By Brian McClung
Evidence of the prevalence of Pre-millennialism among the Westminster Divines is to be found in the writings of Robert Baillie, one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Assembly. Robert Baillie was the Principal of Glasgow University in his day.
In his writings, entitled ‘The Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie’ he included his observations of the Assembly’s proceedings.
In one of these letters, dated 5th September 1645
and addressed to Mr. William Spang, a fellow Scottish minister, Baillie makes an
extremely interesting statement about the views of the Westminster Divines with
regard to the End Times. In modem
English, the quote reads, ‘Send me the rest of Forbes: I like the book very well, and the
man much the better for the book’s cause.
I marvel I can find nothing in its index against the Millenaries. I cannot think the author a Millenarie. I cannot
dream why he should have omitted an error so famous in antiquity, and so
troublesome among us; for the most of the chief divines here, not only
Independents, but others such as Twisse,
The interesting points to come out of these comments in this letter are:
1. Robert Baillie describes a number of the
2. Robert Baillie states that ‘most of the chief divines here ... are express Chiliasts’. Not just some of the chief divines, but ‘most of the chief divines’. This is surely referring to those who took a leading part in that great gathering. Baillie is evidently writing during the time when the Assembly was sitting. This letter was written in 1645. This is a startling claim to make on his part.
3. Robert Baillie names Dr. William Twisse
as a Pre-millennialist. Dr. Twisse was the Prolocutor or
Moderator of the Westminster Assembly, until his death shortly before the
Assembly concluded its work. Dr Twisse’s pre-millennialist views were widely known. He was a close friend of Joseph Mede and both believed in the future national conversion and
4. Robert Baillie names two others, ‘Marshall’ and ‘Palmer,’ as Pre-millennialists. From the list of Westminster Divines we learn that their full names were Stephen Marshall and Herbert Palmer. These two men played a considerable part in the work of the Westminster Assembly. Stephen Marshall, in particular, was one of the leading compilers of ‘The Directory of Public Worship,’ which many Presbyterians, who are not Pre-millennialists, lay great store by.
5. Robert Baillie, I think it is fair to say, regarded Pre-millennialism as the common view among the Independents. The sentence from his letter quoted above reads: ‘for the most of the chief divines here, not only Independents, but others such as Twisse, Marshall, Palmer, and many more, are express Chiliasts.’ He includes the Independents as a group and takes it as ‘given’ that they will expressly hold to this view.
This was certainly true of the likes of Thomas Goodwin, who was chief among the Independents.
6. Robert Baillie speaks of ‘many
more’, apart from the chief divines, the Independents, Twisse, Marshall and Palmer among the
Surely it is then foolish, in the light of these facts, to argue that the Westminster Confession of Faith in any way takes a position against Pre-millennialism. If it did so, how could these men ever have agreed to it?
(Mention has been made on the author’s website - http://soundofanalarm.blogspot.co.uk/2Ol2/l2/Premillennialism-westminster-divines.html
- about Dr William Cunningham’s impression of the Pre-millennialist views
of a number of the