A historical study and evaluation of the form of church government practised by the Particular Baptists in the 17th and 18th centuries
This thesis is a historical study and evaluation of the form of church government practised by the Particular Baptists of the 17th and 18th centuries, from the years 1650 to 1750. This study is based on confessional statements, the ecclesiological literature, and the extant church books of the Particular Baptists. It is shown that the Particular Baptists practised a definitive form of church government known traditionally as Independency, similar to that expounded by John Owen, minus infant baptism. Under the principle of the autonomy of the church the Particular Baptists practised believer’s baptism, an explicit church membership, and upheld covenant theology. Under the principle of the headship of Christ, they practised the separation of church and state, upheld the divine right of the magistrate, and also believed in the liberty of conscience. Under the principle of rule by elders the majority of the Particular Baptists practised a plurality of elders in which there was a distinction made between the roles of the pastor or minister and the ruling elders, although they occupy the same basic office of rule. However, deviation from a plural eldership took place, leading to the singlepastor- and-multiple-deacons situation, accompanied by the disappearance of ruling elders and the practice of congregational democracy in governance. This arrangement is characteristic of modern Congregationalism. Under the principle of the communion of churches the regional associations of churches accomplished much good, while a number of issues remained unresolved, including open and closed communion, congregational hymn singing, and the training of ministers. In the final chapter, the study attempts to resolve some ecclesiological issues controverted among Reformed Baptists today by applying the lessons learned from the Particular Baptists. To the Particular Baptists, Independency was the jus divinum (divinely ordained) form of church government used by God as the vehicle to carry out the Great Commission with a view to establishing biblically ordered churches, which upheld the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. These three components of church life − mission-mindedness, biblical church order, and the 1689 Confession of Faith − arose from the thorough biblicism of the Particular Baptists.
- Theology