so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.
I. THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE. "Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable."
1. This does not signify that there may be Scripture not divinely inspired, but merely asserts that the Scripture being thus inspired is profitable.
2. The words "inspired by God point to the entire agency of God in producing that Divine element which makes the Bible differ from every other book. The inspired person was the organ of God in what he said, so that his words were the words of God.
3. Scripture says nothing concerning the mode of inspiration. The process is supernatural, and it cannot be explained. It is not with the mode but with the result we are concerned.
4. Inspiration differs from revelation - this being that through which apostles and prophets came into possession of Divine information, inspiration being that through which they were able infallibly to communicate it to others.
5. There is nothing in the doctrine of inspiration inconsistent with the idea that the inspired penmen used their own peculiarities of verbal expression or personal idiosyncrasies.
6. The inspiration extends to words as well as thoughts - to the form as well as the substance of Scripture. So far as the record is inspired at all, infallible thought must be definite thought, and definite thought implies words. The apostle claimed that the Holy Spirit guaranteed his words as well as his thoughts (1 Corinthians 2:13, Not in the didactic words of man's wisdom, but in the didactic words of the Holy Ghost"). Besides, Christ and the apostles argue from the very words of Scripture (Matthew 22:45; Galatians 3:16).
7. The term "every Scripture" in the text seems to include the Old Testament and the New Testament so far as it had been written; else there would have been no necessity for a different term from that used in the fifteenth verse, "Holy Scriptures."
II. THE UTILITY OF THE SCRIPTURE "Is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for discipline in righteousness."
1. It is useful for teaching - as a medium for communicating instruction, that we may know and believe what is necessary to salvation.
2. It is useful for reproof - for the refutation of error, for convincing a man of his error.
3. It is useful for correction - as to what is practically wrong in life.
4. It is useful for "discipline in righteousness - righteousness being the clement in which this discipline is to take effect, through the agency of Scripture.
III. THE RESULT OR DESIGN OF THE SCRIPTURE. "That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work."
1. The design is the perfection of the believer in life and service. The description supplies the man of God with all due appliances for this end. They help to make us perfect in knowledge, faith, and holiness, as well as to furnish us with wisdom and guidance in all holy service.
2. Inference to be drawn from the design of Scripture. It is a perfect, a plain, a sufficient rule of faith and life, in answer to Roman Catholics. If it can make wise to salvation, perfect the man of God, and furnish him for all holy work, then there is no need for tradition to supplement its imaginary defects. - T.C.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.πνεῦμα in man: and the inspiration πνοὴ of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8). "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God θεόπνευστος, and is profitable for doctrine," etc. (ver. 16). In the one passage instruction is the chief thought, in the other edification. The word occurs twice also in the Prayer-book. "Grant to us Thy humble servants that by Thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good," etc. (Collect for the fifth Sunday after Easter). "Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee," etc. (Collect in the Communion service). In both these sanctification is the end in view. Definition is still wanting. In several passages of the Epistles (as, for example, Romans 15:4, and 2 Peter 1:20, 21) strong terms are employed to describe the objects and uses of Old Testament Scripture as a whole, and its source in the agency of the Holy Spirit. Nothing can be more inclusive than St. Paul's ὅσα προεγράφη, nothing more emphatic than St. Peter's ἐλάλησαν ἀπὸ Θεοῦ. Yet definition is still wanting alike of the word and of the thing. Theories of Inspiration have been many, but it is not in conjecture or in reasoning that our idea of it should be sought. The only true view of Inspiration will be that which is the net result of a lifelong study of Scripture itself, with all freedom in registering its phenomena, and all candour in pondering the question, "What saith it concerning itself?" It is easy to see (and the Church of the present day is honest in avowing it) that the real truth must lie somewhere between two extremes — the extreme of verbal inspiration on the one side, and the extreme of a merely human composition on the other.
I. AGAINST THE IDEA OF A VERBAL INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE WE ARE WARNED BY MANY CONSIDERATIONS. Amongst these we may place —
1. Its utter unlikeness to all God's dealings in nature and grace. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom" — freedom, not bondage; freedom, not rigidity.
2. The language of the New Testament as to the difference between "letter" and "spirit," between γράμμα and πνεῦμα — the deadness of the one, the power of the other. As soon as Inspiration itself is tied to the clause and the sentence, to the precise shape and form of the utterance, and the black and white page of the written or printed book, it too is turned from the πονὴ into the χειρόγραφον, and has lost the very φορὰ of the Spirit which made it a προφητεία (2 Peter 1:21).
3. Such passages, for example, as the opening verses of St. Luke's Gospel, which speak only of diligent research and a thoughtful judgment as his guides in composing; or St. Paul's expressions in the seventh chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, as to his speaking not always with authority, but sometimes in the tone of suggestion and advice; or again, St. Peter's remarks upon the Epistles of St. Paul, which in the same breath he describes, by clear implication, as "scriptures," and yet characterises with a freedom which would be irreverent and almost impertinent if each line of those "scriptures" had been verbally inspired.
4. The observation of differences of style and method between one Scripture writer and another; the employment, for example, by one of irony and sarcasm, by another of no weapons but those of simple persuasion.
5. The fearful importance attached to each reading and each rendering of each verse and clause of Scripture, if one was, and another was not; the very word dictated or the very thought breathed from heaven.
6. Also the utter grotesqueness of such an idea as the revelation of science, whether astronomy, geology, or ethnology — which yet there would have been if, where such objects are involved, the phrases and the sentences had been literally and verbally inspired of God; implying an anticipation, perhaps by many centuries, of discoveries for which God had made provision in His other gift of reason, and which it would have been contrary to all His dealings thus to forestall. "Man's extremity is God's opportunity"; that which lie had given faculties for finding out in time, He would not interpose, before the time came, to precipitate.
7. The terrible risk to mankind of pinning down the faith to statements utterly indifferent to spiritual profiting, which yet, if philosophically accurate, must for whole ages bear the appearance of error. And who shall guarantee the Bible, even if accurately written up to the science of the nineteenth century, from being condemned by the science of the twentieth?
II. If such are the confusions and contradictions of the one extreme, THE OTHER EXTREME IS YET MORE PERILOUS. The practical elimination (now so common)of the Divine element in' Scripture is fatal in every sense to its inspiration.
1. It reduces Scripture to the level (at best) of works of human genius; and, when this is done, makes the question, for each book, a comparative one, in which some books would be exposed to a disparaging judgment.
2. It sends us back to human reasoning, which is on many topics (such, for example, as immortality, forgiveness, and spiritual grace) human guessing, for all our information on things of gravest concern.
3. It contradicts(1) express declarations of the New Testament Scriptures as to the Divine authority of the Old, as well as(2) express assertion of Divine illumination, promised and experienced, in the blew Testament writers themselves.
4. It does violence to the continuous doctrine of the Church of all ages, which has from the very first been express and peremptory in its view of the Divinity of the Scripture.
5. It leaves us practically destitute, even of a revelation. Because, though there might be a revelation without an inspiration (that is, a gospel of Christ, brought into the world by Him, and by Him communicated to His apostles, and by them to after ages, without a separate inspiration of the writers of its records), yet, as a matter of fact, it is by Scripture that we test our revelation, and that which shakes the authority of Scripture shakes the certainty of the revelation which Scripture enshrines.
III. BETWEEN THESE TWO EXTREMES LIES SOMEWHERE THE VERY TRUTH ITSELF ABOUT INSPIRATION. It would be arbitrary to define it so precisely as to unchristianise those who cannot see with us. That there is both a human and also a Divine element in the Bible is quite certain. Some things we may say with confidence.
1. Inspiration left the writer free to use his own phraseology, even his mode of illustrating and arguing.
2. It did not level the characteristic features of different minds, life one could imagine the Epistle to the Galatians written by St. John, or the Epistle of St. James written by St. Paul.
3. It did not supersede the necessity of diligence in investigating facts, nor the possibility of discrepancies in recording them; though it is more than probable that most or all of these would be reconciled if we knew all.
4. While it left the man free in the exercise of all that was distinctive in his nature, education, and habits of thought, it communicated nevertheless an elevation of tone, an earnestness of purpose, a force and fire of holy influence, quite apart and different from that observable in common men.
5. It communicated knowledge to the man of things otherwise indiscoverable, and also to the writer of things which it was the will of God to say by him to the hearer or reader.
IV. While we refrain from definition, IT IS OUR DUTY AS CHRISTIANS TO FORM A HIGH CONCEPTION OF THE THING ITSELF FOR WHICH INSPIRATION IS THE NAME.
1. Let us think what would have become of the παραφήκη itself, under whichever or whatever dispensation, if it had been left to depend upon oral transmission.
2. Let us give weight to the passages (some of them quoted above) which assert Inspiration in the strongest possible terms.
3. Most of all, let us live so much in the study of Scripture, as to acquire that reverent and devout conception of it which is ever deepest and strongest in those who best know it. A Christian man able to treat the Bible slightingly would be a contradiction in terms.
(Dean Vaughan.)e.g., of the Fall. Compare such a narrative with the use made of similar materials by a pagan writer — a comparison that can fortunately be made — and we see how wonderfully the author must have been filled and uplifted by a Spirit above his own. It is because his writing has this spiritual quality, this permanent power to reveal to us both God and our own heart, that it answers to the description given by Paul of every inspired Scripture. There is only one proof, in the long run, that the Spirit of God is in the Bible; and that is, that it exerts its power through the Bible. The perfection of Scripture is perfection for its purpose, and that purpose is the transformation of character.
(James Denney, B. D.)I. THE INSPIRATION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
1. What is inspiration? It is not revelation, but the infallible record of an infallible revelation.
2. The extent of inspiration. How far were these men guided by the Holy Ghost in the composition of the Scriptures? To every line and word. Yet was not the self-control or intelligent consciousness of the writer destroyed. Each writer retains his own style (see 1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 12:6).
3. The object of inspiration. To give certainty to that written under its guidance.
4. The proofs of inspiration. Internal evidence. Arguments drawn from the history of these books, from their contents. Christ's appeal to the Old Testament as of Divine origin. The claim of both writers of Old and New Testaments.
II. THE UTILITY OF THE SCRIPTURES. "PROFITABLE FOR," etc.
1. As an unvarying standard of doctrine. Not a theological statement, but the germ of all true doctrine. From it all doctrine must be derived, and to it all doctrine must be referred.
2. Useful in the confutation of all religious error. "Profitable for reproof."
3. Useful as an infallible standard of right and wrong. We cannot trust a pope, a church.
4. Useful for instruction in righteousness. By following its teachings we are brought into fuller measures of perfection. Our sanctification is by the Word. "Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth."
(James Hunter.)I. THE NATURE OF THE WRITINGS HERE SPOKEN OF.
II. THE OBJECT FOR WHICH THE SCRIPTURES WERE WRITTEN. This object is twofold; first, what the Bible would make man; and next, holy it would accomplish its purpose.
1. What the Scriptures would make man. "That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." It does this by first making him a "man of God." Religion is not an abstraction — it is a Divine life, and a life which in man makes him a man of God.
2. The standard after which he ever aims is perfection!
3. But we have not only the standard announced, we have also the style of the spiritual education determined — "that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished."
III. HOW THE SCRIPTURES PROPOSE MAKING "MEN OF GOD, THROUGHLY FURNISHED, UNTO ALL GOOD WORKS." "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable."
1. "For doctrine"; that is, for conveying those truths and that learning needful to salvation.
2. Becoming "profitable for reproof." This word "reproof," means "conviction."
3. It becomes "profitable for correction." This is equally necessary in a volume suitable to save men.
4. Lastly — by "instruction of righteousness." The unlearning of man's love to sin, the undoing of his evil habits — this is correction. But after all this is but the negative part of Christian character. It is the abegnation of evil. Christianity inculcates positive good.
IV. THE WORK WHICH HOLY SCRIPTURE IS YET DESTINED TO DO.
1. By the Bible the Church of God mast be purified.
2. By the Bible, as an instrument, the Jews must be converted.
3. By the Bible the great apostasy must be destroyed.
4. By the Bible, instrumentally, the heathen must be converted.
(A. M. Brown, LL. D.)
I. THAT THESE FACTS OUGHT TO SATISFY EVERY REASONABLE INQUIRER THAT THE BIBLE IS OF GOD, AND NOT OF MAN.
1. It is a fact that there is a superhuman fulness and richness in the contents of the Bible. It throws more light on a vast number of most important subjects than all the other books in the world put together. It boldly handles matters which are beyond the reach of man when left to himself.
2. It is another fact that there is a superhuman wisdom, sublimity, and majesty in the style of the Bible. Strange and unlikely as it was, the writers of Scripture have produced a book which even at this day is utterly unrivalled. With all our boasted attainments in science and art and learning we can produce nothing that can be compared with the Bible. To talk of comparing the Bible with other "sacred books" so called, such as the Koran, the Shasters, or the book of Mormon, is positively absurd. You might as well compare the sun with a rushlight — or Skiddaw with a mole-hill — or Saint Paul's with an Irish hovel — or the Portland vase with a garden pot — or the Koh-i-noor diamond with a bit of glass. God seems to have allowed the existence of these pretended revelations in order to prove the immeasurable superiority of His own Word.
3. It is another fact, that there is a superhuman accuracy in the facts and statements of the Bible, which is above man. Here is a book which has been finished and before the world for nearly 1800 years. These 1800 years have been the busiest and most changeful period the world has ever seen. During this period the greatest discoveries have been made in science, the greatest alterations in the ways and customs of society, the greatest improvements in the habits and usages of life. But all this time men have never discovered a really weak point or a defect in the Bible. Over and over again the enemies of the Bible have fancied they have detected defects. Again and again they have proved to be mistaken. The march of intellect never overtakes it. The wisdom of wise men never gets beyond it. The science of philosophers never proves it wrong. The discoveries of travellers never convict it of mistakes. Are the ruins of Nineveh and Egypt ransacked and explored? Nothing is found that overturns one jot or tittle of the Bible's historical statements.
4. It is another fact that there is in the Bible a superhuman suitableness to the spiritual wants of all mankind. It feeds the mind of the labourer in his cottage, and it satisfies the gigantic intellects of Newton, Chalmers, Brewster, and Faraday. It is the only book, moreover, which seems always fresh and evergreen and new. I place these four facts about the Bible before you, and I ask you to consider them well. Take them all four together, treat them fairly, and look at them honestly. Upon any other principle than that of Divine inspiration, those four facts appear to me inexplicable and unaccountable. Not only were its writers isolated and cut off in a peculiar manner from other nations, but they belonged to a people who have never produced any other book of note except the Bible! There is not the slightest proof that, unassisted and left to themselves, they were capable of writing anything remarkable, like the Greeks and Romans. Yet these men have given the world a volume which for depth, sublimity, accuracy, and suitableness to the wants of man, is perfectly unrivalled. How can this be explained? To my mind there is only one answer. The writers of the Bible were Divinely helped and qualified for the work which they did.
II. Let us now consider THE PRIVILEGES WHICH THE POSSESSION OF AN INSPIRED BOOK CONFERS UPON US.
1. It is a privilege to possess the only book which gives a reasonable account of the beginning and end of the globe on which we live.
2. It is a privilege to possess the only book which gives a true and faithful account of man.
3. It is a privilege to possess the only book which gives us true views of God.
4. It is a privilege to possess the only book which gives a clear account of the full, perfect, and complete provision which God has made for the salvation of fallen man.
5. Finally, it is a privilege to possess the only book which explains the state of things that we see in the world around us.
III. Let us now consider THE DUTIES WHICH THE POSSESSION OF GOD'S ORACLES ENTAILS UPON US.
1. First and foremost, let us honour the Bible by making it the supreme rule of faith, the standard measure of truth and error, of right and wrong in our churches.
2. In the next place, if we believe the Bible to be "the oracles of God," let us show the reality of our belief by endeavouring to spread it throughout the world.
(Bp. Ryle.)I. IN CONFIRMATION OF THIS DOCTRINE, WE WOULD ASK ATTENTION TO THE FOLLOWING CONSIDERATIONS AND ARGUMENTS.
1. We would offer a short, clear, and strong argument, from Mr. Wesley. "The Bible," says he, "must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God."(1) It could not be the invention of good men or angels; for they neither could nor would make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying, "Thus saith the Lord," when it was their own invention.(2) It could not be the invention of bad men or devils; for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity.(3) Therefore we must draw this conclusion, that the Bible must have been given by Divine inspiration — that it is the work of God.
2. Our second argument is derived from prophecy. The ability to foretell future events, especially hundreds of years beforehand, belongs to God alone.
3. The declarations of the Scriptures themselves plainly prove this doctrine. But will not this be proving inspiration by inspiration? It would be so, indeed, did we assume the Bible in this argument to be inspired. But now we take it only as a book of truth, declaring true doctrines and true history; as such we receive it, and by itself prove its inspiration.
II. WE PASS TO CONSIDER SOME OBJECTIONS.
1. The first, and one which is frequently in the mouths of infidels, is that there are contradictions in the Scriptures, and therefore they cannot be inspired.
2. Another class of objections against the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures is founded on the imperfect state of the text, its variations in the reading and punctuations.
3. Another objection which has been urged against plenary or verbal inspiration is founded on the individuality of the sacred writers. The following is our answer: — God speaks to man after the manner of men; and hence He uses human language, and, of course, human language with its imperfections.Inferences:
1. If the Holy Scriptures are Divinely inspired, human reason ought to be held in abeyance to their teachings.
2. If Divinely inspired, they must teach us truth without any admixture of error.
3. We also infer that, if Divinely inspired, they contain a sufficiency of truth for our salvation.
(Stephen M. Vail, M. A.)1. The subject of this text is our own precious Bible.
2. And, assuredly, of the very deepest interest must such a subject be to the sort of person to whom in the text the Spirit, by Paul, addresses Himself, on the Divine inspiration, and authority, and profitableness of the Bible. For it is to "the man of God" the apostle here speaks in commendation of the Word of God. It is to one he writes who (vers. 14, 15) had "learned" and "been assured" of "the things" revealed in "the Holy Scriptures," which "from a child he had known" — who had experimentally proved them to be "able to make him wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus." To that sort of person no theme could be more attractive of the deepest interest, than the incalculable preciousness of the Holy Bible (Psalm 19:7-11). One thing only could enhance such a man's estimate of their infinite value, and that one thing was the character of "the times" in which, as peculiarly threatening of dangerous assaults on the Christian faith, the apostle commended the profitableness of the Scriptures and exhorted the man of God to continue to confide in the profitableness of "all Scripture" as "given by inspiration of God."
3. And yet, though thus employed as the means of enforcing his exhortation to Timothy to "continue in the things which he had learned," the "perilous" controversies of "the times" are not suffered by any insinuation on the part of the apostle to disturb the certainty in which his young disciple had "been assured" of "the things which he had learned."
4. Are we "men of God," "taught of God" to know Him, and with profoundest reverence to acknowledge His authority speaking in His own Word? Then we are of those who spiritually see. To our renewed hearts, as to open healthy eyes, the light of Holy Scripture has come and entered in, carrying with it its own evidence of its Divine authority, and with a power that is irresistible.
I. WHENCE HAVE WE THE BIBLE? It is "of God" — its authority is Divine. When God speaks the highest exercise of man's reason surely is, in silent submission, to believe and obey, simply because it is the Word of God that is spoken. It is the exercise of a prerogative the noblest birthright of man, to believe God's truth. In that submission of human reason to the authority of Divine truth, man escapes into freedom! The truth as nothing else can do, emancipates the mind from the debasing slavery to the opinions of men. It puts man as to unseen things in immediate and direct communication alone with God. No creature is allowed to intervene as the Lord of the conscience, when, for the authority of God speaking in it, the word in Holy Scripture is believed. God is then by His Word and Spirit in actual contact with your soul, for your enjoying the most ennobling fellowship with Himself, in the light of truth, and in the perfect freedom of a willing obedience of the truth.
II. IN WHAT MANNER IS IT GIVEN US BY GOD? — "It is given by INSPIRATION OF GOD! "The text here, you observe, does not point to such a mode of communication with man as was used in the Garden of Eden, when, in the cool of the day, the voice of God was heard by Adam talking with him. Nor yet does the text here refer to such a mode of writing down what the voice of God had uttered in man's hearing, as was once and again practised, when, on two tables of stone, the ten words of the Holy Moral Law were engraven by the immediate finger of God. The text does plainly testify to the Word of God being written, but observe, to that result being attained by what is called "inspiration." It is God-breathed. That, what is written in the Bible is the Word of God, results from the inspiration by God of men employed by Him to write it. The Word in Holy Scripture results from that miraculous operation of the Spirit of God, whereby He did so communicate Himself to the writers of these Scriptures for the revelation of His will to man, as to secure the infallible truth and Divine authority of what is written in the Bible. Of the manner of that miraculous operation of the Spirit of God we know nothing.
III. TO WHAT EXTENT IS THE BIBLE INSPIRED? — "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." It is thus that the Divine Author of the book Himself declares to what extent it is inspired. In whatever manner the Divine influence that "gave the Word" worked — by whatever means, by means of however many varied manuscripts, as by many different compilers — the result we have in this Bible is throughout Divinely inspired.
IV. WITH WHAT DESIGN HAS IT BEEN GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD? It was given to be profitable, in order "that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works," and for that end profitable in a way manifold and many-sided.
1. The Bible is "profitable for doctrine." By its revelation of truth as an objective reality, it really gives man truth to love. It thus stands in the boldest contrast to the utterly unsatisfying vanity of modern rationalism, which gives you nothing but the question whether there be revealed truth at all.
2. The Bible is "profitable, too, for reproof." By its deep and searching spirituality the Bible deals with man's state as a sinner before God. It reveals the truth as to man lost. It reaches the deepest needs of his condition. It thus utterly dispels all the delusive fancies of modern rationalism, whereby man is tempted to think well of himself; and so to count that a gain to him which, if ever lie be saved, he must be content to count as loss for Christ.
3. The Bible is profitable, besides, "for correction" of every such groundless hope in man. By the revelation of grace to us as fallen, and of deliverance from the guilt and power of our sin by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the Bible gives a Divine contradiction to every rationalistic theory of human progress, by which redemption is attempted to be explained without the cross and the sacrifice of the Redeemer.
4. The Bible is profitable, finally, for instruction (or discipline) in the life and walk of righteousness. In direct opposition to the wild ravings of modern rationalism about "emancipation from the external law of revealed truth" — for the solemn rebuke of that delusive licence which is sought in following the light within us, rather than the Word of God without us — the Bible plainly asserts that, "under the law to Christ," this is the love of the new life in Christ, that we keep His commandments — a life of obedience of "the law of liberty" — even as Christ Himself "kept His Father's commandments and abode in His love."
(R. H. Muir.)I. HUMAN ABILITY HAS BEEN INADEQUATE TO THE PRODUCTION OF ANYTHING WHICH WOULD JUSTIFY US IN ATTRIBUTING TO IT THE PRODUCTION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
II. God having graciously resolved to recover the human race from the state into which they had fallen, and to this end having spoke in times long past to the fathers by the prophets, and in the latter days to the world, by His Son, IT IS REASONABLE TO SUPPOSE THAT, FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE GENERATIONS TO COME FOR EVER, HE WOULD CAUSE A RECORD TO BE MADE OF THE COMMUNICATIONS OF HIS WILL.
III. THE CONNECTION AND AGREEMENT OF THE SEVERAL PARTS OF THE SACRED VOLUME, INTIMATE STRONGLY ITS DIVINE INSPIRATION.
IV. TRADITION HAS ACCOMPANIED THE HOLY VOLUME IN ALL AGES AND PLACES OF ITS BEING, TESTIFYING ITS CLAIM TO BE CONSIDERED AS THE WORD OF GOD.
V. THE PROVIDENTIAL CARE OF GOD OVER THE HOLY SCRIPTURES MAY WELL LEAD US TO BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE HIS OFFSPRING.
VI. The completeness of the sacred writings, whereby I mean THEIR SUFFICIENCY AND PERFECTION AS A RULE OF FAITH AND CONDUCT; THEIR ADEQUATENESS TO OUR NECESSITIES IN THIS PRESENT STATE.
1. This we may clearly deduce from what has already been established. Being "given by inspiration of God," the Scriptures must be perfect for the purpose whereunto He sends them; and if they are finished, so that no further addition to them is to be expected, they must be perfect in all generations for ever, for the use of the children of men.
2. And this, if we now advert to the sacred writings, will be found to be really the case. Upon every subject of a religious or moral nature, concerning which mankind have been inquisitive, we may here find ample information. And concerning the conduct which is proper, in every situation in which mankind may be placed, we may here find explicit instruction.
3. But, it may be objected, if the Scriptures are thus complete, whence is it that so many to whom they are sent, are brought by them neither to right faith nor to right practice?
4. And this brings me to observe in illustration of the completeness of the sacred volume, that if any who have access to it are deficient in knowledge or virtue, the cause of the deficiency is altogether in themselves. The Law of the Lord is perfect; and His Spirit is ready to render His Word efficacious to every attentive and humble mind. But we must approach it with docility. It is owing to men's lusts and passions, to the pride of their minds, to the perverseness of their hearts, to the carnality and viciousness of their lives, that they do not all perceive the excellence and perfection of the Word of God, and find it a savour of life unto life to their souls.
VII. WE FIND OURSELVES IN POSSESSION OF A VOLUME, WONDERFULLY ADAPTED TO THE NECESSITIES OF OUR NATURE, and "given by inspiration of God." It becomes us to inquire, what is the object for which it is given?
1. And let me observe that it is for no purpose of benefit to the Almighty that the volume of His Word is given to our world. Neither our faith nor our obedience can profit the Most High.
2. I must also premise that whether any other beings than ourselves are interested in them, and whether their contents will be of utility to us in the other world, are questions which need not be discussed as essential to the inquiry we are about to consider. It is enough, in order to raise our estimation of them, to be assured that into the mysteries revealed to us the angels desire to look, and that by the dispensations of God to the Church on earth His manifold wisdom is made known to higher orders of beings. From the nature of things we may also be certain that those general principles of duty and virtue which have not respect to mutable stations and relations are the principles by which the conduct of perfect beings is regulated in all worlds.
3. But what I am now principally concerned to consider is the end or uses of the sacred volume to men, to whom it is given, in the present world. And this is nothing less than our recovery from the state of ignorance, sinfulness, and misery into which we are fallen, and our exaltation to the hope of eternal life. That I may more distinctly set before you the gracious design of the Almighty in giving us the volume of His Word, allow me more particularly to observe that it is the efficacious means of all those changes and graces by which the Christian character is formed and perfected. We are told, you know, that we must be born again in order to the knowledge and enjoyment of the kingdom of God. It is through the instrumentality of the Scriptures that this regeneration is accomplished. They are the seed of this new birth. Again: it is necessary that we should be sanctified and made holy in heart and life before we can enter into the kingdom of heaven. And the Holy Scriptures are the means by which the Spirit of God accomplishes this important part of our salvation. Further: it is required of us to grow in grace; and we have need to be constantly nourished in all goodness, if we would not relapse into our vile state, but advance to perfection in knowledge and virtue. The sacred writings are the granary from which this daily sustenance of our souls is to be obtained. They reveal the truths, they contain the virtues, they give efficacy to the ordinances, by which we are nourished into eternal life. Finally: it is necessary to our comfort, and to the full accomplishment of our deliverance from the miseries of our natural state, that we should have joy and peace in believing. And the reservoir of all spiritual joy is the Word of God — the gospel of our salvation.
VIII. From these truths THERE ARE SEVERAL INFERENCES of a very serious nature and great practical importance to which I must now ask your attentive consideration.
1. And from the views we have taken of the sacred volume we may perceive its claim to our highest estimation.
2. But if we value the Scriptures we shall also study them. The consequences of not reading the Holy Scriptures are of a more serious nature and greater in extent than you may suppose. It is to this, I apprehend, that we are to attribute, in a great measure, the total ignorance of religion in some and the decay of it in others. It is in this that we are to look for the cause of the instability of Christians. Here we may find the reason why error prevails. Here we may discover the source of fanaticism and of superstition. To this it is owing that the best seem unconscious of the degree of holiness to which they are called; and that all rest easy under imperfections of knowledge and deficiencies of virtue which a thorough acquaintance with the Scriptures would both reprove and correct.
3. In the course of our observations upon the Holy Scriptures, we have shown that God hath a merciful purpose in conferring them upon us, even to recover us from our ignorance, sinfulness, and misery, and exalt us to the hope of everlasting life. It behoves us, therefore, to inquire how far His desire and gracious intention have been accomplished in us? And this inquiry you will most safely answer, not by adverting to your occasional feelings and transient fervours, but by looking to your principles and your lives. Are you brought to a clear knowledge of the only true God, and of Jesus Christ whom He hath sent? Are those traits of excellence which are distinctly exemplified in the lives of the Scripture worthies, and which are all combined and perfected in the example of our blessed Lord, imitated by you in the several conditions and relations in which the Most High hath placed you? If, at the day of judgment, we shall be found, notwithstanding cur advantages, to have remained unchanged and unrenewed, the very heathens will rise up in judgment and condemn us.
4. On this solemn account I cannot forbear adding what is powerfully enforced by our subject, the importance of bringing to the oracles of truth, whenever we recur to them, becoming dispositions and conduct. Endeavour, if possible, to make it the standard by which you would regulate all your thoughts and actions.
5. The character of the sacred writings, and your privilege in possessing them, impose on you an obligation to extend the knowledge of them as far as you are able, and especially to make them the source from which you furnish your children with the principles and rules of life.
(Bp. Dehon.)not live, and here is the life that you must live. Was there ever a man that wanted to take anything away from that? The whole Bible is aa attempt to correct a man, and take him away from this under-passionate life of which we have been hearing the registration, and to persuade him to come out of it into the higher and spiritual life. The genius of the Bible is to lift men to righteousness, and to show the things to be avoided, and the things to be taken on. It is a book of instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished to every good work; and here are the work and the qualities. Now, I should like to know if there is any infidel in this world on that subject, or can be. A great many do not believe that God can exist in three persons; but is there anybody that ever doubted that love was beautiful, was true, was desirable? A great many men have had theories of the Atonement of Jesus Christ; there are some fifteen or twenty different theories or modifications on that subject; but did men ever have any difference of opinion as to love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, or any of these other qualities? About them there is absolute unity.
(H. W. Beecher.)I. THAT THE SCRIPTURES ARE GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD.
1. In order to judge whether persons are inspired, we must carefully inquire into their moral character; into their doctrine or message; and into the credentials or proofs of their mission.
2. The other external proof of an inspired person is the fulfilment of prophecy.
II. THE PERFECTION OR SUFFICIENCY OF THE SCRIPTURES.
1. They are profitable for doctrine to acquaint us with our lost and miserable condition by the entrance of sin into the world, and the train of fatal consequences that attended it; with our recovery by Christ; the covenants of redemption and grace; the offices of Father, Son, and Spirit in the work of our redemption, and with all those other mysteries which were kept secret since the world began, but are now made manifest by the Holy Scriptures for the obedience of faith (Romans 16:26).
2. For reproof, or the discovery of our pernicious errors in doctrine and practice.
3. The Scriptures are profitable for correction of vice and wickedness. "Wherewithal," says the Psalmist, "should a young man cleanse his way but by taking heed thereto according to the Word of God?" There we have a collection of all Christian graces and duties, with their opposite vices. The fruits of the spirit and of the flesh are distinguished with the greatest propriety; and the most engaging motives to the practice of the one, and awful threatenings against the other, are represented with the greatest strength and advantage.
4. For instruction in righteousness. That is, either in the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all that believe, or in the practice of moral righteousness, the nature and excellency of which is better explained and illustrated in the sermons of our blessed Saviour than in all the writings of the ancient philosophers.
III. THE CLEARNESS AND PERSPICUITY OF THE SCRIPTURES.
1. They were written in the vulgar language, and therefore designed for the use of the common people.
2. Our Saviour, in His sermons to the people, appeals to the Scriptures, and exhorts His countrymen, the Jews, to search them. The Bereans are commended for this practice (Acts 17:11), and Timothy appears to have been acquainted with them from his childhood. If, then, it be proper to teach our children the Scriptures, and if it be the duty of grown persons to search them, it must follow that they are sufficiently clear in all points necessary to salvation.Lessons:
1. Hence we may learn that the religion of a Christian should be his Bible, because it contains the whole revealed will of God, and is a perfect rule of faith and practice.
2. Let us be thankful that we have the Scriptures in the vulgar language.
3. Let Christians of all ranks and capacities revive this neglected duty of reading the Scriptures in their families and closets: it is both a delightful and useful employment.
4. When we read the Scriptures, let us consider them, not as the words of men, but as in deed and truth the Word of God.
5. In judging of controversies among Christians, let us not be carried away by the authority of great names or the numbers of them that are on one side, but keep close to the Scriptures.
6. When we read the Scriptures, let us pray for the instructions and teachings of the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to remove the prejudices and enlighten the understandings of those who are truly sincere.
(Daniel Neal.)I. THE NATURE OF THE INSPIRATION. Inspiration means that which is breathed into the human mind of God. In the same way as Christ breathed upon the apostles, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," so inspired men receive that influence and power which enlightens, and purifies, and sustains their judgment and their capacity whilst they are writing it. Exactly in the same way as a musician, out of an instrument, by the touch of his fingers, will evoke such sounds, such harmonies, as his own skill, his own will, or his own pleasure may design, the writers of the Holy Scriptures are the instruments out of which the Holy Ghost evokes the melodies of truth — the harmonies of heavenly and Divine doctrine — that which makes us happy in time, and prepares us for the happiness of eternity. There is a slight distinction to be made between inspiration and dictation. Dictation addresses itself to the ear, and goes through the ear into the understanding and the heart; inspiration is more that which is within a man — it is a power dwelling in the interior of his soul, and influencing his thoughts and expressions accordingly.
1. There is inspiration in matters historical — that which relates to the histories and biographies contained in the Bible.
2. We come to the inspiration which is doctrinal, or which has to do with abstract truth, such truth as the human faculties could never elicit, invent, or evolve; such truth as, if known at all by man, must be made known by God.
3. I advert to that inspiration which I denominate legislative — that which is associated with the giving of law and the enunciation of commandments.
4. There is the inspiration which is devotional.
5. I shall mention but one other form: that is, the form of prophecy — the inspiration which relates to the prophetic Word. I take this to be the fullest, most perfect, and unmingled of all the inspirations, because to man in no case is there vouchsafed any foresight.
II. SOME OF THE LEADING EVIDENCES, THE MORE STRIKING PROOFS, THAT THE BIBLE DOES COME FROM THAT SACRED AND CELESTIAL SOURCE TO WHICH WE ASCRIBE IT.
1. First it claims to be so; it says of itself that it is so. Moses did as the Lord commanded him. Again and again we read, "the Lord spake unto Moses"; and every prophet came with this annunciation, "Thus saith the Lord." We find Paul saying, "I command; yet not I, but the Lord"; "The Spirit speaketh expressly"; "Ye have received the Word of God."
2. There is another evidence which arises from the nature of its contents — from the original, exalted, enlightened, amazing principles, which it contains. I hold it as an axiom that God only can reveal God — that God is never known but by His own teaching and by His own inspiration. Here is God revealed.
3. There is also an argument arising from the self-evidencing power of truth. Light is self. evidencing. When a child sees light, it does not want any logical argument to say that it is light. When mind flashes, when intellect sparkles, when genius coruscates, you say, this is mind; you want no other evidence — the thing demonstrates itself. So does the truth in the book of God. Read out the doctrine, make known the precept, let us see the history; why, it is of God; it carries its own evidence.
4. Then there is the harmony of all its parts.
5. I must add the evidence of its holiness. The Bible, received in the heart and mind, makes a man pure, gentle, and Christlike; received into a family, it makes a scene of peace and unity; received into a nation, it purifies and elevates; and the world, did it receive the Bible and act upon its principles, would be paradisaical; almost all the miseries of it would be gone at a stroke; whatever is peaceful and felicitous for the glory of God and for the happiness of man would multiply, prosper, and abound.
6. There is one other argument, that arising from prophecy, in connection with the total want of human foresight, and the vastness and extent of this proof: "We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do well to take heed, as to a light shining in a dark place."
III. THE USE AND PURPOSE: "That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." You note the expression, "man of God." I take it to be a very noble and magnificent thing to be a man; I glorify God every day of my life that I am a man; I mean, that I have the capacities, the mind, the thinking powers, the will of a man. Then it is said, "man of God." There are the faculties consecrated, the grace and light, the emanation and power of Deity beaming upon the man, making him a "man of God."
I. FIRST, THE INSPIRED MAN WAS A "SEER"; THE VEIL WAS TURNED ASIDE, AND HE WAS PERMITTED TO LOOK INTO THE SANCTUARY OF TRUTH. Think of the Hebrew prophets to whose writings the text refers. The unity, personality, and spirituality of God were revealed to them. They beheld His glory as others did not, and therefore spoke of it in sublime and incomparable language. The teaching of the Bible should be judged of by this: Do the prophets and apostles reveal spiritual truths in a clearer light than the ancient philosophers did? To this a thoughtful man can only return one answer — they do. Read, for instance, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and then turn to the Epistles of St. Paul, and I think you will be obliged to acknowledge that moral and spiritual truth shines in the verses of the apostle with a brilliancy and strength not to be found in the words, wise and beautiful though they are, of the imperial Stoic. Seeing, then, that the prophets and apostles speak with such deep spiritual insight, the question is, How this came to pass? They were not philosophers, scholars, and orators, as the great and learned men of Greece and Rome were. The true explanation is, "holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
II. THEIR MENTAL ILLUMINATION WAS ACCOMPANIED BY DEEP AND INTENSE FEELING. Their spirits were "moved" — they felt the burden of "the word of the Lord" — the truth was in their heart "as a burning fire." Therefore speech became a necessity, for by speaking they lightened the burden that oppressed them and gave out the fire that burned in their bosoms. When they had messages of peace and good tidings to deliver, their "doctrine dropped as the rain, their speech distilled as the dew, and as the small rain upon the tender herb." But when the sins of the nation and the judgments of heaven were their themes, they cried aloud, and their language was as terrible as a midnight alarm. To speak as the prophets spoke we also must be enlightened and "moved" by the Holy Ghost.
III. THE ABIDING POWER IN THE WORDS. They are instinct with the love, the pity, the sympathy, and the power of the Divine mind. "They are spirit, and they are life." The ancient sacred fire that descended from heaven continues to burn on the altar of the Bible.
(T. Jones.)faineant monarchs who have been surrounded with splendid state and almost Divine reverence, while care was taken that their real voice should never be heard, and their real wishes never known. Men have used the Bible to find an excuse for hating and cursing and burning one another, they have torn it into shreds and turned each shred of it into a fluttering ignoble ray of some party pennon; they have dislocated its phrases and built false theologies on the perversions of its texts... But having eliminated these errors, we may dwell without stint on the priceless value of Scripture as a whole — of Scripture in its best and final teaching to the heart of man. The Talmud and the Koran, and even the writings of the Indian and the Buddhist, have stolen its precious gems. It has exercised the toil of men like and , and fired the eloquence of and . It dictates the supreme and immortal songs of Dante and of Milton. It has inspired the pictures of and , the music of Handel and Mozart. There is scarcely any noble part of knowledge worthy of the mind of man, but from Scripture it may have some direction and light. the hundred best books, the hundred best pictures, the hundred best pieces of music, are ten times over involved in it. The sun never sets upon its gleaming page. "What a book," exclaimed the sceptical poet Heine, after a day spent in the unwonted task of reading it. "Vast and wide as the world, rooted in the abysses of creation and towering up beyond the blue secrets of heaven; sunrise and sunset, promise and fulfilment, birth and death, the whole drama of humanity, are all in this book." "In this book," said Ewald, the foremost of modern critics, when Dean Stanley visited him, and the New Testament, which was lying on the table, fell accidentally to the ground — "in this book," he said, as he stooped to pick it up, "is all the wisdom of the world."
II. TEST IT ONCE MORE BY THE IMMEASURABLE COMFORT AND BLESSING WHICH IT, AND WHICH IT ALONE, HAS BROUGHT AND EVER CAN BRING TO DYING MEN. Millions have loved it passionately who have cared nothing for any other literature, and it alone has been sufficient to lead them through life as with an archangel's hand. "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit"; in age after age , , John Huss, , St. Bernard, Luther, Melanchthon, Columbus, Francis Xavier, and I know not how many thousands more, have died with these words upon their lips. "That book, sir," said Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, pointing to the family Bible upon the table, as he lay upon his death-bed, "that book, sir, is the rock on which our Republic rests." "I have only one book now," said the poet Collins, "but that is the best." "Bring me the book, sir," said Sir Walter Scott to Lockhart on his death-bed. "What book?" asked Lockhart. "The book, the Bible," said Sir Walter, "there is only one." Every shallow and ignorant freethinker thinks he can demolish the Bible; he might am well try to demolish the Himalayas. The greatest men have esteemed it most. Infidels babble about the contradictions between Scripture and science. I have quoted the testimony of one of the most eminent living men of science; let me quote one of the most illustrious dead. Once, when the famous Faraday was lying ill, his physician, Dr. Latham, found him in tears with his arm resting upon a table on which lay the open book. "I fear you are worse," said Dr. Latham. "It is not that," said Faraday, with a sob; "but why will people go astray when they have this blessed book to guide them?" Its words speak to the ear and to the heart as no other music will, even after wild and sinful lives. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me." Those words were written by his physician to Daniel Webster on his death-bed, and the great man, the despised, broken idol of a great nation, who had cast the destiny of all his life on one throw of ambition and had lost the cast — the great man faltered out, "That is what I want — Thy rod, Thy rod, Thy staff, Thy staff," and they were the last words he said.
III. I WOULD THEN URGE YOU ALL TO A CONSTANT AND REVERENT, BUT AT THE SAME TIME A WISE AND SPIRITUAL, STUDY OF THIS BOOK. "If we be ignorant," said the translators of 1611, "the Scriptures will instruct us; if out of the way, they will bring us home; if out of order, they will reform us; if in heaviness, comfort us; if dull, quicken us; if cold, inflame us." Tolle lege, Tolle lege; take them and read, take them and read. Only beware how you read. Read as a scoffer read as a pharisee, and it will be useless. Read rightly, and then the Bible will be a light unto your feet, and a lamp unto your path. Read teachably, read devotiouably. The saving knowledge of Scripture is a science, not of the intellect, but of the heart. Read, above all, as Christ taught us to read, not to entangle yourselves in the controversial or the dubious, but go to the very heart of the central significance.
(Archdeacon Farrar.)I. THE BIBLE IS THE MOST ANCIENT BOOK IN THE WORLD, AND YET IT IS NOT ANTIQUATED, but always fresh and fragrant, as the beauty of the morning, and the breath of spring. Like the angel of the resurrection, the spirit of the Bible is clothed and crowned with immortal youth, and rejoices in the possession of undecaying strength.
II. THE BIBLE IS THE MOST EXPANSIVE BOOK IN THE WORLD. It was the saying of Malebranche, the great philosopher, that if he had all truth, be would let forth only a ray at a time, lest it should blind the world. And this seems to be the principle which underlies the whole revelation in the Word of God. The truth is unveiled to men according as they are able to bear it.
III. THE BIBLE IS THE MOST INSPIRING BOOK IN THE WORLD. We may hold certain mechanical views of inspiration, but the question for each one of us is to ask, Does the Bible really inspire us? The Bible is inspired because it is inspiring, and if it fails of this effect, then the mere theoretical knowledge of the inspiration will be of little value. And yet if we derive no inspiration from Scripture, we must not therefore lay the blame upon the Bible, and conclude that it has failed to stand the test. There are certain qualities of mind and heart which we must bring to the interpretation of all things. Nature herself will not inspire us if we have no eye to see her beauty, or heart to understand her charm. It is the poet who sees in nature a glow and glory which may be hidden from others, because he is possessed with a certain sympathy. So it is in regard to the Bible. We must bring to its study an innocent eye and a pure heart, a longing desire for truth, and a purpose to obey it; and then we shall feel inspired by the revelations which it makes known to us.
IV. THE BIBLE IS THE ONLY PERFECT BOOK IN THE WORLD. Perfection is the sign and signature of all God's works. If you put under the microscope a bee's sting and an ordinary sewing needle, you will at once see the difference between man's handiwork and God's. They are both very like each other when examined by the naked eye; but when brought beveath the lens we perceive the mighty difference. The needle is rough and rugged, full of bulges and bends, like the undressed bough of a tree, whereas the sting of the bee retains its arrowy point and perfection under the closest scrutiny. And so it is with all God's works in contrast with man's. The Bible is the only perfect book, because it is the work of God. The law of the Lord is perfect, says the Psalmist, the sun rules in the heavens, and divides the day from the night. And so with the Word of God. The light which shines through it rules the mind and will and heart of man, and divides the darkness from the light. But the Word of God is not only perfect, but it is designed to make man perfect — that the man of God may be perfect — fully furnished unto every good work.
(J. Coats Shanks.)
I. Look at it as A BOOK OF HISTORY. The Bible begins with the creation out of chaos, and ends with humanity lifted into the heavens, and the whole mighty sweep is history. But the great advantage of studying history through the Bible is that we thus follow the main current of human progress in all the ages; we are tracing an idea, a principle, a force, and that the greatest the world has ever felt.
II. LOOK AT IT AS A BOOK OF POLITICAL SCIENCE. A study of the Hebrew Commonwealth is valuable because it shows how close and real is the relation of the nation to God, and how vital is righteousness and fidelity to God. We have in the Bible the finest illustration of patriotism to be found in all history. There was no individualism, there was no communism, but a happy balance between man as an individual and as a member of the race, such as we find in nature. We are individuals; we are also members of the race, and both exist in God. A true nation is a true expression of this threefold fact. Nowhere is it so clearly set forth as in the Hebrew Commonwealth. Its institutions, also, are well worth studying. The details of life are treated sacredly. A Divine emphasis is laid upon trivial matters of well-being. Filth and contagious diseases are an abomination in the sight of God. Health is well pleasing to God. Family, property, personal rights, sex are guarded by Divine sanctions.
III. LOOK AT IT AS A BOOK OF BIOGRAPHY. "The proper study of mankind is man." The Bible is permanently a book of biographies. It is a book of religious history, but the history is always turning on a man. It is a book of religion, but the religion is that of real life, and of separate men. When men of great natures move through great scenes, and do great deeds, or when they unfold qualities and traits that are fine and rare and strong, then we have the materials for biography. By such a standard the Bible is most rich in this material for study.
IV. LOOK AT IT AS A BOOK OF LITERATURE. Dr. Johnson once read the Book of Ruth to a company of literary infidels. "What a charming idyl!" they said. "Where did you find it?" There are four fields of literature in which the Bible rises higher than all other books — ethics, religious poetry, religious vision, and the drama in its high sense as a discussion of human life. The Proverbs and Book of Ecclesiastes are the wisest, aptest, most varied, and best expressed maxims of practical life ever made, and outweigh in value all others taken together. The Psalms, considered simply as expressions of religious feeling, find no rival. They touch every mood, sink to all depths, rise to all heights; they are as free and natural as the winds, and cover human nature as it weeps and struggles and hopes and rejoices. The prophetic utterances are not only unique, but are fuller of passion, sublimer in expression, bolder in imagery, loftier in conception, than anything to be found in profane literature. And they have this unique quality: they are the products of an actual experience, and not mere creations of the imagination. They have also this transcendent value — one that should make them dear to every thoughtful man: they are expressions of patriotism, and contain the philosophy of national life as existing in God.
V. Look at it as a book FULL OF UNDEVELOPED FORCES AND TRUTHS. I mean the opposite of the common assertion that it is an exhausted book. I mean it in a sense that excludes it from being classed with other books called sacred. I admit that there are a few books which seem to hold within themselves truths capable of infinite expansion, and to touch truths not yet realised. Such are some of the great philosophies and poems and essays; but, after studying them awhile, the sense of finiteness begins to gather about them; we come to limitations, to boundaries; there is a solid firmament above, and the truths run round the world and not into endless heavens; we detect faults; we feel the weakness of a human personality; we say, "Thou hast seen far, but not the end, nor the whole." It is not so when we read the Bible. One reason why some men reject it or pass it by is that it so quickly carries them beyond their depth and outruns their conception. And one reason why other men delight in it, and write books upon books about it, is that it brings the infinite and the mysterious within reach, enkindling their imaginations and stirring their spirits by the outlooks thus gained. I spoke of the Bible as a book of undeveloped spiritual forces. I mean that we find in it those facts and laws and truths which are working out the destiny of man. They are spread out in a ]ire; they are uttered in words. The parables of Christ — if we but knew it — contain the history of the world and of mankind for all eternity. The Sermon on the Mount states the laws by which human society progresses, and will reach its goal of perfection. The acts of Christ's life illustrate or reveal how this material world is immersed in the real world of the spirit, where the miraculous becomes natural. The whole life of Christ is simply a true life — perfectly obedient to God, wholly sacrificed for man, duty itself, love itself, lost and so found, Divine and human, and claiming a oneness for humanity with itself in God. I anticipate the day when the Bible will stand higher in the estimate of men than ever before. It will not be blindly worshipped as in the past, but it will be more intelligently read. It is not a book of the past, but of the future. As we move up toward it we shall find that it reflects the world on its pages, and that it contains the true order of human life. Meanwhile, it is not amiss for us to study the Decalogue for social guidance; the Beautitudes for guides in daily life; and Christ, in all the light and mystery of His being and character, as the Way, the Truth, and the Life — the way through this tangled world, the truth in this world of perplexity, the life in this world where all things else perish and pass away.
(T. T. Munger, D. D.)
I. In the first place, then, in view of this generic statement, I urge on you to have your Bible — not merely a Bible, but YOUR BIBLE. Mr. Shearman has a copy of the Bible which Mr. Beecher carried for something like forty years — perhaps more — with his marking scattered through it. It is more than a Bible — it is Mr. Beecher's Bible; and the pencil-marks in it tell the story of his own spiritual experience, while they emphasize the spiritual experiences of the ages that are past. So, have your own Bible, into which your life shall be woven, around which your spiritual associations shall cluster, and which shall become sacred to you, not so much for the voice that spake to Abraham, to Moses, to David, to Isaiah, or Paul, so many centuries ago, but for the voice that has spoken to you — through Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, or Paul — in your own life-experience.
II. USE YOUR BIBLE. The Bible that is to lay hold on you is a Bible that you must lay hold upon. Familiarise yourself with the Bible. It is a coy acquaintance. It does not let every one into its heart, or disclose to the chance acquaintance the secret of its power. You must love it. If you are to love it you must acquaint yourself with it. You must take it with you into your experience. You must make it the man of your counsel in your perplexity; you must go to it for comfort in your sorrow; you must find in it inspiration when the deadening process of life has brought you earthward; you must seek in it those experiences for which your own heart and soul hunger.
III. You must, in your use of the Bible LOOK BEHIND THE BOOK TO THE TRUTH WHICH IS IN THE BOOK, and which really constitutes the book. Studying Biblical criticism is not studying the Bible. Behind all form and structure is the truth which makes the Bible. What is the Bible? This thing that I hold in my hand? Not at all. Were it in Greek, it would still be the Bible. Not the book — the truths that lie behind the book, they make the Bible. Such truths as these: the man is immortal — not that he is going to live a thousand or a hundred thousand years after death, but that he has in him a spirit that death cannot and does not touch; that he is under other laws than those that are physical, that he is under the great moral laws of right and wrong; that there is a God who knows, thinks, feels, loves; and that there is a helping hand reached down out of heaven to lay hold of and to give help to every struggling man seeking, working, praying, wrestling toward a nobler manhood; an immortal spirit, a personal God, a forgiveness of sins — that is the Bible. Go to the Bible, not for an infallible philosophy of human life, but for unveilings and disclosures of infinite, helpful, inspiring truth.
IV. But behind this truth there is something further to be sought. FOR LIFE IS MORE THAN TRUTH, AND EXPERIENCE IS MORE THAN PHILOSOPHY. The Bible is the most human of books. It is the record of human life, and of the noblest and divinest experiences in human life. It is because it is a human book that it appeals to humanity. It is because it is a human book that humanity finds light and life and power in it. Writers of the Bible are not like lead pipes that take water from a distance and bring it a long way and deposit it for you, without the trouble of your drawing. Writers of the Bible are like the mountain-side, saturated with water which pours from its side in springs when we ask to drink. The Bible writers were saturated with Divine truth; then out of that saturation the truth sprang forth into utterance. In the Bible you come into association and fellowship with men who are living in the spiritual realm; you come in contact with men who are struggling, not for art, not for wealth, not for culture, not for refinement, but for walking with God. They blunder; they do not know; they have dim visions, oftentimes, of God — they see Him as that blind man saw the trees as men walking. Their notion is intermingled with the notion of their time; but in it all, throughout it all, inspiring it all, is that hunger and thirst after righteousness that shall be filled. To come into the Bible is to come, not into words graven on stone, however true, but into living experiences of love, of faith, or hope, wrought in imperfect lives, but glorifying them by the glory of an indwelling God.
V. And behind the truth and behind the experience you are to look for something still more than either — YOU ARE TO LOOK FOR GOD HIMSELF. Back of all Bible truth is the human experience of the Divine. Back of all human experience of the Divine is the God that inspires, irradiates, and creates it. Do I value the locket less because I know it is a human handiwork? It is not the locket I care for. It is the picture of the beloved that is in the locket. It is not the frame and form and structure of the book, but it is the God who dwells in the book that makes it dear to me. Kaulbach's famous cartoon of the Reformation presents Luther holding aloft an open Bible, while grouped around and before him are the inventors, the discoverers, the thinkers, the writers of genius, that were nurtured in the cradle of the Reformation. It is a true picture. Where that open Bible has not gone, there to-day is darkness illimitable. Where that Bible has gone, partly opened and partly closed, there is a dawning of the day. And where it is an open Bible with a free page and a well-read one, there is the illumination of civilisation.
(Lyman Abbott, D. D.)
Christian World Pulpit.All our practical knowledge of God is comprised in the Bible. The Bible then ought to be to us that which the chart and the compass are to the mariner on a stormy ocean; we have absolutely no other guide, no other directory to our course. In what light, then, do we practically regard the Bible? Is it enough to possess the Scriptures, to have been instructed out of the Scriptures in infancy, to hear them read in public worship, to have a general approbation of their contents? Would it be satisfactory to the mariner merely to possess a compass on board his vessel; to have received information as to its use in infancy, to admire its utility, or to discourse sometimes publicly of its merits; meanwhile he is driving on, it may be, to rocks, to shoals, to sands, or quite away from his course? But how many an individual lives in this precise manner, as to his use of the Scriptures! Day passes after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and God marks not his anxious eye pondering over this chart of life. Politics, science, poetry, history, it may be lighter productions — these can arrest his attention and interest his mind; but the Bible which notifies the waymarks to eternity — this excites no interest. And yet such a person perhaps expects God's favour — expects to reach the harbour of endless peace, and never even dreams of the probability of intervening shipwreck! Mournful and inconsistent expectations! Many, however, are to be found who are by no means chargeable with this entire neglect of the Scriptures. Some have, from infancy, acquired regular habits of reading the Bible, and peruse, as a daily or at least as a weekly task, their allotted chapters. But they do this oftentimes without anxiety, and without progress in religious knowledge. The fact of reading is to them more important than the contents which they read. They manifest no submission of the heart to God's teaching — no godly diligence to lay up in the soul His statutes and promises. Eternity fastens not upon their thoughts — the wonders of redeeming love attract not their affections. They read with coldness, and languor, and unconcern. There is no scrutiny as to the effect of their knowledge — as to the conformity of their views, and sentiments, and habits, with the decisions and intentions of God! The heart makes no progress in its voyage — it is no nearer to God — no nearer to the dispositions of Heaven than it was many years ago. Think again of the mariner — his eye glances daily upon his compass — or once a week he fixes his look upon the needle; but he uses not the helm — he brings not the vessel into the prescribed course I As well then might the compass be cast into the depths of the sea I Now, it is evident that this is not the use of the Scriptures which God demands — this is not to possess any anxiety as to the knowledge of God's will. Those who thus neglect, or thus imperfectly respect the Scriptures, are not among those who "work out their salvation with fear and trembling."
(Christian World Pulpit.)manifold by the variety of times and circumstances in which its several parts had their rise, else by the inspiring presence of the same spiritual life." It may be compared to a cathedral whose parts have been built at different successive ages: the traces of these ages are easily seen in the architectural style, but all are knit together in one holy temple of God. Closer investigation of this cathedral shows that the historical range of its growth is greater and wider than was at first supposed. The stones which have been built in, it seems, were drawn from widely. scattered quarries; here are marbles which must have been imported from distant lands; here are great blocks of stone which must have been conveyed from unthought-of hills; here are richly-carved capitals which show some foreign skill: but all these have found their fitting place. Each stone, each ornament, drops into the spot prepared for it; arch, pillar, buttress, mullion and pinnacle, whatever their greater or their lesser antiquity, are lending support or beauty, and fulfilling their functions as parts of one vast sanctuary, whose purpose is not lost or altered because antiquarians have made its stories doubly interesting and doubly dear by enlarging the bounds of its history and adding new elements to the story of its growth.
(Bp. W. B. Carpenter.)
Profitable for doctrine, etc.
(S. Robinson, D. D.)conviction. The teaching has reference to the ignorance of men. the conviction refers to their errors and prejudices. The mental state presupposed here may be thus expressed: First, there is ignorance; secondly, error, wrong thoughts and beliefs; thirdly, prejudice in favour of the errors that are present, and against the truth that is absent. The declaration of the apostle is that the Word of God has power to convince those who are in this state; that it will destroy their errors and remove their prejudice. One great reason why there is so much prejudice in many minds with regard to religion is, that they do not study the sacred Scriptures. They read all sorts of books concerning the Bible, but the Divine book itself is neglected. They prefer the water that is brought to them through pipes and curious contrivances of men to the fountain of living water, pure, clear as crystal, which springs up from the primeval rocks close to their own door. They gaze upon the cold and spiritless engraving rather than examine the grand original picture. The honest and earnest study of the Bible would produce a mighty revolution in the minds and hearts of thousands, both Christians and others. Akin to this there is another thought that follows. The Scriptures are profitable for correction. Some read to criticise. They cannot admire the great opening poem of the Book of Genesis, in which the inspired muse sings the creative power of the Almighty in notes "harmonious with the morning stars," because it does not speak with scientific precision. It is quite right to point out whatever inaccuracies may be discovered in the history of the deliverance from Egypt and the sojourn in the Wilderness, but one cannot help remarking that that is a peculiar state of mind in which a man can read through the wonderful story without being once struck with its spirit, its grandeur, and its awfulness. Others turn the sacred pages to find supports for the systems they have formed. This is the same as if a man constructed a theory of nature, and afterwards went in search of the facts whereby its truth must be proved. Others, again, read for comfort. They have been disappointed by the world in which they placed too much trust; or death has broken in upon their charmed circle and filled their hearts with sorrow; or their health is failing, and there are indications that the end is not distant; or their sin has been a burden from which they seek rest. Well, let them read for comfort, for the Bible is the book for sorrowful people. Its deep expressions of Divine love, sympathy, and tenderness have in them a power to heal the broken heart. But we should also know that the Scriptures are given for our "correction." He is the wise reader of God's Word who tries his opinions, beliefs, principles, life, and character by the Divine standard, and is willing to have them corrected. This brings us to the high purpose for which the Scriptures were given to us, namely, to impart "instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect" — right in every respect, in thought, feeling, character, and therefore right in state and condition — right in himself, right in his relations to his fellows, and right before God. The aim of the husbandman in the plants he cultivates is to have fruit; but Nature is as careful of the blossoms and the foliage as of the fruit, for her purpose is a perfect tree. Men cultivate parts of their nature. Some educate and develop their physical nature, and not much else. Others pay attention to the sensuous soul — they love music, art, eloquence, and light literature. There are persons who are mere thinkers; the cultivation of the intellectual powers is the one important thing in their estimation. Some spend their lives in small activities — things that are good in themselves, but which become harmful when done to the neglect of more important duties. There is good in all of these; but none of them aim high enough. The Divine purpose is not physical perfection, nor intellectual strength, nor refinement of taste, not even morality and devotion, but the full development of the whole nature, "that the man of God may be perfect."
(T. Jones.)thing that proves the thing, The effect proves what is the nature of the cause. And if there are prescriptions in God's Word to heal pride, and selfishness, and all forms of sin and diseases, and on trial the prescriptions are found to do what they profess to be able to do, the effect justifies the cause. Now, the Bible does not profess to be a book of theories or philosophies. It professes to be "profitable for doctrine, for reproof" — it is the best book in this world for all sorts of reproof addressed to the weaknesses and wants of human life — "for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Where a man wants to be a good man, where a man wants to be thoroughly furnished, and he goes to the Bible, he will have the best evidence that any man can have that it is a Divine book; for it will furnish him with those things which his experience shows him he needs. Here is a roll of charts of a difficult harbour. They were drawn, it may be, by Robert Small. They are handed by him to Admiral Dupont. The Admiral, the moment he sees them, laughs right out, and says, "Do you call this a chart?" It was made with a burnt stick. Robert Small, you know, was a slave; and he had to get his knowledge as other slaves get theirs. He was a pilot in Charleston harbour, however, and he knows where the shallow places are, where the deep places are, where the obstructions are, and where it is clear sailing; and he makes a rough sketch of the whole vicinity, and puts it into Admiral Dupont's hand; and the Admiral says, "Do you suppose I am going to steer my ships by a chart that a made?" Or he says, "When did you make this? On what kind of a table did you make it? What did you use to make it with?" Does he say this? Under such circumstances what would Admiral Dupont do, who is a sensible man, and who has so much sense that he knows how to employ them, and take the advantage of their aid? He would say to those under him, "Take a cutter, man it, and go out, and sound, and see if the chart is correct"; and they would find the shoals and channels to be just as they were represented to be; and after they had put the chart to proof, and found it to correspond to the fact, they would report to him, and he would say, "That is a good chart, if a black man did make it. It is true, and that is the reason why it is good." Now, the Bible is a chart. It teaches men how to steer where that sandbank of temptation is; where that reck of danger is; where that whirling vortex of passion is. The Bible is a chart of salvation; and if a man only knows his course by this, he will go through life, with all its storms, and come safely into the port of heaven. The way to test the Bible is not to criticise it, and compare its rude marking with the more modern ways of making charts: the way to test the Bible is to put your sounding lines into the channel, and try it, and see if it is not true. But that is the test men do not employ.
(H. W. Beecher.)
(J. Wells, M. A.)1 Kings 18:44).
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)witness, without exalting it into a judge.
(J. Ker, D. D.)
(S. T. Coleridge.)— A threefold account.
1. For their dignity and authority.
2. For their utility.
3. For their perfection.(1) They are profitable for doctrine and instruction: they teach men what to know and believe, they instruct us in all truth necessary to salvation, viz., concerning God, man, Christ, law, gospel, heaven, hell. He first begins with doctrine, which in order must go before all the rest; for it is in vain to reprove or exhort unless we first teach a man and inform him of his duty.(2) For reproof of error and confutation of false doctrine. We need not run to general councils or send for ancient fathers to determine controversies or confute errors; we have the Holy Scriptures that enable the man of God, and furnish him richly for that purpose.(3) For correction of sin and evil manners, which is done by admonition and reproof denouncing God's judgments against them, that those which go astray may be brought into the way by repentance.(4) The Scripture teacheth us how to lead a holy and righteous life according to the will of God, and so is profitable for instruction in righteousness and good works, it being the most perfect rule of righteousness.(5) The Scripture allures us to piety by the sweet promises of the gospel, and so is profitable for consolation (Romans 15:4). This God hath ordained as a lamp for our feet, that we miscarry not amidst those many by-paths that are in the world. Let us, then, make use of it in the course of our lives. If a carpenter have a rule or line, if he tie it to his back and never use it, his work must needs be crooked; so if we have Bibles and never read them, nor meditate on them to practise them, our lives must needs be irregular. They are, then, to be reproved who set up false rules to walk by, as —
4. The Church.
(T. Hall, B. D.)
(T. Hall, B. D.)
(T. Hall, B. D.)Acts 15:31). We should therefore with joy draw water out of these wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3). We see how worldlings delight to view their bills and bonds, their leases and indentures, by which they hold their lands and livings; and shall not we delight to study the Scripture, which assureth us of never-fading riches?
(T. Hall, B. D.)
(G. Calthrop, M. A.)
Family Treasury.The Rev. Charles Vince, of Birmingham, told the following incident at a meeting of the Bible Society in 1863: — "The Hill-top Auxiliary in the 'Black Country' determined to send round two or three Christian men every Saturday evening, with packages of Bibles, to visit the public-houses and persuade the miners and puddlers of the district, while they had their money, to spend some part of it in buying the Word of God. While they were carrying out this plan a miner said, 'Wouldn't it be a good thing for us to have a copy to read down in the pit at dinner-time?' The proposition met with general approval, and they agreed to buy a copy for this purpose. Of the first copy handed to them the landlord said the print was too small to read down in the pit, and offered to give a shilling towards the cost of a better type. This was bought, and one of the men said with great simplicity, 'If we have the Bible at dinner-time, we mustn't have any swearing.' This, too, was carried, and a fine imposed upon the man that should break the rule. Is there any other book in the world that you could carry into the company of men and make them say, 'If we open this, and begin to look at it, we must begin to put away some of our sins'?"
(Sword and Trowel.)
(Sir H. W. Acland, M. D.)
(J. Clifford, D. D.)
That the man of God may be perfect
I. TO PERFECT THE CHARACTER OF MAN IS THE AIM OF CHRISTIAN TRUTH.
II. IN DEVELOPED CHARACTER IS TO BE FOUND THE GREAT MORAL RICHES OF THE WORLD.
III. IN IT WE HAVE A STRIKING PROOF OF MAN'S IMMORTALITY.
IV. IT SUPPLIES A TEST BY WHICH TO MEASURE THE VALUE OF THE SERVICES OF THE SANCTUARY, THE VALUE OF THE BIBLE, OF ALL THINGS — ITS ABILITY TO DEVELOP TRUE MANHOOD. Have we grown in Christian character? Have the Church services proven barren or fruitful to us?
(R. S. Storrs, D. D.)
Weekly Pulpit.was versed in the polite literature of his day and in the works of classic writers. He tells us that in a dream he once thought himself arraigned before the judgment seat of Christ, where he was asked the nature of his profession. He answered, "I am a Christian." "Thou art not!" said the Judge; "thou art a Ciceronian, for the works of that author possess thy heart." The Judge then gave order that he should be scourged by angels. Although it was only a dream, his chastisement never was forgotten; it changed the direction of his thoughts. "From that time," he says, "I gave myself to the reading of Divine things with greater diligence and attention than I had ever read the other authors." To give undue attention to secular reading, to the neglect of sacred literature, is a temptation peculiar to the cultivated believer, and it is a real temptation; for one may be as sordid in the acquisition of knowledge as in the pursuit of wealth. The man of God's equipment: —
I. THE MAN OF GOD IS INSTRUCTED —
1. Concerning God.
2. Concerning man.
3. Concerning duty.
4. Concerning responsibility.
II. THE MAN OF GOD IS DISCIPLINED.
1. Joy in prosperity.
2. Hope in adversity.
3. A cheerful submission to the will of God at all times.
III. THE MAN OF GOD IS INSPIRED.
1. The mind is illumined.
2. The affections are sanctified.
3. The whole life is made the reflex of revelation.
(Weekly Pulpit.)bete noire of controversial theologians; yet he says, "I have been perplexed to know by what practical measures the religious feeling, which is the essential basis of conduct, was to be kept up... without the use of the Bible."
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