The Rule of Faith
Isaiah 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.

There is a strong tendency in man to flee from the voice of his Maker. Whey should any of us be afraid to hear the voice of God, or to have either our principles or actions judged by His Word Conscience makes us afraid; it tells us that neither the one nor the other will square with the Divine law. Therefore, man forsakes the Word of his God and has recourse to those who will speak to him "peace, peace, when there is no peace" (ver. 19).

I. OUR POSITION is, that Holy Scripture is the only standard whereby to judge of controversies in matters of faith.

II. We now proceed to ESTABLISH THIS POSITION. It is proved by a two-fold line of argument, — negative, by denying the claims put forward on behalf of the addition to this rule; positive, by bringing evidence in favour of the rule itself.

1. The negative evidence.

(1) God's design in furnishing His Word in writing was to guard us against the uncertainty of tradition, and lead us, through the truth revealed in that Word, to eternal happiness.

(2) Tradition is an incompetent channel for the conveyance of truth.

(3) In all our Lord's discourses, whether to the people or to His apostles, or in His disputation with His adversaries, He never made a single appeal to tradition.

(4) Our Lord not only never appealed to tradition, but He expressly condemned it, and that in the most unqualified manner.

2. The positive evidence.

(1) The Scriptures contain the superstructure that is reared upon faith. They contain exhortations to every possible good word and work. Faith is the means, the foundation, the source of every good word and work.

(2) The Scriptures assert their own sufficiency as a rule.

(3) Whenever the written Word has been laid aside, everything has gone astray; and whenever a reformation has taken place, all has been restored in accordance with the written Word (2 Kings 22:8; 2 Kings 23:2, 21). Take yet another instance — the re-establishment of the worship of God after the rebuilding of the temple. By perusing the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah you will find that everything was done in accordance, not with any tradition preserved among them, but with the written Word.

(4) The greatest question which can concern the human race has ever been decided by an appeal, not to tradition, nor to the priesthood, but to the written Word. The greatest question that can concern us is, whether Jesus is the true Messiah (Matthew 11:2-6). It was as if our Lord had said, Let John bring these, My actions and My preaching to the written Word, and he cannot be mistaken. He will there find whether I am the Messiah or not (Acts 17:2, 11; Acts 18:27, 28).

(5) The denial of this truth, that the Scripture is the only rule whereby to judge of controversies in matters of faith, has been the cause of grievous errors and many heresies.

(6) The end for which this new rule is pretended is, to say the very least, more than presumptive evidence against it, and consequently in favour of our rule.

III. I proceed now to notice A FEW OBJECTIONS that are brought against our position.

1. "If the Scripture be your rule of faith, there could be no rule of faith, consequently no faith and therefore no salvation, until the canon of Scripture was complete. But for sixty years after the death of Christ the canon was not complete; therefore for sixty years after the death of Christ there could have been no salvation in the Church of God." This plausible; but the reply is simple. We will try the soundness of the argument upon their own principles. If Scripture and tradition be, as they say, their rule of faith, there could not have been a rule of faith until this one was complete. The argument is as good one way as the other. The sophism lies in this, — that, because God may give more light at any particular period, therefore there was no adequate light before!

2. It is objected that controversies cannot be determined by our rule of faith. But, if the Word of God be not competent or sufficient to decide controversies, we ask one simple question — How, then, shall the controversies concerning the Church be determined?

3. "The Scriptures are (say they) difficult and liable to be misunderstood and perverted." We may say the same respecting Scripture and tradition. "But," says Dr. Milner, "we have an unerring judge of controversy" (i.e., they bring in the infallibility of their Church) "to decide in the matter, and he must be understood." But how can he be understood! We must, as Chillingworth remarks, have an infallible interpreter to expound his interpretation, and so on ad infinitum. But this infallible interpreter has never yet spoken. Then, further, if Scripture be so difficult, the interpretation of the judge is not less so; for the decrees of councils and popes cannot possibly be more intelligible than those writings which were read in the hearing of men, women, and children; than the sermons which were addressed by our blessed Lord to the simple and ignorant; than that Word of which we read that it is so plain that a wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein.

(J. R. Page, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

WEB: Turn to the law and to the testimony! If they don't speak according to this word, surely there is no morning for them.

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