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2020 Reading in Review: Reformed Confessions Study

December 18, 2020 2 comments

A year ago I reviewed the 2019 books and looked forward to a year long study through the Reformed Confessions. Now I’m nearing the end of this study, which included reading through the Westminster Daily readings, a calendar schedule to read through the Westminster Confession of Faith and its two catechisms, WLC and WSC, along with:

From my original plan at the end of 2019, I completed Spurgeon’s devotional Faith’s Checkbook as well as Thomas Boston’s Crook in the Lot.  I added Thomas Watson’s Body of Divinity as commentary reading along with some of the questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but found that I could not keep up with the Charnock’s Existence and Attributes of God in addition to the Confession commentaries — so I plan to resume reading that in the near future.  I’ve also heard of Thomas Manton’s work on Psalm 119 as highly recommended, another to start on for 2021.

A few thoughts on these Confession commentaries:  A.A. Hodge’s is a straightforward read, covering the basic doctrine, and understandable, and not too lengthy; the reading can tend to the dry side, just basic academic reading, but at the layperson level.   This commentary includes a section of questions to be answered, at the end of each chapter of the confession — useful for a group study with assignments or discussion, or perhaps for family worship and use with children. 

Ursinus’ 16th century commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism is interesting in that it comes from the main author of this well-known catechism.  It is far lengthier (PDF over 1000 pages), and the writing style and content rather tedious; some of this is of course the older English writing of this edition, the public domain one available from Monergism and elsewhere (as far as I know, this one has not been recently republished in a modernized form).  The content includes statement of each Heidelberg question and answer, followed by an exposition of that question/answer; the exposition frequently includes a number of ‘objections’ and answers to these objections–some of which may be familiar to current-day readers (and many that are not as clear, from long-forgotten objections that Ursinus was familiar with).  Ursinus’ commentary has some good sections in response to, say, antinomians, Anabaptists, and a group called ‘Ubiquitarians’ (which I learned was the 16th century name for what we refer to as Lutheranism), regarding such things as God’s moral law and the Reformed interpretation of the Lord’s Supper (as contrasted with Lutheran / Ubiquitarian Consubstantiation).  The objection responses are phrased in terms of major and minor propositions, with terms such as affirm, deny, and syllogisms, and sometimes these objection-abswer sections are rather lengthy, providing ‘too much information’ for the average 21st century Christian, issues about particular doctrinal points not necessarily relevant to understanding the original Catechism question.  

One off-putting aspect especially of Ursinus’ writing, is his occasional references to eschatology, in which he states amillennial assumptions as though a given, assumptions stated in passing and as though not to be questioned — when a clear exegesis of the text clearly does NOT support that view. As for example, this section, at the beginning of section III. WHAT IS THE RESURRECTION, AND WHAT ARE THE ERRORS WHICH ARE ENTERTAINED CONCERNING IT? (page 513 in the Monergism PDF file)

The word resurrection sometimes signifies in the Scriptures man’s conversion, or his resurrection from sin, as, “This is the first resurrection.” (Rev. 20:5.)

Overall, the reading this year, the Reformed Confessions along with commentaries, has been a good study, covering the many different doctrines in the confessions and commentaries, and thus becoming more acquainted with the documents and the writings of these theologians from previous centuries.

The Lord’s Day, Household Baptism, and Good and Necessary Consequences

January 31, 2020 3 comments

Over the last few months off and on I’ve been studying the issue of baptism, and specifically paedo-baptism.  I grew up in a mainline Presbyterian church with minimal biblical instruction, and then walked away, an unbeliever for several years, until I was saved in my mid-20s while attending an Evangelical Presbyterian church.  Through God’s Providence, a few years later I came to a non-denominational Calvinist Baptist church–only knowing the basics of evangelical Christianity and completely ignorant of the Reformed Confessions and even of the 5 points of Calvinism.  In the following years, I came to understand Calvinism; in the last 10+ years, I studied through dispensational premillennialism to later historic premillennialism, then adding the Reformed Confessions and understanding of God’s moral law and the Lord’s Day Sabbath.

The issue of credo vs paedo- (or household) baptism is clearly a divisive one, and sincere, godly Christians have come to different conclusions on the matter.  A full study on the subject would take many posts, and many helpful articles can be found online.  My purpose here is to focus on one particular issue:  the doctrine of good and necessary consequences (WCF 1.6; see this previous post) and two Reformed doctrines that do not have direct, explicit New Testament verses, yet are inferred from the good and necessary consequences, and both of which involve the continuity of Old and New Testament practice.

The Lord’s Day Sabbath involves continuity: a practice observed in the Old Testament (back to creation), with changes in the New Covenant era that symbolize a new, greater meaning of the 8th day (1st day of the week) Lord’s Day observance.  Yet the critics respond with “Where is the New Testament verse saying that the Lord’s Day replaced the seventh day Sabbath?”  The doctrine is inferred, from a systematic study of the teaching in the old creation, through the Old Testament books, then Jesus’ stress on the day’s importance–He is Lord of the Sabbath, something He considered important and not just a Jewish ritual soon to be obsolete; then noted in the Resurrection accounts and the early church observance on the 1st day of the week, along with other NT references through to Revelation 1, where John mentions the Lord’s Day.

Household baptism similarly shows continuity and a pattern observed throughout the Old Testament, as early as Abraham and his household (long before Moses) as well as earlier references such as 1 Peter 3:20-22 in reference to Noah and the family with him in the ark during the flood.  The pattern continues throughout the Old Testament and the many references to households and the covenant community.  Then — like the teaching regarding the Sabbath — the gospels and Acts describe things that only fit within that Old Testament context, of continuing the covenant community concept.  Of the handful of baptism accounts in the book of Acts, a significant percentage of these are household baptisms, where the text states that the one person believed, and on account of that one person’s belief, the household rejoiced with him and everyone in the household was also baptized.  Verses in the New Testament epistles likewise reference the relation between Old Testament and New Testament symbols and their meaning (ref. Colossians 2:11-12), and also describe believers within the context of a covenant community which includes genuine believers alongside those who appear to believe for awhile, but later come out and depart from the faith (ref. Hebrews 10:28-29).  The household baptism is a “both/and” concept – both adult converts, and their household, those under the head of the family.

Again, this subject is greater than the scope of one blog post, and undoubtedly many would disagree with the teaching of household baptism, instead insisting on individual belief and individual baptism with belief required for baptism.  Yet as I clearly see it, both the doctrine of the Lord’s Day Sabbath AND the teaching of household baptism or “covenant baptism” are inferred in scripture, from the good and necessary consequences.  Both doctrines involve a systematic study and more continuity than discontinuity.  Both doctrines involve practices continuing from the Old to New Testament, with a change that symbolizes the truth in a greater, New Testament meaning.  Neither doctrine has any direct “proof-text” verse that explicitly states that the NT practice has continued with some change.  Both doctrines understand the relative silence (i.e., the lack of direct and explicit statements) in the New Testament, as indicating that the historic practice, as of the 1st century, did not radically change and was understood by the early church believers who had their Bibles, the Old Testament scriptures.  Both doctrines affirm that if the Old Testament practice was supposed to change (such as, to abolish the Sabbath concept, or the covenant changing from a community of families to only individuals) that the New Testament writers would have said as much; and therefore the silence instead confirms the original practice.

Historically, most “Baptist” Christians have been non-Reformed:  the Anabaptist groups, also the Southern Baptists and general Arminian Dispensational groups since the 19th century.  Yet among the Reformed, the Reformed Baptists are a relative minority in the larger group of Reformed paedo — and quite possibly this is the reason, or one major reason:  the inconsistency of accepting continuity on one Reformed issue (the Lord’s Day Sabbath) while rejecting the other continuity issue (household, covenantal baptism).

The practice of household baptism, including of young children, historically goes back very early in the church, as noted in the writings of Tertullian and others in the early third century.  This also explains and makes more sense of something I wondered about while studying medieval Europe history several years ago:  the early medieval practice of whole European nations being suddenly baptized, converted, Christianized, upon the profession of faith of the nation’s ruler.

A few helpful articles regarding household baptism:

Conference Lecture Series: The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century

October 10, 2019 Leave a comment

Among the conference lecture series I’ve recently listened to are two “Westminster Confession into the 21st century” (from Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary) conferences from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ archive – from 2004 and 2007.  As noted in a previous post these are the readings of scholarly papers, and so the audio recordings provide a type of “audio book” experience on various topics concerning the Westminster Standards and covenant theology.  The lectures feature a variety of speakers: some regulars within the Alliance conferences, along with a few well-known names such as Ligon Duncan and Sinclair Ferguson.  Some of the lectures are more interesting (and easier to follow) than others; the delivery of some is “abridged” with selected readings, skipping over some parts and then continuing to other sections, within the time permitted (about an hour).

The more recent conference lectures/journal articles, back to the fall of 2014, are also available online here.  The audio archive has the benefit of earlier material, such as the two I’ve been listening to:  2004’s Conference “The Richness of Our Theological Heritage” and from 2007, “Systematic Theology: Informing Your Life in Christ.”

The lectures assume a basic knowledge of the Westminster Confession and Reformed theology, and provide introduction to several interesting topics which would be good for further study, including:

  • The Scottish Covenanters and the history of the different sub-groups
  • Good and necessary consequences
  • Christian Liberty
  • The roles of systematic theology and biblical theology (redemptive historical) and the value of both

I’m still listening to the “The Richness of our Theological Heritage” series, and find these lectures another great educational resource, for “seminary-type” teaching beyond the layperson / general audience level.  The full collection, from all past conferences, is available here.

God’s Providence: Reformed Theology Conference Lectures

June 14, 2018 4 comments

Regarding the doctrine of Providence, here are two interesting conference series from ReformedResources (Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals),

  • Ian Hamilton and Alistair Begg, six sessions (three each), from the 2014 Princeton Regional Conference on Reformed Theology (full MP3 download set )

God’s Providence Defined  (A. Begg)
God’s Providence in the Lives of His Servants (I. Hamilton)
God’s Providence in the Death of Jesus Christ  (A. Begg)
God’s Providence and Our Worship (I. Hamilton)
Providence Personal Reflections (A. Begg)
Making Sense of the Mysteries of Providence  (I. Hamilton)

and —

The Meaning of Providence
The Means of Providence
The Dilemma of Providence
The Mystery of Providence
The Protection of Providence

The Scottish contribution (Hamilton and Begg) (reference this post, also with an interview link ) is less formal and easier to listen to, for a general audience.  The lectures are interesting (my first listen to these speakers) as a good base; I especially found the 4th one, which connects God’s Providence to our worship, particularly interesting as a topic for further exploration.  Here, Hamilton brought out the reason to include the Psalms in our worship (not a case for exclusive Psalmody, but a balance to include the Psalms):  worship should include the ‘minor note’ so predominant in the Psalms, along with the positive, praising and thankful ‘major note’.  Hamilton also noted a good response to the argument put forth by those who put excessive emphasis on the New Testament — why we should include the Psalms as applicable today in our New Testament age.  Paul, writing to the Romans (Romans 8:36) – in our New Testament age – directly quotes from Psalm 44:22, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’  Thus the Psalms are still applicable to New Testament Christians.

From my recent reading elsewhere, David Powlison (in ‘Speaking Truth in Love’) also referenced the point about the ‘minor key’ versus ‘major key’.

Consider the Psalms, the book of talking with God.  About ninety psalms are “minor key.”  Intercessions regarding sin and suffering predominate—always in light of God revealing his mercies, power, and kingdom.  In about one-third of these, the battle with personal sin and guilt appears.  Often there are requests that God make us wiser: “Teach me”; “Give me understanding”; “Revive me.”  In many more psalms, you see requests to change circumstances: deliver me from evildoers; be my refuge and fortress; destroy your enemies.  These are always tied to requests that God arrive with kingdom glory and power.  God reveals himself by making these bad things and bad people go away!  Then there are the sixty or so “major key” psalms.  These emphasize the joy and praise that mark God’s kingdom reign revealed.

In the 5th lecture, Personal Reflections, Alistair Begg shared much of his personal life experiences including the providence of God that brought him to pastor a church in Cleveland, Ohio.  As just a personal observation from these lectures, I note Begg’s frequent use of humor; at times the ‘laugh-track’ audience response seemed too frequent and distracting, recalling to my mind a post from David Murray (another Scottish Reformed speaker)– this link at Banner of Truth, Serious Preaching in a Comedy Culture.  Some preachers naturally like to use more humor than do others, but for my preference the laughter was too frequent at times, though the overall messages were good.

On that more serious note, the second set of lectures linked above, the five from the Westminster Confession conference series, provides the serious, doctrinal look–The Comfort of the Church: God’s Most Wise and Holy Providence.  It takes a while to get used to this style of listening; these are plenary lectures, formal papers presented (read aloud) by each speaker, seminary professors at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  The lectures are rich with references to the Westminster definitions along with many scripture references, on several aspects of providence.  (Note:  The papers from this conference can be accessed in print, the full set here.)  The fourth one, The Mystery of Providence, by C.J. Williams, includes an interesting presentation in typology.  Common “types of Christ” include Joseph and King David, but another Old Testament character I had not considered as a type of Christ, is Job.  Williams expands on the correspondences between Job and Christ:  original great esteem by God, then extreme suffering and humiliation, followed by great exaltation beyond the original condition.  Williams has since published a book, with foreword by Richard Gamble (another of the speakers in this conference set), on the Job/Christ type:  The Shadow of Christ in the Book of Job.

These two series are both good ones about the great doctrine of God’s Providence, covering the many aspects of God’s Providence from the doctrinal understanding as well as personal experience of Providence in our lives.

The Whole Christ, by Sinclair Ferguson (Review)

November 20, 2017 2 comments

My recent reading includes a book featured this year in both Kindle format (sale), and as an audio book free monthly offer (from Christianaudio.com):  Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ:  Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters.  A straightforward reading, this book delves into all of the topics included in the title, to bring out many interesting points of both history and doctrine.  The main point throughout is the historical setting of the “Marrow Controversy” in early 18th century Scotland:  the controversy between the “Marrow Men” including its main player Thomas Boston, and those who had twisted the essential grace of the gospel to the preparationist error.  I’ve briefly looked at this error before, including this post about Spurgeon’s response to it and this later post in reference to Spurgeon and preparationism.  Here we see a historical situation that had developed, among those from a Reformed, Westminster Standards background who yet erred in their confused ideas regarding legalism and antinomianism.

Many important truths are brought out in the subsequent chapters:  why it is that repentance logically comes AFTER faith, as a fruit, and not before faith/regeneration; that legalism and antinomianism are not complete opposites but actually closely related, as “non-identical twins” of the same root – not antithetical to each other but both antithetical to grace; and how to compare John Calvin and the Westminster Standards on assurance, seeing them as not in conflict but as coming to the same problem from different angles and arriving at the same middle-ground.

In reference to the initial Marrow conflict and preparationism itself, William Perkins (the beginning of the Puritan era) and John Bunyan (late 17th century) manifest the doctrinal shifts during the century between them. Perkins’ “golden chain” includes a “gospel spine” that links each aspect of the application of salvation …to a central spine representing Christ in terms of the various clauses of the Apostles’ creed. … But Bunyan’s map has no Christ-spine… the various aspects of salvation applied are related to each other, not directly to Christ.  Preparationism came about as a result of separating the benefits of salvation to be found in Christ, from Christ Himself.

The book includes many helpful analogies and illustrations, references to Thomas Boston, John Calvin and other teachers, as well as helpful quotes in poetic verse that describe the intricacies and detail of legalism and antinomianism, as with this wonderful piece from Ralph Erskine about grace and law:

Thus gospel-grace and law-commands
Both bind and loose each other’s hands;
They can’t agree on any terms,
Yet hug each other in their arms.
Those that divide them cannot be
The friends of truth and verity;
Yet those that dare confound the two
Destroy them both, and gender woe.

This paradox none can decipher,
that plow not with the gospel heifer.
To run, to work, the law commands,
The gospel gives me feet and hands.
The one requires that I obey,
The other does the power convey.

The beauty of this book is how it relates these doctrines to current-day questions and objections.  The heart issues underlying the “Marrow controversy” and the Westminster Standards are still with us today.  The chapters on legalism and antinomianism go beyond the surface level, of what many people suppose, to address the underlying issue and current-day issues such as doctrinal antinomianism and anti-confessionalism.  One such example is consideration of the “proof-text” mentality — of those who suppose that the Reformed Confessions came from proof-texting – by noting that:

First, the Westminster Divines were deeply opposed to producing a confession with proof texts and did so only under duress at the command of the English Parliament.  But, in addition, biblical theology itself is much older than its history as an academic discipline.  As C.S. Lewis well notes, we moderns can all too easily be like people entering a conversation at eleven o’clock not realizing that it began at eight o’clock.  The truth is that there is an intricate weaving of exegesis and biblical and redemptive historical theology behind the wording of the Confession, and this is nowhere more certain than in its treatment of the law of God.

The Whole Christ provides many quotes and insights into the doctrines of God’s law, such as this quote from B.B. Warfield on the topic of the law and the relationship between the Old and New Testaments:

The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what was in it but was only dimly perceived or even not at all perceived before. … Thus the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but is only perfected, extended and enlarged.

Ligonier is now offering a full teaching series on Ferguson’s book, with the first lesson available for free.  As I near the end of the audio-book edition, while referring also to the Kindle version for rereading and reference (including the footnotes, not included in the audio book edition), I appreciate and recommend this book as a very helpful addition to my theology library.

 

 

Terms and Distinctions: Reformed/Covenant Theology, NCT, and Covenantal Premillennialism

September 16, 2014 7 comments

Among some Christian circles today, especially Calvinists and dispensationalists, a more superficial understanding of theology persists, and the tendency to think that:

  • anyone who is not “dispensational” adheres to covenant theology
  • anyone who holds to amillennialism believes Covenant theology, and vice versa, AND
  • covenant theology equals “church replacement theology” (amillennial/preterist ideas)

Accordingly, some will use the terms “Calvinist” and “Reformed” interchangeably, though in discussion it becomes clear that what is actually meant is Calvinist soteriology aka the “doctrines of grace.” Yet as I’ve recently come to understand more clearly, 5-point baptistic Calvinism, as popularly seen in the “Sovereign Grace” movement characterized by smaller, non-denominational churches with informal affiliation — and often associated with amillennial or postmillennial eschatology — is but one component of what is included within overall “Reformed/Covenant  Theology.”   Covenant Theology aka Reformed Theology includes not only Calvinist soteriology, but also understanding and adherence to the 16th and 17th century Reformed confessions. The confessions include the teaching of the theological covenants (covenant of works, covenant of grace, and covenant of redemption), and understanding of the Old Testament law as having three parts (moral, civil, ceremonial) and a “third use” of the law (the moral law, the ten commandments), as a guide in sanctification (not salvation) for the believer.

Here I observe that some churches that affirm the “Doctrines of Grace” aka Calvinism and reference the term “sovereign grace,” may also hold to covenant theology.  But more often they actually hold to a “dispensational” understanding of the law, particularly with NCT, New Covenant Theology (which has developed within the last 30 years, about as old as progressive dispensationalism, both of which are more recent than classic or even revised dispensationalism). To add to the name confusion, some churches with “Reformed Baptist” in their name actually teach NCT instead of Reformed Baptist theology. The difference shows up while visiting church websites, that some reformed churches will specifically state their adherence to the 1689 London Baptist Confession (or another of the 17th century confessions, such as the 1644 Baptist one or, for paedo-baptists, the Westminster Confession); some of these will state qualified agreement “generally” or “in large part” while others state full agreement; whereas NCT “Sovereign Grace” churches usually will not explicitly mention their “NCT” belief (which is not one single, confessional belief and likely includes several variations).  With specific churches (as true for all doctrinal views) one must look carefully at the stated versus actual beliefs; in recent church-site searching I came across a few church websites stating agreement with the 1689 London Baptist confession but with sermon content of traditional dispensationalism.  Further: though NCT “Sovereign Grace” churches are also predominantly amillennial/ postmillennial, a few are historic premillennial (for instance Fred Zaspel and a few others), and a few that self-describe as “Sovereign Grace” are of the Calvinist-Dispensational variety.

Another important point regarding Covenant Theology and millennial views: though many who hold to “Covenant Theology” also are amillennial or postmillennial – with variations among themselves on the futurist-idealist-preterist line, CT itself does not at all require an anti-premillennial view, or even an anti-future Israel view.  Though the true history has been largely forgotten by many of today’s CT advocates… ironically enough, as noted in Nathaniel West’s “History of the Premillennial Doctrine” and in my recent “Premillennialism in Church History” series, many if not most of the Westminster Divines were in fact premillennial: a truth that returned soon after the Reformation and held sway throughout the early Protestant years.  Many great theologians of the CT tradition, down through the 18th and 19th centuries, were premillennial, and many of these also affirmed a literal future for regathered ethnic, national Israel.

Covenant theologians (such as Horatius Bonar, also J.C. Ryle and Charles Spurgeon) can well articulate BOTH the tenets of covenant theology and the reformed view of the law (see Horatius Bonar’s God’s Way of Holiness, especially chapter 6), AND affirm historic/classic premillennialism, including future restoration of ethnic, national Israel.

Here I note an example of modern-day CT writing which conflates teaching on the Reformed/Covenantal view of the Law, with eschatology and Israel, in this passing statement near the end of this otherwise helpful article about the third use of the law; but such is the author’s own confusion. The article’s statement – This is one eternally important reason why Israel received the Law in the Mosaic Covenant, with the associated typological promise of blessing and cursing. Christ, the antitype of Israel, takes the antitypical curse for the Covenant people and fulfills the righteous requirement of the Law to give them the antitypical (eternal) blessings by faith in Him. – actually has nothing to do with covenant theology itself, and only shows the author’s own confusion and mixing of unrelated issues with excessive spiritualizing. Perhaps, too, this statement could be taken as an illustration or analogy, yet the primary truth and primary meaning (of literal Israel still experiencing literal curses in this age, to be followed by literal blessings in the future) still remains.

To conclude, a selection from Covenant premillennialist Horatius Bonar:

It seems often taken for granted that those who assert the literal interpretation of the blessings promised to Israel, thereby exclude the spiritual. They do not. They assert the literal blessing, because they believe that God has promised it; but they maintain the superiority and necessity of the spiritual as firmly as do the others. They believe that Israel will be converted, and they rejoice in this as the glorious issue towards which the prophets point. But they believe more; they believe not only that they will be converted, but they will be restored to their own land. But does their literal restoration take from them one single spiritual blessing? Or does it prevent the Gentile nations from enjoying one of those innumerable blessings which are given to them for an inheritance?

Premillennialism and Church History, Part IV: Chiliasm and the Westminster Confession

August 6, 2014 2 comments

Continuing in this series through the history of premillennialism, we now come to the 17th century and the Westminster Assembly. Nathaniel West in his essay, “History of the Premillennial Doctrine,” detailed this time period and event, affirming several important points:

  • The Westminster Assembly included a large number of chiliasts, including the chairman himself.
  • The wording of the Westminster confession in no way invalidates premillennialism, and its silence concerning the specifics of premillennialism no more proves that the 1,000 years are not a measure of time, or that the Pre-Millennial Advent is not true, than does the silence of Daniel and Paul, in their eschatology, prove that the later and more developed eschatology given by Christ Himself to John, is contradictory of the earlier and less developed, and on that account uninspired. The silence and the expression are both harmonized by the “apotelesmatic” character of both prophecy and symbolism.
  • The eschatology of the Westminster confession includes references to ideas which adhere to a non-allegorical interpretation (at least so far as basic sequence and ideas including the 1000 years being future)

The chiliasts among the Westminster divines: Dr. Twisse, the Prolocutor, described as an ardent disciple of Mede – the earliest well-known chiliast in the Protestant era. Also the following names: Marshall, Palmer, Caryl, Langley and Gataker, Greenhill and Burroughs (“the morning and evening stars of Stepney”), Goodwin, Ash, Bridge, Nye, Selden and Ainsworth, and Peter Sterry. The statements from the anti-chiliasts well attest to this fact, and that the chiliasts in the assembly were sound, orthodox men and not representing the false chiliasm. West includes quotes from several here, including Baillie: “Most of the chief divines here,” he murmured, “not only Independents, but others, as Twisse, Marshall, Palmer, and many more, are express Chiliasts.” (Letters, No. 117, Vol. II, p. 313) Vitringa says: “Very many erudite men, far removed from a carnal Chiliasm,—a carnali Chiliasmo alienos—gave suffrage to this view.” Principal Cunningham, of Scotland, has affirmed that they who entertained it were “of the soundest among the Westminster divines.”

A few further points from Nathaniel West, related to the Westminster Confession’s wording:

As in the earlier Scriptures, however, so here in these Standards, the “Last things” are crowded together in one picture, of which the Parousia is the centre, and not distributed, or separated into their temporal relations, as in the Apocalypse. The 1,000 years are not named precisely as they are not named by Daniel, Christ, or Paul, but are implicate throughout. Any argument drawn from the silence, or non-mention of the 1,000 years by the Standards, against the truth of the pre-millennial advent, is an argument against the canonicity of the Apocalypse, which is not silent, but does mention these years, uncovering only what is elsewhere concealed or pre-intimated, 1 Cor. 15:23, 24, and arrays, at once, the Apocalypse against all the other Scriptures.

In response to amillennial and postmillennial thought, West lays emphasis as well on the overall eschatology, and hermeneutical approach, of the Westminster Confession:

In the Westminster Standard Rome is Papal, not Pagan; Antichrist is the Pope, not Nero; the Parousia is personal and visible, not merely spiritual and providential; the breath of the Lord’s mouth that slays “that Wicked” is judicial, not evangelical; Antichristianity is destroyed, not converted by a revival; the Dragon is the Devil, not Paganism; the “tribes of the earth” that mourn when Christ comes are not merely the Jews, but all nations; the “earth” is not simply Palestine, but the planet; and the “clouds,” on which the Son of Man comes to the Judgment, are not “poetic drapery borrowed from judicial imagery,” but atmospheric thunder-heads. … The Domitianic date of the Apocalypse and the Year-Day theory, are interwoven through the Standards of Westminster, which are the strongest pre-millennial symbol ever made, buttressed by every proposition needed for that conclusion.

Explanatory note: the ‘Year-Day’ theory is a construct of historicism, such that prophetic days are really “years” and thus the 1,260 days of the Great Tribulation are actually 1260 years. See this article, from historicist historic premillennialist H.G. Guinness (1879)

and

None in the Westminster Assembly ever took ground that the 1,000 years are not a measure of time. The vast majority dated their commencement, not from Constantine, but from the Judgment on the Papal Antichrist, so repudiating the idea that Armageddon and the overthrow of Gog are identical, and refusing to violently rend the indissolvable temporal sequence of Rev. chapter 20th upon chapter 19th, or to identify the “Parousia,” with the “End,” in 1 Cor. 15:24. Clearly, they refused to arbitrarily interject the 1,000 years between the Judgment on Antichrist and the Parousia, but made both these events contemporate. They thus threw the 1,000 years into the future, beyond the Second Advent; in other words, made the Parousia pre-millennarian. And because the reign of Antichrist can not contemporate with the Millennial triumph over Antichrist,—the 1,260 years with the 1,000 years—but is the core of the Kingdom of Satan and Sin, they expounded the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer as invoking, among other things, the fullness of the Gentiles, the conversion of the Jews, the overthrow of Satan’s Kingdom, so “hastening the time of Christ’s Second Coming and our reigning with Him forever.” Emphasis was laid on this in the Scotch Directory for Public Prayer. The classic passage in Acts 3:19-21, pre-intimating the conversion of the Jews, miraculous, like that of the healed cripple, leaping and praising God and ascending to the Holy Temple, they referred to the time of the Second Advent, the Last, the Judgment Day, the “times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord,” and paralleled it with the “Rest” that comes to the troubled Church, “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven.” (2 Thess. 1:7.) And because the 1,000 years come after, and not before, the Judgment on Antichrist, and in view of the fact that the hour of Christ’s coming is unknown to men, they declared it to be the duty of all men, now to “shake off all carnal security,” and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and be ever prepared to say: Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” Pre-millennarians could ask no more.

One final selection regarding the doctrine of premillennialism and the Westminster Confession:

The pre-millennial advent is no merely allowable interpretation, to be graciously tolerated among “heretics,” by ostensibly orthodox men, who cut the Standards down while professing to defend them, but is an imposed corollary, implicate in the very warp and woof of the symbol itself, an immediate conclusion without a middle term, the rejection of which is an open abandonment of the Reformed ground, and open assault upon the Westminster Confession.