1689 London Baptist Confession with Footnotes Appended
Many of our brethren have desired for years that a general or national meeting be held for the purpose of uniting our people everywhere in doctrine and practice; others have feared that this end could not be attained in this way, and so hesitated to encourage the move.
Every lover of our people has been grieved and deeply distressed to see our dear old Baptists torn into factions in so many places. With an earnest desire to see union and harmony prevail among us everywhere, by request of the Fulton Church, we met on November 14, 1900, and continued four days in session with the Fulton Church in Fulton, Ky.
The prayers for union among us and for God's blessings upon our efforts could be read on the faces of all present, and as the weighty matters mentioned in this Confession of Faith were read and reread tears filled many eyes. There was a feeling among all present that God's blessings would rest on our efforts. Not one present showed any desire to domineer over the rest.
In the committee rooms the brethren showed the utmost possible regard for each other's feelings, and every measure was approved by unanimous vote.
The London Confession of Faith was approved by a unanimous vote of the meeting. In view of the fact that this instrument was written more than two hundred years ago and that our language naturally undergoes some change in so long a time, it was deemed prudent to add some explanations to those sections that seemed ambiguous.
The whole Confession, with the explanatory notes, was approved by a unanimous vote, and we now offer the whole in this form to our dear brethren everywhere, with the fervent prayer to Almighty God that it may be received and approved by our suffering Zion with the same unanimity and tender love with which it has been approved in this meeting, and that our feeble efforts may result in establishing union and fellowship among us everywhere, and that we may go to our homes from this place with a renewed energy in laboring for peace and union among all our people, and to this end we beg all our people everywhere to unite with us in prayer to the Lord God Almighty to remember us with a blessing, that our eyes may see days of increased gladness and the sweetest union among our people.
Signed in behalf of the whole assembly.
James H. Oliphant, Moderator;
Will M. Strickland, Clerk
Pursuant to a call of the Primitive Baptist Church of Fulton, Ky., the elders and messengers of the Church of God known as Primitive Baptists, being convened from various places in the United States of America, in the city of Fulton, Ky., from the fourteenth day of November to the eighteenth day of the same month, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred. To all of like precious faith with us, Greeting.
Recognizing with humble gratitude the gracious and divine providence of God in giving us the kingdom and preserving its order and purity through the lapse of many hundred years, fraught with commotions, revolutions, and other Vicissitudes of human life, we do feel under profound obligations to thank God and labor faithfully for the prosperity of his holy cause.
1. The Importance of Fellowship cannot be overestimated. It is the sacred cord that binds together the members of this holy community. Since there is no tribunal higher than the local churches to which they may appeal, their safety and perpetuity depends on the preservation of their fellowship.
2. Bars of Fellowship set up by our local churches have been the most destructive influences against the growth and progress of the Church. Traditions of men and human customs being regarded as authority have often given rise to bars of fellowship and resulted in the destruction of the peace of the churches. Such customs and traditions as have no Bible sanction should never interfere with fellowship. It is painful to note on the pages of history how frequently our people have been divided and their happiness destroyed by foolish and sinful declarations of non-fellowship. We do most solemnly and prayerfully beseech all our churches and people that they raise no bars of fellowship against any Primitive Baptist with whom they are agreed on fundamental principles - such as the eternal salvation of sinners, wholly by grace and entirely unconditional on the sinner's part, and who are sound and orderly in the ordinances of the Church, administering baptism by immersion to penitent believers only by ministers of the gospel clothed with authority by the Gospel Church, and administering the Lord's Supper to such baptized believers only, and who manifest a willingness to labor for the peace, union, and fellowship of the whole body.
The gospel is God's appointed remedy for the correction of errors in his Church, and it is in every way sufficient to correct errors among the children of God, if lovingly and faithfully employed. When bars of fellowship are raised they exclude the erring from the God-appointed remedy for the correction of their errors and render restoration hopeless.
When bars of fellowship are unlawfully raised among our people the bond of union by which our churches are held together is broken and the welfare of the cause exposed to the most uncertain results. If the raisers thereof cannot be induced to remove them at once, the only course for those who want to remain in this holy Church union is to discard their actions and have no connection with them until they withdraw such bars of fellowship.
3. Heresy being so positively forbidden by the Scriptures, we deem it important to have a clear, accurate, and concise understanding of what the word implies. We take heresy to mean a departure from the teachings of the Scripture as explained in our acknowledged Confession of Faith, but not mere differences of opinion upon immaterial points of doctrine and practice upon which the Bible makes no positive statements.
The Bible does not state the day nor the hour upon which members shall be received in the Church, nor the Lord's Supper administered. It mentions neither hymnbooks, associations, formal letter correspondence, nor general handshaking. So upon all such matters liberty should be allowed, provided that everything is done in decency and in order, and the books used are sound in sentiment.
No doctrine nor practice that violates neither the Scripture nor acknowledged confession should be construed as heresy. The treatment of heresy requires but little comment. The Bible plainly states that a heretic, after the first and second admonition, shall be rejected (Titus 3:10), but let it be fully known that an action or doctrine is heresy before action is taken against it. We deem it unsafe to deal with a man as a heretic unless he avows the heresy. In cases where divisions have been forced in the Church by bars of fellowship or otherwise we do earnestly and prayerfully beg our brethren not to go to law over Church property. We believe it is better to take what would be paid out in cost of suit and expend it in a house than to gain the house by law, and much more in harmony with the teaching of our dear Saviour.
4. The Right of an Individual Church to discipline her members is clearly taught in the Scriptures. From the decision of an orderly church, in matters of discipline, there is no appeal. The church is the only authority to which complaint may be made. Only when a church has refused or neglected to discipline a member or members whose actions are bringing reproach or distress upon the cause in general, or when a church, in the opinion of sister churches, has so far indulged in disorderly practices as to render her incapable of proper self-government, or when she has departed from the faith, has a council of churches any right to consider her case, unless they are specially called on by her to do so. For instruction of churches in such cases as described above we refer them to the London Confession of Faith, Chapter XXVI., Section 15.
5. Restoration of Disorderly Churches is a subject that has given much concern to our people. When churches are guilty of only irregularity in doctrine and practice and are willing to disclaim such irregularities and return to primitive order, it is our candid opinion that they should be received into the general fellowship of the denomination without being required to perform the impossible task of counteracting every individual irregularity.
6 That Associations may be made an advantage to the churches none would hardly deny. That they have sometimes been abused and made a disadvantage none will dare deny. Associations are useful in keeping the churches in sympathetic touch with each other. They can be made useful by making them a place of worship, a place to obtain news from the different churches in the community, by laboring to cultivate a spirit of love and fellowship and of Christian forbearance by putting in the time in trying to build up the cause of Christ rather than trying to impose our peculiar notions on others. Associations may be abused and rendered injurious by the opposite of the above.
7. The Care and Encouragement and Duties of the Ministry is a subject of too great magnitude to be passed by lightly. It is very thoroughly [covered], however, in the London Confession of Faith, approved by this convention. We most earnestly request a careful study of the subject in that document (read Confession, Chapter XXVI., Section 10. See also Minutes of Black Rock Convention.) It was evidently the belief of our London brethren, supported by the Holy Scriptures, that ministers of the Word should give their entire time, energy, and talent to their ministry, and the brethren should divide with them a sufficient portion of their living to keep them and their families who are not capable of self support above want. It is a positive fact that our appreciation of any object is increased by the amount of care and labor we bestow upon it. It is natural for a mother to love her babe, but as she cares for it from day to day the intensity of her affection increases. A father and mother may take a child not their own to rear, and at first feel a slight indifference, but nights of watchful solicitude and days of toil and care will render that child so dear that they with difficulty distinguish it from their own children. So a church that cares for her pastor loves him better and appreciates his service more than one that does not. There is a holy relation between pastor and evangelist that should not be ignored. The pastor should welcome the evangelist and his labor and show him due courtesy and consideration. In return the evangelist should remember that it is the pastor's duty and privilege to preside over the church and administer its ordinances. No evangelist should assume to administer any ordinance in the church when the pastor is present unless he is specially requested to do so by the church and pastor. The work of an evangelist is indispensable. Without such work the gospel kingdom would be extended no farther, as it is the chief work of an evangelist to introduce the gospel where it is not known. And to organize churches there should be no lack of appreciation of either pastor or evangelist, as both are indispensable in the upbuilding and progress of the church and authorized by the Word of God. (See Ephesians 4:11.) If the claim of Primitive Baptists be true, no one has access to baptism, the elements in the Lord's Supper, or any other gospel privilege where there is no Primitive Baptist church or ministry. In view of the vast territory in our own country that is absolutely ignorant of Primitive Baptist doctrine, and therefore totally destitute of church privileges, and as the redeemed of the Lord are among every nation, kindred, tongue, and people under heaven (Rev. 5:9) we behold the great necessity of stirring our people up on this subject.
This clearly demonstrates that we claim too much or do too little. We earnestly solicit our people to encourage the work of an evangelist. Not to spend his time in visiting large and well-organized churches, but to labor with the feeble and destitute churches and in places where there is no church. The churches should lovingly, freely, and faithfully contribute of their carnal means as God has blessed them to the support of brethren engaged in this needful work. We would not be understood to regard that there are degrees in the ministry, but different lines of work in the same office.
It is the special duty of the deacons to superintend the financial interest of the church. They should have control of the church treasury and expend it in serving tables. First, the table of the Lord. Secondly, the table of the poor. Thirdly, the table of elders that labor for them. They should receive the donations from the brethren and keep a correct account of same and report to the church, that it may know who are bearing the burdens of the church. The object of the deacons is to equalize the burdens of the churches. (See Practical Suggestions to Primitive Baptists, by Elder Cash.)
8. The London Confession of Faith, adopted over two hundred years ago by thirty-seven of the ablest ministers of England and Wales, representing over one hundred churches, has served one of the most needful services among our people of any document of faith since the days of the apostles, and has stood unquestioned as an expression of the Primitive Baptist's interpretation of the Bible from then till now. At the present assembly of fifty-one ministers, representing three hundred and thirty-five churches, aggregating fourteen thousand five hundred members in direct correspondence with over one hundred thousand Baptists, the Confession has been carefully read and approved. Language through the lapse of many years undergoes variations in applications and meanings, whereby certain clauses become more or less obscure in meaning. Wherever, in the opinion of this assembly, the meaning of a section was not apparent, footnotes were added to bring out the meaning. The office of this Confession of Faith is not to be regarded as a standard of faith and practice, but as an expression of our interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, which is the only rule of faith and practice. We recommend the Confession with the notes to careful perusal of all Primitive Baptists, and insist that they make themselves familiar with its teaching. Believing that such a course would obviate many of the difficulties that have so sadly distressed our beloved Zion in the few years passed, we would be glad to see this document, that has stood the test as an expression of our faith for more than two hundred years, become uniformly used in our local churches as their expression of faith and practice.
Praying God's blessings on his holy cause everywhere and that general prosperity may soon follow, we are your obedient servants and ministers of the gospel in the fear and love of God.
John M. Thompson, Greenfield, Ind.;
James H. Oliphant, Crawfordsville, Ind.;
J.W. Richardson, Petersburg, Ind.;
E.W. Thomas, Danville, Ind.;
Will M. Strickland, Fort Branch, Ind.;
H.A. Todd, Grayville, Ill.;
C.F. Stuckey, Carmi, Ill.;
I.J. Fuller, West Salem, Ill.;
Simon Reeder, Cottonwood, Ill.;
John Williford, Greenville, Ill.;
Daniel Lowery, Dalgren, Ill.;
W.A. Fish, Benton, Ill.;
J.B. Hardy, Calvin, Ill.;
J.V. Kirkland, Fulton, Ky.;
R.S. Kirkland, Fulton, Ky.;
J.J. Kirkland, Fulton, Ky.;
J.C. Ross, Crutchfield, Ky.;
L.F. Wallace, Elva, Ky.;
W.M. Hopper, Pottertown, Ky.;
K.M. Myatt, Clinton, Ky.;
A.M. Kirkland, Whitlock, Tenn.;
S.L. Pettus, Triune, Tenn.;
S.F. Cayce, Martin, Tenn.;
W.E. Brush, Clarksburg, Tenn.;
John Grist, Covington, Tenn.;
B.0. Deering, ---, Tenn.;
P.G. Johnson, Rutherford, Tenn.;
C.F. Caruthers, Friendship, Tenn.;
G.T. Mayo, Dresden, Tenn.;
R.C. Taylor,.Milan, Tenn.;
E.B. Simmons, Mixie, Tenn.;
J.N. Wallace, Tumbling, Tenn.;
J.L. Butler, West, Tenn.;
C.H. Cayce, Martin, Tenn.;
J.B. Holbrook, Rutherford, Tenn.;
W.T. Jackson, Ruthville, Tenn.;
Church Peel, Maury City, Tenn.;
J.G. Webb, Bonham, Tex.;
J.T. Stewart, Diamond, Ala.;
W.J. McCormick, Monroe, Ala.;
R.L. Piles, Poteau, Ark.;
J.B. Little, Abbott, Ark.;
J.K. Stephens, Brinkley, Ark.;
Lee Hanks, Boston, Ga.;
E.M. Verell, Trebloc, Miss.;
W.T. Goddard, Milner, Ga.;
T.E. Sikes, Cox, Ga.;
E.D. Williams, Taylor, Miss.;
J.C. Wilkison, McComb City, Miss.;
Ira Turner, Ashland, Mo.;
I.N. Newkirk, Dayton, Wash.
We, the undersigned elders and brethren, pursuant to a request made by brethren of Patoka Association of Primitive Baptists, now convened at Oakland City Church, in Oakland City, Ind., on the 27th day of September, 1900. To our brethren of like precious faith everywhere. We sincerely regret the division and strife that have been among us, and earnestly desire that we may be led to see alike, and to unite in our understanding of truth as taught in God's Word. We represent in this meeting about one hundred congregations in Indiana and Illinois.
We recommend the London Confession of Faith as an expression of Bible truth. The articles of faith of our churches are substantially in harmony with the doctrine and practice set forth in that instrument, and we do heartily recommend the London Confession to the household of faith everywhere. Inasmuch as there is some difference of opinion concerning the teaching of some of the articles in the London Confession of Faith, we will submit the following in the way of explaining our understanding of their teaching:
We do not believe that God has unconditionally, unlimitedly, and equally predestinated righteousness and unrighteousness. It is our belief that God has positively and effectually predestinated the eternal salvation of his people which were chosen in Christ before time.
God's purpose concerning sin does not sustain the same relation to sin that it does to holiness. While we think that God's purpose concerning sin is more than barely permissive, it is such as to exclude all chance and uncertainty, yet we hold that God is in no sense the cause of sin.
We do not believe that God requires or forbids anything in his law, and then by a power irresistible moves his creatures to act contrary to his commands. In Chapter III., Section 1, of the London Confession, we read: "God hath decreed in himself from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things whatsoever come to pass; yet so as thereby God is neither the author of sin, nor hath fellowship with any therein, nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away," etc.
In this they deny that God's attitude to sin is causative, and in the body of this Confession we insist that they maintain that God's attitude to holiness is causative. So they clearly distinguish between God's efficacious decree of holiness and his purpose concerning sin. Section 2: "Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions." Here, they distinguish between the knowledge of God as an attribute of God and the decree of God as an act of God, which we believe to be scriptural.
For God to foresee that man will yield to influences of a secondary nature does not imply that God moves man to sin, but only that he is the Permitter of sin. Webster defines "permit," "to suffer, without giving authority." We use it in the sense of "not hinder." In Section 3 they say: "Others being left to act in their sins to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice." If they had believed that God moves men to sin, they would not have said, "being left to act in their sins," etc. We insist that we should not use language implying that God's attitude to sin is the same as his attitude to holiness, for this tends to destroy the distinction between right and wrong. The expression, "unlimited predestination of all things," seems to convey the idea that God's purpose concerning sin is as unlimited and as unrestricted as it is concerning holiness; and if so, then God's decree concerning sin would be causative, since it is causative concerning holiness, and this view would destroy all distinction between right and wrong. Chapter XVI., Section 2: "These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith; and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God," etc.
Section 3: "Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ; and that they may be enabled thereto, besides the graces they have already received, there is necessary an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit," etc. They do neglect, not being forced in duty irresistibly.
We believe the Scriptures teach that there is a time salvation received by the heirs of God distinct from eternal salvation, which does depend upon their obedience. The people of God receive their rewards for obedience in this life only. We believe that the ability of the Christian is the unconditional gift of God.
Besides the efficacious grace of God in the heart in regeneration, we need the company of God's Holy Spirit to comfort, lead, and bless us, which he has promised to give to every one that will ask him. (Luke 11:13.) The act of God necessary to our regeneration must in some sense be distinguished from his act necessary to our obedience. We are never commanded to be born again, but in hundreds of places we are called on to obey. We are passive in regeneration, but in obedience we are active. Regeneration is neither a vice nor a virtue; obedience is a virtue and disobedience a vice. Regeneration is wholly independent of the will. There could be no such a thing as obedience or disobedience independent of the will. Men do not neglect to be born again, but they do neglect their duty.
In section 5, Chapter XVI., we read: "We cannot by our best of works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of God," etc. They did not place obedience in the place of Christ, or his atonement, and so we believe it would be exceeding sinful to mention good works as essential to these ends, yet we believe there is an important use for good works aside from these ends. In Section 2, same chapter, they say of good works: "By them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries," etc.
We think these uses of good works scriptural. We hold that God's government of his people is moral. We hold, too, that conditionality is an essential element of moral government. We distinguish between God's government of mind and his government of matter.
Section 5, Chapter III.: "God hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as condition or cause moving him thereto." Although the two-seed doctrine was not thought of at the time this Confession was written, yet this article clearly condemns the two-seed doctrine in all its phases.
Chapter XXXI., Section 1: "The souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Besides these two places [heaven and hell] for souls separated from their bodies the Scriptures acknowledge none." Christ will resurrect the wicked by his power, exerted in his office as King through a proceeding of law, and not render the new covenant, as the righteous will be, each to their endless reward. There is a sentiment prevailing in some parts of our beloved Zion that the wicked will be annihilated at death, and we call attention to the sentiment in this quotation on that subject. The annihilation theory is an innovation, and contrary to every Confession of Faith, and also contrary to the Scriptures.
In Chapters III., IV., and IX., the London Confession mentions the freedom of the will. We do not understand them to mean that the will is free in the sense that it is self-determining, as the Arminians hold; nor that man is capable of choosing things of which he has no knowledge, nor things above and beyond his nature; we do not understand the Confession to mean that men dead in sin are, while in that state, capable of choosing holiness, but we understand it to mean that men are capable of choosing things in harmony with their nature - things most agreeable to them. They are and must be capable of voluntary action in order to their being accountable. Liberty of will in this sense is essential to moral government, as we believe. Men before regeneration are capable of choosing things agreeable to them, as they are afterwards.
In conclusion, we love the doctrine of grace, and we believe that any view of predestination, or of the will, that will tend in any degree to apologize for sin will also tend to minimize the doctrine of grace. Paul says: "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." Paul so preached as to make grace glitter and shine as a star of the first magnitude. He puts word upon word to lift up our ideas of God's grace, so we feel it important to oppose any view of decrees of God that will in the least excuse any sin in man, or point out mitigating circumstances for sin, because just in proportion as we excuse or apologize for sin we also belittle the doctrine of grace, so we oppose the two-seed doctrine because it seeks to find some quality in man that stands as the cause of his election to glory, while Paul speaks of God's people, mere "children of wrath even as others." We were no better in our nature or conduct than others, and this is the lesson of our experience. When low bowed before the Lord in the darkest hour of our lives, we confessed, and we knew there was nothing in us that could merit esteem, or give the Creator delight. So we oppose every feature of Arminianism as opposed to the doctrine of grace. We feel bound to contend for those principles that most exalt the doctrine of grace, and we feel sure that if we stay with those lessons that we learned in our first experience, we will expose everything that tends to minimize the doctrine of grace.
J. T. Oliphant, E. L. Ken,
J. H. Oliphant, E. W. Thomas,
J. W. Richardson, H. A. Todd,
J. B. Hardy, C. F. Stuckey,
W. C. Arnold, A. J. Willis,
William E. Williams, Archie Brown,
James Crane, Will M. Strickland,
Unanimously approved by the National Convention of Primitive Baptists at Fulton Ky.
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