Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth, 2018 The Westminster Confession of Faith was produced over a number of years, from 1643 to 1647. It derived from meetings (1,163 of them!) in […]
Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth, 2018
The Westminster Confession of Faith was produced over a number of years, from 1643 to 1647. It derived from meetings (1,163 of them!) in England rather than Scotland, although it was adopted in Scotland not England. Like most times, they were tumultuous, and Thomas Manton (one of the authors of the Confession) wrote to the reader: ‘I cannot suppose thee to be such a stranger in England as to be ignorant of the general complaint concerning the decay of the power of godliness, and more especially of the great corruption of youth.’ He went on to point out that ‘Religion was first hatched in families, and there the devil seeketh to crush it’.
The Westminster documents were thus designed to be used mainly by ordinary Christian families, and were not viewed as academic theological works. The Banner of Truth has done us all a great service by reproducing the Westminster Confession of Faith (with the American revisions of 1788 but not the additions of 1903), the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, the Sum of Saving Knowledge, the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant, the Acknowledgment of Sins, the Directory of Public Worship, and the Form of Church Government. All this is both convenient and welcome.
Not everything is to be equated with gospel truth. The two national covenants suffer, in my view at least, for being covenants with the state rather than the church. Church and state ought to cooperate but their tasks are not identical. Concerning the burial of the dead, the Directory for Public Worship says: ‘When any person departs this life, let the dead body, upon the day of burial, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for public burial, and there immediately interred, without any ceremony.’ It does go on to modify that stark first sentence, in a way that is not altogether clear or helpful. Unsuitable eulogies and prayers for the dead do harm, not good, but something personal is still needed.
The Westminster Confession and its related documents should enhance the understanding and spiritual life of all who read them, so this work is thoroughly recommended.