The Spurgeon Baptist Association of Churches sees the historical continuity of all statements of faith representative of the common beliefs we hold to as Southern Baptists. This list includes The First London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1644, 1646, The Second London Baptist Confession (1689, The Philadelphia Confession), the New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833), and The Baptist Faith and Message (1925, 1963, 1998, and 2000 editions).
A GENERAL HISTORY AND OVERVIEW AND AN EXPLANATION OF OUR ACCEPTANCE OF ALL OF THESE CONFESSIONS AND STATEMENTS OF FAITH AMONG CHURCHES WE CALL SOUTHERN BAPTIST
While the Southern Baptist Convention was not organized until May of 1845, the churches and associations of the south have held to many statements and Confessions of Faith since colonial times. From the offset, we must acknowledge that the 66 books of the Old Testament and New Testament are God’s inspired, infallible word and are the ultimate and final authority in all matters of faith and practice. All other Confessions and Articles of Faith are subordinate to Holy Scripture.
McCintock and Strong’s Biblical Encyclopedia (1896) writes “though Regular Baptists accept no authority other than the Bible for their faith and practice, yet nearly all of the societies have a confession of faith in pamphlet form for the distribution among its members…”
There was a small minority of churches that had no confessional statements. Sewall Cutting's book, Historical Vindication (1859), writes to affirm Baptist’s unyielding adherence to the Bible over a confession. He says in our rush to promote the authority of scripture many individual churches dispensed of confessional statements altogether.
“An interesting and a very profitable inquiry might be instituted in regard to the question of Confessions, or Articles of Faith, in the Baptist denomination. The unshared supremacy of the Word of God, held universally and with so much tenacity by us from the beginning, has undoubtedly, by a mistaken logic, let some individual churches, and the churches of some particular localities, to dispense with creed-statements altogether. Facts like these, however, have sometimes led to general inferences in regard to Articles of Faith in the Baptist denomination which are unauthorized by our history. I think we were the earliest of the dissenting bodies of England in the issuing of Confessions; and from the first, our Confessions have been not only significant of our doctrinal unity, but a condition of acceptance in our fellowship.”
William Cathcart writes in the Baptist Encyclopedia (1881):
“Baptists have always gloried that the Bible was their creed, and at the same time for centuries they have had published Confessions of Faith. In our denomination, these articles of belief have always occupied a subordinate position; they are never placed on a level with the Scriptures, much less above them. They are used to protect our unity, to preserve our peace, and to instruct our members.”
While we wholeheartedly acknowledge the Scripture above any Confession of Faith, we might well heed C. H. Spurgeon's words in the preface to the 1689 Confession of Faith adopted by his church in 1855. He writes:
“I have thought it right to reprint… this excellent list of Doctrines, which were subscribed to by the Baptist Ministers in the year 1689. We need a banner because of the truth; it may be that this small volume may aid the cause of the glorious gospel by testifying plainly what are its leading doctrines.
This little volume is not issued as an authoritative rule, or code of faith, whereby you are to be fettered, but as an assistance to you in controversy, a confirmation in faith, and a means of edification in righteousness. Here the younger members of our church will have a body of divinity in small compass, and by means of the Scriptural proofs, will be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them.
Be not ashamed of your faith; remember it is the ancient gospel of martyrs, confessors, Reformers, and saints. Above all, it is the truth of God against which the gates of hell cannot prevail.
Let your lives adorn your faith, let your example recommend your creed. Above all live in Christ Jesus, and walk in Him, giving credence to no teaching but that which is manifestly approved of Him and owned by the Holy Spirit. Cleave fast to the Word of God which is mapped out for you.”
THE FIRST LONDON BAPTIST CONFESSION OF FAITH 1644, 1646
The First London Baptist Confession was issued by seven Baptist congregations in London in 1644 and was revised in 1646. By 1677, just 33 years later, a more full expression of Baptist distinctives was produced. A note in point: we have no record of any Southern Baptist Church adopting the 1644, 1646 First London Confession. The first Southern Baptist church in the south was First Baptist Church in Charleston in 1682. They did not adopt a confession of faith until 1700 and it was the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, which was “The Confession”, adopted by churches across the colonies as well as the first Baptist association beginning with the Philadelphia Association in 1707.
THE SECOND LONDON BAPTIST CONFESSION OF FAITH (1689)
The Second London Baptist Confession was adopted when representatives of 107 congregations from England and Wales met in London from September third to the twelfth in 1689. The Confession was originally composed in 1677 but adopted in 1689. Because of this, it has ever since been called “The 1689 Confession”. From now on we will refer to it as “The 1689”.
WHY A NEW CONFESSION
In the preface to the original publication of the 1689 Confession, the writers felt a need to give a more full expression of their faith. They wrote:
“For as much as this Confession (1644) is not now commonly to be had; and also that many others have since embraced the same truth which is owned therein; it was judged necessary by us to join together in giving a testimony to the world of our firm adhering to those wholesome principles…”
The first Baptist Association of Churches in America was the Philadelphia Baptist Association (1707).
The Second London Baptist Confession with two articles added; one on “the laying on of hands” and another, “the singing of psalms”, was adopted by the Philadelphia Association in 1742. While it was officially adopted that year, it had been appealed to in the minutes of the Association since the Association’s inception in 1707. The first edition of the “Philadelphia Confession of Faith” was printed by Benjamin Franklin in 1743, known as the Philadelphia, it was essentially the 1689 Second London Confession. It became known in America as “The Baptist Confession” accepted in the north and the south. One significant point relevant to Southern Baptists is that all 293 messengers at the formation of the Southern Baptist Church at the First Baptist Church of Augusta, Georgia, came from associations that embraced this Confession. As noted earlier, C. H. Spurgeon’s church adopted the 1689 Confession as their doctrinal statement.
THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH IN THE SOUTH
THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Robert A. Baker gives September 25, 1682, as the proper date for the organization of the First Baptist Church in Charleston and the entire south rather than the date 1696.1 That year William Screven came to South Carolina and became its first pastor. Baker writes:
“Baptists were already worshipping there, either as private individuals or as an unorganized church, that the historical date for the founding of the First Baptist Church of Charleston is September 25, 1682…”
In 1700, A. H. Newman (1894) in a History of the Baptist Churches in the United States noted,
“In 1700, just as the Baptists (in Charleston) were entering their new meeting house, they adopted the Confession of Faith set forth in 1689.”
THE FIRST ASSOCIATON IN THE SOUTH
THE CHARLESTON BAPTIST ASSOCATION
The Charleston Association adopted “The Confession” in 1767, but it had already been in use some 87 years by that time2… This was the system of Christian belief and a formal summary of Baptist Doctrine in the south.
Almost all Associations in the south followed suit and adopted “The Confession” (1689).
Phillip Schaff (1876) in his Creeds of Christendom, said of the 1689 Confession of Faith, which was adopted by the Charleston Baptists, “this is the most generally accepted confession of the Regular or Calvinistic Baptist in England and in the southern states of America.”
THE NEW HAMPSHIRE CONFESSION (1833)
The next major statement of faith adopted by Baptists was the New Hampshire Confession of Faith. W. L. Lumpkin writes on the purpose and birth of the New Hampshire Confession:
“On June 24, 1830, the Baptist Convention of New Hampshire appointed a committee to prepare and present at the next annual session ‘such a declaration of faith and practice, together with a covenant, as may be thought agreeable and consistent with the views of all our churches in this state.’”
The result of their work was the New Hampshire Confession of 1833. The New Hampshire Confession is seen as coming from the same origin as the 1689 Confession.
Leroy D. Cole writes in The Doctrines of Grace in the New Hampshire Confession: “In the context of its birth, background, and development, it is readily observed that this Confession is from the same spring from which flows the Philadelphia and London Confessions.”
Phillip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, comments on the New Hampshire Confession’s acceptance: “It has been accepted by the Baptists of New Hampshire and other northern and western states, and is now the most popular creed among American Baptists.”
J. Newton Brown wrote in his book, The Baptist Denomination, 1856, relating to the harmony of teaching of the different confessions. “The principle difference in Baptist Articles of Faith, is in the phraseology or style of them, not in the doctrines… Almost every church has its Articles of Faith, differing in numerous unessential particulars, but agreeing on substance.”
According to McClintock and Strong’s Biblical Encyclopedia, 1896, the New Hampshire Confession was generally accepted in the north, but not in the south. The “New Hampshire Confession”, is perhaps in more general use among the societies in the north and east, while the “Philadelphia Confession of Faith” (1689) is that generally adopted in the south.
It was not until the early twentieth century that Baptists in the south turned from the 1689 Confession to a form of the New Hampshire Confession of 1833.
THE BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE
1925, 1963, 1998, 2000
In 1925, the Baptist Faith and Message Articles of Faith was adopted by the SBC. This statement is essentially the New Hampshire Confession of Faith almost word for word with some revising and some additional articles. The 1925 Baptist Faith and Message recommended “The New Hampshire Confession of Faith, revised at certain points, and with some additional articles growing out of certain needs…” as their Confession of Faith.
This 1925 Baptist Faith and Message was revised by Southern Baptists in 1963, 1998, and 2000. Having surveyed these confessional statements that Baptists in the south have adhered to, (The First and Second London Confessions, and the New Hampshire Baptist Confession) J. Newton Brown wrote in the mid 1800’s concerning the high degree of agreement in these confessions.
“In their doctrine the Baptists are in a high degree evangelical, holding the views commonly called Calvinistic, as set forth in the writing of Bunyan, Gill and Fuller. THE CONFESSIONS OF 1644, 1689, 1742, AND 1833 ARE ALL IN HARMONY DIFFERING ONLY IN THE CHOICE OF LANGUAGE AND FULLNESS OF EXPOSITION.” (This quote is from Religious Denominations of the World, edited by Vincent I. Milner and brought up to date by J. Newton Brown.)
We have seen that the Baptist Faith and Message adopted and revised by the Southern Baptist Church in 1925, 1963, 1998, and 2000 is essentially “the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, revised at certain points, and with additional articles growing out of certain needs…” (Baptist Faith and Message, pg. 5)
With this in mind, we conclude that we, as Southern Baptists, in holding to the Baptist Faith and Message, are in our doctrine included in the previous quotation from J. Newton Brown. That “Baptists are in a high degree… evangelical, holding the views commonly called Calvinistic, as set forth in the writings of Bunyan, Gill, and Fuller. The Confessions of 1644, 1689, 1742 (Philadelphia), and 1833 (New Hampshire, which is essentially our Baptist Faith and Message revised at certain points…) are all in harmony differing only in the choice of language and fullness of exposition.”
So, we, as churches of the Spurgeon Baptist Association of Churches, affirm all these Confessions as expressions of our historic faith as Southern Baptists a local church desiring to become a part of the Spurgeon Baptist Association of Churches understands that we accept all of these major Confessions of Faith as an expression of Baptist doctrine “all in harmony, differing only in the choice of language and fullness of expression.”
1. The First Southern Baptists, Robert A. Baker, Broadman Press, Nashville, page 51
2. Ron Rumberg in his book, Some Southern Documents of the People Called Baptists, Society for Biblical and Southern Studies, Hueytown, AL, 1995, pg. 15-16