Westminster Divines Westminster Confession & Larger Catechisms

This is a work by the “Westminster Divines”, which were key Presbyterian doctrinal teachers in England, which is also known as the Westminster Assemby. The work is composed of 33 doctrinal statements which are basically a creed of the Presbyterian church drawn up in 1643-1649. Note that these documents (Confession, larger and shorter catechisms) were the principal doctrinal declarations of the Presbyterian Reformation, basically being the English and Scottish. Later the Scottish had a dissent from these rejecting the confession but retaining the two catechism.

Table of Contents

Westminster Confession & Larger Catechisms

Summary of Westminster Confession & Larger Catechisms

This is a work by the “Westminster Divines”, which were key Presbyterian doctrinal teachers in England, which is also known as the Westminster Assemby. The work is composed of 33 doctrinal statements which are basically a creed of the Presbyterian church drawn up in 1643-1649. Note that these documents (Confession, larger and shorter catechisms) were the principal doctrinal declarations of the Presbyterian Reformation, basically being the English and Scottish. Later the Scottish had a dissent from these rejecting the confession but retaining the two catechism.

AIM: Presbyterian.
CIM: Doctrine, Creeds.
Version: 1.1 June 13, 2014

Contents of Westminster Confession & Larger Catechisms

Chapter 1. Of the Holy Scripture
Chapter 2. Of God, and of the Holy Trinity
Chapter 3. Of God’s Eternal Decree
Chapter 4. Of Creation
Chapter 5. Of Providence
Chapter 6. Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof
Chapter 7. Of God’s Covenant with Man
Chapter 8. Of Christ the Mediator
Chapter 9. Of Free Will
Chapter 10. Of Effectual Calling
Chapter 11. Of Justification
Chapter 12. Of Adoption
Chapter 13. Of Sanctification
Chapter 14. Of Saving Faith
Chapter 15. Of Repentance
Chapter 16. Of Good Works
Chapter 17. Of the Perseverance of the Saints
Chapter 18. Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation
Chapter 19. Of the Law of God
Chapter 20. Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience
Chapter 21. Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day
Chapter 22. Of Lawful Oaths and Vows
Chapter 23. Of the Civil Magistrate
Chapter 24. Of Marriage and Divorce
Chapter 25. Of the Church
Chapter 26. Of the Communion of the Saints
Chapter 27. Of the Sacraments
Chapter 28. Of Baptism
Chapter 29. Of the Lord’s Supper
Chapter 30. Of Church Censures
Chapter 31. Of Synods and Councils
Chapter 32. Of the State of Men After Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead
Chapter 33. Of the Last Judgment


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8 thoughts on “Westminster Divines Westminster Confession & Larger Catechisms

  1. Module Editor’s Note (from David Cox): I have set anchors throughout the text of this work on the system of the chapter and the subpoint, so for the first chapter the anchor is “w0101”. If you want to make another module and link to this work for reference purposes, set you anchor accordingly.

  2. From Wikipedia.org
    Following the approval of the Confession and catechisms by the Church of Scotland in 1648, printers in England and Scotland began publishing them with other religious documents in collections referred to as the Westminster Standards. In 1658 printers began including the full Scripture passages which are cited in the confessional documents. These collections became standardized in a 1728 edition, which follows a 1679 work published by Covenanters exiled in Holland and contains twenty-two documents including parliamentary acts related to the Assembly and devotional works. These collections were intended to serve as ecclesiastical manuals as well as comprehensive popular religious books. The 1728 form of the Standards continues to be printed by the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

    In the nineteenth century, several churches separated from the Church of Scotland on the basis of the established church’s departure from a list of documents similar to those found in standard collections of the Westminster Standards. Dissenters asserted that the General Assembly had adopted these documents, but the only Westminster documents accepted by the Church of Scotland were the Confession and catechisms.

  3. The 1789 American Revision
    The revisions of 1787-1789 removed certain powers of the civil government over the church, which might be called theocratic principles, from the Westminster Confession of faith and catechisms. It also removes explicit identification of the Pope as the Antichrist. http://www.theopedia.com/Westminster_Confession


    Historical Setting of the Confession

    The Westminster Confession of Faith is one document of several commissioned by the English parliament during the English Civil War (1642-1649), in which armies raised by the parliament, in league with Scotland, battled forces loyal to the tyrannical King Charles I and his bishops. The Confession was commissioned from an assembly of 121 Puritan clergymen meeting in Westminster Abbey, called the Westminster Assembly, which was convened in 1643 for the purpose of drafting official documents for the reformation of the Church of England. This was done in fulfillment of a Solemn League and Covenant(1) made with the Scottish parliament and people in the same year, to the effect that the episcopal Anglican establishment, which for many years had harassed and persecuted the Presbyterian Scottish church, should be abolished even in England, and replaced with a Presbyterian establishment which would constantly adhere to Calvinistic standards of doctrine and worship. It was only under such terms that the Scots were willing to join the parliamentary forces in their war against the King.

    Reception of the Confession in Britain.

    In 1647 the completed Confession of Faith, which was entirely satisfactory to the Scottish commissioners present at the Assembly, was sent to the English parliament for ratification. It was returned to the Assembly by the House of Commons, which required the Assembly to present a copy of the Confession with proof texts from Scripture.(2) After a period of debate the Confession was then partly adopted by the English parliament as Articles of Christian Religion in 1648, with the omission of § 4 of chapter 20, §§ 4-6 of chapter 24, and all of chapters 30 and 31. The Westminster Confession was adopted entire by the General Assembly of the Scottish Church in 1647 and ratified by the Scottish parliament in 1649. These acts of the English and Scottish parliaments were then nullified at the restoration of the Anglican episcopacy together with the British monarchy in 1660. After the Revolution of 1688, in which the intolerable Roman Catholic King James II was replaced by William of Orange, the Scottish parliament again ratified the Confession without change in 1690, to which the royal sanction was promptly granted by the new King.

    In 1658, just two years before the restoration of the monarchy, about 200 delegates from the Congregational churches of England gathered in the Savoy palace in London to compose a revision of the Confession in which the principles of congregational independence and legal toleration would replace the established Presbyterianism implicit in the Confession’s statements touching Church government and discipline. This revision, known as The Savoy Declaration,(3) prefixed a lengthy Preface, substantially altered chapters 25 and 26, deleted chapters 30 and 31, inserted a new chapter, “Of the Gospel,” and added a platform of Congregational polity titled “Of the Institution of Churches, and the Order Appointed in them by Jesus Christ.” The Savoy Declaration was designed to encourage agreement on important matters between churches; but, true to the nature of Congregational polity, it was not intended to be a legal or corporate instrument, as was the Westminster Confession.

    Reception and Use in America

    In the American colonies the Westminster Confession was widely adopted by both ecclesiastical and civil authorities, although with important reservations along the lines of the Savoy Declaration. In 1648 the delegates of the Congregational churches of New England gathered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and adopted as their common declaration of faith the Westminster Confession minus chapters 25, 30, and 31, for which chapters they substituted a separate document, prepared by them, called The Cambridge Platform of Church Discipline. After the publication of the Savoy Declaration in England, a synod of the same Congregational churches held in Boston, 1680, adopted and published the Savoy Declaration with the Cambridge Platform for a common Confession of Faith.

    In 1729 the first organized synod of Presbyterians in America, meeting in Philadelphia, adopted the original Westminster Confession, with some reservations, as its official statement of doctrine, requiring every candidate for ordination to disclose any disagreement with the Confession, in which case the Presbytery must refuse him ordination if it finds him to be in disagreement with “essential and necessary articles.” In 1788 the united Synod of Philadelphia and New York adopted a revision of the Confession which reflected the new political situation of the United States, in which there was to be no church establishment; the important changes were to chapter 20 § 4, chapter 23 § 3, and chapter 31 §§ 1-2. Most Presbyterian bodies which now exist in the United States have approved some form of the Confession of 1788, with relatively minor changes, as a touchstone for Reformed orthodoxy.

    Features of this Edition

    The text presented in this edition of the Westminster Confession of Faith corresponds to the text printed in Philip Schaff’s Creeds of Christendom (6th edition; New York, 1931), which is taken from the earliest published edition, printed in 1647 under the title, The Humble Advice of the Assembly of Divines, Now by Authority of Parliament Sitting at Westminster, Concerning a Confession of Faith: with the Quotations and Text of Scripture Annexed. Presented by Them Lately to Both Houses of Parliament. Only the spelling, punctuation, numeration and reference style have been modernized. The “Quotations and Text of Scripture,” which in the original edition appeared as mere references in the lateral margins, are here arranged in order after each paragraph.

    Significant changes of the Savoy Declaration are given (after Schaff) either in the notes or, in the case of the larger changes, in Appendix A. Also in the notes, and in appendices B and C, are all changes to the Confession adopted by the larger Presbyterian bodies of America: the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1789); the Presbyterian Church in the United States;(5) the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America;(6) the Orthodox Presbyterian Church; and the Presbyterian Church in America. Also indicated are the readings of two widely-used editions of the Confession published by the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The editions referred to in the notes are:

      PCUSA 1789. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (Philadelphia, 1789), according to the notes of Schaff’s edition.
      PCUS. The Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, together with the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism (Richmond, Virginia, 1948).
      UPCUSA. The Constitution of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Part I: Book of Confessions (Philadelphia, 1966).
      OPC. The Westminster Confession of Faith in the form adopted by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, with a parallel Modern English Study Version (Norcross, Ga: OPC Committee on Christian Education, 1993).
      PCA. The Confession of Faith together with the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism with the Scripture Proofs. 3rd Edition (Atlanta: PCA Committee for Christian Education and Publications, 1990). NOTE: The many errata of this edition are not indicated.
      FPCS 1973. The Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, with the Scripture Proofs at Large, together with the Sum of Saving Knowledge, etc. (Glasgow, 1973).
      FPCS 1994. Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow, 1994). This edition purports to follow the text of S.W. Carruthers, The Westminster Confession of Faith, Being an Account of the Preparation and Printing of Its Seven Leading Editions, to which is Appended a Critical Text of the Confession with Notes Thereon (Manchester, 1937). This text is preferred by many scholars as being the most accurate representation of the Confession as adopted by the Church of Scotland in 1647.
      FPCS. Agreement of the two FPSC editions named above.

    Taken from http://www.bible-researcher.com/wescon01.html

  5. The Presbyterian view towards the Confession is that it is their “doctrinal standard”. But note the similarity in speech to Catholic statements on their own doctrine.

    The Westminster Confession of Faith asserts the real presence in the Sacrament, the supreme authority of God’s Word, and the catholicity of the Church, made distinctive by three characteristics: the true preaching of the Word, the right administration of the Sacraments, and discipline.

    The Westminster Confession of 1647 superseded but did not cancel out the original Scots Confession of 1560, drawn up by six ‘Johns’: Knox, Willock, Winram, Spottiswoode, Row, and Douglas in supposedly six days, which was accepted by Presbyterians and Episcopalians alike.

    The full Confession of Faith was agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster and examined and approved in 1647 by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and ratified by Acts of Parliament in 1649 and 1690.

    Taken from http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/about_us/our_faith/westminster_confession_of_faith

    Editor’s Note (from David Cox): Presbyterian-Scottish understanding of Scripture is very similar to Catholic. They did not refute many false Catholic doctrines, but simply transferred the validity of these things to themselves, taking them from the Catholics. Notice that “catholicity” is really referring to themselves. The author uses the term “sacraments” (i.e. communicating divine grace by the act) instead of “ordenance” (i.e. a command which we do in obedience, and the only grace communicated is that of obeying God. No special grace is transferred by doing these things as the Catholic and Presbyterian churches teach).

    For more refutations of the Westminster Confession, see http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Doctrines/westminster.htm

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