Westminter Assembly and “Reckless Assertions”

I don’t always agree with Alexander Mitchell’s understanding of the Westminster Confession.  As we all are, he was of his time with interests of his own.  Nevertheless his work on the Westminster Assembly is good reading and in particular on the compatibility of the Westminster Assembly with the free offer of the gospel he gets it right:

In reply to the reckless assertion, that those who hold this doctrine [predestination] as it is held forth in the Westminster Standards cannot preach to perishing sinners the love of God and the freeness of Christ’s salvation, I deem it sufficient to point to the fact that they never ceased to preach these truths fully and faithfully. They believed them in their inmost hearts, and allowed their belief to influence their conduct and mould their teaching, and none have ever set forth these precious truths with more winning tenderness or more marked success, that the men who embraced their system of doctrine, and had a firm grasp of their principles as Leighton, Rutherford, Sedgewick, Arrowsmith, Tuckney, Calamy, and Bunyan, in the seventeenth century, Wilson, Boston, Whitfield, and the Erskines in the eighteenth, and Chalmers, M’Cheyne, the Bonars, Nicolson, and Crawford in the nineteenth Century.
The Westminster Assembly: Its History and Standards, 385

Now, I might not necessarily have chosen the same examples as Mitchell did, but still his point stands.  In essence he is saying – If you believe the confessions stance on the sovereignty of God precludes the well meant offer of the gospel then how do you account for the way these men actually preached?  This is one of the thrusts of the thesis that in understanding reformed thought on the free offer we need to consider more than just highly polemical theological works but also, and perhaps primarily, sermons where we see the practical implementation of the theology of the free offer.  Hence the focus on Durham!

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2 Responses to “Westminter Assembly and “Reckless Assertions””

  1. Steven Carr Says:

    The point is much broader than does the WCF preclude the free offer of the gospel; Reformed theology in general has always been charged with not being compatable with the gospel ministry. You are right on in saying that we need to read the sermons of the Reformed ministers. There we see the gospel preached with such clarity and conviction. I also think that biography is very helpful in studying the free offer of the gospel in Reformed thought. In the biographies we see men living consistently as men who believed in the gospel, and who believed it was to be freely delivered to all.

    In connection with this, I finally posted on Calvin on Common Grace. It’s a bit lengthy, hopefully you’ll have time to read it.

  2. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Yes, the sad thing is that adherents of the Reformed faith now claim it is inconsistent with the free offer! Sermons and biography are two important evidences that this is not so.

    Yes, I saw your post. I have skimmed over it (it looked good) and I plan to it read in detail soon.

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