The 1677 Confession on Open vs Closed Communion

The editors of the confession intentionally avoided addressing open and closed communion in order to allow more churches to be able to subscribe to the confession. The majority of its subscribers were advocates of closed communion, but there had been a strand of open-communion going as far back as Henry Jessey and others among the original Particular Baptists of the 1640’s. To accommodate those, and especially Baptists in Bristol, the confession is silent here.

1677 Appendix, 137-138

By church-communion is meant “official church membership.”

They explain their rationale below.

1677 Appendix, 138-139

Confessions do not exhaustively represent everything that a given church or association holds to be true. For that reason, a line has to be drawn somewhere by which some things are confessed and others not. Unity should be striven for, but never at the cost of truth. In this case the editors extended an olive branch to their open-communion brothers, and exhorted paedobaptists to do the same to them. Remember that through government power (whether controlled by Presbyterians, Independents, or Charles II), the Baptists were persecuted for their view on baptism. Because infant baptism, or christening, was a means of social and political enrollment and enforcement, failure to participate in this process was viewed as a breach of loyalty to the country. You were supposed to be registered in a given parish and required to attend the church of England within that parish. The Baptists did not submit to infant baptism, and they excommunicated their members who left for the church of England. This adds a certain character to their plea for tolerance beyond that of “let’s all get along.”

This is found at the end of the Appendix on baptism.

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7 thoughts on “The 1677 Confession on Open vs Closed Communion

  1. Dear Brother: The terms of membership in the local church and participation in the Lord’s Supper are necessarily the decision of the local church itself, under a congregational order of government. But the co-operation and recognition of churches one with other must be mutual. I don’t think that Mr. Bunyan’s meeting ever acceded to associate with the Particular Baptists, specially after the controversies that passed between Bunyan and William Kiffin on this very point. I believe the Bedford church was listed as ‘Congregational’ rather than ‘Baptist’; I am sure Bunyan’s licence to preach during the short toleration of 1672 was under the Congregational name. I think as long as all parties respect each other’s views, we can indeed get along. Being closed in membership and closed in the Lord’s Supper, my experience has been that the main difficulty comes up when Presbyterian and other paedobaptist believers hit the fenced Table or closed membership. The usual objection, offered with varied degrees of heat, is ‘we will all be together in heaven.’ My usual response is, ‘Dear brother or sister, heaven is not here yet. In heaven we neither marry nor give in marriage’. I have never felt any offence at being fenced from the Table by other believers, whether Covenanters, or indeed Exclusive Brethren. Why do others?

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