Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article VI (Part 1)

Article VI.

Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.

HOLY Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever 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 the Faith, or be thought requisite necessary to salvation.

In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical books of the old and new Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books.

The First Book of Samuel.
The Second Book of Samuel.
The First Book of Kings.
The Second Book of Kings.
The First Book of Chronicles.
The Second Book of Chronicles.
The First Book of Esdras.
The Second Book of Esdras.
The Book of Esther.
The Book of Job.
The Psalms.
The Proverbs.
Ecclesiastes, or Preacher.
Cantica, or Songs of Solomon.
Four Prophets the greater.
Twelve Prophets the less.

And the other books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.

Such are these following: —

The Third Book of Esdras.
The Fourth Book of Esdras.
The Book of Tobias.
The Book of Judith.
The rest of the Book of Esther.
The Book of Wisdom.
Jesus the Son of Sirach.
Baruch the Prophet.
The Song of the Three Children.
The Story of Susanna.
Of Bel and the Dragon.
The Prayer of Manasses.
The First Book of Maccabees.
The Second Book of Maccabees.

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

De Divinis Scripturis, quod sufficiant ad Salutem.

SCRIPTURA sacra continet omnia, quæ ad salutem sunt necessaria, ita, ut quic-quid in ea nec legitur, neque inde probari potest, non sit a quoquam exigendum, ut tanquam articulus Fidei credatur, aut ad salutis necessitatem requiri putetur.

Sacræ Scripturæ nomine, eos Canonicos libros veteris, et novi Testamenti intelligimus, de quorum authoritate in Ecclesia nunquam dubitatem est.

De Nominibus et Numero librorum sacræ Canonicæ Scripturæ Veteris Testamenti.

Prior Liber Samuelis.
Secundus Liber Samuelis.
Prior Liber Regum.
Secundus Liber Regum.
Prior Liber Paralipom.
Secundus Liber Paralipomen.
Primus Liber Esdræ.
Secundus Liber Esdræ.
Liber Hester.
Liber Job.
Ecclesiastes vel Concionator.
Cantica Salomonis.
IV Prophetæ majores.
XII Prophetæ minores.

Alios autem libros (ut ait Hieronymus) legit quidem Ecclesia, ad exempla vitæ, et formandos mores: illos tamen ad dogmata confirmanda non adhibet, ut sunt.

Tertius Liber Esdræ.
Quartus Liber Esdræ.
Liber Tobiæ.
Liber Judith.
Reliquum Libri Hester.
Liber Sapientiæ.
Liber Jesu filii Sirach.
Baruch Propheta.
Canticum trium Puerorum.
Historia Susannæ.
De Bel et Dracone.
Oratio Manasses.
Prior Lib. Machabeorum.
Secundus Liber Machabeorum.

Novi Testamenti omnes libros (ut vulgo recepti sunt) recipimus, et habemus pro Canonicis.

THIS is the first Article of the Church which can be called controversial. In some respects, it might have seemed natural to have put it as the first Article; as in the Helvetic Confession the first Article is De Scriptura Sancta, vero Dei Verbo. But our reformers wisely put forth, in the beginning of their confession of faith, those doctrines on which the Church universal for fifteen centuries 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 Sanctification of Christians, and the Judgment of all men. Unity on these points was of old times considered to constitute Catholic Christianity; and by declaring her orthodoxy on these Catholic doctrines, the Church of England, in the very front of her confessions, declares herself orthodox and Catholic.

This done in the first five Articles, she, in the next three, treats of the Rule of Faith, the Scriptures, and the Creeds deduced from them.

The present Article, as it stood in the forty-two Articles of 1552, lacked all the concluding part concerning the Canon of Scripture and the Apocrypha, and treated only of the Sufficiency of Scripture for Salvation. The latter part was added in 1562. The original Article also contained a clause which was omitted in 1562. After the words, “whatsoever is neither read therein, nor may be proved thereby,” the words were added, “although it be sometime received of the godly, and profitable for an order and comeliness, yet no man ought to be constrained to believe it as an article of faith,” &c.

As the Article now stands, it treats of several distinct points, namely, Scripture and Tradition, the Canon of Scripture, the Apocrypha. On all these points demonstration and history are intimately connected; history in this case being a material part of demonstration. It will therefore be better not to separate them. In the following sections then I propose to consider, —

FIRST. The Sufficiency of Scripture for Salvation; SECONDLY. The Canon of Scripture; THIRDLY. The true value of Tradition, and the reading of the Apocrypha.

Section I. — The Sufficiency of Scripture for Salvation.

THAT we may see the force of the words of the Article on this important subject, it will be necessary to consider what opinions were opposed by it. Those opinions were the doctrines of the Church of Rome concerning Scripture and Tradition. It will be well therefore to begin by setting the statements of the Church of Rome and those of the Church of England one against the other; and when we see wherein we differ, we may then proceed to show which is in the right.

Now the decrees of the Council of Trent sufficiently express the doctrines of the Church of Rome. In that Council certain Articles, professedly taken from the writings of the Lutheran divines on the subject of Scripture, were discussed in the third session. And first, the fathers of the Council agreed to condemn the opinion “that all articles of the Christian faith, necessary to be believed, are contained in the Holy Scriptures, and that it is sacrilege to hold the oral Tradition of the Church to be of equal authority with the old and new Testaments.”[1] The formal decree of the Council was drawn up in the fourth session, in the year 1546, shortly after the death of Luther, and six years before the putting forth of the forty-two Articles of our own Church in 1552. This decree declares that “the truth is contained in the written books, and in the unwritten traditions, which, having been received by the Apostles, either from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the dictates of the Holy Spirit, were handed down even to us;” and that the Council “receives and venerates with equal feeling of piety and reverence all the books of the old and new Testament, since one God was the Author of them both, and also the traditions, relating as well to faith as to morals, as having, either from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the dictation of the Holy Ghost, been preserved by continuous succession in the Catholic Church.”[2]

Exactly corresponding with this decree of the Council are the statements of the great Roman Catholic divines. For example, Bellarmine says, “The controversy between us and the heretics consists in two things. The first is, that we assert that in Scripture is not expressly contained all necessary doctrine, whether concerning faith or morals, and therefore that, besides the written word of God, there is moreover needed the unwritten word, i. e. Divine and Apostolical Tradition. But they teach, that all things necessary for faith and morals are contained in the Scriptures, and that therefore there is no need of the unwritten word.”[3]

Now these statements are not easily misunderstood. The Church of Rome, both in her Council, and by the mouth of her most eminent divines, asserts that Scripture does not contain all that is necessary for faith and morals; but that there is need of a traditional doctrine, an unwritten word, which is handed down by unbroken tradition in the Church, and which she, the Church of Rome, esteems with the same feelings of piety and reverence with which she receives the Holy Scriptures. It is not merely an Hermeneutical Tradition, i. e. certain doctrines handed down from early times, which are useful for clearing up and explaining obscurities in Holy Writ; nor is it an Ecclesiastical Tradition, i. e. Tradition concerning Church discipline, rites and ceremonies; but it is a traditional revelation concerning doctrine, in matters of faith and morals, which is not to be found in Scripture, and which is equally certain, equally Divine, and equally to be embraced and reverenced with Scripture itself. Scripture and tradition are parallel, equal, and equally venerable sources of doctrine; and one without the other is not sufficient for salvation.

Such being the statement of the Church of Rome, we may the better understand the statement of the Church of England. Her statement is, as expressed in the Article of 1552, that, however traditions may be “sometimes received by the faithful as godly, and profitable for order and comeliness,” yet “Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation;” and no man ought “to be constrained to believe as an article of faith, or repute requisite to the necessity of salvation, whatever is neither read therein, nor may be proved thereby.”

The degree of value which the Church of England has assigned to Tradition, which, she said, in the forty-two Articles, was “sometimes received by the faithful as godly, and profitable for order,” we shall see in the third section. Here we have to show, that, as regards articles of faith, and as to necessity of salvation, nothing ought to be required of any man “which is not read in Scripture, nor may be proved thereby.”

Scripture, according to the Church of England, rightly interpreted, contains all that is necessary to save the soul. From it, by fair and logical inference, may be deduced everything which ought to be imposed as an article of faith. It will be seen, hereafter, that she does not despise nor underrate the light of learning, nor the light of antiquity, but that, as the ground of appeal, she maintains the supremacy, and the sole supremacy, of the written word of God.[4]

Now in proving the soundness of the Anglican, in opposition to the Romish position, we may proceed in the following order.

We may prove — I. That Scripture is in favour of it; — II. That Reason is in favour of it; — III. That the Primitive Fathers are in favour of it.

I. Scripture is in favour of the doctrine of the Anglican Church, namely, that the written word of God is sufficient for salvation, containing all necessary articles of faith, and rules of life.

On most questions this argument is the most conclusive that can be brought; but on the Sufficiency of Scripture we are not so likely to find Scripture speaking plainly, as on many other points. It does indeed bear witness to itself, and yet its witness is true. But though both parties have appealed to it, yet neither party have been satisfied, that, on this particular point, its high authority will exhaust the subject.

To take, first of all, the arguments which have been alleged from Scripture, as against its own sufficiency: we read, that our Lord said to His disciples (John xvi. 12): “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” Therefore it is inferred that there was need of further instruction, orally delivered to the Church, and handed down by tradition, beyond what our Lord revealed, whilst on earth. But the true meaning of the passage is explained by the next verse, which promises that, “when the Spirit of truth was come, He should guide them into all truth.” It was to the teaching of the Spirit, by whom the Apostles were afterwards inspired, that our Lord bade them look forward, for the filling up of what His own personal teaching had left deficient. The substance of that teaching of the Spirit, we believe, is preserved to us in the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse; not in unwritten tradition.

Again, it is said, “There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, even the world could not contain the books that should be written” (John xxi. 25). Therefore Jesus taught many things not set down in Scripture: we cannot believe that He taught anything superfluous: therefore there must be something necessary, besides what we read in Scripture. Where are we to seek for this? Of course, in unwritten tradition.

To this we reply, that doubtless every word spoken by our blessed Lord was most valuable. Many of those words indeed are not in Scripture; no! nor yet in tradition: for it never yet was pretended that oral tradition had preserved every word our Saviour uttered. So that, if this argument proves anything, it proves too much; for it proves, not only the insufficiency of Scripture, but the insufficiency of Scripture and tradition together. What we say is simply, that so much of Christ’s divine teaching, and of the teaching of the Spirit to the Apostles, is set down in Scripture, as is necessary for salvation, and for the proving of all necessary articles of faith. It is no argument against this, to say that many things, which our Saviour said, are not in Scripture.

The same answer may be given to the argument drawn from the fact, that, during the forty days between His resurrection and His ascension, our Lord “spake of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts i. 8). We know, indeed, that His speeches then are not set down in Scripture. But we equally know that they are not to be found in any other tradition. And we do not know that there was anything spoken by Him then, which it is necessary to our salvation that we should know, over and above what we have recorded in Scripture.

It is further urged, that St. Paul cuts short a controversy, not by reference to Scripture, but by appeal to the customs of the Church (1 Cor. xi. 16): “If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the Churches of God.” It was a matter of ceremony, namely, that a woman’s head should be covered in the house of God; and assuredly the Church of England fully admits that “the Church hath power to decree rites and ceremonies” (Art. xx.), and that “whosoever, through his private judgment, breaks the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the word of God, ought to be rebuked openly” (Art. xxxiv.) But this is no proof that doctrines of the faith rest on an authority not written. It should be sufficient to satisfy any caviller concerning forms, that the Churches of God have, or have not, a custom or a form. But it is not likely that the Apostle would for doctrine refer to the Church’s customs, when he himself was infallibly guided by the Spirit of God.

But St. Paul, it is said, actually does refer to ordinances and traditions, and forms of words, and a depositum to be guarded; all which are evidently oral traditions of the Church. “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered thein to you,” 1 Cor. xi. 2. “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust,” 1 Tim. vi. 20. “Hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing, which was committed unto thee, (τὴν καλὴν παρακαταθήκην) keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us,” 2 Tim. i. 13, 14. “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also,” 2 Tim. ii. 2. From all this it is urged, that the Church and the bishops had ordinances intrusted to them, and doctrines committed to them, which they were to watch and guard, and hand down carefully to others. But all this we readily admit. Timothy was taught by St. Paul: and the doctrine which he had so learned was a sacred deposit which he had carefully to guard, and to teach to those committed to his care; especially to the clergy under him, and the bishops who were to succeed him. Before the Scriptures of the new Testament had been written, or at least collected, this must have been a most important principle; for so only could the torch of truth be kept alight. And even after the new Testament had been written, and was in the hands of all men, it was doubtless most important that bishops and Churches should be rightly and soundly instructed in the truth and right meaning of the Scriptures, and should guard themselves and their flocks against perverting the truth and falling into error. But there is not therefore any reason to apprehend, that Timothy or the Church had learned any other doctrines besides those contained in the holy Scriptures, or that the sacred deposit committed to their charge was any other than the aggregate of Christian doctrine, which they had been taught catechetically, and which they were to keep from defilement and error by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us. We well know that the possession of the Scriptures, as a source of truth and as a final appeal, does not supersede the necessity of Christian education, and sound oral instruction in the faith: and to every person, nowadays, instructed by Creeds and Catechisms in the true doctrine of Christ, it might be said, “Keep that good thing which was committed unto you;” “Hold fast the form of sound words.” Yet all this instruction and this sacred deposit may be deducible from Scripture, and virtually contained in it.

But further, it is said that the Thessalonians are actually bidden to “stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word or our epistle,” 2 Thess. ii. 15. Therefore the Apostle bids them attend, not only to Scripture, but to tradition also. But the word tradition means properly nothing more than something delivered, the doctrine of our faith delivered to us. And there being two ways of delivering doctrines to us, either by writing or by word of mouth, it signifies either of them indifferently. “‘ταράδοσις, tradition, is the same with δόγμα, doctrine, and ταραδιδόναι is the same with διδάσκειν,’ say the grammarians; and the παραδοθεῖσα πίστις in St. Jude, ‘the faith once delivered,’ is the same which St. Paul explicates by saying, παραδόσεις ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε, ‘the traditions,’ that is, ‘the doctrines ye were taught.’ And St. Irenæus (Lib. III. ch. iv.) calls it a tradition apostolical, that ‘Christ took the cup,’ and said, ‘it was His Blood,’ and to believe in one God, and in Christ ‘who was born of a Virgin,’ was the old tradition; that is the thing which was delivered, and not at first written, ‘which was kept by the barbarians.'”[5] It may be added, that the very words of St. Paul, in the passage now alluded to, prove in themselves that tradition, according to him, was not necessarily oral tradition, or traditions floating in the Church; for he calls his own Epistles, or the doctrine contained in them, tradition, — “traditions, which you have been taught either by word or by our Epistle.” What therefore the Apostle here enjoins on the Thessalonians is simply, that, as he had taught them by preaching, and as he had enjoined them by letter, so they should believe and live. This instruction, thus received, was the tradition to which he alludes. But it by no means follows, because, before Scripture was completed, the Apostles gave oral and epistolary instruction, to which their hearers were to attend, that therefore, after the Scriptures were completed and collected, there must be left, floating about, a stream of traditional truth, which is not to be found in those Scriptures, thus completed and collected. Before the Scriptures of the new Testament were written, there must of course have been need of tradition, or instruction by word of mouth; and such instruction coming from inspired Apostles was, no doubt, of as much value as what they committed to writing. But the question is, whether they delivered anything essential to our salvation, which they, or some of them, did not subsequently put down in writing, so that it should be carefully preserved, and be a constant witness in the Church. Certainly neither this, nor any of the before-cited passages of Scripture, prove that they did.[6]

Once more, it is said that Christ promised to His Church, “The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it,” Matt. xvi. 18; “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” Matt, xxviii. 20; “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven,” Matt, xviii. 18, &c.; and that these promises prove that a certain infallibility should reside in the Church, which both makes it a sure keeper of the truth, and renders all its traditions and decrees of sacred authority. But we may reply, that, even if we concede that the whole Church, fully represented, might so claim the promise of Christ to be present with it, and to guide it, that it should not fall into errors in matters of faith; yet it follows not, that it would be authorized to preserve or to decree any truth which cannot be proved from Scripture. Ancient councils settled many points of faith, and drew up creeds and confessions; but they professed them to be accordant with, and capable of proof from, Scripture. And though the Church is a keeper and a witness of Holy Writ, and may expound Scripture for the instruction of her children, and in such expositions may look for the promise of Christ and the guidance of His Spirit; it by no means follows, that she has authority to add to “the faith once delivered to the saints,” or to set up any standard of doctrine besides that written word of God which is intrusted to her, and to which she is to look as the source of all heavenly wisdom and truth.

2. And here we may dismiss the arguments from Scripture, which have been brought to prove that Scripture does not contain all doctrine necessary for salvation and godliness. We proceed to consider those passages which appear to prove the direct contrary, namely, that all things, of necessity to be believed, are contained in, or may be deduced from, the written word.

The following are amongst the texts commonly alleged: —

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it.” Deut. iv. 2.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Ps. xix. 7.

“Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.” John v. 39.

“From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation. . . . . All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Tim. iii. 15‒17.

These passages appear to prove the perfection and sufficiency of the Scriptures. But it is argued against this inference, that, with regard to the first two passages, they speak of God’s commandments and God’s law, whether written or unwritten.[7] The third passage may be, and very likely ought to be, translated, not “search,” but “ye search the Scriptures.” And all the passages relate to the old Testament, not to the new; for neither could the Jews search the new Testament Scriptures, nor could Timothy have learned the new Testament from his childhood; since none of the books of the new Testament were then written. If, therefore, these passages prove the sufficiency of Scripture, they prove that the old Testament was sufficient without the new, and therefore prove too much. The passages indeed prove, that all which comes from God is perfect, and very necessary for instruction; but do not fully prove that nothing but Scripture is necessary.

Another argument is drawn from the following passages: —

“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed amongst us . . . . it seemed good to me also . . . . to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.” Luke i. 1‒4.

“These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His Name.” John xx. 31.

These texts do certainly seem to show that the object of writing the Gospels was expressly that men might not be left to the uncertainty of tradition. Many had taken in hand to set forth an account of the Gospel history: St. Luke therefore was moved to commit it carefully to writing, that no vague accounts might mislead Theophilus, but that by the written word he might “know the certainty of those things wherein he had before been catechetically instructed.” Very similar to this is the language of St. Peter: “I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance,” 2 Pet. i. 15. It is true that these three passages only apply to the Gospels of St. Luke and St. John, and the Epistles of St. Peter, and perhaps with them to the Gospel of St. Mark; but they nevertheless give the reasons for writing Scripture, and are, as far as they go, a strong presumption against the vagueness and uncertainty of oral, and in favour of the certainty of written, tradition.

Again, ignorance and error in religion are traced to ignorance of Scripture: “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God,” Matt. xxii. 29. The peculiar privilege of the Jews is said to be that “to them were committed the oracles of God,” Rom. iii. 1, 2. In matters of doubt, all appeals are made to Scripture. The Berœans are praised, because they “searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so,” Acts xvii. 11. So under the old Testament it was “to the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,” Isai. viii. 20; where the law and the testimony must mean the Law of Moses, and the testimony of God given by the Prophets.

Lastly, there is special reprobation of all traditions which add to Scripture or take from it. The passage in the end of the Apocalypse (“If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book,” &c, Rev. xxii. 18, 19) may indeed apply only to that book itself, and to the uncorrupted preservation of its text. But we cannot have read the Gospels, without seeing how much those who used Jewish traditions are censured and condemned: “Why do ye transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” “In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matt. xv. 3, 9, comp. Mark vii. 7‒13. It is true, the traditions spoken of were Jewish, not Christian traditions. But the principle was much the same. The Pharisees claimed such traditions as divine. They professed, that they were the unwritten word of God, handed down from the time of Ezra, through the doctors of the Law, and the members of the Great Synagogue. They did not deny the value of the written word, but added the unwritten traditions to it. These they considered, not as corrupting, but as completing the truth. Yet our Lord declared that they “made the word of God of none effect by their tradition” (Mark vii. 13). And thus we may fairly infer that our Lord condemns the general principle of making any addition to the written word, by doctrines professedly handed down from father to son. We see, at least, no difference in principle between the oral traditions of the Jewish, and the oral traditions of the Christian Church.

II. We come next to show, that reason is in favour of the Anglican, in opposition to the Roman rule on this subject.

1. The English Church does not hold that unwritten truth is less true than written truth; and if we could be certain that any unwritten doctrine came from Christ and His Apostles, we should receive it with the same reverence that we pay to the written word. But the reason why we rest our faith upon the written word is this: We know that it came from God; but we have no certain knowledge that any unwritten tradition did. The former we know to be the mid-day light, the other may be but an ignis fatuus, and lead us into error.

And let it once more be clearly understood, that the question is not, what value there may be in the testimony of the Early Church to certain doctrines of the faith; not, how far early traditions may be useful for the interpreting of Scripture; not, how far we may be right to adhere to the primitive example, in matters of discipline and ceremony, even those for which we have no Scriptural authority; but it is, whether besides, parallel with, and independent of the Scripture, there is in the Church a doctrina tradita, a doctrine handed down from Christ or His Apostles, of equal authority with Scripture, and demanding equal respect.

As has just now been said, when we search for authority in favour of any doctrine, we can tell at once where to go, if Scripture be our rule. But if we have to depend on something besides, where must we look? The former rule is contained in a small compass, is easily accessible, and with proper assistance may be understood. The latter is to be searched for through many folio volumes; is, at last, not certainly to be found; and is at least as difficult as Scripture itself to be understood and explained. Or, if it be said, that it is not in the writings of the fathers, but in the stream of Church tradition, a deposit which was intrusted to the Church and has never been lost by her; we can only reply, that this is even less certain than traditions which may be searched out from ancient writings, and from them proved to have anciently existed. Tradition by word of mouth is a thing proverbially uncertain. In peculiar conditions of society, or for a short time, it may be sufficient for the preservation of truth. But it is evidently unfitted for a body like the Catholic Church; which was to pervade all nations, extend throughout all ages, weather the storm of ignorance and barbarism at one time, and bear up against the scorching and withering glare of learned infidelity at another.

The very fact that the Scriptures were written, and the history of their writing, seem to prove their sufficiency and perfection. When first revelation was given to man, men’s lives were so long that there was little danger lest the light of truth should be lost. Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, were in fact all but contemporaries. Seth the son of Adam lived to within fifteen years of the birth of Noah. Tradition therefore may have sufficed for them; and yet we have reason to believe, that, even then, the faith was much corrupted. Again, the sons of Noah must have been contemporary with Abraham, to whom another revelation was given; yet Abraham’s fathers had become idolaters. And in the few generations from Abraham to Moses the faith again appears to have been corrupted, if not lost; although from the death of Joseph to the birth of Moses not seventy years had passed. Thus, when the world and the Church were under the most favourable circumstances for preserving tradition of the truth unimpaired, it pleased God to leave the world, with occasional revelations indeed, but mostly with only traditional knowledge of the truth. Yet, even so, such knowledge was soon corrupted, and easily lost. After that, God gave a fuller revelation to Moses, and enjoined that it should be committed to writing; and the book of the Law was deposited in the most sacred place of the Sanctuary, and most carefully guarded and watched, as of inestimable value. Thenceforward, when any great prophet was sent to Israel, though, during his lifetime, he orally taught the people, yet his words were ever committed to writing, that they might be preserved after his death. Nor do we know anything now concerning the teaching of any of the prophets, save only what is handed down to us, not by oral, but by written, tradition, namely, the Scriptures of the old Testament.

Most similar was the case with the Christian Church. At first, whilst our Lord and His Apostles were on earth, their personal teaching, and that of those taught by them, might have sufficed. Yet, even then, errors and perversions were creeping in; and if they had not committed the substance of their teaching to writing, the false traditions of the Judaizers, the Cerinthians, or the Gnostics, might have come down through the Church, instead of the true traditions of the disciples of Christ. But we learn from ancient writers, that what the Apostles preached by word of mouth they committed, or caused to be committed to writing, lest the substance of their preaching should be lost.[8] If tradition committed to the Church had been sufficient to preserve the truth, then the writing of the four Gospels, and of the other parts of the new Testament, would have been superfluous. But from the known and well-proved insufficiency of the former, the Apostles, under the guidance of the Spirit, had recourse to the latter mode of insuring a source and a rule of faith.

“The Apostles at first owned these writings; the Churches received them; they transmitted them to their posterity; they grounded their faith upon them; they proved their propositions by them; by them they confuted heretics; and they made them the measure of right and wrong: all that collective body of doctrine, of which all Christians collectively made public confessions, and on which all their hopes of salvation did rely, were all contained in them, and they agreed in no point of faith which is not plainly set down in Scripture.”[9]

Now Scripture having been thus evidently designed to correct the uncertainty and supply the deficiency of tradition, it is unreasonable to suppose that God would have suffered Scripture itself, the more certain guide, to be imperfect, and to need the less certain guide, tradition, to supply its defects. Yet, if Scripture itself does not contain the sum and substance of our religion, and all necessary articles of faith, this would be the case.

But as a matter of fact, Scripture has ever been adduced, by divines of all schools and all communions, as capable of proving all the great doctrines of the faith, and all the important rules of duty. We can either prove by it, or deduce from it, the great doctrines concerning the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Sanctification of the Spirit, Original Sin, Justification, the grace of the Sacraments, the privileges of the Church, the Communion of Saints, the Judgment of the great day, and other weighty and cardinal points of faith. And though different schools have differed as to how Scripture should be interpreted on some of these points, yet all have agreed that the true doctrine concerning them may be gathered from Scripture, if interpreted aright. Whatever value, therefore, we may attribute to a Traditio Hermeneutica, to traditional interpretations of Scripture; we ought to be satisfied that all things “to be required of any man as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation,” are so contained in Scripture that they may be either “read therein, or may be proved thereby.”

Several things, indeed, all men allow, are contained in Scripture, which are not absolutely necessary to salvation, although they may tend to edification; and if the lesser matters were inserted there, how can we suppose that the greater would be omitted? Nay, although the Church of Rome often appeals to tradition, as a necessary part of Divine Revelation, yet it may well be questioned, whether even she pretends that any very important truth is to be derived from tradition alone. And assuredly we may safely assert, that there is a total absence of all evidence to prove that there is even professedly any tradition extant to which we are indebted for the knowledge of any great doctrine of the faith, independently of the written word.

2. The principal arguments from reason in favour of the Romanist, and against the Anglican view of this subject, are as follow: —

(1) Tradition was the first rule. From Adam to Moses all was traditional; and from the coming of Christ to the completion of the Canon of the new Testament, tradition must have been the principal guide of the Church. Scripture, therefore, which came in afterwards, cannot supersede that which was before it, and which, at first, was sufficient without it.

This argument has already been virtually answered by anticipation. The duration of men’s lives before the time of Moses, and the presence and personal teaching of inspired Apostles before the writing of the new Testament, were great safeguards against error. The fact, that, as these safeguards were withdrawn, God’s Providence ordered that the Scriptures should be written and preserved, shows of itself that tradition, which might have been sufficient then, would not be sufficient now. We do not say that Scripture supersedes tradition, but that it is itself the surest tradition, and the only one on which we can safely rely. It is in fact the Patriarchal, Levitical, and Apostolical tradition, preserved in its safest and only certain form.

(2) It is said that Scripture was not written systematically, but casually, as circumstances occurred, in casual memoirs and occasional letters; and therefore cannot be looked on as a systematic collection of doctrine and morality.

This, however, is no proof that the whole sum of necessary truth may not be extracted from it. How holy men of old were moved to speak, or to write, seems of little consequence. God’s wisdom saw fit that it should be in the way in which we have the Scriptures now. It is certainly in a more interesting, it is probably in a more profitable way, than if a systematic arrangement had been adopted. It is not probable that the Apostles’ teaching, nor even that of our Lord, was always systematic; and yet in that all men admit that all necessary truth was contained. It cannot, therefore, be necessary to our position to show that the Scriptures are formally or systematically designed.

(3) The genuineness and canonicity of Scripture itself rest on tradition, and on tradition alone; and if tradition is necessary to prove this, it may equally prove other doctrines.

It is true that historical testimony, and the universal consent of all the early Christians, are the chief grounds on which we rely for proof that the various books of the new Testament were the works of those whose names they bear. This indeed is, in a great measure, the way in which we prove the genuineness of every ancient book. We do not know that a book was written by Cæsar or Tacitus, but by testimony and historical evidence. In like manner, testimony and historical evidence are essential to prove that the works ascribed to St. Peter or St. Paul were really theirs. In this latter case, indeed, we have the most convincing and satisfactory proofs; for we have the testimony of early Christians, of early heretics, of ancient heathens, of friends, and of enemies; and besides this, the testimony of the Church catholic in general councils. These are things which we should never lightly value, under any circumstances; and when we have to deal with the question concerning the genuineness of certain books, such a kind of evidence is the most obvious, the most necessary, and the most satisfactory possible. But it does not follow that we should give the same deference to the same testimony, even if such could be found, on points of doctrine. For the opinions of Cæsar or Tacitus, we prefer the words of their own books to any testimony external to those books. And so for the doctrines of the Apostles, we look first and chiefly to what they have written. Besides, we have concerning the Canon of Scripture an universality of consent which it would be utterly in vain to search for concerning any doctrine of the faith which is not also to be found in Scripture. When the Roman Church can bring a like amount of consentient testimony to prove any doctrine on which Scripture is silent, we may then, and not till then, entertain the question of a doctrina tradita, parallel to, and of equal authority with, Scripture.

(4) It is farther said, that many necessary things are not set down in Scripture.

Bellarmine mentions the following:[10]

a. How women under the old Law might be delivered from Original Sin, circumcision being only for males; and how males under eight days old might be saved from it.

b. The Perpetual Virginity of the blessed Virgin Mary, which has always been believed by the Church, and yet is not in Scripture.

c. That Easter should be kept on a Sunday, which is necessary to be believed against the Quarto-decimans.

d. Infant Baptism, which is necessary to be believed; but neither Romanists nor Protestants can prove it from Scripture.

e. That there is a Purgatory, which Luther himself believed, and yet admitted that it could not be found in Scripture.

If these are all the points that Scripture is silent upon; we need not be very solicitous about its deficiencies. None of them surely can be essential to our salvation. None, except the last two, materially concern our personal faith or practice. The last we not only admit is not in Scripture, but we positively deny that it is true. The last but one, Infant Baptism, we think may be fairly inferred from Scripture, when fully consulted on the subject; and we are very thankful to have the additional testimony of the primitive Church concerning it, which we never reject, as a help and guide to the truth and right understanding of the Scriptures, but only as a distinct and independent authority. The question concerning Easter is one of ceremony, not of faith, and we gladly follow the primitive Church in matters of this nature; although we do not hold, that ceremonies must be one and the same everywhere. The doctrine concerning the Perpetual Virginity is rather a pious opinion, than a necessary article of faith. Our own greatest divines have mostly adhered to the primitive opinion on this subject.[11] But we cannot think that any man’s salvation is the surer for believing, or the less sure for disbelieving it.

The question concerning Original Sin, and how women under the Law were delivered from it, and still more, the question concerning infants under eight days old, is as much left in obscurity by tradition, as by Scripture. It is one of those things concerning which we have no revelation.

(5) But it is said, that some of the chief articles of faith, though deduced from Scripture, yet could not be proved from Scripture alone, without the help of tradition and the testimony of the Church. Among the rest are enumerated, the equality of the Divine Persons in the Trinity, the Procession of the Spirit from both the Father and the Son, the Descent into Hell, Original Sin, the change of the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day.

The proof of most of these doctrines from Scripture has already been given under the preceding Articles. We maintain, that the equality of the Persons in the Godhead, and the other great doctrines concerning the Trinity, also the Descent into Hell, and Original Sin, are clearly deducible from Scripture alone. We do not indeed reject the testimony of antiquity, but view it, as a valuable guide to the true meaning of Holy Writ; but we maintain that these doctrines might be proved, even without its aid. As to the Procession of the Holy Ghost, if Scripture will not prove it, certainly tradition will not. In considering the last Article, we saw that the tradition of the Western was different, in some respects, from that of the Eastern Church. The Nicene Creed for some centuries lacked the Filioque. And from the evidence in favour of the doctrine, which we deduced from Scripture, it should appear that Scripture speaks more plainly upon it than tradition, or the Church. The change of the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day is not an article of faith; but it is doubtless a matter of some moment. It is true, that without the aid of history we might find some difficulty in discovering, whether the early Christians did give up observing the Jewish Sabbath, and kept festival on the first day of the week. But even so, we think, Scripture alone would give us proof that the Lord’s Day was to be observed, and that the Jewish Sabbath was not to be observed. Certainly, we read of the first day of the week, as the day on which Christians held their assemblies, administered the Lord’s Supper (Acts xx. 7), and collected alms for the poor (1 Cor. xvi. 2). So the Apostle St. John “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Rev. i. 10). But “Sabbath-days” are enumerated as one of the “shadows of things to come,” which belonged to the old dispensation, and so were not binding on Christians (Col. ii. 16, 17). Hence, the new Testament gives us good reason to believe that the obligation to keep the seventh day of the week had passed away, and that the weekly festival of the Christian Church was not Saturday, but Sunday. If it be not conceded that such Scriptural authority be sufficient to satisfy us, we may reply, that the keeping of the Lord’s Day is not a question essential to our salvation, like the great doctrines of our faith; and that, therefore, even if we require historical or traditional evidence concerning it, in addition to Scripture, that will not be a case to interfere with this Article of our Church which speaks only of articles of faith, and things necessary to salvation.

(6) Lastly, it is said, Scripture is in many things so obscure, that tradition is necessary to explain its meaning.

To this we reply, that there is, at times, no doubt, some difficulty. The Church of England does not reject the use of all proper aids for the explanation of Scripture. She encourages recourse to human learning, in order to elucidate the language of Holy Writ. She does by no means reject any light, which may be derived from primitive antiquity, and she is anxious to cherish a learned clergy for the instruction of her poorer and more ignorant members. Her rule too concerning Scripture is not, that every uneducated person ought to take the Scriptures in hand, and search out for himself a system of theology. She teaches her children by catechisms and other simple steps to knowledge of the truth. All that she maintains is, that, as a final court of appeal, Scripture is perfect and sufficient. Her children may, by intelligent and humble study of the Scriptures, find in them full authority for all she teaches, and do not require a second, independent authority.

The fathers acknowledge the Scripture to be sufficiently plain, if expounded by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Irenæus tells us to solve the more difficult parts of Scripture by having recourse to those which are easy.[12] And Chrysostom says, “Look for no other teacher; thou hast the oracles of God; none teaches thee like these.”[13]

“There is no question, but there are many places in the Divine Scriptures, mysterious, intricate, and secret: but these are for the learned, not for the ignorant: for the curious and inquisitive, not for the busied and employed and simple: they are not repositories of salvation, but instances of labour, and occasions of humility, and arguments of forbearance and mutual toleration, and an endearment of reverence and adoration. But all that by which God brings us to Himself is easy and plain.”[14]

III. We have, lastly, to prove, that the testimony of the primitive fathers is in favour of the Anglican rule, and not of the Roman.

1. Irenæus says: “We know that the Scriptures are perfect, as being spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit.”[15] Again: “We have received the disposition of our salvation by no others but those by whom the Gospel came to us; which they then preached, and afterwards by God’s will delivered to us in the Scriptures, to be the pillar and ground of our faith.”[16]

Tertullian says: “I adore the perfection of Scripture, which declares to me the Creator and His Works. . . . . Whether all things were made of preëxistent matter, I have as yet nowhere read. Let the school of Hermogenes show that it is written. If it is not written, let them fear the woe which is destined for them who add to or take away.”[17]

Origen says: “The two Testaments . . . . in which every word that appertains to God may be sought out and discussed, and from them all knowledge of things may be understood. If anything remain, which Holy Scripture doth not determine, no third Scripture ought to be had recourse to . . . . but that which remaineth we must commit to the fire, i. e., reserve it unto God. For God would not have us know all things in this world.”[18]

Hippolytus writes: “There is one God, whom we do not otherwise acknowledge, brethren, but out of the Sacred Scriptures. For as he who would profess the wisdom of this world cannot otherwise attain it, unless he read the doctrines of the philosophers, so whosoever will exercise piety towards God can learn it nowhere but from the Holy Scriptures.”[19]

Athanasius: “The holy and divinely-inspired Scriptures are of themselves sufficient to the enunciation of truth.”[20] Again: “These are the fountains of salvation, that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the oracles contained in them. In these alone the doctrine of salvation is contained. Let no man add to, or take from them.”[21]

Cyril of Jerusalem says, that, “Concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, even the most casual remark ought not to be delivered without the sacred Scriptures.”[22]

Basil: “Believe those things which are written, the things which are not written seek not.”[23] “It is a manifest defection from the faith, and a proof of arrogance, either to reject anything of what is written, or to introduce anything that is not.”[24]

Ambrose: “How can we use those things, which we find not in the Scriptures!”[25]

Jerome: “We deny not those things which are written, so we refuse those which are not written. That God was born of a Virgin we believe, because we read; that Mary married after she gave birth to Him, we believe not, because we read not.”[26]

Augustine: “In those things which are plainly laid down in Scripture, all things are found which embrace faith and morals.”[27]

Vincentius Lirinensis begins with the admission, that, “The Canon of Scripture is perfect, and most abundantly sufficient for all things.”[28]

Theodoret: “Bring not human reasonings and syllogisms; I rely on Scripture.”[29]

John Damascene: “All things that are delivered to us by the Law, the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Evangelists, we receive, acknowledge, and reverence, seeking for nothing beyond these.”[30]

It can scarcely be necessary to bring more or stronger proofs that the fathers with one voice affirm the perfection and sufficiency of the written word, for the end for which it was written, i. e., for a rule of faith, and for a rule of life.[31]

2. (1) But an objection will be urged to these arguments from the fathers, that some of them, and those of no mean importance, clearly speak of a rule of faith which is distinct from the Scriptures; it is therefore evident that they do not appeal to Scripture alone as supreme, perfect, and sufficient. Thus, without question, Irenæus spoke of a κανὼν τῆς ἀληθείας, “a rule of truth,” according to which he considered that the Scriptures ought to be interpreted.[32] In the same manner Tertullian appeals to a Regula Fidei, “a rule of faith,” by which he was guided in interpreting Scripture.[33] Here are two of the earliest fathers appealing to an authority which is certainly not Scripture; and therefore they must have held that something besides Scripture was necessary, and that all things needful for faith and practice were not contained in Scripture.

If, however, we consult the contexts, we shall find that the rule spoken of in both these fathers is the baptismal Creed. Irenæus expressly says that the Canon of Truth, which each one was to keep, was that which was received by him at his baptism;[34] and in the next chapter recites a form or profession of faith, which is very nearly the same as the Apostles’ Creed, and which he speaks of as that “faith which the Church scattered throughout the world diligently keeps.”[35]

In the very same manner Tertullian writes, “Now we have a rule of faith, which teaches us what we are to defend and maintain, and by that very rule we believe, that there is One God,” &c.; he goes on reciting the various articles of the Creed.[36] Here then we see, that the rules of faith of Irenæus and Tertullian were not some independent tradition, teaching doctrines not to be found in Scripture, but the Creeds taught to the Christians, and confessed by them at their baptism, which were in fact epitomes of important Scriptural doctrine, founded on Scripture, and fully according with it. This is a widely different thing from the Doctrina tradita of the Church of Rome. Reliance on the latter is opposed to the sufficiency of Scripture; but the rule of Irenæus and Tertullian was based upon Scripture, and in all respects accordant with it.

Clement of Alexandria also, who is almost as early a witness as Tertullian, speaks, like Irenæus, of a κανὼν τῆς ἀληθείας, “a rule of truth,” which he also calls κανὼν ἐκκλησιαστικός. But this rule, so far from being something apart from, and of parallel authority with Scripture, is, according to Clement, founded on a harmony of the old Testament with the new. “The ecclesiastical rule,” says he, “is the harmony of the Law and the Prophets with the Covenant delivered by the Lord during His presence on earth.”[37]

A like sense we must attach to the language of the later fathers, when we find them speaking of a Regula Fidei. They considered the fundamental doctrines of the faith, those, that is, contained in the Creeds, to be the great guide for Christians in interpreting Scriptures. Whosoever erred from these erred from the truth; and, in explaining obscure passages, they held that it was very needful to keep in view the necessity of not deviating from the great lines of truth marked out in the baptismal Creeds. This was not to add to Scripture, but to guard it against being wrested to destruction.[38]

(2) But, it may be said, Irenæus, Tertullian, and others, not only appealed to tradition, but even preferred arguing from tradition to arguing from Scripture.

Tertullian especially says: “No appeal must be made to the Scriptures, no contest must be founded on them, in which victory is uncertain. . . . . The grand question is, to whom the Faith itself belongs; in whose hands were the Scriptures deposited . . . . to whom that doctrine was first committed, whereby we are made Christians? For wherever this true doctrine and discipline shall appear to be, there the truth of the Scripture and of the interpretation of it will be, and of Christian tradition.”[39]

The meaning, however, of this appeal to tradition in preference to Scripture, both by Irenæus and Tertullian, is this: both were reasoning against heretics. Those heretics mutilated Scripture, and perverted it. When, therefore, the fathers found their appeal to Scripture of no effect, partly because the heretics were ready to deny that what they quoted was Scripture, and partly because they were ready to evade its force by false glosses and perverted interpretations; then the fathers saw that to reason from Scripture was not convincing to their opponents, and therefore they had recourse to the doctrine preserved by the Apostolical Churches, which, they maintained, were not likely to have lost or to have corrupted the truth first intrusted to them. It was not, that they themselves doubted the sufficiency of Scripture, but that they found other weapons useful against the gainsayers, and therefore brought tradition, not to add to, but to confirm Scripture.[40]

The same may be said concerning the famous work of Vincentius Lirinensis. He begins by admitting that “Scripture is perfect and abundantly of itself sufficient for all things.” But because various heretics have misinterpreted it, Novatian expounding it one way, Photinus in another, Sabellius in another, and so on: “therefore,” he says, “very necessary it is for the avoiding of such turnings and twinings of error, that the line of interpreting the Prophets and Apostles be directed according to the rule of Ecclesiastical and Catholic sense.”[41] This is not to introduce a new rule independent of Scripture. It is at most a Traditio Hermeneutica, a rule for the interpreting of Scripture. It still leaves Scripture, as the fountain of truth; though it guards against using its streams for other than legitimate purposes.

Finally, we have seen the concurrent testimony of the fathers to be in favour of the sufficiency of Scripture. If, here and there, a single passage be apparently unfavourable to this testimony, we must hold it to be a private opinion of an individual father, and therefore not worthy of being esteemed in comparison with their general consent. For it is a rule of Vincentius himself, that “Whatsoever any, although a learned man, a bishop, a martyr, or a confessor holds, otherwise than all, or against all, this must be put aside from the authority of the general judgment, and be reputed merely his own private opinion.”[42]


  1. Sarpi, Hist. of the Council of Trent, translated by Brent. London, 1676, p. 141.
  2. “Sacrosancta œcumenica et generalis Tridentina Synodus, in Spiritu Sancto legitime congregata, præsidentibus in ea eisdem tribus Apostolicæ sedis legatis, hoc sibi perpetuo ante oculos proponens, ut sublatis erroribus, puritas ipsa Evangelii in Ecclesia conservetur: quod promissum ante per prophetas in Scripturis sanctis Dominus noster, Jesus Christus, Dei Filius, proprio ore primum promulgavit, deinde per suos Apostolos tanquam fontem omnis salutaris veritatis et morum disciplinæ, omni creaturæ prædicari jussit; perspiciens hanc veritatem et disciplinam contineri in libris scriptis et sine scripto traditionibus, quæ ab ipsius Christi ore et Apostolis acceptæ, Spiritu Sancto dictante, quasi per manus traditæ ad nos usque pervenerunt; Orthodoxorum patrum exempla secuta, omnes libros tam veteris quam novi Testamenti, cum utriusque unus Deus sit auctor, nec-non traditiones ipsas, tum ad fidem, tum ad mores pertinentes, tamquam vel ore tenus a Christo vel a Spiritu Sancto dictatas, et continua successione in Ecclesia Catholica conservatas, pari pietatis affectu ac reverentia suscipit ac veneratur.” — Sess. IV. Can. I. Conc. XIV. 746.
  3. Bellarmin. De Verbo Dei non Scripto, Lib. IV. cap. III. “Controversia igitur inter nos et hereticos in duobus consistit. Primum est, quod nos asserimus, in Scripturis non contineri expresse totam doctrinam necessariam sive de fide sive de moribus; et proinde præter Verbum Dei scriptum, requiri etiam Verbum Dei non scriptum, id est, divinas et Apostolicas traditiones. At ipsi docent, in Scripturis omnia contineri ad fide met mores necessaria, et proinde non esse opus ullo Verbo non scripto.”
  4. “Unto a Christian man there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable than the knowledge of Holy Scripture, forasmuch as in it is contained God’s true Word, setting forth His glory and also man’s duty, and there is no truth nor doctrine necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that is, or may be, drawn out of that fountain and well of truth.” — Beginning of the Homily on Holy Scripture.
  5. Jer. Taylor, Dissuasive from Popery, Part II. Bk. I. Sect. 3.
  6. The passages from Scripture which have been quoted in the text are all alleged by Bellarmine, De Verbo Dei non Scripto, Lib. IV. On the proper meaning of the word Tradition, see Jer. Taylor as above; Usher, Answer to a Jesuit, ch. II.; Bp. Patrick’s Discourse about Tradition, in the first volume of Gibson, Preservative against Popery, p. 190; Van Mildert’s Bampton Lectures, Sermon III.
  7. Bellarmine indeed argues that the passage from Deut. iv. 2 applies only to the unwritten word: “the word which I speak unto you.” The word however is not “speak,” as he renders it, but מצַוֶּה “command,” as our translators give it. — Bellarmin. De Verbo Dei non Scripto, Lib. IV.
  8. E. g. Μετὰ δὲ τὴν τούτων (i. e. τοῦ Πέτρου καὶ τοῦ Παύλου) ἔξοδον Μάρκος, ὁ μαθητὴς καὶ ἑρμηνευτὴς Πέτρου, καὶ αὐτὸς τὰ ὑπὸ Πέτρου κηρυσσόμενα ἐγγράϕως ἡμῖν παραδέδωκε. — Iren. Hær. III. 1. So again: “Hanc fidem annuntians Joannes Domini discipulus, volens per Evangelii annuntiationem auferre eum qui inseminatus erat hominibus errorem, et multo prius ab his qui dicuntur Nicolaitæ . . . omnia igitur talia circumscribere volens discipulus Domini, et regulam veritatis constituere in ecclesia . . . sic inchoavit in ea quæ erat secundum Evangelium doctrina: In principio erat Verbum. . . .Hæres. III. 11. Τοσοῦτον ἐπέλαμψεν ταῖς τῶν ἀκροατῶν τοῦ Πετροῦ διανοίαις εὐσεβείας ϕέγγος, ὡς μὴ τῇ εἰσάπαξ ἱκανῶς ἔχειν άρκεῖσθαι ἀκοῇ μηδὲ τῇ ἀγράϕῳ τοῦ θείου κηρύγματος διδασκαλίᾳ · παρακλήσεσι δὲ παντοίαις Μάρκον, αὗ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ϕέρεται, ἀκόλουθον ὄντα Πέτρου λιπαρῆσαι, ὡς ἄν καὶ διὰ γραϕῆς ὑπόμνημα τῆς διὰ λόγου παραδοθείσης αὐτοῖς καταλείψοι διδασκαλίας · μὴ πρότερόν τε ἀνεῖναι ἢ κατεργάσασθαι τὸν ἄνδρα, καὶ ταύτῃ αἰτίους γενέσθαι τῆς τοῦ λεγομένου κατὰ Μάρκον εὐαγγελίου γραϕῆς. — Euseb. H. E. II. 15. He gives this account on the authority of Papias and Clemens Alexand.
  9. Jer. Taylor, Dissuasive from Popery, Pt. II. Bk. I. Sect. 3.
  10. De Verbo Dei non Scripto, Lib. IV.
  11. Andrewes’s Devotions: see Prayers for Monday. Jer. Taylor, Life of Christ, § 2. Pearson, On the Creed, Art. “Born of the Virgin Mary.” Bp. Bull, Works, I. p. 96.
  12. Omnis autem quæstio non per aliud quod quæritur habebit resolutionem, nec ambiguitas per aliam ambiguitatem solvetur apud eos qui sensum habent, aut ænigmata per aliud majus ænigma, sed ea quæ sunt talia ex manifestis et consonantibus et claris accipiunt solutionem. — Lib. II. 10. See Beaven’s Account of Irenæus, p. 138.
  13. Homil. IX. in Ep. Coloss.
  14. Jer. Taylor’s Dissuasive from Popery, Part II. Bk. I. § 2.
  15. Cedere hæc talia debemus Deo qui et nos fecit, rectissime scientes quia Scripturæ quidem perfectæ sunt, quippe a Verbo Dei et Spiritu ejus dictæ. — Lib. II. c. 47.
  16. Non enim per alios dispositionem salutis nostræ cognovimus, quam per eos per quos Evangelium pervenit ad nos: quod quidem tunc præconiaverunt, postea vero per Dei voluntatem in Scripturis nobis tradiderunt, fundamentum et columnam fidei nostræ futurum. — Lib. III. c. 1.
  17. Adoro Scripturæ plenitudinem qua mihi et Factorem manifestat et facta. In Evangelio vero amplius et ministrum et arbitrum Rectoris invenio, Sermonem. An autem de aliqua subjacenti materia facta sint omnia, nusquam adhuc legi. Scriptum esse doceat Hermogenis officina. Si non est scriptum, timeat illud adjicientibus aut detrahentibus destinatum. — Adv. Hermogenem, c. 22. See also Apolog. c. 47. De Præscript. c. 6, &c.
  18. In hoc biduo puto duo Testamenta posse intelligi, in quibus liceat omne verbum quod ad Deum pertinet (hoc enim est sacrificium) requiri et discuti, atque ex ipsis omnem rerum scientiam capi. Si quid autem superfuerit, quod non divina Scriptura decernat, nullam aliam tertiam Scripturam debere ad auctoritatem scientiæ suscipi. . . . Sed igni tradamus quod superest, id est, Deo reservemus. Neque enim in præsenti vita Deus scire nos omnia voluit. — Origen. Homil. v. in Levit.
  19. Εἷς Θεὸς, ὃν οὐκ ἄλλοθεν ἐπιγινώσκομεν, ἀδελϕοὶ, ἢ ἐκ τῶν ἁγίων γραϕῶν. Ὃν γὰρ τρόπον ἐάν τις βουληθῇ τὴν σοϕίαν τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἀσκεῖν, οὐκ ἄλλως δυνήσεται τούτου τυχεῖν ἐὰν μὴ δόγμασι ϕιλοσόϕων ἐντύχῃ, τὸν αὐτὸν δὴ τρόπον ὅσοι Θεοσέβειαν ἀσκεῖν βουλόμεθα, οὐκ ἄλλοθεν ἀσκήσομεν ἢ ἐκ τῶν λογίων του Θεοῦ. — Hippolyt. Contra Hæresim Noeti, c. 9.
  20. Αὐταρκεῖς μὲν γάρ εἰσιν αἱ ἁγίαι καὶ θεόπνευστοι γραϕαὶ πρὸς τὴν τῆς ἀληθείας ἀπαγγελίαν. Athanas. Contra Gentes, Tom. I. p. 1.
  21. Ταῦτα πηγαὶ τοῦ σωτηρίου, ὥστε τὸν διψῶντα ἐμϕορεῖσθαι τῶν ἐν τούτοις λογίων · ἐν τούτοις μόνον τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας διδασκαλεῖον εὐαγγελίζεται · μηδεὶς τούτοις ἐπιβαλλέτω, μὴ δὲ τούτων ἀϕαιρείσθω. — Ex Festali Epistola XXXIX. Tom II. p. 39. Edit. Colon.
  22. Δεῖ γὰρ περὶ τῶν θείων καὶ ἁγίων τῆς πίστεως μυστηρίων μηδὲ τὸ τύχον ἄνευ τῶν θείων παραδίδοσθαι γραϕῶν. — Cyril. Hierosol. Catech. IV. 12.
  23. Τοῖς γεγραμμένοις πίστευε, τὰ μὴ γεγραμμένα μὴ ζήτει. — Basil. Hom. XXIX. adv. Calumniantes S. Trin.
  24. Φανερὰ ἔκπτωσις πίστεως καὶ ὑπερηϕανίας κατηγορία ἢ ἀθετεῖν τι τῶν γεγραμμένων ἢ ἐπεισάγειν τῶν μὴ γεγραμμένων. — Basil. De Fide, c. 1.
  25. Quæ in Scripturis sanctis non reperimus, ea quemadmodum usurpare possumus. — Ambros. Offic. Lib. I. c. 23.
  26. Ut hæc quæ scripta sunt non negamus, ita ea quæ non scripta sunt renuimus. Natum Deum de Virgine credimus, quia legimus. Mariam nupsisse post partum non credimus, quia non legimus. — Hieron. Adv. Helvidium juxta finem, Tom. IV. part II. p. 141, edit. Benedict.
  27. In iis quæ aperte in Scriptura posita sunt, inveniuntur illa omnia quæ continent fidem moresque vivendi. — August. De Doctrina Christ. Lib. II. c. 9, Tom. III. p. 24. In like manner: — Proinde sive de Christo, sive de ejus Ecclesia, sive de quacumque alia re quæ pertinet ad fidem vitamque vestram, non dicam nos, nequaquam comparandi ei qui dixit, Licet si nos: sed omnino quod secutus adjecit, Si angelus de cœlo vobis annuntiaverit præterquam quod in Scripturis legalibus et evangelicis accepistis anathema sit. — Aug. Cont. Petilium, Lib. III. c. 6, Tom. IX. p. 301.
  28. Cum sit perfectus Scripturarum Canon, sibique ad omnia satis superque sufficiat. — Vincent. Lirin. Commonitor. c. 2.
  29. Μή μοι λογισμοὺς καὶ συλλογισμοὺς ἀνθρωπίνους προσενέγκῃς · ἐγὼ γὰρ μόνῃ πείθομαι τῇ θείᾳ γραϕῇ. — Theodoret. Dial. I. Ἀτρεπτ.
  30. Πάντα τὰ παραδιδόμενα ἡμῖν διά τε νόμου, καὶ προϕητῶν καὶ ἀποστόλων καὶ εὐαγγελίστων δεχόμεθα καὶ γινώσκομεν καὶ σέβομεν, οὐδὲν περαιτέρω τούτων ἐπιζητοῦντες. — Damascen. Lib. I. De Orthodox. Fide, c. 1.
  31. Divines of the English Church have collected many other passages to the same purpose. See Laud against Fisher, § 16; Usher’s Answer to a Jesuit, ch. 2; Jer. Taylor, Dissuasive from Popery, Part II. Bk. 1. ch. 2; Rule of Conscience, Book II. ch. II. Rule XIV. From some of which works I have taken the above passages, (with one or two exceptions) merely verifying the quotations.
  32. Οὕτω δὲ καὶ ὁ τὸν κάνονα τῆς ἀληθείας ἀκλινῆ ἐν ἑαυτῷ κατέχων, ὃν διὰ βαπτίσματος εἴληϕε, τὰ μὲν ἐκ τῶν γραϕῶν ὀνόματα καὶ τὰς λέξεις καὶ τὰς παραβολὰς ἐπιγνώσεται. — Irenæ. I. 9.
  33. Hæc Regula a Christo, ut probabitur, instituta, nullas habet quæstiones, nisi quas hæreses inferunt, et quæ hæreticos faciunt. — Tertull. De Præscript. Hæret. c. 14. Adversus Regulam nihil scire omnia scire. — Ibid.
  34. See the last note but one.
  35. Lib. I. 10.
  36. De Præscript. Hæret. c. 13.
  37. Κανὼν δὲ ἐκκλησιαστικὸς ἡ συνῳδία καὶ ἡ συμϕωνία νόμου τε καὶ προϕητῶν τῇ κατὰ τὴν τοῦ Κυρίου παρουσίαν παραδιδομένῃ διαθήκῃ. — Strom. Lib. VI. c. 15, ed. Potter, p. 803.
  38. See Bp. Marsh, On the Interpretation of the Bible, Lect. XI.; Bp. Kaye’s Tertullian, p. 290, &c.; Bp. Kaye’s Clement of Alexandria, p. 366; Beaven’s Irenæus, ch. VIII.
  39. De Præscript. Hæret. c. 19.
  40. See Beaven’s Irenæus, p. 136; Bp. Kaye’s Tertullian, p. 297, note.
  41. Commonitor. c. 2.
  42. Commonitor. c. 28. On the true sense of the perfection of Scripture, see Hooker, E. P. I. xiii. xiv. II. viii. 5.


E. Harold Browne

(Edward) Harold Browne was an English bishop, born at Aylesbury and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He was ordained in 1836, and two years later was elected senior tutor of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From 1843 to 1849 he was vice-principal of St David’s College, Lampeter, and in 1854 was appointed Norrisian professor of divinity at Cambridge. His best-known book is the Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles (vol. i., Cambridge, 1850; vol. ii., London, 1853), which remained for many years a standard work on the subject and is still beloved today. In 1864 he was consecrated bishop of Ely.

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