What follows is not a finished document, but is something I have been working on for some time, and I have not near finished it. But I think it will include most of what I think we ought to agree upon concerning our faith and practice. The first part is the Confession of Faith I have been working on, extracted and extrapolated from Gill's, which is incomplete.
Faith and Practice
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
meeting at Santa Anna, Republic of Texas
Read and assented to,
by those in fellowship with one another.
I. We believe, That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, are (2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:21) the word of God, and the only (John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Peter 1:19, 20) rule of faith and practice. We accept the King James Version of the Bible, and several of those that preceded it (Geneva, etc.) as preferable to the newer versions, many of which are perversions of God's Word and are not God's Word at all.
II. We believe, That there is but one (Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jer. 10:10) only living and true God: that there are (1 John 5:7; Matthew 28:19) three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, who are equal in nature, power, and glory; and that the Son ((John 10:30; Phil. 2:6; Rom. 9:5; 1 John 5:20) and the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3, 4; 1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18) are as truly and properly God as the Father. These three divine persons are distinguished from each other, by peculiar relative properties: The distinguishing character and relative property of the first person is begetting; he has begotten a Son of the same nature with him, and who is the express image of his person; (Ps. 2:7; Heb. 1:3) and therefore is with great propriety called the Father: The distinguishing character and relative property of the second person is that he is begotten; and he is called the only begotten of the Father, and his own proper Son; (John 1:14; Rom. 8:3, 32) not a Son by creation, as angels and men are, nor by adoption, as saints are, nor by office, as civil magistrates; but by nature, by the Father's eternal generation (Ps. 2:7) of him in the divine nature; and therefore he is truly called the Son: The distinguishing character and relative property of the third person is to be breathed by the Father and the Son, and to proceed from both, (Job 33:4; Ps. 33:6; John 15:26 and 20:26 and 20:22; Gal. 4:6) and is very Properly called the Spirit, or breath of both. These three distinct divine persons, we profess to reverence, serve, and worship as the one true God. (1 John 5:7; Matthew 4:10)
III. We believe, That before the world began God did elect (Eph. 1:4; 1 Thess. 1:4 and 5:9; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:5; 1 John 3:1; Gal. 4:4, 5; John 1:12) a certain number of men unto everlasting salvation whom he did predestinate to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ of his own free grace, and according to the good pleasure of his will; and that in pursuance of this gracious design, he did contrive and make a covenant (2 Sam. 23:5; Ps. 89:2, 28, 34; Isa. 42:6) of grace and peace with his son Jesus Christ, on the behalf of those persons; wherein a Saviour (Ps. 89:19; Isa. 49:6) was appointed, and all spiritual (2 Sam. 23:5; Isa. 55:3; Eph. 1:3) blessings provided for them; as also that their (Deut. 33:3; John 6:37, 39 and 10:28, 29; Jude 1) persons, with all their grace (2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:3; Col. 3:3, 4) and glory, were put into the hands of Christ, and made his care and charge.
IV. We believe, That God created the first man, Adam, after his image, and in his likeness, an morally neutral but upright, holy, and an innocent creature, capable of serving and glorifying him: (Gen. 1:26, 27; Eccl. 7:29; Ps. 8:5) but he sinning, all his posterity sinned in him(he being their representative head and high priest), and came short of the glory of God; (Rom. 5:12 and 3:23) the guilt of whose sin is imputed; (Rom. 5:12, 14, 18, 19; 1 Cor. 15:22; Eph. 2:3) and a corrupt nature derived to all his offspring descending from him by ordinary and natural generation: (Job 14:4; Ps. 51:5; John 3:6; Ezek. 16:4-6) that they are by their first birth carnal and unclean; averse to all that is good, incapable of doing any, and prone to every (Rom. 8:7, 8 and 3:10-12; Gem 6:5) sin: and are also by nature children of wrath, and under a sentence of condemnation; (Eph. 2:3; Rom. 5:12, 18) and so are subject, not only to a corporal death, (Gen. 2:7; Rom. 5:12, 14; Heb. 9:27) and involved in a moral one, commonly called spiritual; (Matthew 8:21; Luke 15:24, 32; John 5:25; Eph. 3:1) but are also liable to an eternal death, (Rom. 5:18 and 6:23; Eph. 2:3) as considered in the first Adam, fallen and sinners; from all which there is no deliverance, but by Christ, the second Adam. (Rom. 6:23 and 7:24, 25 and 8:2; 2 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 15:45, 47)
V. We believe, That the Lord Jesus Christ, being set up from (Prov. 8:22, 23; Heb. 12:24) everlasting as the Mediator of the covenant, and he having engaged to be the (Ps. 49:6-8; Heb. 7:22) Surety of his people, did in the fullness of time really assume (John 1:24; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 2:14, 16, 17) human nature, and not before, neither in whole, nor in part; his human soul being a creature, existed not from eternity, but was created and formed in his body by him that forms the spirit of man within him, when that was conceived in the womb of the virgin; and so his human nature consists of a true body and a reasonable soul: both which, together and at once the Son of God assumed into union with his divine person, when made of a woman, and not before; in which nature he really suffered, and died (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:3; Eph. 5:2; 1 Peter 3:18) as the substitute of his people, in their room and stead; whereby he made all that satisfaction (Rom. 8:3, 4 and 10:4; Isa. 42:21; Rom. 8:1, 33, 34) for their sins, which the law and justice of God could require; as well as made way for all those blessings (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7) which are needful for them both for time and eternity.
VI. We believe, That eternal Redemption which Christ has obtained by the shedding of his blood (Matthew 20:28; John 10:11, 15; Rev. 5:9; Rom. 8:30) is special and particular: that is to say, that it was only intentionally designed for the elect of God, and sheep of Christ, who only share the special and peculiar blessings of it.
VII. We believe, That the justification of God's elect, is only by the righteousness (Rom. 3:28 and 4:6 and 5:16-19) of Christ imputed to them, without the consideration of any works of righteousness done by them; and that the full and free pardon of all their sins and transgressions, past, present, and to come, is only through the blood of Christ, (Rom. 3:25; Eph. 1:7; Col. 2:13; 1 John 1:7, 9) according to the riches of his grace.
VIII. We believe, That the work of regeneration, sanctification, and faith, is not an act of (John 1:13; Rom. 9:16 and 8:7) man's free will and power, but of the mighty, efficacious, and irresistible grace (Phil. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3; Eph. 1:19; Isa. 43:13) of God.
IX. We believe, that all those, who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit, shall certainly and finally (Matthew 24:24; John 6:39, 40 and 10:28, 29; Matthew 16:18; Ps. 125:1, 2; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24; Heb. 2:13; Rom. 8:30) persevere; so that not one of them shall ever perish, but shall have everlasting life.
X. We believe that, since the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth, and, therefore, prone to all unrighteousness, sin, and wickedness, the first lesson of the precious New Testament of the Son of God is repentance and reformation of life, and that, therefore, those who are given ears to hear, and new hearts to understand, will necessarily bring forth genuine fruits of repentance; they will believe the Gospel, begin to eschew evil and do good, desist from unrighteousness, forsake sin, put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness: for, neither baptism, Lord's supper, sabbath, church, nor any other outward ceremony, can without faith, regeneration, spiritual life through the mind of Christ, avail anything to please God or to obtain of Him any consolation or promise of salvation. We believe that the two necessary signs of salvation and adoption are fruit and right doctrine, and that without these no man should feel assured of his place in God's Kingdom. For assurance of this salvation, which is requisite for our peace, we must go to God with an upright heart, having believed all that He has testified of Himself and of His righteous requirements, by the gift of faith believing in Jesus Christ, as He is truly in the Scripture which testifies of Him. By God's work are we sanctified and justified, and made His children; but through obedience we are by the gift of God, converted, and caused to enter into the Kingdom of God. (Gen. 8:21; Mark 1:15; Ezek. 12:2; Col. 3:9, 10; Eph. 4:22, 24; Heb. 10:22, 23; John 7:38)
XI. We believe, That there will be a resurrection of the dead; (Acts 24:15; John 528, 29; Dan. 12:2) both of the just and unjust; and that Christ will come a second time to judge (Heb. 9:28; Acts 17:31; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 1 Thess. 4:15-17) both quick and dead; when he will take vengeance on the wicked, and introduce his own people into his kingdom and glory, where they shall be for ever with him.
XII. We believe, That Baptism (Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26) and the Lord's Supper are ordinances of Christ, to be continued until his second coming; and that the former is absolutely requisite to the latter; that is to say, that those (Acts 2:41 and 9:18, 26) only are to be admitted into the communion of the church, and to participate of all ordinances in it, (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12, 36, 37 and 16:31-34 and 8:8) who upon profession of their faith, have been baptized, (Matthew 3:6, 16; John 3:23; Acts 8:38, 39; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12) by immersion, in the name of the Father, (Matthew 28:19) and of the Son Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost.
XIII. We also believe in and confess, a ban, separation, and Christian correction in the church, for amendment, and not for destruction, in order to distinguish that which is pure from the impure: namely, when any one, after he is enlightened, has accepted by agreement a knowledge of the truth, and been incorporated into the communion of the saints, sins egregiously, either through willfulness, or through presumption against God, or through some other cause, and falls into the unfruitful works of darkness; that such a one, after the deed is manifest and sufficiently known to the church, and after appropriate and biblical means have been used to correct that person, may not remain in the congregation of the righteous, but, as an offensive member and open sinner, shall and must be separated, put away, reproved before all, and purged out as leaven; and this for his amendment, as an example that others may fear, and to keep the church pure, by cleansing her from such spots, lest in default of this the name of the Lord be blasphemed, the church dishonored, and offense given to them that are without; and finally, that the sinner may not be condemned with the world, but become convinced in his mind, and be moved to sorrow, repentance, and reformation. (Jer. 52:9; I Cor. 5:5, 13; I Tim. 5:20; I Cor. 5:6; II Cor. 10:8; 13:10)
Further, concerning brotherly reproof or admonition, as also the instruction of the erring it is necessary to exercise all diligence and care, to watch over them and to admonish them with all meekness, that they may be bettered, and to reprove, according as is proper, the stubborn who remain obdurate; in short, the church must put away from her the wicked (either in doctrine or life), and no other. (Jas. 5:19; Titus 3:10; I Cor. 5:13)
XIV. Concerning the withdrawing from, or shunning the separated, we believe and confess, that if any one, either through wicked ways of life or through perverted doctrine, has so far fallen that he is separated from and punished by the church, the same must, according to the doctrine of Christ and His apostles, be shunned, without distinction, by all the fellow members of the church, especially those to whom it is known, in eating, drinking, and other similar intercourse, and no company be had with him that they may not become contaminated by intercourse with him, nor made partakers of his sins; but that the sinner may be made ashamed, pricked in his heart, and convicted in his conscience, unto his reformation. I Cor. 5:9-11; II Thess. 3:14.
Yet, in shunning as well as in reproving, such moderation and Christian discretion must be used, that it may conduce, not to the destruction, but to the reformation of the sinner. For, if he is needy, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, or in any other distress, we are in duty bound, necessity requiring it, according to love and the doctrine of Christ and His apostles, to render him aid and assistance; otherwise, shunning would in this case tend more to destruction than to reformation.
Therefore, we must not count them as enemies, but admonish them as brethren, that thereby they may be brought to a knowledge of and to repentance and sorrow for their sins, so that they may become reconciled to God, and consequently be received again into the church, and that love may continue with them, according as is proper. II Thess. 3:15.
XV. We also believe, That singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs vocally, (Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; 1 Cor. 14:15, 26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) is an ordinance of the Gospel, to be performed by believers; but that as to time, place, and manner, every one ought to be left to their (James 5:13) liberty in using it.
XVI. Concerning the formal and corporate worship of God, we believe and confess that this corporate worship is regulated by the Word of God, and that no innovations or new devices may be used, nor new doctrines or practices added, other than those that are specifically allowed in scripture; and we believe that all those practices that are not specifically commanded are thus banned, and only those that are specifically permitted are to be practiced.
Now all and each of these doctrines and ordinances, we look upon ourselves under the greatest obligation to embrace, maintain, and defend; believing it to be our duty (Phil. 1:27; Jude 3) to stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel.
And whereas we are very sensible, that our conversation, both in the world and in the church, ought to be as becometh the Gospel of Christ; (Phil. 1:27) we judge it our incumbent duty, to (Col. 4:5) walk in wisdom towards them that are without, to exercise a conscience (Acts 24:16) void of offense towards God and men, by living (Titus 2:12) soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.
And as to our regards to each other, in our church-communion; we esteem it our duty to (Eph. 4:1-3; Rom. 12:9, 10, 16; Phil. 2:2, 3) walk with, each other in all humility and brotherly love; to watch (Lev. 19:17; Phil. 2:4) over each other's conversation; to stir up one (Heb. 10:24, 25) another to love and good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as we have opportunity, to worship God according to his revealed will; and, when the case requires, to warn, (1 Thess. 5:14; Rom. 15:14; Lev. 19:17; Matthew 18:15-17) rebuke, and admonish one another, according to the rules of the Gospel.
Moreover, we think ourselves obliged (Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26) to sympathize with each other, in all conditions, both inward and outward, which God, in his providence, may bring its into; as also to (Rom. 15:1; Eph. 4:12; Col. 3:13) bear with one another's weaknesses, failings and infirmities; and particularly to pray for one another, (Eph. 6:18, 19; 2 Thess. 3:1) and that the Gospel, and the ordinances thereof, might be blessed to the edification and comfort of each others souls, and for the gathering in of others to Christ, besides those who are already gathered.
All which duties we desire to be found in the performance of, through the gracious assistance of the Holy Spirit whilst we both admire and adore the grace, which has given us a place, and a name in God's house, better than that of sons and daughters. (Isa. 56:5)
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