London to Philadelphia—you might think that this has to do with transatlantic flights. Well, it doesn’t. It has to do with confessions of faith—Baptist confessions of faith, to be exact. First, there is the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, also known as the Second London Baptist Confession, and then there is the Philadelphia Confession of Faith.
The Baptists came into being early in the 1600s in England. These were Puritans. They had all left the Anglican Church and were part of the larger group of people that we call Nonconformists, meaning they would not conform to the established church, the Church of England. These Baptists were not only separated out from the Anglicans, but these Baptists also believed in adult or believer’s baptism, which set them apart from some of the other Nonconformists. It set them apart from the Presbyterians and it set them apart from the Congregationalists.
In 1644, the Baptists gathered together and wrote the First London Baptist Confession. It was very much like the Westminster Standards, but of course it differed in the chapters on church polity or church government and on baptism.
In 1677, they gathered again to refresh this confession and had a number of people sign off on it, but there were also some who couldn’t sign off. This was a time of intense persecution in England, and there were many who were simply not able to align themselves with this statement.
Then came the 1689 Act of Toleration. This act brought a significant measure of religious freedom to England and to the Nonconformists. That very same year, we have the 1689 London Baptist Confession, which was a rehash of the 1644 confession.
In 1707, the Philadelphia Baptist Association was formed. This was a group of Baptists in the New World, in William Penn’s colony. In 1742, the association adopted the 1689 London Confession and made a few minor additions. They added two chapters of one paragraph each. The result was a new document known as the Philadelphia Confession of Faith.
If we go back to the 1689 London Baptist Confession, in the chapter on the church we find these words:
“As each church, and all the members of it, are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ, in all places, and upon all occasions to further everyone within the bounds of their places and callings, in the exercise of their gifts and graces.”
The men who wrote this document believed in the church. They believed in the church as the institution that God ordained, the institution that He promises to bless, and the institution by which He spreads the fragrance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the Philadelphia Confession, one of the chapters that was added is on praise. This is what it says:
“We believe that singing the praises of God, is a holy ordinance of Christ, and not a part of natural religion, or a moral duty only; but that it is brought under divine institution, it being enjoined on the churches of Christ to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; and that the whole church in their public assemblies (as well as private Christians) ought to sing God’s praises according to the best light they have received. Moreover, it was practiced in the great representative church by our Lord Jesus Christ with His disciples, after He had instituted and celebrated the sacred ordinance of His holy supper, as a commemorative token of redeeming love.”
So from London to Philadelphia, we have the Baptist confessions.