If a friend handed to us a ponderous volume, consisting of sixty-six books, written by between thirty and forty persons, and at different times, extending over fifteen hundred years, and said, Notwithstanding all their differences there is a remarkable unity throughout, should we not be astonished? As a matter of fact, there is no such book as the Bible in this respect; nor could there be, unless all the writings it contained had been under the guidance of One mind, and its communications throughout given by the One Spirit.
One thing which would be likely to strike some persons in considering the principle of unity in a book, would be to compare the end with the beginning, and see if there be any connection as to similarity or contrast. In the Bible it is written, "Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world." (Acts 15:18.) Let us turn and examine a few scriptures as to this.
The first words we find in the Bible are, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1), and, as a matter of fact, much of the Bible is about God's heavenly and earthly people; also as to things in connection with the present heaven and earth; and in the end of the Book we read of "a new heaven and a new earth." (Rev. 21:1.)
In the beginning of the Book it is said, "Let there be light, and there was light;" afterward we are told that Christ is "the light of the world;" and in the end of the Book we read, that "the Lamb is the light thereof."
In the beginning, we read of a tree of life in the garden of Eden, from which man was afterward excluded through his sin; in the end we find "the tree of life" with its many fruits, and are taught that the faithful will eat of "the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." (Gen. 2:9; Rev. 2:7; 22:2.)
A river too was in Eden, and at the end of Revelation we read of "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." (Gen. 2 to; Rev. 22:1.)
In Genesis 2 we see the first man (figure of Him that was to come) and his help-meet, of whom he could say, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh;" and in Revelation 21 we have presented to us "the bride, the Lamb's wife . . . . having the glory of God;" of whom it had been said, that He "nourisheth and cherisheth it," and that "we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." (Rev. 21:9, 1; Eph. 5:29, 30.)
In the earthly paradise man was in dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and over every creeping thing, and the name he gave to every living creature that was the name thereof; but toward the end of the Book the Lord Jesus, the last Adam, will bring this groaning creation into the liberty of the glory of the children of God, and have His rightful place as "Lord of all," having subdued all things unto Himself. (Gen. 1:28; 2:19; Ps. 8; Phil. 2: l0, 11; 3:21.)
In the beginning we have Satan tempting, then sin, and the curse; and in the end, we see Satan in the lake of fire, sin taken away, righteousness dwelling, and no more curse. In the beginning sorrow and death; in the end, "no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." (Gen. 3; Rev. 20:10; 2 Peter 3:13; 1 John 3:5; Rev. 21:1-4.)
Surely then we find a remarkable unity of thought in the beginning and ending of the Bible, though the contrasts are most striking; because the Son of God had come meanwhile to accomplish redemption, destroy the works of the devil, take away sins, make good the promises, vindicate God in all His ways, honour Him in perfect obedience as Man, and glorify Him in clearing us from all iniquity, and bringing us to God, to share the inheritance with Him who is Heir of all things.
Another mark of unity is found in the truth it sets forth throughout. If early in the Old Testament it is said of man, that "the imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," it is said in the New Testament that "the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Gen. 6:5; Rom. 8:7.) If a prophet in olden time said, "all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness hereof is as the flower of the field . . . . the grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand for ever," an Apostle, seven hundred years after, writes the same, only adding to "the word of the Lord endureth or ever," "And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." (Isa. 40:6-8; Peter 1:24, 25.) If the Psalmist exclaimed, "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven," our Lord said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Ps. 119:89; Matt. 24:35.) If the testimony of a prophet was, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts," an Apostle informs us, that "the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." (Zech. 4:6; 1 Cor. 2:1.) If Moses was inspired to write, "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul," we read in Hebrews, that "without shedding of blood is no remission." (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22.) If an Old Testament writer warned the people not to add unto the word "which he commanded them, neither shall ye diminish ought from it," the ancient writings are not closed without enforcing the exhortation by saying, "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar;" nor can the canon of scripture be concluded without the last of Revelation giving us the most solemn warning concerning it. (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18, 19.)
Take another subject. All through the entire Volume, from Genesis to Revelation, we find since man became a sinner, that he has been accounted righteous before God on the principle of faith, and never on the principle of works; a fundamental truth of vital importance. We read, that God clothed Adam and Eve with coats of skins; that is, their nakedness could only be truly covered up from the eye of God through the benefit derived from the death of a sacrifice. Abel's offering shows out the same. Also in Genesis 15, we read, "Abram believed in Jehovah, and he counted it to him for righteousness;" and David, who lived nine hundred years after, describeth the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works, saying, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." (Rom. 4:6-8.) These scriptures are quoted by the apostle Paul to make clear to us, that the principle on which all are justified from all things, is that of faith, without the deeds of the law. Hence, "the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe." (Rom. 3:22, 28.)
The typical instruction in the Old Testament having its accomplishment in the New Testament, gives a remarkable complexion of unity to the whole Bible. Take, for instance, Abraham offering up his loved and only son Isaac; what an accurate fulfilment of the type we have in God's delivering up His only-begotten Son as a sacrifice for us! In this one instance we have shadowed forth divine love and grace in laying our iniquity on Him; divine righteousness in judging unsparingly our sins on Him instead of on us; and divine power to usward in raising Him up from the dead, and giving us risen life in association with Him.
The unity of the Bible is further shown by the one leading Subject throughout, being Christ Jesus, the Son of God, full of brightness and blessing; while the history of man, side by side, tells in all ages the sad tale of his antagonism to God, and unbelief in His goodness and mercy.
Let us look at the dark background of this divinely drawn picture of man's ways, though created in the image of God, whose delights were with the sons of men.
1. Man created upright, and in innocence, listened to the lie of Satan, instead of standing firm by the word of the Lord God; he therefore sinned, and thus death came into the world, and death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Gen. 3.)
2. From fallen Adam to Moses, man though now having a conscience, and knowing good and evil, showed increasingly his departure from God till he actually became a god-maker. (Rom. 1:20-23.)
3. From Moses to Christ, Israel, though in foolish self-reliance and ignorance, promised to keep the law, yet had they the advantage of God's immediate dealings and care, a religious ritual, priesthood, and prophets; but they became such abominable idolaters, and worse than the heathen, that God had to give them unto captivity; and those who returned from the Babylonish captivity, Judah and Benjamin, when their Messiah came received Him not, and openly preferred a known murderer, Barabbas, to Christ.
4. From Christ's death, resurrection, and the preaching of the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit come down from heaven, sinners are called and saved for eternal glory by Christ Jesus. The effect still is that "few" comparatively believe, and the "many are going on the broad road to destruction. When the Lord comes to receive His saints, all who have believed through grace, will be caught up to meet Him in the air, and be taken to the Father's house. But when He comes out of heaven with His saints, He tells us that the world will be as it was in the days of Noah, ripe for judgment, and meriting everlasting destruction. (1 Cor. 15:23; Matt. 24:37-39; 2 Thess. 1:7-9.)
5. Christ reigns, and His saints reign with Him. He will "reign in righteousness," therefore He must judge first the living, then put down all rule, all authority, and power, and finally at the close of the thousand years, judge the dead, small and great. The effect of our Lord's personal reign as King of Israel, and King over all the earth, will be that the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth "as the waters cover the sea;" but it will be knowledge instead of the new birth in many instances, and restraint from Christ's personal reign, so that they will yield "feigned obedience" (Ps. 66:3, margin); the consequence will be, that when Satan, who has been bound during the millennium, is let loose again, myriads will fall away, and fire come down from heaven in judgment upon them. (Rev. 20:8, 9.)
6. This is followed by "a new heaven and a new earth," in which righteousness dwells. The works of the devil having been destroyed, sin and iniquity completely taken away, and all things made new, righteousness now abides. Before law men were "filled with all unrighteousness;" under law righteousness was demanded in the way of works; by the gospel righteousness is reckoned without works to every one that believeth on Jesus; during Christ's reign He reigns in righteousness; in the eternal state righteousness dwells in heaven and in earth.
But before leaving this dark side of the picture, let us never forget that man has utterly failed in every trial to which he has been subjected, and will do so, more or less, till the new creation order of things is fully established by Him, who said, "Behold I make all things new." Man in innocence, surrounded with every possible privilege and blessing, sinned. The Flood having long after this taken all away in judgment except eight souls, because all flesh had corrupted God's way on the earth, the chief of the spared eight becomes drunk, and through it lasting shame was brought on some of his descendants. Abram called out to trust in God, at the first trial of faith so fails, that he goes down into Egypt for help. The children of Israel, so confident of their own ability, no sooner promised to keep the law, saying, "all the words which Jehovah hath said will we do," than they made an idol of gold, and danced around it, saying, "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." When priesthood after this is set up, perhaps the first thing they did was to offer strange fire, which God commanded them not, and there they died before Jehovah. Moses, the man who was specially noted for meekness, could not enter the land because of his rashness in smiting the rock, and calling God's people rebels. The sons of Israel, long after this, wished to have a king, but he soon lost his place because he acted as he thought best, that is, as a rationalist, instead of in obedience to God's word. (1 Sam. 15:1-23.) David, a man after God's own heart, fell into grievous sin immediately all his enemies had been subdued. After all this, God sent prophets to His people, and the people persecuted, stoned, or slew them. Jehovah sent John the Baptist to the Jews, and first imprisonment, and then death was his portion. Our Lord came with grace and truth, going about doing good, delivering all that were oppressed, and saving all that came to Him; but they said, "this is the heir; come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours." At last they cry, "Away with him, crucify him." The Holy Ghost came down after Christ's ascension, by whose power the Apostles and others preached the gospel of the grace of God, and from that time to this many resist and few believe. Such is man, and, unless born of God, such he will be, for "they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Hence Stephen, in his famous speech before the Sanhedrim, said they were "stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears," and declared them guilty of not having kept the law which they had received, of having persecuted and slain the prophets, of having been the betrayers and murderers of the Just One, and of always resisting the Holy Ghost. And in the coming age, as we have seen, with Satan bound, creation delivered, Israel blessed and enjoying their own land beyond all description, the church in manifested glory over it, Christ Himself ruling and reigning, all persons and things in subjection to Him, even then, when Satan is let loose for a little season, myriads will fall away, and openly dishonour God. Well has it been said, "What is man that thou art mindful of him?"
It is important though to observe the unity of thought pervading all scripture as to man's utter ruin, and incurably bad condition, calling for nothing less than being born anew. If, early in scripture, we are told that "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," many hundreds of years after another prophet declared, that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;" while hundreds of years later, our Lord said, "from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts," etc., and He did not name anything good in it. Later on an Apostle declared, that "the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7); so that as to man's moral condition in God's sight, ever since the fall, the testimony throughout has been, that "there is none righteous, no not one." The giving of the law, instead of helping or improving those who accepted the yoke, only caused the offence to abound, and gave "the knowledge of sin." Happy are they who so know the Lord Jesus Christ as their life and peace, as to be not under law, and vainly hoping to reach God by doings and efforts, but as brought to God in Christ, and through His precious blood can bow in adoring praise and thanksgiving to Him for the accomplished work of eternal redemption. Such is the uniform testimony of God concerning man throughout the entire volume of inspiration.
The bright line which runs from Genesis to Revelation, and gives the whole Book a unity which nothing else could, is its testimony to the infinite glory of the Person of the Son, the eternal efficacy of His one sacrifice for sin, His moral worth and excellency beyond all thought, the glorious offices on our account He now sustains, as well as His glories yet to be revealed when He cometh with clouds, and His saints accompany Him, to put down all that is contrary to God, and fulfil all the promises to Israel, and much more, which assure us of the verity of our Saviour's words when speaking of the "scriptures," "they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39.)
It has been well said, that redemption was no after thought with God that God's thoughts and purposes of love were toward us before the foundation of the world. And, in sweet accordance with this, we find the first man, who "was a figure of him that was to come," with his loved and loving help-meet by his side, on awaking from his deep sleep, saying, "This is now bone of my bones."
But by one man sin entered into the world, and "by man came death," but no sooner had these enemies been brought into God's creation than we hear of a Redeemer, a suffering Redeemer, too, who should effectually render null all the power of that old serpent, the devil.
This Abel believed, and therefore offered a firstling of the flock, and of the fat thereof; and "Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering." Noah's burnt-offerings of every clean beast and of every clean fowl, again in type set forth the sweet savour of the offering of Christ, and the blessings to man and the earth which flow from it to this day. Abram offering up Isaac, as we have seen, prefigures, as no other type does, that "the Father sent the Son, the Saviour of the world;" that He would provide a lamb for a burnt-offering. Thus we have in Isaac bound on the altar and afterward loosed from it, a striking type of the death and resurrection of God's only-begotten Son. And as the Holy Spirit makes no mention of Isaac after this, till he comes forth to meet, and embrace his beloved bride, so in the intermediate chapters we have the line of pilgrimage and present circumstances of the man of faith, as well as the father of the typical dead and risen One, calling out a bride for his loved and only son, the heir of all his possessions. God's way of blessing having been set forth by the death and resurrection of Isaac, Sarah dies, type of the Jewish system being broken up, the man of faith is a pilgrim and stranger, can find nothing here to possess but a grave; and though in the world, not of it, not beholden to it, or indebted to it for anything, he obtains a grave for which he pays full price. On the other hand the true sent one is calling out a bride for the dead, risen, and now hidden son, by whose testimony she is separated in heart unto him, whom she has not seen but loves; and the first glance she has of him detaches her from everything here, and she hides herself under her veil. Absorbed with the object of her heart, self was lost sight of, in the consummation of her longing desire to "see his face."
And so we might trace in Joseph again the dead and risen Christ in relation to Israel. While in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, as well as Deuteronomy, types and shadows abound in the various sacrifices offered of the infinite value and various aspects of that one offering of the body of Christ, offered once for all, never to be repeated; "for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Heb. 10:14.) In so many ways, and by such various types, the sufferings and death of our adorable Saviour are set before us in many parts of the sacred writings, that we can now go from the New Testament statements of facts to learn details in the records of the Old Testament types and prophecies.
Not only did God declare that our Redeemer should be the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, and the Fruit of David's loins, as concerning the flesh, but that He should be the virgin's Child, and yet His name be Immanuel, God with us. It may be frequently noticed in scripture, that when the Saviour's perfect Humanity is brought before us, His Deity is also mentioned not far off. Again, we are told that Bethlehem would be the place of the Saviour's birth; and there it is added, "whose goings forth have been of old from everlasting," words which can only apply-to Deity. Prophets had long before declared, that He would grow up before Jehovah as a tender plant, be a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, be despised and rejected of men who were so blind that they saw no beauty in Him that they might desire Him, so that in astonishment the prophet could add, "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" Not only His spotless and unblemished life, in suffering, temptation, and sorrow occupied the prophetic page, but the cross in all its unutterable woe was again and again set forth. If one spake of Him as wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, and that it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him, and to put Him to grief as having our iniquities laid upon Him, another was able to foretell the details of those sorrows some hundreds of years before they occurred, and that His cry at that moment under desertion would be, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" The actual death of the cross had been predicted as having His hands and His feet "pierced." The derision and mockery, and cruel scourging of men, and His heel under the bruising of Satan, were not forgotten. His betrayal for thirty pieces of silver, the scattering of the sheep when the Shepherd was smitten, the rejection of the "Stone" which was to be the Head of the corner were not omitted by the prophetic pen. That the soldiers should part His garments among them, and for His coat cast lots, that He should occupy in death a rich man's grave, that He would be numbered with the transgressors, bear the sins of many, pray for the wicked murderers, and His soul be made an offering for sin, that a bone of Him should not be broken, but that they should look upon Him whom they "pierced," we have only to look into the New Testament to find every jot and tittle of it literally fulfilled. That He died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures, was what Paul declared in the gospel that he preached (1 Cor. 15:3, 4); and Peter also owning Him as "Lord of all," and coming to judge the living and the dead, delighted to add, "to him give all the prophets witness that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." (Acts 10:43.) If in almost the beginning of the sacred Volume the blood of the firstling of the flock was shed, as the only way of sinful man approaching God, at nearly the end we find it is blessedly recorded, "Unto him that loveth us, and hath washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen." Is it possible, we may well ask, that anything can more clearly demonstrate the unity of the Bible than the discovery, that the one grand absorbing and paramount subject throughout, is Jesus the Son of God, who is Lord of all, and the Saviour of sinners that believe?
We must not however forget, that with all the similarities there are very striking contrasts. No two systems could be more distinct and separate than Judaism and Christianity, or law and grace. As to the former, the law said, Do and live; the gospel says, Believe and live; the law said, Thou shalt love God and your neighbour, or be cursed; the gospel says, "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life." With regard to Judaism, the three things which characterised it were, (1), a place of worship on earth; (2), an earthly order of priesthood between God and the people; (3), all the people at a distance from God — outside the veil; but Christianity, in virtue of the accomplished work of Jesus, is characterised in scripture, (1), by access to God with confidence inside the rent veil; (2), worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth; and (3), a heavenly order of priesthood — Christ the High Priest and all believers priests. Any other order of priesthood is subversive of Christianity, and why? Because the believer's standing is always in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit has come down to indwell and abide with us for ever.
Another thing that marks the unity of the Bible is the remarkable way in which its various parts are adapted and interwoven with each other, so that not one of the smallest books of it could be taken from us without serious loss. Perhaps some one would be ready to say, "It would be no loss to miss the book of Esther, for neither God nor Lord is once named in it." Such, however, have little considered that the omissions of scripture often show their beauty and perfection. It is so in this and other cases. When many of God's people returned from the Babylonish captivity, there were some who, though they had the thoughts and feelings of His people, yet did not act in faith in returning to the land God had given them; such God never forsakes, though He does not openly show Himself to them. He always cares for His own, however weak and fallen they may be. This the book of Esther remarkably illustrates, and it is a point of all importance in the ways of God.
Others may say, Could we not part with the book of Proverbs or of Ecclesiastes without loss? Certainly not. In Proverbs 8 we have one of the finest descriptions given of Christ as "wisdom" found in scripture; and in other parts many of His actings and wise counsels, besides His kingly power and Sonship. And by losing Ecclesiastes we should be deprived not only of the experience of one who had had it in his power to try everything of earthly blessing to secure happiness, yet found it all to be vanity and vexation of spirit, and everything stamped with death; but we should lose the comfort given us of two things "under the sun" which are not vanity; one seemed "great" to him; this was the deliverance and salvation wrought out on Calvary, alluded to at the end of chapter 9; the other is the service of Christ — "Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shall find it after many days." (Ecc. 9:13-15; 11:1.) These things also show that the sacred writings are so adapted to each other, so fitted together and interwoven, that the more they are pondered the more the unity of the Bible becomes apparent. To lose any part of what we now possess would be like missing some links of a golden chain, and could not fail to produce a gap or defect.
Before closing this part of our subject, there is another character of unity seen amidst all the infinite variety of the Holy Scriptures. We sometimes find the prophets, though unknown to each other, and without any intercourse, going on from the points where others ended, though almost all the prophets went on to the reign of Messiah. Look, for instance, at Isaiah, though he saw terrible failure in Judah and Jerusalem, and even touched on the Jews' rejection of Christ coming in humiliation, yet he does not speak of their captivity; whereas Jeremiah, about a hundred years after, not only enters much into their being given into captivity, but declares it will be for seventy years. Daniel, after this, finds out from Jeremiah's books, that the captivity will be for seventy years, and goes on not only to give a prophetic sketch of the times of the Gentiles, but he also speaks of his own people in the famous prophecy of the seventy weeks. Hosea tells us of their present state and its continuance until the children of Israel return to seek Jehovah. (Chap. 3:4, 5.) The post-captivity prophets give us an appalling description of their moral condition, without hope, except in a few who fear Jehovah, till the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. The prophecy in Malachi of John's preceding the Lord coming in grace, and of Elijah preceding the Lord coming in power and glory, were both referred to by our Lord, thus connecting the Old and New Testaments, between which there is a period of more than four hundred years. Nearly a thousand references are made in the New Testament to the Old; and a multitude of prophetic scriptures in the Old have the records of their fulfilment in the New. It need scarcely be added, that the so-called Apocrypha is nowhere quoted in the New Testament, nor does it commend itself to a spiritual mind as inspired. It is doubtless correctly refused as such.
The same unity of purpose and links of connection are seen in the New Testament. If Matthew closes with showing Christ risen and on the earth, Mark goes on to tell us of His ascension, and sitting on the right hand of God. Luke tells us not only that they saw Him go up into heaven out of their sight, but the disciples were told to wait for power from on high — the coming of the Holy Spirit; while John's gospel goes on still further, for there Christ not only speaks of new relationships, His ascension, His breathing on His disciples the Holy Spirit — risen life — but hints at His coming again, saying, "If I will that he tarry till I come." In speaking to Thomas He refers to the Jewish remnant being blessed on seeing Him after we are gone; and the last chapter gives us a millennial scene.
So in the epistles. Peter looks at us as "pilgrims and strangers," going on to the inheritance "reserved in heaven" for us; but under divine keeping all along the path, with trials and difficulties by the way, Paul, however, usually begins with us as in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and bids us walk here on earth as those who are heavenly, with all our resources in the glorified Son of God, and keeps His blessed coming before us as our hope. John goes on from the rapture at our Lord's coming, sees us in heaven during the apocalyptic judgments of seals, trumpets, and vials; then, after the judgment of the great whore, the marriage supper, we come out of heaven with Christ in manifested glory to judge the quick and the dead, to establish His rightful place and kingdom on earth, and subdue all for God's glory. It is impossible, then, not to be struck with the element of unity amidst all the almost endless variety of the contents of the Bible, and to see that one mind, and that divine, even the Holy Spirit, must have indited it.