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The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless there shall always be a Church on earth to worship God according to His will. The Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter xxv, Section 5.

By Roger Salter
September 1, 2018

Anglicans are very much entitled to consult and quote the Westminster Confession of Faith. It is derived from deep reflection upon the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the declaration of the basic doctrine of the Tudor Reformation, and it consists of much of the theological thought of the Irish Articles compiled by Archbishop James Ussher, perhaps the greatest Protestant churchman to emerge from the Emerald Isle.

In good-natured vein J.I. Packer stakes the following claim for Anglican rights to the use of the WCF: My frequent quoting of the Westminster Confession of Faith may raise some eyebrows, since I am an Anglican and not a Presbyterian. But since the Confession was intended to amplify the Thirty-nine Articles, and most of its framers were Anglican clergy, and since it is something of a masterpiece, "the ripest fruit of Reformation creed-making" as B.B. Warfield called it, I think I am entitled to value it as part of my Reformed Anglican heritage, and to use it as a major resource (Concise Theology, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, Wheaton Illinois, 1993, p xiii).

The WCF is enormously beneficial to the thought and ministry of Refomationally-minded folk within the orbit of Anglican conviction and custom. It is emphatic concerning the core truths embraced by authentic Anglicanism with reference to Holy Scripture and the Way of Salvation through Jesus Christ alone. It emboldens the grasp and commendation of the magnificent doctrines of grace powerfully expressed in its clear and consistent content. It is sturdy stuff bound to encourage forceful gospel proclamation. The WCF is rigorously orthodox and mentally and morally bracing, a little intimidating in some respects if wielded excessively by highly opinionated and stern devotees to its authority (it is no substitute for the varying tones and narrative teaching of Holy Scripture that moderate our moods and balance our mental processes- truth which engages the heart as well as the intellect).

Albeit, in its place (definitely subservient to Scripture), the Westminster Confession is a great gift to the Church of God, replete with sound doctrine, guidelines to accurate belief, and guardianship of the essentials of saving faith. Entering into its teaching is akin to enclosing oneself for a time in a fortress founded upon fidelity to infallible revelation that cannot be refuted - a bastion of belief of that cannot easily be disputed in any particular. Among Reformed Anglicans room for dissent is limited by the Confession's relentless cogency that completes the direction of the Anglican Articles, although missing the opportunity to posit a modified episcopacy as suggested by Baxter, Usher, and other wise advocates of trimming the power of bishops.

In our day, the dire warning of the WCF shouts loudly over the entire ecclesiastical scene. Immense and undeniable evidence in Catholicism and mainline Protestant denominations suggests that "synagogues of Satan" are mushrooming everywhere from deceitful and doctrinally deviant leadership, and from within the membership generally that lacks discernment as to the authority and propositions of Holy Scripture. The tide of evil and disregard of the will of God rolls over Christendom like the devil's unholy baptism into the foul, infested swamp of the most degenerate apostasy imaginable.

The disregard and defiance of classic Christian standards in belief and morality is almost beyond credibility. The pace of progress into terrible turpitude is more and more bewildering from day to day. There is a daring depravity among the churches, a desperate disobedience that replicates the notoriously putrid ages of the past that shock our sensibilities e.g. Gomorrah, Sodom, Canaan, Imperial Rome, Pompeii, medieval Europe, 2018, etc., etc. - episodes of evil that virtually erase any sense of godliness and human decency. Sin steamrollers itself over the surface of the earth crushing everything of worth; hellish influences ensure inestimable hurt and havoc, and cruel chaos demolishes human wellbeing. The year 2018AD is not propitious anywhere.

It is tragedy caused by highhanded human sin. It betokens the withdrawal of God from institutions and individuals (the church not excepted). God's nominal people despise his Name. "Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel" (Psalm 78:41). Our culture in the West arrogantly and aggressively declares war on the Lord. And the hatred against King Jesus emboldens itself in blasphemous speech and signs continually. "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One" (Psalm 1: 1-2). Our race faces the divine indictment, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways" (psalm 95:10b).

How far away from his precepts will Almighty God allow us to go without venting his indignation? It is time for humility, repentance and solemn prayer before God with expectancy of undeserved divine intervention in mercy. Every shred of our easy-going Evangelical triumphalism and political and social meddling needs to go. It is the power of God alone in which we must trust with hearts sincere, knees bent, arms outstretched, tongues humbly attuned to his promises. Devotion to the Word and allegiance to the Gospel as delineated in our Reformational confessions are imperative. The Spirit must enflame our hearts through his presence and by these inherited means of grace. The Articles and Westminster Confession merit the close attention of Anglicans who acknowledge the divine origin of Holy Scripture. The clear and consistent principles of the Word need to be enunciated without fear or hesitation. They are bulwarks in defense of our faith and the battle for human minds.

The Remnant People of God are assailed on two fronts; first, from the rebels within our ranks, and second from the most persuasive voices of insurrection against the King of heaven to be found within society - individuals who are among our lawmakers, angry academics, media maestros, and dissolute celebrities. The world has taken up arms against God and his people, and now we must earnestly call upon the arm of the Lord.

Martin Luther warns against the 'devils filthiness' if it should gain the upper-hand: "What would happen would be unbridled immorality and beastliness, as happens when God in His wrath withdraws His hand and permits everything to go to wrack and ruin."

The Rev. Roger Salter is an ordained Church of England minister where he had parishes in the dioceses of Bristol and Portsmouth before coming to Birmingham, Alabama to serve as Rector of St. Matthew's Anglican Church.

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