Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures

  1. The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule [absolute guide or standard] of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.1 Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, so plainly reveal the goodness, wisdom and power of God as to leave all mankind without excuse, yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary for salvation.2 Therefore it pleased the Lord – at various times and in different ways – to reveal himself, and to declare his will to his church.3 Then, for the better preservation and spread of the truth, and more surely to establish and comfort the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, God committed the same complete revelation to writing. This means that the Holy Scriptures are absolutely necessary, because God’s former ways of revealing his will to his people have now ended.4

1 2Tim 3.15-17; Is 8.20; Lk 16.29, 31; Eph 2.20 2 Rom 1.19-21; Rom 2.14-15; Ps 19.1-3 3 Heb 1.1 4 Prv 22.19-21; Rom 15.4; 2Pt 1.19-20

  1. The Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, is now contained in all the books of the Old and New Testament. These are as follows:

The Old Testament

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

The New Testament

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s epistle to the Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, to Titus, to Philemon, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the epistle of James, the first and second epistles of Peter, the first, second, and third epistles of John, the epistle of Jude, the Revelation.

All of these are given by the inspiration of God, to be the rule [absolute guide or standard] of faith and life.5

5 2Tim 3.16

  1. The books commonly called Apocrypha were not given by divine inspiration, and are therefore not part of the canon or rule of the Scripture. Therefore, they have no authority in the church of God, nor are they to be approved or made use of in any way that is different from other human writings.6

6 Lk 24.27; Rom 3.2

  1. The authority of the Holy Scripture – for which reason it ought to be believed – does not depend upon the testimony of any man or church, but entirely upon God (who is truth itself), who is its Author. It is therefore to be received because it is the Word of God.7

7 2Pt 1.19-21; 2Tim 3.16; 2Thes 2.13; 1Jn 5.9

  1. We may be motivated and persuaded by the testimony of the church of God to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures. Furthermore, the heavenliness of the content, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the agreement of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full disclosure it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, together with its many other incomparable excellencies and entire perfections, are arguments by which the Bible abundantly demonstrates itself to be the Word of God. However, notwithstanding all this, our full persuasion and assurance of its infallible truth and divine authority is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.8

8 Jn 16.13-14; 1Cor 2.10-12; 1Jn 2.20, 27

  1. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary [logically required or essential] for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily [implicitly and by definition] contained in the Holy Scripture. Nothing is to be added to the Scripture at any time, whether by new revelation of the Spirit or human traditions.9 Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the inward illumination of the Spirit of God is necessary for the saving understanding of those things which are revealed in the Word.10 We also acknowledge that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the church, which are common to [shared by] human actions and societies. These are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian wisdom in accordance with the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.11

9 2Tim 3.15-17; Gal 1.8-9 10 Jn 6.45; 1Cor 2.9-12 11 1Cor 11.13-14; 1Cor 14.26, 40

  1. All things in Scripture are not equally plain in themselves, nor equally clear to all people.12 Nevertheless, those things which must be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly set forth and explained in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the educated but the uneducated may reach a sufficient understanding of them by an appropriate use of ordinary means.13

12 2Pt 3.16 13 Ps 19.7; Ps 119.130

  1. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the ancient people of God)14 and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of its writing was most commonly known to the nations) being directly inspired by God, and kept pure through the ages by his particular care and providence, are therefore authentic. For this reason the church is to make its final appeal to them in all controversies of religion.15 However, because these original languages are not known to all the people of God – who all have a right to and interest in the Scriptures, and who are commanded in the fear of God to read16 and search them17 – they are therefore to be translated into the common language of every nation to which they come,18 in order that the Word of God may dwell richly in each one, so that they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.19

14 Rom 3.2 15 Is 8.20 16 Acts 15.15 17 Jn 5.39 18 1Cor 14.6, 9, 11-12, 24, 28 19 Col 3.16

  1. The infallible rule for the interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself. Therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not multiple [diverse and varied] but single [united and harmonious]), it must be understood by comparison with other passages that speak more clearly.20

20 2Pt 1.20-21; Acts 15.15-16

  1. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be settled, and by which all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, human doctrines, and individual thinkers [private opinions], are to be examined, and in whose judgment we are to rely, can be nothing else but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit. By means of this Scripture, delivered in this way, our faith is finally settled.21

21 Mt 22.29