The Holy Scriptures are like no other writings. All other writings have had their origin in the mind of man, and with the conviction and expectation that the mind of the reader shall be able to grasp the meaning of that which is written. But this is not at all true of the Scriptures. It is not only not assumed by the writers of Holy Scripture that the mind of man will be able to seize the thoughts therein recorded, but its inability to do so is very distinctly affirmed (1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:17; Col. 1:9; Luke 24:45). The Holy Spirit, who inspired the writers, is the only One who can enable us to understand that which He has caused to be placed on record for our instruction in the mind of God.
Therefore a mere study of the Word, however necessary it be to study it, is not of itself sufficient to place us in possession of the thoughts of God. It is necessary that we should read it, pay attention to all that it brings before us, believe it even when we do not grasp its meaning, and meditate upon its precious utterances; but this should be done in prayerful dependence upon its gracious Author, and in distrust of our own natural reason, which is always infidel, and always infidel just because it is our reason, the reason of fallen flesh, which ever revolves in its own blind orbit, excluding every ray of light divine.
This should not discourage the student of the Bible, but rather the opposite, for I would point out the true and only way of gaining knowledge; also where, and how it is to be found. It must be found in the Word, for it is there, and nowhere else; and there should be the utmost confidence in it as a revelation from God. Attention must be given to its most minute details, for there is nothing unnecessary placed on record, not shall we therein find any vain repetitions crowding its pages.
Neither must we imagine that any question has arisen amongst His people, unforeseen by Him, since upon Him, who knows the end from the beginning, it is impossible for the enemy to deliver a surprise attack. Every assault of the wily foe; every twist given to its evident meaning by the stubborn sectarian, who would compel it to lend its support to his miserable counterfeit of the truth; every dogmatic display of isolated texts, wrenched away from their proper connection in order to turn the heart from the living Christ in heaven, all was foreseen by the Author of this wonderful Book, and ample provision made for its detection and exposure. It is a sharp sword for the human conscience, of which the devil himself has often felt the edge. It is a light that lays bare the secret chambers of the heart of man, and manifests its deceitful intentions, with all its bitter enmity against God; but at the same time it reveals the heart of God in all His fathomless love to the guilty. It guides the footsteps of the pilgrim through this wilderness where there is no way, and discloses before his heavenward gaze that celestial home, in which there is fullness of joy, and where pleasures for evermore reside. In its impromptu rhapsodies, melody made by the heavenly hierarchs and the myriads of redeemed are heard; and amid the rumbling of the thunders of its wrath can be detected the wailing of those who have passed beyond the borderland of hope and have entered into regions of despair. It gives us a glimpse into the eternity that is past, and also directs our forward glance to the rest of God, and to the day when all things are made new, bathed in the glory of redemption. The characteristics of the children of the devil it faithfully delineates, and describes minutely those of the children of God. The plottings and the drivellings of the human mind are therein recorded, as are also the counsels of eternal love.
The folly of the creature; the wisdom of the Creator; the way of falsehood, the way of truth; the way of righteousness, the way of sin; the way of life, the way of death; the way of man, the way of God; all is therein recorded for our enlightenment and eternal blessing; and happy is the man whose confidence is in its heavenly origin, and whose heart and mind are well stored with its precious truths.
Its blessings are health-imparting, exalting, and enriching, and its anathemas are blasting, bewildering, abasing, and impoverishing. Obedience to its precepts purifies the soul, and rebellion against its commandments hardens the heart, benumbs the conscience, and deadens the sensibilities. It criticises its critics, judges its judges, makes liars of its calumniators, and for ever justifies its friends. It will have the last word at the last day, and from its sentence there shall be no appeal. It is a wellspring of living water in this arid waste, and living bread in this famine-stricken land. It makes the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the dead to live. In the might of the Spirit it is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword; piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. God has magnified His Word above all His name; and as to the one who despises its testimony, good were it for that man had he never been born.
Therefore am I far from discouraging anyone who would seek to study the contents of this wonderful volume. God has given it to us in His marvellous grace, and He would have us approach it with fear and trembling—not because we are not free from its anathemas, for, through the grace of God and the blood of Jesus, every believer is justified from all things and set in new and eternal relationships with Him in Christ—but because of its holy and sacred character. There is no condemnation in its pages for the believer in Christ. His redemption by the blood of Jesus, his relationship to God, and his eternal security, occupy a large place in that sacred volume; but just because it is a revelation of God, it is to be approached with holy reverence, and not with the lightness with which one may take up any other book.