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the early centuries, and also the later ecclesiastical dynasties in this country, until the Revolution of 1688, are comprised in a very brief review; sufficient, however, as a sketch, to show the prevalence of sentiments identical with those maintained by Baptists at the present period.
Somewhat lengthened attention has been directed to the coercive laws and penalties to which Baptists, in common with other dissenters, were subjected in the various English reigns, and under the various religious systems—whether papistical, episcopal, or presbyterian; with, also, the advancing intelligence and the prevalence of enlightened views which have led to the repeal of obnoxious and oppressive statutes.
During the passing of these sheets through the press, the controversy between Romanism and Protestantism agitated the public mind. Was it possible, with any regard for Protestant truths, to be indifferent at what was passing ? The bold effrontery of Romanism has been, in some degree, repelled; but let it not be for one moment imagined that the determination of Papacy will be at all slackened. Romanism may appear to be quiet, but it possesses full vitality: it only awaits to show, with power, that Popery would be again what it has ever been—a persecuting system; and, consistent only with recognized tenets, is there not sufficient ground for the belief that it would reenact and practise, what it has done in past centuries, the calamitous atrocities of which history affords such abundant and soul-harrowing examples ?
Semi-Romanism-or Popery under a Protestant garbPuseyism, has a notice. Puseyites assert that their sentiments and practice are most in accordance with the Rubric or formula of the Anglican church. The advancement of their views and actings have, however, received a check, from the doctrines enunciated in high quarters. That the inevitable tendencies of Tractarianism lead to Romanism are, by various incidents clearly demonstrated ; but the most deplorable manifestation is the numerous perverts to papacy (see Appendix) from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
With the least encouragement from SOVEREIGNTY, a Tractarian PRIME MINISTER, and a Tractarian PRIMATE, PUSEYISM would soon raise its at present sunken head; its pernicious leaven would insidiously and very extensively diffuse its baneful influence throughout the Anglican ecclesiastical polity; and Romanists would then universally rejoice at the prospect of the conversion of Protestant England to the “ one true catholic church,” and for which the "prayers of the faithful” are being continually offered !
Some counteracting agencies to the advances of Popish error and superstition are suggested by moral and religious
means,—not by coercion and persecution. A distinction, r/however, must ever be maintained between what is legi
timately civil and religious freedom and an attempt to acquire power and domination dangerous to the well-being of the Protestant community! Enlightened Christianity will promote the former; it is the province of THE STATE to prevent the latter. A notice of these popular and exciting topics have also extended the following pages.
These are times when those professing a regard to Protestantism should thoroughly understand their principles, and be able to defend them against the fallacies and sophistries of antagonistic systems. Abundant helps for that purpose are furnished in the numerous publications of the day.
The subject of Baptism has been one of engrossing interest. In these sheets the subject is not treated controversially ; but the sentiments entertained by various sections of professing Christians are given ; and, in a brief space, the reader will see the numerous shades and opinions which prevail upon that question,
Topics not at first contemplated in these pages have received somewhat prominent attention. The controversy amongst the Baptists upon modes of communion, with the peculiar views of various authors, who have written upon the subject. These will, doubtless, be read with interest by those who desire to understand the different bearings of the question. The subject is treated, in its limited extent, historically ; results are, also, furnished, by the adoption of what is termed open and strict communion. Although of later years these opposing opinions have not so much engaged the attention of Baptist churches, it is presumed that a short reference to them will not be without its use, as indicative of the sentiments of those whose labours endeared their names to the denomination to which they belonged.
In taking a cursory glance of those amongst the Baptists who have been eminent for learning and for usefulness, names are given which would have added a lustre to any section of the Christian church, and whose written works and devoted labours rendered them a blessing both to the church and to the world.
The evangelical statistics, near the conclusion of the sketch, will exhibit the position which Baptists occupy amongst professing Christians of the present day. To the Baptist denomination it cannot be other than matter of thankfulness to perceive that their principles and practice are so largely extending, both in this country and in the United States of America.
As the publication of the Confession of Faith contained in these
pages constituted the chief intent of the writer, a special reference to some of the peculiar characteristics of that document will be permitted.
The THIRTY-TWO ARTICLES of Christian Faith and Practice were adopted, as it will be observed, at the General Assembly of above one hundred ministers and messengers of Baptized churches, who met in London, in 1689 ; and
amongst the thirty-seven names appended to it will be found many who knew what it was to endure bitter persecution, even to bonds and imprisonment, for the maintenance of its principles and tenets; and which thirty-seven ministers and messengers, who subscribed to it, desired “ that the members of our churches respectively would furnish themselves therewith.”
The address to the “judicious and impartial reader” will sufficiently explain the reasons for the publication of the Confession of Faith of 1689, which may be considered as a concise body of divinity, with the various views of Scripture truth, in support of which Scripture texts are copiously given.
A few historical notices will tend to show the estimation in which this Confession of Faith has, at different periods; been held by Christian churches. Preliminary to that notice it may be well to remark that, at an earlier date (1643), the Baptists put forth a Confession of Faith, editions of which were published in 1644 and 1646—one of these was licensed by authority. The address prefixed to it was—To the Right Hon. the Lords, Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses in Parliament assembled ; and was signed in the name of seven congregations, or churches, in London. It is stated that this Confession was put in the hands of many members of Parliament, and produced such an impression, that some of the greatest adversaries of the Baptists (including even the bitter and inveterate Dr. Featly) were obliged to acknowledge that, excepting the articles against Infant Baptism, it was an orthodox Confession.
It was in 1677 that it was agreed to set forth a Confession of Faith, said to have been “ done by the elders and brethren of many congregations of Christians baptized upon a confession of their faith, in London and in the country.” The Confession, printed in that year, underwent some revision, and was prepared for the Assembly of 1689 by Dr.
Nehemiah Cox and Mr. William Collins, who were joint pastors of a Baptist church in London.
In the address introductory to the Confession of Faith of 1689, the Confession of 1643 is adverted to. In that address it is stated that “ divers impressions of the same had been dispersed abroad, convincing many who had • entertained different views that the Baptists were not guilty of those heterodoxes and fundamental errors which had been so frequently charged upon them, without ground or occasion on their part.”
The Confession was constructed in imitation of that of the Assembly of Divines, "for the most part without any variation of the terms." It was found desirable, as far as agreement would permit, “to make use of the same words for them both.” But though the method and manner of expressing the sentiments of the Baptists in the Confession differs from that of the Confession of 1643 which had previously been circulated, the substance of this matter, says the address-the Confession of 1689-is the same. Identical views may be expressed, with regard to the similarity of the Baptist Catechism with that of the Shorter Catechism of the Assembly of Divines, and which is described as "a brief instruction in the principles of the Christian religion.”
At a General Assembly held in London in June, 1693, it was resolved, that the Confession of Faith of the Baptist churches, of the last impression (1689), be translated into Latin with all convenient speed ; and it is also written :
“ The former, your Confession of Faith, as published to the world, WILL BE A STANDING MONUMENT TO YOUR HONOUR FOR AGES TO COME; as in this age it hath much taken away your reproach amongst all sorts of Protestants.”
Upon its doctrinal peculiarities Joseph Ivimey observes : “ The spirit and principles of the Confession of Faith of 1689 are equally removed from the Arminian and Anti