The Bible and Free Inquiry
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

"Despise not prophesyings," i.e., preaching, the apostle has just said. Now comes the text. "Don't deify the preacher." Put what they say to the test (1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11). Congregations should listen with a desire to profit, and then carry all the preacher says to the test of holy Scripture.


1. There is such a thing as good. Philosophers have told us of a summum bonum, and common experience points in the same direction: "There be many that say, Who will show us any good?" We have not only intellects that want to be satisfied, but hearts and wills that want to be cheered and guided. We want to be peaceful while we live and when we come to die, and nothing is really good that does not help us to this end (Isaiah 55:1-3).

2. This is the end our inquiry should aim at. Mere assault on error or ridicule of folly is poor and heartless work. Sometimes it is necessary, but if this is all you attempt you may break every idol and not increase man's happiness by one atom. Paul did something more than this at Athens.

3. Here is a model for the free inquirer. Let your object be to do all the good you can. All your skill as an iconoclast will do nothing to meet the cry, "Who will show us," etc.

II. THE CHARACTER THE INQUIRY SHOULD ASSUME. Put everything to the proof. The inquiry should be —

1. Careful. This is required in chemistry and astronomy, and the man who does not carefully examine the truths of religion will make the grossest blunders.

2. Comprehensive. You ought to examine the inquirer as well as the object, the instruments he uses, and the faculties he employs. A man once gazed through a telescope at the sun, and immediately turned away in alarm, exclaiming, "There is a monster in the sun." It proved, however, only to be an insect in the telescope. So with many who glance now and then at religion. Their instruments of inquiry are not clear, and they ascribe to the shining orb what really belongs to the foul tube. What would you think of a man who had no ear for music criticizing Handel's "Messiah"? Or a man colour blind describing a garden in May? Or a prodigal judging the rules of his father's house? Do these illustrations apply? I am not saying that every free inquirer into religion is worse than other men, but that he is no better by nature. Ought he not, then, to take this into account? If I have unworthy passions I have a bias against a holy religion.

3. Free from pride, passion, sin, ambition. etc.


1. Of such a nature. Here is this Book of Truth, not hiding in darkness, but exposing itself. I tell you of —

(1) A God, a great, intelligent Creator. Put it to the test. Is it not more reasonable than that there is no intelligent cause?

(2) A law ordaining perfect love to God and man. Put it to the test. What would the world have been had it kept it? What is it because it has broken it?

(3) A Saviour. Prove Him. Does He not commend Himself to reason and conscience?

(4) Mysteries. Prove this too. Is it not reasonable that the finite can never grasp the infinite?

2. To such an end. It is "good" we want. This the Bible brings. Its revelations were not given for our amusement, but for our advantage. It gives peace with God through Christ in obedience to the law, peace in our own souls and towards men, and leads to the world of perfect peace. And now it says, "Hold it fast!" There is something rich and substantial about it. Hold it fast against the power and subtlety of the tempter.

(F. Tucker, B. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

WEB: Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.

Testing the Bible
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