We now continue with our quotation from the Gallican Confession in connection with the truth of the canon of the sacred Scriptures. We will finish Article V of this Confession.
“V. And inasmuch as it is the rule of all truth, containing all that is necessary for the service of God and for our salvation, it is not lawful for men, nor even for angels, to add to it, to take away from it, or to change it. Whence it follows that no authority, whether of antiquity, or custom, or numbers, or human wisdom, or judgments, or proclamations, or edicts, or decrees, or councils, or visions, or miracles, should be opposed to these Holy Scriptures, but, on the contrary, all things should be examined, regulated, and reformed according to them. And therefore we confess the three creeds, to wit: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian, because they are in accordance with the Word of God.
WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH. A.D. 1647
In Chapter 1 of this Confession, the church calls attention to the truth of the Holy Scripture. We quote the following:
“I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.
“II. Under the name of holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testament, which are these: Of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; Of the New Testament: the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians I, Corinthians II, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians I, Thessalonians II, To Timothy I, To Timothy II, To Titus, To Philemon, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The Epistle of James, The First and Second Epistles of Peter, The First, Second and Third Epistles of John, the Epistle of Jude, The Revelation.
“All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.
“III. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of the Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.”
THE BELGIC CONFESSION, or THIRTY SEVEN ARTICLES
In Article IV of this Belgic Confession, our Confession of Faith, the church expresses its faith in the canon of the Scriptures as follows, and we quote: “We believe that the Holy Scriptures are contained in two books, namely, the Old and New Testaments, which are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged. These are thus named in the Church of God (and then this article names the books as constituting our Bible—H.V.).
In Article VI the Confession states the difference between the canonical and apocryphal books as follows: “We distinguish these sacred books from the apocryphal, viz., the third and fourth book of Esdras, the books of Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Syrach, Baruch, the appendix to the book of Esther, the Song of the Three Children in the Furnace, the History of Susannah, of Bell and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasses, and the two books of Maccabees. All which the Church may read and take instruction from, so far as they agree with the canonical books; but they are far from having such power and efficacy as that we may from their testimony confirm any point of faith or of the Christian religion: much less to detract from the authority of the other sacred books.”
From these statements of the various confessions it appears that Protestants hold: (1) That the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and are therefore infallible, and of divine authority in all things pertaining to faith and practice, and consequently free from all error whether of doctrine, fact, or precept. (2) That they contain all the extant supernatural revelations of God designed to be a rule of faith and practice to his Church. (3) That they are sufficiently perspicuous to be understood by the people, in the use of ordinary means and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, in all things necessary to faith or practice, without the need of any infallible interpreter. The Bible itself is quite sufficient to be our guide in life, and the doctrine of the infallibility of a Romish pope is surely wholly unnecessary.
The expression, “Canon of Scripture,” is a term that designates the books of the Bible accepted as authoritative. The word, “Canon,” means primarily a straight staff or line, then a measuring-rod, and, figuratively, that which is ethically a guide or model. According to the earliest Christian use, the canon was a leading thought, a normal principle. The Scriptures are designated a “canon” because they are the only infallible rule of faith and life. This is supported by passages such as Gal. 4:16 and Phil. 3:16. Gal. 4:16 reads: “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” Notice that the apostle here writes to the Galatians that he had told them the truth. And in Phil. 3:16we read; “Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” Here the apostle speaks of a rule, and in the verse that follows he exhorts the church to be followers together of him.
The first question which asserts itself is: What books are entitled to a place in the canon or rule of faith and practice? Rome answers the question by saying that all those books constitute the canon of Scripture which the Church has decided to be divine in their origin, and none other is to be thus received. And, of course, the Church here is the Romish Church. Protestants declare that as far as the Old Testament is concerned, that only those books are to be regarded and recognized as the Word of God which Christ and the Apostles recognized as the written Word of God, and only those books are to be regarded as canonical; Rome includes also the apocryphal books as belonging to the canon; we maintain only thirty-nine books of the Old Testament as canonical. The Old Testament canon or Old Testament was closed somewhere between 400 and 100 B.C.
Now it is an undeniable fact that at the time of our Savior’s sojourn among us and His public ministry there was already in existence the volume of a Book that was accepted by the Church of the Old Dispensation as the inspired Word of God. This volume, as we definitely know, consisted of the same books that are now contained in our Old Testament. These Old Testament books are designated in our New Testament as the Scripture. We read in John 10:35: “If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken . . .” Romans 1:2reads: “(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures).” In Matthew 22:29 we read: “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” In Matthew 5:17 we read: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” And in II Tim. 3:15 we read: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto, salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” To these passages, we understand, more can easily be added. They surely prove that the New Testament designated the Old Testament Scriptures as the Word of God.
What books are entitled to a place in the canon of Scripture? Of interest is what we read in the New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia (Vol. II, 390-391), and we quote: “Philo had the same canon as ours (cf. C. Siegfried, Philo, p. 161, Jena, 1875), and quotes from almost all the books; while from the Apocrypha he makes no excerpts or citation, not giving it the honor he accords to Plato, Hippocrates, and several other Greek writers. The New Testament contains quotations principally from the Pentateuch, Prophets, and Psalms, as might be conjectured from its scope, but recognizes the threefold division of the canon (Luke 24:44). In this verse “The Psalms” does not stand for the entire Hagiographa; for our Lord meant to emphasize the fact that the Psalms spoke of him. The use of the phrase “the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 5:17;Acts 28:23) does not imply a division into two parts. The Syrians used the same expression for the whole Old Testament. The absence of quotation in the New Testament of any Old Testament book argues nothing against its canonicity. The use by the New Testament of Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha has no bearing on the canonical status of the books used or cited. Josephus bears the strongest testimony for the canon, and, as is evident, expresses the national and not his private opinion. And, further, the books mentioned are not mere. literature, but a sacred, divine collection. He enumerates twenty-two books; thus, 1. The five books of the Law; 2. The thirteen Prophets, counting the twelve minor Prophets as one book, and Lamentations with Jeremiah; 3. The four Hagiographa—Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles. But this arrangement is not to be looked upon as either old or correct.” From this quotation it appears that Philo of Alexandria quotes from almost all the books; from the Apocrypha he makes no excerpts or citations, not giving it the honour he accords to Plato, Hippocrates, and several other Greek writers. Josephus, a noted Jewish historian, writes as follows: “For we have not tens of thousands of books, discordant and conflicting, but only twenty-two; containing the record of all time, which have been justly believed to be Divine. And of these five are the books of Moses, which embrace the laws and the tradition of the creation of man reaching up to his (Moses’) death. Next the prophets who succeeded compiled the history of the period from Moses to the reign of Artaxerxes, the successor of Xerxes, king of Persia in thirteen books, relating severally what was done in their times. The remaining four books embrace hymns to God and practical directions for men. From the time of Artaxerxes to our own time each event has been recorded; but the records have not been deemed worthy of the same credit of those of earlier date, because of exact succession of the prophets was not continued. But what faith we have placed in our own writings we have shown by our conduct; for though so long a time is now passed, no one has dared either to add anything to them, or to take anything from them, or to alter anything. But the Jews are instinctively led from the moment of their birth to regard them as decrees of God, and to abide by them, and, if need be, gladly die for them.”