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 The Principles of Theology - Article 6

by W.H.Griffith Thomas



Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for salvation.
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books.

The First Book of Samuel
The Second Book of Samuel
The First Book of Kings
The Second Book of Kings
The First Book of Chronicles
The Second Book of Chronicles
The First Book of Esdras
The Second Book of Esdras
The Book of Esther
The Book of Job
The Psalms
The Proverbs
Ecclesiastes, or Preacher
Cantica, or Songs of Solomon
Four Prophets the Greater
Twelve Prophets the Less

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:

The Third Book of Esdras
The Fourth Book of Esdras
The Book of Tobias
The Book of Judith

The rest of the Book of Esther
The Book of Wisdom
Jesus the Son of Sirach
Baruch the Prophet
The Song of the Three Children
The Story of Susanna
Of Bel and the Dragon
The Prayer of Manasses
The First Book of Maccabees
The Second Book of Maccabees

All the books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive and account them for Canonical.

De divinis Scripturis, quod sufficiant ad Salutem.
Scriptura sacra continet omnia quæ ad salutem sunt necessaria, ita ut quicquid in ea nec legitur, neque inde probari potest, non sit a quoquam exigendem, ut tanquam articulus fidei credatur, aut ad salutis necessitatem requiri putetur. Sacræ Scripturæ nomine, eos Canonicos libros veteris et novi Testamenti intelligimus, de quorum auctoritate in Ecclesia nunquam dubitatum est.

De Nominibus et Numero Librorum sacræ Canonicæ Scripturæa veteris Testamenti.

Prior Liber Samuelis
Secundus Liber Samuelis
Prior Liber Regum
Secundus Liber Regum
Prior Liber Paralipom
Secundus Liber Paralipom
Primus Liber Esdræ
Secundus Liber Esdræ
Liber Hester
Liber Job
Ecclesiastes, vel Concionator
Cantica Solomonis
IV Prophetæ Majores
XII Prophetæ Minores

Alios autem libros (ut ait Hieronimus) legit quidem Ecclesia, ad exempla vitæ, et formandos mores; illos tamen ad dogmata confirmanda non adhibet: ut sunt:

Tertius Liber Esdræ
Quartus Liber Esdræ
Liber Tobiæ
Liber Judith

Reliquum Libri Hester
Liber Sapientiæ
Liber Jesu filii Sirach
Baruch Propheta
Canticum Trium Puerorum
Historia Susannæ
De Bel et Dracone
Oratio Manassis
Prior Liber Machabeorum
Secundus Liber Machabeorum

Novi Testamenti omnes libros (ut vulgo recepti sunt) recipimus, et habemus pro Canonicis.


Important Equivalents

Of the sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for salvation = De divinis Scripturis, quod sufficiant ad salutem

Or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation = aut ad salutis necessitatem requiri putetur

Of the names and number of the Canonical Books = De nominibus et numero librorum sacræ Canonicæ Scripturæ

For example of life and instruction of manners = ad exempla vitæ, et formandos mores

To establish any doctrine = ad dogmata confirmanda

This Article was the Fifth of the Forty-two Articles of 1553, when its title was Divinæ Scripturæ doctrina sufficit ad salutem (“The doctrine of Holy Scripture is sufficient to salvation”). The Article asserted the sufficiency of Scripture, but did not enumerate or define the Canonical books. It read as follows:-

“Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to Salvation: So that whatsoever is neither read therein, nor may be proved thereby, although it be sometime received of the faithful, as Godly, and profitable for an order and comeliness: Yet no man ought to be constrained to believe it, as an article of faith, or repute it requisite to the necessity of Salvation.”

In 1563 the clause “Although it be sometime received of the faithful, as Godly, and profitable for an order and comeliness” was omitted, because the Article deals with questions of faith, not of order, the latter being discussed in Articles 20 and 34.

The clause which defines the Canonical books was derived from the Confession of Wurtemberg, and was inserted in 1563. This also contained a list of the Canonical books and also of the Apocrypha. In 1571 the catalogue of the Apocrypha was completed by the addition of the names of several books.

The language of the first paragraph of the Article may be compared with a similar statement in the Reformatio Legum, in which after a list of the Canonical books it is said:-

“Hæc igitur generatim est sancta Scriptura, qua omnia creditu ad salutem necessaria, plene et perfecte contineri credimus, usque adeo ut quicquid in ea non legitur nec reperitur, nec denique ex eadem aut consequitur, aut convincitur, a nemine sit exigendum ut tanquam articulus fidei credatur.” [1]

The object of the Article is to state the position of our Church in regard to Scripture, both in opposition to Rome and also to the extreme wing of the Protestants of the sixteenth century. It effectually meets the errors rife on both sides. On the one hand it states the true position against the Roman view of the Rule of Faith; on the other it opposes the opinion of those who were so concerned with the illumination of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers that they despised the thought of religious teaching in books. [2] The true Anglican position, following that of essential Protestantism, is careful to emphasise the written Word as against any dominion of ecclesiastical institution, or of subjective impressions of even genuine religious experiences. [3] But there does not seem much doubt that the Article is mainly directed against the fundamental error of Rome which had been stated by the Council of Trent several years before. [4]


>> Part 1. The Canon of Holy Scripture



[1] De Summa Trinitate et Fide Catholica, c. 9.

[2] Hardwick, History of the Articles of Religion, pp. 99, 373.

[3] “In quo genere teterrimi illi sunt (itaque a nobis primum nominabuntur) qui sacras Scripturas ad infirmorum tantum hominum debilitatem ablegant et detrudunt, sibi sic ipsi interim præfidentes, ut earum authoritate se teneri non putent, sed peculiarem quendam spiritum jactant, a quo sibi omnia suppeditari aiunt, quæcunque docent et faciunt” (Reformatio Legum, De Hæresibus, c. 3).

[4] “The sacred, holy, œcumenical, and general Synod of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost … clearly seeing that this truth and discipline (of the Gospel of Christ) are contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions, which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted, as it were from hand to hand; (the Synod) following the example of the Orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament – seeing that one God is the Author of both – and also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to Faith as to Morals, as having been dictated either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. And it has thought meet that a list of the Sacred Books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in anyone’s mind which are the Books that are received by this Synod, they are set down here below: of the Old Testament: the five Books of Moses – Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon (Chronicles), the first book of Esdras, and the second of which is called Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter consisting of 150 Psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve Minor Prophets … two books of Maccabees, the first and the second. Of the New Testament: (this Canon is the same as the Protestant). But if anyone will not receive the said books entire with all their parts as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid: let him be anathema” (Conc. Trident., Sessio Quarta, Decret. De Canon. Script., Waterworth’s Translation, pp. 18, 19. London, 1848).











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Article 6

>> Introduction

>> 1 - Canon

>> 2 - Limits of the Canon

>> 3 - Character of Scripture

>> 4 - Sufficiency of Scripture

>> 5 - Supremacy of Scripture

>> 6 - Practical Use of Scripture

Content of The Principles

>> Index

>> Preface by J I Packer

>> Introduction

>> 1 - Trinity

>> 2 - Christ

>> 3 - Descent into Hell

>> 4 - Resurrection

>> 5 - Holy Spirit

>> 6 - Holy Scripture

>> 7 - The Old Testament

>> 8 - The Three Creeds

>> 9 - Of Original or Birth Sin

>> 10 - Of Free Will

>> 11 - Of the Justifcation of Man




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