The Sufficiency of Scripture

“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

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Subsections

Cessationism

Works Against the Roman Apologist Robert Bellarmine  (who argued against the Sufficiency of Scripture)

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Order of Contents

Articles  22+
Books  10
Latin  1
Early Church
Reformed Confessions
Sufficient for Worship & Church Government  2
Does Scripture Regulate All of Life?
On Taking the Sufficiency of Scripture too Far

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Articles

1500’s

Musculus, Wolfgang – ‘Of Traditions’, fol. 362.b-366.a  in Common Places of the Christian Religion 1560  Extended table of contents to this section

Calvin, John

Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4  d. 1564  trans. Beveridge

Ch. 8 – ‘Of the Power of the Church’  especially sections 5-9

Ch. 9 – ‘Of Councils and their Authority’  especially sections 2 & 8

Ch. 10 – ‘Of the Power of Making Laws’  especially sections 1-2 & 6-326-32

Vermigli, Peter Martyr – 1st Part, Ch. 6, ‘Of the Holy Scriptures, and of the dignity and profit of them, and of the means how to understand them’, pp. 39-44  in The Common Places of Vermigli  ToC  (1576)

Bullinger, Henry

The Decades (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1849), First Decade

Sermon 2 – ‘Of the Word of God; to Whom and to what End it was Revealed; Also in what Manner it is to be Heard; and that it doth Fully Teach the Whole Doctrine of Godliness’

Sermon 3 – ‘Of the Sense & Right Exposition of the Word of God, & by what Manner of Means it may be Expounded’

Whitaker, William

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’

6th Question – ‘Of the Perfection of Scripture, Against Unwritten Traditions’

Willet, Andrew

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?

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1600’s

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 – Pantheologia or the Sum of Practical Divinity Practized in the wilderness, and 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 and perspicuity of the Scripture is vindicated from the calumnies of Anabaptists and Papists  ToC  1653

Leigh, Edward

A System or Body of Divinity  (London, 1654), First Book, ‘Of the Scriptures’

Ch. 2 – ‘Of the Divine Authority 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’

Ch. 9 – ‘Of the Interpretation of Scripture’

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

Turretin, Francis

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

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1700’s

Howe, John – The Divine Authority of the Scriptures, 5 Lectures  on 2 Tim. 3:16  53 pp.

Boston, Thomas

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

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1800’s

Cunningham, William

Theological Lectures on Subjects Connected with Natural Theology, Evidences of Christianity, the Canon and Inspiration of Scripture  (New York, 1878)

Ch. 37 – ‘Perfection & Sufficiency of the Scripture:  Scriptural Evidence for it, Popish Arguments Against it’

Ch. 38 – ‘Tradition: its Alleged Necessity Proved by Instances’

Ch. 39 – ‘Tradition: Positive Evidence Against it’

Ch. 40 – ‘Limitations of the Sufficiency of Scripture Stated in Confession – Perspicuity of Scripture’

Ch. 41 – ‘Alleged Obscurity of Scripture – Necessity of a Living Interpreter – Fitness of Scripture to be a Rule of Faith’

Spurgeon, C.H. – ‘The Sufficiency of Scripture’  in The Greatest Fight in the World

Peck, Thomas

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

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1900’s

Murray, John – ‘The Finality & Sufficiency of Scripture’  in Collected Writings, 1:16-22  Excerpt

Muller, Richard –

Ferguson, Sinclair – ‘The Authority, Sufficiency, Finality of Scripture’

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Books

1600’s

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).

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1700’s

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

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1900’s

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

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Latin

Owen, John – Exercitations for the Sacred Scriptures Against the Fanatics  in Works, 16.424-476

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Early Church

Article

Armchair Theologian – ‘Church Fathers on Sola Scriptura’  2016

The author is a layman in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.  He collected the quotes from this document: ‘Patristic Passages of Interest for Lutherans’.

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Books

King – 3 vols.

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Reformed Confessions

ed. Salvard, Beza, Daneau, Chandieu & Goulart – First Section , ‘Of the Holy Scripture’  in The Harmony of Protestant Confessions  Latin  (1581), pp. 1-18

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.

Westminster

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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

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Does Scripture Regulate All of Life?

Samuel Rutherford

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.”

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On Taking the Sufficiency of Scripture too Far

Richard Baxter

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.”

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Related Pages

The Inspiration & Authority of the Bible

The Canon of the Bible

The Inerrency of the Bible