If every man
has the right, and is
bound to read
the Scriptures, and to judge for himself what they teach, he must have
rules to guide him in the exercise of this privilege and duty. These
not arbitrary. They are not imposed by human authority. They have no
force which does not flow from their own intrinsic truth and propriety.
are few and simple.
The words of Scripture are to be taken in their plain
. That is, they must be taken in the sense attached
in the age and by the people to whom they were addressed. This only
that the sacred writers were honest, and meant to be understood.
If the Scriptures be what they claim to be, the word of
God, they are the work of one mind, and that mind divine.
follows that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture
. God cannot
one place anything which is inconsistent with what He teaches in
Scripture must explain Scripture
. If a passage admits of
interpretations, that only can be the true one which agrees with what
teaches elsewhere on the same subject. If the Scriptures teach that the
the same in substance and equal in power and glory with the Father,
the Son says, "The Father is greater than I," the superiority must be
understood in a manner consistent with this equality. It must refer
subordination as to the mode of subsistence and operation, or it must
official. A king's son may say, "My father is greater than I,"
although personally his father's equal. This rule of interpretation is
sometimes called the analogy of Scripture, and sometimes the analogy of
There is no material difference in the meaning of the two expressions.
The Scriptures are to be interpreted under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit,
which guidance is to be humbly and
sought. The ground of this rule is twofold: First, the Spirit is
promised as a
guide and teacher. He was to come to lead the people of God into the
of the truth. And secondly, the Scriptures teach, that "the natural man
not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him;
can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. ii.
14.) The unrenewed mind is naturally blind to spiritual truth. His
heart is in
opposition to the things of God. Congeniality of mind is necessary to
proper apprehension of divine things. As only those who have a moral
discern moral truth, so those only who are spiritually minded can truly
the things of the Spirit.
The fact that all the true people of
God in every age and in every part of the Church, in the exercise of
private judgment, in accordance with the simple rules above stated,
agree as to
the meaning of Scripture in all things necessary either in faith or
is a decisive proof of the perspicuity of the Bible, and of the safety
the people the enjoyment of the divine right of private judgment.
by Charles Hodge