THE Bible is the word of a King. We must give it its rightful place. It was not given to be criticised. It was given to be obeyed. The Church is its custodian, not its creator. Reason is its offspring, not its judge. Man cannot investigate God. The knowledge of things we can take ; the knowledge of God, God must give. All we can do is to accept the revelation given and say, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth " (I Sam.3:9). The organ by which we, obtain the knowledge of God is that revelation of Himself which He has given us in the Bible. " Behold I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me. Keep therefore and do them ; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations. . . . For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?" (Deut.4:6-8). "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom ; and to depart from evil is understanding" (Job. 28:28). " The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom : a good understanding have all they that do his commandments" (Ps. 111:10). Man cannot as critic place himself above God. The object God-excludes all idea of co-ordination and comparison. Faith in Holy Scripture is an indispensable pre-requisite in the search for truth when the search relates to the knowledge of God. " Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?" (Job 11: 7). " O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God ! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his. ways past finding out! " (Rom. 11: 33).
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it " (Ps. 139: 6). " O Lord thou hast searched me and known me " (Ps. 139:1), but I cannot search and know Thee, except as I "search the Scriptures " in which The hast revealed Thyself to me. God is never a passive phenomenon. All our knowledge of God is the fruit of His activity in revealing Himself to us, and this knowledge can only come to us from the living God Himself, and through Holy Scripture, in which it lies open to all who are willing to receive it. Those who have no faith in Holy Scripture can never attain to the, knowledge of God, for there is no other organ except faith and no other vehicle except revelation through which the knowledge of God can reach us.
Man is an abnormal being, a fallen creature. Apart from regeneration he cannot investigate and criticise and pass judgment upon Holy Scripture. His darkened understanding cannot discriminate between what is true and what is false in the revelation which God has given us of Himself. Regeneration alone annuls and conquers sin and restores to perverted human nature its original capacity for knowing God, and regeneration is always through the Word. Those who place reason above revelation presume that they have by nature a faculty for judging the Word of God which only the Word of God can create.
Holy Scripture is the rock-bottom fact of our religious life. It does not rest on any deeper fact more fundamental than itself. The sense of sin does not come to us by nature. It is not awakened in us by reflection. It is not generated in us by the exercise of reason. It is quickened in us by the Word of God. Revelation restores the organ of the knowledge of God for which reason, apart from revelation, is no substitute. Revelation is the basis of reason,and by revelation reason is restored to its rightful place in the happy ordering and good government of the powers of the soul. It is the function of reason to complete the fabric, the foundations of which are laid in revelation. It is the function of revelation to lay the foundations upon which reason shall erect the superstructure of the knowledge of God.
The organ of the knowledge of God is revelation, i.e. Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture is a transcript of the mind of God. God does not impart the knowledge of Himself directly and immediately to each individual afresh. He makes Himself known to us once for all in Holy Scripture. The faith, the thing to be believed, " the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints " (Jude 1:3) is the whole extent and content of Holy Scripture. Nothing can be added to it. Nothing can be taken from it. Nothing can be altered in it. It has been placed in the custody of the saints, not in the custody of unbelieving scholars, whose knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is no substitute for the experience of regeneration. No amount of scholarship will qualify an unregenerate man to understand the Bible, much less to teach it.
The knowledge of God imparted in Scripture is an organic whole. There is one central revelation for all, not a separate revelation for each. The revelation is not continuous. It is not repeated. There is such a thing as present-day illumination, for illumination is the present-day work of the Holy Spirit. in appropriating Holy Scripture, and applying it to the hearts of men ; but there is no such thing as present-day inspiration, for inspiration is the process of which revelation, i.e. Holy Scripture, is the result, and the revelation is complete. The thing is done.
The finished product lies before us in the compact volume of the sixty-six books of the Bible. Inspiration is the activity of God in the mind of the prophets who wrote the Old Testament, and the apostles who wrote the New Testament. Inspiration is over. It is a thing accomplished. If inspiration were continuous, the result of it would be the continuous production of other works of the same rank and quality as the books of the Bible. Inspiration is designed to restore the knowledge of God which reason does not and cannot give.
The revelation of the knowledge of God is not given to us in the Bible. It is the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God, not contains it. The Bible is not a conglomerate of different elements partly human and partly Divine. It is pure gold. We have no natural endowment by the exercise of which we can pronounce judgment on the truth of the Word of God. We must pass the modern mind through the crucible of the Word of God, not the Word of God through the, crucible of the modern mind. The form and content of the Word are organically one. The Church is the custodian, not the creator, not the critic, and not the judge of the Word. Under the providence of God the task of preserving ,the true Text and the exact content of the Word has been faithfully fulfilled. The errors of copyists are easily detected. The true readings are easily restored. The Text is not open to alteration, emendation, or amendment with a view to its being brought into harmony with the latest phase of modern thought. We must judge the opinions of men by the Word, not the Word by the opinions of men. The limits of the Word are strictly defined and for ever sure. They are those of the whole Bible, not merely those of the Bible as a whole. Ice and cold are organically one. Melt the ice and the cold disappears. Alter the form of Scripture, attempt to separate the dross from the pure, the human element from the Divine, and the sure content of the Word is gone and with it all true knowledge of God. We must hold for truth all that God has revealed as truth in His Word. The eternal need, the urgent need, the pressing need of the age in which we live, is the need of the enthronement of the Bible in the heart and conscience, the affection and the will of the people of God and the nations of the world. We enthrone the Word when we read and ponder, when we love and reverence, when we practise and obey, when we proclaim and magnify the saving truths which it enshrines, and the holy precepts which it enjoins.
The moment we open the Word of God, that moment God presents Himself before us. He comes in it and by it into our very soul. Holy Scripture is never something near from a God afar off. It brings God near. It is God near. The word of God is alive. It is His voice. God Himself bears witness to its truth. It cannot be made more sure. It cannot be otherwise made known. All faith in God is quickened by Scripture. All faith in Scripture is quickened by God, and is invincible. There is no need and no room for further proof, or demonstration, or support from observation, experience or reason. Faith gives us the highest possible assurance. The supremacy of the Word is guaranteed by the immediate testimony of the Spirit of God.
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