689 Conference because I learned that it was being sponsored by five churches about which I knew, frankly, little or nothing. It was such an encouragement to know that God is spreading His truth and the great things we believe even in places that I am not aware of. Now let me say something, first of all, about how to listen to this lecture, because frankly it is more of a lecture than preaching, and that is to say, please don’t take notes. There is a handout up here, if you would like, of the PowerPoint slides. They’re right here, and you may have one so that you don’t need to be distracted taking notes.
I’m really thankful for how well Doug has taken care of us at this conference and the organization. It makes things so much more profitable I think in the long run when there’s that kind of organization.
My lecture in this hour is supposed to be on the outline, origin, and overview of the confession. That is to say, section 1 will be the analytical outline of the 1689 Baptist Confession, section 2 will be the historical origin of the 1689 Baptist Confession, and then section 3 will deal with the doctrinal overview of the confession.
So, jumping right into it, consider with me in the first place the analytical outline of the 1689 Baptist Confession. Outlines of anything for many of you may be kind of boring. I love outlines. I love outlining; I feel like when I can outline something I understand it. But certainly outlines of anything, whether Bible passages, books, or creeds, ought to be based on a careful analysis of that particular subject. They’re also to some degree homiletical art, so I’m not asserting this morning that this is the only and the final way of outlining the confession, so don’t take what I’m saying this morning as the last word. It is my most recent word.
My own thinking has been influenced by two men that I want to give credit to this morning, so I’m not plagiarizing anybody. Those two men are Pastor Greg Nichols of Grace Immanuel Reformed Baptist Church in Grand Rapids and Dr. Jim Renihan of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies at Westminster West. Greg’s outline actually appears in the back of my modern exposition of the confession. Jim’s analysis at the last ARBCA general assembly was really helpful to me, and some of what I’m going to say is going to reflect that as well.
So utilizing insights from both of those men here’s my most recent attempted to outline the confession of faith. It certainly is the one I’m most happy with so far. There are four parts—Jim and Greg both agree with this, even though they differ a little bit. There are four parts to the confession. Part 1 has to do with first principles, and I believe that it’s best dealt with in chapters 1 to 6. Part 2 deals with God’s covenant, and that is chapters 7 to 20. Part 3 deals with—I’ll defend this a little bit, but I think it’s the right way to put it—Christian liberty, and that is chapters 21 to 30. And then part 4 deals with last things, chapters 31 and 32.
Now having said all of that, let’s go back and just talk a little bit about some key insights that are formative to this outline. First of all, part 1, first principles, chapters 1 to 6. We all agree—that is to say Jim, Greg, and I—the early chapters of the confession are foundational. Part 2, God’s covenant, chapters 7 to 20, and here’s where I owe a debt to Jim. Jim pointed out that God’s covenant is the principle of the second part of the confession, and chapter 7 begins the second part, and I believe that makes the most sense of anything I’ve heard so far in terms of where the second part of the confession begins.
B. B. Warfield in fact emphasizes this principle of the confession being built around the idea of God’s covenant. He says:
The architectonic principle of the Westminster Confession is supplied by the schematization of Federal Theology [that is to say covenant theology] which is obtained by this time in Britain as on the continent a dominant position as the most commodious mode of presenting the corpus of Reformed doctrine.
The third part of the confession deals with Christian liberty. This is chapters 21 to 30. Now that might seem a strange way to describe these chapters if you’re familiar with the confession, but parts 2 and 3 both begin, I think, with chapters that actually are their themes. Part 2 begins in chapter 7 with God’s covenant; part 3 begins in chapter 21 with the subject of Christian liberty. Christian liberty is a major Reformation issue and affects the subjects of all these chapters, the ten chapters we’re talking about in chapters 21 to 30. Part 4 deals with last things, in chapters 31 and 32, and at least here there is general agreement of the subject. I simply provide in these a little less [indiscernible] outline or title than is found in Greg’s outline in my book.
John Calvin, on Christian liberty, says:
We are now to treat of Christian liberty, the explanation of which certainly ought not to be omitted by any one proposing to give a summary of Gospel doctrine. For it is a matter of primary necessity, one without the knowledge of which the conscience can scarcely attempt any thing without hesitation. . . . In particular, it forms a proper appendix to justification, and is of no little service in understanding its force.
So here’s Calvin ranking the subject of Christian liberty right up there with justification. That may be surprising to us, but I think there’s a reason for it, because it is the direct consequence of our justification by faith by grace and by Christ alone. John Owen says similarly on Christian liberty:
The second principle of the reformation whereon the reformers justified their separation from the church of Rome was this, that Christian people were not tied up unto blind obedience unto church guides, but were not only at liberty, but also obliged to judge for themselves, as unto all things that they were to believe and practice in religion and the worship of God.
Let’s go back, and we’re going to work now through the confession, and I’m going to give you an outline of it on the basis of what I’ve tried to briefly defend and explain already. First of all, part 1, first principles, chapters 1 to 6. Section 1 is of course Holy Scripture, chapter 1. Section 2, God’s nature, that’s chapter 2. Section 3, God’s decree, this is chapters 3 to 5. And then section 4 deals with man’s fall. And the relevant chapter titles then are to the right of those sections of thought.
So this is first principles: Holy Scripture; God in the holy Trinity; God’s decree, which is related to creation and divine providence; and then chapter 6 on man’s fall, of the fall of man, of sin, and the punishment thereof. These are the great starting points of the Christian religion and its faith and doctrine, the first principles.
But then part 2 comes to God’s covenant. This is chapters 7 to 20, and again, these chapters can be helpfully outlined under this general subject. Section 1, the doctrine of the covenant, chapter 7; section 2, the mediator of the covenant, chapter 8; section 3, the setting of the covenant, that is to say, the doctrine of free will; section 4, the blessings of the covenant, chapters 10 to 13; section 5, the graces of the covenant, chapters 14 to 18; section 6, the means of the covenant, that is to say, the law of God and the gospel, in chapters 19 and 20.
So here you have the chapter titles as we go along, just to bend this nail over: the doctrine of the covenant, chapter 7, “Of God’s covenant”; the mediator of the covenant, chapter 8, “Of Christ the mediator,” the setting of the covenant of free will. Section 4, the blessings of the covenant, chapters 10 to 13: “Of Effectual Calling,” chapter 10; “Of Justification,” chapter 11; “Of Adoption,” chapter 12; “Of Sanctification,” chapter 13.
I want you to notice something here. It’s easy to fall into the trap, and I’ve read articles by very well-known theologians who have fallen into the trap, of thinking that the confession, both ours and the Westminster, is following the ordo salutis. It is not. The structuring of these chapters on the blessing and graces of the covenant does not follow the ordo salutis. It follows a different schema. The confession deals first with the divine blessings—effectual calling, justification, adoption, and sanctification being the main one—and then in chapter 14 it comes back to the graces of the covenant and deals with faith, repentance, good works, perseverance, and assurance. You see, what you have here are divine blessings and human graces, and so you are not following here, strictly speaking, the ordo salutis. The confession is not saying, as one man said, that faith follows sanctification. Of course not. What we have here is simply a presentation of the covenant as in one sense one-sided as a unilateral bestowal of blessing by God and another sense as two-sided because it demands a response from men. So the confession is not following here the ordo salutis. It is crucial that you understand that. Within the sections on blessings and graces there is an order, but they are not sprinkling together the blessings and graces. I hope that’s clear. The order is God’s blessings and then man’s graces. The covenant is first one-sided and then two-sided.
Section 5 deals with the graces of the covenant in chapters 14 to 18: “Of saving faith,” chapter 14; “Of repentance unto Life,” chapter 15; “Of Good Works,” chapter 16; “Of the Perseverance of the Saints,” chapter 17; “Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation,” chapter 18.
Now section 6 of part 2 of the confession deals with the means of the covenant. How does God communicate, or convey, the blessings of the covenant to men? And the answer is by the law and the gospel. “Of the Law of God” is chapter 19, and in the chapter added by the Savoy Declaration you have the gospel, “Of the Gospel, and the Extent of the Grace thereof.” These chapters present one of the foundational themes of the Reformation, a foundation that can scarcely be overstated in its importance, and that is the foundation of their understanding of the dichotomy in contrast and dynamic of the law and gospel.
And by the way, it needs to be law and gospel; it’s not gospel and law, as Karl Barth said. Law is not a subset of gospel. It is law and gospel. It’s covenant of works and covenant of grace, and it’s crucial that we understand it that way.
But these means by which the covenant is conveyed to us are not means of the covenant in the same way. The law prepares; the gospel saves. The confession is not saying we’re saved partly by the law and partly by the gospel—no, no, no, no, no. But these two things are intimately related. The law prepares us for salvation. There’s a lawful use of the law that begins with the first use of the law, which is to drive us to Christ. And then the gospel—the law having driven us to Christ—saves us. So the law does not save but prepares us to appreciate our need of a Savior.
Part 3 then is that section that you may still be puzzling over that I’ve entitled Christian liberty, chapters 21 to 30. Let me tell you how I think this opens up. First of all, section 1, and a foundational chapter on the subject—and there might be different ways to understand the internals of this section, okay? I’m going to give you one simple way. You might also see chapter 21 as the general theme and then chapters 22–30 as the specific details, but I’m going to do it this way.
Section 1: individual liberty, chapter 21
Section 2: religious worship
Section 3: civil government
Section 4: holy matrimony
Section 5: church government
Section 6: Christian communion
Section 7: church ordinances
And what the confession I think is doing here is dealing with Christian liberty with regard to the individual, with regard to religious worship, with regard to civil government, with regard to marriage, with regard to church government, with regard to Christian communion, and with regard to church ordinances. And I think if you look at these chapters you will see how the subject of Christian liberty keeps coming up in all of them.
So section 1 is individual liberty, the chapter title is “Of Christian liberty and Liberty of Conscience.” It’s foundational. Section 2, religious worship—two chapters here, “Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day.” By the way, the chapter begins with a treatment of the regulative principle, which they understand to be a part of Christian liberty—the Christian is at liberty to worship God as He has said and not according to human imaginations or traditions. It’s Christian liberty that is at stake. And then chapter 23, “Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.” Then we go to section 3 which is civil government, the chapter entitled “Of the Civil Magistrate.” Section 4, holy matrimony, chapter 25 entitled “Of Marriage.” Section 5, church government, chapter 26, “Of the Church.” Section 6, Christian communion, chapter entitled “Of the Communion of the Saints.” And then section 7, church ordinances. You have the general chapter on both of them, which in the Westminster is entitled “Of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper,” and then you have “Of Baptism” in chapter 29, and you have “Of the Lord’s Supper” in chapter 30.
Then you come to part 4 of the confession of faith, last things. There are basically as I understand it three sections of thought here, two in chapter 31 and one in chapter 32. You, first of all, in chapter 31 paragraph 1, have the intermediate state of the righteous and of the wicked and no other alternatives. Section 2 is the general resurrection, chapter 31 paragraphs 2 and 3, and this chapter is then entitled “Of the State of Man after Death and of the Resurrection of the Dead.”
By the way, we have to say to a lot of popular Christianity in our day that these are two different things. The state of man after death is not our final hope, even if we do go to heaven—and we do. Our final hope is the blessed hope, the return of our Lord Jesus Christ and the redemption of our bodies and of the world, then dwelling together ever with Him in that state.
Section 3 deals with the final judgment in chapter 32, in the chapter entitled “Of the Last Judgment.”
That’s an analytical outline of the confession. You may have hated that if you don’t like outlines. You may have loved it—I don’t know—but I think it’s the foundation we have to lay if we’re going to go on now and understand the next thing we come to, and that is the historical origin of the 1689 Baptist Confession.
First of all, let’s say something by way of introduction about the various names the confession has had over the years so that you’re not perhaps confused by that. It is called, I think, most often the 1689 Baptist Confession, but as our brother Steve Weaver told us at dinner last night, it actually wasn’t printed or published in 1689. It was published in 1677 and adopted in 1689 by the messengers of about a hundred churches. It is also called the Second London Baptist Confession. This is because there was a First London Baptist Confession adopted in the 1640s by seven Particular Baptist churches in the London area. It is also called the Philadelphia Confession because with a couple of brief additions it was adopted by the Philadelphia Association of Baptist Churches in 1742 in the United States. Those additions are fairly brief, and if you want to know all about them, Steve is an expert on this I understand.
Here’s the outline we’re going to follow when looking at the historical origin of the Baptist Confession: its contextual tradition, its specific identification, its careful utilization, and then its significance. Actually that will be our last point, so here we go.
What is the context or tradition within which the 1689 Baptist Confession comes to us? Well, it is the context of what I am calling historic and then in parentheses catholic orthodoxy, and of course by catholic I do not mean Roman Catholic; I do mean to designate the mainstream Christian tradition by that adjective. The 1689 stands in confessional agreement with the historic creeds of the church. It comes to us in the tradition of Trinitarian and Christological orthodoxy as they are stated in the Nicene Creed and in the Creed of Chalcedon. Chapter 2 paragraphs 1 and 2 speak of the attributes of God in the language of classical Christian theism. Chapter 2 paragraph 3 speaks of the Trinity using language developed in the fourth century in the Nicene Creed.
The Baptists are not novel when it comes to their doctrine of God or their doctrine of the Trinity. They are happy to speak of those things in the language of early Christian orthodoxy, historic orthodoxy. Chapter 2 paragraph 3 is a great illustration of this. This is language that reminds us directly of the Nicene Creed:
In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son.
And this language certainly reminds us directly of, and is rooted in, the Nicene Creed. “And in one Lord Jesus Christ,” the Nicene Creed says we believe, “the only Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” So the doctrine of Trinity in our confession is the doctrine of the Nicene Creed.
And in chapter 8 paragraph 2 we have the doctrine of the person of Christ stated in our confession, and it is stated in language that is directly derived from the Creed of Chalcedon, dating from the year 451. Here’s the illustration of it:
So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
Anybody who knows early Christology knows that that’s the doctrine of the Creed of Chalcedon and none of the other competitors with Christian orthodoxy in the early church.
Let me say frankly—maybe offensively, I don’t know—some Trail of Blood Baptists have overemphasized the distinctiveness of Baptists. They have taught a Baptist successionism. But our forefathers didn’t emphasize their distinction from the historic catholic orthodox tradition; they emphasized their orthodoxy on the Trinity and person of Christ by deriving their doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Christ from the Nicene Creed and the Creed of Chalcedon. Further, and this is important to say especially as over against the charismatic and Pentecostal movement in our day and over against some others, Luther and Calvin in the Reformation did not advocate a restoration. They were not restorationists. They advocated a reformation. They were reformers, not restorers. There’s a huge difference between those two things. Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement is characterized by the idea of restorationism. The church was lost, now it’s coming back; the gifts are coming back with it. Not so is our confession’s viewpoint.
What are the specific sources, the general context of our confessional tradition, historic Christian orthodoxy? What are the specific sources of our confession? Well there are four main sources of the 1689 that may be identified and are clearly to be seen, I think, in the confession. The first one is of course the Westminster Confession of Faith. The mass of the language that we have in our confession is found first in the Westminster Confession of Faith, dating from the mid-1640s. The second and more direct predecessor of our confession is the Savory Declaration of Faith and Order which was the confession put out by Congregationalist Puritans in 1658 and authored by such men as John Owen and Thomas Goodwin. If you want a picture of what this looked like, the framers of our confession had the Savoy Declaration right there in front of them as they were framing it, and they had the Westminster right over here. We’ll say more about that in a second.
Then another source of the confession is the First London Confession of Faith, also dating from the 1640s. And then lastly there are the labors of the framers, at least that’s the best we can do, because there are some things in the confession that we don’t know where they come from and seemed to have been the creation of the framers of the confession themselves.
Let’s go back over these four sources and talk about them a little bit. So the Westminster Confession was prepared by Puritan theologians of a dominantly Presbyterian persuasion at the Westminster Assembly and published in 1646. Puritans of a Presbyterian persuasion were dominant at that assembly, as I said, and so it reflected Presbyterian views. Church government through a hierarchy of presbyteries and synods, that is to say, connectionalism rather than associationalism, connectionalism rather than independency. They also taught infant baptism, and in the original Westminster Confession, though not in the one revised in America in the late 1700s, they taught a Presbyterian state church.
Then there is the Savoy Declaration. This is a modest revision of the Westminster in 1658 by Congregational Puritans. Appended to it, and this is significant, were thirty paragraphs describing Congregational church order. These Puritans rejected Presbyterian ideas of church government. They insisted on the independence of each local congregation. They denied a state church and held the doctrine of religious freedom, and they insisted on a profession of faith for church membership, which is interesting because they still upheld infant baptism too. But you can see what direction things are tending. It’s easy to see the Savoy Declaration as a half-step towards what will be the position of the Particular and Reformed Baptists and the 1689 Baptist Confession.
Then there is the First London Baptist Confession of Faith, which has frequently been misunderstood but carried this title: “a confession of faith of seven congregations or churches of Christ which are commonly, but [notice] unjustly called Anabaptists.” The First London Confession of Faith was written so that these Baptists could say that they were not Anabaptist. Now that challenges some people’s idea of Baptist history, doesn’t it? The preface has these words: “charging us [they’re talking about their enemies] with holding free will, falling away from grace, denying original sin, disclaiming of magistracy, denying to assist them,” but of course they’re saying, “We don’t teach any of these things. We don’t teach free will or falling from grace or deny original sin or disclaim the magistry or deny to assist the magistry like those Anabaptists do. That’s not our position. We are not semi-Pelagian, and we are not pacifists.”
That brings us to just say something briefly about the distinction between Particular Baptists and Anabaptists. Particular Baptists believed in civil government ordained by God. They thought that a Christian calling could include wielding the sword of the civil magistrate. They held an Augustinian or Calvinistic view of free will. In general, however, Anabaptists held that civil government was nothing more than a necessary evil and it could not be a Christian calling, and they held pacifism. And they held a Pelagian or Arminian view of free will—at least dominantly. I’m not asserting universally, but it was certainly dominantly. So there were these very clear distinctions the First London Baptist Confession of Faith tells us about with regard to the difference between Particular Baptists and Anabaptists.
And then the fourth source that I mentioned was the labors of the framers. Who were the framers of the 1689 Baptist Confession, or the editors of it (because that’s what they were—they were editors, taking previous documents and forming them into our confession)? Well, they were Pastors Nehemiah Coxe and William Collins. They were co-pastors of the Petty France Church of London. Yes, they had a plurality of elders. They combined extracts from the above creeds into a coherent confession, and yet in our confession are statements not from these documents, like chapter 26 paragraph 10 on supporting ministers and the importance of supporting pastors. The last I knew, none of my historian friends have determined where that comes from, and it seems to come therefore from Coxe and Collins. These items must have come from the framers or an unknown source.
Now how did they utilize these documents? The use of these sources reflects dependence on the previous confessions. The Savoy Declaration, as I said, was the most immediate and major source. It was the document that they were actually editing. They had the Westminster sitting over here, they had the First London sitting over there, but right in front of them the document that they were editing from was actually the Savoy Declaration—146 of the 160 paragraphs of the 1689 Confession come from the Savoy Declaration of Faith. Only a few phrases come directly from the Westminster and bypass the Savoy. So there are a few phrases that they brought back in from the Westminster, but they are very few, and the major source of our confession does seem to be the Savoy Declaration. For one thing, there is one chapter in the Savoy that is not in the Westminster, but it is in our 1689 Baptist Confession, and that chapter is chapter 20, “Of the Gospel and the Extent of Grace thereof.” So here’s a confessional genealogy: The grandmother of our confession was the Westminster Confession of 1646, the mother of our confession was the Savoy Declaration of 1658, and the daughter was the 1689 Baptist Confession.
Let me make a couple of comments on how these sources and documents were used. The use of these sources reflects independence of judgment. This is manifested by the important deviations on the subjects of the covenants, the state, and baptism. This is also manifested by the use of the First London in preference, or in addition, at a number of points. It is also manifested by the significant revisions made by the framers. Our Baptist forefathers were not afraid to exercise independence of judgment; they understood the words of the apostle: You were bought with a price; don’t be the slaves of men. In terms of the 160 paragraphs in the 1689, in a general way, we can say that there are 8 from the First London Baptist Confession, 6 from the framers in 1677, and then 146 from the Savoy Declaration.
And that brings us to a doctrinal overview. So on the one hand, they were able to exercise independence of judgment; they weren’t the slaves of the Savoy Declaration and Westminster. At the same time, you can see how much in the tradition, the Puritan tradition, of Westminster and Savoy they found themselves.
That brings us to section 3, the doctrinal overview of the 1689 Baptist Confession. The preceding study of the outline and origin of the confession has crucial practical implications for us. First of all, we learn that we ought to listen carefully to the document that more than any other has been formative for Reformed Baptist life. There is one document more than any other that’s been formative for Reformed Baptist life—it is the 1689 Baptist Confession. That tells us that we at least ought to give it a hearing, right? Who are we as Reformed Baptists? It is in this confession that we find the answer to that question. The theological distinctives of the confession, I think, can be summarized in three phrases and illustrated by means of three concentric circles. The theological distinctives of the 1689 Baptist Confession can be characterized this way: In the broadest circle, the largest circle, you have historic orthodoxy. Then inside that circle you have Reformed theology. And inside that circle you have Baptist principles. You see it? Historic orthodoxy, that’s the general context of the confession. Let no one know say or think that Baptists are not a part of the historic Christian tradition. They hold historic orthodoxy. But they hold historic orthodoxy in self-conscious commitment to the Reformed tradition, to Reformed theology. And then they hold Reformed theology with self-conscious commitment to Baptist principles. This is really important to understand the matter in this way.
So historic orthodoxy—people today, I want to say, I think need historic orthodoxy. A changing world needs truths that don’t change. A changing world needs to know that there are some things the Christian tradition has held from its very beginning and that we continue to hold today. The 1689 stands in the tradition of orthodoxy. Reformed Baptist believe in the God, the Trinity, and the Christ of historic orthodoxy, and these fathers, then, and the way that they stated their faith placed no premium on originality, and clearly their confession bears witness to this everywhere rather valued unity and proven doctrinal paths, and if we are wise, we will do the same thing. We will not value our own originality; we will value unity and proven doctrinal paths.
The next concentric circle is Reformed theology. The value placed on proven paths is shown in the 1689’s pervasive use of well-known Reformed confessions, the Westminster and the Westminster through the Savoy Declaration. The 1689 is a Reformed confession. I assert that without hesitation. It is a Reformed confession. Look, it embraces the Reformed view of God’s decree, of sin, the work of Christ, free will, effectual calling, the law of God, the regulative principle, the Christian Sabbath, last things, and on we can go. The 1689 is a Reformed confession. It is stated and it comes to us in the circle and context of Reformed theology. And this clearly teaches the Reformed and Puritan origin of the Particular Baptist movement. Now we can show this in different ways. It’s a simple matter of historical fact that the first Particular Baptist churches emerged out of Puritan Congregational churches in the London area in the early 1600s. But what I’m asserting is that our confession shows us this. In spite of certain well-known Baptists and well-known Reformed teachers, Baptists are Reformed, at least Particular Baptists are. The idea that Baptists are not Reformed is an undue fascination, I want almost to say a weird and troubling fascination, with infant baptism by some of the Reformed, or a Baptist misunderstanding of our distinctives and a reading of dispensationalism back into areas of church history that it has no business being read back into.
But our confession also is a statement of Baptist principles. Against the entire Reformed world, the 1689 teaches Baptist principles. What do I mean? Well, what I mean is that it teaches distinctively Baptist views of the covenant and baptism. (We’ll come to that in the second.) But this shows that there is a place for proper independence of judgment on the basis of the Word of God, and our Baptist forefathers exercised it. It teaches us the true distinctives of the Particular and Reformed Baptist movement. This has been a subject of a lot of scholarly discussion in a lot of different places, but I think a study of our confession tells us pretty clearly what at least the distinctives of the Particular and Reformed Baptist movement are. What are the distinctives of Particular Baptists? Well, let me tell you what they’re not. They are not Arminianism. They are not antinomianism. The section on the law of God in chapter 19 is in the 1689, and it is not there by accident. And as Jim Renihan and Richard Belcher and Tony Mattia show, it is there self-consciously, and the idea of pitting the First London against the Second on this issue of the law of God simply doesn’t carry historical water. And the distinctive of Particular Baptists is also, as we have seen quite clearly, not Anabaptism and its particular views of the state and the civil magistrate. Our Particular Baptist forefathers were eager to distance themselves from Anabaptist views on that subject.
But what were the distinctives of Particular Baptists? They were the independence of the local church. Our confession teaches independency and rejects connectionalism like that taught by the Presbyterians. It’s not an independence that is so independent that it a rejects associationism, but associationalism and connectionalism are two very different things. It teaches the believer’s church, that the church is composed and ought to be composed only of those who are believers in Jesus Christ who are born again. Another distinctive of Particular Baptists is therefore and closely related—believer’s baptism. Another distinctive is religious freedom. Our Baptist forefathers, in line with the Puritan Congregationalists of England, taught the doctrine of religious freedom, and in that sense, the separation of church and state. Also, our Particular Baptist forefathers, in their understanding of the covenant, taught the supremacy of the new covenant. They taught, in other words, that the full discovery of the covenant of grace and the definitive understanding of the covenant of grace does not come to us in the Abrahamic government or the Mosaic covenant. It comes to us in the new covenant, and it is in terms of the new covenant that the covenant of grace must be defined and understood. This is again the teaching clearly of chapter 7 of our confession.
That is my understanding and our overview, outline, and origins of the 1689 Confession of Faith. I hope it’s helpful to you. I welcome your questions. Let’s pray together.
Father, we thank You for the heritage of truth that we have in this precious confession of faith. We don’t regard it as infallible or inspired or even, in some senses, the last word in terms of doctrinal development, but we do regard it as a tremendous resource and help to us. We thank You for it. We ask that You grant understanding to Your people and grant that a wall that should have been made clear would be made clear by Your Spirit and what should have been left aside might by Your Spirit cause to be forgotten. We ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen.