THE BOOK THAT SPEAKS TO OUR DAY
Man may write a true book, but only God, the source of life, can write a
living book. "The word of God ... liveth and abideth forever." 1 Peter
1:23. The Bible is the living word of God. We look at the volume; we
hold it in our hands. It is like other books in form and printer's art.
But the voice of God speaks from these pages, and the word spoken is
alive. It is able to do in the heart that receives it what can be done
only by divine power.
The Book That Talks
Far in the heart of Africa a missionary read to the people in their own
language from the translated Word of God. "See!" they cried; "see! the
book talks! The white man has a book that talks!" With that simplicity
of speech so common to children of nature, they had exactly described
it. This is a book that talks. What the wise man says of its counsels
through parents to children, is true of all the book: "When thou goest,
it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when
thou awakest, it shall talk with thee." Prov. 6:22.
Here is companionship, faithful and true, a blessed guide and guardian
"Holy Bible! book divine!
Precious treasure, thou art mine!"
God Its Author
The sixty-six books of Holy Scripture were written by many penmen, over
a space of fifteen centuries; yet it is one book, and one voice speaks
through all its pages. Spurgeon once said of his experience with this
"When I see it, I seem to hear a voice springing up from it,
saying, 'I am the book of God; man, read me. I am God's
writing; open my leaf, for I was penned by God; read it, for He
is my author.'"
This book declares of itself: "All scripture is given by inspiration of
God." 2 Tim. 3:16. "The prophecy came not in old time by the will of
man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2
Peter 1:21. As the rugged verse of the old hymn puts it:
"Let all the heathen writers join
To form one perfect book:
Great God, if once compared with Thine,
How mean their writings look!
"Not the most perfect rules they gave
Could show one sin forgiven,
Nor lead a step beyond the grave;
But Thine conducts to heaven."
It is the voice of the Almighty. Very different it is from the sacred
books of the non-Christian religions. In those writings it is man
speaking about God; in the Holy Scriptures it is God speaking to man.
The difference is as great as heaven is higher than earth. Here it is
not man groping in the darkness after God. In this book of God's
revelation we see the divine arm reaching down to save the lost, and
hear the voice of the loving Father calling to His children, every one
and everywhere. "Incline your ear," He calls; "hear, and your soul shall
live." Isa. 55:3.
The Word That Creates
We must have something more than instruction; we must have a word of
power that is able to tell of sins forgiven, and to conduct us beyond
the grave to heaven. One of the greatest of China's sages, Mencius,
said, "Instruction can impart information, but not the power to
execute." That touches the crucial point. We must have instruction that
can come with power divine to execute. We have it only in God's words.
Christ said: "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth
nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are
life." John 6:63.
The words of God are living words. When God spoke in the beginning, "Let
there be light," lo, the light sprang out of the darkness. There was
power in the word spoken to bring forth. "Let the earth bring forth
grass," was the word of the Lord: and the earth was carpeted with its
first rich greensward. So through all the work of creation, the creative
power was in the word spoken.
"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them
by the breath of His mouth." "He spake, and it was done; He commanded,
and it stood fast." Ps. 33:6, 9.
Even so, when this word speaks instruction to man, there is creative
power in the word, if received, to work mightily in the soul that is
dead in trespasses and sins. Man must be born again, be re-created. That
we know; for Christ says, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man
be born again ["from above," margin], he cannot see the kingdom of God."
And the word of God--the Bible from heaven--received by faith, is the
agency by which this new birth "from above" is wrought. This is the
declaration of our text: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but
of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever."
1 Peter 1:23.
[Illustration: HEALING THE CENTURION'S SERVANT
"Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed." Matt. 8:8.]
The Word That Works Within
Not only does the word of God give the new birth, making the believer a
new man,--the past forgiven and a new heart within,--but the word that
re-creates abides in the believing heart that studies it and clings to
it, to work in the life with actual power that is not of the man
himself. To the Thessalonians, who had "turned to God from idols to
serve the living and true God," the apostle wrote:
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye
received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the
word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually
worketh also in you that believe." 1 Thess. 2:13.
The word itself works within, and works effectually. There is nothing
mechanical about it. The mere letter profits nothing. The Bible on the
center table, unstudied and unloved, has no magic power. But God
promises to abide by His Spirit of power in the heart that listens to
His voice and trembles at His word. Jesus Himself tells us the secret of
this power of the word to work in the believing heart:
"If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him,
and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14:23.
No wonder, then, that believing and receiving the word brings divine
power into the life, making it possible for transformations of character
to be wrought, for victories to be won and obedience rendered to every
command of God.
Simply believing God's word touches the current of everlasting power,
even as the trolley arm of the electric car reaches up and touches the
current of power flowing through the wire overhead. The faith that
takes the living word brings the power divine into the heart to move all
the spiritual mechanism of life's service.
The Word Our Safety and Defense
When Christ came to live as our example in the flesh, and to give His
life a sacrifice for sin, He, the divine Son of God, made Himself like
unto His brethren. "I can of Mine own self do nothing," He said. John
5:30. Tempted and tried, He found His defense in the Holy Scriptures.
When Satan came to tempt Him to sin, the Saviour said, "It is written."
He clung to the sure defense. Again the tempter came. He was met with
the word, "It is written again." The third time it was the same weapon
of defense, "It is written." Matt. 4:1-11.
Christ found safety only in the Scriptures of truth. So the Bible is the
Christian's shield against the enemy's attacks. As Jesus studied the
Scriptures and kept the words ever in His heart for a defense against
temptation, so must every Christian study and meditate upon God's Holy
Word if its counsels and precepts are to be his defense in the moment of
sudden temptation to sin. "Thy word have I hid in mine heart," said the
psalmist, "that I might not sin against Thee." Ps. 119:11. It was the
only way for Christ, our Pattern; it is the only way for us.
The Bread of Life
The word of God is the daily food for the soul. "It is written, Man
shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of
the mouth of God." Matt. 4:4.
Who has not, in hurried times, missed a meal, working on through the
day, never thinking of the prolonged fast? But after a time there came a
sense of weakening force, a lack of physical power. What was the
trouble? At once the reason was evident--one had not taken food, and
the system was calling for a renewal of its forces. Just so the
spiritual life must needs be fed by the word of God.
[Illustration: CHRIST'S WEAPON OF DEFENSE--THE WORD OF GOD
"Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord
thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." Matt. 4:10.]
Do we at times feel a sense of weakening of the spiritual power, a
letting down of the vital forces of the soul? Ah, in the hurry of life
we have neglected to feed upon the living bread. We can no more sustain
spiritual vigor and health without feeding daily upon God's Holy Word
than we can maintain physical power without eating our daily bread. Eat
of the life-giving word. The taste for it grows with the partaking.
There is life in "every word." The psalmist found the Lord's testimonies
"sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb," or, as the marginal reading
has it, than "the dropping of honeycombs." Ps. 19:10. We get the picture
of the honeycomb inverted, the cell caps broken open, the sweetness
dripping down. Just so every word of the Lord is a cell full of
sweetness and life for the soul that feasts upon the Holy Scriptures.
The Source of All Doctrine
The Bible is the complete and perfect rule of faith and doctrine. Here
every doctrine of salvation is found. Inspiration has declared it in the
words of the apostle Paul to Timothy:
"From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to
make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good
works." 2 Tim. 3:15-17.
The divine command is, "Study." For every generation there has been a
message borne by this living word, making call to reformation of life,
or giving warning and comfort. "The Bible is not a collection of truths
formulated in propositions," said Dr. Samuel Harris, of Yale, "but
God's majestic march through history, redeeming men from sin."
In every age God has been ruling and overruling, witnessing by His
Spirit through the living word. The experiences recorded of past ages
have their special lesson for the present time:
"Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope."
"Let vs therfore all with feruent desyre," as the Old English of 1549
spelled the exhortation of Erasmus, "thyrste after these spirituall
sprynges.... Let vs kisse these swete wordes of Christ with a pure
affeccion. Let vs be newe transformed into them, for soche are oure
maners as oure studies be."
The Book for All Mankind
It speaks in every tongue to the human heart. Its power to transform has
been shown through all the centuries in every clime and among every
race. One of the Gospels was put into the Chiluba tongue of Central
Africa. After a time a Garenganze chief came to Dan Crawford, the
missionary, changed from the spirit of a fierce, wicked barbarian to
that of a teachable child. Explaining his conversion, the chief said: "I
was startled to find that Christ could speak Chiluba. I heard him speak
to me out of the printed page, and what he said was, 'Follow me!'"
Of the Bible's universal speech to all mankind, Dr. Henry van Dyke has
"Born in the East, and clothed in Oriental form and imagery,
the Bible walks the ways of all the world with familiar feet,
and enters land after land to find its own everywhere. It has
learned to speak in hundreds of languages to the heart of man.
It comes into the palace to tell the monarch that he is the
servant of the Most High, and into the cottage to assure the
peasant that he is the son of God. Children listen to its
stories with wonder and delight, and wise men ponder them as
parables of life. It has a word of peace for the time of
peril, a word of comfort for the day of calamity, a word of
light for the hour of darkness. Its oracles are repeated in the
assembly of the people, and its counsels whispered in the ear
of the lonely. The wise and the proud tremble at its warnings,
but to the wounded and penitent it has a mother's voice....
"Its great words grow richer, as pearls do when they are worn
near the heart. No man is poor or desolate who has this
treasure for his own. When the landscape darkens and the
trembling pilgrim comes to the valley named the Shadow, he is
not afraid to enter; he takes the rod and staff of Scripture in
his hand; he says to friend and comrade, 'Good-by, we shall
meet again,' and comforted by that support, he goes toward the
lonely pass as one who climbs through darkness into
light."--_The Century Magazine._
[Illustration: RAISING JARIUS'S DAUGHTER
"In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." John 1:4.]
In the days of His life on earth, Jesus was a welcome guest in humble
homes in Judea and Galilee. "The common people heard Him gladly." His
presence brought peace and comfort to the home. He is no longer with us
in bodily presence; but He is the same Saviour still--"Jesus Christ the
same yesterday, and today, and forever." Heb. 13:8. By His Spirit,
through the living word of Holy Scripture, He enters the home where
faith receives Him, and speaks again the gracious salutation, "Peace be
to this house."
Christ the Central Theme
All the Bible bears witness of Christ as the Saviour of the world. He
Himself said of the Scriptures, "They are they which testify of Me."
John 5:39. "To Him give all the prophets witness." Acts 10:43. We see
Him as the coming Messiah in promise and prophecy, in type and shadow.
His is the divine, living personality standing out in every book that
makes up the Sacred Volume. As we read with loving heart, the Author
seems near in every page.
"Reading, methinks I bend
Before the cross
Where died my King, my Friend.
The whole world's loss
For love of Him is gain."
And having beheld Him giving His life as the divine sacrifice, and
rising in triumph over death to be our great High Priest in the heavenly
temple, as we read these Sacred Scriptures yet again, in every book,
from Genesis to Revelation, we see Him as the coming King of kings,
coming to take His children to the eternal home of the saved. The whole
book is a bright window through which we gaze on coming glory.
"And yet again I stand
Where the seer stood,
Gazing across the strand,
Beyond the flood:
The gates of pearl afar,
The streets of gold,
The bright and morning Star
Mine eyes behold."
"The Word of God ... liveth and abideth forever." 1 Peter 1:23. "Heaven
and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away." Matt.
[Illustration: ON THE WAY TO EMMAUS
"Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all
the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Luke 24:27.]
[Illustration: THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM
"I am God,... declaring ... from ancient times the things that are not
yet done." Isa. 46:9, 10.]