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the substance thereof. Only in those things which have respect unto church government and discipline, we refer ourselves to the Platform agreed upon by the present assembly."* The things excepted were of a Presbyterian character, and points of controversy, contained in some sections in the twenty-fifth, thirtieth, and thirtyfirst chapters. For sometime previous, the New England churches, "next unto the Bible (which was their professed, perpetual and only directory,) had no platform of their church government, more exact, than their famous John Cotton's well known book of the Keys.” This contains the principles of the Cambridge Platform; but being the production of an individual, “it was convenient the churches of New England," being increased in numbers, “should have a system of their discipline, extracted from the word of God, and exhibited unto them, with a more effectual, acknowledged and established recommendation.f” While this was in use, the churches were not, strictly speaking, without a public Confession of Faith. The early Puritans of New England, particularly of Connecticut, were non-conformists, and not separatists, and known to be strongly attached to the doctrinal articles of the Church of England. They loved them after they adopted the Westminster Confession, and believed the doc* Boston Ed. Cambridge and Saybrook Platform, p. 14. † Mag.
nalia, B. 5, pp. 20, 21, London Ed. 1702.
trinal articles in this Confession to be the same with them in meaning.
The Saybrook Platform consists of two parts: "A Confession of Faith;” and “Heads of Agreement, and Articles for the administration of Church Discipline."
The Confession of Faith was not new to the Connecticut churches. It is the Savoy Confession, consented to by the elders and messengers of the Congregational churches in England, who met at the Savoy in London in 1658, and which was probably circulated in New England from nearly that period. “A general Synod of the elders and messengers of the churches in New England," at Boston, "in 1680, approved of and consented to this Confession, and the General Court” of Massachusetts, “ordered it to be printed for the benefit of the churches in the present and after times."* It was printed about that time in connection with the Cambridge Platform ; and afterwards it was republished, in the same connection, by Cotton Mather, in his Magnalia. The compilers at Saybrook did not alter this at all, but subjoined to each section proof-texts from the scriptures. This, too, is the Westminster Confession substantially, those things being omitted which have been already mentioned, and some expressions altered. The Boston Synod “made some little variations from one of these Confessions in compliance with the other, but chose to
* See the Act in the Platform.
express themselves in the main in the words of those reverend assemblies, that so they might, not only with one heart, but with one mouth” (with those who had previously assented to this Confession) "glorify God and our Lord Jesus Christ."* They in fact adopted both Confessions in one. This regard to harmony was probably one reason why the Synod of 1648 adopted the Westminster Confession, instead of forming a new Confession. After the example of the Synod of 1680, the churches and ministers of Connecticut in 1703 “met in a consociated council and gave their consent to the Westminster and Savoy Confessions both. This was done upon a circular issued by the trustees of Yale College, then just established. “It seems that they also drew up certain rules of ecclesiastical union in discipline.”+ After the adoption of the Saybrook Platform, "the ministers of Connecticut, in their public conventions, several times renewed their consent to this Confession of Faith,”which remains as it was when it first received their approbation, and as it was when it was approved by the New England churches.
The far greater part of the sections in the Savoy and Westminster Confessions appear precisely in the same dress. In some of the sections which vary, the variations extend mere
* Pref. of Cambridge and Saybrook Platform, pp. 9, 10. + Trumbull, vol. I. p. 478. | Pres. Clapp's Defence of the New England Churches, pages 17, 18.
ly to the change, omission or supply of a word, phrase, or clause in a sentence; lo the transposition of the parts of a sentence, or to the reconstruction or division of a section : in some the alterations are greater.
From these statements and references, it is clear the churches of Connecticut have had either the Savoy or the Westminster Confession for nearly two hundred years, and that these are for the most part one and the same, in language as well as signification. Our ancestors regarded the three Confessions which have been named as meaning the same, so far as doctrines are concerned, and all, of course, as agreeable to the sacred oracles. Accordingly it is said in the ninth head of agreement: “As to what appertains to soundness of judgment in matters of faith, we esteem it sufficient that a church acknowledge the Scriptures to be the Word of God, the perfect and only rule of faith and practice, and own either the doctrinal part of those commonly called the Articles of the Church of England, or the Confession, or Catechisms, shorter or larger, compiled by the Assembly at Westminster, or the Confession agreed on at the Savoy, to be agreeable to said rule.”
Agreeably to these views, Cotton Mather, in his preface to the “Faith professed by the churches of New England,” says: “It was once an unrighteous and injurious aspersion
cast upon the churches of New England, that the world knew not their principles : whereas they took all the occasions imaginable to make all the world know, that in the doctrinal part of religion they have agreed entirely with the Reformed Churches of Europe. And that they desired most particularly to maintain the faith professed by the churches of Old England, whereunto was owing their original. Few pastors of mankind ever took such pains at catechising as have been taken by our New English Divines : now let any man living read the most judicious and elaborate catechisms published, [of which a large number are referred to) and say whether true divinity was ever better handled, or whether they were not the truest sons of the Church of England, who thus maintained its fundamental articles."*
The New England ministers proclaimed their faith in various ways; and the churches of Connecticut have had general and coincident Confessions of Faith from the beginning.
It should, however, be said here, that these churches, when the Saybrook Platform was adopted, did not consider their general Confession as setting aside their particular Confessions; these were retained : nor did they, nor their sister churches before, consider their general Confessions as superseding particular ones. All that could have been claimed
par* Magnalia, Book V. page 3.