Westminster Stds, history of traditional contents

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Staff member
Perhaps everything you wanted to know or more than you wanted to know about the traditional contents of the Westminster Stds is given in an aritcle I wrote for the 2005 Confessional Presbyterian journal (on special now, get it and the 2006 forthcoming issue for only $28.50. See here). Extracts below.
The Development of the Traditional Form of
The Westminster Standards
The Westminster Confession of Faith was approved and adopted by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on August 27, 1647. Subsequently, the Confession was published for the first time with both the Larger and Shorter Catechisms in 1648, which catechisms had been approved respectively on July 2nd and July 28th of that year.1 Other items began to be published along with the three doctrinal standards beginning in 1649, though these did not always appear in later editions. After nearly eighty years, the traditional complement of documents making up "œThe Westminster Standards" was set and fixed by the Lumisden and Robertson edition of 1728 (Warfield, 627).

While the form of the Standards was firmly established in 1728, its general layout and structure actually originated much earlier. The Edinburgh printing firm of Thomas Lumisden and John Robertson had published the 1725 rival to Dunlop´s Collection of Confessions (1719-21), the editing of which the Carruthers assigned to the Reformed Presbyterians.2 These were the Covenanters who had suffered through the persecution known as the "œKilling Times" (1660-1688), and had remained outside the Church of Scotland after the 1690 Revolution Settlement. During the period of persecution, ministers such as Robert MacWard and John Brown of Wamphray were banished to Holland,3 and from there were published many works both directly and indirectly supportive of the Covenanter cause. It was presumably from somewhere in Holland in 1679, that the primogenitor of the traditional form of the Standards was issued, which set the preferred content and appearance later copied by Lumisden and Robertson, albeit with some minor variations.

This 1679 edition is probably the one referred to in the Advertisement in the second volume of William Dunlop´s "œCollections," which, as noted by B. B. Warfield, is described by David Hay Fleming in The Presbyterian and Reformed Review for April, 1899 (x. 320-321): "œThe edition thus referred to as having been printed in Holland was probably that of 1679, which has neither printer´s name nor place of issue, but bears an unmistakable resemblance to those covenanting books which were printed in Holland during the persecution" (Warfield, 633). S. W. Carruthers confirmed this from an inscription in a copy of this edition, which he examined at Cambridge. He noted that this "œis the first edition where the supplementary documents are given in the order ultimately followed by all modern editions" (Three Centuries, 56).

This raises the possibility that the Reformed Presbyterians may also have been responsible for the preparation of the 1728 Lumisden & Robertson edition, or at least had some influence on its final form. They understandably would have been partial to the form of the 1679 edition. Also, while the text of the 1728 is generally dependent upon Dunlop´s "˜critical text,´ it is clear that variants traceable to the Reformed Presbyterian text of 1725 were incorporated, which points at least to the influence of that edition, if not to any direct involvement by the Reformed Presbyterians themselves.4

What led to this rather large collection of documents, which became the traditional form of the Westminster Standards? B. B. Warfield in his article on the "œPrinting of the Westminster Confession," rested the explanation for the progressive expansion of content over the later half of the seventeenth century, in the effort of printers to "œsupply as comprehensive a collection as possible" fueled by the dual desires for a volume that would function as an ecclesiastical manual, as well as a "œrichly furnished popular book of religion."5 This impulse to expand the Standards produced two general forms: one Scottish and the other English.

The Rothwell editions of 1658 set the English form, which included such things as the two epistles by Manton and forty-four Puritan divines, the ordinance calling the Westminster Assembly and the vow taken by its members, as well as a piece entitled A Grave And Serious Advice Of The Ministers Of Scotland, which is simply the Directory for Family Worship with a different title. Rothwell also introduced the emphasis in italic type of portions of the Scripture proof texts, which was dropped by Dunlop and Lumisden & Robinson, and not restored until 1855 by Johnstone and Hunter.6 These English editions did not include the Scottish Sum of Saving Knowledge by David Dickson and James Durham,7 or the Directory for Public Worship, but often included the Form of Church-Government. Meantime, the Scottish editions early included the Sum of Saving Knowledge and the Directory for Family Worship, as well as the Form of Church-Government.

The apex of the drive to include all the documents that had appeared in previous editions was reached when the English and Scottish forms were combined. This was apparently first done by James Watson with his edition of 1707/1708.8 The same mix of contents was included ten years later in the 1717 edition by Cruttenden & Cox. These editions differ from the 1728 Lumisden & Robertson: they lack some of the Acts approving various documents, and the material is ordered differently than that set by the 1679 edition. Some material is also included in duplicate! As already noted, the Directions for Secret and Family Worship had appeared in some English editions as A Grave and Serious Advice of the Ministers of the Kirk of Scotland. Both appear in these editions, the Directions toward the end following the Directory for Public Worship and the Serious Advice appearing in front sandwiched between the two customary epistles to the reader. Also, a Postscript, affixed to some editions in the Scottish tradition, concludes the volumes prior to the index.9 But the text is simply an extract from Manton´s epistle, which also appears at the front. "¦
1. B. B. Warfield, "œNotes Toward A Bibliography of the Westminster Confession: I. Britain," The Presbyterian and Reformed Review, xii (1901) 621. Hereafter, Warfield.

2. S. W. Carruthers, Three Centuries of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (New Brunswick: Published for the Beaverbrook Foundations by the University of New Brunswick, 1957) 59. Hereafter Three Centuries. William Carruthers, The Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly of Divines: Being a facsimile of the First Edition, which was ordered to be printed by the House of Commons, 25th November, 1647. With Historical Account and Bibliography (London: Publication Office of the Presbyterian Church of England, 1897) 48.

3. Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology, Nigel M. de S. Cameron, David F. Wright, David C. Lachman, Donald E. Meek, eds. (Downers Grover: IVP, 1993) "œCovenanters," 218-219; "œBrown, John (of Wamphray)," 98-99; "œKilling Times," 458; "œMacWard, Robert," 537-538. Hereafter DSCHT.

4. See Chris Coldwell, "œExamining the Work of S. W. Carruthers" beginning on page 43 of this issue of The Confessional Presbyterian.

5. B. B. Warfield, "œThe Printing of the Westminster Confession," The Westminster Assembly and Its Work (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981) Works, 6.344.

6. Rothwell was the first to include the texts of the Scripture proofs, and the italicized portions evidently were to emphasize what he at least thought were the key portions of the references adduced by the Westminster divines. Carruthers criticized the endeavor as having been done "œ in the most haphazard way," and he considered it "œalmost unbelievable that any man in 1855 could think it worth while to reproduce these hopelessly unintelligent italics"¦." S. W. Carruthers, The Westminster Confession of Faith: Being an account of the Preparation and Printing of its Seven Leading Editions, to which is appended a critical text of the Confession with notes thereon (Manchester: R. Aikman & Son, [1937]) 75.

7. DSCHT, "œDickson, David," 243; "œDurham, James", 265-266.

8. For a complete bibliography for titles published by James Watson see: D. Wyn Evans, "œJames Watson of Edinburgh: A Bibliography of Works from his Press 1695-1722," Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions, Volume V, Part 2, Sessions 1976-7, 1977-8, 1979-80 (Edinburgh: Printed for the Society by John G Eccles Printers Ltd, Inverness, 1982). Warfield and Carruthers on the authority of John Lee note an earlier 1701 edition by Watson [John Lee, Memorial for the Bible Societies in Scotland (Edinburgh: Printed for the Edinburgh Bible Society, 1824; 1826; 1839)], but neither traced an existing copy (Warfield, 635; Three Centuries, 58). Wyn, who consulted Lee as well, does not list such a title for that date. Neither does Wyn catalog one for 1709, another untraced edition which Carruthers lists out of "œOrr´s Catalogue." Watson did publish another edition in 1710, the only known copy of which is located by Wyn, Warfield and Carruthers at the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia. It follows older Scottish forms rather than the 1707-08, has the Scripture proofs by reference only, and beneath each section rather than in the margin, as in Sanders 1690, and the anonymously published editions of 1794 and 1700 (Wing C5776, C5776A, C5776C). Barry Waugh, Ph.D, who examined this rare volume for the author, notes that it has aged poorly, which may explain why more copies have not survived. See a summary of Dr. Waugh´s [research] presented in Appendix C.

9. The Postscript was probably first added to the 1679 edition. It appears also in the anonymously published editions of 1694 and 1700, as well as in Watson´s 1710. It does not appear in the 1683 edition by George Swintoun and Thomas Brown (Wing C5770B), nor does it appear in Carruthers´ Glasgow Fourth (Robert Sanders, 1675; Wing C5797). The later editions of 1687, 1690 and 1693 by Sanders (Wing C5772, C5775, C5776), and by his son Robert Sanders (1703, 1711), and those by Anderson for 1679, 1685 and 1697 (Wing c5770A, C5771, C5776B), were not examined.

[align=center]Appendix A: The Traditional Contents of The Westminster Standards[/align]

The following list presents the traditional content of the Westminster Standards as set and ordered by the Lumisden & Robertson edition (L&R, 1728). The edition of first appearance with the Confession and Catechisms is given in parentheses, which often is noted by either Warfield or the Carruthers. Where this is not the case, dates marked by a dagger (" ) indicate the earliest edition found by the author. Editions cited in this article are described in Appendix B.

1. To the Christian Reader, Especially Heads of Families (Rothwell, 1658" ).

2. Mr. Manton´s Epistle to the Reader (Rothwell "˜B´, 1658" ). Earlier variants of Rothwell lack this epistle to the Christian reader by Thomas Manton. Carruthers put the final tally of Rothwell variants at five, with one following what he styled as "œRothwell A", and two following his "œRothwell B," which is titled by the publisher as the "œSecond Edition" (Three Centuries, 55).

3. Ordinance "¦ for the calling of an Assembly of learned and godly Divines (Rothwell, 1658" ).
22. A Table of the Chief Matters Contained in the Confession of Faith and Larger Catechism. A subtitle states: "œCon. signifies the Confession of Faith. The first number denotes the Chapter, the following figures denote the Paragraphs. Cat. signifies the Larger Catechism, and the figures denote the numbers of the Questions." Apparently, a table appears for the first time in the Rothwell "˜B´ edition of 1658, which relies on page numbers to give the subject location. This is reproduced exactly in Watson and Cox, except for varying the page number appropriately. Dunlop revised and expanded the table and subtitled it as represented here. Also, the dependence upon page number for locating the reference was removed by using chapter, paragraph and question numbers, making the index independent of any particular publication. This revised table was reproduced in the L&R 1728, and was faithfully reproduced through the end of the 19th century, ending with Johnstone & Hunter.

[Edited on 5-3-2006 by NaphtaliPress]

[Edited on 5-3-2006 by NaphtaliPress]


Staff member
I should have added, to see the rest of the history of the development of the traditional text, as well as an appendix showing when each of the 22 separate items came into the collection and another appendix giving the details of the particular editions consulted (17 key editions from1649-1860), as well as a third appendix detailing an edition owned by the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, which appears to be the one known surviving example, get the 2005 issue!;) As said above, it and the 2006 are on special for just $28.50. http://www.cpjournal.com
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