Alexander Mitchell, in The Westminster Assembly (1883), tells us a little bit about the textual history of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Contrary to popular assumption, the Westminster Confession as we know it today is not authentic in the sense that it is not the parliamentary approved version. The Westminster Assembly was called by Parliament, and was thus accountable to Parliament for authorization of its work. As you will see below, the version we know today is the version that was illegally reprinted and distributed in Scotland. The parliamentary approved version makes edits which Mitchell points out below.
Here you can see the clear instructions not to reproduce this work because it is not the final or parliament-approved version. Note the date, April 29, 1647, this is the version mentioned by Mitchell.
Apparently, the Scots had a hard time submitting to the civil magistrate.
What does this mean? Your copies of the Westminster Confession of Faith are illegal!
Click the images for larger versions.
If you’d like to know a little more about Nehemiah Coxe and the probability of his involvement in the editing of the 1677 confession, the following data will be of interest to you.
The first two entries are from Thomas Pottenger, an English Baptist minister, published in the May, 1845 edition of “The Church.”
Pottenger is almost certainly reproducing the earlier work (1823) of Joseph Ivimey who, speaking of Nehemiah Coxe and his co-pastor William Collins, said:
For curious readers, the background image of this blog is the Petty France church book opened to the page containing that entry.
With no other viable theory as to the identity of the editor(s) of the confession, this material provides a “strong possibility” that Coxe and Collins were indeed the co-editors of the confession. Comparison of the confession with the works of Coxe as well as Collins’ relation to the catechism bolster this possibility. For more information, see Dr. James Renihan’s introductory biography of Nehemiah Coxe in Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ (eds., Ronald D. Miller, James M. Renihan, and Francisco Orozco; Palmdale, CA: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2005), 7-24.