Earliest Confessions

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by Rebel, Mar 22, 2015.

  1. Rebel

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    Here are the earliest Baptist Confessions of Faith. First is the John Smyth Confession, of 1609 (although Smyth would go over to the Mennonites):

    Short Confession of Faith in 20 Articles
    by John Smyth (Circa 1609)

    WE BELIEVE WITH THE HEART AND WITH THE MOUTH CONFESS:

    (1) That there is one God, the best, the highest, and most glorious Creator and Preserver of all; who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    (2) That God has created and redeemed the human race to his own image, and has ordained all men (no one being reprobated) to life.

    (3) That God imposes no necessity of sinning on any one; but man freely, by Satanic instigation, departs from God.

    (4) That the law of life was originally placed by God in the keeping of the law; then, by reason of the weakness of the flesh, was, by the good pleasure of God, through the redemption of Christ, changed into justification of faith; on which account, no one ought justly blame God, but rather, with his inmost heart, to revere, adore, and praise his mercy, that God should have rendered that possible to man, by his grace, which before, since man had fallen, was impossible by nature.

    (5) That there is no original sin (lit;, no sin of origin or descent), but all sin is actual and voluntary, viz., a word, a deed, or a design against the law of God; and therefore, infants are without sin.

    (6) That Jesus Christ is true God and true man; viz., the Son of God taking to himself, in addition, the true and pure nature of a man, out of a true rational soul, and existing in a true human body.

    (7) That Jesus Christ, as pertaining to the flesh, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, afterwards was born, circumcised, baptized, tempted; also that he hungered, thirsted, ate, drank, increased both in stature and in knowledge; he was wearied, he slept, at last was crucified, dead buried, he rose again, ascended into heaven; and that to himself as only King, Priest, and Prophet of the church, all power both in Heaven and earth is given.

    (8) That the grace of God, through the finished redemption of Christ, was to be prepared and offered to all without distinction, and that not feignedly but in good faith, partly by things made, which declare the invisible things of God, and partly by the preaching of the Gospel.

    (9) That men, of the grace of God through the redemption of Christ, are able (the Holy Spirit, by grace, being before unto them grace prevement) to repent, to believe, to turn to God, and to attain to eternal life; so on the other hand, they are able themselves to resist the Holy Spirit, to depart from God, and to perish for ever.

    (10) That the justification of man before the Divine tribunal (which is both the throne of justice and of mercy), consists partly of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ apprehended by faith, and partly of inherent righteousness, in the holy themselves, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, which is called regeneration or sanctification. since any one is righteous, who doeth righteousness.

    (11) That faith, destitute of good works, is vain; but true and living faith is distinguished by good works.

    (12) That the church of Christ is a company of the faithful; baptised after confession of sin and of faith, endowed with the power of Christ.

    (13) That the church of Christ has power delegated to themselves of announcing the word, administering the sacraments, appointing ministers, disclaiming them, and also excommunicating; but the last appeal is to the brethren of body of the church.

    (14) That baptism is the external sign of the remission of sins, of dying and of being made alive, and therefore does not belong to infants.

    (15) That the Lord’s Supper is the external sign of the communion of Christ, and of the faithful amongst themselves by faith and love.

    (16) That the ministers of the church are, not only bishops (“Episcopos”), to whom the power is given of dispensing both the word and the sacraments, but also deacons, men and widows, who attend to the affairs of the poor and sick brethren.

    (17) That brethren who persevere in sins known to themselves, after the third admonition, are to be excluded from the fellowship of the saints by excommunication.

    (18) That those who are excommunicated are not to be avoided in what pertains to worldly business (civile commercium).

    (19) That the dead (the living being instantly changed) will rise again with the same bodies; not the substance but the qualities being changed.

    (20) That after the resurrection, all will be borne to the tribunal of Christ, the Judge, to be judged according to their works; the pious, after sentence of absolution, will enjoy eternal life with Christ in heaven; the wicked, condemned, will be punished with eternal torments in hell with the devil and his angels.
     
    #1 Rebel, Mar 22, 2015
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  2. Rebel

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    Here is the Thomas Helwys Confession of 1611:

    Thomas Helwys Confession, 1611

    A Declaration of Faith of English People Remaining at Amsterdam in Holland.

    Hebrews 11:6.
    Without Faith it is impossible to please GOD. Hebrews 11.

    Romans 14:23.
    Whatsoever is not of Faith is sin.



    To All The Humble minded which love the truth in simplicity, Grace and peace. [This is followed by two pages of preface.]



    A Declaration, Etc.
    We Believe and Confess

    1. That there are THREE which bear record in heaven, the FATHER, the WORD, and the SPIRIT; and these THREE are one GOD, in all equality, (1 John 5:7; Philippians 2:5, 6). By whom all things are created and preserved, in Heaven and in Earth. (Genesis 1).

    2. That this GOD in the beginning created al things of nothing, (Genesis 1:1) and made man of the dust of the earth, (Genesis 2:7), in his own image, (Genesis 1:27), in righteousness and true Holiness. (Ephesians 4:24); yet being tempted, fell by disobedience. (Ephesians 3:1-7). Through whose disobedience, all men sinned. (Romans 5:12-19). His sin being imputed unto all; and so death went over all men.

    3. That by the promised seed of the woman, JESUS CHRIST, [and by] his obedience, al are made righteous. (Romans 5:19). All are made alive, (1 Corinthians 15:22). His righteousness being imputed unto all.

    4. That notwithstanding this, men are by nature the Children of wrath, (Ephesians 2:3) born in iniquity and in sin conceived. (Psalm 51:5) Wise to all evil, but to good they have no knowledge. (Jeremiah 4:22). The natural man perceives not the things of the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:14). And therefore man is not restored unto his former estate, but that as man, in his estate of innocence, having in himself all disposition unto good, & no disposition unto evil, yet being tempted might yield, or might resist: even so now being fallen, and having all disposition unto evil, and no disposition or will unto any good, yet GOD giving grace, man may receive grace, or may reject grace, according to that saying; (Deuteronomy 30:19) I call Heaven and Earth to record. This day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: Therefore choose life that both thou and thy seed may live.

    5. That GOD before the Foundation of the World hath Predestinated that all that believe in him shall-be saved, (Ephesians 1:4, 12; Mark 16:16) and al that believe not shall be damned, (Mark 16:16) all which he knew before. (Romans 8:29) And this is the Election and reprobation spoken of in the Scriptures, concerning salvation, and condemnation, and not that GOD hath Predestinated men to be wicked, and so to be damned, but that men being wicked shall be damned, for GOD would have all men saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, (1 Timothy 2:4) and would have no man to perish, but would have all men come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) and wills not the death of him that dies. (Ezekiel 18:32). And therefore GOD is the author of no mans condemnation; according to the saying of the Prophet. (Hosea 13). Thy destruction O Israel, is of thy self, but thy help is of me.

    6. That man is justified only by the righteousness of CHRIST, apprehended by faith, (Romans 3:28. Galatians 2:16) yet faith without works is dead. (James 2:17)

    7. That men may fall away from the grace of GOD, (Hebrews 12:15) and from the truth, which they have received &acknowledged, (Hebrews 10:26) after they have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the HOLY GHOST, and have tasted of the good word of GOD, &of the powers of the world to come. (Hebrews 6:4, 5). And after they have escaped from the filthiness of the World, may be tangled again therein &overcome. (2 Peter 2:20). That a righteous man may forsake his righteousness and perish (Ezekiel 18:24, 26). And therefore let no man presume to think that because he hath, or had once grace, therefore he shall always have grace: But let all men have assurance, that if they continue unto the end, they shall be saved: Let no man then presume; but let all work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

    8. That JESUS CHRIST, the Son of GOD the second Person, or subsistence in the Trinity, in the Fullness of time was manifested in the Flesh, being the seed of David, and of the Israelites, according to the Flesh, (Romans 1:3 and Romans 8:5) the Son of Marie the Virgin, made of her substance, (Galatians 4:4) by the power of the HOLY GHOST overshadowing her, (Luke 1:35) and being thus true Man was like unto us in all thing, sin only excepted. Hebrews (4:15) being one person in two distinct natures, TRUE GOD, and TRUE MAN. 32/84

    9. That JESUS CHRIST is Mediator of the New Testament between GOD and Man, (1 Timothy 2:5) having all power in Heaven and in Earth given unto him. (Matthew 28:18) Being the only KING, (Luke 1:33) PREIST, (Hebrews 7:24) and PROPHET. (Acts 3:22) Of his church, he also being the only Law-giver, hath in his Testament set down an absolute, and perfect rule of direction, for all persons, at all times, to be observed; Which no Prince, nor any whosoever, may add to, or diminish from as they will avoid the fearful judgments denounced against them that shall so do. (Revelation 22:18, 19).

    10. That the church of CHRIST is a company of faithful people (1 Corinthians 1:2. Ephesians 1:1) separated from the world by the word &Spirit of GOD (2 Corinthians 6:17) being knit unto the LORD, &one unto another, by Baptism. (1 Corinthians 12:13). Upon their own confession of the faith (Acts 8:37) and sins. (Matthew 3:6).

    11. That though in respect of CHRIST, the Church be one (Ephesians 4:4) yet it consists of divers particular congregations, even so many as there shall be in the World, every of which congregation, though they be but two or three, have CHRIST given them, with all the means of their salvation. (Matthew 18:20. Romans 8:32. 1 Corinthians 3:22). Are the Body of CHRIST (1 Corinthians 12:27) and a whole Church. (1 Corinthians 14:23) And therefore may, and ought, when they are come together, to Pray, Prophecy, break bread, and administer in all the holy ordinances, although as yet they have no Officers, or that their Officers should be in Prison, sick, or by any other means hindered from the Church. (1 Peter 4:10 &2:5).

    12. That as one congregation hath CHRIST, so hath all, (2 Corinthians 10:7). And that the Word of GOD comes not out from any one, neither to any one congregation in particular. (1 Corinthians 14:36). But unto every particular Church, as it doth unto al the world. (Colossians 1:5. 6). And therefore no church ought to challenge any prerogative over any other.

    13. That every Church is to receive in all their members by Baptism upon the Confession of their faith and sins wrought by the preaching of the Gospel, according to the primitive Institution, (Matthew 28:19) and practice, (Acts 2:41). And therefore Churches constituted after any other manner, or of any other persons are not according to CHRISTS Testament. 33/84

    14. That Baptism or washing with water is the outward manifestation of dieing unto sin, and walking in newness of life. (Romans 6:2, 3, 4). And therefore in no wise appertains to infants.

    15. That the LORDS Supper is the outward manifestation of the Spiritual communion between CHRIST and the faithful mutually (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17) to declare his death until he come. (1 Corinthians 11:26).

    16. That the members of every Church or Congregation ought to know one another, so that they may perform all the duties of love one towards another, both to soul and body. (Matthew 18:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 1 Corinthians 12:25). And especially the Elders ought to know the whole flock, whereof the HOLY GHOST hath made them overseers. (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2, 3). And therefore a Church ought not to consist of such a multitude as cannot have particular knowledge one of another.

    17. That Brethren impenitent in one sin after the admonition of the Church, are to be excluded the communion of the Saints (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:4, 13) &therefore not the committing of sin doth cut of any from the Church, but refusing to hear the Church to reformation.

    18. That Excommunicants in respect of civil society are not to be avoided, (2 Thessalonians 3:15. Matthew 18:17).

    19. That every Church ought (according to the example of CHRISTS Disciples and primitive Churches) upon every first day of the week, being the LORDS day, to assemble together to pray, prophecy, praise GOD, and break Bread, and perform all other parts of Spiritual communion for the worship of GOD, their own mutual edification, and the preservation of true Religion, &piety in the church (John 20:19. Acts 2:42 and 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2) and that ought not to labor in their callings according to the equity of the moral law, which CHRIST came not to abolish, but to fulfill. (Exodus 20:8 &c).

    20. That the Officers of every Church or congregation are either Elders, who by their office do especially feed the flock concerning their souls, (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2, 3) or Deacons Men, and Women who by their office relieve the necessities of the poor and impotent brethren concerning their bodies, (Acts 6:1-4). 34/84

    Continued below.....
     
    #2 Rebel, Mar 22, 2015
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  3. Rebel

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    21. That these Officers are to be chosen when there are persons qualified according to the rules in Christ’s Testament, (1 Timothy 3:2-7. Titus 1:6-9. Acts 6:3. 4) by Election and approbation of that Church or congregation whereof they are members, (Acts 6:3. 4 and 14:23), with Fasting, Prayer, and Laying on of hands, (Acts 13:3. and 14:23). And there being but one rule for Elders, therefore but one sort of Elders.

    22. That the Officers of every Church or congregation are tied by Office only to that particular congregation whereof they are chosen, (Acts 14:23, and 20:17. Titus 1:5). And therefore they cannot challenge by office any authorities in any other congregation whatsoever except they would have an Apostleship.

    23. That the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are written for our instruction, (2 Timothy 3:16) &that we ought to search them for they testify of CHRIST, (10:5. 39). And therefore to be used withal reverence, as containing the Holy Word of GOD, which only is our direction in al things whatsoever.

    24. That Magistracy is a Holy ordinance of GOD, that every soul ought to be subject to it not for fear only, but for conscience sake. Magistrates are the ministers of GOD for our wealth, they bear not the sword for naught. They are the ministers of GOD to take vengeance on them that do evil, (Romans 13). That it is a fearful sin to speak evil of them that are in authority, and to despise Government. (2 Peter 2:10). We ought to pay tribute, custom and all other duties. That we are to pray for the, for GOD would have them saved and come to the knowledge of his truth. (1 Timothy 2:1. 4). And therefore they may be members of the Church of CHRIST, retaining their Magistracy, for no Holy Ordinance of GOD debars any from being a member of CHRISTS Church. They bear the sword of GOD, — which sword in all Lawful administrations is to be defended and supported by the servants of GOD that are under their Government with their lives and al that they have according as in the first Institution of that Holy Ordinance. And whosoever holds otherwise must hold, (if they understand themselves) that they are the ministers of the devil, and therefore not to be prayed for nor approved in any of their administrations, — seeing all things they do (as punishing offenders and defending their countries, state, and persons by the sword) is unlawful.

    25. That it is Lawful in a just cause for the deciding of strife to take an oath by the Name of the Lord. (Hebrews 6:16; 2 Corinthians 1:23. Philippians 1:8). 35/84

    26. That the dead shall rise again, and the living being changed in a moment, - having the same bodies in substance though divers in qualities. (1 Corinthians 15:52 and 38. Job 19:15-28. Luke 24:30).

    27. That after the resurrection all men shall appear before the judgment seat of CHRIST to be judged according to their works, that the Godly shall enjoy life Eternal, the wicked being condemned shall be tormented everlastingly in Hell. (Matthew 25:46).

    Finis
     
  4. Salty

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    and keep in mind that no Baptist church is required to subscribed to any "BCOF" - and many use only a portion if so desire.
     
  5. Rebel

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    Yes, I know.

    Salty, do you believe in penal substitution? I know the Free Will Baptist statement of faith affirms substitutionary atonement, but they don't add the word "penal" to that.
     
  6. rsr

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    A discussion of the history of atonement theories among Baptists is fair game in this forum. A debate on the merits is not; besides, it's already being thrashed out elsewhere.
     
  7. Deacon

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  8. rsr

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    Thanks for the link. I've downloaded the epub.

    William Lumpkin has written a more recent work, "Baptist Confessions of Faith." I haven't read it, but I intend to.
     
    #8 rsr, Mar 23, 2015
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  9. Van

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    Hi Rebel, I am all for discussion historical "Confessions of Faith." But I am not sure I see any point in posting them without discussing the merits.

    Lets take your first post of John Smyth. Point #1 seems sound to me and straight forward.

    But I have questions on point #2. What was meant by "redeemed the human race to His own image? Is the idea that we were created in His image, and then when we are redeemed, we are returned to that image? If so, why include the whole human race, unless they thought we are all redeemed? That would be universalism. Or possibly, to be redeemed does not mean to be saved?

    Do you know or have insight as to what is being said?

    Next, we have all men "ordained to life." Again, this could be understood to be saying all men are redeemed, and saved, thus Universalism. Is that what they believed?

    Then, point #3, we have an idea that seems to challenge the corrupting nature of the fall, i.e. being "made" sinners. How can we be "by nature" children of wrath, unless our "fallen nature" is predisposed to sin. I would not object to the idea that on a case by case basis, we are not compelled by our nature to sin, but on the other hand, since no one is righteous, I do not think we are able to not ever sin, i.e. lead a sinless life as Christ did. John tells us if we say we do not sin, we are mistaken.
     
  10. rsr

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    Smyth was not a universalist, but he believed in unlimited atonement (though he might not have put it that way.) His articles are best understood in that light.

    Smyth denied original sin (see article 5); this was one of the differences between him and Helwys, who affirmed it.

    It might perhaps be best to view Smith as a proto-Baptist, whose movement was important in the history of early English Baptists but whose progeny were — excepting the Helwys faction — outside of the later Baptist mainstream because of his affinity (and attempted conversion to) the Mennonites.
     
    #10 rsr, Apr 15, 2015
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  11. Van

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    Thanks Rsr, I now know he was not a universalist, but still have no idea of what he meant in point #2.
     
  12. Van

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    OK, so if we cannot discuss Smyth, lets turn our attention to Helwys, and again refer to his 1611 point #2.


    If we take his subpoints one at a time we find:
    (a) God created everything out of nothing, creation ex nileo. I think we all agree with that.
    (b) God made man from the "dust" of the earth. Again we all agree with that, but some of us are not sure exactly what form the dust was in, but in any case, God altered it to create man as a unique creation.
    (c) And we agree man was created in the image of God. Most, hopefully all would agree our physical shape is not in view, but rather our unsullied attributes we shared with God before the fall.
    (d) I, for one, do not think Ephesians 4:24 refers to our initial state, but our born anew state. But I agree that before the Fall, Adam and Eve had not sinned, and therefore were in unity with God.
    (e) I will disregard the references to scripture because they have seemingly no tie to the assertions being made.
    (f) By the disobedience of Adam the many died (were spiritually separated from God.) I think we can all agree with that. And we can agree that mankind through the disobedience of Adam were made sinners, and thus by nature were children of wrath.​
     
    #12 Van, Apr 16, 2015
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  13. rsr

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    I think it's best to look at No. 2 as a denial that God has reprobated any human and instead has made it possible for any to be saved. This is elucidated later:

    (8) That the grace of God, through the finished redemption of Christ, was to be prepared and offered to all without distinction, and that not feignedly but in good faith, partly by things made, which declare the invisible things of God, and partly by the preaching of the Gospel.

    (9) That men, of the grace of God through the redemption of Christ, are able (the Holy Spirit, by grace, being before unto them grace prevement) to repent, to believe, to turn to God, and to attain to eternal life; so on the other hand, they are able themselves to resist the Holy Spirit, to depart from God, and to perish for ever.
     
  14. Van

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    Yes, that he thought all men were able (because of prevenient grace)to repent, believe and attain eternal life, is clear. So I know what he did not mean in point #2, but to redefine "redeemed" as meaning provided the opportunity of redemption seems a long way around the barn. But when you look at the whole document, that meaning cannot be ruled out. Thanks.
     
  15. Van

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    Returning to point #2 of Helwys 1611 document, what do we make of "all men sinned?"

    Here is the NET footnote addressing the various historical understanding:
    The translation of the phrase ἐφ᾿ ᾧ (ef Jw) has been heavily debated. For a discussion of all the possibilities, see C. E. B. Cranfield, “On Some of the Problems in the Interpretation of Romans 5.12,” SJT 22 (1969): 324-41. Only a few of the major options can be mentioned here: (1) the phrase can be taken as a relative clause in which the pronoun refers to Adam, “death spread to all people in whom [Adam] all sinned.” (2) The phrase can be taken with consecutive (resultative) force, meaning “death spread to all people with the result that all sinned.” (3) Others take the phrase as causal in force: “death spread to all people because all sinned.”​

    Nearly all the English translations go with the third option "because all men sinned" but is that what Helwys believed? Apparently not!

    Lets back up and see if we believe all men volitionally sin? What about those who die before they have done anything good or bad? So in what way do all men sin? Can we say because we are conceived "in Adam" i.e. in a separated from God sinful state, we have somehow sinned? Thus the idea, rather than sinning ourselves, is that we sinned in that we suffered (separation and corruption) the consequence of Adam's sin.
    In this view we look at sin as a two part deal, part one refers to our action (thought or deed) and part two refers to the consequence (God's action). Thus "all men sinned" refers to the second part of sin, God's action - the curse of separation and corruption.
     
  16. Van

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    Lets drop down to point #4 of Helwys 1611 document and consider Jeremiah 4:22. This verse, which reads in part: "...they are shewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know." Based on this Helwy makes this assertion: "having all disposition unto evil, and no disposition or will unto any good...."

    But is that the intended message of Jeremiah 4:22? Jesus say fallen men know how to do good, i.e. give good gifts to their family. So the actual message is they are foolish and do not know to do the good of following God. There is nothing in the message that says they cannot be brought to their senses (Jeremiah 7:3).
     
    #16 Van, Apr 17, 2015
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  17. Rebel

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    I appreciate the latest responses. This is a good discussion.

    I believe I incline more toward Smyth's views than to Helwys's. I wonder if that means I am closer to Mennonites than to General or Free Will Baptists.
     
  18. Van

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    Lets try a modern paraphrase of Smyth first 6 points:
    1) Scripture reveals one God (Yahweh) in three eternal Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our Triune God created everything out of nothing, and sustains all of creation.
    2) God created mankind in His image, arranged for the Fall, and made Redemption to life available for all mankind, through Christ Jesus.
    3) God causes or allows whatsoever comes to pass, and does not compel by the curse our choice to sin, we sin of our own volition, instigated by Satan.
    4) If it was possible to keep the whole Law, life through the keeping the Law was first put in place; however due to weakness of our flesh, keeping the whole Law is impossible, and therefore God by His good pleasure, provided Redemption through faith into Christ Jesus. So what was impossible by our fallen nature, God by His grace made it possible for us with our innermost heart to revere, adore and praise His mercy.
    5) Smyth denies that the many were made sinners, that by the disobedience of the one (Adam) mankind suffered separation and corruption.
    6) Jesus is God the Son, and fully God, yet also fully man, born of a women and having a fully human body. ​

    Which ones do we agree or disagree?
     
  19. Van

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    I disagree with Number 5!
     
  20. Marooncat79

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    The earliest confessions are in the New Testament there are several of them
     

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