The Westminster And Savoy Confessions: A Brief Comparison -- By: Peter Toon

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 15:3 (Summer 1972)
Article: The Westminster And Savoy Confessions: A Brief Comparison
Author: Peter Toon

The Westminster And Savoy Confessions:
A Brief Comparison

Peter Toon, Ph.D.*

The recent reprinting of the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order,1 originally produced by the Congregational divines who met at the Savoy Palace in the early autumn of 1658, and the continuing discussion, especially in North America, concerning the exact nature of the ‘Calvinism’ of the famous Westminster Confession of Faith, 2 originally composed by the Assembly of divines meeting at Westminster between 1643 and 1647, perhaps give sufficient reason for a fresh comparison of the theology of the two Confessions. In particular this article will concentrate its attention upon a comparison of the doctrines of repentance, faith and the gospel in the two documents. This will also necessitate a brief look at federal theology. Further, brief notice will be made of the connection beween the nature of the Church and eschatology.

In the speech delivered by Dr. Thomas Goodwin, President of Magdalen College, Oxford, on the occasion of the presentation (on 14 October 1658) to the Lord Protector, Richard Cromwell, of a copy of the recently produced Declaration, one major purpose of the document was clearly stated:

We [desired] in the first place to clear ourselves of that scandal, which not only some persons at home, but of foreign parts have affixed upon us, viz. That Independentism (as they call it) is the sink of all heresics and schisms. We have therefore declared what hath been our constant Faith and Order, to be published to the world. And to shew our harmony with the most orthodox at home and abroad, we have expressed our assent to that Confession of Faith which is the latest and best… namely, the Articles of Religion approved and passed by both Houses of Parliament after advice had with the Assembly of Divines, to which Confession for the substance of it, we have unanimously and through the grace of Christ, without the least contradiction, assented and agreed.3

*Tutor in Church History, Edge Hill College, Ormskirk, Lanashire, England, and author of The Pilgrims Faith, The Millennium and the Future of Israel and other books.

The Articles of Religion to which he referred was the shortened form of the Confession of Faith produced by the divines;4 the full Confession, usually called the Westminster Confession, was approved by the Scottish Kirk in August 1647 and by the Estates of Parliament in February 1649.

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