1689 Vs. The Westminster Confession (5): “One Striking Omission”

Our comparison and contrast of the WCF with the 2LC continues through chapter 3, Of God’s Eternal Decree. In this installment we see some interesting revisions and one striking omission.



1. God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. 1. God hath Decreed in himself from all Eternity, by the most wise and holy Councel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things whatsoever comes to passe; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin, nor hath fellowship with any therein, nor is violence offered to the will of the Creature, nor yet is the liberty, or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established, in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power, and faithfulness in accomplishing his Decree.

The first clause in section 1 in the LCF comes not from the WCF but from the First London Confession. Both begin with the words, God hath decreed in himself.

In the previous chapter, we say this relation as well. This section follows the WCF and the Savoy again except where it follows the LCF by adding all things after unchangeably. We also see a minor change in the word order from thereby neither is God to thereby is God neither…. This seems purely stylistic.

Below that we see another change from the language of the WCF where the 2LC adds the clause nor hath anything fellowship with any therein…. This is another example of the pattern of intensifying the language of the WCF. The 2LC also changes the plural creatures to the singular.

After but rather established the 2LC adds in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things and…Decree again following the 1LC and not the WCF nor the Savoy.

Section 2 of the 2LC is identical to the WCF and the Savoy.



3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death. 3. By the decree of God for the manifestation of his glory some men and Angels, are predestinated, or fore-ordained to Eternal Life, through Jesus Christ to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice.

The clause beginning or foreordained…glorious justice is taken almost verbatim (there are some minor variations between the 1LC and 2LC here) from the 1LC and represents an elaboration on or an intensification of the WCF (and the Savoy).

Section 4 of the 2LC is identical to the WCF and the Savoy.

Section 5 of the 2LC makes only two minor revisions of the WCF. Where the latter says, any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes, moving him… the 2LC says, any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him…. These changes seem immaterial.

Section 6 in the 2LC is identical to the WCF.



7. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath, for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice. 7. [No parallel text found in the Second London Confession]

Both the WCF and the Savoy contain the same section 7. The 2LC, however, does not (here at least) contain this section. I cannot speculate as to why the 2LC omits this section but only note that it does. The next section, numbered 7 in the 2LC is equivalent to section 8 in the WCF and Savoy. This is a puzzling omission that reminds one of the omission of what is, in the WCF, numbered 7.2, the section on the covenant of works. When I first noticed that omission, several years ago, because I was assuming a greater continuity between the 2LC and WCF than exists, I incorrectly concluded that the 2LC did not expressly teach the covenant of works. The 2LC repeats WCF 20.1 but not 7.2, which (as in the present case) only intensifies the question as to why these omissions. Were these pedagogical decisions or did they represent some theological disagreement? Since the 2LC repeats WCF 20.1, it is not clear what the theological disagreement would be. The questions are relevant here, under section 7. Why the omission? The language used by the WCF and the Savoy in section 7 is typically associated with the infralapsarian view of the logical order of the divine decree, whereby the elect and the reprobate are considered as created and fallen. Broadly speaking, in the supralapsarian view, the elect and reprobate are considered as potentials and not as created or fallen. Hence the distinction between the prefixes supra. Were the framers of the 2LC signaling a supralapsarian position or some other dissatisfaction with the infralapsarianism of the WCF? Whatever the case, the omission is interesting and is another indication that the 2LC is not merely a revision of the Savoy or the WCF.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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  1. In “A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith” (5th Edition: Revised and Corrected, 2016), Samuel E. Waldron writes (pp.84-85),

    Chapter 3, paragraph 7 of the Westminster Confession of Faith has been deleted in the Baptist Confession. The development of thought in the Westminster Confession of Faith hinges on this missing paragraph. It has opened up the two sides of the decree: to save in paragraphs 3-6, to reprobate in paragraph 7. The deletion of paragraph seven of the Westminster Confession serves to weaken the testimony of the Baptist Confession to the doctrine of reprobation. In the only statement of our Confession this doctrine is stated in a weak way. Compare paragraph three of the London Confession with paragraph three of the Westminster Confession. The Bible says more than the London Confession. Though the Baptist Confession clearly assumes the doctrine of reprobation, its actual statements on the subject do not possess the clarity appropriate to a creedal statement. The Westminster Confession must be commended for its faithfulness to Scripture at this point.

    But the Westminster Confession of Faith also has a weakness. It parallels salvation and reprobation. This is liable to leave the false impression that God is sadistic. God’s relation to reprobation is not the same as His relation to the decree of salvation (Ezekiel 33:11, 18). Perhaps this is why the Baptists left out some of the key statements of the Westminster Confession regarding reprobation.

    • Frank,

      I don’t understand Sam’s complaint since one of the intentions and consequences of the infralapsarian ordering of the decree is that the decree of reprobation is asymmetrical with the decree of election. In the former we are not said to be elected for anything in us. In the latter the reprobate are so in view of their sin.

      It is the supralapsarian position that makes the two decrees (or two aspects of the decree) parallel. Were he objecting to the supra scheme I would agree with him.

      As to the development of thought hinging on the paragraph deleted by the Baptists, that theory is about 150 years old and has been refuted quite thoroughly by modern scholarship.

      To wit.

    • Informative response. Thank you very much!

      I need to get better at spelling my own name – ADERHOLDT! Having just passed 74.4 years, the average age for Mississippians (according to an article in The Daily Mail), now’s a good time to get it right.

  2. Dr. Clark,

    I think your questions are good ones as to why some of these changes were made. Do you think the deletion of WCF 3.7 expresses a theological disagreement or a pedagogical change? Your question about a possible signaling of a supralapsarian position is interesting because of later Particular Baptist theologians in the 18th century like John Gill or John Brine who were high Calvinistic predestinarians (some might argue they were ‘hyper-Calvinists’). Do you have any hunches about why these changes were made?

    You make a good point that in some ways the 2LC intensifies the language of the WCF, while in other respects it omits sections relating to the covenant of works as well as this section in WCF 3.7. While in one instance the 2LC omits the covenant of works (though they do mention it in 2LC 20.1), the Particular Baptists re-affirmed the covenant of works in their 1693 catechism (an adaptation of the Shorter Catechism).

    Thanks again,

    • Spencer,

      I had Gill in mind when I raised the question. Is there a connection between an over-realized eschatology and a supralapsarian position? I don’t know. There are Dutch amil supras (how’s that for a mouth full) in whom I don’t see an over-realized eschatology, e.g., Hoeksema. I do think Hoeksema was something of a rationalist, however, and there might be some connection there.

      I mentioned 20.1 in the essay but the omission of 7.2 is striking. Honestly, the first time I saw it I gasped. In Reformed theology, to excise 7.2 is like ripping out a lung. It’s nothing short of strange.

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