The First London Confession of Faith of 1644

Comprehensive Edition (2022)


If we don't care about theological precision and definition, it's not because we are so wonderfully inclusive and loving, as much as it is that we too are people of our own time. We settle for generalities and ambiguities and wonder why anyone should demand anything more.

—Kevin DeYoung Grace defined and defended, Wheaton IL, 2019, p. 24

Creeds and confessions, whatever their content, are sometimes subject to a fundamental criticism, reflected in English in the slogan “No creed but the bible!”; and at first glance this seems to be in beautiful accord with the Reformation principle of sola scriptura, Scripture alone. On closer examination, however, such an assessment cannot be sustained. The Reformers, not only despite but rather because they regarded the Holy Scriptures as the final, binding authority for the faith and life of the followers of Jesus, were diligent writers of confessions, both Lutheran and Reformed, to reflect their respective understandings of the Bible. While Lutherans can rely on a monumental document in the Augsburg Confession, which is still unifying them globally today, on the Reformed side there is a multitude of confessional texts spoken into different historical and theological issues, which agree in their reference to the Bible as the binding foundational document inspired by God Himself and thus largely arrive at the same results in the fundamental statements of faith, but may well diverge on other issues.

“No confession but the Bible!” is an honourably-sounding but insufficient principle. It inevitably includes the unspoken addition “…the Bible as I understand it!”
Although Scripture is the supreme authority of the Christian faith for the evangelical Christian, it is not enough (and some will take offence at this statement!) that we confess it as our foundation – we must, in addition, be prepared to give an account of how we understand it.

Such an account of one’s understanding of biblical teachings in the overall context of Scripture is provided by confessions. They explain in a comprehensible way what the respective understanding of biblical statements is. They prevent us from retreating into a nebulous general sphere of a vague pseudo-piety that makes us seemingly unassailable because nothing is clearly defined in it. A written position on spiritual matters, on the other hand, makes one downright vulnerable to attack. With a clearly formulated theology, others can argue, find out and justify whether, in what way and with what result they arrive at different views on the questions dealt with.

Confessions do even more: they thematically summarise biblical statements on theological questions, they represent a spiritual consensus of those who confess them together, and they can be a good tool in teaching and instruction; all this not on their own authority, but always under the authority of the texts on whose interpretation they are based, the Bible.

Those who combine a Reformed doctrine on the grace of God and his saving action with a credobaptist understanding which leads to a baptism only of those who have become believers in Christ, but not of immature infants, will not find among the well-known, widely distributed Reformed confessional texts one which expresses this understanding of Scripture – neither the Heidelberg Catechism nor the Second Helvetic Confession, neither the Confessio Belgica nor the Westminster Confession (to name but a few of the more influential Reformed texts) is compatible with these views.

The best-known text combining Reformed and credobaptist convictions is the Second London Confession of Faith (2LCF), a revision of the famous Westminster Confession according to the convictions of credobaptist, independent congregations in England, drawn up in 1677 and usually named after its official recommendation at a conference in 1689.

However, from the point of view of some of the Christians who would agree with the basic convictions represented there, the 2LCF also has considerable shortcomings:
For example, it contains a specific understanding of Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath”, which is not shared by many Christians in the way it is expressed – and this not for reasons of tepidity, but out of a different understanding of New Testament teachings on Old Testament law.
It may certainly also be questioned whether, with all the necessary distance of a Reformed, credobaptist Christian from the Roman Catholic Church, it is good, accurate and wise to confess the statement ”The Pope is the Antichrist”, as is done in 2LCF chapter 26 par. 4 – besides: Which Pope is meant? Innocent XI, who held the office from 1676 to 1689? The current one when the reader of this text casts his gaze on the screen? Or perhaps the institution of the papacy in general? The latter would at least be a conclusively defensible view, but one that the confessional text itself does not offer.

Despite these and other peculiarities, due to the great historical significance of the Westminster Confession, the 2LCF, which is based on it, is accepted today even by those Christians who affirm its core statements, but at the same time distance themselves from individual statements such as those mentioned above on the Sabbath and the papacy, and sometimes also from those on the celebration of the Supper. Sometimes corresponding footnotes are attached, or formulations such as “We hold the confession with the exception of ...”.

For those Reformed, credobaptist believers, congregations and ministries who do not want to reinvent the wheel, i.e. write a new confession, but who also cannot accept the Second London Confession with its particularities in its entirety, or who only could adopt it with footnotes and reservations, we heartily recommend the First London Confession (1LCF) presented here.

Where more specific statements on matters not covered in the confession are held as binding by a congregation, it can be supplemented by appropriate position papers; examples of such will be added gradually in the Additional Resources section.

The First London Confession exists historically in three textual versions published in London from 1644 onwards (with the last of these being reprinted); the edition presented here is the Comprehensive Edition of 2022, which has been edited with the aim to reproduce from the historical textual passages those variants which reflect biblical statements in the best and clearest way.
Information on the editorial process leading to the Comprehensive Edition can be found in the History section of this website, and a complete documentation of the variants used, including the inclusion of other contemporary texts, can be found in the Downloads section.