Thomas Collier’s Descent Into Error: -- By: James M. Renihan

Journal: Reformed Baptist Theological Review
Volume: RBTR 01:1 (Jan 2004)
Article: Thomas Collier’s Descent Into Error:
Author: James M. Renihan

Thomas Collier’s Descent Into Error:

Collier, Calvinism, and the Second London Confession

James M. Renihana

From the time of their beginnings in the 1640s, the English Particular Baptists were noted for expansion. Looking upon their nation as a country desperately in need of churches proclaiming the truths of the Bible so recently discovered, they rapidly engaged in a program intended to bring such assemblies to birth. In London, John Spilsbury, William Kiffin and Hanserd Knollys were effective leaders in the extension of Particular Baptist doctrines. In the Midlands, Daniel King, among others, provided leadership both through the Midlands Association and written treatises. Similarly, John Miles led the effort in South Wales. The Abingdon Association, which included such noteworthy men as Benjamin Coxe and John Pendarves, grew so large in just six years (1652–58) that it was necessary to form a second association in adjoining counties.1

Another important and rapidly growing center for Particular Baptist expansion was in the West Country2 of England, where the most influential leader was Thomas Collier. His work was so effective that he aroused the attention of the famous Thomas Edwards, who wrote in his work Gangraena (1646) that Collier was “the first that sowed the seeds of Anabaptism. .. in these parts.”3 For more than the next 40 years, Collier labored to plant and strengthen churches in the West Country.

At the beginning of his ministry, Collier was closely associated with the Particular Baptists, perhaps even holding membership in

William Kiffin’s Devonshire Square, London, church.4 By the mid 1650s, however, there is evidence of some independence of thought, and by the mid 1670s, Collier openly repudiated the Calvinism of the Particular Baptists. This article is an attempt to explore Collier’s changing theological views.

An Historical Survey Of Thomas Collier’s Doctrinal Commitments

1. Early Calvinistic Orthodoxy

Thomas Edwards not only described Collier as the first to spread Baptist principles in the West Country, but added that he also was the first to sow the seed of “Arminianisme” there.5 This is probably an incorrect judgment of Collier at this early stage (1646). B.R. White notes that two factors might have contributed to such...

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