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Baptist Catechisms (Covenant Excerpts)

On 03, Dec 2014 | In Resources | By admin

Below are excerpts from various baptist catechisms related to covenant theology.


1659 by John Tombes, B.D.1

19. Had it not been a discomfort to the believing Jews to have their Children unbaptized, and out of the Covenant?

The want of Baptism to Infants was never any grievance to Believers in the New Testament, nor were they thereby put out of the Covenant of Grace.

20. Was not the proper reason of Circumcising the Infants of the Jews the interest which they had in the Covenant to Abraham, Gen. 17.7. to be a God to him and to his seed?

The end of Circumcision was indeed to be a token of the whole Covenant made with Abraham, Gen. 17.4,5,6,7,8. not only the promise, ver. 7. But the formal proper distinguishing reason why some were to be Circumcised, and others not, was God’s Comand alone, not the interest in the Covenant; sith Ishmael who was not a Childe of promise, Gen. 17.20.21. Rom. 9.6,7,8,9. and those who were in Abrahams house, though not of his Seed, were Circumcised, but no Females, nor Males under eight days old.

21. Was not the Covenant with Abraham, Gen. 17. the Covenant of Grace?

It was, according to the hidden meaning of the Holy Ghost, the Evangelical Covenant, Gal. 3.16. But according to the open sense of the words, a Covenant of special benefits to Abrahams inheriting natural posterity, and therefore not a pure Gospel Covenant.

22. Are not Believers Children comprehended under the promise, to be a God to Abraham and his seed? Gen. 17.7.?

No: unless they become Abrahams seed according to Election of Grace by Faith.

23. Did Circumcision seal the Gospel Covenant? Rom. 4.11

That text speaks not of any ones Circumcision but Abrahams, which sealed the righteousness of faith he had before Circumcision, and assured thereby righteousness to all, though uncircumcised, who should believe as he did. 

24. Are not the Sacraments of the Christian Church in their nature, Seals of the Covenant of Grace?

The Scripture doth nowhere so call them, nor doth it mention this as their end and use.

[Read full catechism]

The Orthodox Catechism

1680, Hercules Collins2

Q. Seeing the Infants of Believers are in the Covenant of Grace with their Parents, as some say, why may not they be baptized under the Gospel, as well as Abraham’s Infant-Seed was circumcised under the Law?

A. By the Infants of Believers being in the Covenant of Grace, it must either be meant of the Covenant of Grace absolutely considered, and if so, then there is no total and final Apostasy of any Infant-Seed of Believers from the Covenant, but all must be saved then.
(a) Jer. 32. 38, 39. 40. Joh. 10. 28.

Or 2. They must mean conditionally, on consideration that when they come to years of maturity, they by true Faith, Love, and Holiness of life, taking hold of God’s Covenant of Grace, shall have the Privileges of it. This being their sense, I then demand what real spiritual privilege the Infant-Seed of Believers, as such, have more than the Infant-Seed of Unbelievers, if they live also to years of maturity, and by true Faith and Love take hold God’s Covenant (b)? I further demand, whether the Seal of the Covenant do not under those considerations belong as much to the Children of Unbelievers as to the Children of Believers? yea, and more too, under consideration the Infant-Seed of the Unbeliever should take hold of God’s Covenant, and the Believers Infant-Seed do not (c); as often this is seen to the sorrow of many Godly Parents.
(b) (c) Isa. 56.3,4,5,6,7,8. Acts 10.34, 35. John 3.16.

3. Suppose all the Infant-Seed of Believers absolutely in the Covenant of Grace; yet Believers under the gospel ought no more to Baptize their Infant-Seed, than Lot to circumcise himself or his Infant-Seed, if he had Males as well as Females, albeit nearly related to Abraham, yea, a Believer, and in the Covenant of Grace too: forasmuch as Circumcision was limited to Abraham and to his Family. Also by the same rule we may bring Infants to the Lord’s Table, forasmuch as the same qualifications are (d) required to the due performance of Baptism, as there is to the Lord’s Supper.
(d) Acts 2.41, 42

4. We must know the Covenant made with Abraham had two parts:

First, a spiritual, which consisted in God’s promising to be a God to (e) Abraham, and (f) all his Spiritual-Seed in a peculiar manner, whether they were circumcised or uncircumcised, which believed as Abraham the Father of the Faithful did. And this was signified in God’s accepting such as his People which were not of (g) Abraham’s Seed, but brought with his Mony, and this Promise was sealed to Abraham by Circumcision, that through Jesus Christ (whom Isaac typified out) the Gentiles, the Uncircumcision which believed, should have their Faith counted for Righteousness, as Abraham’s was before he was circumcised.
(e) Gen.17. 19,21. Gen. 21.10. Gal. 4.30. (f) Acts 2.39. Rom. 9.7,8 & c. (g) Gal. 3.16, 28, 29. (h) Rom. 4.9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.

Second, This Promise consisted of temporal good: so God promised Abraham’s Seed should enjoy the (i) Land of Canaan, and have plenty of outward blessings, so sealed this Promise by Circumcision. It was also a distinguishing character of the Jews being God’s People from all the Nations of the Gentiles, which as yet were not the Seed of Abraham: but when the Gentiles came to believe, and by Faith became the People of God as well as the Jews, then (j) Circumcision, that distinguishing Mark, ceased; and the character of being the Children of God now is Faith in Christ, and Circumcision of the Heart. So that whatever pretence there may be for the Infants of Believers to be Baptized first, as their being the Seed of Believers; or 2ndly, their being in the Covenant; or 3rdly, that the Infant-Seed of Abraham a Believer, was circumcised; all this you see avails nothing: for Circumcision was limited to such a Family, the Family of Abraham, all others, though Believers, were excluded; also limited to such a day, the eighth day, and what ever pretence might be made, it was not to be done before nor after; limited also to such a Sex, the Male, not the Female, which if Baptism came in the room of Circumcision, and is the Seal of the Covenant under the Gospel, as Circumcision was under the Law, none but the Males must be Baptized, because none but the Males were Circumcised; but as under the Law respecting Circumcision, so now under the Gospel respecting Baptism, it depends purely upon the will of the Law-giver, at what season, upon what Persons and terms Baptism is to be administered; unto which Prophet we shall all do well to hearken, Act. 3.22.
(i) Gen. 15.18. Gen. 17.8, 9, 10, 11. Gen. 12.6, 7. Gen. 13.15, 16, 17. Gen. 15.16. (j) John 1.12. Rom. 2.28, 29. Phil. 3.3. Gal. 3.26, 27, 28



Part III

Questions about Salvation

68.Q. What is a covenant?
A. A covenant is an agreement between two or more persons (e.g., 1 Sam 18:3; Mt 26:14, 15).

69.Q. What is the covenant of grace?
A. It is an eternal agreement within the Trinity to save certain persons called the elect, and to provide all the means for their salvation (Gn 17:1-8; Rm 11:27; Hb 10:16, 11; 13:20, 21; Jer 31:31-34; Ez 36:25-28).

70.Q. What did Christ undertake in the covenant of grace? 
A. Christ undertook to keep the whole law for his people, and to suffer the punishment due to their sins (1~.m 8:3, 4; Gal 4:4, 5; Hb 6:17-20; 7:22; 9:14, 15; 13:20, 21).

90.Q. What did God the Father undertake in the covenant of grace?
A. By His goodness and mercy, God the Father elected, and determined to justify, adopt and sanctify those for whom Christ should die (Ex 33:18, 19; Eph 1:3-5; Rm 8:29-33; Gal 4:4-7; Hb 10:9, 10; 1 Cor 1:8, 9; Phil 1:6; 1 Thes 4:3, 7; 5:23, 24).

101.Q. What did the Holy Spirit undertake in the covenant of Grace?
A. He regenerates, baptizes, and seals those for whom Christ has died (Ep 2:1-8; 1 Cor 12:13; Ep 1:13, 14; Ep 4:30; 2 Cor 1:22).


by William Gadsby, ca.18004

Question XXIV. Did God leave all mankind to perish in that estate of sin and misery?
Answer. No; God, having out of His own good pleasure from eternity elected some of them to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of that estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state of salvation by a Redeemer.
Rom. 3.21-25 & 9.6-24; Eph. 1.4-7; 1 Thess. 5.9; 2 Thess. 2.13; 1 Pet. 1.2.

Question XXV. What is meant by a covenant of grace?
Answer. The covenant engagement entered into, in the counsels of eternity, by the Triune God in behalf of the elect; in which covenant the elect were given to the Person of the Son, and made His care and charge, and all spiritual blessings were treasured up and secured in Him, and so made sure to all the seed of promise.
2 Sam. 23.5; Psa. 89.27-37; Isa. 55.3; Hos. 2. 23; Jn. 17.2; Heb. 2.13 & 8.10.

Question XXVI. On whom did the conditions of the covenant fall?
Answer. The Second Person in the Trinity, who, knowing the elect would destroy themselves by sin, engaged to be accountable for them, and to take all the consequences connected therewith upon Himself, and in His own time to send them the Holy Spirit, who should teach them all truth; and, at last, present them to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.
Isa. 9. 6-7; Jn. 16.7-14 & 17.8-15; Eph. 5.25-27; Heb. 9.28.

Question XXVII. Is there anything in the covenant of grace of a precarious or uncertain nature?
Answer. No; for it is ordered in all things and sure, and is confirmed by the promise and oath of God.
2 Sam. 23.5; Psa. 89. 33-37; Jer. 33.20-21; Matt. 24. 35; Jn. 17.12, 24; Rom. 11.29.

Question XXVIII. Are the called according to God’s purpose to take any consolation from the glory and stability of this covenant?
Answer. Yes; for it contains all their salvation, and all their desire.
2 Sam. 23.5; Isa. 54.10; Jn. 10.28-29; Heb. 6.17-20.


as presented by the Charleston Association (forerunner to SBC), 18135

Q. What special act of providence did God exercise towards man in the estate wherein he was created? 
A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him upon condition of perfect obedience: forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death (Gal. 3:12; Gen. 2:17).

Q. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression? 
A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation sinned in him, and fell with him in his first transgression (Gen. 2:16, 17; Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:21, 22).

Q. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery? 
A. God having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life (Eph. 1:4, 5), did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer (Rom. 3:20-22; Gal. 3:21, 22).


Henry Clay Fish, D.D. 18506

(11) Does not the doctrine that a true believer may finally perish, conflict with the covenant of redemption in which the Father gave to the Son a people who should certainly be saved?
A. It does. “This is the Father’s will, which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John vi. 39.

Q. (12) Does it not also come in collision with the doctrine of Election? 
A. It does. The saints are chosen “through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience.” “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Pet. i. 2; 1 Thes. v. 4.

Q. (13) Does it not also conflict with the doctrine of Justification?
A. It does. “Whom He justified, them He also glorified.” “it is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?” “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Rom. viii. 30-34.

Q. (14) Is it not opposed to the tenor of God’s covenant with His people? 
A. It is. He says “I will make an everlasting covenent with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me.” Jer. xxxii. 40.

  1. “Here is a rare glimpse into the baptismal debate that raged in England between the 1620’s and, well, today. After questioning the infants interest in the covenant while delivering the 1627 catechetical lectures at Magdelan Hall, Oxford, John Tombes pondered his views for 15 years before he finally came to credobaptist (believer’s baptism) convictions. For another Seventeen years, he championed the cause for credobaptism as a needed reform in the National Church. This Short Catechism was published as a distilation of 32 years of thought as regards baptism. Here is Tombes’ mature, yet succinct presentation of the essence of baptism.     During these 32 years, Tombes engaged the leading theological minds about this topic. He had a public debate with an ingenious Baptist who convinced him 1 Cor. 7:14 was no basis to practise infant baptism, he had a public debate with Richard Baxter on the subject, he exchanged polemics directly with Marshall and Ballie, and he wrote against more than thirty proponents of paedobaptism during his age. His writings are exegetically based, historically accurate, and theologically informed. Of all the men in the history of the Church who have written about baptism, Tombes’ has more published pages than anyone. Yet, he has been lost to the modern reader. There are some anomalies in his thought. However, there is great profit to be found from time spent with a man who has become my friend, though dead, John Tombes, BD.” Mike Renihan, Grace Chapel, Editor, 1995 

  2. The Orthodox Catechism of 1680 by Hercules Collins virtually reproduced the Heidelberg Catechism of the Dutch Reformed Church.  Eager that the Baptists of his generation be “established, strengthened, and settled on that sure rock and Foundation of Salvation, Christ’s Merits”, Collins presented to his contemporaries one of the noblest of Protestant Catechisms.  Collins follows the order and wording of the Heidelberg Catechism until he arrives at the Baptismal questions.  At that point he departs radically and inserts fourteen question and answer exchanges clearly expressing the Baptist view.   The longest of these is listed here.  “Baptist Catechisms, To Make Thee Wise Unto Salvation”, Tom J. Nettles 

  3. In 1798, Richard Cecil proposed a question for a group of his evangelical minister friends to discuss:  “What may be done towards the interests of the children of a congregation?” The best use of this catechism would be as a supplement in Sunday School from the first to the fifth grades.  A certain number of responses might be targeted each year as a goal for memorization. After the fifth grade, the young people may begin to learn and finally master the Baptist Catechism which was used for so many years within Baptist churches in both England and America. “Teaching Truth, Training Hearts”, Tom J. Nettles 

  4. This Catechism is reproduced for the general benefit of Christians and as a response to those critics of William Gadsby who, among other slanders, claim that Gadsby didn’t preach the gospel. These people don’t really know what Gadsby taught and fail to realise just how much Gadsby was used by God in spreading the Gospel. William Gadsby was a fervent gospel preacher, he;- “Laboured mightily in the north of England being instrumental in establishing about forty churches.” Errol Hulse. May the Lord of the harvest grant that this seed will bring forth fruit abundantly. 

  5. In 1751 several churches united to form the Charleston Association, to make this the first association of Baptist churches in what is now the Southern Baptist Convention. In 1802 the Charleston Association dismissed six churches to join the newly organized Savannah Association (just organized In 1800). These six churches were: Coosawhatchie (Beech Branch), Black Swamp, Pipe Creek (Lawtonville at Estill), Bethesda and Lower Three Runs. In 1813 the Georgia and South Carolina churches decided to have separate associations and the South Carolina churches organized under the name of The Savannah River Association  

  6. A Baptist Catechism intended for advanced members of the sabbath school and Bible classes,  by Henry Clay Fish, 1850.   Henry Clay Fish was born in Halifax, Vt., January 27, 1820 and was the son of a Baptist minister.  Henry was converted at fifteen and studied at the high school in his native town and at the Shelburn Falls Academy.  The day after his graduation from Union Theological Seminary, New York City, June 25, 1845, he was ordained pastor of the Baptist Church at Sommerville, N.J.  The degree of D.D. was conferred on Mr. Fish by the University of Rochester.  Fish’s Catechism was taken directly from Baptist Encylopedia by Cathcart.  The Catechism originally produced by Fish is 87 pages long.  What is offered here has been shortened but is still quite lengthy. The Catechism is strongly Calvinistic and clearly teaches Christ’s atonement for the elect only and that election is solely the choice of God and not man. 

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