Typology and Communication in 2LCF 8.6

Dr. R. Scott Clark continues to study the relationship between Reformed theology and Baptist theology as expressed by modern and seventeenth-century adherents of the Second London Confession. Dr. Clark has recently written a post relating to the groups’ views on the benefits of Christ’s work being appropriated by Old Testament believers.

I would prefer not to reengage on this subject, especially since I’ve already written about it. However, I will reengage briefly because comments on Twitter and on Dr. Clark’s post itself express acceptance of the differences as they are portrayed by Dr. Clark.

2LCF 8.6: “Work” vs. “Price”?

Dr. Clark notes that 2LCF 8.6 modifies the wording of WCF 8.6 from “work…wrought” to “price…bought,” but doesn’t make much of this difference.

WCF 8.6

WCF 8.6

2LCF 8.6

2LCF 8.6

On the chance that some might read these two as teaching a doctrinal difference, you need to understand why the language was changed. Behind this change is the covenant of redemption, which is confessed in 2LCF, but not WCF (which is not to say WCF rejects it).

As WCF/2LCF 7.1 state, obedience or work is meritorious for rewards in the context of covenants. How was the work of Christ meritorious? 2LCF 7.3 and 8.1 affirm that the covenant of redemption is the context for Christ’s redemptive work. The language of 2LCF 8.6 derives not just from the theological category of covenantal merit, but more specifically from 1 Cor. 6:20 and 7:13  which state that we were “bought at a price.” So, 2LCF 8.6 makes a precise assertion that Christ’s work on the cross was a meritorious and efficacious “price” by which we were “bought” in the context of the covenant of redemption.

Now, lest we think that this change in 2LCF 8.6 represents some kind of difference between Reformed theology and the Particular Baptists, we must understand that other Reformed Christians taught the same truths, for example, John Norton in the 1650s. Notice his assertions about Christ’s obedience being “a price, i.e. a ransom.”

John Norton, The Orthodox Evangelist, 223-224

2LCF 8.6: “Communicated”?

More to the point, Dr. Clark contrasts WCF and 2LCF 8.6’s use of the language of the “virtue, efficacy, and benefit” of Christ’s work being “communicated to the elect in all ages.” Dr. Clark prefaces his discussion with this,

…it has also become clearer to me that the Reformed and Particular Baptists can use the same language or similar language and yet mean different things by it.

Then he asks,

What, however, do the PBs mean by communicate as distinct from what the Reformed mean by it?

Dr. Clark quotes Nehemiah Coxe, myself, and my brother, and concludes,

In short, when we [the Reformed] say communication we mean “communing.” When the PBs say communication they seem to mean “the transmission of information.”

The argument that 2LCF 8.6 means something different from WCF 8.6 is what most concerns me in Dr. Clark’s post. 2LCF 8.6’s assertion of the benefit of Christ’s work being “communicated” to the elect in all ages means the exact same thing as WCF 8.6. But Dr. Clark’s post states that they mean something different. To read 2LCF 8.6 and emerge with the idea that “communicated” simply means “the transmission of information” requires the assumption of something underlying the text.

I appeal to any reader of 2LCF 8.6 to answer this question: “Does 2LCF 8.6 confess that the elect in all ages appropriated and received and enjoyed the benefit of Christ’s salvific work?” Yes, it absolutely and undeniably does. If so, why would one assume that the Particular Baptists mean something different?

As I mentioned already, Dr. Clark quotes Coxe and myself to prove the point. I am glad that Dr. Clark is reading Nehemiah Coxe. However, (and I may be wrong about this), I believe that Dr. Clark’s assessment is skewed because he has not finished Coxe’s work. I don’t mean that Dr. Clark would agree with Coxe if he finished the book, but would understand it better. Why? The final chapter of Coxe’s work is entitled “The Mutual Respect of the Promises made to Abraham.” In this chapter, Coxe distinguishes but also relates types and antitypes in God’s covenantal dealings with Abraham.

The State of Israel after the Flesh being typical; The Israel of God among them, were taught to look above, and beyond their external priviledges, unto those things that were shadowed by them, as set before their Faith in the promises of Grace by Christ; and so to live upon the Grace of that Covenant, which their outward State, and Covenant of Peculiarity [i.e., the Abrahamic Covenant] was subservient to; And unto them, all these things had a spiritual, and evangelical Use, which being their principal End and Intent, a fair Occasion is ministred for such an Intermixture of the Promises of Typical, with those of real Blessings, as we have now had under Consideration; Because of the Covenant of Grace, and that of Circumcision have their mutual respect, as the Type to its Antitype.

Notice that Coxe says that the “principal end and intent” of types was “a spiritual and evangelical use.” However much Nehemiah Coxe (or myself) may distinguish types and antitypes, types are never not types.

It is my opinion that Dr. Clark misrepresents the differences between Particular Baptist and Reformed Christians because he unsympathetically reads our treatments of typology and wrongly attributes to them an almost Anabaptist hyper-discontinuity.

Typology is the True Test

All of this may seem confusing. Am I denying all differences between the Reformed and Particular Baptists? No. Rather, I am insisting that they be rightly understood and stated.

The question is not whether the benefits of Christ were communicated to the elect in all ages. We both affirm this.

The question is not whether the benefits of Christ were communicated to the elect before the incarnation through types. We both affirm this.

The question is, whether types had their own function and reality that is distinct, but not divided, from their antitypes. The Particular Baptists affirm this. The Reformed tradition has varying (and in many ways opposing) trajectories on this question.

Sticking to the question itself, consider a few brief examples:

Type: Function:
Circumcision Separation from the nations
Canaan A blessed land
Tabernacle Sacrificial system/God’s presence
Sacrifices Restoration to ceremonial holiness
Bronze Serpent Deliverance from snakebites

It was entirely possible to participate in those realities without faith. Now, our Reformed brothers will reply at this point that the same remains true today. There are some who say “Lord, Lord, did we not…?” and they will be condemned eternally. There are those who participate outwardly without inward faith. Yes, of course. But that’s not the issue here.

The issue is that even if one participated in the items mentioned in the table above, without faith, they still had something entirely real in which they were participating. If you were circumcised, you inherited Canaan. If you offered animal sacrifices, you were restored to ceremonial holiness. If you lifted up your eyes to the bronze serpent, your snakebites were healed. The Israelites are criticized and condemned for living like this without ever looking beyond such types, but the life they lived and the ceremonies they performed were nevertheless real.

It is the identification and recognition of these types as possessing their own initial meaning and function distinct from their antitypes that establishes the key difference between us. As Coxe said, the elect looked “above and beyond” the types to the antitypical realities. But I fear that we are rarely heard beyond the initial point. We distinguish the type from the antitype and we become Anabaptists in the eyes of some.

It is worth noting that though typology is the true test of where differences lie between Particular Baptists and other Reformed Christians on these questions, 2LCF 8.6 (and the rest of the Confession) does not get specific. It simply states that the virtue, efficacy, and benefit of Christ’s redemptive work was applied to and received by the elect in all ages through types.

Conclusion

In conclusion,

  • 2LCF 8.6 and WCF 8.6 teach the same thing, though 2LCF 8.6 is more specific about Christ’s work as a “price.”
  • Describing 2LCF’s or the Particular Baptists’ understanding of typology merely as “the transmission of information” is inaccurate.
  • The most accurate and profitable way to describe or discuss differences between Reformed Christians and Particular Baptists in this area is to discuss the extent to which types are distinct from their antitypes and the theological consequences that follow.

For those who wish to read further, I describe the role of typology in the Particular Baptists’ covenant theology (and its roots in a branch of the Reformed tradition) from a historical-theological standpoint here. I argue for my views on typology from an exegetical standpoint here.

 

“Thy desire, appetite, turning, or obedience shall be for thy husband”

This blog was originally intended to provide primary sources for those interested in reading them. This post will fit in with that purpose, focusing on translations and interpretations of Genesis 3:16b in seventeenth-century (and some late sixteenth-century) literature. The goal is simply to provide the data, arranged chronologically. I used this resource to track down expositions of this verse.

The first is the most difficult to read, so I will transcribe it. The rest can be read, with a little help.

Gervase Babington, Certaine plaine, briefe, and comfortable notes, vpon euery chapter of Genesis Gathered and layde downe for the good of them that are not able to vse better helps, and yet careful to read the word, and right hartily desirous to taste the sweet of it.
London: Printed by I. R[oberts] for Thomas Charde, 1596.
Page 41

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“The subjection of the woman to the man, and his rule over her, was a just check of that hold taken upon her, both to talk so much with the Serpent, and also to do as he bade her, without any privity and knowledge of her husband. And it is as much as if God should have said to her: “Because you took so much upon yourself without advice of thy husband, hereafter your desire shall be subject unto him, and he shall rule over you.” Yet this authority of the man, may not embolden him any way to wrong his wife, but teaches him rather what manner of man he ought to be: namely, such a one, as for gravity, wisdom, advice, and all good government, is able to direct her in all things to a good course. And her subjection should admonish her of her weakness and need of direction, and so abate all pride and conceit of herself, and work true honor in her heart towards him, whom God has made stronger than herself, and given gifts to direct her by. This I say, this authority in the man, and subjection in the woman should effect. But alas, many men are rather to be ruled than to rule, and many women fitter to rule, than to be ruled of such unruly husbands. On the other side, many men for ability most fit and able to rule, yet for pride in the heart where subjection should be [i.e., in the woman’s heart] shall have no leave to rule. So fit we sometimes to the order appointed of almighty God. Amendment is good on both sides, for fear of his rod, whose order we break.”

Lancelot Andewes, Apospasmatia sacra, or, A collection of posthumous and orphan lectures delivered at St. Pauls and St. Giles his church
London: Printed by R. Hodgkinsonne for H. Moseley, A. Crooke, D. Pakeman, L. Fawne, R. Royston, and N. Ekins, 1657. (Originally preached 27 August 1598.)
Page 314

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Nicholas Gibbons, Questions and disputations concerning the Holy Scripture wherein are contained, briefe, faithfull and sound expositions of the most difficult and hardest places: approued by the testimony of the Scriptures themselues; fully correspondent to the analogie of faith, and the consent of the Church of God; conferred with the iudgement of the fathers of the Church, and interpreters of the Scripture, nevv and old. Wherein also the euerlasting truth of the word of God, is freed from the errors and slaunders of atheists, papists, philosophers, and all heretikes. The first part of the first tome.
London: Imprinted by Felix Kyngston, 1602.
Page 154-155

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Andrew Willet, Hexapla in Genesin: that is, A sixfold commentarie vpon Genesis wherein sixe seuerall translations, that is, the Septuagint, and the Chalde, two Latin, of Hierome and Tremellius, two English, the great Bible, and the Geneva edition are compared, where they differ, with the originall Hebrew, and Pagnine, and Montanus interlinearie interpretation: together with a sixfold vse of euery chapter, shewing 1. the method or argument, 2. the diuers readings, 3. the explanation of difficult questions and doubtfull places, 4. the places of doctrine, 5. places of confutation, 6. morall obseruations: wherein aboue a thousand theologicall questions are discussed … Diuided into tvvo tomes
Cambridge: Iohn Legat, 1605.
Page 51

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Henry Ainsworth, Annotations Vpon The Five Bookes of Moses; The Booke of the Psalmes, And The Song of Songs, Or, Canticles
London: Printed for John Bellamie, 1627. (Ainsworth’s comments on Genesis were first published in 1616, I believe.)
Page 17

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Arthur Jackson, A help for the understanding of the Holy Scripture intended chiefly for the assistance and information of those that use constantly every day to reade some part of the Bible, and would gladly alwayes understand what they read if they had some man to help them : the first part : containing certain short notes of exposition upon the five books of Moses, to wit Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomie : wherein all such passages in the text are explained as were thought likely to be questioned by any reader of ordinary capacity
Cambridge: Printed by Roger Daniel.., 1643.
Page 12

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Westminster Assembly Divines, Annotations Upon all the Books of the Old and New Testament
London: John Legatt and John Raworth, 1645
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John Trapp, A clavis to the Bible. Or A new comment upon the Pentateuch: or five books of Moses. Wherein are 1. Difficult texts explained. 2. Controversies discussed. … 7. And the whole so intermixed with pertinent histories, as will yeeld both pleasure and profit to the judicious, pious reader.
London: Printed for Timothy Garthwait, 1649.
Pages 40-41

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Benjamin Needler, Expository notes, with practical observations; towards the opening of the five first chapters of the first book of Moses called Genesis. Delivered by way of exposition in several lords-dayes exercises.
London: Printed by T.R. & E.M., 1654.
Page 106-107 (quoting John Trapp without attribution)

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John White, A commentary upon the three first chapters of the first book of Moses called Genesis
London: Printed by John Streater, 1656.
Page 201

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The Baptist Catechism, Commonly, but Falsely?, called Keach’s

Many churches use or have used a catechism called “Keach’s Catechism.” Some call this “The Baptist Catechism.” Are they the same thing? Why is there a catechism called Keach’s catechism? Most of what follows is already contained in the introduction to the Baptist Catechism found in True Confessions by James Renihan. Instead of starting with the problem and working toward the solution, I’ll just build from the ground up to what I believe is the most accurate information on this issue.

Benjamin Keach did write a catechism, called Instructions for Children.  Keach wrote that catechism in the 1660s (and was pilloried for it). It is well known that it is not the Baptist Catechism. Regarding the Baptist Catechism itself, all evidence indicates that William Collins was its author/editor.

The narrative of the London General Assembly that met in June 1693, contained in Ivimey, Vol 1, records that the GA commissioned William Collins to work on a catechism:

1693 GA in Ivimey 1-533

Ten months later, the Bristol General Assembly that met in April 1694, wrote to the London churches, asking them to make sure this project was completed. This is also from Ivimey, Vol 1.

Ivimey 1-534-535

We know that the catechism appeared by 1695, because the earliest known copy is dated to that year. However, this earliest known copy is also printed as the 5th edition, which means it is possible that the catechism had been completed by the end of 1694. You can see a color scan of that earliest surviving copy here.

Correspondence between William Collins and Andrew Gifford in 1698 shows that Collins was managing the reception of funds and distribution of copies of the catechism. Collins wrote:

Bro Gifford
I rec[eive]d your lines and have since rec[eive]d the 6l-15s-0d [6 pounds, 15 shillings, 0 pence] from Mr Goddard, which you have got for the friends in Warwicke, and I have left with Mr Goddard 300 catechisms & have put in a dozen more which I present you with, & for the 300 I tooke but 24s, allowing 1s towards the carriage and when you have occasion for more, you may send to mee for there are some thousands remaineing of the last impression…

So, extant sources indicate that William Collins was the author/editor/manager of the Baptist Catechism. Jonathan Arnold’s excellent book on Benjamin Keach agrees that there is no solid argument for Keach’s authorship of the catechism. Arnold notes that Thomas Crosby did not list the catechism among Keach’s works. Why, and how, then, did Benjamin Keach come to be connected with the catechism? Ivimey was unsure. He wrote:

Ivimey 2-397

The earliest concrete evidence of a connection to Benjamin Keach dates to 1719 and the fourth printing of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (previously printed in 1677, 1688, and 1699). An advertisement in the 1719 edition states that William Collins and Benjamin Keach sold the rights to print the Confession and Catechism to John Marshall:

2LCF 1719

This should seem a bit strange because Collins died in 1702, and Keach in 1704. Why does this information appear in 1719, so long after Collins and Keach died? Well, compare the 1719 advertisement to a similar advertisement in 1700, contained in a second edition of John Bunyan’s The Heavenly Footman, printed by John Marshall.

Bunyan, The Heavenly Footman

1700 Advertisement 1719 Advertisement
The remainders of the Impressions of these two Books, with the full and true right of Printing them for the future, are Sold to John Marshall Bookseller at the Bible in Grace-Church-Street, London. It is desired that all Persons that are desirous to promote such useful Books, do apply themselves to the Bookseller. Having Sold the Property, Right and Title of the Printing thereof to John Marshall, Bookseller, at the Bible in Grace-Church-Street, by us William Collins and Benjamin Keach. It is desired that all Persons desirous to promote such useful Books, do apply themselves to him.

Considering that John Marshall (and two others) printed a third edition of the Confession of Faith in 1699, these advertisements indicate that while Collins’ and Keach’s names do not appear until the 1719 advertisement, they had sold the rights to the printing of the Confession and Catechism around 1699.

This brings Benjamin Keach into the picture, but it still does not explain why he had a part in the printing rights to the Confession or Catechism. Nor does it explain why the Catechism came to bear his name.

In 1764, John Robinson printed the 16th edition of the catechism, in which he included, up front, a portrait of Benjamin Keach.

Catechism 16 ed

It is interesting that Robinson was from Horsleydown, Southwark. Perhaps he was a member of Keach’s church under John Gill? Robinson also printed Keach’s “Instructions for Children” in 1763. I don’t know what we can deduce from this, but the fact that Keach’s picture was affixed to the front of the catechism is at least some evidence of connections to Keach.

In 1794, the Catechism was again published, and here we see it “commonly called Keach’s Catechism.”Catechism 1794

John Rippon succeeded John Gill at Keach’s church. Again, I am unsure of what we can draw from this other than to note that by 1794, the catechism was “commonly” called Keach’s. Why was it called that? There doesn’t seem to be evidence to substantiate any particular reason. The most the evidence seems to permit is the recognition that the catechism continued to be published by persons closely connected to Keach’s church and legacy, and that this connection is the best contextual explanation for the attachment of his name to the catechism.

We know:

  • In June, 1693 William Collins was commissioned to “draw up” the Baptist Catechism.
  • In April, 1694, the Baptist Catechism had not been completed.
  • In 1695, the Baptist Catechism was in its 5th edition.
  • In 1698, William Collins was receiving funds and distributing copies of the Baptist Catechism.
  • William Collins and Benjamin Keach held printing rights to the Confession and Catechism and sold them to John Marshall in, or by, 1699.
  • In 1764, Keach’s likeness was attached to the Baptist Catechism.
  • By 1794, the Baptist Catechism was “commonly called Keach’s Catechism.”

We do not know:

  • Why Keach had rights with Collins to the printing of the Confession and Catechism.
  • Why, or when, the Catechism began to be “commonly called Keach’s Catechism.”

In conclusion, in my opinion it is best to refer to the Catechism as The Baptist Catechism, since it was commissioned by the General Assembly and there is no evidence that Keach put it together.

As a bonus, here is the original “advertisement” that appeared at the end of the catechism, explaining why it was prepared and published.

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Why does 2LCF omit WCF 24.5-6 on Divorce?

This is a common question. Why does 2LCF 25 (Of Marriage) omit the paragraphs dealing with divorce in WCF 24 (Of Marriage, and Divorce)? I do not intend to offer a theological answer to this question, but a historical-textual one.

To answer this question, we really should direct it to a different party. The Baptists were not the first ones to remove these paragraphs. They were third. Consider four historical points.

First, remember that the Westminster Assembly was subject to Parliament. It had been called by Parliament to craft a project of religious reform for the national church. Accordingly, it submitted its draft of a Confession of Faith as Advice to Parliament in 1646.

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The Assembly’s Advice contained the paragraphs on divorce and remarriage.

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This version of the Confession of Faith was printed in Scotland and has been known as the Westminster Confession of Faith ever since.

Second, we must realize that Parliament did not approve this version of the Assembly’s Advice. What is commonly known as the “Westminster Confession of Faith” was not officially approved or adopted in England. Parliament required various changes, including the removal of the paragraphs from the chapter on Marriage, and Divorce. (Ironically, they did not change the title of the chapter, though they removed its references to divorce.) Here we see the 1648, Parliament-approved version of the Confession ending chapter 24 without paragraphs five and six.

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Third, we must realize that in 1658 when the Congregationalists collaborated to craft the Savoy Declaration, they used the 1648 Parliament-approved version of the Assembly’s Confession, not the 1646 version proliferated in Scotland. They said this themselves:

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That copy of the [Parliament-approved Confession of Faith] followed by us, is in few men’s hands; the other as it came from the Assembly, being approved of in Scotland, was printed and hastened into the world, before the Parliament had declared their resolutions about it; which was not till June 20 1648, and yet has been, and continues to be the copy (ordinarily) only sold, printed, and reprinted for these 11 years.

In the preface to the Savoy Declaration, the Savoy Divines mentioned various portions of the Westminster Confession which they had omitted, including portions of the chapter on marriage and divorce. The Savoy Divines noted that they agreed with the edits made by Parliament in these cases.

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Also a great part of the 24th chapter of Marriage and Divorce [was omitted]. These [omitted portions] were such doubtful assertions, and so unsuitable to a Confession of Faith, as the Honorable Houses [of Parliament] in their great wisdom thought fit to lay them aside.

It was the Savoy Declaration that changed the title of the chapter to “Of Marriage”, omitting the addition, “, and Divorce.”

Fourth, when 2LCF was published in 1677, it self-consciously drew from the Savoy Declaration and the Westminster Confession (as is commonly known).

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In conclusion, when we arrive at 2LCF 25.1-4 and do not find paragraphs 5 and 6 from WCF 24, we need to remember that the houses of Parliament and the Savoy Divines had already regarded them as unsuitable for a Confession of Faith. The Baptists were not the first, or even second, to omit them. Those paragraphs were never approved in an English Confession of Faith.

It is not my intention to enter into the rationale(s) behind the omission of these paragraphs. To discern each group’s reasons, one must interrogate their own writings and the sources that influenced them.

The Petty France Church (Part 1)

The Petty France Church (Part 1)

I am pleased to announce that my first volume on the history of the Petty France Particular Baptist Church is now available. This volume focuses on:

  • The church’s meeting locations and buildings between its founding in 1656 and its merger with the Devonshire Square Particular Baptist Church in 1727
  • A complete transcription of the Church Book, covering the years 1675-1727
  • Biographical chapters on Nehemiah Coxe and his family, including his father, his grandfather, his first wife, his second wife, and a son from each marriage

Many images of signatures and maps are provided to enhance the reader’s grasp of the information presented in this volume.

This is a volume of historical ressourcement, meaning that it reevaluates previous Baptist historiography and provides extensive new, previously unknown and unseen, sources.

It can be purchased here. Check your country’s amazon market for the best availability.

The Table of Contents:

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Acts 14:23 in 2LCF 26.9

2LCF 26.9 states that elders are chosen by “the common suffrage of the church” and ordained by elders. This language is taken directly from the Savoy Declaration’s Platform of Polity. In 2LCF The margin points you to the Greek text of Acts 14:23 to justify this (the Savoy Declaration doesn’t provide textual references). Such “proof texts” in the Confession refer you to the textual tradition of that verse, not the bare text itself.

2LCF 26.9

What can we find in commentaries and treatments of this text, especially ones that deal with the Greek word itself?

To launch our investigation, Nehemiah Coxe’s sermon on Elders and Deacons (1681) also points to the Greek of Acts 14:23 to argue that it means to appoint through suffrage. He appealed to Erasmus and Beza to explain the Greek word, “χειροτονήσαντες.” Here is the marginal note from his published sermon:

Coxe

Theodore Beza, in “Annotationes majores in Novum…Testamentum”, translates this word in Acts 14:23 as “they appointed by suffrage” and argues “It is based on the Greek word for this practice, where decisions are made by raising of hands.”

Beza

Beza’s work had been noticed and used by Baptistic Congregationalists (i.e., early Particular Baptists) at least as far back as the 1650s. In 1656, the Abingdon Association wrote to the church in Petty France about the issue of how elders were to be appointed. Edward Harrison and Samuel Tull, the pastors of the Petty France church, responded and appealed to Beza on Acts 14:23.

[In] Acts 14 Luke informs us that elders were ordained in every church by lifting up of the hand: so in the original: by election: so it is in the old translation: which must imply the action of the church. Wherein we do agree with the paraphrase of Beza, and others, upon the place.

Abingdon

John Owen made the same argument from the Greek text of Acts 14:23 in his “A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God.”

Owen 1

And in his posthumously published “The True Nature of a Gospel Church” Owen took note of Beza, Erasmus, and others to justify the same translation.

Owen 2

Above, Edward Harrison stated that the “old translation” rendered Acts 14:23 in this way. Owen states the same, that “all our old English Translations” did this. They are referring to pre-King James translations, what is usually known as the “Geneva Bible” first published in 1560.  Here is a 1610 version of such a Bible, with its annotation for Acts 14:23.

Geneva Bible

The text of the annotation reads:

Acts 14:23 The Apostles committed the Churches which they had planted, to proper and peculiar Pastors, which they made not rashly, but with prayers and fastings going before: neither did they thrust them upon Churches through bribery or lordly superiority, but chose and placed them by the voice of the congregation.

And here is a 1638 King James Bible, rendering Acts 14:23

King James Bible

In comparing the two, note the deletion of “by election.” It makes sense that a church ruled by Monarch/Bishop would not be favorable toward the idea of elders being appointed by election.

The Westminster Assembly’s Annotations noted that “χειροτονήσαντες” could be interpreted as suffrage and consent, but agreed with the more modern (King James) rendering.

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We can draw several conclusions from these evidences.

First, it is a helpful reminder not to treat “Proof Texts” in the Confession as merely pointing you to the text of Scripture. 2LCF 26.9 tells you to look at the Greek text. How will that help? Will staring at “the Original” make it all clear? For those trained in the original languages, that might work. But, in reality you are being pointed to resources dealing with the Greek text, that is, commentaries, translations, and other related literature.

Second, we find that the Baptistic Congregationalists’ theology was developed in conversation with the literature of their time, and the literature that preceded them. They weighed, measured, and considered the text with the literature of others in mind. They were taught, persuaded, and instructed by a tradition much larger than their own particular slice of it. They didn’t loot and leave that tradition. They saw themselves living within it. When we see writers like Harrison and Coxe drawing from the Protestant and Reformed tradition, it reinforces the fact that we should read 2LCF as a particular version of a larger heritage (as if the fact that so much of 2LCF was taken from WCF and SD wasn’t enough to prove the point already).

Third, related to the previous point, we see here another evidence of Matt Bingham’s thesis that those whom we ordinarily call “Particular Baptists” are best known as “Baptistic Congregationalists.” They did not arise in a vacuum. What distinguishes John Owen from Edward Harrison or Nehemiah Coxe on this issue? Nothing. What distinguishes the Savoy Declaration and 2LCF on this issue? Nothing. They share congregationalism. But Harrison, Coxe, and 2LCF represent the Baptistic wing of Congregationalism.

Fourth, similar to the previous points, we find that 2LCF 26.9 isn’t “Baptist” at all. (Apostrophe: To be honest, very little of 2LCF is “Baptist” except a very short chapter on Baptism.) The view that elders are to be appointed by elders, with the suffrage of the church, was the standard translation of the text of the Bible in English as far back as 1560, and it had a heritage in scholastic literature. All this was well established long before the Baptistic Congregationalists arose in the 1630s-1640s.

Fifthly, and lastly, when we realize that there was a tradition of interpreting Acts 14:23 as appointment by election, then we realize that the phrase “common suffrage” in 2LCF 26.9 is, in effect, an attempt to embed the words of Scripture in the Confession itself. It is, so to speak, Beza’s rendition of Acts 14:23, “per suffragia creassent”, in English.

This was originally going to be a Twitter thread, but the rabbit hole went pretty deep and I thought it best to put this in a blog post. I hope you find it useful.

Henry Ainsworth, The Confession of Faith, Final Page

 

As a somewhat unrelated extra, Patrick Fairbairn weighed in on the translation of this text in his “Hermeneutical Manual”, again taking note of Erasmus and Beza.

Fairbairn

William Kiffen and the Poole Party

History is tricky, as is historical theology. We approach old texts and events with modern questions, modern categories, and modern modes of thinking. In the case of discussions about the relation of the Baptistic Congregationalists (i.e., early Particular Baptists) to the Reformed tradition, the same problems present themselves. Do we understand them in their own historical and ideological context? Are they subjects, teaching us who they were and how they thought, or are they objects on whom we impose our modern selves?

The modern age has its advantages, one of which is wide availability of older texts and sources, which means that more and more, we have the opportunity to become familiar with historical individuals or groups from their own literature. This blog has always been dedicated to putting original sources in the view of those interested in them.

This post focuses on a small publication from William Kiffen in 1645, entitled “A Briefe Remonstrance of the Reasons and Grounds of those People commonly called Anabaptists, for their Seperation, &c. Or Certain Queries Concerning Faith and Practice, propounded by Mr. Robert Poole; Answered and Resolved by William Kiffen.” I want to emphasize the timing of this discussion and how that affects our perception of the Baptistic Congregationalists and their relationship to Reformed churches and christians at that time. Specifically, consider that at this time the Baptistic Congregationalists had published their Confession of Faith, but the Westminster Confession did not yet exist. The Confession, and its related documents were in process, not only in process with regard to the Assembly itself, but also with regard to Parliament approving or disapproving said documents.

The setting of the discussion below is that Robert Poole’s (who appears to be a Presbyterian) daughter Elizabeth and at least one of his servants joined William Kiffen’s church. Robert was very displeased by this and wrote to Kiffen about “my deluded ones” demanding that Kiffen “discharge them, and leave them to the power of me, who have the charge of them.” Poole sent five queries to Kiffen, asking Kiffen to justify the practice of his church in separating from the established church.

My interest is in Kiffen’s response to the accusation made against him and his church of following “the Anabaptistical way” as opposed to the practice of “the Reformed Churches.” I have transcribed portions from this document which you can read below with updated spelling and some updated punctuation. [Bracketed portions are my own insertions for clarification.]

Poole’s First Query

“By what warrant of the word of God, do you separate from our congregations, where the word and sacraments are purely dispensed?”

Kiffen’s Response

“…For do you not daily admit and suffer to be amongst you such as do according to God’s word, leaven the whole lump, 1 Cor. 5:6, and do not purely dispense the word upon them for their healing? The Spirit of Christ saith, such glorying is not good, and the feast of the Lord ought not to be kept with them: and I pray you show me what gospel institution have you for the baptizing of children, which is one of your great sacraments amongst you; what can you find for your practice therein, more than the dirty puddle of man’s inventions affords. And therefore when your sacraments are purely administered according to the pure institution of the Lord Jesus; and when you have dispensed the Word and Power of Christ, for the cutting off all drunkards, fornicators, covetous, swearers, liars, and all abominable and filthy persons, and stand together in the faith, a pure lump of believers, gathered and united according to the institution of Christ, we (I hope,) shall join with you in the same congregation and fellowship, and nothing shall separate us but death.”

Analysis

Remember that Parliament called the Westminster Assembly to reform the national Church of England. Kiffen is responding to such a church, a church where everyone in the parish comes to bring their child for baptism, and everyone in the parish receives the Lord’s Supper. Kiffen denies the purity of the administration of the sacraments based on the impurity of the recipients and the lack of discipline against them.

Arguably, one’s experience would vary from parish church to parish church. Denying the Lord’s Supper to the “abominable and filthy” persons was one of the main issues in priests’ minds in the early decades of the seventeenth century. The “Puritan” movement clashed with the established church over issues such as this. However, Kiffen is correct that the national church as then established was set up in such a way as to receive everyone to baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Westminster Assembly debated this issue and concluded that parishioners must make a profession of faith in order for their child to receive baptism.

The point at hand is that we see that the Baptistic Congregationalists would not mingle with the “Reformed” churches because at that point in time the nation of England and its Church were undergoing massive social, political, and religious changes. But it was still a national church filled with anyone and everyone.

Poole’s Second Query

“By what Scripture warrant do you take upon you to erect new framed congregations, separated to the disturbance of the great work of Reformation now in hand? [i.e., the Westminster Assembly and the reformation of the national church]”

Kiffen’s Response

“Answer: This query has in it these two parts: 1. That we erect new framed separate congregations. 2. We do, by this, disturb the great work of Reformation now in hand.

To the first, it is well known to many, especially to ourselves, that our Congregations were erected and framed as now they are, according to the rule of Christ, before we heard of any Reformation, even at that time when Episcopacy was in the height of its vanishing glory…even when they were plotting and threatening the ruin of all those which opposed it, and we hope you will not say we sinned in separating from them whose errors you now condemn, and yet if you shall still continue to brand us with the names of Anabaptists, Schismatics, Heretics, etc. for saving ourselves from such a generation (Acts 2:40) as you yourselves have cut off, and from such a superstitious [“superstitious” means doing religious things without scriptural warrant] worship as you say shall be reformed; we conceive it is your ignorance, or worse, and though you condemn us, Christ will justify us even by that word of his, which he hath given us, and we desire to practice, and have already commended to you in that conclusion of our answer to the first query.

And for the second part of your query, that we disturb the great work of reformation now in hand; I know not what you mean by this charge, unless it be to discover [reveal] your prejudice against us, in reforming ourselves before you. For as yet we have not in our understanding seen, neither can we conceive anything of that [which] we shall see reformed by you according to truth, but that through mercy, we enjoy the practice of the same already; ’tis strange this should be a disturbance, to the ingenious faithful Reformer; it should be (one would think) a furtherance rather than a disturbance

And whereas you tell us of the work of Reformation now in hand, no reasonable men will force us to desist from the practice of that which we are persuaded is according to the truth, and wait for that, which we know not what it will be; and in the meantime, practice that which you yourselves say must be reformed: but whereas you tell us of a great work of reformation, we should entreat you to show us wherein the greatness of it consists, for as yet we see no greatness, unless it be in the vast expense of money and time for what great thing is it to change Episcopacy into Presbytery, and a Book of Common Prayer into a Directory, and to exalt men from living of £100 a year to places of £400 per annum? For I pray you consider, is there not the same power, the same priests, the same people, the same worship, and in the same manner still continued, but when we shall see your great work of reformation to appear, that you have framed your congregations according to that true and unchangeable pattern, 1 Cor. 3.9-11 according to the command of our Savior, Matt. 28:19-20 and the Apostles’ practice, Acts 2:41; 5:13-14 and made all things suitable to the pattern, as Moses did, Exod. 25:40; Heb. 8:5 you will see, I hope, that we shall be so far from disturbing that work, as that we shall be one with it.”

Analysis

Kiffen argues that the Baptistic Congregationalists cannot be accused of separating from the work of reformation in England when they separated and formed their congregations during the time of Episcopacy. And if the Assembly and others are convinced that many features of the Church of England need to be abandoned and reformed, why should the Baptistic Congregationalists be criticized and called “Anabaptists, Schismatics, and Heretics” for already having done so?

It is very interesting that Kiffen points out that the Baptistic Congregationalists cannot be blamed for remaining separate from the national church during this time of Reformation when it is not clear what the end result will be. And if the Baptistic Congregationalists are already convinced that their churches are biblically grounded, and the Assembly acknowledges that the national church in its present form is in need of reform, why would the Baptistic Congregationalists not remain as they are and wait to see what happens?

In other words, the Baptistic Congregationalists were not rejecting the Reformed church in England. They were witnessing the development of something incomplete and, to them, unhopeful. Kiffen vows unity if the end result is acceptable. But he sees the direction that the Assembly is going and doesn’t see much difference with the Anglican establishment. National uniformity (the Directory) and nationally supported ministers (the tithe) in a national church that includes everyone (infant baptism) seems quite the same as it always had been. Kiffen was not the only one. Milton’s famous lines echoe here,

Untitled

Poole’s Fifth Query

“How can you vindicate by the word of God, your Anabaptistical way, from the sinful guile of notorious schisme, and dissection from all the Reformed Churches?” [Read “guile” in the sense of an accusation of treachery.]

Kiffen’s Response

“Answer: They that run may read what fire this pen and heart was inflamed withall in the writing and indicting this query; but first of all, if by Reformed Churches, you mean those churches planted by the Apostles in the Primitive times, which are the platform for all churches in all ages to look unto, to be guided by these apostolical rules left [for] them; then we shall vindicate by the word of God our Anabaptistical way, as you are pleased to call it, from that guile.

And first, although we confess ourselves ignorant of many things, which we ought to know and desire, to wait daily for further discoveries of light and truth, from him which is the only giver of it to his poor people, yet so far as we are come, we desire to walk by the same rule they did. And first of all, we baptize none into Christ Jesus, but such as profess faith in Christ Jesus, Rom. 6:3 by which faith they are made sons of God, and so having put on Christ, are baptized into Christ, Gal. 3:26-27 and that Christ has commanded this, and no other way of baptism, see Matt. 28:19; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:7-8 and that this also was the practice of the Apostles, see Acts 2:41 and 8:12, 36-37; 10:47-48. And that being thus baptized upon profession of faith, they are then added to the church, Acts 2:41 and being added to the church, we conceive ourselves bound to watch over one another, and in case of sin, to deal faithfully one with another according to these Scriptures, Levit. 19:17-18; Matt 18:15 and if they remain obstinate, to cast them out, as those that are not fit to live in the church, according to that rule, 1 Cor 5:4-5; Matt 18:19-20 by all which, and many other particulars I might name, it appears through mercy, we can free ourselves from that guile.

And truly, if your eyes were opened to peruse your own practices and ways, you would then see we could better free ourselves from that notorious guile of schism from those Reformed Churches, then you can free yourselves from the notorious guile of schisming from Rome; For 1. You hold their baptism true, their ordination of ministers true, their maintenance by tithes and offerings true, their people all fit matter for a church, and so true, and yet you will separate from them for some corruptions. Now, for our parts, we deny all and every one of these amongst you to be true, and therefore do separate from you; so then, when you have made satisfaction for your notorious schism, and return as dutiful sons to their Mother, or else have cast off all your filthy rubbish of her abominations which are found amongst you, we will return to you, or show our just grounds to the contrary.”

Analysis

Kiffen argues that he is more concerned with framing his church according to the practice of the Apostles in the New Testament than to any church at any point in history. So, though not quite saying it clearly, he argues that the title “Reformed” can only ever truly apply to those that have reformed their doctrine and practice by the pattern and commands of the Apostles. Based on this foundation, Kiffen summarizes their practice, with Scripture proofs, which is essentially his way of saying, “We are reformed according to the word of God.”

But the “nitty gritty” (read in Nacho Libre’s voice) shows up when Kiffen points Poole back to the “Reformed Churches” and accuses them of containing remnants of Roman Catholic theology. According to Kiffen, the Baptistic Congregationalists regarded the following features of the “Reformed Churches” in England during this time of ongoing Reformation as false:

Infant baptism. It was administered to the wrong subjects, and with the wrong mode.

Ordination of ministers. They were ordained by presbyteries (or previously by bishops), but not congregations. Congregations had a right of refusal, but not ordination. On the Westminster Assembly’s involvement in stocking the pulpits of the national church, see this excellent book.

Tithes and offerings. Baptistic Congregationalists believed that believers were obligated by moral equity and positive command to give to the church for the support of the minister and the poor. But they denied that the tenth could be required, and they especially denied that it could be extracted from the nation.

The matter of the church [that of which it is comprised]. A national church is made up of a nation. The Baptistic Congregationalists, as Kiffen had expressed, only received professing believers as members. Yes, as mentioned above, the Assembly required a profession of faith for baptism and you can see exactly what kind of profession in that post. But remember the timing of this discussion. Such things were still in process in the Assembly. And even with such a profession at play, the vision of the church is still a national one, which Kiffen would have rejected.

Kiffen uses these points to say that the Baptistic Congregationalists should not be criticized for separating from “the Reformed Churches” when they regard such features of said churches as false, while “the Reformed Churches” separated from Rome despite regarding such features of the Roman church as true.

Conclusion

To sum up, we see several helpful historical contextualizing conclusions.

  • The Baptistic Congregationalists “separated” from the national church before it was ever in a process of “reformation” and were unwilling to reintegrate with it while its “reformation” was still in progress. They did not separate from the Reformed churches as Reformed churches.
  • Their refusal to reintegrate with the church while “reformation” was underway, their congregational independence (e.g., ordaining their own ministers), and their limitation of baptism to professing believers earned them the label “Anabaptists, schismatics, heretics, etc.” But they denied such terms and defended their beliefs and their practices here and elsewhere.
  • The theological identity of “the Reformed churches” in England was unsettled at that time. The minutes and papers of the assembly show that the Assembly included a wide variety of views on many different doctrines. Some of those differing views were antithetical to one another in practice, such as church polity or liberty of conscience in matters of religion. The end result could have looked very different, if the opposite competing voices had prevailed.
  • The Baptistic Congregationalists were not optimistic about the Assembly’s “work of reformation” because they saw it maintaining a national church without liberty of conscience in matters of religion.
  • At the time of this discussion, Kiffen saw serious flaws in the features of the national church. But they are all practical ecclesiological features: paedobaptism, ordination, tithes, and membership. This practical separation should not distract us from the substantial doctrinal agreement that yet remained. Consider the fact that Kiffen is taking a “wait and see” approach to the Assembly, and that Kiffen and others were more than willing to incorporate the vast majority of the Westminster Confession (inherited through the Savoy Declaration) into their Second Confession of Faith in 1677. He was not rejecting the theology of “the Reformed churches” wholesale. He simply could not, in practice, join with the church as it was then constituted, and according to the vision he saw it pursuing.

These conclusions and the preceding material shed historical light on the ideas and labels being used in the 1640s when the Baptistic Congregationalists were growing and establishing themselves. If we approach them with questions like “Were they Reformed churches” or “Did they reject the Reformed churches” or “How did the Reformed churches respond to them” or “Why did the Reformed churches call them Anabaptists” we will struggle to answer those questions accurately apart from attention to sources such as this coupled with historical and chronological sensitivity. Or, we might find that such questions simply don’t work.

John Owen, A Short and Plain Answer, 3

Our modern context and labels simply don’t map onto 1640s England. And we rarely think about them (or read them) properly.

We need to develop a more nuanced vocabulary that can describe, with as much accuracy as possible, a context as complex as England in the seventeenth century in general, or the 1640s in particular.*** Such an approach is modeled and developed in Matt Bingham’s book, Orthodox Radicals, an apt title for one such as Kiffen who was orthodox in his theology but appeared entirely radical and was therefore unwelcome at the Poole Party.

 

 

***Good luck.