The Westminster Confession Of Faith -- By: John Milton Williams
BSac 47:188 (Oct 1890) p. 625
The Westminster Confession Of Faith
THERE is an old legend to the effect that a giant of herculean strength, visiting Odin, the god of the North, noticed, lying on the floor of the palace, a cat. “You can’t lift that cat,” said the god. The giant with a smile of incredulity made the attempt, and found the cat the outcropping of a serpent that encompassed the globe.
This old legend not inaptly illustrates the difficulty one meets in antagonizing the Westminster Confession of Faith. That venerable creed, which summarizes the Calvinistic system of theology, is a compact, logical, symmetrical, self-consistent unit, thought out and formulated by some of the profoundest thinkers of the Christian church. It covers the whole field of what is termed metaphysical theology: and so interwoven and linked together are its several doctrines, that it is not easy to root out one without eradicating all. It is on all hands conceded that the system must be received or rejected as a whole. “The most cursory perusal,” says Professor Shedd, “will show that a revision of the Westminster Confession will amount to a recasting the whole creed.” Dr. De Witt expresses the fear that “A revision once begun, the desire for logical unity will require not so much a revision as a revolution of the standards of the church.” Changes other than doctrinal have been and may be made; but it seems to me that an attempt at doctrinal revision will not be wise until the church is prepared to eliminate whatever is dis-
BSac 47:188 (Oct 1890) p. 626
tinctively Calvinistic, and leave the acceptance or rejection of these unessential and controverted points to the discretion of its individual members.
The Westminster system of theology roots itself in the doctrine of divine sovereignty, and is the outgrowth of a profound and overshadowing sense of the power and perfections of God. It commences (chap, i.) with an able statement of the divine authority of the Sacred Scriptures. Chap. ii. gives us this admirable definition of God: “There-is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty; most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in a...
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