Hercules Collins and An Old Gospel

In the preface to his first published word, An Orthodox Catechism (1680), Hercules Collins expresses his solidarity with the orthodoxy of the past. The Orthodox Catechism was a adaptation of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) which had been adopted at the Synod of Dort (1618-1619). The text of the Collins’ Catechism virtually reproduces the Heidelberg with exception to the section on baptism. At the end of his catechism, Collins included both the Nicene and Athanasian Creed. This was in addition to the Apostles Creed which was already included in the Heidelberg Catechism. Hercules clearly seems to be attempting to align the Particular Baptist movement of which he is a part with the accepted orthodoxy of the past. Here is an excerpt from the Preface to An Orthodox Catechism (spelling has been modernized).

I have not undertaken to present you with new Notions or Principles, hoping an Athenian Spirit is in none of you, but do believe that an old Gospel (to you that have tasted the sweetness of it) will be more acceptable than a new, though published by an Angel from Heaven.

In what I have written you will see I concenter with the most Orthodox Divines in the Fundamental Principles and Articles of the Christian Faith, and also have industriously expressed them in the same words, which have on the like occasion been spoken, only differing in some things about Church-constitution, wherein I have taken a little pains to show you the true form of God’s House, with the coming in thereof, and the going out thereof: but I hope my Zeal in this will not be misinterpreted by any that truly fear God. That God whom we serve is very jealous of his Worship; and forasmuch as by his Providence the Law of his House hath been preserved and continued to us, we look upon it as our Duty in our generation to be searching out the mind of God in his holy Oracle, as Ezra and Nehemiah did the Feast of Tabernacles, and to reform what is amiss; As Hezekiah, who took a great deal of pains to cleanse the House of God, and set all things in order, that were out of order, particularly caused the People to keep the Passover according to the Institution: for it had not, saith the Text, been of a long time kept in such sort as it was written; and albeit the pure Institutions of Christ were not for some hundred of years practiced according to the due order, or very little, through the Innovations of Antichrist; and as Circumcision for about forty years was unpracticed in the Wilderness, yet as Joshua puts this duty in practice as soon as God signified his mind in that particular, so we having our judgments informed about the true way of Worship, do not dare to stifle the Light God hath given us.

Now albeit there are some differences between many Godly Divines and us in Church Constitution, yet inasmuch as those things are not the Essence of Christianity, but that we do agree in the fundamental Doctrine thereof, there is sufficient ground to lay aside all bitterness and prejudice, and labor to maintain a spirit of Love each to other, knowing we shall never see all alike here. We find in the primitive times that the Baptism of Christ was not universally known, witness the ignorance of Apollos that eminent Disciple and Minister, which knew only the Baptism of John. And if God shall enlighten any into any Truth, which they shall stifle for base and unwarrantable ends, know that ’tis God must judge, and not Man. And wherein we cannot concur, let us leave that to the of Christ Jesus, as they did their difficult cases in the Church of old until there did arise a Priest with Urim and Thummim, that might certainly inform them of the mind of God there-about.

I have proposed three Creeds to your consideration, which ought thoroughly to be believed and embraced by all those that would be accounted Christians, viz. the Nicene Creed, Athanasius His Creed, and the Creed commonly called the Apostles; The last of which contains the sum of the Gospel; which is industriously opened and explained; and I beseech you do not slight it because of its Form, nor Antiquity, nor because supposed to be composed by Men; neither because some that hold it, maintain some Errors, or whose Conversation may not be correspondent to such fundamental Principles of Salvation; but take this for a perpetual Rule, That whatever is good in any, owned by any, whatever Error or Vice it may be mixed withal, the Good must not be rejected for the Error or Vice sake, but owned, commended, and accepted. Here is also in the close of the Book a brief, but full Exposition of that Prayer Christ taught his Disciples. Also the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments unfolded.

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