On Subscription to Confessions by Church Officers

Under Construction



Order of Contents

Article  1
History  8





Durham, James – pp. 385-88 of pt. 4, ch. 14, ‘What is to be done in order to union about divisions concerning doctrinal determinations?’  in The Dying Man’s Testament…  (1659)

“…it is not simply unlawful or hurtful to truth for a Church-judicatory, out of respect to peace in the Church, to condescend abstractly to waive a ministerial decision without wronging of the matter;” – pp. 385-86

“…in such cases, where two parts of a Church are divided, having independent authorities as to one another, and there being contrary determinations in the same question, it seems convenient and necessary for peace, that either both should waive their decisions, or that both should permit the decisions of each other to stand and be in force, to such only as should acquiesce therein, and willingly acknowledge the same.” – p. 387

“where there is nothing like a parity or equality, but the division is in the same one Church betwixt a greater and smaller number, and the greater will not be induced to remove their determination, it is no way sinful to the lesser to join with them notwithstanding thereof, they having their own freedom and liberty cautioned, as was formerly said; Yea, this seems not unexpedient that they should do for the good of the Church. ” – p. 387




On the Reformation to Today

Godfrey, W. Robert – ‘Subscription in the Dutch Reformed Tradition’  in ed. David Hall, The Practice of Confessional Subscription  Buy  (1997)

Duncan, III, J. Ligon – ‘Owning the Confession: Subscription in the Scottish Presbyterian Tradition’  in ed. David Hall, The Practice of Confessional Subscription  Buy  (1997)


On the 1500’s

Lillback, Peter A. – ‘Confessional Subscription Among the Sixteenth Century Reformers’  in ed. David Hall, The Practice of Confessional Subscription  Buy  (1997)


On the Westminster Assembly

Mitchell, Alexander – Appendix: “Subscription to the Confession”  in The Westminster Assembly: its History & Standards  (1884), pp. 511-12

Mitchell, A. & Struthers, J. – Footnote 1  in Minutes of the Westminster Assembly  (1874), pp. lxxi-lxxii

The authors document and discuss the historical point that Westminster, and the English Church, did not require subscription to the Westminster Standards.

This is important as it shows that Westminster divines arguing variant views during the Assembly (which views did not make it into the Standards), does not warrant persons today using this as justification for taking exceptions to the Standards (as no exceptions were ever approved of by Westminster, and as the contents of the Westminster documents do not approve of such variant views).

Rather, the nature of the majority vote process at the Assembly was that the final statement of doctrine in the Westminster Standards was that which the majority of all the parties could agree on.  This accounts for differing parties at the Assembly without necessarily approving of their views.  Nothing was approved by the Assembly except the documents it produced, and the Westminster Assembly approved all the content of those documents without exception.

When the Church of Scotland did require subscription to the Westminster Confession, there was no category of ‘exceptions’ that were allowed.



Hamilton, Ian – The Erosion of Calvinist Orthodoxy: Seceders & Subscription in Scottish Presbyterianism  (1990)  240 pp.  ToC

Sealy, Charles Scott – Church Authority & Non-Subscription Controversies in Early 18th Century Presbyterianism  PhD thesis  (Univ. of Glasgow, 2010)  250 pp.



ed. David Hall – The Practice of Confessional Subscription  Buy  (1997)

Many chapters survey and relate to American history on the topic of confessional subscription.




Related Pages

On Creeds & Confessions

Creeds are Not an Element of Worship

History & Texts of Christian Councils & Creeds


Commentaries on Westminster Standards

Commentaries on Heidelberg Catechism

Of Fundamental, Secondary & Tertiary Matters of Christianity, of Errors Therein & of Communion, Discipline & Separation Thereabout

Against Separatism