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And it is this faith, without any other sanction than the Word itself, which He has sanctioned. Precious testimony for after-days, since the same sanction applies to them also. The apostle, in warning us of perilous times, directs our thoughts beforehand to the same means of establishing the soul. Those who had faith in the Scriptures before the Saviour's testimony, having been enabled, through grace, to discern what was God's word, before Jesus had sealed the whole, have thus been approved by Him. Those who do so afterwards, have already this approval. They have the same responsibility as to what they receive; but although this responsibility exists, God does not fail to use means. There is another principle which should be noticed here. It is, that the oracles of God are committed to His people. The Church cannot impose her authority upon us; but she is responsible for preserving that which has been committed to her. Thus Rome has shown her unfaithfulness, by adding apocryphal books. Now, although the Church may, in detail, fail in her responsibility, it is impossible, in any thing essential to it, that God should fail His Church, or that Christ should cease to nourish and cherish it. God watches over all this; not to keep the learned from stumbling, but that believers may have food from Him, and an unerring rule of life. It is not the babe and the wayfaring man who find difficulties; God has given them the Bible, and preserved it for them; and their conscience bears them witness in the Holy Ghost, that God works in them by this Word. The Holy Ghost enables them, according to the measure of their spirituality, to use and understand it. A heart, full of joy because taught of God, discerns the Word. It is read perhaps in a bad translation; and doubtless, something is lost thereby; but God has taken care that enough should remain to teach the heart with certainty His truth and His ways. This Word is the sword of the Spirit—it carries conviction with it, when the Spirit uses it in the power of His grace. It leaves man under the responsibility of having rejected it, whenever it has been presented to his conscience.
A man of little information, but taught of God, is much more able to apprehend the whole truth, even through the medium of an indifferent translation, than the learned man who thinks he can judge of the whole canon; and for this reason. The Church puts the New Testament into his hands, for the oracles of God are committed to the Church; this does not indeed impart faith, but it is the means which God uses. The Church presents us with them; not with authority as having power to judge the Word; but as the faithful guardian of that which had been committed to her. This is done through relations, friends, ministers; and there is a general belief in the professing Church that it is the word of God. The simple-minded do not set themselves to judge the whole canon of the New Testament before reading it; they read it, and the Word produces faith.
A man receives, by the teaching of God, first one truth and then another. To such a one, the history of Jesus is all divine; it communicates to his soul what he receives with divine knowledge, for these things are spiritually discerned. The word has judged him, the Word has revealed Jesus to him. The epistles unfold
, divine truth—he enjoys the word with a divine certainty
а that God has spoken to him. He makes use of every book in the New Testament, without knowing what the term “ Canon” means. And if some great scholar would deprive him of his treasure; to wit, the authority and inspiration of that word which he knows to be of God; this Word is the sword of the Spirit in his hands, to teach him the folly of human wisdom. He pities the learned man who is without all that, of which he has the divine fruition.
He who has eaten bread knows what bread is, although he may not understand the art of baking. If, through grace, the believer grows in divine knowledge, he sees the harmony of the whole, the adaptation of the several parts. He has not only the full assurance of faith, but the full assurance of understanding also. He perceives the divine wisdom of the Bible, and not merely the divine truth in it. He finds perhaps a text spoilt by a bad translation-it does not harmonise with what he knows to be the truth of God; he will say, "I don't understand that passage” (I am supposing him deprived of all spiritual help, which is not the case, according to the ways of God in His Church). Humble in heart, he will attribute it to his own ignorance. The wisdom of this world reasons about the canon, and will form its judgment before it reads, and it receives nothing. The mind of man cannot create for itself the things of God. Human reason cannot pronounce upon the authority of the word of God. It may be said, this is trusting to a feeling; but no, it is trusting to God. “ They shall be all taught of God." The authority of the Word can only be known by believing in it. He who has only man's thoughts will say,
6. But I must know that it is the word of God before I can believe in it.” I reply, “ You cannot.” It is true, happily true, that we receive the New Testament as the Word of God, on the faith of our parents or of our education; but it is never really received as such, till it is " mixed with faith " in those that read it. For my part, I receive the New Testament with full assurance, in its present form, as adopted by the universal Church. Circumstances having called me to it, I have examined the external evidences, and found them satisfactory; but that does not produce faith. It may be useful, to obviate the objections made by those who do not live upon the Word, and cannot judge of it. The authority of God is not subject to human intelligence. I know that some of the epistles were questioned in the early ages, at least in certain places; but I doubt not, that in receiving those books which form the New Testament, as inspired, the Church was guided by God. The means of communication are not the rule of authority; but these means may be used according to the certainty of the rule. A mother instructs her child in the truth, but she is not the rule of the truth. Thus the poor Christian receives the New Testament in the form in which it is distributed. It may be that he cannot demonstrate its authenticity, but he happily profits by the fact that the Church receives it. When he has read it, he finds it divine. God thus uses means to spread the truth, and the book which contains it. The multitude of believers profit by it. It is God who acts thus. If an answer must be given to unbelievers who dispute
the authority of that which others enjoy, it may be that only a few amongst them are able to convince gainsayers; but that does not hinder God's using these means, and giving faith to those who use them; and then the folly of gainsayers and of those who have fed themselves upon unbelief, becomes manifest.
I have said that the man who is exercised in the word according to God, finds not only the proof of its divinity in the application of passage after passage to his conscience, but will gain the deepest conviction of its perfection as a whole, through the knowledge, he will thus gain of the fulness of Christ. I will take an instance, which is used to prove that there are things in the New Testament which are outside the province of spiritual discernment. The Spirit of God cannot, it is said, make us feel the value of a genealogy. Such a remark only betrays ignorance of the Word and of Christ Himself. To set forth the varied glory of Jesus, according to the counsels of God respecting Him, it is needful to present the different characters He bears; this is the substance of God's revelation. Now His connection with Abraham and David, and His connection with Adam, are leading points in this revelation; and the genealogies set this
But this is not all. They correspond exactly with the character of the Gospels in which we find them. The Gospel by Matthew treats especially of the Messiah, of the relation of Christ to the Jews, of the fulfilment of prophecy in Him, and at the same time, of His rejection as Messiah, and the transition to a new dispensation. Luke sets before us, after the Saviour's birth, the great features of grace brought in by the second Adam, and the great moral principles belonging to it; so that in the body of this Gospel, events are not arranged in chronological order, but according to their moral bearing. This is true, even in the history of the temptation. John, on the contrary, gives us the person of the Saviour, who is above all the dispensational dealings of God in the earth. The Jews are set aside throughout as rejected, therefore no genealogy is given. The Word was God. John's gospel begins before Genesis, and at the close, we find neither the agony in Gethsemane, nor
the forsaking on the cross; but other things are mentioned which are not found in Matthew or in Luke. Thus the different glories of Christ are manifested, and by degrees the admirable perfection of the Word shines forth in all its splendour. The criticisms of man fade away, like the stars before the sun, which makes them disappear, with the darkness that allowed them to be seen. The Bible presents us with a perfection both in its details and as a whole, which leaves no doubt in the mind of one who has tasted it, that as a complete whole it is divine.
I have already spoken of its divinity in its separate parts, as the sword of the Spirit causing its power to be felt in the soul, judging it, and revealing Christ to it; but I speak of it now as a whole, of what is called the canon of Scripture. If Matthew were wanting, we should not have the Messiah, Son of David, and Son of Abraham. If Mark were wanting, we should not have the Servant, made in the likeness of man; if Luke, we should not have the Son of Man; if John, we should lose the Son of God. In the Acts, we find the foundation of the Church, by the power of the Spirit of God, the commencement and development of the Church in Jerusalem, through the instrumentality of the twelve; then the Gentiles grafted into the good Olive Tree by Peter, the Apostle of the circumcision; and, when Jerusalem had rejected the testimony, the Church, fully revealed, and called by the ministry of Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. The Epistle to the Romans furnishes the eternal principles of God's relationship with man, established in blessing by means of Christ, dead and risen, and the reconciling of these things with the speciality of the promises made to the Jews by Him whose gifts and calling are without repentance. In the Corinthians are found details respecting the inward regulation of a Church; its walk, its order, its restoration when it had gone astray, the patience and the energy of grace; the whole sketched by the Spirit of God, acting through an apostle, and declaring the divine authority of His commands. In Galatians, the contrast between Law and Promise as well as the source of ministry; in a word the condemnation of Judaism, even in its very roots.