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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER X. THE CANON IN THE CONFESSION OF DIFFERENT CHURCHES.

The Canon Of The Bible by Samuel Davidson

CHAPTER X. THE CANON IN THE CONFESSION OF DIFFERENT CHURCHES.

The second Helvetic Confession (A.D.1566) speaks of the apocryphal books of the Old Testament as those which the ancients wished to be read in the churches, but not as authoritative in matters of faith.(375)

The Gallic Confession (A.D.1559) makes a distinction between canonical and other books, the former being the rule and norm of faith, not only by the consent of the Church, but much more by the testimony and intrinsic persuasion of the Spirit, by whose suggestions we are taught to distinguish them from other ecclesiastical books, which, though useful, are not of the kind that any article of faith can be constituted by them.(376)

The Belgic Confession (A.D.1561) makes a distinction between the sacred and apocryphal books. The latter may be read by the Church, but no doctrine can be derived from them. In the list of New Testament books given there are fourteen epistles of Paul.(377)

The canon of the Waldenses must have coincided at first with that of the Roman Church; for the Dublin MS. containing the New Testament has attached to it the Book of Wisdom and the first twenty-three chapters of Sirach; while the Zurich codex of the New Testament has marginal references to the Apocrypha; to Judith, Tobit, 4 Esdras, Wisdom, Sirach, and Susanna. The Nobla Leyczon containing a brief narration of the contents of the Old and New Testaments confirms this opinion. It opposes, however, the old law to the new, making them antagonistic. The historical document containing the articles of |The Union of the Valleys,| A.D.1571, separates indeed the canonical and apocryphal books, purporting to be founded on a Confession of Faith as old as A.D.1120; but the latter is mythical, as appears from a comparison of it with the epistle which the legates of the Waldensians gave to OEcolampadius. The articles of that |Union| are copied from Morel's account of his transactions with OEcolampadius and Bucer in 1530. The literature of this people was altered by Hussite influences and the Reformation; so that though differing little from the Romanists at first except in ecclesiastical discipline, they diverged widely afterwards by adopting the Protestant canon and doctrines.(378) Hence, the Confession issued in 1655 enumerates as Holy Scripture nothing but the Jewish Palestinian canon, and the usual books of the New Testament.(379)

The canon of the Anglican Church (1562), given in the sixth article of religion, defines holy Scripture to be |those canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.| After giving the names and number of the canonical books, the article prefaces the apocryphal ones with, |And the other books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine? Such are these following,| &c., &c. At the end it is stated that |all the books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive and account them canonical.| The article is ambiguous. If the canonical books enumerated are those meant in the phrase |of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church,| the statement is incorrect. If a distinction is implied between the canonical books and such canonical ones as have never been doubted in the Church, the meaning is obscure. In either case the language is not explicit.

The Scottish or Westminster Confession of Faith gives a list of all the books of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God written; adding that those called the apocrypha are not of divine inspiration, and no part of the canon, -- of no authority in the Church, nor to be approved or made use of otherwise than human writings.

The Roman Catholic canon was finally determined at the Council of Trent (1546), which adopted all the books in the Vulgate as sacred and canonical, without distinction. Third and fourth Esdras, third Maccabees, and the prayer of Manasseh were not included; though the first and last appeared in the original Clementine edition of 1592, but apart from the canonical books. They are not in the Sixtine edition of 1590.(380) A council at Florence in 1441 had set the example which was followed at Trent. But this stringent decree did not prevent individual Catholics from making a distinction between the books, in assuming a first and second canon or proto-canonical and deutero-canonical books; as did Sixtis Senensis, B. Lamy, Anton a matre Dei, Jahn, and others; though it is hardly consistent with orthodox Catholicism or the view of those who passed the decree. When the writings are said to be of different authority -- some more, others less -- the intent of the council is violated. The Vatican council (1870) confirmed the Tridentine decree respecting the canon.

The Greek Church, after several ineffectual attempts to uphold the old distinction between the canonical and ecclesiastical books by Metrophanes Critopulus patriarch of Alexandria in 1625, and Cyril Lucaris patriarch of Constantinople (1638 A.D.),(381) came to the same decision with the Romish, and canonized all the apocrypha. This was done at a Jerusalem synod under Dositheus in 1672.

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