Gilbert Tennet, 1744 on the Qualities of Scripture’s Canonicity

[Gilbert Tennent (1703-1764) was undoubtedly the single most important Presbyterian minister in North America before the War for Independence (1776-1783).]

And here I may summarily observe, that the sacred Scriptures are the perfect and only Rule of our Faith and Practice, Hence in our Text they are said to make the Man of God perfect and thoroughly furnished to every good Work; and hence they are called a Light to our Feet and a Lamp to our Paths and expressly, a rule, Gal. 6:16, “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” From this we must not swerve to the right or left hand. Isa. 8:20, “To the Law and to the Testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no Light in them.”

And indeed the holy Scriptures, have only the nature and properties of a Rule, which are these following,

1st a Rule ought to be prescribed by God alone, Mat. 15: 9. A religious rule cannot be prescribed by another than him to whom the persons ruled belong. And indeed, the sublimity of the matter which such rules concern, sufficiently manifest, that they cannot be well made by Creatures.

[Note, following modern text critic practices it is impossible that the Bible be a Canon or Rule in that the “rule” is created internally by the scholar and self-imposed and not external to the Church and imposed by God. Every use of the word “canon” or “canonical” based upon solely empirical textual critical practices is spurious. The “rule,” following this critical scenario, the rule is created by the scholar and the thing ruled is the Church.]

2dly, A Rule ought to be received and public, otherwise how shall it determine Controversies? And thus it is in respect of the Scriptures, they have been prescribed by the public Authority of God himself, and received by the common consent of the Christian Church, as has been before proved; and hence the Church is called the Pillar and Ground of Truth, 1 Tim. 3:15.

[Tennet’s conclusion that the canon of Scripture is received by the “common consent of the Christian Church” is demonized by the modern Evangelical critic. The shear acceptance of the Church of the Textus Receptus and King James Bible manifest the proof of Tennet’s statement.]

3dly, A Rule ought to be clear and plain, otherwise how can we know what we have to believe and do? And so are the Scriptures, especially in the explication of such things, as are of absolute necessity to salvation, And hence they are called a Light, and said not to be hid from us, Deut. 30:11. Where we meet with obscurity, this arises from the sublimity of the things treated of, or the weakness of our understanding rather than from the Scriptures themselves.

[Difficulties with understanding are not ascribed to God’s failure to keep His Word but to “the weakness of our understanding.”]

4thly, A Rule ought to be perfect and adequate, or equal to the thing ruled, so that it need never to be augmented or diminished in the least, otherwise it will be unfit to measure its object. Such is the Holy Scripture, there is nothing to be believed or done, but what it contains and prescribes. Now the Perfection of the Scriptures is two-fold, viz. Integral or Systematical, and Essential, the first consists in its full number of books, which is now complete, and the cannon sealed, (Rev. 22:18.19.) the latter respects the doctrine contained in those books; and this most certainly is complete, as our text asserts, and many other places. And hence we are bound to the Scripture alone as our Guide, by the strictest injunctions. (Deut. 17:19; Isa. 8:20) And forbid to add to it or detract from it, under the severest penalties! (Deut. 6:2; Rev. 22:18. 19.) And informed that we shall be at last judged by it, John 12:42. And Reason will inform us, that it must be perfect, seeing that it is the first Principle, and last explication of our Faith, 2 Pet. 1:20, 21. If it were not so, true and perfect conclusions could not be drawn from it, for the effect cannot be better than its cause. The sacred Scripture has all its essential parts, viz. Matter and Form, and all its integral, viz. Law and Gospel, and is therefore Perfect.

[Tennet writes to the Scripture in the tradition of Church in autographic terms not to add or subtract from he text. Augmentation essentially removes the text from the being Integrally or Essentially canonical. For the believer, “reason informs us, that it must be perfect seeing that it is the first principle (principium) and last explication (revelation, exposition) of our Faith.”

5thly. A Rule ought to be constant and immovable, evermore and everywhere like to itself, otherwise how can any certain measure be ruled by it, and such is the Holy Scripture, 2 Pet, l. 19. We have a more “sure word of prophecy, (bebaioteron propheticon logon.)

[The canon, to be such, cannot be mutable, the essential failure of multiple version onlyism. (After reading Tennet, it is impossible to equate our nation’s early theologian’s and writer’s understanding of Scripture with the feckless drivel espoused by White, Ward, and Carson, et al.)]

Gilbert Tennet, The Divine Authority of the Sacred Scriptures, the being and attributes of God, and the doctrine of the Trinity (Philadelphia: Printed by W. Bradford, 1744), 80-82.

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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