The First London Confession of Faith of 1644

Comprehensive Edition (2022)

Questions & Answers

Speaking strictly they [the credobaptistic confessions of the 17th century] were apologies, taking the form of confessions, or creeds, as the most convenient way of informing adversaries of the matter of their faith. […]
They sought to reflect the existing harmony of sentiment, and the scriptural orthodoxy of the communities whose pastors signed them[…].

—Edward Bean Underhill Confessions of Faith, and other Public Documents, illustrative of the History of the Baptist Churches of England in the 17th Century, London, 1854, page vi

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The Questions

  1. Why another version of the 1LCF?
  2. Who has currently adopted the 1LCF Comprehensive Edition?
  3. Under what licence is the text published?
  4. What is that logo at the top of the page? May I use it?
  5. Are the Scripture references from the historical editions? And, by the way, there's one that doesn’t fit!
  6. This confession in the Comprehensive Version has 52 articles. I once read that the 1LCF had 53 articles. Which is correct?

The Answers

Why another version of the 1LCF?
In the Comprehensive Version presented here, the aim is not to adhere to just one of the historical editions, but instead to integrate textual variants from all three historical text versions. It is not comprehensive in the sense of including or documenting ev­ery variant from each of the three historical original London text versions of 1644, 1646 and 1651/1652.
Although it is based on the text of the second edition from 1644, it does, however, aim to include variants from the earlier and the later version of the text in passages where they do most fully express biblical truths. This document originated in a 21st century re­formed and credobaptist church: The Reformierte Freikirche (Reformed Free Church) in Germany, which holds a German translation of this text as the main expression of their faith under the authority of Scripture. The church did not want to formulate their own confession, but rather desired to use a tried and tested “pattern of sound words”. When the first congregation was founded in 2016, only the text of the 1644 edition was known to the founders, and a translation of that was used. From the beginning, the original text was amended by an article on the Lord’s Supper, which was a selection from the Second London Confession of Faith from 1677. This should not imply total agree­ment with every every position of the 2LCF’s, but simply full accord with the ex­cerpt used.
Later, when photomechanical facsimiles of all four historical London editions of the confession could be studied, it was decided that some phrasings from other editions than the 1644 were more suitable in content or language for the church’s textual use. Thus this document came into being – not under the desire to write a new confession, but rather with the intention of choosing passages from several variants of this “pattern of sound words” that most fully express biblical teaching as the church understood it, to better serve the glory of God and the benefit of the elect.
While the Reformierte Freikirche does use a German translation of this confession, the English version of the text is made available in the hope that it may prove useful to other Christians.
The confession has been carefully and respectfully edited, and mostly within the bounds of only choosing between text variations given by the diverse his­torical editions. Compiling this edition has led in some areas to improvements in clarity with regard to closeness to biblical expressions and, especially in the case of treating the Lord’s Supper in its own article, in the inclusion of more precious and important truths for Christ’s church at all times.
For a full documentation of the differences to previous versions of the text, please refer to the downloads section.
Who has currently adopted the 1LCF Comprehensive Edition?
The Comprehensive Edition and its German translation were published on Reformation Day 2022.
Here are those who hold one of these two versions of confession so far and have contacted the operators of this website. The list will be added to as needed.
Under what licence is the text published?
The text of the Comprehensive Version in the English original and in the German translation is under copyright. Nevertheless, anyone interested may distribute the confession digitally or in any quantity as a printout of the unchanged text, as it is made available in the downloads section, free of charge. For other uses, especially commercial or professional printing, please contact us for a licence. We will most likely be happy to agree to such use.
The use of a Creative Commons licence, which would ensure freedom of distribution while securing textual integrity, is being examined, but has not yet been implemented.
What is that logo at the top of the page? May I use it?
The logo is based on the coat of arms of the City of London shown here:

Lesser Coat of Arms of The City of London
(Ssolbergj, Sodacan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons).
Although the City of London makes up only a small part of the urban area known as London as a whole, the coat of arms symbolically represents it in the public's perception; this can also be seen in the large number of souvenirs sold throughout London bearing this sign. This reference to Greater London is, strictly speaking, inaccurate, but we are only quoting the coat of arms (not adopting it).
The First London Confession in the Comprehensive Version is published with a sign that refers to London as the place of origin and is inspired by the City of London's coat of arms. The edge of the shield has been made more visually prominent, the cross has been set off from the edge and the sword floating next to the cross in the original has been placed on of the cross itself.
Whoever in print or other media reproduces, informs about or refers to the text of the 1LCF in the Comprehensive Version unchanged, may use this logo, as shown at the top of the page, free of charge for this purpose. The colour of the design is not fixed; use in other colourings in accordance with the possibilities of the respective medium or any other existing colour specifications is permissible.
Use for other purposes, including use with other versions of the 1LCF, is not permitted. In case of doubt, please contact us before use.
Are the Scripture references from the historical editions? And, by the way, there's one that doesn’t fit!
The historical editions of the Confession were published in a situation of persecution. After the printing of the second edition, two people responsible, Benjamin Cox and Samuel Richardson, were arrested and taken to task for publishing it, as can be seen in the Journal of the House of Commons.
In this situation, there were a number of discernible errors in the compilation of the biblical reference texts, which suggest great constraints of time. The editor of a modernised version of the text (Wenkel, David: The London Baptist Confession of 1646 – A Modern Version for the Church Today, Belfast und Greenville, 2017) writes in this regard, referring to his own edition (p. 21):
“In a few instances, proof-texts have been changed because it is evident there was a mistake by the authors or printer.”
The list of references for the Comprehensive Version has been completely redone. The positions of the references in the text are for the most part still the historical ones, but we reserve the right to revise the list of references again and fundamentally in a later edition. Whether in this or a later edition – it can always happen that the reference of a biblical passage to the statement made in the article is not seen the same way by readers. Let us also listen to David Wenkel on this (from the same page as above):
“It should be possible for a church to adopt this confession without adopting all of the individual decisions about various supporting bible verses.”
This confession in the Comprehensive Version has 52 articles. I once read that the 1LCF had 53 articles. Which is correct?
It is widely claimed that the first edition of the 1LCF has 53 articles. Although this is the prevailing opinion, the assumption is incorrect, as a look at the facsimiles of the editions will show.
Following the 52 numbered articles of the first edition there is another passage which – like the previous one – is headed with the roman numeral LII. This is obviously a typesetting error which needs to be corrected – as there cannot be two Articles 52, the natural assumption is that the second passage is in fact meant to be a fifty-third article. Actually, the copy in the Angus Library at Oxford has been corrected by a previous owner accordingly, adding by hand the missing line to form LIII. The content of this passage, however, does not really deal with any theological statements about biblical beliefs to be confessed, but rather gives reasons and motivation for publishing a confession of faith.
With the publishing of the 1646 edition (“The second impression corrected [!] and enlarged”), however, the assumption that this was meant to be a further article can no longer be maintained. The passage in question, which in 1644 begins with the words “And thus we desire to give unto God” after the 1646 revision starts with “And thus we desire to give unto Christ”. It is clearly the revised equivalent. Rather than headed with an article number like LIII, it is titled “The Conclusion”.
Also, when a new Article 5 was included in 1646, the editors made sure to combine both former Articles 7 and 8, both dealing with Holy Scripture, under the number 8, showing an intention to – at that time – keep the number of articles at 52.
This means that the 1644 edition just has an error in the typesetting of the heading for the closing passage following Article 52, and while at first it may have seemed obvious to interpret this as a further article (LIII), the correction made by the editors themselves about fourteen months later forbids this interpretation as the 1644 edition also has 52 articles.
That the 1651 and 1652 editions have only 51 articles is undisputed; the previous Article 38 on the remuneration of pastors has been left out.