(Part 1 of this article may be found here).
The framers of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (known as the “1689”) chose to pen an introduction to their confession. In doing so, it is apparent that they desired to bring several points to the reader’s attention. Among those, some have practical relevance for believers today: respect for fellow brethren, clarifying their beliefs, esteeming the authority of Scripture and the importance of striving for holiness. In this article we will look at the latter two points.
We have also taken care to affix texts of Scripture, in the margin for the confirmation of each article in our confession; in which work we have studiously indeavoured to select such as are most clear and pertinent, for the proof of what is asserted by us; and our earnest desire is, that all into whose hands this may come, would follow that (never enough commended) example of the noble Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily, that they might find out whether the things preached to them were so or not.
Without some reference to Scripture, it would be hard to show how certain statements in the Confession were obtained. By referencing the passages that best demonstrated the truth espoused in the Confession, the literate layperson could look and confirm for themselves that these truths were, in fact, Biblical. How often when listening to a speaker or reading a book on a Christian topic do you stop to look up the Scripture reference (if one is given)? It is easier to let it slide by and not take the time to be in the Word. However, the more time you spend meditating upon the Word of God, the better equipped you are to discern a statement through the lens of the Bible.
After explaining the reasoning for composing their Confession, attempting to be clear in where they agree and disagree with other believers, and pleading for the Confession to be charitably judged against Scripture, the writers then turn to application of these truths:
And oh that other contentions being laid asleep, the only care and contention of all upon whom the name of our blessed Redeemer is called, might for the future be, to walk humbly with their God, and in the exercise of all Love and Meekness towards each other, to perfect holyness in the fear of the Lord, each one endeavoring to have his conversation such as becometh the Gospel; and also suitable to his place and capacity vigorously to promote in others the practice of true Religion and undefiled in the sight of God and our Father.
Knowledge is not useful if it is only used for self-promotion. As 1 Corinthians 8:1 reads, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”(NASB) By learning more about God and His commandments, you are better equipped to serve Him. These truths should spur you to action! What you believe is important, yet how you live out your beliefs is important as well.
While one may “promote in others the practice of true Religion” in many spheres of one’s life, there is one sphere in which a Christian’s life is most subject to scrutinization: that of the family.
…there is one spring and cause of decay of Religion in our day, which we cannot but touch upon, and earnestly urge a redress of; and that is the neglect of the worship of God in Families, by those to whom the charge and conduct of them is committed. May not the grosse ignorance…of many…be justly charged upon their Parents and Masters, who have not trained them up in the way wherein they ought to walk when they were young?….also by their [the parents] own omission of Prayer, and other duties of Religion in their families, together with the ill example of their loose conversation, have inured them first to neglect, and then contempt of all Piety and Religion?
Your children will not be saved because you do everything right in raising them and being a godly example for them, as the writers note that those who are unbelievers are responsible for their own sins. However, if you are a parent, you have a duty to bring up your children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4, ESV) Examine yourself prayerfully. Is my conduct among those closest to me demonstrating my love for Christ? Am I sharing the Gospel with those entrusted to me? Is this a priority in my life? Ask that the Lord would enable you to be obedient in this.
The introduction to the 1689 is a treasure of practical wisdom for the modern Reformed Baptist. Our demeanor, our knowledge of the truths contained in Scripture, our clarity in expressing those truths, and the actions consistent with those truths are all demonstrated and prescribed here. I would encourage those who have never read the original introduction to take the time to do so. As we venture onward to studying the Confession itself, may we remember the zeal and humility expressed by the writers. They ended their introduction with this prayer:
…that the God of all grace will pour out those measures of his holy Spirit upon us, that the profession of truth may be accompanyed with the sound belief, and diligent practice of it by us; that his name may in all things be glorified, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.