True servants of God demand to see for all church ordinances and doctrines the express authority of the church’s only teacher and Lord. They remember that the Lord Jesus bade the apostles to teach believers to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them. The Holy Spirit revealed much of precious truth and holy precept by the apostles, and to his teaching we would give earnest heed; but when men cite the authority of fathers, and councils, and bishops, we give place for subjection, no, not for an hour. They may quote Irenaeus or Cyprian, Augustine or Chrysostom; they may remind us of the dogmas of Luther or Calvin; they may find authority in Simeon, or Wesley, or Gill. We will listen to the opinions of these great men with the respect they deserve as men, but having so done, we deny that we have anything to do with these men as authorities in the church of God, for there nothing has authority, but ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts.’ If you shall bring us the concurrent consent of all tradition, if you shall quote precedents, we burn the whole as so much worthless lumber, unless you put your finger upon the passage of Holy Scripture which warrants the matter to be of God. You may further plead, in addition to all this venerable authority, the beauty of the ceremony and its usefulness to those who partake therein, but this is all foreign to the point, for to the true church of God the only question is this, is there a ‘Thus saith the Lord’ for it? And if divine authority be not forthcoming, faithful men thrust forth the intruder as the cunning craftiness of men.
For meditation: Traditions can be good or bad. Are your doctrine and practice based upon the words of men or the Word of God (Mark 7:7–9; Colossians 2:8)? Having turned from the traditions of men to the revelation of Christ (Galatians 1:11–14), the apostle Paul handed down to others what he had received from the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:23; 15:3). God’s Word is the only acceptable authority for our doctrines and practices (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6).