To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.
I. THE BIBLE EXERTS ITS MORAL FORCE UPON US BY THE TRUTHS WHICH IT CONTAINS AND REVEALS. These truths test all received opinions. Each man really is according to his opinions and beliefs; the whole temper and conduct are toned by the truths received. If they are according to the "Law and testimony," their fruit will be righteousness and mercy. The Bible does not, indeed, contain any formulated system of theology or of morals, but it does contain such an harmonious setting forth of all necessary truth as, in fact, constitutes a complete system both of doctrine and of duty. The Bible has its own sphere; within this it is infallible. It is the sphere of character; it is no standard of appeal for geographers, or arithmeticians, or astronomers, or ethnologists, or literati, or philosophers. For all such the Bible is a book of the age in which it was written, and it embodies the thought which was the common property of the men of the time. Man does not want a written revelation of science, for he has not lost the key which enables him to unlock its mysteries for himself. Man does need a written revelation of standard morals, because he flung away his key in Eden, and, with ages of painful searching, he has failed to find it again.
II. THE BIBLE EXERTS ITS MORAL FORCE BY THE PRINCIPLES WHICH IT EMBODIES. The structure of the Bible compels us to search out its principles. They do not lie on the surface, like seeds on beaten paths, ready for every passing bird to pick up. They are given to us embodied in history, illustrated in incidents of individual lives, and in phases of personal experience. Nothing seems to be said in the New Testament about ecclesiastical politics, or orders of Church government; but there are to be found great principles, which can be wisely adapted in their practical expression to the varying conditions of men in different ages. There are no announcements concerning social manners; there is nothing taught in a direct way concerning monarchy or slavery, for instance; but the Bible gives principles which, gradually gaining sway over the minds of men, constitutionally attemper monarchy, and will after a while banish slavery from the earth. A principle is more searching than a maxim. Men may think they could have done better with a Bible like the books of Confucius, full of maxims, shaping into order the whole minutiae of life. Such a Bible could only make automata, not living men. God gives a Bible full of quick effective principles; these, getting into the soul, are the seeds whence come flowerings and fruitings of righteousness. A maxim will guide us in one case, a principle will put us right in ten thousand. Circumstances may always limit the application of an express commandment; a principle fits and shapes itself to every new occasion, as the rising tide into every bay and nook and creek of the winding stream.
III. THE BIBLE EXERTS ITS MORAL FORCE BY THE EXAMPLE WHICH IT PRESENTS. Its men, except the Lord Christ, are fallible, struggling men. Their wrongdoing is never covered over. You never get the impression of a character painted rose-color. The moral quality of a man's action is never confused. Evil is always evil. Wrongdoing in a good man is only worse wrongdoing in view of his goodness; and it is never palliated. There is found in the Bible virtue to incite us and evil to warn us; a great "cloud of witnesses" putting to shame our meaner lives. But the great standard example is the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ. He "tries every man that cometh into the world." The final test of moral conduct for us all is the Lord Jesus Christ. Full acceptance with God can come only from being perfectly like Christ. And if the suggestion makes us feel that we are far down below him, only just climbing the first ridge of the mountain-side, this is our encouraging assurance, "Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord." - R.T.
To the law and to the testimony.I. CONSIDER THE PRINCIPLE LAID DOWN IN THE TEXT, namely, that we are to take the Scriptures, the inspired Word of "the true and living God," as the only standard of truth.
II. SEE HOW SADLY THE CHURCH OF ROME, BOTH IN DOCTRINE AND PRACTICE, HAS DEPARTED FROM THIS PRINCIPLE. At the Council of Trent, where the Pope, bishops, and other ecclesiastics were assembled, in the middle of the sixteenth century, to put into definite form the articles of their Church, it was unanimously decreed, that traditions should be received as "of equal authority with the Scriptures": and at the same Council it was also agreed to make all the books, apocryphal as well as others, "of equal authority." The reason of their adding traditions to the Scriptures is given by Pope Plus IV, in these words: "all saving truth is not contained in the Holy Scriptures, but partly in the Scripture and partly in unwritten traditions; which whosoever doth not receive with like piety and reverence as he doth the Scriptures, is accursed." We have a reasonable instance of their readiness to set aside the Bible, in order to establish their own opinions. at the Council of Augsburg. It was there that the Protestant confession of faith, drown: Up by Melancthon, was presented to the Emperor. After the reading of it, the Duke of Bavaria, who was on the Popish side, asked Eckius, one of his party, whether he could overthrow the doctrines contained in it, by the Holy Scripture. "No (replied Eckius), we cannot by the Holy Scriptures, but we may by the fathers."
III. SEE HOW THE ACTING ON THIS PRINCIPLE, IN OPPOSITION TO THE CHURCH OF ROME, LED TO THE REFORMATION, and produced those blessed consequences which we are now reaping the advantage of. It is not a little remarkable that the art of printing, about the year 1450, very greatly contributed to the work which followed. It revived the study of classical literature; and thus the Bible, which even clergymen and others acquainted with learning, had been very little used to read before, was now studied by them; and it was that that led in the first instance to a discovery that the religion in which their fathers had been brought up could not be proved by the New Testament.
IV. TEST THE REFORMED RELIGION BY THIS SCRIPTURAL RULE, AND PROVE THEREBY THE SOUNDNESS OF ITS PRINCIPLES. The Reformation has not founded a new Church, it has corrected an old one; and the religion which we now profess is the religion of primitive Christianity. See, in our sixth article, how the Church of England places herself on the ground of the Scriptures. She says, against the Church of Rome, that "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that whatever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."
(W. Curling, M. A.)
I. THE AFFIRMATIVE PROPOSITION which asserts the sufficiency of Holy Scripture in all things requisite or necessary to salvation To men who have read the Holy Scriptures, it will seem strange that there ever should have arisen a question, as to their sufficiency in things requisite to salvation. They see that the Holy Scriptures are large and full, that they develop innumerable truths of mighty magnitude — that they unfold mysteries beyond the grasp of the human intellect — that they propound a series of the most pure and hallowing precepts — that they narrate the history of God's dealings with His people, so far as they are known to human knowledge — and that they enter upon an ample detail of all those things which God hath revealed of His future purposes for mankind. They see that the Scriptures unfold the fall of man, God's purpose to save a people to Himself, God's love in the gift of His Son Jesus Christ in order to save them, the incarnation of the Word, the atonement of the Cross, the resurrection and triumph over death, the ascension into heaven, the descent of the Holy Ghost, the judgment of the last day, and the everlasting glories that shall follow. They see that the Holy Scriptures contain all this; and still further, that they contain all those rules and principles that should govern man in his duty to God and in his duty to his fellow man, and entering rote such detail of relative duties, of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, princes and subjects, that every honest man, from the monarch to the peasant, shall find in the Holy Scriptures a sufficient guide and enlightener in the duties of a Christian life. But in the spirit of the words of our text, let us "to the law and to the testimony." Let us take counsel of our God, and ask of Him in the record of His own Word, whether the Holy Scriptures be sufficient unto salvation (Deuteronomy 11:16-21; Deuteronomy 31:11, 12; Psalm 119:9-11; Isaiah 8:20; Luke 1:1-4; John 5:39; John 20:30, 31 Acts 17:10-12; 2 Timothy 3:14-17). The Romanists reply to these Scriptures in a body by stating that they prove too much, inasmuch as they prove either that the Old Testament Scriptures are sufficient, or that one or more Gospels are sufficient for our salvation. We reply, that, if this be true, then, a fortiori, if a part of the Scriptures contain sufficient unto salvation, the whole of the Scriptures as a matter of course must be admitted to contain all things necessary to salvation.
II. THE NEGATIVE PROPOSITION in the article, namely, that "whatsoever is not read in Holy Scripture, nor may he proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or thought requisite or necessary to salvation." The position upon which the Romanists have erected their whole system has been, that besides the written Word them is also an unwritten word — that besides the Holy Scriptures them is another vehicle for conveying religious truth, and that other vehicle they have named tradition. The nature of tradition is this. They state that our Lord Jesus Christ taught many things to His apostles and disciples, which they did not commit to writing in the sacred Scriptures, but, instead of committing them to writing, they committed them by oral communication to those men whom they appointed as bishops throughout the Church universal; they add that those bishops have in a similar manner communicated these doctrines and practices to the bishops and priests that wore to come after them, and that thus there is a mass of floating doctrine and practice pervading the Church universal, partly written in the books of Romish priests and partly deposited in the breasts of Romish bishops. There are certain difficulties and objections to this system.
1. A historical objection derived from the history of God's dealings with His people. The original revelation made to our first parents, being dependent upon tradition, soon became corrupted and lost. And this inefficacy of tradition is the more remarkable, when we consider that the life of man in the ante-diluvian world was extended far beyond the life of man in the post-diluvian world. Nor is this the whole of the historical argument or objection against tradition, because after the waters of the deluge had rolled away, the first fact that is narrated is that man had so lost the knowledge of the true God again, that he built the tower of Babel; and the next fact we read is that the world was so sunk in ignorance that it was necessary that God should choose Abraham and elect one family to Himself, in order that in that family He might take certain steps, by which to secure forever the remembrance of His name in the earth.
2. A Scriptural objection. This is founded upon a conversation narrated in the Gospel history (Mark 7:1-9). Our Lord states that His disciples were justified in rejecting the traditions of the elders because they made the law of God of none effect.
3. An objection arising out of the nature of tradition. With the most anxious desire only to speak the truth, the best men will sometimes vary in their narrative of facts — there is a defect in human memory; there is in the colouring of the minds of men, and there is in the degree of knowledge or ignorance of various men, that which leads to their varying more or less in their statements of fact. Now, if this be the ease in reference to fact, how much more is it the case in reference to abstract doctrines! In order to show that this difficulty still more exists in reference to doctrine, we have but to reflect how few there are in the world, who agree in all things precisely in the same views of doctrine. We regard, therefore, everything that is purely traditionary as necessarily unsound.
(M. H. Seymour, M. A.)
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.)
1. If the Bible be the Word of God, we have no need of any other rule. The Bible is able to make men wise unto salvation.
2. The attempts which have been made to set up other rules as co-ordinate with the Word of God, have generally had the effect of superceding practically the sacred Scriptures; and this constitutes a fair and legitimate presumption against them.
I. THE APOCRYPHAL BOOKS are certain writings composed in the interval between the time of Malachi and our Saviour's appearance in the flesh. They were not written in the Hebrew language, like the books of the Old Testament Scriptures, and exist only in Greek. The Jewish Church never acknowledged them as inspired; and when the apostle says (Romans 3:2), "that unto the Jews were committed the oracles of God," he seems to intimate, not merely that the possession of the sacred oracles was conferred on them as a privilege, but that the custody and preservation of them was imposed upon them as a duty, so that they being, as it were, the authorised depositories of the oracles of God, their testimony as to their authenticity is to be regarded as essentially important, if not of itself absolutely conclusive. The authority of these books was not in any instance acknowledged, directly or by implication, by our Saviour or His apostles, while they plainly acknowledged the authority of the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, the three classes into which the Jews usually distributed the canonical Scriptures. There is not a vestige of evidence that these books were composed by men who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, or that their authors were regarded in that light by any of their contemporaries. There are not a few statements in these books which, by no skill and learning, can be reconciled with each other, and which, therefore, cannot have proceeded from one and the same Spirit of truth.
II. The Church of Rome further professes to receive and venerate APOSTOLICAL TRADITIONS with equal piety and reverence as the written Word. In support of the authority of tradition, Papists commonly refer to the injunction of the apostle (2 Thessalonians 2:15), "to hold fast the traditions which they had been taught, whether by word, or by his epistle." Of course, it was the duty of the Thessalonians to hold fast all that they had been taught by the apostle, whether orally or by writing. And our answer to Papists, when they urge from this passage the authority of tradition, is just this, that if the Church of Rome will put us in the same situation with regard to her pretended traditions as the Thessalonians were in regard to the traditions to which the apostle refers; i.e., if she will give us as good evidence as the Thessalonians had that these traditions really came from an apostle, and were delivered by him as public instruction to the Churches, we will implicitly submit to them, but not otherwise.
III. Let us now advert to the claims which some who call them. selves rational Christians put forth in behalf of HUMAN REASON, to be received along with the Word of God as a rule of faith and practice. Men are certainly bound to exercise their reason most fully upon a matter so momentous as the end for which they were made. It is by their reason alone that they come into contact with truth, so as to discover, to apprehend, and to establish it. When the Bible is pressed upon their attention, as containing a revelation from God, they are bound to bring their whole faculties to bear upon the examination of the evidence on which its claim to that character rests, and to come to a clear and decided determination upon that point. If they come to the conclusion that the Bible does contain a revelation from God, then they are further bound to use their reason in discovering the meaning and import of its statements, and in ascertaining from them what is the standard of belief and practice which they ought to follow. And here in right reason the province of reason ends. There can be no more satisfactory reason for believing any doctrine, no more conclusive evidence that it is true, than the fact that God has revealed it. This is a position to which the reason of every rational man assents, and it plainly supersedes the mere unaided efforts of our own reason upon any point on which God has made known to us His will. Men have no right to regard their own reason as the measure or standard of truth, or to suppose that they are capable of discovering much, by its unaided efforts, in regard to an infinite God and an invisible world.
(W. Cunningham.)I. Permit me to urge upon you THE BRINGING CERTAIN THINGS "TO THE LAW AND TO THE TESTIMONY."
1. The ideas engendered in you by your early training.
2. The preachers of the Gospel.
3. There is another class of men. These men are their own preachers; they believe no one but themselves.
4. Just do the same with all books that you read.
II. THE GOOD EFFECTS that you will derive from a careful study of the law and testimony of God.
1. Unless you study the Word of God you will not be competent to detect error.
2. When you are in a matter of dispute you will be able to speak very confidently.
3. Search the Scriptures, because in so doing you win get a rich harvest of blessing to your own soul.
III. OTHER REASONS. Many false prophets are gone forth into the world. There is a solemn danger of being absolutely misled. Read your Bibles to know what the Bible says about you.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Expediency, borrowed from the storehouse of sceptical philosophy, and placed, by its wisest defenders, as nearly as might be done, on a Christian foundation, pronounces that an action is right or wrong according as it tends to promote or to diminish general happiness. Whatever is expedient is right. Every moral precept is subject to exceptions. And of the expediency of regarding or disregarding the precept every man is in every case to judge for himself.
2. Honour, as a principle of action, refers to the estimation of the class of society in which the individual moves, and especially to the sentiments of the higher ranks, whose opinions will ever be of the most preponderating influence. Its concern respecting moral actions is limited to such as are useful in fashionable intercourse: and is particularly bestowed on those which have somewhat of splendour, commonly of false splendour, in their exterior appearance.
3. Custom is the general guide of those persons who give little thought to the investigation of principles, and take their moral opinions upon trust from others. No one of these is the Scriptural standard of conduct. They all depart from "the law and the testimony." "They speak not according to this word": therefore "there is no tight in them." Let us now advert to their effects.
I. One effect will be this: THE MORALITY PRODUCED WILL BE UNCERTAIN AND VARIABLE. From a survey of the variable morality produced by these false principles of morals, turn to the morality of the Scriptures. Behold it firm, consistent, immutable: not committing its precepts to the jurisdiction of man, and investing him with a dispensing power to suspend or to abrogate them at his discretion; but commanding him universally to be faithful in obeying them, and to leave consequences with God.
II. Another effect of the erroneous principles under examination is, that THE MORALITY PRODUCED IS LOW IN DEGREE. From the view of the debased morality originating in false principles direct your eyes again to the Word of God. Behold the morality which it teaches, worthy of Him, suited to man I Behold it manifesting itself by its holiness to be a transcript of the holiness of God! Behold it as a branch of that "godliness," which "has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come": behold it conducing to the happiness of men, present no less than future. Behold it not partially confining its benefits to select classes of society; but with outspread arms showering them down upon all. Behold it displaying from age to age its hallowed truths, uncorrupt, unsullied, as the source from which it flows. Behold it exemplified in the fulness of perfection, by, Him who is the cornerstone of Christian morality; by the incarnate Son of God, even by Him who was "God manifest in the flesh."
III. THE MISCHIEF PRODUCED BY FALSE PRINCIPLES OF MORALITY WILL BE BEYOND MEASURE EXTENSIVE. it is on moral dispositions and moral conduct that these principles operate. And it is in the government of moral dispositions, and in the exercise of them in moral actions, that much of the employment of life consists. If religion be weakened in one point, it is weakened in all points, it is endangered in all. Ii then you are anxious, in discharging the duties of morality," faithfully" to follow the. Divine commandments, and to tread in the steps of your Lord, "search the Scriptures. By them shall every moral deed be tried at last: by them let it be directed now.
Gates of Imagery.When Sir David Wilkie was setting out for an artistic tour in the Holy Land, he was asked what guide book he was taking with him. He held out the Bible, saying, "This is the best guide book." We are pilgrims to the heavenly Canaan. What guide book will be so helpful to us as the Bible? It will shed light on our way.
(Gates of Imagery.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
PeopleImmanuel, Isaiah, Jacob, Jeberechiah, Mahershalalhashbaz, Remaliah, Rezin, Uriah, Urijah, Zechariah
PlacesAssyria, Damascus, Euphrates River, Jerusalem, Judah, Mount Zion, Samaria, Shiloah
TopicsDawn, Daybreak, Faith, Instruction, Law, Manner, Morning, Speak, Surely, Teaching, Testimony, Turn, Wherein, Witness
Outline1. In Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, he prophesies Syria and Israel shall be subdued by Assyria
5. Judah likewise for their infidelity
9. God's judgments shall be irresistible
11. Comfort shall be to those who fear God
19. Great afflictions to idolaters
Dictionary of Bible ThemesIsaiah 8:20
LibraryShiloah and Euphrates
Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly ... the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many.' ISAIAH viii. 6, 7. The kingdom of Judah was threatened with a great danger in an alliance between Israel and Damascus. The cowardly King Ahaz, instead of listening to Isaiah's strong assurances and relying on the help of God, made what he thought a master-stroke of policy in invoking the help of the formidable Assyrian power. That ambitious military …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Search the Scriptures
Exposition of the Doctrines of Grace
Prefatory Scripture Passages.
Of the Scriptures
Gihon, the Same with the Fountain of Siloam.
Trials of the Christian
That it is not Lawful for the Well Affected Subjects to Concur in Such an Engagement in War, and Associate with the Malignant Party.
The Universality of Actual Grace
Jesus' Temporary Residence at Capernaum.
Of the Character of the Unregenerate.
To Pastors and Teachers
"But if we Walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have Fellowship one with Another, and the Blood of Jesus Christ His
The Wicked Husbandmen.
Letter xix (A. D. 1127) to Suger, Abbot of S. Denis
First Sunday in Lent
Covenanting a Privilege of Believers.
Christ's Prophetic Office
A Treatise of the Fear of God;
That the Employing Of, and Associating with the Malignant Party, According as is Contained in the Public Resolutions, is Sinful and Unlawful.
History of the Interpretation.
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