The Westminster Confession of Faith went through three private editions prior to the first public edition. Each private edition was limited to members of Parliament and the Westminster Assembly. The printing of these private editions was closely overseen by the assembly scribes and are considered the most authoritative texts.

First Edition (Contained only Chapters 1 to 19)

Comprising only the first nineteen chapters, this edition originated on September 17, 1646, when the House of Commons peremptorily ordered the divines to “send up what they had done so far” on the new creed. After several days of final editing, the divines sent the opening nineteen chapters, “in obedience to their last order for sending soe much of the confession of faith as is already perfected.” Two weeks later, the House ordered 500 copies of the partial Confession printed for use by members of Parliament only.

Second Edition (All Chapters, without Scripture Proofs)

This edition represents the Confession’s full text, containing all thirty-three chapters, but lacks the Scriptures proofs called for by Parliament three months earlier. The assembly delivered the manuscript of its complete text to the House of Commons on December 4, 1646, which then ordered 600 copies of the entire Confession printed for the exclusive use of both Houses and the assembly, with “the Printer is injoyned (at his perill) not to print more then sixe hundred Copies of them, or to divulge or publish any of them.”

Third Edition (All Chapters, with Scripture Proofs)

The assembly’s completed work on the Confession was delivered to the House of Lords on April 28, 1647 and the following day to the House of Commons. Edition 3 expands Edition 2 by including Scripture proofs – an addition called for by Parliament following its order to print Edition 1. Edition 3 did not appear until four months after Edition 2, reflecting the extent of the assembly’s labor to provide the requisite Scripture proofs.

Manuscript (Braye manuscript)

Written in Cornelius Burges’s clear hand, the manuscript is entitled: “The Humble Advice of the Assembly of Divines now sitting at Westminster, by authority of Parliament. Concerning a Confession of Faith, which is here presented whole & entire.” Part of the Braye MSS volume at Westminster College in Cambridge, the copy of the Confession is undoubtedly one of the two original transcribed copies which the assembly delivered to Parliament.