1. The Gospel The gospel is but little understood by most, and even evangelical Christians have often hazy ideas of its nature, grounds, conditions and assurances. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that a somewhat full outline of the various parts of the gospel should be presented. The first handbook will therefore be devoted to this.
The general subjects will be the fall and guilt of man; his helplessness and hopeless condition; the absolute need of new birth; the love of God; the person and the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ; the necessity for repentance; the judging of sins, and of faith which accepts the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus, the heart-belief of the record which God has given concerning His Son. The doom of the ungodly who die in their sins or reject the gospel must also be seen, and the blessedness of a present salvation, the perfect assurance of this and the eternal security of the believer, together with the glories of heaven. These are the transcendent themes of the gospel which will be set forth, necessarily briefly, but, we trust, clearly.
The second part of the handbook would give a partial list of the large number of helpful books upon the gospel, both for an anxious inquirer and for the servant of Christ who desires to furnish himself thoroughly for his work.
2. Fundamental Doctrines of Scripture This book will be a fuller and wider inquiry into the great doctrines which have already been referred to in the previous handbook, together with many other prominent truths. Here, the person and the atoning work of our Lord will receive reverent study, together with the great truths of God's plan and purpose and their final consummation.
Questions as to the true nature of repentance, faith, new birth, and their relation to each other; the various aspects of the work of Christ; the nature and extent of the Spirit's work; the truths of forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and their mutual relations; the believer's standing,in whom and on what it rests; his present acceptance and eternal security; the two natures; the provision of grace for failure; the government of God and the proper hope of the believer, together with many other fundamental doctrines, will here receive careful consideration.
Opportunity will be given in the second part of the book to refer to helpful treatises on topics which could only be touched upon in the general outline. It is believed that a careful study of the subjects thus suggested would furnish the child of God with an outline of "sound words" which would become the basis for a wider and fuller research.
3. The Person of Christ If there is a hunger for truth, we always leave any special study of it with reluctance. So much more lies beyond than we have had time to examine. Thus, in the gospel itself we would necessarily devote some space to the person of our adorable Lord. In the fundamental doctrines of Scripture this would be enlarged to take in the general scope of revealed truth on this transcendent theme, but the hunger thus awakened in the heart of the child of God could be further satisfied by a more detailed and complete study of the subject. The handbook, therefore, on the Person of Christ would necessarily fill a distinct need.
Here, the subject would be treated topically and historically. The essential Godhead of Him who is the Creator and upholder of all things; His place in the counsels of God, and all that is revealed in connection with that would be given, while His real, though sinless humantiy, in all its completeness of body, soul and spirit, would also be dwelt upon. Attention would have to be given to various forms of error here, such as the too popular philosophic idea of the Kenosis and the many dishonoring suggestions as to the sinlessness, temptability, and even the personality, of our Lord.
The progressive revelations as to the person of our Lord in the Old Testament would be taken up in order, together with the truths that are presented in the Gospels and their unfolding in the Epistles, with the final display and eternal glory of the book of Revelation.
4. The Atonement The foundation which God has laid is none other than the Rock of ages, His only-begotten Son. That work of redemption which He has accomplished is therefore of eternal efficacy and has all the value of His Godhead, while wrought in the days of His flesh. The atonement is denied by those who do not know their lost condition. It has been assailed by the culture of the Unitarian in name or fact. Efforts have been made to substitute for it the teachings of Christ, His personal character as an Example, and His help to those who would make use of it. Faith ever cries aloud, in the language of Scripture, "Without shedding of blood, is no remission." Modern destructive criticism and the general tone of the religious teachings of the day are contradictory to, and away from, this great foundation fact of the atonement. As has already been said, it of course is the basis of the handbook on the gospel, and larger attention has been given to it in that on the "Fundamental Doctrines of Scripture," but nothing short of a thorough study of this great subject can guard the believer from the subtle forms of error which assail him here.
Taken up historically, it will be shown how the doctrine of substitution and sacrifice runs like a scarlet thread throughout the entire texture of the Old Testament, and is displayed in its blessed reality in the New. The types of Genesis and the Pentateuch; the linking of atonement with typical persons, such as the high priest and the king, as we find them unfolded in the historical books; the wondrous, thrilling breathings of the Spirit of God in the book of Psalms, as He sets forth in the language of experience the details of our Lord's sufferings, both bodily and spiritually, together with the prophetic unfolding of the same wondrous theme, will show us that the Old Testament is essentially the book of atonement. Take that out, and practically nothing is left. What is our interest in a people like Israel, wandering through the wilderness or settled in their land, if the great truths of substitution and sacrifice, and acceptance with God on that ground, are not the basis of all God's dealings with them?
In the New Testament, and more particularly in the Epistles, this doctrine is stated with clear ness and exact suitability of expression answering to the fulness of revelation now given. We will, therefore, seek to gather the main elements of this glorious work as set forth by Paul, Peter, and John, and the other inspired writers, while Revelation will show that in the glory, and upon the very throne of God, it is still the "Lamb as it had been slain." The subject will also be looked at doctrinally, as to the need for it, the question of responsibility, divine righteousness and divine satisfaction in what has been done. The question, too, of the various aspects of atonement, Godward and manward, the availability of the sacrifice, the distinctions between sacrificial terms, such as substitution, propitiation, redemption, will receive careful attention.
It will thus be seen that, without repetition,we will have abundant material to fill this handbook. Through the mercy of God, many helpful treatises upon this subject have been written, to which reference will be made,together with suggestions as to their suitability for various parts of the subject and various difficulties of readers.
5. The Person and the Work of the Holy Spirit The great error in connection with the Holy Spirit has been the denial of His personality, as the denial of the divinity has marked the assault upon the person of Christ. The Scriptures therefore will be presented which show unmistakably that the third Person of the Godhead is none other than God, a living, distinct Person. His place in connection with creation and the past dispensations will be traced, while special attention will be given to His personal work in connection with the individual, with new birth, its nature and how effected; its connection with cognate truths, will be examined, — such as sealing, the anointing and earnest, the filling of the Spirit as power for service, the Spirit in inspiration and in relation to the person of Christ. These, and other subjects which will suggest themselves to the reader, open up a most important and attractive line of reverent study. Here, too, many helpful books, in whole or in part, will be referred to.
We pass next to those handbooks which will be devoted to the discussion of various parts of the Scriptures. A number of helpful outlines on the Bible as a whole have been made, and these will be referred to under each head, so that the student can see at a glance what he needs for special, as well as more general work.
6. The Pentateuch Perhaps no portion of Scripture has been more assailed by destructive criticism than the five books of Moses and the reason is not far to seek, because if the foundations be destroyed, the superstructure must follow. It has therefore been the object of the enemy to impeach the veracity, the credibility and the directly inspired character of this first section of our Bibles. All shades of error are seen here, from the bold attack of the infidel after the manner of Paine (alas, to be heard from many a pulpit today!) to the specious and apparently pious platitudes about God's permission of error and the Lord's self-emptied ignorance of what was true. Higher criticism is but infidelity attacking the word of God. There is a higher criticism — as contrasted with the criticism or study of the text of Scripture — but the use of the word at all has been unfortunate. We have but one mention of the word "critic" in Scripture, and there it is declared that, "The word of God is quick and powerful" and is "a discerner (critic) of the thoughts and intents of the heart." This is the highest criticism, and the highest wisdom is to let the divine Critic judge our hearts and ways, and set them in the light of His own perfect truth. We would have no difficulty then about "higher criticism."
However, this handbook will deal not merely with the infidel assaults upon the Pentateuch, but will endeavor to show its beauty of order, general theme, and the place occupied by each of the separate books in this connection. It is a most attractive and important study, and, as already intimated, no one can expect to understand and appreciate the study of the word of God who has not right thoughts about the writings of Moses which have as their subject, Christ.
Helpful books will suggest themselves to many readers, but a descriptive list of a goodly number will be given.
7. The Book of Genesis It might seem needless, after having gone over the whole Pentateuch, to return to the book of Genesis, but no one who has studied his Bible will fail to realize the importance of this. One of the greatest Bible students who has ever lived, and who devoted at least one complete volume to the book of Genesis, longed that his life might be spared sufficiently to write another volume on this "seed-plot of the Bible." It is, indeed, just that. All the great doctrines of Scripture rise here as streams from a great mountain. The fall, with its awful consequences, the personality and power of Satan, the atoning work of Christ, all have their place here.
The very first chapter of Genesis would require a volume for its proper unfolding. Its relation to science, its place in connection with astronomy and geology, the literal character of the six days of the earth's preparation for man's abode, the retrospective glance at the geologic periods also suggested, together with the prophetic dispensational truths, and the spiritual history of each individual believer, all cluster about this first chapter of Genesis. No wonder that Satan has branded it as a myth. No wonder that, in spite of being so branded, the attack of the enemy is still levelled against it. Why should he devote so much time to a vanquished (?) foe, except that he knows that here, in these early chapters of Genesis, is declared the truth as to himself and his doom?
The seven biographies which make up the remainder of the book are rich in individual experience, as well as typical teaching. Indeed, no romance can compare with the intense and consuming interest which this book affords. While the last book has not yet been written upon it, many have, and these will be described for the guidance of the student.
8. The Historical Books Most of us would perhaps have to confess that when we leave the books of Moses and come to the historical portion of the Bible, we are entering what is, to a certain extent, an unknown territory. True, we know a little of the first part of Joshua, and the personal histories of Gideon and Samson are fairly familiar to us, while Samuel and the life of David are quite well known but, at the same time, the theme of each of these historical books, its prominent features and its relation to what precedes and follows, need much elucidation for most of us. We should be as familiar with Judges as we are with Genesis; and the progressive history of the Kings, the decline and fall, we might say, that is narrated there, together with the measure of recovery granted in Ezra's day, with God's providential care of His people while in captivity, should all lie before us in harmonious outline. It will be the effort of this handbook to furnish such an outline.
Certain problems, also, will have to be touched upon, such as the different characteristics of the books of Kings and Chronicles, while the underlying theme will be seen throughout to be the necessity for the coming of Christ.
Several useful books will be found to furnish much help in reaching a good knowledge of this portion of our Bibles.
9. The Book of Psalms The book of Psalms has furnished comfort and praise for untold multitudes of the people of God from the beginning, but there is a fascinating completeness in its structure, a fulness of prophetic outline, above all, a marvelous unfolding of the nature of our Lord's sufferings, that makes the book of Psalms unique. It is not mere doctrine on one side, nor mere history on the other, but it is an actual enactment before the eyes of faith of the scenes through which the soul is passing.
We are thus brought face to face with the sorrow of David for his sin. We go with him into his closet and hear his heart-broken confession; nay, we are introduced, as Peter, James and John, into Gethsemane, to hear the anguished cry of our holy Lord, and well is it for us if we do not let the sleep of indifference or unbelief check this marvelous privilege. We stand, too, at Calvary, to hear the unspoken cries and groans of a sorrow and suffering which no words can describe.
And so we go on through the whole book, with unshod feet, standing in the presence of infinite sorrow, or gazing up into those heavens whither the suffering Lord has entered to sit upon His throne, "a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec," or watching Him as He returns through the uplifted gates to enter and take possession of that city which is now to be the joy of the whole earth.
We follow the victorious acclaims of a ransomed people and with them join in that hallelujah chorus of the last psalm which sweeps from earth to heaven and back to earth, and reaches on in anticipation beyond the Millennium, even into Eternity itself. We must, then, give at least a book to this wondrous theme.
Other writers have preceded us here, so that there will not be dearth of material to be heartily recommended in the list of books studied.
10. The Poetical Books The connection of the book of Psalms with the other poetical books will be noted here, and attention be given to the great epic of Job, with its ever fresh lesson to be learned by every one who is to enjoy "the end of the Lord."
The Song of Songs brings us into the sanctuary to hear the breathings of a love which is sweeter than that of earth, and the response of a heart which has been captivated by it, all centering in the person of our Lord Jesus, while Ecclesiastes, with its groans, warns us away from what the world is seeking to do even now, to enjoy God's creation without Himself.
Proverbs furnishes us, not only with practical wisdom for the path, but with many a delightful typical suggestion at which we will look, and point our readers to other sources of knowledge upon this delightful theme.
11. The Prophets This terra incognita to most, beyond a few solitary peaks — as the fifty-third of Isaiah, the early chapters of Daniel, and perhaps a part of Hosea — which rise above the cloud of ignorance which has settled down upon the country as a whole, is really that to which the Spirit of God is leading us in a special way at the present time. Not that its prophecies directly concern us, but Israel, as we know; but the moral principles which underlie all prophecy, the prevailing indifference as to the claims of God, the universal failure of those who have been in the place of special privilege and therefore of responsibility, these and other characteristics in the prophets make them of special need at the present time. Of course, they furnish, in addition to this, outlines of future events, together with God's purposes as to the nations as a whole. These will by no means be ignored, but the distinctive object of prophecy, together with the special character of the work of each of the prophets, will be dwelt upon, both directly and by reference to helpful literature.
12. The Four Gospels We pass now from the twilight of the Old Testament into the broad day of the New. It has been, indeed, with the light of the New that we have been surveying the Old; but here we have directly that which needs no light upon it. It is itself the Light. At the outset we have, of course, that Life which was the light of men, given to us in those four characteristic narratives which show Him — in Matthew as the King of Israel and the One in whom the Prophets find their fulfilment; in Mark, as the Prophet, the faithful Witness and Servant of God for His people's needs; in Luke, the ideal Man who stands out alone, so high above us and yet so near to us that the heart cannot fail to be attracted to Him and in John reaching up into the glory where He was with the Father, and down to the well of Sychar where He could lay His holy hands upon sin and bring the sinner to Himself or, through scenes of opposition where every fresh attack of the enemy but furnished fresh occasion for more light to shine forth, until in the piercing spear was opened up that on-rushing stream of the water of life which it will be our joy to dwell beside forever. We need say no more here of this holy, blessed theme.
13. The Book of Acts We might almost call this a romance, though no romance ever had such an interest for those who value God's truth and His work in the world. We launch our little craft of faith at the source of that great river of God's purposes of grace throughout the world, rising in Israel, bursting out in the energy and power of the presence of the Holy Spirit, passing through bitterest opposition and opening a broad way for itself until it leaps, at the death of Stephen, in a mighty stream outward and onward to the Gentile world.
It begins at Jerusalem as a centre and goes forward from one city to another until it closes with Paul in chains at Rome, but with an unchained word of God that flashes its light into the uttermost recesses of the earth, which has reached even to us.
To trace the gradual and gracious ways of God from the narrow confines of Judaism in which it began, on to the full freedom of deliverance from what would otherwise have been a bondage, is most profitable and necessary if we are to fully understand the distinction between Israel and the Church — the dispensation of law and that of grace.
Reference will also be made to special epistles which elucidate the theme of Acts, and an effort will be made, so far as it can be done, to connect each of Paul's epistles with its historical setting. There has been of late years a subtle attack by some upon the book of Acts, under the guise of relegating it to the Kingdom rather than to the Church. This must be met and examined, together with many other interesting and important questions.
14. Paul's Doctrinal Epistles The chosen vessel for the unfolding of the characteristic truths of Christianity in their order and completeness, together with the special revelations as to the Church, is the apostle Paul. Plucked by divine grace from the extremest school of narrow Pharisaism, set free from the bondage of self-righteousness, a new man in Christ, he was divinely fitted to unfold those truths which cluster about a risen and glorified Christ. These are presented to us doctrinally, in great measure, in what may be called the first half of his Epistles not indeed chronologically, but in point of doctrinal prominence. It will take us beyond our limits to do more than designate the character of each of these Epistles.
In Romans, the great fundamental epistle of justification by faith, we have, in fullest outline, the salient features of the righteousness of God in the condemnation of the sinner, in the justification and deliverance of the believer, in His ways with Israel, and in those fruits of the Spirit in the life of faith, manifested in the daily walk.
Galatians traverses somewhat the same ground, though confined more particularly to the question of the relation of the believer to the law, and to the recovery of saints who were tempted to turn back to it.
Ephesians introduces us into the heavenlies, showing us our perfect acceptance and place in Christ risen, together with the great revelation of the mystery of the Church.
Colossians, with its postscript, Philemon, speaks to a people quickened and raised up with Christ, whose occupation is to be engaged with Him who is the fulness of the Godhead, and who, as risen and glorified, is the attractive Object for the soul.
Philippians beautifully blends all these characteristics in its four brief chapters in which Christ is the theme as the source of life, the example for faith,the object of the soul and the satisfying portion.
This briefest of outlines of the contents of Paul's epistles must suffice us here. A large and and illuminating literature on this portion of the truth will claim our attention.
15. Paul's Practical Epistles "Practical" is scarcely the word to describe these, for all Scripture is practical and here, too, the doctrinal side is not wanting. They might rather be designated, The epistles of relationships and responsibility, in contrast to those which present largely the great doctrinal truths.
Here, the two epistles to the Thessalonians show us our relation to God as Father and the coming of the Lord as our hope. It will be seen from these, the place of absolute prominence which all Christian revelation gives to the coming of the Lord.
In Corinthians, we have two epistles which set forth Church constitution and order. In the first, we have the great principles of Church order and life unfolded most sweetly in connection with glaring failure on the part of the Corinthians. God ever brings forth further blessing out of those failures in His people which He needs to correct.
2nd Corinthians is perhaps one of the most personal of all Paul's epistles, in which he lets us into the secret springs of his life and ministry; and, in that connection, unfolds the source, power and object of all Christian ministry.
Hebrews opens up another field. As the third section of Romans is devoted to Israel, so this third epistle of relationship opens up the types of the Old Testament Scriptures and shows their fulfilment in Christ.
The pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus close this second division of Paul's writings, in which provision is made for practical conduct in, and the care of, the Church of God.
16. James and Peter In James and Peter, we apparently take lower ground than in Paul. Indeed, this charge has been made; as is known, Luther rejected the epistle of James because he thought it contradicted the great truth of justification by faith. This shows us the danger of being one-sided. Indeed, we must guard against speaking of the gospel as presented by Peter as incomplete or imperfect as compared with that of Paul. No part of the word of God is imperfect, though the full time for special revelations may not have come; but we will find that, in its place, Peter's presentation of the gospel is just as complete and full as that of Paul. Both James and Peter have to do with the earth and with those who were God's earthly people. They deal, however, with those who are the true Israel of God — that is, Jews who have been born again. Thus they present a new kind of people and a new kind of nation.
James' general theme is faith; but, where faith is of so priceless a character, it is tested and separated from a mere form. It proves itself by its works. Peter shows us the true pilgrim walk of those who once had the hope of an earthly inheritance, but now look forward to the heavenly. Jude's brief epistle has its important place here.
We would urge the beloved people of God, especially those who are well established in the truth as presented by Paul, not to neglect the perhaps less attractive side of responsibility in the pilgrim walk as presented by James and Peter.
17. John's Writings That the disciple who had found his place on the bosom of the Lord at the table, and who describes himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved," should be entrusted with a specially personal aspect of the truth, need not surprise us. There is a peculiar charm for the simple soul in John's epistles, which belongs almost exclusively to them, although of course, perfectly consistent with the truth brought out through other lips. The person of Christ, our relation to Him, our being in the light of God's presence, which judges all things that are inconsistent with that light, are the general themes of the first epistle. Here, faith is tested in a new way, but most completely tested. All that is of the world and that is contrary to the knowledge of the Father, is put in its right place.
In the second epistle, the child of God, though a woman, is warned as to the responsibility to reject any teaching that is not of Christ; while in the third, we have the opposite side, fittingly addressed to a brother, of love and care for the servants of Christ.
A familiarity with the Gospel of John is necessary for the full enjoyment of his epistles. The Gospel was written that men might believe that Jesus is the Christ and have life. The epistle was written that believers might know that they had this life. Eternal life is his theme.
The book of Revelation will require a special examination. We merely allude to it here as one of John's writings. The thoughtful student will find many points of resemblance in it, both to the Gospel and to the Epistles.
18. The Revelation The closing book of the Bible, in which all truth is focused, the culmination of all the hopes and desires not only of the people of God, but of Christ Himself, may well demand our careful and prolonged study.
We would expect that the closing pages of God's volume should be the brightest of all. Here are gathered up the lessons of the ages. Here is found the final conflict between good and evil, with the triumph of righteousness. Here will be seen the futility of all human expedients to improve the world, and the absolute necessity for the coming and kingdom of our Lord. Here,too, will be detected and brought out the hypocrisy of that which claims to be Christ's while in reality not His, and in the doom of false Babylon will be seen the end of professing Christendom.
The book as a whole has two great divisions, the first three chapters being devoted to the present time, the Church period in which we are living. In the seven epistles to the Churches, we have, in progressive order, a view of the entire history of the Church from its beginning at Pentecost until the coming of our Lord. This is intensely interesting and most important.
The second part of the book deals with that brief week of Daniel, the close of the seventy weeks, when evil is headed up and when God will make a short work and finish it in righteousness. The seals, trumpets. and vials, give us an idea of the terrific judgments which must be meted out to a world that is against God, prior to the purging of the earth and the introduction of the thousand years of peace and blessing promised throughout the Old Testament.
The book closes with the vision of the heavenly city, and the nations during the millennium, in the peace and joy of its light, where the Lamb is all the glory, while we get a still further view into the glory of eternity itself, where at last every longing of the renewed nature will be realized, faith's brightest anticipations changed to sight, and where, in the presence of our Saviour and Lord, with our God and Father, and in the full unhindered communion of the Holy Spirit, we shall for all eternity be with and like our Lord.
As Satan has stood at the threshold of the revealed word of God and sought to destroy all faith in the book of Genesis, so, too, his work is most marked at the closing book. Perhaps fewer books have been more abused in various ways — neglect by most has made it a fruitful field for the introduction of false doctrines. We need not say that these doctrines find no place here, but neglected truth will always be used by the enemy to conceal his errors.
The literature on the Revelation is full, and in connection with this, attention will be called to some of the current forms of error connected with the book and their refutation.
19. The Structure of Scripture Having now indicated, imperfectly, what a course of systematic study involves, we are prepared to take up a question closely connected with the contents and themes of the books of the Bible — the structure of the Scriptures.
The believer in inspiration is not surprised to learn that not only are the doctrines and narratives of Scripture perfectly inspired, but that the form in which they are presented is inspired also. The attention of His people has been particularly called in these latter days to this most attractive and helpful feature.
The many books of the Bible are grouped together to form a complete and harmonious whole. The whole Scripture is an organism of which each separate book is a vital part, not merely as the different stones in a building go to make up the entire structure, but more like the special members and organs of the body, each of which has its peculiar place which could not be occupied by any other. A casual glance shows that the body has "many members." Any one can see this, but the student who looks further knows that each of these members is composed also of parts, and that each of these parts is also composed of tissues which can yield to examination into ever smaller portions, until the unity of the cell is reached. This is but an illustration, and yet it will serve our purpose.
The Pentateuch, for instance, is a whole member. It is divided into the five books, each of which has its special characteristics. These again are re-divided and sub-divided into smaller portions, each of which has a character all its own.
Further, careful examination has indicated that the five books of Moses form the model, as we might say, upon which the entire Scripture has been written. So, the other groups of books also fall into Pentateuchs with their various divisions and sub-divisions.
Thus, the second of the Pentateuchs is composed of the historical books. Here, we have in Joshua, a new beginning, a new Genesis. In Judges, an Exodus with its bondages and deliverances. In the books of the Kings (Samuel and Kings), we have the temple as the sanctuary and centre for a new Leviticus. The books of the captivity, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, are a book of Numbers,with wilderness wanderings and mercy; while in Chronicles, we have that which answers to Deuteronomy, a resume of history, with the special object of reviewing and applying the lessons which have been before us.
The next group in spiritual order is the prophetic, and here too we have a pentateuchal arrangement. Isaiah, the prince of the prophets, answers to Genesis. Jeremiah, with the sorrows of the bondage of Israel and the glimpses of a deliverance which will be at last greater than that from Egypt, answers to Exodus. Ezekiel, the priest, with the emphasis which he puts upon the holiness of God, and the glimpse of the sanctuary for the millennial kingdom, is a Leviticus. Daniel, looking out upon the world-powers, is a new Numbers; and in the Minor Prophets we have, by their very repetitions and the manifold lessons they suggest, an intimation of a prophetic Deuteronomy.
The last of the Old Testament books, the poetical, are also grouped into a Pentateuch. Here, the book of Psalms stands in its prominence for a Genesis as a seed plot of all. Job narrates, in the language of experience, the deliverance of the individual not only from the bondage of trial, but from the more galling bondage of self-righteousness. The Song of Songs is the sanctuary or Leviticus of experience; while Ecclesiastes, as Numbers, points out many a weary road over the wilderness which faith can avoid; and Proverbs again gathers up the experience of the way into practical lessons answering to Deuteronomy.
Passing to the New Testament, we have another Pentateuch, in which the four Gospels are the Genesis, giving us now, not the seven biographies of the first book of Moses, but the one great biography of that Life which has no failure in it. The book of Acts is a new Exodus where God leads His people out from the bondage of Judaism into the liberty of Christianity. Paul's Epistles open up the sanctuary of divine truth to us — a new Leviticus; while the epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude, with their provision for the earthly journey, suggest the pilgrim walk of faith — a new Numbers; and Revelation, with its outlook into eternity, is the prophetic Deuteronomy of the whole.
This glimpse must suffice. Many other most important lines of truth will be found illustrated in the structure of the Bible. Those who will take the trouble to acquaint themselves with this most fascinating and profitable line of study will find in it that which opens up the entire Scriptures, which enables them to keep it in their memories, and shows not merely its contents, but their relations to each other.
This whole subject has been most helpfully and clearly set forth in literature to which the reader's attention will be called.
20. The Types and their Teaching The casual reader of the New Testament can scarcely fail to see that certain portions of the Old Testament are distinctly typical. No one can doubt that the covering of our first parents with coats of skin suggests that divine Robe which has been secured for believers through the death of our Lord Jesus. Abel's sacrifice, contrasted with Cain's, speaks again of the better sacrifice of Christ as contrasted with the presenting of human works as the ground of acceptance before God. The flood, the offering up of Isaac, the passover, and all Israel's history, with the gorgeous ritual of the tabernacle, its offerings and the priesthood, show what an immense field of truth is covered in the subject of this handbook.
There are two dangers here. One is from the neglect which would refuse all typical instruction, and the other the crudity of fanciful interpretations. There is nothing more sober in the entire word of God than the instruction of the types. There is no room here for human fancy. When once the key is possessed and rightly used, it will be found that it opens up to us a treasury of untold wealth in which each jewel has its special lustre and setting. The lover of Scripture will rejoice to have these riches set before him and to have helpful books recommended which will enable him to prosecute a study which is both delightful and sanctifying.
21. Dispensational and Prophetic Truth If the structure of Scripture is exact, so also is the outline of prophetic history which it presents. God has been dealing with man in various stages of his history according to his need, and each succeeding stage in that history has been marked by a fresh revelation of God, of truth, and a new way of dealing with man.
There is an unmistakable connection, too, between the seven days of creation and the seven great epochs or dispensations of the world's history. Thus, the period from Adam to the flood was one where the chaos of humanity was largely left to itself, with only the light of promise to illuminate the scene. This was the time of promise and of conscience.
From Noah till the call of Abram, we have the separation between the waters beneath and those above the firmament, in which human government is suggested as giving the rule of heaven, "the powers that be ordained of God."
The third day, the emergence of the dry land from the surrounding waters, answers to the epoch of Israel's emergence, as a nation, from the surrounding world, and the fruitfulness which has resulted therefrom.
The fourth day shows us the sun in the heavens, beautifully answering to the present or Church dispensation, when Christ in glory is the light and order of His people on earth.
The fifth day turns us to the waters which now bring forth, and answers to that short period described in the book of Revelation in which,amidst the seething of the nations,there will yet be fruitfulness for God while
The sixth day, with its order, and man as its crown as head of all the creation, points forward to the sixth epoch when Christ with His Church will be set as Head over all creation during the Millennium.
The seventh day, without a recorded evening, is God's eternal rest.
This must suffice to show how vast a subject is before us in this handbook. Many most helpful books upon this subject have been written, and particular attention will be called to those which dwell upon the pre-millennial coming of our Lord as the hope of His people. This hope has been revived of late years, but many still are in ignorance of it and are thinking of death as their necessary goal. For such, what a relief it will be to find that, not looking for death, but waiting for God's Son from heaven is their proper attitude! Many delightful books have been written on this subject, from the little elementary tract which states the truth, to the full and complete examination of the whole subject.
22. The Church The study of Paul's epistles will have shown us that next to the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, the central truth which occupied him was a a special revelation,which he calls the "mystery," which had not been made known in other ages. Of the revelation of this mystery, he had the honor of being the special channel.
The outline of prophetic truth will also have shown us the nature and special position of the Church as contrasted with Israel. The one is heavenly in its calling, associations, interests and destiny; the other, earthly in its inheritance, responsibilities and future hopes. Each has its God-given place, and to confound the one with the other is a great mistake.
Coming to the Church as that of which we are members, beginning at Pentecost and ending with the coming of the Lord, we will find ample provision and directions for its order and government. Its constitution as the body of Christ, formed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the individual believer and in the Church as a whole, shows us its unity. In this body, there is a place for every individual member, each varying in his functions and gifts,while each is directly linked with the glorious Head in heaven.
The harmonious activities of this body, receiving nourishment from and being controlled by the Head, constitute true Church life and order. On the other hand, as being upon the earth (the place of profession) and as having members, each of whom also has the flesh in him, provision is made for the proper discipline and government of the Church.
These latter truths are more connected with the aspect of the Church as the house of God, in which all that is contrary to His holy presence is to be judged, and, if necessary, that which is incorrigible is to be rejected. In all this will be found full provision for Church-ministry and government, for the activities and for the worship of that which is so dear to Christ.
A third view of the Church is also presented — her future destiny as the Bride of Christ, loved by Him, purchased at infinite cost, cleansed, and one day to be presented to Him without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. There is much ignorance on the part of God's beloved people as to the Church, and, alas, we each can own that we have contributed in some measure to the sad state of failure which has also come in. God is over all this, and we may be sure that He who has anticipated the failure of testimony has also provided a path for His people in the midst of the confusion which our own neglect has wrought.
23. Christian Service The Church should be the happy home of every proper activity for the people of God, both as individuals and unitedly. These activities are as manifold as the needs in the world call for, on the one hand, or the gifts of Christ have fitted for, on the other. Each one here must be led by the Head. The gifts come from Him through the Spirit, and they differ; but faith, while it keeps its eyes upon Christ, always values the counsels of those who, through mercy, have gathered the mind of God as to the service of His people.
An outline of some of the activities of Christian service may be suggestive.
Gospel Work. Whenever activity in the gospel ceases, growth ceases. God has never intended that we should sit down in selfish occupation with our own blessing; even the exploration into the heights and depths of divine truth, and the fulness of what He has revealed to us in His Word, is never to interfere with that freshness of loving interest which goes out to seek the lost. This work in the gospel has one character wherever it may be engaged in. It is the preaching of repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. There is, however, this characteristic about all gospel activity: it goes out into the regions beyond. It may be into the street nearest our dwelling or to the neglected homes of some rural neighborhood, to the slums of our great cities or to far-off distant fields, but wherever it goes, it is the same precious message that is taken — Christ, the Saviour for sinners.
Sunday-school Work. The children of the saints are to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and youth is the most favorable time when those in the world can be reached — Gospel Sunday-schools in neglected districts; the little neighborhood Sunday class of children, too, how much work is suggested here! The proper manner, the simple order of conducting Sunday-schools may well occupy our attention.
Work among the Jews. God still loves His ancient people, and while their full blessing waits for the Millennium, yet those who are now living are perishing without Christ. Shall not the gospel be carried to them, and special attention be given to those of whom Christ according to the flesh came?
Tract Distribution. Every Christian can engage in this most necessary service. Suppose that the tens of thousands of God's people throughout the country were distributing daily a few messages of salvation, it would keep before the minds of the world that which they long to forget, the claims of God upon them and the call of His mercy.
These must suffice to suggest how varied and full are the activities of Christian service. Many other details will occur to the thoughtful reader, and helpful literature can be put into the hands of those who desire hints and encouragements in various lines of service.
24. Inspiration No one who is familiar with the contents of the books of the Bible, with their structure, with the progress of doctrine that is seen in them, with the entire absence of inconsistency when properly understood, can fail to have reached the conviction that the Bible is the inspired word of God. The basis of this conviction, however, goes back even farther than this, to that consciousness that God has spoken to the soul in His word. If this is known, we have the true basis for the doctrine of inspiration in any person's mind.
Our proposed handbook would take up in an orderly way this great subject, — the Author of the Bible, the Holy Spirit of God; the various instruments, holy men of old who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. This will suggest what has been called "the human element" in inspiration, a term which may easily mislead, unless carefully explained. We must also consider the difference between inspiration of thought and of form; the difference between inspiration and revelation; the inspiration of such books as Ecclesiastes, and the words of Satan and ungodly men; inspiration in view of the attacks of higher criticism and other forms of infidelity — these will suffice to show us the great importance of having well-defined and firm views on this great subject. Admit a question as to the absolute inspiration of the word of God, and the whole glorious structure which has been passing before us will crumble into dust, so far as our enjoyment of it is concerned. We may be sure, however, that the word of God still stands, though heaven and earth should pass away.
The literature on inspiration is large and helpful.
25. Bible Difficulties By inspiration, we do not mean that every statement of Scripture is so plain that it will at once be understood. Indeed, it may be said that the Bible is written in such a simple, natural way, with such a multiplicity of subjects, that unless one is in the current of the Spirit's thought, and unless the mind is subject to God, there will seem to be many contradictions, "many things hard to be understood." It is not wrong that we should find these difficulties. We should not seek to turn away from them and act as though they were not there. God loves to be questioned by a reverent and obedient mind. He will explain that which we do not understand, and we may be sure that apparent contradictions, discrepancies and other difficulties which occur to the thoughtful reader can all be explained in due time.
Very much of a helpful character has been written in this direction, and while our handbook cannot take up in detail each difficulty, certain classes of them can be examined, and then the student referred to larger works for further light upon other details.
26. The Bible for Skeptics We have here a somewhat different subject from the consideration of Bible difficulties. Those will occur to a true believer. But there is a large class who call themselves skeptics: what has the word of God to say to these? They begin by denying, for instance, inspiration, by taking up every form of hostile attack against the Scriptures, their foresight, their moral character and their binding authority upon man. We do not believe that a skeptic is reached through his mind altogether. If God is to speak to him, it must be through the conscience and the heart; but at the same time he should be treated in all fairness. If he has honest difficulties as to the Bible, they can be met; but, above all, he must see that the darkness is not in the Scriptures, but in his own heart; that the contradictions are rather the result of his own alienation of mind and heart from God than anything in the word of God. He must realize that blindness shuts out the sun, though it may be shining in all its glory, and that what he needs is something more than a logical system of philosophy which will justify him in accepting intellectually the Scriptures — the living power of that which searches him out and makes him conscious that he is in the presence of infinite truth and of infinite love.
A handbook that can present, in outline, subjects such as are here suggested, and give brief reviews of helpful books which could be given to skeptics will meet a want which many a Christian feels who thinks of dear ones or friends that are thus blinded by the enemy.
27. Current Forms of Error There are two classes of error: one which results from ignorance, and another which is the distinct attack of the enemy upon the truth. All truth is a unit, with Christ as its centre and the word of God as its sphere. All error, too, is a unit, with Satan as its centre and the denial of the word of God as its sphere; but Satan is far too cunning to deny the word of God in toto. His object is twofold: first, to blind the minds of them that believe not, and secondly, to seduce the true children of God into the denial of something fundamental. Poison is always more effectually administered by being mixed with palatable food. We need not be surprised, then, that Satan transformed as an angel of light will use divine truth as the vehicle for concealing the poison which he introduces.
This poison is usually some form of blasphemous denial of the Person of Christ. It also destroys a true sense of responsibility in man, his essential immortality, and the certainty and eternity of retribution.
We can only give a list of some of the most prominent of these errors: Christian Science, Seventh Day Adventism, Millennial Dawnism [Jehovah's Witnesses], Christadelphianism, Mormonism, Spiritism, Irvingism and Theosophy.
While the child of God is not to be occupied with error, he should be prepared to meet it. Suitable pamphlets for more general distribution, and larger volumes for more thorough examination will be welcomed by many.
28. The Bible as Literature Reference has already been made to this most delightful and attractive subject at the beginning of our little handbook. A separate book upon the subject will be welcomed by many. While the Bible does not pander to the mere aesthetic taste, it does meet all the cravings of the quickened mind. All that is great and noble in thought will be found in its perfection here; and even in the manner of its expression, we may be sure that God's word will not be behind the works of man. We unhesitatingly say that for grandeur and sublimity of thought, for breadth and height of scope, no human writings can compare with the literature of the Bible. For delicacy of expression, for a delineation of the passions, the Bible stands alone. It will, indeed, quicken true genius and prove, as it has ever done, not a hindrance, but a powerful stimulant to all that is good in literature. A number of helpful books have been written on this subject.
29. Nature Study for the Christian We have anticipated in the introductory part of this little
book much that would otherwise be said here, and will therefore refer our readers to that part. (See chapter 2). It must suffice us to say here that all nature will one day be brought under tribute to Christ; and faith, which anticipates this already, can now enjoy seeing it yield its stores of truth to Him who is the Truth. How blessed to bring from afar treasures from the various fields of nature, — Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, all tributary; plant life, the very stones beneath our feet, all speaking not only of the power and wisdom of God, but of the love of Christ. Through the Lord's mercy, the attention of His people is being increasingly called to this line of truth, and much of a useful character has been written, while very much more remains to be learned.
30. Hours with the Greek Testament The more the Bible is studied, the greater the longing becomes to know its minutest details. While in the mercy of God, our ordinary translation is for all practical purposes the very word of God, and can be used with the utmost confidence, need has been felt of making other versions. These, if properly made, are always helpful, and any student of the Bible would do well to have at least two or three on his table.
In addition to this, however, there are many delicate shades of meaning and many suggestive thoughts which can be gathered only through a study of the original. Those who have studied Greek are prepared for this, but many who have not had this opportunity need not feel that they are debarred from taking it up at their homes. A fairly good working knowledge of the Greek Testament can be obtained by the average person in the course of one or two years' moderate study, and the purpose of this little handbook would be to suggest such a course and to recommend those books which would be needful.
Young Christians particularly are encouraged, if they have a faculty for study and an aptitude for language, to take this up. It need not be the pride of pedantry, but in all simplicity, without pretending to know the language thoroughly, they may find much that is helpful.
31. Hours with the Hebrew Bible The same may be said, with perhaps less emphasis, of the study of the Hebrew Scriptures. The very Hebrew language is a type. Its very structure is pictorial, and it revels in the imagery so common to the children of the East. This, God has used as the vehicle for the expression of His revealed truth, in a typical and anticipative way.
The Hebrew language, while fully known only to the profound student, yields readily a fair amount of knowledge to one who would be willing to spend a short time daily for a few months in its acquisition.
In both these little handbooks, illustrative passages would be presented as showing what could be practically gained by the ordinary student.
32. How to Study the Bible This little book will be devoted to certain practical hints as to methods of Bible study. It will recommend both the extensive and intensive methods. It will provide for those who have leisure to devote several hours daily to this delightful work, as well as suggest that which will be helpful to the busy person of affairs who can only devote a few minutes to what he loves. Many read their Bibles aimlessly, and study them but little. Often this is the result of indifference, but in many cases a few helpful hints may serve not only to quicken interest, but to guide in that which is of infinite profit. Here, as everywhere in the things of God, "Much increase is by the tillage of the poor."
Summary We have now reached the end of what was in our mind to present to our readers in this little book. Let it not be thought presumptuous to have undertaken such a work. It calls for a lifetime of attention, and no matter how much time could be given to it, there would still be found "very much land to be possessed."
These various handbooks are in course of preparation. For those who desire it, an announcement will be sent from time to time of what books are ready, so that they may be sent for. They will not be all taken up in the order in which they have been given, but in the order in which they would probably be desired. All will be prepared as speedily as possible.
Correspondence Correspondence is invited from any who have questions to ask on the topics indicated or any others on which they desire information. While it will be sought in the manuals to give all the advice that is needed, practical questions may arise as to courses of study and individual difficulties, which will be answered as far and as promptly as possible.
It will be noticed that in the list of proposed handbooks, but one is devoted to Nature study. In addition to the reference there made to the brief summary of the Natural Sciences — it is hoped, as the Lord may enable, to prepare a series of Scientific Handbooks from the Bible standpoint. Such books will not be textbooks, but rather will seek to supply that which is so often — or universally — lacking in the secular press, the manifest presence and superintendence of God in His works, and, more particularly, the purpose of God in Nature, so far as we may be able to ascertain it.
Special prominence will therefore be given to the parabolic character of all nature a fact which no student of our Lord's parables should for a moment question. The symbolism of nature is a theme of rare and spiritual interest to one who has learned the principles of all symbolism from the word of God. It will be found that nature speaks not only of God, as even the heathen philosophers have seen, but of Christ as well; and that in many a natural phenomenon we have the cryptogram of the atonement, which, now that we have the key in the word of God, we can decipher in the page of nature.
It may be asked, What is the need of gathering these truths, imperfectly at best, from nature, when we have the full light from Scripture? We answer, We are not seeking to get truth at first hand from nature, but to find the unity that underlies all that God has wrought, a unity that finds its centre in Christ.
On the lines indicated above, a Handbook is being prepared on "Physiology and Anatomy." Others will follow later on, D.V.