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Seventeenth-Century English Baptists on the Incarnation

The Second London Confession of Faith was issued, in part, to set the record straight with the general public that Thomas Collier’s heterodox views on the Trinity and the eternality of Christ’s human nature did not represent the Particular Baptist community as a whole. The latter is addressed in the confession’s strong statement on the full divinity and humanity of Christ united in his one person.

The Son of God, the second Person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Fathers glory, of one substance and equal with him: who made the World, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made: did when the fullness of time was come take unto him mans nature, with all the Essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin: being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her, and the power of the most High overshadowing her, and so was made of a Woman, of the Tribe of Judah, of the Seed of Abraham, and David according to the Scriptures: So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, were inseparably joined together in one Person: without conversion, composition, or confusion: which Person is very God, and very Man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and Man.

Contra Collier’s position on the eternality of Christ’s human nature, the confession asserts that Christ “did when the fullness of time was come take unto him mans nature, with all the Essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin.” The human nature was assumed at the incarnation and did not exist prior to this point in human history. At this point, the framers of the Second London Confession were following the wording found in the Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration. Just after this section, however, the Second London adapts language from the First London Confession not included in either of these historic Protestant confessions. This wording further emphasized the full humanity assumed by the second person of the Trinity at Bethlehem. They added: “the Holy Spirit coming down upon her, and the power of the most High overshadowing her, and so was made of a Woman, of the Tribe of Judah, of the Seed of Abraham, and David according to the Scriptures.” This issue was important because these Baptists believed that the same human nature possessed by Eve, Judah, Abraham, and David was shared by the Christ. Only in this way could the prophecies concerning the Messiah’s coming be fulfilled.

How to Pray for this Election

Several weeks ago I was asked by Ryan Hoselton to provide some guiding principles that I share with our church about how to pray for this election along with a sample prayer. My response, along with responses from Pastors John Onwuchekwa and Juan Sanchez, was posted on Christianity Today’s “The Local Church” blog. Below is what I offered.

Guiding Principles:

I want to remind our congregation to pray first for the spiritual renewal of our nation in recognition that our greatest need is spiritual, not political. I want us to remember that all human kingdoms have failed and will fail. The only eternal kingdom is the kingdom of Christ. I do, however, want us to pray that American citizens will exercise their right to vote according to their conscience, informed by principles of wisdom and integrity.

I want our congregation to pray specifically for candidates from both major political parties, as well as independent or third-party candidates. I want us to pray that they’ll all be or become people of wisdom and integrity, and for their service on behalf of the American people. I want to pray for the spiritual condition of each man and woman running for the presidency, and that if they’re not trusting in Christ alone for their salvation, they turn to Christ in repentance and faith.

Finally, I want to remind our congregation that we need to pray and vote for local and state leaders as well. I encourage the use of the website pray1tim2.org as a resource to help them pray for state leaders.

 Prayer:

Our Father, we come before you recognizing that we desperately need you to intervene in our nation and send revival to our land. We confess that we’ve rebelled against you and tried to establish ourselves as kings instead of submitting to your authority. Forgive us for trusting in our government and our leaders when we should have been trusting in you alone.

We thank you for allowing us to live in this country where we have the freedom to vote for our leaders. Please help us as a nation to vote according to consciences that are informed by principles of integrity and wisdom. Please bless and protect those of all political parties who are running for office, from the White House to the statehouse to the courthouse. Grant that those seeking office would do so for the good of others, and not their own prosperity. May they lead with wisdom and integrity. Most importantly, grant that they may know you as their king in order that they may rule as humble servants in this land and for eternity with you, along with all the saints.

In humble submission to your sovereign rule, amen.

To read the original post with the other responses, visit here.

Things Christians Post on Social Media When Their Team Loses

I’ve long been amused by the type of social media posts when a Christian’s favorite sports team loses a big game. After venting about the team, coaches, or officials, they typically become very spiritual and begin posting about how they didn’t really care about the game anyway. Below are a few examples. See if you recognize any of these.

Ex. 1, Triumphalistic: I’m glad my hope isn’t in the [insert sports team name], but in an eternal kingdom that can never lose! Amen?!?!

Ex. 2, Eschatological: I’ve read the back of the book and we win! Glad I’m on the winning side!

Ex. 3, Pietistic: I was thinking about giving up [insert name of sport] anyway and spend the time in Bible study and prayer.

Ex. 4, Heavenly-Minded: I don’t know why, but the things of the world no longer hold any allure for me. Heaven’s sounding sweeter all the time.

Have you seen any of these, or even posted them yourself? Have you seen any others?

Hercules Collins’ Funeral Sermon

hercules-collins-funeral-sermonHercules Collins died on October 4, 1702. He was interred five days later at Bunhill Fields, the burial ground of dissenters. His funeral sermon was preached by John Piggott, a Seventh-Day Baptist who was renown for his funeral sermons. He preached a number of sermons around this time at the funeral services of prominent London Baptist pastors. The sermon was based on Matthew 24:44, “Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an Hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh. 

The first part of the sermon focused on the biblical text. The latter part of the sermon summarized the life of Collins. This section of the sermon is excerpted below.

_________________________

In such a posture of soul was he, whose death occasions this discourse.  I doubt not but he was actually as well as habitually ready; you know I mean your late worthy pastor Mr. Hercules Collins, concerning whom I have need to say the less, because his doctrine you have heard, and his example you have seen for so many years; the former was agreeable to the sentiments of the reformed churches in all fundamental articles of faith, and the latter such as did adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.

He began to be religious early, and continued faithful to the last. He was not shocked by the fury of persecutors, though he suffered imprisonment for the name of Christ.

He was one that had a solid acquaintance with divine things, about which he always spoke with a becoming seriousness and a due relish; and I must say, I hardly ever knew a man that did more constantly promote religious discourse (a practice almost out of fashion:) he shewed an unwearied endeavour to recover the decayed power of religion, for he lived what he preached, and it pleased God to succeed his endeavours in the gospel after a wonderful manner. Are there not here many that must call him Father, whom he hath begotten through the gospel? May it not be said of this man and that woman, they were born here?

If he had not some men’s accuracy, yet it was made up by a constant flame; for no man could preach with a more affectionate regard to the salvation of souls. And how well he discharged the other branches of his pastoral function, this church is a witness, whom he has watched over and visited above five and twenty years.

He had Luthers three qualifications for a gospel-minister; he was much given to meditation and prayer, and hardly any man was more grievously tempted of the devil than your deceased pastor: though for many years satan in a great measure was bruised under his feet, and God had so cleared up his love to his soul, that he could say, I know in whom I have believed, I know to whom I have committed my soul, I know that my Redeemer liveth; and I know that when this earthly house of my tabernacle is dissolved, I have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. His constant walk was in the fear of the Lord, and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost. He had a full assurance of the love of God for many years; yet this did not make him careless and negligent in duty, it did not lift him up above measure, but kept him at the foot of Christ.

How exemplary was his submission under personal and relative trials; his own indispositions were frequent and great, yet in patience he possessed his soul, and was always learning from the discipline of the rod: and how well he carried it under the affliction he had with a near relation, you cannot but know. I confess I have thought him in that respect one of the best examples that ever I knew; surely no person could be more tender and sympathizing. In a word, he was faithful in every relation, a man of truth and integrity, one entirely devoted to the service of the temple, and zealously bent to promote the interest of the Lord Redeemer. But alas! this useful minister is silenced, and a few days indisposition has given him a remove from the toils of the pulpit, to the triumphs of the throne.

I confess I had not the opportunity of conversing with him in his last illness; but I am informed by those that were with him, that he retained an excellent savour of divine things to the day of his death, and did discourse but the morning before he died after a very moving manner, being greatly affected with those words, They overcame by the blood of the Lamb (This was the last text that he preached on, it being on a funeral occasion.). ‘Tis true, he is fallen in battle, but he died more than a conqueror; and having fought the good fight, and finished his course, and kept the faith, he quitted the body, that he might receive an unfading crown of glory.  But we are left behind unripe for Heaven, and God is teaching us by terrible things in righteousness.  As we shall discover great stupidity, if we do not observe how God hath broken us with breach upon breach (Mr. Dennis and Mr. Thomas Harrison both died in the compass of six days in August last; and since the preaching of this sermon Mr. William Collins is deceased.): He hath removed both younger and elder ministers.  Therefore on this occasion suffer me to speak a few words to three sorts of people, and I have done.

  1. To Surviving Ministers. I confess I am the unworthiest of your number; and considering my age, and before whom I stand, my words ought to be few.  Yet the sense I have upon my own soul concerning the methods of God’s providence towards us, inclines me to address my self to you, my Fathers, that were in Christ before me, and preached him before I knew him.  Suffer a son to put you in mind of doing the utmost you can for Christ while here; for you must shortly go, and what then shall we do to stem the tide of profaneness, and answer the cavils of sceptics against our holy religion?    O pity, pity the rising generation of young ministers; Pray for them, advise them, and do all you can to help them in their work, before you leave them: Be an example to them, that when you are gathered to your fathers, we may stand up and plead for your God and Ours.  And you, my brethren, that are younger, let me intreat you to apply your selves to close study and constant prayer, that you may shew yourselves workmen that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
  1. To you, my Brethren of this Church, that have lost an excellent pastor. In the midst of your tears look up to Heaven, and pray to the Lord of the Harvest that he would send forth labourers into this harvest (Mat. 9.38).  Remember the God you pray to can dispense the Spirit in what measures he pleases, and qualify whom he will for the ministration of the gospel.  But let not that make you defective on your part: You must not expect that preachers will drop down from Heaven, or spring out of Earth; but due care must be taken fore the incouragement of humble men that have real gifts, and let such be trained up in useful learning, that they may be able to defend the truths they preach.  Your pastor’s mouth is stopped, and cannot speak to you; but this I am sure was the sense of his mind.  To close this head, labour to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: And tho your Elder is dead, remember your relation to the Church is not dissolved, but you are bound to keep your places, and to do your utmost to promote the happiness of this congregation.  The Church is in a state of widowhood; and I hope you will not forget to sympathize with your Pastor’s distressed widow, to defend her right, and support her to the last.

Be as speedy as you can in filling up the place in the church of him that is gone: and may you have a pastor after God’s own heart.

  1. To you that were the constant auditors of the deceased minister. ‘Tis to be feared that many of you have not improved so much as you ought to have done: You are witnesses with what zeal and fervour, with what constancy and seriousness he used to warn and persuade you.  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.

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; bot to ministers and people, but Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh?

John Piggott, Eleven Sermons, 235-40. To read the sermon in its entirety and/or download the book, click here.

Religious Liberty for Muslims: A Baptist Tradition

Baptists have historically argued for the religious liberty of all people. As a group that was persecuted in their early days, Baptists have consistently argued for four hundred years that the civil government does not have authority over the consciences of citizens. Baptists have recognized that we either have religious liberty for all or not at all. If the government can take someone else’s freedom today, they can take yours tomorrow. Below is a list of quotes evidencing Baptists’ historic commitment to religious liberty. These could be multiplied many times over. The unique thing about the quotations below is not their advocacy of religious liberty for all, but that they specifically identify Muslims as deserving freedom to practice their religion freely. (Note: “Turks” and “Turkish” was used as an identifier of Muslims.)

“For men’s religion to God is between God and themselves. The king shall not answer for it. Neither may the king be judge between God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure. This is made evident to our lord the king by the scriptures.” Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity (1612)

“It is the will and command of God that, since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-christian consciences and worships be granted to all men in all nations and countries.” Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution (1644)

Roger Williams also cited in a positive fashion that Oliver Cromwell once maintained in a public discussion “with much Christian zeal and affection for his own conscience that he had rather that Mahumetanism [i.e. Mohammedanism or Islam] were permitted amongst us, than that one of God’s Children should be persecuted.”

“The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.” John Leland, “The Virginia Chronicle” (1790)

To add contemporary Baptist voices, I could add these excellent pieces by my friends Russell Moore and Bart Barber. These men and their arguments are right in step with the larger Baptist tradition of defending religious liberty for all.

 

 

Michael Haykin’s Seven, nay Eleven!, Books for Summer Reading

Over on his Facebook page, Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin, professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been posting pictures of the covers of books that he is reading this summer. The list is as fascinating as it is eclectic. Below is the list that he has posted. The links are to the Amazon book pages and the comments are Dr. Haykin’s own from his original Facebook posts. I don’t think the list is meant to be taken in order of importance, so you probably should read them all.

  1. 'The Noise of Time' Julian Barnes.jpg
    The Noise of Time: A Novel by Julian Barnes.
    Summer reading #1: read a review of this in the WSJ and it sounded fabulous. Just bought it at my fav bookstore in Hamilton: Bryan Prince.
  2. 'The Lives of Muhammad' Kegia Ali.jpg
    The Lives of Muhammad
    by Kecia Ali.
    Summer reading #2: as a believer in the Triunity of God and the deity of the Lord Jesus and his atoning death, I believe Islam to be wrong…but I am deeply interested in Islam as a religion and desire to learn all I about it. Hence this new book.
  3. 'Brown' Kamal Al-Solaylee.jpg
    Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (To Everyone) by Kamal Al-Solaylee.
    Summer reading #3: this is by a Canadian author and I was drawn to it by the title and then the contents drew me in.
  4. 'Reformations' Carlos Eire.jpg
    Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650
    by Carlos M. N. Eire.
    Summer reading #4: this is a tremendous overview of the Refm by Carlos Eire.
  5. 'John Calvin's Institutes' Bruce Gordon.jpg
    John Calvin’s ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion: A Biography
    by Bruce Gordon.
    Summer reading #5: I loved Gordon’s Calvin bio and this looks equally good.
  6. '2 Timothy' by Craig Smith.jpg
    2 Timothy
    by Craig A. Smith.
    Summer reading #6: along with Hebrews, 2 Timothy is my fav NT book and I am very impressed with this commentary by Craig Smith.
  7. 'Being Protestant in Reformation Britain' Alec Ryrie.jpg
    Being Protestant in Reformation Britain
    by Alec Ryrie.
    Summer reading #7: this is a fabulous study of Protestant piety–very deep and scholarly. Not for the novice!
  8. 8 'Chacer's Tale'.jpg
    Chaucer’s Tale: 1386 and the Road to Canterbury
    by Paul Strohm.
    Summer reading #8: Geoffrey Chaucer is very important for the English language: without his work we might all be speaking French. I know little about him and looking forward to having my ignorance illuminated.
  9. 9 'Not God's Type'.jpg
    Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms
    by Holly Ordway.
    Summer reading #9: I love memoirs and biographies and I look forward to this recent account of Holly Ordway’s rejection of atheism for Roman Catholicism.
  10. 10 'Praying Together'.jpg
    Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer: In Our Homes, Communities, and Churches
    by Megan Hill.
    Summer reading #10: I need this for my soul: for praying is the hardest part of my Christian life.
  11. 11 'John Owen Richard Baxter and the Formation of Nonconformity'.jpg
    John Owen, Richard Baxter and the Formation of Nonconformity by Tim Cooper.
    Summer reading #11: in preparation for our Fuller Conference this fall on Baxter, Owen, and Kiffen, I have this splendid work by Tim Cooper (whom I am very much looking forward to meeting at the September conference).

Tolle lege!

A Poem on Bunhill Fields

Bunhill Fields was a burial ground for dissenters/non-conformists in London who died in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Here lie John Bunyan, Hercules Collins, John Gill, Thomas Goodwin, Joseph Hart, William Kiffin, Hanserd Knollys, John Owen, Susanna Wesley, and many more. The following poem weaves together some of the names and lines of the saints whose bodies lie here awaiting the resurrection.

2016-05-21 12.59.57Tread softly! sure the foot’s on hallowed ground,
For many a saint of God is resting here;
The busy hum of City life’s outside—
Within the railings lies the dust that’s dear.

Some that were mourned by loved ones who were left;
Some for whom countless tears were often shed;
For they live on in many hearts to-day—
In prose, in poem, whether sung or read.

We see the wondrous Bard of Bedford’s tomb;
Here rests the precious dust of Joseph Hart;
Dear Isaac Watts, not very far to seek—
Quite close, within the sound of busy mart.

John Owen lies within these sacred, walls;
And Gill is here, and many more the same;
Old Andrew Gifford, Rosewell, Goodwin, too,
All spoke the truths the Bible teaches plain.

Macgowan’s lines will surely reach the heart,
A hidden chord be touched as on we read;
For “sinner saved by grace” is here the strain—
Such minds, so taught, are on this point agreed.

But when we reach the plains above we’ll know
That Jesus Christ has everything done well;
And with dear Swain we’ll laud His wondrous love,
Who plucked us “as a burning brand from hell.”

There Samuel Stennett’s “raptured eyes shall see
The Saviour’s lovely face” he sang of here;
And Burder’s “warmer heart in brighter world”
Shall “shout that God is love” in accents clear.

But Bunhill Fields is full of wondrous tales,
And true ones, too, of favoured saints of old
Who served their Master spite of pain and loss;
Cared not for glory, but for truth were bold.

The sovereign grace of God—that sweetest sound
To man who’s taught his sinful heart to know—
Was striven for at mighty cost by those
Whose bones lie mingled with the dust below.

What wondrous sight ’twill be on that great day
When Jesus, coming down the parted skies—
The resurrection morn—to meet the saints,
Will call His blessed ones and with them rise!

Good Lady Erskine, Rippon, Cromwells, too,
And many more the pen would fail to name;
The spots are given where all of these are laid;
Go, search your quest were surely not in vain.

Descriptions some you’ll find within this book,
Entrancing stories, witching tales are here;
There’s Fleetwood’s famous name and old DeFoe’s,
And Lady Page, whose sufferings are clear.

And when you’ve read the tales that here are told—
A few culled from the page of history’s lore—
The writer will be very well repaid
If Bunhill Fields you love a little more.

M. J. L.

From Alfred W. Light, Bunhill Fields (London: C. J. Farncombe & Sons, 1913), vii-viii.