WITH AN ANSWER TO THAT INQUIRY, HOW WE KNOW THE SCRIPTURES TO BE THE WORD OF GOD.
THIS interesting treatise originated in the request of several persons, who had heard Owen preaching on the subject, that he would publish the substance of what he had preached. It broaches the great argument of the experimental evidence in favor of the Christian revelation, which he afterwards developed more fully in his “Reason of Faith” (see vol. 4, p. 4), in connection with which the present treatise should be studied. A similar train of reasoning has been prosecuted by Professor Halyburton, in the appendix to his work on Natural and Revealed Religion; by President Edwards, in his treatise on Religious Affections; and by Dr Chalmers, in his Theological Institutes. The last-mentioned author, in a preface to the following work, has recorded his high opinion of its merits: — “Dr Owen’s Treatise ‘On the Divine Original,’ etc., embraces a distinct but most important species of evidence; and this article will be held in high estimation by those who desiderate a satisfactory convictionof the claims of the Bible to divine inspiration, of which he adduces the most solid and indubitable proof.” Comparing it with other treatises on the evidences, by Leslie, Lyttelton, Doddridge, Bates, and Baxter, and after awarding a due meed of praise to these writers, he proceeds: “Yet do we hold Dr Owen to have rendered a more essential service to the cause of divine revelation, when, by his clear and irresistible demonstrations, he has proved that the written Word itself possesses a self-evidencing light and power for manifesting its own divine original, superior to the testimony of eyewitnesses, or the evidence of miracles, or those supernatural gifts with which the first teachers of Christianity were endowed for accrediting their divine mission.”
Starting with the principle that the authority of revelation depends on its divine origin, he exhibits the claim of the Old Testament Scriptures to this high authority, and unfolds the special providence through which they have been transmitted to us without corruption or mutilation. The same claim is advanced for the New Testament, chap. 10. Having proved that the Scriptures are to be received in the exercise of faith, resting directly on the authority of God as its foundation, or as the formal reason of our assent to them as his word, he defines their authority to be their right and power to command and require obedience in the name of God. He enumerates three ways by which their divine origin, and, consequently, their divine authority, are proved:
I. By a general induction, which consists of analogical arguments, to the effect that as thestamp of a divine authorship is impressed on creation, so that, apart from any separate and independent testimony from God, it teems with evidence of a divine original, so in the Word the intrinsic evidence of a divine original may reasonably be expected, and is actually to be found, chap. 2,
II. By the testimonies which tie Word itself contains to its own character and claims; and,
III. By innate arguments, evidence springing intrinsically from the Word, in the influence with which it operates on the mind and conscience. This self-evidencing property of Scripture is unfolded under a reference to the light which it imparts, and its spiritual efficacy to renew and sanctify, chap. III.,
IV. He explains what is meant by “the testimony of the Spirit,” discriminating it from popish and fanatical errors: he proceeds to reject the authority of tradition, and to indicate the true place of miracles in the evidences of Christianity, chap. 5. Two supplementary arguments close the treatise, designed to prove still further the self-evidencing power of the Word, and derived, — 1. From the nature of the doctrines contained in the Word, such as their universal adaptation and peculiarly glorious character; and, 2. From the harmony and connection subsisting among all the parts of Scripture. —ED.
CHAPTER 1. The divine original of the Scripture the sole foundation of its authority — The original of the Old Testament — The peculiar manner of the revelation of the word — The written word, as written, preserved by the providence of God — Cappellus’ opinion about various lections considered — The Scripture not ijdi>av ejpilu>sewv — The true meaning of that expression — Entirely from God, to the least tittle — Of the Scriptures of the New Testament, and their peculiar prerogative. THAT the whole authority of the Scripture in itself depends solely on its divine original, is confessed by all who acknowledge its authority. The evincing and declaration of that authority being the thing at present aimed at, the discovery of its divine spring and rise is, in the first place, necessarily to be premised thereunto. That foundation being once laid, we shall be able to educe our following reasons and arguments, wherein we aim more at weight than number, from their own proper principles.
As to the original of the Scripture of the Old Testament, it is said, God SPAKE, pa>lai ejn toi~v profh>taiv, ( Hebrews 1:1,) “of old, or formerly, in the prophets.” From the days of Moses the lawgiver, and downwards, unto the consignation and bounding of the canon delivered to the Judaical Church, in the days of Ezra and his companions, hl;wOdG]h’ ts,n,K] yven]a’ , the “men of the great congregation” — so God spake. This being done only among the Jews, they, as his church, ejpisteu>qhsan ta< lo>gia tou~ Qeou~, ( Romans 3:2, 9:4) were “intrusted with the oracles ofGod.” God spake, ejn toi~v profh>taiv ; ejn for dia> , (Chrysostom, Theophylact,) in for by : dia< tw~n profhtw~n , “by the prophets,” as Luke 1:70, dia< sto>matov tw~n aJgi>wn profhtw~n, further intended in this expression.
In the exposition, or giving out the eternal counsel of the mind and will of God unto men, there is considerable [to be considered]: 1. His speakingunto the prophets; and, 2. His speaking by them unto us. In this expression, it seems to be that lwOq tB’ , or filia vocis — that voice from heaven that came to the prophets which is understood. So God spake in the prophets; and in reference thereunto there is propriety in that expression, ejn toi~v profh>taiv — “in the prophets.” Thus the Psalms are many of them said to be, To this or that man. dwd;l] µT;k]mi , “A golden psalm to David” — that is, from the Lord; and from thence their tongue was as the “pen of a writer.” ( Psalm 45:1.) So God spake in them, before he spakeby them.
The various ways of special revelation, by dreams, visions, audible voices, inspirations, with that peculiar one of the lawgiver under the Old Testament called µyniP;Ala, µyniP; , “face to face,” ( Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 34:10) and hP,Ala, hP, , ( Numbers 12:8,) with that which is compared with it and exalted above it ( Hebrews 1:1-3) in the New, by the Son, viz., ejk ko>lpou tou~ patro>v , “from the bosom of the Father,” (John 1:17, 18,) are not of my present consideration — all of them belonging to the manner of the thing inquired after, not the thing itself.
By the assertion, then, laid down, of God “speaking in the prophets of old,” from the beginning to the end of that long tract of time (consisting of one thousand years) wherein he gave out the writings of the Old Testament, two things are ascertained unto us, which are the foundation of our present discourse. 1. That the laws they made known, the doctrines they delivered, the instructions they gave, the stories they recorded, the promises of Christ, the prophecies of gospel times they gave out and revealed, were not their own, not conceived in their minds, not formed by their reasonings, not retained in their memories from what they heard, not by any means beforehand comprehended by them, ( 1 Peter 1:10, 11,) but were all of them immediately from God — there being only a passive concurrence of their rational faculties in their reception, without any such active obedience as by any law they might be obliged unto. Hence, 2. God was so with them, and by the Holy Ghost so spake in them — as to their receiving of the Word from him, and their delivering of it unto others by speaking or writing — as that they were not themselves enabled, by any habitual light, knowledge, or conviction of truth, to declare his mind and will, but only acted as they were immediately moved by him.
Their tongue in what they said, or their hand in what they wrote, was rpewOs f[e , no more at their own disposal than the pen is in the hand of an expert writer.
Hence, as far as their own personal concernments, as saints and believers, did he in them, they are said ejreuna~|w , “to make a diligent inquiry into, and investigation of,” the things which ejdh>lou to< ejn aujtoi~v Pneu~ma Cristou~ , the “Spirit of Christ that spake in themselves did signify.” ( Peter 1:10, 11.) Without this, though their visions were express, so that in them their eyes were said to be open, ( Numbers 24:3, 4,) yet they understood them not. Therefore, also, they studied the writings and prophecies of one another. ( Daniel 9:2.) Thus they attained a saving, useful, habitual knowledge of the truths delivered by themselves and others, by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, through the study of the Word, even as we. ( <19B9104> Psalm 119:104.) But as to the receiving of the Word from God, as God spake in them, they obtained nothing by study or meditation, by inquiry or reading. ( Amos 7:15.) Whether we consider the matter or manner of what they received and delivered, or their receivingand delivering of it, they were but as an instrument of music, giving a sound according to the hand, intention, and skill of him that strikes it.
This is variously expressed. Generally, it is said hy;h; rb;D; . “the word was” to this or that prophet, which we have rendered “the word came” unto them. Ezekiel 1:3: rb’d] hy;h; hyOh; , it “came expressly;” “essendo fuit” — it had a subsistence given unto it, or an effectual in-being, by the Spirit’s entering into him. (Ver. 14.) Now, this coming of the word unto them had oftentimes such a greatness and expression of the majesty ofGod upon it, as filled them with dread and reverence of him, ( Habakkuk 3:16,) and also greatly affected even their outward man. ( Daniel 8:27.)
But this dread and terror (which Satan strove to imitate in his filthy tripods, and ejggastri>muqoi ) was peculiar to the Old Testament, and belonged to the pedagogy thereof. ( Hebrews 12:18-21.) The Spirit, in the declaration of the New Testament, gave out his mind and will in a way of more liberty and glory. (2 Corinthians 3). The expressness and immediacy of revelation was the same; but the manner of it related more to that glorious liberty in fellowship and communion with the Father, whereunto believers had then an access provided them by Jesus Christ. ( Hebrews 9:8, 10:19, 20, 12:22-24.) So our Savior tells his apostles, ( Matthew 10:20,) Oujc uJmei~v ejste oiJ lalou~ntev , “You are not the speakers” of what you deliver, as other men are, the figment and imagination of whose hearts are the fountain of all that they speak; and he adds this reason, To< gais that which speaketh in you.” Thus, the word that came unto them was a book which they took in and gave out without any alteration of onetittle or syllable. ( Ezekiel 2:8-10, 3:3; Revelation 10:9-11.)
Moreover, when the word was thus come to the prophets, and God had spoken in them, it was not in their power to conceal it, the hand of the Lord being strong upon them. They were not now only, on a general account, to utter the truth they were made acquainted withal, and to speak the things they had heard and seen, (which was their common preaching work,) according to the analogy of what they had received, ( Acts 4:20,) but, also, the very individual words that they had received were to be declared. When the word was come to them, it was as a fire within them, that must be delivered, or it would consume them. ( Psalm 39:3; Jeremiah 20:9; Amos 3:8, 7:15, 16.) So Jonah found his attempt to hide the word that he had received to be altogether vain.
Now, because these things are of great importance, and the foundation of all that doth ensue — viz, the discovery that the Word is come forth unto us from God, without the least mixture or intervenience of any medium obnoxious to fallibility, (as is the wisdom, truth, integrity, knowledge, and memory, of the best of all men,) — I shall further consider it from one full and eminent declaration thereof, given unto us, 2 Peter 1:20,21. Thewords of the Holy Ghost are, Tou~to prw~ton ginw>skontev o[ti pa~sa profhtei>a grafh~v , ijdi>av ejpilu>sewv ouj gi>netai? ouj gamati ajnqrw>pou hjne>cqh pote< profhtei>a , ajll j uJpo< Pneu>matov aJgi>ou fero>menoi ejl>lhsan oiJ a[gioi Qeou~ a]nqrwpoi — “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation; for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
That which he speaks of is profhtei>a grafh~v, the “prophecy of Scripture,” or written prophecy.
There were then traditions among the Jews to whom Peter wrote, exalting themselves into competition with the written Word, and which not longafter got the title of an oral law, pretending to have its original from God.
These the apostle tacitly condemns; and also shows under what formality he considered that which (verse 19) he termed lo>gov profhtiko>v, the “word of prophecy;” viz., as written . The written Word, as such, is that whereof he speaks. Above fifty times is hJ grafh>, or aiJ grafai> , in the New Testament, put absolutely for the Word of God. And bT;k]mi is so used in the Old for the word of prophecy. ( 2 Chronicles 21:12.) It is the hJ garfh> that is zeo>pneustov , ( 2 Timothy 3:16,) “the writing, or word written, is by inspiration from God.” Not only the doctrine in it, but the grafh> itself, or the “doctrine as written,” is so from him.
Hence, the providence of God hath manifested itself no less concerned in the preservation of the writings than of the doctrine contained in them; the writing itself being the product of his own eternal counsel for the preservation of the doctrine, after a sufficient discovery of the insufficiency of all other means for that end and purpose. And hence the malice of Satan hath raged no less against the book than against the truth contained in it. The dealings of Antiochus under the Old Testament, and of sundry persecuting emperors under the New, evince no less. And it was no less crime of old to be traditor libri than to be abnegator fidei. The reproach of chartacea scripta, and membranae, (Coster. Enchirid., cap. 1.), reflects on its author. It is true, we have not the Aujto>grafa of Moses and the prophets, of the apostles and evangelists; but the ajpo>grafa or “copies” which we have contain every iota that was in them.
There is no doubt but that in the copies we now enjoy of the Old Testament there are some diverse readings, or various lections. The bytik]W yriq] the µyrip]wOs ˆWQTi , the µyrip]wOs rWF[ , (for the ˆyribis] are of another nature,) the various lections of Ben Asher, or Rabbi Aaron the son of Rabbi Moses of the tribe of Asher, and Ben Naphtali, or Rabbi Moses the son of David of the tribe of Naphtali — the lections also of the eastern and western Jews, which we have collected at the end of the great Bible with the Masora — evince it. But yet we affirm, that the whole Word ofGod, in every letter and tittle, as given from him by inspiration, is preserved without corruption. Where there is any variety it is always in things of less, indeed of no, importance. God by his providence preserving the whole entire, suffered this lesser variety to fall out, in or among the copies we have, for the quickening and exercising of our diligence in our search into his Word.
It was an unhappy attempt, (which must afterward be spoken unto,) that a learned man hath of late put himself upon, viz., to prove variations in all the present jApo>grafa the Old Testament in the Hebrew tongue from the copies used of old, merely upon uncertain conjectures and the credit ofcorrupt translations. Whether that plea of his be more unreasonable in itself and devoid of any real ground of truth, or injurious to the love and care of God over his Word and church, I know not; sure I am, it is both in a high degree. The translation especially insisted on by him is that of the LXX. That this translation either from the mistakes of its first authors, (if it be theirs whose name and number it beam,) or the carelessness, or ignorance, or worse, of its transcribers — is corrupted and gone off from the original in a thousand places twice told, is acknowledged by all who know aught of these things. Strange that so corrupt a stream should be judged a fit means to cleanse the fountain; that such a Lesbian rule should be thought a fit measure to correct the original by; and yet on the account hereof, with some others not one whit better, (or scarce so good,) we have one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six various lections exhibited unto us, with frequent insinuations of an infinite numbermore yet to be collected. It were desirable that men would be content to show their learning, reading, and diligence, about things where there is less danger in adventures.
Nor is the relief Cappellus provides against the charge of bringing things to an uncertainty in the Scripture, (which he found himself obnoxious unto,) less pernicious than the opinion he seeks to palliate thereby; although it be since taken up and approved by others. “The saving doctrine of the Scripture,” he tells us, “as to the matter and substance of it, in all things of moment, is preserved in the copies of the original and translations that do remain” It is indeed a great relief against the inconvenience of corrupt translations, to consider that although some of them be bad enough, yet, if all the errors and mistakes that are to be found in all the rest should be added to the worst of all, every necessary, saving, fundamental truth, would be found sufficiently testified unto therein. But to depress the sacred truth of the originals into such a condition as wherein it should stand in need of this apology, and that without any color or pretense from discrepancies in the copies themselves that are extant, or any tolerable evidence that there ever were any other in the least differing from these extant in the world, will at length be found a workunbecoming a Christian, Protestant divine. Besides the injury done hereby to the providence of God towards his church, and care of his Word, it will not be found so easy a matter, upon a supposition of such corruption in the originals as is pleaded for, to evince unquestionably that thewhole saving doctrine itself, at first given out from God, continues entire and incorrupt. The nature of this doctrine is such, that there is no other principle or means of its discovery, no other rule or measure of judging and determining any thing about or concerning it, but only the writing from whence it is taken; it being wholly of divine revelation, and that revelation being expressed only in that writing. Upon any corruption, then, supposed therein, there is no means of rectifying it.
It were an easy thing to correct a mistake or corruption in the transcription of any problem or demonstration of Euclid, or any other ancient mathematician, from the consideration of the things themselves about which they treat being always the same, and in their own nature equally exposed to the knowledge and understanding of men in all ages. In things of pure revelation — whose knowledge depends solely on their revelation — it is not so. Nor is it enough to satisfy us, that the doctrines mentioned are preserved entire; every tittle and ijw~ta in the Word ofGod must come under our care and consideration, as being, as such, from God. But of these things we shall treat afterward at large. Return we now to the apostle.
This profhtei>a , this written prophecy, this lo>gov profhtikov saith he, ijdi>av ejpilu>sewv ouj gi>netai — “is not of any private interpretation.”
Some think that ejpilu>sewv is put for ejphlu>sewv or ejpeleu>sewv , which, according to Hesychius, denotes afflation, inspiration, conception within: so Calvin. In this sense, the importance of the words is the same with what I have already mentioned, viz., that the prophets had not their private conceptions, or self-fancied enthusiasms, of the things they spake.
To this interpretation assents Grotius, And ejphlu>sewv for ejpilu>sewv is reckoned amongst the various lections that are gathered out of him, in the appendix to the Biblia Polyglotta. Thus ijdi>av ejpilu>sewv , is the other side of that usual expression, ejph~lqev ejp j ejme< oJ lo>gov , or to< pneu~ma . Camero contends for the retaining of ejpilu>sewv ; and justly. We begin a little too late to see whither men’s bold conjectures, in correcting the original text of the Scriptures, are like to proceed. Here is no color for a various lection. One copy, it seems, by Stephen, read dialu>sewv , without ground, by an evident error; and such mistakes are not to be allowed the name or place of various readings. But yet, says Camero, ejpi>lusiv is such a “resolution” and interpretation as is made by revelation. He adds, that in that sense ejpilu>ein is used by the LXX. in the business of Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream, (Genesis 40.) which was by revelation. But indeed the word is not used in that chapter.
However, he falls in with this sense as do Calvin and Grotius — that ijdi>av ejpilu>sewv is not to be referred to our interpretation of the prophets, but to the way and manner of their receiving the counsel and will of God.
And, indeed, ijdi>av ejpilu>sewv ouj gi>netai — taking ejpi>lusiv for an interpretation of the word of prophecy given out by writing, as our translation bears it — is an expression that can scarcely have any tolerable sense affixed unto it. Gi>netai , or ouj gi>netai , relates here to profhtei>a , and denotes the first giving out of the Word, not our after-consideration of its sense and meaning. And without this sense it stands in no coherence with, nor opposition to, the following sentence, which, by its causal connection to this, manifests that it renders a reason of what is hereto affirmed in the first place; and in the latter — turning with the adversative ajlla> — an opposition unto it: Ouj gamati ajnqrw>pou hjne>cqh pote< profhtei>a , ajll j uJpo< Pneu>matov aJgi>ou fero>menoi ejla>lhsan a[gioi Qeou~ a]nqrwpoi . — “For prophecy came not at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” What reason is in the first part of this verse why the Scripture is not of our private indirection? or what opposition in the letter to that assertion? Nay, on that supposal, there is no tolerable correspondency of discourse in the whole perioch> . But take the word to express the coming of the prophecy to the prophets themselves, and the sense is full andclear.
This, then, is the intention of the apostle: The prophecy which we have written — the Scripture — was not an issue of men’s fancied enthusiasms, not a product of their own minds and conceptions, not an interpretation of the will of God by the understanding of man — that is, of the prophets themselves. Neither their rational apprehensions, inquiries, conceptions of fancy, or imaginations of their hearts, had any place in this business; no self-afflation, no rational meditation, manned at liberty by the understanding and will of men, had place herein.
Of this saith the apostle, Tou~to prw~ton ginw>skontev? — “Knowing, judging, and determining this in the first place: “this is a principle to be owned and acknowledged by every one that will believe any thing else.”
Ginw>skw is not only to know, to perceive, to understand; but also to judge, own, and acknowledge. This, then, in our religion, is to be owned, acknowledged, submitted unto, as a principle, without further dispute. To discover the grounds of this submission and acknowledgment is thebusiness of the ensuing discourse.
That this is so indeed, as before asserted, and to give a reason why this is to be received as a principle, he adds, (verse 2l,) Ouj gamati ajnqrw>pou hjne>cqh pote< profhtei>a. That word of prophecy which we have written, is not ijdi>av ejpilu>sewv — “of private conception” — “for it came not at any time by the will of man.” jHne>cqh , which is the passive conjugation of fe>rw from ejne>gkw , denotes at least to be “brought in” — more than merely it “came” it — was brought unto them by the will of God. The affirmative, as to the will of God, is included in the negative, as to the will of man; or it came as the voice from heaven to our Saviour on the mount. (Verse 18, where the same word is used) So Ezekiel 1:3, rb’d] hy;h; hyOh; , “essendo fuit verbum,” it was brought into him, as was showed before. Thus God brought the word to them, and spake inthem, in order of nature, before he spake by them. As hjne>cqh , it was brought to them, it was hwO;hy] lwOq , “the voice of the Lord,” ( Genesis 3:8,) or lwOq tK’ , as the Jews call it: as spoken by them, or written, it was properly hwO;hy]Arb’d] , “verbum Dei,” “the word of God” which by his immediate voice he signified to the prophets. Thus some of them, in visions, first ate a written book and then prophesied, as was instanced before. And this is the first spring of the Scripture — the beginning of its emanation from the counsel and will of God. By the power of the Holy Ghost it was brought into the organs or instruments that he was pleased to use, for the revelation and declaration of it unto others.
That which remains for the completing of this dispensation of the Word of God unto us is added by the apostle: JYpo< Pneu>matov aJgi>ou fero>menoi ejla>lhsan a[gioi Qeou~ a]nqrwpoi. When the word was thus brought to them, it was not left to their understandings, wisdoms, minds, memories, to order, dispose, and give it out; but they were borne, acted, [actuated,] carried out by the Holy Ghost, to speak, deliver, and write all that, and nothing but that — to every tittle that was so brought to them.
They invented not words themselves, suited to the thugs they had learned, but only expressed the words that they received. Though their mind and understanding were used in the choice of words, (whence arise all the differences — that is, in their manner of expression — for they did use Åp,he yreb]Di “words of will,” or choice,) yet they were so guided, that their words were not their own, but immediately supplied unto them. And so they gave out rv,y bWtk; , the “writing of uprightness,” and tm,a’ yreb]Di “words of truth” itself. ( Ecclesiastes 12:10.) Not only the doctrinethey taught was the word of truth — truth itself, ( John 17:17,) — but the words whereby they taught it were words of truth from God himself.
Thus, allowing the contribution of passive instruments for the reception and representation of words — which answer the mind and tongue of the prophets, in the coming of the voice of God to them — every apex of the written Word is equally divine, and as immediately from God as the voicewherewith, or whereby, he spake to or in the prophets; and is, therefore, accompanied with the same authority in itself, and unto us.
What hath been thus spoken of the scripture of the Old Testament, must be also affirmed of the New, with this addition of advantage and preeminence, viz., that ajrch, ( Hebrews 2:3,) “it received its beginning of being spoken by the Lord himself.” God spake in these last days, ejn tw~| YiJw~| , “in the Son.” ( Hebrews 1:2.)
Thus God, who himself began the writing of the Word with his own finger, ( Exodus 31:18,) — after he had spoken it, (Exodus 20) appointing or approving the writing of the rest that followed, ( Deuteronomy 31:12; Joshua 23:6; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6, 17:13; 1 Chronicles 22:13; 2 Chronicles 25:4; Ezekiel 2:8-10; Habakkuk 2:2; Luke 16:29; John 5:39, 20:31; Acts 17:11,) — doth lastly command the close of the immediate revelation of his will to be written in a book; ( Revelation 1:11;) and so gives out the whole of his mind and counsel unto us in writing, as a merciful and steadfast relief against all that confusion, darkness, and uncertainty, which the vanity, folly, and looseness of the minds of men — drawn out and heightened by the unspeakable alterations that fall out amongst them — would otherwise have certainly run into.
Thus we have laid down the original of the Scriptures from the Scripture itself. And this original is the basis and foundation of all its authority.
Thus is it from God entirely from him. As to the doctrine confined in it, and the words wherein that doctrine is delivered, it is wholly his; what thatspeaks, he speaks himself. He speaks in it and by it; and so it is vested with all the moral authority of God over his creatures.
CHAPTER 2. The main question proposed to consideration — How we may know assuredly the Scripture to be the word of God — The Scripture to be received by divine faith — The authority of God the foundation — The way whereby that authority is evidenced or made known — The various ways of God’s revealing himself and his mind — 1. By his works; 2. By the light of nature; 3. By his word — All of these evince themselves to be from him, his word especially.
Having laid, in the foregoing chapter, the foundation that we are to build and proceed upon, I come now to lay down the inquiry, whose resolution must thence be educed. That, then, which we are seeking after, is, how we, and the rest of men in the world, who, through the merciful dispensation of God, have the book or books wherein the scripture given out from him (as above declared) is contained, or said to be contained — we, who live so many ages from the last person who received any part of it immediately from God, or who have not received it immediately ourselves — may come to be ascertained, [assured,] as to all ends and purposes wherein we may be concerned therein, that the whole and entire written word in that book, or those books, hath the original, and consequently the authority, that it pleads and avows — viz., that it is ejx oujranou~ , and not ejx ajnqrw>pwn , from God, in the way and manner laid down, and not the invention of men, attending to sesofisme>noiv , ( 2 Peter 1:16,) or “cunningly devised fables.”
Now, seeing it is expected from us, and required of us, by God himself, and that on the penalty of his eternal displeasure if we fail in our duty, ( 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10,) that we receive the Scripture not as we do other books in relation to their authors — with a firm opinion, built on prevailing probable arguments, prevalent against any actual conclusions to the contrary — but with divine and supernatural faith — omitting all such inductions as serve only to ingenerate a persuasion not to be cast out of the mind by contrary reasonings or objections — it is especially inquired, What is the foundation and formal reason of our doing so, if we so do?
Whatever that be, it returns an answer to this important question, “Why, or on what account, do you believe the Scriptures, or books of the Old and New Testament, to be the word of God? Now the formal reason of things being but one whatever consideration may be had of other inducements or arguments to beget in us a persuasion that the Scripture is the word of God, yet they have no influence on that divine faith wherewith we are bound to believe them. They may, indeed, be of some use to repel the objections that are, or may be, raised against the truth we believe — and so indirectly cherish and further faith itself — but as to a concurrence unto the foundation, or formal reason, of our believing, it is not capable of it.
Having, then, laid down the divine original of the Scriptures, and opened the manner of the Word’s coming forth from God, an answer shall now, on that sole foundation, be returned to the inquiry laid down. And this I shall do in the ensuing position: — The authority of God, the supreme Lord of all, the first and only absolute Truth, whose word is truth — speaking in and by the penmen of the Scriptures — evinced singly in and by the Scripture itself — is the sole bottom and foundation, or formal reason, of our assenting to those Scriptures as his word, and of our submitting our hearts and consciences unto them with that faith and obedience which morally respect him, and are due to him alone.
God speaking in the penmen of the Scripture, ( Hebrews 1:1,) his voice to them was accompanied with its own evidence, which gave assurance unto them; and God speaking by them or their writings unto us, his word is accompanied with its own evidence, and gives assurance unto us. His authority and veracity did, and do, in the one and the other, sufficiently manifest themselves, that men may quietly repose their souls upon them, in believing and obedience. Thus are we built ejpi< zemeli>w| tw~n ajposto>lwn kai< profhtw~n, ( Ephesians 2:20,) “on the foundation of theapostles and prophets,” in our believing.
That, then, which (to the establishment of the souls of believers) I shall labor to prove and evince, is plainly this, viz., that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament do abundantly and uncontrollably manifest themselves to be the word of the living God; so that, merely on the account of their own proposal of themselves unto us in the name and majesty of God, as such — without the contribution of help or assistance from tradition, church, or any thing else without themselves — we are obliged, upon the penalty of eternal damnation, (as are all to whom by any means they come, or are brought,) to receive them, with that subjection of soul which is due to the word of God. The authority of God shining in them, they afford unto us all the divine evidence of themselves which God is willing to grant unto us, or can be granted us, or is any way needful for us. So, then, the authority of the written Word — in itself and unto us — is from itself, as the Word of God; and the eviction of that authority unto us, is by itself.
When the authority of the Scripture is inquired after, strictly its power to command and require obedience, in the name of God, is intended. To ask, then, whence it hath its authority, is to ask whence it hath its power to command in the name of God. Surely men will not say, that the Scripture hath its power to command in the name of God from any thing but itself.
And it is, indeed, a contradiction for men to say that they give authority to the Scriptures. Why do they do so? why do they give this authority to that book rather than another? They must say, Because it is the Word of God. So the reason why they give authority unto it is the formal reason of all its authority, which it hath antecedently to their charter and concession of power: JO lo>gov oJ soqeia> ejsti , ( John 17:17,) “Thy word is truth.”
Some say, indeed, that the Scripture hath its authority in itself, and from itself, or its own divine original, but not quoad nos, “in respect of us;” [that in order] that it may reach us, that we may know, and understand, and submit to its authority, it must be testified unto aliunde, “from some other person or thing,” appointed thereunto. Ans. 1. But may not this be said of God himself, as well as of his Word? If God reveal himself to us, it must be by means; and if those means may not be understood to reveal him unless they are testified unto from somewhat else, God cannot reveal himself to us. “Si Deus hominibus non placuerit, utique Deus non erit.” If God and his Word will keep themselves within themselves, to themselves, they may be God and his Word still, and keep their authority; but if they will deal with us, and put forth their commands to us, let them look that they get the church’s testimonials — or, on this principle, they may be safely rejected! But, 2. Authority is a thing that no person or thing can have in him or itself, that hath it not in respect of others. In its very nature it relates to others that are subject unto it. All authority arises from relation, and answers to it throughout. The authority of God over his creatures, is from their relation to him as their Creator. A king’s authority is in respect of his subjects; and he who hath no subjects hath no kingly authority in himself, but is only a stoical king. The authority of a minister relates to his flock; and he who hath no flock hath no authority of a minister: if he have not a ministerial authority, in reference to a flock, a people, a church, he hath none, he can have none in himself. So is it in this cause; if the Scripture hath no authority from itself in respect of us, it hath none in itself, nor can have. If it hath it in itself, it hath it in respect of us such a respect — that is, a right to command and oblige to obedience — is as inseparable from authority, or a moral power, as heat is from fire. It is true, a man may have, de jure, a lawful authority overthose whom, de facto, he cannot force or compel to obedience. But want of force doth not lessen authority.
God loseth not his authority over men though he put not forth towards them uJperba>llon me>geqov th~v duna>mewv , or ejne>rgeian tou~ kra>touv th~v ijscu>ov , “the greatness of his power, or the efficacy of the might of his strength,” to cause them to obey. It is fond, [foolish,] then, to imagine that a man, or any thing, should have an authority in himself or itself, and yet not have that authority in respect of them who are to be subject thereunto. That is not a law properly at all, which is not a law to some.
Besides, all the evil of disobedience relates to the authority of him that requires the obedience. ( James 2:10,11.) No action is disobedience, but from the subjection of him who performs it unto him who requires obedience. And, therefore, if the Scripture hath not an authority in itself towards us, there is no evil in our disobedience unto its commands, or in our not doing what it commandeth; and our doing what it forbiddeth is not disobedience, because it hath not an authority over us. I speak of it as considered in itself, before the accession of the testimony pretended [to be] necessary to give it an authority over us. Hitherto, then, have we carried this objection — To disobey the commands of the Scripture before the communication of a testimony unto it by men is no sin. Credat Apella.
The sense, then, of our position, is evident and clear; and so our answer to the inquiry made. The Scripture hath all its authority from its Author, both in itself and in respect of us. That it hath the Author and original pleaded for, it declares itself, without any other assistance — by the ways and means that shall afterward be insisted on. The truth whereof I shall now confirm — lst, By one general induction; 2d, By testimonies; 3d, By arguments, expressing the ways and means of its revelation of itself.
There are three ways whereby God, in several degrees, revealeth himself, his properties, his mind, and will, to the sons of men. 1. He doth it by his works, both of creation and providence. “All thy works praise thee.” ( <19E510> Psalm 145:10, etc.) “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handy-work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” ( Psalm 19:1-4, etc.)
So Job 37-39, throughout. “God, who made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein, in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways; yet he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” ( Acts 14:15-17.)
And, “God, that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation,” zhtei~n torion eji a]rage yhlafh>seian aujto, “that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him.” ( Acts 17:25-27.) “For that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them; for the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godheads” ( Romans 1:18-20.)
All which places (God assisting) shall be opened, before long, in another treatise. The sum of them amounts to what was before laid down, viz., that God reveals and declares himself unto us by the works of his hands. 2. God declares himself — his sovereign power and authority, his righteousness and holiness — by the innate (or ingrafted) light of nature, and principles of the consciences of men. That indispensable moral obedience which he requireth of us, as his creatures, and subject to his law, is in general thus made known unto us. For “the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law; these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which show the work of thelaw written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” (Romans 2:14,15.)
By the light that God hath indelibly implanted in the minds of men — accompanied with a moral instinct of good and evil, seconded by that selfjudgment which he hath placed in us, in reference to his own judgment over us — doth he reveal himself unto the sons of men. 3. God reveals himself by his Word, as is confessed. It remains, then, that we inquire how we may know and be ascertained that these things are not deceivable pretences, but that God doth indeed so reveal himself by them.
The works of God (as to what is his will to teach and reveal of himself by them) have that expression of God upon them — that stamp and character of his eternal power and Godhead — that evidence with them that they are his — that, wherever they are seen and considered, they undeniably evince that they are so, and that what they teach concerning him, they do it in his name and authority. There is no need of traditions, no need of miracles, no need of the authority of any churches, to convince a rational creature that the works of God are his, and his only; and that he is eternal and infinite in power that made them. They carry about with them their own authority.
By being what they are, they declare whose they are. To reveal God by his works, there is need of nothing but that they be by themselves represented, or objected to the consideration of rational creatures.
The voice of God in nature is in like manner effectual. It declares itself to be from God by its own light and authority. There is no need to convince a man by substantial witnesses, that what his conscience speaks, it speaks from God. Whether it bear testimony to the being, righteousness,power, omniscience, or holiness of God himself — or whether it call for that moral obedience which is eternally and indispensably due to Him, and so shows forth the “work of the law in the heart” it so speaks and declares itself, that without further evidence or reasoning, without the advantage of any considerations but what are by itself supplied, it discovers its Author, from whom it is, and in whose name it speaks. Those koinai< e]nnoiai , kai< prolh>yeiv , “those common notions and general presumptions” of Him and His authority, that are inlaid in the natures of rational creatures by the hand of God, to this end, that they might make a revelation of Him as to the purposes mentioned, are able to plead their own divine original, without the least contribution of strength or assistance from without.
And thus is it with those things. Now, the Psalmist says unto God, ( <19D802> Psalm 138:2,) “Thou hast magnified Út,r;m]ai Úm]viAlK;Al[‘ “over all thy name, thy Word” [which] thou hast spoken. The name of God is all that whereby he makes himself known. Over all this God magnifies his Word. It all lies in a subserviency thereunto. The name of God is not here God himself, but every thing whereby God makes himself known. Now, it were very strange, that those low, dark, and obscure principles and means of the revelation of God and his will, which we have mentioned, should be able to evince themselves to be from him, without any external help, assistance, testimony, or authority; and [that] that which is by Godhimself magnified above them which is far more noble and excellent in itself, and, in respect of its end and order, hath far more divinely conspicuous and glorious impressions and characters of his goodness, holiness, power, grace, truth, than all the creation — should lie dead, obscure, and have nothing in itself to reveal its Author, until this or that superadded testimony be called in to its assistance. We esteem them to have done no service unto the truth, who, amongst innumerable other bold denials, have insisted on this also — that there is no natural knowledge of God, arising from the innate principles of reason, and the Works of God proposing themselves to the consideration thereof. Let now the way to the protein of supernatural revelation be obstructed, by denying that it is able to evince itself to be from God, and we shall quickly see what banks are cut, to let in a flood of atheism upon the face of the earth.
Let us consider the issue of this general induction: As God, in the creation of the world, and all things therein contained, hath so made and framed them, hath left such characters of his eternal power and wisdom in them and upon them, filled them with such evidences of their Author, suited to the apprehensions of rational creatures, that without any other testimony from himself, or any else — under the naked consideration and contemplation of what they are they so far declare their Creator, that they are left wholly inexcusable who will not learn and know him from thence; so in the giving out of his Word to be the foundation of that world which he hath set up in this world, as ˆp;wOah; ËwOtB] ˆp’wOah; , “awheel within a wheel” his church — he hath, by his Spirit, implanted in it and impressed on it such characters of his goodness, power, wisdom, holiness, love to mankind, truth, faithfulness, with all the rest of his glorious excellencies and perfections, that at all times, and in all places, when [‘yqir;h; , “the expansion” of it, is stretched over men by his providence without any other witness or testimony given unto it — it declares itself to be his, and makes good its authority from him; so that the refusal of it upon its own evidence brings unavoidable condemnation on the souls of men. This comparison is insisted on by the Psalmist, Psalm 19; where, as he ascribeth lwOq and wq; , a “voice” and “line,” to the creatures, so rwOa , etc., light, power, stability, and permanency, like that of the heavens and sun, (in commutation of properties,) to the Word, and in an inexpressible exaltation of it above them; the light of one day of this sun being unspeakably more than that of seven others, as to the manifestation of the glory of God.
This, then, is fixed as a principle of truth:! Whatever God hath appointed to reveal himself by, as to any special or general end — that those whom he intends to discover himself unto may either be effectually instructed in his mind and will, according to the measure, degree, and means of the revelation afforded, or be left inexcusable for not receiving the testimony that he gives of himself, by any plea or pretense of want of clear, evident, manifest revelation — that, whatever it be, hath such an impression of his authority, upon it, as undeniably to evince that it is from him. And this, now, concerning his Word, comes further to be confirmed by testimonies and arguments.
CHAPTER 3. Arguments of two sorts — Inartificial arguments, by way of testimony to the truth — To whom these arguments are valid — Ofzeopneusti>a — The rejection of a plea of zeopneusti>a, wherein it consists — Of miracles, their efficacy to beget faith compared with the word.
Having declared the divine original and authority of the Scripture, and explained the position laid down as the foundation of our ensuing discourse, way is now made for us to the consideration of those selfevidences of its divine rise, and consequently authority, that it is attended withal, [and] upon the account whereof we receive it, as (believing it to be) the Word of God.
The arguments whereby any thing is confirmed are of two sorts; inartificial, by the way of testimony; and artificial, by the way of deductions and inferences. Whatever is capable of contributing evidence unto truth falls under one of these two heads. Both these kinds of proofs we make use of in the business in hand. Some profess they own the authority of the Scriptures, and also urge others so to do; but they will dispute on what grounds and accounts they do so. With those we may deal, in the first way, by testimony from the Scriptures themselves; which upon their own principles they cannot refuse. When they shall be pleased to inform us that they have relinquished those principles, and do no longer own the Scripture to be the word of God, we will withdraw the witnesses, upon their exceptions, whom for the present we make use of. Testimonies that are innate and ingrafted in the Word itself, used only as mediums of artificial arguments to be deduced from them, (which are of the second sort,) may be used towards them who at present own not the authority of the Scripture on any account whatever, or who are desirous to put on themselves the persons of such men, to try their skill and ability for the management of a controversy against the Word of God.
In both these cases the testimony of the Scripture is pleaded, and is to be received, or cannot with any pretense of reason be refused. In the former, upon the account of the acknowledged authority and veracity of the witness, though speaking in its own case; in the latter, upon the account of that self-evidence which the testimony insisted on is accompanied withal, made out by such reasonings and arguments as, for the kind of them, persons who own not its authority cannot but admit. In human things, if a man of known integrity and unspotted reputation bearwitness in any cause, and give uncontrollable evidence to his testimony, from the very nature and order of the things whereof he speaks, as it is expected that those who know and admit of his integrity and reputation do acquiesce in his assertion, so those to whom he is a stranger, who are not moved by his authority, will yet be overcome to assent to what is witnessed by him, from the nature of the things he asserts, especially if there be a coincidence of all such circumstances as are any way needful to give evidence to the matter in hand.
Thus it is in the case under consideration. For those who profess themselves to believe the Scriptures to be the word of God, and so own thecredit and fidelity of the witness, it may reasonably be expected from them, yea, in strict justice demanded of them, that they stand to the testimony that they give to themselves and their own divine original. By saying that the Scripture is the word of God, and then commanding us to prove it so to be, they render themselves obnoxious unto every testimony that we produce from it that so it is, and that it is to be received on its own testimony. This witness they cannot waive without disavowing their own professed principles; without which principles they have not the least color of imposing this risk on us.
As for them with whom we have not the present advantage of their own acknowledgment, it is not reasonable to impose upon them with the bare testimony of that witness concerning whom the question is, Whether he be worthy the acceptation pleaded fort but yet arguments taken from the Scripture from what it is and doth, its nature and operation, by which the causes and springs of all things are discovered — are not to be refused.
But it is neither of these that principally I intend to deal withal; my present discourse is rather about the satisfaction of our own consciences, than the answering of others’ objections. Only we must satisfy our consciences upon such principles as will stand against all men’s objections. This, then, is chiefly inquired after, viz., what it is that gives such an assurance of the Scriptures being the word of God, as that, relying thereon, we have a sure bottom and foundation for our receiving them as such; and from whence it is that those who receive them not in that manner are left inexcusable in their damnable unbelief. This, we say, is in and from the Scripture itself; so that there is no other need of any further witness or testimony, nor is any, in the same kind, to be admitted.
It is not at all in my purpose to insist largely at present on this subject, and, therefore, I shall content myself with instancing some few testimonies and arguments, beginning with one or two of the first sort. Isaiah 8:20: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, there is no light in them.” Whatever any one says — be it what or who it will, church or person — if it be in or about the things ofGod, concerning his will or worship, with our obedience to him, it is to be tried by the law and testimony. Hither we are sent; this is asserted to be the rule and standard, the touchstone of all speakings whatever. Now, that must speak alone for itself which must try the speaking of all but itself, yea, its own But what doth this law and testimony — that is, this written Word — plead, on the account whereof it should be thus attended unto What doth it urge for its acceptation? Tradition, authority of the church, miracles, consent of men? or doth it speak and stand only upon its own sovereignty? The apostle gives us his answer to this inquiry, ( Timothy 3:16,) Pa~sa grafh< zeo>pneustov . Its plea for reception — in comparison with and opposition unto all other ways of coming to the knowledge of God, his mind and will founded whereon it calls for attendance and submission with supreme, uncontrollable authority, is its zeopneusti>a, or “divine inspiration.” It remains, then, only to be inquired, whether, when zeopneusti>a is pleaded, there be any middle way, but either that it be received with divine faith or rejected as false.
Suppose a man were zeo>pneustov , “divinely inspired,” and should so profess himself in the name of the Lord, as did the prophets of old; (Amos 7;) supposing, I say, he were so indeed, it will not be denied but that his message were to be received and submitted unto on that account The denial of it would justify them who “rejected and slew those that spake unto them in the name of the Lord.” And that is to say, in plain terms, we may reject them whom God sends. Though miracles were given only with respect to persons, not things, yet most of the prophets who wrought no miracles insisted on this, that being zeo>pneustoi , “divinely inspired,” their doctrine was to be received as from God. On their so doing, it was sin, even unbelief and rebellion against God, not to submit to what they spake in his name. And it always so fell out — to fix our faith on the right bottom — that scarce any prophet that spake in the name of God had any approbation from the church in whose days he spake. (Matthew 5:12, 23:29; Luke 11:47,48; Acts 7:52; Matthew 21:33-39.) It is true, ejge>nonto yeudoprofh~tai ejn tw~| law~| , ( 2 Peter 2:1,) “there were false prophets among the people,” that spake in the name of the Lord, when he sent them not. ( Jeremiah 23:21.) Yet were those whom he did send to be received on pain of damnation: on the same penalty were the others to be refused. ( Jeremiah 23:28,29.) The foundation of this duty lies in the to< zei~on , that accompanied the word that was ejk zeopneusti>av : of which afterward. And, without a supposal hereof, it could not consist with the goodness and righteousness of God to require of men — under the penalty of his eternal displeasure to make such a discrimination, where he had not given them tekmh>ria , “infallible tokens,” to enable them so to do.
But that he had and hath done so, he declares, ( Jeremiah 23:26-29,) “How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? that are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams, which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. Is not my word like a fire? saith the Lord, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” In the latter days of that church, when the people were most eminently perplexed with false prophets both as to their numberand subtlety — yet God lays their eternal and temporal safety or ruin on their discerning aright between his word and that which was only pretended so to be. And that they might not complain of this imposition, he tenders them security of its easiness of performance.
Speaking of his own word comparatively, as to every thing that is not so, he says it is as wheat to chaff, which may infallibly — by being what it is — be discerned from it; and then absolutely, that it hath such properties as that it will discover itself — even light, and heat, and power. A person, then, who was truly zeo>pneustov , was to be attended unto because he was so.
As, then, it was said before, the Scriptures being zeo>pneustoi , is not the case the same as with a man that was so? Is there any thing in the writing of it by God’s command that should impair its authority? Nay, is it not freed from innumerable prejudices that attended it in its first giving out by men, arising from the personal infirmities and supposed interests of them that delivered it? ( Jeremiah 43:3; John 9:29; Acts 24:5.)
This being pleaded by it, and insisted on, its testimony is received, or it is not. If it be received on this account, there is in it, we say, the proper basis and foundation of faith, whereon it hath its uJpo>stasiv , or “subsistence.”
If it be rejected, it must be not only with a refusal of its witness, but also with a high detestation of its pretense to be from God. What ground or plea for such a refusal and detestation any one hath, or can have, shall be afterward considered. If it be a sin to refuse it, it had been a duty to receive it; if a duty to receive it as the word of God, then was it sufficiently manifested so to be. Of the objection arising from them who pretend to this inspiration falsely, we have spoken before; and we axe as yet dealing with them that own the book whereof we spake to be the word of God, and only call in question the grounds on which they do so, or on which others ought so to do. As to these, it may suffice, that — in the strength of all the authority and truth they profess to own and acknowledge in it — it declares the foundation of its acceptance to be no other but its own divine inspiration. Hence it is lo>gov pa>shv ajpodoch~v a]xiov .
Again, in that dispute that was between Abraham and the rich man, ( Luke 16:31,) about the best and most effectual means of bringing men to repentance: the rich man in hell, speaking his own conception, fixes upon miracles — if one rise from the dead and preach, the work will be done. Abraham is otherwise minded — that is, Christ was so, the author of that parable; he bids them attend to Moses and the prophets, the written Word, as that which all faith and repentance was immediately to be grounded on. The inquiry being, how men might be best assured that any message is from God, did not the Word manifest itself to be from him, this direction had not been equal.
The ground of the request for the rising of one from the dead, is laid in the common apprehension of men not knowing the power of God in the Scriptures; who think that if an evident miracle were wrought, all pretences and pleas of unbelief would be excluded. Who doth not think so?
Our Savior discovers that mistake, and lets men know that those who will not own or submit to the authority of God in the Word, would not be moved by the most signal miracles imaginable. If a holy man, whom we had known assuredly to have been dead for some years, should rise out of his grave and come unto us with a message from God, could any man doubt whether he were sent unto us of God or no? I suppose not. The rising of men from the dead was the greatest miracle that attended the resurrection of our Savior; ( Matthew 27:52,53;) yea, greater than his own, if the Socinians may be believed, viz., in that he raised not himself by his own power: yet the evidence of the mission of such a one, and the authority of God speaking in him — our Savior being judge — is not of an efficacy to enforce belief, beyond that which is in the written Word, nor a surer foundation for faith to repose itself upon.
Could we hear a voice from heaven, accompanied with such a divine power as to evidence itself to be from God, Should we not rest in it as such? I suppose men think they would. Can we think that any man should withdraw his assent, and say, Yea, but I must have some testimony that this is from God? All such evasions are precluded, in the supposition wherein a self-evidencing power is granted. What greater miracle did the apostlesof Christ ever behold, or hear, than that voice that came uJpo< th~v megaloprepou~v do>xhv , “from the excellent glory” — This is my beloved Son ?” Yet Peter, who heard that voice, tells us that, comparatively, we have greater security from and by the written Word than they had in andby that miraculous voice. We have bebaio>teron togon. We heard, saith he, that voice indeed; but we have “a more sure word of prophecy’’ to attend unto — more sure, not in itself, but in its giving out its evidence unto us And how doth it appear so to be?
The reason he alleges for it was before insisted on. ( 2 Peter 1:18-21.)
Yea, suppose that God should speak to us from heaven as he spake to Moses, or as he spake to Christ; or from some certain place, as Numbers 7:89; how should we be able to know it to be the voice of God? Cannot Satan cause a voice to be heard in the air, and so deceive us? or, may not there be some way (in this kind) found out, whereby men might impose upon us with their delusions? Pope Celestine thought he heard a voicefrom heaven, when it was but the cheat of his successor.
Must we not rest at last in that to< zei~on which accompanies the true voice of God evidencing itself, and ascertaining the soul beyond all possibility of mistake? Now, did not this tekmh>rion accompany the written Word at its first giving forth? If it did not, as was said, how could any man be obliged to discern ‘it from all delusions? If it did, how came it to lose it? Did God appoint his Word to be written, that so he might destroy its authority? If the question be, whether the doctrines proposed to be believed are truths of God, or “cunningly devised fables,” we are sent to the Scripture itself, and that alone, to give the determination.