Using The 1689 Confession

London Baptist Confession of 1689

We sometimes hear it said that we are to have no creed but the Bible. As an expression of the conviction that Scripture is our final authority in matters of Christian faith and practice, this is a noble sentiment. It leaves open though the question of what exactly it is that one believes. Baptist, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Catholics all claim to teach Scriptural doctrine, and thus to claim you believe what Scripture says is not very useful in identifying precisely what a church teaches.

Believing that it is important to know what a church teaches, we offer the London Baptist Confession of 1689 as a summary of those doctrines we find taught in Scripture. While we may question whether the pope can be identified as the Antichrist (26.4) and differ with some of its teaching on Sunday as the Christian Sabbath (22:7), we recommend this confession overall as a sound expression of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We do not do this because we are traditionalists, but because we have found the confession is faithful to what we believe the letter and spirit of Scripture contains.

Every third week we devote our Sunday evening time of worship to the study of the great doctrines of Scripture using this confession as a guide for our time together. Samuel Waldron’s excellent commentary on this confession, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, has been of great help in our studies. Through their systematic theologies, commentaries and biblical studies, others have likewise offered invaluable guidance in our quest to understand Scripture.

Though others are far more capable than myself, I nevertheless offer the notes we use for our study of the confession. I offer them here merely as an insight into what our church teaches concerning these doctrines as revealed in Scripture and systematized in our confession. There is nothing original here, and any extended unattributed quotes will be dealt with. Years ago when I first started this I tried to put things in my own words, but in the press of getting something ready for Sunday evening I sometimes could think of no better way to put what somebody else had said. Coming back to the same passage years later it is hard to remember when I did this. This is a work in progress, so it will grow with time.

The London Baptist Confession of 1689 with language updated by Andrew Kerkham and Scriptural references provided (link to external site).

The London Baptist Confession of 1689 with notes used in our Sunday evening studies.

what shall I do

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”” (Acts 2:36–37, ESV)

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book in his hand

‘The book in his hand,’ teaches us that sinners discover their real state and character by reading and believing the Scriptures; that their first attention is often directed to the denunciations of the wrath to come contained in them, and that such persons cannot but continue to search the word of God, though their grief and alarm be increased by every perusal.

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facing away from his own house

His ‘face turned from his own house’ represents the sinner convinced that it is absolutely necessary to subordinate all other concerns to the care of his immortal soul, and to renounce every thing which interferes with that grand object: this makes him lose his former relish for the pleasures of sin, and even for the most lawful temporal satisfactions, while he trembles at the thought of impending destruction (Heb. 11:24-27).

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The allegory opens with a description of the principal character to which it relates. The view, which the author in his dream had of him, as ‘clothed in rags,’ implies that all men are sinners, in their dispositions, affections and conduct ; that their supposed virtues are radically defective, and worthless in the sight of God; that the pilgrim has discovered this in his own case, so that he perceives his own righteousnesses to be insufficient for justification, even as sordid rags would be unsuitable raiment for those who stand before kings.

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Mr. Bunyan was confined, at, different times, about twelve years in Bedford jail, for exercising his ministry contrary to the statutes then in force. This was ‘the den, in which he slept and dreamed.’  Here he penned this instructive allegory, and many other useful works, which evince that he was neither soured nor disheartened by persecution. The Christian, who understands what usage he ought to expect in this evil world, comparing our present measure of religious liberty with the rigors of that age, will see abundant cause for gratitude; but they, who are disposed to complain, can never be at a loss for topics, while so much is amiss among all ranks and orders of men, and in the conduct of every individual.

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