“Prefaces to the Westminster Confession of Faith”
Part of my summer reading in St Andrews is in preparation for our presbytery’s examination of our students on the Confession. I am enjoying reviewing the standard commentaries on the Confession and listening to various series of lectures on the Confession featuring a Scotsman, an American and a New Zealander. What is interesting is that all of the lectures begin with the first chapter, “Of the Holy Scriptures”. That is natural and to be expected. Indeed, I noted that the OPC and FCS editions of the Confession have neither of the prefaces by some of the puritan divines. These prefaces are not part of our confessional standards, but they are important nevertheless and well worth reading.
What is interesting is that while we think of the Confession as a church document, and associate its use with teaching and ruling elders, both of these prefaces are addressed to ordinary members in general and fathers or heads of households in particular.
Manton writes, “I do therefore desire, that all masters of families would first study well this work themselves, and then teach it their children and servants, according to their several capacities.”
We do a disservice to our church families when we assume that the Confession is only for office-bearers! In doing so we deprive them of a biblical and practical theology textbook that can enrich their understanding and warm their hearts.
Some practical suggestions:
1 Read the two prefaces to the Westminster Confession.
2 Read the Confession in a systematic and regular manner.
3 Read one of the modern language editions of the Confession. My two preferences are the Modern Study Version produced by the OPC, and the excellent edition by Roland Ward.
Yes, our students, ministers, and elders should know the Confession. Would that the day would come again when our members and families can also be assumed to know and love the Confession.
See the two prefaces, with somewhat inaccurate OCR, at: