« PreviousContinue »
other prophets, wrote every one their own prophecies, containing a short sum of their sermons.
As for the books of the New Testament, without controversy the evangelists wrote the Gospels, according as their names are prefixed to them. Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles; and the remaining books, the Epistles and the Revelation, were written by those whose names they bear. Only, as to the Epistle to the Hebrews, there has been some doubt, some ascribing it to Luke, some to Barnabas, others to Apollos, and others to Clemens: but many learned men have given good reasons to prove it to be written by the apostle Paul.
But the principal author is the Holy Spirit, whence the scripture is called the Word of God. The penmen were but the instruments in the hand of God in writing the same. It was the Spirit that dictated them, that inspired the writers, and guided them. But the inspiration was not the same in all points to all the penmen ; for some things were before utterly unknown to the writer, as the history of the creation of the world to Moses; the prediction of future events in respect of the prophets; which therefore the spirit did immediately reveal to them: Other things were known to the writers before, as the history of Christ to the four evangelists, &c.; in respect of these there needed no new revelation, but a divine irradiation of the mind of the writer, giving him a divine certainty of those things which he wrote. By this inspiration all of them were infallibly guided, so as they were put beyond all possibility of erring. And this inspiration was extended not only to the things themselves expressed, but to the words wherein they were expressed, though agreeable to the natural style and manner of each writer, 2 Pet. i. 21. Psal. xlv. 1. Upon this account the scripture is attributed to the Holy Spirit, without making any mention of the penmen, Heb. X. 15.
Quest. But what opinion are we to form of the books called Apocrypha, And why are they so called ?
Ans. These books, which are found placed in some Bibles betwixt Malachi and Matthew are called Apocrypha, which is a Greek word, signifying hidden or absconded. The reasons of this name are given thus (1) Because they were not acknowledged by the church to be
of divine inspiration. (2.) Because the names of the authors were hid. (3.) Because they contain some things unknown to Moses, the prophets and apostles. (4.) Because, for the foresaid reasons, they were judged unworthy to be publicly read in the church. Concerning these books, we believe that they are not of divine inspiration, and therefore no part of the canon of scripture; that is, they are not to be admitted as any part of the rule of faith and manners : and therefore they are of no authority in the church of God for the determining of controversies in religion ; and so, though they may be of use as other human writings, yet they are no otherwise to be made use of nor approved. The reasons are,
1. They were not acknowledged by the church of the Jews for canonical: to whom the Apostle tells us, Rom. ii. 2. 'the oracles of God,' under the Old Testament dispensation 'were committed.' They even forbade their childten to read them till they came to mature age.
2. They were not written in the Hebrew tongue, but in the Greek; and the authors of them were posterior to Malachi, who was the last of the prophets, according to the saying of the Hebrews, that the Holy Ghost went up from Israel after the death of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. And 1 Mac. iv. 46. plainly shews, that there was no prophet among them, to shew them what they should do with the stones of the polluted altar. And it may clearly appear to any unbiassed person, how the interposing of these books betwixt Malachi and Matthew does cut off the beautiful connexion betwixt the end of the Old and the beginning of the New Testament, and how Malachi's prophecy is designed of God to close up the scriptures of the Old Testament, in that he prophecies most distinctly of the coming of Christ, and John the Baptist his forerunner, with the accomplishment of which Matthew begins his gospel, as I observed before.
3. The primitive church for the first four centuries received not these books; and when they came to be read, the reader stood but in an inferior place, they being then read as profitable books, though not of divine authority.
4. They are no where cited by Christ and his apostles. Yea, they are not obscurely rejected by him, while he divides the scriptures into Moses, the Prophets, and the Vol. I.
Psalms, Luke xxiv. 44. And whereas the Apostle tells us, that prophecy came not of old by the will of man, but that holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,' 2 Pet. i. 21. the authors of these books pretend to no such thing. The author of Ecclesiasticus in the prologue intreats the reader to pardon them, (viz. him and his grandfather), wherein they may seem to come short of some words which they have laboured to interpret. Such an apology is there, 2. Mac. xv. 38. - If I have done well, it is that which I desired; but if slenderly and meanly, it is that which I could attain unto.” 2 Mac. ii. 23. the author tells us, he will essay to abridge in one volume the five books of Jason of Cyrene. Ver. 26. he tells how he hath taken on him the painful labour of abridging; that it was a matter of sweat and watching to him:
And ver. 27. ' But for the pleasuring of many,' says he,' we will undertake this great pains.' And more of this stuff has he there; which plainly speaks forth nothing else than human learning and pains, which men desire to have much accounted of amongst others.
Lastly, They neither agree with themselves nor the holy scriptures, as may plainly appear to those who will consider them diligently. i Mac. vi. 16. compared with ver. 4. it is said, that Antiochus died at Babylon. Yet 2 Mac, i. 13. 14, 15, 16. it is said, that when he was come into Persia, he was slain in the temple of Nanea, whom he pretended that he would marry, and would receive money in name of dowry, by her priests. Yea, 2 Mac. ix. 28. he is said to have died in a strange country in the mountains. The book of Tobit is stuffed with absurd stories; it makes the angel Ra. phael to tell a lie, and to teach Tobit's son a devilish art, to drive away the devil with the heart and liver of a fish; and when the evil spirit smelled the smell, he fled into the utmost parts of Egypt, &c. The author of the history of the Maccabees commends Rasis for self-murder, and prayer for the dead, 2 Mac. xii. 44, 45. These things plainly shew, that these books are not from the Spirit of God.
All this shews the darkness of Popery that receives these books as canonical, and the dregs remaining in the church of England, who, though they do not receive them for canonical, yet mix the reading of portions of them in their churches with the scriptures, while in the mean time, several portions of the holy scripture are passed over, and not read publicly in their service. And whilst we blame the church of England for reading in her service books that are not canonical, impartiality obliges us to say, that far too small a portion of the books that are canonical is read in the public service of our own church. This is equally culpable.
And as there is none of these to be admitted into the canon, so neither can we gratify the Papists with yielding, that there are any books of the scripture lost, lest we reflect on the providence of God, that to a miracle has preserved these books to this day, and has insured the preservation of far less parts than whole books, Mat. v. 18.
III. I proceed to shew the necessity of the scriptures.
1. There was a necessity of the revelation of the doctrine of the scriptures. For though the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable, Rom. i. 20. and ii. 14, 15. yet they are not sufficient to shew us either how we should glorify, or how we may enjoy God, and so are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, that is necessary to salvation. For (1.) There is no salvation out of Christ, Acts iv. 12. 1 Cor. iii. 11. there is no salvation through him but by faith, Mark xvi. 16. John iii. 16. and xvii. 3. and there can be no faith nor knowledge of Christ but by revelation, Rom. x. 14,—17. (2.) They who have only nature's light, and so do not enjoy divine revelation, are without God, and have no hope, Eph. ii. 12. ; and therefore there was a necessity for preaching the gospel, 1 Cor. i, 21. (3.) Whatever knowledge men may attain to of God by nature, yet saving illumination and conversion can only be got by the revealed will of God written in his word. See Psal. xix, throughout.
2. There is a necessity of the scriptures, or written word, though the Papists whose kingdom is supported by darkness, deny it. It is true, God did teach his church a long time before Moses without the written word; but then the same doctrine that we have in the scriptures, the patriarchs had by extraordinary revelation often repeated; and their long lives gave them opportunity to keep what was so revealed uncorrupted, and so to hand it down to others. But now both these are gone, and therefore the written word is necessary, (1.) For preserving the doctrine from corruption in such times of apostasy, 2 Pet. iii. 1. (2). For the better propagating of the truth, Matt. xxviii. 19. The apostles could not with their voice teach all nations, but by their writings they could. (3.) If the written word were wanting, the church has nothing to look to but uncertain traditions ; but the written word is a sure touchstone of doctrines, Isa. viii. 20. a light in a dark place, 2 Pet. i. 19. both of which are most necessary.
3. There is a necessity of it not only for beginners, but for those who are more perfect. The scripture is written for all indifferently, Col. iii. 16. Even the most perfect will find enough there, and more than they are able for : • Open thou mine eyes,' says David, that I may behold ' wondrous things out of thy law,' Psal, cxix. 18. It is but the blindness of enthusiasts to pretend, that it is only for the weaker, and that the more perfect must follow the Spirit: for if that Spirit teach any thing contrary to the written word, it is a spirit of darkness, Isa. viii. 20.; yea, if it teach another doctrine, an anathema is pronounced against it, Gal. i. 8.
Thus it plainly appears, that nothing short of scripturerevelation is sufficient to salvation, and that in an objective way; that is, that it is a sufficient rule to lead men to salvation. But something else is requisite to make this rule effectual for that end. No skill or wisdom of men representing them in the clearest point of view, nor all the power of the most elaborate and persuasive reasonings, can produce this effect. This work is the province of the Spirit of God, which he accomplishes by an internal illumination of the mind, giving blinded sinners a saving discovery of divine truths ; by powerfully subduing man's obstinate will, and enabling it cheerfully and readily to obey the will of God and the authority of Christ ; and by working upon our affections, exciting in us ardent desires after God and Christ, and a high esteem of divine truth, and removing the prejudices in our minds against it, and opening our hearts to receive the word, and comply with the design thereof.
IV. I shall next shew that the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the word of God. Christ is God's personal word, but the scriptures are his written word, Hos. i. 2.