The Interpretation and Defense of the Original Westminster Standards

An Annotated Bibliography

By Travis Fentiman

 

For a further defense of the doctrinal positions of the original Westminster Standards, see the Related Pages at the bottom.

 

 

On the Westminster Confession

Ch. 1.1

 

“…it pleased the Lord… to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church… those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.”

 

Milne, Garnet – The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: the Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy is Still Possible,  Buy  2007, 362 pages

This is an excellent, exhaustive historical defense of the cessationism of the Westminster Confession and Assembly, in light of some who believe the Confession allows for “Reformed Charismatics.”  Milne proves the historical claims of Wayne Grudem, regarding reformed history and continuationism (especially with regard to the reformers and Scottish puritans), wrong.  The book also explores the interesting variety of expressions and nuances of the cessationist doctrine amongst the puritans, for which it is chiefly valuable.

 

Ch. 1.8

 

“The Old Testament in Hebrew… and the New Testament in Greek… being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical…”

 

There are two main traditions regarding the preservation of the original texts of scripture: (1) the Critical Texts, and (2) the Majority Texts.  

(1) Three or so Critical Texts were discovered in the 1800’s.  Most Bible versions are based off of them today.  They disagree with 8% of the text of scripture that had been preserved in the Majority Texts that the Church had been using for 1800 years.  This significantly affects the Doctrine of Inspiration, as many verses you learned in Sunday School, according to the Critical Texts, are not the Word of God. 

(2) The Majority Texts comprise about 5,000 manuscripts from across the world, and have been the traditional text that the Church has always used.  The King James Version comes from this tradition.  The reformers and puritans were universally agreed in their affirmation of the Majority Texts, not for circumstantial reasons, but because of scriptural reasons.  Below are resources that defend the majority, Church history view. 

 

Kayser, Phillip – “Has God Indeed Said?”:  The Preservation of the Text of the New Testament,  PDF, 2004, 35 pages, with Wilbur Pickering.  Kayser wrote the first two sections, Pickering the third section

What Greek texts of the New Testament are most faithful to the originals?  There are two main views: The Majority Texts and the Critical Texts.  Kayser and Pickering here demonstrate the superiority of the Majority Texts and the inferiority of the Critical Texts.

Pickering, Wilbur – The Identity of the New Testament Text, 1977, 191 pages

The classic defense of the Majority Text of Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Robinson, Maurice – The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005 (free), 587 pages,  Buy  

This is the best Greek Majority Text available today.  There is an excellent scholarly appendix in the book on “The Case for Byzantine Priority.”  This high quality and very well done book is selling at cost for $12, which is dramatically less than the Critical Text editions which often go for more than $100. 

 

Ch. 4.1

“It pleased God… in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world… in the space of six days…”

LC  #17

 “After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man…”

 

Gentry, Kenneth – Reformed Theology and Six Day Creation, no date, 22 short paragraphs

Gentry, Kenneth – Yea, Hath God Said?:  The Framework Hypothesis/Six-Day Creation Debate,  Buy  2002, 172 pages  

The Framework Hypothesis interprets the creation account of Gen. 1 as poetry and thus allows for billions of years.  This book demolishes the position exegetically and gives one of the best textual defenses of the Biblical and Confessional view of creation “in the space of six days.”

Pipa, Joseph and Hall, David – Did God Create in Six Days?  Buy  2006, 352 pages

 

 

6.4

“From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.”

 

R.A. Finlayson

Finlayson was a professor of the Free Church of Scotland in the mid-1900’s.  This is from his Reformed Theological Writings of R.A. Finlayson, 1996, Christian Focus Publications, p. 268

Similar action [of modifying the Westminster Confession] was resorted to among the Presbyterian Churches of America, by which, among other changes, ‘wholly inclined to all evil’ was changed to ‘wholly inclined to evil’ on the presumption that no individual transgressor can be committed to ‘all evil’.  It is forgotten, however, that the Confession puts the emphasis on the ‘inclination’, and its statement is merely an affirmation that the roots of every kind of sin are in the heart of fallen mankind.

 

 

Ch. 7.3

“…the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved…”

 

See our page on The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel in the Westminster Standards

 

19.4

“To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.”

 

Coldwell, Chris – The Westminster Assembly & the Judicial Law: A Chronological Compilation and Analysis. Part One: Chronology,  Buy  from the Confessional Presbyterian Journal, #5 (2009), p. 3-55

This is an exhaustive bibliography of the writings during the Assembly period touching on the Judicial Laws. 

Winzer, Matthew – The Westminster Assembly & the Judicial Law: A Chronological Compilation and Analysis. Part Two: Analysis,  Buy  from the Confessional Prebyterian Journal, #5 (2009), p. 56-88

This is the best article to date demonstrating that Theonomy is a departure from the Westminster Confession and the thought of the majority of the puritan era.

 

Ch. 20.4

 

“And for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity, whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation; or to the power of godliness; or such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the church; they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the church, and by the power of the civil magistrate.¹”

¹ Deut. 13:6-12; Rom. 13:3,4 with 2 John 10,11; Ezra 7:23,25-28; Rev. 17:12,16,17; Neh. 13:15,17,21,22,25,30; 2 Kings 23:5,6,9,20,21; 2 Chron. 34:33; 2 Chron. 15:12,13,16; Dan. 3:29; 1 Tim. 2:2; Isa. 49:23; Zech. 13:2,3

LC #109

The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counselling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion¹…”

Deut. 13:6-12; Zech. 13:2,3; Rev. 2:2,14,15,20; Rev. 17:12,16,17

 

Anonymous (perhaps George Gillespie) – Wholesome Severity reconciled with Christian Liberty, 1644, 98 paragraphs

Cambridge Synod – The Power of the Civil Magistrate in Matters of the First Table, 1646, 14 pages

The best short piece defending the Biblical doctrine that the Civil Magistrate is to uphold the First Table of the Law.

Rutherford, Samuel – A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience and Licentious Toleration of Sects and Heresies, Buy  1649, 410 pages

The most extensive defense of the Biblical doctrine that the civil government is not to tolerate false religions.

Anonymous – A Letter to a Member of Parliament, shewing the necessity of regulating the press: Cheifly from the necessity of public establishments in religion, from the rights and immunities of a National Church, and the trust reposed in the Christian magistrate to protect and defend them, with a particular answer to the objections that of late have been advanced against it, 1699, 85 pages

This letter particularly addresses the question of the civil government regulating the press against harmful errors according to the Biblical teaching of Westminster Confession 20.4.  It was written shortly after the Glorious Revolution of 1689, which was the major turning point for the modern notion of toleration of false religion.  Consequently errors, sects, and heresies multiplied exceedingly without restraint in England and Scotland since that time. 

.

Ch. 10.3

.

“Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit…”

.

Stephens, J.V. – Elect Infants, or, Infant Salvation in the Westminster Symbols  1900  180 pp.

Westminster Confession 10.3 states that dying ‘elect infants’ are saved through Christ.  While the views that (1) all dying infants are elect, and/or (2) that all infants dying in the visible Church are elect, are possible interpretations of the Westminster Confession, the historic viewpoint of most of the divines was that (3) not all dying infants, and not all dying infants in the Church, are elect.

Stephens was a Cumberland Presbyterian (which Church’s distinctives are not wholly recommended).  In chapter 1 he expresses some sentiments about the New Testament and the early Church’s teaching that we do not wholly agree with, but otherwise the work is a very good and faithful survey of the historical context and viewpoint of the greater part of the Assembly.

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Ch. 21.5

 

“…singing of psalms with grace in the heart… are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God…”

 

Winzer, Matthew – Westminster and Worship Examined: a Review of Nick Needham’s Essay on the Westminster Confession of Faith’s Teaching Concerning the Regulative Principle, the Singing of Psalms, and the Use of Musical Instruments in the Public Worship of God,  Buy  from the Confessional Presbyterian #4 (2008), p. 253-266

Winzer here historically and conclusively proves that the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) teaches exclusive psalmody and that the divines believed that musical instruments were forbidden in worship.  Until someone refutes Winzer it is not historically credible to say that the Confession (1646) allows for uninspired hymn singing or that the divines allowed for accompaniment by musical instruments.

Bushell, Michael – Songs of Zion,  Buy  1993, 329 pages

This is an exhaustive defense of the Biblical and majority, historic reformed practice of exclusive psalmody.  Until one has read this book they have not fully considered the issue.  Bushell addresses and responds to all objections to exclusive psalmody that were current up to 1993.  

Isbell, Sherman – The Singing of Psalms, no date, 167 paragraphs

This article responds to all objections to exclusive psalmody current up to its day since the publication of Bushell’s work, including those of Vern Poythress, Greg Bahnsen, Leonard Coppes, Stephen Pribble and others.  It does this through quotes and arguments of puritan writers such as Samuel Rutherford, George Gillespie, John Owen, Thomas Gataker and others.

Girardeau, John – Are Musical Instruments allowed in the Westminster Confession’s phrase “singing of psalms with grace in the heart”?  Buy  p. 130, five pages, from his Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church

There is a legal maxim that says, Expressio unius est exclusio alterius, which means: the express statement of one alternative is the exclusion of the other.  That this phrase in the Confession was intended to forbid musical insturments by explicitly appointing acapella singing is known by the Westminster divines’ practice and views against musical instruments in worship.

For a Biblical defense of the majority, historic reformed position that musical instruments are not elements of worship, read the whole book. 

Girardeau, John – Are Musical Instruments Circumstances of Worship? Part 1 and Part 2 Buy  begins on p. 136 and p. 188, 18 and 11 pages respectively, from his Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church

The Biblical and Confessional answer is no.  Read why here.

Schwertley, Brian – Musical Instruments in the Public Worship of God: the Historical Evidence,  Buy  2003, 19 pages

This is an anthology of quotes from reformed church history demonstrating its overwhelming opposition to musical instruments in worship.

The book, which is also available free online, is an excellent defense of the Biblical, historic reformed position.  

 

Ch. 21.6

 

“…but God is to be worshipped every where in spirit and truth; as in private families daily…”

 

Fentiman, Travis – Family Worship, an audio sermon on Ps. 78:1-7, 2008

This sermon demonstrates that family worship is a Biblical obligation.  It covers all the main Biblical data and principles, the Westminster Assembly’s teaching respecting it, and some practical how-to questions before the audio was accidentally cut off at 34 minutes. 

 

Ch. 21:7

 

“As it is the law of nature, that…”

 

VanDrunen, David – Natural Law in Reformed Theology: Historical Reflections and Biblical Suggestions, 2012, 24 paragraphs

Note: While we do not agree with VanDrunen’s conclusions on the modern ‘Reformed Two Kingdom’ (R2K) position, his work on natural law is a good introduction to the topic, with which the Westminster divines and puritans agreed.  For something faithfully, historically reformed on the topic of how Christ’s two kingdoms (one by divine, natural right, the other as Mediator over the Church) relate, see our section on the Establishment Principle.

 

Ch. 21.8

 

“This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations; but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.”

 

Keister, Lane – The Sabbath Day and Recreations on the Sabbath: An Examination of the Sabbath and the Biblical Basis for the “No Recreation” Clause in Westminster Confession of Faith 21.8 and Westminster Larger Catechism 117  Buy  from the Confessional Presbyterian, #5 (2009), p. 229-238

See our page on The Whole Lord’s Day is Sanctified.

 

Ch. 22.3

 

“Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching anything that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.”

 

This sentence was cut out of the American revisions.  For the Biblical teaching see the proof-texts to the original Confession:  Num. 5:19,21Neh. 5:12Exod. 22:7-11.  See also Neh. 13:25 and 2 Chron. 34:31-33.  Also, see George Gillespie’s (a commissioner to the Westminster Assembly) defense that it was Biblically and civilly lawful for Scotland and England to impose the Solemn League and Covenant, 1643, on their populaces (which was the catalyst for the Westminster Confession of Faith): Treatise of Miscellany Questions, Ch. 16, 1649, 31 paragraphs.

 

Ch. 23.3

 

“The civil magistrate… hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed.¹

¹ Isa. 49:23; Ps. 122:9 [written by David, the King]; Ezra 7:23,25-28; Lev. 24:16; Deut. 13:5-6,12; 1 Kings 18:4; 1 Chron. 13:1-9; 2 Kings 23:1-26; 2 Chron. 34:33; 2 Chron. 15:12,13

LC #108 

“…also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.”

Acts 17:16-17; Ps. 16:4Deut. 7:5; Isa. 30:22

 

Cunningham, William – The Westminster Confession on the Relation Between Church and State, HTML,  Buy  1843, from a pamphlet published in May 1843, immediately before the Disruption of the Church of Scotland, entitled, “Remarks on the Twenty-third Chapter of the Confession of Faith as bearing on existing Controversies”, published later in his Discussions on Church Principles, ch. 8

Many people today charge the original Westminster Confession of 1646 with Erastianism (that the State is over the Church).  This is a charge made out of ignorance.  The Confession teaches against Erastianism, but does teach the Biblical and historic reformed doctrine of the Establishment Principle.  American Presbyterianism, though owes its life to this doctrine, as the Westminster Assembly, which produced her Confession, was originally called to sit by the Parliament (civil magistrate) of England.  Cunningham vindicates the Biblical teaching and the original Confession.

M’Crie, Thomas (the elder) – Brief View of the Evidence for the Exercise of Civil Authority About Religion, 1807, from his Statement of the Difference, chapter 7

This is the best article length defense of the Biblical doctrine of the Establishment Principle that church history has provided.  The Establishment Principle, as taught by WCF 23.3, is that both Church and State have separate jurisdictions on an equal level with each other, under the authority of the Word of God, and that the State has a moral obligation to Christ and God’s Law to profess, protect and promote the true religion.  This article contains all the scriptural evidence and major arguments for the historic reformed view.

 

Ch. 24.4

 

“Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden in the word… The man may not marry any of his wife’s kindred nearer in blood than he may of his own, nor the woman of her husband’s kindred nearer in blood than of her own.”

 

Wordsworth, Christopher – On Marriage with a Deceased Wife’s Sister, 1883, 25 pages

Gibson, James – The Marriage Affinity Question: or, Marriage with the Sister of a Deceased Wife, Fully Discussed, in the Light of History, Ecclesiastical and Civil Law, Scripture, Reason and Expediency,  Buy  1854, 198 pages

The last half of last half of WCF 24.4 defining the extent of the laws of consanguinity was cut out by the American revisions.  The original Confession was right.  Gibson’s book is an exhaustive defense of the Biblical (Mark 6:18, Lev. 18:9), majority historic view, from a Free Church of Scotland professor.  

 

Ch. 25.6

 

“…nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense, be head thereof; but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God.”

 

Silversides, David – The Antichrist: a Biblical and Confessional View,  Buy  2002, 20 pages

This is the best short introduction to the question of who the Antichrist is.  Silversides exegetes 2 Thess. 2, 1 John 2:18, and other passages.  He also defends why this doctrine is an important part of the 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith.

Turretin, Francis – Whether it can be Proven the Pope of Rome is the Antichrist,  Buy  1661, 65 pages

The classic piece on the subject.

 

Ch. 28.2

 

“The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.”

 

Peru Mission – The Reformed Churches and Roman Catholic Baptism – An Anthology of Principle Texts,  PDF, 106 pages

The universal view of the reformation, the post-reformation and of the Westminster divines was that Roman Catholic Baptism is valid.  Here is an excellent anthology of texts on the subject from reformed history (some of which have not been made available before), with introductions and helpful notes.

 

29.3-4

 

“…and to take and break the bread, to take the cup….”

 

Though only briefly mentioned here, the Common Cup and Sitting at the Table in the Lord’s Supper are mentioned over a dozen times in the Westminster Standards and are taught in no uncertain terms.  See The Westminster Standards on the Administration of the Lord’s Supper.  That this is the teaching of scripture, see our pages on the Common Cup and Sitting at the Table.

 

31.2

 

“As magistrates may lawfully call a synod of ministers, and other fit persons, to consult and advise with, about matters of religion;¹ so if magistrates be open enemies to the church, the ministers of Christ, of themselves, by virtue of their office, or they, with other fit persons upon delegation from their churches, may meet together in such assemblies.²”

¹ Isa. 49:23; 1 Tim. 2:1,2; 2 Chron. 19:8 to the end; 2 Chron. 29,30; Matt. 2:4,5; Prov. 11:14
² Acts 15:2,4,22,23,25

Ch. 23.3

“For the better effecting whereof, he [the civil magistrate] hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.¹”

 

These paragraphs were further qualified by the Adopting Act of the Church of Scotland, 1647

“It is further declared, That the Assembly understandeth some parts of the second article of the thirty-one chapter only of kirks not settled, or constituted in point of government: And that although, in such kirks, a synod of Ministers, and other fit persons, may be called by the Magistrate’s authority and nomination, without any other call, to consult and advise with about matters of religion; and although, likewise, the Ministers of Christ, without delegation from their churches, may of themselves, and b virtue of their office, meet together synodically in such kirks not yet constituted, yet neither of these ought to be done in kirks constituted and settled; it being always free to the Magistrate to advise with synods of Ministers and Ruling Elders, meeting upon delegation from their churches, either ordinarily, or, being indicted by his authority, occasionally, and pro re nata [as the circumstance arises]; it being also free to assemble together synodically, as well pro re nata as at the ordinary times, upon delegation from the churches, by the intrinsical power received from Christ, as often as it is necessary for the good of the Church so to assemble, in case the Magistrate, to the detriment of the Church, withhold or deny his consent; the necessity of occasional assemblies being first remonstrate unto him by humble supplication.”

This whole paragraph of the Confession about the civil magistrate being able to call ecclesiastical assemblies (which is consistent with the Church being able to call them as well) was cut out of the American revisions.  For the Biblical teaching see the proof-texts for the original Confession above.

 

On the Larger Catechism

#50

 

“…He descended into hell.”

 

Hyde, Daniel – In Defense of the Descent: A Response to Contemporary Critics – Explorations in Reformed Confessional Theology,  Buy  88 pages

This is best on the topic.  It is an excellent short and readable, but very detailed Biblical and historical defense of the phrase that Jesus “descended into hell” in the Apostle’s Creed (and mentioned in the Westminster Larger Catechism).  Hyde argues for a two-fold meaning, reflecting the scriptures, that Christ experienced the curse of being forsaken by God on the Cross and that His body remained under the power of the grave for three days.  This is also a helpful antidote to the all too popular false teaching of our day that Christ actually descended into spiritual hell after His death (see Lk. 23:43). 

 

#109

 

“The sins forbidden in the second commandment are… the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image…”

 

Coldwell, Chris – The Intent of the Westminster Larger Catechism #109 Regarding Pictures of Christ’s Humanity,  Buy  from the Confessional Presbyterian Journal, #5 (2009), p. 227-228, 323, 9 paragraphs

Chris Coldwell demonstrates that the Larger Catechism forbids images of the Son of God.

VanDrunen, David – Pictures of Jesus and the Sovereignty of Divine Revelation: Recent Literature and a Defense of the Confessional Reformed View,  Buy  from the Confessional Presbyterian #5 (2009), p. 214-228

 

On the Directory of Public Worship

Of the Celebration of the Communion

 

“After this exhortation, warning, and invitation, the table being before decently covered, and so conveniently placed, that the communicants may orderly sit about it, or at it…”

 

Sitting at the Table and using a Common Cup in the Lord’s Supper are mentioned over a dozen times in the Westminster Standards and are taught in no uncertain terms, reflecting the teaching of scripture.  See The Westminster Standards on the Administration of the Lord’s Supper.  That this is the teaching of scripture, see our pages on the Common Cup and Sitting at the Table.

 

“’According to the holy institution, command, and example of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, I take this bread, and, having given thanks, break it, and give it unto you… Take ye, eat ye; this is the body of Christ which is broken for you: do this in remembrance of him.’

In like manner the minister is to take the cup, and say… According to the institution, command, and example of our Lord Jesus Christ, I take this cup, and give it unto you; (here he giveth it to the communicants;) This cup is the new testament in the blood of Christ, which is shed for the remission of the sins of many: drink ye all of it.”

 

Intinction is the practice of dipping the bread into the wine in order to eat the elements of the Lord’s Supper together

Keister, Lane – Intinction: An Historical, Exegetical and Systematic-Theological Examination, 2012, 19 pages

This paper sufficiently demonstrates that the practice is contrary to both the teaching of the Bible and the Westminster Standards, confusing the order and symbolism of the Lord’s Supper as set for by Christ in His institution of it, and later reaffirmed by Paul. Keister first gives the history of the practice, then examines the relevant Biblical texts, and then addresses objections.  Keister does not address the teaching of the Westminster Standards.  For that, see the PCA Ohio Presbytery Report.

PCA Ohio Presbytery Committee Report – Intinction, 2012, 89 paragraphs

This report addresses, amongst other things, the history of intinction in the PCA and whether the practice is “indifferent,” that is, religiously neutral and therefore something that one has liberty over.  For a fuller discussion of the Biblical material and reformed history, see Keister’s article.

 

Appendix

 

“There is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath.  Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.”

 

Coldwell, Chris – The Religious Observance of Christmas and ‘Holy Days’ in American Presbyterianism, HTML, 1999, 109 paragraphs, lengthy article indexed by section

Christmas used to be outlawed by the American puritans as false worship.  In the early 1800′s Samuel Miller could still write, “Presbyterians do not observe holy days.”   By the mid to late-1800′s the tide began to turn.  How did this happen?  Was greater light derived from the scriptures?  Or was it due to worldliness and backsliding?  Read here to find out.

Schwertley, Brian – The Regulative Principle of Worship and Christmas,  Buy  2003, 106 pages

This is an excellent Biblical defense of the historic, reformed position that the Bible forbids making up one’s own religiously-significant holidays, and that the practice of such is not indifferent (Gen. 2:3; 1 Kings 12:32-13:5; Matt 15:9). Appendix 1 is 19 pages of quotes from Church history demonstrating that this is the historic, reformed position.

 

On the Form of Presbyterian Church Government

Pastors

 

“The pastor is an ordinary and perpetual officer in the church.”

 

Isbell, Sherman – Order in the Offices, a Book Review, 1995, 13 paragraphs

The majority reformation view, and that of the Westminster Assembly in their Form of Presbyterial Church Governement, was that the minister was a distinct office separate from (though sharing many functions with) the Ruling Elder.  Both Ministers and Ruling Elders were “elders” (Greek: “presbyters”) and shared parity in the presbytery.  Rev. Isbell here defends the historic, majority reformed view.  Samuel Miller in his book on The Ruling Elder Buy, 1840, was the last American to advocate it.  

Both Thornwell and Hodge, who came later and largely framed the debate for the American context, departed from the historic, reformed view.  Thornwell advocated that the Minister and the Ruling Elder were the same office (the Two-Office view).  Hodge advocated that the Minister was a separate office (the American Three-Office view), but that the Ruling Elder did not fall into the category of a Biblical “presbyter” (the Anglican view). 

If office is Biblically defined as having distinct gifts, functions and authoritative commission (as it is in Larger Catechism #158), and it is seen in scripture that the Minister has distinct gifts, functions and authoritative commission, then the Minister holds a distinct office from the Ruling Elder.  It is also seen from scripture that both Minister and Ruling Elder are “presbyters.”

 

Teacher or Doctor

 

“The scripture doth hold out the name and title of teacher, as well as of the pastor.”

 

Fentiman, Travis – Introduction to the Office of Teacher, 2014, 27 paragraphs, with four Appendices of 44 more paragraphs.

Here is a comprehensible introduction to the historic, Reformation view and that of the Westminster Assembly, showing the Biblical warrant for the Office of Teacher.  Further resources are suggested in the article for further study. 

Myers, Andrew – Office of Doctor, 2009, 34 paragraphs

This is an anthology of excerpts from 14 reformation era creeds, books of discipline and documents demonstrating that the Office of Doctor was the universal view and practice of the Reformation and post-reformation eras.  Read here to see how these godly divines understood the particulars of the office, including its Biblical warrant and functions.

Owen, John – Of the Office of Teacher in the Church,  Buy  1688, 12 pages, being chapter six of his The True Nature of a Gospel Church and its Government, found in volume 16 of his 16 volume works.

This is the best short work arguing for the office from scripture.

Henderson, Robert – The Teaching Office in the Reformed Tradition: a History of the Doctoral Ministry,  Buy  1962, 277 pages

This is an invaluable, exhaustive dissertation on the history of the Office of Doctor in the historic, Reformed Church, though it is not exegetical and does not cover many of the Biblical arguments.  He very clearly distinguishes the different conceptions and practices of the Office of Doctor in the Middle Ages, Calvin’s Geneva, the Scottish Church, the French Church, the Dutch Church, the English Church (including the Westminster Assembly), and in the puritan Congregational churches. 

 

 

Related Pages

The Westminster Assembly                Family                                   Psalm Singing

Baptism                                     Images of Christ                      Religious Holidays

Church Government                    The Lord’s Day          Sincere Offer of the Gospel

Creation                                       Majority Text                                     Theonomy

Eschatology                             Musical Instruments                                 Intinction

Establishment Principle                  Natural Law                          The Common Cup

Sitting at the Table