This introductory chapter consists of 13 propositions followed by 8 distinctive statements of baptist doctrine.
The 13 propositions cover topics such as the authority of scripture, religious freedom, separation of church and state, autonomous church government, etc.
The 8 statements then distinguish Baptists from other Christian denominations. Most are not surprising at all, but the final two had points of interest.
Since these statements are a decent summary of the distinctions between baptists and other protestants, I will list them all, but then offer some quotes from the final two.
Statement 1: regenerate church membership.
Statement 2: baptism by immersion.
Statements 3-5: proper subjects for baptism, communion, and church membership.
Statement 6: autonomous church government.
Statement 7: church officers.
This is where it starts to get interesting.
Baptist’s hold that they are two; pastors and deacons: besides these, there are no others. They assert that bishop and elder in the primitive churches were identical in office and authority, being pastors when holding the superintendence of churches, and evangelists when preaching from place to place; and that ruling and teaching elders were not, and properly should not be, distinct and separate offices in the churches. Consequently bishops are not a superior order of the clergy, nor ruling elders an order distinct from teaching elders.
What this statement does, is establish a simple, two office order of church government. By equating pastor, elder, and bishop as the same office and distinguishing pastor and evangelist as separate functions, but not offices, this statement rejects all episcopal type church organization, be it the Episcopalian denomination, the charismatic designation of bishop as greater than pastor, or simply a multi site model with a pastor who holds authority over more than one congregation.
It likewise rejects the Presbyterian model of distinguishing teaching and ruling elders and essentially creating a three office system.
Statement 8: doctrinal beliefs.
Here is a list of beliefs which are not really that distinctive or controversial. However, the opening line is quite interesting given the current state of doctrine in evangelical churches in America.
In doctrine, Baptist’s agree very nearly with other evangelical Christians. They are what is usually called Calvinistic, as opposed to Arminian views of free-will and the sovereignty of grace.
This statement was probably meant to distinguish between Baptists and Wesleyan groups. Interestingly, the author asserts that all Baptists are “usually” Calvinistic. While true at the time, it is certainly not usual now.
In appendix A on creeds and confessions, he lists a number of historic baptist confessions and tells their history and connection to one another. They are all Calvinistic. Actually, they go beyond a simple Calvinistic soteriology to establish a fully Reformed, covenant theology.
Oh that modern day Baptists would recover the doctrinal foundations their forefathers once held so dear!