« PreviousContinue »
conversion it is the duty of all men to promote to the utmost of their power. Rom. i. 14. “I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise."
CHAP. XXX.--OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. TaE writings of the prophets, apostles and evangelists, composed under divine inspiration, are called THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 2 Sam. xxiii. 2. “ the Spirit of Jehovah spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.” Matt. xxii. 43. “ how then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying— ?” 2 Cor. xiii. 3. since
ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me.” 2 Tim. iii. 16. “all scripture is given by inspiration of God.”
With regard to the question, what books of the Old and New Testament are to be considered as CANONICAL, that is to say, as the genuine writings of the prophets, apostles, and evangelists, there is little or no difference of opinion among the orthodox, as may be seen in the common editions of the Bible.
The books usually subjoined to these under the name of APOCRYPHAL, are by no means of equal authority with the canonical, neither can they be adduced as evidence in matters of faith.
The reasons for their rejection are, first, because, although written under the old dispensation, they are not in the Hebrew language, which they would undoubtedly be if genuine ; for as the Gentiles were not then called, and the church consisted wholly of Hebrews, Rom. iii. 2. ix. 4. it would have been preposterous to write in the language of a people who had no concern in the things discoursed of. Secondly, their authority is deservedly called in question, inasmuch as they are never quoted in the New Testament. Lastly, they contain much that is at variance with the acknowledged parts of Scripture, besides some things fabulous, low, trifling, and contrary to true religion and wisdom.
By orthodox Milton must here mean the Protestant or reformed churches, in opposition to the church of Rome, which holds the anthority of the apocryphal books. It is remarkable that in the article of 1552 no list is given. Compare Cosin, and Jones On the Canon of Scripture.
The Holy Scriptures were not written for occasional purposes only, as is the doctrine of the Papists, but for the use of the church throughout all ages, as well under the gospel as under the law. Exod. xxxiv. 27. “write thou these words; for after the tenour of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.” Deut. xxxi. 19. “write ye this song for you.
.... that this song may be a witness for me.” Isai. viii. 20. “ to the law and to the testimony ; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” xxx. 8. “write it. that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever." Habak. ii. 2. “write. . . . for the vision is yet for an appointed time.” Luke xvi. 29. “they have Moses and the prophets ; let them hear them.” John v. 39. “search the scriptures, for in them ye
have eternal life." Rom. xv. 4. “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." i Cor. x. 11, “they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
Almost everything advanced in the New Testament is proved by citations from the Old. The use of the New Testament writings themselves is declared John xx. 31. “ these are written that ye might believe—." Eph. ii. 20.“ built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” Philipp. iii. 1. “to write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.” 1 Thess. v. 27. “I charge you by the Lord, that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.” 1 Tim. iii. 15.“ —if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God.” 2 Tim. iii. 15–17. * 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.' It is true that the Scriptures which Timothy is here said to have known from a child, and which were of themselves able to make him wise unto salvation through faith in Christ, were probably those of the Old Testament alone, since no part of the New Testament appears to have existed during the infancy of Timothy; the same is, however, predicated of the whole of Scripture in the succeeding verse, namely, that it is profitable for doctrine;
even to such as are already wise and learned.” 1 Cor. x. 15. “I speak as unto wise men, judge ye what I say,” to men arrived at Christian maturity, Philipp. iii. 15. “let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded, such as Timothy himself, and Titus, to whom Paul wrote ; and to the strong in faith, 1 John ii. 14. “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you.” 2 Pet. i. 12, 15. “wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth ; moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. iii. 15, 16.“ as our beloved brother Paul also, according unto the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you.” For although the epistle of Paul here alluded to was more immediately directed to the Romans, Rom. i. 7, 15. Peter in the above passage expressly intimates that it was addressed not to that church alone, but to believers generally. 2 Pet. iii. 1, 2. “this second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.” 1 John ii. 21.
I have not written unto you, because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it.” Rev. i. 19. “write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.”
From all these passages it is evident, that the use of the Scriptures is prohibited to no one ; but that, on the contrary, they are adapted for the daily hearing or reading of all classes and orders of men ; of princes, Deut. xvii. 19. of magistrates, Josh, i. 8. of men of all descriptions, Deut. xxxi. 9. 11.
“ Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi. . and unto all the elders of Israel : and Moses commanded them, saying.. Thou shalt read this law before all Israel.” xi. 18—20. “ therefore shall ye lay up these
my words in your heart, and in your soul, and bind them for å sign upon your hand. ... and thou shalt write them upon the
2 • The papal antichristian church permits not her laity to read the Bible in their own tongue ; our church, on the contrary, bath proposed it to all men...
. Neither let the countryman, the tradesman, the lawyer, the physician, the statesman excuse himself by his much business from the studious reading thereof.' Of true Religion, &c. Prose Works, II. 516.
door-posts of thine house.” xxix. 29. “those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words—,” xxx. 11.“ for this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off,” 2 Chron. xxxiv. 30. “he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant.” Isai. viii. 20.
to the law and to the testimony.” Nehem. ix. 3. “ they stood
up in their place, and read in the book of the law of Jehovah ;” that is, the whole people, as appears from the second verse of the chapter. To the same purpose may be adduced the testimony of a writer whom the opponents of this opinion regard as canonical. 1 Macc. i. 56, 57. “wheresoever was found with any the book of the testament, the king's commandment was that they should put him to death.”
The New Testament is still more explicit. Luke x. 26. ór what is written in the law ? hov eadest thou ?” This was the question of Christ to one of the interpreters of the law, of whom there were many at that time, Pharisees and others, confessedly neither priests nor Levites; neither was expounding in the synagogue forbidden to Christ himself, whom we cannot suppose to have been considered as particularly learned in the law; much less therefore could it have been unlawful to read the Scriptures at home. xvi. 29. “they have Moses and the prophets ; let them hear them.” John v. 39. "search the scriptures.” Acts viii. 28. “he read Esaias the prophet.” xvii. 11. "they searched the scriptures daily.” xviii. 24.“ mighty in the scriptures.” 2. Tim.iii. 15.“ from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures.” Rev. i. 3. “ blessed is he that readeth.”
The Scriptures, therefore, partly by reason of their own simplicity, and partly through the divine illumination, are plain and perspicuous in all things necessary to salvation, and adapted to the instruction even of the most unlearned, through the medium of diligent and constant reading. Psal. xix. 7.
3. • I offer it to the reason of any man, whether he think the knowledge of Christian religion harder than any other art or science to attain. I suppose he will grant that it is far easier, both of itself, and in regard of God's assisting Spirit........ Therefore are the Scriptures translated into every vulgar tongue, as being held in main matters of belief and sal. vation plain and easy to the poorest, and such no less than their teachers have the Spirit to guide them in all truth, John xiv. 26. xvi. 13.' Con
“the law of Jehovah is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple.” cxix. 105. " thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my
v. 130. “the entrance of thy words giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple;" whence it follows that the liberty of investigating Scripture thoroughly is granted to all. v. 18.“ open thou mine eyes, that I may
behold wondrous things out of thy law.” Luke xxiv. 45. “then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” Acts xviii. 28. “he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” * 2 Pet. i. 20, 21. “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation; for the prophecy came not in the old time by the will of man ;"' neither therefore is it to be interpreted by the judgement of man, that is, by our own unassisted judgement, but by means of that Holy Spirit promised to all believers. Hence the gift of prophecy, mentioned i Cor. i. 4.
If then the Scriptures be in themselves so perspicuous, and sufficient of themselves to make men wise unto salvation through faith, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, through what infatuation is it, that even Protestant divines persist in darkening the most momentous truths of religion by intricate metaphysical comments, on the plea that such explanation is necessary ; siderations on the likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church. Prose Works, III. 23.
Paradise Lost, XII. 511.
Paradise Regained, IV. 288. • The study of Scripture, which is the only true theology. Considerations on the likeliest Means to remove Hirelings, &c. Prose Works, III. 27.
5 Considering the language employed in parts of this treatise, Milton more frequently censures the metaphysical divinity than might have been expected. His practice at least, in this as well as in some other points, is not very consistent with his theory. He speaks, however, in other works in the same slighting manner of the sophistry of the schools. In the following passage it is not impossible that he may allude to the very Treatise now published. Somewhere or other, I trust, may be found some whole