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Confession of Faith of John Clarke and Obadiah Holmes
First Baptist Church, Newport, Rhode Island

      Editor's note: The following appears in Isaac Backus, A History of New England with Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians Called Baptists, Volume I. It is an extensive footnote on pages 206-209 and is a Confession of Faith of John Clarke and Obadiah Holmes, who served as the first pastors of the First Baptist Church, Newport, RI. The opening statement is by John Clarke, according to Backus; he attributes the thirty-five Articles to Obadiah Holmes.

      The Bible references are given with the full name of the book, the chapter and verse in numbers. Abbreviations and Roman numerals are used in the original.

      Backus writes, "Mr. Clarke left a confession of faith in writing, from whence an extract was inserted in the records of his church [First Baptist Church, Newport, RI], the main of which here follows:

"The decree of God is that whereby God hath from eternity set down with himself whatsoever shall come to pass in time. Ephesians 1:2. All things with their causes, effects circumstances and manner of being, are decreed by God. Acts, 2:23. 'Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,' &c. Acts, 4:28. This decree is most wise: Romans 11:33; most just: Romans 9:13, 14; eternal: Ephesians 1:4, 5; II Thessalonians 2:13; necessary: Psalm 33:2, Proverbs 19:21; unchangeable: Hebrews 6:17; most free: Romans 9:13; and the cause of all good: James 1:17; but not of any sin: I John 1:5. The special decree of God concerning angels and men is called predestination. Romans 8:30. Of the former, viz., angels, little is spoken of in the Holy Scripture; of the latter more is revealed, not unprofitable to be known. It may be defined, the wise, free, just, eternal and unchangeable sentence or decree of God, determining to create and govern man for his special glory, viz., the praise of his glorious mercy and justice; Romans 9:17, grace and mercy, choosing some men to faith, holiness and eternal life, for the praise of his glorious mercy; I Thessalonians 1:4, II Thessalonians 2:13, Romans 8:29, 30. The cause which moved the Lord to elect them who are chosen, was none other but his mere good will and pleasure, Luke 12:32. The end is the manifestation of the riches of his grace and mercy, 9:23, Ephesians 1:6. The sending of Christ, faith, holiness, and eternal life, are the effects of his love, by which he manifesteth the infinite riches of his grace. In the same order God doth execute this decree in time, he did decree it in his eternal counsel. I Thessalonians 5:9; II Thessalonians 2:13. Sin is the effect of man's free will, and condemnation is an effect of justice inflicted upon man for sin and disobedience.... A man in this life may be sure of this election, II Peter 1:10, I Thessalonians 1:4; yea of his eternal happiness, .... but not of his eternal reprobation; for, he that is now profane, may be called hereafter." Thus far Mr. Clarke. [The ellipses are in the article.]
      Mr. Holmes says: - "Havng had two or three requests from my friends and brethren, in special my brother Robert, to give some information of my present state and standing with referenhce to the Lord and my own soul, [I] shall as briefly as I can, give account thereof.... But before I come to speak to the point in hand, I cannot forget the rock out of which I was hewn, and the cistern out of which I was digged; who was by nature a child of wrath as well as others, and by actual transgression added sin to sin, as my conscience and others did know. But God had mercy for me in store which I neither deserved it nor desired it, for he knows who are his; and the elect shall obtain it, forever blessed be his holy name, to whom be glory forever. Amen. Now in this faith or belief I stand, not doubting but it is the faith of God's elect.
1. "I believe there is one Essence or Being, even one God, who made heaven and earth, the waters, and all things therein contained, who governs all things by the word of his power, and hath appointed life and death to men, and bounded their habitations, whose providence extendeth to the least creature and actions.

2. I believe this God is Father to our Lord Jesus Christ; in a special understanding may be distinguished as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and yet but one in Essence.

3. I believe that as God made the world, so by his word made he man in his own image without sin, and gave him a most excellent place and being, giving him commandment what he should do, and what he should forbear; but through the malice of Satan working with his wife was deceived; for she did eat, and gave her husband and he did eat, which was the first cause of the curse to him, and reached to all his posterity, by which came death natural, and death eternal.

4. I believe in this interim of time the Lord manifested his great love in that word, 'The seed of the woman shall break the head of the serpent,' but enmity was between the two seeds.

5. I believe that at that time and after time the Lord was worshipped by sacrifices, though darkly held forth to us.

6. I believe after that God in his own time chose a people to himself, and gave them his laws and statutes in a special manner, though he had always his chosen ones in every generation.

7. I believe with this people he made a choice covenant to be their God, and they to be his people; which covenant they brake though he was a Father to them, and was grieved for them, and yet did not only give them his laws, but sent his prophets early and late, but they would not hear; and in fullness of time sent his only Son; but as they had abused his prophets, so they killed his only Son.

8. I believe God in his Son made a new convent, a sure and everlasting covenant, not like that he made with Israel, of which Moses, that faithful servant, was mediator, but a covenant of grace and peace through his only Son, that whosoever believed in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

9. I believe that all those that are in this covenant of grace, shall never fall away nor perish, but shall have life in the Prince of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

10. I believe no man can come to the Son but they that are drawn by the Father to the Son, and they that come, he in no wise will cast away.

11. I believe he came to call sinners to repentance, for the whole need him not, but they that are sick.

12. I believe that by the shedding of his precious blood is my redemption, and not mine only, but all that are or shall be saved.

13. I believe that as he was God so was he man, for he did not take the nature of angels, but the nature of Abraham.

14. I believe God hath laid the iniquity of all his elect and called ones, upon him.

15. I believe the Father is fully satisfied, and the debt is truly paid to the utmost farthing, and the poor sinner is quit, and set free from all sin past, present and to come.

16. I believe the Holy Scriptures which testify of Christ in dark shadows and types, and all that was written of Christ in the Prophets and Psalms; and that he was born of a virgin at Bethlehem, and come to his own and they received him not.

17. I believe he was put to death and hanged upon a tree, called the cross, and was buried, and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures, and appeared to many.

18. I believe he ascended to his Father and sitteth at his right hand, having made request for his.

19. I believe that the Father's commandment and his declaration of him is to be observed, when the Father uttered that voice saying, 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.'

20. I believe there is no salvation but by him alone; no other name under heaven by which man can be saved.

21. I believe he is sent unto the world, and to be published to all men; but some, yea, many reject the counsel of God against themselves.

22. I believe none have power to choose salvation, or to believe in Christ for life; it is only the gift of God.

23. I believe although God can bring men to Christ, and to cause them to believe in him for life, yet he hath appointed an ordinary way to effect that great work of faith, which is by means of sending a ministry into the world, to publish repentance to the sinner, and salvation, and that by Jesus Christ; and they that are faithful shall save their own souls and some that hear them.

24. I believe that they that are sent of God are not to deliver a mission of their own brain, but as it is in the Scripture of truth, for holy men wrote as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

25. I believe the precious gifts of the Spirit's teaching were procured by Christ's ascension and given to men for begetting of souls to the truth, and for establishment and consolation of those that are turned to the Lord; for none shall pluck them out of his Father's hand.

26. I believe no man is to rush into the ministry without a special call from God, even as gospel ministers had of old, which was the call of the Holy Spirit, with some talent or talents to declare the counsel of God to poor sinners, declaring the grace of God through Jesus Christ, even to those that are yet in the power of Satan; yea, to bring glad tidings by and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

27. I believe this ministry is to go forth, and he that hath received grace with a talent or talents, as he hath received freely of the Lord, so he is freely to give, looking for nothing again but the promise of the Lord.

28. I believe none is to go forth but by commission, and carefully to observe the same according as Christ gave it forth without adding or diminishing; first to preach Christ, that is to make disciples, and then to baptize them, but not to baptize them before they believe; and then to teach them what Christ commanded them. For as the Father had his order in the former dispensation, so hath the Son. In former times the Lord spake in diverse ways and manners, but now hath he spoken by his Son.

29. I believe that as God prepared a begetting ministry, even so doth he also prepare a feeding ministry in the church, where a called people out of the world, by the word and Spirit of the Lord, assembling of themselves together in a holy brotherhood, continuing in the apostles' doctrine, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer.

30. I believe such a church ought to wait for the Holy Spirit of promise, on whom it may fall, and to choose out among themselves either pastor, teacher, or elders to rule, or deacons to serve the table, that others may give themselves to the word and prayer, and to keep them close to the Lord, and their fellowship clear and distinct, not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to reprove them.

31. I believe the church of Christ, or this company gathered, are bound to wait on the Lord for the Spirit to help them, and have liberty, and are under duty, that they may prophesy one by one.

32. I believe that the true baptism of the gospel, is a visible believer with his own consent to be baptized in common water, by dying, or as it were drowning, to hold forth death, burial and resurrection, by a messenger of Jesus, into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

33. I believe the promise of the Father, concerning the return of Israel and Judah, and the coming of the Lord to raise up the dead in Christ, and to change them that are alive, that they may reign with him a thousand years, according to the Scripture.

34. I believe the resurrection of the wicked to receive their just judgment, Go ye cursed to the devil and his angels forever.

35. I believe, as eternal judgment to the wicked, so I believe the glorious declaration of the Lord saying, Come ye blessed of my Father, enter into the joy of your Lord, which joy, eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither can it enter into the heart of man to conceive the glory that God hath prepared for them that love and wait for his appearance; wherefore come Lord Jesus, come quickly!"

      For this faith and profession I stand, and have sealed the same with my blood in Boston, in New England, and hope through the strength of my Lord I shall be enabled to witness the same to death, although I am a poor unworthy creature, and have nothing to plead or fly unto but to grace, grace; and have nothing to rest on but only the mercy, the free mercy of God in and through Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour; to whom be honor, glory and praise forever and ever, Amen. Thus have I given you an humble and true account of my standing, and of my dear wife's standing in our faith and order, that you may consider the same, comparing what is written by the Holy Scriptures, which are our rule towards God and man; committing this and you to the wisdom and counsel of God. Yours in all love to serve continually having you in our prayers; fare ye well.

      "This for Mr. John Angher, and my brother Robert Holmes, and my brother-in-law, and sisters, with Mary Nonly, and to them that love and fear the Lord. For Robert Holmes in the parish of Manchester, Lancashire." Obadiah Holmes's Manuscript, 1675."


      Elder Obadiah Holmes was educated at Oxford, and while John Clarke was in England from 1651 to 1664, Holmes served as pastor of the first Newport congregation. When Clarke returned from England, he resumed the pastorate until his death in 1676; then Holmes was re-elected and pastored the church until his death in 1681.


[From Isaac Backus, A History of New England with Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians Called Baptists, Volume I, 2nd edition, 1871, reprint 2001. It is an extensive footnote on pp. 206-209. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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