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CONFESSION OF THE FREE-WILL BAPTISTS. A.D. 1834, 1868.
[This Confession was adopted and issued by the General Conference of the Free-will Baptists of America in 1834, revised in 1848, and again in 1865 and 1868.
The text is taken from the Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free-will Baptists, written under the direction of the General Conference, Dover, N. H. Published by the Free-will Baptist Printing Establishment, 1871. The sections in which this Confession differs from the preceding Baptist Confessions have been put in italics, viz., Ch. III., 2 and 3, and Ch. l’III. and XIII.]
The Holy Scriptures.
These are the Old and New Testaments; they were written by holy men, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and contain God's revealed will to man. They are a sufficient and infallible guide in religious faith and practice.
Being and Attributes of God.
The Scriptures teach that there is only one true and living God, who is a Spirit, self-existent, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, independent, good, wise, holy, just, and merciful; the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the universe; the Redeemer, Saviour, Sanctifier, and Judge of men; and the only proper object of Divine worship.
The mode of his existence, however, is a subject far above the understanding of man—finite beings can not comprehend him. There is nothing in the universe that can justly represent him, for there is none like him. He is the fountain of all perfection and happiness. He is glorified by the whole inanimate creation, and is worthy to be loved and served by all intelligences.
Divine Government and Providence.
1. God exercises a providential care and superintendence over all his creatures, and governs the world in wisdom and mercy, according to the testimony of his Word.
2. God has endowed man with power of free choice, and governs 750him by moral laws and motives; and this power of free choice is the exact measure of his responsibility.
3. All events are present with God from everlasting to everlasting; but his knowledge of them, does not in any sense cause them, nor does he decree all events which he knows will occur.
Creation, Primitive State of Man, and his Fall.
1. Of the world. God created the world, and all things that it contains, for his own pleasure and glory, and the enjoyment of his creatures.
2. Of the angels. The angels were created by God to glorify him, and obey his commandments. Those who have kept their first estate he employs in ministering blessings to the heirs of salvation, and in executing his judgments upon the world.
3. Of man. God created man, consisting of a material body and a thinking, rational soul. He was made in the image of God to glorify his Maker.
SECTION II.—PRIMITIl’E STATE OF MAN AND HIS FALL.
Our first parents, in their original state of probation, were upright; they naturally preferred and desired to obey their Creator, and had no preference or desire to transgress his will till they were influenced and inclined by the tempter to disobey God's commands. Previously to this the only tendency of their nature was to do righteousness. In consequence of the first transgression, the state under which the posterity of Adam came into the world is so far different from that of Adam that they have not that righteousness and purity which Adam had before the fall; they are not naturally willing to obey God, but are inclined to evil. Hence, none, by virtue of any natural goodness and mere work of their own, can become the children of God; but they are all dependent for salvation upon the redemption effected through the blood of Christ, and upon being created anew unto obedience through the operation of the Spirit; both of which are freely provided for every descendant of Adam.751
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, possesses all divine perfections. As he and the Father are one, he, in his divine nature, filled all the offices and performed the works of God to his creatures that have been the subjects of revelation to us. As man, he performed all the duties toward God that we are required to perform, repentance of sin excepted.
His divinity is proved from his titles, his attributes, and his works.
1. His titles.—The Bible ascribes to Christ the titles of Saviour, Jehovah, Lord of Hosts, the First and the Last, God, true God, great God, God over all, mighty God, and the everlasting Father.
2. His attributes.—He is eternal, unchangeable, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, holy, and is entitled to Divine worship.
3. His works.—By Christ the world was created; he preserves and governs it; he has provided redemption for all men, and he will be their final judge.
SECTION II.—THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST.
The Word, which in the beginning was with God, and which was God, by whom all things were made, condescended to a state of humiliation in being united with human nature, and becoming like us, pollution and sin excepted. In this state, as a subject of the law, he was liable to the infirmities of our nature; was tempted as we are; but lived our example, and rendered perfect obedience to the Divine requirements. As Christ was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, he is called 'The Son of Man;' and as the Divine existence is the fountain from which he proceeded, and was the only agency by which he was begotten, he is called the Son of God, being the only begotten of the Father, and the only incarnation of the Divine Being.
The Holy Spirit.
1. The Scriptures ascribe to the Holy Spirit the acts and attributes of an intelligent being. He is said to guide, to know, to move, to give information, to command, to forbid, to send forth, to reprove, and to be sinned against.752
2. The attributes of God are ascribed to the Holy Spirit: such, as eternity, omnipresence, omniscience, goodness, and truth.
3. The works of God are ascribed to the Holy Spirit: creation, inspiration, giving of life, and sanctification.
4. The same acts which in one part of the Bible are attributed to the Holy Spirit are in other parts said to be performed by God.
5. The apostles assert that the Holy Spirit is Lord and God.
From the foregoing, the conclusion is that the Holy Spirit is in reality God, and one with the Father in all Divine perfections. It has also been shown that Jesus Christ is God, one with the Father. Then these three, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are one God.
The truth of this doctrine is also proved from the fact that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are united in the authority by which believers are baptized, and in the benedictions pronounced by the apostles, which are acts of the highest religious worship.
The Atonement and Mediation of Christ.
1. The Atonement.—As sin can not be pardoned without a sacrifice, and the blood of beasts could never wash away sin, Christ gave himself a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and thus made salvation possible for all men. He died for us, suffering in our stead, to make known the righteousness of God, that he might be just in justifying sinners who believe in his Son. Through the redemption effected by Christ, salvation is actually enjoyed in this world, and will be enjoyed in the next by all who do not, in this life, refuse obedience to the known requirements of God. The atonement of sin was necessary. For present and future obedience can no more blot out our past sins than past obedience can remove the guilt of present and future sins. Had God pardoned the sins of men without satisfaction for the violation of his law, it would follow that transgression might go on with impunity; government would be abrogated, and the obligation of obedience to God would be, in effect, removed.
2. Mediation of Christ.—Our Lord not only died for our sins, but he arose for our justification, and ascended to heaven, where, as Mediator between God and man, he will make intercession for men till the final judgment.753
The Gospel Call.
The call of the gospel is co-extensive with the atonement to all men, both by the word and the strivings of the Spirit; so that salvation is rendered equally possible to all; and if any fail of eternal life, the fault is wholly their own.
The repentance which the gospel requires includes a deep conviction, a penitential sorrow, an open confession, a decided hatred and an entire forsaking of all sin. This repentance God has enjoined on all men; and without it in this life the sinner must perish eternally.
Saving faith is an assent of the mind to the fundamental truths of revelation; an acceptance of the gospel, through the influence of the Holy Spirit; and a firm confidence and trust in Christ. The fruit of faith is obedience to the gospel. The power to believe is the gift of God; but believing is an act of the creature, which is required as a condition of pardon, and without which the sinner can not obtain salvation. All men are required to believe in Christ; and those who yield obedience to this requirement become the children of God by faith.
As man is a fallen and sinful being, he must be regenerated in order to obtain salvation. This change is an instantaneous renewal of the heart by the Holy Spirit, whereby the penitent sinner receives new life, becomes a child of God, and disposed to serve him. This is called in Scripture being born again, born of the Spirit, being quickened, passing from death unto life, and a partaking of the divine nature.754
Justification and Sanctification.
1. Justification.—Personal justification implies that the person justified has been guilty before God; and in consideration of the atonement of Christ, accepted by faith, the sinner is pardoned and absolved from the guilt of sin, and restored to the divine favor. Though Christ's atonement is the foundation of the sinner's redemption, yet without repentance and faith it can never give him justification and peace with God.
2. Sanctification is a work of God's grace, by which the soul is cleansed from all sin, and wholly consecrated to Christ. It commences at regeneration, and the Christian can and should abide in this state to the end of life, constantly growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Perseverance of the Saints.
There are strong grounds to hope that the truly regenerate will persevere unto the end and be saved, through the power of divine grace which is pledged for their support; but their future obedience and final salvation are neither determined nor certain; since, through infirmity and manifold temptations, they are in danger of falling; and they ought therefore to watch and pray, lest they make shipwreck of faith, and be lost.
This is one day in seven, which, from the creation of the world, God has set apart for sacred rest and holy service. Under the former dispensation, the seventh day of the week, as commemorative of the work of creation, was set apart for the Sabbath. Under the gospel, the first day of the week, in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ, and by authority of the apostles, is observed as the Christian Sabbath. On this day all men are required to refrain from secular labor, and devote themselves to the worship and service of God.755
A Christian church is an organized body of believers in Christ, who statedly assemble to worship God, and sustain the ordinances of the gospel agreeably to his Word. In a more general sense it is the whole body of Christians throughout the world, and only the regenerate are real members. Believers are admitted to a particular church, on giving evidence of faith, and receiving baptism and the hand of fellowship.
The Gospel Ministry.
1. Qualifications of Ministers.—They must possess good natural and acquired abilities, deep and ardent piety, be specially called of God to the work, and ordained by the laying on of hands.
2. Duties of Ministers.—These are, to preach the Word, administer the ordinances of the gospel, visit their people, arid otherwise perform the work of faithful pastors.
Ordinances of the Gospel.
1. Christian Baptism.—This is the immersion of believers in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in which are represented the burial and resurrection of Christ, the death of Christians to the world, the washing of their souls from the pollution of sin, their rising to newness of life, their engagement to serve God, and their resurrection at the last day.
2. The Lord's Supper.—This is a commemoration of the death of Christ for our sins, in the use of bread, which he made the emblem of his broken body, and the cup, the emblem of his shed blood; and by it the believer expresses his love for Christ, his faith and hope in him, and pledges to him perpetual fidelity.
It is the privilege and duty of all who have spiritual union with Christ thus to commemorate his death; and no man has a right to forbid these tokens to the least of his disciples.21592159[This last clause commits the Free-will Baptists to the principle and practice of open communion.—Ed.]756
Death, and the Intermediate State.
1. Death.—As a result of sin, all mankind are subject to the death of the body.
2. The Intermediate State.—The soul does not die with the body; but immediately after death enters into a conscious state of happiness or misery, according to the moral character here possessed.
Second Coming of Christ.
The Lord Jesus, who ascended on high and sits at the right hand of God, will come again to close the gospel dispensation, glorify his saints, and judge the world.
The Scriptures teach the resurrection of the bodies of all men at the "last day, each in its own order; they that have done good will come forth to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation.
The General Judgment and Future Retributions.
1. The General Judgment.—There will be a general judgment, when time and man's probation will close forever. Then all men will be judged according to their works.
2. Future Retributions.—Immediately after the general judgment, the righteous will enter into eternal life, and the wicked will go into a state of endless punishment.
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