” I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6, ESV)
The following is excerpted from From D. Martin Lloyd-Jones’ 1969 Lecture on the Puritans – The Puritans, Their Origins and Successors, pages 234-235. It is wonderful reminder of our need to major on the majors, and minor on the minors.
“In 1654 Oliver Cromwell – with his idea of Toleration – and the Parliament called upon the divines to define what should be tolerated or indulged among those who profess the fundamentals of Christianity. If effect they said, we have all these division and sects and groups; what are the fundamental of Christianity on which we can have fellowship together? So a committee was set up and the members of the committee were these: Mr. Richard Baxter, Dr. John Owen, Dr. Thomas Goodwin, Dr. Cheynel, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Reyner, Mr. Nye, Mr. Sydrach Simpson, Mr. Vines, Mr. Manton, Mr. Jacomb. As I said earlier, Baxter tried to short-circuit the whole proposal at the beginning by saying that nothing was necessary but the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Commandments. But that was rejected. Then they proceeded to work, and they produced 16 Articles which they felt stated the fundamentals on which, and on which alone, true fellowship is possible between Protestant Evangelical people. Here they are –
1 – That the Holy Scripture is that rule of knowing God and living unto Him which whoso does not believe cannot be saved.
2 – That there is a God who is the Creator, Governor and Judge of the world, which is to be received by faith, and every other way of knowledge of Him is insufficient.
3 – That this God who is the blessed Creator is eternally distinct from all creatures in His Being and Blessedness.
4 – That this God is One in Three Persons or subsistences.
5 – That Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and Man without the knowledge of whom there is no salvation.
6 – That this Jesus Christ is the true God.
7 – That this Jesus Christ is also true man.
8 – That this Jesus Christ is God and Man in one Person.
9 – That this Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, who by paying a ransom and bearing our sins has made satisfaction for them.
10 – That this same Lord Jesus Christ is He that was Crucified at Jerusalem, and rose again and ascended into Heaven.
11 – That this same Jesus Christ being the only God and Man in One Person remains forever a distinct Person from all saints and angels notwithstanding their union and communion with Him.
12 – That all men by nature were dead in sins and trespasses, and no man can be saved unless he be born again, repent and believe.
13 – That we are justified and saved by grace and faith in Jesus Christ and not by works.
14 – That to continue in any known sin upon what pretense or principle soever is damnable.
15 – That God is to be worshiped according to His own will, and whosoever shall forsake and despise all the duties of His worship cannot be saved.
16 – That the dead shall rise, and that there is a day of judgment wherein all shall appear, some to go into everlasting life and some into everlasting condemnation.
They were the16 points. We have the authority of Richard Baxter for saying that it was Dr. John Owen who worded those Articles, that Dr. Reynolds was the scribe and that Mr. Marshall, a sober, worthy man did something, but the rest were little better than passive.
Now these Articles were designed and intended to exclude not only Deists, Socinians and Papists, but also Arians, Antinomians, Quakers and others. What I am asking is this: Cannot we accept those as fundamentals? Are those not sufficient? We remember, of course, that bishops, deans, etc., etc., had been abolished at that time, and therefore did not need to be mentioned; and also that they did not have to contend with a ‘higher critical’ attitude to the Scriptures. They were agreed also in their attitude toward ‘tradition’, Their object was to define the irreducible minimum on which evangelical people could work together. We, today, need to elaborate some of these statements in view of our peculiar circumstances; but, still, I suggest, we should seek the minimum definition and not the maximum. Then, united on that basis, we can as brethren work together, and meet together for discussion of the matters on which we differ, and for our mutual edification.