The Power and Impact of Confessions of Faith

This week I have been at the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary lecturing to a group of PhD students. They gather the week before the beginning of the regular semester for a week-long session of seminars and at noon have a plenary session. I have delivered those lectures on the subject “The Art of Pastoral Theology Among Baptists.” The subjects have been Thomas Grantham (a General Baptist), Benjamin Keach (a General Baptist turned Particular Baptist), Richard Furman (an early 19th century Baptist from the South) and Charles Spurgeon (a late 19 century Baptist from England). The students have been wonderful and the fellowship among the faculty has been enriching and encouraging. The entire experience has been just as spectacular as the breathtaking setting in which this Southern Baptist seminary is located.

In delivering these lectures I was reminded of the power of the Second London Confession in conforming the mind of the minister to truth, to evangelism, and to serious pastoral care for souls. Thomas Grantham had a distinct confessional heritage expressed in the general Baptist confession, the Orthodox Creed. In many ways it was similar to the Second London Confession but departed from Calvinism at certain strategic points that were maintained by his denomination. The other three men, however, were deeply involved in the doctrinal life generated by the Second London Confession. Benjamin Keach was a signatory of the 1689 confession. Richard Furman and Charles Spurgeon both preached the doctrines of that confession and had it as the guiding doctrinal statement of their respective churches. I am particularly struck with Furman’s conviction about the use of confessions when he preached, “objections against the use of confessions of faith in churches must appear ill founded, and the consequences of such objections to be pernicious.” The impact of this confession as well as this strongly stated conviction was felt deeply in Georgia as it was embraced cordially by Jesse Mercer. As people moved from Georgia and South Carolina into states further west they carried with them abstracts of that confessional statement which became guidelines for church and associational confessions in Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Its impact on J.P. Boyce and Basil Manly (Senior and Junior) laid the doctrinal foundation for the adoption of the Abstract of Principles, the confessional statement that originally governed and now again governs the doctrinal position at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. That same doctrinal framework was behind the missionary commitment of the Judsons and Luther Rice.

Now at the 325th anniversary of the official signing of the Second London Confession and the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the general missionary convention, we should take time to remember the power of such truths and to be grateful for God’s goodness and preserving these things among us. That is the intent of the National Founders Conference to be held at the First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, October 16-18. I hope that many of you will sign up to come, and join in an expression of joy and gratitude for the Lord for giving us such a rich heritage.

Tom Nettles

Please join us at the 2014 National Founders Conference!

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877-768-2784 ext. 106

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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