The Berean Protestant

Acts 17:11; Isaiah 8:20; Romans 4:3
      They received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, to see if these things were so—To the law and the testimony—What saith the scripture?

 C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): We have often heard that watchword sounded in our ears, “The Bible, and the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants.” Alas! if this motto were ever really true we fear that its truth at this moment is more than questionable.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The basis of faith says: “We believe in the divine inspiration and entire trustworthiness of holy Scripture as originally given, and its supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.” I contend that it is not enough just to say that; we have got to go further. There are people who claim to subscribe to that doctrine, who, I would suggest, in some of their statements raise very serious doubts as to whether they really do accept it. So we have to say some specific things such as the Scripture is our sole authority, our only authority. I say this to emphasize that we do not accept tradition as an authority in any sense of that term.

 WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): To this word we are to appeal. We are to appeal to it only, “to the law and to the testimony,” and to nothing else. This in various instances is eluded. A Jew admits the Scriptures of the Old Testament to be of God; and could you lead him to these only, you might easily convert him to Christianity. But in his case they are surrounded with Talmudical and Rabbinical appendages, the errors, falsehoods, follies, and absurdities of which can scarcely be conceived. Their oral law renders Moses and the prophets almost inaccessible, or perverts their meaning; and little can be done, unless you separate the vile from the precious, and lead them at once to the law and the testimony.
      A Papist admits the Scriptures of both the Old and New Testament to be divine; and could you contend with him upon this ground only, a victory would be easily obtained. But he admits along with these the Apocrypha, tradition, the decrees of councils; and the word of truth is approached, if not through these, yet in full company with them, and can only speak as they shall approve.
      And there are Protestants who invite you into the temple of revelation; but you must enter leaning on Calvin or Arminius, or some other interpreter, who is to tell you how the response of the sacred oracles are to be taken, for you cannot be trusted alone. Hence articles and creeds and systems are drawn up by fallible men who have no other sources of information than ourselves, and these are to be taken as including all the faith once delivered to the saints.

 RENÉ PACHE (1904-1979): And now commences man’s dominion, by means of manuals, catechisms, commentaries and interpretations…Men hope soon to get the teaching all summed up, simplified, reduced to a system and methodized. And then, for all practical purposes, the interpretation of the church and the creed are put above the Bible.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Confessions of Faith, instead of being subordinate standards, tend to be the primary and supreme standard, replacing the Bible in that position…Officially we say that these Confessions are the “subordinate standard;” the Bible comes first, then these. But there is always the danger that the Calvinist may reverse the order.

 WILLIAM JAY: If these formularies are designed and used as human and limited aids to help in arranging, remembering, or understanding the divine record, they may be not only unexceptional, but useful. But how apt are they to grow in their claims, so that in time they are virtually regarded by many as of paramount importance with the Scripture itself.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: A question arises here―It is the whole question of the rightness of preaching from and through the Catechism rather than preaching through and from the Bible itself. I am simply putting it up as a question which we need to examine…I venture to go a step further, and to expose myself to some criticism, by saying that on the whole I do not believe in preaching through a catechism. There are those for whom I have great respect who do this regularly; but I suggest that this is not a wise procedure, chiefly for the reason that it tends to produce a theoretical attitude to the Truth, an over-intellectual attitude to the Truth. It is not that I do not believe in teaching people the Catechism. I do. But my view is that this should be done at another time and in a different way. I would place this under the heading of instruction and deal with it in a series of lectures. But, still better, it seems to me, is to tell the people to read and study the Catechism for themselves and then consider it together in discussion groups. I say all this because I believe, as I have been indicating, that in preaching, the message should be always arise out of the Scriptures directly and not out of the formulations of men, even the best men.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Let not authority from man, but evidence from the Word, conclude thy judgment; that is but a shore, this a foundation. Quote the Scripture rather than men for thy judgment. Not, so saith such a learned holy man; but, thus saith the holy Scripture.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: But my final argument against preaching through the Catechism is that the same object can be achieved by preaching from the Scriptures in the way that I have indicated; for after all, the catechisms derive from the Scriptures. The function of a catechism, I would have thought, ultimately, is not to provide material for preaching; it is to safeguard the correctness of the preaching, and to safeguard the interpretations of the people as they read their Bibles…It is surely wrong therefore to just preach constantly year after year on the Catechism, instead of preaching the Word directly from the Scripture itself, with the Scriptures open before you, and the minds of the people directed to that rather than to men’s understanding of it. Though what you are preaching is your understanding of the meaning and teaching of the Scriptures, this method preserves and emphasizes in a clearer manner, the idea that you are giving the message of the Bible rather than the dogma of a particular church.

GEORGE MÜLLER (1805-1898): Expounding the Scriptures encourages the congregation to bring their Bibles to church, and everything that leads believers to value the Scriptures is important.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The kind of sermons that people need to hear are outgrowths of Scripture.

J. W. ALEXANDER (1804-1859): The Bible, is, after all, the one book of the preacher.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: After all, these catechisms were produced by men, and men who were concerned to emphasize certain things in peculiar historical situations, over against certain other teachings and attitudes. At their best, therefore, they tend to be incomplete, they tend to have a particular emphasis; and therefore, they tend to leave out certain things.

WILLIAM JAY: However large the vessel they construct, it will not contain all this ocean―Christianity is “all the fullness of God.”

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): The Bible is my body of divinity; and, were I a tutor myself, I believe I should prefer the Epistles of St. Paul, as a summary, to any human systems I have seen, especially his Epistles to the Romans, Galatians, the Hebrews, and Timothy.

 ALEXANDER CARSON (1776-1844): In giving a standard for the guidance of all ages in the doctrines, precepts, and ordinances of Christ, we would have naturally expected that all would have been drawn up in a formal, full, and precise system by the apostles. No such thing is found in the New Testament. All things are brought forward as circumstances called for; and they are taught in words, not in a regulated system. The epistles of the apostles contain the doctrines, precepts, and ordinances of the Christian religion as occasion demanded at the time; and all ages are left to find the truth by tracing their steps…This is admirable wisdom; this is the wisdom of God. It leaves a standard, while it apparently neglects a standard.

 C. H. MACKINTOSH: We may depend upon it, the one aim of the enemy is to set aside the authority of the Word of God, and he cares not by what agency he gains his end…It has ever been a special design of Satan to lead God’s people away from Scripture. He will use anything and everything for this end—tradition, the church so-called, expediency, human reason, popular opinion, reputation and influence, character, position, and usefulness—all those he will use in order to get the heart and conscience away from that one golden sentence—that divine, eternal motto, “It is written.”

 C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Oh, for the Berean spirit back again, to search the Scriptures…The Word! the simple, pure, infallible Word of God we must live upon if we are to become strong against error, and tenacious of truth. Brethren, may you be established in the faith rooted, grounded, built up; but I know you cannot be except ye search the Scriptures continually.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): It is not a question of what I think, or of what any one else thinks—it is, what saith the Scriptures? It is not a matter of what any church or creed teaches—it is, What teaches the Bible?

J. H. MERLE d’AUBIGNÉ (1794-1872): In every church where the authority of the Word is not absolute, it is necessary to have recourse to another authority.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Roman Catholicism puts the Church, its tradition and its interpretation of Scripture first; and all imperfectly reformed churches have always continued to do the same. But the peculiar characteristic of the Puritan is that he asserts the supreme authority of the Word of God.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): I therefore take little notice of what a man may saith, though he flourisheth his matter with many brave words, if he bring not with him, “Thus saith the Lord.”

 J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): A man must make the Bible alone his rule.

GEORGE MÜLLER: The Word of God is our only standard.

JOHN JASPER* (1812-1901): What de Bible say? Dat’s what I axe tuh know!

MATTHEW HENRY: Ministers, when they go to the pulpit, should take their Bibles with them.
*Editor’s Note: John Jasper was an ex-slave who became a popular preacher in Richmond, Virginia after the American Civil War, and we have it on very good authority that he spoke in dialect: “Shades of our Anglo-Saxon fathers!” wrote William Hatcher, on hearing Jasper preach, “Did mortal lips ever gush with such torrents of horrible English! Hardly a word came out clothed and in its right mind…Meanwhile, in spite of these things, he was pouring out a gospel sermon, red hot, full of love, full of invective, full of tenderness, full of bitterness, full of tears, full of every passion which ever flamed in the human breast.”


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