A FAITH TO CONFESS: The 1689 London Baptist Confession in Modern English
modernized by S.M. Houghton
A NEW EDITION OF THIS MODERNIZED 1689 CONFESSION HAS JUST ARRIVED FROM THE UK.
This is an updated version of the Baptist Confession of 1689. Very helpful to use with those who find the language of the original 1689 to be too difficult.
A FAITH TO CONFESS is designed to present a clear outline of Biblical truth to all interested persons. Since the Bible, the fully inspired Word of God, does not change from one age to another, the truths contained in the Confession, wholly based as they are upon Scripture, are as relevant today as when 'the Elders and Brethren of many congregations of Christians, baptized upon profession of their Faith' stated them in 1677. Charles II was then upon the British throne. It was a time of persecution.
Between the years 1644 and 1648 an Assembly of Puritan Divines of England and Scotland had drawn up the Westminster Confession which was and is highly esteemed by believers. But its church Order was that of Presbyterianism, and Baptists differed from it on important matters such as the nature of the gathered church, baptism, the Lord's supper and church government. Hence, when opportunity arose, they drew up their own Confession of Faith, accepting the fundamental doctrines of the Westminster Confession but making such adjustments to, and correction of, that Confession as seemed to their minds and consciences to be demanded by the pure Word of God. Thus a comparison of the two Confessions will reveal many word-for-word similarities but also sundry changes.
A dozen years after the Baptist Confession was drawn up by persecuted ministers a new era of liberty dawned, and in 1689 thirty-seven leading Baptist ministers re-issued the Confession. In England and Wales it became the definitive Confession of the Particular or Calvinistic churches and remained so for the next two centuries. Its alternative title was the Old London Confession. In 1744 it was adopted by the Calvinistic Baptists of North America, and called by them the Philadelphia Confession of Faith.
The youthful C. H. Spurgeon had been minister of the New Park Street Chapel, London, for a few months only when, in 1855, he determined to strengthen the doctrinal foundations of that and other churches by the re-issue of the 1689 Confession. In this way it was given a new lease of life. The twentieth century has also witnessed to its relevance and usefulness, for in 1958 it was again reprinted, with further editions in 1963, 1966, 1970 and 1974. Recent decades have seen a revival of the Reformed Faith, not least among Baptists. The revivifying of old churches and the planting of new churches in various parts of the world has given renewed emphasis to the need for a Confession which sets forth fundamentals of the Faith in clear and concise language.
Carey Publications Limited felt, however, that the Confession of 1689 in its original form presented certain difficulties. An essential of any doctrinal statement is that it should be capable of being clearly understood by those who are invited to use it. As far as possible its language must be that of the time of its issue; ambiguities must be avoided; clarity must be its hallmark. After nearly three hundred years the Confession of William III's reign no longer meets these requirements, and Mr. S. M. Houghton of Charlbury, Oxford, was invited by the Publishers to rewrite the Confession in a modern style, retaining the exact sense of the original-this is guaranteed!-but transposing phrases and changing words, to render the meaning, as far as possible, crystal clear. It is believed that, in this new form, the Confession will have a still greater usefulness wherever the English language is spoken.
Baptist ministers need experience no hesitation in recommending the Confession to their members as a document that maintains doctrinal precision with a reasonable degree of fullness. It is not, of course, to be held as an infallible and authoritative rule. Believers are bound by Scripture, by the whole of Scripture, and by nothing but the Scripture. At the same time, however, it is highly necessary and undeniably useful to have a clear statement in modern language of the Faith we believe and practice and commend to all men.
Those newly converted to the Christian Faith are not expected at the outset either to know or understand all the great doctrines set out in the Confession. But acquaintance with all facts of the Faith is something to be pursued from the moment of conversion, and the more so because there are many winds of false doctrine in the modern world ready to blow young plants out of the ground. The modern idiom will aid young Christians, and the texts to which they are directed will be a guide for them in Bible study. We have not followed the method of inserting, after every other sentence or so, a figure to guide to a Biblical text, but have adopted the more modern practice of giving textual references at the end of the paragraphs. Those who use the Confession are requested to compare the statements made with the texts to which attention is called, but at the same time to remember-and this is a very important matter-that statements in the Confession do not hinge upon any one text, but are keyed to 'the whole counsel of God'.
While it is hoped that all members of churches will steadfastly believe the doctrines of the Confession, it is unlikely that they will all become expert theologians. But the Reformed awakening of today has given renewed thrust to the Biblical teaching concerning Elders, who are, by definition, expected to possess an aptitude to teach and to be able by sound doctrine to exhort and to convince gainsayers (Titus 1:9). Here, then, is a Faith for churches to be founded upon, and a Faith for church officers to teach, defend, and hand on to future generations (1 Tim. 3:15,16).
We can rightly claim that well-established believers of the Baptist persuasion will find little, if any, difficulty in giving assent to the great truths which are covered by the Confession. Such fundamental doctrines as those of the Trinity, Providence, the Fall of Man, the Atonement, Justification, and Repentance are the common heritage of all who worthily bear the name of Christian. On the other hand, there are matters to which the Confession makes reference which do not command such universal assent, and on which, indeed, opinions are divided. This very fact reminds us that the Confession is not acclaimed as an infallible statement on a par with Scripture. But certainly it expresses in up to date language the sum and substance of the ancient Gospel of martyrs, confessors, reformers and saints, and, as Spurgeon said of the Confession when he republished it in 1856, 'it is the truth of God, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail'.
1. The Holy Scripture
2. God and the Holy Trinity
3. God's Decree
5. Divine Providence
6. The Fall of Man: Sin and its Punishment
7. God's Covenant
8. Christ the Mediator
9. Free Will
10. Effectual Calling
14. Saving Faith
15. Repentance unto Life and Salvation
16. Good Works
17. The Perseverance of the Saints
18. The Assurance of Grace and Salvation
19. The Law of God
20. The Gospel and its Gracious Extent
21. Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience
22. Religious Worship, and the Lord's Day
23. Lawful Oaths and Vows
24. Civil Government
26. The Church
27. The Fellowship of Saints
28. Baptism and the Lord's Supper
30. The Lord's Supper
31. The State of Man after Death and The Resurrection of the Dead
32. The Last Judgment
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