In 1689 the Particular Baptist Association of London adopted the London Baptist Confession of Faith. It was the doctrinal standard of the Particular Baptist Churches of England and Wales and is the doctrinal standard of Reformed Baptist churches today. Of it, C.H. Spurgeon wrote,
This little volume is not issued as an authoritative rule, or code of faith, whereby you are to be fettered, but as an assistance to you in controversy, a confirmation in faith, and a means of edification in righteousness. Here the younger members of our church will have a body of divinity in small compass, and by means of Scriptural proofs, will be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them.
At the Synod of Dort (1618-19) the Form of Subscription was adopted and was to be signed by professors, ministers, evangelists, elders, and deacons when ordained and/or installed in office. Of those confessional formulations, it is understood that
We, the undersigned, by means of our signatures declare truthfully and in good conscience before the Lord that we sincerely believe that all the articles and points of doctrine set forth in the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort fully agree with the Word of God.
We promise therefore
to teach these doctrines diligently,
to defend them faithfully,
and not to contradict them,
publicly or privately,
directly or indirectly,
in our preaching, teaching,
We pledge moreover
not only to reject all errors
that conflict with these doctrines,
but also to refute them,
and to do everything we can
to keep the church free from them.
We promise further that if in the future
we come to have any difficulty with
or reach views differing from them,
we will not propose, defend, preach,
or teach such views,
either publicly or privately,
until we have first disclosed them
to the consistory, classis, or synod
for examination. We are prepared moreover
to submit to the judgment
of the consistory, classis, or synod,
realizing that the consequence
of refusal to do so
is suspension from office.
We promise in addition
that if, to maintain unity
and purity in doctrine,
the consistory, classis, or synod
considers it proper at any time
on sufficient grounds of concern
to require a fuller explanation
of our views
concerning any article
in the three confessions
we are always willing and ready
to comply with such a request,
realizing here also that
the consequence of refusal to do so
is suspension from office.
Should we consider ourselves wronged,
by the judgment of the consistory
or classis, we reserve for ourselves the right of appeal;
but until a decision is made
on such an appeal,
we will acquiesce in the determination
It would seem that having a confession does not necessarily a confessionalist make. Neither do high opinions necesarily make for high views.
But one difference between a confessionalist and an evangelical seems to be how one views confessional formulations. The confessionalist speaks of ecclesiastical statements in terms of them being “binding and authoritative.” The evangelical speaks of them as “an assistance and guidance,” stopping well short of suggesting they have any sort of real, binding authority. It is not as if the confessionalist knows nothing of limitation. But his inclination is less to the evangelical left whereby he is in danger of castrating the forms and more to the Roman right whereby he is in danger of ascribing to them inspired infallibility. Despite the protestations of the evangelical who, not only mistakes mere high opinions for high views but also mistakes high views for infallible ones, the status of infallible is reserved for the Scripture alone.