Book ReviewsBaptist Church Covenants by Charles W. Deweese; 1990, Broadman $12.95.
In Baptist Church Covenants, Charles Deweese has done for church covenants what McGlothlin and Lumpkin did for the historic Baptist confessions of faith. He has brought to light many examples of church covenants used by Baptists, such as those found in the manuals of Newton Brown and Edward Hiscox, which have gained widespread acceptance, as well as others which illustrate the abundance of covenants which were written for the use of but one congregation.
Deweese provides us with seventy-nine examples ranging from the splendid covenant of the Baptist church at Caerlon in Wales to that of the Hwe Ching Baptist Church of China. The earliest covenant is from 1640, the latest from 1985.
In addition to its being an excellent source of the documents themselves, we have in Baptist Church Covenants a challenging discussion of the relationship between the covenanting impulse and the historic Baptist call for a regenerate church membership. In a day when "decisionism" is synonymous with evangelism in most churches and when church discipline has largely disappeared, Deweese seeks to call us to an examination of existing practices through the study of our covenantal heritage. According to Deweese "the time is ripe for a disciplinary reawakening in Baptist life."
To that I say a hearty Amen!
This book is an excellent treatment of an excellent confession of faith. The author, Sam Waldron, is a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church, Grand Rapids, MI. He skillfully employs church history and theology as he examines the similarities and differences between the 1689 (Second London) Baptist Confession and its cousins, the Westminster Confession (Presbyterian), the Savoy Declaration (Congregationalist), and the Baptist Confession of 1644 (which is also known as the First London Confession). A proper emphasis is maintained respecting the inclusive unity of spirit and understanding among these various Calvinistic groups.
One very valuable aspect of this work is its treatment of present trends in the church. Pastor Waldron refers to various false teachings as he expounds the 1689's thirty-two chapters and even brings to light some present error not anticipated in the confession. One such subject is inerrancy, which receives a masterful treatment in the first chapter.
A carefully balanced treatment of God, man, and salvation is to be found throughout this work. The erroneous half-truths and falsehoods of both Hyper-calvinism and Arminianism are exposed and an evangelistic fervor is evident in the midst of the polemics.
Several sections in this work merit careful rereading. Chapter 21 ("Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience") is one such example as is Chapter 22 on "Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day." Reading Shepherding God's Flock (edited by Roger Beardmore) and God's Righteous Kingdom (Walter Chantry) in conjunction with these sections will prove beneficial.
Another valuable feature of the book is the introduction by R. P. Martin which sets forth the legitimacy and use of confessions.
Since the 1689 confession was adopted by the Philadelphia and Charleston Associations, and exerted much influence on Baptists in America (especially Southern Baptists) it should be of particular interest to the readers of this journal. Many more are the reasons why you should personally obtain a copy of this book to read and study in your Christian pilgrimage.