By James H. Brookes
WHAT THE BIBLE DOES.
1. By the word, we are begotten. “Of His own will begat He ns with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures,” Jas. i. 18; “Though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel,” 1 Cor. iv. 15.
2. The seed is the word. “The seed is the word of God,” Lu. viii. 11; “Neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase,” 1 Cor. iii. 7; “Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls,” Jas. i. 21.
3. By the word we are born again. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; but the word of the Lord endureth forever,” 1 Pet. i, 23-25. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,” Jno. vi. 63.
4. By the word we grow. “As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby,” 1 Pet. ii. 2. The word sincere is “without wax,” pure, unmixed, unadulterated; and here it is the logical, reasonable, guileless milk of the word. “Strengthen thou me according to thy word,” Ps. cxix. 28.
5. By the word we are cleansed. “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you,” or as the Revised renders it, “Already ye are clean because of the word I have spoken unto you,” Jno. xv. 8; “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word,” Ps. cxix. 9.
6. By the word we are built up. “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified,” Acts xx. 32; “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one,” 1 Jno. ii. 14.
7. By the word we are sanctified. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth,” Jno. xvii. 17; “Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,” Eph. v. 25, 26; “It is sanctified by the word of God and prayer,” 1 Tim. iv. 5.
8. By the word we are defended against our spiritual adversaries. “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” Eph. vi. 16, 17. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony,” Rev. xii. 11.
9. By the word we are searched through and through, and the secrets of the heart are revealed, making it a reason for believing the Bible, as Coleridge said, because “it finds me.” “The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” Heb. iv. 12.
10. By the word darkness is swept from our pathway through life, and the believer knows whither his feet tend. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. . . . The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple,” Ps. cxix. 105, 130. “The commandment is a lamp, and the law is light,” Prov. vi. 23.
11. By the word we are warned of the perils we must encounter. “Moreover, by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward,” Ps. xix. 11. “Concerning the works of men, by the words of thy lips, I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer,” Ps. xvii. 4. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee,” Ps. cxix. 11; “Deliver me according to thy word. . . . Ps, cxix. 170, 172.
12. The word is very precious to the believer. “How sweet are thy words to my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Ps. cxix. 103. “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold,” Ps. xix. 10. “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food,” Job xxiii. 12.
13. The word, if despised, carries with it destruction. “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded,” Prov. xiii. 18. “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my Spirit upon you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your feareth cometh,” Prov. i. 28-26.
14. The word is the test of truth, and determines the spiritual intelligence of those who claim to be teachers. “To the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,” Isa. viii. 20. “Thy word is truth,” Jno. xvii. 17.
15. The word will bring a blessing to him, who bows before it with humility and reverence. “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word,” Isa. Ixvi. 2. “My heart standeth in awe of thy word. I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil,” Ps. cxix. 161, 162.
16. The word fulfills God’s will and is irresistible in its mission. “As the rain cometh down, and the snow, from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it,” Isa. lv. 10, 11.
17. The word has not only a delightful but a separating power. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts. I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone, because of thy hand,” Jer. xv. 16, 17.
18. The word is penetrating and consuming, and mighty in its crushing force. “Is not my word like as a fire? saitk the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” Jer. xxiii. 28.
19. The word, when believed, gives assurance of a present salvation and everlasting life. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me. HATH everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed out of death into life,” Jno. v. 24.
20. The word does good to the upright. “0 thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? are these His doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly,” Mic. ii. 7; “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all:),” Acts x. 86.
21. The word will judge the unbeliever. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath, one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day,” Jno. xii. 48.
Glance at the names and titles it bears. (1) It is called “the word of God,” Lu. viii. 21. (2) “The word of the Lord,” Acts xiii. 49. (3) “The word of Christ,” Col. iii. 16. (4) “The oracles of God,” Rom. iii. 2. (5) “The word of faith,” Rom. x. 8. (6) “The word of truth,” Eph. i. 13. (7) “The word of reconciliation,” 2 Cor. y. 19. (8) “The word of life,” Phil. ii. 16. (9) “The word of promise,” Rom. ix. 9. (10) “The good word of God,” Heb. vi. 5. (11)! ‘The sure word of prophecy,” 2 Pet. i. 19. (12) “The word of righteousness,” Ps. cxix. 123. (13) “The word of the Lord is tried,” 2 Sam. xxii. 31. (14) “Thy word is very pure,” Ps. cxix. 140. (15) “Thy word is true from the beginning,” Ps. cxix. 160. (16) “Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not,” Num. xi. 23. (17) “There hath not failed one word of all His good promise,” 1 Kings viii. 56. (18) “The Lord answered the angel that talked with me good words, comfortable words,” Zech. i. 13. (19) “The words of eternal life,” Jno. vi. 68. (20) “The faithful word,” Tit. i. 9. (21) “The word of my patience,” Rev. iii. 10.
It is not surprising, therefore, to read, “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name,” Ps. cxxxviii. 2; that is, above every other manifestation of Himself in nature, in the reason, in the consciousness, or elsewhere. But it is surprising, painfully surprising, to find men professing Christianity engaged in a work, whose practical result, it is notorious, destroys confidence in the credibility of the Bible. There can be no doubt that Higher Criticism, and its kindred doctrine of Evolution, are shaking the faith of more believers than all the infidels who have ever lived.
The question comes to this: Is there a God? If so, He might have revealed Himself. If He has revealed Himself, it is certainly through the Bible, for there is no other book that has the least claim to a respectful consideration. But surely His providence would see to it, that the revelation should not be thrown into a tangled mass of incoherent and loose narratives, the names of writers attached to portions that were not written until hundreds of years after their death, events taken out of history and transplanted into pretended prophecies, the creeping in of myths and legends, and all sorts of interpolations that make it absolutely impossible for a common, or uncommon, reader to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
But let infidels consider calmly what the Bible has done for mankind. They are not generally celebrated for the low estimate they place upon their reasoning faculties; but probably they will be ready to admit that other men, hundreds of thousands of them, their equals in strength of mind, in honesty, in literary attainments, in their manner of life, have heartily believed that “God spake all these words.” None of them, who are worth a thought, will assert that the Bible is responsible for the strife, and bloodshed, and oppression, and hypocrisy, that have stained the pages of history, for all these crimes and wrongs are utterly condemned by the Bible; and he who argues against the Bible on such grounds is too silly to need refutation. When infidels talk such nonsense they are apt to be like one of them, 'who was inveighing against the Ten Commandments. A gentleman, knowing his man, quietly said to him, “Do you read the Bible?” “No.” “Do you pray?” “No.” “Do you remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy?” “No.” “Do you swear?” “Yes.” “Do you lie sometimes?” “Yes, and so does every other man.” “Do you commit adultery?” “Yes; what you call adultery”. “No wonder you object to the Ten Commandments.”
Intelligent infidels, however, will candidly confess that the Bible has conferred inestimable benefits upon mankind. It has unquestionably changed millions of drunken, licentious and profane men into sober, virtuous and pious citizens; it has brought peace to many a troubled conscience; it has comforted many a sad heart; it has quieted many a disorderly household; it has reclaimed many a dissolute prodigal; it has elevated many a wretched community; it has been a stimulus to enterprise and progress; it has been foremost in the inarch of civilization; it has opened up new countries; it has established better governments; “it has laid down certain principles,” as the Duke of Argyle says, “which, without directly attacking the order of society, has uplifted the race.”
No man, if he should live for a millennium, could overestimate the blessings the Bible has bestowed. The tears it has dried; the smiles it has given to wan faces; the fears it has removed; the anxieties it has quieted; the terrors it has banished; the hopes it has kindled; the sufferings it has soothed; the chains of slavery it has broken; the moral degradation it has touched and vanquished; the triumphs it has won over death; are absolutely innumerable. Even the agnostic Prof. Darwin, after he saw for himself, the effects produced by the Bible in the dark and dreary land of Patagonia, became a regular contributor to the support of its Missionaries.
But apart from the relation of the Bible to the soul and its difficulties, think of its influence upon mental development. Even the agnostic Prof. Huxley has more than once spoken of its educational and literary advantages, and recommended that it should be taught in the schools. It would be a severe reflection upon the honesty and intelligence of such men to suppose that they express admiration for a Book, which they really believe to be full of lies, and “cunningly devised fables,” 2 Pet. i. 16. How comes it that the Bible possesses such educational value, by the admission of its enemies, if it is unworthy of the serious attention and study of those who pose as “cultured people?”
Just now the secular periodicals are quite full of references to the profound ignorance of the Scriptures, displayed by young men in Colleges. The poor heathen are preparing to enter upon the active duties of life, almost without the slightest knowledge of the only Book worth knowing. This excites the astonishment, and calls forth a protest, from writers who are not prominent, at least in their defence of the Bible, In the “Editor’s Study” of a recent number of Harper's Magazine, diaries Dudley Warner publishes an earnest remonstrance against the deplorable ignorance of which so many have taken notice:
To a fair mind it is respectfully submitted, that a Book which has done so much for the intellect, the soul and the body of man; a Book Which holds so high a place in the judgment of the educated world; a Book written at the times and during the circumstances, when the penmen lived, could not have been produced by unaided human beings. The internal evidences of its supernatural origin grow more and more prominent, as it is thoughtfully perused more and more by a diligent student; and whatever may be the assaults of infidelity and Higher Criticism, there are millions of men of honesty and education who, after fifty years of a constant and careful examination of its pages, are thoroughly convinced that “God spake all these words.”