Westminster Standards Bibliography

This is a list of resources on the Westminster Standards.

It is what I studied to prepare for teaching the Westminster Standards.

They are not necessarily in order of quality. Links are included so you can go directly to them. An asterisk (*) indicates a free resource.

I have also written a small review of several. Hopefully, this bibliography is helpful.

Books:

The Westminster Standards (Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms)*

The best creeds ever written.

Reformed Confessions Harmonized edited by Joel Beeke & Sinclair Ferguson

A really helpful resource. The introductory material is excellent. I highly recommend having this on hand.

The Presbyterian Standards: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms by Francis R. Beattie*

Textbook #1. To my knowledge, this is the only book currently available that expounds the Standards in harmony. It’s an excellent book, and one reason is because it is the only one. I have to say, it is my opinion that the fact this book has gone out of print and isn’t being published today is evidence that Presbyterians are unwilling (for myriad reasons, no doubt) to do the very thing Beattie does: expound the all the Standards. That’s a shame. Many of the seminary classes out there only study the Confession of Faith. At worst, the Shorter Catechism. But the simple fact is that we don’t have just one document, we have three, and they compliment each other. Beattie shows us how.

Truth’s Victory Over Error: A Commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith by David Dickson

The second textbook. This book is a gem. This is the first commentary on the Confession of Faith, written just three years after the Confession itself. It’s a confessional apologetic. And all those heresies and errors? We are still fighting them today. This book will never get old. I’m glad it’s recognized, still being published by Banner of Truth in a very nice edition. Chapters 1-22 can be read here.

The Westminster Confession of Faith: For Study Classes (2nd Edition) by G.I. Williamson

A wonderful commentary. If you love his study guide on the Shorter Catechism, you’ll love this. Great applications, all over. Easy read. Definitely a first resource for the Confession.

The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary by Johannes Geerhardus Vos (ed. G.I. Williamson)

I loved this so much. I love the Larger Catechism, and it is truly a neglected treasure of a neglected part of Presbyterian heritage. However old Vos is, his brief commentary still packs relevance. A new edition of this would certainly be of great benefit to the church. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, about anything. Read a sample.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism: For Study Classes by G.I. Williamson

The classic! This was my introduction to the Westminster Standards. Our community group used it, and now I use it for high school and Sunday school. The sections on the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer are especially good. The illustrations (figures) could use updating, though. I also think they should update the cover art to match his commentary on the Confession and Vos’ commentary on the Larger Catechism.

The Westminster Confession: A Commentary by A.A. Hodge*

A classic commentary on the Confession. I enjoyed this one.

The Reformed Faith: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith by Robert Shaw*

I think I enjoyed this more than Hodge. Much more of this was helpful.

A Body of DivinityThe Ten Commandments, and The Lord’s Prayer by Thomas Watson*

This trilogy is all of Thomas Watson’s sermons following the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Has has such a way with words. The first offers an excellent introduction to the Christian faith. The second volume is my favorite of the three. However, as Puritans had a tendency to do, his further extending and dividing could drag on. There’s definitely more here than was needed.

The Westminster Assembly and Its Work, and The Making of the Westminster Confession by B.B. Warfield*

Both good background on the Westminster Standards. It will probably give you a greater appreciation of the Divines.

The Creedal Imperative by Carl R. Trueman

A must read in this anti-creedal time. Evangelicals tend to be hostile to history and creeds in general, and correction is needed. While this book doesn’t exclusively focus on the Standards themselves, it all still applies. This helps you know the opposition to creeds and confessions.

By Good and Necessary Consequence by Ryan McGraw

An extremely important exposition of one part of the Confession of Faith. This is vital to understand, in order to interpret Scripture correctly, and to understand the doctrines we believe. This part of the Confession of Faith happens to be one of the places that the particular Baptists revised for their London Confession of Faith, by the way.

Know the Creeds and Councils and Know the Heretics by Justin Holcomb

Broader than just the Westminster Standards. More helpful historical context to understand what has been passed down to us throughout church history.

A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Joel Beeke & Mark Jones

The Puritans wrote the Westminster Standards. This work is helpful in understanding the doctrine, ethics, and practice that is contained in the Standards, from Calvin to the Westminster Assembly. This work is a true treasure, and belongs on the shelf (or in the cloud) of any serious Reformed student.

Courses: *

The English Puritans (16 lectures), Dr. J.I. Packer and History & Theology of the Puritans (26 lectures), Dr. Douglas Kelly, Reformed Theological Seminary

These two classes are background and context for the Standards.

The Westminster Standards (14 lectures), Sinclair Ferguson, Westminster Theological Seminary

I was disappointed with this one, simply because the title of the class does not reflect the content. I saw this and thought it would be what I wanted to teach: the Westminster Standards. So I was excited. After giving an excellent overview of the historical context, Ferguson then provides a very good “gloss” of the Confession of Faith only. Not as advertised! This class should be titled “The Westminster Confession.” Besides that, his gloss of the Confession was very helpful.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (22 lectures), Dr. David Calhoun, Covenant Theological Seminary

My least favorite of these classes, easily. The pace was painfully slow. I literally listened to it at 3x speed. Because of that, the commentary on the Confession was really disproportioned. Dragging the beginning of the Confession, and rushing the rest. That latter parts of the Confession had to be swept over really quickly because time had run out. Yet, there were some helpful tidbits. Much ado about “exceptions” that would need to be figured out, prior to ordination. Ordination and subscription to the Confession were always in view, which I appreciated.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (24 lectures), Dr. John Gerstner, Ligonier

The best teaching on the Confession on this list. He’s the best teacher, no doubt. This was immediately my favorite class on the Westminster Confession, before I had even finished it. He was such a great teacher, and it was obvious that he loved what he was teaching, and that was contagious. His way of explaining was so clear. This class was a delight. I wish I had watched it years ago when I first got it.

The Westminster Confession for Today Conference from 2006 and 2007 at Reformed Theological Seminary (12 addresses each)

These two conferences were excellent. Scholarly level addresses on aspects of the Westminster Standards, reminding everyone that they are not out of date, but applicable as ever. Truly helpful for a closer analysis of particulars in the Standards. I have listed the lectures that I found to be most helpful, with some explanation, here.

Biblical Doctrine Series: Westminster Confession (60 hours!), Francis Schaeffer, L’Abri Fellowship

Podcast:

The Jerusalem Chamber

This podcast is easily as helpful as any course I’ve listened to on the Westminster Confession of Faith. More than most of them, to be honest. Notes are hit in this podcast that none of the commentaries touch. It is extremely helpful and practical. Anyone who wants to study the Confession, go here first. It’s the easiest way to learn so much.

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A Pure Manual of Personal Religion and Practical Morality

After all said, the “Shorter Catechism” is a new creation, and must be considered in structure and contents alike the contribution to the catechetical art of the Westminster Divines themselves. No other Catechism can be compared with it in its concise, nervous, terse exactitude of definition, or in its severely logical elaboration; and it gains these admirable qualities at no expense to its freshness or fervor, though perhaps it can scarcely be spoken of as marked by childlike simplicity. Although set forth as “milk for babes” and designed to stand by the side of the “Larger Catechism” as an “easie and short” manual of religion “for newbeginners,” it is nevertheless governed by the principle (as one of its authors -Seaman -phrased it), “that the greatest care should be taken to frame the answer not according to the model of the knowledge the child hath, but according to that the child ought to have.” Its peculiarity, in contrast with the “Larger Catechism” (and the Confession of Faith), is the strictness with which its contents are confined to the very quintessence of religion and morals, to the positive truths and facts which must be known for their own behoof by all who would fain be instructed in right belief and practice. All purely historical matter, and much more, all controversial matter -everything which can minister merely to curiosity, however chastened -is rigidly excluded. Only that is given which, in the judgment of its framers, is directly required for the Christian’s instruction in what he is to believe concerning God and what God requires of him. It is a pure manual of personal religion and practical morality.

—B.B. Warfield, The Westminster Assembly and Its Work loc. 924-941

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Warfield Statement

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith

B.B. Warfield

1. I believe that my one aim in life and death should be to glorify God and enjoy Him forever; and that God teaches me how to glorify and enjoy him in His holy Word, that is, the Bible, which He has given by the infallible inspiration of His Holy Spirit in order that I may certainly know what I am to believe concerning Him and what duty He requires of me.

2. I believe that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and incomparable in all that He is; one God but three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Sanctifier; in whose power and wisdom, righteousness, goodness and truth I may safely put my trust.

3. I believe that the heavens and the earth, and all that in them is, are the work of God’s hands; and that all that He has made He directs and governs in all their actions; so that they fulfil the end for which they were created, and I who trust in Him shall not be put to shame but may rest securely in the protection of is almighty love.

4. I believe that God created man after is own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, and entered into a covenant of life with him upon the sole condition of the obedience that was his due: so that it was by wilfully sinning against God that man fell into the sin and misery in which I have been born.

5. I believe, that, being fallen in Adam, my first father, I am; by nature a child of wrath, under the condemnation of God and corrupted in body and soul, prone to evil and liable to eternal death; from which dreadful state I cannot be delivered save through the unmerited grace of God my Savior.

6. I believe that God has not left the world to perish in its sin, but out of the great love wherewith He has loved it, has from all eternity graciously chosen unto Himself a multitude which no man can number, to deliver them out of their sin and misery, and of them to build up again in the world His kingdom of righteousness: in which kingdom I may be assured I have my part, if I hold fast to Christ the Lord.

7. I believe that God has redeemed His people unto Himself through Jesus Christ our Lord; who, though be was and ever continues to be the eternal Son of God, yet was born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem them that are under the law:  I believe that He bore the penalty due to my sins in His own body on the tree, and fulfilled in His own person the obedience I owe to the righteousness of God, and now presents me to His Father as His purchased possession, to the praise of the glory of His grace forever: wherefore renouncing all merit of my own, I put all my trust only in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ my redeemer.

8. I believe that Jesus Christ my redeemer, who died for my offences was raised again for my justification, and ascended into the heavens, where He sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty, continually making intercession for his people, and governing the whole world as head over all things for his Church: so that I need fear no evil and may surely know that nothing can snatch me out of His hands and nothing can separate me from His love.

9. I believe that the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ is effectually applied to all His people by the Holy Spirit, who works faith in me and thereby unites me to Christ, renews me in the whole man after the image of God, and enables me more and more to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness; until, this gracious work having been completed in me, I shall be received into glory: in which great hope abiding, I must ever strive to perfect holiness in the fear of God.

10. I believe that God requires of me, under the gospel, first of all, that, out of a true sense of my sin and misery and apprehension of His mercy in Christ, I should turn with grief and hatred away from sin and receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation; that, so being united to Him, I may receive pardon for my sins and be accepted as righteous in God’s sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to me and received by faith alone: and thus and thus only do I believe I may be received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.

11. I believe that, having been pardoned and accepted for Christ’s sake, it is further required of me that I walk in the Spirit whom He has purchased for me, and by whom love is shed abroad in my heart; fulfilling the obedience I owe to Christ my King; faithfully performing all the duties laid upon me by the holy law of God my heavenly Father; and ever reflecting in my life and conduct, the perfect example that has been set me by Christ Jesus my Leader, who has died for me and granted to me His Holy Spirit just that I may do the good works which God has afore prepared that I should walk in them.

12. I believe that God has established His Church in the world and endowed it with the ministry of the Word and the holy ordinances of Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Prayer; in order that through these as means, the riches of his grace in the gospel may be made known to the world, and, by the blessing of Christ and the working of His Spirit in them that by faith receive them, the benefits of redemption may be communicated to his people: wherefore also it is required of me that I attend on these means of grace with diligence, preparation, and prayer, so that through them I may be instructed and strengthened in faith, and in holiness of life and in love; and that I use my best endeavors to carry this gospel and convey these means of grace to the whole world.

13. I believe that as Jesus Christ has once come in grace, so also is He to come a second time in glory, to judge the world in righteousness and assign to each his eternal award: and I believe that if I die in Christ, my soul shall be at death made perfect in holiness and go home to the Lord; and when He shall return in his majesty I shall be raised in glory and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity: encouraged by which blessed hope it is required of me willingly to take my part in suffering hardship here as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, being assured that if I die with Him I shall also live with him, if I endure, I shall also reign with Him.

And to Him, my Redeemer,

with the Father,

and the Holy Spirit,

Three Persons, one God,

be glory forever, world without end,

Amen, and Amen.

 

Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, edited by John E. Meeter (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970) Volume 1, pg. 407-410

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