John Collins, one of the Puritans who became unable to preach at the Great Ejectment (1662), delivered this sermon on Jude 3, “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” In that sermon he sets out the rule
Bring all doctrines that offered you to believe and all the practices that are put upon you to practice to the test of the Scriptures, to the Word of God. Try them there, whether they are to be retained or to be rejected. You will thus discover what is right and what is wrong; and you have on the best part of your armor by which you contend against error.
This rule sets a duty upon the Christian “in the pew”. One is not to blindly follow leadership, nor accept every doctrine or practice merely because it is delivered. Someone might ask, but what about “unity”. There is political unity and there is unity in Christ. The unity of the Spirit will be completely consistent with the Scripture. A unity founded upon something is not Christian unity and a Christian has no duty to preserve such unity (to take extreme examples as illustrations, the Nazis and Maoists have some serious “unity”; but it is a monstrous, evil unity. Criminals robbing a bank have unity. Unity is neither good nor bad except for the basis of the unity.)
He states the rule simply, “All that is written you must believe, and you must believe nothing but what is written.
How then would someone try to take me off from the basis for the unity of Spirit? First, someone might say, “This is the practice of the ‘Church’.” As if the “Church” was an independent basis for the communication of God’s revelation. He then draws out the point:
No sober man will go against reason. No Christian will go against the Scripture; and no peaceable-minded man will go against the church. But then the church must shine by a Scripture-light. If that be a rule, it must be ruled by the Scripture. The church’s power is in not authoritative, as to give laws against the laws of Christ; it only ministerial. We believe the Scripture for itself, and not because of the church; we receive the Scripture by the church. Therefore, when we set up the name of a church, let us see whether that church walks in the way of Christ, whether she is his spouse or no, whether she acts according to his institutions, whether they bring his light, yea or no; then submit. For it is not what a church practices but what it is warranted to practice; not what it holds for truth, but what it is warranted to hold for truth.
This can be very deceptive — it is not the fact that the church professes such a thing: a group called a ‘church’ may profess and do all sorts of things. The Christian ‘church’ has done and professed all sorts of things that have no warrant in Scripture (and which are rejected by other Christian ‘churches’. The Scripture is only warrant for the Church’s doctrine and practice.
He then states two more deceptions. One is the claim, that this is the way our ‘fathers’ worshipped. This tack is not so prevalent in the West now, because we can easily move about.
The final one is actually a means which is very common in our culture, “this is the way the people now do it.” This is not only a matter of what other ‘churches’ profess or do — although such is an argument. We have gone a step further than Collins’ time, because now the church will take on believes and practices based upon the opinion of those who are not even claiming to be Christian.
(From Sermons of the Great Ejectment, Banner of Truth. An excellent volume; get it.)