Volume 8, Issue 5: Verbatim
Quotations on Our Mother's Authority
Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her;
Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her;
That you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom,
That you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.
Isaiah 66:10, 11
But the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.
When the preaching of the gospel is reverently heard, and the sacraments are not neglected, there for the time the face of the Church appears without deception or ambiguity and no man may with impunity spurn her authority, or reject her admonitions, or resist her counsels, or make sport of her censures, far less revolt from her, and violate her unity. . . . For such is the value which the Lord sets on the communion of His Church, that all who contumaciously alienate themselves from any Christian society, in which the true ministry of His word and sacraments is maintained, He regards as deserters of religion.
The strongly worded arguments of Protestant theologians of both the Reformation and orthodox eras against the idea of a co-equal authority of Scripture, tradition, and church, typically summarized by the phrase sola Scriptura, must never be taken as a condemnation of tradition or a denigration of the authority of the church as a confessing community of believers. The Reformation took as its point of departure the late medieval debate over the relation of Scripture to tradition and assumed that tradition stood as a subordinate norm under the authority of Scripture and derived its authority from Scripture. This assumption of the fundamental value and rectitude of the church's faith insofar as it was genuinely grounded on the biblical Word allowed place in the Protestant mind both for a use of tradition and for a churchly use of confessions and catechisms as standards of belief.
Richard A. Muller
The apostle Peter has said that the Holy Scriptures are not of private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20), and thus we do not allow all possible interpretations. . . . Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises concerning sacred matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures: but we modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to the Scriptures. . . . We do not permit ourselves, in controversies about religion or matters of faith, to urge our case with only the opinions of the fathers or decrees of councils; much less by received customs, or by the large number of those who share the same opinion, or by the prescription of a long time. Who is the Judge? Therefore, we do not admit any other judge than God Himself, who proclaims by the Holy Scriptures what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what is to be avoided. So we do assent to the judgements of spiritual men which are drawn from the Word of God. Certainly Jeremiah and other prophets vehemently condemned the assemblies of priests which were set up against the law of God; and diligently admonished us that we should not listen to the fathers, or tread in their path who, walking in their own inventions, swerved from the law of God.
The Second Helvetic Confession
But we are thus reminded that we ought always to beware of the intrigues of Satan, when they appear under the cover of truth. When, therefore, our minds are disposed to piety, Satan is ever to be feared, lest he should stealthily suggest to us what may turn us aside from our duty; for we see that some leave the church because they require in it the highest perfection. . . . Many err in this way grievously; imagining when they see the evil mingled with the good, that they will be infected with pollution, unless they immediately withdraw themselves from the whole congregation.
The potestas ordinis, the constant rule of which is the word of God, is twofold, according as it is concerned either with doctrine or with eutaxia. As regards doctrine the Church does not give an authority to the word of God which it does not possess; does not make non-canonical books canonical; does not strike out new articles of faith as the Papists imagine. But she defends the truth accredited by Scripture and clears it of heretical twists and formulae of consent forced upon Scripture, and those within which her own people are contained she is eager to fortify.
The power of the Church concerning dogmas does not consist in the Church winning authority for the word or creating new dogmas of faith, or in interpreting Scripture autokratorikos and infallibly at her pleasure. . . . But it consists (1) in the guarding and expounding of Scripture; (2) in judging what the Church ought to do in the matter of doctrine and in the symbols and confessions which she is bound to construct, in order to preserve doctrine and to bind the Church fellowship together. This authority ought indeed to be great in the Churches. But it still falls below the authority of Scripture.
Accordingly if they think they see in them anything worth correcting, they should undertake nothing rashly or ataktos and unseasonably, so as vitally to disturb their mother's innards, as schismatics do, but should commend the difficulties they have to their Church; or either put her public opinion before their own private judgement, or break away from her communion, if conscience cannot acquiesce in her judgement. Thus they cannot bind in the inward court of conscience, except so far as they are found to agree with the Word of God, which alone has the power to bind conscience.
We ought not to listen to those who secede from the Church and break the unity of the faith. But they cunningly pass over what ought to be the chief topic of discussion and which we have explained clearly in a thousand places: that nothing could be less like the Church than the Pope and his gang; that a hotch-potch of corrupt inventions infected by so many superstitious fictions is far from the genuine faith.
In making this declaration we affirm and, according to the faith which we owe to God, we promise and we bind ourselves to follow this doctrine and persevere in it without knowingly contravening it either directly or indirectly for the purpose of supporting some dissension or controversy which would destroy our harmony. And in general to close the door on all discord for the future, we declare that we wish to live and die in obedience to the doctrine of this church, and to the utmost of our power to oppose all divisions which could lead to the opposite effect. To this we assent and agree, on pain of being held perjured and disloyal.
Summary of the Confession of Faith of the Students of the Academy of Geneva
Outside the Church of God There Is No Salvation. But we esteem fellowship with the true Church of Christ so highly that we deny that those can live before God who do not stand in fellowship with the True Church of God, but separate themselves from it. For as there was no salvation outside Noah's ark when the world perished in the flood; so we believe that there is no certain salvation outside Christ, who offers Himself to be enjoyed by the elect in the Church; and hence we teach that those who wish to live ought not to be separated from the true Church of Christ.
The Second Helvetic Confession
Our indulgence ought to extend much farther in tolerating imperfection of conduct. Here there is great danger of falling, and Satan employs all his machinations to ensnare us. For there always have been persons who, imbued with a false persuasion of absolute holiness, as if they had already become a kind of a๋rial spirits, spurn the society of all in whom they see that something human still remains. Such of old were the Cathari and the Donatists, who were similarly infatuated. Such in the present day are some of the Anabaptists, who would be thought to have made superior progress. Others, again, sin in this respect, not so much from that insane pride as from inconsiderate zeal.
It belongeth to synods and councils ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the publick worship of God, and government of his church; to receive complaints in cases of mal-administration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission, not only for their agreement with the word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God, appointed thereunto in his word.
We hold that the Church of God hath power to prescribe ordinances, rules, or traditions, touching the time and place of God's worship, and touching order and comeliness to be used in the same. . . . Scripture proves itself to be Scripture: and yet we despise not the universal consent of tradition of the church, which though it does not persuade the conscience, yet it is a notable inducement to move us to reverence and regard the writings of the Prophets and Apostles.
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