“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
2 Tim. 3:15-17
Works Against the Roman Apologist Robert Bellarmine (who argued against the Sufficiency of Scripture)
Order of Contents
Rutherford’s Distinctions & Conclusions
Sufficient for Worship & Church Government 2
Does Scripture Regulate All of Life? 1
On Taking the Sufficiency of Scripture Too Far 1
On the Need & Validity of Natural Knowledge 1
Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4 d. 1564 trans. Beveridge
Vermigli, Peter Martyr – 1st Part, Ch. 6, ‘Of the Holy Scriptures, & of the Dignity & Profit of Them, & of the Means how to Understand Them’, pp. 39-44 in The Common Places of Vermigli (1576)
The Decades (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1849), First Decade
A Disputation on Holy Scripture, Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine & Stapleton (1588; Cambridge: Parker Society, 1849)
3rd Question – ‘Of the Authority of Scripture’
4th Question – ‘Of the Perspicuity of Scripture’
5th Question – ‘Of the Interpretation of Scripture’
Synopsis Papismi (London, 1592), First Controversy, the Holy Scriptures
4th Question – The Authority of the Scriptures
5th Question – The Perspicuity & Plainness of the Scripture
6th Question – The Interpretation of Scripture
7th Question – The Perfection & Sufficiency of Scripture
3rd Part of the 7th Question – Whether there be any traditions, beside Scripture concerning faith and manners?
Synopsis of a Purer Theology Buy (1625; Brill, 2015), vol. 1
Walaeus, Disputation 2 – ‘On the Necessity & Authority of Scripture’
Polyander, Disputation 4 – ‘On the Perfection of Scripture & the Futility of Adding Unwritten Traditions to it’
Walaeus, Disputation 5 – ‘About the Perspicuity & the Interpretation of Holy Scripture’
Maccovius, John – Ch. 1, ‘Of the Word of God’, especially sections 15-21 in Scholastic Discourse: The Distinctions & Rules of Theology & Philosophy Buy (1644; Apeldoorn, 2009)
Maccovius was a Polish theologian.
Ussher, James – pp. 17-26 of ch. 1 of A Body of Divinitie, or, The Summe and Substance of Christian Religion Catechistically Propounded… (London, 1645) There is some controversy over the authorship of this work, as Ussher disclaimed some statements in it.
See also an 1800’s condensation of this work:
Ussher, James & Hastings Robinson – ‘The Properties, Sufficiency & Perspicuity of Holy Scripture’, pp. 21-27 in ch. 1 of A Body of Divinity, or the Sum and Substance of the Christian Religion Buy (1645; London, 1841) This edition is highly edited, summarized and condensed by Robinson
White, Thomas – ‘The Author’s, To the Reader’ in Pantheologia, or the Sum of Practical Divinity Practiced in the Wilderness, & Delivered by our Savior in his Sermon on the Mount… To which is Prefixed a Prolegomena or Preface by way of Dialogue, wherein the Perfection & Perspicuity of the Scripture is Vindicated from the Calumnies of Anabaptists & Papists (1653)
A System or Body of Divinity (London, 1654), First Book, ‘Of the Scriptures’
Ch. 8 – ‘Of the Properties of the Scripture: 1. Of Divine Authority; 2. True and Certain; 3. The rule of Faith and Manners; 4. Necessary; 5. Pure and Holy; 6. Sufficient and Perfect; 7. Perspicuous and Plain’
Binning, Hugh – The Authority and Utility of the Scriptures on 2 Tim. 3:16 in The Common Principles of the Christian Religion in Works, vol. 1 (of 3)
Jacombe, Samuel – The Divine Authority of the Scriptures in Puritan Sermons vol. 5
Manton, Thomas – The Scripture Sufficient without Unwritten Traditions in Works, vol. 5 and Puritan Sermons, vol. 6
Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1 (P&R, 1992), 2nd Topic
Question 16 – ‘The Perfection of the Scriptures’, pp. 134-143
Question 17 – ‘The Perspicuity of the Scriptures’, pp. 143-147
Question 20 – ‘The Supreme Judge of Controversies & the Interpreter of the Scriptures’, pp. 154-162
Question 21 – ‘The Authority of the Fathers’, pp. 162-168
Howe, John – The Divine Authority of the Scriptures, 5 Lectures on 2 Tim. 3:16 53 pp.
Works, vol. 1, An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion
‘The Divine Authority of the Scriptures’ on 2 Tim. 3:16, pp. 19-37
‘The Utility of the Scriptures as a Rule’, pp. 37-41
Davies, Samuel – ‘The Divine Authority & Sufficiency of the Christian Religion’ in Sermons, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1864), pp. 71-108
Theological Lectures on Subjects Connected with Natural Theology, Evidences of Christianity, the Canon and Inspiration of Scripture (New York, 1878)
Spurgeon, C.H. – ‘The Sufficiency of Scripture’ in The Greatest Fight in the World
The Sufficiency of the Scriptures – the Pharisees and Sadducees – Rationalism and Traditionalism in Miscellanies, vol. 1, p. 281 ff.
2 Tim. 3:16 in Sermons Referred to in the Sermon Briefs on Acts in Miscellanies, vol. 3, p. 262 ff. American, southern presbyterian
Murray, John – ‘The Finality & Sufficiency of Scripture’ in Collected Writings, 1:16-22 Excerpt
Muller, Richard –
Ferguson, Sinclair – ‘The Authority, Sufficiency, Finality of Scripture’
Tilenus, Daniel – Positions lately held by the L. Du Perron, Bishop of Eureux, against the Sufficiency and Perfection of the Scriptures maintaining the necessity and authority of unwritten traditions. Very learnedly answered and confuted… with a defence of the sufficiency and perfection of the Holy Scriptures ToC (London, 1606)
Tilenus (1563-1633) was a German-French Protestant theologian. Initially Reformed, he became a prominent and influential Arminian teaching at the Academy of Sedan. He was an open critic of the Synod of Dort of 1618-9.
Twisse, William – The Scriptures’ Sufficiency to Determine all Matters of Faith, made good against the Papist: or, that a Christian may be infallibly certain of his Faith and Religion by the Holy Scriptures (Dumfries, 1795) d. 1646 95 pp.
Twisse was a moderator of the Westminster Assembly.
Ford, Thomas – Logos Autopistos, or, Scriptures’ Self-Evidence to prove its Existence, Authority, Certainty in itself, and Sufficiency (in its kind) to ascertain others that it is inspired of God to be the only rule of faith: published as a plea for Protestants in the defense of their Profession (London, 1667)
Ford was a Westminster divine.
Bridge, William – Scripture Light the Most Sure Light: Compared with 1. Revelations & Visions, 2. Natural & Supernatural Dreams, 3. Impressions with and without the Word, 4. Light & Law within, 5. Divine Providence, 6. Christian Experience, 7. Human Reason, 8. Judicial Astrology; in Three Sermons in Works 1.399-462
Bridge (c.1600-1671) was reformed and a leading English Independent minister, preacher, and religious and political writer.
Edwards, John – A Discourse Concerning the Authority, Style, and Perfection of the Books of the Old and New-Testament with a Continued illustration of several difficult texts of scripture throughout the whole work (London, 1693) Table of contents
Edwards (1637-1716) was a reformed Anglican.
Stanhope, George – The Perfection of Scripture stated, and its Sufficiency argued in a sermon preached at the public commencement at Cambridge, Sunday July 4, 1697 ToC (London, 1697)
Stanhope (1660-1728) was an Anglican (not reformed).
Blackall, Ofspring – The Sufficiency of a Standing Revelation in General, and of the Scripture Revelation in Particular: Both as to the Matter of It, and as to the Proof of It… in Eight Sermons (London, 1709)
Blackall (bap.1655-1716) was an Anglican (not reformed).
De Moor, Bernard – Didactico-Elenctic Theology, ch. 2, Concerning the Principium of Theology, or Holy Scripture Buy
Packer, J.I. – Beyond the Battle for the Bible Buy (Westchester, IL: Cornerstone, 1980)
“…deals with the sufficiency of Scripture in a lengthy chapter on how to use Scripture in public and private. It also addresses the current debate on inerrancy.” – Joel Beeke, Reader’s Guide
Weeks, Noel – The Sufficiency of Scripture Buy (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1988)
“Numerous books touch on the sufficiency of Scripture, but none addresses both the long-standing and contemporary issues involved in such an able, engaging and readable manner as Noel Weeks, The Sufficiency of Scripture…
The first part deals with basic issues such as authority, revelation, providence, inerrancy, and contextualization; the remainder of the volume addresses specific points of contention, such as creation, the interpretation of prophecy, women in church offices, psychology, and Bible translation.” – Joel Beeke, Reader’s Guide
eds. Burger, Huijgen & Peels – Sola Scriptura: Biblical & Theological Perspectives on Scripture, Authority & Hermeneutics in Studies in Reformed Theology, vol. 32 (Brill, 2017) ToC
Owen, John – Exercitations for the Sacred Scriptures Against the Fanatics in Works, 16.424-476
Armchair Theologian – ‘Church Fathers on Sola Scriptura’ (2016) 9 quotes
The author is a layman in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. He collected the quotes from this document: ‘Patristic Passages of Interest for Lutherans’.
He quotes: Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, John of Damascus & Aquinas.
King, David T. – Holy Scripture: The Ground & Pillar of Our Faith, vol. 3 (Church Fathers) Buy (Christian Resources, 2001) 312 pp.
In 1581, the first Harmony of Protestant Reformed Confessions of Faith was published in Geneva. It was the result of a collaboration between the Huguenot ministers listed above.
They published it in response to the publication of the Lutheran Book of Concord in 1580. It included a comparison of eleven Reformed confessions and the Lutheran Augsburg Confession. In 1842, it was translated into English, reorganized and enlarged by Peter Hall.
Rutherford’s 9 Distinctions & 5 Conclusions on the Sufficiency of Scripture
Divine Right of Church Government (London, 1646), ch. 1, question 2, pp. 101-2
1st Distinction. The Word of God being given to man as a moral agent, is a rule of all his moral actions, but not of actions of art, sciences, disciplines, yea, or of mere nature.
2. Beside the Word, in actions-moral and in God’s worship, is all one with that which is contrary to the Word; and what is not commanded is forbidden, as not seeing in a creature capable of all the five senses is down right blindness.
3. Lawfulness is essential to worship instituted of God, but it is not essential to worship in general: neither is opinion of sanctity, efficacy or divine necessity essential to worship, but only to divine worship and its opinion [that something is divine worship], not actual, nor formal, but fundamental and material.
4. Seeing the apostles were no less immediately inspired of God than the prophets, it is a vain thing to seek a knot in a rush and put a difference betwixt apostolic commandments or traditions and divine commandments, as it is a vain and Scriptureless curiosity to difference betwixt the prophetical truths of Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. and divine prophecies, which is, as if you would difference betwixt the fair writing of Titus the writer, and the writing made by the pen of Titus, or betwixt Peter’s words, and the words spoken by Peter’s tongue, mouth and lips, for prophets and apostles were both God’s mouth.
5. Worship-essential and worship-arbitrary, which Formalists inculcate, or worship positively lawful, or negatively lawful, are to be acknowledged as worship-lawful, and will-worship, and worship lawful and unlawful.
6. What is warranted by natural reason, is warranted by Scripture, for the Law of nature is but a part of Scripture.
7. Actions are either purely moral, or purely not-moral, or mixed of both: The first has warrant in Scripture, the second none at all, the third requires not a warrant of Scripture every way concludent, but only in so far as they be moral.
8. Matters of mere fact, known by sense and human testimony, are to be considered according to their physical existence, if they be done or not done; if Titus did such a thing or not, such are not in that notion to be proved by Scripture: 2. They may be considered according to their essence and moral quality of good and lawful, bad or unlawful, and so they are to be warranted by Scripture.
9. There is a general warrant in Scripture for worship and moral actions, twofold: either when the major proposition is only in Scripture, and the assumption is the will of men, or when both the proposition and assumption are warranted by Scripture: the former warrant I think not sufficient, and therefore the latter is necessary to prove the thing lawful.
* * *
1st Conclusion. Every worship and positive observance of religion, and all moral actions are to be made good, by [Greek], ‘according as it is written’, though their individual circumstances be not in the Word.
2. In actions or religious means of worship, and actions moral, whatever is beside the Word of God, is against the Word of God; I say in religious means, for there be means of worship, or circumstances physical, not morall, not religious, as whether the pulpit be of stone or of timber, the bell of this or this metal, the house of worship stand thus or thus in situation.
3. Opinion of sanctity, holiness and divine necessi∣ty is not essential to false worship. Formalists will have their ceremonies innocent and lawful, so they be not contrary to the Word of God. 2. So they be not instamped with an opinion that they bind the conscience, and are of divine necessity, holinesse and efficacy…
4. It is a vain and unwarrantable distinction to divide worship in essential, which has God’s, 1. particular approving will to be the warrant thereof, and worship accidental or arbitrary, which has only God’s general and permissive will, and has man’s will for its father…
5. Matters of fact are not, and need not be proved by Scripture: 1. Because sense makes them known to us. 2. Their morality is sufficiently known from God’s Word. 3. In matters of fact there may be invincible ignorance: Christ’s resurrection is not a matter of fact, as Hugo Grotius says, but also a matter of Law, as all the miracles and histories in the Word, and to be believed, because God has so spoken in the Word.
The Sufficiency of Scripture for Worship & Church Government
Rutherford, Samuel – The Divine Right of Church-Government and Excommunication: or a Peaceable Dispute for the Perfection of the Holy Scripture in Point of Ceremonies and Church Government… (London, 1646)
“Christ Jesus has so far forth set down, and stablished a perfect platform of Church-government in all morals, not only both for the inward, but also for the outward and external government of his House, that He has left no liberty or latitude to magistrates, or Churches whatsoever to choose and settle such an orderly form of Church-government or discipline, as is most suitable to their particular civil government, laws, manners and customs, so [though] this form [that might otherwise be chosen in societies] be not repugnant to the Word of God.” – p. 1
Thornwell, James H. – The Regulative Principle Applied to Church Government from “Argument Against Church-Boards” (1841) & “The Argument For Church Boards Answered” (1842), in Collected Writings, vol. 4
Does Scripture Regulate All of Life?
The Divine Right of Church Government... (1646), Intro, Section 4, pp. 72-4
“Now I find that Mr. [Richard ]Hooker [an Anglican] says two things to this:
1. That Scripture does regulate all our moral actions, but not scripture only, for the Law of nature and the most concealed instincts of nature, and other principles may warrant our actions: We move (says he), we sleep, we take the cup at the hand of our friend; a number of things we often do only to satisfy some natural desire without present express and actual reference to any commandment of God, unto his glory; even these things are done which we naturally perform, and not only that which naturally and spiritually we do, for by every effect proceeding from the most concealed instincts of nature, his power is made manifest. But it does not therefore follow, that of necessity we shall sin unless we expressly intend the glory of God in every such particular.
[Rutherford’s] Answer: …I answer that as:
[1.] there be some actions in man purely and spiritually, but supernaturally, moral, as to believe in Christ for remission of sins, to love God in Christ: these the Gospel does regulate.
2. There be some actions naturally moral in the substance of the act, as many things commanded and forbidden in the Moral Law; and these are to be regulated by the Law of nature and the Moral Law:
3. There be some actions mixed, as such actions in which nature, or concealed instincts of nature are the chief principles, yet in and about these actions, as in their modification of time, place, and manner and measure, there is a special morality, in regard of which they are to be ruled by the Word;
Such mixed actions as these that are mentioned by Hooker, as to move, sleep, take the cup at the hand of a friend, cannot be called simply moral, for to move may be purely natural, as if a man against his will fall off a high place or off a horse, to start in the sleep, are so natural that I know not any morality in them; but sure I am [that] for Nathaniel to come to Christ, which was also done by a natural motion, is not a mere natural action proceeding from the most concealed instincts of nature; so to sleep has somewhat natural in it, for beasts do sleep; beasts do move; I grant they cannot take a cup at the hand of a friend, they cannot salute one another: (It is Hooker’s instance) but fancy sometimes in men do these, whereas conscience should do them:
What is natural in moving and sleeping, and what is common to men with beasts, I grant, Scripture does not direct or regulate these acts of moving and sleeping; we grant [that] actions natural and common to us with beasts need not the rule of the Word to regulate them:
But this I must say (I speak it, my record is in Heaven, not to offend any) Formalists, as such, and as Prelatical, are irreligious and profane: One of them asked a godly man, ‘Will you have Scripture for giving your horse a peck of oats, and for breaking wind, and easing or obeying nature?’ And therefore they bring in these instances to make sport:
But I conceive, sleeping moderately, to enable you to the service of God, as eating, drinking, that God may be glorified, 1 Cor. 10:31, are also in the measure and manner of doing moral, and so ruled by Scripture and Scripture only, and not regulated by natural instincts…
Whereas being created according to God’s image, especially, he living in the visible Church, he is to do all his actions deliberate, even natural and moral in Faith, and with a warrant from scripture, to make good their morality, Ps. 119:9; Prov. 3:23-24; 2 Cor. 5:7. And truly Formalists give men in their morals to live at random and to walk without taking heed to their ways according to God’s Word.
Answer: 1. The Law of reason in morals (for of such we now speak) is nothing but the Moral Law and will of God, contained fully in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament; and therefore is not to be divided from the Scriptures; if a man be ruled in that, he is ruled by Scripture: for a great part of the Bible, of the Decalogue, is printed in the reasonable soul of man: as when he loves his parents, obeys his superiors, saves his neighbor in extreme danger of death, because he does these according to the Law of Reason, shall it follow that these actions which are expressly called [in Greek] Rom. 2:14, the things or duties of the Law, are not warranted by express Scripture because they are done according to the Law of natural reason? I should think the contrary most true.”
On Taking the Sufficiency of Scripture Too Far
A Christian Directory… (1673), Part 3, Question 166, ‘Who be they that give too little to the Scriptures, and who too much; and what is the danger of each extreme?’, pp. 912-3
“II. Those give too much (in bulk, but too little in virtue) to the Scriptures: 1. Who would set them up instead of the whole Law, and Light of Nature, as excluding this, as useless where the Scripture is.
2. And they that feign it to be instead of all grammars, logic, philosophy, and all other arts and sciences, and to be a perfect particular rule for every ruler, lawyer, physician, mariner, architect, husbandman and tradesman, to do his work by.
3. And they that feign it to be fully sufficient to all men to prove its own authority and truth, without the subsidiary use of that Church-history and tradition, which tells us the supposed matters of fact and must help us to know what books are canonical and what not; and without historical evidence that these are the true books which the prophets and apostles wrote and the miracles and providences which have attested them.
4. And those that think that it is sufficient for its own promulgation, or the peoples instruction, without the ministry of man to preserve, deliver, translate, expound and preach it to the people.
5. And those that think it sufficient to sanctify men, without the concourse of the Spirit’s illumination, vivification and inward operation to that end.
6. And they that say that no man can be saved by the knowledge, belief, love and practice of all the substantial parts of Christianity brought to him by tradition, parents or preachers, who tell him nothing of the Scriptures, but deliver him the doctrines as attested by miracles and the Spirit without any notice of the Book.
7. And those that say that Scripture alone must be made use of as to all the history of Scripture-times, and that it is unlawful to make use of any other historians, (as Josephus and such others).
8. And they that say, no other books of divinity but Scripture are useful, yea, or lawful to be read of Christians; or at least in the Church.
9. And they that say that the Scriptures are so divine, not only in matter, but in method and style, as that there is nothing of humane (inculpable [blameless]) imperfection or weakness in them.
10. And those that say that the logical method and the phrase is as perfect as God was able to make them.
11. And they that say that all passages in Scripture historically related are moral truths: and so make the Devil’s words to Eve, of Job, to Christ, etc. to be all true.
12. And they that say that all passages in the Scripture were equally obligatory to all other places and ages, as to those that first received them (as the kiss of peace, the veils of women, washing feet, anointing the sick, deaconesses, etc.)
13. And they that make Scripture so perfect a rule to our belief that nothing is to be taken for certain, that comes to us any other way (as natural knowledge or historical).
14. And those that think men may not translate the Scripture, turn the Psalms into metre, tune them, divide the Scripture into chapters and verses, etc. as being derogatory alterations of the perfect Word.
15. And those that think it so perfect a particular rule of all the circumstances, modes, adjuncts and external expressions of and in God’s worship, as that no such may be invented or added by man, that is not there prescribed: as time, place, vesture [clothing, such as a grave garment], gesture, utensils, methods, words, and many other things, mentioned before.
16. And those that Jewishly feign a multitude of unproved mysteries to lie in the letters, orders, numbers and proper names in Scriptures (though I deny not that there is much mystery which we little observe).
17. They that say that the Scripture is all so plain that there is no obscure or difficult passages in them, which men are in danger of wresting to their own destruction.
18. And they that say that all in the Scripture is so necessary to salvation (even the darkest prophecies) that they cannot be saved that understand them not all; or at least endeavor not studiously and particularly to understand them.
19. And they that say that every book and text must of necessity to salvation be believed to be canonical and true.
20. And those that say that God has so preserved the Scripture, as that there are no various readings and doubtful texts thereupon, and that no written or printed copies have been corrupted (when Dr. Heylin tells us that the King’s printer printed the Seventh Commandment, ‘Thou shalt commit adultery’); all these err in over-doing.
IV. The dangers of over-doing here are these:
1. It leads to downright infidelity: for when men find that the Scripture is imperfect or wanting in that which they fancy to be part of its perfection, and to be really insufficient, e.g. to teach men physics, logic, medicine, languages, etc. they will be apt to say, ‘It is not of God, because it has not that which it pretends to have.’
2. God is made the author of defects and imperfections.
3. The Scripture is exposed to the scorn and confutation of infidels.
4. Papists are assisted in proving its imperfection. But I must stop, having spoke to this point before in Question 35 and partly Question 30 & 31 & 33 more at large.”
On the Need & Validity of Natural Knowledge
The Due Right of Presbyteries… (London, 1644), pt. 1, ch. 8, section 8, p. 229
1st Conclusion. To show that our Church was a visible Church before Luther arose, and that our Reformers were lawfully called of God and the Church, is a question of fact: and cannot be proved by the Word of God. Because the Word of God is not a chronicle of these who were the true Church and truly called to the ministry since the apostles departed this life. 2. Because these must be proved by sense, and the testimony of human writings, who can err.
2nd Conclusion. Yet may it be gathered from human writers that the visible Church of protestants this day, has been since the apostles’ days. I mean the determinate persons may be known by human reasons and signs.