ŇTherefore whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, even so do ye to them: for this is the law and the prophetsÓ  Matthew 7:12.

 

This verse contains the fourth part of this chapter, concerning equity and justice. And it consists of two branches: a commandment, Whatsoever ye would etc., and a reason, for this is the law and the prophets.

 

I.

For the first,

 

The Meaning.

The commandment is propounded in a form of speech that hath reference to something going before; Therefore whatsoever etc., and yet it seemeth very hard that it should depend either upon the doctrine of prayer or of dispensing the Word, or of rash judgment. Why then is it said, Therefore? Some think it is to be referred to the doctrine of justice, which was delivered in the fifth chapter, but that is scarce probable, because so many different points of doctrine are handled between. Others think that it doth not depend on anything that went before, but that the word therefore doth abound; and this is more probable, for such particles do sometimes abound; (John 1:20), He denied and said, because I am not the Christ; where the word because doth abound. Now though the word therefore do abound, yet it is not without its use, for it imports that the doctrine here delivered is a special doctrine, and a main conclusion inferred upon divers particular duties of justice before delivered in the whole sermon.

 

Whatsoever.

It may seem that this ought not to be so, for many desire and wish evil unto themselves; as children, that they may have their wish to take their pleasure, and not be held in subjection unto their parents, or held to good education; and so idle persons wish evil unto themselves, for they would not be set-a-work. We are therefore to know that this must not be understood of evil witness, but of a will and desire well-ordered, either by grace, and according to the written Word; or at least, by the light of natural knowledge and conscience. So that ChristŐs meaning is this: as if He had said, Whatsoever thing, either by the light of nature and conscience, or by direction from GodŐs Word, you would wish that men should do to you, that do ye unto them.

 

The commandment thus explained, containeth two things: 1. The thing to be ruled and ordered; namely, our actions to other men; 2. The rule itself that must order all our sayings and doings towards others; to wit, that desire of justice and equity which every man by nature would have others shew to him in all things.

 

1. In this commandment, our Saviour would let us see a notable property of our corrupt nature; namely, that we are forward and diligent to exact justice and equity at other menŐs hands towards us, but slack and backward to yield the same to others again. In other menŐs doings towards ourselves, we are masters able to teach them what they ought to do; but in our own dealings toward others, we are scarce scholars that will learn their duty. We ourselves would be reverenced and commended, but we hardly do the like to others.

 

2. Secondly, here we are taught to avoid all practices whereby we might hurt our neighbour, either in body, goods or good name; as lying, slandering, usury, oppression, and such like. This natural reason might teach us, for wouldest not thou have others to defame, hurt and oppress thee? Then do not this to them; for the rule is not, do as men do to thee, but do to others as thou wouldest have them do to thee; and it is the corruption of nature that moves men to seek their own advantage and preferment by the loss and debasing of others.

 

3. Thirdly, here we learn that in common injuries wherein we are wronged by others, we must not requite like for like; but do good for evil. We must not look at that which they do to us, but at that which we would they should do.

 

4. Fourthly, here we learn that in matters of commodity whereabout we deal in the world, we must not only look unto ourselves, but also seek the good of our neighbours. It is the manner of men to seek themselves only in their affairs, and each man will sell as dear as he can, according to the proverb, Every man for himself, and God for us all. But neither the saying nor the practice is from God. He would have us according to the law of nature to seek the common good, and to do as we would be done unto.

 

5. Fifthly, this tale of equity cuts the throat of all those pretences whereby bad dealing is smoothed over in the world. For ill-minded persons use to colour their doings with these and such like sayings: The gripple seller saith, The thing is mine, may I not make of mine own what I can? The deceiver saith, he thrusts his ware on no man; The usurer saith, he bids no man hire his money, but others intreat it of him, and give him thanks; but these pretences are nought, these men follow a crooked line, they ought to see in their own hearts whether they would have other men deal so with them. The usurer may pretend he pleasures the poor, but his help is no better than his is that gives a draught of cold water to him that is in a burning fever, which seems pleasure at the first, but after turns to his great annoyance.

 

6. Sixthly, would we have all men to shew forth their love unto us? We then must be as careful to shew forth our love to others, by the practice of all good duties. This is against our nature, but yet being the commandment of Christ, we must endeavour ourselves to obey the same.

 

7. Lastly, here we have direction how to keep a good conscience, in all our dealings with men in the world; for such things as are expressed in the Word we must follow the direction thereof; but where we want a particular commandment, there we must order our actions by this general rule: enter into thy conscience, and there search how thou wouldest have other men deal with thee, and follow that in thy dealings with them; and so shalt thou keep a good conscience. For want of this come to many disorders as are in the world; and therefore happy were our times if men would do as they would be done to.

 

Thus much for the commandment, now followeth the reason.

 

 

II.

For this is the law and the prophets.

 

The meaning.

By the law we must understand the five books of Moses, which were the first Scripture that ever was written; so (Luke 16:29), They have Moses and the prophets. By the prophets we must understand all the rest of the books of the Old Testament, besides the five books of Moses, the prophets being put for the books of the prophets; as (Matt. 2:23), It is written in the prophets that He shall be called a Nazarite; which testimony is taken out of the book of Judges, and it sheweth that the book of Judges is to be numbered among the books of the prophets; and they are called the prophets because they were written by some prophet. And here this commandment touching justice is called the Law and the prophets, because it is the sum of the Law and prophets. Yet some may ask how this can be true, seeing this commandment only concerns things to be practised; and the Law and prophets besides moral duties, contains matters of faith to be believed? I answer, This commandment must be understood to be the sum of the Law and the prophets, not for all things, but for that which they prescribe touching this point of justice and equity, and the practice hereof. To do as they would be done to, is the fulfilling of that which is set down in the Law and in the prophets, touching equity in all human actions.

 

Now the meaning being thus opened, the reason standeth thus, being drawn from divine testimony:

That which is the sum of the Law and of the prophets touching equity, must be done:

But to do as we would be done to, is the sum of the Law and the prophets:

Therefore we must so do.

 

 

1. From this reason, we may gather a rule whereby to judge concerning the Old Testament, what is Scripture, and what is not: All Scripture of the Old Testament is either the Law or the prophets; that is, was either penned by Moses, or some of the prophets, who were extraordinarily moved and enabled thereunto. And therefore all the books from Genesis to Malachi are canonical Scripture, because they are written by some of the prophets. To this purpose St Peter saith (2 Pet. 1:19), We have a most sure word of the prophets etc. But for the books of Apocrypha, they are not canonical Scripture, because they were not penned by Moses or any of the prophets; which is plain by this: that all of them were first written either in Latin or in Greek, and none in Hebrew originally; whereas all the old prophets sent from God, wrote their books in the Hebrew, in the language of that people to whom they were sent; save only that some part of Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah were in Chaldee, which language the people learned in the captivity. Secondly, the prophets could not err, either in judgment, memory or understanding, by reason of the immediate assistance of the Holy Ghost; as (Acts 15:28), It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us; and Peter calls their word most sure. But the authors of the books of Apocrypha erred, as may be shewed in them all. (Tobit 6) RaphaelŐs counsel for driving away the devil by the smell of the liver of a fish, is a mere fabulous device; for the devil is by nature a spirit, and cannot be affected with such things. The story of Judith is fabulous, which saith, Nebuchadnezzar was king of Assyria when the people returned from the captivity, and Jehoachim was high priest. In the addition to Esther, chapter 16, Haman is said to be a man of Macedonia; but the true Scripture saith he was an Agagite, coming of Agag. The author of Ecclesiasticus, confesseth his inability in writing those things (Eccles. 1:6) but the true prophets were all-sufficient to this work, and free from error by the immediate assistance of the Holy Ghost. And (chap. 46:13) that author writeth that Samuel prophesied after his death, and shewed unto Saul his death; but the true story canonical saith, God had forsaken Saul, and would answer him, neither by dream, nor Urim, nor prophets (1 Sam. 28:6). The book of Maccabees commendeth one for killing himself, which is the most evil and dangerous murder that can be; and the author also executeth his insufficiency in penning of it, which beseemeth not him that is guided by GodŐs Spirit. In the Song of the Three Children, it is said (v.24), the flame ascended nine and forty cubits above the furnace; which seems incredible, especially that still they should then call in fuel or approach so near as to put any man into it. Likewise in the story of Susanna, it is said (v.45) that Daniel was a young child when he executed judgment upon the two false witnesses, which was in the end of Astiages reign, immediately before the reign of Cyrus; and (v.64) Daniel by this means is said to grow famous; which cannot possibly accord with the true story of Daniel, neither for his age, nor for his fame and reputation. And the like may be said of the rest; whereby it is plain, these books cannot be canonical Scripture. And yet not to be rejected, but reverently esteemed of, as the books of worthy men.

 

Here some may say, If Moses and the prophets comprehend all Scripture that hath divine testimony, then the books of the New Testament shall not be Scripture, because they were not written by the prophets. Answer: They were either penned by the apostles, or by other apostolic men, and allowed by the apostles; as St LukeŐs gospel, and the Acts, were written by Luke a physician; and St Mark that wrote that gospel, was not an apostle; yet those books were approved by apostolic authority, which is all one as if they had been written by the apostles; and the apostles in speaking and writing were of equal authority with the prophets, having the infallible assistance of the Holy Ghost, as well as the prophets; for (Acts 15:28) they say, It seemeth good to the Holy Ghost, and to us; and (Eph. 2:20), the church is said to be built on the foundations of the prophets and apostles; where the apostles are made equal with the prophets.

 

 

2. This reason also doth give us to understand what was the first Scripture that ever was penned; namely, the books of Moses, before which there was no Word of God written, which was for the space of 2,400 years. It may be asked, what was then the Book of the Wars of the Lord mentioned (Num. 21:14), and the Book of the Righteous, spoken of by Joshua (Josh. 10:13)? Answer: These were the writings of men, human stories, like to our books of Chronicles. Yet it is said (Jude 14) Enoch the seventh from Adam prophesied. Answer: That prophesy was not penned, but was from hand to hand by word of mouth; and if it were penned, yet it was not done by Enoch himself, but by some Jew in his name long after Moses; for it cannot be proved that Enoch ever penned any part of Scripture. Some will ask me how the people of God did for that space of two thousand and four hundred years, before the law was written, what guide had they for to know the will of God? Answer: They had the Word of God immediately taught them by word of mouth, from God Himself; as we may see in the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and they to whom it was delivered, did also convey the same from man to man by tradition. And because it may seem strange how religion could for so long time be preserved pure without writing, we are to know that before the law was written, the church of God from the beginning was for the most part in one family only, as in AdamŐs, EnochŐs, NoahŐs, AbrahamŐs etc. whereby it was a more easier thing to preserve GodŐs Word among them. Again, those men that first received the Word of God without writing, were of long continuance, living near to a thousand years space, whereby they might better see the Word preserved and continued, without writing, by tradition. Besides, when religion was corrupted, God Himself restored the purity thereof, revealing His will again, and renewing His covenant unto His servants, as He did to Abraham and the rest of the Patriarchs.

 

Here, then, behold how the heads of families preserved GodŐs Word and true religion in the beginning of the world; namely, by teaching it to their posterity; and from them we may learn what is the duty, and ought to be the practice of every governor of a family at this day. They must not think themselves discharged for that the Word is written in the church, and every man may read and hear the same; but they must see the same be taught unto their children, and to the rest of their family, that so it may be preserved among them. So God commandeth His people, to teach their children the service of Passover (Exod. 12:26,27), and to whet the words of the Law upon their children (Deut. 6:7).

 

 

3. In this reason our Saviour takes for granted that the writings of Moses and of the prophets are of infallible certainty; for it is all one as if He had said, this must needs be every manŐs duty, to do as he would be done to; for this is the Law and the prophets; and so answerable to them, all other books of Scripture contain doctrine of infallible truth and certainty. Here some may ask, how should we be persuaded hereof in our consciences? Answer: By these arguments, which are all drawn from Scripture itself (for as every science and art hath his grounds and principles, so hath the Holy Scripture, which is not the church but Scripture itself),

            (1). From the causes;

            (2). From the effects;

            (3). From the properties;

            (4). From signs;

            (5). From the contraries;

            (6). From the testimony that is given hereof.

 

(1) Among the causes:

 

(i) The first and principal is the author thereof, which is God Himself. To Him do Scriptures refer themselves, and also shew how God is their anchor. In Scripture we read that God spake to Adam, to Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and the rest; and of Christ, the New Testament gives most lively testimony making Him the author and subject thereof. Now nothing is falsely ascribed to God, but God in time will bring the same to naught; and therefore if Scripture had not been GodŐs Word, it would long ago have vanished.

 

(ii) Again, the cause conservant must be considered. The devil by wicked men and heretics hath laboured to take away GodŐs Word from menŐs hearts and hands; but yet it is still preserved in the church, which argues that it is kept by a greater power than is in all men and all angels; that is by the power of God.

 

(iii) Thirdly, the pen-men, the instrumental causes, they were holy men of God, prophets and apostles, who for virtue and piety far exceed other writers; and if they had been mere politicians, their writings would have shewed it; for the pen-men of holy Scripture have therein faithfully registered their own faults, which no politic person would have done.

 

(iv) Again, consider the matter of holy Scripture, which stands in doctrine and style.

 

(a) The doctrine of Scripture is the Law and the gospel. Now the Law is set forth in most excellent purity, nothing therein is against right reason or common equity. In the laws of men are many things found against reason and equity; they command such things as common reason would condemn, and omit many things which reason and equity would command. And for the gospel, in it is set down doctrine altogether above manŐs reason; touching ChristŐs incarnation, and manŐs redemption by His death; and although these things be above nature, yet we find them true, wholesome and good, in experience of conscience; which also proves that they are the Word of God. Men may devise things above nature, but they can never be wholesome to the conscience.

 

(b) Further, for the style of Scripture, the phrase is plain and familiar, and yet in any one speech there is more majesty than in all the writings of men.

 

(v) Lastly, the end of Scripture proves the same to be GodŐs Word; for the Scripture sets up GodŐs worship and manŐs salvation, and yet gives nothing to men or angels, but all to the glory of God. But for the writings of men, they do either directly, or by insinuation, ascribe something to the writers thereof.

 

(2) From the effects, one work of Scripture is this: It is against our corrupt nature, crossing and condemning the same; and yet it winneth men to the love thereof, and to obedience thereto; which could not be unless it were the truth of God; for we abhor and detest the words of men, that be against our nature. A second effect is this: GodŐs Word serves notably to comfort a man in all distresses whatsoever, even in the very pangs of death, whenas no word of any man can do him the least good, but only His Word, that is the Lord of our souls, and the God of our life.

 

(3) From the properties of Scripture:

 

(a) The first whereof is antiquity. The Scriptures of all writings are most ancient, and evermore truth is most ancient. Among human writings, we have none of certainty in the things they record, before the times of Nehemiah and Ezra; but the Scripture sets down things done from the beginning.

 

(b) A second property is mutual consent; for although the books of Scripture were written by diverse men, in sundry ages and times, yet all agree within themselves, no contradiction is in Scripture. But the writings of men have not this mutual consent, no not in the same author.

 

(4) From the signs and miracles thereof. The doctrine of Scripture teacheth and recordeth true miracles; as the parting of the sea, and the staying of the sun and moon, the taking away of barrenness, and the incarnation of the Son of God, a miracle of all miracles; all which being wrought by the power of God, shew that the Scripture which recordeth them is the infallible truth of God.

 

(5) From the contraries. Contrary unto the Word of God, is the will of the devil, and manŐs own corrupt nature; the devil hateth Scripture, and manŐs sinful nature repineth thereat, when it is checked and controlled thereby. Now that which is contrary unto these two, must needs be most holy and true; and that is the Word of God.

 

(6) From testimony. There be two kinds of testimonies touching Scripture:

 

(i) One of the holy martyrs, who in all ages have sealed the truth thereof with their blood, preferring the Word of God before their own lives.

 

It will be said that heretics have died for falsehood. Answer: There is a great difference in their ends; the martyrs have unspeakable joy in the Spirit in their torments; but heretics have no such joy, but a natural ceaseless blockishness, whereby they undergo their tortures.

 

(ii) A second testimony is most principal, and that is the testimony of GodŐs Spirit; for when men do begin to learn and obey the Word of God, then the Spirit of God settles their consciences in the persuasion of the truth of Scripture; whereupon it is called the sealing of the Spirit of truth, because it assures a man in conscience of his reconciliation with God; which assurance none can have, till he be resolved of the certainty of Scripture, which is the ground thereof.

 

Question: How may a man find this seal in himself? Answer: When he finds the Scripture imprinted in his heart, as the sign of the seal is in the wax; and his heart is transformed into Scripture, as the wax is into the similitude of the seal; then doth the Spirit out of the holy Scripture, seal up the assurance of the truth thereof unto his soul. None other writing of any man hath the like work in the heart of man; and from these grounds, especially from this last, may we resolve ourselves that the Bible is of most infallible certainty.

 

And yet for further resolution, let us see what objections are made against it.

 

Objection 1: This is not true, for the Law is perfect reason, and the gospel is above reason, not contrary to reason. Answer: Nay, holding this principle of nature, that God is Almighty, even the gospel itself may stand within reason; as that the Son of God should be incarnate, and that by His death we should receive life, which is the sum of the gospel.

 

Objection 2: There be falsehoods in Scripture; for the passage through the Red Sea was no miracle, but might be done in the ebbing of the sea, as in other countries there is oft-times passage through the washes. Answer: The Scripture saith the waters stood as walls on each side of the passage, which could not be by an ebb. Again, reason sheweth that it could not be by the natural course, for their passage over was at the full of the moon, when all seas are most full, and do not ebb and flow, as they use to do at other times.

 

Objection 3: The greatest part of the whole world reject the Bible, as Turks and pagans; and the Jews care not for the New Testament. Answer: We must reverence GodŐs work, in this withholding His mercy in Christ from some, to whom He denies the means, which is His holy Word; for henceit comes that some reject the Bible, because God in His secret, yet most just judgment, withholds this blessing from them. And therefore though atheists bark, yet the truth is, Scripture is the Word of God.

 

The Uses.

Use 1. Seeing the Word written is the certain truth of God, we must take heed of being seduced by popish teachers, who say there be two kinds of Scripture: inward and outward. Inward Scripture is a consent of doctrine written by the Holy Ghost in the hearts of all Catholics, and this (they say) is the right Scripture. The outward Scripture is written in paper and parchment, which hath no certain sense, but as the present church determines thereof. But this is a devillish doctrine, abolishing written Scripture, the true Word of God, and setting up the opinions of their own hearts, making Scripture what themselves will. We must therefore hold the written Word to be right Scripture, and the ground of that which is in the heart; for the Word written carries a most certain sense, being both text and gloss; whereas their inward Scripture varieth as men do, unless it be grounded on the written Word.

 

Use 2. The certainty of Scripture must teach us to believe GodŐs Word, and not to fear to rest ourselves upon it. The author of Scripture by His providence preserves His own Word, so as all the men in earth, for substance cannot corrupt the same; and therefore whatsoever it saith, we need not doubt but it is the will of God.

 

 

4. From this reason we may also gather the authority of canonical Scripture; for we must do as we would be done to, because the law and the prophets say so. And hence it follows that the Law and prophets have an high, sovereign and absolute authority. This authority of Scripture stands in two things: (1) in power to give judgment; (2) in the all-sufficiency thereof, in and of itself; and both these are noted here by our Saviour Christ in this reason.

 

(1) For the first, the power of giving judgment is that whereby Scripture doth fully and absolutely determine of all things needful to salvation concerning faith and manners; and for this cause the laws of God are oft in Scripture called judgments. There be diverse judgments ascribed to sundry sorts of persons in Scripture:

 

(i) First, it gives a judgment to every private man. The spiritual man discerneth all things (1 Cor. 2:15), and St John bids the believers in the church prove the spirits (1 John 4:1), that is, try by judgment the doctrines delivered.

 

(ii) Secondly, the Scripture gives judgment to public persons, as to pastors, ministers, and to the governors of the church. Let two or three prophesy, and the rest judge (1 Cor. 14:29), and the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets (v.32).

 

(iii) Thirdly, judgment is ascribed to the prophets and apostles in Scripture (Acts 15:28), It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us; and this is an high judgment, which befalls not any private man or ordinary minister, or general council ordinarily, but is peculiar to extraordinary prophets, that were pen-men of holy Scripture.

 

And these three kinds of judgments must be distinguished. The two first kinds are inferior and ministerial kinds of judgment, depending on an higher and more sovereign judgment; for private men and ordinary ministers and councils give judgment, yet not of themselves, but by their rule, which is the Word of God; and this judgment is nothing else but a ministry, pronouncing and declaring the meaning of the will of God revealed in His Word. But besides this, there is a sovereign kind of judgment, vouchsafed to the prophets and apostles, determining absolutely in matters of faith and conscience, what is to be done and what is not; and this is the judgment of God Himself, whereupon the apostles might say, It seemeth good to the Holy Ghost and to us (Acts 15:28). And that this their judgment is absolute, appears by Scripture, He that heareth you, heareth me (saith Christ to His apostles), and he that refuseth you, refuseth me (Luke 10:16). And Paul delivering the gospel of Christ to the Galatians, bids them hold them accursed that teach them otherwise (Gal. 1:8); and the promise of sending the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), was directly intended to the apostles, and only in them fully accomplished. For our better conceiving hereof, we have a resemblance of this sovereign judgment in the commonwealth. The high court of parliament gives judgments of matters in law, and so do lawyers and judges in common courts; yet there is great difference between these two: the court of parliament makes the law, and determines absolutely in civil matters, without controlment, what must be done and what not; but the lawyers make not the law, but pronounce the meaning of the law unto me. Now the Scriptures, the prophets and apostles, they are like to the court of parliament in giving judgment. Private men and ordinary ministers give judgment like unto the lawyers, which is not absolute, but ministerial, depending on a higher judgment.

 

The Uses.

Use 1. If the prophets and apostles have sovereign power to give absolute judgment in matters of faith and manners; then we must here learn to make choice of a right judge; for unto one must we appeal in matters of faith and conscience. And this right judge is GodŐs Word, which we must stick unto, and to none other. The commandment is plain for matters of difficulty that concern the conscience, (Isa. 8:20), To the law, and to the testimony; and our Saviour Christ refers us to Scripture for all matters that concern salvation, (John 5:39) Search the Scripture. If we would know what is true religion and what is erroneous; what is equity in any matter of conscience, we must have recourse to Scripture. It will be said, Scripture is an unfit judge, it cannot speak. I answer, it speaks sufficiently to determine of all matters of faith and conscience. We see in common experience, a man may resolve his friend in matters of doubt, as well by letter, as by word of mouth; why then may not the Word of God sent from heaven unto His church, resolve menŐs consciences in all matters of doubt for faith and manners? And indeed, let any man come in humility, and seriously search the Scripture, and he shall find resolution therein for any matter of conscience whatsoever.

 

Use 2. By this authority of Scripture in giving sovereign judgment, we are taught to take heed of an incompetent judge, which men for many hundreds years have set up in their hearts, to rely unto in matters of faith and conscience: and that is to put the church in room of the Word, for sovereign judgment. The church of Rome teacheth that the church must judge of the Scripture; yea, without Scripture give sovereign determination in matters of conscience, as having more authority than Scripture, because it gives authority thereunto. But this is the ground of atheism and heresy, and the pathway to popery. The true church of God must have the honour of ChristŐs spouse; but yet the authority of sovereign judgment must not be given to her, but only to the Word of God itself.

 

 

(2) The second part of the authority of Scripture is that every part of canonical Scripture is authentical; that is, of sufficient authority of itself, though it be not confirmed by any other testimony; for Scripture is the Word of God, and the testimony of Scripture is the testimony of God Himself, than which none can be greater; as St John saith, If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater (1 John 5:9). For the better conceiving of this point, confer all the books that are or ever were together, and thereby it will appear that the Scripture is of itself authentical. There be three sorts of books, divine, ecclesiastical and human.

 

(i) Divine books are the books of God, penned by the prophets and apostles; and they are all the Word of God; for whether we regard the matter of them, or the manner of revealing them, they are all from God; the prophets and apostles were only GodŐs hands and instruments in penning them, the Holy Ghost gave the matter, the order, and the very words. From whence it must needs follow that they are of all-sufficient authority of themselves.

 

(ii) Ecclesiastical books are books of divine matters, penned by learned men in the church; and they are either general books or particular. General books Ecclesiastical I call those which were either made or confirmed by the whole church; as the creeds of the apostles, the Nicene, and of Athanasius; and the first four general councils; and these have catholic allowance, yet not absolute authority, but depending of Scripture. Particular books Ecclesiastical I call the catechisms and confessions of particular churches, made by them, or particular members thereof; which have not authority of themselves, but from the Scripture or from general consent. Now both these kinds of books may be called GodŐs Word, so far forth as they agree with Scripture; and yet they are also the word of men, because they were penned by men, and have both order and style from men. And in this regard, that they were partly menŐs works, they are not authentical of themselves, but depend upon the authority of Scripture.

 

(iii) Human books are books penned by men, either of the church or out of the church, concerning human things, as books of natural philosophy, of polity, and other arts; and these are not the books of God, but of men alone, having both matter and style from men. Many of them contain excellent truths in their kind, yet gathered only from experience and common reason; but they have not in them that truth which is truth according to godliness, serving to build up and to bind the conscience, unless it be in one case, to stop the mouths of atheists and Epicurians, and to convince their consciences.

 

And thus by conference of all books, we see that Scripture alone is authentical in itself, and no books besides.

 

The Uses.

Use 1. This teacheth us that ministers in the dispensing of GodŐs Word should content themselves with the testimony of Scripture alone; for the end of the ministry is to work and confirm faith, and to settle and build up the conscience in the truth of religion, and matters concerning salvation; which no other word can do, save only the Word of God in Scripture, that hath sufficient authority in itself, from which conscience cannot appeal; and for which cause our Saviour Christ the true prophet of the church, contents Himself with the testimony of the Law and prophets alone; and after Him His apostles did the like. See this notably confirmed by Paul, who in his preaching to the Jews, professed himself to have said none other thing than that which the prophets and Moses said should come (Acts 26:22). Other writings have their good use in their time and place, but not in the public ministry; for authority and testimony from Scripture is authentical. This the Scripture saith, therefore it is so; but authority from councils and fathers is sophistry; as: Austin saith so, therefore it is so – this is no good reason, for it implies that all Austin said is true; which indeed is false, he being as all men are, subject to error.

 

Use 2. This also sheweth that we cannot believe unwritten traditions, though they be called apostolic. The church of Rome intend to deceive us when they would bear us in hand that half of those things which are to be believed, are not written in Scripture, but received by tradition. But these traditions we cannot believe by a divine faith, howsoever by a common human faith we may; for they are contained in the books of councils and fathers, which were worthy men, yet subject to error.

 

Use 3. This also sheweth that we must submit ourselves with fear and trembling to the Word of God; for it hath absolute authority to judge us, and to convince our conscience in all matters of faith and manners that pertain to salvation.

 

 

5. Whereas Christ allegeth Moses and the prophets to confirm His ministry, it may be demanded whether there be any difference for authority between Christ and the prophets; for he that allegeth another manŐs authority seems to be inferior thereto. I answer, If we compare Christ and the prophets, we must distinguish between their doctrine and their persons. The doctrine of Moses and of the prophets, is equal to the doctrine of Christ two ways: First, in certainty of truth; for it is as undoubtedly true as if Christ had taught the same. Secondly, in efficacy and authority for the power of binding conscience; for the doctrine of the prophets binds conscience as fully and truly as if Christ Himself had spoken it. And yet the person of Christ is above the person of Moses, and of all the prophets; for He is the Son of God, both God and man; they were men. He is the author of truth, they only the instruments and pen-men thereof. And from hence it comes that ChristŐs doctrine doth more bind us to obedience than the doctrine of the prophets; because the person delivering it is of more authority and excellency. And for this cause Christ allegeth Moses and the prophets, not for that His word is inferior to theirs, but that in regard of our obedience He might increase the authority of Moses and the prophets, because a greater measure of obedience is required to ChristŐs Word, in regard of the dignity of His Person. And this shews that we now are more bound to obedience under the gospel, than the people were under the Law; for we have ChristŐs doctrine, which in regard of His Person is of more authority than Moses and the prophets. See this point plainly laid down by the author to the Hebrews: In the first chapter he saith (Heb. 1:1). God in times past spake to His church by the prophets, but in these last days He hath spoken to us by His Son. And in the second chapter (Heb. 2:1) he lays down the use of this that now we have Christ for our teacher; namely that therefore we ought more abundantly to give heed to the things thay we have heard, lest at any time we let them slip etc., shewing that our disobedience now shall be more severely punished.

 

 

6. Ignorant people abuse this text, to persuade themselves that preaching is needless, because no man can say more than this: Do as ye would be done to, for this is the sum of the Law and the prophets. But we must know that this is not the sum of all that the prophets say, but only touching the matter of justice and equity. And indeed that we may attain to salvation, more is needful; for we must not only know GodŐs Word in general, but in particular, seeing that we may fail in the particulars of that which we know in general. Again, preaching serves not only for the removing of ignorance, and the increase of knowledge, but to erect and build up good conscience and honest lives, by the increase of faith, repentance, love of God and man, and of obedience; and this use the most learned and godly man that ever was, may make of the public ministry, though dispensed by one that is far inferior to him in knowledge and piety.

 

 

7. Lastly, it may be demanded how this can be the sum of the Law and the prophets: to do as we would be done to with men; seeing we are further bound by the Law to perform duties of love and obedience to God. Answer: This rule is the sum of all; for our love to God must be shewed in the practice of the duties of love, justice and mercy towards men; for God is invisible, and it pleaseth Him to make Himself seen in our visible neighbour, requiring that our love to Himself should be shewed in the works of mercy, justice and goodness towards men. Men may flatter themselves, and say they love God, but if it be not shewed in the love of their neighbours, they deceive themselves, there is no love of God in them. And therefore they are deceived that think all is well with them when they come to church, and receive the sacraments; for religion stands not in the outward service of God, unless it be shewed forth in the duties of justice, love and mercy, commanded in the second table. (Jam. 1:27), Pure religion and undefiled before God, is to visit the fatherless and widows in their adversity, and to keep himself unspotted of the world.