It is impossible to tell out in human language the full blessedness of having the holy scriptures. But what is most striking in it is the revelation it gives us of God, so that we now know Him not only as Creator, and One who is kind to the unthankful and the unholy in providing for His creatures, (for "his tender mercies are over all his works,") but we also know Him in the exceeding riches of His grace as a Saviour-God, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. Having received "the words of God," and the Spirit of God," we know that we are brought to God, and are "in the light as he is in the light." Precious grace! It is not merely that we have title to glory through the blood of the cross, but we are brought to God who is "light" and "love" in Christ, who is our Life, Righteousness, and Peace.
Before the death of Christ, God was not so revealed. Till Jesus the Son of God came, God was hid behind a veil, and little known except by His acts; then Christ revealed the Father, and made Himself known as the Son, and on leaving promised to send the Holy Spirit to abide with us for ever. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." The Son, the effulgence of His glory, has fully manifested God in flesh. We have the Father so perfectly represented in the Son, that He could say, "If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also . . . . he that hath seen me hath seen the Father;" and He declares that His rejectors were guilty, and had no cloak for their sin, because as He said, Ye have "both seen and hated both me and my Father." (John 1:18; 14:7, 9; 15:24.)
Though God had been so far made known in Old Testament times, that He visited Adam and Abraham, and dwelt among His redeemed earthly people; yet it was not till the Saviour's baptism that God, in the plurality of Persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — was made known. THE SPIRIT came down as a dove, and abode on the spotless One, and the voice from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," manifested also the personal glories of the FATHER and the SON. From that time the unfathomable blessedness of knowing God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — one God — abounds in holy scripture; and the believing knowledge of redemption, through grace, according to divine counsel and eternal purpose, has brought us into conscious relationship with God as our Father, with the Son as our eternal life, and the Spirit given to guide us into all the truth, to strengthen us with might in the inner man, and also as the Anointing, Seal, and Earnest of our inheritance.
It is because the scriptures give us God's revelation of Himself, and of His mind and will, and so constantly testify of Christ, that by the teaching and ministry of the Holy Spirit, they are the food of our souls. And here observe, it is not our own thoughts about scripture, or our reasonings about it, or opinions of it, or deductions from it, but what God says. "It is written," was the word so often uttered by our adorable Saviour and His apostles; and we may be assured that we can only "resist" Satan by being "stedfast in the faith." And what is this, but believingly holding and using scripture as the word of God? How else could we be steadfast in the faith?
Again, we see the untold blessedness of the scriptures in giving us divine intelligence as to ourselves, our state, our path, our circumstances, and everything around us, as to Jews, Gentiles, and church of God. They open up to us the past, present, and future; things heavenly and earthly, things temporal and eternal, the two Adams and all in connection with them as heads of races; and the curtain is so drawn now and then, that the Spirit-led soul can survey the coming glories and their felicity, and also solemnly contemplate the infernal regions of unending misery and punishment.
In the Old Testament, we have the sons of Israel, a people God called out to Himself; also the Gentiles, with promise that God's blessing should even reach out to them that in Christ, the Seed, all nations should be blessed. But the church, the body of Christ, was not revealed there. The prophets went from "the sufferings of Christ" to "the glories which should follow," and entirely passed over the marvellous work of forming and removing the church to her destined heavenly glory, before the Lord comes out in blessing to His ancient people, and judgment of the quick and the dead at His appearing and kingdom. Typical intimations and shadows there were now and then of Christ and the church as in Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rebecca, Joseph and Asenath, Moses and his wife; but the assembly as "the body of Christ" on earth, united to Christ the Head in heaven, and formed into one body by the gift of the Holy Spirit, was not revealed till Paul was called by divine grace. Ephesians 3 plainly shows this, and that the mystery of the church was "hid in God," "not made known," "kept secret since the world began." (See also Rom. 16:25, 26; for "scriptures of the prophets" read "prophetic scriptures.")
Believers are now, by the Holy Spirit, in union with Christ ascended; for "by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body." "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." All this most blessed workmanship of the Holy Spirit, His present ministry through gifts bestowed by Christ ascended, all the affection and care of Christ for His assembly, and the perfection of the Father's love to His children, loving them as He loved His Son, are richly and blessedly brought to us through the apostolic writings, and especially by those of Paul, who was emphatically a minister of the church or assembly. (Col. 1:23.) This, therefore, gives them a sacred charm to the believer, and through faith they necessarily produce a walk of separation and devotedness to the Lord.
The scriptures give us divine intelligence about everything necessary to completely furnish the believer unto every good work. Do I inquire what God's present ways on earth for blessing are? I learn from His word that He is calling out and forming a bride for His own Son, whose heart is set upon her as His own body, and who "nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church;" and that this will go on till we hear the "shout," and are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and so are "for ever with the Lord." Do we inquire as to the Jews? We still find the "outcasts" of Israel the ten tribes are cast out, no man knows where; and the two tribes are still "dispersed among the nations, fulfilling the scriptures of the prophets as to their state; and one now and then believing the gospel, and forming part of God's assembly. If a question be asked about the European nations, which once formed part of the Roman empire? According to the word of God by Daniel, we learn that all is going on to the development of the ten kingdoms before divine judgment falls upon them. Does any one inquire whether scripture tells us anything about Protestantism? Most surely; it is referred to in the epistle to the church at Sardis, and is described as having a name to live and being dead. Protesting against error may be with those who are quite devoid of faith in God's revealed truth concerning His Son, and therefore such have not life — "He that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John 5:12.) And it would be impossible that such a huge system as Popery, established on the earth for so many centuries, should be omitted in God's word written for our instruction; we find, therefore, much in scripture concerning it, and what is so striking, it stands in the end of this age in rival antagonism with infidelity; and it needs but little spiritual discernment to see how rapidly this ill-feeling and fear of each other is growing. Nevertheless, as before observed, the result must be that the infidel power will be too strong for the Papal power, and will spoil and destroy this unchaste woman. (Rev. 17:16, 17; 18:8.) The great whore may include all in Christendom who are untrue in affection to the Lord Himself. Thank God, not one child of His can be lost, and He knoweth them that trust in Him.
With regard to the church or assembly of God in the true sense, (which is doubtless the most blessed testimony that ever emanated from God, and the workmanship of the Holy Spirit), it must abide for ever, because each true believer is by one Spirit united to Christ in ascension as a member of His body, and is always an object of His care and blessing. On the other hand, the assembly looked at as God's corporate witness on the earth it has terribly fallen from the Pentecostal character of blessing and power in which He set it. Too often it is a witness of division, carnality, and strife, instead of keeping diligently the Spirit's unity in the uniting bond of peace, through holding the Head, subjection to the word, and owning the presence and power of the one Spirit for all true blessing and unity.
And so with our open Bible we can look around on every hand, and see things just as they are set forth there for our guidance and instruction. One thing is certain, that while God looks for individual faithfulness and separation to Himself, and will always honour few or many who are really gathered to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet He gives no hope of the re-construction and return of unity in general of His assembly on earth; but enjoins us individually to purge ourselves from vessels to dishonour, and be with those (if we can find them), who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:19-22.)
And further, not only are we told that "God . . . . hath in due times manifested his word through preaching," but it is also written, "Thou hast magnified thy word, above all thy name." (Titus 1:3; Ps. 138:2.) So that, because scripture is God's word, it assures us, without any question, of what is His mind and will concerning us. By it every one who has truly looked as a lost sinner to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Object of faith and trust, is assured that his sins are forgiven, and blotted out for ever. "To him [Christ] give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins;" and "their sins, and iniquities will I remember no more." (Acts 10:43; Heb. 10:17.)
Such know, also, on the authority of the scriptures, that they have eternal life given to them, and that they possess it. We never find an apostle saying, "I feel that I have this and that, and because I feel it I know I have it." Never; because feelings quickly change, and the word never directs us to look at our feelings for evidence, but at what God says. Now what does He say about the present gift of eternal life? He says, in John's first epistle, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life." He does not say here that you may feel it, but know it; know it on the authority of God's word, which we are told was written that we might know, with divine certainty, that we have eternal life. God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." Nothing can be more simple, more decided, more comforting, to such as trust God according to His own word. Nothing less is faith. Oh the untold blessedness of knowing, and being able truthfully to say, that God hath given to me eternal life, communicated it to me, and this life is in His Son — Christ my life, so that Christ liveth in me; and so real that it comes out in affections, thoughts, and feelings according to Him. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." (1 John 3:14.) How very comforting, and yet how solemn!
And more than this; for nothing short of having us in the new and eternal relationship of children could suit the Father's heart; and this, too, the scriptures clearly teach, not only for present comfort, but to bring out the duties and affections that necessarily flow from knowing such an endearing relationship. The scripture not only says, "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," but goes on to tell us that the Holy Spirit dwells in us because we are sons. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father;" and it is also clear that those who have the Spirit in them know that they are God's children; for "the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, [the new life or nature], that we are the children of God." (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:16.) Those then who know, or are personally assured, on the authority of God's word, that they are children of God, have received the Spirit, and can approach God as their Father. We have received "the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Duties and affections, as we have said, flow from known relationships; for how can any one manifest the love, interest, subjection, and devotion of a child, or walk as a child, unless he knows he is a child? O the unfathomable blessedness and treasure of the scriptures!
And yet more still. We learn also from the page of inspiration, that the believer is now set by God in a totally new standing, "in heavenly places in Christ Jesus;" so that he is recognised and addressed in the epistles as not in his sins, not in the flesh, not under law, not of the world, not now in Adam, but "in the Spirit," and "in Christ Jesus." Hence there is a new creation in Christ Jesus, and such are always before God in all the nearness and acceptance of "the Beloved.'' What a position of favour and blessing to be always thus before God in all the nearness and relationship of children? Known too on the unfailing authority of His word, with joy and peace in believing, and for such present blessing that we may rejoice in the Lord always, obey His word, and wait for His return from heaven. The question now for every true believer is not, Am I in Christ? or am I a child of God? for God has told such in His word, as we have seen, over and over again, that these questions are settled for ever; but the important question for us is, "Am I living in the enjoyment of communion with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ?" How can this be, if His word be not loved, received, and meditated on by us, as the treasury of His thoughts, affections, purposes, and ways? Jesus said, "If a man love me, he will keep my words . . . . he that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine but the Father's which sent me." (John 14:21-24.