The Philadelphia Confession of Faith is one of the most influential confessions among Baptists in early America. Being the first known published Baptist confession on American soil, the confession clearly presents adherence to strict Calvinism and is believed to mirror the Second London Confession of 1689. Baptist historian, William McGlothlin, explains:
The first reference to any Confession of faith by an Association in America was by the Philadelphia Association, in 1724. In reply to a query concerning the Sabbath, the Association refers “to the Confession of Faith, set forth by the elders and brethren met in London, 1689, and owned by us.” It is not known that the Confession had been adopted by the Association in any formal way; nevertheless, it was evidently already regarded as their standard of doctrine. References to “our Confession of faith,” “the Confession of Faith, “etc. , in 1727 and 1729, almost certainly refer to the same Confession. Finally, the Association assembled at Philadelphia, September 25, 1742, ordered the printing of a new edition of this Confession, the first of this or any other Baptist Confession to be printed in America. It was to have two additional articles, “concerning singing of psalms in the worship of God,” and “laying of hands upon baptized believers.” Jenkin Jones and Benjamin Griffith were also requested to”prepare a short treatise of discipline, to be annexed to the Confession of faith” (Minutes Philadelphia Association, 1742).– William McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, 1911. p. 221)
Philadelphia’s confession remained popular among Baptists all over the United States until 1833 when New Hampshire’s Declaration of Faith began to uproot its popularity. A slow but steady waning of High Calvinism in Baptist churches severed the Philadelphia confession’s influence. By the century’s end, Z. T. Cody, Baptist theologian and editor of South Carolina’s denominational newspaper, The Courier, could write without hesitation, “But it can be very confidently affirmed that there is now no Baptist church that holds or defends the five points of Calvinism” (Z.T. Cody, “Are Baptists Calvinists” February 16, 1911).
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