Hercules Collins

Hercules Collins on the Hypostatic Union

Hercules Collins (1647-1702) made clear his own personal commitment to this union of two natures in Christ in his own writings. Among his 36 recommendations to preachers on how to rightly handle the Word of God in The Temple Repair’d, Collins included an explanation of how scriptural language often reflects this understanding of the union of the two natures.

In holy Scripture you will sometimes find that which properly belongs to one Nature in Christ is attributed to another by virtue of the personal Union; hence it is that the Church is said to be purchased with the blood of God; not that God simply consider’d hath Blood, for he is a Spirit; but it is attributed to God, because of the Union of the Human and Divine Nature. Moreover, it is said that the Son of Man was in Heaven, when he was discoursing upon Earth: Here that which was proper to the Godhead and the Divine Nature, is attributed to the Human Nature, because of the Union of the Natures.

Here Collins’ commitment to the hypostatic union becomes an important hermeneutical principle. He indicated the importance of explaining this in one’s preaching “with all the clearness imaginable,” because this doctrine “is so necessary to Man’s Salvation.” For Collins and his fellow Particular Baptists, doctrine mattered. Indeed, the salvation of individuals depended upon the proper explication of the key doctrines of the Christian faith. Collins considered the doctrine of the hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures to be at the very core of orthodox Christianity.

In his Marrow of Gospel-History, Collins extols the theological truth of the hypostatic union in poetic terms. While attempting to describe the unique identity of the virgin born God-man, Collins expressed wonder at the mystery of the incarnation.

But yet that King, and holy Thing,
Which was in Mary’s Womb,
Was God indeed, of Abr’am’s Seed,
True God, and yet true Man.
Who understands, how God and Man,
Should in one Person dwell?
One Person true, yet Natures two,
But one Immanuel.

Collins does not seem to know how to explain the mystery of the incarnation, but he is committed to affirming and rejoicing in this divinely-revealed truth. Later in the same work, Collins expressed a similar amazement at how God was able to preserve Jesus as a man from the effects of original sin.

And tho this Man from David sprang,
He’s pure without, within:
And tho is made of Abraham’s Seed,
Hath no Orig’nal Sin.
Pow’r Infinite can separate
Between the Virgin’s Sin,
And Virgin’s Seed, for there is need
Christ be a holy Thing.

The sinlessness of Christ was important to Collins because the God-man had to be fully human, yet sinless in order to atone for the sins of other humans. Collins knew that it was the mystery of the divine-human union which preserved Jesus from the effects of original sin. He expressed the connection between the union of the two natures and the sinless of Christ and mankind’s salvation in the following verse.

A King of Peace, and Priest most high,
Who offer’d once for all;
Not for his own, but others Sins,
Himself, not Beasts did fall.
The Peoples Covenant thou art,
In Substance, Person, Name;
And hence art called Immanuel,
Two Natures, Person one.

Once again the important issue for Collins was how this doctrine relates to the doctrine of salvation. Humans need a savior who is simultaneously divine, human, and sinless. This is precisely the kind of savior which Collins saw set forth in Scripture. Therefore, this doctrine was of central importance. In the end, the never-ending union of the divine and human natures of Christ serve as an illustration of the eternal union between God and his elect because of the work of Christ.

That tho by Sin Man’s separate
From God, the chiefest Good,
Yet now in Christ united are;
Man shall live still with God.
And if the Union cannot cease,
Call’d Hypostatical;
No more can that ’tween God and his,
Because ’tis Eternal.

“The Church of Christ, who upon Confession of Faith have bin Baptised”: Hercules Collins and Baptist Ecclesiology

This afternoon (November 19th) at 4:30 PM, I will present a paper titled: “The Church of Christ, who upon Confession of Faith have bin Baptised”: Hercules Collins and Baptist Ecclesiology (PDF) at the 66th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in San Diego, California. The paper is part of the Puritan Study Group which has an annual slot at ETS featuring paper on, you guessed it, Puritans and Puritanism. The theme of the annual meeting this year is Ecclesiology and the Puritan Study Group chose to focus on the topic: “A House Divided: Competing Views of Puritan Ecclesiology.” Below is the schedule for the session. I’m not sure if they saved the best ecclesiology for last or the worse paper. Either way, my paper wraps up the session beginning at 4:30 PM.

2:00 PM-5:10 PM
PURITAN STUDIES
A House Divided: Competing
Views of Puritan Ecclesiology
Room: Towne
MODERATOR: STEPHEN YUILLE
(Redeemer Seminary)

2:00 PM—2:40 PM
W. BRADFORD LITTLEJOHN
(The Davenant Trust)
What Makes a ‘Puritan’? Hooker,
Ussher, and English Reformed
Episcopacy

2:50 PM—3:30 PM
MARK JONES*
(University of the Free State)
“The (True?) Gospel Coalition”:
English Presbyterianism in Puritan
England

3:40 PM—4:20 PM
STEPHEN YUILLE
(Redeemer Seminary)
The Primitive Institution of Christ’s
Church: Thomas Goodwin and
Congregational Polity

4:30 PM—5:10 PM
STEVE WEAVER
(Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies)
“The Church of Christ, who upon
Confession of Faith have bin
Baptised”: Hercules Collins and
Baptist Ecclesiology

You can download a copy of the paper I will present here (PDF) and you can order the audio here.

God’s Sovereignty, Foreknowledge, and Human Responsibility in the Death of Christ

Mountains of Brass Cover

Click to enlarge.

One of the most persistent questions that pastors must address is one regarding the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human freedom. I addressed this issue several years ago as an M.Div. student from a philosophical/theological/biblical perspective in a paper titled “If God is Sovereign, Can Man Be Free?” (PDF). More recently I’ve discovered the way in which the 17th-century English Particular Baptist Hercules Collins answered this question. In his discourse on the decrees of God titled Mountains of Brass, Collins addressed the question of how humans could be free and responsible in their murder of Jesus, if God infallibly foreknew what would take place.

God’s determination that Christ should die to save man, laid none under a necessity of sinning, but God foreknew what the malice of the Devil, Jews and Gentiles would be against this person to put him to death. And God did determine not to prevent it, but suffer[1] it, because he knew how to bring glory to himself out of it. It was necessary Christ should suffer. God could not be mistaken in his foreknowledge, or come short of his determinate decree. But this neither took away the liberty of Christ’s suffering, neither did it take away the liberty of the Jews, and their voluntariness in putting Christ to death. God’s decree, Christ should suffer, did infallibly secure the event, but did not annihilate and destroy the liberty of the act, neither in Christ as aforesaid, who freely suffered himself, nor the Jews, who as freely and voluntary put him to death, as if there had been no decree of God at all about his death.[2] The gardener’s foreknowledge that such seeds and roots will in the Spring produce such leaves and flowers, is no cause of their rise and appearance in Spring; but knowing the virtue of such roots, so concludes. So God’s foreknowledge what wicked words would proceed from the root of a wicked heart concerning Christ’s death, is no more cause of those evil acts, than the gardener is the cause of the rise of such flowers in Spring from such roots, because he foreknew the nature of them. God’s foreknowledge that Adam would fall, put him under no necessity of it, but ‘twas done voluntarily and freely. Yet God foresaw infallibly he would fall, and God determined not to prevent it, knowing how to glorify himself by it. So God’s foreknowledge of the Jews putting Christ to death, did not necessitate them to it, but done as freely as if it had not been foreknown, nor any determination of God about it. Thus we have proved those acts of divine providence in time in the world, are the product of God’s eternal purposes.

Hercules Collins, Mountains of Brass: Or, A Discourse Upon the Decrees of God (London: 1689), 6-8.


[1] i.e., allow, let

[2] Mr. Charnock, on the Attributes. This is a reference to Stephen Charnock (1628-1680) whose lectures at Crosby Hall in London on the attributes of God were transcribed after his death and are presently in print as The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996). Collins is most likely referring to Charnock’s discussion of the relationship between God’s foreknowledge of man’s voluntary actions and man’s liberty of the will on pages 446-451 of the above volume.

Is Participation an Endorsement?: Infant Baptism, Church Discipline, and the Consciences of Believers

Given the strong views on baptism held by the first three pastors of the Wapping church (John Spilsbury, John Norcott and Hercules Collins) and these early Baptists’ commitment to holding members accountable to the teaching of Scripture, it should come as no surprise that church members were often disciplined for having their infants sprinkled. On October 2, 1677, Charles Cheney was excommunicated for (among other things) “the grand Error of the Baptisme of Infants.”[1] The next month, the Wapping Church Book records that Elizabeth Durbon “was sharply Reproved for the Sin of Sprinkling her Infant Contrary to the Rules of Christ and the Gospel.”[2] Durbon was not excommunicated because when confronted with her “evill” act, she repented of it and “fell under it before them for doing that which was Contrary to the Command of Christ and the practice of the Apostles and the Constitution of this Church and her own Covenant.” Likewise, in September of 1685, a Brother Hemings was brought before the church where he “did there acknowledge his Evele” in the sprinkling of his child.[3]

It was even considered a serious matter merely to attend an infant’s sprinkling. This was apparently considered an endorsement of an unbiblical and disobedient practice. In March of 1685, a Sister Leader was “sharply Reproved” by the church for being present at an infant’s sprinkling. No further action was taken against Sister Leader since “she did Acknowledg her falt therin.”[4] This was apparently an ongoing issue, as nearly a decade later a word of “Advice” was given by the church to midwives who were church members and might be asked to assist in the sprinkling of an infant.

At the same time this Advice was given to the Midwifes in our congregation that they be not concerned Nither in the holding the Child at Sprinekling nor at prayers Nor doe not promote nor Incurrige Godfathers nor Godmothers as so Called but that they beare such a testemony for the truthes they ownes against the contrary practise as that they may not defile ther Conscience and as may be an honor to the profession of Christ that they makes of him.[5]

This entry helps to explain why the church would discipline members who attended an infant sprinkling. These Baptist midwives were instructed not to participate in the ceremony, nor in any way to encourage the process. Their presence would be a condoning of the practice. By not participating, these women would be able to bear witness to their own beliefs as to the proper nature of baptism. In so doing, they would both guarantee a clear conscience and live up to their own profession of faith in Christ.


[1]Wapping Church Book, 2 October 1677. The other charges against Cheney were “neglect of his Duty in the Church” and “breaking his word.”

[2]WCB, 13 November 1677.

[3]WCB, 22 September 1685.

[4]WCB, 17 March 1685.

[5]WCB, 18 September 1694.

An Orthodox Catechism Now Available for Pre-order

ImageReformed Baptist Academic Press is now accepting pre-orders of quantities of 10 or more of An Orthodox Catechism. This catechism is modernized version of the Orthodox Catechism published in 1680 by Hercules Collins. It was itself a revision of the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism loved and used by Protestants world-wide. This edition by Collins edits the section on baptism in a way suitable to a seventeenth-century Baptist. 

Michael A.G. Haykin and I have edited this historic catechism for a modern audience. We have also authored a historical introduction that explains the significance of the catechism along with Collins’ rationale for his edits.

The product page for the book is up on the RBAP website, but you will have to wait until the book is in stock to order individual copies (should be available within a week). The book retails for $12.00, but is available at a special price of $9.00 directly from the publisher. However, for churches or individuals who order 10 or more copies, the price is only $6.00 per copy. You pay shipping and $1.50 handling. These pre-orders must be paid via check. RBAP will invoice you via email. You need to contact RBAP directly to receive this offer.

UPDATE: The book is now available on Amazon for $10.80. Please note that the Kindle edition listed is not our edition, but a transcription of the unedited original.

The Evangelistic Fervor of a 17th Century Particular Baptist

When Andrew Fuller was wrestling with the question of whether or not the gospel should be preached indiscriminately to all, he found a model for promiscuous gospel preaching in the seventeenth-century English Particular Baptist John Bunyan. Fuller noted that Bunyan, contrary to the contemporary Particular Baptist examples of preaching he knew, regularly addressed the unconverted directly and appealed to them to trust in Christ’s saving work. Fuller would eventually realize that the hyper-Calvinistic approach was an intrusion into Particular Baptist life and not faithful to its original heritage. Seventeenth-century Particular Baptists preached the gospel to all, calling upon all to believe and repent.

HC Funeral Sermon pageAlong with Bunyan, Fuller could have also read the writings of men such as Benjamin Keach, Thomas Harrison, William Collins and Hercules Collins. Each of these men were convinced Calvinists soteriologically, subscribing to the Second London Confession of Faith. Yet, each of these men pleaded with sinners to be saved. In his funeral sermon for Hercules Collins, John Piggott commented upon the evangelistic zeal of Collins by saying that “no man could preach with a more affectionate regard to the salvation of souls.”[1] He later called the regular attenders of the Wapping-street Church who remained unsaved as witnesses to the gospel fervor of Hercules Collins: “You are witnesses with what zeal and fervour, with what constancy and seriousness he used to warn and persuade you.”[2] Piggott then began to plead with the lost present himself by crying out, “Tho you have been deaf to his former preaching, yet listen to the voice of this providence, lest you continue in your slumber till you sleep the sleep of death.” He then closed with these forceful words:

You cannot but see, unless you will close your eyes, that this world and the fashion of it is passing away. O what a change will a few months or years make in this numerous assembly! Yea, what a sad change has little more than a fortnight made in this congregation! He that was so lately preaching in this pulpit, is now wrapped in his shroud, and confined to his coffin; and the lips that so often dispersed knowledge amongst you, are sealed up till the resurrection. Here’s the body of your late minister; but his soul is entered into the joy of his Lord. O that those of you that would not be persuaded by him living, might be wrought upon by his death! For tho he is dead, he yet speaketh; and what doth he say; both to ministers and people, but “Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh?”[3]

Historical evidence such as this should put to rest the claims of some that Calvinism necessarily inhibits evangelistic fervor. Hyper-Calvinism, indeed, is an error that must be rejected by Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike. Those who refuse to call upon all sinners to believe and repent are not only disobedient to the clear teaching of Scripture, they are also not living up to the best of their Calvinistic Baptist heritage exemplified by men such as John Bunyan, Hercules Collins, and Andrew Fuller.


[1] John Piggott, Eleven Sermons, 236.

[2] Ibid., 240.

[3]Ibid.

———————-

This post previously appeared at the blog of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. It is also posted at HerculesCollins.com.

In Defense of Hercules

A couple of weeks ago (July 12, 2013) on the exceptional blog “Particular Voices,” a quote from Hercules Collins was posted that on the surface appears to be a quite silly argument for believer’s baptism.

francis-mence-vindiciae-129

The citation on the blog was actually from a book by an opponent of Collins named Francis Mence. In his Vindiciae Foederis (a paedo-baptist critique of Collins’ writings on baptism), Mence poked fun at Collins statement. Given that Mence was known for misrepresenting Collins (once falsely charging him with believing in the damnation of all children), I decided to see if Collins had indeed said what Mence accused him of. He had. The context of the quotation, however, puts a slightly different light upon the matter.

The original quote was from Believers Baptism from Heaven, published in 1691 (p. 88). It occurs in the midst of a 14 page chapter that contrasts infant and believers baptism in parallel columns.

In context it is one of many examples listed showing that infants can’t do what believers in the New Testament are commanded, implied, or assumed to do when baptized. The select quotation cited by Mence was in contrast to the statement: “Believers rejoice and shew their full Consent when they are baptized, Acts 8.” (see below)

Collins - Believers Baptism 88

Notwithstanding his tongue-in-cheek comment, Collins point remains. Infants do not rejoice and show their full consent when baptized, instead their response is largely weeping. Although Collins left himself wide-open to the wisecrack made by Mence about circumcision, his point stands regarding infants being unable to give consent or rejoice (since rejoicing would imply understanding on their part). In context, I don’t think Collins statement was as foolish as it initially seemed. It was only a small part of a much larger argument.

————————–

This post was originally posted on ConfessingBaptist.com. It is also posted at HerculesCollins.com.