Public worship and practical theology in the work of Benjamin Keach (1640-1704)
The late seventeenth century was a critical and fruitful period for the Particular Baptists of England. Severely persecuted following the Restoration, toleration in 1689 brought its own perils. Particular Baptists were fortunate in having several strong leaders, especially the London trio of Hanserd Knollys, William Kiffin, and Benjamin Keach. Such a small and severely persecuted group as the Baptists could afford little time for academic pursuits, thus of necessity most of their theology was practical in nature. Benjamin Keach (1640-1704) was the most outstanding practical theologian among the English Particular Baptists of the late seventeenth century. This dissertation is a study of Keach, in particular his writings on public worship and practical theology. Although Keach was a prolific author, he has been almost completely neglected by scholars. After a biographical sketch of Keach, this study considers his writings on public worship and practical theology. In the area of worship, Keach made two outstanding contributions: First, he was the most vocal apologist for Baptist views on Baptism of his period. Secondly, and more importantly, his hymn writing and defense of hymn singing broke new ground, not just for Baptists, but for English Protestantism, in general. In addition to his contributions in these areas, he also dealt with the laying on of hands and the sabbath day worship controversy. Keach's contributions to practical theology fall into two main groups: his writings that concern religious education and those that deal with polity. In addition to these, Keach's vigorous advocacy of a high Calvinist soteriology are also considered under the rubric of practical theology. Keach's most important (although not his most positive) contribution in this area were his soteriological writings. Although well within the bounds of orthodoxy, some of the tendencies in Keach's soteriology were taken up by the following generation of Baptist leaders and developed into a stultifying hyper-Calvinism that handicapped Baptist evangelism and missions. In the conclusion, Keach's contributions to a theory of practical theology are considered.