Historian Henry C. Vedder called the 1644 London Confession "one of the chief landmarks of Baptist history. It is important to note that the 1644 London Baptists wrote their confession two years prior to the infamous Presbyterian Westminster Confession. If one wishes to see how Baptists historically differ from Presbyterians, one only has to compare and contrast the 1644 London Baptist Confession with the1646 London Presbyterian Confession (Westminster). There are some telling differences. I would like to highlight just one: The use of the Law in the conversion of sinners.
The 17th century London Baptists were clear that it was absolute unnecessary to use "The Law" (meaning the 10 commandments or anything else associated with the Mosaic Law) as prefatory to sharing the gospel. Listen to what they wrote in Article 25:
"The tenders of the Gospel to the conversion of sinners are absolutely free, no way requiring, as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, terrors of the Law, or preceding Ministry of the Law, but only and alone the naked soul, as a sinner and ungodly to receive Christ, as crucified, dead, and buried, and risen again, being made a Prince and a Savior for such sinners."
Someone might ask, "But how does a person know he is a 'sinner' without the Law?" Answer: Mankind's refusal to reflect the image of his Creator predates the giving of the Mosaic Law, and as such, it is unnecessary for the Law to press home man's condition. Truth be known, mankind is 'dead' in trespasses and sins, not through God's fault, but by Adam's (man's) free choice. Therefore, what is needed is not for a good man to be convinced of his sin, but for a dead man to be raised to life. Therefore, Article 24 of the First London Confession states:
The 17th century London Baptists believed that the evangelist should love the ungodly (for Christ died for the ungodly), preach Jesus Christ indiscriminately (for it is the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation), and refrain from using "the Law" as a preparatory work of the gospel."That faith is ordinarily begot by the preaching of the Gospel, or word of Christ, without respect to any power or capacity in the creature, but it (the creature or hearer) is wholly passive, being dead in sins and trespasses, does believe, and is converted by no less power, then that which raised Christ from the dead."
Presbyterians on the other hand, believed the Mosaic Law to be absolutely essential to the conversion of sinners. The Presbyterians write in Chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession:
Thus, one of the major differences between Baptists and Presbyterians is the emphasis on "The Law." Presbyterians historically believe and teach observing a "Sabbath." Presbyterians emphasize the 'authority' of pastors/elders, similar to the manner in which Old Covenant priests had 'authority' over the laypeople of Israel. The modern church (building) is similar to the historic Temple in Jerusalem. The Mosaic Law is Christianized in Presbyterianism because it is the eternal law of God."The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation. Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly"
Baptists, on the other hand, see the Law as pointing to Jesus Christ, the Fulfiller of it. The Law of Moses teaches us of Christ, who fulfilled every portion of it (i.e. 'every jot and tittle') and then caused it to 'disappear' in order to establish a 'new and better covenant' with a new and better law (Hebrews 8:13). The New Covenant promises us eternal blessings because of the obedience of Another. We are declared 'righteous' by God because we abide in Christ by faith, receiving a righteousness that is not our own by any obedience to Law, but "a righteousness that comes from God and is found by faith." Therefore, we preach Christ. Christ is 'foolishness' to the Greeks and a 'stumbling block' to the Jews. but He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. When you come to know the Truth, the Truth will set you free.
The reason I am a follower of Jesus Christ who is unashamedly identified as a 'Baptist' is because the 'Baptist' theology to which I identify is that of the 17th century Baptists who understood the New Covenant, freedom in Christ, and the importance of loving the ungodly in the same manner He has loved us.