Warfield, Benjamin B.
This work contains a lesser known set of documents produced by the Westminster Assembly of Divines, arguing for and against the Presbyterian form of church government. Discontented with the majority’s Presbyterian views, the Congregationalist members produced dissenting papers to which the Assembly replied, giving a more detailed view of the matters debated than the snatches of information recorded in the Assembly’s Minutes.
Presented in five sections The Grand Debate includes the following exchanges between the Congregationalist ‘dissenting brethren’ and the Presbyterian majority of the Assembly:
I. Reasons against the proposition that many churches may be under one Presbyterial government from the example of the church at Jerusalem, and the Assembly’s reply
II. Reasons against … from the example of the Church at Ephesus, with the Assembly’s reply
III. Reasons against the subordination of church synods, with the Assembly’s reply
IV. Reasons against the Assembly’s limitation on the power of individual congregations to ordain, with the Assembly’s reply
V. Four papers by the Congregationalists presented in the committee formed to come to an accommodation, with answers by the representatives of the Assembly.
The text has been edited for modern spelling and usage. The bibliographical references have been traced. Notes have been added throughout keying the text to the Assembly Minutes, Gillespie’s notes, Lightfoot’s journal, and other sources. Cross references linking the arguments in the dissenting brethrens’ papers to the Assembly’s replies and vice versa have been added in the margins. All the Latin has been translated marginally or in footnotes.
In the original text the Assembly quotes and often summarizes and paraphrases the Independents’ argument without any distinction—all set in the italic face, as was all other emphasis. Much of this over-italicization has been removed for this edition. Any apparent quotations appear within double quotation marks. Obvious paraphrases, proposed objections, or words placed in the mouth of the opponent are set within single quotation marks.
"How the Lord would have his visible church organized and governed may not interest all evangelicals today but it was a question of great practical and doctrinal interest in the British Isles, in the period leading up to and including the Westminster Assembly in the 1640s. Presbyterians and Congregationalists should especially appreciate the publication of these papers as they shed much light on the concerns (e.g., Christian liberty and the limits of ecclesiastical authority) that animated both movements in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This first edition of The Grand Debate, since 1648, of those papers circulated at the Assembly, with its excellent introduction by Rowland Ward, is much to be welcomed by all who would know the background of the language adopted by the Assembly and who wish to take a peek through this window into the working of the Westminster Divines." - R. Scott Clark, Professor of Church History and Historical Theology, Westminster Seminary California