Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669) on the perspicuity of Scripture as a short cut to the truth

Johannes_Cocceius

“Not only does Holy Scripture possess in itself such perspicuity that by it a man may be saved even though destitute of other instrument and aid. But also by His grace God brings it to pass, that interpretation of Scripture and manifestation of the truth arises from it. So there is no longer need to discover from the Scriptures truth unusual as it were, and unheard of (as we are forced to look for the meanings of the Jews from the Talmud and its exegetes, for those of the Turks from the Qur’an, the stone-dead opinions of other races from the tomes of the ancients). By propagating the Church once gathered by the prophets, Christ and the apostles to the end of the World, and by preserving the truth in it so that it does not depart from her mouth, Is. 59.21 , God brings it about that the gospel is preached in the world till the end of the world, and that it is put in everyone’s way together with the sacred literature itself, and that it is a short cut to learn and approve the truth from it.”

– Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669), Summa Theologiae, VI. 64, 65

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Hugh Binning (1627-1653): Take the word of God as the only rule

 Hugh Binning

 

“Well then, let this be established in your hearts as the foundation of all true religion, that the scriptures are the word of the eternal God, and that they contain a perfect and exact rule both of glorifying God and of the way to enjoy him. They can make you perfect to every good work. I shall say no more on this; but beseech you, as you love your own souls, be acquainting yourselves with them. You will hear, in these days, of men pretending to more divine and spiritual discoveries and revelations than the scriptures contain: but, my brethren, these can make you ‘wise to salvation,’ these can make you ‘perfect to every good work.’ Then, what needs more? All that is besides salvation, and beyond perfection, count it superfluous and vain, if not worse, if not diabolical. Let others be wise to their own destruction,—let them establish their own imaginations for the word of God, and rule of their faith,—but hold you fast what you have received, and ‘contend earnestly’ for it. Add nothing, and diminish nothing; let this lamp shine ’till the day dawn,’—till the morning of the resurrection; and walk ye in the light of it, and do not kindle any other sparkles, else ye shall lie down in the grave in sorrow, and rise in sorrow. Take the word of God as the only rule, and the perfect rule,—a rule for all your actions, civil, natural, and religious; for all must be done to his glory, and his word teacheth how to attain to that end. Let not your imaginations, let not others’ example, let not the preaching of men, let not the conclusions and acts of Assemblies be your rule, but in as far as you find them agreeing with the perfect rule of God’s holy word. All other rules are regulæ regulatæ; they are but like publications and intimations of the rule itself. Ordinances of assemblies are but like the herald-promulgation of the king’s statute and law; if it vary in any thing from his intention, it is not valid and binding. I beseech you, take the scriptures for the rule of your walking, or else you will wander; the scripture is regula regulans, a ruling rule. If you be not acquainted with it, you must follow the opinions or examples of other men; and what if they lead you unto destruction?”

– Hugh Binning (1627-1653), The Common Principles of the Christian Religion, Lecture III

H. Henry Meeter (1886-1963) on the books of Nature and Scripture in the Calvinistic worldview

H. Henry Meeter

 

“If God is the all-controlling thought in the Calvinistic system, then it is only natural that the Calvinist will want to see all things as God wants him to see them and aim to carry out His will in all things. From this fact one can readily infer the place the Bible will occupy in the system and life of the Calvinist. He will make God’s Word the canon, which means the rule, for his life. It will be the rule of faith (which guides his intellect) and practice (which determines his daily duty).

NATURE AS GOD’S REVELATION

In reality God had given two books, two revelations of Himself: the book of Nature and the book of Scripture. Although as revelations from God these two books are not equal as we shall see presently, it is an important Calvinistic principle to hold to both Nature and Scripture as revelations from God. Some maintain that Nature only is the book of god and ignore the Bible as a special revelation; others go to the opposite extreme and ignore Nature as a revelation from God. The Calvinist accepts both. A few like the Roman Catholics and the Quakers are inclined to add something as a special revelation to the Bible, either a church decree or pronouncement of the Pope, or some revelation which the Christian is supposed to receive.

By the book of nature the Calvinist understands more than the mere natural objects of God’s creation, such as, minerals, flora, fauna, and men. These natural objects are not only created by God, but He also directs them in their movements in history. Therefore, history, both natural and human, reveals to us many facts about God and shows us His finger. In addition to nature and history, moreover, we must also include man himself. The psalmist once said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Man himself as the image of God tells us much about God.

This book of nature tells us not only about natural objects themselves and their history; it is God’s book, in which the Calvinist sees spread out before him God’s ideas, something of His excellence and of His will. He deems it his duty to read this book of nature, study it, and to think God’s thoughts after Him. This is all the more necessary because these thoughts are not arranged in a ready-made system but imbedded in nature. God wants His creature to discover these ideas, find their unity and harmony, their essential nature and purpose. Thus, it can be seen how broad a view of life the Calvinist must take. He considers it his duty to investigate all of life and, as a matter of intellectual culture, to develop these implicit ideas, fit them into an harmonious, explicit whole, and use them for his God. If his God has given him the book of Nature to study, the Calvinist must develop a world and life-view. The whole of nature and all of life becomes a sacred court wherein he honors God.

THE BIBLE AS GOD’S REVELATION

But God has also another book, the Bible. Originally there was only one book, one revelation of God; namely, Nature. And in the next world there will again be only one book, the new Nature, in which man will see God and His will revealed. Adam saw, and redeemed man in eternity will see God’s will clearly revealed in his heart and in nature round about him, and will, therefore, have no need of a special revelation in a Bible.

That fact accounts for the existence of the second book, the Bible, or the special revelation as we have it today. This book became necessary through sin. When man fell, both he and nature changed. Man’s mind darkened so that he could not see things as they are; and nature was distorted, as the statement in Genesis about “thorns and thistles” suggests. Nature today still is a mirror in which the virtues of God are reflected, but because of sin it has become a decidedly curved mirror. Manifestly, a curved mirror makes things look grotesque, very different from what they actually are. How now is man with his beclouded mind and distorted nature to know God and the universe aright, or to know his true nature and the purpose of his existence? These are three fundamental questions at the basis of his whole outlook upon the world.

How is man to obtain the proper insight into ultimate issues under such conditions? The only solution is that God give him another book, the Bible, in which He clearly and unerringly reveals the truth about these matters to man, and then enlighten man’s darkened mind by His Holy Spirit, so that he will be able to understand this biblical truth.

Thus we see the relation in which the Bible stands to the book of nature. The Bible is not on a level with nature as a revelation of God, but it is rather a corrective of false impressions made by nature in its distorted condition. It presents to us views about God and the universe which nature today does not teach properly. As Calvin states it, we must look at nature through the spectacles of the Bible. So then, while God has indeed two revelations which He calls upon his creature to study, the Bible after all becomes the ultimate basis for the whole view of life for the Christian, since he needs the biblical outlook to properly interpret nature and life round about him.

However, the Bible does more than act as interpreter of nature, since it also contains a special revelation of salvation for the sinner. This important information nature cannot give us, for the simple reason that nature was already created before there was a way of salvation open to sinners. How, then, could nature tell us anything about it? Yet the saving of man is in fact the central theme of the Bible and is inseparably bound up with the view which it presents of the universe and human life.

Do not mistake the purpose of the Bible as if it were intended to be a textbook for the various sciences. It is not intended as such. One gathers the facts for the various sciences from the fields which he is investigating: nature, history, psychology, and related studies. However, when the student proceeds to interpret and correlate these facts, relating the truths of any particular science to the whole body of knowledge, then he needs the unifying interpretation of Scripture. We cannot have a proper view of God, the universe, man, or history without the Bible.

This book, therefore, besides teaching us the way of salvation, provides us with the principles which must govern the whole of our life, including our thinking as well as our moral conduct. Not only science and art, but our home-life, our business, and our social and political problems must be viewed and solved in the light of Scriptural truth and fall under its direction.

This is even true of philosophy. It might be supposed since philosophy is the science of fundamentals, that Christian philosophy will have to base itself ultimately upon reason, and try to explain all problems in philosophy upon a purely rationalistic basis without accepting Bible testimony as final; but even here the Calvinist does not base his acceptance of Bible truths upon his philosophy, but, rather, he begins with the basic truths of the Bible as his foundation. His is specifically a philosophy based on revelation. Just as all philosophic systems start out with their unproved basic assumptions, their hypotheses, so the Christians starts out with the truths of revelation as his basic assumptions. The Calvinistic procedure is not the Bible based on philosophy, but Christian philosophy based upon the Bible.”

– H. Henry Meeter (1886-1963), Calvinism: An Interpretation of its Basic Ideas, p. 41-45

Giovanni Diodati (1576-1649) on Ephesians 1:4-6

Diodati

Giovanni Diodati (1576-1649) was a Swiss-Italian Reformed theologian and the first person to translate the Bible into Italian from the Hebrew and Greek. He is also known for his commentary on the Bible, translated into English under the title Pious and Learned Annotations upon the Holy Bible. Below is his commentary on Ephesians 1:4-6. I have slightly modified the structure for greater clarity:

Ephesians 1:4-6. 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Verse. 4.

According as] viz. According as God by his election from everlasting framed a new body of human race (opposite to the first whereof Adam was head, in whom all men have sinned and are dead) and appointed Christ to be its head, that in him it might be all gathered together, and by him made partaker of his grace, life, and glory: so he bringeth this his decree to pass in his appointed time; bestowing all his favours upon his Church by Christ in this sacred communion: see Ephes. 3. 11. 2 Tim. 1. 9.

In him] he showeth hereby, that this election is free, and undeserved, and not in regard of any good foreseen in us.

That we should] viz. that in the kingdom of heaven, after our sanctification hath been brought to perfection, we may enjoy the sight of his face, and steadfast conjunction with him in perfect charity: see Ephes. 5. 27. Col. 1. 22. Or that we should be holy] he doth not say, because we were holy, or that he did foresee we would be so; for our holiness is so far from being the cause of our election, that rather it is an effect of it, because God hath called them whom before he had elected, and afterwards justified, &c. Rom. 8. 30.

Verse. 5.

Adoption of children] viz. To become his children. In this verse two causes, why we are elected or predestinated to salvation; the first is Gods good pleasure, as the efficient cause; the other is Jesus Christ, as the material cause; and in the verse following, he shows the final cause; namely, the honour and glory of God.

To himself] Fr. For himself; viz. to make us his, and eternally unite us to himself; Or, for his glories end: as Rom. 11. 36.

Verse. 6.

Of the Glory] Namely, of his glorious and admirable favour, by which he hath powerfully brought to an end the work of mans salvation: see Rom. 9. 23. 2 Cor. 4. 4.

In the beloved] namely, for the love, and in regard of Christ only who hath all the Fathers love, not only as he is everlasting Son, but also as he is perfectly obedient, and just in his human nature, and quality of Mediator, Mat. 3. 17. John 1. 16. & 3. 35. & 10. 7. Rom. 15. 15.

Francis Cheynell (1608-1665): Scripture is sufficient to prove the doctrine of the Trinity

Francis Cheynell

 

Francis Cheynell (1608-1665), a member of the Westminster Assembly, was nicknamed “the hammer of the Socinians,” since he exerted much effort into defending the doctrine of the Holy Trinity against Socinians and Unitarians. Whilst the Papists (and especially the Jesuits) often argued in defense of the Trinity not only from Scripture, but appealed particularly to tradition, Cheynell regarded the latter as a very unstable foundation for such a crucial doctrine. Here, in his work The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, chapter 3, he argues that the doctrine of the Trinity has been sufficiently revealed in Scripture. Notably, he points to the church fathers as precedents regarding the sufficiency of Scripture in proving the doctrine of the Trinity:

God hath sufficiently and graciously revealed himself in his holy word for our edification and salvation.

This incomprensible God, who is of himself and for himself, cannot be made known to his creatures but by himselfe: Men and Angels cannot know him any further then he is pleased to reveale himself unto them.

The word of God is pure and perfect, it doth fully discover Gods mind and our duty. The Scriptures direct us in all points of faith, in all parts of worship, and in all passages of our life and conversation; there is the whole body of Religion, and the only right way to salvation sufficiently and graciously revealed unto us by God himself; for God is the Author, Object, End of true Religion, and is the only happinesse and salvation of his chosen People, and therefore God alone can direct us how to serve and enjoy his own blessed self, in an acceptable and comfortable way, for his glory and our own everlasting satisfaction.

The Jesuites tell us that the Scriptures are but a partial Rule, and that we must be beholding to some unwritten word or tradition for the proofe of some points, which are necessary to be known and believed for our everlasting salvation. Some instance in the Doctrine of the Trinity, others in the Worship of the Holy Ghost. The Papists do generally acknowledge that it is necessary for the attainment of salvation to believe the number of the Persons of the Trinity, and their consubstantiality, because no man can be saved who doth not believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, in all three as in the only true God, one and the self-same God blessed for ever; but some of them deny that this mystery is sufficiently revealed in the written word, and therefore I shall make it my businesse to confute them and all that adhere unto them in the following Treatise. The saving knowledge of God in Christ is revealed by the Spirit speaking in the Scriptures of truth; nay Father, Son and Holy Ghost do all join in revealing to us the saving mystery of faith and godlinesse, that by the grace of Christ, the love of God, and Communion of the Holy Ghost, we may have a glorious fellowship with all three as one God, the only true God, whom to know is life eternal, John 17. 3. we are taught by the father to come to Christ for salvation, John 6. 45. we are taught by the son, John 1. 18. Heb. 1. 2. we are taught by the Spirit, Heb. 3. 7. Rev. 2. 29. and 1 John 5. 6. the Spirit doth beare witnesse after an especial manner to this saving truth: it is the spirit that beareth witnesse, because the Spirit is truth: yet all three (and therefore the whole Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,) do join in bearing record, and their record is written, for it stands upon Record in the Gospel, and their Record is a saving Record, and there can be no other Record produced to prove that Christ is our Saviour, 1 John 5. 7, 11, 12, 13, 20. John 20. 31. if we study the Scriptures, believe, apply them, worship and act according to them, we shall be saved by our faith in the written Trinity; in Father, Son and Holy Ghost, without the help of any unwritten tradition whatsoever; for the holy Scriptures are able to furnish the Man of God unto Perfection, and make the simple wise unto salvation, 2 Tim. 3. 15, 16, 17. Cyrill in his Book of the Trinity and Person of Christ, put forth not long since by Wegeline, saith that he would not speak or think any thing of God, but what is written in his Word. Clemens Alexandrinus saith that we ought to make good every point in question by the Word of God, because that is the surest, nay that’s the only Demonstration; he speaks of Theological Demonstration, nothing can be embraced with a divine faith, but that which is delivered to us upon Divine Testimony; and we are to seek for the Testimony of God, nowhere but in the written Word of God, and therefore Basil disputes after this manner, Whatsoever is not in the written Word of God is not of faith, and whatsoever is not of faith is sin, and therefore it is a sin to obtrude any Doctrine upon the conscience as an Article of faith, which is not written in the Word of God. Putean is bold to say, that if Basil his meaning was according to his words, he was a Hugonot, that is as we use to say, a Puritane.

When I read what the Papists write on this Argument, I stand amazed at their blasphemies, and am unwilling to stain my paper with the repetition of them; they who have read Canus, Hosius, Costerus, Eckius, Gautierus, Charronaeus, Stapleton, and the rest of that rabble, will not wonder that the Socinians call the Doctrine of 3. Persons and one God into question, when the Papists who were baptized in the name of the Trinity & professe that they believe the equality of three distinct Subsistences in the same divine Essence, do yet notwithstanding in their writings grant as much as the Socinians need prove, namely that the Doctrine of the distinction and equality of Persons in the same Divine Essence cannot be proved but by unwritten Traditions, by the testimony of the Church of Rome, &c. and yet diverse Papists undertake to defend the doctrine of the Trinity against the Socinians, though they know that the Socinians do not at all value traditions or the testimony of the Church of Rome; and therefore though divers Papists write against the Socinians, yet they do promote Socinianisme by their vaine doctrine of unwritten traditions. Stapleton is not ashamed to deny that it can be proved out of Scripture that the Holy Ghost is God, or that he is to be worshipped.

But Salmeron deserves commendation in this point; The Scriptures saith he, are therefore said to be written by divine inspiration, because they instruct us in divine mysteries, concerning the Unity of God, and Trinity of Persons. Photius in his Bibliotheca shews, that Ephraeni did not dispute of the consubstantial Trinity out of the Testimonies of Fathers, but out of the Holy Scriptures; Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Basil, Irenaeus, Cyrill, Cyprian, Tertullian, Epiphanius, Theodoret, and many other of the Fathers did assert the doctrine of the Trinity, and some of them did confute the Valentinians, Eunomians, Sabellians, Photinians, Arians, Macedonians, Samosatenians, &c. out of the Holy Scriptures. The Nicene Synod did urge Scripture for the maintenance of the truth, which they declared in the Confession of their Faith; and the Synod which met at Constantinople did the like, as is most evident to such as have perused those learned and ancient Records. Athanasius confounded the Arians by cleare Testimonies of Scripture, and in his Book of the Decrees of the Nicene Synod, he saith that the true disciples of Christ, do clearly understand the doctrine of the Holy Trinity preached by divine Scripture. I shall not trouble or amuse the Reader by quotations out of Cyrill, Ambrose, Hilary, Augustine, Nyssen, Nazianzen, or any of those Worthies but now mentioned, whole labours have been ever famous in the Church of God; yet I must not omit one pregnant proofe out of Augustine, who appealed from the Nicene and Ariminensian Synods, and challenged Maximinus to dispute with him about the great point of consubstantiality out of the Scriptures. Bellarmine himself is forced to confesse that Augustine had good reason to do so, because that point is cleare by Scripture; but then we must likewise consider what Augustine saith upon this Argument, that the thing (or sense of any word) may be in Scripture though the word it self be not to be found there, though the words Trinity Trin-unity, Consubstantial, are not found in Scripture, yet that which is signified by those words may be clearly proved by the holy Scriptures. These three are one; I and my Father are one; Behold a Trinity Trin-unity, Consubstantiality, and all quickly proved.

That Rule is of great concernment and very pertinent to the point in hand, which Augustine delivers in his third Book and third Chapter against Maximinus the Arian. Out of those things which we read in Scripture we may collect some things which we do not read, and so both understand and believe the thing which is delivered in other words in Scripture, then those which we are now forced to use, that we may confirme the Orthodox Christians and refute the gain-sayers. But I am weary of this task, and therefore call upon my Reader to join with me in searching the Scriptures that we may find out the truth; for reason cannot demonstrate or comprehend these mysteries of faith; and the Rule is, Rationum fulcro dissoluto humana concidit authoritas. [Own translation, roughly: Authority falls when based on the unstable footing of human reason.]

Louis Berkhof (1873–1957) on the purpose of special revelation

louisberkhof2

“In speaking of the purpose of revelation we may distinguish between its final end and its proximate aim. The final end can only be found in God. God reveals Himself, in order to rejoice in the manifestation of His virtues, especially as these shine forth in the work of redemption and in redeemed humanity. The proximate aim of revelation, however, is found in the complete renewal of sinners, in order that they may mirror the virtues and perfections of God. If we bear in mind that revelation aims at the renewal of the entire man, we shall realize that it cannot seek the realization of its aim merely by teaching man and enlightening the understanding (Rationalism), or by prompting man to lead a virtuous life (Moralism), or by awakening the religious emotions of man (Mysticism). The purpose of revelation is far more comprehensive than any one of these, and even more inclusive than all of them taken together. It seeks to deliver from the power of sin, of the devil, and of death, the entire man, body and soul, with all his talents and powers, and to renew him spiritually, morally, and ultimately also physically, to the glory of God; and not only the individual man, but mankind as an organic whole; and mankind not apart from the rest of creation, but in connection with the whole creation, of which it forms an organic part. This purpose also determines the limits of special revelation. The historical process of revelation may be said to reach its end in a measure in Christ. Yet it does not end with the ascension of Christ. This is followed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the special operation of gifts and powers under the guidance of the apostolate. Such a continued revelation was necessary, in order to ensure special revelation a permanent place in the midst of the world, and that not only in Scripture, but also in the life of the Church. But after the revelation in Christ, appropriated and made effective in the Church, has thus been introduced into the world, a new dispensation begins. Then special revelation ceases and no new constitutive elements are added. The work of Christ in furnishing the world with an objective revelation of God is finished. But the redemption wrought by Christ must still be applied, and this requires a constant operation of the Holy Spirit, always in connection with the objective revelation, for the renewal of man in his being and consciousness. By the Spirit of Christ man is led to accept the truth revealed in Scripture, and becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus, making God’s revelation the rule of his life, and thus aiming at the glorification of God.”

– Louis Berkhof (1873–1957), Systematic Theology, p. 137-138

W.B. Sprague (1796-1876): You are responsible for your religious views

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“If a powerful intellect were essential to the right understanding of Scripture, you perceive at once that to the mass of the world, who possess only common minds, it would be a mere dead letter; but as no higher intellectual powers are necessary than fall to the common lot of man, in connection with the spirit of docility and dependence on divine illumination which all may, if they will, possess, it is manifest that the Bible is fairly open to all; and that every individual is as truly responsible for his religious opinions as for his moral conduct.”

– W.B. Sprague (1796-1876), Letters on Practical Subjects to a Daughter, Letter XIII, “Forming Religious Sentiments”