Lecture 6.

The Holy Spirit and the Scriptures — Inspiration; Enlightenment; Prophecy.


"When Israel, by divine command,
The pathless desert trod,
They found, throughout the barren land,
A sure resource in God.

A cloudy pillar marked the road,
And screened them from the heat;
From the hard rock the water flowed,
And manna was their meat.

Like them, we have a rest in view,
Secure from hostile powers;
Like them, we pass a desert too,
But Israel's God is ours.

His word a light before us spreads,
By which our path we see;
His love, a banner o'er our heads,
From harm preserves us free.

Jesus, the Bread of life, is given
To be our daily food;
Within us dwells that well from heaven,
The Spirit of our God.

Lord, 'tis enough, we ask no more;
Thy grace around us pours
Its rich and unexhausted store,
And all its joy is ours."

Our subject this evening is such a large one, that we can at best but glance at its various parts, getting in this way at least an outline. I think we may divide what is to be before us into three main parts — inspiration, enlightenment, and prophecy. These will give us the Spirit in connection with the word of God under three aspects: inspiration speaks of the divine authorship and perfection of the Word; enlightenment, its unfolding to our understanding; and prophecy, its application to conscience and heart for practical uses. This will appear as we proceed.

First, then, as to inspiration. There are two scriptures which will furnish us with material here. I will quote them first: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).* "Knowing this first that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:20, 21).

{*I have retained the rendering of our Authorized Version as giving the meaning of the original as nearly as any. The omission of the verb "is" is common enough as any student of the Greek Testament knows, and is evidently to be supplied in translation in order to convey the meaning of the original. It seems to me that the rendering of the Revised Version is unfortunate, as implying, to the casual reader, that some scriptures are inspired and others may not be. There is no such thought in the original, entirely the reverse, nor did the Revisers intend to convey this thought. The Authorized Version, and the margin of the R.V. are correct translations of that portion. As to whether "all" or "every" should be used, the general meaning is not affected whichever is taken. The identical expression is used elsewhere when "the whole," "all" is evidently the meaning. See Acts 2:36, "the whole house of Israel;" Eph. 2:21, "all the building."}

From these two passages we learn first, that all Scripture is of divine origin, it is inspired; secondly, that it was given for a purpose, our profit and the unfolding of the mind of God; thirdly, that the Spirit of God, as Author, made use of human instruments in giving us the word of God. We will then carry on our investigations as to inspiration under these heads: its infallible perfection, the purpose for which it was given, and the instruments used.

Let us turn now to Scripture, and see how it speaks of itself. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son" (Heb. 1:1, 2). Here we learn that, no matter what the dispensation, or who was the instrument, God spake. The Scriptures are the voice of God, the word of God. Let us settle this as the great foundation fact. It is God and not man who has spoken. I say it deliberately, weighing the statement carefully, that this is the great basis for all our knowledge of the word of God. It is His word. He who fails to see this has no foundation for his faith. This great fact eclipses all other facts, however true they may be. We lose sight, for the time being, of time, manner, and instruments: the Lord hath spoken.

This controls the entire subject. If God has spoken, it were blasphemy to think He had spoken imperfectly; that He has left His words to be mixed with error, to be sifted out by the skill of man. Has He spoken so that He cannot be understood? Thus this great fact of divine authorship settles completely a vast mass of questions which unbelief alone could raise. For it is unbelief and nothing else which intrudes its rationalistic theories into this great question. "God spake all these words."

Further, if God has spoken, He has done so with a purpose in view, and in a manner consistent with His character, His wisdom. He has not thrown the material together in a hap-hazard way. If His world, down to the arrangement of its smallest atoms, the growth of its minutest life-germs, is a perfect expression of design and conformity to order, surely His word which He has "magnified above," or as it has been translated, "according to all His Name," is no less perfect. We will look at this more fully later on. I speak of it here as part of the foundation of our most holy faith. We have a divine, a perfect Book because it has proceeded from a perfect, a divine source.

This explains why the babes know so much more than the wise and prudent. They have accepted the truth that God has spoken, and therefore, they do not "stumble at the word." Much of it they do not understand, but they expect that in an infinitely perfect word. They do however understand more than the wise, for the simple reason that they believe God. A subject mind and heart is after all of the greatest value. The meek He will guide in judgment."

But with what reverence and godly fear should we take up this holy revelation. It is the word of God. Well may we stand in awe, with prostrate hearts, and awakened consciences. Privilege it is, unspeakable blessing too, to have this precious book; but let us never forget Whose book, Whose word it is.

It is said we are living in a Bible age. The open Book is all about us. It is being read and studied as never before. For this we can thank God; but, beloved friends, I will not conceal from you the fact that, as never before, we are living in an age of unbelief in the Bible. I do not now speak of the world; we expect nothing but unbelief and enmity from that which "lieth in the wicked one." Infidelity has long since ceased to be merely characteristic of avowed unbelievers; in the bosom of the professing church we find it now. Paine, with his "Age of reason" was once looked upon with horror, as a typical infidel. Alas, Paine's teachings are now heard from many a professor's chair and from many a pulpit. Do I exaggerate? Oh, brethren, look abroad, read the openly avowed views of many of the religious leaders in college and pulpit, and answer for yourselves. Hear what they have to say about the word of God; see what Higher criticism has left of that perfect Word, and go to your closet and weep.

I speak of this, seeking to check the tide of feeling that struggles for expression, in order to emphasize the point upon which we are dwelling: God has spoken; He has spoken in a way consistent with Himself, His wisdom and perfections. This we hold fast, remembering that to yield here one iota will be to let in the thin edge of the wedge. By God's grace we will not allow it for a moment.

But I turn to another scripture. "Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (Heb. 3:7). A passage is quoted from the book of Psalms (Ps. 95:7-11), and its Author is the Holy Ghost. In this particular psalm, the human author is not mentioned, but the divine One is. The instrument, as it were, is eclipsed. Frequently, as we shall see, the human authors are mentioned, but by no means is this always the case. A large number of the Psalms are anonymous; nor are we sure as to who wrote many of the historical books. Is there not instruction in this very omission? "The Holy Ghost saith" — if He has not been pleased tell us by whom, does it weaken His message? If we receive a message from one well known, through one whom we do not know, but who is merely a messenger, does it invalidate the message? But how blessed and yet solemn is this fact; this Book, which we can hold in our hands, and carry about with us, has been written by God the Holy Ghost.

But this expression shows how God has been pleased to give us His Word. "God spake," but it was through the Holy Spirit. He, as we have frequently seen, is the divine executive. He is not Himself visible, nor does He ordinarily work, as we might say, in a visible way. His methods are spiritual and moral. He uses instruments. This brings us to the word that naturally expresses His work in the production of the Scriptures, inspiration. The Scriptures have not been written, as the ten commandments, "with the finger of God." Our holy Book has not fallen out of heaven, or been dug out of the earth. Blasphemous impostors, such as the founder of Mormonism, may claim to have discovered "golden plates," inscribed with strange and heavenly characters, which he was enabled to read by means of a marvelous pair of glasses — the Urim and Thummim! But all such grotesque and blasphemous foolishness is utterly foreign to the thought of inspiration. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" — God-breathed. Just as He breathed into man's nostrils, and he became a living, intelligent being, in the image of God, so, with all proper limitations necessary, the Spirit has been breathed into the Word, or has breathed the mind of God into what is thus His own voice for man.

Man is ever occupied with methods, ever asking how has God acted. This may be proper when asked with reverence, but first of all, we must believe that God has acted. When we come later on to speak of the human instruments, we will endeavor to gather what God has been pleased to reveal as to this; here I simply remind you that as it is the Holy Spirit who has inspired the Word, we may expect that He will make use of such means as He has always done.

We turn to another passage in this epistle to the Hebrews, from which we have already twice quoted: "The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing" (Heb. 9:8). Here we have the Spirit again spoken of as Author, though the human instrument is in this case well known. Moses gave minute directions as to the construction of the tabernacle, and the ritual of worship. He committed it all to writing, which we have to this day. But here we see Who made use of Moses — the Holy Ghost.

But I want you to notice something else. Godly persons will heartily agree with what has been said as to inspiration, and infallibility, and yet they will often overlook what lies at the very basis of inspiration — the purpose of the Spirit of God. For instance, we see in this passage not merely that the Holy Spirit has secured an absolutely accurate and perfect account of the tabernacle, but that His purpose in this record was to show, for instance, that the way into the holiest was not yet manifest. We shall presently see, when coming to the purpose of God in inspiration, what an immense field of truth this opens up. To me there is something pathetic in the loyalty of very many of the saints of God. They accept inspiration, and with their whole hearts bow to Scripture; they had rather be burned at the stake than give up faith in the least jot or tittle of the written Word. Bless God for such loyalty! but how sad it is to see these faithful ones ignorant of the purpose of God in giving us the Scripture.

I quote a few other scriptures as to authorship. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, etc." (1 Tim. 4:1). I think we have here a link between other scriptures, and that which was flowing from the pen of the apostle at this time. The Spirit had frequently spoken of this departure in the latter days. In one of his earliest epistles the apostle had spoken of it (2 Thess. 3:2). Peter and John give their testimony (2 Peter 3:3; 1 John 2:18, 19). No thoughtful reader of Scripture can fail to see that this is the uniform testimony of the Spirit of God, “He speaketh expressly." Paul as he writes to Timothy, simply serves as the channel for this fresh testimony of the Holy Spirit.

The word "expressly" is interesting, as showing the distinctness and definiteness of the word of God. There is nothing vague or uncertain about it. Every statement has a definite meaning, which can be ascertained. It is a reproach to think of the Word as many do, meaning anything you want it. It is not unbelievers alone who think, if they do not say, "You can get proof for anything out of the Bible." This has given rise to creeds. Man must say “expressly" what the Spirit of God has not made sufficiently clear. Of course, this would be disclaimed, but why, let us ask, should there be a human statement of doctrine if the divine one is sufficient?

You cannot trust the word of God too implicitly. You need not fear that it will prove inaccurate in some minor detail. In that sense there can be no minor details. As a matter of fact, these minute details are gems of exceptional beauty.

In this connection a verse from the first epistle to the Corinthians is of interest: "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor. 2:12, 13). This last clause has been rendered more correctly according to the original, Communicating spiritual things by spiritual means."* The context bears this rendering out beautifully. The apostle had received truth from the Spirit; he communicated it in the words taught by the Spirit, thus employing a spiritual medium for spiritual communications.

{* See J. N. D's Version of the New Testament, with accompanying note.}

But, dear brethren, how this settles completely the question of verbal inspiration. You have heard the statement that the Scriptures contain the word of God, implying that they contain other matter also. Here we are assured that the vehicle is as inspired as the message. If you will allow a homely illustration, it is not as if a person in the country, desiring to send in some produce into the city, had put it into a wagon passing by, already containing a considerable quantity of other things. In such a case at the journey's end, the contents would have to be distinguished and separated to their respective owners. But, thank God, you do not have to sift out God's truth from something that is not that. You do not have, as a certain popular but unsound writer has put it, to separate the chaff from the wheat. It is all wheat, and nothing needs to be eliminated. The words are those taught by the Holy Ghost.

So far we have been considering the divine authorship of the Bible. We have seen that it is God who has spoken, the Holy Spirit who has inspired this Book; that this was not merely to secure accuracy of detached parts, but for the purpose of unfolding a divine plan; that this inspiration is therefore express and minute, as well as general, and that it reaches down to the very words. Necessarily in speaking thus of the authorship, we have touched upon features of the Book itself, but I want now to look more closely at the testimony for the absolute perfection of Scripture. It grows out of the fact of its authorship. If God is its Author, as we have seen, it must be perfect; but we are not left to reason about it.

"The Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). As we have had frequent occasion to remark, the connection of passages is of great interest, and oftentimes furnishes the key to the special application or meaning. It is so here. Our Lord is quoting what some might be tempted to call an obscure passage from the Psalms (Ps. 82:6). It is to the effect that judges in Israel, because they stood for God's authority and were the executors of His Word, were called "gods" — "I said ye are gods." They were His representatives. Now, our Lord says this Scripture cannot be broken — cannot be set aside. It is simply an obvious explanation, men might say, of no great importance, and yet our Lord declares it cannot be ignored. It is a part of a perfect whole. So He goes on to apply it to His own position; how much more was it true of Him whom the Father had sanctified and sent into the world.

How solemn for men, professed believers, to attempt to "break," to mar, a single line of that holy Word. It would be wisdom, compared with this, to break a delicate and beautiful vase, under the plea that you recognized the beauty of a part of it — to rend out a delicate shade in a rich fabric, while professing to admire all the rest. Every word and syllable is woven into this Scripture, and you cannot rend any without tearing the whole asunder. Think of this when you hear men pleading that a single line or word should be eliminated as imperfect.

Connected with this is a similar Scripture: "Verily, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18). This reminds us of another passage in the 119th Psalm: "Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven." How careful our Lord was to magnify the word of God — to guard against the thought that He had come to deny it or set it aside, save as it was fulfilled. The "jot and tittle," as you know, were the smallest marks in the Hebrew alphabet, the jot, or yodh, answering to our "i" — a very small letter in Hebrew — and the tittle not a letter at all, but a small mark to distinguish one letter from another; so that we might paraphrase it, "not a dot to an 'i,' or a cross to a 't.' "

Here is where our Lord stood, whether in conflict with Satan, as in His temptation, or in presenting the truth of God. He ever magnified the written Word.*

{*It is interesting to see this in its immediate connection in the Sermon on the Mount. Our Lord goes on to speak of a number of the legal ordinances which He apparently contradicted. It was said by, or to, them of old time, "Thou shalt not commit adultery;" "Thou shalt not kill." He applies these laws to the inner man, thus enforcing them in a far stronger way. As to oaths, He knew well man's inability to perform His vows, and so warned against doing that which the law could only condemn. He Himself was to undertake a vow and to pay it to the very last requirement, thus fulfilling the law of vows. The law of retaliation, in a legal, not a personal way, had doubtless been abused by those who were only too ready to give "an eye for an eye." Our Lord takes the personal element out, and puts in its place that grace and mercy which have been shown to the child of God. Thus He did not make void the law. I might add that when it came to His taking the place of the offending sinner, the basis of strict justice was maintained, and He had to bear all the wrath of a holy God against sin — to be made a curse for us.

It will be found thus that our Lord never contradicted the law, in the sense of declaring it was wrong. He corrected man's abuse of it, and added other principles. In some cases He showed that commands were of a partial and temporary character. For instance, in the matter of divorce, Moses was quoted as sanctioning a man's putting away his wife. Our Lord shows why Moses permitted it — "for the hardness of your hearts" (Matt. 19:3-9). The law restrained the lawless and selfish lust that would have asserted itself at all costs, and required that the divorce it permitted should only be carried out in a strictly legal way, calculated to limit its abuse. Thus far the law went — "it was weak through the flesh." Our Lord does not contradict this, but adds to it, by forbidding all divorce, save in one instance. It will be found that this principle permeates the entire New Testament. The law is ever magnified.}

We have a most beautiful illustration of our Lord's jealous care for the fulfilment of the very smallest statement of Scripture at the close of His life. He is hanging upon the cross. Competent authorities tell us that death by crucifixion was not only excruciating, but that intense thirst was one of its most painful features. Without doubt, our Lord had this thirst in all its intensity, for He had refused any stupefying draught. He says, "I thirst" — just what any sufferer in a similar position would have said; but why does He say it? Was it to relieve His own sufferings? "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst" (John 19:28). In the 69th Psalm, the Spirit of God had prophetically declared for Him: "In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (verse 21). Everything had been accomplished — His betrayal, trial, rejection by His own people, His disciples scattered, the mocking of the Gentiles, the scorn and railing — He is about to yield up His Spirit to His Father; but one small prediction remained, and for that reason He permits His intense suffering to be known. Blessed Jesus! "That the Scriptures might be fulfilled."

The evangelist, as He goes on with the narrative, shows the same fulfilment of Scripture — "a bone of Him shall not be broken," the true Passover Lamb, and "they shall look on Him whom they pierced." These might be called incidentals, in no way necessary for the general accuracy of Scripture; but you will find there are no such things as incidentals in the word of God.

How all this accords with our theme, the literal inspiration by the Holy Spirit. He presided over all. He uttered the predictions in Old Testament type and prophecy, and He records their fulfilment in the New. Accept this truth of the Spirit's inspiration, and the word of God becomes luminous. We see its priceless value even to minutest details, and we will handle it reverently.

Permit me to detain you a little longer on a few of these minute details. Turn to Galatians 4:22-31. Here we have allusion to what seems in Genesis to be a very simple matter — Abraham's relations with Hagar. But the apostle tells us that the Spirit of God had some other end in view than the narration of an interesting episode in the patriarch's life: "which things are an allegory;" and the apostle proceeds to show the secrets hidden by the Spirit in that narrative — the relationships of law and grace. But notice the details: There are two covenants, Hagar answering to Sinai and the legal covenant with Israel, and this answering to "Jerusalem that now is," in bondage. The naturally barren Sarah is made a joyful mother; the child of the bond-servant is cast out — Scripture is quoted both from Genesis and from Isaiah, and all connected with what seems a simple piece of Old Testament history.

Nor dare we think that this is an exceptional case. Other instances will occur to you, such as 1 Cor. 10, Hebrews 7., Romans 4. These all are evidently but samples of an accuracy that pervades the entire volume, for we are told that "all these things happened unto them for types" (1 Cor. 10:11). We are to take all Scripture, and find, by patient, prayerful study, an accuracy of detail that is simply perfect.

Just look at the use made of the singular, rather than the plural number: "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Gal. 3:16). It would be called the extreme of fanciful interpretation if we were to adduce such points, and yet this is the method of the Spirit of God, who thus shows that Christ was in His mind from the beginning.

But it may be objected that there is in Scripture very much that is not true, and how can that be inspired? Undoubtedly we have, for instance, the falsehood of Satan to Eve, "Ye shall not surely die"; his temptation of our blessed Lord; his misquotation of Scripture, and so on. We have also the utterances of enemies to God and to His people. Pharaoh's contempt, Goliath's challenge, are instances of this. Further, we have the well-meaning but mistaken expressions of men who thought they were honoring God, as the three friends of Job. Job himself is a striking instance of one who knows God, uttering things that he knew not. At the close of his experience he confesses this; so that it would be folly for us to endorse as true what Job had condemned as wrong. I will remind you that many quotations are taken from the book of Job by annihilationists to prove the nonexistence of the soul after death; but when you remember they were the utterances of one speaking in unbelief, apart entirely from dispensational questions, it will be seen how unwarranted such use is.

We can go further, and freely admit that the entire book of Ecclesiastes is written from the standpoint of earthly wisdom. In it we see the struggles of a mind looking closely at life, without the aid of revelation. He says many wise things, many true things, but all is, as I said, from the standpoint of sight, of earth. For instance, could we quote as a divine truth such a statement as this? "That which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts: as the one dieth so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity" (Ecc. 3:19). Is this the language of God — of faith? Surely not.

But then, says the objector, what becomes of your theory of verbal inspiration? The mistake is in confounding infallible inspiration with the contents of what is revealed. To illustrate, a man might be a perfectly accurate reporter, able to take down every word of an address. It would be a great mistake to confound his report of the address with the contents of the address. The report might be a faithful representation of what was said, but what was said might be far from true. So the blessed Spirit of God has given us an inspired report of what Satan and these others have said; but what a mistake to confound this accuracy with an endorsement of what was said.

Further, the Spirit has recorded these things in their proper setting. He had a definite purpose, for instance, in presenting the report of the various conversations in Job, and everything is so given that we get a perfectly true representation of what was said, and are prepared for the final outcome. The same could be said of the book of Ecclesiastes. It is as though the Spirit of God had said, I will give you a specimen of the best reasoning of the wisest of men. It is no garbled report, but a perfectly true picture of his mind. But you can always see what is of this character, and that which is the direct revelation of the mind of God. All taken together gives us the perfect book that He would have us know, enjoy and obey.

While upon the subject of the infallible inspiration of Scripture, I will say a few words upon the texts, versions, etc. To be very simple, you know that until a late date all copies were made by pen. The accuracy of these copies depended, of course, upon the care of the copyist. But, even with the greatest care, it was impossible, humanly speaking, to keep out all errors. We find, therefore, that among the hundreds of manuscripts there are a large number of small variations. Most of these scarcely affect the meaning at all, being slight omissions or insertions of letters, small words, etc. Other cases occur where the meaning of a certain verse may be altered; but I think I am safe in saying that in no one manuscript is there embodied a false doctrine, or a true one eliminated. It is certainly a great mercy of God that He has preserved His truth uncontaminated through all these centuries.

The version ordinarily in use was made from a text based chiefly on manuscripts of a late date. Since that time much earlier manuscripts have been discovered or examined. Other things being equal, the earlier the date of the manuscript, the greater its accuracy. Careful study examines all the manuscripts and reaches a text which is best supported by the oldest and most reliable authorities. Our knowledge of the text has therefore improved since the King James version was made.

Then, too, as was to be expected, a continued study has given a clearer understanding of the original languages, and this has enabled students to get a clearer meaning from obscure passages in the original. This will explain what is meant by a Revised, or New Version, many of which have been made, and some of which are helpful in Bible study.

But I wish to make two remarks. First, with all the aids of better knowledge of the original and of earlier manuscripts, it remains a fact that this version which we hold in our hands — the Authorized Version — is marvelously free from blemishes. To all intents and purposes it is a faithful representation of the original Scriptures. The simple, untutored Christian who knows nothing of Hebrew and Greek can take it up with confidence as the perfect word of God. No vital truth is clouded in it as a whole. What a comfort this is! And I believe we can see in it a proof of the providential care of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit during times of great darkness and of persecution.*

{*This most interesting subject would carry us far beyond our limits. The reader is referred to "History of Bible Translation," by Conant, to be had of the publishers, for a further discussion.}

My other remark is one of sorrow. All examination of the originals, collecting of manuscript readings, versions, etc., is a proper and most useful employment. It is usually called "textual criticism," or a judgment as to the text, based on the various readings, etc., of different manuscripts. In contrast with this, there is another form of judgment, miscalled "higher criticism," whose purpose it is to judge of the text by its contents, and to accept or reject it according to certain standards adopted by the critics. In this way, judging, and most often mistakenly, by differences of style, new words and supposed doctrines or opinions, the books of the Bible have been cut to pieces. The Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is rejected, its date of composition made much later, and practically the Spirit of God is ignored and despised. I have no hesitation in declaring this form of criticism, as usually pursued, to be a work of Satan. It is not within our sphere to examine it. I can only say it has laid its unclean hands upon well nigh every portion of God's word, and as a result has robbed those who are ensnared of a faith in that Word.

Higher criticism is the fashion of the day, and yet, like all fashions, it constantly changes. The critics cannot themselves agree, and, while one is more rabid than another, all unite in a denial of that which we have seen lies at the very foundation of a true faith — a belief in the infallible inspiration of the word of God. There are some persons of apparent, and, one would fain hope, of true piety, who allow the thin edge of the wedge of unbelief to be introduced. Such persons are but baits to lure the unwary into the snares of the enemy. Their sincerity and earnestness make them all the more dangerous. A deceiver who is also self-deceived is the most dangerous of all deceivers.

But it is time for us to return to the thread of our theme, and to take up the next point in our subject. We have been dwelling upon the perfections of the word of God, as having the Spirit of God for its author, and as without any blemish or imperfection. Our next inquiry should be very helpful: For what purpose was this Word given, and is there a clearly defined purpose running through it? Let us look at a few passages.

"Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him: but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:23-25).

What I want to notice here is the purpose of the Spirit of God in writing in the book of Genesis (chap. 15:5, 6) that Abraham was justified. I begin with this because of its great simplicity. Why was this written? For our sakes. Your faith and mine, dear brethren, is just as dear to God as Abraham's. God has recorded His appreciation of that for our sakes.

Simply apply that principle as broadly as Scripture will let you. You come to a promise — to a statement of the blessedness of the believer, of present grace and of future glory — and you can say, "It was written for my sake." It reminds one of the gleaner Ruth gathering in the fields of Boaz, and little realizing that the handfuls of golden grain she was gathering had been "let fall of purpose" for her. It seems to me that this is a helpful and sanctifying thought. It makes the Bible a personal book — one in which I have a very direct interest. I fear there is too little of this personal appropriation in our reading of Scripture. We will presently see a wide purpose of the Spirit of God in the Scriptures, but let us take the comfort of this personal thought first.

Nor is this merely for what we might call our assurance. "Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4).

Here the purpose is wider; the purpose of these Scriptures is our learning — our instruction in the ways of God. The very connection shows us an application of the 69th Psalm to Christ, written for our learning, that we might not be unskilful users of the Word.

Further, it was to be applied to the conscience as well. "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (or types), and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Cor. 10:11). You will remember that in a Scripture already quoted we saw that all Scripture was profitable; among other things, for reproof and correction. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, and our God loves His people too much to let them go unreproved when they need it. "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten" are words which are some of "what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Ah, if God's people would but hearken to these admonitions of His Spirit through the Word! How much would we be spared of chastening and sorrow, and how quickly would joy replace our groaning!

Thus in this personal way we find the purpose of the Spirit of God in the Scriptures to be our assurance, our instruction and our admonition. Let us now look beyond ourselves.

Every book by an intelligent author was written with a definite purpose. That purpose may have been more or less worthy — it may have been to amuse, or to instruct; it may have been to establish a theory, or to move to action. According to the skill and ability of the author, every part of the book would be in consistent accord with its main purpose. Lastly, that purpose would not be fully understood until the contents of the book were all known.

Now transfer this self-evident truth, in a reverent spirit, to the word of God. The Spirit of God is its author; therefore there must be a divinely perfect purpose and a divinely perfect skill in unfolding that purpose. Every part of the book will be in perfect accord with that purpose; there will be no jarring — no inconsistency. We will not expect to know fully what that purpose is at first; we will not expect to have it entirely unfolded in the earlier portions. As we grow more and more familiar with its contents, we will find the purpose of the Divine Author more and more clearly developed.

I could wish I were more able to present this commanding thought in a worthy way. I can but hope to give you a glimpse of it, praying that this may awaken in your soul an insatiable longing to know the purpose of the Spirit of God in giving us the written Word.

There is one fact that must be before us, and more particularly in the Old Testament. The Book is a record — a history of things as they are. There is no forcing of events in an artificial or unnatural way. The characters are described without the least effort at what might be called "dressing up" for appearances. In this the absolute truthfulness of God's word is in striking contrast with ordinary biography. In these latter, the subject appears simply in what is best. To judge from the narrative, one would gather that there were no faults to record. But when we come to the Scriptures, the very men whose faith is our example are shown as they were. Noah's faith in preparing the ark is not allowed to conceal his drunkenness after he came forth from it. Again and again are we told of the faith of Abraham; nor are his acts of unbelief overlooked. The same is true of Isaac and Jacob. Moses, the great leader and lawgiver, closes his life under the chastening hand of God, not permitted to enter the land. David, the king, the man after God's heart, is seen to be subject to like passions with ourselves. His sins are recorded with the same detail as his acts of faith.

Turning to the nation of Israel, the same features are present. The impression one gets from reading of their rise, development and subsequent history is the reverse of admiration. Unbelief, self-will, vacillation and apostasy are written large over well nigh every page of their history. "It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways." Under whatever form of rule — divinely called leaders, judges, kings — the result was the same.

Now, this is most remarkable, particularly when we remember that, humanly speaking, the narrators were describing their own shame — they were writing the history of their own nation. It was not from lack of patriotism, for you find many instances of that all through. Our wonder is increased when we remember that these were various authors, writing at widely separated periods, and in diverse styles; but this faithful delineation of faults and failures is their general characteristic.

Look at the prophets, for instance. Their hearts are breaking with their message of woe, but not a single sin do they hide. They would die for their nation, but they will not lie for it.

The explanation of this is perfectly simple, when we remember the Author of the Book and His purpose. That purpose was not to glorify man individually or as a nation, but to unfold the thoughts and counsels of God regarding man in the condition in which he was found.

The one solemn fact confronting omnipotence itself was that He had to deal with sin — with sinful men. He might, we might well conceive, have let judgment, swift and final, fall at once upon our guilty parents in the Garden of Eden. But His counsels of grace were not to be thwarted. Those counsels centered in His beloved Son, and must be fulfilled. Man is a free moral agent, and thus responsible. He is away from God, and must be brought back. He is not to be forced back against his will, nor will this wondrous work be effected without fullest opportunity to manifest the utter and hopeless alienation of man.

Therefore he is left largely to himself, and soon shows that murder and violence are all he is capable of. The flood checks this, in mercy hindering for a time his awful lawlessness.

God puts him under government, under Noah, and that man may not think this was effectual to bless and help, He shows us the first ruler incapable of governing his own appetites. Finally order is changed for the confusion of Babel and the scattering of the nations. Such is government in man's hands.

He now calls out select individuals, to whom He entrusts His truth until the time arrives for the establishment of a chosen nation. What are Abraham and the patriarchs without the restraining mercy of God? They emphasize the one need of faith — the obedience of faith — and their very falls emphasize it more strongly.

With the nation of Israel, still greater privileges are given, and the fall is correspondingly more hopeless. Miracles are shown before them — the love and care of God in providing for their needs is manifest. They are brought out from bondage, guarded as the apple of His eye, and brought into the land. Hedged about from the nations, ministered to in countless ways, recovered times without number when they forsook Him, of what use were their privileges? The captivity of the ten tribes, and, later, of the two, tell that both kings and people had utterly departed from the Lord, "until there was no remedy." Is not the purpose of God manifest in all this — to show the utter and hopeless ruin of man, and the absolute need of a divine Redeemer? This is what any thoughtful reader will gather from the perusal of the Old Testament.

Did time and our main subject permit, I would speak of the giving of the law, and show for what purpose it was given. The apostle dwells upon this in the epistle to the Galatians. Man is constantly excusing himself, constantly demanding other and greater privileges, more light, better opportunities. The heathen may say, "I did not know the will of God, or I would have obeyed." So the law is given, with the result that it simply brings out the hopeless enmity of the natural heart.

I have intentionally dwelt first upon the dark side. The purpose of the Spirit of God in the Scriptures is manifestly, as well as declaratively, to prove, in every possible condition, the one solemn fact that man is a guilty, helpless sinner. He lets man speak for himself, narrating infallibly his works, words, ways and motives. The result is, man proves himself to be what God declares him. This conviction is pressed upon us with irresistible force as we read our Bibles. The more familiar we get with their contents, the clearer this divine purpose shines through. "The Scripture hath concluded all under sin."

But, blessed be God, He has had other purposes in view, even the salvation of men through the work of Christ, His Son. So as you read this inspired Word you find, from the early beginning, intimations of this grace. The coverings of skins for man's nakedness, Abel's sacrifice, the ark; the sheltering blood of the Passover lamb, the deliverance through the Red Sea — all suggested a redemption of which they were but the pictures.

These types of redemption are not thrown in at haphazard, but are placed at the pivotal points in the history of individuals and of the nation. The reader has a growing conviction that, to have to do with God, one must approach Him by sacrifice; to be shielded from judgment, one must have the blood sprinkled; to pass out of bondage into liberty, one must enter into what witnesses of death. Look at the entire Jewish ritual. It is access by blood — worship by sacrifice. It is through sacrifice that the love, care and mercy of God flow out. Thus we see the purpose of the Spirit of God in the Scriptures.

Look, too, at the individuals who are raised up as deliverers or leaders. Look at the official dignitaries. All speaks of a divine purpose. These men are types of a Coming Man. Their very weaknesses and failures only emphasize the fact that they are "not the Christ." Moses is rejected at first, later to become leader of the people out of bondage. But, as type of Another, he speaks of a better deliverance by One not a servant, but a Son over God's house. He directs their eyes from himself to a greater Prophet whom the Lord would raise up. Aaron is priest, but increased familiarity with Scripture shows him but as a type — all the clearer upon the foil of his many weaknesses — of God's great High Priest. Garments and work, down to the minutest details, speak of some one infinitely more capable to act as Mediator between God and man. David is king, but the last sweet notes on his harp tell of that other King, who would be as the sun on a cloudless morning. All — all points onward to the coming of a Person whom leader, priest, king or prophet suggested, and yet made you feel the increased need of.

Take the dispensational ways of God, as recorded for us in that Holy Word. Do you not see a manifest purpose from the beginning? "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might head up in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth" (Eph. 1:10). The more deeply you plunge into the study of prophetic and dispensational truth, the more impressed do you become with this divine, intelligent purpose of God to make His Son the centre of all blessing, and of the Holy Spirit in giving us a divine narrative of this purpose.

I have been speaking of what runs through the Book as a whole — one steady, consistent onward movement. Casual readers may notice what has been called "the progress of doctrine," but the devout student will be more and more impressed with the perfect knowledge from the beginning of the Divine Author, withholding full statements till their proper place, but giving from the beginning intimations and glimpses of what was before Him at all times.

The types of Scripture, clear, consistent, beautiful — ever leading us on further toward their fulfillment — are but fresh instances of all this. In fact, dear brethren, one must pity from the depths of his heart those who are ignorant of this wondrous indication of purpose running through every fibre of the Book.

Look at its structure — at the groups of single books into evident classes — at the significance of their various details — and your reverence will be deepened. Moses and the prophets as men will not absorb your attention; but you will realize that the Holy Spirit of God has produced for us this perfect picture of the divine mind.

I could speak of the unity of doctrine; also of the entire and absolute absence of contradiction in this Book. Who but a divine and controlling mind could have secured such results? There are new revelations, new orders of government — a complete flashing forth of the full light in the New Testament — but never a single word of contradiction. Is not that divine, and does it not tell of a divine Author?

You may have been struck with the character of the quotations of the Old Testament in the New. Infidelity might boast that they are not exact verbal quotations, and so argue that they indicated imperfection. But examine these quotations, and what will you find? Some fresh and added truth now ready to be revealed. Take a familiar illustration. In the 40th Psalm, our Lord, by the Spirit, says: "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened" (verse 6). Here the opened ear evidently suggests that perfect obedience of our Lord. He had the wakened or opened ear, to hear, as one who is taught. Let us now read the quotation in the tenth chapter of Hebrews: "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared me" (verse 5). Here, in place of the opened ear — obedient to the least whisper — the Spirit gives the added fact, appropriate to the New Testament, of the incarnation of the Son of God. His whole earthly life was one perfect act of obedience. The body of His humiliation was but the vehicle of a perfect obedience to His Father's will.

I speak of this to show the freedom of the Spirit in making use of His own words. At the fitting time he makes use of what He had previously indited, and adds fresh and appropriate truth to it.

But I must close this part of the subject, again entreating you to study this Book with the one great desire to learn the purpose for which it was written. I have simply given a few of the great features; minute details would show the same. You can place the minutest portion under the microscope of the most searching inquiry, if it be only reverent, and find faultless perfection; you may sweep its infinite heavens with the telescope, only to discover divine harmony. Could there be anything else when God, the Holy Spirit, is its author?

It may be asked, How do we know that the Book is complete? If the Spirit of God is in the Church, why may He not give further revelations? One scripture answers that question, and disposes of all such blasphemous imitations as the book of Mormon, for instance: "Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil (or complete) the word of God" (Col. 1:25). The body of revelation was completed with the scriptures of Paul. No further unfolding of truth remains. In that which set forth the glories of Christ, and the Church as His body and bride, God's counsels are fully brought to light. Peter and John, in rounding out their ministry doubtless did write later than Paul, but they were simply finishing a ministry already begun, and adding no fresh line of truth. All was complete and all remains for us to read and ponder, to wonder at and praise God for, while we ourselves are transformed by its truths.

Having thus, weakly enough, dwelt upon that which is of greatest importance, the divine authorship of the word of God, and its absolute infallibility, I feel no hesitation in turning to what we may call the human element in it. As I have already mentioned, this term is ordinarily used to imply a certain measure of imperfection, and as though we could divide the Word into two parts, inspired and uninspired. I trust it is not necessary, for those of you who have followed me this far, to say any more upon that point. We are fully persuaded that absolute and inerrant perfection marks every page.

But for this very reason, we can with the fullest confidence take up the human side of the Bible, and learn some profitable lessons. We have already seen that the Spirit of God in the Scriptures gave us a perfectly accurate picture of the various characters described in it. In making use of the instruments through whom He spoke, He left them men, — endowed with their natural, and with their God-bestowed gifts — but simply men. The Book is intensely human; it is not merely written about men, but by men.

I would here recall a comparison, doubtless familiar to many, between the Word, the Son of God, and the written Word, the Scriptures. The first great fact to grasp is that “the Word was God" — the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Until that is absolutely clear in the soul, it is worse than foolish to speak of His humanity. Any one who denies in the fullest sense His deity, is unworthy to say a single word about His humanity. But when it is perfectly clear that He is God, we can then, to our comfort and profit, dwell upon the fact that, "the Word was made flesh."

So also in regard to the written Word. So long as there is a question as to its absolute perfection, we must refuse to consider the "human element," for it would but foster the spirit of unbelief. But once clear that we have nothing but "the word of God," and we can with the utmost freedom dwell upon the features which bring out the human side.

You will not misunderstand me when I say that, in one sense, the Bible is all human. All the instruments used in its production were men. No angel or spiritual being was used for this purpose, but "holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." You find in its varied pages accurate pictures of the times of the writers; we are in Babylonia, in Egypt, in Palestine, as the case may be. We are living in the times of the Pharaohs, of Solomon's far reaching empire, or of Nebuchadnezzar's Gentile supremacy. In the New Testament, we are under the Roman yoke, and Greek civilization and culture are apparent. If I may so say, there is no precocity in the writers. Moses does not tell us of scientific discoveries in Astronomy, nor Job of the steam engine. Each writer is as artless and simple and natural as it is possible to conceive. And yet there is the conviction of each that God the Spirit is guiding, moving, and dictating. These may not be called scientific books, as we ordinarily use that term, but they are not unscientific in the sense of being inaccurate. Nothing contradicts the latest discoveries in the natural world. Without question, the Bible is a moral book, dealing with moral questions, but you will not find inaccurate statements in it upon any subject. It is silent upon that which man is left to find out for himself; but upon the great question of sin and God's remedy for it, and God's purposes — here, where science must be silent, the word of God is eloquent. No doubt a careful and reverent study of Scripture will constantly bring out beautiful harmonies between its statements and the facts of nature, for are they not — nature and Scripture — but two volumes by the same Author?

But, as I was saying, you find the human authors of the various books of the Bible to be men, men of the times in which they write. You find them, too, capable of feeling of a very intense character. Witness the tears of Jeremiah, the indignation of Isaiah, the sarcasm of Elijah, or Malachi. Go with Paul into the sanctuary, and hear his breathings of praise and worship. These are no mere automata, unintelligent, and uninterested in what they say; farthest from it. To be sure you will find them conscious of being used to utter things the depths of which they have not themselves fully fathomed, as the prophets "enquired and searched diligently, searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter 1:10). They had further revelations as to these things, and fully realized they were uttering the mind and words of God. We are brought up against that fact constantly. Thus the fact of their being men never interferes with their being just the instruments of the Spirit of God.

And what varied instruments! Here is Moses, the man learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Here is David, the Royal Shepherd, with the echo of the sheepfolds, and the clash of battle still sounding through his psalms. Here is Isaiah the poet, taking loftier flights than ever poets dreamed of; and Amos almost uncouth in his bluntness, but striking just the note required. Peter the fisher, and Paul the scribe; Matthew a tax-collector, and Luke a physician. Each writes in his natural style, but each is after all only an instrument for another Hand to play upon, making not only individual harmony, but as an orchestra, uniting in a chorus, which speaks of the glories of the Christ of God.

Dear brethren, how the sovereignty of the Spirit of God shines out here! How the instruments are only that, simply yielded up for the Spirit of God to use. And this is the way Scripture speaks of them.

"Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas" (Acts 1:16). Here, we see the prediction concerning Judas, written centuries before. David was the instrument, but it was the Holy Ghost who spake. He foresaw with divine precision the treachery of one whose heart remained unmoved by association with our Lord. He would have it recorded long in advance, that it might be seen it was no chance which happened, but the permission of a well-known sin. David knew what it was to have a friend turn traitor; he had tasted something of the bitterness of that cup, but it was not simply of Ahithophel that he wrote, — "Yea mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me" (Ps. 41:9). Our Lord quotes this as fulfilled in the treachery of Judas. He was admitted to the nearest confidences, entrusted with the "bag" and its little store.

David doubtless was conscious that he was describing more than the treachery of his friend, as we see from a quotation cited in the second chapter of Acts (vers. 3o, 31), "Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ." Thus we see that David was conscious that he was an instrument in the hands of the Spirit of God, to declare beforehand the purposes of God regarding Christ, both the permission of the wickedness that brought Him to the cross, and the grace that in that very way effected our redemption.

The expression quoted says, The Spirit by David; our next one reverses this, "David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on My right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore himself calleth Him Lord" (Mark 12:36, 37). I think there is a beautiful fitness here in this order, for it is David owning Christ's Lordship. So it is "David saith." But he speaks in or by the Spirit; he is led and guided by the Holy Spirit to declare the Lordship and glory of the Messiah.

Again we have David's own acknowledgement that he was but the instrument of the Spirit, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue" (2 Sam. 23:2). Here again the immediate connection shows that it was concerning Christ that He spoke. All God's counsels center in Him. I do not mean to limit the inspiration to these direct predictions; far from it. Every word, whether for the individual or the nation, is always perfect. But Christ is the centre of God's thoughts, and it is the great work of the Spirit to point to Him.

Leaving David, we find the same statement as to the prophets; "As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets which have been since the world began" (Luke 1:70). Whoever spoke for God was simply and only His mouthpiece. The human element in inspiration is simply God's making use of human instruments perfectly to convey His thoughts.

As to how He used them, we have been seeing a little. There was perfect naturalness. The Spirit spake by David; David spake in the Spirit. Look at the book of Psalms, and you will see how unconstrained were the instruments. You hear the "sighing of the prisoner," the sad confession of sin, the pleading for mercy, the humble gratitude for all blessings, the happy outbursts of praise for deliverance, and the joyful acclaim, in which all nature joins — "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord." How varied the tones, and yet what perfect harmony. For the simple reason that every instrument is used by the Holy Spirit of God.

To me there is not only a charm in dwelling upon this side of the subject, but it seems to me to add to our thought of the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit. He uses free agents; He has them utter, in language appropriate to themselves, thoughts whose general meaning they grasp; they are affected by feelings natural to their position. And yet all is absolutely divine. The result is, we have a Book which is the wonder of the world, the comfort of the saints, and which unfolds the mind of God.

I need hardly refer to the divine wisdom and suitability of all this. This Book touches us at every point of our experience— sin, sorrow, trial; gratitude, joy, worship — every conceivable experience of the child of God, every condition of conscience-stricken guilt, is met here. It is met not with the dark outline of the picture merely, but that picture instinct with hope and with life. The Spirit of God is breathing through it all. I see myself pictured not merely as a poor sinner groveling in the dust, but as such at the feet of infinite love, hot tears, given of God, telling out my shame and my sorrow, and sweetest fragrance telling out the grace and love of Him who meets me as I am. Oh, beloved, I bless — I praise God for this wondrous human-divine Book! I weep with Jeremiah, I exult with Isaiah; but in and with the weeping and the exultation I feel and know the calm of the Mighty One who is speaking for God in every word.

Such, in some partial way, is the thought of the human element — the instruments. In somewhat a similar way as when, fully persuaded of His deity, we are led out in fuller worship by a contemplation of our Lord's humanity, so when we have in our inmost souls bowed to God's perfect Word, we are refreshed and helped by looking at the human instruments He has been pleased to make use of. I commend this subject to your prayerful study.

We have now done with this side of our subject — the Holy Spirit in inspiration. We have dwelt upon the perfection of the Scripture, upon the purpose of the Spirit in giving it, and upon its adaptability to our use by the human instruments through whom He has spoken. We now pass to another branch of the subject, upon which we will dwell far more briefly — the enlightenment of the Spirit in the use of the Scriptures.

We have in our hands a perfect, an infallible Book. Every word has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. How are we to understand — to make use of it? Bearing in mind that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, we see that something more than mere natural intelligence is needed. You may know the languages accurately, be able to make nice distinctions in Greek particles and tenses, and yet be utterly in the dark as to the meaning of this Holy Word. A glance at many of the learned commentaries will illustrate this. History, archaeology, science are levied upon, and a wealth of sidelight is thrown upon the narrative; but, alas! no sunlight. You will understand that I value the side-light, but only after I have the sunlight. We can thank God for everything in the way of geography and history that illustrates Scripture, but this is not illumination. Learning, I want to say distinctly, is not an enemy to the truth, but a servant. There are some devout students who realize this, and who bring all human knowledge to the feet of Jesus. Such men will be used of God.

It is under the plea of the need of a God-given interpreter that Rome has taken the Bible away from the common people. She says the Church alone can interpret Scripture, and that for the average Christian to attempt it will result in error. She points to the infidelity and manifold divisions of Protestantism as a justification of her stand.

Now I am not, of course, justifying Rome in taking away the key of knowledge; but does not the infidelity of much of that which professes to interpret Scripture — German rationalism, copied in England, Scotland and America — show where mere human learning will lead? I say as boldly as Rome, we do need a divine teacher to illuminate this Word for us; we are not competent to learn it by ourselves. Even where there is no rationalism, this free and independent handling of the word of God leads to all kinds of crude and unsound views and divergent opinions. We do need — we must have an infallible guide to explain to us what the Bible teaches. Who and where is he?

Rome says the Church teaches; the priest alone can expound Scripture; the popes, the councils and the fathers have settled its meaning. But if I turn to these sources of light, I find them utter darkness. Not only does the greatest confusion prevail — divergence of opinion between fathers and councils and popes — but Rome has blotted out the simplest and most precious truths of the word of God. She has branded as damnable heresies the precious truths of justification by faith, the finished redemption of Christ, and of access into the very holiest by His blood, without priest or ritual. She has marred the Bible and insulted the Holy Spirit by incorporating the Apocrypha with the word of God, mixing human productions full of error with the divine. She has illustrated to the full the parable of the woman hiding the leaven in three measures of meal. Wherever the Church takes the place of teacher that is what she does — introduces error into the pure truth, and so corrupts all.

No, dear brethren, Rome offers no corrective for the error we all deplore. We need a God-given teacher — an infallible guide — to enable us to understand our Bibles. Who is he? The Holy Spirit. The Author of the Book is its expounder. How precious, and how like the grace of God that this should be!

Let me illustrate. Two disciples of Jesus were on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The shadow of the cross, unrelieved even by a hope of the resurrection, hung darkly over their path. Their faith only manifested itself in a sorrow well nigh hopeless.

And yet these men had not only the Scriptures, but the predictions of our Lord as to His death and resurrection. But "as yet they knew not the Scriptures that He must rise from the dead." Jesus is already risen, and is about to manifest Himself to them; but first of all He will give Scripture its proper place, and illuminate its pages for them. Before they can see Him they must understand the Scriptures.

His theme is, "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" Beginning at the beginning, with Moses, "He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Of that wondrous exposition we have no record save its effect upon these cold-hearted disciples. "Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (Luke 24:25– 32). Do you wish you had been there to have heard? Ah, brethren, though Jesus has gone on high, He has sent His representative to carry on this very work of unfolding the meaning of the Scriptures. It was said of our Lord, "Then opened He their understandings that they might understand the Scriptures"; and in close connection with that, He gave the promise of the Spirit (see Luke 24:45, 49). He carries on this work of unfolding the word of God, of which our Lord has given samples. Remembering, too, our Lord's words, "it is expedient for you that I go away," we can safely say this work of the Spirit in enlightening our minds and guiding us into all truth is more effectual even than if our Lord had continued here as expounder, and for the simple reason that He was external and expounded to them, while the Spirit is within, and acts directly upon the mind.

We see, in Peter's discourse and the general testimony all through the Acts, that the Spirit was illuminating the Old Testament Scriptures. Here, at the beginning, we have this illumination in connection with inspiration, as showing God's gracious provision for founding His Church. But you can see that this illumination was not to be confined to these inspired men, but was and is the common privilege of all saints.

Just as in our Lord's parables, He does not explain all, but gives sample explanations of a few, in order that, by exercise and diligent search, under the guidance of the Spirit, the others might be understood also; so the use made of Old Testament Scripture by inspired men is to serve as a model for all saints, who, in dependence upon the Spirit, study the Word.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this illumination. Without it the Bible is a closed book practically, with little to charm the reader, because of his inability to grasp its meaning; with it the pages of Scripture become luminous, and its beauties grow upon us as, with wonder, we explore its exhaustless treasures. Instead of taking it up as a duty and reading the appointed chapter with little profit, we find it difficult to lay the Book down. No romance could so attract — no human production could so absorb. To what is this secret due? To the holy light that shines upon its truths and into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Beware, dear brethren, of handling this Book in a coldly intellectual way — of reading and studying it in reliance upon your own wisdom. Remember the words of the apostle, which apply as truly to the natural mind in the saint as to the sinner: "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit. . . But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 9, 10, 14).

Spiritual discernment of what is revealed is the result of the Spirit's illumination. Without this, not even its inspiration could make the truths of God's word known. How completely dependent are we, then, upon the Holy Spirit. In the chapter from which I have just quoted we are told that the truths of God are revealed by the Spirit, communicated by the Spirit, and received in the power of the Spirit.

This enlightenment of the Spirit enables us not merely to understand detached texts and portions of God's truth— not merely to have clear views upon certain doctrines —but to gain familiarity with the entire Book; to fall into the current of its thoughts — all, in fact, suggested by the words, "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

I have already dwelt a little upon the purpose of God, as unfolded in His word. This enlightenment of the Spirit will enable us to understand and trace out that purpose. We will see the development of God's ways with Israel and His counsels as to His earthly people; we will see how blessing is coming to all the nations of the earth in connection with Israel. We will learn that the Church, the body and future heavenly bride of Christ, is entirely distinct from the earthly people. We will fall, into the current of prophetic teaching, and that which to most is a confused mass of well nigh contradictory statements will become luminous.

Under this divine enlightenment, we will trace the wondrous truths of God's word, from the germs in the earliest books on to the full fruitage in the life of our Lord and distinct statement of the epistles. We will take up the types of Scripture, and find an absorbing delight in discovering the secrets which God has hidden for us. What shall I say? The enlightenment of the Spirit puts us in a new world — the world of divine realities — and the things of this present world seem small in comparison. As a result, practical sanctification is secured. A man whose whole life is spent in the realities of divine things is likely to be transformed by them.

But this brings us to our last subject, which I have called prophecy. You will understand that I do not refer here to what is ordinarily termed that, whether prediction or any divine oracle. I use the term now as we find it in the fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians: "Ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all be comforted." "He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation and comfort" (verses 4, 31). This is the special application by the Spirit of God of truth suited to the special need of the saints. The principle is evident, and we can apply it to the entire body of Scripture.

We have a perfect Word, and have been enlightened to understand it; but we still need to have it applied to mind and heart and life. The word in season is the word of prophecy. Let me illustrate: The account of Abraham and Hagar is divinely inspired; it is a perfect revelation of God's thoughts upon a certain theme. Further, we have been enlightened to get the meaning of the narrative; we see the two covenants of law and grace, the futility of nature's efforts, the power of God in linking us with the heavenly city, and so on. We see it, and are able to talk clearly about it all. But we need to have the Word brought home to our need. Are we carnal, seeking nature's strength for God's things? Are we legal, turning again to the "weak and beggarly elements" of a carnal commandment? Then the Spirit of God would apply to our conscience the truth He had made us see, and the result would be our practical deliverance.

We are to be not merely students of the Word, but obedient to it. This is effected by allowing the Spirit to apply it. There is nothing more deadening than to be engaged with truth without its acting upon the conscience. To traffic in the holy things of God for mere pleasure or worldly profit is awful to think of. Even where this extreme is not reached, we all need to remember that it is a solemn thing to have to do with God, and to have conscience open that the Spirit may make practical what we have been learning.

I need hardly add that this ministry in the power of the Spirit is distinct from inspiration. This is ignored by some, who thus put on the same level the sayings of uninspired men and the revelations of the Spirit of God. I believe Scripture itself corrects this by giving us an example where we have side by side the inspired Word and the word of prophecy. It is all the more remarkable because both utterances are from the same person and at the same time. I refer to the seventh chapter of First Corinthians.

I will quote first a few passages in which the apostle clearly disclaims absolute divine authority for what he says: "But I speak this by permission, not by commandment" (verse 6); "Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful" (verse 25). "But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God" (verse 40).

Compare with this, in the same Scripture, the following statement: "And unto the married I command, yet not I but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from the husband" (verse 10). Passing back again, "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord" (verse 12).

Here, then, we have, in divine wisdom recorded in God's word, side by side, infallible commands and the judgment of a spiritual man. When it is the Lord speaking, the apostle tells us, and distinguishes this from his own judgment. And yet he spoke as a man guided by the Spirit. It is this last general guidance by the Spirit for our profit and edification that is the prophecy that always abides in the Church. Inspiration has ceased, because the word of God is complete, and there is no further need for it. But there is constant and daily need for this practical speaking by the Spirit of a word in season.

There are those, doubtless, who have a special gift as exhorters — men who know what is the need, and apply the word of God to that need. The "word of wisdom" would seem to be of this character.

Then, too, the blessed Spirit speaks to us in private, in our own reading of Scripture, or by bringing to our recollection just the word needed for our help — doctrine, reproof or correction. Let us see to it that we ever read God's word with the desire that it should search us. This is the application of the water to our feet, that we may abide in holy fellowship with the Lord (see John 13.) In a similar way we find the Scriptures are the weapon of offence in all spiritual conflict. In the familiar passage in the sixth chapter of Ephesians, after enumerating the various parts of the defensive armor — girdle, sandals, breastplate, shield, and helmet — the apostle adds, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." A closer rendering would doubtless be, "the sayings of God." This would suggest the word for the occasion, as when our Lord met and overcame Satan by the suited word. What a comfort it is to know that the Spirit is ever ready to give us the word we ought to speak, in all conflicts with the adversary, whatever may be the form in which he may appear! How many well-meaning efforts to contend for the truth fail because the wrong weapon is used! Instead of using with perfect confidence the divinely appointed weapon, resort is had to human arguments and methods, too often with disastrous results.

Notice, it must be the proper portion, the saying that is applicable to the need. How much exercise this means how much previous study of scripture, and what dependence upon God. May we learn to be not unskillful users of the word of righteousness. There is no weapon like that, and with it the weak and ignorant may confound the wisest.

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable." Is it so to us? Are we becoming sanctified by the truth? There is one proof — obedience. "If a man love me, he will keep my word." Obedience, dear brethren, is that to which we are called. Of what avail is knowledge, and even miraculous power, if obedience to God's holy will in love is not our daily practice? The Lord lay this upon all our hearts.

Thus we have reached, in our way, the end we had put before us. We have seen the Holy Spirit as Author of the Scriptures, giving us an infallibly perfect Book; we next dwelt upon His enlightenment of our minds in opening up the contents of this wondrous Book; and, lastly, we have glanced at His work of applying to heart and conscience that Word, that it might be assimilated in our lives.

How complete and how varied is His work in connection with the Scriptures! Is anything lacking? Could we ask or desire more? Surely we can say we are not straitened in Him, but only in ourselves. It is the narrow heart, full of its own thoughts and its own will, that "limits the Holy One."

May He, the Author of God's perfect word, be unhindered in His work of opening its beauties to our gaze and of applying its truths to our conscience.


"Father, we own Thy sov'reign claim,
And bless Thy Son's most precious name,
Whom Thou for us hast given
Who bore the curse to sinners due,
Quickened our ruined souls anew,
And made us heirs of heaven.

'Tis by the Holy Ghost alone
That Christ, the Lord, is made our own,
The gift of grace divine:
But since to us, in His blest face,
There shines the glory of Thy grace,
We know that we are Thine.

Oh, while we here together join,
Before the throne of grace divine,
Bow down a Father's ear;
Our hearts have listened to Thy Word,
Thy name we praise with glad accord,
Reveal Thyself as near."