A Short Introduction to the Westminster Assembly and its Work

Rowland S. Ward
New Melbourne Press, 2017

 Reviewed by Stuart Bonnington

Carrying his substantial scholarship lightly, Rowland Ward has produced here a modest volume which will be of considerable help to elders and church people, old and new, in Presbyterian and Reformed churches worldwide and here in Australia. The influence of some of Ward’s earlier books and significant contemporary authors including Polly Ha, J.V. Fesko and Chad Van Dixhoorn is clear throughout.

downloadNicely illustrated along the way, Ward’s book is easy to read and will certainly further help “the recovery of confessional orthodoxy” in the life the local church. We need more volumes like this, which make “righteousness readable” (to cite Professor Tom Wilkinson) and do it all in less than 125 pages. The Westminster Assembly is set within its historical context simply but well. Then follow thematic studies on the (gathered) worship of the church, church order/confessional subscription and a review of the structure and character of the Westminster Confession and associated Catechisms.

Thirty pages are given over to notes on some of the teachings of the Confession, condensed from Ward’s larger Westminster Confession of Faith commentary. The reader finds much help here. For example, Ward gives 10 reasons to believe in the unique position of the moral law (96-97) and then comments helpfully: “Although the ten commandments can be distinguished, Christians do not obey them because commanded by Moses, but as they receive them from Christ in the Gospel. For we are not under the covenant given through Moses, but under the new covenant given through Christ. Thus, one can readily admit that the law of Moses as a unit is superseded, yet highlight the ten commandments as of abiding relevance. This is so, not because they are part of the law
of Moses, but because in essence they date from creation, the Lord merely republishing them in a particular context through Moses.”

There is some unevenness of type size on certain pages (38, 96) variation of style (39, 40) and some typos (18, 24). A surprising omission from the list of modern language texts of the Westminster Confession was the Westminster Confession of Faith for the 21st Century, prepared and published by the Presbyterian Church of Australia to mark the centenary of the General Assembly of Australia in 2001. It contained a very valuable scripture index to the WCF.

A Short Introduction to the Westminster Assembly and its Work is not the final word on its subject but it is a very helpful first word and deserves a wide readership.

Stuart Bonnington is minister of Scots Presbyterian Church, Fremantle, WA

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