Remember, these words were written and adopted in the mid-seventeenth century—200 years before the United States would go to war over the question of slavery. From the outset, the Westminster Standards were theologically sufficient to quash slavery. Notice the third sin forbidden by the eighth commandment: manstealing. It is well-documented that the practice of chattel slavery was built upon the pillaging and theft of people from their homes and villages. One might venture that if the eighth commandment were taken as seriously as the Standards encourage, slavery might not have become such a foundational component of the American economy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
…My point is, in the end, simple and twofold. First, when it comes to race – and to many other areas of trouble in our world and society, those of us in robust confessional traditions have robust helps in place to know what to do. Where there are flaws – and society makes it manifest that there are many – there are two options: either we do not know our standards’ exposition of Scripture or, if we know them, we only selectively apply them. Brothers and sisters, we can, should, and must do better. Second, when it comes to theology, a confessional system is not oppression; it is a great blessing! It can challenge us, point out our selective readings of the Bible, and lead us into a more ethical, more robust, more lived faith, one that could change our world.