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(1.) The greatest part of the doctrines contained therein are of perpetual obligation to the church, in all the dispensations or changes thereof.
(2.) As for the ceremonial law, which is abolished, with some other forensick, or political laws, by which the Jews, in particular, were governed, these, indeed, are not so far a rule of obedience to us, as that we should think ourselves obliged to observe them, as the Jews were of old: notwithstanding,
(3.) Even these are of use to us, as herein we see what was then the rule of faith and obedience to the church, and how far it agrees as to the substance thereof, or things signified thereby, with the present dispensation; so that it is of use to us, as herein we see the wisdom, sovereignty, and grace of God to his church in former ages, and how what was then typified or prophesied, is fulfilled to us. Thus it is said, that whatsoever things were written afore-time, were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope, Rom. xv. 4.
The scriptures of the Old and New Testament contain a revelation of the whole mind and will of God, and therefore are very justly styled a perfect rule of faith and obedience. Nevertheless,
We do not hereby intend that they contain an account of every thing that God hath done, or will do, in his works of providence and grace, from the beginning to the end of time; for such a large knowledge of things is not necessary for us to attain. Thus it is said, John xx. 30. that Christ did many other signs, that are not written in the gospel; but those things that are contained therein, are written that we might believe; there
"In the same year, eleventh month Zechariah i. ver. 7, &c. ii.—vi.
Ezra v. ver. 3, &c.
Esther ii. ver. 1-16.
Esther ii. ver. 16-21.
Esther ii. ver. 21, &c.
Nehemiah i-iii. &c.
Nehemiah xiii. ver. 6.
Nehemiah xiii. ver. 6, &c.
The Canon of the Old Testament completed, by adding two books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Malachi; by SIMON the Just.”
fore we have a sufficient account thereof to support our faith; and that there were many other things which Jesus did, which, if they should be written every one, the world would not contain the books that should be written, John xxi. 25. (a)
Nor do we understand hereby, that God has given us an account of all his secret counsels and purposes relating to the event of things, or the final estate of particular persons, abstracted from those marks on which our hope of salvation is founded, or their outward condition, or the good or bad success that shall attend their undertakings in the world, or the time of their living therein: these, and many more events of the like nature, are secrets which we are not to enquire into, God having not thought fit to reveal them in his word, for wise ends best known to himself, which shews his sovereignty, with respect to the matter of revelation; Secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children, Deut. xxix. 29. When Peter was over-curious in enquiring concerning the future estate or condition of John, our Saviour gives him this tacit reproof, What is that to thee? John xxi. 21, 22.
Nor are we to suppose that the divine perfections, which are infinite, are fully and adequately revealed to man, since it is impossible that they should, from the nature of the thing; for that which is in itself incomprehensible, cannot be so revealed that we should be able fully to comprehend it, though that which is possible, or at least necessary, to be known of God, is clearly revealed to us.
Again, we do not suppose that every doctrine, that is to be assented to as an article of faith, is revealed in express words in scripture, since many truths are to be deduced from it by just and necessary consequences, which thereby become a rule of faith.
Nor are we to suppose that every part of scripture fully and clearly discovers all those things which are contained in the whole of it, since there was farther light given to the church, by degrees, in succeeding ages, as it grew up, from its infantstate, to a state of perfect manhood; therefore there is a clearer and fuller revelation of the glorious mysteries of the gospel, under the New Testament-dispensation, than there was before it. The apostle uses the same metaphorical way of speaking, when he compares the state of the church, under the ceremo, nial law, to that of an heir under age, or of children under the direction of tutors and governors, whose instruction and advances in knowledge are proportioned to their age; so God
(a) xoops is the unregenerate world, John vii. 7. and yamezi, is to receive kirk ly, 2 Cor. vii. 2.
revealed his word at sundry times, as well as in divers manners, Gal. iv. 1, 3. Heb. i. 1.
The word of God, accompanied with those additional helps before mentioned, for the churches understanding the sense thereof, was always, indeed, sufficient to lead men into the knowledge of divine truth; but the canon being compleated, it is so now in an eminent degree; and it is agreeable to the divine perfections that such a rule should be given; for since salvation could not be attained, nor God glorified, without a discovery of those means, which are conducive thereto, it is not consistent with his wisdom and goodness that we should be left at the utmost uncertainty as to this matter, and, at the same time, rendered incapable of the highest privileges which attend instituted worship. Can we suppose that, when all other thingsnecessary to salvation are adjusted, and many insuperable difficulties surmounted, and an invitation given to come and partake of it, that God should lay such a bar in our way, that it should be impossible for us to attain it, as being without a sufficient rule?
And since none but God can give us such an one, it is inconsistent with his sovereignty to leave it to men, to prescribe what is acceptable in his sight. They may, indeed, give laws, and thereby oblige their subjects to obedience; but these must be such as are within their own sphere; their power does not extend itself to religious matters, so that our faith and duty to God should depend upon their will; for this would be a bold presumption, and extending their authority and influence beyond due bounds; therefore since a rule of faith is necessary, we must conclude that God has given us such an one; and it must certainly be worthy of himself, and therefore perfect, and every way sufficient to answer the end thereof.
That it is so, farther appears from the event, or from the happy consequences of our obedience to it; from that peace, joy, and holiness, which believers are made partakers of, while steadfastly adhering to this rule: thus it is said, that through comfort of the scriptures they have hope, Rom. xv. 4. and that hereby the man of God is made wise to salvation, and perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, 2 Tim. iii. 15, 17. The perfection of the law is demonstrated, by the Psalmist, by its effects, in that it converts the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, Psal. xix. 7, 8.
We might farther argue, that the scripture is a perfect rule of faith, from those threatnings which are denounced against them, who pretend to add to, or take from it; this was strictly forbidden, even when there was but a part of scripture committed to writing. Thus says God; Ye shall not add to the word which I command you; neither shall ye diminish ought
from it, Deut. iv. 2. And the apostle denounces an anathema against any one who should pretend to preach any other gospel, than that which he had received from God, Gal. i. 8, 9. And, in the close of the scripture, our Saviour testifies, to every man, that if any should add to these things, God would add to him the plagues written in this book. And if any should take away from this book, God would take away his part out of the book of life, Rev. xxii. 18, 19.
Thus having considered the scripture as a rule of faith, we proceed to shew what are the properties which belong to it as such.
1. A rule, when it is designed for general use, must have the sanction of public authority: thus human laws, by which a nation is to be governed, which are a rule to determine the goodness or badness of men's actions, and their desert of rewards or punishments accordingly, must be established by public authority. Even so the scripture is a rule of faith, as it contains the divine laws, by which the actions of men are to be tried, together with the ground which some have to expect future blessedness, and others to fear punishments threatened to those who walk not according to this rule.
2. A rule by which we are to judge of the nature, truth, excellency, perfection, or imperfection of any thing, must be infallible, or else it is of no use; and, as such, nothing must be added to, or taken from it, for then it would cease to be a perfect rule: thus it must be a certain and impartial standard, by which things are to be tried: Such a rule as this is scripture, as was but now observed. And it is an impartial rule, to which, as a standard, all truth and goodness is to be reduced and measured by it; To the law, and to the testimony; if they speak not ac-. cording to this word, it is because there is no light in them, Isa.
3 All appeals are to be made to a rule, and controversies to be tried and determined by it. Thus the scripture, as it is a rule of faith, is a judge of controversies; so that whatever different sentiments men have about religion, all must be reduced to, and the warrantableness thereof tried hereby, and a stop put to growing errors by an appeal to this rule, rather than to coercive power, or the carnal weapons of violence and persecution.
Moreover, the judgment we pass on ourselves, as being sincere or hypocrites, accepted or rejected of God, is to be formed by comparing our conduct with scripture, as the rule by which we are to try the goodness or badness of our state, and of our actions.
4. A rule must have nothing of a different nature set up in competition with, or opposition to it; for that would be to ren
der it useless, and unfit to be the standard of truth: thus scripture is the only rule of faith, and therefore no human traditions are to be set up as standards of faith in competition with it, for that would be to suppose it not to be a perfect rule. This the Papists do, and therefore may be charged, as the Pharisees were of old by our Saviour, with transgressing and making the commandment of none effect by their tradition, Mat. xv. 3, 6. concerning whom he also says, that in vain they worship him, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, ver. 9. What is this but to reflect on the wisdom, and affront the authority and sovereignty of God, by casting this contempt on that rule of faith which he hath given?
Having considered scripture as a rule of faith and obedience, it is farther observed, that it is the only rule thereof, in opposition to the Popish doctrine of human traditions, as pretended to be of equal authority with it; by which means the law of God is made void at this day, as it was by the Jews in our Saviour's time, and the scripture supposed to be an imperfect rule; the defect whereof they take this method to supply; and to give countenance thereto,
1. They refer to those Scriptures, in which, it is said, our Saviour did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written, John xx. 30. and his own words, wherein he tells them, that he had many things to say unto them, which they could not then bear, John xvi. 12. as also to the words of the apostle Paul, Acts xx. 35. in which he puts the church in mind of a saying of our Saviour, received by tradition, because not contained in any of the evangels, viz. it is more blessed to give than to receive.
To which it may be replied,
Answ. (1.) That though it is true there were many things done, and words spoken by our Saviour, which are not recorded in Scripture, and therefore we must be content not to know them, being satisfied with this, that nothing is omitted therein which is necessary to salvation, yet to pretend to recover, or transmit them to us by tradition, is to assert and not to prove, what they impose on us as matters of faith.
(2.) Those things which our Saviour had to say, which he did not then impart to his disciples, because they were not able to bear them, respected, as is more than probable, what he de signed to discover to them after his resurrection, during his forty days abode here on earth, or by his Spirit, after his ascension into heaven, concerning the change of the Sabbath, from the seventh, to the first day of the week, the abolition of the ceremonial law, the Spirituality of his kingdom, which they were at that time less able to bear than they were afterwards, and other things relating to the success of their ministry, the