2. The Bible as a Liberal Education

Let us boldly declare that the Bible is the true university. Necessarily, this does not mean that God has given us the details of those things which we can glean from nature by reverent and persistent search; but He has given us certain great principles as to all the various branches of knowledge which would enable us, with the light thus obtained, to enter into every field of research, with confidence that we could understand that which we would find.

Astronomy: We would thus approach astronomy in the light of those sublime words: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork."

Geology would be for us but an enlargement of the first verse of the book of Genesis: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"; and the successive days in which the earth,which had been reduced to a formless void, was prepared to be the abode of man as head over the beautiful creation, will be found also to suggest those vast geologic periods which were connected with the original formation of the world.

Physical Geography, as an outcome of this, would also set forth the wisdom and the power of God in arranging the continents and oceans, with man ever in view, so that his highest interests would be secured.

Chemistry, with its ever-increasing wonders of varying and yet related elements, its combinations, and the various properties of matter, would be seen to be but another handmaid to revealed truth.

Physics: The laws of physics, of weights and measures, of distance, time and space would all have, in the Scripture, a light thrown upon them which would transform them from dull mechanics into an amazing expression of the mind and thought of God; while light, heat and electricity bring us into closest touch with the groundwork of truth relating to the functions of matter.

Mineralogy opens up to us the wonderful truths of crystallography and the allied functions of the various materials forming the framework of the earth, with their properties and applications, all of which furnish multitudes of illustrations of how God has wrought by measure and according to the unvarying principles of His own laws.

Botany: All forms of plant-life would show us again the manifold works of God; and every herb "after its kind," and the trees unfolding fruit "after their kind," would again remind us that evolution, in the accepted sense of the word, is contradicted by the observed facts of nature.

Zoology: So, too, with animal life in its varied manifestations, from the minute infusoria to the vast mammals. Thus zoology, with its unit of cellular organism and its infinite variety of adaptation to special functions in genera and species, shows us the manifold wisdom of God. How beautiful it is thus to have every creature brought before us in somewhat the way in which it was done at Eden, and in the light of divine truth not only to classify the animals, but to learn many a spiritual lesson from their organism and classification. Here, too, "after its kind" is the Creator's law, which science vainly endeavors to break, in its eagerness to prove the evolution of species. It has ignominiously failed.

Anthropology: When we think of the fearful use which has been made of that unity of design already alluded to in the identity with special adaptation, which has in evolution, as wrongly applied in Darwinism, been made to serve the cause of infidelity, does it not show us that the Scriptures must ever lead, not follow, in all our researches? It is the absolute truth of revelation which must govern our conclusions from the observed facts of nature.

As is well known, the infidel scientist is not above resorting to untruth and misrepresentations as to the observed facts of nature, in order to further his own theories. How important, then, that the relation between man and the lower animals should be distinctly seen. In one sense the human body is that of an animal of the highest type, but distinctly similar to certain mammals in the lower orders. Comparative anatomy, with abundant illustrations, teaches the profound truth that even in the creation of lower orders of life God had man in mind. There was a prophecy in each order of something higher, leading up to the head of creation. The Christian at once catches the still higher thought that God ever had His beloved Son in mind as Head and Lord of the whole creation.

Psychology: Man, however, is not only body, but soul and spirit. Thus psychology — the science of personality and the attributes of knowledge, feeling, and will — can only get its full explanation in the word of God. Scripture is very rich on the subject of psychology.

Ethics: Man is a responsible, a moral being by virtue of his nature. It is this, as much as his mental endowments, which distinguishes him from the beasts. The science therefore which treats of his moral nature, of obligation and responsibility, of conscience, the sense of right and wrong, must ever occupy a leading place in any true scheme of education. No wonder, then, that this has occupied men of commanding intellect in all time.

But where are the great moral principles which govern human action most clearly and fully set forth? Where is the great question of responsibility — and to WHOM raised and answered? Where the blessed principle of true motive set forth, not in a cold ethical code, but in the holy law which sets man in the presence of a righteous God, finds him guilty and powerless to reform, forgives and saves him, and fills his heart with motives of love, gratitude, truth, the fear of God — as set forth in the gospel of the Son of God?

Here, in the Scriptures, we repeat, is the one infallible compendium of moral philosophy. The world's wisest have aimed at its ideals without reaching them, and pondered the wreck of humanity without providing a remedy.

Medical Sscience: Speaking of comparative and human anatomy, we naturally pass to what may be spoken of under the general head of medical science. This includes human anatomy and physiology — the structure and the functions of the human body.

Since the fall, disease, the universal leveler and the precursor of death, has necessarily opened up the entire and growing field of nosology and pathology. If the governing truth that the introduction of sin into the world has brought in disease in its various forms is seen, how suggestively do the different diseases remind us of the various forms in which sin is expressed in the human family. Doubtless the specific diseases which are mentioned in the New Testament miracles suggest that there is a special significance underlying all disease. Thus, too, the application of various remedies, as opened up in the department of therapeutics, will be found to have fresh light thrown upon it by the application of the gospel of Christ to the various forms of sin; and just as death, the consummation of all diseases, is a type of that spiritual death which is the consummation of all sin, so, too, the atoning death of our Lord and His resurrection will sum up, doubtless, in ever-increasing detail, the divine remedy for all the human woe that has come in through sin.

Surgery, too, will suggest the treatment of afflicted members of the body of Christ, or of afflicted parts in the spiritual organism, where cleansing and fresh granulation, together with emollient treatment, surely will have the precedence over the more heroic, though sometimes necessary, use of the knife, even unto the amputation of a hopelessly diseased member. The one feature of aseptic treatment opens up a whole line of spiritual truth which long ago would have pointed in that direction.

Hygienics: As we think of the numberless rules about the laws of health, with all sorts of prescriptions of exercise and diet, we can understand how a sober knowledge of the word of God, with its primary principle that "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine," would cast a flood of light upon a valuable and important part of medical practice. How wide-reaching, and simple too, is the direction that we present our "bodies a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God," our "reasonable service"; which, while it does not provide for bodily exercise which profiteth for a little, does secure that treatment of the body which will ensure its most efficient and harmonious activity. Godliness hath "promise of the life which now is and that which is to come."

Domestic Science: Nearly the entire life of women, and the most important part of that of men, is spent in the home. Home is the centre of the human race, we might say. "God setteth the solitary in families." Therefore we cannot ignore the apparently prosaic claims of comfort in the home, with the recognition too of what is fitting in that which we eat.

Cooking and dietetics have been elevated to the dignity of a science; and we may be sure that some provision will be found in the word of God to guide the Christian housekeeper. "Take no thought what ye shall eat or drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed," guards on the one side from that selfish absorption in material things which makes them the summum bonum of human life. "Whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God" will check both an intemperate indulgence in luxuries and a monkish abstemiousness "from meats which God hath created to be received with thankfulness of them which believe and know the truth."

With Israel, God gave the most elaborate directions as to the character of their food, and, to a certain extent, the manner of its preparation. While we are no longer under the Levitical law, and while evidently many of the directions were entirely of a symbolic character, we can learn much, no doubt, from these ordinances. Certainly the great truth that nothing is too small for God to consider is a sweet and holy thought. Thus our thanksgiving at the table is an act of worship in connection with our food, and the busy housewife need not feel that she has left the sanctuary during the time that she has been occupied with the preparation of the meal.

The same general principle applies to the whole question of the house, its furnishing, and the dress of the person. We rejoice in our Christian liberty and the freedom from that uniformity which characterizes a religion of the flesh. Perhaps there is a danger of going to the other extreme of conformity to the world in matters of display and luxury. We may be sure that the spirit at least of the New Testament will check that extreme subservience to the fashions of this world which marks those who belong to it. On the other hand, mere peculiarity of dress or personal habits is not the mark of spirituality. Untidiness in person, dress, or surroundings, is really the mark of sloth and the New Testament as well as the Old calls this by the name of "sin." A Christian, while not obtrusively fashionable, will also be not obtrusively shabby.

The Care of Children: The prominent place given in the word of God to the responsibility of parents as to their children shows the vast importance of this momentous subject. Nothing that truly concerns the welfare of the young will be found to have been, in principle, ignored in God's truth. Their being brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, taught to abhor evil and to love truth, to be obedient and respectful, to fear God, and, above all, to learn the elements of that precious gospel by which alone they can be saved, are so manifestly necessary that the mere mention of them will suffice for the present.

Minor details as to association and early habits also have a most important place, and Christian parents will find ample instruction in the Scriptures to guide aright in bringing up their little ones. How good to see, too, that divine interest in all that concerns our little ones, as expressed by our Lord Jesus, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven," and the sure promise of reward in that word, "Take this child and bring it up for me, and I will give thee thy wages."

Surely we shall find certain governing principles in God's word which will enable us more intelligently to enter into the various details of what we have glanced at here.

Elementary Branches of Education: The transition from the home to the elementary school is one of momentous importance, both morally and intellectually. It reminds us of that time when the mother of Moses could no longer keep her child in concealment, but had to put it out by the brink of that dreadful river, which was the doom to which the cruelty of Pharaoh had sentenced it. Faith, however, shines brightly in her case. She puts the child by the river, but in the ark. We need hardly say that this ark is Christ, and that, as our children leave the shelter and privacy of home, to be thrown with other children, the mass of whom have been brought up in utter carelessness of God, and too often in a low moral atmosphere, leading to vice, our only resource is to commit them to the sovereign love, grace, and power, of our Lord Jesus.

School is not merely a place for the training of the mind, and furnishing it with useful knowledge, but it should also be a place where the moral faculties will be developed. As the schools are largely of the world, much that they lack in moral training has to be supplied by the Christian parent, as indeed spiritual instinct and affection would dictate.

We come, however, to speak more particularly now of that intellectual furnishing, and the beginning of the education of the child. It is sad that too often the minds of children are filled with trifling fairy tales, and other foolish things, instead of that which is simple, and useful, and instructive. Of course the little one must first learn to read, and its lessons may be from carefully selected portions of Scripture. The Gospel of John furnishes a most excellent reading-book for beginners.

The writing, too, could be taught in the same way, and thus mind and heart be furnished with the priceless word of God at the same time that hand and eye are being trained.

So also objects of nature in the plant and animal life can be made familiar to the child, and many a useful lesson in the fundamentals of natural science may be taught. In all this the word of God may be found to furnish not only that which is interesting and suggestive, but certain great and governing principles which are to form the groundwork of the whole future education.

It is just here that great firmness and courage must be had. As we look about us today we see education and infidelity hand in hand. Indeed, the one, in the minds of many persons, is a synonym for the other. Alas, as we think of our colleges and universities, the young men in them being taught principles which will lead them further and further from God, it should make us doubly careful that the foundations of all learning should be rightly laid.

How good it is when little children, with their first reading-lessons, are taught of God as the Creator, of the Lord Jesus as the One who brought all things into being and preserves them by His power, without whom not a hair of the head can perish nor a sparrow fall to the ground! Let this lesson be pressed in upon the heart of the child: that Nature, as we call it, is but another name for God's creation, presided over and cared for by Him. We have here anticipated the assault of infidelity in its most cunning form, and the child has received those impressions which cannot be dislodged from its mind by the later teachings, with their extravagances of undigested scientific research.

Languages and Mathematics: Little babes have no language, and could be taught one, perhaps, as readily as another, if their surroundings required it. This, at least, is suggestive that early youth is the time to learn various languages. The mind is most sensitive then to impressions of sound, and can more readily acquire a tongue than at any other period. Each language learned is a window, we might say, to the mind, and imparts a breadth of thought which perhaps no other study could.

Beginning early in life, there is little doubt that children could acquire a fresh language every few years, so that they could use several ancient and modern tongues by the time they were ready to leave school. The Bible here also offers many suggestions. Itself written in practically two languages, it would suggest that, to know it fully, we should be acquainted with Hebrew and Greek, while the many versions in modern tongues would each contribute to a clearer apprehension of its contents in those who knew those languages.

Mathematics presupposes a certain maturity of judgment, the result both of the observation which comes with years, and of the training of the faculties by its use; it would therefore naturally occupy the place after languages. While the elements of numbers would be learned in early childhood, and the lessons gradually increased until the primary laws of mathematics were learned, it would be left to the somewhat mature judgment of the child to take up the more advanced branches.

Here, again, the word of God would furnish much of striking interest and truth. To learn the symbolism of numbers, and the way in which they are used in Scripture, will be a useful guide in the study of mathematics. That God is true; that He has wrought by weight and measure in the whole vast creation; that every problem of mathematics, whether elementary or advanced, in chemistry, physics, and astronomy, is a declaration that God is true, that there is no variableness nor shadow of turning in Him — will press home a deep moral lesson upon the student.

To learn that two and two make four in the most distant heavenly body as well as upon earth will declare the unity of the universe and the impossibility of escaping from God. The precious truth, too, of atonement will be found perfectly consistent with the great principles of mathematics; and a divinely accurate substitution in the great equation expressed in that problem, "How shall a man be just with God?" is answered only in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The laws of progression and of differentiation, of proportion in light and heat, all suggest and illustrate profound and fundamental principles of divine truth.

Coming now to the more general branches of education, we find the same principle that revealed truth sheds a light upon and imparts a directness to all that can be learned.

Geography: This can be made most attractive and interesting even to children if, instead of compelling them to learn long lists of names and places which can have no meaning to them, the world can be gradually unfolded to them. Thus it will lie spread open before their mental view has Canaan did to Moses' eye), with its various continents, countries, mountains, oceans and rivers, its races and nations. This will all recall the great truth of the unity of the human family, its subdivision into kindreds and tribes, with different languages and customs. God "hath made of one blood all nations of men, to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him and find Him."

Ethnology: The more advanced student can apply the principles just enunciated in the quotation from the book of Acts to the whole subject of ethnology — the origin and character of the races, their connection one with the other, with all that is peculiar to each, of custom, religion, and history.

Ethnology, in its various departments, can only find its explanation in the narrative of the families descended from Noah. While comparative philology is fully anticipated in the account of Babel and the confusion of tongues, these will serve to suggest to us the vast amount of true science, which can be learned only in subjection to the word of God.

Archeology: Modern researches and discoveries in the Orient have brought to light many interesting chapters of ancient history. The tombs and temples of ancient Egypt show us a civilization which would not unfavorably compare with that in which the world is now boasting. The ruins in ancient Babylonia are yielding up their treasures of a literature wonderfully complete and exact. Unbelief has sought to use a partial knowledge of an imperfect archeology against divine revelation; but every fresh discovery only tends to confirm that which has already been revealed to us in the word of God. Christianity has nothing to fear from archeology. The light of divine revelation is needed to throw its quiet and holy beams across the mass of ancient chronology and history.

History: In the history of the human race archeology, instead of being a tower for the enemy of truth, would be found to yield abundant and confirmatory evidence of what is recorded in Scripture. The history of the nations we find to have been outlined in the early chapters of Genesis; and the present grouping and relations of the various nations of the earth would be found to have been anticipated in the same wondrous book.

The history of Israel, first of all, supplies the great framework for the history of the world. The place of each nation and each country is found in connection with the chosen people of God: "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel" (Deut. 32:8). The reason for this is seen when we realize that the Son of David, the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ, will one day reign "from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth." It is in Christ that all things are to be headed up, and all earthly history must have a relation to Him.

However, Japheth and Ham have been scattered, and to a great extent have lost their relation with the current of God's purposes for the earth. The history of each of these races — largely the record of a downward progress — will therefore be in good measure separate from Bible history. However, the great fundamental principles of righteousness in a nation, of retribution or reward, will be found to apply in every such history. Moreover, for Europe we have the added presence and influence of Christian truth, which, of course, has somewhat modified and controlled the policies of the various nations.

The unity of God's purpose, the "one far-off, divine event to which the whole creation moves," which centres in Christ and radiates out from Him in blessing to the remotest kindreds and tribes, will furnish a key that will reduce the kaleidoscope of universal history to a harmonious and glorious picture, the outlines of which are seen in the visions of Daniel, with the successive world-powers of gold, silver, brass, and iron, all displaced at last by the mighty Stone which fills the whole earth.

History, calm, concise, true, impartial, and philosophic, is set forth in the Old Testament. Written by the prophets who loved their own nation, it shows the seeds of weakness and disintegration from the very outset, and traces their development, with many a merciful hindrance, providential and direct, and with many an appeal to the conscience of the people, had there been but ears to hear. The history of the rise and fall of the Jewish empire is a better philosophic treatise than the great work of Gibbon.

Political science will also have its place, and we shall find that the wisdom by which princes rule is found alone in the word of God. The origin of government under Noah is traced in Scripture to those great world-powers to which we have just alluded. Various forms of government are described and characterized in the Scriptures. The patriarchal — an adaptation and enlargement of family government — naturally led up to the larger monarchical; while the present democratic and socialistic forms of government have at least that element of the recognition of the rights of the people which we find expressed as far back as Solomon's day. No doubt a careful study of the great principles of rule which are found throughout the entire Old Testament would cast a flood of light upon the whole question of government.

While farthest removed from atheistic pessimism, the dispassionate study of political science in the light of the word of God will compel that conclusion which Scripture has clearly revealed, that the human race, as at present constituted, is lacking in that moral stability which alone ensures permanence. The thoughtful student, both of history and political science, is compelled to own that regeneration, both individual and national, alone can bring in a true Millennium, in which the righteous Ruler over men, who rules in the fear of God, will be none other than the Son of David and Son of God.

Literature: Where shall we find a literature like that of the Bible? Indeed, all that is best in literature, medieval and modern, has been derived directly, or indirectly, from the Scriptures; while a comparison of the masterpieces of ancient Greece and Rome will show how (the light of revelation being wanting) even genius itself has been left to grope amid the follies of a heathen mythology or the vain and foolish theories of a philosophy which has no settled foundation.

Biography: There is no biography so concise, so pathetic, so intensely human, and of such consuming interest, as the narratives which we find in the book of Genesis and other portions of the Old Testament; while the one great biography of the four Gospels stands alone in its solitary grandeur, even as it sets forth Him who is like none other.

Poetry: What poetry can compare, either in scope or sentiment, with that of the Bible? The great epic of Job, with its wondrous but consistent theme, its magnificent imagery, and its satisfying conclusion, is unspeakably more elevating than that which tells of Achilles' wrath or the wanderings of Ulysses and Aeneas.

Milton's great epics are largely but adaptations of Scripture, and owe their sublimity to the faithfulness with which he has adhered to the inspired page. What elegies can be compared with the pathos of David's lament over Jonathan and his bitter enemy Saul? What odes can rival the majesty of the nineteenth and one hundred and fourth psalms? But we must leave this delightful and attractive theme for later consideration.

Art, too, and all that appeals to the esthetic senses will be found abundantly provided for in the Scriptures. The lilies of the field, and the "still life" of five little sparrows being exchanged for two farthings, all appeal to the artistic sense; while the typology and symbolism of the Mosaic ritual are gorgeous in their display. Indeed, there is a symbolism underlying all nature which turns the whole world about us into a vast gallery of art of no meretricious kind, which does not appeal to the passions or give a false and gaudy glow to evil, but which, in the clear, quiet light of divine truth, sheds a beautiful lustre, with the golden-sunset promise of a brighter to-morrow over all the fairest scenes of nature.

Music: Divine truth also gives a sweeter, deeper meaning to music than it could possibly have otherwise. From the time that "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy," on to the new millennial song when "the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands," music has been the highest expression of the feelings of the heart of man. The fall stopped its note of exultation; and, alas, the sons of Jubal have prostituted music into a servant of the passions, to pander to fallen man. But even here the sweet note of divine grace, in a quiet undertone, has been gaining distinctness, fulness and liberty; until now, under the dispensation of the Holy Ghost, it is the dominant theme which controls the whole harmony which will one day burst out in a new and eternal song, with no discord to mar it.

Music is as much an expression of the great fundamental laws underlying its department of sound, as art appeals to the eye, or as chemistry and physics deal with the laws in their department. There must, then, be deep and rich instruction in its very principles and expression, which will open up new lines, at least of illustration.

Here, as in all else, faith lays its hand upon all that is connected with the creation of God and claims it to a higher use than mere secularity. How all this suggests "the new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness," where all the display of the wisdom and power of God in that new creation will be enjoyed in communion with Him! Even now it is our privilege, in a higher way than our parents in Eden, to realize that the garden is the planting of the Lord, in which He would display all that He has given us richly to enjoy. Our outward possessions may be few and poor, but who can dim "that inner eye which no calamity can darken," the eye of faith which sees God in everything and with the Psalmist declares: "All Thy works shall praise Thee and Thy saints shall bless Thee."

Why do we thus speak of all true education and culture being dependent upon the Scriptures? It is because all knowledge apart from God leads into the darkness. We see this in the science of the day. How infinitely pathetic and solemn it is to think of learned men spreading out before us a vast area of facts as to the heavens above and the earth beneath our feet, and being absolutely ignorant and blind to the fact which the babe in Christ exults in — that all has been created by Christ and for Him! "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" and "the knowledge of the Holy is understanding." If the glory of God is not seen in the heavens, all that science can tell us about heavenly distances, sizes, laws, and all else, is comparatively worthless; and so, too, with every other department of human knowledge.

The world today is going rapidly on to destruction, because it has turned its back upon God. We cannot arrest it in its course. We know that something even more than the knowledge which we have intimated in the most of what we have said is needed. Nothing short of the gospel of Christ, repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus, will avail to rescue men from that destruction which began when the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was first taken in disobedience to God, until the present time, when the fruit of that same tree is being greedily devoured.

In view of what has been said, we need make no apology for the present effort to seek to interest the people of God in a methodical, thorough, patient and progressive study of Scripture, in its main themes and corollaries connected with them, in which they will find an antidote to mo dern error and a furnishing of both mind and heart which will garrison them from the specious assaults of unbelief. It is particularly necessary in this day, that the people of God should be supplied with what most of the educational institutions are giving in a wrong way — a knowledge of the relation between God's two great volumes, His written word and His created word. It will be found that both alike point unmistakably to Him who is called preeminently "The Word," who was in the beginning with God, by whom and for whom all things were created.