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.”

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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.

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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

“In, with, and under” Types?

In this post, I want to focus on Dr. R. Scott Clark’s use of the phrase “in, with, and under” in his recent post about differences between the Reformed view of OT saints’ experience of the benefits of Christ through typology and the Particular Baptists’ views of the same. It appears in the title and throughout the post itself and is used to describe the Reformed position, positively, and the Particular Baptist position, negatively:

…in the Reformed view (see below) the Christ and his benefits, the substance of the covenant of grace, are inwith, and under the types and shadows. For the PBs [Particular Baptists] Christ and the covenant of grace cannot be in, with, and under the types…

Is this language helpful for discussing either the views involved, or the theology itself? I contend that it is not. Why?

“In, with, and under” is not Helpful

First, the phrase itself “in, with, and under” has quite a history, as of course Dr. Clark knows well. The phrase is unavoidably attached to the Lutheran view of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, teaching that by virtue of the union of Christ’s humanity to his deity, his glorified body is ubiquitous, and therefore is “in, with, and under” the elements of the Lord’s Supper (albeit illocally).

Rightly or wrongly, the Reformed regarded this view as “consubstantiation” because the substance of the glorified body of Christ is “in, with, and under” the substance of the bread and wine. This makes Christ’s body “consubstantial” with the elements.

Richard Muller argues that “consubstantiation” is not an accurate representation of the Lutheran view. Nevertheless, as demonstrated at the end of this post in quotations from William Ames, David Dickson, and Edward Polhill, the Reformed rejected the language of “in, with, and under” as used by the Lutherans, and often called such language “consubstantiation.” The Reformed denied any bodily presence in the Supper and instead taught that Christ is really present, spiritually, to the faith of believers.

Whether the Reformed were accurate in their depictions of the Lutheran view, it is not helpful to use a well-known formula with a history relating to a doctrine specifically rejected by the Reformed as the explanation for a Reformed doctrine.

Second, I am glad to be corrected here, but I am not aware of the phrase “in, with, and under” having a place in the Reformed tradition’s explanations of the relation of Christ to OT types. It is unsurprising to me that the phrase would not have a history in the Reformed tradition, given the previous point. So then, why use language to describe the Reformed that they themselves did not use?

It is not helpful to use a phrase without a history within the Reformed tradition as the descriptor for Reformed theology on that point.

Third, appealing to metaphysical categories to affirm things about signs is notoriously problematic. It was precisely this that made debates about transubstantiation and consubstantiation so bewildering to navigate.  As shown in the quotes at the end of this post, the Reformed response to consubstantiation was that it was essentially nonsensical. Polhill calls the Lutherans explanations of consubstantiation “strange Riddles [which they] must maintain to make good their opinion.”

I have high confidence that Dr. Clark does not read “The Rock was Christ” as a metaphysical statement just as he does not read “This is my body” as a metaphysical statement. So, why use metaphysical language here? What does it mean for Christ to be “in, with, and under” animal sacrifices or a bronze serpent or any of the other types of the OT? What does it affirm? It sounds to me more like “strange riddles” than clear teaching. It is not helpful. The language is more difficult to explain than the concepts.

To be abundantly clear, I am not suggesting in any sense that Dr. Clark is adopting or promoting the Lutheran position on the Lord’s Supper. I am questioning the wisdom of Dr. Clark’s use of the language of the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantation for a discussion of typology.

Signs and Things Signified (Again)

I would suggest that the more common Reformed terminology of signs and things signified is superior, and better equips us to speak about the issue. WCF 27.5 will suffice to demonstrate the point.

The Sacraments of the Old Testament, in regard of the spiritual things thereby signified, and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the New. (WCF 27.5)

Note the designation of “the spiritual things thereby signified” as the substantial continuity between the OT and NT signs. David Dickson, in his comments on the Westminster Confession explains that this substantial continuity is not located in the signs themselves, but the thing signified:

which is not done by reason of the sign, for the signs are diverse and different: therefore it must be done, by reason of the thing signified

A discussion of signs and things signified is far more fruitful and productive than a discussion of Christ being “in, with, and under” OT signs. Why is that?

It is far more helpful because it is a context in which I can clearly state my own position, namely, that Scripture teaches that OT signs signify two things. The first thing signified is something in the original context of the sign. The second thing signified is indeed “for substance, the same with that of the New.”  I have recently explained this here.

It would be very easy for Dr. Clark to affirm or deny arguments in such a discussion.

Missing the Mark

In light of this analysis, what are we to make of Dr. Clark’s words, provided above:

…in the Reformed view (see below) the Christ and his benefits, the substance of the covenant of grace, are inwith, and under the types and shadows. For the PBs [Particular Baptists] Christ and the covenant of grace cannot be in, with, and under the types…

Dr. Clark’s descriptions of Particular Baptists just don’t fit. (Richard Barcellos is publishing brief articles detailing more on this. The first is available here.) There is an agreement between the Reformed and the Particular Baptists that the “spiritual things thereby signified” are one and the same from OT to NT.

Built on this, Dr. Clark’s repeated insistence that the Particular Baptists and the Reformed are so very different, based on the language of Christ being “in, with, and under” types, misses the mark. Likewise, the recent flurry of posts quoting Reformed theologians asserting the substantial unity of OT and NT administrations misses the mark (assuming that Dr. Clark intends them to be aimed at Particular Baptists). Those criticisms or arguments simply don’t land on the Particular Baptists. (See more on the language of “administration” here.)

Thomas Bilson, The Survey, 552

The question is not whether “the spiritual things thereby signified” are one in substance between the OT and the NT. That is where we are agreed. The question is whether there is an original context for types that is, in fact, in itself, distinct from their antitypes. In other words, the question is whether types signify two things.

In light of the arguments presented in this post, I simply refuse to accept the language of “in, with, and under” as the terms of this debate or an accurate descriptor either of Reformed theology positively or Particular Baptist theology negatively. By doing so, I am by no means rejecting the use of historial categories and terms related to this subject. To the contrary, I am insisting that we stick to historical categories of signs and things signified.

And all I would like to know is, did the OT types signify one thing or two things?

Sources on the Reformed rejection of Consubstantiation and the language of “in, with, and under.”

William Ames, The Substance of Christian Religion (London: Thomas Mabb, 1659), 184-185.

For this spiritual nourishment in the Supper it is not required, that the bread and wine be substantially changed into the body and blood of Christ; nor that Christ be bodily present, in, with, and under the bread and wine; but onley that they be changed as to relation, and application or use; and that Christ be spiritually present onely to such as partake in faith.

This is hence gathered, in that bread and wine are said to remain here in the Supper; and our communion with Christ, is in a sort said to be such, as Idolaters have with their Idols; which stands in relation onely. Therefore, Transubstantiation of Papists and Consubstantiation of Lutherans fight:

Reas. 1 [fight] With the nature of Sacraments in general, whose nature consist in a relative union, or likeness, as hath been explained; not in a bodily succession of the one, in the others place, or a substantial change of the one into the other; nor yet in a bodily conjunction or presence of the one with, in, and under the other.

David Dickson, Truth’s Victory Over Error (Edingburgh: John Reed, 1684), 298-301.

Quest. V.

Is the Body and Blood of Christ in this Sacrament corporally, or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine?

No. 1 Cor. 10. 16.

Well then, do not the Lutherians err, who maintain, that the body and blood of Christ, are corporally in, with, and under the bread and wine: and that (as the Papists also teach) his body and blood, are taken corporally by the mouth, by all Communicants, believers, and unbelievers?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

(1) Because, Christ was sitting with his body at the Table. (2) Because, he himself did eat of the bread, and drink of the wine. (3) Because, he took bread from the Table: he took not his own body: he break bread, and did distribute it, he break not his own body: so he took the Cup, and not his own blood. (4) Because, Christ said, the Cup was the New Testament in his blood: but the Cup is not inwith, and under the Wine. (5) Because Christ said, the bread was his body, which was broken; the Wine was his blood, which was shed. But neither was his body broken under the bread, nor his blood shed under the Wine, seeing Christ as yet, was not betrayed, crucified, and dead.

In the next place, the end of the Lords Supper is, that we may remember Christ, and declare his death until be come; Luke 22. 19. 1 Cor. 11. 24, 25, 26. Therefore if Christ be now present with his body, inwith, and under the bread, the Sacramental remembrance of Christ, and the declaring of his death, ought to cease.

This Doctrine of Consubstantiation, is contrary to the Articles of our Faith. It is against the Truth and Verity of his Humane Nature, which is visible, palpable, and in a certain place circumscriptive. It is against the Article of his ascension: for it makes his body, which is now in Heaven, until the last day, to be in, with, and under a piece of bread. It is against the spiritual communion of the Saints with Christ the Head, which the Lutherans makes by this doctrine a corporal and carnal communion, contrary to 1 Cor. 10. 3, 4. Ephes. 1. 22. Ephes. 4. 4. Rom. 8. 9. 1 Cor. 6. 17. 1 Iohn 4. 13. Iohn 15. 5.

It brings with it many and great absurdities; as that the body of Christ, Non habeat partem extra partem; hath not one part of it without another; but as if all the parts of his Body, were in one part, which is contrary to the Nature of a true and real Quantum, which consists essentially in three dimensions, length, breadth, and thickness. It makes in effect his Body to be no body. It brings down the glorious Body of Christ from Heaven, and puts it under the base Elements of this Earth. It makes as many bodies of Christ, as there are pieces of Eucharistical bread. It makes his body to be broken inwith, and under the bread, and bruised with the teeth: It sends his Body down to the stomach, where it is turned into a mans substance, and afterwards throwen out.

Moreover, all true Eating brings life and Salvation; Iohn 6. 50, 51. but eating by the mouth profiteth nothing; Iohn 6. 63. Again, our union with Christ, (and therefore our eating of his Body, from whence ariseth this union) is not corporal but spiritual; Eph. 3. 17. And the Body and Blood of Christ, are meat and drink; not carnal but spiritual; even as the hunger, whereby we long for this meat is spiritual: and the life to which we are nourished, is spiritual, and the nutriment is spiritual. Lastly, according to this Doctrine of Consubstantiation, stiffly maintained by the Lutherians, it follows, that Christ did his own body, while he did eat the bread of the first supper. That his Disciples did eat their Lord and Masters Body. That Christ before he was crucified, was dead: That his Disciples were more cruel and inhumane to him than the Iews were that crucified him: That he is often buried within the intrals of wicked men.

Edward Polhill, Christus in Corde: Or, The Mystical Union Between Christ and Believers Considered (London: A.M., 1680), 219-220.

As touching the Will of Christ, expressed in those words, This is my body. The Lutherans seem to stand for the letter of the Text; but their Interpretation is not a litteral one, “This” is not properly “in, with, and under this” in propriety. “This is my body” is one thing, “in, with, and under, This is my body” is another; neither is their Interpretation true. Baptism is a Sacrament of the New Testament as well as the Lords Supper; as in the one, the blood of Christ is not in, with, and under the water; so in the other, the body is not in, with and under the bread; the reason is alike in both Sacraments. If in the Eucharist the body be in, with, and under the bread, then the blood is in, with, and under the wine; consequently the blood is separate from the body. There is put upon Christ now in Glory, not to say, a second passion, but as many passions as there are Eucharists. It is not easie to imagine how the bread should be broken, and the body under it, not be so; or how the body should be broken on Earth, and at the same time glorious in Heaven; or how the same body as the same instant can be present in as many distant places as there are Eucharists in the world; or, if such a Presence might be, how the body could be finite, or indeed a body. All which strange Riddles the Lutherans must maintain to make good their opinion.

 

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…paid.”

WCF 8.6

WCF 8.6

2LCF 8.6

2LCF 8.6

Dr. Clark doesn’t make much of this difference, but 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” which was “paid” 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.

 

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.

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).

2LCF 26.9

Such “proof texts” in the Confession refer you to the textual tradition of that verse, not the bare text itself. What can we find in commentaries and treatments of this text, especially ones that deal with the Greek word itself?

Charles Marie Du-Veil, a Particular Baptist (formerly Roman Catholic), wrote a commentary on the book of Acts and argued that “χειροτονήσαντες” meant to choose by election.

DuVeil

Nehemiah Coxe, a few years earlier, argued in a sermon on Elders and Deacons (1681) that the Greek of Acts 14:23 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

Following the note to Theodore Beza, we find in his “Annotationes majores in Novum…Testamentum” that he 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, namely the “Great Bible” authorized by Henry VIII and published in 1539 and the “Geneva Bible” first published in 1560.

The Great Bible rendered Acts 14:23,

And whan they had ordened them elders by eleccyon in euery congregacyon, and had prayde and fasted, they commended them to the Lorde on whom they beleued.

[And when they had ordained them elders by election in every congregation, and had prayed and fasted, they commended them to the Lord on whom they believed.]

The Geneva Bible was published with annotations in its margin. 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.

When the new version, the “King James Bible” was published, it changed the translation of Acts 14:23. Here is a 1638 edition,

King James Bible

[And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.]

Note the deletion of “by election” in comparison to the Geneva Bible and the Great Bible.

In the 1640s the Westminster Assembly published an edition of this Bible, with annotations much like the Geneva Bible had done. On Acts 14:23, the Westminster Assembly’s Annotations noted that “χειροτονήσαντες” could be interpreted as suffrage and consent, but agreed with the more modern (King James) rendering.

Untitled

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. You are being pointed to resources dealing with the Greek text, that is, commentaries, translations, and other related literature. The “proof text” is asking you to consider, “What does the Greek of this text say?”

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 1539, 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

In further reading, William Bucanus offered the same interpretation of Acts 14:23 in his A Body of Divinity.
They [ministers] ought to be approved of the chief men, which do excell other both in piety and in dignity in the church, as of the magistrate, if he be godly, Christian, or an allower of the Christian Religion: yet not excluding the consent of the people, but given them power, if they have any reason to dissent, to declare the causes of their lawfull refusal, so that none be admitted to Ecclesiastical Functions without the privity, open notice given, and the acceptance of the whole Church: So Paul and Barnabas are said to have appointed Elders in the Churches, not according to their own private pleasures, but by advisement of the people, first by wholesome counsel, and yet the people declaring their voices or consent by holding up of their hands. And then they had ordained them Elders by voices (or holding up of hands) in the Church, said Luke, Acts 14:23.

The Tree-fort

Oh, the internet. The social sphere and shopping mall of the modern world, where Christian brothers and sisters can go to…spew snark, sarcasm, snide comments, and condescension at each other. Isn’t it great? No, it isn’t, because our hearts are wicked. And from the wicked fullness of our hearts, our thumbs tweet. We are all guilty, to varying degrees.

John Clark, Phraseologia, 9

Permit me for a short while to express where I am coming from, and where I think many others are coming from, as a Particular Baptist (adherent to the 1677 2LCF), often called a Reformed Baptist, interacting regularly online with those in the Reformed denominations on various issues. I would like to appeal to my Presbyterian and Reformed brothers and sisters to acknowledge that 2LCF (1677) and those who confess it belong in the diversity of the Reformed Family Tree.

Accept, for the sake of reading this charitably, that the seventeenth-century Particular Baptists of 2LCF (1677) share a historical and theological heritage with the Reformed churches, and that their use of the Savoy Declaration and the Westminster Confession to edit/compose 2LCF was sincere. If you accept this, then those who embrace 2LCF in modern times will view the modern Independents as their elder brother (alas, I don’t know any), and the Presbyterians as their eldest brother.

If you accept the previous, how will modern Particular Baptists respond to Presbyterian and Reformed brethren who often (in my experience) dismiss and distance the 2LCF Baptists? To the Particular Baptist, it feels like condescension, ignorance, and unnecessary unkindness from our closest theological relatives. Oh no! Our feelings! Yes, our feelings. The internet may be a virtual reality, but it is a reality. It is the modern social sphere where real people interact with real people, where real Christians spend real time with real Christians through a virtual medium. So, these things do matter. And we should do everything, whether in word or deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17). The virtual nature of the internet doesn’t exempt us from guarding our words (which are actions).

Perhaps in this post we can gain some clarity and direction for better interacting with each other as Particular (Reformed) Baptists and Presbyterian and Reformed brothers and sisters in Christ.

What do Particular Baptists not want? If I may speak for myself, and perhaps others, 

  • We do not want all Presbyterian and Reformed persons to forfeit their views and convert to 2LCF 1677 views. When Particular Baptists want to be acknowledged as a branch of the Reformed family tree, it is not a desire to combine all the branches into one trunk. It is not a desire for the Presbyterian and Reformed brethren to say “You are exactly the same thing as we are.” We want our place among the diversity already present in their midst to be recognized.
  • We do not want all Presbyterian and Reformed persons to cease criticizing or challenging baptistic theology. Christian brotherhood should involve iron-sharpening and mutual edification. Addressing errors can be done charitably and winsomely.

What do we want?

  • We want Presbyterian and Reformed persons to realize who 2LCF Baptists are.
    • They are the modern confessors of 2LCF. That is painfully obvious, but what I mean is that many Baptist churches confess 2LCF without any changes from its original publication. You could walk into a Particular Baptist church in 1689 or 2019, 330 years later, and you should get the same theology.
    • This matters because one of the ways in which our Reformed brethren are dismissive of us is to lump 2LCF Baptists into the generic common criticisms of Baptists. It is unhelpful and misguided.
  • We want Presbyterian and Reformed persons to acknowledge the historical and theological roots of the Particular Baptists.
    • Historically, Particular Baptists emerged from the collision of Reformed theology with the Church of England in the early seventeenth century, the same as Ball, Burgess, or Marshall. It is historically and factually wrong to locate the Particular Baptists’ origins among the continental Anabaptists. See this post.
    • Theologically, the Particular Baptists intentionally and sincerely employed Reformed theology to edit/compose 1LCF (1644) and 2LCF (1677). See this work. Read this book.
    • Discussion:
      • P&R Response: 1LCF and 2LCF may incorporate Reformed theology, and that at a high percentage. But, the deviations are sufficient to invalidate the category “Reformed” being applied to the finished product.
      • Particular Baptist Response: But in the context of 1646 WCF and 1677 2LCF, let us consider the “deviations”: Church government, liberty of conscience, role of civil magistrate, subjects of baptism, and mode of baptism. To begin, the modern WCF reduces these differences down to church government, subjects of baptism, and mode of baptism. So, the P&R brethren must recognize that since 1646, they have moved closer to us (at least in the case of Westminster Presbyterians).
      • Now that the differences reside in ecclesiology and baptism, let it be remembered that the Dissenting Brethren and some Continental churches practiced Congregationalism, and are just as much a part of the Reformed Tradition by most judgments. See this book and its two reviewers.
      • So, now the boundaries of our shared Reformed heritage are only divided by the subjects and mode of baptism. But isn’t that precisely what the label “Reformed Baptist” implies?
      • Ultimately, what is desired here is to acknowledge roots, origin, and provenance. One may think that the Particular Baptists went too far (and again, the only criteria left for modern Presbyterians are the subjects and mode of baptism), but where they came from should be acknowledged.
  • We want Presbyterian and Reformed persons to acknowledge that the idea or version of “Reformed theology” that they promote, as a means of opposing Baptist theology, is not accurate. Specifically, modern P&R brethren need to realize that their Reformed heritage contradicts some of their common criticisms of Baptists, and that infant baptism has diverse views and justifications associated with it, views rarely believed today. Such as:
    • It is common for P&R Christians to argue that Baptism is God’s word to us, in opposition to the “Baptist” idea that it is our profession to God. This is convenient for upholding infant baptism. But it is not accurate, as far as historical theology is concerned. Baptism is not just God’s word to us, but also our word to God and the world (and I emphatically agree that it is both, and Baptists who limit it to one side are liable to criticism just as much as paedobaptists who limit it to the other side).
      • John Calvin: A sacrament is “a testimony of God’s favor towards us confirmed by an outward sign, with a mutual testifying of our godliness toward him.” [The Institvtion of Christian Religion, IV. 13. 1. Cf. also IV. 13. 13-14.] In fact, Calvin says that a sacrament is commonly known as a pledge sworn by a soldier to his captain, and therefore the burden of proof lies on showing that a sacrament is not just our word to our Superior, but a word from our Superior to us.
      • William Perkins: “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.” [A Commentarie or Exposition, upon the five first Chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians, 249.]
    • Infants of believers have the habit or seed of faith. (Cornelius Burgess and others)
    • That Jesus Christ died for a mixed or “inchoate” body – to explain why all infants of believers are of the covenant of grace, but only some persevere. (John Ball)
    • Owen and others believed that children have a right to the public profession of baptism by virtue of being the children of believers, but cannot join the church as members until they make their own profession of faith.
      • If Owen and the Independents are not cut out of the “Reformed” label for this, then it too must be jettisoned when dealing with Particular or Reformed Baptists.
    • The previous points are important because most modern-day Presbyterian and Reformed persons that I know (thinking of the OPC, PCA, and URC here) reject or neglect various of these diverse views.
      • This matters because the infant baptism they are left with affirms:
        • Their children are not necessarily regenerate by virtue of being the children of believers.
        • Their children need to be evangelized.
        • Their children are holy in a general sense, meaning simply that they belong to the church outwardly.
      • At that point, the only difference between the Reformed Baptist’s children, and the Presbyterian’s children is that the children of the one were baptized, and the children of the other were not. Both will be catechized and evangelized.
  • We want Presbyterian and Reformed persons to read charitably the literature of the Particular Baptist tradition and its historiography, not just John Gill and Charles Spurgeon.
    • I’ll be the first to say that there is a great deal of Baptist literature that is so overwhelmingly and obnoxiously Baptist that even I don’t want to read it. So, here I am not talking such books, but about serious scholarly thoughtful, and yet intentionally Baptist, literature.

What is the desired result?

  • Speaking for myself, because the internet is a social sphere I want to be able to “spend time” with P&R brethren, i.e., occupy the same digital spaces, without being told regularly, but wrongly, that I am something worlds apart from the P&R heritage, and being treated as such. You be you. I’ll be me. And we’ll be a happy Reformed family.
  • More importantly, I want to be able to defend and protect, mutually, our shared heritage.
    • Within the modern Reformed world, there are serious theological threats to the biblical, classical, confessional Reformed heritage–especially on the doctrine of God.
    • Personal connections, networking, and the dispersal of ideas through social media can be a useful tool (supplemental to scholarly work in seminaries and pastoral fidelity in pulpits and presbyteries) to lock arms and hold the line.

Make no mistake. Baptists themselves have their own part to play in this. For every instance of condescension on the part of a P&R Christian, there is an instance of some similar, or other, extreme on the part of a Baptist Christian. This is a two-sided, two-party, problem. We would do well to learn from the Appendix to the 2LCF.

2LCF Appendix

In closing, imagine a tree-fort, a really great and wonderful tree-fort. Imagine an elder brother, we’ll pick a random name for him–Presbyterian. Imagine a younger brother, we’ll pick a random name for him, too–Particular Baptist. Imagine that Presbyterian is playing in the family tree-fort and every time Particular Baptist wants to come up and play, Presbyterian pulls the ladder up. This isn’t kind. Presbyterian says, “Go away, you don’t belong here.” Particular Baptist says “It’s the family tree-fort! I want to play, too!” Presbyterian refuses to provide the ladder, so Particular Baptist goes looking for the middle brother, let’s call him…John Owen. But he’s nowhere to be found, so Particular Baptist just gets cranky and annoying, while Presbyterian smugly enjoys the tree-fort.

Mom comes out, we’ll call her Geneva Anglicana. She says, “Presbyterian, that tree-fort doesn’t belong to you. Drop the ladder for your younger brother! And Particular Baptist, stop being a pain in the neck to your older brother! Play nicely, both of you!”

Then Mom says, “And where’s John Owen?”

Particular Baptist replies with tears, “I don’t know, but I miss him.”

Then Presbyterian remarks, “Why? You know, he’s a paedobaptist.”

And Mom says, “Boys! Stop it!”

From Shadow to Substance

I am pleased to announce the release of my work on seventeenth-century Particular Baptist covenant theology, From Shadow to Substance: The Federal Theology of the English Particular Baptists (1642-1704), available through Amazon in the USA, UK, and EU markets.

From Shadow to Substance approaches Particular Baptist covenant theology chronologically, tracing the origins and development of the Particular Baptists’ covenant theology in dialogue with the Church of England, Presbyterian, and Independent paedobaptists of their day. A chronological approach reveals not only where the Particular Baptists and their paedobaptist counterparts agreed and disagreed, but it also reveals the ways in which later Particular Baptists built on the work of earlier Particular Baptists.

From Shadow to Substance is a lightly edited version of my Ph.D. dissertation, meaning it includes minor corrections and additions. It addresses issues such as the covenant of works in Particular Baptist literature, the importance of noting the polemical genre of their covenantal writings, the covenant of redemption in Particular Baptist literature, and reasons why the Particular Baptists appealed to John Owen’s covenant theology in relation to their own.

Based on my archival research, the book also offers new and relevant biographical and contextual information about the Particular Baptists. Chief among these is a narrative of the events leading up to the publication of the Second London Baptist Confession in 1677. Other interesting and previously unknown (or unconfirmed) details are provided, such as Nehemiah Coxe’s confirmed age, details of his Medical Degree, and a special new fact related to Coxe’s time at John Bunyan’s church. Additional new discoveries include William Collins’ age,  Hercules Collins’ probate inventory, and other records. [I have much more material on Coxe, Collins, and the Petty France church they pastored, but those are planned for separate volumes.]

To order in the USA, click the link above. To order in the UK, click here.

For those of you who ordered the book in its first printing, you now own a first-edition limited release of the book (if that matters to you). It has been reformatted for distribution through Amazon, resulting in slight modifications to appearance.

For more details, see the images below.

FStSFront

FStSBack

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John Clark, Phraseologia, 265-1

William Kiffen and his World

William Kiffen and his World

If you think that seventeenth-century English Baptist History is an empty mine whose precious stones have all been uncovered, cataloged, and put on display, you will be glad to know that that is entirely opposite to the truth. Indeed, the contrary is the case. And the proof of this is in the six volumes on William Kiffen (with more planned) produced by Dr. Larry Kreitzer, of Regent’s Park College, Oxford. These volumes provide a unique perspective on Baptist History in several ways.

First, they provide complete transcriptions and contextual explanations of primary source documents. Think of it as history where footnotes reign supreme in the best of ways. You are not directed to the sources, you are given the sources in toto. There is nothing more “ad fontes” than that. And you are not left alone with the sources. They are explained to you.

Second, because Kiffen’s life intersects with many other Baptists, this means that one can read the same documents transcribed by Dr. Kreitzer and derive a completely separate, but related, benefit. In other words, you get more than just Kiffen, you get “William Kiffen and his World.” A name mentioned in passing may mean a great deal to another researcher.

Third, (and perhaps most helpful to me) these volumes provide a pattern to be followed. Pick a Particular Baptist, go to the archives that Dr. Kreitzer lists, look in similar places, look for similar documents, and see what you find. Utilize his methods of research, follow his trails, and branch off into other mineshafts. Speaking from personal experience, you will find plentiful material. I was honestly shocked at what was available to me with simple searches when I first visited the National Archives and the London Metropolitan Archives in London. And my deeper digging has been even more rewarding. If you’re thinking, “That’s nice, but I don’t live in the UK”, I hope to publish future posts on the accessibility of UK archival records through the internet. There is a great deal of primary source research that can be conducted by distance.

These are research-oriented academic volumes that not only set an excellent example of historiography, but also tell interesting and important stories. I commend Dr. Kreitzer’s volumes to you. The entire six-volume set is currently available for £140, which is an excellent price. To order, contact Dr. Kreitzer directly at larry.kreitzer@regents.ox.ac.uk.

See the details of each volume below:

William Kiffen and his World Part 1

Kiffen 1 Cover
Kiffen 1 Back
Kiffen 1 ToC

William Kiffen and his World Part 2

Kiffen 2 CoverKiffen 2 ReverseKiffen 2 ToC

William Kiffen and his World Part 3

Kiffen 3 CoverKiffen 3 ReverseKiffen 3 ToC

William Kiffen and his World Part 4

Kiffen 4 CoverKiffen 4 ReverseKiffen 4 ToC

William Kiffen and his World Part 5

Kiffen 5 CoverKiffen 5 ReverseKiffen 5 ToC

William Kiffen and his World Part 6

Kiffen 6 CoverKiffen 6 ReverseKiffen 6 ToC

These images are used with the permission of Dr. Larry Kreitzer.

Soft Rain on Tender Grass

Soft Rain on Tender Grass

In a recent blog post that introduces a forthcoming series of posts on the relationship of the Second London Baptist Confession (1677 2LCF) to the recovery of Reformed confessionalism (if I understand the purpose correctly), Dr. R. Scott Clark raises the issue of covenant theology as a significant topic to be addressed in this discussion. He is certainly right to raise this issue, and it is worth investigation and further interaction. I had no part in the “friendly dialogue” to which Dr. Clark refers, so my comments should not be regarded as participating in or being privy to its content.

I’d like to offer three corrections of a clarifying nature to help those who desire sincerely to think through these issues. The first is historical, the second is theological, the third is historical-theological.

First, historical clarification:

This is not especially important, but I’ve seen it happen here and there. The post uses the date 1688 for Nehemiah Coxe’s death. Nehemiah Coxe died 5 May 1689. His second son died in 1688 and Nehemiah has been associated incorrectly with this date through internet resources.

Second, theological clarification:

Dr. Clark refers to modern inheritors of the 1677 2LCF as PB’s and speaks of their covenant theology. I assume that the 1689 Federalism project and Pascal Denault’s book are in view here. Perhaps more. While I will be quick to say that many should stop debating these topics because there is a need for more care and precision in articulating certain truths, and Baptists have often not helped themselves by diving headlong into this discussion with only an introduction to it, yet sufficient material has been articulated that some of Dr. Clark’s statements should appear to the reader to express Baptist views in a way that we would consider misrepresentation. I am not making an accusation of intentional misrepresentation. That is sin. I am saying that Dr. Clark’s comments need to be clarified for the sake of those that would consider them to be an accurate representation of PB (to use Dr. Clark’s term) covenant theology.

There are two statements I have in view:

“the covenant of grace was promised to Adam et al. but it was not actually administered under the types and shadows.” “The covenant of grace only enters history in the New Covenant.”

The problem underlying this misunderstanding and misrepresentation does not originate with Dr. Clark at all. It is the problem of the very language used in these debates, and it has been a problem ever since the debates began. The problem is the language of substance and administration.

To administer, in a covenantal context, can refer to receiving benefits, or it can refer to outward ordinances. The Particular Baptists of the seventeenth century, and the inheritors of their covenant theology today, affirm that the benefits of the covenant of grace, i.e., the substance, were appropriated by the elect in the Old Testament as they were made known in promises and types. In this sense, the Particular Baptists affirm that the substance of the covenant of grace was administered to the elect. And because of this, to say that PBs of then or now believe that the covenant of grace “was not actually administered” in the Old Testament is incorrect and takes the discussion in an extremely unhelpful, and I dare say heavily prejudiced, direction.

The promise of salvation in Christ is carried along throughout the Old Testament, a promise of a future deliverance that is not established in history until the death of Christ and the inauguration of the new covenant. This is a way of thinking and teaching in no way particular to Baptists. John Ball, following John Cameron, distinguished the covenant of grace into a pre-Messianic covenant of promise, and a post-Messianic covenant of promulgation, i.e., legal enactment.

The difference, and difficulty, arises when we discuss administration in the sense of ordinances. Were the ordinances of the Abrahamic covenant and Mosaic covenant the ordinances of the covenant of grace in older forms, or were they ordinances of covenants distinct from, yet subservient to and revelatory of, the covenant of grace? Because the Particular Baptists denied that the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants were the covenant of grace, they denied that they were administrations, i.e., an older form of ordinances, of the covenant of grace. But they did not deny that those covenants administered the grace of the new covenant.

The grand difference was so wonderfully summarized by John Owen in his discussion of the Mosaic covenant. Saints were saved under, not by, the old covenant. Owen distinguished via typology between the earthly old covenant with its ordinances, and the antitypical  new covenant realities to which those ordinances and promises pointed. The uniqueness of the Particular Baptists was to apply the same hermeneutics to the Abrahamic covenant. The earthly ordinances and promises pointed to antitypical realities. So the Abrahamic covenant itself is not the covenant of grace, nor is it an outward administration of the covenant of grace, yet by typology it inwardly administered the grace of the new covenant. Saints were saved under, not by the Abrahamic covenant.

Paul’s repeated arguments in the New Testament are that the new covenant was not a plan B, or a new direction, but had been made known and was always the intended destination of the Israelite covenants. Paul doesn’t tell the Galatians that the entire nation of the Jews were in the covenant of saving grace the whole time and they just didn’t know it. He tells the Galatians that the covenant of grace was present the whole time in the promises of Christ, and those who believe in Christ as Abraham did, in all ages, are the children of Abraham’s faith, born from above, the free citizens of Heaven, belonging to Christ and his new covenant. And any Jew that tries to make the old covenant something other than that which points to Christ is not truly Jewish in that sense.

To put it awkwardly, types are never not types. In other words, the Old Testament covenants may be regarded rightly as earthly in and of themselves, but they can never be regarded as divested of new covenant relation and meaning. They never existed apart from the ultimate intent to unite all peoples in one new covenant under Christ. They were designed to bring about the Christ and make his mission visible and legible! They were designed to bring about the blessing for all nations. But it was only by faith that they, then or now, would ever belong to Christ and his covenant. The purpose of the old covenant was to bring about the new covenant. But subservience is not identity.

My desire is not to prolong or provoke a discussion on these points, but to clarify the PB position and alert the reader to issues in Dr. Clark’s representation of it.

Did/do the PBs believe that the grace of the new covenant was administered under the old covenant(s) but not by the old covenant(s)? Yes.

Did/do the PBs believe that the old covenant(s) were older outward forms (an old administration) of the covenant of grace? No.

Third, historical-theological clarification:

Dr. Clark states,

“Our Baptist friends did not and do not share the Reformed way of reading Scripture (hermeneutics).”

While it is certainly true that the Particular Baptists’ view of the Abrahamic covenant distinguished them from their paedobaptist brethren (that is the fundamental difference, after all), in order to say things like Dr. Clark has, one must first appreciate the unity and diversity of Reformed covenant theology itself, then second understand the Particular Baptists’ historical and theological relation to that unity and diversity, in order to third make an informed statement about these complicated relationships.

Obviously, blog posts are not ideal places for such work. My recent book deals with this subject at length. Nevertheless, I want to alert the reader to the fact that the picture presented by Dr. Clark of the unity of Reformed covenant theology does not address its diversity, and it is precisely within the context of the unity and the diversity that the relation of the Particular Baptists to the Reformed tradition is clarified.

Rather than get into that content here, I simply want to say that apart from serious engagement with the breadth of Particular Baptist seventeenth-century literature (beyond just Nehemiah Coxe), and apart from citation of actual sources, one should postpone all judgments on others’ historical-theological descriptions of the Particular Baptists. Keep asking, “can you show this to me from the sources?”

Conclusion:

I am glad that these discussions are happening. And I am hopeful for future mutual understanding and iron-sharpening. I’ll conclude with an exhortation to us all from Thomas Manton:

Thomas Manton, Words of Peace, 35