This is a relatively brief chapter divided into four subheadings, History, The Westminster Standards, Related Documents, and Conclusion.
My wife and I had the great privilege of going to the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey in London some years ago (pictured). It was a bit eerie to visit the room where such a monumental undertaking was conducted. I think it would serve us well for me to quote the first paragraph of the chapter. “What many theologians considered to have been the largest gathering of spiritual giants since the days of the apostles met from 1643 to 1648 in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey in London. The documents they produced also rank among the theologically richest in all church history. No study of Calvinism is complete without a look at the Westminster assembly, its participants, and its documents.”
History. This portion of the chapter consists of five paragraphs containing several historical details that I suspect would be of little interest to those reading this blog. However, it might interest my readers to know that the Assembly met in 1163 sessions over almost five years. Of the 151 members, 121 were theologians and pastors, 30 were lay “assessors” (20 from the House of Commons and ten from the House of Lords). Most of the members were Presbyterians. Five were Independents. A few were Anglicans. None of them were Baptists. There were no Arminians, Catholics, Quakers, or Lutherans. On average, there were 70 men present each day, with occasional days of prayer and fasting. Every member took the following vow, which was read aloud every Monday morning:
I do solemnly promise and vow, in the presence of Almighty God, that in this Assembly whereof I am a member, I will maintain nothing in point of doctrine but what I believe to be most agreeable to the Word of God; nor in point of discipline, but what may make most for God’s glory and the peace and good of His church.”
Notable among the 151 were John Arrowsmith, Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Gataker, Anthony Tuckney, William Gouge, Anthony Burgess, Jeremiah Burroughs, Edward Reynolds, and Thomas Manton. The only member to attend every session was John Lightfoot.
The Westminster Standards. The Westminster Assembly issued several documents, three of which stand out. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) is most famous. Longer than most Reformed confessions, Baptists in London revised it in 1677 but did not publish it until 1688/89 as the Second London Confession of Faith (also known as the Baptist Confession of 1689). The author suggests the Baptists revised the Westminster Confession to reflect Baptist ecclesiology. That the Baptists of London revised the Westminster Confession is true. That it reflects Baptist ecclesiology, I dispute. I think the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith wrongly reflects Protestant ecclesiology. The Assembly also issued the Shorter Catechism, having 107 questions and answers meant for the instruction of children. The Larger Catechism has 196 questions and much fuller answers.
Related Documents. The author references several works produced by members of the Assembly. The Sum of Saving Knowledge (1650), The Form of Presbyterial-Church Government (1645), The Directory for the Public Worship of God (1645), The Directory for Family Worship (1647), The Westminster Annotations (1647), and The Metrical Psalter.
Conclusion. The author summarizes the history of the period by suggesting that the greatest legacy of the Puritans is the Westminster Confession and Shorter Catechism.