THE writings of the prophets, apostles and evangelists, composed under divine inspiration, are called the Holy Scriptures. 2 Sam. xxiii. 2. "the Spirit of Jehovah spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." Matt. xxii. 43. "how then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying —?" 2 Cor. xiii. 3. "since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me." 2 Tim. iii. 16. "all scripture is given by inspiration of God."

With regard to the question, what books of the Old and New Testament are to be considered as canonical, that is to say, as the genuine writings of the prophets, apostles, and evangelists, there is little or no difference of opinion among the orthodox, as may be seen in the common editions of the Bible.

The books usually subjoined to these under the name of apocryphal, are by no means of equal authority with the canonical, neither can they be adduced as evidence in matters of faith.

The reasons for their rejection are, first, because, although written under the old dispensation, they are not in the Hebrew language, which they would un <160> doubtedly be if genuine; for as the Gentiles were not then called, and the church consisted wholly of Hebrews, Rom. iii. 2. ix. 4. it would have been preposterous to write in the language of a people who had no concern in the things discoursed of. Secondly, their authority is deservedly called in question, inasmuch as they are never quoted in the New Testament. Lastly, they contain much that is at variance with the acknowledged parts of Scripture, besides some things fabulous, low, trifling, and contrary to true religion and wisdom.

The Holy Scriptures were not written for occasional purposes only, as is the doctrine of the Papists, but for the use of the church throughout all ages, as well under the gospel as under the law. Exod. xxxiv. 27. "write thou these words; for after the tenour of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel." Deut. xxxi. 19. "write ye this song for you... that this song may be a witness for me." Isai. viii. 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." xxx. 8. "write it... that it may be for the time to come forever and ever." Habak. ii. 2. "write... for the vision is yet for an appointed time." Luke xvi. 29. "they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." John v. 39. "search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life." Rom. xv. 4. "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." 1 Cor. x. 11. "they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."


Almost every thing advanced in the New Testament is proved by citations from the Old. The use of the New Testament writings themselves is declared John xx. 31. "these are written that ye might believe" —. Eph. ii. 20. "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets." Philipp. iii. 1. "to write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe." 1 Thess. v. 27. "I charge you by the Lord, that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren." 1 Tim. iii. 15. "-if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God." 2 Tim. iii. 15-17. "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: all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." It is true that the Scriptures which Timothy is here said to have known from a child, and which were of themselves "able to make him wise unto salvation through faith in Christ," were probably those of the Old Testament alone, since no part of the New Testament appears to have existed during the infancy of Timothy: the same is, however, predicated of the whole of Scripture in the succeeding verse, namely, that it is "profitable for doctrine;" even to such as are already wise and learned, 1 Cor. x. 15. "I speak as unto wise men, judge ye what I say," to men arrived at Christian maturity, Philipp. iii. 15. "let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded," such as Timothy himself, and Titus, to whom Paul wrote; and to the strong in faith, 1 John ii. 14. "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word <162> of God abideth in you." 2 Pet. i. 12, 15. "wherefore 1 will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth: moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance." iii. 15, 16. "even as our beloved brother Paul also, according unto the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you." For although the epistle of Paul here alluded to was more immediately directed to the Romans. Rom. i. 7. 15. Peter in the above passage expressly intimates that it was addressed not to that church alone, but to believers generally. 2 Pet. iii. 1, 2. "this second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance." 1 John ii. 21. "I have not written unto you, because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it." Rev. i. 19. "write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter."

From all these passages it is evident, that the use of the Scriptures is prohibited to no one; but that, on the contrary, they are adapted for the daily hearing or reading of all classes and orders of men;[1] of princess, Deut. xvii. 19. of magistrates, Josh. i. 8. of men of all descriptions, Deut. xxxi. 9-11. 'Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi... and unto all the elders of Israel: and <163> Moses commanded them, saying... Thou shalt read this law before all Israel.' xi. 18-20. "therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart, and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand... and thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thine house." xxix. 29. "those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words —." xxx. 11. "for this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off." 2 Chron. xxxiv. 30. "he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant." Isai. viii. 20. "to the law and to the testimony." Nehem. ix. 3. "they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of Jehovah;" that is, the whole people, as appears from the second verse of the chapter. To the same purpose may be adduced the testimony of a writer whom the opponents of this opinion regard as canonical. 1 Macc. i. 56, 57. "wheresoever was found with any the book of the testament, the king's commandment was that they should put him to death."

The New Testament is still more explicit. Luke x. 26. "what is written in the law? how readest thou?" This was the question of Christ to one of the interpreters of the law, of whom there were many at that time, Pharisees and others, confessedly neither priests nor Levites; neither was Christ himself, whom we cannot suppose to have been considered as particularly learned in the law, forbidden to expound in the synagogue; much less therefore could it have been unlawful to read the Scriptures at home. xvi. 29. "they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." John v. 39. "search the scriptures." <164> Acts. viii. 28. "he read Esaias the prophet." xvii. 11. "they searched the scriptures daily." xviii. 24. "mighty in the scriptures." 2 Tim. iii. 15. "from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures." Rev. i. 3. "blessed is he that readeth."

The Scriptures, therefore, partly by reason of their own simplicity, and partly through the divine illumination, are plain and perspicuous in all things necessary to salvation, and adapted to the instruction even of the most unlearned, through the medium of diligent and constant reading.[2] Psal. xix. 7. "the law of Jehovah is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple." cxix. 105. "thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." v. 130. "the entrance of thy words giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple;" whence it follows that the liberty of investigating Scripture thoroughly is granted to all. v. 18. "open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." Luke xxiv. 45. "then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures." Acts xviii. 28. "he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ." 2 Pet. i. 20, 21. "no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation; for the prophecy came not in the old time by <165> the will of man;" neither therefore is it to be interpreted by the judgment of men, that is, by our own unassisted judgment, but by means of that Holy Spirit promised to all believers.[3] Hence the gift of prophecy, mentioned 1 Cor. i. 4.

If then the Scriptures be in themselves so perspicuous, and sufficient of themselves to make men wise unto salvation through faith, and that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, through what infatuation is it, that even Protestant divines persist in darkening the most momentous truths of religion by intricate metaphysical comments,[4] on the plea that such explanation is necessary; stringing together all the useless technicalities and empty distinctions of scholastic barbarism, for the purpose of elucidating those Scriptures, which they are continually extolling as models of plainness? As <166> if Scripture, which possesses in itself the clearest light, and is sufficient for its own explanation, especially in matters of faith and holiness, required to have the simplicity of its divine truths more fully developed, and placed in a more distinct view, by illustrations drawn from the abstrusest of human sciences, falsely so called.

It is only to those who perish that the Scriptures are obscure, especially in things necessary for salvation. Luke viii. 10. "unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand." 1 Cor. i. 18. "the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God." ii. 14. "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." 2 Cor. iv. 2, 3. "by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God: but if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." 2 Pet. iii. 16. speaking of the epistles of Paul, "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."

No passage of Scripture is to be interpreted in more than one sense; in the Old Testament, however, this sense is sometimes a compound of the historical and typical, as in Hosea xi. 1. compared with Matt. ii. 15. "out of Egypt have I called my son," which may be explained in a double sense, as referring partly to the people of Israel, and partly to Christ in his infancy.


The custom of interpreting Scripture in the church is mentioned Nehem. viii. 8, 9. "they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading: and Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people —." 2 Chron. xvii. 9. "they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of Jehovah with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people." Luke iv. 17. "then was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias." 1 Cor. xiv. 1. "desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy."

The requisites for the public interpretation of Scripture have been laid down by divines with much attention to usefulness, although they have not been observed with equal fidelity. They consist in knowledge of languages; inspection of the originals; examination of the context; care in distinguishing between literal and figurative expressions; consideration of cause and circumstance, of antecedents and consequents; mutual comparison of texts; and regard to the analogy of faith. Attention must also be paid to the frequent anomales of syntax; as for example, where the relative does not refer to the immediate antecedent, but to the principal word in the sentence, though more remote. See 2 Kings. xvi. 2. compared with v. 1. "twenty years old was Ahaz when he began to reign," that is, Jotham the father of Ahaz, as appears by considering the age at which Hezekiah began his reign, xviii. 2. See also 2 Chron. xxxvi. 9. "when he began to reign," compared with 2 Kings xxiv. 8. Psal. xcix. 6. "Moses and Aaron among his priests." John viii. 44. "he is a liar and the father of it." Last <168> ly, no inferences from the text are to be admitted, but such as follow necessarily and plainly from the words themselves; lest we should be constrained to receive what is not written for what is written, the shadow for the substance, the fallacies of human reasoning for the doctrines of God: for it is by the declarations of Scripture, and not by the conclusions of the schools, that our consciences are bound.

Every believer has a right to interpret the Scriptures for himself, inasmuch as he has the Spirit for his guide, and the mind of Christ is in him;[5] nay, the expositions of the public interpreter can be of no use to him, except so far as they are confirmed by his own conscience. More will be added on this subject in the next chapter, which treats of the members of particular churches. The right of public interpretation for the benefit of others is possessed by all whom God has appointed apostles, or prophets, or evangelists, or pastors, or teachers, 1 Cor. xii. 8, 9. Eph. iv. 11-13. "that is, by all who are endowed with the gift of teaching, "every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven," Matt. xiii. 52. not by those whose sole commission is derived from human authority, or academical appointment: of whom it may too often be said in the words of Scripture, "woe unto you, lawyers, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye enter not yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." Luke xi. 52.

It is not therefore within the province of any visible church, much less of the civil magistrate, to <169> impose their own interpretations on us as laws, or as binding on the conscience; in other words, as matter of implicit faith.[6]

If however there be any difference among professed believers as to the sense of Scripture, it is their duty to tolerate such difference in each other, until God shall have revealed the truth to all. Philipp. iii. 15, 16. "let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you: nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." Rom. xiv. 4. "to his own master he standeth or falleth: yea, he shall be holden up."

The rule and canon of faith, therefore, is Scripture alone.[7] Psal. xix. 9. "the judgments of Jehovah are true and righteous altogether." Scripture is the sole judge of controversies; or rather, every man is to decide for himself through its aid, under the guidance of the Spirit of God. For they who, on the authority of 1 Tim. iii. 15. "the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," claim for the visible church, however defined, the supreme right of interpreting Scripture and determining religious controversies, are confuted by a comparison of the words in question with the former part of the verse, and with that which precedes. What Paul here writes to Timothy, and which is intended to have the force <170> of Scripture with him, is a direction by which he may know how he ought to behave himself in the house of God which is the church; that is, in any assembly of believers. It was not therefore the house of God, or the church, which was to be a rule to him that he might know, but the Scripture which he had received from the hands of Paul. The church indeed is, or rather ought to be, (for it is not always such in fact) the pillar and ground, that is the guardian, and repository, and support of the truth: even where it is all this, however, it is not on that account to be considered as the rule or arbiter of truth and the Scripture; inasmuch as the house of God is not a rule to itself, but receives its rule from the word of God, which it is bound, at least, to observe scrupulously. Besides, the writings of the prophets and apostles, in other words the Scriptures themselves are said to be the foundation of the church: Eph. ii. 20. "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." Now the church cannot be the rule or arbiter of that on which it is itself founded.

That some of the instructions of the apostles to the churches where not committed to writing, or that, if written, they have not come down to us, seems probable from 2 John 12. "having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink." See also 3 John 13. Col. iv. 16. "that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." Seeing then that the lost particulars cannot be supposed to have contained anything necessary to salvation, but only matters profitable for doctrine, they are either to be collected from other passages of Scripture, or, if it be doubtful <171> whether this is possible, they are to be supplied, not by the decrees of popes or councils, much less by the edicts of magistrates, but by the same Spirit which originally dictated them, enlightening us inwardly through the medium of faith and love. John xvi. 12, 13. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all truth." So also Peter admonishes us, 2 Eph. i. 19. "to take heed to the sure word of prophecy, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts," that is to say, the light of the gospel, which is not to be sought in written records alone, but in the heart. 2 Cor. iii. 3. "ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." Eph. vi. 17. "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." 1 John ii. 20. "ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." v. 27. "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." Thus when the Corinthians had made inquiry of Paul on certain subjects with regard to which there was no specific direction in Scripture, he answers them according to the natural dictates of Christianity, and the unction of the Spirit which he had received: 1 Cor. vii. 12. "to the rest speak I, not the Lord." v. 25. "concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful: I suppose therefore —." v. 40. "she is happier if she so abide <172> alter my judgment; and I think also that I have the Spirit of God;" whence he reminds them that they are also able to give answer to themselves in such questions, v. 15. "a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases." v. 36. "if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not."

Under the gospel we possess, as it were, a twofold Scripture; one external, which is the written word, and the other internal, which is the Holy Spirit, written in the hearts of believers, according to the promise of God, and with the intent that it should by no means be neglected; as was shown above, chap, xxvii, on the gospel. Isai. lix. 21. "as for me, this is my covenant with them, saith Jehovah; my Spirit which 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 Jehovah, from henceforth and for ever." See also Jer. xxxi. 33, 34. Acts v. 32. "we are his witnesses of those things, and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him." 1 Cor. ii. 12. "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."

Hence, although the external ground which we possess for our belief at the present day in the written word is highly important, and, in most instances at least, prior in point of reception, that which is internal, and the peculiar possession of each believer, is far superior to all, namely, the Spirit itself.


For the external Scripture, or written word, particularly of the New Testament (to say nothing of spurious books, with regard to which the apostle has long since cautioned us, 2 Thess. ii. 2. "that ye be not shaken in mind... by letter as from us —;" iii. 17. "the salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle —" : ) the written word, I say, of the New Testament, has been liable to frequent corruption, and in some instances has been corrupted, through the number, and occasionally the bad faith of those by whom it has been handed down, the variety and discrepancy of the original manuscripts, and the additional diversity produced by subsequent transcripts and printed editions. But the Spirit which leads to truth cannot be corrupted, neither is it easy to deceive a man who is really spiritual: 1 Cor. ii. 15, 16. "he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man: for who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ." xii. 10. "to another, discerning of spirits." An instance of a corrupted text pervading nearly all the manuscripts occurs in Matt. xxvii. 9. where a quotation is attributed to Jeremiah, which belongs only to Zechariah;[8] and similar in stances are to be found in almost every page of Erasmus, Beza, and other editors of the New Testament.

Previously to the Babylonish captivity, the law of Moses was preserved in the sacred repository of the ark of the covenant: after that event, it was committed to the trust and guardianship of the priests and prophets, as Ezra, Zechariah, Malachi, and other men <174> taught of God. There can be no doubt that these handed down the sacred volumes in an uncorrupted state to be preserved in the temple by the priests their successors, who were in all ages most scrupulous in preventing alterations, and who had themselves no grounds of suspicion to induce them to make any change. With regard to the remaining books, particularly the historical, although it be uncertain by whom and at what time they were written, and although they appear sometimes to contradict themselves on points of chronology, few or none have ever questioned the integrity of their doctrinal parts. The New Testament, on the contrary, has come down to us (as before observed) through the hands of a multitude of persons, subject to various temptations; nor have we in any instance the original copy in the author's hand-writing, by which to correct the errors of the others. Hence Erasmus, Beza, and other learned men, have edited from the different manuscripts what in their judgment appeared most likely to be the authentic readings. It is difficult to conjecture the purpose of Providence in committing the writings of the New Testament to such uncertain and variable guardianship, unless it were to teach us by this very circumstance that the Spirit which is given to us is a more certain guide than Scripture, whom therefore, it is our duty to follow.

For with regard to the visible church, which is also proposed as a criterion of faith, it is evident that, since the ascension of Christ, the pillar and ground of the truth has not uniformly been the church, but the hearts of believers, which are properly "the house and church of the living God," 1 Tim. iii. 15. Certain it is, that <175> the editors and interpreters of the New Testament (which is the chief authority for our faith) are accustomed to judge of the integrity of the text, not by its agreement with the visible church, but by the number and integrity of the manuscripts. Hence, where the manuscripts differ, the editors must necessarily be at a loss what to consider as the genuine word of God; as in the story of the woman taken in adultery,[9] and some other passages.

The process of our belief in the Scriptures is, however, as follows: we set out with a general belief in their authenticity, founded on the testimony either of the visible church, or of the existing manuscripts; afterwards, by an inverse process, the authority of the church itself, and of the different books as contained in the manuscripts, are confirmed by the internal evidence implied in the uniform tenor of Scripture, considered as a whole; and, lastly, the truth of the entire volume is established by the inward persuasion of the Spirit working in the hearts of individual believers. So the belief of the Samaritans in Christ, though founded in the first instance on the word of the woman, derived its permanent establishment, less from her saying, than from the presence and discourses of Christ himself, John iv. 42.[10] Thus, even on the authority <176> of Scripture itself, every thing is to be finally referred to the Spirit and the unwritten word.

Hence it follows, that when an acquiescence in human opinions or an obedience to human authority in matters of religion is exacted, in the name either of the church or of the Christian magistrate, from those who are themselves led individually by the Spirit of God, this is in effect to impose a yoke, not on man, but on the Holy Spirit itself.[11] Certainly, if the apostles themselves, in a council governed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, determined that even the divinely instituted law was a yoke from which believers ought to be exempt. Acts xv. 10, 19, 28. "why tempt ye God?" much less is any modern church, which cannot allege a similar claim to the presence of the Spirit, and least of all is the magistrate entitled to impose on believers a creed no where found in Scripture, or which is merely inferred from thence by human reasonings, carrying with them no certain conviction.


An acquiescence in human traditions, whether written or unwritten, is expressly prohibited.[12] Deut. iv. 2. "ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it." Prov. xxx. 6. "add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Rev. xxii. 18, 19. "if any man shall add unto these things, &c...... and if any man shall take away from the words," &c. Isai. xxix. 13, 14. "their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men." See also Matt. xv. 3, 9. Gal. i. 8. "though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you —." 1 Tim. vi. 3. "if any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words." Tit. i. 4. "not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men, that turn from the truth." 1 Tim. i. 4. "neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith." Col. ii. 8. "beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."

Neither can we trust implicitly in matters of this nature to the opinions of our forefathers, or of antiquity.[13] <178> 2 Chron. xxix. 6. "our fathers have trespassed." Psal. lxxviii. 8, &c. "that they might not be as their fathers." Ezek. xx. 18. "walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers." Amos ii. 4. "because they have despised the law of Jehovah, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked." Mal. iii. 7. "even from the days of your fathers ye have gone away from mine ordinances." Eccles. vii. 10. "say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely respecting this." Jeremiah also admonishes the people to ask for the old paths, in order to see where is the good way, and to choose that alone, vi. 16.[14] for in any other sense the argument may be as justly employed to defend the idolatries of the heathen, and the errors of the Pharisees and Samaritans. Jer. xliv. 17. "to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our Kings, and our princes —." Matt. xv. 2, &c. "why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?" where Christ opposes to their tradition the commandment of God, v. 3. "why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" See also Mark vii. 8, 9. John iv. 20. "our fathers worshipped in this mountain."


Even to the venerable name of our mother church itself we are not to attach any undue authority. Hos. ii. 2. "plead with your mother, plead; for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband; let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight:" unless by this expression we understand exclusively the mystical church in heaven; Gal. iv. 26. "Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all."


'The papal antichristian church permits not her laity to read the Bible in their own tongue; our church on the contrary hath proposed it to all men... Neither let the countryman, the tradesman, the lawyer, the physician, the statesman excuse himself by his much business, from the studious reading thereof.' Of true Religion, &c. Prose Works. IV. 266.


'I offer it to the reason of any man, whether he think the knowledge of Christian religion harder than any other art or science to attain. I suppose he will grant that it is far easier, both of itself, and in regard of God's assisting Spirit... Therefore are the Scriptures translated into every vulgar tongue, as being held in main matters of belief and salvation plain and easy to the poorest, and such no less than their teachers have the the Spirit to guide them in all truth, John xiv. 26. xvi. 13.' Considerations on the likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church. Prose Works, III. 372.


.....the truth,

Left only in those written records pure,

Though not but by the Spirit understood. Paradise Lost, XII. 511

..... he, who receives

Light from above, from the fountain of light,

No other doctrine needs, though granted true.

Paradise Regained, IV. 288.

'The study of Scripture, which is the only true theology —.' Considerations on the likeliest Means to remove Hirelings, &c. Prose Works, III. 377.


Considering the language employed in parts of this treatise, Milton more frequently censures the metaphysical divinity than might have been expected. His practice at least, in this as well as in some other points, is not very consistent with his theory. He speaks however in other works in the same slighting manner of the sophistry of the schools. In the following passage it is not impossible that he may allude to the very Treatise which is now for the first time published. 'Somewhere or other, I trust, may be found some wholesome body of divinity, as they call it, without school-terms and metaphysical notions, which have obscured rather than explained our religion, and made it difficult without cause.' Considerations, &c. Prose Works, III. 375.


'Every true Christian, able to give a reason of his faith, hath the word of God before him, the promised Holy Spirit, and the mind of Christ within: 1 Cor. ii. 16.' Treatise of Civil Power, &c. Prose Works, III, 321.


'What Protestant then, who himself maintains the same principles, and disavows all implicit faith, would prosecute, and not rather charitably tolerate such men as these?' Of true Religion, &c. IV. 263.


See the Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes: 'First it cannot be denied —counts all heretics but himself.' Prose Works, III, 320-326.


See Horne's Introduction to the Critical Study of the Scriptures, Vol. II. p. 385. Note 2.


For the authenticity of the passage alluded to John vii. 53. and viii. 1-11. see Whitby and Mill in loco. Selden, Uxor. Heb. III. 11. Simon, Crit. Hist, of the New Testament, I. 13. Michaelis, Part I. Chap. vi. Sect. 11. Against its authenticity, see Beza, Grotius, Wetstein, Hammond and Le Clerc in loco.


'As the Samaritans believed Christ, first for the woman's word, but next and much rather for his own, so we the Scripture: first on the church's word, but afterwards and much more for its own, as the word of God; yea the church itself we believe then for the Scripture.' Treatise Of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes. Prose Works, III. 326.


..... From that pretence

Spiritual laws by carnal power shall force

On every conscience; laws which none shall find

Left them inroll'd, or what the Spirit within

Shall on the heart engrave. What will they then

But force the Spirit of grace itself?...

..... for, on earth,

Who against faith and conscience can be heard Infallible? Paradise Lost, XII. 520.

'With good cause, therefore, it is the general consent of all sound Protestant writers, that neither traditions, councils, nor canons of any visible church, much less edicts of any magistrate or civil session, but the Scripture only, can be the final judge or rule in matters of religion, and that only in the conscience of every Christian to himself.' Treatise of Civil Power, &c. Prose Works, III. 321


'He hath revealed and taught it us in the Holy Scriptures by inspired ministers, and in the gospel by his own Son and his apostles, with strictest command to reject all other traditions or additions whatsoever; according to that of St. Paul, Gal. i. 8. and Deut. iv. 2. Rev. xxii. 18, 19.' Of true Religion, &c. Prose Works, IV. 260.


'If we turn this our discreet and wary usage of them into a blind devotion towards them, and whatsoever we find written by them, we both forsake our own grounds and reasons which led us at first to part from Rome, that is, to hold to the Scriptures against all antiquity.' Of Prelatical Episcopacy. I. 75.


'Remonst. He that said I am the way, said that the old way was the good way. Answ. He bids ask of the old paths, or for the old ways, where or which is the good way; which implies that all old ways are not good, but that the good way is to be searched with diligence among the old ways, which is the thing that we do in the oldest records we have, the gospel.' Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's Defence. Prose Works, I. 177.

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Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

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