Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Confessional Theonomy: Part 6: A Declaration of several of the People called Anabaptists, in and about the City of London

"A Declaration of several of the People called Anabaptists, in and about the City of London" was penned by Baptists in 1659. Its purpose was to distance its adherents from allegations of opposing civil government, plotting evil against Christians with differing religious views, and taking religious toleration to an extreme.

During this time, Baptists were diverse in their views. As such, there was opposition by some Baptists to the declarationeither by those who advocated toleration beyond Protestants, or by those who rejected involvement with civil government beyond verbal testimony.[1] However, this declaration dispels the notion that Baptists necessarily opposed civil government and took toleration to an extreme by condoning false religions. On the contrary, as it shows, some Baptists had a very theonomic view of civil government. 

And the document was heavily influenced by Particular Baptists, who were not some fringe Baptist group, but one of the most orthodox Christian groups in history. These were the leading Particular Baptists of London and constituted the majority of the document's signers (the rest were General Baptists).[2] Particular Baptists held to justification by faith alone, God's sovereignty in salvation, and particular atonement. They are the theological forebears of today's Reformed Baptists.

Again, these were the leading Particular Baptists of London, where baptist orthodoxy was promulgated. Fifteen years prior to the declaration, London congregations of the Particular Baptist persuasion crafted the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1644); and eighteen years after the declaration, Particular Baptists in London and beyond wrote the Second London Baptist Confession (1677). This declaration then is an important Baptist legacy, and indicates that theonomy was not necessarily outside of the orthodox Baptist mainstream. 

Note, per the declaration's title, how the authors of this declaration take exception to being indiscriminately labeled as Anabaptists
which Protestants considered to be theologically aberrant (although Anabaptists themselves were diverse in their theology). This labeling had apparently been a problem for some time. In the 1644 London Baptist Confession of Faith, the subtitle reads, "Of those CHURCHES which are commonly (though falsly) called ANABAPTISTS."[3]

Below is the full text of "A Declaration of several of the People called Anabaptists, in and about the City of London." It begins by listing several misrepresentations, followed by a correction of each. Note the strong advocacy of the civil enforcement of the first table of the lawbalanced by a toleration of fellow Christians with certain differing views. 

Of several of the People called ANABAPTISTS,
In and about the CITY of LONDON.

We being mis-represented to the Nation,

1. As such, as are opposite to Magistracy.
2. That we would destroy the Publick Ministry of the Nation, who differ from us in some things about Religion.
3. That we do countenance the people called Quakers, in their irregular practise.
4. That we endeavour a Toleration of miscarriages in things Ecclesiastical and Civil, under pretence of Liberty of Conscience,
5. That we design to murder and destroy those who differ from us in matters of Religion, thereby endeavouring to make us odious to some people fearing God, And also to incense the rude Multitude against us, to provoke them (if possible) to destroy us.

To the first: Though we cannot answer in justification of every individual person that is of our Profession in matters of Religion, yet we can say this, and prove it to all the world, that it hath been our profession, and is our practise, to be obedient to Magistracy in all things Civil, and willing to live peaceably, under whatever Government is, and shall be established in this Nation: for we do believe, and declare, Magistracy to be an ordinance of God, and ought to be obeyed in all lawful things.

To the second: As for the public Ministers of the Nation, who differ from us in the matter of Baptizing Infants, and some things in Church-Government; We are so far from endevouring to destroy them, that we judge, they ought to have the Liberty of their Consciences therein; and that it is our duty to stand by them, and preserve them (so much as in us lies) from all injury and violence.

To the third: Concerning the people called Quakers, it is well known to all, (that are not wilfully ignorant) there are none more opposite to their irregular practices then we are: nor are there any, that they have exprest more Contradiction to, (in matters of Religion) then against us; though their provocations therein, hath not put us (in the least) on a desire of depriving them their just Liberty, while they live morally honest, and peaceable in the Nation.

To the forth: Whereas we are further charged with endeavouring an universal Toleration of all miscarriages, both in things Religious and Civil, under pretense of Liberty of Conscience; it is in both respects notoriously false. And we do before the Lord, that shall judge both quick and dead, yea, before Angels and men, declare our utter detestation of such a Toleration; for in matters Civil, we desire there may not be the least Toleration of miscarriage in any, much less in our selves.

Nor do we desire, in matters of Religion, that Popery should be tolerated, the blood of many thousands of the people of God, having been barbarously shed, by the Professors thereof; or any persons tolerated, that worship a false god; nor any that speak contemptuously and reproachfully of our Lord Jesus Christ; nor any that deny the holy Scriptures, contained in the books of the Old and New Testaments, to be the Word of God: And yet, we are not against tolerating of Episcopacy, Presbytery, or any stinted form, provided they do not compel any others to a compliance therewith, or a conformity thereunto: for whatever Composers of any form of worship, may possibly erre; it is derogating from God, and his holy Word, and injurious to men, to compel any to practice thereof.

To the last: For as much as we are charged, with designs, to murder or to destroy those that differ from us in matters of Religion; We do not only abhor and detest it, as a cursed practice; but we hope, have approved our selves, both in this City and in this Nation, to the contrary; notwithstanding the great provocation of some, who have endeavoured our ruine: for all we desire, is just liberty to men, as men; that every man may be preserved in his own just rights, and the Christians may be preserved as Christians, though of different Apprehensions in some things of Religion; in the prosecution whereof, our lives shall be dear unto us, when we are thereunto lawfully called. The designs of our Adversaries in these Calumnies, are, to mis-represent us to some people fearing God, and also, to incense the rude Multitude against us, purposely to provoke them (if possible) to destroy us.

We hope, hereby, it will appear to them that fear God, that we are no such persons, as our Adversaries have represented us, And for their incensing the rude Multitude against us, it is no more, than some others did to our Master; and it is not for the Disciples, to expect better usage then their Lord: and we do not find, the rude Multitude ever joyned with him, nor do we expect, they should favour us: it is enough to us, we have his Promise, that if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him.

This we think meet to Declare, to undeceive those, who through the unchristian actions and expressions of some persons, have been, and are, prejudiced against us.

LONDON, Printed for Livewell Chapman, at the Crown in Popes-Head-Alley, 1659.          


[1] Louise Fargo BrownThe Political Activities of the Baptists and Fifth Monarchy Men in England During the Interregnum (Washington D. C.: American Historical Association, 1913), 195n. 
[2] Ibid., 8, 194.
[3] One writer notes the significant differences between Particular Baptists and Anabaptists:
"[T]hese people were called Particular Baptists because they advocated the doctrines of grace so fervently. It is precisely the theological position of the Particular Baptists that renders any genetic relationship between them and the Anabaptists untenable." James Edward McGoldrick, Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2000 ), 134. 

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