What Can The Church Expect?: The Protection Of Providence -- By: Barry J. York

Journal: Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal
Volume: RPTJ 03:1 (Fall 2016)
Article: What Can The Church Expect?: The Protection Of Providence
Author: Barry J. York

What Can The Church Expect?:
The Protection Of Providence

Barry York

Dean of Faculty and Professor of Pastoral Theology
Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Introduction: How The Westminster Assembly Itself Reminds Us Of This Truth

In this study of what the Westminster Confession teaches regarding the providence of God with respect to his care for the church, it would be helpful to remember that the assembly that produced this document serves as an example of this truth. For the Westminster Assembly was itself a work of God’s special providence.

The assembly, which met primarily from 1643–1648, did so during the English Civil War. King Charles I, under threat from advancing Scottish armies and without the funds he so desperately needed, convened what became known as the Long Parliament to secure the help of the British gentry. Little did this king realize – one who claimed to rule under the divine right of kings – how deeply the Divine King would put into the hearts of those in Parliament a desire for reform throughout the kingdom. Indeed, so great was the reform that the Parliament, supporting Oliver Cromwell, would eventually see Charles himself driven from office and his eventual execution in 1649. Their actions sowed the seeds of a more constitutional monarchy in the United Kingdom seen even to this day.

Yet the Parliament’s yearning to bring the nation out from under tyrannical oppression did not stop simply with political change. In the midst of all the intensity of a civil war, the Parliament called for godly ministers throughout the land to come to London to reform the church as well. Here is the opening of their appeal dated June 12, 1643:

An Ordinance of the Lords and Commons in Parliament, for the calling of an Assembly of learned and godly Divines, and others, to be consulted with by the Parliament, for the settling of the Government and Liturgy of the Church of England, and for vindicating and clearing of the Doctrine of the said Church from false aspersions and interpretations. Whereas, amongst the infinite blessings of Almighty God upon this nation, none is, or can be, more dear unto us than the purity of our religion; and for that, as yet many things remain, in the Liturgy, discipline, and government of the Church, which do necessarily require a further and more perfect reformation than yet hath been attained.1

Parliament protected the divines during the civil war, and as a result the Westminster Assembly produced the documents that for over three centuries have guided reformed churches around the globe in their doctrines, worship, and governance. The church should not lose sight of the fact that ...

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