Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER VIII.

GENERAL EXPOSITION (CONTINUED).

II. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, Their CANONICITY AND

SUFFICIENCY.

CHRISTIANITY is founded on the words of Christ, and these are contained in the canonical Scriptures. The Scriptures have been the means of the preservation of the Christian religion, as they have been the means by which the Spirit has entered into and inhabited the individual lives of men. The Bible was expressly the incitant and the inspiration of Protestantism, which as a system claims to be a restoration of the doctrines of Scripture, and recognizes no authority as transcending or even equaling that of the Written Word. Faith in the absolute sufficiency of the Scriptures may indeed be called the corner stone of Protestantism, as it was of the primitive Church after the departure of inspired apostles. The chief contest of Protestantism with Rome was as to the authority of Scripture as above tradition, Church councils, and popes. The contest to-day with false criticism is as to the integrity of the Scriptures and their reliability in matters of truth and fact. In the Fifth and Sixth of our Articles the Church accepted the challenge of Rome as to the first, and equally accepts the modern challenge as to the second. The Methodist Church believes in the divine inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the teachings of the canonical books of the Old and the New Testament. It places these writings supremely above all other authority, and accepts as truth whatever may be proved therefrom. It equally rejects as unnecessary to salvation whatever matters of belief may not be clearly proven therefrom.

The faith of Methodism on these points is absolute. It holds not only to the idea of an originally sufficient, true, inerrant revelation, but also to the doctrine of a providential preservation of these records unimpaired and complete to the present time. The doctrine stands complete on its every side. The two Articles referred to are in language approved, and they admirably express the belief of the Church to-day, as they expressed the belief of the Church at the beginning.

ARTICLE V.

THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES FOR SALVATION.

The Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatever 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. In the name of the Holy Scriptures, we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

The Names of the Canonical Books. Genesis,

Judges, Exodus,

Ruth, Leviticus,

The First Book of Samuel, Numbers,

The Second Book of Samuel, Deuteronomy,

The First Book of Kings, Joshua,

The Second Book of Kings,

The First Book of Chronicles, The Psalms,
The Second Book of Chronicles, The Proverbs,
The Book of Ezra,

Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher, The Book of Nehemiah, Canticles, or Song of Solomon. The Book of Esther,

Four Prophets, the Greater, The Book of Job,

Twelve Prophets, the Less.

All the books of the New Testament as they are commonly received we do receive and account canonical.

Bishop Burnet remarks that this Article occupies its logical place in the Confession. The four which precede it contain a statement of the main doctrines of Christianity concerning the belief in God, the Trinity, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then follows, in this Article, a definition of the rule of faith and a validation of the sources from which the former named doctrines are derived, and also of the records whereby they may be proved. The language appears to us to be a final statement of the doctrine of the sufficiency and authority of Holy Scripture. It will be observed that there is set forth in the Article no theory

1“In some respects it might have seemed natural to put it in as the First Article, as in the Helvetic Confession the First Article is De Scriptura Sancta, vero Dei verbo; but our reformers wisely put in the beginning of their Confession of Faith those doctrines on which the Church universal for fifteen hundred years had agreed, and which are the foundations of the Christian faith. Accordingly, the first five Articles treat of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption of the World, the Santification of Christians, and the Judgment of All Men. Unity on these points was of old considered to constitute catholic Christianity; and by declaring her orthodoxy on these catholic doctrines the Church of England in the very front of her Confession declares herself orthodox and catholic." (Bishop Browne, on the Articles.)

a

of the inspiration of the Bible, but that it is assumed and is sufficiently affirmed in the declaration concerning its completeness as the repository of divine truth. One could easily believe that the framers of this Article were all but inspired in this fact. What a bondage might a tenet that espoused a particular theory of inspiration have become! The First Article does not attempt to prove the existence of God, but assumes and declares it. The Fifth Article assumes and then applies the truth of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. There is no need for a confessional argument; there is no need for theorizing-inspiration is a fact, self-evident, enduring

The scope and purpose of the present work do not require us, as seems to have been accepted as a duty by nearly all creed critics with whom we have become acquainted, to go into metaphysical arguments to support the correctness of the confessional statement. But we may add that from Paley to the schools of the present enough has not been made of the necessity for a revelation found in the moral constitution of things. Naturally and of necessity, we look somewhere for just such a revelation as we find in the Scriptures. It is a due from the beneficent Creator to his moral creatures. It then becomes a question of demonstration and proof as to whether the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament are that revelation, and herein lies chiefly the field and the reason for a theology. The Confession is a matter of faith and not of metaphysical arguments. Faith long ago settled itself on the truth of these Scriptures. Its office is only to affirm. So far as the Confession concerns, the arguments are closed; the proofs are all in. The details of the development of the many subsidiary doctrines concerning the literary character, the verbal meanings, and even the internal teachings of the Scriptures belong to a species of literature more flexible, more amenable to change and modern phrasing than is the Confession. The truth and sufficiency of revelation being declared, and its identity established, the office of the Article has been served.

Bishop Browne speaks of this Article as being the first controversial tenet of the Confession. By that he means the first in controversy with Rome, which controversy was the occasion and reason for the writing. The language of the controversy is clear enough. Both by the mouth of her schoolmen and in her Councils, Rome had declared that the written Scriptures were not a sufficient guide to the world's salvation; but that there is a traditional doctrine, an unwritten revelation, without a knowledge of which the world cannot be saved. This doctrine of tradition Rome claims to have derived by a direct succession from the mouths of the apostles. Protestantism not only denies the truth of this claim, but rejects the doctrine of traditions in general. This Article is the voice of a Protestantism which has inherited from the beginning. Since we take the Scriptures themselves to be supreme, it is easy from their own words to prove both the groundlessness and the sin of the claim that traditions are of equal authority with the written Word. The Master condemned the trust which the Jews placed in the traditions received from their fathers. St. Paul consistently warned the early Christians

« PreviousContinue »