Ministering during turbulent times for Nonconformists, Benjamin Keach endured both persecution for his faith and rich blessing on his ministry. Arriving in London in 1668, Keach soon became pastor of a church in Southwark, on the south bank of the Thames, later known as the Metropolitan Tabernacle (where Charles Spurgeon was eventually to pastor). His extensive writings-including sermons, poetry, hymns, apologetics and treatises against theological errors-alongside his preaching ministry, made Keach one of the key Particular Baptist leaders of his day. His friends included Hercules Collins, William Kiffin, Hanserd Knollys, Henry Forty and Joseph Stennett.
The Excellent Benjamin Keach is a major study of his life and thought and provides insight into the ecclesiastical and political turmoil of seventeenth-century England. Keach’s solid character, integrity and Christian graces enabled him to defend scriptural truths while avoiding personal attacks. He is particularly known for his vigorous defence of the singing of hymns in church, the laying on of hands and the doctrine of justification by faith alone. His preaching was marked by fervency and zeal, for he said, “cold and lifeless preaching, makes cold hearing.” Keach encouraged his hearers to flee to Christ for salvation, assuring them there was sufficient mercy at the cross for the worst of sinners. For believers, Keach encouraged them to love the truth, to get it deep into their affections, so that they could “show themselves bold and courageous in the cause and interest of God, and their souls.”
This is a book to invigorate your love for God and his Word. It will challenge you to stand boldly with holy men and women of the past, as you seek to live faithfully for Christ in the present day.
The Baptist Story is a narrative history of a diverse group of people spanning over four centuries, living among distinct cultures on separate continents, while finding their common identity in Christ and expressing their faith as Baptists. Baptist historians Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin highlight the Baptist transition from a despised sect to a movement of global influence. Each chapter includes stories of people who made this history so fascinating. Although the emphasis is on the English-speaking world, The Baptist Story integrates stories of non-English speaking Baptists, ethnic minorities, women, and minority theological traditions, all within the context of historic, orthodox Christianity.
This volume provides more than just the essential events and necessary names to convey the grand history. It also addresses questions that students of Baptist history frequently ask, includes prayers and hymns of those who experienced hope and heartbreak, and directs the reader’s attention to the mission of the church as a whole. Written with an irenic tone and illustrated with photographs in every chapter, The Baptist Story is ideally suited for graduate or undergraduate courses, as well as group study in the local church.
This year we gathered to commemorate the 325th anniversary of the historic 1689 Baptist Confession.
Our hearts were lifted and our commitment to Scripture renewed as we reflected upon the kind providence of our covenant God toward His people.
The LORD was pleased to bless the conference with a precious unity of hearts and a single focus on orthodox confessional truths, that we pray will fortify and equip our gospel churches to proclaim the Lordship of Christ to all the nations.
In addition, the LORD through the working of His Spirit begun a confessing, reformed Baptist pastoral fellowship that will begin to meet bi-monthly in the central Indianapolis area. If you would like to be notified of the date and location of the meetings do so by sending your request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
We pray that the Lord will bless and keep you all, hope to see you again next year – LORD willing!
325 years ago today the 1st General Assembly of Particular Baptists (1689) met! On this occasion Steve Weaver writes:
After the Act of Toleration, which was passed by Parliament in 1688 and enacted by the king on May 24, 1689, dissenters began to exercise their new-found freedom to assemble publicly to great avail. In 1689, the Baptists gathered in London for their first national assembly. This group of “divers Pastors, Messengers and Ministring Brethren of the Baptized Churches” met in London from September 3-12, 1689, and claimed to represent “more than one hundred Congregations of the same Faith with Themselves.” The common faith which distinguished this group of churches is specified on the cover page as “the Doctrine of Personal Election, and final Perseverance.” This group would further identify themselves in their first meeting by adopting what would become known as the Second London Confession of Faith. This confession was originally composed and published in 1677…
Last week, we concluded our series from the book of Acts. One of the enduring lessons that we learned was this: churches promote the gospel by planting other churches. The apostolic pattern set for us requires churches to send out men charged with preaching the gospel in order to form new assemblies. And this was the belief and practice of our baptist forefathers as Prof. Mike Renihan teaches in his article, Church Planting in Early Baptist History [PDF].
In the first part, Renihan explains that the growth of the early Particular Baptists was due to their commitment to the kind of evangelism which aimed to plant churches. Then, by citing several examples, he shows that these Baptists commissioned men not simply to preach the gospel, but also to baptize converts and establish churches. Finally, the author proves that the driving force behind this action was theological as summarized in their Confessions.
Here is a taste of what you’ll find in this article:
“The well-ordered church was so central to the redemptive purposes of God that any kind of evangelistic thrust must see, as it s highest goal, to establish new assemblies…The Baptists could not conceive of evangelism apart from church planting… Their evangelism was not merely “soul-winning” but rather a full-orbed attempt to see churches planted according to the Word of God.”
So as a church plant, we are the evangelistic effort of the churches which have supported us by their financial gifts and prayers. And we continue to be active in evangelism through the preaching of the gospel with a desire that souls are converted, baptized and added to this local church. But let us pray that the Lord would so bless this work that one day we may be able to be a church that plants other churches in the Chicagoland area and around the world.
What many readers may not know is that scholars have debated whether or not Bunyan was a Baptist or a Congregationalist since at least the late-1800s. There are several reasons for this debate. First, Bunyan’s church in Bedford, which began as a Congregationalist (Independent) meeting, seems to have embraced a dual baptismal practice prior to his pastorate. Second, though there is no evidence the church baptized infants during Bunyan’s pastorate, the church continued an open membership policy that included both credobaptists and pedobaptists. (Bunyan even engaged in a literary debate with William Kiffin, among others, over the relationship between the ordinances and church membership.) Finally, after Bunyan’s death in 1688, the church gravitated toward mainstream Congregationalism and rejected credobaptism as a normative practice.
For these reasons, scholars have tended to fall into three camps when debating Bunyan’s baptism bona fides. First, some scholars argue he was not a Baptist, but rather was a Congregationalist who privately preferred credobaptism to pedobaptism. Second, some scholars argue that Bunyan was an “Independent Baptist,” i.e., a Baptist who practiced open membership. Finally, some scholars punt (ahem) and suggest that Bunyan was “baptistic,” but falls short of being a consistent Baptist.
This makes for a good test case in historical method.
Who is Abraham Cheare? Here’s a roundup from the interwebs in order of date published.
September 26, 2005, The Andrew Fuller Center, Abraham Cheare and Panting for the Holy Spirit
Around 1648, Cheare says that he was convinced “of his Duty to the Lord, by evidence of Scriptural Light” and he “joyned himself in an holy Covenant, to walk in all the Ordinances of the Lord blameless, to the best of his Light and Power, in fellowship with a poor and despised People” (“Post-script” to his Words in Season, 294). This “poor and despised People” were the Plymouth Calvinistic Baptists.
February 13, 2008, The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies, Three Helps to Endure in the Hour of Temptation
Here we reprint a brief piece from our Particular Baptist Heritage–perhaps it has never been reprinted before. It was written by Abraham Cheare (1626-1668), who was the pastor of the Particular Baptist church in Plymouth, Devon, from about 1650 until his death in prison in 1668. He spent most of the years 1661-1668 in various jails for preaching the gospel. This letter is from a posthumous collection of his writings entitled Words in Season from that late Worthy Sufferer and Servant of the Lord Jesus . . . Abraham Cheare. It was published, in London, soon after his death in 1668.
May 6, 2013, Founders Ministries Blog, Abraham Cheare: the Bunyan of Plymouth
Cheare is not as well-known as Bunyan for the obvious reason that Cheare did not write nearly as much as the tinker of Bedford, but his story is equally a story of suffering to the glory of God. The Plymouth preacher spent the final three years of his life imprisoned on the island of St. Nicholas located in Plymouth Sound, a stretch of water south of his home city. The courts charged him with holding unlawful religious meetings and with refusing to conform to the Church of England. He died in prison on March 5, 1668.
Like Bunyan, he wrote several works while in prison that were published posthumously, including Words in Season, a collection of theological reflections on affliction along with a number of personal letters sent to correspondents, many of whom were church members. As B. R. White points out, Cheare’s letters and reflections set forth a very clear theology of suffering and persecution and articulate a deep and abiding concern for growth in holiness among the members of his congregation. Cheare never seemed to doubt that God was ruling over his anguish for mysterious, but altogether good purposes.
July 4, 2013, Credo Magazine, A forgotten Baptist pastor…until now
Why should an early twenty-first-century Christian take the time to learn about Abraham Cheare and read his writings? Well, first of all, suffering for religious beliefs, as he did for eight years till it killed him, is not foreign to the modern world. Around the world, there are numerous contexts where religious toleration is all but non-existent and men and woman have to count the cost if they wish to be public about their convictions. And increasingly in the west an intolerant cultural elite are targeting the Church and seeking to muzzle Christian witness. Here then, Cheare can help us enormously, for Cheare was a Puritan and after 1660, when the Anglican state church sought to extirpate Puritanism, Cheare and many others knew first-hand what it was to suffer for Christ’s sake. His example and writings in this regard are tremendously helpful for Christians undergoing the same today.
September 23, 2013, Brian L. Hanson, Should we separate over eschatology?
The examples of Cheare and Glass serve as a necessary reminder for the present. Holding to differing eschatological systems should not deter or inhibit friendships. Eschatology should not be a point of separation. The gospel does not require a black-and-white, cut-and-dry, “I’ll take the bullet to my head” commitment to a specific eschatological view. Where the Bible is not clear, there is liberty for difference. Cheare and Glass understood this principle, and their model serves us well today.
I offer two thoughts of reflection and application from my book. Cheare’s thinking is entirely relevant for today, even after 350 years. In both areas of discipleship and church life, Cheare’s theology challenges our own thinking as twenty-first century evangelicals.
1. Discipleship is serious business.
“Soul-searching, heart-preparing, sin-mortifying work, may have more advantage from the retirement of a nasty prison, than (unless abundance of grace be ministered) from being left to walk in a large place.”
– Abraham Cheare
It’s one thing to talk about pious living. It’s quite another to talk about pious living In suffering, particularly, suffering for one’s faith. Cheare suffered with dignity. He suffered with hope. Cheare teaches us how to suffer well…
2. The Church is larger than a local assembly.
“Although the particular congregations be distinct and several bodies, every one a compact and knit city in itself: yet are they all to walk by one and the same rule, and by all means convenient to have the counsel and help one of another in all needful affairs of the church, as members of one body in the common faith under Christ their only head.”
–First London Confession of Faith 47
…I contend that this methodology of mutual submission, in part, led to unprecedented growth of the Particular Baptists. It is fascinating to note that in 1644 there were seven Particular Baptist congregations, by 1660 there were 130, and by 1689 there were around 450. While social and political factors were certainly at play in these overwhelming numbers, it is important to note that the General Baptists at this time were declining in numbers. At the very least, this figures seem to indicate some type of correlation between mutual cooperation and submission of Baptist churches and growth. I wonder what would happen today if we adopted this model of interdependence among our churches.
“I wanted to contribute something that would not only add to Particular Baptist scholarship… but in addition to that I wanted to be helpful to the church at large in the areas specifically of spirituality, suffering, and church ministry and I think [Abraham] Cheare provides a good model and helpful guide in these areas”
How did our Particular Baptist forefathers view and do evangelism? James Renihan fills us in, with the help of some materials from his 1997 doctoral dissertation, “The Practical Ecclesiology of the English Particular Baptists, 1675-1705: The Doctrine of the Church in the Second London Baptist Confession as Implemented in the Subscribing Churches.” (also see Edification & Beauty):
In order to account for the remarkable growth present among the Particular Baptists, one must remember this fact. Evangelism is at the heart of the doctrine of the church. New assemblies are planted as men and women are brought to faith in Christ. In these Confessions, practical theology is the necessary concomitant to ecclesiology. Doctrinal formulations are not merely theoretical constructions. They have very important implications and applications for life and ministry.
Historic Baptist theology brought together theology and practice. In the best puritan fashion, it was recognized that what we believe must influence what we practice, and that what we practice must rest on the theological truths we confess. These men and their churches sought to be faithful to that principle. As we strive to preach the whole counsel of God, and apply the principles of reformation in our churches, we must take hold of this perspective. Church planting ought to be at the very forefront of our agenda. In Particular Baptist Ecclesiology, the church was fundamentally the result of the personal and sovereign activity of Christ in calling sinners out of the world to salvation. From its roots in the New Testament, it was intended to be a holy community, separate from the world and focused on heaven. But, so important was the planting of churches that programs were established to promote their increase. Funds were raised, men were ordained and sent, and new congregations were organized. Does our theology of the church inform our evangelism? What more can we do?
Geoff Thomas introduces us to the life and work of the Puritan John Bunyan; his conversion, writing, imprisonment, and lasting impact.
A snippet to whet your appetite:
Bunyan ended his days as a reformer, disaffiliated from the civil and religious establishment along with his closest ministerial friend, John Own, whose pulpit he often occupied. Like Owen, Bunyan was not involved in plots to overthrow the government. The weapons of his warfare were spiritual and mighty through God to pull down the vastest strongholds…
Bunyan is encouraging us to think that if we preach we can write, and that we must preach plainly and directly with pastoral concern and biblical integrity. He is telling us that life is a pilgrimage and we are not to ever seek for an alternative to that journey. Bunyan urges us to concentrate on basics and to be prepared to suffer for our Lord as he gave his life for us.
Baptist Studies Online is dedicated to the study of Baptist history and thought, with special emphasis on Baptists in North America. The purpose of BSO is to facilitate the scholarly study of Baptists by making available to researchers and students an online Journal, a primary source library, a comprehensive collection of Baptist history-related links, and a regularly updated list of announcements related to the field. BSO is a collaborative effort by Baptist scholars from a variety of traditions, with funding provided by California Baptist University in Riverside, California.
In Volume 3 (2009) they published “A Roundtable Discussion of Baptist Origins” which included ‘The Successionism View of Baptist History’ by James Duvall; ‘The Spiritual Kinship Theory of Baptist Origins’ by Glenn Jonas; and ‘”Truly Reformed in a Great Measure“: A Brief Defense of the English Separatist Origins of Modern Baptists’ by James M. Renihan.