Some of the material in is restricted to members of the community. By logging in, you may be able to gain additional access to certain collections or items. If you have questions about access or logging in, please use the form on the Contact Page.
Benjamin Keach (1640-1704) was an influential leader among Particular Baptists throughout the seventeenth century. As a prominent nonconformist leader and a prolific writer, he helped shape the theological development of the Particular Baptists as they struggled through persecution and finally emerged under legal toleration near the end of the century. He did not avoid controversy, eagerly engaging luminaries such as Richard Baxter and topics such as Quakerism, sabbatarianism, laying on of hands after baptism, a paid ministry, and religious liberty. Keach is best known for his introduction of hymns into the worship service of his congregation at Horsleydown around 1673. This decision eventually sparked a very public discourse on whether or not singing was appropriate in worship, and if so, on the types of song that God found acceptable. When this controversy has been studied in the past, coverage has generally been relegated to a description of the events that happened. Unfortunately, recognition and interpretation of Keach has also been limited to the singing controversy, a narrow segment of the activities he undertook. Recently, however, Keach has received attention that goes beyond the singing controversy. Consequently, evaluations of Keach are beginning to change, and Keach is receiving more comprehensive scholarly treatment. This dissertation joins that trend and offers a new construct for how Keach's activity in the singing controversy may be evaluated. It asserts that he and Isaac Marlow, his primary antagonist, understood themselves as continuing the energy of the Reformation, though removed by 150 years. It refocuses the controversy and concludes that differing approaches to the question of how to interpret scripture when faced with scriptural silence drove the dispute. It places the concerns of both Keach and Isaac Marlow in the context of post-Reformation confessional statements, recognizing that, in terms of worship, many groups had taken a stance and formally described this silence as either permissive or prohibitive. Groups of a Calvinist heritage often term this principle the regulative principle of worship, and the Particular Baptists themselves had formalized this principle in the London Confession of 1689. The dissertation concludes that Keach's actions were the product of his struggle to be faithful to scripture, to validate his confessional heritage, and to maintain Christian unity. It also affirms that, even though he and Marlow were polarized by their disagreement, they shared many similarities as they struggled with the implications of implementing doctrines they held dear into the practical life of a fellowship of believers.
Baptist Confession of Faith, Reformation interpretive principles, Regulative Principle of Worship, Seventeenth Century Baptists, British Baptists, Hymn Singing
Date of Defense
March 27, 2006.
A Dissertation submitted to the Program in the Humanities in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Charles Brewer, Professor Directing Dissertation; Walter Moore, Outside Committee Member; David Darst, Committee Member; Michael Corzine, Committee Member.
Florida State University
Brooks, J. C. (2006). Benjamin Keach and the Baptist Signing Controvery: Mediating Scripture, Confessional Heritage, and Christian Unity. Retrieved from http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_migr_etd-2996