The Westminster Divines unquestionably believed THE RECEIVED TEXT as noted by the citations in their Confession of Faith. They believed the ENGLISH SCRIPTURES to be the word of God for English speakers.
God has spoken to man in divers manners throughout history (Heb 1:1-2). God spoke directly to men in time past – face to face (Ex 33:11). God spoke to men through visions and dreams (Num 12:6). God spoke to men via a voice from heaven (Dan 4:31, Acts 9:4). In these last days he has spoken unto us by his Son (Heb 1:2). At one time God gave his people a finger of God autograph. God also gave authorized Scriptures that were God’s authority in written form. The words of God were confirmed unto his people by signs and wonders (Ex 4:8, Mark 16:20!!!). The words of God were confirmed by living apostles (Acts 14:3, 1Thes 2:13). The apostles and prophets knew that they would depart, but before departing they commended the Church of God to the word of his grace (Acts 20:32) and a more sure word of prophesy (1P 1:19). The autographs written by men were made up of oral tradition, historical records, eye-witness accounts, direct revelation, etc. These compiled and edited written records were Canonized into Scriptures. The inspiration of God includes all of the above and has never been limited to a point in time historical record with jots and tittles assembled in a dictated order. This is confirmed by Paul when he tells us that Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures from his youth and that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. Timothy did not have a face to face conversation with God, did not receive visions or dreams, and did not possess the autograph, but he did know the Scriptures (note the meaning of the word) from his youth.
Now the question presented before us today, is how do you and I recognize the Scriptures? You and I don’t know the Scriptures by a face to face conversation with God. We don’t recognize the Scriptures by dreams or visions. Extant Scriptures are not confirmed unto us by signs and wonders, nor do Apostles directly affirm to us what are and what are not the Scriptures. Yes, you and I know beyond reasonable doubt that the Scriptures are limited to a 66 book Canon (Standard). That Standard was established by a consensus of born again Spirit filled believers after the apostles departed. Guess what? That Standard is unidirectional, you don’t get to go back and change the established Standard, irregardless of modern advancements, archaeological discoveries, axioms of modern textual critical theory or your preference in the matter.
The Scriptures (note the word for it has definite meaning) have been preserved for us in the form that God wants us to have. Historically, the Scriptures were hand copied and passed down from generation to generation (preservation). The Scriptures (God’s written authority) has never been about sectarian, peculiar, private or individually preferred copies, but rather the generally accepted consensus of copies received and recognized by God’s elect as the very words of God in written form. This is to say that the Scriptures have never been limited to an exact jot & title copy in someone’s hand. “I believe the Bible in my hand” has morphed in meaning and has been hijacked by the Will Kenney’s of the world. It used to mean in my day, Sola Scriptura, that is believers had a practical recognizable readily available authoritative Standard in written form that they could appeal to in all matters of faith and practice. Due to the chaotic nature of manuscripts (handwritten as distinguished from printed), Standardized copies always held more authority than sectarian, peculiar, private or individually preferred copies. Those Standardized copies were normally held in places of worship, i.e. synagogues, churches. Individuals who were able had personal copies made for themselves, which they read for their benefit, but where their personal, sectarian, or preferred copy differed from the authorized copy, held or used at the local synagogue or church, the authorized Standard copy held precedent. For example, two brethren discussing the Scriptures and a doctrinal point hinges on a given word, phrase or verse – as long as both of the copies in their hands agreed they could work out the doctrinal problem. Where the word, phrase or verse disagreed significantly (not spelling, word order, jot & tittle counts, etc.) their only recourse was to appeal to the mutually recognized Standard, the one recognized by all as authoritative.
And then in the providence of God man invented the printing press. The printing press was a game changer, because the chaotic text found in the multiplicity of manuscripts could be stabilized. And that is exactly what the Reformers set out to do – stabilize the chaotic text via standardization. They accomplished this both in Greek and the several foreign languages of their day. Early compilations and printings both in Greek and translations met with minor differences and were also Standardized. This is noted by the KJV men when they set as their goal one principle version not to be justly excepted against.
Now, as you said, this unidirectional relationship proves, without a doubt, what the standard actually is – the Standardized text established historically after the printing press. No going back and changing it is allowed! The Standard had already been established long before Wescott and Hort’s grandparents were out of their nappies.
Herein lies the problem and the current debate, because Modern Scholars are not trying to simply answer the questions to the lingering doubts that the Reformers had about the meaning of a few difficult Hebrew words or reach a consensus agreement about the marginal notes of the KJV men who noted “possible alternate readings”. No, that is exactly not the case. Modern Textual Critics REJECT the stabilized and Standardized text of the Reformers as INFERIOR, VILE, and CONTEMPTIBLE, the translation of the KJV men as INFERIOR, CORRUPT, and UNFAITHFUL to the original – their own speculative reconstruction of a chaotic 2nd century Greek text. Modern Scholars and Textual Critics are admittedly trying to reconstruct a text from one of the most chaotic in history – the 2nd century. By doing so they reject the stabilization and standardization done by the Reformers since the printing press.
I’m pretty well convinced by past experience that none of this is going to persuade you to take up my position, but at least it gives you a glimpse into my perspective. That I have indeed carefully weighed the arguments on both sides and reached what I believe is a reasonable conclusion. What does this mean practically? It means that where your preferred edition of the Bible differs (really differs, not in the petty “jot & tittle” differences pounced upon by wild-eyed KJVO) from my Standardized Version we are at an impasse: I’ll say, “Thus saith the Lord”, and you’ll respond, “No He didn’t.” And around and around we’ll go. So, like I have to do with the JW’s (no innuendo or poisoning the well intended) I’ll quote the verse, allow them to deny it, which they always do with similar arguments against the AV made by those on this board, and then move unto other verses found in their Bible to prove my point. That is where their Bible contains the same text (consensus) practical authority is established.