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STRICT and PARTICULAR BAPTISTS


"Who are those Christians who are known as Strict & Particular Baptists?"

This question arises because a photograph of an historic Strict & Particular Baptist Meeting House, in St. Ives, appeared in a secular Web Site; also it is one that I am sometimes asked.

The reason for writing this item is twofold. First, there are many believers who know little, if anything, about those brethren, known as Strict and Particular Baptists. This is not surprising, there are many groups of Christians of which I know very little, or nothing at all. Secondly, there are misconceptions abroad concerning these brethren. This is something that we have all learned to live with, but I would, nevertheless, like to take an opportunity to explain the position of S&PBs.

The Strict & Particular Baptists are, first and foremost, Christians who have a long and orthodox history. They are Believers on, and in, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are His Followers, or Disciples. In saying this these Believers do not imply that others, not so designated, are not Christians; in fact they recognise all true believers in the Lord Jesus as brethren, beloved in Christ.

The name Strict & Particular Baptists is one that was given, by others, in three distinct parts. Although this is a title given, by others, it has been accepted as being correctly descriptive. We should note, the followers of Christ did not choose a name they were called Christians by others.

They are known as Baptists because they believe that the New Testament teaches that believers, after conversion, are immersed in water as part of their profession of faith. This is in identification with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour, in His burial and in His resurrection.

They are known as Particular Baptists because they believe, and preach, that teaching which is within the principles known as the Doctrines of Grace, set out in five points. The name, Particular, coming from the heading of the central, third, paragraph, which is about Redemption.

They are known as Strict & Particular Baptists because they believe that the Lord's Supper is a Divine Ordinance which is celebrated within a Congregation comprised of saved, immersed, believers seeking to live, and serve God, in a manner that is set out in the New Testament. The term 'Strict' may not always be applied but is normally implied. That is, these brethren are often known as Particular Baptists. See Articles of Faith, Para. 15,

Strict & Particular Baptists make a point of avoiding sacral and ritualistic excess, on one hand, and they have managed to stand apart from sentimental and emotional immoderation, on the other hand, in the celebration of the Lord's Supper. However, they, like many other nonconformists, may tend to loose sight of the real meaning and value of the Lord's Supper, to both The Lord Jesus Christ and to His Redeemed People.

Strict & Particular Baptists believe and practice the principle that each gathering is directly responsible to the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Head of the Assembly, which is His Body. Consequently there is no centralised denominational Strict & Particular Baptist Headquarters, nor is there any governing committee, nor president, nor moderator, nor any other human head or leader.

Strict & Particular Baptists do have fellowship with other congregations of believers on the basis of the truth, which they hold dear. The epicentre of this fellowship is the Person and the Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only head of His Gathering, which is His Body and Bride.

They meet in buildings which are normally known as a Chapel or a Meeting House. (The latter term, which was in common use from the 17th. to the19th. centuries, has sadly gone out of favour. It would be interesting to know how, when and why this change took place.) This is because the term 'church' is strictly a gathering, congregation or assembly, of baptised believers and is neither applied to a religious denomination nor to a building. Some brethren prefer to use the term congregation rather than the ambiguous term 'church'. A number of congregations also maintain a library, at the Chapel, containing volumes by conservative evangelical writers.

Strict & Particular Baptists are conservative evangelical Christians who have a lot in common with many other believers. However, there are differences. For example, they do believe that "the Believer's Rule of conduct is the Gospel, and not the Law." (See Articles of Faith Para.16)
This is exemplified in the following extract from a hymn, from the book used by S & P Baptists.

The Law of Liberty. Jas 1:25; Jn 13:17.

The gospel's the law of the Lamb;
My soul of its glories shall sing;
With pleasure my tongue shall proclaim
The law of my Saviour and King;
A sweet law liberty this;
A yoke that is easy and mild;
Of love it the precious law is,
Unknown unto all but a child.

Its beauties all centre in Christ,
For Christ is the substance of it;
It makes broken hearts to rejoice,
And insolvent debtors will fit.
'Tis wisdom, 'tis strength, and 'tis love,
'Tis all that a sinner can need;
And all that are born from above,
By Jesus from Moses are freed.

William Gadsby

Another hymn, from Redemption Songs and used by other believers, gets the same message over.

Justified by His Grace. Rom 3:24.

Free from the law, O happy condition,
Jesus hath bled and there is re-mission,
Cursed by the Law, and bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us, once for all.

Philip Bliss

One aspect of this truth is particularised in the lines;- "The Sabbath was --- A lively type of Christ, --- The labouring poor may venture here, --- And lean on Jesus breast." William Gadsby

What is being claimed is that Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are freed from "The law of ten commands, on holy Sinai given." (Isaac Watts) Believers are brought into Gospel Liberty, which is a New Rule that is based on the New Covenant and set in New Creation.

This teaching goes back to early Christianity.
"For if we are living until now according to Judaism we confess that we have not received grace. --- (we are) no longer living for the Sabbath, but for the Lord's day. --- --- It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism." Ignatius to the Magnesians, para. 8-10
"If anyone interpret Judaism to you do not listen to him." Ignatius to the Philadelphians, para.6,v1

This teaching was held by Christians, called Baptists or Brethren and various other names, through the centuries of oppression known as the Dark Ages. It is also the teaching of Scripture.
"By the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified." Rom 3:20. Also see v28
"Knowing that a person is not justified by the works of the Law, but only by faith in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by works of the Law; for by works of the Law no flesh shill be justified." Gal 2:16, also 4:10-11.
"Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the Law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twin one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby. He came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh." Eph 2:15-17 & Col 2:16-17.

S&PBs firmly believe that the Gospel, and not the Law, is the believers rule and this differentiates S&P Baptists from those Brethren who seek to re-deploy the Laws of Moses as a rule of conduct for Christians. "Those are mistaken brethren who, if they only realised it, send sinners to Sinai and believers to Moses instead of sending sinners to Calvary and believers to Christ."

Strict & Particular Baptists, to the best of my knowledge, who are called to the Ministry of the Word do not use non-Scriptural titles, such as 'Reverend', nor wear any items of religious clothing, such as a 'clerical collar'. Such ministers are not ordained by any denominational organisation, for there is none, and have no authority other than their calling by God and that of their own gathering.

Strict & Particular Baptists are particularly concerned to ensure that the Lord Jesus Christ is alone exalted in all ministry and worship. These brethren are aware that no man can project himself as a great preacher and, at the same time, present Christ as a Mighty Saviour, they are acutely aware that no worship can be man-pleasing and, at the same time, be a sweet smelling savour to God.

Strict & Particular Baptists believe in the resurrection of the dead and in the imminent, glorious and eternal, return of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, they do not, generally, get involved in the various disputes between the advocates of the several, competing, millennial theories.

Strict & Particular Baptists do not consider themselves superior to other Christians. They simply believe that they are unworthy sinners who have been shown unmerited, divine, grace and mercy.

Strict & Particular Baptists do have a social conscience. They, collectively, support trust funds for the help of those who are in need, particularly the elderly and poor of the household of faith. Also there are funds to help with property, publishing, and a library. This is done without any official denominational oversight, thus preserving the autonomy of the local gatherings.

Strict & Particular Baptists are, sometimes, thought to be part of the 'Reformed Movement.' There is a measure of truth in this assumption because there are very strong links in doctrine, worship and practice. (For instance, the European Baptists welcomed both Luther and Calvin when these two reformers first appeared on the scene. That is until they were given good cause to think otherwise.) However, S&PBs could, if they wished, trace their lineage, historically, doctrinally and spiritually, beyond the Reformation through the persecuted brethren of the Middle and Dark Ages and hence to New Testament Christianity. If the truth were to be told, this history has continued from the first century through to the second millennium. This is because of the promise by the Lord Jesus Christ that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church, that is His Gathering, Assembly, Congregation, of blood bought, ransomed, redeemed Saints. It is quite wrong to equate S&PBs with Post Reformation Denominations. Those brethren who are known as Strict and Particular Baptists are not a 'new movement', nor are they some passing 'religious phenomenon'. Also, and this needs to be stated, S&PBs are not Protestants, nor are they a 'Re-formed Church', and they have never been part of the State-Church system. See G.H.Orchard's History of Baptists.

Statements, or Articles, of Faith. It is essential that we state what we mean. For instance, I have before me a statement of an 'Evangelical Church', actually it is an Open Brethren Assembly in disguise, and it is claimed; "The Faith taught is founded entirely upon the Bible, which we believe is completely inspired of God." Now I do not doubt these brethren are totally sincere but, and this is a fact of history, all make this claim. We must state what we believe, or make no claim at all and allow our testimony, our lives and witness, to tell out what our beliefs are.

To help you examine these issues in greater detail a set of ARTICLES OF FAITH (Gospel Standard) are appended. These are from the old Baptist Confession of Faith, which was revised over a period of several years by a number of able and acceptable brethren, including John Gill, William Gadsby and Joseph C. Philpot. Subsequently a committee of several ministers and messengers approved and adopted these articles, which are also held by present day Strict & Particular Baptist Congregations.

These Articles of Faith, drawn up about four centuries ago to enable the Gospel Trumpet to give out a clear sound at a time of Doctrinal Confusion, have been unchanged for about a century. This is because there has been no recent Doctrinal Issues, among S&PBs, requiring a declaration of truth. These Articles of Faith are not so much setting up the teaching that they believe, but, as believing the whole of the Word of God, these brethren were reacting to those distortions of truth that surrounded them. That is, there would be no need for us to have a Statement of Doctrine if there weren't heresies around us, with which we could be associated.

 


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