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The description of puritans beliefs in the westminster confession of faith

Get the Hardback Book here. An introduction to the history and standards of the Westminster Assembly. The Puritan Westminster Assembly is a watershed milestone as one of the supreme epochs in Protestant Theological History. It landmarks the greatness of British and Scottish Puritanism as quintessential Christianity.

The Puritans embodied the practical Christian. They embodied, then, the two tablets of the law in practical living. Previous forerunners of Puritanism set the foundation for its arrival; men like William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale who labored to bring forth the Word of God in English, to affect an English Reformation. Mention must be made of John Knox who should be seen as a great preacher and reformer of the National Church, priming the minds of Christians for the explosion of puritan preaching in the subsequent years to come throughout Europe.

The development of English Puritanism during the reign of the last Tudor sovereigns may be said to have been in its infancy.

Under the persecution of her reign toward ministers of the Gospel, Puritanism tended to develop more and more a polemical, as well as a practical, frame and standard. Those ministers and theologians who had similar convictions were brought into contact with one another, and Protestantism in general gave way to the importance of these passions to the Word of God. In 1558 Elizabeth gained the throne over her Roman Catholic sister Mary; her death was due to a cancerous cist they thought to be a child, but ended up killing her.

Elizabeth was a willful, independent queen who desired to rule her the description of puritans beliefs in the westminster confession of faith in every area of their lives. She set about reforming the church and the regulation of its worship almost as harshly and forcibly as Henry VIII had done.

She made revisions of the prayer book that was previously used by her brother, and instituted a Church of England that adopted it as its form. The Act of Uniformity gave her the right to make changes to this church as she willed accomplished this.

The Puritans were of Presbyterian persuasion, this obviously not fitting into the Elizabethan pattern of dictator over the church. Thomas Cartwright was arrested in 1585 with a copy of a Directory for Church Government that made provisions for synods, provincial and national, as well as for presbyteries greater and lesser.

Elizabeth, though, did all she could in order to suppress the preaching and writing of these faithful divines in order to keep control over the people of her kingdom. An educated populace does not make for a good kingdom. Rather, she would have enjoyed a more ignorant and servile people under her reign. Puritanism stood to the opposite of this lifting high the banner of study and responsibility in doctrine before Christ, neighbor, and country.

  • The same view of the regulative principle that appears in Knox's argument against the Mass, and in George Gillespie's Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies 1637 , was followed by the English Puritans in contending against the Mass and the ceremonies not sanctioned in Scripture;
  • Mention must be made of John Knox who should be seen as a great preacher and reformer of the National Church, priming the minds of Christians for the explosion of puritan preaching in the subsequent years to come throughout Europe.

This Long Parliament met on November 3rd 1640 and continued until Oliver Cromwell forcibly dissolved it in 1652. This Church of England or Anglican movement believed they had a jus divinum a Divine Right to interpose rite or ceremonies that the church deemed fit for worship copying ancient practices that it had followed in the past.

In 1603 Elizabeth died and James I of England took the throne. Puritans petitioned him as he took the throne in hopes he would give rest to the persecuted ministers that had been ill-treated under Elizabeth and Whitgift an Anglican theologian of the day.

  1. Unfortunately this meeting did not go as well and concession of others sorts were made but at the expense of the Puritan cause.
  2. Nothing need nor may be added to the Word of God as a rule of faith and practice.
  3. However, both Presbyterians and Independents, and both Separatists 3 and those who would remain in the state church, were of one mind as to the application of the regulative principle to the worship of the church.

The king decided to hold a conference to hear the grievances of the Puritans, and it was held on January 14-18 of 1604. Unfortunately this meeting did not go as well and concession of others sorts were made but at the expense of the Puritan cause. One hundred and forty one concessions were drawn up and ordered by Parliament to be evaluated, many of them being against the Puritans and not for them.

It equaled being anathematized by the Church of England if non-conformist ministers continued in their non-conformity. After Parliament adjourned, a royal proclamation went out, and non-conformist ministers were persecuted. Some were silenced, some imprisoned, and their churches were broken. Some 1500 ministers at this time are estimated. After the death of James, his throne passed to his eldest son Charles.

  1. It would be well for you, if you valued psalms as much as he did. Repentance involves mortification, said the Puritans, and vivification.
  2. All men can say, God must be worshipped. The Holy Spirit will lead him, and he will increasingly advance.
  3. Even from the beginning, Goodwin argued that Christ was not Head in the church, but over the church, where the Presbyterians said that Christ was Head in it and over it. During the close of the Assembly, Cromwell and king Charles I were warring in civil war over the indiscretionary abuses of the king, and treason against the country.
  4. As for instance; when we come to worship God, the congregation meets, they must have a convenient place to keep the air and weather from them. After Parliament adjourned, a royal proclamation went out, and non-conformist ministers were persecuted.
  5. If reverence for the Word of God should induce the reader to retain an unmutilated text for reading, despite difficulties of a subjective nature, why should such difficulties excuse alteration of the text for purposes of singing? The Scots pressed this with fervency, and no doubt, it would cause certain divisions between the Independents and the Erastians.

Charles was a despotic king who thirsted for tyranny rather than sound kingship. During his reign the Mayflower left England in hopes of founding Independent religion from the despotism of Charles, and settled in the Massachusetts Bay colony. Bishop Laud at this time was persecuting Scotland and Ireland against the Puritan cause, though Ireland and England seemed to be under the thumb of the king and bishop laud, Scotland would have no such oppression, and fought back.

Charles could not deal favorably with these men, and called Parliament together, designated the Long Parliament, to set forth the constituted means of church polity and worship for England, Scotland and Ireland.

Various petitions were presented by the Puritans to the House of Commons in order to rid the country of Anglican reforms. A counter petition was given as well in order to balance the study of these questions. Soon after, the House of Lords and the House of Commons desired to have a Committee come together to take into consideration all innovations in the church concerning religion and make a settled agreement about it.

This Committee, made up of some eminent divines who would later sit on the Assembly, debated about these issues. After such a time, this Committee decided it would be more useful to have a longer assembly come together in order to set forth all the necessary doctrines and teachings and create a common standard for the church on all issues of basic Christianity.

They did not want to simply fall back to the old Confessions of Scotland, and on things labeled status quo in religion, but to pass with consent a Confession, Catechism and further safeguards that could be devised against the polity that had caused them so much grief in the past. A general synod was considered of the most learned, pious and judicious divines of this island not just England for the peace and government of the church.

Only a well-chosen and well appointed synod would be able to relieve the country the description of puritans beliefs in the westminster confession of faith poisoned doctrine.

April 19, 1642 the House of Commons ordered that a list of names should be made for such an assembly.

The Standards of the Westminster Confession of Faith - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

On the 25th the list was completed. Two divines were appointed for each county in England, for each of the Universities and for the Channel Islands, one for each county in Wales, and four for the city of London.

  • What this did for the church was allow a withdrawal of more than two thousand ministers in England, and four hundred in Scotland, and ruined the testimony of religious principle;
  • We must repent every day of our lives, and as we do so, we must also turn to righteousness;
  • It equaled being anathematized by the Church of England if non-conformist ministers continued in their non-conformity;
  • Repentance, said the Puritans, is turning from sin, and it is a lifelong activity;
  • In this life it is never complete;
  • Such holiness is invincible.

It was this purpose alone in which the whole of the Assembly sat in determination of true doctrine. They were to gather first on July 1, 1643. Upon opening day, the Assembly first met in Westminster Abbey for a divine service.

The Puritan View of Holiness

They decided to wait until Thursday to convene in order to draw up the proposal for what they should treat first. They also set down certain rules by which the Assembly would follow, such as no resolution shall be given upon any question the same day where it was first propounded, and that what any man undertakes to prove as necessary, he shall make good out of the Scriptures. The Assembly also created three committees in which subdivisions of work would be handed in order to study and check the work of the Assembly as questions and answers were to be given this following the same constitution of the Synod of Dordt in 1618-1619.

They spent considerable time on important doctrinal debates which occurred early in its session meetings, as well as revising the Articles of the English Church. When the Scottish Commissioners commenced their involvement in the Assembly such as Rutherford, Gillespie and Hendersonthe issue of the Solemn League and Covenant emerged.

It was accepted by the Houses and was finally directed to be subscribed by the whole of the island. The Scottish Commissioners pressed the Assembly to consider the war Scotland was taking on theologically, and how England should interpose with them through the Solemn League and Covenant. Lightfoot gives some notes as to the service enacted in the acceptance of the Covenant. Wilson suited the present occasion out of a few Psalms.

White then prayed nearly one hour. Nye exhorted the brethren for another hour, and Mr. Henderson also did the same from the very seat he was in. Nye read the Covenant from the pulpit, all hands went up in acceptance of it, and then Dr.

Wilson closed the time by reading some Psalms again. It was finally sworn in on October 15th after Essex took to its commendation as well. The question of church government then came to floor. It arose not because it was first to be discussed, but that all subsequent Confessional ideas, and the Catechisms themselves would be of no use unless the real issue of church-government should be settled.

The Scots pressed this with fervency, and no doubt, it would cause certain divisions between the Independents and the Erastians. The Independents, lead by noble men such as Thomas Goodwin and Jeremiah Burroughs, took a very different view holding to church independency rather than the Presbyterian view. Even from the beginning, Goodwin argued that Christ was not Head in the church, but over the church, where the Presbyterians said that Christ was Head in it and over it.

They debated the offices of teacher and doctor, as to a twofold office or one office divided into two subdivisions. Next, ruling elders were taken up, and this was even more prolonged than the discussion over the doctors of the church. The reason such debates were heated, was that there would be a perpetual and universal obligation given as to the manner in which the description of puritans beliefs in the westminster confession of faith offices and government should be observed for all time.

Finally, the nature of Independency and Presbyterianism came to the forefront.

  • What I contend for is, that necessity ought not to be laid on consciences in matters in which Christ has made them free;
  • Another Puritan way of evaluating progress in holiness is to ask how we are currently battling with temptation.

Either a congregation was given the rights and privileges of a presbytery, or only those lawfully called and ordained were given the right. Many subsequent documents were written by both sides during this time and published in London.

Finally, the question of Toleration, and its extent was debated. It was agreed that church government was among the acts of mutual toleration that brethren should concede to another. The only time one should not tolerate another is when undue impositions were brought forth, and this is exactly what the Independents did in their pleas for religious toleration.

However, it was this point that Presbyterianism as a whole failed its own creed and covenant without defending strict subscriptionism. The Assembly moved from church government to the Directory of Public worship that was elaborated while debates about government were also commencing. The purpose of the Directory was to aid ministers in the various parts of public worship. Debates ensued about the nature of details in worship, such as what should be said of those baptized, and what responses they should be able to give.

It was insisted that those coming into the church as new members should be regenerate, as adult proselytes. Such a testimony of true regeneration should be evidenced in manner and conversation. The purpose of creating this Directory was not to frame a new way of worship, but to settle the proper way of worship from what had already been establish, and purify that which should have never been accepted.

They certainly desired to remove anything unedifying for the people the description of puritans beliefs in the westminster confession of faith God, and anything that would dissuade proper ministry.

This would entail the writing down beforehand of the substance of the prayers, as well as their sermons. Interrupting the calm affairs of the Assembly was the Civil War that was about to break out around the country. For instance, Lord Strafford a close military associate of king Charles I at this time was beheaded for treason, and enacted by men in Parliament. The harmony of the Assembly was forever broken by the debates that surrounded the Independents and the Presbyterians.

The Westminster Assembly formed a treatise entitled, Propositions Concerning Church-Government and Ordination of Ministers since the manner in which ordination affected church government was essential to the vitality and soundness of any given congregation. Many propositions were set down concerning ordination, of which debate between Independents and Presbyterians arose. The Presbyterians attended everything they could to the Independents and their desires to have a true unified form, but could only attain this to a certain point since their injunction caused a difference of doctrine on the point in general.

Ultimately, this document stated that those joining themselves to another church, of another constitution and government, are not warranted by the word of God, but act in contrary to it. The government then came down to the following schematic: The Autonomy of the church and the relationship of the divine headship of Christ was of great debate in the Assembly as stated thus far.