Dr. John Cosin (1594 -1672) on Scripture’s Force and Efficacy

John Cosin (1594 -1672) English hymnwriter and Anglican cleric who became Master of Peterhouse College Cambridge, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University in 1660 and Bishop of Durham.

“For though there be many Internal Testimonies belonging to the Holy Scriptures, whereby we may be sufficiently assured, that they be the True and lively Oracles of God, Rom. 3:2, (such as be, The Height and Majesty of the Things there delivered above all other Conceptions and Writings in the World; The Perpetual Analogy and Conformity of all the several Parts therein contained, one with the other; The Greatness and Dignity of those Prophecies which be there foretold; and the Truth or Certainty of them all, which be there fulfilled; together with the Divine Power and Providence, that hath confirmed and preserved them to all posterity; beside the Spiritual Force and Efficacy, (which is never there wanting unto them who do not willfully resist it,) to move and induce us unto a most certain and firm belief in them). Yet for the Particular and just Number of such Books, whether there be More of Less, than either some Private Persons, or some One Particular Church of late, have been please to make them, we have no better nor other External Rule or Testimony therein to guide us, than the Constant Voice of the Catholic and Universal Church, as it hath been delivered unto us upon Record from one Generation to another.”

As noted in an earlier post, Nathaniel Ingelo in The Perfection, Authority, and Credibility of the Holy Scriptures writes “We acknowledge they [the penmen] did [record and transmit the word of God], received their books, and are satisfied.” The accent was upon the satisfying aspect of Scripture or its affectual impact on the Church. Cosin in this excerpt writes of the “Spiritual Force and Efficacy” of Scripture upon the believer “to move and induce us unto a most certain and firm belief in them.” This describes the summary statement of the self-attestation and self-authentication of Scripture. Scripture moves the will of the saint to a “most certain and firm belief in them.” And, according to Cosin, this in not a Spiritual Force and Efficacy of an individual nature. This efficacy is not dealing with “some Private Persons or some One Particular Church” but the “constant Voice of the Catholic and Universal Church.” The Spirit and Word through the Church is the arbitrator of what is and is not Scripture, and not some sectarian academic or ecclesiastical convocation or individual.

What we gather from this is that there is a common affectual moving of the body of Christ through the Word and Spirit that moves with such force and efficacy as to determine what is and is not Scripture. Cosin moves the discussion forward by arguing that self-attestation and self-authentication is efficaciously forceful within the Church, so forceful and efficacious as to move the Church and convince the Church of a “most certain and firm belief in them.”

In recent times the efficacious forcefulness of Scripture has been degraded or rejected as less significant than the inducements of scholarly reason. The transfer of inducing influence by the Church from the Scripture to the scholar is a demonstration of Cosin’s caveat “which is never there wanting unto them who do not willfully resist it.” Something as powerful as Scripture’s self-attestation and self-authentication is only missed by those who “willfully resist” Scripture’s Force and Efficacy. This is not something easily dispensed with seeing that historically this force and efficacy has moved and induced the Universal Church. How can it be, that during the current epoch of history, the Evangelical Church seems to casually dispense with the historic force and efficacy of the Scripture upon historic orthodox Christianity? And yet, this is where contemporary Evangelicalism finds itself.

While some call for the confession of sin and the need for revival, quoting 2 Chr. 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land,” they do so within the context of thinking that this verse does not relate to the prevailing Evangelical attitude toward the Bible. While “willfully resisting” the force and Efficaciousness of Scripture “to move and induce us unto a most certain and firm belief in them,” a terrible comedy of calls for revival are made from pulpits. You know you have hit a spiritual nerve if you stand in the pulpit and say there is only one standard sacred text. The response to that message and return to a standard sacred text of the historic orthodox Church will be the measure of the degree of willful resistance that must be confessed to move 2 Chr. 7:14 forward.

Dr. John Cosin, A Scholastic History of the Canon of Holy Scripture or the Certain and Indubitable Books thereof, as they are received in the  Church of England (London: Printed by E. Tyler and R. Holt for Robert Pawlett, at the Sign of the Bible in Chanecry-Lane, near Fleet-street, 1672), 4-5.

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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