1. Statement of the Doctrine.
All Protestants agree in teaching that “the word of God, ascontained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”
In the Smalcald Articles, the Lutheran Church says “Ex patrum — verbis et factis non sunt exstrueudi articuli fidei — Regulam autem aliain habemus, ut videlicet verbum Dei condat articulos tidei et praeterea nemo, ne angelus quidem.” In the “Form of Concord,” it is said: “Credimus, confitemur et docemus, unicam regulam et normam secundum quam omnia dogmata omnesque doctores aestimari et judicari oporteat, nullam omnino aliam esse, quam prophetica et apostolica scripta cum V. tum N. Testamenti.”
The symbols of the Reformed churches teach the same doctrine. Confessio Helvetica, II.3 says: “In scriptura sancta habet unversalis Christi Ecclesia plenissime exposita, quaecunque pertinent cum ad salvificam fidem, tum ad vitam Deo placentem.4 Non alium in causa fidei judicem, quam ipsum Deum per Scripturas sacras pronuntiantem, quid verum sit, quid falsum, quid sequendum sit quidne fugiendum. Confessio Gallicana: Quum haec (SS.) sit omnis veritatis summa, complectens quidquid ad cultum Dei et salutem nostram requiritur, neque hominibus neque ipsis etiam angelis fas esse dicimus quicquam ei verbo adjicere vel detraliere vel quicquam prorsus in eo immutare ” In the Thirty-Nine Articles ot the Church of England, it is said : “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” The Westminster Confession teaches: “Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testament, which are these: etc. . . . All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”
From these statements it appears that Protestants hold, (1.) That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and are therefore infallible, and of divine authority in all things pertaining to faith and practice, and consequently free from all error whether of doctrine, fact, or precept. (2.) That they contain all the extant supernatural revelations of God designed to be a rule of faith and practice to his Church. (3.) That they are sufficiently perspicuous to be understood by the people, in the use of ordinary means and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, in all things necessary to faith or practice, without the need of any infallible interpreter.
Before entering on the consideration of these points, it is necessary to answer the question, What books are entitled to a place in the canon, or rule of faith and practice? Ronmanists answer this question by saying, that all those which the Church has decided to be divine in their origin, and none others, are to be thus received. Protestants answer it by saying, so far as the Old Testament is concerned, that those books, and those only, which Christ and his Apostles recognized as the written Word of God, are entitled to be regarded as canonical. This recognition was afforded in a twofold manner: First, many of the books of the Old Testament are quoted as the Word of God, as being given by the Spirit; or the Spirit is said to have uttered what is therein recorded. Secondly, Christ and his Apostles refer to the sacred writings of the Jews — the volume which they regarded as divine — as being what it claimed to be, the Word of God. When we refer to the Bible as of divine authority, we refer to it as a volume and recognize all the writings which it contains as given by the inspiration of the Spirit. In like manner when Christ or his Apostles quote the “Scriptures,” or the “law and the prophets,” and speak of the volume then so called, they give their sanction to the divine authority of all the books which that volume contained. All, therefore, that is necessary to determine for Christians the canon of the Old Testament, is to ascertain what books were included in the “Scriptures” recognized by the Jews of that period. This is a point about which there is no reasonable doubt. The Jewish canon of the Old Testament included all the books and no others, which Protestants now recognize as constituting the Old Testament Scriptures. On this ground Protestants reject the so-called apocryphal books. They were not written in Hebrew and were not included in the canon of the Jews. They were, therefore, not recognized by Christ as the Word of God. This reason is of itself sufficient. It is however confirmed by considerations drawn from the character of the books themselves. They abound in errors, and in statements contrary to those found in the undoubtedly canonical books.
The principle on which the canon of the New Testament is determined is equally simple. Those books, and those only which can be proved to have been written by the Apostles, or to have received their sanction, are to be recognized as of divine authority. The reason of this rule is obvious. The Apostles were the duly authenticated messengers of Christ, of whom He said, “He that heareth you, heareth me.”