Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable;a yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation:b therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church;c and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;d which maketh the holy scripture to be most necessary;e those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.f
II. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these:
Of the Old Testament.
The Song of Songs.
Of the New Testament.
The Gospels according to
The Acts of the Apostles.
Paul's Epistles to the Romans.
To Timothy I
To Timothy II
The Epistle to the Hebrews.
The Epistle of James.
The first and second Epistles of Peter.
The first, second, and third Epistles of John.
The Epistle of Jude.
All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.g
III. The Books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.h
IV. The authority of the holy scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God, (who is truth itself,) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the word of God.i
V. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to a high and reverend esteem of the holy scripture,k and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole, (which is to give all glory to God,) the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts.l
VI. The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.m Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word;n and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.o
VII. All things in scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all;p yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.q
VIII. 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;r so as in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them.s 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,t therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come,u that the word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner,w and, through patience and comfort of the scriptures, may have hope.x
IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture, (which is not manifold, but one,) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.y
X. The supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.z
a Rom. 2:14. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Ver. 15. Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another. Rom. 1:19. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. Ver. 20. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Psal. 19:1. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handy-work. Ver. 2. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. Ver. 3. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Rom. 1:32. Who knowing the judgment of God, (that they which commit such things are worthy of death,) not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. With Rom. 2:1. Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest; for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
b 1 Cor. 1:21. For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1 Cor. 2:13. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. Ver. 14. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
c Heb. 1:1. God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.
d Prov. 22:19. That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee. Ver. 20. Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge; Ver. 21. That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee? Luke 1:3. It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus; Ver. 4. That thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed. Rom. 15:4. For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning; that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Matth. 4:4. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Ver. 7. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Ver. 10. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Isa. 8:19. And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter; should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? Ver. 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.
e 2 Tim. 3:15. 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. 2 Pet. 1:19. We have also a more sure word of prophecy, where-unto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts.
f Heb. 1:1. God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets; Ver. 2. Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
g Luke 16:29. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. Ver. 31. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead. Eph. 2:20. And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone. Rev. 22:18. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. Ver. 19. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. 2 Tim. 3:16. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
h Luke 24:27. And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Ver. 44. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. Rom. 3:2. Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. 2 Pet. 1:21. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
i 2 Pet. 1:19. We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts. Ver. 21. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Tim. 3:16. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. 1 John 5:9. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God, which he hath testified of his Son. 1 Thess. 2:13. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
k 1 Tim. 3:15. But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
l 1 John 2:20. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. Ver. 27. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie; and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. John 16:13. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. Ver. 14. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. 1 Cor. 2:10. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. Ver. 11. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Ver. 12. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Isa. 59:21. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord, My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.
m 2 Tim. 3:15. 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. Ver. 16. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: Ver. 17. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Gal. 1:8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Ver. 9. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 2 Thess. 2:2. That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled neither by spirit, nor by word, not by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
n John 6:45. It is written is the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 1 Cor. 2:9. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. Ver. 10. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. Ver. 11. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Ver. 12. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
o 1 Cor. 11:13. Judge in yourselves, is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Ver. 14. Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 1 Cor. 14:26. How is it then, brethren, when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation? Let all things be done unto edifying. Ver. 40. Let all things be done decently and in order.
p 2 Pet. 3:16. As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
q Psal. 119:105. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Ver. 130. The entrance of thy words giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple.
r Mat. 5:18. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
s 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 Acts 15:15. And to this agree the words of the prophets, as it is written. John 5:39. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me: Ver. 46. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.
t John 5:39. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.
u 1 Cor. 14:6. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? Ver. 9. So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. Ver. 11. Therefore, if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian; and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Ver. 12. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Ver. 24. But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all. Ver. 27. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. Ver. 28. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
w Col. 3:16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
x Rom. 15:4. For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning; that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
y 2 Pet. 1:20. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. Ver. 21. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Acts 15:15. And to this agree the words of the prophets, as it is written, Ver. 16. After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down, and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up
z Matth. 22:29. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. Ver. 31. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying. Eph. 2:20. And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. With Acts 28:25. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers.
Westminster Assembly. (1851). The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition (pp. 13–21). Philadelphia: William S. Young.
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