John Tulloch on the value of the Westminster Confession of Faith

wcf‘The [Westminster] Confession of Faith, in order to be understood and estimated at its real value, must be studied both historically and philosophically. And I do not hesitate to say, that it can only be understood aright by those who know something of the spirit and genius of the great Puritan conflict out of which it sprang, of the religious writings of the men who were concerned in its production, and the destructive principles, both theological and ecclesiastical, which these writings were warmly intended to defend. The Confession of Faith in its origin and its principles was the manifesto of a great religious party which, after a fierce conflict, gained a temporary ascendancy in England and Scotland … Indeed, the same thing could be said of every Protestant Confession of Faith … They are one and all historical monuments, marking the tides of religious thought as they have swelled with greater fullness in the course of the Christian centuries; and none of them can be understood aright simply by themselves, or as isolated dogmatic utterances, but only in connection with their time and the genius and character of the men who framed them … Those creeds and confessions are neither more nor less than the intellectual labours of great and good men assembled for the most part in synods or councils, all of which, as our Confession itself declares, ‘may err, and many have erred’. They are their best thoughts about Christian truth as they saw it in their time – intrinsically they are nothing more; and any claim of infallibility for them is the worst of all kinds of Popery – that Popery which degrades the Christian reason while it fails to nourish the Christian imagination.’. – Margaret Oliphant, A Memoir of the Life of John Tulloch, D.D., LL.D (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, 1888), 222-3.

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