27 November, 2016


The Position of the Westminster Confession

(a) The Disposition of God toward the Reprobate

The Literature Committee of our Presbytery during the year 1971, published a pamphlet to show that the Westminster Confession teaches that the disposition of God toward the non­elect is one of hatred and wrath. The following is a quotation from that pamphlet.

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a declaration of the main heads of doctrine and principles of the Word of God to which it is at all times subordinate. Its doctrines and principles are founded on proof texts from which it is to be interpreted and understood, else the Confession is placed above Scripture for authority.

Let us quote from chapter 3 of the Confession, Of God’s Eternal Decree, and take note of the supporting proof texts.

Section 3: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others to everlasting death.”

The proof texts are found in Romans chapter 9 verses 22 and 23:

“What if God willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory.”

Section 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 disfavour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.”

Proof texts, Romans chapter 9 verses 17, 18, 21, and 22:

Verse 17, “For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth ... Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour? What if God willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.”

As already indicated, the above Scripture texts which are quoted in the Westminster Confession give proof of its doctrine concerning the non­elect. In the context of Romans chapter 9 from which they are taken, the nature of God’s disposition toward the reprobate is clearly stated. Verse 13 in context speaks of God’s hatred. It is also used as a proof text in Section 7 of the same chapter of the Confession in which God’s purposes concerning the elect are distinguished. Verse 22 speaks directly of His wrath, in that the non­elect are referred to as “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.”

In the above it has been demonstrated:

1. That Scripture clearly defines the disposition of God toward the non­elect as one of hatred and wrath, and

2. That since the same Scriptures are applied in the Confession as proof of its doctrine, the Confession must also be interpreted after the same manner. That is, the non­elect, who are predestined to everlasting death according to the statements of the Confession, are under God’s disposition of hatred and wrath.
If the principle of the interpretation of the Confession by the Scripture is not adhered to, the validity of the proof texts in the Confession is destroyed. (end of quote).

While the pamphlet accurately stated the doctrine of the Westminster Confession in respect to the disposition of God toward the reprobate, it was insufficient to refute the position of modern modified Calvinists, because of their method of interpreting Scripture which gives it a double meaning and the so called law of opposites from which they assume that God also loves that which He hates.

(b) The Fatherly Disposition of God toward the Elect

The relevant doctrine of the Confession is stated in chapter 11: Of Justification, sections 4 and 5.

Section 4: “God did, from all eternity, decree to justify the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification. Nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth in due time apply Christ unto them.”

Justification by definition of the Shorter Catechism, No. 33, “is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”

Therefore, justification is not complete until the imputed righteousness of Christ is received by faith alone. In other words, it is not complete until the benefits of adoption and sanctification which are not to be confused with it, but are never separated from it, are applied in effectual calling by the Holy Spirit.

Section 5: “God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may by their sins fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.”

To the justified all suffering in the providence of God is the act of a loving Father, which has the purpose of correcting their faults and improving their graces. This compares with the sufferings of the reprobate, all of which are but instalments of the eternal penalty. For this reason we have stated that there is no equation in any sense between the wrath of God for the reprobate and His fatherly displeasure which may be expressed in respect to the elect.

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