Baptists Church History

Samuel Richardson (1602-1658)

“Look above, and hearken to the sweet voice in the region of love. What are the voices in heaven? they agree in one: no voice comes from heaven, but love, peace, and good will to man.”–Samuel Richardson

Samuel Richardson was an English Baptist. Richardson was one of the formative leaders of the early Particular Baptists as he with eleven others signed the 1644 and the 1646 London Confessions of Faith. He seems to have been from Northamptonshire, northwest of London and have been “a substantial London tradesman and was certainly one of the shrewdest and most influential of the Baptist leaders in London.” He was an advocate for religious liberty and a loyal supporter of Oliver Cromwell.

Richardson defended Baptist practices and a radicalized version of the reformed monergistic belief that justification and salvation are exclusively by the grace of God in Christ. From Tobias Crisp he derived the belief that we are justified by Christ alone – before we believe. Justification is fully achieved on the cross and never depends on human faith or works. These can only be considered results of God’s work in Christ as the Holy Spirit works in those who are justified. We are justified by Christ alone and not by our believing. Faith is an evidence of “interest in Christ but not a joint-partner with Christ”, says Richardson. When we are said to be justified “by faith” this should be understood as saying that we are justified by the object of our faith, i.e. Christ, and not our own subjective faith. Faith is, says Richardson, “put for Christ”.

In his tract Justification by Christ Alone from 1647Richardson wrote:

“[W]e grant God has decreed the end and the means, and whatsoever God has decreed shall unavoidably come to pass. But we deny that faith is any means of our Redemption, Justification, or Salvation. Nothing but the Lord Jesus Christ is the means of our salvation. There are means that are necessary to the revealing and enjoying the comfort of it, as the Holy Spirit and ministers to reveal it and faith to receive it; also, there be fruits and effects of the love of God, as faith, love, and obedience to Christ…yet these are no means of our salvation.”
Samuel Richardson’s last work was entitled A discourse of the torments of hell: The foundation and pillars thereof discovered, searched, shaken and removed. With many infallible proofs, that there is not to be a punishment after this life for any to endure that shall never end. Though seemingly committed to reformed doctrines on election and reprobation, Richardson defended the view, that ‘hell’ does not mean an endless state of torture after death. Though he sometimes seems to defend the idea that the godless will be finally annihilated (especially in the first parts of the work), Richardson also seems to teach the belief that all will finally be saved. As such he is a likely candidate to be considered the main forerunner of the Primitive Baptist Universalists.
“It is not for the glory of God to impose endless torments on any. Glory consisteth not in imposing great and terrible punishments; that belongeth to cruelty, and is abhorred by the light of nature. Glory consisteth in great mercy and forgiveness (Ex. 34:6-7). The greater the mercy and forgiveness, the greater is the grace, and the more ti redounds to the glory of God. “Love covereth all sins” (Prov. 10:12). If man’s “glory is to pass over transgression” (Prov. 19:11), much more is it for the glory of God to do so. God made all things, and doeth all things for his glory; he seeketh his glory in the exceeding greatness and “riches of his grace” (Eph. 2:7). It is more for his glory to save all, than to save a few. “By the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18). Sin could not hinder Manasses, Mary Magdalen, persecutors, and wicked prodigals, from finding mercy. It cannot be that cruelty dwells in God, who is love, and whose goodness is unsearchable, past finding out, far above all we can ask or think. There is such a confused noise among men, of the grace and love of God, so many voices that we are in confusion, and know not what to make of it. Look above, and hearken to the sweet voice in the region of love. What are the voices in heaven? they agree in one: no voice comes from heaven, but love, peace, and good will to man.” (A discourse of the torments of hell, pp. 95-96)
Read more about Samuel Richardson here.