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§ 8. (1.) Authority

BR.: “The authority of the Holy Scriptures is the manifest dignity that inclines the human understanding to assent to their instructions, and the will to yield obedience to their commands.” We believe what the Holy Scriptures declare, simply because they declare it, and it is they that beget faith in us, and they are the only source from which we derive our faith. They are, at the same time, the only inspired book, and by this they are distinguished from all other writings. It is therefore only from them that we can learn what is true in divine things; and they furnish the means by which we can everywhere distinguish between truth and error. The authority of Holy Scripture is, accordingly, divided into: “(a) Causative authority, by which the Scriptures create and confirm in the mind of man assent to the truths to be believed. (b) Normative or canonical authority, by which authentic Scripture is distinguished from other writings and versions, and that which is true from that which is false.” [2] HOLL. (104.)

(a) Causative Authority. This rests upon the fact, that we acknowledge God as the author of the Holy Scriptures, [3] and this we prove by the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. [4] The proofs of inspiration are, it is true, derived in the first instance only from the Holy Scriptures themselves, and already presuppose faith in the Holy Scriptures themselves, on the part of those who admit them as evidence. But, for the Church and her members, there is no need of proof for the inspiration of Scripture, for her very existence depends upon this faith, and this faith precedes all proofs; [5] without this no article of faith could be based upon the Holy Scriptures. [6] Therefore, the proof that the Holy Scriptures are inspired, or, what amounts to the same thing, that they are of divine origin, and consequently possess full authority in matters of faith, is required only for those who are yet without the Church, or who, if within her pale, are not confirmed in the faith. But it lies in the nature of the case, that no proof can be given to those, which they cannot, in an unbelieving frame of mind, evade; for the only absolutely stringent proof lies in the fact, that the Holy Spirit bears witness in the heart of each individual, and thus convinces him of 52the divinity of the Word of God, by the mighty influence which it exerts upon him; [7] but that this may be the case, it is necessary that the individual do not resist the drawings of the Holy Spirit, and before this takes place the testimony of the Holy Spirit can have no probative power for him. [8] To this experience, therefore, the individual is referred, and through it alone will he attain to absolute certainty in regard to the divinity of the Holy Scriptures. All other so-called proofs are rather to be considered as such evidences for the divinity of the Holy Scriptures as can make this probable to the individual, and invite him to give himself up to the influence of the Holy Spirit, in order to acquire for himself the same experience which the Church has gained. [9] Such evidences are of two kinds. The Holy Scriptures themselves testify in regard to this divinity, by their internal excellence and dignity (κριτηρια interna, internal proofs); and the effects which the Holy Scriptures have produced upon others, testify also to the same (κριτηρια externa, external proofs). [10] These evidences the Church holds out to each individual, and seeks by their means to induce him to yield his heart to the influence of the Holy Spirit, who will produce in him the full conviction of the divinity of the Holy Scriptures. [11]

(b) Normative or Canonical Authority. HOLL. (125): “The canonical authority of Scripture is its supreme dignity, by which, in virtue of its meaning, as well as of its divinely inspired style, it is the infallible and sufficient rule, by which all that is to be believed and done by man in order to secure eternal salvation, must be examined, all controversies in regard to matters of faith decided, and all other writings adjudged.” [12] Accordingly, we must acknowledge the Holy Scriptures as the only rule and guide of our life, by which alone all controversies in regard to divine things must be settled, [13] so that in no case is the addition of any other authority required, by which they may be decided. [14] But if the Holy Scriptures are thus the only judge of controversies, the question arises: How is this decision to be obtained from them? It lies in the nature of the case, that not every one can accomplish this with equal success, for certain previous conditions are required for this purpose, without which the 53Holy Scriptures cannot be understood and expounded; and besides, necessary ecclesiastical order demands that, at least for the public investigation and announcement of the decisions contained in the Holy Scriptures, there should be a regular calling. Hence, it pre-eminently belongs to the Church publicly to make known, by means of her representatives (the clergy), the decision discovered in the Holy Scriptures, in reference to a contested point, [15] whence, however, it does not yet follow, that every private individual within the pale of the Church does not possess the right of private judgment. [16] If then, in any given case, the adjustment of a controversy be not attained, the fault lies not in the Holy Scriptures, but in the fact that the Holy Scriptures were not properly interpreted, or the proper interpretation was not adopted. [17] But, in every case, when such a controversy is to be decided, resort must be had to the original text of the Holy Scriptures; for, although a good translation may enable us to secure the testimony of the Holy Spirit, it is never so accurate, that we dare employ it in doubtful cases, in which often everything depends upon the most accurate investigation of the single words of the original text. [18]

[1] The attributes are variously enumerated by the early divines. CAL. and QUEN. add to those we have mentioned, infallible truth, the power of interpreting itself, normative and judicial authority, which are again by others incorporated in those we have mentioned.

Some theologians also add the following as secondary attributes: (1) “Necessity; or, that it was necessary for the Word of God to be committed to writing, in order to preserve the purity of the heavenly doctrine. (2) Integrity and perpetuity; or, that the Holy Scriptures have been preserved entire, and will be thus perpetually preserved. (3) Purity and uncorrupted state of its sources; or, that the Hebrew text in the Old Testament, and the Greek in the New, have not suffered, in all copies, any corruption, either through malice or carelessness, but have been preserved by Divine Providence, free from all corruption. (4) Authentic dignity; or, that the Hebrew text alone of the Old Testament, and the Greek of the New, is to be regarded as authentic, nor is any version to be counted worthy of such supreme authority. (5) The liberty of all to read for themselves.” — CAL., I, 450.

[2] BR. (82): “The authority of Scripture, so far as it regards 54the assent that is to be yielded to its declarations, may be viewed in a two-fold light: first, in a strict sense, in order to cause assent to the things that are to be believed, which right the Scriptures hold because they are the source of knowledge and the formal object of faith and revealed theology; secondly, in order to distinguish by the inspired Scriptures themselves, both the true Scriptures and those other teachings, which relate to matters of faith and practice; and this right they hold, inasmuch as they are canonical, or the rule and guide whereby to distinguish truth from falsehood. . . . For, although the authority of Scripture is one and the same, based upon the veracity of God and the dependence of the Scriptures upon God, through which it is appointed, both in a formal sense to produce faith and in a normal sense to examine and decide between certain Scriptures and other teachings; and as, further, the Scriptures are to be employed somewhat differently for the formal purpose of causing assent to the faith, and for the normal purpose of distinguishing truth from falsehood; thus, also, we must by all means treat distinctly of both these methods in discussing the authority of Scripture.” HOLL. (105): “In the former method, they (the Holy Scriptures) are employed in every language for producing faith in the mind of an unbelieving man, and for confirming it in the mind of a believer; in which respect this authority is called causative or promotive of faith; in the latter method, they are employed only in the original text, to distinguish from the actually inspired Scripture the versions of the Hebrew and Greek originals, the Symbolical Books, and all writings that treat of matters of faith and practice.”

[3] BR. (80): “The authority of Scripture, viewed in itself and absolutely, or with reference to its contents, depends upon God, the sole Author of Scripture, and results from His veracity and great and infinite power.” GRH. (II, 36): “Inasmuch, then, as the Holy Scriptures have God for their author, by whose immediate inspiration the prophets, evangelists, and apostles wrote, therefore they also possess divine authority; because they are inspired, they are in like manner self-commendatory, winning faith by virtue of their own inherent excellence.”

[4] BR. (81): “So far as we are concerned, or that we may be convinced that the Holy Scriptures are worthy to receive faith and obedience, not only these perfections of God must be known, but also the dependence of Scripture upon God, or its inspiration by Him.” Our conviction, however, rests upon the two theses: “(1) Whatsoever Scripture is recorded by divine inspiration, that is certainly and infallibly true. (2) The Holy Scriptures were recorded by divine inspiration.”


[5] GRH. (I, 9): “Those who are within the Church do not inquire about the authority of Scripture, for this is their starting-point. How can they be true disciples of Christ if they pretend to call in question the doctrine of Christ? How can they be true members of the Church if they are in doubt concerning the foundation of the Church? How can they wish to prove that to themselves which they always employ to prove other things? How can they doubt concerning that whose efficacy they have experienced in their own hearts? The Holy Spirit testifies in their hearts that the Spirit is truth, i.e., that the doctrine derived from the Holy Spirit is absolute truth.”

[6] GRH. therefore very properly observes, that the doctrine of the authority of Scripture is no article of faith, but rather the fountain-head of the articles of faith. (I, 11): “The doctrine concerning the Canon is, properly speaking, not an article of faith, since Moses, the prophets, evangelists, and apostles did not fabricate in their writings a new article of faith superadded to the former, which they taught orally.”

[7] GRH. (II, 37): “The first (testimony) is the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, who, as He bears witness to the spirit of believers that they are the sons of God, Rom. 8:16, so, also, efficaciously convinces them, that in the Scriptures the voice of their Heavenly Father is contained; and God is the only fit and authentic witness. To this testimony belongs the lively sense of the godly in daily prayer and in the exercises of penitence and faith, the grace of consoling and strengthening the mind against all kinds of adversities, temptations, persecutions, etc., etc., which the godly daily experience in reading and meditating upon Scripture.”

QUEN. (I, 97): “The ultimate reason by and through which we are led to believe with a divine and unshaken faith that God’s Word is God’s Word, is the intrinsic power and efficacy of that Word itself, and the testimony and seal of the Holy Spirit, speaking in and through Scripture. Because the bestowment of faith, not only that by which we believe in the articles, but even that by which we believe in the Scriptures, that exhibit and propose the articles, is a work that emanates from the Holy Spirit, or the Supreme Cause.”

HOLL. (116): “By the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, is here understood the supernatural act of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, attentively read or heard (His own divine power being communicated to the Holy Scriptures), moving, opening, illuminating the heart of man, and inciting it to obedience unto 56the faith; so that man, thus illuminated by internal, spiritual influences, clearly perceives that the word proposed to him has indeed proceeded from God, and thus gives it unyielding assent.” The Scripture proof for the testimony of the Holy Spirit is deduced from 1 John 5:6; 1 Thess. 1:5,6; 2:13. To the common objection, that Theology here reasons in a circle, the following answer is returned, HOLL. (119): “If I inquire, says the objector, How do you know that the Scriptures are divine? the Lutherans answer: ‘Because the Holy Sprit in each one testifies and confirms this by the Scripture.’ If I ask again: ‘How do you prove that this Holy Sprit is divine?’ the same persons will reply: ‘Because the Scriptures testify that He is divine, and His testimony infallible.’ To all of which we reply: We must distinguish between a sophistical circle and a demonstrative retrogression. In reasoning in a circle, one unknown thing is employed to prove another equally unknown; but in a demonstrative retrogression, we proceed from confused knowledge to that which is distinct. For the divine dignity of Scripture is proved by the supernatural effect of the Holy Spirit operating efficaciously through the Scriptures, illuminating, converting, regenerating, renewing. But, if you ask whether that spirit is divine or malignant, then we reason from the effect, which is divine and salutary, that the Spirit, who bears witness within concerning the divine origin of the Holy Scriptures, is divine, most holy, and excellent.” QUEN. (I, 101) further adds: “The Papists, therefore, wrongly accuse us of reasoning in a circle, when we prove the Holy Scriptures from the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit from the Holy Scriptures. Else would it be also reasoning in a circle when Moses and the prophets testify concerning Christ, and Christ concerning Moses and the prophets; or, when John the Baptist testifies that Christ is the Messiah, and again Christ that John the Baptist is a prophet.”

[8] Therefore GRH. (II, 36) distinguishes, among those who stand without the pale of the Church, two classes: “Some are curable, who come with minds tempered and desirous of learning; others are incurable, who come with minds unyielding and obstinate, and who contumaciously resist the truth, Acts 13:46; 19:28. The incurable, just as those who are past bodily recovery, are to be forsaken to their fate, Titus 3:10. The same applies to those who are within the pale of the Church, if, in the midst of temptation, they begin to doubt the authority of the Scripture.”

[9] QUEN. (I, 98): “Those arguments both of an internal and external nature, by which we are led to the belief of the authority 57of Scripture make the inspiration of Scripture probable, and produce a certainty not merely conjectural but moral, so that to call it in question were the work of a fool; but they do not make the divinity of Scripture infallible, and place it beyond all doubt, nor do they produce within the mind an immovable conviction, i.e., they beget not a divine, but merely a human faith, not an unshaken certainty, but a credibility, or a very probable opinion.”

[10] GRH. (II, 37): “I. The internal criteria inherent in the Scriptures themselves, some of which are found in the causes, others in the effects, some in the subject-matter, others in incidental circumstances. Such criteria are antiquity, the majesty of the subjects discussed, peculiarity of style, harmony of all parts, dignity of the predictions concerning future events, the reality of their fulfilment, divinity of the miracles by which their doctrine is confirmed, the violence of the diabolical opposition to it, the efficacy of Scripture itself in persuading and moving to action. II. The external testimonies (which can be drawn from all classes of men), among which is pre-eminent the testimony of the Church, to which we may add that of the martyrs, who sealed the doctrine taught in Scripture with their blood, and also, the punishment of blasphemers and persecutors, who contumaciously opposed this doctrine.”

The later divines present these proofs in substantially the same manner as HOLL. (106): “The external criteria (which are derived, not from Scripture, but from other sources) are (a) the antiquity of Scripture; (b) the singular clearness of the sacred writers, their desire after knowledge and truth; (c) the splendor of the miracles by which the heavenly doctrine is confirmed; (d) the harmonious testimony of the Church, spread over the whole earth, to the divinity of the Holy Scriptures; (e) the constancy of the martyrs; (f) the testimony of other nations to the doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures; (g) the successful and rapid propagation of the Christian doctrine through the whole world, and its wonderful preservation during so many persecutions; (h) the extremely severe punishments inflicted upon the despisers and persecutors of the Divine Word.” In reference to these, HOLL. remarks (109): “We premise these external criteria, in order to prepare the minds of the unbelieving for reading and meditating upon the Holy Scriptures with interest and desire . . . it is necessary that first of all unbelievers be led by external criteria to regard it as not improbable that the Holy Scriptures had their origin in God, and therefore begin to respect, read, and meditate upon them.”

The internal criteria (“drawn from the intrinsic nature and attributes of Scripture,” BR.) are: “(a) the majesty of God, testifying 58concerning Himself in the Holy Scriptures; (b) the simplicity and dignity of the biblical style; (c) the sublimity of the divine mysteries which the Scriptures reveal; (d) the truth of all biblical assertions; (e) the sanctity of the precepts contained in the Holy Scriptures; (f) the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures to salvation.” In regard to these, HOLL. further adds: “These internal criteria, taken together and conjointly, constitute a stronger argument than if taken successively or singly.”

[11] GRH. (I, 9): “Although the testimony of the Holy Spirit is of the very highest importance, yet we are not to make a beginning with it in the conversion of such men, i.e., they are not to be commanded to wait until the Holy Spirit bears witness immediately in their hearts concerning the authority of Scripture, but they are to be directed to the testimony of the Church, which, in this respect, performs the part of a preceptor to the unbelieving disciple. Just as, therefore, it is necessary for a pupil first to believe, until he afterwards becomes able to form an independent judgment concerning the things taught, so it is necessary for an unbeliever to yield assent to the testimony of the Church, which is the first step towards ascertaining the authority of Scripture; then the internal criteria of antiquity, prophecies, etc., are to be added. Yet the testimony of the Church alone is not sufficient to convince an unbeliever of the divine authority of the Scriptures, since he may, perhaps, still be in doubt whether this be really the true Church of God. Wherefore, as it is the duty of the preceptor, not only to propose precepts, but also to corroborate their truth; so it is not sufficient for the Church to declare that these are divine Scriptures, unless it accompany its declaration with reasons. Then at length it may follow that the Holy Spirit shall bear testimony in the heart of the inquirer, and prove the truth of His words.”

The testimony of the Church varies in weight, according as it is derived from the earlier or from the later Church. GRH. (I, 10): “The primitive Church, that heard the apostles themselves, excelled in being the original recipients of the sacred books, and in being favored with the living instruction of the apostles and with a number of miracles to prove the authority of the canon; the next age, in which the autographs of the apostles were still preserved, excelled the former in the more complete fulfilment of New Testament prophecies, in the abundance of versions of both Testaments into various languages, and in the testimony concerning the Holy Scriptures extracted from various writings of believers; and it excelled the age succeeding it, by possessing the autographs of the evangelists and apostles, the voice of the ancient Church, and a number 59of miracles. The latest age of the Church excels both the others (although the autographs of the apostles are no more), at least in the more perfect fulfilment of prophecy.”

Occasion is here taken to protest against the Romish axiom, “All the authority of Scripture depends upon the Church,” and to guard against such an interpretation being put upon what has been above stated. HOLL. (120): “The authority of the Holy Scriptures neither depends upon the Church of the divine, pre-eminent dignity in which its power lies; nor, in order that it may be known, does it need the testimony of the Church either, as the grand and ultimate source of proof for the divine authority of Scripture, or as the only and absolutely necessary arguments.” GRH. (II, 38) remarks (1): “It is one thing for the Church to bear witness to the Scriptures and their authority ministerially, and another to confer upon Scripture its authority dictatorially and judicially. From the ministry and testimony of the Church, we are led to acknowledge the authority of Scripture, but from this it by no means follows that the authority of Scripture, either in itself, or in respect to us, depends alone upon the authority of the Church; because, when we have once learned that the Scriptures are divine and contain the Word of God, we no longer believe the Scriptures on account of the Church, but on account of themselves; because, viz., they are the voice of God, which is αυταλεθεια, and hence αυτοπιστος, which we know must be believed on its own account and immediately. (2) It is one thing for us to become acquainted with the authority of the Scriptures by the testimony of the Church, and another, for the whole authority of the Scripture, so far as we are concerned, to depend solely upon the testimony of the Church. The former we concede, the latter we deny; because, beside the testimony of the Church, we have two other classes of evidence for the authority of Scripture, and in the same class, that embraces the testimony of the Church, other external evidences derived from all kinds of men may be adduced; yet, at the same time, we do not deny, that the testimony of the Church is to be preferred to all others in this class. (3) It is one thing to speak of the testimony of the primitive Church, which received the autograph of the sacred books from the apostles, and handed down a credible testimony concerning them to posterity, and another, to speak of the authority of the present Church.”

QUEN. (I, 93) notices, in addition, the objection of the Papists, “The Church is more ancient than the Scriptures; therefore, it has greater authority;” to which he replies: “We must make a distinction between the Word of God contained in the Scriptures, and the act of writing itself, or, between the substance of Scripture, 60which is the Word of God, and its accident, which is the writing of it. The Church is prior to the Scriptures, if you regard the mere act of writing; but it is not prior to the Word of God itself, by means of which the Church itself was collected. Surely the Scriptures, or the Word of God, is the foundation of the Church, Eph. 2:20; but the foundation is older than the building.”

[12] HOLL. (125): “The Holy Scriptures exercise their highest canonical authority, when a controversy arises concerning the truth of a doctrine, and the truth is to be confirmed and falsehood to be confuted; but the Scriptures exert their faith-producing authority, as often as the unbelieving are to be converted to the Christian faith, or the weak faith of believers is to be strengthened.”

[13] GRH. (I, 28): “The Holy Scriptures are the rule of our faith and life; therefore, also, the judge of theological controversies.” (I, 30): “Add to this, that all the qualities of a rule, properly so called, belong to Scripture. For a rule should be certain, fixed, invariable, fundamental, suited to meet every case, always self-consistent. But these qualities belong neither to tradition, nor to the teachings of human reason, nor to the writings of the fathers, nor to the Pope, nor to the decrees of councils, but to the Holy Scriptures alone.” FORM. CONC. (Preface, 1): “We teach, that the only rule according to which all doctrines and all teachers are to be estimated and judged, is none other than the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testament.” (Compare also the remarks of QUEN. (I, 150): “When we say that the Holy Scriptures are the only rule of faith and of life conformed to the will of God, we do not speak of every age of the Church, for there was a time when the Church was instituted and governed without the written Word of God, the time, viz., before Moses; but we refer to that age in which the first written canon was prepared, and especially to the New Testament times, in which all things necessary to faith and the worship of God have been written down, and with great care collected into the canon.”)

HOLL. (125): “As a rule of knowledge, it performs a two-fold function, directive and corrective. For it directs the thoughts of the human mind, so that they abide within the bounds of truth; and it corrects errors, inasmuch as it is properly its own rule of right and wrong. Wherefore, the Holy Scriptures are called the Canon, or rule, partly on account of their directive character, because the true faith and pure morals are learned from them; partly on account of their corrective character, since controversies in regard to the faith are decided by them, and whatever is right and godly is retained, and what is erroneous and ungodly is rejected.”


Others, as CAL. and QUEN., express this by a separate attribute, viz., the normative and judicial authority. CAL. (I, 474): “The Holy Scriptures are a rule, according to which all controversies in regard to faith or life in the Church should, and can be, decided (Ps. 19:7; Gal. 6:16; Phil. 3:16); and as a rule they are not partial, but complete and adequate, because, beside the Scriptures, no other infallible rule in matters of faith can be given. All others beside the Word of God are fallible; and on this account we are referred to the Holy Scriptures as the only rule (Deut. 4:2; 12:28; Josh. 23:6; Is. 8:20; Luke 16:29; 2 Pet. 1:19); to which, alone, Christ and the apostles referred as a rule (Matt. 4:4; 22:29,31; Mark 9:12; John 5:45; Acts 3:20; 13:33; 18:28; 26:22).”

[14] Hence, the two corollaries of QUEN. (I, 158, 167): “(1) It is therefore not necessary that there should be in the Church a supreme, regularly appointed and universal judge, who, seated upon a visible throne, is peremptorily to decide all strifes and controversies that arise among Christians concerning faith and religion, and orally and specifically to pronounce sentence in regard to them. We cannot acknowledge as such a judge either the Roman pontiff, or the fathers, or councils. (2) Nor is the decision concerning the mysteries and controversies of the faith to be granted to human reason, nor to an internal instinct or secret spirit.”

[15] CHMN. (Trid.): “The Church has the right and liberty of deciding.” GRH. (II, 359): “If the Church is ‘the pillar and the ground of the truth,’ and we are ‘commanded to hear it’ (1 Tim. 3:15; Matt. 18:17), then all decisions in matters of faith belong to her.”

But the right which is hereby ascribed to the Church is carefully distinguished from that which belongs to the Holy Scriptures. This is usually done in the following manner: (1) The principal judge is the Holy Spirit; the instrumental judge, the Holy Scriptures; the ministerial (inferior) judge, the clergy. In regard to the latter, however (“whose duty it is to seek for the decision of the Supreme Judge as laid down in Scripture, and from this to teach what is to be done, to interpret this, and decide in accordance with it”), it is maintained ‘that this judge should not pronounce sentence according to his own will, but according to the rule laid down by the Supreme Judge,’ i.e., according to the Holy Scriptures, which we therefore call the decision of the Supreme Judge, the rule of the inferior judge, and the directive judge (GRH., II., 366).

And QUEN. (I, 150): “An inferior decision, viz., of a teacher 62of the Church, is nothing else than the interpretation, declaration, or annunciation of a divine, decisive, and definitive judgment, and its application to particular persons and things.” Whence it further follows: “We are able to decide by the decision of an inferior judge, not absolutely, but if he pronounce according to the prescriptions of the divine law or the Scriptures, and in so far as he shows that he decides according to the Word of God. (Deut. 17:10.) Wherefore, we may appeal from this inferior judge to the Supreme, but not conversely, from the Supreme to the inferior. The subordinate judge is, therefore, not absolute, but restricted and bound by the decisions of the Supreme Judge as recorded in Scripture. According to this distinction, the Holy Scriptures are called the judging Judge, or the Judge ad quem (to whom there is appeal), and the Church the Judge to be judged, or the Judge a quo (From whom there is an appeal).”

The Church is, therefore, it is true, a visible judge, but merely discretive, who, in the exercise of sound judgment, distinguishes truth from falsehood. She is, however, “not a judge, specially and strictly so called, viz., authoritative and decisive, pronouncing sentence authoritatively, and by virtue of the authority belonging to her, compelling the disputants to acquiesce in the whole opinion she may propose without further investigation.” (HOLL., 146.)

[16] GRH. (II, 359): “Whatever pertains to a spiritual person, may be regarded as belonging to all children and members of the Church. The reason of this is, that by spiritual person, we understand not merely the clergy, according to the nomenclature of the Papists, but all the children of the Church, who are controlled by the Spirit of God. Rom. 8:9. For ‘he that is spiritual judgeth all things.’ 1 Cor. 2:15.”

QUEN. (I, 150): “We assert that every believer, according to the measure of the gift of God, can and ought to judge, not indeed, in all controversies, but concerning the doctrines necessary to salvation, and to mark the difference between brass and beans by his own discretive judgment. Not that every one should follow his own notions, as the Papists accuse our churches of doing, but that he should submit himself to the judgment of the Holy Spirit, recorded in the Scriptures, and examine all things according to the tenor of this decision, but leave to the learned the public decision of controversies. 1 Cor. 10:15; 11:31: 1 Thess. 5:19.”

In accordance with this, a distinction is made between “the public and the private ministerial (inferior) judge. The public judge is the clergy; the private, each member of the Church, or private person.”


[17] GRH. (II, 367): “We must distinguish between power and its exercise. The Holy Scriptures are indeed sufficient and adapted, by virtue of their authority, and the perfection and perspicuity of their character, to decide controversies; but, through the fault of human weakness and wickedness, it happens that this effect does not always, nor with all persons, follow their application; just as the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all such as believe, Rom. 1:16, yet, at the same time, not all are actually converted and saved by the preaching of the Gospel.” BR. (161): “Doubtless, all controversies that relate to matters of faith and practice, necessary to be decided and known, can, in this way, be adjudged and decided; only, when an occasion of controversy occurs, let those who are to engage in it, bring to the task minds that are pious, truth-loving, and learned. For thus, prejudice and partiality and evil feelings being laid aside, and the arguments of both sides being duly weighed, according to the rule of Scripture, it easily become apparent which is the true and which is the false opinion, on account of the perspicuity of Scripture, which acts in this case by virtue of its appointed office. But, as to other questions, either side of which may be held without injury to the faith, their decision ought not to be demanded, or expected, to be so clear.”

[18] HOLL. (125): “The causative authority of the faith differs from the canonical authority of Scripture, because the Scriptures beget divine faith, through the inspired sense, which sense of Scripture remains one and the same, whether expressed in the original idiom of Scripture, or in a translation conformed to the original text. So that the illuminating power, connected with the sense of Scripture, effectually manifests itself in the production of faith, not only by means of Scripture in the original tongues, but also through translations, provided the translations be perspicuous and conformed to the authentic text. Such is Luther’s translation of the Bible, which is used in our churches by the faithful; which, when read, or heard, is as efficacious is causing assent to the faith, as if they should read the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New, or hear it read and expounded by a teacher, although the words of that translation were not immediately inspired by God. But, that the Scriptures may have canonical authority, it is necessary, that not only the sense, but also the words, shall have been derived immediately from God. For to canonical and normal authority in matters of doctrine and practice, an absolute certainty and infallibility in the words themselves is necessary, which does not exist except in the original text of Scripture, for this depends immediately upon divine inspiration. Translations are 64the work of men, who, in translating the Scriptures, may have erred.”

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