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§ 9. (2.) Perfection, or Sufficiency.

From the fact that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, it necessarily follows that all that is contained in them is perfectly true; from the fact that they are the only Word of God given to us, it further follows that, if we are at all to learn the way of life, it must be perfectly taught in the Holy Scriptures, [1] and this is what is meant by their perfection or sufficiency. GRH. (II, 286): “That the Scriptures fully and perfectly instruct us concerning all things necessary to salvation.” [2] And, indeed, so perfectly must everything necessary to salvation be contained in the Holy Scriptures, whether declared in express words or to be learned inferentially, [3] that we never find occasion to make up deficiencies from another source; whence, all doctrines claiming to be derived from oral tradition are to be rejected. GRH. (I, 25): “Laying aside tradition, we are to adhere to Scripture alone.” [4]

[1] HOLL. (173) distinguishes: “the perfection of Scripture (a) in reference to the subject-matter; since no inspired book, received into the permanent canon of the faith, perishes. (b) In reference to the form; that no error has crept into the authentic text by the negligence or perfidy of transcribers. (c) In reference to the end to be attained; for it sufficiently teaches man all doctrines and moral precepts necessary to salvation.” Of the latter, viz., perfection as to the end to be accomplished, we are here speaking. BR. (136): “We only assert that the Scriptures are perfect in reference to the accomplishment of their end, and in this opinion we all agree. Those things are said to be perfect in reference to their end which want nothing that is necessary for the attainment of that end. But the ultimate aim of Scripture is our salvation; the intermediate, faith in Christ.” Of perfection in the second sense, we have already spoken, under the head of inspiration. In reference to perfection, in the first sense, BR. (135) remarks: “We do not so much refer to the number of the books that ever were written by the sacred penmen, of which some referred to by the names of their authors or titles in the remaining books of Scripture are supposed to have perished; but we refer to the perfection of the Scriptures that remain in regard to the accomplishment of their end. Moreover, also, as to those 65books which some suppose to have perished, it is to be observed that some of them have not really perished, but are still extant, though under different titles. . . . But, if some books written by the sacred penmen did really perish, yet we hold that (1) such were not written by Divine inspiration, but by human prompting; (2) they were also rather historical than doctrinal; at all events, or if it be (3) conceded that inspired books have perished, it must be maintained that the doctrines themselves are found with equal truth and fulness in the remaining books; certainly (4) that no book which once by the intention of the Holy Spirit formed a part of the canon or rule, has perished, to the detriment of the canonical Scriptures, so that they should cease to be the adequate source and rule of faith and practice.”

GRH. remarks, in addition, that the Holy Scriptures are not to be regarded as perfect only since the canon of the Old and New Testament has been closed. (II, 286): “The perfection of the Holy Scriptures is to be estimated not by the number of the books, but from the sufficiency of the doctrine necessary to be known, in order to salvation. That which was written at any particular age of the Church, constituted a perfect canon, since the divine revelation was perfectly developed, so far as that age required it, in those books. Thus, when only the books of Moses were extant, the Scriptures were perfect, i.e., with respect to that age of the Church, in which not many revelations had been made which God wished to be committed to writing.”

[2] QUEN. (I, 102): “The Holy Scriptures contain with perfect fulness and sufficiency all things necessary to be known in order to Christian faith and life, and therefore to the attainment of eternal salvation.”

This GRH. (II, 286, sq.): proves. “(1) From their plain designation and title, Ps. 19:7. (2) From their efficient original cause, viz., God, most wise and most perfect. (3) From the subject-matter. The inspired Holy Scriptures, comprehended in the prophetical and apostolical books, contain the whole counsel of God concerning our salvation, and unfold all the parts of Christianity in such a manner that nothing need be added or subtracted. This is proved by Acts 20:27; 26:22; 2 Tim. 3:16,17; Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Gal. 1:8; Rev. 22:18. (4) From their aim and effects.”

[3] CAL. (I, 610): “We assert, that the Holy Scriptures sufficiently and adequately contain all things necessary to faith and a Christian life, and we think that those other things also in the Scriptures should be clearly and sufficiently considered, which, 66both according to the words and according to the sense, are comprehended therein, or, as plain interferences, are drawn from those which are clearly written; so that there is no need of any unwritten tradition to supply the defects of Scripture, or to collect and deduce from it those things which are virtually contained in it; because without any tradition they may all be sufficiently obtained from Scripture alone.”

GRH. (II, 286): “We by no means say that the Scriptures are perfect in such a sense that all things which are necessary to be known for faith and practice are contained in the Scriptures, literally and in so many words, but some of them in substance, others literally; or, what is the same thing, that some are contained in them explicitly and others by implication, so that by legitimate and undeniable inference they can be deduced from them.” QUEN. (I, 102) thus guards against the misapprehension of his remark: “We do not say, with the Papists, that the Scriptures are perfect by implication or contain all things necessary to faith, as in a root or germ, or common source, or, as it were, in outline. . . . so that they do not themselves really contain all things, but show whence and where they are to be sought, with a reference to the Church and her traditions, from which the defects of those doctrines which are wanting may be supplied.”

[4] Hereby the papal doctrine of tradition is rejected, which CHEMN. (Ex. Trid. I, 110) thus describes: “They pretend that many things necessary to faith and practice were handed down by the apostles which are not comprehended in Scripture. To this claim they add another, viz., that those things which are handed down and observed in the Roman Church, and cannot be proved by any Scripture testimony, are the very things which were orally transmitted by the Apostles and not comprehended in Scripture.”

Whence HOLL. (178): “Tradition is the instruction orally given by Christ and the Apostles, which is neither substantially nor literally contained in Scripture, but by continuous succession is preserved in the Church.” To which is replied: “We infer from the perfection of Scripture that it needs in no way the aid of tradition in the articles of faith necessary to salvation.” (GRH. II, 307.)

Inasmuch as the word, tradition, was used in such different senses in the Holy Scriptures, and such various significations applied to it, the Dogmaticians take occasion accurately to designate the sense in which they reject tradition, and from this signification carefully to distinguish those which in a certain sense they admit. CHEMN. in Exam. Trid. I, 110 seq., marks eight different significations, viz.:

“(1) Those things which Christ and the Apostles orally delivered, and which were afterwards committed to writing by the Evangelists and Apostles, are often called traditions.

“(2) The books of Holy Scripture have been guarded by the Church during an uninterrupted series of ages and in a connected and sure succession, and they have been faithfully transmitted to posterity and handed down, as if from hand to hand, unto us.

“(3) Irenaeus and Tertullian celebrate apostolical tradition . . . They do not, indeed, propose and prove any other doctrines of faith by tradition than those which are contained in Scripture; but they show, and prove also by tradition, those same doctrines which are contained in Scripture.

“(4) There are traditions concerning the exposition, the true sense or native meaning, of Scripture.

“(5) The fathers sometimes thus designate those doctrines which are not contained in so many words and syllables in Scripture, but are derived from clear Scripture testimony, by sound, certain, indisputable, and evident reasoning.

“(6) The term is applied to the universal consent of the fathers. The phrase is common, ‘by the tradition of the fathers’ (patres ita tradiderunt).

“(7) When the ancients made mention of unwritten tradition they did not understand by them doctrines of faith to be received without, over and above Scripture, even if they could not be proved by any Scripture testimony; but they spoke concerning certain rites and customs, which on account of their antiquity they ascribed to the Apostles.

“(8) Traditions relating both to faith and practice, which cannot be proved by any Scripture testimony, which nevertheless the Council of Trent commands to be received and venerated with the same reverence and pious feeling as the Scriptures themselves.”

HOLL. (178) accordingly divides the traditions of the Church into “ritual, historical, exegetical, evidential, and dogmatical.” Only the latter class is here referred to. HOLL.: “We do not disapprove of all the ritual traditions of the Church, but the theological rule observed by CHEMN. in his Exam. Conc. Trid. must be adhered to, viz., ‘Let the ceremonies in the Church be of an unessential nature, few in number, devout, and useful for edification, order, and decorum; let the observance of them be left free, so as to avoid giving offence,’ and so that they may be instituted, changed, or abrogated with a reference to edification, to times, places, and persons. We admit historical tradition, concerning the 68canon of Scripture, not as an infallible, but as a probable argument. We receive with gratitude exegetical traditions, if namely the interpretation of the fathers present no discrepancy with the scriptural text, the proper use of the words, the context, and the analogy of faith. We hold in high esteem evidential tradition, and confess with Chemnitz that we differ from those who invent opinions that find no supporting testimony in any age of the Church. We think also that no doctrine that is new and at variance with all antiquity should be received in the Church.” The Symbolical Books treat only of the ecclesiastical or ceremonial traditions. The AUG. CONF. XV, APOLOGY VIII, and FORM. CONC. X, discuss the questions: (1) Whether these are admissible, which they answer affirmatively; and (2) Whether in the Church nothing dare be taught, as nothing is believed, which is not proved by an express declaration of Scripture? which, in the light of Christian liberty, they deny.

Syncretism then gave occasion to further specifications in regard to the idea of tradition. G. CALIXTUS has said: “It should not be doubted, that from the writings of the ancient Church, which are still extant, the common belief of antiquity can be sufficiently ascertained, and that should be regarded as apostolical, which they unanimously teach and declare that they receive as apostolical.” To which CAL. (I, 327) replies: “Although some innovators differ from the Papists in this, that they do not recognize any article of faith that is merely traditional and not contained in the Scriptures, or receive any doctrine as taught by the Apostles, which is not written; yet they side with the Papists in this, that they accept as the Word of God something not written and handed down by the Apostles, and wish some apostolical tradition, I know not what, handed down to us through the writings of the fathers, to be regarded as the undoubted Word of God.” And, page 330, the additional statement: “Although it is not to be doubted that the Apostles taught not only by writings but also viva voce, and that the Word which they preached, no less than what is comprehended in the Scriptures, is to be regarded as the undoubted Word of God, yet we neither can, nor ought to, gratify the Papists by teaching that there is still extant some additional Word of God communicated by the Apostles, and handed down from them to us, which should be received as infallible and indubitable, along with the prophetical and apostolical Holy Scriptures.

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