It is true, the church is the pillar of truth; but it does not therefore follow that the Scripture has its authority from the church. The kings proclamation is fixed on the pillar, the pillar holds it out, that all may read, but the proclamation does not receive its authority from the pillar, but from the king; so the church holds forth the Scriptures, but they do not receive their authority from the church, but from God. If the Word of God be divine, merely because the church holds it forth, then it will follow, that our faith is to be built upon the church, and not upon the Word, contrary to Eph 2:20. Built upon the foundation (that is the doctrine) of the apostles and prophets.
Use three: If the Scripture be of divine inspiration, then be exhorted, (1.) To study the Scripture. It is a copy of Gods will. Be Scripture-men, Bible-Christians. I adore the fulness of Scripture, says Tertullian. In the Book of God are scattered many truths as so many pearls. John 5:59. Search the Scriptures. Search as for a vein of silver. This blessed Book will fill your head with knowledge, and your heart with grace. God wrote the two tables with his own fingers; and if he took pains to write, well may we take pains to read. Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures. Acts 18:84. The Word is our Magna Charta for Heaven; shall we be ignorant of our charter? Col 3:16. Let the word of God dwell in you richly. The memory must be a tablebook where the Word is written. There is majesty sparkling in every line of Scripture; take but one instance, Isa 63:1: Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Here is a lofty, magnificent style. What angel could speak after this manner? Junius was converted by reading one verse of John; he beheld a majesty in it beyond all human rhetoric. There is a melody in Scripture. This is that blessed harp which drives away sadness of spirit. Hear the sounding of this harp a little. I Tim 1:15. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; he took not only our flesh upon him but our sins. And 1. Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. How sweetly does this harp of Scripture sound, what heavenly music does it make in the ears of a distressed sinner, especially when the finger of Gods Spirit touches this instrument! There is divinity in Scripture. It contains the marrow and quintessence of religion. It is a rock of diamonds, a mystery of piety. The lips of Scripture have grace poured into them. The Scripture speaks of faith, self-denial, and all the graces which, as a chain of pearls, adorns a Christian. It excites to holiness; it treats of another world, it gives a prospect of eternity! Oh, then, search the Scripture! make the Word familiar to you. Had I the tongue of angels, I could not sufficiently set forth the excellency of Scripture. It is a spiritual optic-glass, in which we behold Gods glory; it is the tree of life, the oracle of wisdom, the rule of manners, the heavenly seed of which the new creature is formed. James 1:18. The two Testaments, says Austin, are the two breasts which every Christian must suck, that he may get spiritual nourishment. The leaves of the tree of life were for healing. Rev 22:2. So these holy leaves of Scripture are for the healing of our souls. The Scripture is profitable for all things. If we are deserted, here is spiced wine that cheers the heavy heart; if we are pursued by Satan, here is the sword of the Spirit to resist him; if we are diseased with sins leprosy, here are the waters of the sanctuary, both to cleanse and cure. Oh, then, search the Scriptures! There is no danger in tasting this tree of knowledge. There was a penalty laid at first, that we might not taste of the tree of knowledge. Gen 2:27. In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. There is no danger in plucking from this tree of holy Scripture; if we do not eat of this tree of knowledge, we shall surely die. Oh, then, read the Scriptures! Time may come when the Scriptures may be kept from us.
The Scripture is to be its own interpreter, or rather the Spirit speaking in it. Nothing can cut the diamond but the diamond; nothing can interpret Scripture but Scripture. The sun best discovers itself by its own beams; the Scripture interprets itself to the understanding. But the question is concerning hard places of Scripture, where the weak Christian is ready to wade beyond his depth; who shall interpret here?
Who should have the power of interpreting Scripture?
The Papists assert that it is in the power of the church. If you ask whom they mean by the church, they say, The Pope, who is head of it, and he is infallible; so Bellarmine. But that assertion is false, because many of the Popes have been ignorant and vicious, as Platina affirms, who writes the lives of Popes. Pope Liberius was an Arian, and Pope John XII denied the immortality of the soul; therefore Popes are not fit interpreters of Scripture; who then?
The church of God has appointed some to expound and interpret Scripture; therefore he has given gifts to men. The several pastors of churches, like bright constellations, give light to dark Scriptures. Mal 2:2. The priests lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth.The mighty power and efficacy that the Word has had upon the souls and consciences of men. It has changed their hearts. Some by reading Scripture have been turned into other men; they have been made holy and gracious. By reading other books the heart may be warmed, but by reading this book it is transformed.2 Cor 3:3. Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. The Word was copied out into their hearts, and they were become Christs epistle, so that others might read Christ in them. If you should set a seal upon marble, and it should make an impression upon the marble, and leave a print behind, there would be a strange virtue in that seal; so when the seal of the Word leaves a heavenly print of grace upon the heart, there must needs be a power going along with that Word no less than divine. It has comforted their hearts. When Christians have sat by the rivers weeping, the Word has dropped as honey, and sweetly revived them. A Christians chief comfort is drawn out of these wells of salvation. Rom 15:5. That we through comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. When a poor soul has been ready to faint, it has had nothing to comfort it but a Scripture cordial. When it has been sick, the Word has revived it.2 Cor 4:17. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. When it has been deserted, the Word has dropped in the golden oil of joy. Lam 3:3I. The Lord will not cast off for ever. He may change his providence, not his purpose; he may have the look of an enemy, but he has the heart of a father. Thus the Word has a power in it to comfort the heart. Psa 119:90. This is my comfort in mine affliction; for thy word has quickened me. As the spirits are conveyed through the arteries of the body, so divine comforts are conveyed through the promises of the Word. Now, the Scriptures having such an exhilarating, heart-comforting power in them, shows clearly that they are of God, and it is he that has put the milk of consolation into these breasts. That the Scripture is the Word of God is evident by its predictions. It prophesies of things to come, which shows the voice of God speaking in it. It was foretold by the prophet, A virgin shall conceive, Isa 7:14, and, the Messiah shall be cut off. Dan 9:96. The Scripture foretells things that would fall out many ages and centuries after; as how long Israel should serve in the iron furnace, and the very day of their deliverance. Exod 12:2I. At the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self-same day, it came to pass that the host of the Lord went out of Egypt. This prediction of future things, merely contingent, and not depending upon natural causes, is a clear demonstration of its divine origin.
(4.) Love the Word written. Psa 119:97. Oh how love I thy law! Lord, said Augustine, let the holy Scriptures be my chaste delight. Chrysostom compares the Scripture tWe may know the Scripture to be the Word of God by its miraculous preservation in all ages. The holy Scriptures are the richest jewel that Christ has left us; and the church of God has so kept these public records of heaven, that they have not been lost. The Word of God has never wanted enemies to oppose, and, if possible, to extirpate it. They have given out a law concerning Scripture, as Pharaoh did the midwives, concerning the Hebrew womens children, to strangle it in the birth; but God has preserved this blessed Book inviolable to this day. The devil and his agents have been blowing at Scripture light, but could never blow it out; a clear sign that it was lighted from heaven. Nor has the church of God, in all revolutions and changes, kept the Scripture that it should not be lost only, but that it should not be depraved. The letter of Scripture has been preserved, without any corruption, in the original tongue. The Scriptures were not corrupted before Christs time, for then Christ would not have sent the Jews to them. He said, Search the Scriptures. He knew these sacred springs were not muddied with human fancies.
To reveal a way of salvation. It makes a clear discovery of Christ. John 20:01: These things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing ye might have life through his name. The design of the Word is to be a test whereby our grace is to be tried; a sea-mark to show us what rocks are to be avoided. The Word is to sublimate and quicken our affections; it is to be our directory and consolatory; it is to waft us over to the land of promise.
Use two: Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it reproves, (1.) The Papists, who take away part of Scripture, and so clip the King of heavens coin. They expunge the second commandment out of their catechisms, because it makes against images; and it is usual with them, if they meet with anything in Scripture which they dislike, either to put a false gloss upon it, or, if that will not do, to pretend it is corrupted. They are like Ananias, who kept back part of the money. Acts 5:5. They keep back part of the Scripture from the people. It is a high affront to God to deface and obliterate any part of his Word, and brings us under that premunire, Rev 22:19, If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life. Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? (2.) It condemns the Antinomians, who lay aside the Old Testament as useless, and out of date; and call those who adhere to them Old Testament Christians. God has stamped a divine majesty upon both Testaments; and till they can show me where God has repealed the Old, it stands in force. The two Testaments are the two wells of salvation; the Antinomians would stop up one of these wells, they would dry up one of the breasts of Scripture. There is much gospel in the Old Testament. The comforts of the gospel in the New Testament have their rise from the Old. The great promise of the Messiah is in the Old Testament, A virgin shall conceive and bear a son. Nay, I say more. The moral law, in some parts of it, speaks gospel – I am the Lord thy God; here is the pure wine of the gospel. The saints great charter, where God promises to sprinkle clean water upon them, and put his Spirit within them, is to be found primarily in the Old Testament. Ezek 36:65, 26. So that they who take away the Old Testament, as Samson pulled down the pillars, would take away the pillars of a Christians comfort. (3.) It condemns the Enthusiasts, who, pretending to have the Spirit, lay aside the whole Bible, and say the Scripture is a dead letter, and they live above it. What impudence is this! Till we are above sin, we shall not be above Scripture. Let not men so talk of a revelation from the Spirit, but suspect it to be an imposture. The Spirit of God acts regularly, it works in and by the Word; and he that pretends to a new light, which is either above the Word, or contrary to it, abuses both himself and the Spirit: his light is borrowed from him who transforms himself into an angel of light. (4.) It condemns the slighters of Scripture; such as those who can go whole weeks and months and never read the Word. They lay it aside as rusty armour; they prefer a play or romance before Scripture. The magnalia legis are to them minutula [The weighty matters of the law are to them insignificant]. Oh how many can be looking at their faces in a glass all the morning, but their eyes begin to be sore when they look upon a Bible! Heathens die for want of Scripture, and these in contempt of it. They surely must needs go wrong who slight their guide. Such as lay the reins upon the neck of their lusts, and never use the curbing bit of Scripture to check them, are carried to hell, and never stop. (5.) It condemns the abusers of Scripture. Those who mud and poison this pure crystal fountain with their corrupt glosses, and who wrest Scripture.2 Pet 3:16. The Greek word is, they set it upon the rack; they give wrong interpretations of it, not comparing Scripture with Scripture; as the Antinomians pervert that Scripture, Numb 23:3I, He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob; from which they infer that Gods people may take liberty in sin, because God sees no sin in them. It is true, God sees no sin in his people with an eye of revenge, but he sees it with an eye of observation. He sees not sin in them, so as to damn them; but he sees it, so as to be angry, and severely to punish them. Did not David find it so, when he cried out of his broken bones? In like manner the Arminians wrest the Scripture in John 5:50, Ye will not come to me; where they bring in free will. This text shows how willing God is that we should have life; and that sinners may do more than they do, they may improve the talents God has given them; but it does not prove the power of free will, for it is contrary to that Scripture, John 6:64, No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him. These, therefore, wring the text so hard, that they make the blood come out; they do not compare Scripture with Scripture. Some jest with Scripture. When they are sad, they take the Scripture as their lute or minstrel to play upon, and so drive away the sad spirit; as a drunkard I have read of, who, having drunk off his cups, called to some of his fellows, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. In the fear of God, take heed of this. Eusebius tells us of one, who took a piece of Scripture to make a jest of, but was presently struck with a frenzy and ran mad. It is a saying of Luther, Quos Deus vult perdere, &c. Whom God intends to destroy, he gives them leave to play with Scripture.
Not to speak of the harmonious consent of all the parts of Scripture, there are seven cogent arguments which may evince it to be the Word of God.
God having given us his written Word to be our directory takes away all excuses from men. No man can say, I went wrong for want of light; God has given thee his Word as a lamp to thy feet; therefore if thou goest wrong, thou cost it wilfully. No man can say, If I had known the will of God, I would have obeyed it; thou art inexcusable, O man, for God has given thee a rule to go by, he has written his law with his own finger; therefore, if thou obeyest not, thou hast no apology left. If a master leave his mind in writing with his servant, and tells him what work he will have done, and the servant neglects the work, that servant is left without excuse, John 15:52. Now you have no cloak for your sins.
Are all the books in the Bible of the same divine authority?
(2.) Be exhorted to prize the written Word. Job 23:12. David valued the Word more than gold. What would the martyrs have given for a leaf of the Bible! The Word is the field where Christ the pearl of price is hid. In this sacred mine we dig, not for a wedge of gold, but for a weight of glory. The Scripture is a sacred collyrium, or eye-salve to illuminate us. Prov 6:63. The commandment is a lamp, and the law is light. The Scripture is the chart and compass by which we sail to the new Jerusalem. It is a sovereign cordial in all distresses. What are the promises but the water of life to renew fainting spirits? Is it sin that troubles? Here is a Scripture cordial. Psa 65:5. Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions thou shalt purge them away; or, as it is in the Hebrew, thou shalt cover them. Do outward afflictions disquiet thee? Here is a Scripture cordial. Psa 91:15. I will be with him in trouble, not only to behold, but to uphold. Thus, as in the ark manna was laid up, so promises are laid up in the ark of Scripture. The Scripture will make us wise. Wisdom is above rubies. Psa 119:904. By thy precepts I get understanding. What made Eve desire the tree of knowledge? Gen 3:3. It was a tree to make one wise. The Scriptures teach a man to know himself. They discover Satans snares and stratagems.2 Cor 2:2: They make one wise to salvation. 2 Tim 3:35. Oh, then, highly prize the Scriptures. I have read of Queen Elizabeth, that at her coronation, she received the Bible presented to her, with both her hands, and kissing it, laid it to her breast, saying, that that book had ever been her chief delight.
A: The Word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.The Scripture appears to be the Word of God, by the matter contained in it. The mystery of Scripture is so abstruse and profound that no man or angel could have known it, had it not been divinely revealed. That eternity should be born; that he who thunders in the heavens should cry in the cradle; that he who rules the stars should suck the breasts; that the Prince of Life should die; that the Lord of Glory should be put to shame; that sin should be punished to the full, yet pardoned to the full; who could ever have conceived of such a mystery, had not the Scripture revealed it to us? So, for the doctrine of the resurrection; that the same body which is crumbled into a thousand pieces, should rise idem numero, the same individual body, else it were a creation, not a resurrection. How could such a sacred riddle, above all human disquisition, be known, had not the Scripture made a discovery of it? As the matter of Scripture is so full of goodness, justice and sanctity, that it could be breathed from none but God; so the holiness of it shows it to be of God. Scripture is compared to silver refined seven times. Psa 12:2. The Book of God has no errata in it; it is a beam of the Sun of Righteousness, a crystal stream flowing from the fountain of life. All laws and edicts of men have had their corruptions, but the Word of God has not the least tincture, it is of meridian splendour. Psa 119:940. Thy word is very pure, like wine that comes from the grape, which is not mixed nor adulterated. It is so pure that it purifies everything else. John 17:17. Sanctify them through thy truth. The Scripture presses holiness, so as no other book ever did: it bids us live soberly, righteously, and godly; Titus 2:12; soberly, in acts of temperance; righteously, in acts of justice; godly, in acts of zeal and devotion. It commends to us, whatever is just, lovely, and of good report. Phil 4:4. This sword of the Spirit cuts down vice. Eph 6:67. Out of this tower of Scripture is thrown a millstone upon the head of sin. The Scripture is the royal law which commands not only the actions, but affections; it binds the heart to good behaviour. Where is there such holiness to be found, as is digged out of this sacred mine? Who could be the author of such a book but God himself?
Because the Word is a rule of faith, a canon to direct our lives. The Word is the judge of controversies, the rock of infallibility. That only is to be received for truth which agrees with Scripture, as the transcript with the original. All maxims in divinity are to be brought to the touchstone of Scripture, as all measures are brought to the standard.
Why are the Scriptures called canonical?
The Scripture is a full and perfect canon, containing in it all things necessary to salvation.2 Tim 3:15. From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation. It shows the Credenda, what we are to believe; and the Agenda, what we are to practise. It gives us an exact model of religion, and perfectly instincts us in the deep things of God. The Papists, therefore, make themselves guilty, who eke out Scripture with their traditions, which they consider equal to it. The Council of Trent says, that the traditions of the church of Rome are to be received pari pietatis affectu, with the same devotion that Scripture is to be received; so bringing themselves under the curse. Rev 22:18. If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.Its antiquity. It is of ancient standing. The grey hairs of Scripture make it venerable. No human histories extant reach further than Noahs flood: but the holy Scripture relates matters of fact that have been from the beginning of the world; it writes of things before time. That is a sure rule of Tertullian, That which is of the greatest antiquity, id verum quod primum, is to be received as most sacred and authentic.
What is the main scope and end of Scripture?
Read the Bible with reverence. Think in every line you read that God is speaking to you. The ark wherein the law was put was overlaid with pure gold, and was carried on bars, that the Levites might not touch it. Exod 25:14. Why was this, but to give reverence to the law? Read with seriousness. It is matter of life and death; by this Word you must be tried; conscience and Scripture are the jury God will proceed by, in judging you. Read the Word with affection. Get your hearts quickened with the Word; go to it to fetch fire. Luke 24:42. Did not our hearts burn within us? Labour that the Word may not only be a lamp to direct, but a fire to warm. Read the Scripture, not only as a history, but as a love letter sent you from God, which may affect your hearts. Pray that the same Spirit that wrote the Word may assist you in reading it; that Gods Spirit would show you the wonderful things of his law. Go near, saith God to Philip, join thyself to this chariot. Acts 8:89. So, when Gods Spirit joins himself with the chariot of his Word, it becomes effectual.
But this is to pin our faith upon men.
The Papists cannot deny that the Scripture is divine and sacred; but they affirm quoad nos, with respect to us, it receives its divine authority from the church; and in proof of it they bring that Scripture, I Tim 3:15, where the church is said to be the ground and pillar of truth.
We are to receive nothing for truth but what is agreeable to the Word. As God has given to his ministers gifts for interpreting obscure places, so he has given to his people so much of the spirit of discerning, that they can tell (at least in things necessary to salvation) what is consonant to Scripture, and what is not. I Cor 12:20. To one is given a spirit of prophecy, to another discerning of spirits. God has endued his people with such a measure of wisdom and discretion, that they can discern between truth and error, and judge what is sound and what is spurious. Acts 17:7: The Bereans searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. They weighed the doctrine they heard, whether it was agreeable to Scripture, though Paul and Silas were their teachers.2 Tim 3:36.
(3.) If the Scripture is of divine inspiration, believe it. The Romans, that they might gain credit to their laws, reported they were inspired by the gods of Rome. Oh give credence to the Word! It is breathed from Gods own mouth. Hence arises the profaneness of men, that they do not believe the Scripture. Isa 53:3: Who has believed our report? Did you believe the glorious rewards the Scripture speaks of, would you not give diligence to make your election sure? Did you believe the infernal torments the Scripture speaks of, would it not put you into a cold sweat, and cause a trembling at heart for sin? But people are in part atheists, they give but little credit to the Word, therefore they are so impious, and draw such dark shadows in their lives. Learn to realise Scripture, get your hearts wrought to a firm belief of it. Some think, if God should send an angel from heaven, and declare his mind, they would believe him; or, if he should send one from the damned, and preach the torments of hell all in flames, they would believe. But, If they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one arose from the dead. Luke 16:61. God is wise, and he thinks the fittest way to make his mind known to us is by writing; and such as shall not be convinced by the Word, shall be judged by the Word. The belief of Scripture is of high importance. It will enable us to resist temptation. I John 2:14. The Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. It conduceth much to our sanctification; therefore sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, are put together.2 Thess 2:13. If the word written be not believed, it is like writing on water, which makes no impression.
Because the Old and New Testament are the foundation of all religion. If their divinity cannot be proved, the foundation on which we build our faith is gone. I shall therefore endeavour to prove this great truth, that the Scriptures are the very word of God. I wonder whence the Scriptures should come, if not from God. Bad men could not be the authors of it. Would their minds be employed in inditing such holy lines? Would they declare so fiercely against sin? Good men could not be the authors of it. Could they write in such a strain? or could it stand with their grace to counterfeit Gods name, and put, Thus saith the Lord, to a book of their own devising? Nor could any angel in heaven be the author of it, because the angels pry and search into the abyss of gospel mysteries, I Pet 1:12, which implies their nescience of some parts of Scripture; and sure they cannot be the authors of that book which they themselves do not fully understand. Besides, what angel in heaven durst be so arrogant as to personate God and, say, I create, Isa 65:17, and, I the Lord have said it,? Numb 14:45. So that it is evident, the pedigree of Scripture is sacred, and it could come from none but God himself.
Use one: See the wonderful goodness of God, who, besides the light of nature, has committed to us the sacred Scriptures, The heathen are enveloped in ignorance. Psa 147:70. As for his judgements they have not known them. They have the oracles of the Sibyls, but not the writings of Moses and the apostles. How many live in the region of death, where this bright star of Scripture never appeared! We have this blessed Book of God to resolve all our doubts, to point out a way of life to us. John 14:42. Lord, how is it thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
How does it appear that the Scriptures have a Jus Divinum, a divine authority stamped upon them?
2 Tim 3:16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, By Scripture is understood the sacred Book of God. It is given by divine inspiration; that is, the Scripture is not the contrivance of mans brain, but is divine in its origin. The image of Diana was had in veneration by the Ephesians, because they supposed it fell from Jupiter. Acts 19:95. The holy Scripture is to be highly reverenced and esteemed, because we are sure it came from heaven.2 Pet 1:11. The two Testaments are the two lips by which God has spoken to us.