The Rule of Faith and Practice, Part 5

AA Hodge

AA Hodge

The following information is taken from AA Hodge’s Outlines of Theology, published in 1866. Hodge graduated from Princeton Seminary and served as a missionary to India and a pastor. He later served as a Professor and Chair of Theology at Princeton Seminary. Hodge was an associate and contemporary of the famous Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, and his Systematic Theology text was used at Spurgeon’s Pastors College.


Baptist Confession, Article I, Paragraph 1 –

The Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule for saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.

Baptist Confession, Article I, Paragraph 10 –

The supreme judge by which all religious controversies are to be settled, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, human doctrines and individual thinkers are to be examined, can be none other than the Holy Scriptures delivered by the Spirit. In the verdict of Scripture our faith is finally determined.


Outlines of Theology, AA Hodge

15. What is meant by saying that the Scriptures are the judge as well as the rule in questions of faith?

A rule is a standard of judgment; a judge is the expounder and applier of that rule to the decision of particular cases.

The Protestant doctrine is:

1st. That the Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice.


  • negatively. That there is no body of men who are either qualified, or authorized, to interpret the Scriptures, or apply their principles to the decision of particular questions, in a sense binding upon the faith of their fellow Christians.

  • Positively. That Scripture is the only infallible voice in the church, and is to be interpreted, in its own light, and with the gracious help of the Holy Ghost, who is promised to every Christian (1 John 2:20-27), by each individual for himself; with the assistance, though not by the authority, of his fellow Christians. Creeds and confessions, as to form, bind only those who voluntarily profess them, and as to matter, they bind only so far as they affirm truly what the Bible teaches, and because the Bible does so teach.

16. What is the Romish doctrine regarding the authority of the church as the infallible interpreter of the rule of faith and the authoritative judge of all controversies?

The Romish doctrine is that the church is absolutely infallible in all matters of Christian faith and practice, and the divinely authorized depository and interpreter of the rule of faith. Her office is not to convey new revelations from God to man, yet her inspiration renders her infallible in disseminating and interpreting the original revelation communicated through the apostles.

The church, therefore, authoritatively determines –

  • What is Scripture.
  • What is genuine tradition
  • What is the true sense of Scripture and ‘tradition’, and what is the true application of that perfect rule to every particular question of belief or practice.

This authority vests in the pope, when acting in his official capacity, and in the bishops as a body, as when assembled in general council, or when giving universal consent to a decree of pope or council.—“Decrees of Council of Trent,” Session 4.; “Deus Theo.,” N. 80, 81, 84, 93, 94, 95, 96. “Bellarmine,” Lib. 3., de eccles., cap. 14., and Lib. 2., de council., cap. 2.

17. By what arguments do they seek to establish this authority?

1st The promises of Christ, given, as they claim, to the apostles, and to their official successor, securing their infallibility, and consequent authority. – Matt. 16:18; 18:18-20; Luke 24:47-49; John 16:13; 20:23.

2nd The commission given to the church as the teacher of the world. – Matt. 28:19, 20; Luke 10:16, etc.

3rd The church is declared to be “the pillar and ground of the truth,” and it is affirmed that “the gates of hell shall never prevail against her.”

4th To the church is granted power to bind and loose, and he that will not hear the church is to be treated as a heathen. Matt. 16:19; 18:15-18.

5th The church is commanded to discriminate between truth and error, and must consequently be qualified and authorized to do so – 2 Thessalonians 3:6; Romans 16:17; 2 John 10.

6th From the necessity of the case, men need and crave an everliving, visible, and contemporaneous infallible Interpreter and Judge.

7th From universal analogy every community among men has the living judge as well as the written law, and the one would be of no value without the other.

8th This power is necessary to secure unity and universality, which all acknowledge to be essential attributes of the true church.

18. By what arguments may this claim of the Romish church be shown to be utterly baseless?

1st A claim vesting in mortal men a power so momentous can be established only by the most clear and certain evidence, and the failure to produce such converts the claim into a treason at once against God and the human race.

2nd Her evidence fails, because the promises of Christ to preserve his church from extinction and from error do none of them go the length of pledging infallibility. The utmost promised is, that the true people of God shall never perish entirely from the earth, or be left to apostatize from the essentials of the faith.

3rd Her evidence fails, because these promises of Christ were addressed not to the officers of the church as such, but to the body of true believers. Compare John 20:23 with Luke 24:33,47,48,49, and 1 John 2:20,27.

4th Her evidence fails, because the church to which the precious promises of the Scriptures are pledged is not an external, visible society, the authority of which is vested in the hands of a perpetual line of apostles. For


5th The inspired apostles have had no successors.

  • There is no evidence that they had such in the New Testament.
  • While provision was made for the regular perpetuation of the offices of presbyter and deacon (1 Tim. 3:1-13), there are no directions given for the perpetuation of the apostolate.
  • There is perfect silence concerning the continued existence of any apostles in the church in the writings of the early centuries. Both the name and the thing ceased.
  • No one ever claiming to be one of their successors have possessed the “signs of an apostle.” – 2 Cor. 12:12; 1 Cor. 9:1; Gal. 1:1,12; Acts 1:21-22.

6th This claim, as it rests upon the authority of the Pope, is utterly unscriptural, because the Pope is not known to Scripture. As it rests upon the authority of the whole body of the bishops, expressed in their general consent, it is unscriptural for the reasons above shown, and it is, moreover, impracticable, since their universal judgment never has been and never can be impartially collected and pronounced.

7th There can be no infallibility where there is not self- consistency. But as a matter of fact the Papal church has not been self-consistent in her teaching.

  • She has taught different doctrines in different sections and ages.
  • She affirms the infallibility of the holy Scriptures, and at the same time teaches a system plainly and radically inconsistent with their manifest sense; witness the doctrines of the priesthood, the mass, penance, of works, and of Mary worship. Therefore the Church of Rome hides the Scriptures from the people.

8th If this Romish system be true then genuine spiritual religion ought to flourish in her communion, and all the rest of the world ought to be a moral desert. The facts are notoriously the reverse. If; therefore, we admit that the Romish system is true, we subvert one of the principal evidences of Christianity itself; viz., the self-evidencing light and practical power of true religion, and the witness of the Holy Ghost.


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