"All scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished for every good work."--2 TIM. iii: 16.
THE leading theme of this discourse, is, the adaptation of the Bible to man. If it could be shown that the Bible is not adapted to man--that the author of it did not comprehend man's nature, the exigencies of his being, the demands of his existence, and had not met them in the Bible, it would be a stronger argument against its claims to be divine than any one ever offered, and, no doubt, a better one than will ever be offered. On the other hand, if it can be shown that the Bible is adapted to man--that the author of it knew what was in man, fully comprehended his nature, all his wants, the demands of his existence, and completely provided for them in the Bible, it furnishes a conclusive argument in favor of its divine authority. In this discourse, the ground is taken that the Bible, as it is, is adapted to man as he is. To explain what is meant by this, a fuller statement is demanded. The Bible, as it is, means the Bible as every man has it, without any miracle performed on it since it was given to the world to give it life or power, to make it intelligible or credible--simply the Bible, printed in every man's own. Man, as he is, means man as he now exists, without any miracle performed on him, any new faculties given him, any supernatural quickening, awakening, or enlightening, to enable him to believe the Bible. It is here claimed that no immediate power from God is demanded to give the Bible life, power, or credibility; nor to give man intelligence, new faculties, or ability; but that man, as he is, when he has the Bible in his own language, can believe it, as it is, to the saving of his own soul. Hence you never read of any holy man, in apostolic times, praying to the Lord to give his word power, to accompany it with an immediate energy; to infuse life into it, quicken it, or make it intelligible. Nor do you ever read of any holy man of that day praying to the Lord for the impartation of immediate power, intelligence, new faculties, or ability to enable the sinner to understand the word of God and believe it.
There are some leading and important questions that come into the minds of all thinking persons. Some of these are put to parents, school teachers, and Sunday-school teachers, by the children; such, for instance, as the following: 1. Why did the Lord create us? 2. What did the Lord come into the world for? 3. What did the Lord give us the Bible for? These are important questions, and should be carefully answered, as they lie at the foundation of correct religious knowledge.
1. Why did the Lord create us? In their early studies, some of our readers may have met with a little work, called the "Shorter Catechism." As now recollected, the first question in it is, "What is the chief end of man?" This is an important question. What is the chief end, object, or purpose of man's existence? What is or was the chief purpose or object of the Lord in creating man? The answer given in the Catechism is "To glorify God and enjoy him forever." This is a correct answer and an intelligible one. The chief purpose of God in creating man was that he might glorify God and enjoy him forever. No matter if you can not reconcile this with another part of the Catechism: it is true, nevertheless. Man was created for a high and noble purpose, and when he does not attain to it, he fails by his own perversity.
No doubt some are saying they prefer Scripture--that the Catechism is not synonymous with Scripture, in their estimation. To the Scriptures, then, turn: "Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet."--Ps. viii: 5, 6. What does the sweet singer of Israel say the Lord made man for? He made him to have dominion, and put him over the works of his hands. He created man for no ignoble purpose--no low and servile end; but intended him to have an exalted position--to have glory and honor--to be placed over the works of the hands of God. All men know that wonderful something exists in them--no matter what you call it--that never was fully satisfied with what they are and what they have. There is continually in them that craving, aspiring and unsatisfied something, reaching forward, looking ahead, anticipating, hoping for and desiring happiness never yet attained. Why is this? Is it not that man was created for something better than he has ever reached--that, by some means, he has fallen short and needs lifting up? The All-wise Creator has certainly not created a desire for happiness, or for glory and honor, and made no provision for it. God made man for dominion, for glory and honor, and has provided dominion, and glory, and honor for him. If man does not attain to it, the reason is in his own perversity in thwarting the benevolent purpose of God, and thus disqualifying him for the enjoyment of the blessings provided for him.
It may be that some man will say that a finite creature, in a finite state, has no ability to thwart the benevolent purpose of God and deprive himself of happiness which the Lord provided for him. Are you sure of that? Can not a man destroy his health by excessive eating, drinking, and other dissipations, so that he can not enjoy food, drink, and sleep? Many have experienced this to their sorrow. Can not men destroy and corrupt themselves to such an extent that they can not enjoy good society, even if admitted into it? Certainly they can. If men will not read of God, thus keeping the company of the prophets, the apostles, evangelists and saints of Bible times; will not associate with the pure and the holy, the good and the true, of our own time, but associate with the low, the corrupt, the enemies of the Bible, will they not so pervert their nature, destroy themselves, and become so averse to God and all that is godlike, that they could not enjoy God, Christ, angels, or saints, if they were in heaven? Men, by their perversity and dissipation, have destroyed their hearing, their sight, their appetite, and even their reason, and thus rendered themselves incapable of enjoying the blessings which God has graciously and freely provided for them in the world. They may, and many are, doing the same in reference to the world to come.
In Paul's address, that he delivered on Mars' Hill, in Athens, in the presence of the most distinguished judges and philosophers, is found a fine statement touching the purpose of God in creating man. He says, "He has made of one blood every nation of men, that they might dwell on all the face of the earth, having marked out their appointed times, and the bounds of their dwelling; that they might seek for God, if perhaps they would feel after him, and find him, although, indeed, he is not far from every one of us."--Acts xvii: 26, 27. The Lord anticipated the fall when he created man, and made him that he might seek the Lord and find him. This is true of the whole race. All were created that they might seek God and find him--that they might have dominion--that they might glorify God and enjoy him forever.
What did the Lord come into this world for? "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through him, might be saved." He did not send his Son to irresistibly save any body, but that the world through him might be saved. He reprobated none by any original decree, or decree before the world was, so that they can not be saved! We repeat, the Lord "came into the world, that the world, through him, might be saved." This was the object or purpose of his coming. He thus gave the world the privilege of being saved. It was his most gracious and benevolent design in coming into this world, and perfectly accords with his design in creating man.
What did God give the Scriptures for? "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable." Profitable for what? If one were to notice the popular custom of the preachers, he might infer that the Scriptures were given that they might have a convenient book from which to get texts, for this is one use made of them. But Paul does not say the Scriptures are profitable for that use. If one were to look again, he might suppose that the Lord designed the Scripture as proof of the doctrines and commandments of men, for a man in one church is busily engaged in quoting Scripture to prove Universalism, in another Unitarianism, in another Trinitarianism, in another Calvinism, in another Arminianism. If this was the purpose of God in giving us the Scriptures, it is certain that the apostles and first Christians never so understood it. They never used them any such purpose. What, then, does Paul say they are profitable for? They are profitable for doctrine or for teaching. Is it not astonishing that men should be hesitating about what doctrine to adopt, and debating about what the true doctrine is, when the apostle so clearly states, that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine or teaching." He does not say it is profitable to prove our doctrine by, but it is the doctrine itself. There certainly need be no further confusion about which the true doctrine is. If God gave the Scriptures for doctrine, take them and stand by them as the doctrine or teaching of the Lord. You will have the true doctrine, the doctrine admitted to be true by all, and the only true doctrine. This is the doctrine for the people of God--the disciples of Jesus. They do not desire to be annoyed by being called on to prove their doctrine every week or month, and they therefore take the Scriptures given by inspiration of God, divinely declared to be profitable for doctrine or teaching, and proved true in the time of the apostles and not denied by any but open skeptics. These Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished for every good work. What more can any man want?
The Lord created man that he might glorify and enjoy God forever; that he might have dominion, glory, and honor; that he might seek the Lord and find him. Jesus came into the world that the world, through him, might be saved; and the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, to perfect the man of God, and thus thoroughly furnish him for every good work. This all agrees with the one great and benevolent design of the Lord to open the way for the happiness of man. How grateful he should be for those benevolent provisions!
The Scriptures, given for and adapted to man, have supreme ascendancy over all human systems--all creeds, confessions, and disciplines ever made by uninspired men. This lofty and sublime claim of the Scriptures can not be treated here except in a single particular, to wit, their broad and extended benevolence, when compared with all the creeds of men. Suppose, for illustration, a man should approach you with one of the best of all the creeds made by uninspired men, and you inquire of him: Who made your book? He replies: Our great and good men. You proceed: Who did they make it for? He answers: For us. You inquire: Who do you mean by that narrow word "us?" He answers: Our church. You press the matter: Who do you mean by that narrow expression "Our church?" He explains: Our brethren. You inquire: Are there no good people only those whom you designate "us," "our church," "our brethren?" He replies: Certainly, there are many others, I doubt not, just as good. You proceed: And was not your book made for them? Certainly not, he replies. Does not your book propose any good thing, or any blessing, for any only those you call "us," "our church," "our brethren?" you inquire. He honestly and truthfully replies: No; it was not made for any body but us, and, of course, contains no blessing for any body else.
This is enough against this book and all of the same kind. It is useless to look through them, or to talk of the good things contained in them, or the proportion of truth in them. There is not a grain of benevolence in them for any of the human race outside of the parties for which they were made. What claim, then, has such a book on the attention of mankind? It is nothing but a partisan concern--not made for mankind, but for a party; not intended to bless the human race, but a party; not made with an eye to the happiness of the world, but merely with an eye to the interests of a party. It has not one spark of divine benevolence, but is confined to the narrowness and selfishness of a religious faction, separated from other religious people by a few human opinions. This is enough against books of this kind. They are too narrow, circumscribed, and limited in their benevolence. Men whose souls have been impressed by the widely-expanded benevolence of the Bible, if for no other reason, on account of their narrowness, selfishness, and partisan character, will go against all such books, living and dying.
Now, in contrast with this, open the Lord's book and read the promise to Abraham--Gen. xxii: 18: "In thee shall all nations be blessed." This promise contained Christ, the Gospel, the Church--in one word, the blessing of the entire new institution. Who did our heavenly Father intend the blessing of this promise or the new institution for? All the nations of the earth. It is not for a party, a section, or faction, but for the human race. Paul, in commenting on this blessing of the Gospel, or the new institution, styles it "the grace of God," and says, it "has appeared to all men." See Titus ii: 11. In the same spirit, Isaiah, looking down through long centuries to the Messiah, says, "He shall be set for salvation to the ends of the earth." When the Savior was born, the angels sang, "We bring you good news of great joy, which shall be to all people." See Luke xi: 10. The Lord's benevolence is not confined to a party, to any one nation or people, but is to, and for, all people. Hence, in the commission, the Lord commanded the Gospel to be preached to every creature; to all nations; and Peter, on the first opening out of this great work, said, "The promise is to you, and to your children, and to all them that are far off." This comprehensive and glorious benevolence is in perfect keeping with what has been said in this discourse, of the purpose of God in creating man, in sending the Messiah into the world, and giving us the Scriptures.
This grand system of benevolence and humanity, secured to the world by our most gracious and merciful heavenly Father, has another feature of immense importance that must be noticed here, viz.: It has nothing sectional in it. It is not for Eastern, Western, Northern, nor Southern people, in any exclusive sense; but for all people, of all sections, all nations and languages, alike. It makes no distinction on account of blood or section of country. The preacher with the love of Jesus, when he meets a human being, need not ask what country he is of, or what nation, but may at once proceed to communicate the good news of the kingdom. God has shown him that he should "call no man common," but that, in every nation, and in "all the world," "he who fears God and works righteousness is accepted with him." He is actuated by the highest, the noblest, and broadest benevolence--literally, the benevolence of God, extending to the whole race of man.
What a pity it is, what a misfortune to the human race, that the system which the Lord has freely given to all men, should have been checked and hindered in its work by speculations and sophistical theories of men. Yet it must be conceded, that such has been, and is the case. One speculative theory must be mentioned here, as a sample. Though all men of ordinary intelligence know that they are daily believing certain things; believing the words of men--uninspired men; relying on them, and acting from their faith, where vast amounts of property and money are involved, there are some men, of fine intelligence in other matters, that claim that they are so peculiarly organized that they can not believe. They claim that they are not credulous, as other men. In hearing such men talk, we are led to pity them as the unfortunates of humanity. Men so peculiarly organized that they have no credulity! can not credit truth! can not believe facts! That is singular in the extreme! Such men could not act as magistrates, for they could not believe the testimony of witnesses. They could not act as jurors, for they could not believe testimony, and decide according to law and testimony. They could not act as judges, for judges must be men who can believe testimony, and act on it. They can not act as physicians, for, when sent for, they can not believe that any body is sick, and will not go. It would be difficult to think of any place for men thus peculiarly organized, unless it would be in some benevolent asylum, for they certainly could not be expected to get a living in this world.
The truth in the matter is, that all men, of even common intelligence, can believe and do believe, as easily as they can and do exercise any function of soul or body. But the will has some control over the faith of men. They believe what they are willing to believe much more readily, or with much less testimony, than they do what they are not willing to believe. But for a man to be so credulous as to be gulled into the duplicity that he can not believe his God, when he knows that he can believe men, is a little too credulous for a Christian. The true state of the case is, that the very men who are trying to make the impression that they have no credulity, are the most gullible men of these times, and, positively, give credit to, and countenance some of, the most incredible, unlikely, and unreasonable things ever reported. They are the most easily-imposed-on, deceived, and deluded men in the world. The best apology out for them is, that some unenlightened preachers have taught that man, unregenerated, can not believe. But if they were only half as industrious in scanning such sophistries as they are in framing excuses for not believing the Bible, they would soon discover the fallacy.
But another man comes up from another angle, with a difficulty of a different nature from the one just considered. He takes broader ground, and maintains that the unregenerate man can do nothing--has no ability to do any thing. He claims that he has many profoundly-learned and able preachers on his side. He and the preachers, he claims, even quote Scripture to prove that the sinner can do nothing. They have, thousands of times, quoted the words: "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord," to prove their position. But there are several things here that ruin their theory: 1. The command, "Stand still," could not consistently be given to persons who have no ability. It requires some ability to stand still. A man with no ability to do any thing can not stand still. A dead man can not stand. 2. The command, to "see the salvation of the Lord," implies some ability. A man with no ability can not see. It is implied, in this instance, that those who were the subjects of the command and had not only ability to see common things, but to see "the salvation of the Lord." 3. A careful discrimination should constantly be made between seeing the salvation of the Lord and obtaining it. The command is not to stand still and obtain the salvation of the Lord, but see it. 4. Another thing of importance with intelligent people is in reference to where the passage may be found. It is generally quoted by the class in question, when they are treating the subject of conversion. Was the language uttered in reference to the conversion of sinners? Did the apostles say to sinners, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord?" They never did. This is not the language of an apostle, nor of the New Testament. It is the language of Moses when leading the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, and at the crossing of the Red Sea. These words are found in Ex. xiv: 13. The people had ability and obeyed the command of Moses, and did literally stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. Moses added: "And the Egyptians, whom you have seen this day, you shall see them again no more forever." When the people found the sea before them, and no escape to the right or left, and a furious army in their rear, they were frightened, and reflected on Moses for involving them in their fearful situation. Moses commanded them to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. They obeyed the command. They stood still, and saw the sea cleft asunder and a dry passage made for them. But there was not one saved yet. They only saw salvation, but had not obtained it. The Lord next addressed Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward." Certainly the Lord did not command Moses to say this to people whom he knew had no ability--people who could do nothing! What followed? The people demonstrated that they had ability--that they could do something. The vast column moved forward till all were safely on the other side--every soul saved, not by standing still, but by going forward. They received the salvation after they went forward, and then united in the praises of God. The passage, then, instead of proving that the persons addressed could not do any thing, proves that they could do something, and did it, before they were saved. That is not all; when the people went forward, they went forward in immersion, and were "all immersed into Moses, in the cloud and in the sea." But where is the use in arguing with a man so confused and blinded, so completely deluded by the wicked one, that though he is saying every day of his life, in regard to other matters, "I will do this," and "I will not do that," that he argues that he can not do any thing? There is but one step beyond this in delusion, and that is, when the adversary has so completely deceived a man that he does not believe there is an adversary. This is the climax in delusion. A man can not go beyond it.
But more time must not now be consumed with these absurd theories. The Bible proceeds with man on the same principle as man proceeds with his fellow-man; or the same principle, as all the civil laws in the world--the principle that man can believe and obey. If he could not do this, he would not be man.
The law of Moses was not a universal law; not for all the world, but for the nation of Israel. The New Testament is adapted to and designed for all the world. It is not simply a book for the church, for "us," "our brethren," "our church," but for the world. The world is mainly in three divisions: The unbelieving; the believing who are not Christians; not in Christ, and those in Christ. For these three classes the New Testament has also three divisions: The four records of testimony concerning Christ by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are not, as many style them, "four Gospels," nor "the four Gospels," but four records of testimony concerning the Messiah, written by four different men. These records are all of the same nature, all on the same subject, and evidently all have the same design. When we get the design of one of them, we have the design of all. John, the last one, as arranged in the volume called the "New Testament," and the one last written, informs us what the design was, John xx: 30, 31. He says, "Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life through his name." No man can state his purpose, in writing a book, more clearly than this writer does here, and, as before stated, in doing so, he also states the purpose of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. That design is, that the reader may believe "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." Whatever else the reader may find in these records, he should constantly bear in mind that the leading design is that he may believe. These records of testimony were not made to prove any doctrine or creed in the world, but to lay before the reader the evidence concerning Jesus, the Anointed Son of God, that he may believe.
Such being the purpose of these records, how appropriate it is that they should appear first in the volume. In this, too, this book proves its adaptation to the world as no other book in the world does. The apartment for the unbeliever meets his eye first, and he finds it adapted to him and prepared for him. The books that men have made have left out this grand department entirely, and passed by the unbelieving, making no provision for them. The creed-makers have been so busily engaged in distinguishing their opinions from those differing from them, that they appear to have overlooked and passed by the unbelieving part of mankind. In the Lord's book, special provision is made for them, and it is the first thing. In making a believer there must be two things: 1. Something to believe. 2. Credible testimony, bringing that something to the human understanding. In the case in hand, the Lord has furnished that which is to be believed--the truth concerning Jesus, that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God. This truth is not always found in precisely the same form, or the same words, but always amounting to the same. As the Lord stood on the banks of the Jordan, the Almighty Father embodied it in the following words: "This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased." In the mountain of transfiguration this was repeated, and the following added: "Hear you him." As in the brief but all-important confession made by Peter, Matt. xvi: 16, it reads as follows: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." "On this," the Lord says, "I will build my Church," or, "on this rock." This is a very perspicuous statement of the central idea of Christ's religion, the transcendently important truth, to be believed. It is not, Thou art Christ, or Anointed, for others had been anointed; but thou art the Anointed, in a much higher sense than any other had ever been. It is not "Son of God," nor "a Son of God," for there were other sons of God; but "the Son," in a higher sense than any other. It is not "of God," nor "of a God," but "of the living God;" transcendently above all others called God--THE JEHOVAH--THE I AM. The truth to be believed is not that Jesus is Christ, or Anointed, but "the Christ, the Son of the living God." The records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are four records of testimony concerning this great truth. Whoever reads these records understandingly, reads them with his eye fixed on this all-absorbing question, Is Jesus the Son of the living God, as they bear on it from first to last?
The Lord having furnished the proposition to be believed, and the testimony on which to believe, how should the preacher go to work to make believers? Should he preach a sermon on the philosophy of faith? Certainly not. A sermon on faith? By no means. Preaching sermons on faith never made a believer in the world. How does a sensible attorney make a jury believe? He delivers no speech on the philosophy of faith, or on faith. How, then, does he make his jury believe? He calls his witnesses and has them give their testimony to the jury. After all the testimony is stated, he makes a speech, summing up and applying the testimony and the law to the case. How should the preacher of Jesus proceed? The people whom he would convince are his jury. The testimony found in the records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, is the testimony he should lay before them. He should array it, sum it up, apply it to his proposition, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, showing that it is conclusive.
To show the nature of this testimony and its tendency, when properly used, suppose a Jewish rabbi were to step in and say, "Please let me look at your New Testament." A copy is handed to him. He reads the title page: "The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." This title is not of inspiration and not correct. "New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," implies an Old Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Old Testament was not given by Christ, but by Moses. Moses was the mediator of the Old Testament, but Christ of the New. The law, or the first covenant, was by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ. But the Jewish rabbi proceeds to look at the New Testament. He turns to the first of Matthew's record and reads the genealogy of Christ, as probably transcribed from the Jewish records, and the first thing arresting his attention is the fact, that Jesus of Nazareth was born in the lineage, the line, or family from which the Messiah was to come, according to the prophecies. This strikes his mind with much force. "If you please," says he, "let me look a little further." He looks again, and reads that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as clearly predicted by one of the prophets, and finds the language of the prophet quoted in the narrative. This strikes him with still greater force. He reads on, and finds another and a more remarkable fact, viz., that he was born of a virgin, and the language of the prophet that had many ages before declared that he should be born of a virgin is quoted. This strikes his mind with still greater force. He reads again, finding the account of the jealousy and persecution of Herod, Jesus escaping his wrath by being carried into Egypt, and God calling him out of Egypt after the danger had passed away, corresponding to the language, "Out of Egypt have I called my Son." He reads the examination of the sketch concerning John the Immerser, and finds an account of the Elijah that was to come--that he came according to the prediction of the prophet--did the work assigned him--prepared the way before the Lord--prepared a people for the Lord. By this time his attention is completely engaged, he is inquiring, "Is it possible that Jesus of Nazareth, whom my nation did and still rejects, has entered by the door of prophecy, and step after step fulfilled the prophecies? Please let me examine a little further," says he. He reads through Matthew's record, and is astonished to find some seventy predictions of the prophets more or less clearly fulfilled on Jesus. His mind is becoming deeply impressed, and the question is frequently in his heart: "Have we not rejected the true Messiah?" He carefully traces Mark's record through. His convictions are deepened and strengthened. He traces through Luke's record, and finds corroboration and confirmation of what had gone before. He is almost ready to yield. He pushes on eagerly through John's testimony, and finds other, fuller, and clearer confirmation. He is sensibly affected with one of the predictions of Jesus, spoken some forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, viz.: "They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive among all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." Our rabbi revolves this in his mind, and quietly reflects on it. "Jesus of Nazareth, whom we Jews rejected, uttered this forty years before Jerusalem was destroyed. The devoted city was invested with armies, it was destroyed; literally buried in ruins; not one stone left upon another not thrown down; the Jews have been led away captive among all nations; Jerusalem has been trodden down by the Gentiles for ages past. All this was, in one short sentence, in prophecy. It is now recorded on the pages of history, and the wonderful events of this prophecy cover over some eighteen centuries! I am fully satisfied," he exclaims. "I believe, with all my heart, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of the living God."
But now, that he has examined these holy records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and become a believer, the next thing that opens to his mind is the question, what must I do, as a believer, to obtain the mercy and favor of that God against whom I have so long and greatly sinned, in my madness and unbelief? "Since this book has led me safely on from the cold and cheerless icebergs of unbelief, to the bright and glorious hope of the faith of the Messiah, I will read on; it may be that it will lead me safely through." He turns over another leaf, to a new department, in the New Testament, erroneously called, in the common version, "The Acts of the Apostles." This book is a record of acts of apostles; only some of the acts of some of the apostles. But it is more than this; it is a record of the election of Matthias; the descent of the Holy Spirit; the supernatural endowment of the apostles with power from heaven; their first preaching under the last commission; the first conversions; the founding of the Church; a history of the apostolic preaching and practice, and some of the first evangelists, in planting and setting churches in order. Our rabbi reads the first chapter of this book, in which he finds the account of the election of Matthias to supply the vacancy occasioned by the apostasy and fall of Judas from the apostolic office. He finds the college of the apostles thus completed, and all things ready, as Jesus had pointed out before he died and after he rose from the dead. He reads into the second chapter of Acts, and finds the wonderful account of the descent of the Holy Spirit, the endowment of the apostles with power, as Jesus had promised, to guide them into all truth. This all comes right to him. He reads Peter's sermon, directed to the Jews, to convince them that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. "All this," says he, "I believe; but I desire now to know what I must do, as a believer, to obtain pardon and become a disciple of Jesus." He reads a little farther on, and finds the question from those who heard Peter: "Men and brethren what shall we do?" "That," says he, "is the question to which I desire an answer." He reads on for the answer: "And Peter said to them, Repent, and be immersed, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." He praises God for the answer. This begins to clear the way for him. He reads Peter's discourse in the third chapter of Acts, learns what he preached, what the people believed, what they were commanded to do, what it was for, what they were promised. He reads on, follows Philip down to Samaria, noticing the record carefully of all he said, and all the people said and did, learning all about it as found in the eighth chapter of Acts, finding where many, both men and women, became obedient to the faith. In the latter part of this chapter, he finds the account of the conversion of the Ethiopian officer. He notices every particular in the case, what was preached to him, what he believed, what he did, and how he did it. In the ninth chapter he finds the account of the conversion of young Saul, the chief of sinners. This case he notices with great care in every particular. He proceeds on through the tenth chapter, noticing all that was preached, believed, and done, and all the results, in the conversion of the first Gentiles. He reads down through the sixteenth chapter, finding the account of the conversion of Lydia and the jailer, and so on through the book, noticing carefully all that was preached, what was commanded to be believed and done, what was believed and done, what was promised, what was given, and all about it.
From this book he learned what a believer must do to become a Christian, did it, bowed his soul to God, confessed Jesus, was immersed into him, and thus became a disciple. He praised God for the book, that found him in the cold and gloomy regions of unbelief, and raised up his soul by the mighty faith of the Gospel, and thus, when made a believer, took him by the hand, and guided him into the kingdom of God. But now a new chapter has come. A new want is opened up to him. He wants new directions, showing, as he is now a Christian, how to live as a Christian or a disciple of Christ. He says, "I have found, by perusing my book, all I needed thus far; I will go on, and hope I shall find all I need in time to come." He turns over another leaf, and comes to Paul's letter to the church in Rome, and finds that every word in it is addressed to Christians, or disciples of Christ, those in Christ, showing them how to live as Christians, serve God, and find their way home to the everlasting city; as if God had taken them by the hand, and said, "Come, my dear children, and I will lead you home." As he reads this letter, he praises God for its instructions, comforts, and consolations. He reads Paul's two letters to Corinth, and finds every word addressed to the saints, the people of God, giving them, as the prophet said, "line upon line and precept upon precept," to guide them safely home. He reads the letter to Galatians, the one to the Ephesians, the one to the Philippians, the one to the Colossians, and the two to Thessalonica, and finds that all these letters were addressed to the children of God, and abounding in exhortations, entreaties, admonitions, warnings, threatenings, and promises; cheering, comforting, and encouraging them on their way to heaven. This fills his highest expectations, meets all his wants, and clears his entire pathway through this life and this world onward to his final home. He goes on through the two letters to Timothy, the one to Titus, and the one to Philemon, from the apostle Paul, teaching those young men, preachers of the Word, how to behave themselves in the house of God. He reads through the long and argumentative letter to the Hebrews, converted Israelites, warning them against apostasizing from the faith, from Christ, and returning to the law of Moses; showing that if they forsake Christ, the great sacrificial offering, that there is no more sacrifice for sins. He passes on through the letter of James, the two of Peter, the three of John, and one of Jude, and finds all, from Romans to Revelation, addressed to the saints, the children of God, teaching them how to serve God, how to please him in all things as his children, and how to obtain the final and eternal salvation.
These holy instructions, "teaching him to live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ," he honestly and faithfully follows for forty years. But now he is an old m an, and bending over his staff. He says, "I have found the Lord's book adapted to man. The first department in the four records of testimony, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, led me to the Lamb of God, and made me a believer on the Savior of the world. The second department, Acts of Apostles, showed me, after I was a believer, the way into the kingdom of Christ, to justification or remission of sins. The epistles of the apostles, addressed to the saints, showed me how, after I had become a Christian, to follow Jesus, to live and serve God as a Christian or a disciple of Christ. These holy instructions I have followed many years, and am now old. I shall not be here long. I should like to have a view of the other side of Jordan, into the sweet fields of Eden. Like Moses, when he ascended Mount Pisgah, he viewed Canaan, though he was not permitted to enter. So I should like to have a view beforehand of the wonderful future." He turns over and. reads that wonderful book, Revelation, from the first to the twenty-first chapter, and finds passing before him a grand panoramic view, commencing before the new dispensation, extending down through it, and through the intermediate state, and terminating in the eternal state, in the holy city, New Jerusalem, which John saw coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. He reads the twenty-first chapter, and the grand description of the final state of the redeemed, where all tears are wiped away, no more sorrowing nor sighing, sickness nor death; where there is access to the river of the water of life, and to the tree of life. He reads the description of the holy city, the final home of the saints, and, in the language of good old Simeon, he exclaims, "It is enough; my eyes have seen the salvation of the Lord; now let thy servant depart in peace."
Thus it is seen, that the Bible is the book for man, adapted to man, giving him a knowledge of his creation, of God's dealings with him for four thousand years, before Christ; the grand series of preparation for the new and better covenant, based on better promises; the full and complete introduction of the new institution. On opening the new covenant, we have found three departments for the three great classes of humanity, the unbelieving, the believing who know not the way to God, and those who are in Christ. The Lord has graciously prepared his divine testimonies, as reported by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, for the unbelieving, that they may have the privilege of believing. This important department is rightly placed first in the volume we now, by common consent, call the New Testament. The second department is a report of the election of Matthias to fill the vacancy occasioned by the apostasy and fall of Judas from the apostolic office, the supernatural endowment of the apostles, their preaching, the first conversions and others afterward, the planting of churches, setting them in order, etc. In this department the believer, who knows not what to do to become a Christian, can learn that which is the first thing before him and all-important to him--the way to God, to justification, or remission of sins. After a man has found the way to God, and has become a Christian, he needs a guide for his life and practice, as a Christian or a disciple of Christ. In the third department, the letters of the inspired apostles, he finds all this. These letters were all written to the saints, those in Christ. Hence, there is not an effort to make a believer in one of them, nor to show any one how to become a Christian. The entire matter of these letters is to show those who are Christians how to perform their part well, as Christians, that they may reach the heavenly Canaan.
This is the book this world needs. We need not pray to the Lord to make it what it is not, or to give it a power it does not possess, thus offering insult to the author of it. He has made it what he designed it to be, and, as it is, it is adapted to man as he is. Nor need we pray to the Lord to make man something else than he is, till we give him the Gospel. Give him, as he is, the Gospel as it is, as the power of God, to change him and make him what he ought to be. This is the Lord's way of working. He, therefore, sent men to preach the Gospel to every creature; to all nations; to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Where they went and preached, men were turned to God. Where the Gospel was not, in some form, conveyed to the minds of men, they were never turned to God.
The Bible is the book for man, to make him a believer, show him how to become a Christian after he is a believer, and how to serve the Lord after he is a Christian, and make his way home to the eternal rest. This is the final aim of all the sincere. How we should delight to talk of that final rest!--that home in the everlasting city! and with what delight we should talk of the way leading to it, inquire all about it, and try and make a sure work of finding it! This is the great matter. It is like a man, sixty years of age, inquiring about Oregon, speaking of its advantages, the health, climate, productions, etc. He appears never to grow weary of talking on the theme. His whole countenance brightens every time the subject comes up, and, as he enlarges on it, he becomes eloquent. He delights even to talk of the way to that country, and has learned all the particulars about the way. You feel amazed, and wonder why a man at his time of life should be so much employed in thinking and talking of that country and the way to it; but, after inquiring more particularly into the matter, you learn that his father, some eighty-five years of age, has gone to that country, and still lives there; that his precious mother, in her advanced years, is also there; that his brothers and sisters have gone there; that his children have left him and gone there. This furnishes a reason for his heart being there, and so much of his conversation about that country, and the way to it. Finally, he tells you that he is going there himself. This makes a full explanation of all his anxieties and solicitudes about that country.
Where are many of our fathers? Many of you would answer, In Abraham's bosom; in paradise; gone to rest. Where are many of the precious mothers? Many of these also are gone to the same place of rest. Where are many of your companions? They, too, are gone there. Where are many of your brothers and sisters? You answer, Gone to the same place of repose. Where are many of your precious children? They have followed. Do you remember how you wept, grieved, and mourned as you committed their bodies to the graves? Can you now live as if you had no thought of them, the state of rest to which they have gone, or the certainty that you shall soon follow? Can you now live as if you never thought of him who consecrated the way through the veil, and has, for us, entered into the true holy place, with his own blood, to appear in the presence of God for us? Can you live in this world with the certainty in view that you might enter eternity any hour, and yet neither talk, act, or even think of that state, the way leading to happiness, the loved ones gone, or him who died for you? Do you say, "There is time enough yet." How do you know there is time enough yet? How do you know how much time you will need? How do you know how much time will be granted? These momentous matters are all in the dark. You have not one ray of light on them. You are here now--hear the way of life pointed out, and can come and walk in it. "Now is the accepted time," says the Lord. "To-day, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts," is the reading in the book of God. Will you hear his voice and live? Will you accept life and be happy forever? or will you die in your sins and forever lament your folly?
Be entreated by your best friends, by the love of Christ, by the tender mercies of our God, by all that is sacred, lovely and endearing, to turn to the Lord while it is an accepted time and day of salvation. Commit your all into the gracious and merciful hands of him who has loved you, endured the cross, despised the shame, and laid down his life for you. He is your best friend, your only Savior and Redeemer, and if, in madness, you turn away from him and dash the cup of salvation from your lips, despise his goodness, love and mercy, you will lament your folly forever. In one hour the whole scene may be changed with you--the other side of the picture turned to your eye. Turn now, learn to love righteousness and the God of righteousness; to love purity and holiness, the pure and the holy, and the God of purity and holiness. Assimilate yourself to the good, the true, the lovely and excellent of heaven and earth, and thus prepare for the holy, the heavenly and sublime associations of the eternal world. To God, who loved us, and to the Lamb that was slain for us, be the glory, the dominion, the honor and power, forever and ever!