When God made man, He did not make him as he is, any more than the world as it is. He made everything good, but He was not pleased to put forth His power to keep everything good. He was pleased to put the creature to the proof. He tried the creature in two great spheres — above and below. The angels fell before man; and the chief of those that fell above is the great tempter. No man can account for sin, for the ruin of the world, in any other way than Scripture reveals. Many a man has essayed to do so. The brightest wits and the greatest minds have attempted it; but they have never conceived anything that was not rubbish when they have not followed the word of God. Some have endeavoured to account for sin by supposing that there are two Gods — a good one and a bad one; because there are evidences of goodness all around us, and there are too plainly the evidences of badness. This hypothesis, I need not stay to show, is sheer folly. There is but one who is Almighty; and man cannot get rid of the consciousness of One — not merely one thing but One Being — One who has power and will and purpose, One who has affections no less than mind, but who, nevertheless, subjects the creatures that He made to a moral probation. If He kept everything from falling, there could be no such trial at all. All would be mechanical or chemical; and the wonderful scene of the conflict of good and evil — of good wrought by His grace in the heart of man, and rising above Satan’s power and wiles of evil — would be quite lost. What is still more important, the active display of love and righteousness on God’s part, of moral qualities reproduced in repentant believing man, would be completely destroyed, if it were merely divine power so keeping the creature that there could be no failure.
But evil never came from God — only from the creature once innocent, now fallen, that kept not his first estate, but chose to do his own will and have his own way. An angel did this first. Man was misled by him who, straying and exalting himself, beguiled others both in heaven and on earth. That creature is called Satan — the Devil. All efforts to get rid of this fact have proved utterly vain, so much so that the boasted lights of antiquity fell consequently into one or other of these notions: either that God is everything, which denies sin; or, secondly, that there is no such being as God at all; while both cases led to worshipping ever so many false gods. Witness now the two greatest philosophers of Greece who have exercised perhaps the largest and most enduring influence over civilised men outside the Bible — the one the head of Pantheism, the other of Atheism. There is what man’s thought ends in when it is logically carried out. Man in his fallen estate may reason God away; yet he excludes God, not from his conscience, but in his reason; for at the bottom of the man’s heart who does so there is the uneasy feeling that what he sees around him did not grow like a potato — least of all, he himself and his fellows. He feels that, though fallen, he is a moral being who will have to give an account of his action; and to whom but to God — the One who made him and all things?
The creature, having fallen from God, has lost the truth. No longer innocent, he has God as his Judge. Satan lost Him first, for ever, and his angels. Man and his race have lost Him; but oh what mercy now shines on us! Yet you, dear friends, every one of you, like myself, once had Him not. Have you found Him? Do you know Him? Do not tell me you cannot. You cannot of yourselves: man cannot by searching find out God. But God can reveal Himself. It is true, a keen infidel who is still living [?] said the contrary — said it was impossible for God to make a revelation of Himself; but the book in which he, a Deist, said this proved the folly of it. If an infidel can make a revelation of his mind to do people mischief, I suppose God can make a revelation of His mind to do men good. Is not this reasoning a sound and sufficient answer? Can any man, save an atheist, deny the force or the reality of it? If a bad being can reveal his mind to ruin, cannot the All-wise and All-good reveal His mind to save? Of course He can. The notion, therefore, that God cannot reveal His mind is not only false but denies that He is light and love — a falsehood that is contradicted by the very effort to argue in its support. The writer makes a revelation of his mind, such as it is; and we reply, If man can make a revelation of his mind, surely God can of His: otherwise you are reduced to the absurdity, that what is possible to man is impossible to God. Is this reasonable, or is it folly? Can any man in this room maintain that, what a man can do in his feeble way, God cannot do in His blessed and almighty way?
Now the Bible lets us see from the first — and it is worthy of God — that no sooner had man turned against God through the instigation of a mightier rebel than himself, than a way of escape for man on God’s part was opened up in hope. Man succumbed to Satan working upon the will of the woman. Ah! how natural it is, as most know quite well — how true to the heart of both. The woman’s feelings get entangled, and she is deceived. A man, if God were not concerned, properly loves his wife, and can not bear to leave her alone. His affections engage him; everything as a man and a husband combines to make him go along with her, although here alas! it was rebellion against God. This is exactly what Scripture lets us see in Adam and Eve. The devil knew what he was about. Eve was deceived — Adam was not. She was drawn into sin, and, through her, Satan misled Adam into sin boldly; and such has been the history of many a man and woman since then. This does not throw blame on the woman only. They must divide the sin between them; and he is a base man who would try, as Adam did afterwards, to throw the whole on his wife. But it is the effect of sin. He, who ought to have been her shelter and protector, first followed the bad example and then betrayed her — as it were, an informer against her. How degrading is sin ! So it was from the first, and is to the last.
Now, let us look at God. We have seen enough of Satan and enough of man for the moment; let us turn to Him who here comes on the scene, and whose first word shows the havoc that the devil had made. “Adam, where art thou?” No readiness to meet God now — no candour, confidence, or truthfulness; man hides himself, in despair, behind the trees in the garden, with a bad conscience. “Adam, where art thou?” Man was gone from God. This is the state of man still, of all mankind, of every one of us naturally. I do not say that we all abide there now. Thanks be to God, He is a Saviour God. But He judges sin. In Himself He is light and He is love. Our sins make Him a Judge: His grace made Him a Saviour. We all naturally think of God as a Judge, because we all naturally more or less have a sense of sin; and guilt always dreads a moral account, the retribution, the judgment of God. Conscience erects a judgment-seat, even before man must rise from the grave to stand before the great white throne and give in his account. A man may try to get rid of it, and he may do so while pre-occupied. He may drug himself with ample material in this poor stupefying world, with its varied and intoxicating pleasures; but the moment of sobriety, the anguish of self-judgment, comes, and God is on the judgment-seat of conscience.
Scripture says that God did then deal with man — fallen man — to lay his sin upon his conscience, and to trace its root to the evil personage that had brought it in, and to announce the glorious truth of grace meeting the evil and ruin, of grace providing a righteous way of escape. If ever there was a worthy purpose for revelation, this must be one. And this is exactly what Scripture reveals. It is not the dream of the gods coming down to indulge themselves in wickedness, as some of the greatest wits in this world have believed. They had sunk low enough to receive that their deities were drunkards, fornicators, thieves and liars. Such were they whom the heathen adored, and amongst the heathen were some of the brightest men that ever lived. It was not for want of intellect or refined culture, nor for want of learning any more than logical power, that they fell into such gross deceits. No one can say this who knows the history of the world, and of the men upon it.
Apart from the Bible, there is sin, misery, ruin, and death. Scripture lets in the light of God, and that light assuredly is far from being the lurid menace of punishment merely. It reveals incomparably more and brighter things than the awful scene where sinners are judged for their sins. This there is and ought to be for those who defy and reject grace — for those who in the face of the Saviour’s cross deny God coming down to man, deeply pitying him, and fully providing for his salvation. The Bible accounts for sin but never justifies or slights it. Man, under Satan, wrought that evil thing. The Bible shows the way out of sin, and that the only way to the Father is by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, coming into this world, and that, too, given and sent by God, not implored by man. Not man devised the plan or even sought that God would of His mercy carry it out. Man never thought of it; for he with a bad conscience never expects good from God. For his soul to be saved, and his sins to be blotted out, for God to love him, and to put the best robe upon the poor ragged prodigal, for the father at the very start to embrace him, and then to bring him into such a place of joy as he never knew before — man never had so much as an inkling of grace like this.
Yet this the Bible shows is God’s love to sinners, especially in the New Testament. But the man that does not believe the Old Testament is not to be trusted about the New. If a soul cavils about Genesis, I should not trust him about Romans. I know there are men who say that the New Testament is a grand book, and will confess that the first chapter of John is more sublime than anything Plato or Aristotle ever wrote. To be sure it is, infinitely so. But the man that pretends to exalt John and depreciate Moses I would not trust for a moment, because that which Moses was the instrument of revealing lays the foundation for all that John gives us. You cannot understand the blessing of the Second man — the last Adam — unless you have seen the creation and fall of the first man, Adam. There is, therefore, between the Old and New Testaments an organic unity. Nothing more remarkable than this, however much one may differ from the other.
When you see a tree, you do not require a philosopher to tell you that, when it is complete, it has all its parts with striking appropriateness — that the deep root, which penetrates the soil and gathers the materials of nourishment for the trunk and its offshoots, is as necessary for its growth as the branches and the leaves — that what is unseen is as thoroughly ordered by One who perfectly knew, as that which is visible; and that from the tree man reaps benefit, and even the cattle, for God takes in everything. Not a little tiny insect, not the greatest of quadrupeds, not a human being, that does not in some way or another reap all suited good from God; and even those things that might seem to be obnoxious in themselves form part of a vast scheme of God’s contrivance, of His forethought, of His abundant provision for the wants of men or beasts here below. There is no stinginess, if I may say so, about God. He does not merely give us the things we absolutely need. This is not the way God treats man or any creature. You have only to look when the sun shines, you have but to think of the rich beauty of the earth around you — though it be a groaning creation — to see what pleasure God takes in goodness abounding. He did not make things to die, but to live in endless variety. He declares that He is not the God of the dead but of the living — this no doubt said in the highest sense is in every other way true. You see a blighted earth now; but even the blighted earth everywhere bears its testimony to the beneficent wisdom of its Maker.
But earth and sea and sky just as plainly afford traces of some dreadful evil that has passed over all — of an enemy’s hand that has been there and sown evil. There is not a tempest that rages, there is not a volcano that pours out its destructive lava, there is not a blast of lightning, but tells that there is, above, below, around, disorder in this once untainted universe. And how much more, when you come down to the moral evil under which groans every town, and every hamlet; ay, perhaps every home, even the happiest hearth, has had its blight. And whence comes this? From God? Never. A being of perfect goodness and power, who would make the world and man as they are, is morally an impossible thought. But God never made the world as it now is; He did make it, but He made it good. God did not create anything unworthy of Himself.
And just here is where the value of the word of God comes in. The Bible bears witness of the grace of God meeting the ruin that man and Satan have wrought between them. It is not merely goodness in natural things, but in holy love, which, recognising and judging the evil fully, nevertheless comes down to get rid of it, and this at His own expense, and, let me add, by suffering beyond all measure. What is all that the men who ever lived have had to endure compared with the sufferings of Christ? I do not speak of what man did against Christ, but above all of what God did in His cross. You do not believe it! Then you must settle this with Christ Himself. What was there so bitter or awful in the cup He had to drink as God’s making Him sin for us, when He forsook Him? How do we know? He who is “the truth” declares it — said so on the cross — said so with His dying lips, when even false men will sometimes speak the truth: how much more He who never said anything else but the truth, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life!” Yet for our sins He died, and tasted death as none other ever did. He tasted not merely death upon the cross, but therein the judgment of God. And there is the ground on which God can be a God of all grace, the basis of grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. For He who thus died is risen — risen to be the Saviour, as He is if rejected the Judge.
Accordingly the foundation principle of this — the first germ of this weightiest of truths in the Bible — is given in the same chapter which shows us man departing from God — man forsaking God, and not God forsaking man. God forsook His Son on the cross, that He might not forsake the poorest of sinners that looks to Him. In that chapter (Gen. 3) you have a Saviour revealed to hope; and such is the allusion of the “everlasting gospel” in the Revelation. Does not this show you what a wonderful book the Bible is? It stretches over many centuries. It was written, parts of it, by kings, and by shepherd-boys, by priests, by soldiers, by civilians; by what one might call comprehensively men of every class, from the fishers of the Galilean Sea to the learned Jew of Tarsus, one of the most famous seats of philosophers at that time in the world, the rival of Athens. And yet in all the vast scope of its variety, Scripture stretching in its penmen from the days of Moses to those of the last apostle, in its themes from eternity to eternity, there is under all honest tests the most perfect harmony.
Beware, then, of those who would have you give up Moses. Listen not to the siren voices that would seek to charm you away from the truth of God, and more if they dare to tell you that they are not undermining the Bible, but only denying Moses. Alas! my good friends, to deny Moses is to undermine Christ; for Christ says that Moses wrote of Him. Christ had no question; and this is what satisfies a plain man that believes in Him. People may talk about evidences; and, of course, it is all very fine to do so with those who are not familiar with the subject, and have scanty knowledge of the original tongues. Of one thing let me remind all — whether knowing these languages or not — and it is this. Many a one knows a little Greek and some less Hebrew; but what of that? You know English; but it does not follow that you have at all a mastery of the language. Remember then that most of the young men who learn Hebrew and Greek at college are very far from having a mastery of these languages. Most have a smattering, and this is all. They are then turned off to their parishes and pulpits, where they have no time to become real scholars, as they ought not to pretend to it. This is not said out of the slightest disrespect; but simply to show you the folly of supposing that merely running through a grammar and a few works in a foreign tongue makes it really known. Not at all. Most graduates (no matter what the degree or where) would find it hard to translate unseen Hebrew or Greek. They do not know either of these languages in the least as you all know English; and yet for all that would any of you set up to be great English scholars? Even ordinarily fair and easy translation (to which few are equal without effort and preparation) is but a small step in learning. Enough however on that point.
But I press this upon you — that God has in Christ’s testimony given the believer incomparably better proof than all evidences put together. Do you believe in Him the Son of God? I am now speaking to such. Some might appeal to persons who have no living faith but a mere creed, to those who talk about the Lord Jesus Christ, as others would of Socrates or Gautama Buddha, who are yet perfectly certain that the facts are true, and that His recorded words are substantially authentic. This is coming down low enough. Yet on the lowest of all grounds, on that of creed, men have still some respect for the authority of the Word made flesh — of Him who is perfect Man and true God. Now, not only is He spoken of in this word, but He speaks of God’s word authoritatively and unmistakeably.
There is no use to try and shirk the truth by mustering difficulties and saying, “Ah! we don’t know that.” Here is a book unlike all other books, bearing the stamp of truth and holiness upon it as no other book ever written. Here you have testimony borne to the blessed One, by His apostles, whose lives and works, miraculous or not, were a bright evidence of His divine truth, grace, and power. What totally different men they became, from what they were! They used to be prejudiced, narrow-minded Jews, utterly indifferent to souls, wholly wrapt up in their own dry traditions. See how in a short time, amazingly short indeed, all was changed, and changed in virtue of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ applied to their souls by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. They gave it as their testimony — sealed not merely by blood but by a course of such lowly yet faithful devotedness as the world had never seen — that the Lord Jesus uniformly treated the Bible (that is, of course, the Old Testament) as beyond question the word of God; that Moses wrote the law; that it was not Moses’ talk, which later authors wrote — not merely traditions and legends strung together partly by himself, partly by people who lived after him: the Pentateuch was written by himself. And thus in all sorts of questions you find not only His authority coming in, but the man Moses himself, as the inspired servant of God, appealed to by the Lord. “He [Moses] wrote of me.”
How happy it is that a plain man or woman, or even a child, can feel the force of this testimony! Every one of you will stand before the Lord Jesus, who is the Judge both of the dead and of the living; and He has pronounced judgment upon this question. Ought it not to be fairly faced? Do you believe men — perhaps young daring men who have studied Hebrew, but with the most superficial knowledge of the Bible? or do you believe the Lord God in the person of Christ?
Look at the position of the world when the Son of God came down and gave this testimony. He stands between the two Testaments, as it were — at the end of the Old, at the beginning of the New. He pronounces upon the Old. He divides it into its parts — the three divisions with which every Jew was acquainted — the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets: the Psalms taking in the poetical books, the Prophets comprehending more than we call prophetical, the Law embracing the books of Moses. There you have substantially the Scriptures called the Old Testament. The Lord, when risen from the dead, bore testimony to the authority of these books (Luke 24). Surely you do not think that even an ordinary man carries his prejudices into the life beyond the grave!
In this world men may make mistakes, but not in the next: all illusion is then over. Just think of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. You find the rich man there waking up to the reality of things. Then he cries “Father Abraham!” Then he feels what sin is, and its immediate torment, although there be not the final sentence, but the separate state. That rich man then feels how blessed is the once wretched beggar — wretched in this world — but blessed in the next, where angels carried him to Abraham’s bosom. Blessed picture of God’s goodness at length to a long despised sufferer, who clung in faith to His truth. In vain the rich man prays for his five brethren, that some one would go and warn them lest they should have his portion in torment. What does Scripture say? “They have Moses and the prophets.” Moses — not some prophet in the days of King Josiah who wrote a religious romance for the Bible in Moses’ name. Do you ask, Who speaks so wickedly? Possibly the voice of a faithless Jew or a blaspheming Gentile? I grieve to say it is too common a voice in Christendom, echoed in Scotland.
Is it not a portentous thing that men should come to such a pass? To deny the genuineness of the books of Moses is a daring insult, not only to the Scriptures, but to the Son of God Himself. It is giving the lie to the Saviour, and the Judge of all. Yet men are to be found who deny to Moses the Books of the Law — most audaciously of all, the last one that professes to come most directly from his mouth. Nevertheless if there is the least trustworthiness in Deuteronomy, it is what Moses said himself. It is not merely what he collected, or what he caused to be written, but what he uttered also.
Of course by this nobody means — except Jews perhaps — that Moses wrote the last chapter about his death and burial. I do not say it is impossible, and that God might not have revealed these things to him. But there is no need to assume any such anticipation. There is an evident break after the closing and crowning song of Moses; and the last chapter is clearly, in my judgment, added by an inspired person who took up and thus continued the record of the enlarging and developing purposes of God. No need therefore, for any bit of superstition — as I conceive it is — in supposing that Moses necessarily wrote the account of his own death. There are in Scripture evident traces of the hand of an inspired editor — of one raised up by God to put the books of the Bible together. You must remember they came out separately. Not only have they been combined since, but there are, here and there, what one may call inspired insertions. God can give an inspired editor as well as an inspired writer. Every Scripture is inspired, and so was the person who edited it and added these joints and bands when the time came to close the canon of Scripture. It is only unbelief that makes difficulties out of that which is plain enough.
But what shocks every spiritual and even moral sensibility is that any person bearing the name of a Christian — nay, of a Christian minister — should couple fiction with the books of Moses, as if they were only a religious novel founded on traditional facts and documents — on what it was conceived Moses might have said — put together ever so many hundreds of years after the legislator died. Divine wisdom has taken particular pains on this point. Christ says, Moses wrote so and so; it is not somebody else imputing it to him, but Himself vouching for Moses in a way that He does rarely for any other. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” And so it has been. Those who hear not Christ in the Gospels, reject His resurrection.
We ought to feel thankful that Scripture is so written; because it is the fatality of unbelief to degrade man as well as God — not really to exalt either. Unbelief, too, is blind enough to attack the very thing that is strongest, requiring therefore no support by arguments drawn from other passages. Take a quite different illustration. There are those that idolize the virgin Mary to the depression of the Lord Jesus; yet how remarkably Scripture contradicts the notion, and protests against it by anticipation! It is left for our instruction in the Gospels that the virgin Mary never asked the Lord anything but what the Lord, instead of granting at once, modified at the least. Again see how God guards against unduly exalting Peter as the head (practically as a foundation-stone if you please) of the Christian church. In the very chapter from which men deduce the idea that he is the rock of the church, the Lord calls him Satan. Strange rock he to be sure! Peter was a very honoured servant of God, but even such an one may at times say or do something utterly reprehensible. Therefore it is we cannot trust ourselves. The Christian is a fool who trusts himself; and therefore the Lord rebuked Peter for our profit, as well as for his own. The very God who was going to use and to honour Peter still proves what Peter was in himself. The moment he looked away from the Lord, he was as liable as any other to be turned aside into some evil snare of the devil. Apart from the Lord, you are nothing and can do nothing.
But again observe God from the very earliest bringing in what the book of Revelation calls the “everlasting gospel.” How remarkable a phrase is this! Many a man has read and cited these words in Revelation 14; many have thought of them; and not a few have explained the thought unwisely, no doubt. The phrase never occurs except in this one place. Why is it called the “everlasting gospel”? There is always a propriety and a force in every word of Scripture. Let me tell you, as far as the Lord enables me. In the last book of the New Testament the Spirit of God recalls the first revelation of Christ in the Old Testament. In the garden of Eden, in the paradise that was blighted and lost by sin, God did not fail to point to the Seed of the woman — the bruised Seed of the woman, remark — that was to bruise the serpent’s head. Is not this gospel? Has it not been blessed gospel from the very first? Is it not also the gospel to the very last — “everlasting gospel”? There is as yet no allusion to His being sacrificed for us. This could not be until offering or sacrifices distinctly came in. Nor was there yet a revelation of Him as Saviour of His people from their sins. His people, of course, had to be called first, and their ruin shown first and last, salvation being fitly explained afterwards. It is not the notion of priesthood. It is not the figure of a captain. Still less is it the truth of the head of the church. All these things were revealed in their due season. But the last book in the New Testament sends you back to the first book of the Old; and thus you hear the blessed voice of Christ, as it were, reverberating through all Scripture an “everlasting gospel.” And why so? Because God ever takes pleasure in saving souls; and, in order to save sinners, there must ever be an “everlasting gospel. “
I speak at present of those that hear the truth — of those that listen to the word of God. Infants are not now in our view. Not that there is the least doubt that God’s grace does save little children, but there is a somewhat different way of course. It is wholly unscriptural that God punishes babes if they are not christened. There is not the slightest ground for a thought so unworthy of God, so harsh to man in one way, so self-exalting to him in another. You may ask how one can know. Do you know it? How do you know anything? Through Jesus — the same One brought in to prove the Bible. Jesus the Lord shows us very clearly that the God who gave the law is greater than the law itself, and that God was showing Himself in divine grace to be much greater than in judgment. The judgment of God is a solemn certainty; but the grace of God a still deeper truth. God manifest in the flesh, God present upon earth in the person of His own Son, shows us what God feels about little children. The disciples did not like to be troubled with them. They thought it was too bad to take up their great Master’s time with mere children. How did the Lord answer it? He took them up in His arms and blessed them — a good lesson for the disciples. How often they need the Lord to correct their inadequate notions! If the Lord took up and blessed little children, does it not tell me what God feels about them. He does not bless little children on earth to send them dying to hell. But if they lived to rebel against His word and against His Son the Lord Jesus, if the children when grown up dare to despise Him that died on the cross, if they refuse to accept the Saviour proclaimed in their ears, is there anything God resents more strongly ? It is bad enough for one man to lift his hand against another; and we justly abhor the man that would lift his hand against his father or his mother. But when we think of what Father sent His Son to be a Saviour how awful the wickedness of despising both, and therein of rejecting the gospel of salvation!
People pretend that they do not mean evil when they say man is but a developed monkey. But such ideas originate from the desire in man to get rid of responsibility and of God. None of that folly! You are moral beings; you have souls, you have consciences. You know very well that you are not brute beasts. You consciously have in your souls, in spite of all efforts, a dread of God, a fear of punishment for sins. A hare does not sin, nor a horse or cow; and you would be shocked at the philosopher who tried to prove that a horse, cow, or hare, had a sense of right or wrong, no less than a man. You might not be able to answer the sophistry, but you would feel that he was deceiving you.
Man is conscious of sin, and fears God; but God sent His only-begotten Son to save sinners. Hence all is changed for those that believe, and for more too. Look at the blessed change that has come over us in these very lands. Time was when our ancestors ran wild in woods, when our forefathers were stained blue, when they sacrificed their fellow creatures, and when the most shocking immorality prevailed. Elsewhere a man might marry several wives; but in this very land several men lived with one woman; and in this very land children, and even men and women, were burned in honour of their gods who were not God. What has changed all that? The name of Jesus. Even those that are not won to the True, but try to prove there is no God at all, reap incalculable benefit from the purging away of all that detestable filth and cruelty. What swept it away ? Was there no cause for it? Leave that irrationalism to the infidel. But one cause adequately accounts for such effects: only the name of Jesus — indisputably His name. Before His name was known these abominations flourished. Even the Romans, with all their power, only sinned after another manner — perhaps more decently; yet were they idolatrous and unclean. Is this the case where men really believe in Jesus? Nay, is this the case outwardly where men, even without living faith in the Lord Jesus, still respect the Bible?
I was speaking to a particularly wicked sceptic the other day in London, when he said to me deliberately, “I do not believe the Bible; but if I had the power, I should have the Bible read by every one.” How strange such homage to the Bible! He acknowledged the moral power of the word, and that there was nothing like it. Frankly, however, I do not believe he would thus use power if he possessed it: you can never trust men of this stamp; yet is his remark an unmistakeable and unwilling testimony to the power of Christ and His word.
On the other hand, people who hold the Bible only in the intellect are in danger of letting it slip altogether, and of becoming downright infidels. A tendency of that kind is at work among young men now. They begin more than ever to talk disrespectfully of those who are ministers. Now, it is not my business in any way to uphold the clergy; but still I have a horror of pulling down religion that is a reality, and I have the greatest love for many clergymen. Everything that is real, righteous or good — whether it be in what people call a state-church, or in a non-established Christian society — whatever is of God I would honour and love. And every one who is of God — every man who is a minister of Christ, not merely in word but in deed and in truth — is surely to be honoured and loved. I may not agree with him; and of course he may not agree with me. You cannot expect one to uphold another if they differ rather seriously. But, then, you must remember that all other things are small compared with the word and Spirit of God, with Christ Himself and with Christ’s redemption. What ecclesiastical difference is to be compared with the revelation in Christ, or of God in the Bible? Of course those differences have their due importance: and let me say that I felt them important enough to leave all that was dear to me in this way on earth. Still, we surely ought to rank Christ’s person and God’s word unhesitatingly above ecclesiastical questions.
And see how simple it is. The only possible means for men to know God is through His making Himself known to men. I admit that for a long time the word of God was not written. For more than two thousand years the word of God was not yet written. Men had no more than the word of God spoken, and that little word uttered in the garden of Eden — supplemented by the promises that came afterwards, as well as by manifestations that God gave from time to time — was quite enough, when God had not added more, for men to live and die and go to heaven upon. Nor is it absolutely necessary that a man should read. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” How many had only “heard” that word, and truly looked for the coming Saviour! A man’s whole life is affected by this, not by deep study, but whether he rests entirely on Christ or he is trying to save himself. What a change faith in Christ effects! Receiving Him as the Son of God with my heart, and my conscience bowing to the truth which convicts me, I love Him because He first loved me. Is not this the gospel? And there in germ at least it was in Eden — “the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.” It is the everlasting gospel.
Long afterwards — and there was wisdom in the arrangement — when man’s age began to be shortened to its present limit, God made a written revelation. Some make merry at the idea; but the time will come when they must weep. Faith sees divine wisdom where incredulity mocks. Do you not see that when man’s age is expressly said to be shortened to threescore years and ten (Ps. 90), Moses, the man of God, was first used to write down this word? Scripture, therefore, is more than the word. It was the word before Scripture, but now Scripture is God’s word written by inspired men. So all Scripture teaches. Any one who is familiar with the New Testament will admit this. “Every scripture [is] given by inspiration of God.” This is an important statement, because it shows that the Holy Spirit was providing for what was not yet written — for the Gospel and the Revelation of John, as examples, not yet written. Every scripture — whether what was written or what was going to be written — every scripture is given by inspiration of God.
I am perfectly aware that some learned persons translate it thus — “Every scripture, being inspired of God, [is] profitable.” What difference is there? A shade in the form — nothing in the substance. The difference is that the one rendering is the assertion that it is inspired of God; the other admits or assumes that it is inspired of God. Whether it be an admission or an assertion makes no difference for anything at present before us. The point is that it is inspired of God, if you believe the apostle Paul.
The entire subject is opened out remarkably in the second chapter of First Corinthians, where is shown the part the Holy Ghost takes in three ways. It is by the Holy Ghost that the things are given (1 Cor. 2:12); and the Holy Ghost it is by whom we receive what is by Him revealed and communicated (1 Cor. 2:4-16). Supposing you had a revelation of the mind of God, if it be not communicated in fit words, others would not be able to apprehend it. The truth would be seen but dimly; just as light passing through a coloured medium seems to alter the colour of the thing it falls upon. But the Spirit of God cares for duly communicating in words the truth of God. Then, again, your minds are not capable of taking in the truth: but the Spirit of God deigns to work in man. In what believers? The apostles or the early disciples only? God forbid we should be so unbelieving! The very thing that has preserved the church of God all through the ages has been the possession of the Spirit. This is a cardinal truth of Scripture. Every godly Presbyterian or Independent or Wesleyan Methodist or Anglican has the Holy Ghost, just as much as the people whom they call — I do not call them — Plymouth Brethren.
It is not at all a question of setting up any one class, of course one’s own; to my mind a low, bad and perilous conceit. Were a man to rise with the cry, “You cannot get the Holy Ghost unless you join us,” I might well reply, “My friend, has the Lord not shown you that it is never a mark of the truth for people to draw others into their ranks by promising the Holy Ghost to such as join themselves?” Such pretensions ought rather to warn off. The Spirit is received by the hearing of faith (Gal. 3:2), by believing the gospel; and, thank God, the gospel of salvation, if preached by but few, is confined to none. It is no doubt an excellent thing to have the gospel preached, not alone simply and freely, but fully; and I have a judgment where it is simply, freely, and fully preached, though it might be unbecoming to say where. Of this it is for other people to judge in their consciences, examining the word of God. But this I do say — every real child of God who is resting by faith on the work of Christ has the Holy Ghost. Consequently he has the Spirit of power, and not life only. The new nature or life is not the same thing as the Spirit of God, because the new birth is called a new creation, and the Holy Ghost is not a creature, but a divine person. How few know they have the Spirit of God!
I remember being much struck with an instance of this some years ago. A poor christian friend had been a bad man in his early days, a smuggler; so that, as you may suppose, he was a very rough sort of man before God brought him to a knowledge of himself; but he was a genuine saint of God in the after-part of his life. A physician, who was also a friend of mine and a Christian, attended him when very ill, and ordered certain things. The man looked up simply, and said, “Well, sir, I must be careful what I do and what I take; for you know, my body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.” The physician thought the man utterly deranged; so little are people used to such language in daily walk. It is all very well, they think, to have all that in the Bible; but they never think of hearing it in common things. Yet the aim of faith is to bring the things that are in the Bible into every-day work; and it is from want of this that so many Christians do not know, walk, and worship, better than we see. They think the Bible is something to be kept quite apart from ordinary life. On the contrary, scripture is given to be inwoven and to interpenetrate with every duty and joy and sorrow of every day. Would to God that we lived, and so reflected, it better! Would to God that our worship, wherever we might be, and all our conversation, were more simply a savour of Christ to God!
People sometimes give religious conversation a bad name, because they know that, when a rogue wants to get money, he is apt to come with a grave face and talks “Dear brother,” and all that kind of thing, in order to accomplish covetous ends. But can this justify others who are afraid that it is downright hypocrisy to be brimful of the Saviour and the things of God? There can be no question, indeed, that the Saviour meant, and the apostles also, as inspired by the Holy Ghost, that we should really be every day waiting for Christ — that we should be in all things great or small serving the Lord Jesus — bearing shame and trial, insult and injury, with patience, yet joy, as pleasing the Saviour. Take, for instance, a Christian with a capricious master. If the servant does not think of Christ, he may be always murmuring and complaining of his lot; whereas if he does or bears all to Christ, he accepts each burden gladly in His name. Faith in Christ changes the whole face of things where it is a present living reality. How is this made good? In the power of the Spirit who directs the eyes to Christ.
The Spirit of God is, however, given to every man — not in the world, but in the church, to the believer only (1 Cor. 12). There is no such thing as the Holy Ghost sealing an unbeliever. The Society of Friends consists largely of morally respectable persons; but herein their doctrine is fundamentally wrong, in that they hold that the Spirit of God is given to every one absolutely. This is a total mistake. For the grand difference between the church and the world is that the world has not the Spirit — seeing not nor knowing Him; but the church possesses the Spirit, and, what is more, the Christian also. That gift is true both individually and collectively; and the consequence is that both the church and the individual are bound to walk and worship in the Spirit. A solemn responsibility indeed! And the way it works is this; the Holy Spirit does not glorify Himself. Still less will He glorify man in his natural state. Nay, He does not even glorify the church. He is here to glorify Jesus. This is the test, the chief and best — “He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:13-15).
I have not gone into any great detail. I would rejoice to enter into all the books of the Bible, as I have been doing, indeed, of late in more than one place; and therefore the subject is fresh in my mind. But I have endeavoured to speak to you in the plainest simplest manner as to that which is most important for your souls; and I do entreat of the Lord that He may awaken in your heart more firmness of faith in these days when so many are departing from the truth.
A short time ago, a certain dignitary in the land that borders this on the south published a sermon to the Jews, urging them to abandon their faith and to accept the Messiah. To this a Jew replied that he thought it would be imprudent and unreasonable for him to give up a religion which even his lordship admitted to be of divine authority, for a further revelation of which he was not sure; more particularly as so many bearing the name of Christians were now abandoning Christianity. It was a humbling rejoinder; and all too true; not that it will avail him for a moment when he stands before the Lord Jesus Christ for judgment.
Still it is a solemn fact that men are becoming sceptical: and the reason partly is this — the unreality of much profession, not to say of many who are really Christians. We ought all to take it to heart. I believe that, just so far as we do not walk according to Christ, we are hardening the hearts of unbelievers. What profanity to use the gospel to make people decent men and women without being Christians at all! For, if it is merely a creed-faith, men think there is not very much to choose between a Christian and an infidel. Though I have referred to the putting down of open immorality and downright wickedness of all kinds as the effect of Christianity even outwardly received, still the one thing for the Christian is this, that at all times he should be able to say, “For me to live is Christ” — not merely to belong to Him, but, “For me to live is Christ.” How is this done? By the Holy Ghost giving the word power in the soul, with self so judged that Christ may be all. God grant that He may work so in us all! Amen.