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1. The Suficiency of the Bible as a Rule of Faith
and Guide to Salvation.
This is the great matter in controversy between Protestants and Roman Catholics. We say the Bible is sufficient. They say that it is not. Now, suppose that Paul the apostle be permitted to decide between us. We are agreed to refer the matter to him. Can our opponents object to this reference? Let Paul then be consulted in the only way in which he can be, viz through his acknowledged writings. It is agreed on all hands that he wrote the second epistle to Timothy. Well, in the third chapter of that epistle, and at the 15th verse, he writes to Timothy thus : " And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation." That the Greek is here correctly translated into English, any scholar may see.
Here then we have what Paul wrote; and I cannot believe that he would write, in a letter to Timothy, that the Holy Scriptures are capable of being known by a child, and able to make wise unto salvation, and then say, to be handed down by tradition, that they are so obscure and abstruse that one can make nothing out of them.
But what did Paul write to Timothy about the Holy
Scriptures? He reminds him that he had known them from a child, that is, he had been acquainted with them so far as to understand them from that early age. Now, either Timothy was a most extraordinary child, of which there is no proof, or else the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, and of the New, so far as the latter was written and recognized at the time, are intelligible to a child. I see not how this conclusion can in any way be evaded. If the child of Eunice could and did know them, why may not my child and your child, and any child of ordinary understanding? And what do we want more for a rule of faith, than a Bible which a child can understand? The Bible then cannot be insufficient as a rule of faith, through any want of perspicuity in it. That point is settled.
But Paul says something more to Timothy about these same Scriptures, « which,” he says,
are able to make thee wise unto salvation.” Why, what is the matter with the man? He talks as if he had taken lessons of Luther. When did he live? They say
that the Protestant religion is only three hundred years old, but here is a man who lived well nigh eighteen hundred years ago, that writes amazingly like a Protestant about the Holy Scriptures. He says (and I have just been looking at the Greek to see if it is so there, and I find that it is) they are able to make thee wise unto salvation. Now, who wishes to be wiser than that? and if they can make one thus wise, they can make any number equally wise. So then the Scriptures can be known by children, and can make wise to salvation those who know them. This is Paul's decision, and here should be an end of the controversy. If this prove not the sufficiency of the Bible as a rule of faith and
guide to salvation, I know not how any thing can be proved. I will tell you what I am determined to do the next time a Catholic opens his mouth to me about the insufficiency and obscurity of our rule of faith, I mean to take hold of the sword of the Spirit by this handle, 2 Tim. 3 : 15, and I mean to hold on to this weapon of heavenly temper, and to wield it manfully, until my opponent surrender or retreat. He cannot stand before it.
But before I close this, I must say, that if the Scriptures which existed when Paul wrote to Timothy were able to make wise unto salvation, how much more are they with what has been added to the canon since? And here, by the way, we have an answer to the question which the Catholic asks with such an air of triumph: “How, if this be your rule of faith, did Christians get along before the New Testament was writsten and received ?" Very well; they had Scriptures enough to make them “wise unto salvation" as early as the time of Timothy; and they had, many years before that, all the Old Testament, and a part of the New. Now, with Moses and the prophets, and the Psalms, and Matthew's Gospel, and perhaps some others, together with a large number of divinely inspired men, I think they must have got along very comfortably.
One thing more I desire to say. It is this : that there is an advantage for understanding the Bible, which does not belong to any book whose author is not personally accessible. The advantage is, that we have daily and hourly opportunity to consult the Author of the Bible on the meaning of it. We can, at any moment we please, go and ask him to interpret to us any difficult passage. We can lift off our eyes from the word of truth, when something occurs which we do not readily comprehend, and direct them to the throne of grace. And what encouragement we have to do this ! James tells us, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” So then we have the Bible to inform and guide us, and we have constant opportunities of consulting its Author in regard to its meaning. Is it not enough? I, for one, am satisfied. I can dispense with the fathers, &c. &c.
2. The Source of Heresies.
The Roman Catholics say it is the Bible. They trace all the errors and divisions which prevail, to the Scriptures as their fountain. Do they know whose book it is which they thus accuse ? How dare they charge God with being “the Author of confusion ?” But is the Bible to blame for heresies ? Christ gives a very different account of the matter. He says, Matt. 22 : 29, to the Sadducees, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures." He makes ignorance of the Scriptures the source of heresies. He does not agree with the priests.
It is very strange, if the reading of the Scriptures is the cause of heresies in religion, that the Bereans, who searched them daily, because they would not take on trust even what Paul said, (and I suspect they would