And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe…
Were the Bible proved to be quite unworthy of confidence, were it shown to be dotted everywhere with error as thick as a leper with his loathsome scales, what advantage would it be to godless men?
I. GOD WOULD STILL REMAIN. The Bible does not make God; it does not even demonstrate the being of God. It assumes Him. Its opening words are, "In the beginning God created." The simplest argument in all the world is that which phrases itself thus: Design supposes a designer. Were I to say that John Milton made Paradise Lost by jumbling letters in a bag and tossing them forth, all reasonable men would laugh at me; but this would be no more preposterous than is the allegation that our universe is a fortuitous concourse of atoms. All men know that back of law is the Lawgiver, back of order the Arranger, back of design an Infinite Contriver. But while the world would retain its belief in God, it would, in the absence of the Scriptures, know nothing of His Providence or of His Fatherhood.
II. THE SENSE OF SIN WOULD REMAIN. The Bible is not responsible for the sense of sin. If there were no Bible, our consciences would still speak to us. When Prof. Webster was lying in prison awaiting his doom he made formal complaint that he was affronted by his keepers, who shouted at him, "Oh, you bloody man!" and by his fellow-prisoners, who pounded on the walls of his cell, shouting, "Oh, you bloody man!" A watch was set, but no voice was heard; it was his guilty conscience that was crying out against him. It is not the Bible that gives us Ixion on the wheel, or Sisyphus vainly rolling the stone up the mountain-side, or Tantalus up to his lips in the ever-receding waters. No, in any case conscience would remain; but in the absence of revelation we should know no remedy for its sting.
III. WERE THE BIBLE DESTROYED, OUR SENSE OF DUTY WOULD STILL REMAIN. The moral law is set forth in the Scriptures in the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount. The Decalogue, however, was written in the human constitution long before it found expression in Scripture. It is interwoven with the nerves and sinews of the race. The Sermon on the Mount is simply a broad and glorious exposition of the Decalogue. There is nothing new or original here. We are reminded that the Golden Rule itself did not originate with Christ. The ethical system of the Bible is merely an authoritative statement of certain laws which are written in the soul of man. God here places His imprimatur on those otherwise anonymous precepts which the whole world recognises as right. So, were the Bible to vanish, the moral distinctions would remain, and a man would know his duty while, alas! ever sensible of not doing it.
IV. THE BIBLE GONE, DEATH WOULD STILL REMAIN; DEATH-AND JUDGMENT FOLLOWING AFTER. It needs no revelation from on high to tell us that, as Abd-el-Kader says, "the black camel kneels at our gate." That admonition is written on the grave-stones that line the journey of our life.
"The air is full of farewells to the dying
And mournings for the dead."But without the Scriptures we should have no hope of triumph over death.
V. THE DREAM OF IMMORTALITY WOULD STILL REMAIN. This is quite independent of Scripture. The Greeks put an obolus upon the tongue of the dead to pay their ferriage across the Styx because there might be a happy land beyond. The Indian chic was buried with his bows and arrows at his side, because, if there should by chance be a happy hunting-ground, he would need them there. Thus immortality has always been a fond dream — a dream only. When Cicero lighted the lamp in the grave of his daughter it was with the thought that possibly her life, though extinguished for a time, might be rekindled. When Socrates put the cup of hemlock to his lips, he said, "I go; whether to perish or to live again I know not." The old fable of the Phoenix expressed the fondest of pagan hopes. No, no, we should not lose the dream but we should lose the certainty, for in the Gospel life and immortality are brought to light. The twilight vanishes, the dream becomes a splendid reality. The Bible is our noonday sun. Its glories are far away from the multitude who will not receive it. There are mysteries, vast and incomprehensible here; but burn the Book, or what is the same, let the world lose its confidence in it, and all that makes life worth living goes from us. But the Bible is in no danger; it has come to stay; it will glorify life and illuminate the valley of death until the last penitent sinner has gone through heaven's gate. Voltaire said that he would pass through the forest of the Scriptures and girdle all its trees so that in a hundred years Christianity would be only a vanishing memory. The hundred years have expired; Voltaire is gone, and "none so poor to do him reverence," but Christianity is still here, and the trees of the Lord are full of sap. The brazier of Jehoiakim is a golden altar, the fumes of which, like frankincense, have gone through all the earth.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the ears of the king.