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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Preservation: Historical considerations, Confessions

Below are excerpts from Confessions of Faith that mention the doctrine of preservation of the Scriptures, with a few others included. It is nothing unusual that a Confession doesn’t address all doctrines. New confessions or revisions often add statements to address timely topics that arise regarding doctrine or practice.

Waldensian Confession of Faith, from 1120:
“Article 3. We acknowledg for the holy Canonical Scriptures the Books of the holy Bible, viz.”[i] [Afterward follows the title of the 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New, pages 30-32. The confession also lists “the books Apocryphal” which were “not received of the Hebrews.” These books were read for instruction, but “not to confirm the Authority of the Doctrine of the Church.” Morland calls this “An ancient Confession of Faith of the Waldenses, bearing date Anno Dom. 1120.”] This old confession does not state preservation, but the statement is consistent with it, as can be seen in the later Waldensian statement of 1508 that speaks of the Bible translated into their tongue as authoritative Scripture.  The History of the Evangelical Churches in the Valleys of Piemont, Samuel Morland, London: Printed by Henry Hills for Adoniram Byfield, 1658, p. 30

Waldensian Confession of Faith, from 1508 and 1535:
“Article 1. Concerning the holy Scriptures. …that they were delivered and inspired by God himself, as is affirmed by Peter, Paul, and others, and are publickly read and recited in all our Churches (especially the Epistles and Gospels) and that in our mother and vulgar tongue, after the manner and custome of the Primitive Churches, to the end chiefly that they may be understood by all; and lastly, that from thence arise points of Doctrine and Exhortation answerable to all affairs and occasions…” Morland, p. 44

“1.8 The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God who have right unto, and interest in, the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.”

The Consensus has a preface and 25 canons; Canons 1 through 3 address the inspiration and the preservation of the Holy Scriptures. They seem particularly concerned about changes to the Hebrew Scriptures. Canon 1 is as follows:
“Canon 1: God, the Supreme Judge, not only took care to have his word, which is the ‘power of God unto salvation to every one that believes’ (Rom 1:16), committed to writing by Moses, the Prophets and the Apostles, but has also watched and cherished it with paternal care from the time it was written up to the present, so that it could not be corrupted by craft of Satan or fraud of man.  Therefore the Church justly ascribes to it his singular grace and goodness that she has, and will have to the end of the world (2 Pet 1:19), a ‘sure word of prophecy’ and ‘Holy Scriptures’ (2 Tim 3:15), from which though heaven and earth pass away, ‘the smallest letter or the least stroke of a pen will not disappear by any means’ (Matt 5:18).” (Translated by Martin I. Klauber)

An Orthodox Creed (General Baptists), from 1679:
“Article XXXVII. The Authority of the holy Scripture, dependeth not upon the Authority of any Man, but only upon the Authority of God, who hath delivered and revealed his mind therein unto us, and containeth all things necessary for Salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any Man, that it should be believed as an Article of the Christian Faith, or be thought requisite to Salvation. Neither ought we (since we have the Scriptures delivered to us now) to depend upon, hearken to, or regard the pretended immediate Inspirations, Dreams, or Prophetical Predictions, by or from any Person whatsoever, lest we be deluded by them. Nor yet do we believe that the Works of Creation, nor the Law written in the Heart, (viz.) Natural Religion (as some call it), or the Light within Man, as such, is sufficient to inform Man of Christ the Mediator, or of the way to Salvation, or Eternal Life by him; but the holy Scriptures are necessary to instruct all Men into the way of Salvation, and eternal Life. And we do believe, that all People ought to have them in their Mother Tongue, and diligently, and constantly to read them in their particular Places and Families, for their Edification, and Comfort. And endeavour to frame their Lives, according to the direction of God’s Word, both in Faith and Practice, the holy Scriptures being of no private Interpretation, but ought to be interpreted according to the Analogie of Faith, and is the best Interpreter of it self; and is sole Judge in Controversie. And no Decrees of Popes, or Councils, or Writings of any Person whatsoever, are of equal Authority with the sacred Scriptures. And by the holy Scriptures we understand, the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, as they are now translated into our English Mother-Tongue, of which there hath never been any doubt of their Verity, and Authority, in the Protestant Churches of Christ to this Day.” [Afterward follows the names of the books of the Old & New Testaments, rlv]

“The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.”

“Of the Holy Scriptures. Concerning the holy scriptures, we believe, that the scriptures of the old and new testament are the written word and will of God, given by inspiration to the holy prophets and apostles; and are left upon record for our learning, that we through patience, and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope; and that they are a perfect rule, containing all things necessary to salvation; they being the counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, and the eternal good of souls, relating both to matters of faith and practice, especially the doctrine of the gospel therein contained.”

The Philadelphia Confession of Faith of 1742 contains the same article as the Second London Confession, with only minor stylistic variations.

“I. Of the Scriptures. We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter, that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union , and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.” [The New Hampshire Confession does not speak to preservation, but implies it by speaking of the Bible in the present tense as “a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction…and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.”]




[i] “Nos reconten per Sanctas Scripturas Canonicas, li Libres de la Sancta Bibla.” This is the original, though Morland does not identify the language.
[ii] First published anonymously in 1677, this Baptist Confession was guided by the Westminster Confession. The earlier First London Confession goes not specify preservation, but implies it: “The rule of this knowledge, faith, and obedience, concerning the worship of God, in which is contained the whole duty of man, is (not men’s laws, or unwritten traditions, but) only the word of God contained [viz., written] in the holy Scriptures; in which is plainly recorded whatsoever is needful for us to know, believe, and practice; which are the only rule of holiness and obedience for all saints, at all times, in all places to be observed.” 

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