Historical Baptist Beliefs in NSW

Early NSW Baptist Doctrinal Statements

As Baptist evangelicals we are happy to subscribe to the 1979/2003 Statement of Beliefs. The trust deeds and constitutional doctrinal bases of early Baptist Churches in NSW and those of the Baptist Association and Union are of interest in getting to grips with our heritage. See also Hefin Jones’s article on “Are Doctrinal Confessions Un-Baptist?” which reviews some of the history of baptist doctrinal statements in NSW.

 

John Saunder’s Description to John Ham of Bathurst Street’s Doctrinal Position (1847)

John Saunders the first pastor (1835-48) of the oldest continuing Baptist Church in Australia wrote to John Ham inviting him to leave Collins Street Baptist in Melbourne to become the second pastor of Bathurst Street, Sydney.

“The church, as you are aware, is an English Open Communion Baptist Church. The Articles of Faith required by the minister by our Trust Deed and to which I believe you can cheerfully subscribe are these

  • The doctrine of the One Living and True God,
  • three equal persons in the Godhead,
  • original sin,
  • particular redemption,
  • free justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ,
  • regeneration,
  • conversion, and sanctification by the Spirit and Grace of God,
  • the moral law a rule of life and conduct to all believers,
  • the final perseverance of the saints,
  • the resurrection of the body to immortal life,
  • the eternal happiness of the righteous and the everlasting misery of such as die impenitent.”

William H. Carey’s Letter of Acceptance to Parramatta Baptist Church (1851)

William H. Carey, the grandson of the famous Baptist missionary pioneer, was called to the ministry of Parramatta Baptist in 1851. The church engaged in some negotiation with him that involved some doctrinal discussion. The upshot of it was this letter of acceptance from Carey:

“It may be as well just to recapitulate these [doctrines] so that we may have a more perfect understanding of each others views

  • I believe in the existance of one only living and true God, that there are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, Son & Holy Ghost
  • I believe in the fall of man and his consequent total depravity
  • I believe in the Election by God from all Eternity of a certain number of the human race whom He will everlastingly redeem
  • I believe in the atonement thro the death of Christ
  • In justification before God through the imputed righteousness of Christ
  • In regeneration and progressive sanctification thro the influences of the Holy Spirit of God
  • In the appointment of the ordinances of believers baptism by immersion only and of the Lord’s supper, both instituted by Christ
  • I believe in the Moral law as a rule of conduct for life to all men and especially binding upon the Believer in Christ
  • I believe in the death and resurrection of the bodies of all men, In a day of coming and final judgement, and in the condemnation of all who have not exercised an humble and loving faith in Christ, a Condemnation to Eternal Misery, and in the reception of all who had been Christs disciples into everlasting joy.

Such are the doctrines I believe most firmly that the scriptures teach us, and these are they which I shall hope to preach among you. May the Lord give us grace to understand and to profit by them, that thus they may make that impression upon our lives, which they were of God designed, and revealed to produce.”

 

The Doctrinal Basis of the New South Wales Association of Baptist Churches (1868)

After an abortive attempt to form an Association ten years earlier a number of Churches associated together to form the New South Wales Association of Baptist Churches in 1868, which later changed its name to The Baptist Union of New South Wales in 1870. The ‘basis’ of the association was:

  • The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments shall be received as the entire and complete revelation of God to Mankind and shall be the only rule of faith and practice. And we receive all Baptist Churches and Baptised Christians, who rest upon the work of Christ alone for salvation and believe that the salvation of the sinner can be effectively secured only by the Holy Spirit’s operations.

 

The Doctrinal Basis of The Baptist Union of New South Wales (1870)

In order to secure the inclusion of the open membership Bathurst Street Church the ‘basis’ was altered by dropping the second sentence of the 1868 basis.

  • The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments shall be received as the entire and complete revelation of God to Mankind and shall be the only rule of faith and practice.

 

The Model Trust Deed for Baptist Churches (1872)

A set of ‘general tenets’ were placed into the Model Trust Deed proposed by the Union in 1872. These ‘general tenets’ were later incorporated into the constitution of the Union (1894), and form the only doctrinal part of the 1919 Act of Incorporation of the Baptist Union. The ‘general tenets’ remain to this day as the only doctrinal statements which have legal force. The 1979/2003 Statement of Beliefs is an official exposition of these ‘tenets’.

“… holding as their general tenets the Doctrines of

  • The Sinfulness of Man
  • the Divinity of Jesus Christ
  • and His Atonement for the Sin of Man
  • the need of the Holy Spirit for Conversion
  • the Divine Inspiriation of the Scriptures
  • the Resurrection of the Dead
  • and Rewards and Punishments in a future state
  • and practicing the Baptism of Believers only by Immersion.”