The Scripture, or the written word of God, being in itself every way absolutely right and perfect, and appointed by him (God) to be the rule or canon of the church’s faith and obedience, requiring, trying, regulating, judging wholly and absolutely of them, is come by way of eminence, to be called “canonical” or regular: as the book wherein it is called “The Bible”, though in itself that be the common name of all books. Thus Aquinas himself confesseth the Scripture is called canonical because it is the rule of our understanding in the things of God; and such a rule it is as hath authority over the consciences of men, to bind them unto faith and obedience, because of its being given of God by inspiration for that purpose. When unto the original of divine inspiration this end also is added, that it is designed by the Holy Ghost for the catholic, standing use and instruction of the church.
The Authority of Scripture:
They defile themselves with the impiety of sacrilege who endeavour to bring in, as it were, divers degrees into the body of the Scriptures; for by the impious discretion of human folly, they would cast the one voice of the Holy Ghost into various forms of unequal authority. As, then, whatever difference there may be as to the subject-matter, manner of writing, and present usefulness, between any of the books that, being written by divine inspiration, are given out for the church’s rule, they are all equal as to the canonical authority.
The Depth of Scripture:
In answer to those who alleged that the authority of some portions of Scripture was dubious: How vain, unjust, arrogant, and presumptuous, this supposition is, needs little labour to demonstrate. The understandings of men are a very sorry measure of the truth, with the whole sense and intendment of the Holy Ghost in every place of Scripture. Nay, it may much more rationally be supposed, that though we all know enough of the mind and will of God in the whole Scripture to guide and regulate our faith and obedience, yet that we are rather ignorant of his utmost intention in any place than that we know it in all. There is a depth and breadth in every word of God, because his, which we are not able to fathom and compass to the utmost; it being enough for us that we may infallibly apprehend so much of his mind and will as is indispensably necessary for us to the obedience that he requires at our hands. A humble, reverential consideration of all, indeed almost any, of the testimonies alleged in the New Testament out of the Old, is sufficient to evince the truth of this consideration. “We know but in part, and we prophesy in part” (1Corithians 13:9). How much is it that we know not! Or, as Job speaks, “How small is the word that we understand of God” (Job 26:14)!
The Distinctiveness of Scripture:
The whole Scripture…a revelation of the will of God as to the faith and obedience of the church; and this holy, heavenly, and divine, answering the wisdom, truth, and sovereignty, of him from whom it doth proceed. Hence they are called “the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2), or the infallible revelation of his will; and “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68), for that, in the name of God, they treat about. And Paul tells us that the argument of the gospel is “wisdom”, but “not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of it”, who are destroyed, done away, and made useless by it, that is, the chief leaders of human wisdom and science (1.Corithians 2:6), but it is, “the mysterious wisdom of God, that was hidden from them” (verse 7); Things of his own mere revelation from his sovereign will and pleasure, with a stamp and impress of his goodness and wisdom upon them, quite of another nature than anything that the choicest wisdom of the princes of this world can reach or attain unto….it treats of things which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have they”, by any natural means, ever “entered into the heart of man”, and that in absolute harmony with all other unquestionable revelations of the will of God.
The Design, End and Aim of Scripture:
The whole Scripture hath an especial end….This end, supremely and absolutely, is the glory of that God who is the author of it…..It is the revelation of himself that is intended, of his mind and will, that he may be glorified…..Particularly, the demonstration of this glory of God in and by Jesus Christ is aimed at……The end of the Scripture is the glory of God in Christ.
The Power of the Scripture:
This efficacy and power is in the whole word of God “is not my word like as a fire? Saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29)? That is, “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). As it hath an ‘authority’ over men (Matthew 7:29), so it hath a “powerful efficacy” in and towards them (Acts 20:32; James 1:21); yea, it is the “power of God” himself for its proper end (Romans 1.16); and therefore said to be accompanied by the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1Corinthians 2:4), a demonstration, drawing the soul to consent beyond the efficacy of rational or logical arguments.
Dr John Owen