The Petty France Church (Part 2)

The Petty France Church (Part 2)

I am pleased to announce the release of my latest work, The Petty France Church (Part 2). Three years ago, almost exactly, I published Part 1 of my historical investigations of this Particular Baptist church in London. That volume was dedicated primarily to tracing the locations of the church’s meetings, to biographical chapters on Nehemiah Coxe and his family, and to a complete transcription of the Petty France Church Book. This new work focuses on the founder of the Petty France Church, Edward Harrison (1619-1673), and his extended family, many of whom were members in the Petty France Church (Collets, Popes, Greens, Whites, Lockes, Grainges, Smiths, Buttals, and more).

Whereas a third of my first work on the Petty France Church was dedicated to the transcription of the Church Book, the entirety of this volume is biographical and historical in nature, though it contains transcriptions of relevant documents throughout. The result is a much larger and longer presentation of on-the-ground Particular Baptist history from the late 16th century to the end of the 18th century.

A book such as this one is designed not only to inform readers about Baptist history, but also to show what is possible. Baptist history is not a dead field, trapped in an echo chamber of infinitely recycled secondary sources. No, diligent ressourcement (or “resourcery” as I like to call it), demonstrates that there is a wealth of information yet to be discovered, which either confirms or corrects previous (and often long-held) assertions in historiography, written either by Baptists or about Baptists.

In twelve chapters, totaling 500 pages, spanning 200 years of history, genealogy, and theology, drawn from extensive research in primary sources, and presented with 75 images (including charts and maps), 14 family trees, 4 appendices, and other aids (such as a complete index), The Petty France Church (Part 2) connects the reader to the lives of the members and families of the Petty France Church.

I hope you enjoy reading The Petty France Church (Part 2) as much as I enjoyed the years of research and writing that produced it.

Particular Baptist Training for Ministry

Particular Baptist Training for Ministry

In the seventeenth century, the halls of Oxford and Cambridge were closed to nonconformists. Dissenters of all kinds sought alternate methods of educating themselves through tutors, academies, Dutch universities, or church-based training.

One of the practices of the Congregationalists and the Particular Baptists was the recognition of gifted brethren in the church. These men were formally recognized as gifted to preach in the church, though not (yet) called to pastoral ministry. Candidates for ministry often came from among the gifted brethren, who were tested and trained up in their gifts. Individual churches and The Particular Baptist Fund facilitated this training through the purchase of books and other related expenses.

The church which met in Wapping, London under the pastoral care of Hercules Collins kept a book of its records, within which are two lists of books purchased for gifted brethren who were being tested or trained to serve in the church. These short lists provide a sense of what they considered essential reading for a gifted brother preparing to preach in the 1680s-1690s.

The list below is a collation of the two short lists, both of which include many of the same works, presented with modern bibliographic conventions. I have identified all but one of the works.

Ames, William. The Marrow of Sacred Divinity. London: Edward Griffin, 1642.

Baxter, Richard. Of the Nature of Spirits; Especially Mans Soul. London: B. Simmons, 1682.

The Bible.

Bunyan, John. The Holy War, Made by Christ upon the Devil, for the Regaining of Man. London: Dorman Newman, 1684.

Charnock, Stephen. A Treatise of Divine Providence. London: Thomas Cockeril, 1680.

_____. Several Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God. London: D. Newman, 1682.

Coke, Zachary. The Art of Logick. London: Robert White, 1654.

A Confession of Faith Put forth by the Elders and Brethren Of many Congregations of Christians (baptized upon Profession of their Faith) in London and the Country. London: Benjamin Harris, 1677.

Cotton, Clement. A Complete Concordance to the Bible of the Last Translation. London: Thomas Downes, 1638.

Diodati, John. Pious Annotations, upon the Holy Bible. London: T.B., 1643.

An English Dictionary.

Florus Intellectus [A work which I have not yet identified.]

Haak, Theodore. trans., The Dutch Annotations Upon the Whole Bible. London: Henry Hills, 1657.

Leigh, Edward. A Systeme or Body of Divinity. London: A.M., 1662,

Newton, John. An Introduction to the Art of Logick. London: A.P., 1678.

Rowley, Alexander. The Schollers Companion, or a little Library, Containing all the interpretations of the Hebrew and Greek Bible, by all Authors. London: M. Bell, 1648.

Smith, John. The Mysterie of Rhetorique Unvail’d. London: E. Cotes, 1656.

Wilkinson, Robert. A Jewell for the Eare. London: John Stafford, 1643.

Covenant Administration and Analogy

In discussions of covenant theology and baptism, there are some paedobaptists who ground the practice of infant baptism on an overall consideration of the unity of redemptive history. It is an argument from analogy. “As it was then, so it is now.” We are told that generic paradigms such as God’s dealings with Abraham, or an oikos principle (it goes by various names), establish the specific practice of baptism in the church. This kind of argumentation grounds covenant administration on an analogy.

The argument from analogy may seem persuasive because it appeals to a true unity in redemptive history, but the argument itself fails careful examination and its methodology opens a door for unlimited arguments of the same nature (such as paedocommunion).

To prove this (and not merely assert it), I offer several pages from a book written in 1654 by John Tombes, a well-known Anglican clergyman who came to antipaedobaptist convictions. Tombes interacted a great deal with the divines of his day. In the text below, Tombes is mostly responding to Stephen Marshall and Richard Baxter. The basic arguments go like this: Tombes’ argues:

If all of the ceremonial laws are abrogated, then a ceremonial law such as circumcision cannot bind the church.

But all of the ceremonial laws are abrogated,

Therefore circumcision does not bind the church.

Stephen Marshall answers:

Where there is an analogy between ordinances, there is an obligation of practice.

But there is an analogy between the practice of circumcision and that of baptism.

Therefore the practice of circumcision binds the church.

Tombes answers:

The institution of a positive law, not analogy, dictates how it is to be observed.

Arguments that ground the observation of positive laws on analogy have no clear boundaries or guidelines, as evidenced by paedobaptists’ diversity of thought on paedobaptism itself.

Tombes asserts that paedobaptists forget their own principles when they make these arguments based on analogy. The antipaedobaptist view of positive law is not at all unique to Baptists or antipaedobaptists. It is an application of Protestant Reformed theology itself to the issue of baptism.

Tombes also pushes back at Marshall’s attempt to make circumcision a part of the substance of the covenant, noting that this is supposed, not proved, and it is contradicted in other ways in Marshall’s arguments.

What follows below, in updated spelling, is John Tombes, Anti-pædobaptism, or, The second part of the full review of the dispute concerning infant-baptism in which the invalidity of arguments is shewed, 11-16. Most of the elements in italics are either proper names or quotations which Tombes is including from other authors (mostly Stephen Marshall).

The Assembly at Westminster in their Confession of faith, chap. 25. Art. 4. alleges but one text out of the old Testament, viz. Gen. 17. 7. 9. for admission of Infants by Baptism into the visible Church. And if Mr. Marshall their Champion in this Point express their minds, they deduce Infant-baptism from this principle, All God’s Commands and Institutions about the Sacraments of the Jews bind us as much as they did them in all things which belong to the substance of the Covenant, and were not accidental to them. Which how false it is, how contrary to the Tenet of Divines former and later, is shewed in my Examen, part 3. Sect. 12. to which I may add the Assemblies confession of faith, chap. 19. Art. 3. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament. And if all of them be abrogated, how can it be true that the law about circumcising Infants still binds? But Mr. Marshall in his Defence pag. 195. conceives his argument good from the analogy of the Ceremonial law of Circumcision, which he calls his Analogical argument, pag. 201.

On the contrary I deny any argument from analogy of the Ceremonial law good in mere positive ceremonies to prove thus it was in the old Testament, therefore it must be so in the new. And thus I argue,

1. Arguments from Analogy in mere positive Rites of the old Testament to make rules for observing mere positive Ceremonies of the new without institution gathered by precept or apostolical example or other declaration in the new Testament, do suppose that without Institution there may be par ratio, a like reason of the use of the one Ceremony as the other. But this is not true; For in positive Rites there is no reason for the use of this and not another thing in this manner to this end, by, or to persons, but the will of the appointer. For there is not anything natural or moral in them; they have no general equity; they are supposed to be merely not mixtly positive. Therefore, where there is not the like Institution, there is not a like reason. And therefore, this opinion of Analogy in positive Rites from a parity of reason without Institution in the new Testament is a mere fancy, and no good ground for an argument.

To apply it to the case in hand, Circumcision and Baptism are merely positive ordinances; Mr. Baxter calls them, p. 9. Positives about worship. Generally, Sacraments by Divines are reckoned among mere positives; Chamier. Panstr. Cath. Tom. 4. l. 2. c. 12. Sect. 20. nulla vera ratio Sacramentorum potest consistere absque institutione. l. 7. c. 10. Sect. 1. nullum Sacramentum est à natura sua, itaque prorsus ab institutione. The places are innumerable in Protestant writers and others to prove this; were it not that I find my Antagonists often forget what is elsewhere yielded by them, I should not say so much, the thing being so plain, that there is nothing natural or moral in them, because till they were appointed (which was thousands of years after the creation) they were not used, nor taken for signs of that which they signified. The reason, then, of Baptism and Circumcision is merely Institution; if then there be not the like Institution, there is not the like reason.

This argument is confirmed by Mr. Marshall’s grant, Defence, pag. 92. 182. the formal reason of the Jews being circumcised was the Command of God. Therefore there is not the like reason of Infant-baptism as of Infant-circumcision without the like command of God. But there is no express command for Infant-baptism as Mr. Marshall confesses, therefore there is not par ratio, like reason of the one as the other.

2. I thus argue,

If all the Laws and Commands about the Sacraments, positive Rites and Ceremonies of the Jews, be now abrogated, then no argument upon supposed analogy or parity of reason from the institution of those abrogated Rites can prove a binding rule to us about a mere positive Rite of the new Testament.

For how can that make a binding rule to us about another mere positive Rite without any other Institution, which itself is abrogated? That which binds not at all, binds not about another thing, v. g. Baptism.

But all the Laws and Commands about the Sacraments, positive Rites and Ceremonies of the Jews, are now abrogated, as is proved in my Examen, part. 3. sect. 12. and confessed by the Assembly Conf. of faith, chap. 19. art. 3.

Ergo none of them bind.

This argument is confirmed by the words of Mr. Cawdrey Sabbat. Rediv. part. 2. chap. 7. sect. 7. pag. 263. No ceremonial commandment can infer a moral commandment. The reason of our assertion is this, because partial commandments given to some Nation or persons (as the Ceremonial precepts were) cannot infer a general to oblige others, even all the world. Again, Sect. 10. pag. 276. First it is so in all other like special and ceremonial Commandments concerning days, whensoever the particular day was abrogated, the whole Commandment concerning that day was utterly abolished, the Law of Circumcision and of the Passover is expired as well as the sacramental and ceremonial actions commanded by that law.

This [issue] Mr. Marshall conceived he had prevented by supposing that in some commands about the Sacraments of the Jews, are some things that belong to the substance of the Covenant, and limiting his assertion to those. And when in my Examen pag. 115. I argued, that in no good sense it can be true that some of the commands of God about the Sacraments of the Jews contained things belonging to the substance of the Covenant, he tells us pag. 198, 199. of his Defence, that our Sacraments have the same substance with theirs, the same general nature, end, and use; which he makes in these things, theirs were seals of the Covenant, so ours, &c.

But none of all these are to the purpose, his allegations tending only to prove that our Sacraments and the Jews have the same general nature, which he calls substance, but not a word to show that any command about them belonged to the substance of the Covenant. But as if he were angry, or did disdain a man should question his dictates, only recites his meaning, and a passage or two of Protestant Authors, and never answers a word to my objection, Exam. pag. 115. that in no good sense could it be true that some commands of God about the Sacraments of the Jews did contain things belonging to the substance of the Covenant.

Yea when I animadverted on that saying in his Sermon, the manner of administration of this Covenant was first by types, shadows and sacrifices, &c. It had been convenient to have named Circumcision, that it might not be conceived to belong to the substance of the Covenant: I reply, saith he, in his Defence, pag. 99. this is a very small quarrel, I added, &c. which supplies both Circumcision and other things. Which words in the plain construction of them do note, that Circumcision is comprehended in his “&c.” as belonging to the manner of administration, not to the substance of the Covenant. And yet pag. 187. he has these words, I have already proved (that is nowhere, no not so much as in attempt) that Circumcision though a part of their administration did yet belong to the substance (meaning of the Covenant of grace) belong to it, I say, not as a part of it, but as a means of applying it. So uncertain and interfering one another are his speeches about this thing.

And yet this salve he adds is not true in any sense in which the word “substance” may be taken. For if he mean by “applying the Covenant” the signifying Christ to come, or the spiritual part promised, so Circumcision was a Type or shadow, and therefore according to his doctrine belonging to the administration that then was, not to the substance of the Covenant; if he mean by “applying the Covenant” sealing or assuring the righteousness of faith to men’s consciences, neither does this make it of the substance of the Covenant, the Covenant being made before. And though Circumcision had never thus applied it, the substance of the Covenant had been the same, yea the Covenant was the same in substance, according to his own doctrine, 2000 years before Circumcision did apply it to any.

Now I do not conceive any thing is to be said of the substance of a thing, when the thing may be entire without it; so that in this point I deprehend in Mr. Marshall’s speeches nothing but dictates; and those very uncertain and confused.

2. Secondly, says he, pag. 198. When I say that God’s Commands about their Sacraments bind us, my meaning never was to assert, that the ritual part of their Sacraments do remain in the least particle, or that we are tied to practice any of those things, but only that there is a general and analogical nature, wherein the Sacraments of the Old and New Testament do agree, which he thus a little before expresses, my meaning being plainly this, that all God’s Commands and Institutions about the Sacraments of the Jews as touching their general nature of being Sacraments and Seals of the Covenant, and as touching their use and end, do bind us in our Sacraments, because they are the same.

Whereto I reply, that Mr. Marshall supposes the Commands of God are about the general nature of being Sacraments and Seals of the Covenant: which is a most vain conceit, there being no such Command or Institution, there’s no such Command that Sacraments should have the general nature of Sacraments, or be Seals of the Covenant, or that they should signify Christ and seal spiritual grace. These things they have from their nature, as he says, which is the same without any Institution.

The natures, essences and quiddities of things are eternal, invariable, and so come not under Command, which reaches only to things contingent, that may be done, or not be done. Did ever any wise man command to men that man should be a reasonable living body, or whiteness a visible quality, or fatherhood a relation? And to say that God commands Sacraments to seal the Covenant, what is this but to say that God commands himself? For he alone by the Sacraments seals to us the Covenant or Promise of Christ, or grace by him. All Commands of God are concerning what the persons commanded should do, and they must needs be of particulars, not of generals, for actio est singularium, action is of singular persons and things. Though God may command man to think or acknowledge Sacraments to be Seals of the Covenant, yet it were a most vain thing for God to command that Sacraments should be Seals of the Covenant, or to have this general end or use, to seal or signify Christ, and spiritual grace, to us, which belongs only to himself to do by his declaration of his meaning in them. Such Commands as Mr. Marshall imagines, are a mere Chimaera, or dream of his brain.

Secondly, the like is to be said concerning his conceit, that such Commands bind us in our Sacraments; For to bind us is to determine what is to be done, or not to be done by us; But such imagined Commands do not determine what is to be done or not to be done by us, and therefore cannot bind at all.

Thirdly, when Mr. Marshall. confesses we are not tied to the least particle of the ritual part or any practice of those things, he does thereby acknowledge that all the Commands of God about the Sacraments of the Jews, which were all about rituals, are quite abrogated. For all Sacraments are Rites or Ceremonies, and to imagine a Command about a Sacrament, and not about a ritual part or Ceremony, is to imagine a Command about a Sacrament, which is not a Sacrament, Chamier. Panstr. Cathol. Tom. 4. lib. 1. chap. 8. Sect. 9. arguing against Suarez the Jesuit, that dreamed of a Sacrament appointed in the law of nature for remedy of original sin, yet had no determined Ceremony, speaks thus; Sacramentum aliquod insti∣tutum à Deo, Ceremonia nulla determinata à Deo, quis capiat? Sacramentum institui et Ceremoniam non determinari? Aequè dixerit loquutum esse deum, et tamen vocem nullam protulisse, nam aequè Sacramenti genus est Ceremonia et Vox loqisutionis.

Fourthly, were it supposed that there were some Commands about the general nature of Sacraments, binding us, though every particle and practice of the ritual part be abrogated, yet this would not reach Mr. Marshall’s intent, which is to prove the Command of sealing Infants with the initial seal in force, binds. But to seal Infants with the initial seal in force is not of the general nature of Sacraments (for then it should belong to the after seal as well as the initiating) but after his own dictates of the special nature of the initial seal, and so Mr. Marshall’s principle serves not for his purpose.

3. Thirdly, I argued thus, Examen. part. 2. sect. 8.

If we may frame an addition to God’s worship from analogy or resemblance conceived by us between two ordinances, whereof one is quite taken away, without any Institution gathered by precept or Apostolical example, then a certain rule may be set down from God’s word how far a man may go in his conceived parity of reason, equity, or analogy, and where he must stay;

For to use the words of the Author, whose book is intitled Grallæ, if Christians must measure their worship according to the Institution and Ceremonies of the Jews, it is needfull that either they imitate them in all things, or else that some “O Edipus” resolve this riddle hitherto not resolved, to wit, what is moral and imitable in those Ceremonies, and what not.

But out of God’s word no rule can be framed to resolve us how far we must or may not go in this conceived parity of reason, equity, or analogy,

Ergo.

The major is evinced from the perfection of God’s word, and the providence of God to have the consciences of his people rightly guided. The minor is proved by provoking those analogists that determine from the Commands about the Mosaical Rites and usages what must be done or may not be done about the mere positive worship and Church-order of the New Testament, to set down this rule out of God’s word.

This argument is confirmed by experience in the controversy between Presbyterians and Independents, jarring about the extent of Infant-baptism, the Elders in new England, Mr. Hooker, (besides Mr. Firmin) Mr. Bartlet, &c. restraining it to the Infants of members joined in a Church gathered after the congregational way as it is called. Mr. Cawdrey, Mr. Blake, Mr. Rutherfurd and others extend it farther, master Baxter. Plain scripture proof, &c. chap. 29. part 1. pag. 101. to all whosoever they be, if they be at a believer’s dispose.

And both sides pretend analogy, which being uncertain, Mr. Ball after much debate about this difference, as distrusting analogy, determines thus in his reply to the answer of the new England Elders to the 9. posit. posit. 3. and 4 pag. 38. But in whatsoever Circumcision and Baptism do agree or differ (which is as much as to say, whatsoever their analogy or resemblance be) we must look to the Institution (therefore the Institution of each Sacrament must be our rule in the use of them, not analogy, and analogy is not sufficient to guide us without Institution, and to shew that analogy serves not turn of itself to determine who are to be baptized, he adds) and neither stretch it wider, nor draw it narrower than the Lord has made it, for he is the Institutor of the Sacraments according to his own good pleasure, and it is our part to learn of him, both to whom, how, and for what end the Sacraments are to be administered, how they agree, and wherein they differ, in all which we must affirm nothing but what God hath taught us, and as he has taught us. Which how they cut the sinews of the argument from Circumcision to Baptism, without wrong to master Ball, is shewed in my Apology, Sect. 13. pag. 57.

Mr. Marshall. in his Defence, pag. 83. Mr. Blake pag. 74, 75. of his answer to my letter, seem to deny, that Paedobaptists do frame an addition to God’s worship from such analogy, the contrary whereof is manifest from the passages cited before. But Mr. Blake over and above, pag. 75. sets down three cautions, which being observed, then this kind of arguing from analogy and proportion is without any such pretended danger. The insufficiency of which cautions being shown in my Postscript to the Apology, Sect 17 pag. 143. I conceive it unnecessary to repeat my words.

Announcing: Crux, Mors, Inferi: A Primer and Reader on the Descent of Christ

I am pleased to announce my new book entitled Crux, Mors, Inferi: A Primer and Reader on the Descent of Christ.

Where was Christ’s soul between his death and resurrection? As its title suggests, Crux, Mors, Inferi (Cross, Death, Underworld) addresses that question. The first half of the book is a primer, comprised of five chapters presenting an exegetical argument for the descent of Christ to Sheol. The second half dedicates four chapters to historical theology, investigating the place of the descent in the Protestant tradition, especially the major influences and branches of the Reformed churches. The majority of this second half is a reader of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sources relating to the descent. These sources represent a variety of views in dialogue with one another, including Lutherans, Reformed, the Church of England, and even Particular Baptists.

Two appendices and a Scripture Index complete the contents of the book, totaling 230 pages.

You can purchase it in three formats (Paperback, Hardcover, or Kindle eBook), here.

The talented artist who designed the cover is Benjamin Aho.

Deity and Decree

Deity and Decree

I am pleased to announce the release of a new book which I have written, entitled Deity and Decree.

This is a primer-length presentation of Theology Proper, and the decree of God.

From the Introduction:

In this book, my desire and intent is to present the doctrine of God taught by the Scriptures, defended by the church through the ages, and expressed in the confessions of faith of the Reformers and their heirs, the doctrine of God in which man finds his “chief good and blessing.” The scope of the book is broad, covering the doctrine of God, and God’s decree, but I have tried to limit its length to that of a primer, focusing on the positive presentation of the doctrines in view. To do so, I have divided the book into three parts: Of God’s Unity, Of God’s Trinity, and Of God’s Decree. For those who confess the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) or the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (2LCF), these divisions correspond to chapters two and three of those confessions. In this work, I have included, as much as possible, quotations from the literature of the Reformed tradition because I confess, gladly, that I stand in deep debt to Christian teachers of the past. Their methods of organization and expression have shaped, heavily, my own presentation.


If you don’t read the book, here is all you need to know:

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It is available on all Amazon markets, worldwide. Deity and Decree.

Signatories of 2LCF?

There is an idea I have heard various times throughout the years, that the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (2LCF) was “signed” by Baptists at the 1689 GA, or that we can talk about the “Signatories” of the Confession. I want to briefly investigate this idea and the evidence for or against it.

There is no 1689 Confession to Sign

We must remember that, as explained on this page, 2LCF was never published in 1689. It had already been published in 1677 and 1688.

The Significance of the 1689 General Assembly and its “Narrative”

The year 1689 is significant for the Particular Baptists because it was the year that they held a national General Assembly in London in September 1689. The Glorious Revolution and the Act of Toleration gave them freedom from persecution, allowing them to act more openly than before. Afterwards, the Assembly published “A Narrative of the Proceedings” in which the delegates of the GA declared that the Confession of Faith from 1677/1688 represented “the Doctrine of our Faith and Practice.”

Untitled

In subsequent pages, the Baptists listed all of their churches and their ministers who either attended the GA in person, or sent reports of their churches to the GA.

As we consider this paragraph, we must remember that the Confession had been published and used for 12 years by this time. The title page of 2LCF when it was published in 1677 stated that the Confession was,

Put forth by the Elders and Brethren of many Congregations of Christians (baptized upon Profession of their Faith) in London and the Country

So, we could say that the 1689 GA Narrative does not represent the adopting of the Confession by these “many Congregations…in London and the Country” but the owning of the Confession. They are not saying “We now take it unto ourselves,” but, “It was ours all along.”

The Odd Page in the Third Edition of 2LCF

Perhaps the closest we get to “signatories” of the Confession is a list of ministers which appears in the 1699 edition, the third edition, of 2LCF.

Untitled

You may note that the paragraph at the top of this page is lifted straight from the 1689 GA Narrative, though removing the phrase that the Confession can be purchased from John Harris (who was dead before 1699). This page is actually rather odd, however.

First, several of the persons named were dead in 1699 (e.g., Hanserd Knollys, John Harris, Thomas Vaux, probably a few more, too). So, this list is not contemporaneous with 1699. Hanserd Knollys died in September 1691, which would seem to date this list to 1689-1691.

Second, the phrase “In the Name and behalf of the whole Assembly” comes from the 1689-1693 GA narratives, where it is used various times.  This would imply some action on the part of a GA, but the 1689 GA Narrative does not use that phrase in relation to the paragraph owning the Confession. And we have the other GA narratives which likewise do not include anything of the sort.

Third, the list of names in the 1699 Confession does not appear in the GA narratives. The GA narratives have various lists of names, but not this list in this particular quantity or order.

Some possible explanations for the odd page in the 1699 edition of 2LCF are:

Considering that the paragraph itself does indeed come from the 1689 GA Narrative, perhaps this list of names and the phrase “In the Name and behalf of the whole Assembly” were supposed to appear in the 1689 GA Narrative, but were left out for some reason?

Another possible explanation is that the 1699 printer put it together however he wanted to, with or without input from the men whose names he listed.

I’m conjecturing. But no matter what, it’s odd.

Conclusion

Can we conclude anything from this scant evidence?

We can say that the 1689 GA delegates chose to make a public declaration that the Confession of Faith that had been around for 12 years and been printed two times was the Confession of Faith used by the churches listed in the narrative.

Perhaps I’m overly picky about terms here, but I would prefer to speak about the “confessors” of 2LCF or the churches and ministers who owned the Confession. To me, “signatories” sounds too close to those responsible for the document, like it’s an assembly that drafted and signed the document itself. The delegates at the 1689 GA didn’t spill one drop of ink on the Confession. And if that’s the idea in people’s heads, then it’s more mythical than material.

Thomas Plant, A Contest for Christianity, 55

Reformed Credobaptism

In this post, I want to investigate the relation of faith to baptism in the Reformed tradition, and how it relates to modern discussions and debates.

Common Argument: Sacraments are God’s word to us, not our word to God

In my experience with debates about credobaptism vs. paedobaptism, one of the common arguments that modern Reformed Christians direct toward Baptists is that Baptists misunderstand the nature of sacraments. The common argument goes like this:

Sacraments are God’s word to us, not our profession of faith to God. Infant Baptism fits this perfectly because it is a picture of God’s grace promised to a helpless individual. Baptists turn baptism into a work performed by man, rather than a sign of divine grace given by God.

Let’s be clear, up front. It would be very easy to provide numerous examples of Baptists laying a heavy emphasis on baptism as man’s profession of faith to God. And it would also be easy to say that in such cases there is an omission and neglect of appreciating sacraments as God’s word to his people. I grant this in full, and Baptists need to do a much better job at teaching and appreciating sacraments as God’s word to his people.

However, do Reformed Christians fall into the same mistake, but on the opposite side? Do they, by emphasizing God’s grace signified to man in the sacraments, neglect and omit man’s side in the use of sacraments? The Reformed of the 16th and 17th centuries did not. But (if experience can be the gauge here) the modern Reformed do, frequently.

The Reformed: Sacraments are Mutual Testimonies

The Reformed of the Reformation and Post-Reformation eras clearly assert a mutuality in sacraments.

John Calvin, for example, defined a sacrament as:

“a testimony of God’s favor towards us confirmed by an outward sign, with a mutual testifying of our godliness toward him.”

John Calvin, The Institvtion of Christian Religion (London: Reinolde Wolfe and Richard Harrison, 1561), fol. 90v. (IV. 13. 1). Cf. also fols. 94v-95r. (IV. 13. 13-14).

And William Perkins offered a similar definition:

“Baptism serves to be a pledge unto us in respect of our weakness, of all the graces and mercies of God, and especially of our union with Christ, of remission of sins, and of mortification. Secondly, it serves to be a sign of Christian profession before the world, and therefore it is called ‘the stipulation or interrogation of a good conscience,’ 1 Pet. 3:21.”

William Perkins, A Commentarie or Exposition, upon the five first Chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians (Cambridge: John Legat, 1604), 249.

And Lucas Trelcatius offered the same:

“By the name of Sacrament, we understand a signe of grace, ordained of God, that he might both seal up his benefits in us, and consecrate us to himself for ever; for in the signification of Sacrament, there is a mutual respect: the one on God’s behalf offering grace; the other on man’s behalf, promising thankfulness.”

Lucas Trelcatius, A Briefe institution of the Common Places of Sacred Divinitie (London: T.P. for Francis Burton, 1610), 293. Spelling updated.

These statements may seem to create a tension with infant baptism. How can an infant participate in the mutuality of the sacrament?

The Reformed: Faith is a Prerequisite for Baptism

For many paedobaptists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the mutual nature of sacraments was not an obstacle. They did not hesitate to connect baptism with a profession of faith, even in the case of infants. In fact, they required faith for baptism.

One way to handle this was to have sponsors answer for the child. This was the doctrine of the church of England. Sponsors profess faith and repentance for the child. You can read about it in this post.

The Westminster Assembly debated this issue and concluded that it was necessary for parents to make a profession of faith in the baptism of their children. You can read about it in the post just linked above. The Assembly’s decision relocates the profession of faith. It is not the child’s faith professed by sponsors, but the parents’ faith.

The Church of England and the Westminster Assembly were not alone in requiring faith in baptism. Edward Polhill noted that the Leiden Synopsis (its title is Synopsis Purioris Theologiæ, the work of Johannes Polyander, Andreas Rivetus, Antonius Walaeus, and Anthonius Thysius), first published in 1625, likewise required faith in infants prior to baptism.

Edward Polhill - Christus in Corde - 206

These are not the views of an isolated or idiosyncratic Reformed writer. The Westminster Assembly and the Leiden Synopsis are collaborative projects of some of the best minds the Reformed faith has ever known. But what does the Leiden Synopsis actually say about baptism, faith, and infant baptism?

The Leiden Synopsis: Infants of the Faithful have the Seed of Faith

I’ve translated relevant portions of Disputation 44, “Of the Sacrament of Baptism.” I don’t claim to be a Latinist, so feel free to check or correct my work in comparison to the original here. This portion of the Synopsis should be released in translation this year.

Though not exactly germane to this discussion, we can note that the Leiden divines makes immersion or pouring an indifferent matter, as well as whether to dip/pour once or thrice.

Thesis 19. And whether the baptizand should be dipped once, or three times, is judged a thing indifferent in the Christian church, as also whether by immersion or aspersion.

Moving on to their theology of infant baptism, here are relevant portions. Edward Polhill’s quote above was referring to Thesis 29.

Thesis 28. No valid distinction can be made between the baptism of adults and infants, except that the baptism of adults is a sign and seal of regeneration already possessed, and the baptism of infants is the instrument of the beginning of regeneration. There is no foundation for any difference beyond this in all Scripture, which acknowledges but one kind of baptism only…

Thesis 29. Therefore we do not align the efficacy of baptism with the moment of its administration, when the body is dipped in the water, but in all persons baptized we do require beforehand faith and repentance, though with the judgment of charity. And this is just as true in the case of covenant infants, in whom, by virtue of the divine blessings and covenant of the gospel, the seed and spirit of faith and repentance are present, we contend, just as in adults, for whom profession of actual faith and repentance is necessary. For as when a seed is cast in the earth, it does not always grow to its height immediately, but [it grows] when rain and warmth come upon it from the sky, neither is the efficacy of the sacramental sign always tied to its first moment, but in the passage of time, with the blessing of the Holy Spirit, is it granted.

Thesis 47. Second, we count [as valid subjects of baptism] infants who are born of faithful and federal parents, according to the promise of God, Genesis 17 “I will be God to you and your seed.” […] To whom the thing signified pertains, no one can deny the sign. […] Now then truly none can deny that the benefits of the blood and Spirit of Christ belong to the infants of the faithful, except those [children] who choose to exclude themselves from salvation; neither is anyone able to enter the kingdom of God unless they are regenerated by water and Spirit, John 3:5. For no one is of Christ who does not have his Spirit, Romans 8:9.

Thesis 48. Ephesians 5:26 is a confirming illustration of this, where the apostle says “Christ loved his church, and gave himself up for her, cleansing her in the washing of water through the word.” From which it follows that the infants of the faithful are not born into a different church from the one for which Christ gave himself, and which he cleansed with the washing of water through the word.

The idea that baptism and faith go hand in hand is not at all a tension for those who believe that the infants of the faithful possess “the benefits of the blood and Spirit of Christ” and have “the seed and spirit of faith and repentance.”

Some Reformed: Infants of the Faithful Have a Distinct, Provisional, Perishable, Regeneration

The doctrine that the infants of the faithful possess the seed of faith creates another tension. What does it mean for covenant children to possess the seed of faith and the blessings and benefits of Christ, and yet “to choose to exclude themselves” from salvation? Also, are the infants of the faithful not born in Adam?

There are varying answers to these questions among paedobaptists. Joseph Whiston lays out various options in this post. Whiston’s option is that the infants of the faithful have a provisional regeneration that is distinct in kind from the ordinary regeneration that believers experience.

For Whiston, and some Reformed, their infants, by virtue of the federal holiness they enjoy as children of the faithful, are cleansed of original sin, and are therefore guaranteed to enter Heaven if they die in their infancy.

For some sources on the discussion and pedigree of such views, see this post, this post, and the related (though later) discussion of sources here:

Conclusions

We can make the following conclusions:

First, the common caricature of “The Reformed make baptism God’s word to us, and Baptists make baptism man’s word to God” demonstrates that both sides need a lesson in historical theology.  There is no reason why Baptists should not appreciate and enjoy the sacraments, first and foremost, as God’s promises made visible to his people. Likewise, the Reformed should not hesitate to say that participation in the sacraments is a mutual testimony, from man to God.

Second, related to this, the common caricature that Baptists connect faith too closely to baptism must be applied equally to the Westminster and Leiden divines. They require faith for baptism. It simply isn’t a “Baptist” move. A distinction can be made between fidebaptism, and credobaptism. The Reformed baptize based on faith (fidebaptism), not necessarily profession of faith (credobaptism). However, that would only apply to infants. The Reformed would practice fidebaptism for infants, and credobaptism for adults.

Third, the modern Reformed departure/distancing from (what I perceive as) the more robust forms of paedobaptism explains some of the tensions with so-called “Federal Vision” ideas. Like it nor not, in some cases, certain tenets of the more “Federal Vision” flavor of paedobaptists are not so much a departure from the Reformed tradition as they are a return to one of its more robust forms.

Fourth, modern Reformed Christians need to recognize that the common argument of “We baptize based on the promise to us and our children” is anemic in comparison to “We baptize on the basis of God’s covenant with us, by virtue of which our children are provisionally cleansed and have the seed of faith.” In the modern Reformed version, what is actually true of a covenant child? Promises are made to the child, but is there any way to say, definitely, that any given infant has actual possession of any benefit? I have a feeling that in the social media circles I know, any Reformed Christian who began to assert objective benefits for their covenant children would be swiftly and strongly denounced by other Reformed Christians.

Fifth, the modern Reformed version of paedobaptism creates a tension between infant and adult baptism (to use the Leiden Synopsis’ categories). As the Leiden Synopsis states, its version of infant baptism is very much in line with adult baptism. Both presuppose cleansing; both require repentance and faith. But the common modern Reformed version of paedobaptism makes paedobaptism, as William Cunningham said,

“a peculiar, subordinate, supplemental, exceptional thing, which stands indeed firmly based on its own distinct and special grounds.” (The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation)

For Reformed Baptists (i.e., 2LCF Baptists), there is, as the Leiden Synopsis states, “but one kind of baptism only” acknowledged by the Scriptures. That is credobaptism, baptism based on profession of faith, not age. Are the modern Reformed ready to embrace the older Reformed credobaptism and bring their adult and infant baptism  into realignment? Or will they practice credobaptism for adults, and something else for their children?

John Owen, Unto the Questions, 7

Guest Post: No Communion and No Christ? Part 4

This is the fourth and final part of a guest post by Richard Barcellos. The previous installments can be found here, here, and here.

No Communion and No Christ?

 A response to two recent claims by Dr. R. Scott Clark:

  1. “In short, when we say communication we mean ‘communing.’ When the PBs say communication they seem to mean ‘the transmission of information.’”
  2. According to PBs, “God the Son is not actually present” prior to the incarnation.

Richard C. Barcellos

This is the final installment of my response to two recent claims offered by Dr. R. Scott Clark (found here).

In the “Conclusion” to Clark’s piece, he says:

When the Particular Baptists speak of the benefit of Christ being communicated, it seems as if they mean that a future reality was revealed to the Old Testament saints, which they anticipated but which was not actually present for them. (emphasis mine)

These claims were supported by Clark’s analysis of a brief section in one paragraph in 2LCF and some statements made by Coxe. Is Clark right? He views some of the Particular Baptists of the seventeenth century and some today as either explicitly (and intentionally) or implicitly (and unintentionally) denying that God the Son was actually present with his people prior to the incarnation. This denial is due to their seemingly intended meaning of the words “communication” or “communicated.” His claim is that, due to their distinct seemingly intended meaning of the words “communication” and “communicated,” some Particular Baptists effectively deny the presence of Christ with his people prior to the incarnation.

In my first installment, I offered and analyzed statements made by Benjamin Keach and Hanserd Knollys, both seventeenth-century Particular Baptists. It became very clear that by “communication” Keach meant “communing,” the conveyance of that which is promised—“Christ’s blessed merits” (Keach’s words). It also became clear that by “communion” Knollys meant communing, by virtue of the pre-incarnate Son of God conveying that which is promised, such that Solomon enjoyed “his beloved” (Knollys’ words)—Christ.

The last paragraph of the first installment reads as follows:

It is time to get to the specific focus of my reply to Clark. Did Nehemiah Coxe mean “the transmission of information” exclusively by the terms “communion,” “communicated,” “communications,” and “communicate”? And did he teach, or does his view entail, that “God the Son is not actually present” with his people prior to the incarnation?

My second installment was an attempt to answer the first question stated above. The third installment sought to answer the second question. The answer to both questions was the same—no.

At the end of the third installment, I inserted the first paragraph of my conclusion. It is now time to present my conclusion in its entirety. It is relatively brief and dependent upon the previous installments. If you have not read all three of those, I highly recommend that you do so prior to reading the conclusion.

IV. Conclusion

Dr. Clark has made two claims: first, that by “communication” Nehemiah Coxe and other seventeenth-century Particular Baptists seem to have meant “the transmission of information” and second, due to the first claim, Coxe’s and other seventeenth-century Particular Baptists’ view entails that “God the Son is not actually present” with his people prior to the incarnation. The saints prior to the incarnation did not enjoy union and communion with our Lord. These two claims were the focus of my response. There were other issues I initially thought about discussing but decided it best to limit myself to these two claims by Clark.

In light of the evidence and comments provided above, I contend that Clark has misread Coxe and the 2LCF. He has also impugned (unwittingly) others from the seventeenth century, as well as some in our own day. Misreading and misunderstanding others is not some novelty of which we should be shocked. We have all done it and will, most likely, do it again. In saying that Clark has misread others, I am not suggesting he did this with any malice whatsoever. He did, however, make some claims that simply will not hold up against closer scrutiny. Nehemiah Coxe, other seventeenth-century Particular Baptists, the 2LCF, and at least some contemporary Particular Baptists do not mean by “communicated” “the transmission of information” without actual, real, vital union and communion with Christ, nor did or do they deny such prior to the incarnation of our Lord. As well, in good Protestant fashion, all of these believed and believe that the Mediator took up his work of mediation, according to his divine nature, prior to the incarnation, even upon the fall of man into sin. These points have been proven clearly and amply in the previous installments.

Clark’s claims need to be modified in light of the evidence I have provided, evidence that is lucid, plenteous, and available to all interested parties. Instead of what Clark claims, we can now confidently assert the following: first, in short, though it is true that when the Reformed say communication they seem to mean “communing,” it is not true that when some Particular Baptists say “communication” they seem to mean “the transmission of information” exclusively, specifically without actual, real, vital union and communion with Christ and second, according to some Particular Baptists, it is not true that “God the Son is not actually present” with his people prior to the incarnation. Both of Clark’s claims have been found abundantly wanting and, therefore, in need of chastening.

I hope my response to Dr. Clark aids all of us in our pursuit of truth and truthfulness among ourselves, especially when engaging other believers both past and present.

Guest Post: No Communion and No Christ? Part 3

This is the third part of a guest post by Richard Barcellos. The first and second installments can be found here and here.

No Communion and No Christ?

 A response to two recent claims by Dr. R. Scott Clark:

  1. “In short, when we say communication we mean ‘communing.’ When the PBs say communication they seem to mean ‘the transmission of information.’”
  2. According to PBs, “God the Son is not actually present” prior to the incarnation.

Richard C. Barcellos

This is the third installment of my response to two recent claims offered by Dr. R. Scott Clark (found here).  The last paragraph of the first installment reads as follows:

It is time to get to the specific focus of my reply to Clark. Did Nehemiah Coxe mean “the transmission of information” exclusively by the terms “communion,” “communicated,” “communications,” and “communicate”? And did he teach, or does his view entail, that “God the Son is not actually present” with his people prior to the incarnation?

My second installment was an attempt to answer the first question stated above. The present installment seeks to answer the second question: Did Nehemiah Coxe teach, or does his view entail, that “God the Son is not actually present” with his people prior to the incarnation?

Is it true that some seventeenth-century Particular Baptists believed in some sort of “real absence” view of Christ concerning the Old Testament saints? I have already provided a little evidence to the contrary, but since Clark’s focus was on Coxe, it will do us well to examine some statements by him which, in my view, prove that Clark’s claim is found wanting.

III. Coxe’s view of the work and presence of the mediator prior to the incarnation

  1. Coxe, p. 34

So it must be acknowledged that it is of great use and concern for us to be well acquainted with those transactions of God with men and his dispensations toward them that are recorded in the sacred history of the first ages of the world and the church of God in it.

Comment: Here it seems Coxe distinguishes between “those transactions of God with men” and the things recorded for us in Scripture. “Transactions” here seems to entail communion.

  1. Coxe, pp. 39-40

But more eminently, the covenant of grace is established in Christ as its head. All its promises were first given to him and in him they are all yes and amen. It is by union to him that believers obtain a new covenant interest and from him they derive a new life, grace, and strength to answer the ends of the new covenant.

Comment: Union with Christ brings with it “new life, grace, and strength”—i.e., communion, the conveyance of the benefits of Christ to the soul.

  1. Coxe, p. 53

By the sin of man the frame of earth and the heavens made for his service and delight was loosed, and their foundations so shaken as would have issued in an utter ruin had not Christ interposed and upheld their pillars (Psalm 75:3 with Hebrews 1:3).

Comment: Christ’s work of mediation did not begin at the incarnation, nor did the blessings of union and communion with him. This must be the case since these blessings are included in his work of mediation.

  1. Coxe, p. 54

2. In pursuing this covenant of redemption and the suretyship of Christ taken in it upon the fall of man, the government of the world was actually put into the hands of the Son of God, the designed Mediator, who interposed himself for the prevention of its present and utter ruin. By him were all future transactions managed for the good of man, and all discoveries of grace and mercy were made to the children of men in him and by him. All things in heaven and earth were brought into an order subservient to the ends of the new creation and the redemption of lost man to be accomplished in the fullness of time by the Son of God incarnate. Fallen man could have no more to do with God, nor God with him in a way of kindness, except in a mediator.

Comment: The work of mediation by the Son of God began “upon the fall of man.” In his work of mediation prior to the incarnation, the Son had “the government of the world…put into…[his] hands.” Not only that, but since the fall, “By him were all future transactions managed for the good of man, and all discoveries of grace and mercy were made to the children of men in him and by him.” It seems that “all discoveries of grace and mercy” is a subset of the transactions mentioned in the prior clause. Everything “in heaven and earth” is “subservient to the ends of the new creation and the redemption of lost man to be accomplished in the fullness of time by the Son of God incarnate.” Since the fall, “man could have no more to do with God, nor God with him in a way of kindness, except in a mediator.” It is clear that Coxe viewed the Son of God as very present and active as mediator prior to the incarnation, causing some to discover “grace and mercy.” This requires union with Christ and entails that communion with him was enjoyed by some prior to the incarnation.

  1. Coxe, p. 58

3. Yet, the world is set under a general reprieve and the full execution of the deserved curse is delayed until the day of judgment. Until that time the children of men are under a dispensation of goodness and sparing mercy. So they are in a remote capacity or possibility of obtaining salvation by Christ where it pleases God to send the gospel, the dispensation of which is made effectual for the salvation of all the elect, who are in this way gathered into the kingdom of Christ.

4. The Lord Christ has undertaken in the close of his mediatorial kingdom, when all his sheep are brought into his fold, (for whose sake alone the day of his patience is lengthened out to the world) to raise all mankind again in an incorruptible state, prepared for that eternal duration to which they were designed in their first creation.

Comment: Once again, Christ’s work of mediation did not begin at the incarnation.

  1. Coxe, p. 59

But by the covenant of grace and redemption, the relationship and previous acceptance of the person in Christ was the reason of the good acceptance of all their sincere though imperfect obedience which now sprang from faith. And so it is said in Hebrews 11:4, “God had respect to Abel and his offering;” first to the person and then to his work. This order and way of salvation in its general nature always was and must be the same and invariable in all ages and under all different dispensations of God toward his church.

Comment: The way of salvation is the same and invariable “under all dispensations of God toward his church.” Therefore, the experience of union and communion with Christ by faith predates the incarnation.

  1. Coxe, p. 63

For this is to be observed concerning the state of the church before Christ came in the flesh: that as the gospel was preached to them by types and dark shadows, so this kind of instruction was afforded them not only by the stated ordinances of ceremonial worship, but also by many extraordinary works of providence. These were so ordered by divine wisdom that they might bear a typical relationship to and be an apt representation of spiritual things. This may be observed in many instances in the history of Abraham and his offspring, the children of Israel. On this account the manna they ate in the wilderness is called spiritual meat; the water of the rock which they drank, spiritual drink; and the rock, Christ (1 Corinthians 10:3, 4).

Comment: Types were “an apt representation of spiritual things.” Types can be symbols signifying a present reality (i.e., Christ communicated to the souls of the elect). This communication of the benefits of Christ to the people of Christ predates the incarnation of Christ.

  1. Coxe, p. 79

Section 9. Fifthly, the last thing I will note is the eternal settlement of the way of salvation according to the character of this covenant which is by faith in Christ. This is a covenant that conveys the grace of life to poor sinners by a free and gracious promise which admits of no other restipulation in order to covenant interest except believing. It is of faith because it is of grace (Romans 4:16) and this way is the only way of life. There is but one covenant of spiritual and eternal blessing in Christ Jesus, founded in the eternal decree and counsel of God’s love and grace, which is now revealed to Abraham.

Comment: The “covenant of spiritual and eternal blessing in Christ Jesus” which “was revealed to Abraham” “conveys the grace of life to poor sinners” through faith. “Conveys” is a way of affirming communion.

  1. Coxe, p. 81

3. The sum of all gospel blessings is comprised in this promise. Therefore it will follow that the proper heirs of this blessing of Abraham have a right (not only in some, but) in all the promises of the new covenant. This is true not in a limited sense, suspended on uncertain conditions, but in a full sense and secured by the infinite grace, wisdom, power, and faithfulness of God. Accordingly, they are in time made good to them all. And this will be more manifest if we consider that all the blessings of this covenant redound on believers by means of their union and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both the Head and Root of the new covenant, and the Fountain from which all its blessings are derived to us. Since these blessings were entirely purchased by him, so are they entirely applied to all that are in him and to none other.

Comment: Gospel promises are made good to “the proper heirs of this blessing of Abraham,” more manifest in this: “that all the blessings of this covenant redound on believers by means of their union and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both the Head and Root of the new covenant, and the Fountain from which all its blessings are derived to us.” Note the language of “union and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Coxe clearly affirms present union and communion with Christ prior to the incarnation.

  1. Coxe, p. 82

None are washed by him but those that are in him as the second Adam. It is by union to him as the root of the new covenant that the free gift comes on them to the justification of life. And none can have union to him but by the indwelling of his Holy Spirit. Wherever the Spirit of God applies the blood of Christ for the remission of sins he does it also for the purging of the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. As certainly as any derive a new covenant right from Christ for pardon, they also receive a vital influence from him for the renovation of their natures and conforming their souls to his own image.

Comment: Interest in Christ comes by “union to him by the indwelling of his Holy Spirit.” These words by Coxe come in the context of the promise of Christ given to Abraham before circumcision. Believers were united to Christ by his Spirit. Union and communion go together, and these two benefits of Christ were experienced by gospel-believing sinners prior to the incarnation.

  1. Coxe, p. 108

2. In the establishment of this covenant there was a seed promised to him that would certainly inherit its spiritual and eternal blessings. The promise was sure to all the seed. But this was a seed of believers collected out of all nations and united to Christ by faith, and not the children of Abraham according to the flesh. This is manifest in almost every page of the New Testament.

Comment: Here Coxe asserts that only those “united to Christ by faith” inherit spiritual and eternal blessings. In the context, this includes believers prior to the incarnation. With union comes communion, both upon and prior to the incarnation.

  1. Coxe, p. 128

To prevent their being ensnared with this corrupt doctrine, he informs them how Christ was the end and substance of all those shadows and that all fullness dwells in him in whom they were complete.

Comment: Here Coxe is explaining Colossians 2:11. Note that he asserts Christ as the end and “substance” of the Old Testament shadows. Given the previous quotations of Coxe, it is clear that believers before the incarnation communed with the substance of the covenant of grace—Christ.

Dr. Clark has made two claims: first, that by “communication” Coxe and other seventeenth-century Particular Baptists seem to have meant “the transmission of information” and second, due to the first claim, Coxe’s and other seventeenth-century Particular Baptists’ view entails that “God the Son is not actually present” with his people prior to the incarnation. The saints prior to the incarnation did not enjoy union and communion with our Lord. These two claims were the focus of my response. There were other issues I initially thought about discussing but decided it best to limit myself to these two claims by Clark. In my next installment, I will attempt to bring the issues discussed to a reasonable conclusion.

Guest Post: No Communion and No Christ? Part 2

This is the second part of a guest post by Richard Barcellos. The first installment can be found here.

No Communion and No Christ?

 A response to two recent claims by Dr. R. Scott Clark:

  1. “In short, when we say communication we mean ‘communing.’ When the PBs say communication they seem to mean ‘the transmission of information.’”
  2. According to PBs, “God the Son is not actually present” prior to the incarnation.

Richard C. Barcellos

This is the second installment of my response to two recent claims offered by Dr. R. Scott Clark. The last paragraph of the first installment reads as follows:

It is time to get to the specific focus of my reply to Clark. Did Nehemiah Coxe mean “the transmission of information” exclusively by the terms “communion,” “communicated,” “communications,” and “communicate”? And did he teach, or does his view entail, that “God the Son is not actually present” with his people prior to the incarnation?

This installment will answer the first question stated above. Did Nehemiah Coxe mean “the transmission of information” exclusively by the terms “communion,” “communicated,” “communications,” and “communicate”? I will provide examples of how Coxe used the words “communion,” “communicated,” “communications,” and “communicate.” (I could not find Coxe using the singular noun form “communication.”) This will give us a variety of contexts in which Coxe uses these terms. As with the first installment, my response is focused on historical theology, specifically on the words and their meanings as used and intended by Nehemiah Coxe.

II. Examples of how Coxe used the words “communion,” “communicated,” “communications,” and “communicate”[1]

  1. Coxe p. 36

Section 3. The general notion of any covenant of God with men, considered on the part of God or as proposed by him, may be conceived of as “A declaration of his sovereign pleasure concerning the benefits he will bestow on them, the communion they will have with him, and the way and means by which this will be enjoyed by them.”[2]

Comment: Clark’s concern is not aimed at Coxe’s use of the word “communion.” This use of the word (and others) by Coxe, however, helps us better understand his view of “communing,” a word Clark used. It seems clear that by “communion” here, Coxe does not mean “the transmission of information” but communing, the conveyance of that which is promised or, in this instance specifically, “the benefits [God] will bestow on” men. It becomes clear that Coxe distinguishes between the “declaration of his sovereign pleasure,” or as he says on the next page, “the revelation of the counsel of God’s will in a covenant proposed” and the “communion” promised in his “declaration” or “revelation” of said covenant. Divine “declaration” and divine “revelation,” in this context, are not synonymous with “communion.”

  1. Coxe, p. 43

1. This was an eternal law and an invariable rule of righteousness by which those things that are agreeable to the holiness and rectitude of the divine nature were required and whatever is contrary to it was prohibited. This law was only internal and subjective to Adam, being communicated to him with his reasonable nature and written in his heart, so that he needed no external revelation to perfect his knowledge of it.

Comment: Applying the claim of Clark, Coxe’s explanation of the law written on Adam’s heart would mean this: “This law was only internal and subjective to Adam, being information transmitted to him with his reasonable nature and written in his heart, so that he needed no external revelation to perfect his knowledge of it.” Instead, it seems clear that by “communicated” here, Coxe does not mean “the transmission of information” but that which is given, in the sense of creaturely endowment. Being made in the image of God, Adam’s existence was “communicated” to him, granted to him by his creator. And concreated with that existence was “an invariable rule of righteousness…written in his heart.” This gift of coming into existence did not require of Adam the acceptance of or belief in that which was endowed in order to Adam’s existence. Or in the language of older covenant theologians, the initial act of creational endowment did not require restipulation (a term Coxe uses[3]) by the creature. That which was endowed came with the “stuff” of Adam’s unique creatureliness. Clark’s “the transmission of information” formula seems to entail the existence of man and his receiving an extra-creational objective and propositional revelation to him from God, and a restipulation by him. Clark’s formula does not fit this use of the word “communicated” by Coxe. Recall that the specific word under dispute is a form of “communicated.”

  1. Coxe, p. 45

2. The natural inclination of men. They expect a reward of future blessedness for their obedience to the law of God and to stand before him on the terms of a covenant of works. This necessarily arises from man’s relationship to God at first in such a covenant (which included the promise of such a reward) and the knowledge of these covenant terms communicated to him, together with the law of his creation.

Comment: Applying the claim of Clark, Coxe’s explanation of the knowledge of the terms of the covenant of works would mean this: “…the knowledge of these covenant terms was transmitted as information to him, together with the law of his creation.” In the context of Coxe’s discussion, this use of “communicated” seems, indeed, to indicate “the transmission of information” which results in “the knowledge of these covenant terms” (i.e., the knowledge of the terms of the covenant of works). The various forms in which this knowledge was conveyed to Adam are discussed by Coxe in the wider context of the quote under investigation. So, while using the term “communicated,” Coxe may and does, at least once, mean “the transmission of information.

  1. Coxe p. 48

Because as Adam’s sin is imputed to all that were in him, and so judgment to condemnation comes on all that were represented by him, so also the obedience of Christ is imputed to all that are in him, and the free gift redounds on them to the justification of life by virtue of their union to and communion with him.

Comment: Though Clark’s claim does not refer to Coxe’s use of the word “communion,” once again, it is interesting to note its use in this instance. It seems clear that by “communion” here, Coxe means benefits conveyed to those in union with Christ and the same benefits enjoyed by them. The benefits of Christ are imputed to them by virtue of their union with Christ, which union entails “communion with him.” Union with Christ entails communion with him, according to Coxe.

  1. Coxe p. 51

And now instead of that original righteousness with which he was first beautified, there was nothing to be found in him but abominable filthiness and horrid deformity. His mind was covered over, even possessed with hellish darkness. Hatred of God reigned in his heart and his affections were no longer subject to right reason but became vile and rebellious. It is evident that in this state he must be utterly incapable of communion with God and of the enjoyment of him in whom alone the true happiness of a reasonable creature consists.

Comment: Here is another instance where, though Clark’s claim does not refer to Coxe’s use of the word “communion,” it is interesting to note its use. By “communion” here, Coxe means the reception and enjoyment of the divine goodness and its appropriate creaturely responses. This clearly refers to something more than “the transmission of information.

  1. Coxe p. 62

The violence and corruption of mankind abounded and even the sons of God were taken with the bait of sensual delights. Those who had formerly kept up a pure and distinct communion for the solemn worship of God by calling on his name (and so also had his name called on them, Genesis 4:26, being denominated the sons of God) now lost the sense of religion and broke the bounds of their just separation and mingled themselves with the daughters of men (Genesis 6:24).

Comment: Again, Clark’s claim is not aimed at Coxe’s use of the word “communion.” It seems clear, nevertheless, that by “communion” here, Coxe means the sharing of the blessing of public worship among men. By the way, assuming the worship Coxe is referencing was acceptable religious worship (which seems clear in context), the assumption is that it had been instituted by God “by his own revealed will” (2LCF 22.1) and was “not without a mediator, nor in the mediation of any other but Christ alone” (2LCF 22.2).

  1. Coxe pp. 63-64

Thus the ark was an extraordinary sacrament, or prefiguring, of the church’s redemption and salvation by the death and resurrection of Christ and of her union and communion with him that died and rose again, so as to enjoy all the benefits of his death and resurrection.

Comment: Again, “communion” here is especially instructive for our purposes. Believers are in “union” with Christ and, therefore, enjoy “communion with him.” What is it to have union and communion with Christ according to Coxe? He defines it as enjoying “all the benefits of his death and resurrection.” Union with Christ entails communion with Christ, “so as to enjoy all the benefits of his death and resurrection” before and after the incarnation.

  1. Coxe p. 81

3. The sum of all gospel blessings is comprised in this promise. Therefore it will follow that the proper heirs of this blessing of Abraham have a right (not only in some, but) in all the promises of the new covenant. This is true not in a limited sense, suspended on uncertain conditions, but in a full sense and secured by the infinite grace, wisdom, power, and faithfulness of God. Accordingly, they are in time made good to them all. And this will be more manifest if we consider that all the blessings of this covenant redound on believers by means of their union and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both the Head and Root of the new covenant, and the Fountain from which all its blessings are derived to us. Since these blessings were entirely purchased by him, so are they entirely applied to all that are in him and to none other.

Comment: Clark’s claim is that it seems that some Particular Baptists mean by “communication” “the transmission of information” and that, as a result of this, they effectively deny the presence of Christ with his people prior to the incarnation. I think Clark’s claim may be put in this form: Because for some Particular Baptists “communication” seems to mean “the transmission of information,” there is no “communing” with Christ prior to the incarnation. The various uses of the word “communion” by Coxe, however, indicate very clearly that he did not deny communion with Christ prior to the incarnation. In fact, the evidence clearly and emphatically indicates just the opposite. Union and communion are covenantal blessings, the application of redemption.

  1. Coxe p. 99

Section 6. To confirm this I will offer these things. First, circumcision was the entrance into and boundary of communion in the Jewish church.

Comment: Here “communion” seems to indicate the shared blessings of those within the Jewish church.

  1. Coxe p. 111

But still God’s communications to them and acts for them, both in regard to the blessings he will bestow and the terms and conditions on which they will be bestowed, are limited by the covenant he has made with them and the nature and extent of the promises of it.

Comment: Applying the claim of Clark, Coxe’s explanation of “I will be their God” (see the context of the Coxe quote above), specifically “the [covenant] blessings…and the terms and conditions on which they will be bestowed” would mean this: “But still God’s transmission of information to them and acts for them, both in regard to the blessings he will bestow and the terms and conditions on which they will be bestowed…” Instead, it seems clear that by “communications” here, Coxe does not mean “the transmission of information” but “communing,” the conveyance of things promised.

  1. Coxe p. 111

Either God is obliged by this promise to communicate himself in the highest degree possible to all those to whom it is made, and to do the utmost for them that may be done (without implying a contradiction to his being and infinite perfections) and to bring them absolutely to the utmost degree of happiness that omnipotent goodness can raise them to, or else the promised good must fall under some particular limitation.

Comment: Applying the claim of Clark, Coxe’s explanation of “I will be their God” (see the context of the Coxe quote above) and what it promises would mean this: ““Either God is obliged by this promise to the transmission of information [about] himself in the highest degree possible to all those to whom it is made, and to do the utmost for them that may be done (without implying a contradiction to his being and infinite perfections)…” Instead, it seems clear that by “communicate” here, Coxe does not mean “the transmission of information” but “communing,” the conveyance of that which is specifically promised.

  1. Coxe p. 129

This communion that believers have with Christ in his benefits through the faith of the operation of God, is in a lively manner held out and signified to them in their baptism, in which they are said to be both buried and risen together with him (Colossians 2:12).

Comment: Here is another use of “communion” by Coxe that helps us understand his intended use of this term. It seems clear that by “communion” here, Coxe intends the conveyance of that which is promised, signified in baptism.

What can be said in light of the Coxe statements above? It seems to me that Coxe means by “communicated” (or other forms of this word) “the transmission of information” only once. Because the revealed word of God is a means of grace by the blessing of the Spirit to the elect, however, Coxe surely would and did acknowledge that, though “communion” requires “the transmission of information” it is not exhausted by it. I think the statements by Coxe above amply prove these assertions.

But what about Clark’s other claim? Is it true that some seventeenth-century Particular Baptists believed in some sort of “real absence” view of Christ concerning the Old Testament saints? I have already provided a little evidence to the contrary, but since Clark’s focus was on Coxe, it will do us well to examine some statements by him which, in my view, prove that Clark’s claim is found wanting.

My third installment will consider the following:

III. Coxe’s view of the work and presence of the mediator prior to the incarnation

[1] This is the order of which these words occur in the Coxe work Clark critiqued.

[2] All quotations of Coxe are taken from Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen, Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ, ed. Ronald D. Miller, James M. Renihan, and Francisco Orozco (Palmdale, CA: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2005).

[3] Coxe uses this term in Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology. At its first use on p. 35, this footnote gives its definition: “[The Oxford English Dictionary indicates this rare word carries the sense “to promise or engage in return; a counter-engagement.” It cites an occurrence from Thomas Adams’ commentary on 2 Peter 2:9 to make the point:  “If he covenant with us, ‘I will be your God’; we must restipulate, ‘Then we will rest upon you’.” “Restipulation” appears to have a technical use in covenant theology closely related to the fœdus dipleuron (the two-sided covenant) which describes “the relationship of God and man together in covenant, and particularly the free acceptance on the part of man of the promise of God and of the obedience required by the covenant” (Muller, Dictionary, 120, 122). The same covenant viewed as the declaration and imposition of God’s will toward man is the fœdus monopleuron (the one-sided covenant). These standard Protestant covenant theological terms are clearly behind Coxe’s thinking in this section.]” The footnote references Richard A. Muller’s Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms in its first edition. The entry for fœdus dipleuron is on p. 127 of the second edition.