ON THE AUTHORITY AND CERTAINTY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
I. The authority of the word of God, which is comprised in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, lies both in the veracity of the whole narration, and of all the declarations, whether they be those about things past, about things present, or about those which are to come, and in the power of the commands and prohibitions, which are contained in the divine word.
II. Both of these kinds of authority can depend on no other than on God, who is the principal author of this word, both because he is truth without suspicion of falsehood, and because he is of power invincible.
III. On this account, the knowledge alone that this word is divine, is obligatory on our belief and obedience; and so strongly is it binding, that this obligation can be augmented by no external authority.
IV. In what manner or respect soever the church may be contemplated, she can do nothing to confirm this authority; for she, also, is indebted to this word for all her own authority; and she is not a church unless she have previously exercised faith in this word as being divine, and have engaged to obey it. Wherefore, in any way to suspend the authority of the Scriptures on the church, is to deny that God is of sufficient veracity and supreme power, and that the church herself is a church.
V. But it is proved by various methods, that this word has a divine origin, either by signs employed for the enunciation or declaration of the word, such as miracles, predictions and divine appearances — by arguments engrafted on the word itself, such as the matters which it contains, the style and character of the discourse, the agreements between all the parts and each of them, and the efficacy of the word itself; and by the inward testification or witness of God himself by his Holy Spirit. To all these, we add a secondary proof — the testimony of those persons who have received this word as divine.
VI. The force and efficacy of this last testimony is entirely human, and is of importance equal to the quantum of wisdom, probity and constancy possessed by the witnesses. And on this account the authority of the church can make no other kind of faith than that which is human, but which may be preparatory to the production of faith divine. The testimony of the church, therefore, is not the only thing by which the certainty of the Scriptures is confirmed to us; indeed it is not the principle thing; nay, it is the weakest of all those which are adduced in confirmation.
VII. No arguments can be invented for establishing the divinity of any word, which do not belong by most equitable reason to this word; and, on the other hand, it is impossible any arguments can be devised which may conduce even by a probable reason to destroy the divinity of this word.
VIII. Though it be not absolutely necessary to salvation to believe that this or that book is the work of the author whose title it bears; yet this fact may be established by surer arguments than are those which claim the authorship of any other work for the writer.
IX. The Scriptures are canonical in the same way as they are divine; because they contain the rule of faith, charity, hope, and of all our inward and outward actions. They do not, therefore, require human authority in order to their being received into the canon, or considered as canonical. Nay, the relation between God and his creatures, requires that his word should be the rule of life to his creatures.
X. We assert that, for the establishment of the divinity of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, this disjunctive proposition is of irrefutable validity: Either the Scriptures are divine, or (far be blasphemy from the expression!) they are the most foolish of all writings, whether they be said to have proceeded from man, or from the evil spirit.
I. To affirm “that the authority of the Scriptures depends upon the church, because the church is more ancient than the Scriptures,” is a falsehood, a foolish speech, an implication of manifold contradictions and blasphemy.
II. The authority of the Roman pontiff to bear witness to the divinity of the Scriptures, is less than that of any bishop who is wiser and better than he, and possessed of greater constancy.
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