THE Bible is a plain, honest, straightforward, simple Book. It is easy to read and easy to understand. It needs no learned introduction, no expert scholarship to enable us to grasp its meaning. It was written for the people and it has not missed its mark. It is a people's Book; therefore a classic. It is an exhaustive, work; therefore a standard. It readily discloses its secret to men of pure heart and simple faith, whether college-trained or unacquainted with the learning of the schools. The primary requisite of the Bible student is a sincere desire to know the will of God in order that he may do it. The Bible is a revelation of the will of God. Its primary appeal is to the will of man. It was written to be obeyed. Hence the primary qualification demanded in the reader is not scholarship but surrender, not expert knowledge but willingness to be led by the Spirit of God. Simple piety will feed on the inner spiritual kernel of Scripture. Pride of intellect will break its teeth upon its external literary shell.
It is not necessary to preface our study of the Bible with a course of Bible Introduction. The purpose for which the Bible was written, the purpose for which it ought to be read, may be accomplished without any knowledge of the conclusions of modern Biblical criticism as to the writers and the readers of the several books, the time when and the place where they were written, their simple or composite character, or the grounds on which they have been assigned a place in the sacred Canon. Bible Introduction may enhance our knowledge of the circumstances under which the books of the Bible were composed, but it is a poor substitute for the deeper and more exact knowledge of the message and content of the books themselves.
Bible Study is the study of the Bible not the study of problems relating to the composition of the Text and the transmission of the Canon.
The Bible is an open Book, not a cypher message the key to the interpretation of which is in the possession of the learned. It requires no preliminary course of study initiating us into the method of its composition and the mystery of its meaning. The essential content of the Bible, the facts recorded, the truths taught, and the precepts enjoined are within the compass of the most ordinary reader. The principal qualification for the right understanding of the Bible is a pure heart, a simple faith, and an obedient will. We must be in sympathy with the Divine aim and purpose of the Book which is to make unholy, men holy, and to make holy men holier still. We must be prepared to accept as authentic the things which it records as facts. We must be prepared to believe as true the interpretation which it gives of the real significance and meaning of those facts. And we must be prepared to obey the precepts which it enjoins as arising necessarily out of those facts and those truths.
The first necessity for the understanding of the Bible is the removal of all the embargoes which have been placed upon the operation of the Spirit of God in opening and illuminating the mind of the reader. Through the Word of God the Spirit of God awakens a clear conviction of the certainty of the facts recorded, the truth of the interpretations placed upon those facts, and the imperative necessity of obeying the will of God as made known in and through them.
The Bible is pre-eminently a manual of life and conduct for the layman. In the early days of the Christian Church, as also at the time of the Reformation, and again in the century following the great Evangelical Revival ushered in by the preaching of Whitefield and Wesley, the real meaning, the true purport, and the actual content of the Bible were well understood. The Bible was an open Book, " understanded of the people." Lay-preachers abounded. The Gospel message was grasped by all and proclaimed by all. The assumption of the incapacity of the unlettered layman to ascertain the true meaning of the Word of God must be resisted at all costs. It is made by the craft of the critic no less than by the craft of the Romish priest. It must be disallowed both in the interest of the truth itself, and also in the interest of the right of the laity to assist in the proclamation of the truth, without having to undergo a preliminary course of instruction in the very questionable results of modern Biblical Criticism.
The true key to the understanding of the Word of God is the sincere desire to ascertain just exactly what the Spirit of God in the sacred writers intended to convey. We must not take their words and read into them a meaning of our own.. We must receive the Word whether it accords with our preconceptions or contradicts them. We must interpret literally everything that was meant to be interpreted literally, and we must interpret figuratively everything that was meant to be interpreted figuratively.
Thus the early chapters of Genesis are not sacred myths but historic facts. The book of Jonah is not an allegory but the record of a historic event. The Son of Solomon is an inspired idyll to be interpreted not literally as if it were a common secular love song, and not allegorically as if it meant something altogether different from that which it says, but typically, as setting forth, under the type of the transcendent experiences of human life and human love, the still deeper mysteries of the union of the soul and its Saviour, of Christ and His Church. `
The allegorical method of Origin and Christian fathers of Alexandria, which empties the records of the Old Testament of their content of historical reality, and the hypothetical method of modern Biblical Criticism, which accounts for the whole content of Scripture upon naturalistic principles, and leaves no room for the transcendent operation of the Spirit of God, are both alike to be rejected as wholly incompatible with the plain declarations of the Word of God itself, , and a virtual denial of its claim to be a supernatural and a real revelation of the mind and will of God to men.
The Bible will never be understood until it is received for what in truth it is-a transcript from real life. The Bible is always true to itself. There are no real discrepancies and no real contradictions in it, though it can easily be so misinterpreted that the critic may be able to get many discrepancies and contradictions out of it. The Bible is always true to life. There are no contradictions between the facts stated in Scripture and the facts which have been ascertained and brought to light in any department of modern literary and scientific research. Astronomy, geology, archaeology, comparative religion, and Biblical Criticism in all its branches, have yielded no single instance of inaccuracy or unreliability in the written Word of God.
It is necessary to state the case thus strongly in view of the widely prevalent assumption that in some of these respects the accuracy and the authority of the Bible have been discredited. But whatever may be the learning and the scholarship of those who deny the authenticity and the harmony of the Biblical records, and however frequently the assertion of inaccuracy and unreliability may be made, the refutation of the charge is complete, and the Bible stands today, as it ever has stood, a well-spring of Divine truth, in every detail clear and pure and undefiled.
For an illustration of the truth of this statement the reader is referred to the author's "Romance of Bible Chronology," where in spite of the assertion of all manner of chronological discrepancies in the Text of the Old Testament, it is conclusively proved that every date given in the Old Testament is in perfect accord with every other date given therein, and also with every date obtained from contemporary monuments, such as the cuneiform inscriptions in the British Museum. The Biblical narrative is thus seen to be both self-consistent and self-sufficient, and also in perfect accord with all the facts that , have been brought to light by modern discovery and recent research. A similarly detailed study of any other class of alleged discrepancies will establish in like manner the entire accuracy and the complete authenticity of the Biblical records.
The Bible will never disclose its meaning to the man who approaches it in a spirit of doubt, who turns its facts into fables, its certificates of authenticity into late forgeries, and its theophanies into the subtle workings of the subliminal consciousness of men. The Bible must be treated with reverence as well as with intelligence. Its solemn testimonies must be accepted in good faith as trustworthy communication of the mind and will of God to men. The Bible student must be a man of prayer, in living communion with the living God, who utters His voice in the living soul. As the eyes fall upon the printed page the Spirit of God defines and perpetuates for all time the exact content and the true meaning of the Eternal Word. Divine power resides in the Word. It inheres in every translation of the Word. It penetrates the heart, illuminates the understanding, and invigorates the will. Every sympathetic and sincere soul may understand, if he is willing to obey, the holy will of God made known in His Holy Word.
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