~ William Miller's Rules of Bible Interpretation ~
In studying the Bible, I have found the following Rules to be of great service to myself, and now give them to the public by special request. Every Rule should be well studied, in connection with the scripture references, if the Bible student would be at all benefited by them.
Every word must have its proper bearing on the subject presented in the Bible.
All scripture is necessary, and may be understood by a diligent application and study.
2 Tim. 3:15-17.
Nothing revealed in the scripture can or will be hid from those who ask in faith, not wavering.
Deut. 29:29. Matt. 10:26,27. 1Cor. 2:10. Phil. 3:15. Isa. 45:11. Matt. 21:22. John 14:13,14. 15:7. James 1:5,6. 1 John 5:13-15.
To understand doctrine, bring all the scriptures together on the subject you wish to know; then let every word have its proper influence, and if you can form your theory without a contradiction, you cannot be in an error.
Isa. 28:7-29. 35:8. Prov. 19:27. Luke 24:27,44,45. Rom. 16:26. 2 Pet. 1:19, 20.
Scripture must be its own expositor, since it is a rule of itself. If I depend on a teacher to expound it to me, and he should guess at its meaning, or desire to have it so on account of his sectarian creed, or to be thought wise, then his guessing, desire, creed or wisdom is my rule, not the Bible.
Ps.19:7-11. Ps.119:97-105. Matt.23:8-10. 1Cor. 2:12-16. Eze. 34:18,19. Luke 11:52. Mal. 2:7,8.
God has revealed things to come, by visions, in figures and parables, and in this way the same things are often revealed again and again, by different visions, or in different figures, and parables. If you wish to understand them, you must combine them all in one.
Ps. 89:19. Hos. 12:10. Hab. 2:2. Acts 2:17. 1Cor. 10:6. Heb. 9:9,24. Ps. 78:2. Matt. 13:13,34. Gen. 41:1-32. Dan. 2. 7. and 8. Acts 10:9-16.
Visions are always mentioned as such.
Figures always have a figurative meaning, and are used much in prophecy, to represent future things, times and events; such as: "mountains" meaning governments; "beasts" meaning kingdoms; "waters" meaning people; "lamp" meaning Word of God; "day" meaning year.
Dan. 2:35,44. 7:8,17. Rev. 17:1,15. Ps. 119:105. Ezek. 4:6.
Parables are used as comparisons to illustrate subjects, and must be explained in the same way as figures by the subject and Bible.
Figures sometimes have two or more different significations, as "day" is used in a figurative sense to represent three different periods of time.
2. Definite, a day for a year.
3. Day for a thousand years.
If you put on the right construction it will harmonize with the Bible and make good sense, otherwise it will not.
Ezek. 4:6. 2Pet. 3:8.
How to know when a word is used figuratively: If it makes good sense as it stands, and does no violence to the simple laws of nature, then it must be understood literally, if not, figuratively.
Rev. 12:1,2. 17:3-7.
To learn the true meaning of figures, trace your figurative word through your Bible, and where you find it explained, put it on your figure, and if it makes good sense you need look no further, if not, look again.
To know whether we have the true historical event for the fulfillment of a prophecy, if you find every word of the prophecy (after the figures are understood) is literally fulfilled, then you may know that your history is the true event. But if one word lacks a fulfillment, then you must look for another event, or wait its future development. For God takes care that history and prophecy doth agree, so that the true believing children of God may never be ashamed.
Ps. 22:5. Isa. 45:17-19. 1Pet. 2:6. Rev. 17:17. Acts 3:18.
The most important Rule of all is, that you must have faith. It must be a faith that requires a sacrifice, and, if tried, would give up the dearest object on earth, the world and all its desires, character, living, occupation, friends, home, comforts, and worldly honors. If any of these should hinder our believing any part of God's word, it would show our faith to be vain. Nor can we ever believe so long as one of these motives lies lurking in our hearts. We must believe that God will never forfeit his word. And we can have confidence that he that takes notice of the sparrow, and numbers the hairs of our head, will guard the translation of his own word, and throw a barrier around it, and prevent those who sincerely trust in God, and put implicit confidence in his word, from erring far from the truth, though they may not understand Hebrew or Greek.
These are some of the most important Rules which I find the word of God warrants me to adopt and follow, in order for system and regularity. And if I am not greatly deceived, in so doing, I have found the Bible, as a whole, one of the most simple, plain, and intelligible books ever written, containing proof in itself of its divine origin, and full of all knowledge that our hearts could wish to know or enjoy. I have found it a treasure which the world cannot purchase. It gives a calm peace in believing, and a firm hope in the future. It sustains the mind in adversity, and teaches us to be humble in prosperity. It prepares us to love and do good to others, and to realize the value of the soul. It makes us bold and valiant for the truth, and nerves the arm to oppose error. It gives us a powerful weapon to break down Infidelity, and makes known the only antidote for sin. It instructs us how death will be conquered, and how the bonds of the tomb must be broken. It tells us of future events, and shows the preparation necessary to meet them. It gives us an opportunity to hold conversation with the King of kings, and reveals the best code of Laws ever enacted.
This is but a faint view of its value; yet how many perishing souls treat it with neglect, or, what is equally as bad, treat it as a hidden mystery which cannot be known. Oh, my dear reader, make it your chief study. Try it well, and you will find it to be all I have said. Yes, like the Queen of Sheba, you will say the half was not told you.
The divinity taught in our schools is always founded on some sectarian creed. It may do to take a blank mind and impress it with this kind, but it will always end in bigotry. A free mind will never be satisfied with the views of others. Were I a teacher of youth in divinity, I would first learn their capacity and mind. If these were good, I would make them study the Bible for themselves, and send them out free to do the world good. But if they had no mind, I would stamp them with another's mind, write "Bigot" on their forehead, and send them out as slaves! (italics in original)