Michael Jeshurun

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, WHETHER THOSE THINGS WERE SO.” [Acts 17:11]

THIS is the divine standard of appeal. God gave it as our guide, and we are commanded to search it. It is to be the test of all religious teaching; and the conduct of the Bereans in making it the test of Paul’s preaching is honored by its divine Author; for let it not be forgotten that it is God who speaks in the text.

They did not appeal to TRADITION. They might have done this. Rumor said that Christ was an impostor; Paul affirmed that He was the Messiah. How were they to decide? Simply by appealing to the Scriptures. They did not appeal to their PRIESTS and RABBIS. They had told them to oppose Christianity, and seek to exterminate it. But they knew their priests were fallible men, and that if they obeyed them, they might possibly be “found fighting against God.” They did not appeal to their own PREFERENCE, and INTEREST, and CONVENIENCE. These would have prompted them to reject the investigation of the doctrine and decide at once in accordance with tradition and popular customs.

Abandoning all these false and uncertain standards, they appealed to the Scriptures, to settle the differences between their views and those of their reformers. They “searched” the Scriptures; as one who seeks for something that is lost. Many persons read the Bible only to find support for what they already believe, and search the Scriptures to prove that what is new to them is NOT SO. But these Bereans exhibited the same candor in testing the word, that they did in its reception. If the Scriptures sustained the apostle, they adopted his views; if not, they rejected them. Thus they honored God, and exempted themselves from the charge of willful ignorance, intolerance, and superstition.

This is the reception that should always be given to those who aim to reform a community, whether that reformation be universal, or whether it have reference only to a single doctrine or ordinance. Such a reception is all the true servants of God ask anywhere. Those who hold the truth have nothing to fear from such a course. Respectful, candid, and patient attention, will enable them the more readily to detect sophistry and specious reasoning, and the study of the Bible will always expose what is unscriptural and erroneous. Moreover, this course has the sanction of God, however much it may offend men.

The Bible should be the test of all preaching. That man who desires to make himself the umpire and final standard of appeal to his congregation, involves himself in a fearful responsibility, and virtually claims for himself infallibility. Yet some ministers appear offended if their authority is questioned, or if their preaching is tested by the Word of God. So did not Paul. Though inspired, he commended the course of those, who, instead of taking his SAY SO for it, examined the Scriptures for themselves, to see whether those things which he told them were so. To adopt a contrary course, and blindly follow a minister or priest, is downright Romanism; and, if pursued universally, would arrest the progress of’ the Gospel, and clog the wheels of truth, and stamp error with immutability.

What if the Hindu, the Buddhist, and the Mohammedan follow their priests, and universally determine never to examine Christianity? What if the Mohammedan, Romanist and Greek, follow their teachers? What if the Universalist, Infidel, and Atheist, follow their champions! And yet these have as much war rant to do this, as the Presbyterian, Methodist, or Baptist. No, my brethren, your minister is not to be the umpire or standard. There is but one who could say, “FOLLOW ME!” and that was Christ. We point you to Him. We direct you to His Word as the standard of your duty, and to His example as the pattern of your lives. If, in what we post, we say anything that conflicts with these, reject it; but if you on examination, find that these things which we preach are so, remember, the whole responsibility of either rejecting it or accepting it rests at your own door.

If the conduct of the Bereans were universally imitated, what happy events would follow. How soon would infidelity, and error, and superstition vanish before the influence of sound reason and Scripture truth. What courtesy, and forbearance, and love, would be manifested among brethren who differ. How much more diligently would the Bible be studied, and how soon would the multitude of sects and parties disappear, and the Saviour’s prayer that they all might be one would be answered.

The contrary course can benefit no one. If a man is in an error, no matter how trivial, it can do him no good to continue in that error. Especially, it can do him no good to dwarf his mind, and stunt his intellectual powers, in order that he may continue in it unmolested. Yet this is the effect of refusing a candid investigation of the truth. Further, if a man has the truth, he will not fear investigation, but rather court it,. “He that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” [John 3:21]

If a pretended reformer appears, there is no surer way of exposing the imposition, than the adoption of the example of the Bereans. True servants of God, appeal not to the sympathies, but to the consciences of men; not to prejudice, but to reason; not to tradition but to the Scriptures. All that we ask for is the reception which the Bereans gave to those who sought to convert them from Judaism to Christianity.

So do that – i.e. Receive the word with all readiness of mind, and search the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things are so!

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