The English Baptist Union's Statement
23 April 1888
From W. J. McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1911), 290-92.

ith the rise of the Methodist movement and the work of Andrew Fuller, a great change was wrought in the theology of English Calvinistic Baptists. It was nothing less than the grafting of the Arminian doctrine of a universal atonement upon the old Calvinistic stock and the consequent serious and earnest offer of salvation to all men. Simultaneously with this change in Baptist theology came the work of Carey and the beginnings of foreign missions, with the rise of the practical tasks of the Sunday-school, Bible societies, tract societies, and similar organizations. Men's minds were turned to the practical side of Christianity, and their horizon was suddenly enlarged to include the whole world in the vision of their obligation and opportunity. They turned away from theological controversies and formulas. The old Confessions gradually fell into disuse, but no others took their places. The Union repeatedly declined to draw up any new Confession or prescribe one. The Arminian and Calvinistic wings by degrees approached each other. The rancors and contentions of former years were gradually forgotten in the presence of the great thrilling tasks of the nineteenth century. Finally, in 1888, the great majority of both parties dropped party names and united in a working compact for the furtherance of the King's business. The brief statement which forms the doctrinal basis of The Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland was formulated by the council and adopted by the Union April 23, 1888. It was because of dissatisfaction with this statement that Spurgeon withdrew from the Union in 1888, remaining aloof until his death in 1892. The statement was published in regular order in the proceedings of the Union for that year, and has never been reprinted. The statement, which was adopted with only seven dissenting voices in a meeting of seventeen or eighteen hundred messengers, is as follows:

Whilst expressly disavowing and disallowing any powers to control belief, or to restrict enquiry, yet, in view of the uneasiness produced in the churches by recent discussions, and to show our agreement with one another, and with our fellow-Christians on the great truths of the Gospel, the Council deem it right to say that:

A. Baptized into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we have avowed repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—the very elements of a new life; as in the Supper we avow our union with one another, while partaking of the symbol of the body of our Lord, broken for us, and of the blood shed for the remission of sins. The Union, therefore, is an association of Churches and Ministers professing not only to believe the facts and doctrines of the Gospel, but to have undergone the spiritual change expressed or implied in them. This change is the fundamental principle of our church life.

B. The following facts and doctrines are commonly believed by the churches of the Union:—

  1. The Divine Inspiration and Authority of the Holy Scripture as the supreme and sufficient rule of our faith and practice; and the right and duty of individual judgment in the interpretation of it.
  2. The fallen and sinful state of man.
  3. The Deity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His Sacrificial and Mediatorial work.
  4. Justification by faith—a faith that works by love and produces holiness.
  5. The work of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of sinners and in the sanctification of all who believe.
  6. The Resurrection; the Judgment at the last day, according to the words of our Lord in Matt. 25. 46.*

Upon this statement the great majority of the Baptists of Great Britain still stand. There are still small bodies, remnants of former parties, who stand aloof; but the great majority of British Baptists stand and work together upon the basis of this brief statement of facts and doctrines.

* "It should be stated, as a historical fact, that there have been brethren in the Union, working cordially with it, who while reverently bowing to the authority of Holy Scripture, and rejecting the dogmas of Purgatory and Universalism, have not held the common interpretation of these words of our Lord."

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