(C. G. De la Mothe , a Protestant exile from France, shows that personal utility or ecclesiastical usage was not grounds for Canonicity in the Early Church. The Contemporary Church would do well to follow the truth contained in Lamothe’s writings when approaching the current textual and version debate.)
The third proof drawn from the distinction on which the Ancients made between Canonical and Apocryphal books.
This distinction takes place in respect of both Testaments. There are joined to the Canonical books of the Old Testament sever pieces purely human, as the books of Tobis, Judith, Baruc, Maccabees, etc., which are called Apocrypha. A word, of which the true original is very uncertain. But whether it significance is concealed or obscure, or whether it have any other sense, certain it is that those books which are added to the Scripture, though they are not of divine authority, are called Apocrypha.
If the books which are added to the Old Testament are not admitted to be Canonical, tis not because they are defective in their matter. There are some of them whose doctrine is found, and their instruction is pure, so that there has been no scruple made to read them publicly in the Church. I dare presume to say there is a portion of the Apocryphal books which is more instructive and more edifying, than such a portion of books we call Canonical. Wherefore then are they rejected as Apocryphal? I know very well that several marks of human frailty are to be discovered in them; but the chief ground of their being rejected is , because they are books which the Holy Ghost has not inspired, the Finger of God appears not in them; the good things where are there to be found, flow not immediately from the Spring. Moreover, we have reason to examine the suspect them, because they are not recommended to us by persons actuated by the infallible Spirit of God.
This reason is expressed by the Ancients in other terms, for they say, that the Apocryphal books added to the Old Testament want Canonical Authority, because they were written by persons who were no prophets, and who lived after Malachi, the last of the prophets. Wherein they followed Josephus who has derived from thence the grand character of the difference which we ought to make between the Canonical Books and the Apocryphal. The words of the author are so remarkable as not to be omitted. There is nothing more certain, than the writings authorized among us; because they cannot be subject to any contradiction; in regard that there is nothing approved but what the Prophets wrote some ages ago; according to the purity of the truth, by the inspiration and agitation of the Spirit of God.
They have also written all that passed from the time of Artaxerxes to our time. But by reason there has not been, as formerly, a successive series of Prophets, there is not the same credit given to the books which I have mentioned. (Answer to Appion. I.1.c.2.) The books after the Prophet Malachi have been constantly rejected, in regard he was the last writer whom the Holy Spirit inspired, under the Old Testament. (Euseb. 1.8. De monst. Evangel. Quod ab illoi tempore servatoris nullum extet Sacrum Volumen.)
What I have said in respect of the Old Testament, takes place in relation to the New. Several books of piety were composed by the Primitive Church; the authors were persons of worth, and the books were so useful, that the reading of them was not only recommended to private persons, but they made no scruple to read them in public. For example, the Epistle of saint Clement had the same honor. Wherefore was it that those books were not put into the number of the Canonical; that is to say, of those books that are the constant rule of faith and manners? It was not always because they were in some things erroneous, but by reason they were not inspired by the Holy Ghost; that was sufficient to hinder them from being received as Canonical. The question that was put, when there was a dispute about any book of which they doubted, was to know, whether or no it was written by a person inspired. Thence it came to pass that in the history of Eusebius we find that Dionysius Bishop of Alexandria, pronouncing his Sentence upon the Apocalypse said, that he acknowledged it to be the work of some holy man, inspired by the Spirit of God, Tis known also that Origen speaking of the book written by Hermas said, That he believed it to be a writing divinely inspired; a certain proof that they believed those books which the Church has admitted as Canonical, were inspired by the Holy Ghost. (Reor enim sanctis cujusdam…divina spiritu afflati viri id opus esse. Euseb. h.e I.7.c.21. Quae Scriptura valde mihi utilis videtur, Et ut puto, divitus inspirata. Origen. I.10 reptam Epist. Ad Rom. C. 16. Com. 14. 28-31
Claude Groteste De la Mothe, The Inspiration of the New Testament Asserted and Explained in Answer to some Modern Writers (London, Printed for Thomas Bennet, at the Half-Moon in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1694), 28-31.