By J.R. Miller
The words of Christ are not like other men's words. He says that they are spirit and life. In one of his parables, he speaks of his words as seeds. We know what seeds are. You may have in your hand a handful of gems--pearls, diamonds, or other precious stones. They are brilliant and beautiful. They are rare and of great value. You hold a fortune in your hand. But these are only little stones. They have no life in them. You may plant them in your garden--but they will not grow, and you will not gather any harvest from them.
Then you may take up a handful of seeds--flower-seeds, grain-seeds, seeds of trees. They have no brightness, do not shine, cannot be sold for ornaments. But they have secrets of life in them. Scatter them in your garden, drop them in your flower-box, or plant them in the fields, and they will grow. Christ's words are seeds. They are different from other men's sayings. These may be eloquent, brilliant, wise, sparkling with beauty--gems of literature--but they have no life in them. They do not make the world any better. But the words of Christ are life. Plant them and you will have regenerated lives, sweet homes, grace and beauty in character.
It is related that when Thorwaldsen carried back from Italy the wonderful pieces of statuary which he had carved in that sunny land, the stones were wrapped in straw. They were unwrapped in the artist's garden, and the straw was scattered all about the place. Next summer, when the warm rains came, there grew up everywhere countless multitudes of flowers that never had grown there before. The seeds had been in the straw that was wrapped about the pieces of marble, and now in far-north Denmark, Italian flowers grew in great profusion and beauty.
The Bible is the Word of God. It comes to us from heaven. It bears in itself heavenly seeds, seeds of the plants and trees that grow in the heavenly fields and gardens. Then, wherever the Bible is read--it scatters these holy seeds, and soon the heavenly flowers and fruits are found growing on earthly soil. No other book has such power to transform and beautify lives--as has the Bible. You may study the best literature, the finest poetry, the noblest philosophy; it will make you intelligent, cultured, learned--but it does not make you godly; it does not put into your heart heavenly qualities; it does not make you loving, unselfish, kind, gentle; it does not send you forth to minister to others in need. But those who study the Word of God daily, continuously, reverently, prayerfully, and meditate on its teachings, are transformed in character. The words that Jesus spoke are spirit and are life.
One of the Psalms gives us a wonderful picture of the effects wrought by the Word of God. It finds the soul marred, stained, hurt--and restores it unto the beauty of God. It makes the simple wise. It puts joy into the heart. It enlightens the eyes. It is more precious than finest gold. It is sweeter than the droppings of the honeycomb. It warns against dangers. There is great reward in obeying it. "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward!" Psalm 19:7-11
The Bible is the most wonderful of all books. All we know about God--we learn from it. Yet some people seem almost ashamed to confess that they read this great book at all, as if it were an indication of weakness of mind. They are not ashamed to be caught reading Shakespeare, or Tennyson, or Bacon, or even an off-color novel. But they do not like anyone to see them with a Bible in their hands. They want to be considered wise in science, along intellectual lines, in literature, in the wisdom of this world. It never occurs to them that the Bible is able to make them wise--as no other book or books ever written can do. There really is no other book in the world that contains so much profound wisdom. It tells us about God. It pictures the whole truth about men. It holds for us the key to all mystery. It tells us how to live and how to die.
The Words of life give joy to the heart. "The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart!" Psalm 19:8. There is a legend of the discovery of a strange harp amid some Egyptian ruins. It was ancient and remarkable--but there was no music in it. As we study the Bible we have in our hands a harp which at once begins to give out the sweetest songs. This is a sad world. It has many sorrows. Life is full of mysteries and perplexities. Science, philosophy, poetry, art, have no secret of joy for us, can tell us of no way to be glad and happy. But the Words of the Lord give joy to the heart. There is no grief for which the Bible does not have a comfort. There is no sorrow which it cannot turn into joy.
The Words of life give comfort. A book with no comfort for those in trouble, would not meet the needs of the great mass of men and women. You may not need consolation just today, and you may almost grow impatient when in reading the Bible you come upon word after word meant to give cheer and uplifting. "This means nothing to me!" you say. "I have no need of comfort." But perhaps the heart of the person next to you is crying out for some consoling word and would be bitterly disappointed if the holy book had only ethical precepts, lessons of duty, and urgent exhortations, with no words of tenderness, nothing to soothe grief.
If the Bible were not a book of comfort--it would not be loved as it is. A noted preacher, in reviewing his long pastorate, said that if he were beginning again his pastoral work, there were several things he would do which he had not done. One of these was that he would preach more comfortingly. A great many preachers, when they look back from the end of their ministry, seeing all things then in the light of eternity, will regret that they did not preach more comfortingly. One of the most pathetic things one sees in going about among sorrowing ones is, how many people shut their eyes to the light and joy which the Bible offers to them, and their ears to the glorious and blessed consolations which are spoken to them.
There is a great skyful of light which waits to flood our hearts--and we shut it all out but a few half-dimmed rays that steal in through a broken pane. There is an infinitude of comfort that longs to come to us to fill our life, and we receive only a word or two of it, keeping our great world of sorrow unconsoled. Why should we so rob ourselves, when God longs to give us such measureless comfort? He does not want us to go grieving through this world when there is such boundless consolation waiting at our doors.
The Words of life build up godly character. The great business of life, is to grow into the beauty of Christ and to learn to do the will of God. In this, nothing but the divine Words will avail. Paul exhorts us to "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly" Colossians 3:16. We can hinder it from abiding with us, we can shut it out from our lives, if we will. We must open the doors willingly, if it is to be admitted. Then it is to dwell in us. To dwell is to stay. It is not enough to let it come into our hearts for a moment, and then go out, like a bird that flees in at your window, sings a snatch of song and then flies away again. The divine Word must make its home with us, in us.
All the Bible is valuable, and has its place in fashioning our character and making our life. Paul says that all Scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable. God never inspired a Word that will not be profitable in its place and at its time. Every inspired Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in right living. Some people think there are certain portions of the Scriptures which cannot be of any profit. Of course there are degrees of value in different portions. We would not say that a chapter of ancient names in the book of Chronicles, is as spiritually profitable as a chapter in one of the Gospels. Yet a good old woman used to stumble over the hard genealogical lists she came upon, trying to pronounce them and then to remember them. She said she would be dreadfully ashamed to meet these people in heaven and not know their names.
Someone gives this incident. In a Christian home, not long ago, the mother asked her son, a young man, a church member, where his Bible was. He replied, with some confusion: "I don't know, mother. I guess it is in my trunk up in the store-room." Turning to her daughter the mother asked: "Where is your Bible, Mary?" The girl replied: "I am not sure, mother. I think it is upstairs in one of my bureau drawers." Of what use were these Bibles in the lives of those who possessed them? Does anyone live better--because he has a Bible in the storeroom, or upstairs in the bureau drawer?
The old Testament tells a story of a lost Bible. It had been lost for a good while--lost, too, in the temple! Things were going sadly wrong in those days, and 'the book' got lost. They were repairing the temple, however, and one day somebody came upon the lost book. The king and the priests began to read it, and, strange to say, began to weep. They found that they had been sinning greatly--because they had not been reading the book to learn what God's will for them was. So they repented and began again to read the holy Words and to do the things they were commanded to do, and there was a revival.
Would it not be a blessed thing--if we would all search our store-rooms, trunks, book-cases, and bureau drawers and find every lost Bible and begin to read what God says to his children? The Words of Christ living in us--will start songs. Those who have the gift of song are wondrously endowed. Not all of us, however, can sing to the pleasure and edification of others. But we may all make our lives songs!
Paul dwells much on joy, as an invariable quality of the Christian life. The Word of Christ living in a man--puts psalms and hymns into his lips and life. The life of Christ was the ideal life. He never failed in any way. He never got discouraged. He was never impatient. He never complained or murmured. He never fretted or worried. He never was disagreeable, however much people annoyed him. He never showed hurt feeling. He was never afraid, never yielded to temptation.