1689 - Writers' Introduction
At the beginning of the 1689, the anonymous writers penned an introduction explaining why they wrote the things they wrote. This writing style is difficult to follow along with unless you have read at least a few old dead guys' works or you really loved literature in school. However, the point of this walk along is to help see the importance of confessions and to understand them. It's hard to understand why something is so important if you don't understand it!
The writers begin with an explanation that the original purpose for them putting this document together was because some people around England were slandering the Baptist faith. Notice: "for the information and satisfaction of those that did not thoroughly understand what our principles were." They point the reader to the fact that this was done all the way back in 1643. The original goal, which was to clear the air that the Baptists were not a bunch of heretics, was accomplished after the original 1643 document was circulated. On a side note, the word "divers" is a commonly used word in this era that means "many".
The original 1643, at this point, had mostly fallen out of circulation and was not widely known. An entire generation has almost passed. Many people had come to hold to the doctrines that were originally presented, and now they wanted to double down on those same principles. One of the main reasons they decided to reproduce these principles was because in 1647, four years after the original publication, the world renown Westminster Confession of Faith was put out. The Westminster Confession was released in a very structured format. The single biggest difference in the theology of the men who constructed these confessions is that of baptism. The Westminster holds to covenantal baptism, meaning they baptize their children into the covenant of grace (they do not believe this is salvific in nature). The men of the 1689 hold to credobaptism, meaning only those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord receive the sacrament of baptism.
The 1689, to my understanding, was just a reemphasizing and reformatting of the originally published document in 1643. The writers also tried to follow suit with the Westminster Confession in many areas, specifically format. The chapter headers of the 1689 and the Westminster are the same all the way up until Chapter 21 of the 1689. Here, the writers felt the necessity to add a Chapter on liberty of conscious as a Christian. There are many sections in the chapters that have the same exact wording as the Westminster. The writers said "we have no itch to clog religion with new words, but do readily acquiesce in that form of sound words which hath been, in consent with the Holy Scriptures, used by others before us.." They felt that the men of Westminster did such a phenomenal job at conveying the truth of the scriptures that there was no reason other than pride to change them.
Wherever the writers differ from those of the Westminster and other confessions, it should be expressed so clearly that it can't be mistaken for a rewording of intellectual property.
The writers explain, so that no one may think these are fabricated thoughts of their own, that there are scriptural proofs where the doctrine is drawn from at the bottom of each section. They encourage the reader to not trust the texts are good as proof, but to test everything by the scriptures, even this confession, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:10-11).
It was important to the writers of the 1689 to make sure that all who were reading knew that they were not trying to be contentious in their words. They approached the task with a child-like mind with scripture as their foundation. The writers here tried to make sure that there would be no misconception about an ugly hidden motive, namely, to attack other people's paltry doctrines. It was their earnest desire that the only care or contention amongst those who are called by our Lord be to contend to love our Lord with all of our hearts, leaning on His words as presented to us in His Holy Writ, and teaching others to have a zeal for the God who gives us life. One last line they throw in is a directive to the reader that the place to start in bringing about change in everyone, bringing about a zeal for God and for the Word, is in the home. We must first reform our own hearts and our own families before we could ever wish to reform our community and inevitably the world. Work with what God has given you! Do not be discouraged that you do not have a world wide ministry, but minister to your family
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
This is one of the weightiest passages in all of scripture. To neglect this passage is to neglect Christianity. If you do not keep the commandments of the Lord on your heart, and even more so, teach them to your children, you are being derelict in your Christian duties and may not truly understand the call to take up your cross daily. Will be stumble in this area from time to time? Yes we will. But by God's grace we will get back up again and seek to conform to his will of command. The writers of the 1689 may have felt a little stronger about this than I just put it. I would paraphrase the world's longest sentence here in paragraph 6 as follows: "The parent who neglects to train up their child in the ways of God will reap what they sow. Parents ought to teach their children from birth how to walk in the ways of the Lord. When this command is neglected, the child almost always comes out refusing God. Their sin will fall on the head of the parents for their abdication of responsibility, but that will by no means free the child of their personal responsibility to our Lord." The writers feel strongly, as do I, that the decay of true Christianity in the world is a result of the decay of the spiritual family.
A benediction closes out the introduction to the 1689. Their prayer is that they would not only profess this truth but that they would truly believe it and practice it in their everyday lives so
that the Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified through them.