1655 Midland Confession of Faith
The Midland Confession of Faith was written in preparation for an Associational union of seven churches in the Midlands of England. The document was prepared in May, 1655 at a gathering of delegates which met at Warwick. It was returned to the seven churches for discussion and ratification. On June 26, 1655 the Midland Association was formally constituted at Moreton. The Confession was adopted as a formal statement of the commonly held beliefs of the Midland churches.
Many Baptists in this area were Arminians of the General Baptist Assembly. Also, the Midlands was an area of intense proselyting activity by George Fox and the Quakers. In part, this serves to explain the polemic tone of this confession. It was intended not only to define the essential beliefs held by the Midland churches, but also to function as an instructional tool to ward off error by anticipating the contradictions of the General Baptists and Quakers.
The Elders of the Midland Association were mostly working men. None were seminary graduates. None were former Anglican Bishops, so they did not considered themselves reformed or reformers. They were farmers, weavers, millers etc.. These were men who believed their calling and qualification, as ministers of the gospel, were from God. These facts are significant when considering both the existence and content of their Confession.
Lacking formal educations, and as busy working men, it is reasonable to assume these brethren would have adopted the 1644 London Confession as an expression of their beliefs had they fully agreed with its content. The London document was written by more educated men, some of which were former Anglican Bishops with formal theological training. Their busy lives made the London Confession a convenient credential. However, they chose not to take full advantage of the London document.
Elder Benjamin Cox, pastor of Abington Church in London, was invited to participate in writing the Midland Confession. Elder Cox had previously expressed dissatisfaction with the 1644 London Confession. In 1646 he attended the London General Conference submitting a list of twenty-two additions and corrections for consideration. His appendix was not officially endorsed by the conference. However, it is preserved and was reprinted in 1981 as an appendix to the 1646 edition of the London Confession.
Certain similarities in phrases are seen in the Midland Confession and the 1644 London Confession. No doubt this represents the influence of Elder Cox. However, his most significant contribution to the Midland Confession lies in its opposition to Arminian theories.
Elder Cox's appendix is mostly a polemic response to Arminian Free-willism. In this regard, his efforts to address the errors of Arminius were exactly what the Midland brethren desired. The growing numbers of Arminian Baptist churches was a concern to these brethren. Elder Cox efforts demonstrated his ability to nullify their most persuasive arguments. In this regard, his skills proved very beneficial to the Midland churches.
Elder Daniel King, one of the principle organizers of the Midland Association, was also probably familiar with the London Confession. In 1650 he wrote a book titled A Way to Sion, which was endorsed by four Elders from the London area. It is known that he retained contact with the London Churches during his ministry.
However, Elders Cox and King's acquaintance with the London Confession serves to bolster the assertion that the Midland churches purposely distinguished themselves from the theological content of the London Confession. With two men in their midst having ready access and detailed knowledge of the London document, it seems reasonable the Midland brethren would have simply adopted the London Confession outright. At the least, they could have restated it in their own words had they considered it a reasonable expression of their beliefs.
Differences in the two documents are considerable. First, the language style is different. The Midland document uses a more concise style of expression. The London document is more comprehensive in subject matter than the Midland Confession. The Midland brethren stated their doctrine in sixteen articles rather than fifty-three.Further, the subject order is different. Only the first two articles, dealing with the identity and character of God, are in the same order. Unlike the London Confession, the Midland Confession does not include a discussion of God's providence with the doctrine of Election. (This is article three in the London Confession). The London Confession omits any relationship between scriptural knowledge and time salvation.
The sentiment of Article twenty-four of the 1644 London is absent in the Midland Confession. Article Twenty-four: "Faith is ordinarily begotten by the preaching of the gospel, or word of Christ, without respect to any power or agency in the creature; but it being wholly passive, and dead in trespasses and sins, doth believe and is converted by no less power than that which raised Christ from the dead."
The order of this statement is unmistakable. It says faith is normally acquired by the preaching of the gospel. It continues by saying God does not respect any power or agency in the hearing creature, because the hearing creature is passive, being dead in trespasses and sins; upon hearing, the dead creature believes and is converted by the same power which raised Christ from the dead. The inference of this article cannot be denied. It is dealing with regeneration. The creature is dead in trespasses and sins. It is converted by the power that raised Christ from the dead. This conversion must be a conversion from death to life, since the analogy of Christ which is used is from death to life. Further, it notes the conversion is effected by the Spirit of God. Finally it plainly declares the gospel is the ordinary means for arranging belief, and that belief precedes conversion. It says God does not respect any agency in the creature. However, the article ascribes the gospel as an agency of belief to regeneration. The logical conclusion is: Without the gospel there is no faith and therefore no regeneration.
As we shall attempt to show in our commentary of article eight of the Midland Confession, these brethren did not accept that rational belief, or gospel faith, is a prerequisite of regeneration. They did not place gospel faith ahead of regeneration. This is a fundamental dissimilarity between these two documents. There is no statement of gospel instrumentality in the Midland Confession. Apparently Lumpkin, in assessing the two documents, missed this fundamental difference. However, with such a drastic distinction in theology, it is apparent why the Midland Brethren did not use the London Confession of 1644 as a statement of their beliefs.
The 1655 Midland Confession is a model for later Primitive Baptist Confessions. Its brevity and simple language is in contrast to the detail and linguistic intricacy of the London Confessions. Subsequent Primitive Baptist Confessions share the Midland brethren's style of directness and simplicity.
The Confession was not written for the benefit of Parliaments and clergy. It was not dedicated to a king. It was written for the benefit of the membership and friends of the churches of the Midland Association. Its style fits the modest education of the farmers, laborers and merchants who comprised the churches' memberships. It is a document which fathers and mothers were able to understand and to explain to their children, which neighbors could discuss with one another. Its simplicity served to make it an outline for scriptural study.
1st. We believe and profess, that there is only one true God, who is our God, who is eternal, almighty, unchangeable, infinite, and incomprehensible; who is a Spirit, having His being in Himself, and giveth being to all creatures; He doth what He will, in heaven and earth; working all things according to the counsel of His own will.
2nd. That this infinite Being is set forth to be the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three agree in one. I John v.7.
The first two articles are statements of the identity and attributes of God. They begin by establishing belief in his power and authority as Creator God. The identity of God as one true God and as the Trinity is defined.
The statement of the Trinity stops short of declaring the three are one, instead they say "these three agree in one." This handling of the Godhead probably suggests that the concept of an omnipotent God who is three in one was so well understood and accepted it required little explanation.
3rd. We profess and believe the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testament, to be the word and revealed mind of God, which are able to make men wise unto Salvation, through faith and love which is in Christ Jesus; and that they are given by inspiration of God, serving to furnish the man of God for every good work; and by them we are (in the strength of Christ) to try all things whatsoever are brought to us, under the pretence of truth. II Timothy iii.15-17; Isaiah viii.20.
Article three reveals a belief in divine inspiration of the Bible. It also proclaims the sufficiency of scripture "to make man wise unto salvation."
This article is a remarkable and distinct statement which demonstrates independent theological thinking. It expresses a distinctly Primitive Baptist tenet. It is the first Baptist confessional statement which plainly identifies God's providential ministering as the bible doctrine of timely salvation. These brethren recognized that peace, joy, contentment, assurance, consolation and even rational believing are all dependent, in some degree, upon man's obedience towards God's will. They noted that wisdom based salvation is established in one's faith and love in Christ. They associated the providential deliverance of this salvation to good works from a love motive, identifying scripture as the principle source for instruction in good works. With their last statement, concerning trying all things, they subscribed to a belief that scripture is the only rule of faith, practice, and daily living.
By identifying a salvation which is from God, revealed in scripture, understood through wisdom, received through scriptural discernment, applied by good works, all accomplished through faith and love in Christ, these brethren provided a detailed description of the contingent for God delivering providential blessings of temporal deliverance, which is time salvation.
The absence of a polemic attitude in this article and the skill with which it is simply stated suggests the Midland brethren were both established and comfortable with the theology of a temporal salvation of providential deliverance. They recognized that, to a very large extent, this deliverance, or temporal saving, is contingent upon obedience to God's will. They understood that scriptures such as Philippians 2:12, Romans 1:16, II Corinthians 7:18, Philippians 1:19 and II Timothy 3:15 all reveal the principle of God's providential salvation of His people.
4th. That though Adam was created righteous, yet he fell through the temptations of Satan; and his fall overthrew, not only himself, but his posterity, making them sinners by his disobedience; so that we are by nature children of wrath, and defiled from the womb, being shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin. Psalm ii.13; Romans v.12-15.
The origin of sin and man's resultant depravity is stated in this article. The statement is short but inclusive. It identifies the culpability of Satan in the transgression as well as Adam's position as the federal head of humanity. It contains a specific statement describing the nature of man in total depravity.
5th. That God elected and chose, in His Eternal counsel, some persons to life and salvation, before the foundation of the world, whom accordingly He doth and will effectually call, and whom He doth so call, He will certainly keep by His power, through faith to salvation. Acts xiii.48; Ephesians i.2-4; II Thessalonians ii.13; I Peter i.2, etc.
Article five marks a variance of the Midland brethren from classic Calvinism. Dealing with election, they identify God's choice of, "some persons to life and salvation." This statement is void of any suggestion of a double election, a concept which Calvin held. In his Institutes, Calvin presents a theory of predestination as the culmination of two elections by which God predestinates certain people to heaven and others to hell. He taught that God elected the Children of God to a predestination of heaven in the conformed image of Christ; and, elected the children of wrath to a predestination of reprobation and destruction in hell. Calvin supports his double election theory with deductive reasoning rather than scripture. He supposes that God, in choosing a people to live with him in heaven, by process of elimination has also made a choice of a people to suffer eternal torment.
The consequence of his erroneous reasoning is far reaching. Presumably, his double election theory is the basis for the false doctrine of God's absolute predestination of all things. Calvin denied he believed in God's predestination of all things. However, the same deductive reasoning which brought him to a conclusion of a double election, when carried to its logical conclusion, demands that there be a doctrine of God's predestination of all things. Calvin's denial serves to demonstrate the eventual conclusion of his double election theory. Since God provides all the means necessary for the eternal salvation of the children of God to a predestination which includes an election of grace; if he has predestinated others to eternal damnation in hell, it is reasonable to conclude he has also provided all the means necessary to ensure their eternal destiny. Thus, God becomes predestinator of the cause of condemnation, which is sin. This logic compelled Calvin's critics to suspect him of believing in God's absolute predestination of all things. His vigorous denial registers the fact that accusations were made.
The Midland brethren realized the Bible teaches an exclusive predestination of God's elect to conformation to the image of Christ. Their qualified application of election to "life and salvation" suggests not only they correctly understood the doctrine of election; it also implies that others did not.
6th. That election was free in God, of His own pleasure, and not at all for, or with reference to , any foreseen works of faith in the creature, as the motive thereunto. Ephesians i.4, Romans xi.5,6.
The Confession continues with the subject of election in this article by dealing with God's sovereignty. It plainly states the election of God was not based upon "foreseen works of faith in the creature."
By associating works and faith these brethren revealed a fundamental theological connection. It is, faith is manifested by works. Thus, faith can never be viewed in the abstract. Purely abstract faith produces no evidence of its existence because works is the evidence. Therefore, without works it is impossible to display faith. Further, James declares faith void of works is dead. The relationship of faith and works is fixed. James was adamant on this point. He challenged Christians to show faith void of works, insinuating the impossibility of success. Such faith is dead on arrival, and cannot truly be identified as faith. Even the antecedent faith of regeneration is evidenced by subtle works which are sometimes unexplainable by those who possess it. This point is revealed and developed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 2:13 - 16. He recognized that even those lacking gospel knowledge are capable of the faithful work of godly morality, based upon the new creature testimony present in their souls.
Arminius missed this point completely, associating faith with works but placing the source of such faith in the rational logic of a depraved being. This faith does not proceed from holiness, and therefore, can never be inventoried as righteousness. How can unholiness manifest good works? Paul said it cannot. He said there is no righteousness (sinless quality) in carnal man. He said God concluded all in unbelief. Depraved man is void of righteousness because he has no holiness. Without holiness there is no substantive source for good works. Works cannot be good unless they originate in holiness. Without good works there is no evidence of faith. Pelagianism falls.
Calvin understood the evidentiary relationship of faith and works(sometimes taking it to an extreme) everywhere except in the doctrine of justification as it relates to regeneration. Here, his doctrine imparts faith, through the concerted efforts of the Holy Ghost and the Gospel, before new birth. Even if belief is manifested a nanosecond before regeneration, it cannot be counted as righteousness, because such belief is an expression of the rational stirrings of a creature whose spiritual identity is one of total depravity. Since he is not yet born again, he has no holiness by which righteous faith is produced. The only means of attaining righteousness is through the blood of Christ. But the blood must be applied before righteousness can be counted (imputed) by God. So this faith cannot be counted righteous through the righteousness that is in Christ's blood because the blood is not effectually applied until regeneration occurs.
Here, Calvin has stumbled and landed next to Arminius, for he places faith before regeneration. His theory, simply stated, is that the child of God is imparted a saving faith prior to the indwelling of God in new birth. This prior to new birth faith allows his will to accept the message of the gospel whereby he believes in Christ, is justified before God based upon this belief, and is then given new birth. Thus, Calvin placed the good work of belief in a faith that is resident in an unregenerate, totally depraved being. He is in the same fix as Arminius. How can righteous faith reside in unholy man? If it does not reside in the holy seed, born of regeneration, how can it remain righteous? How can God look upon it as righteous if it is produced in the unholy environment of human depravity? Calvin said it is produced by the Spirit and imparted to man. However, without the cleansing efficacy of Christ's blood it cannot remain holy while in contact with depraved humanity. It must be viewed through the blood of Christ which, by Calvin's theory, is applied after belief. Here, Calvin ignored the fixed relationship of faith and its manifestation as the good work of belief. It cannot be good, and thereby righteous, or counted as righteous, if it does not reside in and proceed from a holy environment. He forgot the contextual development of faith as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. He does not deny faith is a fruit of the Spirit. However, Calvin overlooked that, in Galatians 5, Paul developed a principle of manifestation of the indwelling Spirit of God. Verse 25 summarizes the entire basis for Paul's discussion of good works as manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit. He wrote; "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk after the Spirit."
The Midland brethren understood that a fundamental distinction of manifestations of faith does not exist; that fundamentally, faith is proactive. That is, faith will express itself at some level, from the moment of new birth. In this context, conviction of sin which, as a response of godly morality may be manifest as genuine remorse, is a manifestation of faith which can be expressed absent any gospel knowledge. They accepted Paul's Galatian letter and James' epistle, that good works are affixed to faith and faith without works is dead. They understood that philosophical faith, void of work, is a mirage of antinomian rhetoric. But, they also knew that the good work of rational acceptance of God, even a nanosecond after regeneration, is a manifestation of faith, and therefore evidence of a predessorary indwelling of God's Spirit in regeneration. They knew that God judges no work as good or faithful unless its origin is holy and thereby stimulated by a righteous motivation. Without the imparted sanctification of Spiritual seed new life there are no good works. The carnal nature of man (the only nature man possesses before regeneration) cannot produce works which are good in the context of God's moral judgement. God always views good works through the applied blood of Christ. Thus, these brethren understood that the divine indwelling of regeneration, and nothing less, is the predessorary impetus for manifesting faith. They knew there is no definition of faith outside the context of God's holiness, because without holiness there is no faith. Therefore, without the indwelling of the holy Spirit in regeneration, man is not capable of faithful overtures toward God by any scriptural definition of faith.
Not only were they saying God does not elect based upon faithful works but, by denying faithful works as a prerequisite for election, they also denied it as a precursor of regeneration.
7th. That Jesus Christ was, in the fulness of time, manifested in the flesh; being born of a woman; being perfectly righteous, gave himself for the elect to redeem them to God by his blood. John x.15; Ephesians v. 25-27; Rev. v.9.
This article addresses the eternal identity of Christ. It teaches he assumed human form, being born of a woman. It identifies his sinless quality while he was in the form of a man.
It is also a definite statement of particular redemption. By associating redemption by Christ's blood to the elect only, they have said that Christ died for his elect alone and that only the elect, chosen by the eternal counsel of God, (Article five) will be redeemed. No doubt, it was this tenet, in particular, which the disciples of Fuller and Carey wished to have removed from the Association's circular letters. Their perverted doctrine of general atonement and particular application cannot be resolved to the meaning of this article.
8th. That all men until they be quickened by Christ are dead in trespasses--Ephesians ii.1; and therefore have no power of themselves to believe savingly--John xv.5. But faith is the free gift of God, and the mighty work of God in the soul, even like the rising of Christ from the dead--Ephesians 1.19. Therefore consent not with those who hold that God hath given power to all men to believe to salvation.
While Elder Cox's influence is apparent in other articles of this Confession, it is nowhere more apparent than in article eight. This article is a compact statement of several articles of his appendix. In particular it communicates sentiments expressed by Elder Cox in article seven of his appendix. It states, "Though we confess that no man doth attain unto faith by his own good will; John 1:13, yet we judge and know that the Spirit of God doth not compel a man to believe against his will, but doth powerfully and sweetly create in a man a new heart, and so make him to believe and obey willingly, Ezek. 36;26,27; Ps. 110:3. God thus working in us both to will and to do, of His good pleasure, Phil. 2:13." Elder Cox clearly understood that faith cannot exist in the child of God until after a new heart is created in him.
The polemic attitude of this article reveals the controversial issue of the day. It is markedly anti-Arminian. The last statement is directed at correcting the notion of Pelagian free-willism. This makes sense because the Welsh Baptists had done battle with Pelagianism for a millennium. Its rise in popularity in the 17th century must have been a cause for alarm among the Midland churches.
In addressing Pelagian error, the Midland brethren also identified their opposition to an underlying principle of Calvinist regeneration, which is gospel agency. Their statement presents faith as an evidence of regeneration, and concludes that this certainty eliminates any ability for men to believe savingly. The Midland brethren evidently believed new birth must precede rational comprehension of gospel faith. They likened faith to the rising of Christ from the dead. Before he rose he was alive. He did not first rise, then live. Regardless of the immediacy of his rising after life, the rising did not precede life.
Perhaps the use of the phrase "all men" in their concluding sentence was pointed at Arminian free-willism. However, this is the conclusion of the article, which is predicated on a relationshipof regeneration and faith as being analogous to the rising of Christ from the dead. The article began by establishing that all men are dead. The "all men" of the first statement is inclusive of every human who is dead in trespasses and sins and cannot believe until after they are quickened. Therefore "all men" in the conclusive sentence must be interpreted to mean every man. Context has not changed. Therefore, the "all men" of the last statement must also be inclusive. They did not believe that any man can believe and be saved, whether or not they are elect. Belief, in this article, is identified as following, not preceding, nor concurrent to new birth.
9th. That Christ is the only true King, Priest, and Prophet of the Church. Acts ii.22-23; Hebrews iv.14, etc; viii.1, etc.
This article establishes Christ's authority as King, ability as Priest, and instruction as Prophet. In combination, it describes his identity as the head of the church. It clearly defines Christ alone as the head of the church. The Midlands area had suffered terribly from both papal and Anglican persecutions. They knew first hand of abuses of pontifical authorities. In this article they plainly declared that Christ alone is the head and power of the church. They identify his prophecy, written as scripture and preached as gospel, as the only rule of faith and practice.
10th. That every man is justified by Christ--Romans; viii.33; I Cor. vi.11; apprehended by faith; and that no man is justified in the sight of God partly by Christ and partly by works. Romans iii.20,28,30; Gal. v.4.
Article ten is very Primitive Baptist. The language of the article together with scriptural references indicates the Midland brethren understood that Paul's references to law service, in a broader application, refers to any works system. Also, it provides additional clarity to the Midland brethren's position relative to faith in regeneration. The clause, "That every man is justified by Christ, apprehended by faith," makes the same distinction of order in justification and faith that is made in article eight concerning regeneration and faith. They did not precede justification with faith. The proper order is justification, then faith.
This article specifies justification as being accomplished by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone. They say man is justified by Christ. In this they disassociated justification and works; and, because belief is the work of faith, they eliminated the unregenerate faith as an ingredient of effectual justification. Evidently they believed justification is by the imputed righteousness of Christ, "through the faith of the operation of the God, who raised him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12); whereby, in regeneration the child of God is buried with Christ by a baptism into his death by effectual immersion in his blood, and arises in him, in the blood, by the justification of reconciliation demonstrated in his resurrection.
However, they wrote that man is apprehended by faith. No doubt, their use of the word apprehended was deliberate. It sends a signal concerning this faith. It is a faith that apprehends. Paul spoke of such a faith in Philippians 3. He desired to be found in Christ, not possessing his own righteousness of works, but rather a righteousness which is through the faith of Christ. With this righteousness he was able to know Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering. Being thus conformed to the death of Christ, which is a death of the will of the flesh in obedience to the will of God, Paul aspired to attain a resurrection. In this resurrection he would apprehend that for which he was apprehended of, Christ Jesus. He concludes by stating; "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus."
The apprehending of which Paul wrote is the apprehending of which the Midland brethren wrote. Again, this article demonstrates the depth of knowledge and skill of these early Baptists. They understood the scriptural principle of experiential justification, that, through obedience, man gains the experience of justification. They realized this justification, although we are not yet raised from the dead, allows us to experience the qualitative power of Christ's resurrection. They knew that such obedience is through sufferings and mortifications of our members in the flesh. They knew the basis for such obedience is through the faith of Christ, which is in the Child of God in regeneration.
11th. That Jesus of Nazareth, of whom the scriptures of the Old Testament prophesied, is the true Messiah and Saviour of men; and that He died on the cross, was buried, rose again in the same body in which He suffered and ascended to the right hand of the majesty on high, and appeareth in the presence of God, making intercession for us.
This article requires very little discussion. Its theme is belief in the literal existence of Christ as Jesus of Nazareth. Its poignant message is that Christ is a man who was born in Nazareth, according to prophesy. He suffered and died in man's body. He arose in the same body. He ascended into heaven in the same body where he now dwells with God. This article confirms the humanity of Christ while it ascribes deity to his person, all prophesied in scripture and accomplished at the appointed time. It also defines the principle of the bodily resurrection of the dead.
12th That all those who have faith wrought in their hearts by the power of God, according to his good pleasure, should be careful to maintain good works, and to abound in them, acting from principles of true faith and unfeigned love, looking to God's glory as their main end. Titus iii.8; Heb. xi.6; I Cor. vi.10 and 31.
Article twelve affirms a belief that faith is a fruit of the Spirit which is received from God. Further, it identifies God as the sole worker of intrinsic faith, by his power alone. This article is an apologetic statement of the doctrine of christian obedience. It identifies the responsibility of everyone born of the Spirit of God to maintain an abundance of good works. It assigns true faith and unfeigned love as the principle motives for godly living. Finally, it assigns to God any approbations of men we might receive for well doing.
13th. That those who profess faith in Christ, and make the same appear by their fruits, are the proper subjects of Baptism. Matthew xxviii.18,19.
14th. That this baptizing is not by sprinkling, but dipping of the persons in the water, representing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Romans vi.3,4; Colossians ii.12; Acts viii.38,39.
Articles thirteen and fourteen deal with baptism. Article fourteen cites baptism by immersion, and not sprinkling, as the proper mode of baptism. Article thirteen establishes faith in Christ and obedience, as evidenced by manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit in ones life, as requirements for baptism. It reveals that baptism is a commandment to be obeyed by all the faithful.
15th. That persons so baptized ought, by free consent, to walk together, as God shall give opportunity in distinct churches, or assemblies of Zion, continuing in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers, as fellow-men caring for one another, according to the will of God. All these ordinances of Christ are enjoined in His Church, being to be observed till his Second Coming, which we all ought diligently to wait for.
Article fifteen deals with the community of the church as a congregation of baptized believers. It identifies the Lord's supper as an ordinance in the church and implies a closed communion.
A point of interest relative to Article fifteen, and indeed the whole Confession, is the absence of a statement concerning limitation of associational authority. This may be a result of the newness of associations as structured bodies. These brethren had not faced the abuses which later sometimes arose when Associations imposed certain policies and practices upon individual churches. Therefore, perhaps they saw little need to make provisions to curb such abuses in their Articles of Faith.
16th. That at the time appointed of the Lord, the dead bodies of all men, just and unjust, shall rise again out of their graves, that all may receive according to what they have done in their bodies, be it good or evil.
Article sixteen addresses the resurrection and final judgement. The statement of these principles is very general. However, they are specific in identifying the resurrection of both the just and unjust. Annihilation theories cannot be contrived in the wording of this article. It does not specifically attach the principle of immediate ascension into heaven for the just. However, neither does it imply a temporary respite after resurrection. For this reason, and because historically there is no evidence to support the thought that the Midland brethren believed in a millennial reign, there is no reason to assume the absence of a principle of immediate ascension implies they believed in a millennial reign. Probably, the concept of millennial reign was so foreign it did not occur to them to state specifically a principle of immediate ascension.
The elegance of simplicity of the Midland Confession cannot be overstated. In sixteen concise articles this document provides a detailed, yet easily understood, expression of the doctrines of grace. The inclusive scope and precise language of the document reveal the depth of knowledge of its authors. Inclusion of scriptural references with each article indicates the Midland brethren's willingness to defend their doctrine with scripture. Also, scriptural references, no doubt, enhanced this document's functionality as a study guide of the doctrines of grace. As an early example of documentation of the doctrines of sovereign grace, the Midland Confession stands at the pinnacle of written Primitive Baptist scholarship.
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