Articles of Faith

By Elder Sylvester Hassell

Note: Elder Sylvester Hassell (1842-1928) was one of the ablest elders of his times. He is best noted for his outstanding work, History of the Church of God, published in 1886. The following is a creed of faith personally drawn by Elder Hassell. This creed is representative of views held by most Primitive Baptists today.

1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments are the perfectly inspired Word of God, and the only infallible standard of faith and practice; although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God as to leave all men inexcusable for their sins, and yet unable to accomplish their own salvation.

2. There is only one living and true God, who is a pure spirit, selfexistent, perfect, infinite and eternal in all His glorious attributes of holiness, justice, truth, wisdom, mercy, and goodness, the sovereign Creator, upholder, governor, and judge of the universe, and who exists in the three-fold undivided and indivisible subsistences of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.

3. Nothing takes place by chance; but God's foreknowledge, purpose and providence embrace all things, including grace and holiness, positively and efficiently, and sin permissively and overrulingly - sin proceeding from the will of the creature, and of which God, who is most holy, is neither the author nor approver, but of which He is the fatherly chastiser in His children, and the righteous punisher in His enemies; the Lord, for the former sins of His people, and to make them more humble, watchful and prayerful in the future, clouding their sense of His love, bringing temporal judgments upon them, and leaving them for a while to manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own hearts, and giving over the wicked, for their former sins, to their own lusts and the temptations of the world and the power of Satan, so that they harden themselves under the same circumstances by which God softens the hearts of His people.

4. For the manifestation of His glory, God, before the foundation of the world, predestinated some men and angels to eternal life, through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace, and left others to act in their sins to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice. The Father gave all the elect of the human family to the Son in the eternal covenant of grace; the Son, according to the prophecies and types of four thousand years, became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and died and rose again to redeem and justify the elect; and the Holy Ghost regenerates the elect, creating in their souls a new spiritual life, and effectually applies to them the holy and everlasting salvation of Jesus, giving them, generally though not always, under the administration of the word and the ordinances of God, true repentance and faith and hope and love, and working in them both to will and to do of His own good pleasure, and infallibly keeping every one of them unto the fullness of salvation which is to be finally revealed to them; and this eternal salvation is for the elect only, and is personal and unconditional on their part, God by His Spirit working in them all the so-called spiritual conditions of repentance, faith, and love, so that the salvation of the elect is all of Divine and unmerited grace and for it God deserves and will receive all the glory, and all who die in infancy are among the elect, and are saved by God's almighty grace.

5. God created man in His own image, very good and upright; and man of his own will, without any compulsion and undeceived, transgressed the law of God, falling from his original innocence and communion with God, and involving all his posterity in death in trespasses and sins, in total depravity, in utter inclination to all evil, from which only the saving grace of God can deliver him, and enable him fully to will and do that which is spiritually good; and this corruption of nature remains during all this earthly life even in the regenerate, who are made perfectly and immutably free to good only in the state of glory.

6. Good works are such only as God hath commanded in His Holy Word, and are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith; and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of adversaries, and glorify God; and their ability to do good works is wholly from the Spirit of Christ, who dwells in them; and the best saints do less than God requires of them; and the best works, being mixed with imperfection, can never merit pardon of sin or eternal life. Works done by the unregenerate, though useful in this life, to themselves and others, yet, not proceeding from faith in God, nor meant for the glory of God, are sinful and can not please God, nor entitle the doer to salvation, and yet their neglect is more sinful and displeasing to God.

7. While the ceremonial law of types and figures was fulfilled and abrogated by Christ, and the judicial and civil law given the Jews was of limited national use, the formal law of the Ten Commandments, written in substance in the heart or conscience of Adam while he was upright and in the image of God, and delivered by God on Mount Sinai, and written in two tables, the first four containing our duty to God and the last six our duty to man, is of universal and perpetual obligation for all persons, both regenerate and unregenerate, Christ in the gospel in no way dissolving, but much strengthening this obligation, and, while true believers are not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them, as well as others, as a rule of life, and to show them their sinfulness and their need of Christ and the perfection of His obedience, and to restrain their corruptions, and teach them what their sins deserve; and these uses of the law are not contrary to the grace of the gospel, but sweetly comply with it, the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God, revealed in His law, requireth to be done, true Christian liberty not being a liberty to sin, but a freedom from guilt and all the consequences of sin, and from the doctrines and commandments of men, that we may all our lives yield obedience to God, not out of a slavish fear, but with a child-like love and willing mind.

8. The Triune God alone is to be worshipped, and in spirit and in truth, and only through the meditation of Christ, by prayer, reading the Scriptures, preaching, hearing the Word of God, singing spiritual songs, baptism, the Lord's Supper, fasting, and thanksgiving; and one day in seven - which from the creation of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, but since the resurrection of Christ has been the first day of the week, and is called the Lord's Day - should be kept free from worldly employments and recreations, and devoted to the public and private worship of God, and to the duties of necessity and charity.

9. All orderly-walking believers in Christ ought to be gathered in particular churches, having Christ as their only Head, and having power to carry out that order in worship and discipline which He requireth, their officers being Elders (or Bishops and Deacons), qualified by the Holy Spirit and chosen by the common suffrage of their church, and set apart by fasting (in the case of Elders) and by prayer with imposition of hands by the Eldership; the duty of Deacons being to serve the tables of the Lord, of the pastor, and of the poor; the duty of pastors being to give themselves to the ministry of the word and prayer and watching for souls; and the duty of the church being to communicate of their natural substance according to their ability to their pastor, and to hold communion with other churches of like faith and order, for their peace, increase of love, and mutual edification; and, in cases of difficulty in doctrine or practices to seek, if necessary, the advice of other churches, but no decision of messengers to be imposed upon any church; and all saints should lovingly labor for the mutual good of each other, born in the inward and the outward man.

10. Baptism is a sign of the fellowship of believers in Christ with Him in His death and resurrection, and should be administered only to believers, and by immersion in water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; and the Lord's Supper was not meant by Him to be a sacrifice for sin, but only as a perpetual memorial of that one offering up of Himself by Himself upon the cross for all the sins of the elect; and the bread and wine are only emblems of His body and blood, and are to be given to all communicants who, while outwardly partaking of these visible elements, inwardly and spiritually receive and feed upon Christ crucified and all the benefits of His death.

11. While after death the bodies of men return to dust and corruption, their souls return at once to God who gave them - the souls of the righteous being made perfect in holiness and received into Paradise, where they are with Christ, and behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies; and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. At the last day such of the saints as are found alive shall not sleep, but be changed; and all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever; the bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonor, and the bodies of the just, by His Spirit, unto honor, and be made conformable to His own glorious body.

<>12. God hath appointed a day of general and final judgment, unknown to men, when apostate angels and all persons that have lived upon the earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ at His second personal coming to the world, to give an account of their thoughts and words and deeds, whether good or evil - the object of God in the appointment of this day being to manifest the glory of His mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect, and of His justice in the eternal damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient; and the righteous shall enter into the fullness of everlasting life, while the wicked shall be cast into everlasting torment.