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And here it will be found that we have three distinct parties to contend with ; all widely differing from each other, yet all asserting principles injurious to the just preeminence of Scriptural authority.
The first of these, the Papist, insists on the necessity of an infallible Judge or Interpreter of doctrine, in the
of some visible Head of the Church, from whom there shall be no appeal. The second, comprising various Sects, contends that every doctrine of Holy Writ must bend to the decision of human Reason as the supreme judge in matters of faith. The third, a multifarious order of Interpreters, gives supreme sway to a supposed inward Light, or immediate communication from the Holy Spirit, supplementary to Scripture, and infallible as well as irresistible in its operations. An examination of the respective pretensions of these different claimants to assume authority above the Scriptures, will fully occupy us for the present. The regard due to them in a subsidiary and subordinate capacity must be made the subject of another Discourse.
I. The great points in controversy between Papists and Protestants, as far as relates to the present question, are the infallibility of the Church and the authority of unwritten Traditions ; Traditions, supposed to have been originally of Apostolical origin, but not recorded in Holy Writ.
In arguing these points, it is presumed, on both sides, that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and therefore must be true, The Romanist, however unguardedly he may sometimes speak of the written Word, does not venture openly to contravene this position. Consequently, no arguments are admissible in the present discussion, which oppose what the Scripture itself affirms : and the debate might be reduced to a simple inquiry, what the Sacred Writings declare
upon the subject. The infallibility of the Scriptures is taken for granted: their sufficiency is the controverted point. If then it should appear that the Scriptures, which the Romanist confesses to be infallible, assert, either expressly or virtually, their own sufficiency as the rule of faith, the matter at issue would be thus far de
cided; and even on his own principles, the opponent would stand defeated.
The proof, however, of this point is not so clearly deducible from any particular texts of Scripture declaratory upon the subject, as from the general scope and design of these Sacred Records, and the extraordinary endowments of the writers themselves. It rests upon the plenary inspiration of those writers; upon their exclusive authority to declare the Divine will ; and upon the want of satisfactory evidence, on the other hand, to prove any doctrine to be really theirs, which is not contained in the written Word. These positions being established, the sufficiency of Scripture for its intended purpose will be fully made out, and all competition with its authority effectually precluded.
There are indeed texts both in the Old and New Testament, which, if understood as relating to the whole Sacred Canon, might seem to put the question beyond dispute. Thus David, speaking of the Word as it existed under the Jewish dispensation, declares it to be “ a lamp unto the
* feet and a light unto the paths ;" a “ perfect law, converting the soul; and a “ testimony that is sure, making wise the “ simple.” St. Paul likewise speaks of the Scriptures in general, as “ able to make “ us wise unto salvation,” and “making the * man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished “ unto all good works." These expressions may be understood not only as ascribing to the Sacred Writings a character and authority above those of merely human compositions, but also as intimating that nothing more was necessary for our instruction than what the Almighty had thus been pleased to reveal.
But since every declaration of this kind (unless we conceive it to have been proleptically delivered) can in strictness have reference only to the writings extant at the time when it was used; something more may be thought requisite for our present argument. And this may be obtained from the tenor of our Lord's promises to his Apostles. He declares, that the Com
a Ps. cxix. 105. Ps. xix. 7.
6 2 Tim. iii. 15, 17.
forter, the Holy Spirit, should“ guide “ them into Alų truth and shew them things “ to come!,” should“ teach them ALL “things,” “ bring all things to their re“ membrance whatsoever he had said unto “ them,” and “ give them a mouth and 66 wisdom which all their adversaries should “ not be able to gainsay, nor resist'.” These promises were strikingly fulfilled in that preeminent degree of inspiration of which the Apostles exhibited most convincing proofs. Nor did they ever intimate that any other persons (not even those upon whom, through their ministration, many excellent and extraordinary gifts were bestowed) were to succeed them in the
special office of making further revelations of the Divine will. On the contrary, they affirm of themselves only, that they by that Spirit which “ searcheth all things,
yea, even the deep things of Gods;" that the mystery “ of Christ, which in other
ages was not made known unto the sons
d John xvi. 13. i Luke xxi, 15.
c John xiv. 26. % I Cor. ii. 10.