Calvinism and the London Baptist Confession of 1689

The 2nd London Baptist Confession of 1689
During the 17-century there were a number of issues in England that help bring about the change from the 1st 1644 LBC to the 2nd 1689 LBC, but more so that the Baptist and Presbyterians would be closer in work and deed than further a part like that we see in America today. A number of issues came about that brought the Second London Baptist Confession in it entirety, and in its likeness of its earlier cousin the Westminster Confession of Faith.

  1. 1661 – The Episcopalians had recaptured the machinery and endowments of the Church of England and they were bent on achieving uniformity in England, and not accepting Presbyterians, nor the WCF-1646.
  2. 1661 -1665 – A series of coercive acts which form the Clarendon Code were put into act effect to suppress the dissant, namely Presbyterians, but yet effecting Baptist as well, and other Congregationalists throughout England.
  3. 1672 – King Charles favored the restoration of Roman Catholicism and issued a Declaration of Indulgence which suspended all penal laws of an ecclesiastical nature against all Protestant dissenters, Presbyterian and Baptist.
  4. 1673 – England Parliament passed the Test Act which barred non-conformist from all military and civil offices.

These four key issues brought the Particular Baptist of London to show their agreement with Presbyterians and other Congregationalists through England by making the Westminster Confession their basis of a new (2nd) confession of their own. Thus the London Baptist purpose has been clearly stated,

Our (Baptist) hearty agreement with them (Presbyterians) in that wholesome protestant doctrine, which, with so clear evidence of Scriptures they have asserted.

One of the most evident “Presbyterian-friendly” areas the authors saw fit to change in the 1689 can be found in chapter 30 on The Lord’s Supper, that it is not restricted to scripturally baptized people, as in the 1644-LBC. The assembly writing the 2nd London Baptist Confession saw fit to work with the Presbyterians, for the sake of Protestantism during their time. While there are differences between the London baptist Confession and Westminster Confession of Faith (chapters 19-23), sections belittle some Presbyterians might add (chapter 7 & 25 ), and chapters done better by the Baptists (chapter 17), in all they often have more similarities in purpose than difference, thus showing the close relationship during the time of the Protestant Reformation.

Presbyterians at times make the remark that London Baptist copied their confession. While layout and words are almost identical at times (chapters 1, 9, 16, & 32) there are additions, differences, and sections condensed throughout the whole of the London Baptist Confession of 1689. If you do not agree, you can take a look at a Tabular Comparison of the WCF & 2nd-LBC for yourself.

The Particular Baptist and Calvinism
The London Baptist used the outline of the Westminster for their 1689, this base was far more complete and well laid out than their earlier confession of 1644. Being that it provided a well established order to their confession, changes had to be made in the 1689. There are a number of differences between the London Baptist Confession of 1644 and 1689. Sections were added to the 1689 on the areas of marriage, the Scriptures, the Sabbath, and a stronger emphasis on Calvinism than its earlier 1644 confession. This is most evident in the difference of verbiage between the 1644 and 1689 London Confessions dealing with what is called “Calvinistic” doctrines.

Total Depravity
6.2: Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.

6.3: They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.

6.5: The corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and the first motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.

Unconditional Election
3.5: Those of mankind that are predestinated to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto.

3.6: As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so he hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto; wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

10.1: Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

10.3: Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

10.4: Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will nor can truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men that receive not the Christian religion be saved; be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess.

11.4: God did from all eternity decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did in the fullness of time die for their sins, and rise again for their justification; nevertheless, they are not justified personally, until the Holy Spirit doth in time due actually apply Christ unto them.

Limited Atonement
3.6: As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so he hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto; wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

8.5: The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him

8.6: Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed which should bruise the serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, being the same yesterday, and to-day and for ever.

8.8: To all those for whom Christ hath obtained eternal redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them; uniting them to himself by his Spirit, revealing unto them, in and by his Word, the mystery of salvation, persuading them to believe and obey, governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit, and overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation; and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it.

Irresistible Grace
15.1: Such of the elect as are converted at riper years, having sometime lived in the state of nature, and therein served divers lusts and pleasures, God in their effectual calling giveth them repentance unto life.

15.2: Whereas there is none that doth good and sinneth not, and the best of men may, through the power and deceitfulness of their corruption dwelling in them, with the prevalency of temptation, fall into great sins and provocations; God hath, in the covenant of grace, mercifully provided that believers so sinning and falling be renewed through repentance unto salvation.

Perseverance of the Saints
17.1: Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity.

17.2: This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father, upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ and union with him, the oath of God, the abiding of his Spirit, and the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

17.3: And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.

Connections to Today’s Current Situation: London Baptist 1689 Influence on The Abstracts of Principles
James Petigru Boyce, often called the Cavalier and Puritan, was a pastor, university professor, and most of all known as the founder and first president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), a seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Boyce more than appreciated Calvinistic theology, he was raised by a mother of Presbyterian decent, and studied under Archibald Alexander at Princeton Theological Seminary. As Timothy George has stated, “Princeton provided Boyce with a systematic framework in which to cast the Calvinist theology he had imbibed from Basil Manly Sr. and his other Charleston pastors.” After his education at Princeton, Boyce pastored for two-years before moving on to teach at Furman University. In 1856 Boyce gave an address titled “Three Changes in Theological Institutions” which would not only effect where he labored at the time, but would bring about the foundation of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

As Boyce stated and made clear during the birth of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) “Three Changes” were a must to build a common theological seminary in the South. Boyce suggested three ideals that SBTS should embody, that they may stand strong for the years to come. The first being openness, a seminary for everyone and anyone who was called by God regardless of academic background or social status. Second, was excellence. Boyce was intent upon establishing an advanced program of theological study which in its academic rigor would be compared with they type of instruction that was being offered at Princeton, Andover, Harvard, and Yale. However it is the third change that Boyce brought to SBTS that would establish a set of doctrines that must be held and a confessional guidelines for those that taught at SBTS. Timothy George sheds light about this in his work Theologians of the Baptist Tradition;

“The third ideal was confessional identity. Boyce proposed that the seminary be established on a set of doctrinal principles that would provide consistency and direction for the future. This, too, was a radical step in the context of nineteenth-century Baptist life. Newton Theological Institute, the first seminary founded by Baptists in America, had no such confessional guidelines. Nor, indeed, did the Southern Baptist Convention, organized in 1845. However, Boyce firmly believed that it was necessary to protect the seminary from doctrinal erosion. From his student days in New England, Boyce was aware of the recent currents in theology: Unitarianism, Transcendentalism, the New Divinity. In particular, he spoke against the “blasphemous doctrines” of Theodore Parker, who had denied that Christianity was based on a special revelation of God. At the same time he was concerned about populist theologies in the South, and warned against the “twin errors of Campbellism and Arminianism.

While all three areas of Boyce’s address and vision are true of SBTS today (Thanks to Dr. Al Mohler), that is not the case of the SBC. Not that the SBC was founded on Boyce’s Abstracts of Principles, but the SBC did not follow the examples set before them from their earlier Baptist forerunners (London Baptist in 1689, Philadelphia Baptist in 1742 and New Hampshire Baptist in 1833) in making a confessional theology which would have given them the foundation to their denomination. While the SBC was finally organized as a convention by 1845, it had no foundational set of doctrines they would hold to until 80-years later in 1925. What now has now been changed, edited, revised, and added to a number of times throughout the past century has lead to the different views within the SBC in the area of salvation, losing its historical context of its earlier calvinistic brother, The New Hampshire Confession of Faith 1833.

The SBTS still today holds to its original confessional standard, maintaining that their professors hold in agreement to the Abstracts of Principles that Boyce had intended for its throughly Calvinistic foundation. As Timothy George points out, “The Abstract of Principles was intentionally modeled on the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, which was based on the Second London Confession, which, in turn, was a Baptist adaptation of the Westminster Confession.” Thus one sees the historical value in taking a look back into his or hers church history, seeing the Godly examples, the doctrinal stances, and theological guidelines God has given to His Church bringing great value to the future growth of the Church.

Additional Information to Read
Theologians of the Baptist Tradition, ed. Timothy George and David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001).


3 Comments on “Calvinism and the London Baptist Confession of 1689”

  1. Richard L. Lindberg says:

    Often overlooked in discussions about the Second London Confession is how it addresses then contemporaneous theological issues in England in the latter half of the 1700s. The confession addresses views espoused by Quakers, Socinians and those who espoused a broader and more open theology.

  2. Mike G. says:

    Thanks for the interesting history of the SBTS and SBC. Perhaps I’m mistaken in assuming that if the SBTS confession were rooted in the WC/LBCII their position would tend toward covenant theology – maybe that is the case, but why do I associate southern baptists with dispensational theology?

  3. […] know why the 1689 Baptist Doctrinal Statement on end times was abandoned? It was not abandoned. Calvinism and the London Baptist Confession of 1689 | Gospel-Centered Musings Calvinism and the London Baptist Confession of 1689 Posted: August 7, 2012 | Author: Michael […]

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