12 AUGUST 1905, Page 14


Sin,—In the very interesting letter of Mr. F. L. Boyd on this question in the Spectator of August 5th the following sentence occurs :—" The purely Protestant point of view bases itself on subjective evidence according to methods chiefly derived from Germany." A more unjust state- ment of the purely Protestant view as to the authority of Scripture it would be difficult to imagine. The West- minster Confession may be taken as a reliable source from which to get this view. It says :—" Our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof [i.e., of Scripture] is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts." According to this view, it was the operation of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the word, oral or written, that produced so general an acceptance of what books composed the Word that the Canon could be fixed, and it is the opera- tion of the same Spirit in the hearts of Christians to-day which invests the Scripture with authority for them. Further, because those who occupy this point of view trust implicitly the operation of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Word, they do not dream of denying the right of the Church to prove all things. They rather insist upon it as a duty, and await the result without the slightest apprehension. Now to apply the word "subjective" to this view is unjust unless everything spiritual is regarded as subjective, and in this case the term is no reproach but an honour. For this view does not imply that the opinion of any individual is as good as that of any other, or can override the consensus of opinion in the Church. It means that the general opinion of the whole body of Christian people, making itself explicit through free discus- sion and in carefully considered findings, has been always, and is to-day, a safe guide in all matters of doctrine and belief. No doubt most who hold this view are not greatly alarmed as to any necessity arising for the revision of the Canon. But still, if the necessity were unmistakably to arise, the essential faith of the Church would not be thereby imperilled. I venture to suggest that this is a much more noble view of the Church's position than that which Mr. F. L. Boyd sets forth, and it is surely a remarkable thing that be discusses this question in a long letter without once referring to the work of the Holy Spirit. Instead he uses the word "tradition" as a magic key to escape all difficulties, not realising that " tradition " is simply a lower form of history which can have no value unless vindicated by the application of the methods