The Wisdom of the Wise
The student of Scripture should ever keep in mind that, by means of the revelation God has been pleased to give to us His intention has been to “destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (Isa. 29:14, 1 Cor. 1:19), and that He has done this every spiritual person will willingly admit. Not only are the learned in Christendom (with a few brilliant exceptions) totally ignorant of the spiritual import of the Word of God, but also of the text itself; and this I hope to show before I finish with the subject I have on hand.
That which is called “Higher Criticism” is, I doubt not, an effort of the enemy to deprive the saints of the great inheritance given to them in the grace of God. If I have to take only that which these men give me as the holy verities of God, and throw the remainder on the dunghill, I shall not have much left to build me up in the knowledge of God, and that which they have left me I have only on their authority, and by what means are they going to authenticate as His Word the moiety that remains? “Knowing of Whom thou hast learned” (2 Tim. 3:14); but I do not know these men. I know the Apostles and Prophets, for their words are words of life. But I do not know these professors and doctors of divinity, and I refuse to follow them into regions with which I am utterly unacquainted. They have a show of learning, but that makes me only the more shy of them, for the men called out of this world by the preaching of the Apostles were not the learned, the wise, the philosophic, the noble, but rather the poor, the weak, the ignoble, the despised, the base, that the pride of the creature might be humbled, and that no flesh should lift a haughty head or boastful voice in the presence of God, but that every one that boasts should boast in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:18-31). Our Lord had to say to the Father: “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight” (Matt. 11:25-26). These babes that our Lord speaks of were most of them poor fishermen, who in their preachings were seen to be unlettered and uninstructed men; but the wisdom and the Spirit by which they spoke were irresistible, and their enemies could do nothing but resort to violence to stop the victorious career of their powerful words.
The Scriptures Useless
Now if what these critics tell us be true, the Bible is of no use to the unlearned, to whom, as we see, it has a very special mission. How are they to know what books are mere compilations of folklore and philosophic dreamers interspersed with a little bit of truth
The record of the lives of the Patriarchs is, we are told, an ideal, rather than an actual, picture of human life at that period. So, perhaps, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had never existence. Perhaps this is true also of the God of those three men! If we could only swallow the first, we might not wamble at the second. We are informed that the religion of Israel derived many of its elements from the primitive religion of the Semites, and was largely influenced in its development by the faiths with which it came in contact in the course of its history. How do I know that this is true? The Scripture tells me that the law was given by Moses, and in all its sacrificial and ceremonial economy we have “Jehovah said unto Moses.” And are we to learn from these critics that the whole thing is a perfect farce, for if there is a bit of truth mixed with it, it is only by that mixture made the greater deception?
But we must prepare ourselves for the marvellous, for one of these men tells us that “The Old Testament forms an integral part of the Bible. It was placed in the hands of the Christian Church by its Founder and His apostles as the record of God’s revelation of Himself to His chosen people, and the manifold preparation for His own coming; as the source from which instruction in conduct was to be derived, and as the means by which spiritual life was to be fed. We cannot, therefore, treat it as any other book: it is sacred ground; reverence is demanded of us as we approach it.” So far, so good! But that is not all, for the doctor goes on to say “But it is no true reverence which would exempt it from the fullest examination by all legitimate methods of criticism.”
Is there, then, some legitimate method by which criticism can be applied to a Book placed in our hands by God as a revelation of Himself? We get the Book put into our hands by Himself as a revelation of His mind and will, without one single hint in any of its pages that there are things in it, and a very large number of things, that are the mere imagination of the fallen creature, over whose mind the darkness in which he is by nature, and the devil who works in and by that darkness, has full power, but, as I have said, not a hint that there are pages of the book devoted to the drivel of the corrupt and apostate renegade; and having got the Book we have to sit down, and by the power of our own natural minds distinguish between the panacea and the poison—between that which is of Himself and that which is of the corrupt mind of man, between the atmosphere of the highest heaven and the smoke from the abyss of evil—But the living God has not given to His people such a wretched hotchpotch of fact and fable, of truth and error. By such a mixture were our first parents overthrown in Eden, and by such a mixture does he hold the souls of men under his power today.
To receive the Book from God’s hand as a revelation of Himself, and having received it to sit down to see what part of it we are to believe and what part reject, is the most wicked presumption of which any creature can be guilty. If He has given it to us we may be certain that it is divinely perfect, and that it is to be received with holy reverence and thankfulness, being perfectly persuaded that by its words we shall be able to keep ourselves from the paths of the destroyer (Ps. 17:4). Only a devil incarnate would give to the public a book of instruction regarding the food they should eat and the medicine they should use in order to promote good health, with the half of it commending that which was deadly poison. In the very Book that this learned doctor calls a revelation from God, and which He has put into our hands, the warning is given that all liars shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8), and yet He who caused this warning to be given has, according to these doctors of divinity, foisted a Book upon us that “Textual criticism declares the text to be seriously corrupt.” They say it must distinguish its temporary, imperfect elements. Our Lord Himself taught us to do so.” Where He has taught us this we are left to guess.
The Bible’s Inerrancy
We are told that the inerrancy of Scripture “is a principle which is nowhere asserted or claimed in Scripture itself.” If holy men of old spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21) most of us who believe that it is impossible that God should lie (Tit. 1:2) would consider this fact sufficient to establish the veracity of Scripture. Have not the Prophets said: “Hear ye the word of the Lord”? And has not our Lord said that Moses wrote of Him, and that had the Jews believed Moses they would have also believed Hun, “but if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?” Evidently He assumed that they ought to have had no difficulty in recognizing writings. Perhaps the “Higher Critics” of those days, who were, I suppose, the Sadducees, had disentangled for the people the folklore from the fact! Paul speaks of things that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, things that God has prepared for them that love Him; and of these things, he says: “God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit.” And then as to their communication to others, he says: “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches.” And again “If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 2:9-13; 14:37). The Lord Himself, His apostles, and all His prophets, use the Scriptures as the only court of appeal regarding all questions that bear any relation to divine things. A single passage from the inspired volume settled every question that could possibly arise. The Scriptures were neither to be added to, not taken from. The Thessalonians received the Gospel preached by Paul, who says “Not as the word of man, but as it is in truth the Word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13), and for this he gave thanks to God. There is not a single hint given by either our Lord or His apostles that there might be error in the text. A Book such as these critics tell us the Bible is would never here been put into the hand of any man by the living God. I know Him well enough to be able to say that with the utmost confidence. I will say more than that: I will say that I know Him sufficiently to affirm, that if He has given us this Book as a revelation of the purposes and counsels of His love His ways with His rebel creature, His government of the world, the way He has taken to bring to pass His eternal counsels, He would not have allowed it to be corrupted by the drivellings of the human mind wandering in the fogs and mists of its abandonment of Himself, but would have watched over it with infinite solicitude, and would have preserved it from the defiling slaver of the old serpent.
I quote from one of these critics, it is of no importance from whom, as I have not the writings of any special person under examination. “The Christian (?) critic starts with the belief that the Bible contains a revelation of God, and that its writers are inspired, his object is not to deny the revelation or the inspiration, but to ascertain, as far as possible, the conditions under which the revelation was made, the stages through which it passed, and the character and limits of the inspiration which guided the human agents through whom the revelation is made, or who recorded its successive stages. By inspiration I suppose we may understand a divine afflatus which, without superseding or suppressing the human faculties, but rather using them as its instruments, and so conferring upon Scripture its remarkable manifoldness and variety, enabled holy men of old to apprehend, and declare in different degrees, and in accordance with the needs and circumstances of particular ages or occasions, the mind and purpose of God.”
Again: “It is our duty to recognize this (the human element), its character and extent, and to show clearly that it does not enter into the creed of a Christian man in the same way in which the fundamental doctrines of the Bible do. In the Apostles’ Creed, for instance, we confess our belief in God as the Maker of heaven and earth, but we do not affirm that He made it in the manner described in the first chapter of Genesis.”
Again “I should explain how in the opening chapters of Genesis, two writers had told us how the Hebrews pictured to themselves the beginnings of the world and the early history of man, how, borrowing their materials in some cases from popular tradition or belief, in others directly, or indirectly, from the distant east, they had breathed into them a new spirit, and constructed with their aid narratives replete with noble and deep truths respecting God and man; how one writer had grafted upon the false science of antiquity a dignified and true picture of the relation of the world to God.”
Again: “No historical writer ever claims to derive the materials for His narrative from a supernatural source” (cf. St. Luke 1:1-4). Supposing that all the historical writers claimed that all they have put on record they had from a supernatural source, how would that in any sense authenticate their historical writings? Joseph Smith said he found The Book of Mormon near Manchester in the State of New York, and claimed for it a revelation from God, but I cannot believe his book to be anything but a wicked invention. Mohammed claimed to be the Prophet of God, much greater than Christ, but I utterly reject both these men and their writings. Did the dying robber, of whom we read in the Gospel, believe in Christ because of His claim to be the Son of God? What made Peter and the other ten hold to Him when many of His disciples went away back, and walked no more with Him? That which held them to Him in that trying hour was: “Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-69). Why did the Thessalonians believe the Gospel preached by Paul? “Our Gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance” (1 Thess. 1). Why did I believe it? Though brought up in a godly home, for over twenty years I did not believe it. Why did I turn to Christ in the end? Why? Ask Lazarus why he came forth from the sepulchre. He would say, I was called out. Did he know who was calling? Possibly not, but the Word came to him in its life-giving power, and there was no resisting it. And it is just the same thing as to our natural moral state: “You has He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). I could understand a person saying: “I believed the Gospel because it was the only thing that met the need of my soul.” This is the truth, but it is not the whole truth, for no man has ever found anything else that can meet the need of his soul, yet all do not believe it. Why does one believe it and another reject it? It is not always the most wicked, neither is it always the most moral who believes it. It is not the intellectual and the learned, though such are not altogether rejecters of the Word; but, as we have seen, it is the despised of this world that God has chosen. The question that was asked when our Lord was upon earth has been raised in many a heart from that day to this: “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?” (John 7:48). God takes up in His mighty grace the most unlikely people, not the rulers of this world.
And it is He that takes them up. “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me”; and “no man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him” (John 6:37, 44). God has not sent His Gospel into this world to be at the haphazard of men’s faith. He has His purposes to fulfil, and He is well able to do it, even in a world that is energized by bitter hatred against Himself. No greater enemy of God ever breathed the breath of life than Saul of Tarsus, but by the subduing power of divine grace be was changed into the most devoted servant that ever opened his lips for Christ on earth. What was it that brought about this marvellous transformation? Nothing but that which has transformed at any time a sinner into a saint. The Word of the Lord. With Paul there was something additional: he saw the Lord Himself. But this was necessary, if he was to be an apostle, and to this service the Lord called Him. But he was, like everyone else, born again by the Word of truth (Jas. 1:18). There is no other means of salvation but by the Word of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16).
The believer can say: “We know that the Son of God has come” (1 John 5:20). How do we know? Perhaps one of these critics would say, “You believe it because Scripture says He has come.” But that would be faith; Scripture says we know. I may be asked how I know, and I shall answer by asking another question: How do you know when the sun has risen? You say you are in the light of it. Just so. I say, I am in the light that the Son of God has brought. Jesus says: “I am the Light of the world; he that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). If the critics do not know this all the worse for them. Christianity is a real, vital, experimental thing. I am a living man upon earth in a life of flesh and blood, with a nature that I know is antagonistic to God, and I require no man to inform me of the fact, I have a too sorrowful acquaintance with it. But I have been born again, and by the grace of God have a new nature and a new life, the life and nature of the risen Christ; and is this to be less real, and to be less enjoyed, than my life of flesh and blood? “We know that the Son of God has come.” “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in wickedness,” “We know that we have passed from death into life.” How could it be otherwise? We enjoy life. We live in the love of God and in the love of His people, and thus is the life of heaven begun upon earth.
Who would give himself a moment’s uneasiness regarding the claim that might be made by a man whose breath is in his nostrils, unless he is able by some means to substantiate that claim: “God bearing them witness, both by signs and wonders, and with diverse miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will” (Heb. 2:4)? Such must be listened to, and their word must be accepted. But, after all, the Word itself is that which enlightens and carries conviction to the soul of man. God does all things by His Word, as far as creation goes, and His actions upon that creation. He created everything by the Word of His power and by that same Word He upholds all things. We are born again by His Word. His Word is that which nourishes the divine nature in us. The Words of Jesus, and not so much His miracles, gave men to know Him. Peter says: “Thou hast the Words of eternal life” (John 6:68). And in the prayer of Christ, as recorded in the same Gospel (chap. 17), He says: “I have given unto them the Words which Thou gavest Me, and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me.” And the Word that Jesus spoke shall judge the unbeliever in the last day (John 12:48). This would be impossible, unless His Word was unlike any other word that ever was spoken. I do not believe that a beneficent Creator, which assuredly our God is, would give a book, or send a message, to His creature, holding him responsible to receive it, without that Word carrying with it a power that shall impress the hearer that that Book or message is from Himself. That man is a God-hating sinner, and that he is resolutely opposed to having anything to do with God, is that which the Word teaches and that which we are made painfully aware of in our dealings with men, and where there is a strong reluctance to entertain a message, both on account of its character and hatred of the person from whom it comes, however forcibly it may appeal to our conscience, it is easier to flatter ourselves that it is a baseless rumour, than that it is a truth we should receive and act upon. Then there is also to be taken into account the restless activities of the god of this world, who blinds the mind of them that believe not, lest the light of the glad tidings of the glory of Christ who is the image of God should shine for them (2 Cor. 4:4).
Therefore it is not altogether a question of the claim made by the servant of the Lord, or by any other; there is the Word itself that appeals to every creature as the Word of God, saving the souls of those that hear it in faith, and judging those who hear and reject it. Certainly the Scriptures are like no other writings, for whether it be Moses, the Prophets, or the Psalms, there are no such writings in the world. Talk about the first and second chapters of Genesis, the fall of man, the history of the antediluvian race, the sons of God, the daughters of men, the men of renown, the giants, the violence and corruption that filled the world, what would the imagination of man, loosed from the restraint of God, have made of all this? What a scene for it to revel in! Think of what has been made of it in Greek mythology. Read that wretched stuff, and then turn to the simple account God has given of it, and how He has closed the door against all the unclean curiosity of the flesh! I say again that not in all this world is there another book that so forces itself upon the mind and conscience of men as the Word of God. Take all the books on theology, commentaries, expositions, notes, disquisitions, interpretations, and sermons, that have at any time been sent forth by the best of men, and compare them with the Word itself as given to us by God, and what a difference is at once apparent! The simplicity, the grandeur, the glory, the beauty, the melody, the sweetness, the power, the heavenly freshness, the divine savour, the immortal grace, the life-imparting tenderness, the absolute righteousness, and burning holiness, that meet the eye in every one of its immaculate pages; reveal but the imperfections, the poverty, the weakness, and the defects of the best of human productions. As the Word of the living God it appeals to the conscience of every man who hears its voice, and no may in the day of judgment will be able to say that he did not know it was His Word.
Another thing authenticates it. From the beginning of the history of fallen man it has been persecuted Abel, who would obey it, is slain by his brother. Stephen, the protomartyr, meets the wrath of the Jews with the question “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:5). And Paul tells us that the day was coming in which professing Christians would prefer fables to the truth of God; for sound doctrine they would not endure (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Today we have the Word of God criticized and torn to pieces by men who profess a reverence for it, and they blame that which they call the mistakes of Scripture for the abandonment of Christianity which is shown by the many. If they only read Scripture a little more carefully they would discover that this departure is all there foretold, and that their apostasy is not there put down to their inability to go on with that which is false, but that they prefer the lie of the devil to the truth of God. The great mass of those who have given up all religion know nothing of the things that these critics call mistakes, nor would their writings have any meaning to them This irreligion of the masses and the criticism of these critics are just symptoms of the antipathy of the human heart to the living God and to His holy and precious Word, a Word that shall judge everyone of its rejecters in the day of judgment.
The First Chapter of Genesis
These critics do not always begin with the first of Genesis in their ceaseless struggles against the Bible and its Author, but they are ever found to have a strong inclination to hark back to it. Some of them seem to hold very tenaciously to the Apostle’s Creed, and therefore do not deny that God made the heaven and the earth, but they are very careful to assure us that they in no wise believe He made it in the manner described in Genesis 1. These critics tell us:
“The science of the first chapter of Genesis is the science of the age in which it was written; but upon this imperfect, and in many respects false science, its author, under the influence of the Divine Spirit, has grafted a wonderfully sublime and spiritual representation of the Sovereign Author of nature, conceiving and presenting Him as a purely spiritual Being; who, moulding the material substance of the universe to His will, adapts the world gradually, by successive stages, to become the abode of lower and higher forms of life, and (ultimately) of beings endowed with reason, and who assigns to every living species upon it its proper office and function.”
“And so when we pass to the second and third chapters of the same book, though it is true, we can hardly, any more than in the first chapter, be reading a literal history; we have brought before us, in a pictorial or symbolical form, adapted to the comprehension of men for whose spiritual instruction the narrative was first written, deep thoughts about God and man, how man was created by God, and placed by Him in a position designed to develop his capabilities, and test his character; how he was at first innocent; how he became—as man must have become, whether in Eden or elsewhere, at some period of his existence—conscious of a moral law, but how temptation fell upon him, and he broke it.”
Now one would like to know what science has got to do with: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” One might ignorantly speak of this as the conception of the human mind, but the statement in itself could not have anything to do with science, which concerns the discoveries resulting from research. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things that are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3). Everything that God does He does by His Word: to this fact all Scripture bears united testimony. He wills the thing to be; He commands, and it exists. “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Ps. 33:6). “Upholding all things by the Word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). By His Word He created all things, and by His Word they subsist. With this, science has nothing to do.
And in all its solitary grandeur stands this statement at the beginning of God’s glorious revelation. Alone it stands, and irresponsible for anything that hereafter could be said of that creation, or of any part of it. After its own order it shines out as perfect as the wisdom and the power of God could make it. Whatever might subsequently happen to it through the wickedness of any of His creatures, who might be found to manifest insubordination, does not alter the fact that it was created absolutely perfect, for infinite perfection characterizes everything that He does (Deut. 32:4), and nothing less than perfection can He demand from His creature. In verse 2 we read “The earth was without form and void (waste and empty), and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” No one who knows God would expect Him to create a thing in such a condition as that; nor did He, for, speaking by the Spirit, Isaiah says: “He created it not waste; He formed it to be inhabited” (Isa. 45:18). In Genesis 1 we have its creation, in verse 2 its ruin; and then we have His forming it as a habitation for His creatures. And this, say the critics, was the cosmogony of the ancients, upon which the author of Genesis “grafted this wonderfully sublime and spiritual representation of the Sovereign Author of nature”; making, I suppose, a sort of standard rose out of a wild briar! Into what utter darkness the conceit of these men has driven them!
The power that was allowed to reduce the earth to the state of chaos described here has not been made known to us, but an evil power we may be assured it was, and we know that there was an evil power in the universe before the fall of man; neither are we told what kind of creatures they were who had their dwelling here, nor how long their tenure of earth lasted. We can only conclude by the ruin in which it was found before God began to form it for the dwelling of man that some terrible revolt by the creature had taken place, which drew upon the whole scene the judgment of God. That God did not create it waste we are told, and that it eventually was found waste is also affirmed, and that perhaps is all we have got to do with. Heaven does not seem to have undergone any change; the earth only is said to be waste and empty. The heaven spoken of in Exodus 20:1 is, I have no doubt, the heaven that God is said to make in verses 7 and 8 of chapter 1, not the heaven in the first verse.
Now all this chapter is not only given by inspiration of God, but it is also a revelation from God. I do not say a revelation of God, for we must come to the New Testament for this. Until the Son of God came into the world it is said: “No man has seen God at any time,” but when Jesus came to earth this could be said no longer, for: “The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:8). This is no polishing up of the drivellings of the human mind in darkness and error. A dishonest man might patch up something that was erroneous by adding a little modicum of truth, and palm off such a mixture on the public; but what kind of unhallowed mind must a man be possessed of who would entertain such a thought about the living and true God? It was necessary to give the people He had chosen for Himself such an account of the creation and making of the worlds, in order that they might know that the God who had spoken to them by Moses and by angelic means was the God who had created all things, for among all the surrounding nations of the earth there were gods many, and even the people out from the midst of whom He had called their father Abraham had been, and still were, worshippers of false gods. But He who gave this revelation, and caused Moses to make a record of it, watched over it throughout the millenniums of this world’s history, that we might have it as light in this day in which that which professes the name of Christ prefers the darkness, and would lead us back into it if we did not withstand them.
There are also other reasons for His watchful care over it, and one of these reasons is the typical nature of the record, for the Old Testament is full of type, shadow, and prophetic outlook. The evolutionist—and I fancy all these Higher Critics are of that class—will tell us that we all have risen from the lowest form of life, and that the gradual steps in that ascent are so clearly marked that it is impossible to mistake the fact, if we are willing to give close attention to them. Now this chapter shows us that man was the great thought of the Creator, and that he was to have dominion over everything that God had made upon earth. But if he was to take such a place as this it was necessary that he should have the knowledge of the various forms of life that were placed under his authority; that is, that there had to be an affinity between him and the lowest creature. He could not otherwise exercise dominion. Hence all living creatures stand in some relation to the head, some nearer and some more distant. But the fear of him and the dread of him was placed upon all. Man was the creature that was in the mind of God, and all the creatures of the earth were to look up to him, and between him and them there was an affinity, so that when brought before him he could name them every one according to their nature. They were all formed with relation to him.
And this only foreshadowed the position the last Adam shall have over all in the day when “every knee shall bow to Him, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father,” for God has raised Him from the dead, “And set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come; and has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all” (Eph. 1:20-23). Adam lost his place at the outset, but for ever is Christ supreme in the whole universe of God. There shall be no failure with Him.
And as Adam had his bride given to him of God, so shall Christ have His Bride when the day comes in which He shall take to Himself His great power and shall reign. But this brings us to the second chapter, which, the critics tell us, is the work of another historian than the one who gave us the first chapter. But why should this be thought? Well, it is an entirely different account of the making of man, and instead of “Elohim” only, as in the first, we have “Jehovah Elohim.” But how could we have the latter name in the first chapter where it is simply God’s bringing into existence the animal and vegetable kingdom, as we speak? Jehovah is the name He assumes when His creature, man, is to be considered. He speaks of Himself as Jehovah, which seems to mean self-existing and unchanging (Ex. 3:14-15; Mal. 3:6). I fail to see where Jehovah could come in in chapter 1, for there it is not man in relation with God, but with relation to the creation that God had just formed. I need scarcely say that the first three verses of the second chapter belong to the first.
But it was absolutely necessary for our instruction that we should be made acquainted with the contents of the second chapter, for how else were we to see the way in which man received being, in contrast with all the other creatures that were placed under his headship; the relationship in which he stood to God, a relationship in the setting forth of which it was necessary to introduce the additional name of Jehovah; the position and surroundings in which he was placed, a garden prepared for him in which was every tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the centre? Placed also on the footing of responsibility there was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which tested that responsibility.
But as the Creator saw it was not good that man should be alone, a helpmeet was made for him. But this companion that was made for him was part of himself, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh: she was called woman for she was taken out of man: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” In this we see a foreshadowing of the death of Christ, and the formation of His Bride while He is, as far as this world is concerned, dead, though the believer knows Him in resurrection glory.
We are again told by the critics that this chapter brings before us: “How man was created by God, and placed by Him in a position designed to develop his capabilities, and test his character; how he was at first innocent; how he became—as man must have become, whether in ‘Eden’ or elsewhere, at some period of his existence—conscious of a moral law, but how temptation fell upon him, and he broke it.” Broke what? The moral law? He ate of a tree of which it would have been no harm to eat if it had not been forbidden by God. He became conscious of a moral law after he had eaten the forbidden fruit, for by that act of disobedience he gained a conscience and the knowledge of good and evil, which he had not previously. He could now, apart from law, distinguish between good and evil, but had also to experience that the evil had power over him, and the good he was unable to do.
The fact is, these men will not let us have the Scriptures in the way in which they themselves say that God has given them. The folklore and the truth, they tell us, the fact and the fable are so intermingled, and made so contemptible by this intermingling, that men of intelligence and taste can no longer have any confidence in it. However, these men are going to give us a better book. They have arisen to show us how much better they can do for us than God. They will purge it from its false science, its inaccuracies, its corruptions, its falsehoods, and its power of doing mischief to souls!
And after they have pointed out all these errors to us so that, if we believed them, we would be wondering what kind of a God we had been putting our trust in, they tell us that: “Our sense of the worth of the Old Testament need know no change; it will still remain the record of God’s gradual revelation of Himself to His people Israel.” When we read such preposterous folly, we wonder if we are really listening to sane men, or to misanthropical deceivers who take their readers to be imbecile. The utter wickedness and presumption of these ethics are appalling! They tell us that their facts are not to be “crushed by denunciation.” I do not suppose that anyone is attempting to crush their facts (?) by any such means. But I would ask these men what they would think of a physician who, while professing great love for his fellow men, and treating all his patients free, mixed every bottle of his medicine with most deadly poison; or how they would regard the man that, when the evil was discovered, made every effort to prove that, though there was really only a modicum of good medicine in the mixture, and all the rest poison, its curative value was unimpaired.
But if we trust these men we must believe that the living God is faithfully represented by this physician. They inform us that He has put into our hands as a guide to eternal happiness, and for the health of our souls, a Book the greater part of which is absolutely false, and nothing but the imagination of the fallen creature; and that into this Book God has by HIS servants put a modicum of truth, which may not be all truth either, and He has given it to us without telling us that the greater part of that which we read is a lie, and a lie of the worst kind, for it is a lie against Himself, affirming that He has said things He never said, and that He has done things He never did. This Book is your guide to everlasting happiness, and you go there with your mind stuffed with lies against the God you have to meet. And yet the God who has given you that Book has said that all liars shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8).
The Progressiveness of Revelation
A great deal is made by these men of “The progressiveness of revelation, its adaptation at different periods to the moral and spiritual capacities of those to whom it was primarily addressed.” There is not a word of truth in the statement. The antediluvians were just as morally and spiritually capable of receiving the communications of God as are the professors of the universities today. The ability to receive and understand the Divine Word lies in the willingness to understand it in order to do it. Our Lord says: “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it he of God, or whether I speak from Myself,” and: “Why do ye not understand My speech? even because ye cannot hear My Word,” and “He that is of God hears God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 7:17; 8:43, 47).
It is not learning people require for the understanding of the revelation of God, but a state of soul which is produced by the Divine Spirit. That man must be born again if he is to receive the testimony of God is just as true today as it was at the commencement of his sinful career. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” As regards faith in His Word, ability to appreciate Divine things, or affection for God, these qualities have never been found in the mere child of Adam. Men may spend all their days arguing the point, but when they come to the finish, it will still be found in the revelation that God has given to us: “No man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him.” All the fallen race is but clay of the same lump, and neither is there one man more ready to listen to the voice of God than another. It is God that makes the difference, and to Him be all the praise.
Education, such as is found in the schools and colleges of this world, does not lead people into the knowledge of God, nor does it enable them to receive such knowledge. The tendency is rather to make infidels of those whose minds are trained in such places. And this is just what the Word says, as I have already pointed out: “Not many wise men after the flesh are called.” Ability to take in and appreciate the Word of God does not depend on the progress of civilization, nor even upon the spread of Gospel truth. No human being had ever been in such favourable circumstances as Judas Iscariot, and yet all that he heard and saw throughout his companionship with the Son of God never laid hold of his sinful heart. No, men may make submarines, aeroplanes, and telescopes, but the invention of these things does not prove that they are more clever than Cain or Abel, however proudly they may boast in their achievements.
That from the fall of man until the coming of Christ, God was speaking to men in various ways is just what Scripture affirms, but that His communications were adapted to the moral and spiritual growth of the human race has no support from the Word of God. The fact is that every dispensation under which men were tested has ended in the utter failure and hopeless condition of those so tested. Ere man was sent out from Eden there was, in the way that God took to clothe the two fallen transgressors, sufficient light given to show his ruined race the way of approach to God, and later we know that Enoch prophesied of the intervention of the Lord in judgment. Enoch also is said to have preached righteousness. But the result of this trial was that God had to intervene in judgment by a flood of water, and destroy all but Noah and his family and a seed of the lower order of creation to replenish the earth.
In the renewed earth we have Noah and his house placed under the blessing of God, everything put under him; God’s covenant with the earth, and the principles of His government to be observed by men. At once we have Noah helplessly drunk with wine, his mocking son coming under the curse, and made a servant of servants. In Romans 1 we get a graphic description of the state of idolatry and abominable corruption into which his race fell, and out of which God called Abraham to be His witness, making Himself known to him as the Almighty God, and making him the depository of the promises.
Some four hundred years afterwards the Twelve Tribes are found slaves in Egypt, helplessly bewailing their bitter bondage, and without any knowledge of the true God. For their deliverance God intervenes in power, provides shelter for them when His judgment was abroad in the land, destroys the forces of the Egyptians, and brings Israel to Himself in the wilderness. But all the men that came out of slavery perished in the desert, and never saw the promised land. Their subsequent history is so well known I need not go into the details of it. They persecuted the prophets, broke the law, became idolaters, slew them that testified of the coming of Christ, and when He came they murdered Him.
The history of the world reveals man in his downward career into a sink of moral and spiritual corruption. If God made Himself known as Jehovah to Israel, gave them laws, and put them in possession of His holy oracles, it was not because they had greater moral and spiritual powers than the antediluvians, or if He sent Christ to them, it was not because they were any more likely to receive Him than were others, for He has never yet been disappointed in any creature that He has made and set on the principle of responsibility. The testing of the human race was not for God’s education but for ours, if we will only take heed of all that it reveals.
The Christian dispensation is not different from any other. The brightest thing that was ever set up was that which the Holy Spirit sealed at Pentecost, but how quickly it lost its brightness! It has come to be the most corrupt thing the sun can look down on. Like Capernaum, it has been exalted to heaven, but it also shall be thrust down to hell.
Man can keep nothing with which he has been put in trust by God, nor without a Divine work in his soul will he receive any testimony that God may be pleased to send to him. The Word may have a momentary effect upon him, but the moment that he comes to the discovery that to confess it will not be to his advantage in this world, he will quickly give it up. The various ways in which God spoke to men from the beginning were not suggested by the mental state or stature to which they had advanced, but God was pleased to apply various tests to men, in order to bring out the terrible truth that fallen man was incorrigibly wicked, and that if any were to be saved they could only be saved by His acting sovereignly in grace. And every trial to which men were subjected brought this fact into evidence. All that were saved before the flood were saved by faith; and through the law which was the expression of man’s accountability, and promised life to the soul that kept it, no one ever gained anything but death, condemnation and the curse. All that entered into blessing entered into it by faith, and not by works. And it is so today.
Hence the great object of the devil is, not to make unclean sinners of people, but to destroy their faith in the Word of God. No man ever was or could be saved on any other principle, and “faith comes by report, and report by the Word of God” (Rom. 10). Faith is not begotten in the soul by the word of man, though human testimony may, and must in certain cases, be believed. But where human testimony cannot be verified we are never absolutely certain of its truth. Faith which is produced by the Word of God is much more certain than sight, and can confidently await the day in which the report shall be publicly verified.
This is why the whole world is up in arms against the Scriptures. The attack may take the hypocritical form of “Higher Criticism,” or the open form of avowed infidelity, but both have but one object before them, and the contention of both is to one point, and that is, to deprive us of the revelation of God. The critic may attempt to varnish his wicked work by a little false show of piety and respect for the sacred Word, and the infidel, more honest, may rejoice to set before us his attacks in all their naked hideousness, but neither of them is aware of the awful power of evil that compels them to wage this unholy and insane warfare against the living God.