Westminster Confession Of Faith: With Introduction And Notes (1881)

by John Macpherson

Chapter I | Section iv

The ultimate authority of Holy Scripture is declared to rest upon God Himself, from whom it comes. His Spirit inspires it, and this renders it infallible. Romanists, however, and Romanising Anglicans attribute to human testimony either that of the church or that of patristic tradition what our Confession, in consistency with the whole Protestant type of doctrine, attributes only to the testimony of God Himself. Men sometimes talk as if they had a vague notion of the early Fathers having had some inferior species of inspiration, some peculiar divine guidance differing from that of the Apostles and Evangelists in degree rather than in kind, and somehow entitling their views and statements to more deference and respect than those of ordinary men. All notions of this sort are utterly baseless, and should be carefully rejected. Authority, properly so called, can be rightly based only upon inspiration; and inspiration is the guidance of the Spirit of God, infallibly securing against all error. The Fathers, individually or collectively, were not inspired; they therefore possess no authority whatever; and their statements must be estimated and treated just as those of any other ordinary men. Most of them have given interpretations of important scriptural statements which no man now receives; many of them have erred and have contradicted themselves and each other in stating the doctrines of the Bible.

Christ receives not testimony from man. Hence the Scripture as the product of the Spirit's inspiration gives testimony to the believer and lends authority to the church, instead of receiving from the church its authority. Protestantism rightly understands the words of our Lord to Peter “upon this rock I will build my church” as referring not to the individual addressed, but to the truth which that individual, through the Spirit's influence, had recognized. According, therefore, to this fair interpretation of the locus classicus, the establishment of the authority of the church is made to depend upon the Word. The written Word, when understood in the spirit of Peter's highly commended confession, must be regarded as the reflex of the living Word.

Edited by Michael Bremmer

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