William Ames – On Holy Scripture

In Doctrine of Scripture, Preservationist Textual Criticism, William Ames by Chris ThomasLeave a Comment

From Chapter 34 of William Ames’ Marrow of Theology

Of the holy Scripture.

1. Extraordinary Ministers were raised up by God, to instruct the Church not onely by lively voyce, but also by Divine writings, that there might be a per∣petuall use, and fruit of this Ministery in the Church, even when such Ministers were taken away.

2. For they onely could commit the rule of Faith and manners to writing, who by reason of the imme∣diate and infallible direction which they had from God, were in that businesse free from all error.

3. They received a command of writing from God, partly externally, both generally when they were commanded to teach, and specially sometimes, when they were commanded to write. Deut. 3. 19. Revel. 1. 19. Write yee the Song, write those things which thou hast seene, and partly by the inward instinct of the spirit. 2 Pet. 1. 21. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men spake as they were moved by the holy Spirit. 2 Tim. 2. 16. All Scri∣pture is inspired by God.

4. They wrote also by the inspiration and guidance of the holy Spirit, so that the men themselves were as it were instruments of the spirit. In the place before. Ierem. 1. 9. Behold I put my words in thy mouth. Acts 28. 25. Well indeed spake the holy Spirit by Esaias the Prophet.

5. But Divine inspiration was present with those writers with some variety, for some things to be writ∣ten were before altogether unknowne to the writer, as doth sufficiently appeare in the History of the Creation past, and in foretellings of things to come: but some things were before knowne unto the writer, as appeares in the History of Christ, written by the Apo∣stles: and some of these they knew by a naturall know∣ledge, and some by a supernaturall: In those things that were hidden and unknowne, Divine inspiration did performe all by it selfe: in those things which were knowen, or the knowledge where of might be obtained by ordinary meanes, there was also added a religious study (God so assisting them) that in writing they might not erre.

6. In all those things which were made known by supernaturall inspiration, (whether they were matters of right, or fact) he did inspire not onely the things themselves, but did dictate and suggest all the words in which they should be written: which notwithstand∣ing was done with that sweete attempering, that every writer, might use those manners of speaking which did most agree to his person and condition.

7. Hence the Scripture is often attributed to the holy Spirit as to the author, making no mention of the Scribes. Hebrewes 10. 15. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witnesse to us.

8. Hence also, although in the inscriptions of the holy Bookes it is for the most part declared by whose labour they were written, yet there is sometimes deepe silence of this matter, and that without any detriment of such bookes, or lessening their authority.

9. Neither yet doth it suffice to make a part of holy writ, if a booke be written by some extraordinary ser∣vant of God, and upon certaine direction of the spirit: unlesse it be also publickly given to the Church by divine authority, and sanctified to be a Canon or rule of the same.

10. The thing it selfe which they committed to writing, as touching the summe and chiefe end of the matter, is nothing else, then that reveale will of God, which is the rule of Faith and manners.

11. Hence all those things which in the first disputa∣tion were spoken of the doctrine of life revealed from God, doe properly agree to the holy Scripture. For the Scripture is nothing else then that doctrine, with the manner of writing joyned to it, which manner was not to be handled there, but in this place.

12. Hence the Scripture in respect of the thing and subject meaning, that is, as it was the doctrine revealed from God, it was before the Church: but in respect of the manner in which it is properly called Scripture, it is after the first Church.

13. It is called the holy Scripture, and by 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 the Scripture, and the writers themselves are called holy, partly in respect of the subject, and object mat∣ter, which is so called, the true and saving will of God, and partly in respect of that direction whereby it was committed to writing. Romans 1. 2. Eph. 5. 5. 2 Pet. 1. 21. & 2. 22. & 3. 2. Rev. 18. 20.

14. But although divers parts of the Scripture were written, upon some speciall occasion, and were direct∣ed to some certaine men, or assemblies: yet in Gods intention, they doe as well pertaine to the instructing of all the faithfull thorough all ages, as if they had beene specially directed to them, whence, Heb. 12. The exhortation of Solomon, which is used in the Pro∣verbs, is said to be spoken to the Hebrewes (who lived in the Apostles time,) as to children, and 2 Pet. 3. 15. Paul is said to have wrote to all the faithfull in that he wrote to the Romans. Hebr. 13. 5. That which was said to Ioshua is said to be spoken to all the faithfull.

16. All things which are necessary to salvation are contained in the Scriptures, and also all those things which are necessarily required to the instruction and edification of the Church. 2 Tim. 3. 15. 16. 17.

The holy Scriptures can make thee wise unto salvation, that the man of God might be perfect, perfectly fur∣nished to every good worke.

16. Hence the Scripture is not a partiall, but a per∣fect rule of Faith, and manners: neither is here any thing that is constantly and every where necessary to be observed in the Church of God, which depends ei∣ther upon any tradition, or upon any authority what∣soever and is not contained in the Scriptures.

17. Yet all things were not together and at once committed to writing, because the state of the Church & the wisdome of God did otherwise require: but from the first writing, those things were successively com∣mitted to writing which were necessarily in those ages.

18. Neither did the Articles of Faith therefore in∣crease according to succession of times, in respect of the essence, but only in respect of the explication.

19. As touching the manner of delivery, the Scripture doth not explaine the will of God by universall, and scientificall rules, but by narrations, examples, precepts, exhortations, admonitions, and promises: because that manner doth make most for the common use of all kinde of men, and also most to affect the will, & stirre up godly motions, which is the chiefe scope of Divinity.

20. Also the will of God is revealed in that manner in the Scriptures, that although, the things themselves are for the most part hard to be conceived, yet the manner of delivering and explaining them, especially in those things which are necessary, is cleere and perspicuous.

21. Hence the Scriptures need not especially in ne∣cessaries, any such explication whereby light may be brought to it from something else: but they give light to themselves, which is diligently to be drawne out by men, and to be communicated to others according to their calling.

22. Hence also there is onely one sence of one place of Scripture: because otherwise the sence of the Scrip∣ture should be not onely not cleere and certaine, but none at all: for that wich doth not signifie one thing, si∣gnifieth certainly nothing.

23. For the determining of controversies in Divinity, there is no visible power as it were kingly or pretorian, appointed in the Church: but there is laid a duty on men to enquire: there is bestowed a gift of discerning, both publickly and privatly: and there is commanded a desire to further the knowledge and practise of the known truth according to their calling, unto which also is joyned a promise of direction, and blessing from God.

24. But because the Scriptures were given for the use and edification of the Church, therefore they were written in those tongues, which mere most commonly vulgar in the Church at that time when they were writ∣ten.

25. Hence all those bookes which were written be∣fore the comming of Christ were written in Hebrew, for to the Iewes were committed the Oracles of God. Rom. 3. 2. & 9. 4. And upon lice reason they that were written afterward were delivered in the Greeke tongue, because that tongue was most common in those parts were the Church did first florish.

26. Hence there is some knowledge at least of these tongues necessary to the exact understanding of the Scriptures: for the Scriptures are understood by the same meanes that other humane writings are, many by the skill, and use of Logick, Rethorick, Grammar, and those tongues in which they are expressed except in this, that there is a singular light of the spirit alwayes to bee fought for by the godly in the Scriptures.

27. Yet the Scripture is not so tied to those first tongues, but that it may and ought also to bee transla∣ted into other tongues, for the common use of the Church.

28. But among interpreters, neither, those seventy, who turned it into Greeke, nor Hierome, nor any such like did performe the office of a Prophet, so that he should be free from errors interpreting.

29. Hence no persons absolutely authenticall, but so far forth only as they doe expresse the fountaines, by which also they are to be tried.

30. Neither is there any authority in Earth where∣by any version may be made simply authenticall.

31. Hence the providence of GOD in preserving the Fountaines, hath beene alwayes famous, and to be adored, not onely that they did not wholy perish, but also that they stould not be maimed by the losse of any booke, or deformed by any grievous fault, when in the meane while there is no one of the auncient versions that remaines whole.

32. Neverthelesse, from those humane versions there may be all those things perceived which are absolut∣ly necessary, if so be they agree with the fountaines in the essentiall parts, as all those versions that are received in the Churches are wont to doe, although they differ, and are defective in the smaller things not a few.

33. Neither therefore must wee alwayes rest in anie version that is received: but we must most religiously provide, that the most pure and faultlesse interpreta∣tion be put upon the Church.

34. Of all those bookes, being delivered from God, and placed, as it were in the Chest of the Church, there is made up a perfect Canon of Faith and manners, whence also they have the name of Canonicall Scrip∣ture.

35. The Prophets made the Canon of the old Te∣stament, and Christ himselfe approved it by his Testi∣mony. The Canon of the new Testament together with the old, the Apostle Iohn approved and sealed up being furnished with Divine authority. Rev. 22. 18, 19.   For I doe witnesse together to every one that heares the words of the prophesy of this booke: if any shall ad to these, God shall lay upon him the plagues written in this booke: and if any shall take away any thing from the books of his prophesie, God shal take away this part out of the booke of life.

36. Those bookes which commonly we call apo∣cryphall, doe not pertaine to the divine Canon, neither were they rightly enough joyned by men of old to the canonicall bookes, as a certaine secundary Canon: for first in some of them there are manifest fables told and affirmed for true Histories as of Tobith, Iudith, Susanna, Bel, the Dragon, and such like. Secondly, because they contradict both the sacred Scripture and themselves. Oftentimes Thirdly, they were not written in Hebrew, nor delivered to the Iewish Church or received by it, to which notwithstanding God committed all his Ora∣cles before the comming of Christ. Rom. 9. 4. Fourth∣ly they were not approved by Christ, because they were not among those bookes which he set forth when he commanded his to search the Scriptures. Fifthly, they were never received either by the Aostles or the first Christian Church as a part of the Divine Canon.

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