by B. B. Warfield
It is the purpose of this article to give as clear a view as possible of the process by which the Westminster Confession was made. In prosecuting this purpose two tasks present themselves. One concerns the modes of procedure of the Assembly in framing the Confession; the other the course of the debates by which it was beaten out. We shall attempt to give some account of both matters. The latter offers so wide a field, however, that we shall be constrained to deal with it by sample - and, for reasons which will readily suggest themselves at the present juncture, we shall select the third chapter of the Confession as the sample to be dealt with. We shall therefore try first to trace the formal procedure of the Assembly in framing the whole Confession, and to obtain some adequate conception of the labor and time that was expended on it; and then, taking up the third chapter, we shall essay to reconstruct as fully as may be a picture of the actual work of the Assembly in producing it.
The amount of time consumed directly on the preparation of the Confession of Faith was certainly very great. But even this does not completely represent the pains expended on this task. To estimate that fairly, there should also be taken into account the time and care given formally to other subjects, which yet necessarily conduced indirectly to the perfecting of the final statement of doctrine. Nearly all the labors of the body, from its coming together on July 1, 1643 till the completion of the Shorter Catechism on April 12, 1648, may without exaggeration be said to have had a doctrinal side; and much time was spent in direct doctrinal discussion. None of this discussion that was precedent to or contemporary with the formulation of the propositions incorporated into the Confession was lost labor with respect to it. There were in particular three or four of the tasks of the Assembly, however, which bore so immediately on its preparation for framing the Confession that they deserve especial mention in this connection.
Table of Contents
How the Confession Was Made
The Framing of a New Confession of Faith
The Work of Preparing Proof-Texts for the Confession
Tabular Statement of Each Chapter
Chief References Made in Baillie's "Letters
The Formulation of the Third Chapter