By James Brown Jr.
This year marks the 325th anniversary of the 1689 Second London Confession of Faith. In recognition of the impact this confession has played in our history and its significance for our future, we restarted our podcasts to highlight this standard of confessional Reformed Baptists.
We began with three podcasts focusing upon the purpose of the 1689. Many times the spirit of the confession is lost due to the deletion of the Preface and Appendix in modern publishing. This is very unfortunate for without the purpose or their reasons for issuing this confession, the context is lost.
As a result, the 1689 has been used with intents that were never sanctioned by the signers of this faithful confession of our faith.
Some have misused this confession as a tool to divide the Church. Of course, this is not just a Baptist sin but we must confess and forsake our sin where we have contributed to schismatic behavior within the catholic Church.
Instead of pointing fingers at everyone else to justify our role in denying the liberty among Reformed churches in secondary issues, we should confess our sin and return to true confessionalism. While the letter of the confession is crucial, we cannot forsake the spirit of the confession. To truly be confessional according to the 1689, we must confess its spirit as well as content.
Yet, even in the letter of the confession, it is important that we stick to what it says and not what we wish it said. The actual text of the confession is what defines our fellowship with the Reformed Catholic Church and our associational relationship with Reformed Baptists.
In these three podcasts we attempt to set forth the purpose for the publication of the 1689 London Confession of Faith. The spirit of this document cannot be separated from its content. It was the purpose of these English Baptists to show our unity with the catholic Church and our distinctions as Baptists within the universal visible Church.
“One thing that greatly prevailed with us to undertake this work was (not only to give a full account of ourselves to those Christians that differ from us about the subject of baptism, but also) the profit that might from thence arise unto those that have any account of our labors in their instruction and establishment in the great truths of the Gospel, in the clear understanding and steady belief of which our comfortable walking with God, and fruitfulness before him in all our ways, is most nearly concerned; and therefore we did conclude it necessary to express ourselves the more fully and distinctly; and also to fix on such a method as might be most comprehensive of those things we designed to explain our sense and belief of; and finding no defect in this regard in that fixed on by the Assembly, and, after them by those of the congregational way, we did readily conclude it best to retain the same order in our present Confession; and also when we observed that those last mentioned did in their Confessions (for reasons which seemed of weight both to themselves and others) choose not only to express their mind in words concurrent with the former in sense concerning all those articles wherein they were agreed, but also for the most part without any variation of the terms, we did in like manner conclude it best to follow their example in making use of the very same words with them both in these articles (which are very many) wherein our faith and doctrine are the same with theirs; and this we did the more abundantly to manifest our consent with both in all the fundamental articles of the Christian religion, as also with many others whose orthodox Confessions have been published to the world on the behalf of the Protestant in diverse nations and cities. And also to convince all that we have no itch to clog religion with new words, but do readily acquiesce in that form of sound words which hath been, in consent with the Holy Scriptures, used by others before us; hereby declaring, before God, angels, and men, our hearty agreement with them in that wholesome Protestant doctrine which, with so clear evidence of Scriptures, they have asserted.” —Preface to the 1689 London Confession of Faith
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