Rediscovering Baptist Heritage

A characteristic feature of the early Calvinistic Baptists was their regional Associations which linked together local congregations in specific geographical areas of Great Britain. And if it asked from whence the signatories of the London Confession derived their convictions in this regard, the experience that many of them had had in the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey congregation immediately comes to mind. There, they had experienced a church life that was far from being isolationist and that had consciously striven to nurture bonds between itself and other congregations.

These associations were to be a key factor in the great growth that the Calvinistic Baptist cause witnessed during the late 1640s and the 1650s. These were tumultuous years in English history, as the land was convulsed in civil war and experienced massive social, political, and economic upheaval. The Calvinistic Baptists flourished, however, and their commitment to Associations played a vital part in their growth. Associations provided mutual strength and fellowship, an instrument for preserving congregational integrity and orthodoxy, a means of providing for the financial needs of poorer congregations, and a way of supporting church planting and evangelistic endeavours. The important place that these first-generation Baptists accorded to their Associations is well expressed by [one historian] when he states, “they no more believed that an individual congregation should be free to go its own way than that an individual believer could be a serious Christian without commitment to a local, visible congregation.”

The Calvinistic Baptist cause expanded from the seven churches in London in the mid-1640s to around 130 throughout England, Wales and Ireland by the late 1650s! It was indeed a unique time of spiritual harvest and blessing. And helping to win converts to the Baptist position and bind them together was the … London Confession of Faith.

– Michael Haykin, Kiffin, Knollys and Keach: Rediscovering Our English Baptist Heritage