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THE FULNESS AND SUFFICIENCY OF THE DIVINE REVELATION CONVEYED TO US IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
In the preceding chapter we have endeavoured to prove that Holy Scripture is the sole divine Rule of faith and practice to the conscience of every individual.
To this position various objections are offered by our opponents, many of which we have already considered. There remain, however, two others of still greater importance, to the consideration of which this and the following chapter shall be devoted.
The first is the (alleged) imperfection of Scripture; the second the (alleged) obscurity of Scripture.
The first of these I shall consider in this chapter.
That" tradition" is a necessary part of the divine Rule of faith and practice, on account of the defectiveness of Scripture; for that
(1) Though it does not reveal to us any fundamental articles of faith or practice not noticed in Scripture, Holy Scripture containing, that is, giving hints or notices of, all the fundamental articles of faith and practice, it is yet a necessary part of the divine rule of faith and practice as the interpreter of Scripture, and as giving the full development of many articles, some of which are fundamental, which are but imperfectly developed in Scripture; and
See vol. i. pp. 37, 38.
(2) That tradition is an important part of that rule,1 as conveying to us various important divinely-revealed doctrines and rules not contained in Scripture.
Now it is evident that in these propositions it is assumed, as an undeniable truth, that patristical tradition is a divine informant; for otherwise it would be no sufficient foundation for our faith to rest upon, either in articles of faith not contained in Scripture, or in the development of truths "noticed" in Scripture. This, however, we have shown not to be the case.
In reply, therefore, to these propositions, (as far as concerns doctrines) we might at once point the reader to the corollaries given in the last chapter, 2 as affording at once the most brief and satisfactory refutation of them. Those corollaries were,
(1) That the doctrines contained in Scripture have an authoritative claim upon our faith only as far as they are there revealed.
Consequently whereinsoever patristical tradition goes beyond the clear declarations of Scripture in any doctrinal point "noticed" in Scripture, so far faith has no divine or certain testimony to rest upon. Whatever explanation or development not grounded upon the testimony of Scripture is given of any doctrine by "tradition," all the authority it can have is that which belongs to "tradition."
(2) That no doctrine has any authoritative claim upon our faith, that is not revealed in Scripture.
The exclusive claim of Scripture to be the source of all doctrines, is necessarily established, as we have already observed in the last chapter, by a proof of its being our sole divine informant. And, in such a case, it is useless to attempt to argue that Scripture is an imperfect informant as to the doctrines of religion, that this or that
Our opponents would not, perhaps, use the phrase "rule of faith," with reference to these points; but they must excuse my using that phrase, as well as others, in the full and proper meaning. If" tradition" is the Word of God, the religious doctrines which it delivers, are articles of faith.
2 See vol. i. p. 530.
doctrine is not fully set forth in it; and that such and such doctrines are not contained in it at all. For it would only follow that these additions had no title to be reckoned as any part of the Christian faith or religion. For, as Mr. Newman himself justly remarks," There is no abstract measure of what is sufficient. Faith cannot believe more than it is told. It is saving if it believes that, be it little or great."1
When, therefore, our opponents say that certain fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith are not to be found clearly and fully revealed in Scripture, but that we must rely upon tradition for certain parts, and a full development of them; they are, in fact, sapping the very foundations of the Christian faith, by taking from underneath it the sure support of the written word, and making the rotten pillars of tradition usurp its place. And when we see how clearly these truths are laid down in Scripture, it is difficult to suppose that such an assertion can be made, but from the desire of making use of it on other occasions in defence of propositions, for which the testimony of tradition alone, if even that, can be pleaded. But our opponents, with the Romanists, know well the influence and convenience of the argument, (when pressed with the objection that the testimonies of certain Fathers can never be taken as sufficient proof of some of their favourite doctrines,) that we have nothing better to depend upon for the full statement of some of the most fundamental points of faith; and they allege the obscurity of Scripture, and the variety of interpretations given to it, and various other arguments, as proofs of the imperfection of its statements on these points. The consequence of which is, that some, alarmed at the idea of such doctrines being questioned, are, as it were, frightened into the admission of their double rule; and thus the truths of divine revelation, and the dreams of the human imagination, are placed side by side as standing upon the same foundation, and entitled to the same. respect. While others, who are indisposed to the recep'Lect. p. 343.
tion of the truths of revelation, finding that they are made to depend upon the testimony of a few fallible men, instead of the declarations of the inspired Apostles, feel no hesitation in at once rejecting both.
Such are the dangers to which the Christian faith itself is exposed, through the statements of our opponents. To prove the necessity of our receiving, as divine, that patristical tradition on which the peculiarities of their system rely for support, they find fault with that which can alone be shown to be a revelation from God, and represent it as imperfect and obscure, and such as cannot teach men the true faith.
But, whatever may be its relative imperfection or obscurity, one thing is clear, and cannot be too frequently impressed upon the mind of the reader, that if it be our sole divine informant, it has the perfection and entireness for which we here contend-namely, as pointing out all we are required to believe; and, moreover, all those rites that we can know to be of divine institution. The proof, therefore, already given that it is our sole divine informant, is a complete proof of what we contend for in this chapter.
There are, however, other auxiliary arguments to prove this, which we shall now pass on to notice. And in reply to what our opponents assert on this subject, I shall now proceed to show, by these additional arguments,―—
First, That all the fundamental articles of the faith are fully set forth in Scripture.
Secondly, That Scripture is the only authoritative source of all religious truth, "tradition" having no authority over the conscience, either as the interpreter or supplement of Scripture; and, moreover, of all those rites that are to be considered as of divine institution.
First, then, we maintain that all the fundamental articles of the faith are fully set forth in Scripture.
To guard against misrepresentation, however, let it be remembered, that when we assert this, we mean that all those articles are in Scripture either in express terms, or
by necessary consequence. Thus, to recur to the example already given, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is God, is fully set forth in Scripture; because, though we do not meet with the proposition in terms, the doctrine flows by necessary consequence from what is contained there. It is obvious to the reason of an unprejudiced mind, from what is said in the Scriptures, that the Holy Spirit is God. And this is all that could reasonably be expected from such a revelation. It was not to be supposed that all the vagaries and distortions of truth that heretics might invent during the whole period of the Church's course, should be met in direct terms by counter propositions in the Scriptures. In fact, however many points might have been so met, those that were not thus met, would have been precisely the points to which heretics would have had recourse. And if it was not to be expected that they should be thus met in the Scriptures, is it probable that they would be more explicitly met in the oral teaching of the Apostles? Which may show us, that, even if we had the oral teaching of the Apostles, we might probably find in it nothing that would be more definitively and in terms condemnatory of the various heresies that have existed in the Church, than what we meet with in Scripture. The revelation made to us in the Scriptures, be it remembered, is not to be confined to the particular words there made use of, but extends to the sense which those words convey to the mind.
That all the fundamental articles of the faith, then, are, in the sense just mentioned, fully set forth in Scripture, may be shown by various arguments. Of these, however, some of the principal have been already noticed in the preceding chapter, as proofs that Scripture is the Rule of faith; and, therefore, I shall here only briefly recapitulate them, and refer the reader to the former chapter, where I have endeavoured fully to establish them.
The full exhibition, then, of the fundamentals of the faith in Scripture, appears
First, from Scripture itself.