We also censure and reject all Jewish fables and those of present-day Anabaptists who expect some golden age here on earth before the day of judgment, so that faithful people should inherit all the kingdoms with Christ after destroying all their foes and godless people. For the truth of the Word of God testifies otherwise regarding this, as is written in Matthew 24 and 25, likewise Luke 18, 2 Thessalonians 2, and 2 Timothy 3 and 4.
James T. Dennison Jr., | Sandomierz Consensus (1570), ch. 11 | Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: 1523–1693, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008–14), 201.
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Similarly the Second Helvetic Confession XI: The Sects, “We further condemn Jewish dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgment, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth. For evangelical truth in Matt., chs. 24 and 25, and Luke, ch. 18, and apostolic teaching in II Thess., ch. 2, and II Tim., chs. 3 and 4, present something quite different.”
Contrast with Savoy Declaration XXVI.5, “As the Lord in his care and love towards his Church, hath in his infinite wise providence exercised it with great variety in all ages, for the good of them that love him, and his own glory; so according to his promise, we expect that in the latter days, antichrist being destroyed, the Jews called, and the adversaries of the kingdom of his dear Son broken, the churches of Christ being enlarged, and edified through a free and plentiful communication of light and grace, shall enjoy in this world a more quiet, peaceable and glorious condition than they have enjoyed.”
The congregationalists have an over-realized eschatology.
Rev. Shaffer has correctly noted a difference of substance between the Westminster Confession of Presbyterianism and the Savoy Declaration, produced by a synod called by Congregationalists about a decade later after Oliver Cromwell had become Lord Protector. (Cromwell died in the interim but that’s not relevant for this point.)
Some pre-1658 back history is relevant in understanding the context of this language in the Savoy Declaration.
I’ve repeatedly cited this language to remind dispensational Baptists that Reformed people were praying for and expecting the conversion of the Jews long before dispensationalists came on the ecclesiastical scene. I live in the Bible Belt and I’m sick and tired of being told by Baptists that Reformed people are somehow anti-Semitic. That is flat out false.
Oliver Cromwell was well-known as a defender of the Jews in England and fought hard against some of his own Puritan advisers to change English laws that had for centuries forbidden Jews from living in England. (The short version is Cromwell became aware of a group of Spanish Jews living in England who had externally converted to Roman Catholicism, and when they made clear they didn’t want to attend Mass in the chapel of the Spanish embassy, Cromwell successfully fought to give them the right to live openly in England as practicing Jewish believers rather than as “conversos.”)
Cromwell probably didn’t write those words of the Savoy Declaration, but his actions pretty clearly inspired whoever did write those words to do so, and to give them confessional status for Congregationalists during the last few years of the Puritan Commonwealth.
Of course, it’s not necessary to be postmillennial to believe in the future conversion of the Jewish people, but that’s what the authors of the Savoy Declaration believed.
So where did this difference in the confessional standards come from?
Quite a few differences between the Savoy Declaration and the Westminster Confession in the two forms of the WCF most commonly known today are not primarily due to differences between Congregationalism and the Westminster Assembly, but rather because the Savoy started with a different version of the Westminster Confession — the version actually adopted by Parliament which differed on a number of points from the version drafted by the Westminster Assembly. The Scots Kirk adopted the original version drafted by the Assembly. The English Parliament adopted a revised version. That revised version became a “dead letter” when English Presbyterianism was suppressed by the restoration of the monarchy after the deposition of Oliver Cromwell’s son, but a significant number of the differences introduced by Parliament were preserved in the Savoy language. Most Presbyterians followed the original version drafted by the Assembly and adopted by the Scots Kirk until the American revisions following the Revolutionary War.
I am much less familiar with the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith; the Particular Baptists reading here would need to comment on the history of the variations between their confession and Westminster, but my understanding is that the SLBCF used the Savoy language, rather than either the Assembly’s version of the Westminster Confession or the Parliamentary version, as their starting point. In the Puritan era, the term “Independent” was not always clearly defined and sometimes, as with Bunyan, was used to include both Congregationalists and Baptists, though as time went on, the differences between the two types of churches that objected to Presbyterianism became clearer, and the drafting of the Savoy Declaration and the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith formalized those differences.
But again, I need to defer to the Baptists on their confessional history.
HOWEVER — this postmillenial language cited by Rev. Shaffer is not one of the changes introduced by Parliament. It’s new language introduced at Savoy. While we don’t have good records of the Savoy Synod and therefore we don’t know with certainly where this language came from, the general consensus is that it is from the pen of John Owen.
While it’s new language, it doesn’t appear to have been controversial at the time. It seems to have reflected the consensus of the churches. Since we don’t have good records or reports of the proceedings of the Savoy Synod, the best guess is that Cromwell’s views, while initially quite controversial, had become widely accepted within at least Congregational circles by the time the Savoy Synod was called.
It’s probably relevant that none of the statements of faith adopted by American Congregationalism during the Puritan era of the 1600s or 1700s repeated this language from Savoy. Most American Puritans were post-mil, but they didn’t seem to believe it was something that should be elevated to be a confessional requirement.
Is it accurate to assume this generally applies to the Post-Millenarians hope as well?
Postmillennialism is also driven by an over-realized eschatology. As far as I know, the postmil movement didn’t yet exist, at least not in the forms that we know when the early Reformed rejected the idea of an earthly golden age but I think that postmils ought to be chastened by fairly consistent rejection by the sixteenth-century Reformed of any idea of a future earthly glory age. It is difficult for me to see the essential difference between a literal 1,000 year golden age and golden age of undetermined length.
Further, the language of “subduing enemies” etc sounds quite a lot like Reconstructionist and theonomic rhetoric.
That the Augsburg Confession (1530) explicitly rejected that idea strengthens the notion that theonomy was an Anabaptist error. It still is.
Thanks, that is helpful. I have been trying to carefully understand the differences between amil (my position) and the post-mils that I keep encountering. I want to make sure I am clear on the similarities as well as the differences. And this point the golden age (whether a jewish or anabaptist or theonomists dream) seems to be the clearest point of departure between amil and postmil.