Saturday, April 29, 2006

Preservation of the Words of God

"No sooner, was the work of Evangelists and Apostles recognised as the necessary counterpart and complement of God's ancient Scriptures and became the 'New Testament,' than a reception was found to be awaiting it in the world closely resembling that which He experienced Who is the subject of its pages. Calumny and misrepresentation, persecution and murderous hate, assailed Him continually. And the Written Word in like manner, in the earliest age of all, was shamefully handled by mankind. Not only was it confused through human infirmity and misapprehension, but it became also the object of restless malice and unsparing assaults...

Before our Lord ascended up to heaven, He told His disciples that He would send them the Holy Ghost, who should supply His place and abide with His Church for ever. He added a promise that it should be the office of that inspiring Spirit not only to bring to their remembrance all things whatsoever he had told them, but also to guide His Church 'into all Truth' or 'the whole Truth,' (John 16:13). Accordingly, the earliest great achievement of those days was accomplished on giving to the Church the Scriptures of the New Testament, in which, authorised teaching was enshrined in written form,.....There exists no reason for supposing that the Divine Agent, who in the first instance thus gave to mankind the Scriptures of Truth, straightway abdicated His office: took no further care of His work; abandoned those precious writings to their fate. That a perpetual miracle was wrought for their preservation - that copyists were protected against all risk of error, or evil men prevented from adulterating shamefully copies of the Deposit - no one, it is presumed, is so weak as to suppose. But it is quite a different thing to claim that all down the ages the sacred writings must needs have been God's peculiar care; that the Church under Him has watched over them with intelligence and skill, has recognised which copies exhibit a fabricated, which an honestly transcribed text has generally sanctioned the one, and generally disallowed the other."
{ John William Burgon, "The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established")

"Hence, the providence of God hath manifested itself no less concerned in the preservation of the writings than of the doctrine contained in them; the writing itself being the product of his own eternal counsel for the preservation of the doctrine, after a sufficient discovery of the insufficiency of all other means for that end and purpose. And hence the malice of Satan hath raged no less against the book than against the truth contained in it. The dealings of Antiochus under the Old Testament, and of sundry persecuting emperors under the New, evince no less. And it was no less crime of old to be traditor libri than to be abnegator fidei. The reproach of chartacea scripta, and membranae, (Coster. Enchirid., cap. 1.), reflects on its author. It is true, we have not the autographa of Moses and the prophets, of the apostles and evangelists; but the apographa or “copies” which we have contain every iota that was in them.

There is no doubt but that in the copies we now enjoy of the Old Testament there are some diverse readings, or various lections. The various lections of Ben Asher, or Rabbi Aaron the son of Rabbi Moses of the tribe of Asher, and Ben Naphtali, or Rabbi Moses the son of David of the tribe of Naphtali — the lections also of the eastern and western Jews, which we have collected at the end of the great Bible with the Masora — evince it. But yet we affirm, that the whole Word of God, in every letter and tittle, as given from him by inspiration, is preserved without corruption. Where there is any variety it is always in things of less, indeed of no, importance. God by his providence
preserving the whole entire, suffered this lesser variety to fall out, in or among the copies we have, for the quickening and exercising of our diligence in our search into his Word." (
John Owen, "Of The Divine Original of the Scripture," emphasis added).

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