We begin a new series of articles drawn from A Collection of Texts of Scripture, with Short Notes Upon Them, and Some Other Observations Against the Principal Popish Errors byCharles Drelincourt.
Charles Drelincourt, was a seventeenth-century Protestant minister born in France of Huguenot parents. He became a pastor of the Reformed Church in Charenton, near Paris, which was at that time the most influential Calvinist Church in France. Known for his pastoral care and visitations to the sick he was much esteemed. His most reprinted works include "Charitable Visits" being a five volume source of consolation to private persons and "Defence against the fears of Death".
Drelincourt was also the foremost apologist of the Protestant Church in France and wrote extensively against Roman Catholicism. Pierre Bayle tells us, that his writings "against the church of Rome, confirmed the Protestants more than can be expressed; for with the arms with which he furnished them, such as wanted the advantage of learning, were enabled to oppose the monks and parish priests, and to contend with the missionaries. His writings made him considered as the scourge of the papists; yet he was much esteemed, and even beloved by them."
In this instalment we look at his defence of the authority of Scripture alone.
Of the Holy Scripture, and Traditions.
That all saving-truth is not contained in the Holy Scripture, but partly in the Scripture, and partly in unwritten Traditions; which whosoever doth not receive with the like piety and reverence, as he does the Scriptures, is accursed. Council Trident. Sess. 4. Decret. de Can. Script.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
Contrary to that which is written in the second Epistle to Timothy, Chap. 3. vers. 15. The holy Scriptures are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. That which is able to make us wise unto salvation, contains in it all saving truth, that is, all that is necessary to be known in order to salvation. For how else can it make us wise to salvation? How can the Holy Scripture make us wise unto salvation, if it does not contain all saving truth, or all that is necessary to be known in order to Salvation?
Vers. 16, 17. 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, throughly furnished unto all good works. How if the man of God, who is to instruct others, and to declare to them the whole counsel of God, so far as is necessary for their attainment of salvation, be perfectly instructed for the discharge of his duty from the Scripture; then the Scripture must needs contain all saving truth, or all that is necessary to be known, both by him and every particular Christian in order to salvation.
And note, that it is not our part to show what those Scriptures then were which the Apostle here intends, they being confessedly the same which are still contained in the Canon of it: But whatever they were, it is plain from the Apostle, that there is no saving truth but what is contained in them, which yet does not derogate from the usefulness of those Books which were added to the Canon afterwards, whatever they were, they being useful however as comments upon the former, to clear up what was before less clearly delivered, or to declare some truths of less necessary importance, though all that was necessary to salvation was delivered before. So that we must needs apprehend the Scripture, as it is now, to be a complete Rule of Faith, without taking in any thing of unwritten tradition to piece it up or complete it.
Before divine doctrine was committed to writing, men had no other rule but natural light, or immediate revelation, or tradition of what was before made known. And when the lives of men were long, divine doctrine might better be conveyed this way than it can be now. And in our Saviour's and the Apostles time this might serve the turn for the present age, in which there was a continuation of extraordinary gifts, and especially to the immediate auditors of these inspired persons. But in the shorter age of men this was not thought a safe or sufficient means to convey down divine doctrine to the following ages. And therefore it was thought more expedient to put down in writing what was to be made known to after-ages, for the more sure preservation of all such truths from corruption, and to be a standing rule to which they might have recourse upon all occasions.
Thus God himself wrote the Ten Commandments in tables of stone. And Moses by God's direction wrote the Law, as the Prophets afterwards did their several prophecies, or a brief summary of them: For it is said, 2 Tim. 3:16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. And sometimes we find express direction for the writing of some things which were to be transmitted to future ages: As Exod. 17:14. Write this for a memorial in a book. And Isa. 30:8. Now go write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, for ever and ever. And Psal. 102:18. This shall be written for the generation to come. Whereby is intimated the great need of writing then, to convey a certain notice of things to future ages; and which implies the incompetency and insufficiency of tradition for that purpose.
And when once it had pleased God to commit the Holy Rule to writing, we find the Scripture commended for a perfect direction: Psal. 19:7. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. And tradition is no where commended, or any order given to have recourse to it in any case, but to the Holy Scripture alone. Thus, Isa. 8:20. To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Thus Joshua was directed to govern himself in all his actions by the same Holy Rule, and therein should prosper and do wisely, Josh. 1:7. That thou mayst observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded thee. Turn not from it to the right hand, or to the left. And, vers. 8. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein. The same also did Joshua prescribe to his successors, Chap. 23:6. And the King, when he sat upon the thrones of his kingdom, was to write him a copy of this law in a book, and read therein all the days of his life. Deut. 17:18, 19. And this was the way to have him prosperous, and to prolong his days. Here is nothing at all left to tradition, nor any recourse to be had to it, but to the written Law alone intimated as perfect to all the intents and purposes of a good and holy life.
There were no other ordinances to be observed but what were contained in the Law, which forbad all additions. Deut. 4:2. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you; neither shall you diminish from it. So again, Chap. 12:32. so Prov. 30:6. Add thou not unto his words; lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. For this the Children of Israel were condemned, Jer. 32:35. that they built the high places of Baal, to consecrate their sons and their daughters unto Molech, which I commanded them not.
The reformation of the Church therefore under Jehoshaphat, that good King, was made by the Scripture. That was their rule alone, 2 Chron. 17:9. But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them. The same practice was observed under the reign of King Hezekiah, 2 Chron. 31:3, 4. Accordingly our Saviour and his Apostles refer to the Scripture as the only rule, and confirm their doctrines by it, but no where have recourse to tradition for any thing.
Thus for the obtaining amendment of life, and the avoiding of condemnation; Luke 16:29. They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. And this he commends for as great efficacy to that end, as if one should come and arise from the dead to speak to them.
So John 5:39. For the attainment of the know∣edge of himself, and life everlasting, search the Scriptures, says he, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me. He doth not reprove, but allow and encourage this thought in them.
Luke 24:27. Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. But makes not the least use of tradition. So also he refutes the Pharisees by the Scripture, Mat. 22:31.
Thus the Apostle Paul, Acts 26:22. witnessing both to small and great, and saying none other things that these which the prophets and Moses did say should come to pass. He teaches at Rome, that Jesus was the Christ, by the Scripture, Acts 28:23. He combats all sorts of errors by the Scripture, see his Epistles to the Romans, to the Corinthians, to the Galatians,&c.
To end the difference that was agitated at the Council of Jerusalem, St. James alleges the Scripture, Acts 15:15. So that the Scripture is that which is every were referred to, as the Rule of Faith and Manners; but not one word said of tradition to that end. It having pleased God, when once the Scripture was indicted, to leave nothing to tradition; though sometimes he was plea∣sed to reveal himself further by immediate revelation, till all the Books of the Holy Canon were perfected.
On the other side, Tradition is so far from being commended, that the use of it is decried, as the foundation of many errors, and wickednesses, and superstitions; and their adhering to the traditions of the Fathers is censured.
Thus Mark. 7:1, &c. When the Pharisees saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled (that is to say, with unwashed) hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands often, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there are, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, and brazen vessels, and tables. Which they observed as a part of religious worship received by tradition from their Fathers, though not commanded in the Law of Moses. Like the holy water of the Church of Rome, the incensings and garments, the salt and spittle, and exorcisms, and wax-candles, used in Baptism; the Priests shaving the head after the manner of a crown, which they profess to have received from Christ and his Apostles, and conveyed to them by the Tradition of the Church through all ages, though there be not one word of any of it in the Holy Scriptures. See Council of Trent, Sess. 22. cap. 2, &c. Cathechism. Roman. par. 2. cap. 2. §. 59, &c. But our Saviour condemned all the traditions of the Fathers, so received by them, for vain worship, because not written in the Law, Ver. 7, 8. So I doubt not, but we shall have reason not to do the like with those of the Church of Rome by the same warrant.
The Apostle reckons it his great fault before his conversion, Gal. 1:14. That he was exceeding zealous of the traditions of his fathers, which were superadded to the Law, which was the very foundation of Pharisaism, and a ground of very great superstition among them.
Therefore, 1 Pet. 1:18, 19. Ye know that ye are not redeemed by corruptible things from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ. Here also we have an intimation from St. Peter, of many vain observations which the Jews took up by tradition from their fathers. So that the tradition of their fathers was so far from being a sure rule to them, that it was a means of very great corruption, which the Christians are redeemed from.
Therefore there was that exhortation, Ezek. 20:18, 19. Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their Idols: I am the Lord your God, walk in my statutes; and keep my judgments, and do them.
The vanity and uncertainty of Tradition for a Rule of Faith, sufficiently appears by these things. And how much the use of it is decried as mischievous and hurtful. And if it was so in the Church and State of the Jews, which was but of a very narrow compass, and thereupon it might be supposed then to be a more certain means of conveyance of truth; how much more reasonably may we think it to be so in the Christian Church diffused through all Nations, where by reason of the mul∣titude and distance of Christian teachers and professors, it must needs be much more easy for superstitious and conceited men to obtrude their innovations, and to back them with the pretence of tradition; of which there hath been many instances. And hence such difference has arisen between traditions themselves, as is plain in the controversy in the primitive Church about Easter, and many others. And can we think that our Saviour should leave his Church to such an uncertain Rule now, when there is so much need rather to have it more exact and settled? Should that be a Rule of Faith in the Christian Church, which was wholly disallowed and decried in the Jewish? Or is Tradition now become so much altered, that it is become so sure and harmless above what it was? If Tradition be taken for a natural means, there is nothing more uncer∣tain in a long tract of time. And sure our Saviour would not leave his Church to such uncertainty when he might do better. If it be pretended to be assisted with infallibility, that shall be examined afterwards.
It is plain, that the Christian-inspired writers also saw it needful to write down the doctrine of our Saviour, to transmit it to after-ages: they did not think Tradition was a sure means of conveyance then, no more than it was before: Therefore St. Luke wrote his Gospel to the most excellent Theophilus, that he might know the certainty of those things wherein he had been instructed, Luke 1:4. implying, that the other way of conveyance by Tradition is not so certain. And St. Peter, I will not be negligent, says he, to put you always in remembrance, 2 Pet. 1:12. And, vers. 13. I think it meet to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance. Men's memories are not so very good to retain divine things, unless they are excited and quickned. And, vers. 15. Moreover, I will endeavour that you may be able after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance: Which seems to be done by his putting St. Mark to write this Gospel from his mouth. Thus St. Jude says, That he gave all diligence to write unto them of the common salvation, and that it was needful for him to write unto them, vers. 3. And if it was needful for that age, it was much more needful for after-ages. We may be sure, our Saviour and his Apostles would have that done which was needful in their own judgments for men's salvation.
And we are likewise assured by St. John, that it is done fully, as it was needful it should be done, that nothing might be left to the uncertainty of Tradition. John 20:31. These things are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name. He shows, that the writing of these things is needful to be a foundation of right faith to men, and that enough was written then in his own and the other gospels and writings (which it is said he had seen) to be a foundation of that faith in men which is needful to their eternal salvation. So that no saving truth was left to be conveyed by tradition at all; which yet does not argue the uselessness of what books were after added, as was said before.
1 John 1. 4. These things write we unto you, that you may rejoice, and that your joy may be full. So that the Scripture giving us sufficient knowledge, as to what concerns our faith and comfort, in order to eternal salvation, how can we imagine any deficiency in it, but must needs suppose that it contains in it all the material objects of faith and matters of saving practice? Or how can we depend upon Tradition as distinct from the Scripture, which was ever so decried, for uncertain, and mischievous.
Therefore we conclude with our Church, that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation and 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 Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. Artic. 6. It is a sufficient evidence of the vanity and uncertainty of Tradition unwritten, that amongst all the sayings and works of our blessed Saviour, which St. John tells us were so many, John 21:25. That if all the things which he did, should be written every one, I suppose that even the world it self could not contain the books that should be written. Yet there is not one of all these come certainly to our knowledge, but what is written in the Holy Scriptures.
And we have fair warning also given us of Tradition now in the New Testament; 2 Thess. 2:2, 3 Be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by words, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand: Let no man deceive you by no means. By which it appears, that even in the Apostle's times, there were forged writings, and feigned traditions, which some had the boldness to obtrude for Apostolical doctrines. This is a fair warning to us now, much more in these later ages, to give but little heed to any thing, however pretended to be never so much Apostolical, that is not contained in the Sacred and Apostolical Writings, which are owned to be undoubtedly such.
And indeed how can we believe, that the Evan∣gelists and Apostles, in all the writings that they wrote (and it does not appear that they wrote any other besides those we have) when they write many things, that are not so absolutely necessary to be known in order to salvation, yet should omit so many things that are so as the Church of Rome, pretends? And that when they speak so often of baptism for instance, that they should never tell us of the salt and the spittle, the exorcisms and wax-candles, but speak only of being baptized in water, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost? or that they should never, when they speak so much of worship, tell us of the worshipping of Saints and Images? or of praying for the dead, when they give us so many directions about prayer? &c.
We must hold fast the Traditions, say they, which we have been taught by the Apostles, 2 Thess. 2:15. But we cannot believe, that these and such-like things were ever taught by them, when we have nothing at all of any of them in all their writings. And that exhortation could be then meant only of those things which the Thessalonians had heard from them, and were very sure of, that they were Apostolical Doctrines; And which we doubt not, were no other but what were after set down in the holy writings, and in them conveyed to us. It is impossible for the Church of Rome to shew that they were any other by tradition only, when the traditional conveyance of points is evidently so uncertain, and that which we have been so warned against.
Yet after all note, that all this is nothing against the tradition of the Universal Church, as a means of delivering down to us the Holy Scriptures themselves, the number of the books, and the names of the authors, &c. Nor against that which is concurrent with Scripture, or corroborative of it in any point of faith or practice, but against that which is urged as a rule of saving faith and practice, distinct and different from it, (and sometimes contrary to it) and is pretended to be the tradition of the Universal Church from the Apostles' Age, but can never be proved to be so.
There is no fear of falling into error therefore, either through ignorance or infidelity, as to such traditions. But we must say as our Saviour, Mark 12:24. Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures? And as the ignorance of Scripture is the source and fountain of error, so on the contrary then to follow the guidance of the Scripture, is the way to be preserved from error.