“Bound To Keep The First Day”: Covenant Theology, the Moral Law, and the Sabbath among the first English Particular Baptists -- By: James M. Renihan

Journal: Reformed Baptist Theological Review
Volume: RBTR 03:2 (Fall 2006)
Article: “Bound To Keep The First Day”: Covenant Theology, the Moral Law, and the Sabbath among the first English Particular Baptists
Author: James M. Renihan


“Bound To Keep The First Day”:
Covenant Theology, the Moral Law, and the Sabbath
among the first English Particular Baptists

James M. Renihan

James M. Renihan, Ph.D., is Dean and Professor of Historical Theology at The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies, Westminster Seminary California, Escondido, CA.

It being full well known to all observers, that both in preaching, printing and practice, all the Baptized congregations with whom we have communion in England, Scotland and Ireland, do hold out a constant profession, that in conscience to the Lord, we do hold ourselves bound to keep the first day of the week, called the Lord’s Day, holy to the Lord; and that the right celebration of this day consisteth in a spiritual communion with God, our own souls, and each with other in all gospel-Ordinances, and other Christian offices, of goodness and mercy to man and beast, as opportunity and Christian prudence shall require.1

Myths and legends abound, even in the study of historical theology. An author proposes an opinion of one kind or another and students naïvely follow the pronouncement, often taking it beyond the boundaries of its source. As more and more accept the suggestion, no longer as proposal but as fact, it is canonized. A postulate becomes a settled conclusion and reigns as orthodoxy. Those who have accepted the idea promote it loudly and urge it upon all observers. Sometimes, simply because the conjecture is found in print, it gains the status of truth, whether or not the historical record actually supports the notion.

This is the case with an important theological matter from early English Baptist history. We have been told, with frequency and urgency, that the first English Calvinistic Baptists held views of covenant theology, the moral law, and the Sabbath which differed from their successors. In a strange mirror to the Calvin versus the Calvinists debate, we are told that the second generation of these Baptists developed and

promoted a view out of concert with their fathers in the faith.2 Gary D. Long has stated:

Why republish the 1646 edition of the First London Confession of Faith—the London Baptist Confession of 1644—with an Appendix to it also written in 1646? Why not use the more popular 1689 London Baptist Confession of 1689 (sic)—a Baptist modification of the Westminster Confession of Faith with its Larger and Shorter Catechisms agreed upon and approved in 1647–48 by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster and ratified by Acts of Parliament in 1649? Both of these latter confessions are current...

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