Yesterday I argued that the main culprit in America’s moral collapse has been none other than Evangelical Christianity. In support of that argument I linked to the 1689 Confession’s statement on the law. I argued that this was not a uniquely Particular Baptist doctrine, nor even English Reformed, but was universal in the Protestant church at one time. So before I make some observations on the confession, I need to demonstrate the truth of this statement: “[This] theology was held by Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and the Continental Reformed as well as the Baptists.”
The Confessional Witness
To begin with the most obvious: the 1689 Confession is largely (though not entirely) based on the preceding Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration – respectively of the Presbyterians and Independents. A quick examination of this chapter from each of those three documents demonstrates a unity of opinion. Few changes were made. Most of these were small clarifications, while one reflected a caution in the expression of Westminster’s version of covenant theology. It is beyond question that the English Presbyterians, Independents, and Congregationalists all held the same view of the law.
Nor was their view in any way novel in England. Already the 39 Articles of the Anglican Church had espoused the same distinctions and basic theology. Of Christian Ethics, Article XII reads:
“Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.”
And what might those works be? Article XIV answers in the negative:
“Voluntary Works besides, over and above, God’s Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety…”
So the Church of England taught the commandments of God as the ethical standard of the church.
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