committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

Chapter XV

Comparative Observations

Each of the three Confessions discussed possesses Holy Scripture as it basis of origin. However, they each suggest the influence of their own unique historical circumstance. The Midland Confession is unique as an original composition in context of the existence of the 1644 London Confession. The obvious differences in the two documents, in light of the familiarity the Midland brethren had with the London Confession, attests to their theological independence from the London churches.

The Kehukee Confession was written in the context of reformation. It displays minimal reliance upon the Philadelphia Confession. It is independent and original in structure and content. When separation from the Philadelphia Confession was necessary in order to eliminate errors which were introduced by Arminian theology and sustained by Calvinist theology, the Kehukee brethren gladly departed. Where there is common theology they borrowed small phrases. However, for the most part, the Kehukee Churches opted to use their own style and concepts. In this regard the Confession is an original document.

The Sandy Creek Principles of Faith is clearly influenced by these brethren's historic aversion to uninspired religious creeds. They took great pains to create a document which adequately identified their beliefs but could never be given the authority of Holy Scripture. Their document could never be mistaken for a canonical creed.

Despite the diverse influences exercised in writing these documents, they contain striking similarities. The most obvious is they all may be interpreted to say the same thing. Certainly, similarity should exist since all three documents claim a singular origin in Holy Scripture. But many such documents claim scripture as their origin yet do not agree with one another or with these three confessions. Therefore, while we give credence to the validity of common origin, we also look beyond singular origin and explore the possibility of common experiential influence.

The several preceding pages, which detailed the succession of the church, present a reasonable argument as to the plausibility of common experiential influence. Now, we will attempt to find evidences of such influence in the documents by comparing their contents.

All three documents share the common feature of avoiding restatements or even reinterpretations of either of the two London Confessions. Their connectivity lies in the body of their similarities despite the fact that the London Confessions had little to no influence upon their authors, either by circumstance, as was the case for the Sandy Creek document, or by design, as was the case for the Midland and Kehukee documents. Thus, their similarities are rooted elsewhere, evidently in providential succession. Indeed, their similarities speak to this issue. Without a line of succession, how could three such different groups, separated by geography and time, possess such similar documents? This point is particularly striking when comparing the Midland Confession and Sandy Creek Principles.

The probability of providential perpetuity is enhanced by the unlikelihood that the Separates or Kehukees had access to a copy of the Midland Confession. There seems to be no record of this document actually traveling to American in the seventeenth century in a concise form. This fact seems to strengthen the potential of providential intervention. As we shall attempt to prove, the three documents appear to contain unique presentations of theological concepts which are nearly identical. In places they contain nearly identical phrases; which, in turn, are unique to the three confessions. They all begin with an order previously not used in Particular Baptist Confessions. All three confessions share common and concise language style as compared to the intricate wording of the London Confessions.

The Midland and Sandy Creek Confessions, on the whole, are most similar. They are both short and concise in structure and language. Also both use similar, odd sentence structure. Many articles in both begin with the word "that" leaving "we believe" to be inferred by the reader. This is a unique sentence structure not found in either of the London Confessions, the Philadelphia Confession, or subsequent Primitive Confessions. This style seems to be a unique anomaly of the Midland Confession, and perhaps was providentially passed to the Sandy Creek Principles.

Each confession begins with a statement of the identity and authority of God. The Kehukee and Sandy Creek documents present their statements as single articles. The Midland Confession divides the statement into two articles.

In all three confessions the next subject is a statement of the authority and validity of Holy Scripture. The Midland and Kehukee statements are most similar. Both contain phrases identifying scripture as the revealed mind of God. Use of the word "mind" as in "revealed mind of God" is unique. The London Confessions present more abstract statements identifying scripture as expressions of the will and thoughts of God.

Both the Midland and Kehukee documents insert a principle of temporal deliverance, or time salvation, into this article. For the Kehukee brethren this represented a departure from the London Confession. Further, it suggests Midland influence in writing the Kehukee Confession, since the Midland Confession was the first and only modern confession containing a specific statement of temporal salvation.

Next in subject order is Adamic sin. The Kehukee document divided this subject into two articles. However, all three confessions are in essential agreement with the exception of the Kehukees' misstatement concerning Adam's holiness, as mentioned earlier.

The order of the previous three subjects, identity of God, authority of scripture and Adamic sin is identical in all three confessions. For the Kehukees this was a structural departure from the London Confession. As the second written of the three confessions, this hints of Midland Confession influence in the writing of the Kehukee Confession.

All three confessions contain connective statements underscoring election. The Midland statement is the most general, connecting election in only a broad sense to regeneration and preservation. However, the remaining confessions are very specific in connecting election to effectual calling, justification and sanctification. All the documents cite foreknowledge as the basis of election, noting its presence before the world existed. They all note the sovereignty of God and man's inability to influence his choice in election. All three Confessions are absent any statement or implication of a double election of the just and unjust.

Each confession describes justification through Christ. The Kehukee and Sandy Creek specifically identify justification to occur by the imputed righteousness of Christ. They all are void of any reference to saving faith, though each contains wording which associates faith and justification. None of the confessions assign a principle of faith to man before he is justified.

The Midland and Kehukee Confessions each contain a highly developed concept of justification. They both surpass Calvin's limited justification theories and reveal the bible principle of experiential justification. Inclusion of this tenet identifies the principles of experiential justification as the parameters for God's providential or time salvation. This is a doctrine which is absent in Calvin's writings and both of the London Confessions.

The Midland and Kehukee documents contain specific and separate articles concerning the utter inability of man to deliver himself from the condition of sin. Further, they include statements as to man's inability to resist the grace of God in regeneration. Both, in principle, reject prior belief in Jesus Christ as a precursor to justification.

The Midland and Sandy Creek include strikingly similar statements concerning the identity of Christ. They both describe him as the head of the church.

The Midland and Kehukee contain specific articles declaring baptism and godliness as moral requirements for all regenerates. They are both very careful disassociating this principle to law service by any definition of law. They cite true faith and unfeigned love as the basis of discipleship. For the Kehukee churches this represented a departure from the more rigid legalist orientation of the London Confession. None of the confessions assign baptism a role of evidentiary confirmation of salvation. They simply state it the duty of believers to be baptized.

All three assert a principle of believers baptism. All three ascribe immersion as the proper mode of baptism. The Midland and Kehukee Confessions include a polemic statement against sprinkling.

They identify baptism and the Lord's Supper as ordinances in the church. None of the confessions elevate the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper to the status of sacrament. Each expresses a belief in a closed communion.

All three confessions contain statements regarding the church as the visible kingdom of God, with men. The Midland and Sandy Creek are most similar. Noting fellowship as an important element of church membership, they stress the concept of the community of the church rather than a rigid intrachurch government. They both contain similar wording addressing the need for church members to give themselves to the Lord and each other.

Though all three documents contain articles identifying the principle of a general resurrection of the dead, the Kehukee and Sandy Creek are most similar. Both use the same logic in describing the bliss of the just and punishment of the wicked.

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