Truth — Its Nature and History

1916 139 What is truth? Earnestly the question is often asked, and on many occasions suggests itself. Once it was put to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. "What is truth?" asked Pilate, the Roman Governor (John 18:38), when that subject was suddenly thrust upon his attention. In the same manner it is being asked still, "What is truth?" Many in perplexity have inquired and still inquire. But the occasion referred to in this chapter was, whether as regards time or place, or persons involved, absolutely unique. Let us glance at it as a preliminary to our subject.

On the eve of His crucifixion, before the judgment-seat of Pilate, the Lord Jesus Christ had this question addressed to Him by His judge. "What is truth?" Exactly what was in the mind of the Roman Governor when he asked the question on that momentous occasion we may not know, but his actions help us to determine what was his attitude towards the subject of conversation. He broke off so abruptly at this point. If sincerely anxiously to know the truth, an answer would have been vouchsafed from Him who "for this cause came into the world that He might bear witness to the truth." And had it been any other spirit than one of indifference or scepticism which prompted the question, such answer would surely have been waited for. Now attitude towards the truth and towards Christ are virtually the same. The Lord, in the previous verse, had declared, "Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice," and by turning his back on the Lord when he said this, Pilate manifested where he was. "Of the truth" he was not, for Jesus' voice, the voice of its greatest Witness and fullest Exponent, he did not hear. There are those who, born of water and of Spirit, begotten of God by the word of truth, can be spoken of as "of the truth." Such, being thereby of the flock of the Good Shepherd, hear and recognise His voice. But Pilate, unhappily, was not one of their number. That spirit of subjection to its claims which marked these, was far removed from his haughty bearing here. The most charitable, if not the only possible construction we can put upon his words is to see in them that mingling of scepticism with indifference which formed the common attitude of cultivated men among the Romans of that period towards everything but worldly and material considerations. Little heart had they for the truth! What was it to them! It had no utilitarian purpose or value in their eyes, and was accordingly held in but little esteem. With this Pilate's actions harmonise throughout, and manifest the solemn position he has taken. Of these, and regarding that, Pilate himself must yet give account. He has long since gone from the scene where men can receive the truth in the love of it. Well would it have been with Pilate had his enquiry been sincere, and his question a genuine one. His destiny, however, is now determined, and whatever he may know now, or, too late have had his eyes opened to when he passed to that other sphere, such intelligence cannot affect his place and fate eternally.

But his case is not a solitary one, for truth concerns all, and although many, like him, have asked the question in a spirit of anything but honest inquiry, yet some there are, thank God, who have been awakened to a sense of its value, and have earnestly sought it for its own, or rather for its Author's sake. "What is truth?" then, we would consider, and also man's attitude to it (a very important matter as even Pilate's case has shown). How he has treated it from the beginning hitherto, may profitably form part of our inquiry.

Truth, in the abstract, has, in all ages, been the professed obj ect of man's diligent search. From the beginning it has been so, and seems to be inseparable from him as constituted and created of God. In the realm of created things intelligence is, above all else, his crown of distinction. It is his to reflect, to reason, to know. Naturally inquisitive, his active mind refuses to be bound down to the passive contemplation of things in his own immediate environment; but must needs pry into everything, investigating into cause and effect, ascertaining the properties and powers, and endeavouring to discover the origin and destiny of all that comes within his cognisance. The acquirement of knowledge has been his steady ambition, and with whatever ulterior motives that object in many cases may have been sought, we may still trace it, back of all, to a spirit of inquiry with which man seems to be constitutionally endowed.

The real reason why man "gives his heart to search and find out concerning all things" is because of that in him which in our first parents was appealed to by the temptation — "a tree to be desired to make one wise." A fatal aspiration that, truly! but at the same time indicative surely of that active and receptive mind with which their Creator had equipped them. The fact is, that nothing so clearly distinguishes man from all else that lives and moves in nature as these peculiar and unique properties he possesses, of weighing and reflecting upon things not materially presented. The presence of that in his organisation to which these powers are ascribed, the mind, marks him off at once in a clear and unmistakable way from every other creature on earth. Between him to the nearest approach in the scale of organised life, there exists, in this particular, not a link of connection, but a wide gulf of distinction. Capable of reasoning and judging, as they are not, and possessing an innate consciousness of things beyond the reach of their limited powers, he is thus clearly fitted for familiarity with a higher plane than they can aspire to. The temple of truth finds in man more than an honourable part of the furniture of its holy place, where, in the realm of nature, every whit of it uttereth His glory. No mere hewer of wood or drawer of water is he, but one fitted to stand in its courts a worshipper.

Unlike these lower orders of creation, man was created in God's image, after His likeness; and for what purpose, reason and intelligence — elements of that highest and spiritual part of man's tripartite nature — were given, we to whom by His word and Spirit His mind has been revealed, can more than surmise. In this crowning piece of workmanship, morally and spiritually so far above all others, has not God prepared a creature capable in some measure of having communion with Himself? Who can now say what measure of truth God could have gone on to reveal to unfallen man? or to what extent intercourse between God and Adam in Eden might have been enjoyed? However that may be, in man we behold a creature equipped most wonderfully, both morally and intellectually, for the pursuit of knowledge, and the reception of truth.

But is it not just there that danger would come in? Would it be surprising if this his distinctive blessing were also his characteristic danger, that his high privilege entailed commensurate responsibility? Is not that the side most open to attack? where the incursions of an enemy would most likely be looked for? For, if capable of receiving truth, is he not also capable of imbibing error? If thirsting to be enlightened, is he not liable to be deceived? Now, an enemy there was. His character is thus described for us "He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44). The source of error himself, his whole interest lies, we may very well imagine, in its propagation. Hatred of God, and all that is of God, also animates him, who was "a murderer from the beginning." An opportunity of thwarting God, may we not think he imagined, presented itself in the case of man. To hate one in whom God delights is characteristic of him. To sow error in a field God had so carefully prepared for the reception of truth would be an occupation most congenial to him, and, at the same time, work at which, as the father of lying, he would be most apt. In man, then, he would discern an instrument in some sense made ready to his hand, and very early in their history, therefore, our first parents were assailed. Amidst other issues, were they not there confronted with an artful attempt to displace what truth they already possessed by implanting that which was calculated to effectually exclude it altogether?

Genesis 3 gives the inspired account of this. With this single issue for the time being before us, as we consider the scene in the beginning of that chapter, it becomes increasingly apparent that everything turns upon the question of how God's truth is treated. Subtle as he was, the devil quickly perceived the only vulnerable point in the prohibition of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Exactly in what sense vulnerable, and why left so, are questions which, if to be answered at all, must find their solution along the line of such considerations as what kind of a creature man, as he came from the hand of God, really was; what his state of innocence really signified as to moral intelligence and responsibility. The old problem, in fact, confronts us of man made upright, yet in such sense that only after his fall is he become as God to know good and evil. One thing, at least, we know as to our first parents in their original state of innocence, and recognise in it a kind of hedge that God had put round their moral immaturity, if such, indeed, it be. Concerning the (to us) mysterious tree of knowledge of good and evil, God had spoken and had declared the inevitable consequence of partaking of it, so that man was already furnished with the truth of God about the matter. To controvert the truth, and to gain an entrance into man's mind for error, was the task before the enemy, and with consumate art he set about the achievement of his design.

The extraordinary subtlety, with which the serpent is credited in verse 1, is exemplified by the very manner of his approach. To the woman his words are addressed. The weaker vessel was chosen as the object of attack. It cannot but be remarked too how cautious are his steps, how warily his part of the conversation is conducted. it opens mildly. To insinuate a doubt is, assuredly a more effectual way of overthrowing convictions than to meet them with a fiat denial, for the mind is thus left, as it were, to draw its own conclusions. And an insinuation it is that appears in his words — "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" From the woman's reply it is evident that her mind had caught the drift of his language, and that her heart, alas! had entertained the implied question as to God's goodness. Confidence in God destroyed, or at least enfeebled, His word now assumes to her the character of an unpleasant prohibition, and surrender of it is thus made more easy. "Of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." The prohibition increases — "neither shall ye touch it"; the penalty is rendered less threatening — "lest ye die." A small circumstance it may seem, yet sufficient to show where she is, her attitude towards God's truth.

Judging things to be now ripe for it, Satan does not hesitate to boldly deny what he had already questioned; and his lie is accepted in exchange for the truth she has come to so lightly esteem. The words of Eve in reply to God's question, "What is this that thou hast done?" aptly describe the process by which the enemy's triumph was accomplished — "The serpent beguiled me." Her statement receives inspired corroboration from 2 Cor. 11:3 — "the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety." And that record also is true which declares that "being entirely deceived she was in transgression" (1 Tim. 2:14). How deep the fall! How serious the consequences to a creature endowed as man was! The height of the honour of his former position measures the depth of his degradation now. The very possibilities of enlightenment then enjoyed, such of them as were not lost in the catastrophe itself, become now so many probable inlets for further deception. Completely at the mercy of that wily antagonist we may not describe ourselves for truth still finds that in us to which it can appeal; but biased in the direction of error (we may say) man has seemed to be ever since. Measure the effects on man of the fall, even in this respect, we cannot fully; but considering whence we have fallen or to what descended, we do well to attend to that which wrought our undoing.

For a sample this is of that "working of Satan (2 Thess. 2:9) "which deceiveth the whole world"; so that, attending to the word of God, "we are not ignorant of his devices." For ends of the same kind he uses continually means of the same nature, and, manifold and various as are his schemes with men, in some way all resemble this their prototype. In later encounters the same tactics are pursued, as here on the occasion of its first entrance into the lists; and error does and will maintain the same warfare with similar weapons.

Many elements enter into this crisis of Genesis 3, for it is a fountain-head of history; but a point of great importance in it is the contrast between truth and error, and the origin of the latter through the surrender of the former. And it is well to be clear on this today. It is of importance to remark that truth was possessed before error was implanted, for exactly contrary to this is modern teaching. The theory as to the rise and dissemination of religious knowledge, which now in large measure holds the field, seems to conveniently forget that there has been a fall, or consequent departure from truth originally possessed. A gradual progress from primeval darkness, on through the twilight of superstition, into the broad daylight of modern enlightenment" and knowledge, may form the material of the self-complacent dreams of men; but is it supported either by scripture or by facts? Far from it. To maintain it is to incur the woe pronounced on them "which put darkness for light and light for darkness." The opposite is rather true, for God has never left Himself without witness, but has invariably given a testimony suited for the time and circumstances and in every case man's sin and the cause of his darkness has been, that he has turned back on that testimony!

Nor was it otherwise here. The truth was plain. A simple command was all that was given. Obedience, the only becoming attitude for a creature, was required. To question the wisdom of the prohibition, or the motive for it, was what Satan endeavoured to draw man into. To see man, in effect, constituting himself a judge of God's word, instead of a hearer and doer of it in the due spirit of subjection to its claims, is still his desire. And when he has raised this question, when he has tempted the soul to occupy the judgment-seat, the moral state of him who entertains it, of him who arrogates to himself such a position, is ripe for, and generally grasps at, his solution of the problem, his decision of the case. How much care, then, should be exercised as to what attitude we take up towards the truth of God!

With the fall of man, we enter upon a new era in the history of God's truth in the world. A mercy it is that it did not close there; that further light from God was not withheld, and man left to the darkness he had chosen. No objection could have been raised against such a mode of procedure: it would have been quite compatible with His righteous character for a Holy Creator so to act. In judgment He had already acted towards creatures of His, who had sinned and left their first estate (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6); and the gloom and darkness to which they are consigned might have been, in the spiritual sphere, the immediate result for men also, as it will be eventually and literally their portion who continue in unbelief. In a path of unrelieved darkness, our race might have been left to run its course; to fill up the measure of their iniquity, unvisited by a single ray of hope or light; and still have been only thus reaping what they sowed. But grace was in God's heart for men, and truth from on high still visited them. If man is to be distinguished from all the ranks' in nature below him, he is also from those above him. Different from those he is, as we have seen, because of that which is in him; from these, may we not say, because of what God has for him. His estate differs from all inferiors because of what he is; his treatment from that of created intelligences above him because of what he is to be through Christ Jesus. God's purposes of grace have chosen a human, not an angelic, platform for their expression. His love is to be manifested "not to angels but men." Thus, rather than the judgment which a somewhat similar offence had in that case incurred, mercy is shown to man. Light from God was still vouchsafed.

In what measure, can we exactly say? Adam's naming his wife Eve, the mother of all living, is surely an utterance of faith. Abel's offering, as we learn from Heb. 11:4, was an action of faith. On what revelation were these based? In the doom pronounced upon the serpent, we can read the forecast of a wondrous deliverance, and the darkness of judgment is relieved by that light of mercy, a veritable silver lining to a dark cloud, if ever there was one. God's action in clothing the guilty pair with skins of animals, implying death, has also significance for us. Whether for them also, or whether these constituted the whole truth for them or not, there was, at any rate, sufficient material for faith to build upon right through those early days.

Truth, in fact, has always been present in the world, and always will be till the close. It might almost be described as one of the constituent elements of the moral atmosphere. Certainly, without it, faith or spiritual life would be, either of them, impossible. Viewed thus also, we can understand the persistency of Satan's endeavour to corrupt and poison that which is, in spiritual things, one of the chief necessaries of life to man. That is to say, where he cannot eliminate thoughts of spiritual things from the minds of men altogether, these seem to have been the tactics he pursued during this period, and with conspicuous success. The story of the fall, and abundant evidence of its occurrence, were there to awaken inquiry in the thoughtful. Then, that inquiring mind should be diverted into another channel, and to provide something which should thoroughly engross it, was, as we shall see, what then principally characterised Satan's plan for excluding the truth.

In attaining to the pitch of wickedness which filled the antediluvian earth with corruption and violence, men must themselves have acquiesced in this exclusion; or the recollection and memorials of that fall would have proved at least a check on the pace of their headlong course in iniquity. Doubtless so it was, and, forgetful of the past, they were no less unmindful of anything God might from time to time say to them through His witnesses. Breaking in upon their busy pre-occupation, in Enoch, the seventh from Adam, the voice of God is heard, in threatening tones of coming judgment, it is true, yet still, as this, a call of God to men who had, alas, no heart for His truth. Through Noah, a preacher of righteousness, the Spirit also strove with man during the preparation of the ark, while the long-suffering of God waited on men. It waited, alas, fruitlessly, for man's attitude was now one of entire 'indifference. He had got something now to divert his interest and engross his attention to the total exclusion of God and His truth. What a creature is man! "God made man upright; he hath sought out many inventions," and building up with these inventions a system, a world of his own, amidst a scene of unbounded wickedness, he finds his pleasure therein, and treats God's offers of mercy and warnings of judgment alike with indifference.

In this object of their pre-occupation itself, have we not again a fresh instance of the great enemy's activity? The scene into which Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, the devil was not absent from, we may be sure. There are traces of his agency here, for the way in which Cain, fugitive and vagabond in the earth as he was, so soon seems to find, along with his descendants, respite from accusing conscience and morbid despair, is remarkable. There must very early have been discovered a sufficiently engrossing subject to give relief from the double burden of conscious guilt and foreboding judgment. And this man did find in the world, the system he was then, under the adversary's guidance, so busy in founding and developing. The elements of that old civilisation, far away from us as it is, are not at all unlike the principles of the world system still. And who is the author of that? "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" not of the Father are they. Deceptive vanities, from the deceiver they come. His habitual work, deceiving men, is it not prominent here also? The sowing of error had apparently triumphed already in what led to man's fall. And now that God will not leave men in their darkness, but pursues them in grace with the light of His truth, Satan has their hearts so wrapped up in the system he has helped them to build here, away from God, that no voice of mercy can reach their hardened hearts, no sound of coming judgment awake them from their indifference. The truth of God was an unwelcome disturber of their peace; and unresponsive to it they remained. They were "disobedient" we read (1 Peter 3:20); they were indifferent, we conclude; and judgment overtook them. Is it an attitude unknown today? A fate not less terrible awaits those who obey not the gospel now.

With a new world a fresh start is made. Not in ignorance did Noah and his family step forth from the ark. No tabula rasa was his mind. Truth was one of the things that came with that ark through the deluge, part of the precious freight it bore onwards into the new world. Much had perished in the waters of judgment, all, in fact, in which man's pride could rest. The glories of his civilisation, the embellishments and luxuries of society, the comforts and delights of his cities, all that had accrued round life for him, the science and learning of that ancient era with discoveries and problems of its own, the arts and crafts of olden time, all he had developed and evolved, discovered and added to the sum of human knowledge and invention, in one wild moment of catastrophe had disappeared for ever, and stark and stripped and primitive again stands man, reduced to, and represented by one single, simple, pastoral family. But faith was there, and truth was there. The minds of the saved ones surely had it engraven upon them. With both the mercy and the judgment of God they had become intimately acquainted also, for, while the objects of the one, they were witnesses of the other. Nor was the invitation to enter the place of shelter the last communication God intended to make to man; for, sent forth by that same One in due time, one of Noah's first furnishings was a fresh disclosure of His mind. The sweet savour of his burnt-offering gave God satisfaction, and, charged with the significance of that greater sacrifice of which it was the type, it provided Him a new medium through which He could look down upon the new earth, and man upon it. Smelling that sweet savour of rest also, He could speak regarding both, and truth about each, both new and important, He vouchsafed. Not only at the beginning, then, but at various points, and especially at every crisis in man's history, has God spoken

Man's responsibility, then, in presence of the growing light, has been accumulating also. In this connection one of the most important passages of scripture to be kept in mind is Rom. 1. The subject of light from God, and how men have treated it is there most thoroughly gone into; so that when tracing this history of truth in the world which we are endeavouring to follow out, this chapter claims considerable attention. In proving man's guilt in the early chapters of Romans, the Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, makes and substantiates certain distinct charges against men, Jew and Gentile, respectively. One of the first of these charges is in Rom. 1:18 "who hold the truth in unrighteousness." Unquestionably this points particularly to the Jews, who, with a written revelation from God, and sinning against it, were liable to the charge of unrighteousness. But the truth was a matter the Gentiles also were concerned with, for their "ungodliness," against which the wrath of God is no less revealed, was simply an entire absence of the fear of God where there was sufficient testimony to render such a thing inexcusable. So that unfaithfulness to truth possessed can be charged against both classes. That is the real state of the case, and, beginning with Rom. 1, this we must now trace out.

1916_159 Of the Gentiles it first speaks, showing that that which was "knowable" of God from the testimony of created things, contained a voice for any listening ear, wherever or whenever found. "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse." Creation, open to the observation of all, is full of manifestation of God. Above and around man there are strewn in abundance evidences of a divine, hand at work, and the most darkened, one would say, would have real trouble to escape the conviction of a wisdom and power therein displayed nothing less than divine. Yet, widespread, continuous, and eloquent as is its testimony, men have not so read God's plain speech in it. And, remark, it is no mistaken reading of the evidence merely that we must lay to man's account, but the wholesale rejection of it. There was little room left, one would think, for mistake, had not the hearts of men been really desirous of some alternative signification. Yet just there it lies. Anyone or anything but Him they would willingly invest with the glory of such handiwork. They say unto God — "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." Yet, even in face of this want of desire after God, these silent witnesses remain, to be accusers, if nothing more; and the sum of their accusation here is that ungodly men are "without excuse." This witness of creation to the great Originator and Sustainer of all, infinite in His might and wisdom, is fact beyond challenge or dispute. Designed so to testify to man, legitimately therefore is it to be reckoned as one more instance of truth bestowed, of truth resisted.

But not only is it so with regard to that which is knowable of God, with creation's testimony. Positive knowledge of Him was at one time possessed by men, however far from such knowledge universally he is now. "When they knew God they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (Rom. 1:21). "When they knew God!" We come back here to Noah and to man's new start in the new scene after the flood. Truth, as we have said, truth about God they had. It was on the threshold of Noah's new world that this was true of men that, as a class, they knew God. It was an assurance man was abundantly furnished with, from this onwards — this objective knowledge of God. To conceive of Him objectively after such manifestation in mercy and judgment as in the flood had been witnessed could have occasioned no difficulty. Rather should He thereafter have been peculiarly present to the mind of man as existing and almighty. But how long did such knowledge remain? How long did it continue to be operative? Practical recognition of God, we learn, was early abandoned, and the knowledge and remembrance of Him gradually faded. Falling into folly through their reasonings, we read, men approved it an undesirable thing to retain God in their knowledge. Thereupon God gives them up to a reprobate mind. The One they have eliminated suffers Himself to be so excluded, as far as they are concerned. What that meant we shall soon see, when the space which has thus been vacated, has been repeopled; but, for the present, let this oft-forgotten fact be noted that, in the ancient inventory of man's possessions, the knowledge of the one true God was an item; and the occasion of, and reason for, his parting with this heirloom of the family, are also here revealed. "They did not like to retain God in their knowledge" is a solemn statement of their attitude towards the truth.

Nemesis is not far behind in the shape of error ready always to lay hold; for here it was that idolatry with all its horrors probably originated. Under profession of wisdom, men made rapid progress in their path of folly, until ultimately, become fools, they "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man," and, on the down grade ever, "to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things," solemn instance of man's foolish, yet proverbial, proneness to exchange the truth of God for falsehood. By this surrender of the truth the way was at once opened for a new and stupendous movement to begin.

Idolatry, it can safely be said, is one of the most widespread and powerful influences the devil has ever used with men. In every corner of the earth is it found, and in every age since the flood has it been prevalent. It retains its full power, in different phases, over multitudes of men even now upon the earth, and has a future before it, according to prophetic scripture, of which men little dream. From the silence of early scripture regarding it, from the account of its origin in this chapter of Romans, and from various considerations in regard to its character, there is reason to believe that idolatry did not exist previous to the flood. Error took a more suitable form during a period when men were wedded in spirit to the world they were organizing, and developing — with thoughts of divine interest in, or interference with, their affairs far from their minds. But that stroke of judgment put an end for ever to the idea that the only being of power man had to consider was himself; and the memory of that supernatural intervention would continue to haunt his mind after all real reverence for, or fear of, the true God had been surrendered.

That innate consciousness of a higher power, and sense of responsibility, which man never loses, combined with this recollection of judgment once executed so terribly, left, when God was dethroned there, a void in his soul, a niche unoccupied; and, seizing the opportunity, the devil supplied the want by that most successful of all his terrible projects for man's ruin — idolatry. Error developed into a system of such a nature, that, behind the mere empty image-worship which constitutes its external aspect, there are, in the background, spiritual powers of evil who, in some occult, mysterious way, associate themselves therewith. This may sound strange to many today, but nothing less is affirmed by scripture of this remarkable phase of the depths of Satan. Anything like an analysis of the various forms of error is not here attempted. Truth, not its opposite, is after all our subject. But regarding this matter of idolatry, it cannot be sufficiently emphasised that, as far as man is concerned, it is simply an inevitable stage in a self-chosen course. Sufficient is it to recall that the delusion, varied in form and measure, of which men today are the victims, traces its history and owes its origin ultimately to surrender of truth originally possessed.

Chosen by men, error has virtually been. For just as retiring from the presence of light means withdrawal into darkness, so the giving up of the knowledge of the true God, with which men are charged in Rom. 1, meant idolatry. A solemn thought it is that an attitude towards the truth is an attitude towards error as well. Any stand that is taken mutually affects each. Man can never be clear of both, so as to have nothing to do with either, nor is there a permanent halting-place between the two.

1916 171 As sure as he has a mind, so surely is it being dominated by one of these forces, and its reins are in the hand of one of these guides. Solemn also is it to consider the progress we make under either of them; former points of attainment recede rapidly behind us, as we are carried on with irresistible force. There is no standing still in the sense of thus far but no farther, when once we have surrendered to the current. Progress then is as inevitable as it is alarming. Thus, in the first case we considered, Satan successfully tempted man to doubt God's truth; the antediluvians he taught to disregard it; man since he has led to disown it.

From the mass of idolaters into which the race had degenerated, God in grace called one individual, Abraham, and opened communication with him. Like springing water, the truth refuses to be entirely enclosed in the incrusted earth — but will break out somewhere, and form a channel for itself. In the incident referred to, we have such an effusion, and if Gen. 3. is correctly described as a fountain head of history, no less might this important event, the call of Abraham, be so designated. It marks a new development in the ways of God with man. An important step it is — involving many issues, and a point from which diffuse many of those widely divergent lines, to which attention must be paid if the word of truth is to be rightly divided.

Leaving all others aside, we pursue the record of man's attitude towards the truth, as continued in the history of those who, according to the flesh, are the seed of Abraham. If, as we have said, it is the Jews distinctively who are referred to in Rom. 1. as those who "hold the truth in unrighteousness" there must be good reason to examine with care their particular case. In Rom. 3:20 we are told of such that they have "the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law." Unlike the Gentiles, the heathen world around them, they moved in a sphere where light from God was still shining. The scripture they possessed. One, and the chief, of the advantages they had was, that unto them had been committed "the oracles of God." These scriptures were composed of the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets; but, as it was of the law that they made their boast, so it is with this distinctively that we must, in their past history, associate them. A people "under the law" has been, from Sinai, the character of their relationship with God. Now this form, this delineation of knowledge and of the truth is of such a special character that consideration must be given to what led up to, and gave occasion for, such a revelation.

The origin of this most interesting and remarkable people we find in what has been already spoken of — the call of Abraham. Wrapped up in that event were issues of unimagined import. God had a purpose in view even then, which today remains unachieved, regarding the nation of which the son of Terah was the progenitor. The point for us at present, however, concerns one branch of that purpose in particular. Briefly it is, that God designed that this people should be the custodian, and at the same time, the witness, of His truth in a world of darkness and idolatry. To this end was the law given. Were we recounting circumstantially how Israel came to occupy the status of a people under the law, or considering the larger question of legal righteousness versus grace raised in that issue, it would be necessary to show that when Israel, ignorant of themselves, and therefore full of self-confidence, declared at Sinai, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do," they quite gratuitously relinquished the principle on which their. former relations with God were founded. The unconditional promises to the fathers lay at the foundation of their history as a separate community. And these, with the interventions of grace necessary for their accomplishment, were the terms on which everything heretofore had been based. But enrolling themselves now under a covenant of obedience as the condition of blessing they occupied a new platform entirely. A fresh revelation, the law, suited to that new position, is given. Thus, then, did they come to be possessed of the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. This was the truth of which they, in turn, were the recipients, and their attitude to which would determine so much.

Here, again, failure was not long in coming. Early indeed was their lapse from its solemn directions manifested. At the very time Moses was receiving from God that which He had to communicate to them, they were making and worshiping the golden calf as the god that had brought them out of Egypt. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" — so read their first commandment. The worship of this calf of gold was their answer to that — a remarkably shameful betrayal of their trust, surely! a deliberate and flagrant offence against what they had but newly pledged themselves to obey "The form of knowledge and of the truth in the law" met with no better response than truth had at any time encountered. Their whole after-history witnesses constant disobedience and departure from God. So plainly is this seen throughout their course, so persistent and stubborn in transgression are they from their worship of the golden calf in the wilderness right on to their rejection of their Messiah, that detailed instances do not require to be given. The less need there is for this, since Stephen, in his address before the council (Acts 3), makes good his accusation, that "ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye," by just such a group of details in their history of backsliding as sets it in the strongest light. One of these illustrative details, the worship of the golden calf, already alluded to, forms by itself a telling point in Stephen's indictment. "They made a calf in those days and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own. hands."

This has been called Israel's original sin. The term is not altogether inapt. It is one of those critical actions, suiting such a purpose as Stephen's, that stand out prominently in history as the point of a new departure, a projecting rock that gave direction to the tide. No wonder it has been termed "Israel's original sin." It has all the characteristic features implied in such a description. First of all, it is the first action of the people recorded after the solemn ratification of the covenant in Ex. 24, the first movement they made on the new platform in their new status, as a people "under the law." Then, that blow, aimed at the very throne of God itself, so to speak, was right in the face of the very first item of that law they had pledged themselves to obey — "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Again, original sin is besetting sin — the first deviation of the pendulum, ensuring the future oscillations. Israel's characteristic sin — what has it been throughout their history but a continual lapse into that very idolatry against which their calling and election were the standing witness? In many respects the similitude to Adam's transgression may be traced. In this, in particular, that in that first, that primary departure, their whole aftercourse of iniquity lay wrapped up.

To justify God's own estimate of their character on that occasion they did not fail, for "a stiff-necked people," they have been right on. Again and again was restoration given them until one would think they had forfeited all claim on the One towards whose truth they showed themselves so "stiff-necked in heart and ears." Since the day they came forth out of Egypt, God had sent unto them prophets "daily rising up early and sending them," reverberating without ceasing the truth they were so prone to "let slip" or "drift away from," but all in vain; for they would not hearken or obey. Of none but Israel could He say so truly, "All day long I have stretched out my hand unto a disobedient and  gainsaying people."

That is to say, in this last case, where there was everything, humanly speaking, to induce men to maintain the only proper attitude towards God's truth — everything, on the other hand, in the nature even of self-interest to warn them against disobedience of the One concerning whom it was their true glory to be the witnesses — His word has been continually and deliberately disobeyed. Not that this hindered them, in their fleshly pride and self-righteousness, from assuming a superior position to all others, because of the truth they possessed after a material fashion; for this their way was their folly, and a mark of their delusion by Satan is, that they "rested in the law and made their boast of God." Their possession of the truth and knowledge of the one true God, from the beginning of their history, cannot be denied, and a prize and privilege it was to be the custodians of both.

But responsibility, great and heavy, attaches likewise to the place of witness-bearing. Privilege and responsibility go together. True of individuals, translation to the corporate sphere is only raising the figure to a higher power, the gravity of that responsibility simply being increased by reason of the more extended nature of its incidence. By the people of Israel this should have been remembered, and to us, forming part of that which was made "the pillar and ground of the truth," it should, by the way, be a serious thought. The whole question of corporate standing and liability is a very deep and far-reaching one. That question never had fuller illustration than in the case of Israel. As a people they were blessed; as a people they were responsible. Jehovah's chosen people, in a world where every other national worship was of idols, they constituted His sole witness there. Provided with His law and truth also, they were His appointed trustees for the use and preservation of that holy deposit. Their failure, then, in both matters, was nothing short of disaster. Nor has that failure been occasional by any means, but continual — consistent, fatally consistent, with all the uniformity of a law of nature, have Israel shown themselves in their unfaithfulness to the great trust committed unto them. As Rom. 2:23-24 declares, "Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law, dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written."

Not merely towards that body of doctrine comprised in the "form of knowledge and of the truth in the law" itself has their antagonism been shown; but the dawn of the "better things" of the new covenant found them prepared for still stronger resistance. True to their character, their opposition rose in intensity, in proportion to the fulness of the truth presented. Its high-water mark was surely reached when He of whom their scriptures testified presented Himself, and met rejection, and lastly death at their hands. In this, no doubt, they did but prove themselves of that "generation of vipers" of which. Christ Himself spake (Matt. 23:33). To show venomous hatred of those sent to proclaim the truth seemed always to characterise those in that line of descent. Their fathers had done so. So would they, for "Behold I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes, and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, etc." Heredity, transmission of character, accumulating forces, reversion to type, are terms in frequent use in biological science, undoubtedly having some place in the affairs of 'men. Do they find no illustration, as to the matter in hand, from the Saviour's words to the Pharisees: "Ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up, then, the measure of your fathers. … That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth from the blood of righteous Abel. … Verily, I say unto you all these things shall come upon this generation."

Jerusalem, that killed the prophets, has heard the voice of One, the Prophet like unto Moses, who came, with grace on His lips, and love in His heart, proclaiming truth beyond anything they had yet conceived, and showing credentials such as no prophet had ever possessed. "The law and the prophets were until John, since that time the kingdom of God is preached." But these children in the market-place would respond to nothing, the new message of grace as little as the old of law. The truth He proclaimed they resolutely refused to hear; the power accompanying it they ascribed to Beelzebub; the Lord Himself they hurried to the cross, to silence, if possible, the voice that rebuked their persistent unbelief. The Truth Himself, Christ did not fail to witness of it, nor to testify how far they were from it; but such was their ruinous pride and folly that, rather than be shown their darkness, they will extinguish the Light itself. Awful effect of the blinding power of Satan over the minds of those who reject the truth As in instances we have already considered also, the blindness men have preferred, God has given them over to. "God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see" (Rom. 11:7-8). This blindness continues. Even over that part of revelation which can be called "their own scriptures," and with the letter of which they are not unfamiliar, the shadow is cast. "Until this day remaineth the same vail, untaken away, in the reading of the old testament."

Likewise of the truth now going out to the world, and during the whole course of this dispensation, it is true that "blindness in part hath happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." Light shall yet arise for them, but first there intervenes a still deeper darkness. The future crisis finds them, the faithful remnant excepted, universally surrendered to the delusions of Antichrist. Fittingly does Jerusalem's cup of retribution contain this ingredient in return for the haughty refusal of Him who became "minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers." Him they refused and the grace and truth He brought. The Antichrist they will receive, and the darkness and error he spreads and propagates. Such is their record, and such their future nationally, and as the immediate prospect, according to the word — the fact of their eventual restoration notwithstanding. The attitude of Israel towards the truth committed to them is the most extreme we have yet considered, amounting to wilful and stubborn disobedience; consequently they are overwhelmed in error beyond all others.

1916 187 If, in considering the effect of the truth upon men, the measure and relative importance of what is communicated are to be regarded as having any weight with them, the Christian revelation should have met with a very different reception from that which the word of God, in former times, has invariably experienced. If, in time past, the light was so meagre that (while it was man's own fault and part of his guilt, that the darkness comprehended it not) still, he can plead it was so disproportionate in both fulness and extent — that there was, in fact, so much darkness in which to hide and so little light to shut out — yet no occasion can be found for seeking to exonerate himself in that way now. Light there has been from the beginning, sufficient to render man without excuse. Light there is now, so glorious and full, that he who receives it not, far from having excuses wherewith to parry judgment, on the contrary is "judged already." And as showing where such an one is, "This is the judgment," declares John, "that light has come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." From one, too, whose special mission it was to unfold in its fulness the present truth, we learn that "if our gospel be hid, it is hid tO them that are lost. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." The reason that any darkness now remains is here disclosed. By man's own consent, the influence of the prince of darkness still exercises full sway over him; but as far as God is concerned, obscurity there is none, but fullest manifestation, and for all men. For "God our Saviour will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." A distinctive feature of the gospel this latter is, its universal scope, and a point that should be in its favour with men. In fact, we might say, every serious consideration is in its favour in the present age; for in its most interesting garb, and attractive colours, does truth now array itself.

Whether one considers the nature of the message itself, the illustrious character of the messenger, or the terrible fate before their open eyes of those who refuse to hear, surely, one would say, Men will treat it otherwise this time. A message of salvation the gospel is, and their need of it should be as manifest to men as their welcome of it should be cordial. Not without importance either, is it to consider by whom the word of this salvation was sent: "God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son" by the One who, amongst other glories, has this one of so much moment to us, that "by Himself He purged our sins." And "if therefore, the word spoken by angels was stedfast," and the results of disregarding it so fearful, "how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord?

How has it fared, then, with this, the last, the fullest, the most gracious utterance of God to men? Wisdom hath cried without, hath lifted up her voice in the streets, in the chief places of concourse. And hath she called again, and men refused? Stretched out her hand, and no man regarded? Have her counsels been set at naught by unresponsive fools who hate knowledge? Alas! indeed it is so. Good-ground hearers there have been, but how few! The wayside, the stony ground, the thorns, how large a space they occupy! Here and there a heart is touched, a soul is won but the majority, how hardened in sin! How shallow! How full of the world and its interests! Kept out, starved out, or crowded out, men seem to be determined the truth shall be. Surveying the field as a whole, only one verdict can be pronounced as to the fate of the good seed sown, and that a most unfavourable one. History has repeated itself once more. Repeated itself this time in such a manner as to present a duplicate of every former age, for the various attitudes men have taken up before are reproduced now in every possible phase. If, in the first instance which we considered, God's heart of love was wounded, through seeing His truth doubted by those whose benefit alone He desired, He has had fresh experience of that treatment. The indifference of the antediluvians has not been confined to their age, any more than their pre-occupation with the world which so attracted them, a charmer's voice by no means silenced yet. As in the case of those who came after them, the enemy can still find or make dupes of those who disown that which does not approve itself to their proud wisdom. And his adulterations, all of them instinct with the spirit, if not the letter, of idolatry, have still as many devotees. The disobedience, too, that accompanies self-righteousness and religious pride is prevalent among those who, "having a form of godliness, deny the power thereof."

In a new dispensation therefore, where the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ characterises all, the word of God still finds no better response. Against all its appeals, however gracious, man seems to be amply fortified. Nor in any way less intense appears his inveterate antagonism to the truth than formerly. And this comes out in more ways than one. Thus the apostasy of Israel, their faithlessness to the oracles of God committed unto them, has likewise (to take one more instance of history repeating itself) been reproduced in Christendom. So much so that the charge of "holding the truth in unrighteousness" preferred against the former in Romans 1 levels itself quite as fittingly at the conduct of the professing Christian church. Error, dark and deadly, far from being banished by all that has been brought to light by the gospel, has over and over again reared its head in the very bosom of the church. Not only so, but far and wide throughout Christian teaching and practice its insidious influence has spread, until not only the entire system of theology is affected, but practical life and godliness as well.

There is no need to search minutely the history of the church to ascertain this. It is all too apparent today. Scripture itself indeed has prepared us for a departure on the part of the professing mass from the truth, the Christian revelation, on a scale and in a fashion never heard of before. Even in the time of the apostles there were not wanting signs of defection from the faith. Many antichrists then present made it evident that it was, even then, "the last time." There was warning given also of what would happen in "latter times" when "some shall fall away from the faith." Further, that "in the last days perilous times shall come," when wholesale lapse into ungodliness and infidelity would characterise the Christian profession. The testimony is consistent and clear that man's unvarying antagonism to the truth had, under Christianity, by no means been disarmed; but rather in increased and embittered form has risen up, and is sweeping on to extreme apostasy. A most solemn consideration this, without a doubt! It is in the face of the full Christian revelation that this attitude is predicted as the one which shall be adopted. And thus, in magnitude and enormity, this, which according to Scripture distinguishes Christendom in its final stages, exceeds all others.

How then do we stand with regard to this today? At what stage are we arrived? Our own times — in what way are they affected s? Can any reflecting mind doubt that there are even now in progress influences and forces inevitably leading on to such apostasy. Take for one thing the theological unrest abroad, a marked characteristic of recent times. Uneasiness, hesitation, uncertainty, doubt, are the rule everywhere. What mean these appeals that have been heard from every side, from perplexed students and misled theologians alike, for re-adjustment of beliefs, for a restatement of Christian doctrine in terms suited to the modern standpoint? From whence does all this proceed? Certainly not from faith in the written word of God. Nay, faith in that, any real faith as to its divine inspiration and authority has, for such, already been insidiously undermined and destroyed. This precisely it is which characterises the prevailing position. What we are observing now is, properly speaking, neither open attack on the Scripture, nor wily perversion of it, but surrender of it, as in any real sense the divinely appointed standard of truth. Surrender of the truth that is the implicatiOn, the tendency, the inevitable outcome of what has for some years now been the course of things in the theological world.

Just for the moment, no doubt, the centre of interest has shifted slightly. The cataclysm of the present great war has given pause to many things, and men have actualities and not theories for the most part to face. In the way they face them, alas! there are not wanting traces of the baneful influence already exerted. The discarded anchorage and loosened moorings leave men to strangely drift about. There are many elements in the situation today not easy to place or explain. Features there are, however, which put it beyond a doubt that it is by surrender of truth possessed, truth as it has been given to us in inspired Scripture, that the enemy is effecting his customary end of sowing error and deceiving men. Now of these features none surely is so portentous as that new and important departure in the theological world which recent times have witnessed, the rise of Biblical Literary Science, otherwise known as "Higher" or "Historical Criticism." it may sound extreme to some to place in such a category at all a "science" which many are disposed to regard as both harmless and legitimate. The truth is, that when regard is had to what is being done through its agency in discrediting the word of God and disseminating infidelity, far from being innocuous, "Higher Criticism" is seen to be not only one of, but really the chief of, the many conspirators and forerunners of the "apostasy." Consider in this light this new phase of the conflict between truth and error. Three points in particular claim attention — the recentness of its appearance; its almost phenomenal success; and the inevitable ultimate end.

Comparatively speaking, only recently has the incessant warfare against truth taken this form. In the record of the professing church from the beginning, many heresies stand chronicled, for great has been the departure from the truth all along; but that in which modern theology differs from all is just this, its attitude towards the word of God. There are different ways of turning from the truth. There is such a thing as the unbridled working of an imagination, to which Scripture has become neither a guide nor a check. Of this type there are many examples of the working of error in the world. Wresting the Scriptures so as to dislocate the perfect organisation, of the truth, is a process in building up false teaching, which is not new either. But the form opposition takes today is different entirely. No policy of mere obstruction, but a deliberate attack on the inspiration and accuracy of what has, in the main, been the recognised standard of authority for Christians, is what is now attempted. While saying "deliberate," there is no intention of imputing motives in those engaged, other than those they profess when they proclaim their object to be "The application to the Bible of the principles of the science of literary and historical investigation." The deliberation is on the part of the one into whose hands they are playing when they rise no higher than this in their conception of God's word. Such a hostile attitude towards the Scriptures, together with such professed zeal for the elucidation of the truth, marks a complete change of tactics on the part of the great antagonist.

That this movement — this attempt at discrediting the foundation upon which Christianity is built is really the most serious feature of our times, we conclude without hesitation. Its comparatively modern appearance is one remarkable point; the number and position of its adherents is no less unique. In every branch of Western Christendom, not even excluding Roman Catholicism, with its Modernist movement, leaders and teachers have been carried away with this new Biblical Literary Science. By a large number of representative men throughout Protestantism, at least, this "science" is believed in, its conclusions, whether being accepted wholesale, or, as "expert" deliverances, held to be at least worthy of consideration! The cases are few and far between indeed where, along with non-acceptance of critical finding, there is anything like whole-hearted repudiation of their method, a protest concerning its legitimacy. The seriousness of all this to their hearers or readers, who can question? When men to whom they look for light and leading have themselves so little respect for that from which alone it can be supplied, what can be expected? The plain fact of the matter is, that the foundations of the Christian belief, except where grace really preserves, are being undermined and destroyed by (what can be described in no other way than) the rank infidelity of those in high places, in the religion of our time. How baneful in its effects on the rank and file such influence is, especially with the more intelligent or educated class, we can imagine for even in this day of universal change and decay in religious beliefs, when everything seems to be put into the melting pot, nowhere, it would seem, could more plastic material be found than the convictions of Christian professors. The contrast between truth and error is seen even in this — the hold they each retain upon men's minds. How much more tenacious the latter seems to be! Compare the various religious systems throughout the world (those of them in a sufficiently organised state to possess written oracles) and observe the attitude their votaries maintain towards them. No doubt, the dissolving, disintegrating action of the modern spirit reaches even there, and, permeating the more educated minds, reduces all to a cold and lifeless scepticism, the worship of "the ancient idol, the grand Perhaps"; but how much slower is confidence shaken, or cherished traditions surrendered. Alas! it is not so with professing Christians. Only too readily, at the first breath of a charge of superstition or bigotry do they surrender their trust. Only too clearly is it to be seen that, if error is being taught, the people love to have it so. Stated in Scripture language, which is true today as never before, men "will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts heap to themselves teachers," having ears that turn away from the truth, and are open to every fable that can excite them. Those who have the responsibility of forming and directing popular thought are foremost in this attack. Public opinion itself, so susceptible of being moved in that direction, is easily brought into line. The popularity of the movement, therefore, is not surprising.

For its own purposes, the advance has been well-timed. It finds in the unrestful spirit of the day an occasion which more conservative times would not furnish; in the intellectualism so prevalent a powerful ally; and in the immense educational equipment a splendid recruiting agency, as well as a ready-made means of diffusion. In fact, nothing about that movement, generally called "Higher Criticism," the rise and progress of which has formed such a marked characteristic of modern times, is more remarkable than its opportuneness. In this other way also it would seem to have arrived just in time. It is a precursor of the "apostasy," a term used in Scripture to designate that final and extreme defection from the faith on the part of nominal Christianity, which, contrary as it is to the thoughts of so many, is what we must expect to see develop. Scripture uniformly testifies of such an approaching time of apostasy issuing from, and succeeding, the Christian dispensation. Amongst other passages, 2 Thess. 2 gives definite announcement of a vast scheme of error that shall develop and flourish in the interval between the rapture and what is there called the "day of the Lord," a day that shall be ushered in by His appearing in power and judgment. Before that day can arrive, said the apostle, disillusioning them as to the false theory of its being already present, which some had propounded to them, before it come the scene here will be filled with other actors, and Satan for a time have full sway. As preparing the way for this state of affairs, "there shall come a falling away first," literally "the apostasy." That is to say, the truths of Christianity will be given up root and branch, for nothing less would suit such a definite term "the apostasy." And, in fact, that this enormity of error might have the fullest acceptance, it would seem to be desirable from Satan's point of view that every shred of truth now held in Christendom, though but traditionally, or embodied in a creed, shall be abandoned, if it be possible to induce men to do so. And not only of Christian truth, but of everything in which God may be known or owned, either in natural religion, or in Judaism, would he seek to deprive men. That is to say, just as in the immense and imposing system he desires to set up in connection with Antichrist, every element necessary to the deception of men universally must be included, so he must first of all clear the ground of everything that could possibly undo or expose that deception. Now for this it is clear that the authority of the Bible over men must go, their respect for it must be destroyed. That is the most formidable barrier, and what is this that men are at already, but seeking to surmount it? With the ostensible objects and methods in detail of Higher Critics we have nothing here to do, simply remarking that in undermining faith, that is, traditional belief, in the Bible as the word of God, they are solving a difficulty long felt with regard to the ready, almost incredible, acquiescence of men in the scheme of Satan for their own deception.

"The apostasy" has been spoken of. And undoubtedly it is from Christianity that we are to understand the departure there spoken of to be. But has not every separate age had its own apostasy? Not merely that the truth has failed to find acceptance with many on each occasion; that there has been, on each page, a broad dark margin where the light never reached; but that from that which was illuminated the light has been deliberately banished. The solemn responsibility for these extreme steps, upon whom does it lie? The corporate principle which we have already noticed in Israel's case, comes in here to explain. Each dispensation has had its special delineation of truth, suited in character and measure for the time. This outline of divinely given knowledge must be regarded as a trust, for the administration of which the favoured class on whom it was bestowed may be called to account as a class, and, in the government of a just and holy God, reap as a community what it has sown in a corporate capacity. We lose the true perception of this by reason of the intense individualism of our conceptions today. A principle there is, presiding in human affairs, where things are taken in the aggregate, and justly so, beyond dispute. How solemn, then, to consider that even on this principle failure has been consistent throughout man's history. The first brief day of innocence witnessed one such failure to keep that which was committed. Rom. 1. provided the account of later instances of ignoble surrender. Israel's breach of trust we have considered. And now, alas, we do not require analogy to suggest a parallel as to the church, "the pillar and ground of the truth"; for the public renunciation of real and vital Christianity is predicted, and is being rapidly prepared for by what is now going on.

Thus is the truth being treated by men, and even thus are they, in Laodicean times, preparing the way for coming days of still greater darkness and delusion, when that one shall be supreme whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and wonders of a lie, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. As the Christian revelation has surpassed in fulness and depth all others, and the attitude of men to it been the one of most uncompromising antagonism, so the alternative error they have resigned themselves to is the darkest ever known. "For this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth; but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Involved in it also are the Jews to be, as we have seen; those who each possessed a definite written revelation coming in thus peculiarly for the retribution their haughty refusal of it has merited. The lie is compounded of the elements suitable to each, for they themselves supplied the ingredients for the cup of their delusion. A terrible culmination is this to the history of error in the world. Truth, too, shall have its day, when its extension throughout the earth shall be such as to make good the simile "as the waters cover the sea." How grave and vital the issues of both also, which run where we cannot follow them now, but shall hereafter, into eternity itself!

Truth and error, then, are two forces at work in the world, exercising their sway over the minds and hearts of men, their thoughts and words being constantly actuated and prompted by either of them. They have each a history behind them, and a future before them. In the case of truth, those who have in simplicity received it from God have had light from, and communion with, Him. Their path is as "the path of the just that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Tampering with, or turning from it, men have but laid themselves open to the deception of the enemy, whose error has easily supplanted the truth for which they have no heart; and, compassing themselves about with sparks of their own kindling, this they have of God's hand, that they lie down in sorrow and deepest gloom. In a day of such unparalleled activity of mind as the present, it becomes men to consider by which of these forces, truth or error, they are being controlled. How various the attitudes men have, at various times, been enticed into taking up towards His truth! Is Pilate's unknown? Eve's children, have they not followed their mother on many occasions? In the giddy godlessness of the world, how many seek a refuge where that voice may be drowned! So, on the strange history goes. If man disowns, disobeys, is it so strange that now he seeks to discredit a divine revelation? The Scriptures are now the sole repository of the truth, being the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever, inspired of Him, being absolutely infallible in every detail, and worthy, therefore, of every confidence. They are to be heard and received, and through faith in God they are the means, by the power of the Holy Spirit, of new birth and reconciliation. To saints they are the voice of God Himself, revealing His counsel and purposes concerning Christ, concerning themselves, and all else, and at the same time the expression of His mind and will for them in their pathway here. May the truth be prized by them, and receive from them the response it has got so seldom from men, hearty and humble obedience. Oh, that men too would be warned that the point of departure in all cases has been, and for each still is, the attitude we assume towards it! J.T.