Material Progress in Inventions and Wealth We are living in remarkable times in every way. Civilization has made such vast strides during the past quarter of a century that we are surrounded by almost a new world.
Inventions and discoveries, with manifold appliances in the various arts and trades, have largely altered our manner of living, so that undreamed of luxuries have now become the everyday necessities even of the humbler classes of society. These inventions have been accompanied by a vast increase in material wealth, both in the size of the fortunes possessed by individuals and in the number of millionaires, which is multiplied a hundredfold.
The fruits of the earth have contributed of their vast abundance, and so far as supply is concerned the whole world might well be living in comparative ease and luxury.
Complications Resulting therefrom Accompanying this vast increase of wealth, there has been a distinct development in the organization of the various forces of civilization into two distinctly marked and hostile camps. Capital has combined with capital in the formation of immense trusts which control the majority of the industries of the country; and on the other hand labor, in seeking to secure relief from oppression, real or fancied, and a greater liberty, together with increase of wages, has formed itself into the vast unions which, in some quarters at least, dominate the entire class of the employed.
With all this the Christian has, directly, comparatively little to do; but no one who has a heart for the welfare of mankind can fail to take a deep interest in these great movements which, together with possible beneficial results which have been attained, most certainly indicate that spirit of selfishness and independence and that desire for power which mark the natural man.
The Christian student of prophecy cannot fail to see in these movements a tendency toward the heading up of things, which is most clearly foretold in the word of God. If organizations continue to develop along the lines which they have been following during recent years, we can see how easily a complete restraint of all trade, save as permitted by the organizations, will be effected; while organized labor, if carried to its legitimate and not impossible limit, suggests that confederacy of the people which Scripture also declares will mark the closing days.
Increase of Education In the field of education, both of the masses and in its higher branches, like progress has been made. Our children are taught far more in the public schools than were their parents, and there is a reaching out in the higher fields of learning which transcends what was formerly called a liberal education.
Modern research has explored many new fields, and made further discoveries in those which had heretofore been worked. The result has been a vast accumulation of observed facts, together with the discovery of many hitherto unknown and remarkable laws of nature. In the gathering of facts there can be little question that the efforts of modern science have been crowned with success; although we may put in the proviso here to guard against the too ready acceptance of facts which claim to substantiate theories hostile to revealed truth. Of these theories, however, we must speak more definitely.
From the days of Darwin to the present time there has been a marked effort to discover in the processes and laws of nature that which will contradict the Scriptures. Without being avowedly hostile in every case, there can be no question that the theories of a numerically large majority of scientists have been hostile to the teachings of Scripture. They may generally be classed as materialistic and evolutionary.
A few years ago the theory of evolution was carrying all before it. "Development" was the magic key which was to open every lock, and so use the treasures of nature. When applied, however, the ascertained results of the use of this key were far from commending themselves to the thoughtful, not to say Christian, mind. With more or less modification, it was taught that the world as we see it to-day has been developed from primary matter which has gradually organized itself according to certain principles which are not supernatural, with the result of life in its animal and vegetable displays, of which man is the latest product. So popular did the theory become that it was adopted by many who still called themselves by the name of Christian. In some cases it was modified in the effort to harmonize it with the truths of revelation; while in most it was seen that if the one were true, the other was necessarily untrue. Many of the people of God trembled, like Eli, for the safety of the ark. Was it possible that all we had learned of God as the creator and preserver of all things; of the essential distinctions between the various classes of the animal and vegetable creation; of the uniqueness, personality and responsibility of man to his Maker — was it possible that all these were mistaken ideas of an old-fashioned religion which were utterly inconsistent with the real facts in the case
Evolution applied to the Bible A brilliant young professor has described, in a book which had an immense circulation a few years ago, how he was led to apply the principles of science to the study of the Scriptures, and vice versa. Mr. Drummond, in his "Natural Law in the Spiritual World," showed how his studies in the realm of nature overflowed into his Bible work, and how the process was to some extent reversed when he resumed his nature studies. Each acted upon the other. We might say, in passing, that with this we have no quarrel whatever as a principle. All truth is one, and we may be sure that in the whole realm of creation there cannot be found one principle which will essentially contradict another; but it is with the use which has been made of this principle that we have now to do.
Evolution had been accepted as a fact, and now the same principles were applied to the study of the Scriptures. Modern criticism has asked, Why may we not look upon the Scriptures which we hold in our hands, not as original documents, such as they purport to be, but rather as the final result of a long process of evolution? This was applied both to the form, the structure, and the doctrines of the various Bible books.
Against a reverent study and inquiry into the form, structure, and contents of the Scriptures we have no word to say. Indeed, the very purpose of this present series of studies is to encourage a deeper, fuller, wider, and bolder examination into the whole realm of revealed truth; but a casual examination of the so-called modern criticism shows that it is hostile in its intent; it is destructive, not constructive. As in nature God had been so far removed from His creation as to have practically nothing to do with it, so in revelation everything of a supernatural character was eliminated. Miracles were therefore pronounced a priori impossible, or at least most unlikely, and prophecy as well. So, too, the conceptions of God — the earlier ones — were taken as necessarily materialistic and low, developing later on to the more spiritual ideals as a result of the cultivation of the human family.
The Bible books themselves, instead of being complete works, the product of a single writer, or the compilation of an inspired man, were looked upon as compounded of discordant and contradictory traditions. Early myths which had grown by being handed down from one generation to another were combined with much later material by more or less skilful editors, so that, for instance, the book of Genesis, instead of being the coherent and inspired account of the earliest ways of man, and of God's ways with him, came to be a mass of material upon which the higher critic expended his genius in sorting it into its various component parts.
The same treatment was applied to other portions of the Scriptures besides the Pentateuch. Law, Prophets and Psalms all shared the same fate. Passing also into the New Testament, so-called higher criticism found much to encourage its activities in the work of destruction. Eliminating the miraculous element from the first three Gospels, little was found remaining, as we will readily admit; while the exalted teachings of the fourth Gospel rendered it quite impossible that they could have been given by an unlearned fisherman. Therefore this Gospel was the product of a much later date — was, indeed, an effort to graft upon the Christianity of the apostles the more vigorous stock of new Platonic philosophy. Paul never wrote the most of the epistles attributed to him, and the glories of the Revelation were but the ideal dreams of millennarians of a later century, views utterly inconsistent with the Judaism of the early Church.
It might almost seem that we were describing some wild dream, rather than stating simple and solemn facts; but, so far from overstating, we have really given a moderate view of the teachings of higher criticism.
If the form of Scripture has thus fallen under these attacks, so too its doctrines have shared the same fate. The person of the Son of God has been assailed most ruthlessly by this destructive criticism. This was necessary; for if He was indeed the divine Son of God, whose words will remain when heaven and earth pass away, all the claims of higher criticism would be brushed aside. For had He not declared that the Scriptures could not be broken? And had He not ascribed the Pentateuch to Moses as its author? Neither philosophy nor history could justify the assumption of the Scriptures that He who was God became flesh. Therefore every form of unbelief was set to work to overthrow the plain teachings of the word of God as to the Lord Jesus Christ.
From the lowest, most materialistic blasphemies of a denial of every element of divine truth as to Him, on to a subtle and apparently reverent analysis of His person which still left Him shorn of His glory, theories of every kind have abounded. We have no hesitation in saying that if the teachings of higher criticism are true, the Christ whom we have known, and who is revealed to us in the word of God, does not exist.
How is this to be Answered? If what has been said is true — and we might say much more — then it is high time for the people of God to awake to the terrible danger which menaces the professed Church of Christ. His Word is settled forever in heaven, and all the malice of man and Satan combined can never remove one jot or tittle of divine truth. God's word abides, His truth abides, and He who is the Truth, Christ Jesus, is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever." We need not fear for the safety of the ark, but, oh, what shall we say of those who profess to be the people of God and who are thus giving up His glory into the enemy's hands? What will the end be of that testimony which has been entrusted with such priceless treasure, and which has allowed it all to be so ruthlessly taken away?
Scripture here too tells us unmistakably what the end will be; but so long as that is deferred in divine patience, and so long as the true people of God, who love Him, remain here, there must be conflict. We cannot stand idly by and see the word of God torn asunder and cast into the flames of unbelief. As one has well said, "We are fighting for our all." Take from us the inspiration of the Old Testament, and you at once deny the inspiration of the New, for that sets its seal fully and absolutely upon every jot and tittle of it. Destroy a belief in the absolute verbal inspiration of the New Testament, and at once you rob us of our Saviour; for He stands or falls with the complete and eternal truth of the New Testament, and He has declared in an unmistakable way the entire inspiration of the whole word of God.
But let us not be discouraged. "The battle is not yours, but God's," is as true to-day as ever, whenever the enemy threatens; and we may be sure, too, that when the enemy does come in like a flood "the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him." It is ours then to inquire what is the work of the Spirit, in view of all the assault of unbelief against divine truth in the material, intellectual, and religious world. It is evident that His work is ever to manifest things as they are. If the Spirit of God has inspired the Scriptures, we need have no fear that those Scriptures are not abundantly sufficient in themselves to furnish an answer to every form of unbelief which assails them. It is the Spirit's work also to glorify Christ; and we may be sure that wherever He is allowed to do so, He will set forth the glories of our Lord. It is ours therefore to see to it that nothing hinders the full shining forth of the word of God. The great proof that the sun shines is to look upon it and see the results of its shining; and so the great proof of the perfection, divine origin and inspi ration of the word of God is to let its beams shine upon us.
But this brings us to the subject in hand. How are we to let the full light of divine revelation shine into our minds? Most certainly it is not by ignorance and neglect; and we can say, with all the emphasis of which we are capable, that we have far more to fear from the neglect, the ignorance and the imperfect knowledge of the Scriptures in the people of God than we have from all the assaults of unbelief combined. The great trouble to-day is not that such and such universities are denying the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and such and such modern scholars have repudiated the virgin birth of our Lord and His resurrection. These are but the by-play of Satan. We may expect them. What could we expect from the enemy of Christ and of man but blasphemous lies? But the dreadful thing is that the true children of God allow so many things to interfere with their knowing really what He has spoken.
Material interests, the daily struggle for a comfortable livelihood, the well-nigh universal demand for amusements of one kind and another, political agitation, and many other temporal things, are often allowed to intrude and to monopolize the time, part of which at least should be given by every Christian to knowing what the mind of God is. If any words of ours can arouse an interest in the people of God in that amazing and priceless treasure which we have in His word, we shall be thankful.
The Bible will speak for itself. It will justify its divine origin. It will illumine our whole lives with such a blaze of light as shall scatter forever for us all the powers of darkness, so that all we need to do is to make sure that we are letting that light shine. Neglect, then, on the part of God's people is the greatest danger which is threatening them to-day.
But even where the Bible is loved and read, how meagre is our knowledge of its full contents and the scope of its various portions! How, for instance, we confound the great principles of law and grace! How we fail to see the marked distinction between the Old and the New Testaments! How the Gospels are confounded with the Epistles! The result is that while we may have many very sweet and precious promises in our hearts, which we have gathered from the Scriptures, we have failed to recognize that the word of God is a living whole — organic, complete, progressive; that, beginning with Genesis, and going on through the entire Scriptures, we will find a purpose of God gradually revealed, corning into greater clearness, ever centering about the sacrificial work and the person of His blessed Son, together with the glorious purposes that refer to this world and to His redeemed people, both earthly and heavenly, that will make it what it really is, a divine Book.
Partial and incomplete views, resulting in undue emphasis being given to any one book or doctrine, will often lead to practical error. This is particularly true in connection with those portions of Scripture which teach doctrines of which many have but vague ideas. Error, like many disease germs, flourishes in the dark. The main remedy is, let in the light and air.
While the Scriptures do not gratify mere curiosity, and while they were not given to teach what is called science, we make a great mistake when we think they are either unscientific or inaccurate. Indeed, an increased acquaintance with Scripture will astonish us with the vast amount of truth about material objects which it imparts. The attacks of higher criticism need practically nothing else to meet them but a full, patient, harmonious unfolding of the perfections of the word of God. If we let the Bible speak for itself, it will speak with no uncertain sound, and it will be found that He who could meet the assaults, from opposite quarters — of the Pharisees with their religious formalism, or of the skeptical Sadducees and the secular Herodians — still lives, and still meets the same assaults with the same wisdom, and by that same wonderful book, the Scriptures.