Is a word derived from the Latin scriptura, and in its original sense is of the same import with writing, signifying “any thing written.” It is, however, commonly used to denote the writings of the Old and New Testaments, which are called sometimes the Scriptures, sometimes the sacred or holy Scriptures, and sometimes canonical Scriptures. These books are called the Scriptures by way of eminence, as they are the most important of all writings.–They are said to be holy or sacred on account of the sacred doctrines which they teach; and they are termed canonical, because, when their number and authenticity were ascertained, their names were inserted in ecclesiastical canons, to distinguish them from other books, which, being of no authority, were kept out of sight, and therefore styled apocryphal.
Among other arguments for the divine authority of the Scriptures, the following may be considered as worthy of our attention:
“1. The sacred penmen, the prophets and apostles, were holy, excellent men, and would not–artless, illiterate men, and therefore could not, lay the horrible scheme of deluding mankind. The hope of gain did not influence them, for they were self-denying men, that left all to follow a Master who had not where to lay his head; and whose grand initiating maxim was, Except a man forsake all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.–They were so disinterested, that they secured nothing on earth but hunger and nakedness, stocks and prisons, racks and tortures; which, indeed, was all that they could or did expect, in consequence of Christ’s express declarations. Neither was a desire of honour the motive of their actions; for their Lord himself was treated with the utmost contempt, and had more than once assured them that they should certainly share the same fate: above working as mechanics for a coarse maintenance; and so little desirous of human regard, that they exposed to the world the meanness of their birth and occupations, their great ignorance and scandalous falls. Add to this that they were so many, and lived at such distance of time and place from each other, that, had they been impostors, it would have been impracticable for them to contrive and carry on a forgery without being detected. And, as they neither would nor could deceive the world, so they either could nor would be deceived themselves; for they were days, months, and years, eye and ear-witnesses of the things which they relate; and, when they had not the fullest evidence of important facts, they insisted upon new proofs, and even upon sensible demonstrations; as, for instance, Thomas, in the matter of our Lord’s resurrection, John xx. 25; and to leave us no room to question their sincerity, most of them joyfully sealed the truth of their doctrines with their own blood. Did so many and such marks of veracity ever meet in any other authors?
“2. But even while they lived, they confirmed their testimony by a variety of miracles wrought in divers places, and for a number of years, sometimes before thousands of their enemies, as the miracles of Christ and his disciples; sometimes before hundreds of thousands, as those of Moses.
“3. Reason itself dictates, that nothing but the plainest matter of fact could induce so many thousands of prejudiced and persecuting Jews to embrace the humbling self-denying doctrine of the cross, which they so much despised and abhorred. Nothing but the clearest evidence arising from undoubted truth could make multitudes of lawless, luxurious heathens receive, follow, and transmit to posterity, the doctrine and writings of the apostles; expecially at a time when the vanity of their pretensions to miracles and the gift of tongues, could be so easily discovered, had they been impostors; and when the profession of Christianity exposed persons of all ranks to the greatest contempt and most imminent danger.
“4. When the authenticity of the miracles was attested by thousands of living witnesses, religious rites were instituted and performed by hundreds of thousands, agreeable to Scripture injunctions, in order to perpetuate that authenticity: and these solemn ceremonies have ever since been kept up in all parts of the world; the Passover by the Jews, in remembrance of Moses’s miracles in Egypt; and the Eucharist by Christians, as a memorial of Christ’s death, and the miracles that accompanied it, some of which are recorded by Phlegon the Trallian, an heathen historian.
“5. The Scriptures have not only the external sanction of miracles, but the eternal stamp of the omniscient God by a variety of prophecies, some of which have already been most exactly confirmed by the event predicted.
“6. The scattered, despised people, the Jews, the irreconcileable enemies of the Christians, keep with amazing care the Old Testament, full of the prophetic history of Jesus Christ, and by that means afford the world a striking proof that the New Testament is true; and Christians, in their turn, show that the Old Testament is abundantly confirmed and explained by the New.
“7. To say nothing of the harmony, venerable antiquity, and wonderful preservation of those books, some of which are by far the most ancient in the world; to pass over the inimitable simplicity and true sublimity of their style; the testimony of the fathers and the primitive Christians; they carry with them such characters of truth, as command the respect of every unprejudiced reader.
“They open to us the mystery of the creation; the nature of God, angels, and man; the immortality of the soul; the end for which we were made; the origin and connexion of moral and natural evil; the vanity of this world, and the glory of the next. There we see inspired shepherds, tradesmen, and fishermen, surpassing as much the greatest philosophers, as these did the herd of mankind, both in meekness of wisdom and sublimity of doctrine.–There we admire the purest morality in the world, agreeable to the dictates of sound reason, confirmed by the witness which God has placed for himself in our breast, and exemplified in the lives of men of like passions with ourselves.–There we discover a vein of ecclesiastical history and theological truth consistently running through a collection of sixty-six different books, wtitten by various authors, in different languages, during the space of above 1500 years.–There we find, as in a deep and pure spring, all the genuine drops and streams of spiritual knowledge which can possibly be met within the largest libraries.–There the workings of the human heart are described in a manner that demonstrate the inspiration of the Searcher of hearts.–There we have a particular account of all our spiritual maladies, with their various symptoms, and the method of a certain cure; a cure that has been witnessed by multitudes of martyrs and departed saints, and is now enjoyed by thousands of good men, who would account it an honour to seal the truth of the Scriptures with their own blood.– There you meet with the noblest strains of penitential and joyous devotion,adapted to the dispositions and states of all travellers to Sion.–And there you read those awful threatenings and cheering promises which are daily fulfilled in the consciences of men, to the admiration of believers, and the astonishment of attentive infidels.
8. The wonderful efficacy of the Scriptures is another proof that they are of God. When they are faithfully opened by his ministers, and powerfully applied by his Spirit, they wound and heal, they kill and make alive; they alarm the careless, direct the lost, support the tempted, strengthen the weak, comfort mourners, and nourish pious souls.
9. To conclude: It is exceedingly remarkable, that the more humble and holy people are, the more they read, admire, and value the Scriptures: and, on the contrary, the more self-conceited, worldly- minded, and wicked, the more they neglect, despise, and asperse them.
As for the objections which are raised against their perspicuity and consistency, those who are both pious and learned, know that they are generally founded on prepossession, and the want of understanding in spiritual things; or on our ignorance of several customs, idioms, and circumstances, which were perfectly known when those books were written. Frequently, also, the immaterial error arises merely from a wrong punctuation, or a mistake of copiers, printers, or translators; as the daily discoveries of pious critics, of ingenious confessions of unprejudiced enquirers, abundantly prove.”
To understand the Scriptures, says Dr. Campbell, we should, 1. Get acquainted with each writer’s style.–2. Inquire carefully into the character, the situation, and the office of the writer; the time, the place, the occasion of his writing; and the people for whose immediate use he originally intended his work.–3. Consider the principal scope of the book, and the particulars chiefly observable in the method by which the writer has purposed to execute his design.–4. Where the phrase is obscure, the context
must be consulted. This, however, will not always answer.–5. If it do not, consider whether the phrase be any of the writer’s peculiarities: if so, it must be inquired what is the acceptation in which he employs it in other places.–6. If this be not sufficient, recourse should be had to the parallel passages, if there be any such, in the other sacred writers.–7. If this throws no light, consult the New Testament and the Septuagint, where the word may be used.–8. If the term be only once used in Scripture, then recur to the ordinary acceptation of the term in classical authors.–9. Sometimes reference may be had to the fathers.– 10. The ancient versions, as well as modern scholiasts, annotators, and translators, may be consulted.– 11. The analogy of faith, and the etymology of the word, must be used with caution.
Above all, let the reader unite prayer with his endeavours, that his understanding may be illuminated, and his heart impressed with the great truths which the sacred Scriptures contain.
As to the public reading of the Scriptures, it may be remarked, that this is a very laudable and necessary practice. “One circumstance,” as a writer observes, “why this should be attended to in congregations is, that numbers of the hearers, in many places, cannot read them themselves, and not a few of them never hear them read in the families where they reside. It is strange that this has not long ago struck every person of the least reflection in all our churches, and especially the ministers, as a most conclusive and irresistible argument for the adoption of this practice.
“It surely would be better to abridge the preaching and singing, and even the prayers, to one half of their length or more, than to neglect the public reading of the Scriptures. Let these things, therefore, be daly considered, together with the following reasons and observations, and let the reader judge and determine the case, or the matter, for himself.
“Remember that God no sooner caused any part of his will, or word, to be written, than he also commanded the same to be read, not only in the family, but also in the congregation, and that even when all Israel were assembled together (the men, women, and children, and even the strangers that were within their gates;) and the end was, that they might hear, and that they might learn, and fear the Lord their God, and observe to do all the words of his law, Deut. 31:12.
“Afterward, when synagogues were erected in the land of Israel, that the people might every Sabbath meet to worship God, it is well known that the public reading of the Scripture was a main part of the service there performed: so much so, that no less than three-fourths of the time ws generally employed, it seems, in reading and expounding the Scriptures. Even the prayers and songs used on those occasions appear to have been all subservient to that particular and principal employment or service, the reading of the law.
“This work, or practice, of reading the Scripture in the congregation, is warranted, and recommended in the New Testament, as well as in the Old. As Christians, it is fit and necessary that we should first of all look unto Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith. His example, as well as his precepts, is full of precious and most important instruction; and it is a remarkable circumstance, which ought never to be forgotten, that he began his public ministry, in the synagogue of Nazareth, by reading a portion of Scripture out of the book of the prophet Isaiah; Luke 4:15.–19. This alone, one would think, might be deemed quite sufficient to justify the practice among his disciples through all succeeding ages, and even inspire them with zeal for its constant observance.
“The apostle Paul, in pointing out to Timothy his ministerial duties, particularly mentions reading, 1 Tim. 4:13. Give attendance (says he) to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine, evidently distinguishing reading as one of the public duties incumbent upon Timothy. there can be no reason for separating these three, as if the former was only a private duty, and the others public ones; the most natural and consistent idea is, that they were all three public duties; and that the reading here spoken of, was no other than the reading of the Scriptures in those Christian assemblies where Timothy was concerned, and which the apostle would have him by no means to neglect. If the public reading of the Scriptures was so necessary and important in those religious assemblies which had Timothy for their minister, how much more must it be in our assemblies, and even in those which enjoy the labours of our most able and eminent ministers!”
Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.