Paul's Name being prefixed to his Epistle, shews it to be of Divine Authority, though of it self not a sufficient Argument to prove it. The Pen-men were only Instruments, God the principal Author of the Scriptures, and therefore we should rest satisfied with their style and method, and not question their Authority. How to arm our selves against the Devil, and all Hereticks op∣posing the Divinity of the Scriptures.
2 COR. 1. 1.
HItherto we have considered Paul under a two-sold respect; there re∣maineth one more observable thing from the mentioning of himself, which is not to be omitted. For it may be demanded, Why he prefix∣eth his name in this Preface? And the Answer is, That as he expresseth his * calling of Apostleship to bring Authority to his person; so he also mentioneth his name to obtain credit to what he doth write; that they may be assured this is his Epistle, and not sent to them by any other. For if the Corinthians were ignorant of the Authour of it, or that he was not one, who was gui∣ded Page 11 by the Holy Ghost, they would not have much regarded it. So that from hence observe,
Inasmuch that Paul's name is set to this Epistle, it is thereby of Canonical and*Divine Authority, and so ought to be received with all faith and obedience.
Paul's Epistles were never doubted of, except that to the Hebrews, (which is attributed to him) as the Epistle of James, the 2d of Peter, the two last Epistles of John, and the Revelation have been, but were alwayes received into the Ca∣non. Indeed there were the Elioniti, (called so, say some, from the Hebrew word, because they were poor, and simple in understanding) These with such succeeding them in many opinions did reject all Paul's Epistles, not but that they thought they were made by him, only they rejected his Doctrine, because they thought he was an adversary to the Law, and contrary to Moses.
This truth about the Canonical Authority of this Book, and the rest in the Bible, is of very great concernment, not only because of the weighty contro∣versies and disputes both of old, and alate herein; but also because of a pra∣ctical consideration. For though men do generally profess themselves to be Christians, and say, They acknowledge the holy Bible, as of Divine Authority, yet where is the man almost, that liveth, as if he did believe it to be a true Book? For doth any wicked man, that goeth on in his impenitent wayes, be∣lieve the Word of God to be true, that condemneth him, that forbids and threat∣ens his wayes, that tels him assuredly, that if it be true, and the Word of God, without reformation, he will be as assuredly damned, as if he were in Hell alrea∣dy? Can a man then believe this to be Gods Word, and yet be so desperately mad, as to live in a full contrariety to it? If therefore this very Epistle be received as the Word of God, that it's no Apocryphal or humane Invention, but Paul wrote it, as inspired and directed by the Holy Ghost. How can ye, how dare ye reject the counsel and admonitions contained therein, both as you are a Church, and as you are particular persons?
But to enlarge this Doctrine, consider these things:
First, That the meer prefixing of a name, though of some holy Authour, is*not enough barely of it self, to confirm the Divine Authority of the Scripture. For although indeed most of the Books both in the Old and New Testament, have their names prefixed, yet some of them have not, as of Judges: So in the New Testament, the Epistle to the Hebrews, hath not the name of its Authour: But these are few only in respect of those, whose Authours are known. All the Pro∣phets begin their Prophecies with their Names, and the Authority they have by God, that greater faith may be given to what they deliver. If then the Authour of some Books be not known, yet if these Books have all those 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and marks, which other Books have, for their Canonical Authority, then they are to be received as the Word of God. Therefore (I say) a meer Inscription of the Name, without other signs, is not enough: for there are false Gospels, that go under the name of Thomas and Barnabas; yea, there is a third Epistle said to be of Paul to the Corinthians: and Paul's Epistles to Seneca, are mentioned by Austin and Hierom with some respect, though both Papists and Protestants reject them as Apocryphal. We must therefore besides the Name, consider those other Arguments, which prove the Divine Authority of the Scripture, and see whether they be in it, or not. It doth appear that even in Paul's time there were some deceivers, who would counterfeit Letters, as if written by Paul, and set his Name thereunto, to get the more Authority. This he informeth the Thes∣salonians of, 2 Thess. 2. 2. That they should not be shaken in mind by word or let∣ter, as from him, &c. You see there were some, that preached the instant ap∣proach of Christs coming; and they alledged Paul for it, Paul said so, and Page 12Paul wrote so. Hence it is that to prevent such mistakes, he doth so often mention his own hand in writing, The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand, 1 Cor. 16. 21. Gal. 6. 11. Col. 4. 18. 2 Thes. 3. 17. Phil. 1. 9. he put his own hand, as well as his own name to his Epistles.
Secondly, Consider that Paul, and so all other Pen-men of the holy Scri∣pture,*they were not the principal Authours, but instruments used by God, and that not in a general or common way. As when godly men make Ser∣mons, or write Books, but in a peculiar, and extraordinary manner; So that there could not be any mistake or errour. This is witnessed by Paul, 2 Tim. 3. 16. All Scripture is〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, given by inspiration. All Scripture] And although the Books of the Old Testament were it may be then only writ∣ten, yet it holds by proportion, of all that shall afterwards be written. Pe∣ter also confirmeth this, 2 Pet. 1. 21. For the Prophese came not of old time by the will of man, but holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. The whole Word of God then, came not by mens inventions, nei∣ther was it any designe in them, to make such a Canon or Rule for men to walk by; but they were inspired by God both in the speaking and writing of it, so that both for matter and words they were infallibly guided. And therefore, though Chrysostome, and others, do admit of some repugnancy in the holy Writers of the Bible, in matters of lesse moment; and say, That this makes more to prove the Divine Authority of the Bible, because hereby it doth ap∣pear, that they did not all conspire and agree together; yet this is danger∣ous to hold so. For if they might erre in matters of Less moment, why not in greater? Besides the Text saith 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, All Scripture, that is, the whole Scripture in all the parts of it. So that the Bible it's Gods Book, it comes from him, he hath commanded it as a Rule, in which we must search, and by which we are to order our lives. Oh then, with what reverence and re∣spect should we receive it! There we see the mind of God, the will of God, who would not think that there should be nothing done in the Church of God, but what is according to the Bible, the Doctrine of the Bible, the Worship of the Bible, the good Order of the Bible. Yea, that there should be nothing done in Nations, in Cities, in Towns, in Villages, in Families, but what the Bible commands. For that being the Word of God, all Laws, all humane Authority and Power, are to submit to that. And certainly, this is an infinite mercy, That in all things necessary to salvation, we may know the will of God, what he would have us to do. It's not then Paul or Peter, but God himself whose Authority you despise, when you will not obey the com∣mands in their writings; for they are but the Pen-men, or rather those that did dictate it; for Paul had some others sometimes to write his Epistles, as it's thought, Tertius wrote that to the Romans. Therefore because he wrote that to the Galatians with his own hand, he takes notice of it, Gal. 6. 11. that thereby they might be the more earnest against those false teachers, that would bring in the Ceremonial Rites for Justification; yet though the Holy Ghost did thus inspire and direct the holy Writers thereof, both for matter and words, that doth not hinder, but that it was in a sutable way to their Gifts and Parts; Therefore there is a great difference between the Pro∣phet Isaiah's and Amos's Prophesies in respect of the style, and so of Luke and John.
Hence thirdly, Seeing the Scripture is thus inspired by God, and the Pen-men*were moved by him in the composing of it, this should teach us to rest satisfied in the style and method of it. For the style, because it hath not the florid, and Rhetorical Ornaments, that humane Authours have, therefore some have disdained it. Yea, how many had rather read some quaint Eng∣lish Books, or Poets, or Oratours, rather than that? Oh be ashamed of Page 13 that curiosicy and vanity of thine, if thou art not ashamed to believe in a crucified God, in Christ, though born in a manger! Why of such a Scri∣pture that doth in a plain, but majesticall manner relate these things? They say, where mines of Gold are, there groweth little Grass, and few Flow∣ers. Thus where divine and holy matter is, affectation of words, and hu∣mane eloquence would be a disparagement to it. The Scripture is in a style full of Efficacy and Majesty sutable to God, who speaks it; and therefore the very Heathen could say, That Moses wrote his History like one that was of God. And for the Method also, that some are Historical, some Prophe∣tical, some Moral; all this is from the Wisdome of God. Therefore it's prophane arguing on Bellarmin's part, who saith, That if God had intend∣ed the Bible to be Rule of Matters in Faith, it would have been put into some other mould, like a Catechisme, or some Body of Divinity. But what arrogancy is this, to prescribe to the Spirit of God? And this may satisfie us in that Question made by some, Why Paul did write thus in an Epistolary way? Why, it was by way of Epistles that he wrote, rather than in another manner? For although some give Reasons, as, Because it was the way of the great∣est, and most learned to answer to questions propounded by others. Hence we have the rescripta, and responsa prudentium. Or, because it's a more familiar way, and apter to beget love. Hence Gregory called the whole Bible, An Epistle sent from the Omnipotent God to Mankind. Though (I say) these Reasons be given, yet it's best to acquiesce in the Wisdome of God.
Fourthly, Christians should not willingly enter into those Disputes, which*are apt to be raised about the Authority of the Bible, and how we come to know they are the Books of God. Austin spake fully to this, when he ac∣knowledged that God had taught him, that such were not to be heard, who would say, Unde seis hos libros? &c. How do ye know these Books to be from the Holy Ghost, and that the Authours thereof were guided by him? For this is the first principle of Christianity; We cease to be Christians, if we deny the Authority of them. So that as in all Arts, there are the prima principia, which are not to be questioned, and are indemonstrable; So is the Scipture to Christians. They are like the Sunne, that is visible by its own light. And indeed it would be a vain attempt to undertake such a proof to a Christian; seeing nothing can be apprehended of greater Autho∣rity with him than the Scripture it self. Therefore the people of God should stop their ears against all such Disputes. For it was the Devils way of old to make Eve question the truth of Gods Word. Yet
In the fifth place, Because the importunity of Papists and Heretickes, yea * and sometimes the Devil himself, who doth assault Gods own children; In this very point it is good to consider these particulars:
First, That we have as great a testimony to believe that the Books of the Scripture were written by those holy men to whom they are ascribed, as we have to believe any works were made by humane Authours. That Plato's works were made by Plato, that Tully's works were made by Tully; thus that Paul's Epistles were made by him: Yea, we have farre greater reason, for there were miracles wrought by most of those, who wrote those Books, which could not but confirm their Authority in writing; whereas Plato and Aristotle, these never wrought any miracles. Now then, if there were no more, this is something, That there is not so much reason to doubt of these Books as made by such men, then of any humane Authour that ever wrote. And as thou hast no doubts there, so neither may any be made here. But
Page 14 In the second place, We must go higher, for this is but an Humane te∣stimony, and so only begets an Humane Faith. They introduce Humanity* in stead of Christianity, who affirm, We believe that there was such an one as Jesus of Nazareth, upon no higher motives, then that there was such an one, as King Henry the Eighth. Therefore this principle once granted, as it must be, then it will necessarily follow, That we must receive the matter there∣in, as the word of God, and not of man. For this being their Writings, and they therein declaring, that they are sent of God, and that their Do∣ctrine is of Heaven, it must necessarily follow, That the ultimate motive of our Faith, is that Divine Revelation, and Authority appearing therein. So that if this be cleared in an humane way, that such men there were once, and they wrote those things; as the malicious adversaries who wrote against them do confess, then they therein declaring of whom they come, and from whence inabled, we do no longer receive their works, as we do humane works, but as the word of God. Humane Faith may make way for a Divine Faith; but this Divine Faith cannot be ultimately resolved into it. And if to this
In the next place, you adde, The wonderfull Doctrine informing us about*God, and the way of reconciliation of a sinner with him; as also the purity and holiness of the promises, the excellency of the reward promised, and the terrible threatnings denounced: as also the fulfilling of predictions spoken of many years before; the miracles wrought to confirm it; the Universal Con∣sent of all Christians in those Books, except some doubt for a while about a few, which was afterwards quickly removed; as also the patient Martyrdom of many millions to testifie this truth. These and other things may abun∣dantly quell all those Disputes and atheistical reasonings that may rise in thy heart. But that these may perswade thee, Thou art earnestly to pray for the Spirit of God, which alone worketh a Divine Faith in us, in and through the Word, without which though all those Arguments be spread before us, yet we remain Atheists or Scepticks.
Use. Is this Epistle then of Divine Authority? Is it not so much Paul, as God by Paul? Take heed then of rejecting any duty, or truth contained therein. Among other passages take notice of that, 2 Cor. 4. 15. He that is in Christ is a new creature; old things are passed away, all things are be∣come new. If this be received as a Divine Truth, then what will become of you, who yet lie in your old lusts and sinnes? Is this Gods Word? Oh tremble then, thou that hast thy old rags upon thee! None is in Christ, but a new creature: Is not this place enough to convert the whole Congregati∣on? Do ye need any more to cast off all your former impieties? But how long shall we complain, Who believeth Gods word?