The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy is Still Possible

Overview

In the opening chapter of the Confession, the divines of Westminster included a clause that implied that there would no longer be any special immediate revelation from God. Means by which God had once communicated the divine will, such as dreams, visions, and the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, were said to be no longer available. However, many of the authors of the WCF accepted that "prophecy" continued in their time, and a number of them apparently believed that disclosure of God's will through dreams, visions,...

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Overview

In the opening chapter of the Confession, the divines of Westminster included a clause that implied that there would no longer be any special immediate revelation from God. Means by which God had once communicated the divine will, such as dreams, visions, and the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, were said to be no longer available. However, many of the authors of the WCF accepted that "prophecy" continued in their time, and a number of them apparently believed that disclosure of God's will through dreams, visions, and angelic communication remained possible. How is the "cessationist" clause of WCF 1:1 to be read in the light of these claims? This book reconciles this paradox in a detailed study of the writings of the authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

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Meet the Author

Garnet Howard Milne has served as pastor of two Reformed churches in Wainuiomata and Wanganui, New Zealand, over the past eleven years. He has contributed to the Westminster Theological Journal and was editor of his denominational magazine Faith in Focus for many years. Dr. Milne's doctorate in historical theology, from Otago University , forms the basis of this book.

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Table of Contents


Foreword   Joel Beeke     xiii
Preface     xv
List of Abbreviations     xix
Introduction     1
The Westminster Assembly: Socio-political and Religious Context, Theological Inheritance and Constitution
Introduction     10
Socio-political and Religious Context     13
European Context     14
English Context     19
English and Scottish Events in their British Context     22
Eschatological Fervour and the Interest in Prophecy     35
Challenges from Variant Theologies     40
Theological Inheritance     42
Augustine     43
Thomas Aquinas     44
John Calvin     45
The Immediate Predecessors of the Assembly     48
William Perkins     49
Acknowledged Sources of the Westminster Theology     52
William Whitaker     52
James Usher     59
John Ball     60
Assessing the Contributions of the Westminster Divines     62
Conclusion     65
The Necessity and Scope of Special Revelation
Introduction     67
The Limitations of General Revelation     68
Special Revelation and WCF 1:1     74
The Westminster Definition of Salvation     77
Salvation in the Other Works of the Westminster Divines     82
Salvation and the Necessity of Scripture     98
The Scriptures are Necessary in Both an Absolute and a Conditional Sense     99
The Scriptures are Necessary for Both Personal and Holistic Redemption     104
Conclusion     108
The Obsolescence of the Former Modalities of Special Revelation
Introduction     109
An Exegetical Tradition     110
Ephesians 1:17-18 and the Promise of New Revelations     113
Hebrews 1:1-2: Scripture the Sole Source of Special Revelation     123
Joel 2:28-32 and Acts 2:17     133
Extra-biblical Modalities Relegated to the Past     140
Conclusion     145
Clarifying the Claims to Continuationism
Introduction     146
Cessationism and Dreams     147
Consigning Revelatory Dreams to the Past     147
Spiritualised Dreaming     148
Dreams and Puritan Providentialism     149
Continuationism among the Reformed Orthodox     153
Two Forms of Supernatural Revelation     154
The Inconclusive Witness of Some Claims to Revelation     155
Stricter Continuationists/Continuationism     159
The Quaker Polemic - Reaction to the Westminster Cessationist View     166
Conclusion     176
Prophecy and the Westminster Divines
Introduction     177
Other Puritan Forms of Discerning Secrets or the Future     180
Puritan Exegetical Conclusions Concerning New Testament Prophecy     188
The Simple Assertion of the Cessation of Gifts     193
Why Prophecy is No Longer Necessary     194
Summary     203
The Explanation of the Puritan Acceptance of Contemporary Prophecy     203
The Possibility of Contemporary Prophecy     206
Conclusion     217
Prophecy and the Scots
Introduction: The Tradition of Miraculous Divine Intervention     219
John Knox     221
"Prophecy" and the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly     224
Robert Baillie, Archibald Johnston and Samuel Rutherford     224
Alexander Henderson and Robert Blair     234
George Gillespie     237
Internal Contradictions     240
On the Cessation of the other Miraculous Gifts     241
A Distinction Between Modern and Biblical Prophets     241
A Continuationist Gillespie in a Cessationist Assembly?      243
Linking the "Miscellany" to the Assembly Debates     244
Gillespie's Commitment to Westminster Orthodoxy     244
Gillespie as Prophet     246
An Enduring Legacy     247
James Durham     247
Robert Fleming     250
James Hog     252
Edward Irving and the London Scottish Presbytery     253
John Kennedy     255
Conclusion     256
Subscription and the Westminster Confession of Faith
Introduction     257
An Ambiguous Cessationist Clause?     258
Subscription in England     262
Episcopalians     263
Non-conformists     264
The Westminster Divines     267
Presbyterians     271
Subscription in Scotland     275
The Use of Subscription Formulas     277
Conclusion     283
Conclusion     285
Private Spirits     291
Private Spirits as Personal Opinion     292
Private Spirits as the Private Revelations of the "Enthusiasts"     294
Bibliography     299
Index     329
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