THE SUPREME AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES
In order that our faith may be established as upon rock, and our hearts guarded from all infidel criticism of the SCRIPTURES, which are the mind of God precipitated into words, let us remind ourselves exactly where we stand.
1. We stand where the
for eighteen centuries has stood.
Take the far end of this epoch first, and we ask - How did the
men who lived immediately after the Apostles regard the Scriptures? Irenaeus (A.D. 177), whose teacher, Polycarp, had actually been taught by John, says:- The Scriptures are perfect,
because uttered by the Word of God, and His Spirit. Theophilus of
For eight hundred years after Christ no Christian teacher can
be found who denied the absolute inspiration of the Scriptures. Now take this
end of the Churchs long history. Dr. Joseph Parker voices what all Nonconformists believed in the middle of the Nineteenth
reading of the Bible, he says, has made me an
unquestioning and grateful believer in the plenary inspiration, the divine
authority, and the infinite sufficiency of Holy Scripture. So also the Church of
archbishops and bishops, in a united protest addressed to Bishop Colenso in 1863, said:- All our hopes for eternity, the very foundations of our faith, our nearest and dearest
consolations, are taken from us if one line of that Sacred Book be declared
unfaithful or untrustworthy. Even the Church of Rome, as lately as in the
What does all this mean? It means that if Polycarp and Justin Martyr, Augustine and Chrysostom, Luther and Calvin, Wesley and Whitefield, Pusey and Spurgeon, were to rise from the dead, they, that is, the whole Church of eighteen centuries - would stand aghast at the utterances of the modern pulpit. We stand, with the whole Church of God, where Chrysostom stood fifteen hundred years ago:- There is not anything in Scripture which can be considered unimportant; there is not a single sentence which does not deserve to be meditated on: for it is not the word of man, but of the Holy Spirit and the least syllable of it contains a hidden treasure.
2. We stand where all Gods Apostles and Prophets
have always stood.
If Peter were alive, and Paul, and our Lord, how eagerly we would run to listen to their words as decisive on all our doubts! Yet that is exactly the evidence we have got. In the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament there are 501 passages in the Pentateuch, 292 in the Historical Books, and 1,111 in the Prophetical Books in which the words, Thus saith the Lord, God spake, God said, or words to that effect, occur. No less than 1,904 times do such expressions occur in the thirty-nine books; so that at least three-fifths of the whole of the Old Testament is directly declared to be the Word of God. Their truth, their absolute reliability, was the very test which God Himself proposed to prove their inspiration. If the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken (Deut. 18: 22).
Now the Apostles, in the New Testament, actually heighten the sense of Gods authorship of the Old: for they say, The prophets sought diligently what time or what manner of time - what kind of dispensation - the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it prophesied beforehand (1 Pet. 1: 11). The Spirit in them prophesied, not they; and the minds of the Old Testament prophets examined separately what had been said through their mouths; indeed so separate was their mind from the Spirits and the inspired utterance, that they did not always even understand its meaning.
It was the word which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet (Matt. 1: 22 R.V.); the Scripture which the Holy Ghost spake by the mouth of David (Acts 1: 16); things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all His prophets (Acts 3: 18): for the Scriptures are God-breathed, and no prophecy - all the Scriptures are the writings of Prophets ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Pet. 1: 21 R. V.)
The Apostle John crowns it all by asserting the verbal inspiration of the last book of the Bible under penalty of the most fearful warnings:- If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city (Rev. 22: 19 R.V.) We stand where all Gods Apostles and Prophets have always stood.
3. We come to the Supreme Authority last: and we find that
we stand where Our Lord Himself stood.
Take three instances only. In the wilderness our Lord meets each assault of Satan by a quoted Scripture, every time resting His whole weight on a single word in the passage: Not by bread alone; thou shalt not tempt the Lord; Him only shalt thou serve; and Satan, who today will tell men spiritually ignorant that God never wrote these words, never dared tell Christ so.
Again, our Lord, when using words which on the lips of the highest Seraph would have been blasphemous, and for which the Jews did actually charge Him with blasphemy, I and the Father are one, establishes His position by a quotation from a Psalm in which He rests His whole defence on a single word:- I said, Ye are gods; and then, cutting off all criticism with the awful authority of the Son of God, He adds:- And the Scripture - that is, even a single word in a psalm - cannot be broken (John 10: 35); for, according to our Lord Himself, no jot (the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet) or tittle (the tiny strokes in each letter) of the Scripture can fail (Matt. 5: 18). If no solitary Scripture can fail or be broken, not even one word, it can only be because God has made it infallible, and that the whole Book is charged with God.
Finally, our Lord expresses the inspired stability of Scripture with a force no lips have ever equalled. It is easier, He says, for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the law - the Old Testament - to fail (Luke 16: 17 R.V.) He who made the stars, who created the mighty world in which we live, says that it is easier for the planets to disappear in mighty explosions, and easier for the earth to roll away in a sheet of flame, than for one tittle - the smallest fraction of a Hebrew letter - to fail: the words of God are more sacred to Him than the most stupendous of all His works.
Thus we stand where the whole Church of God for eighteen centuries stood, where all the apostles and prophets have stood, and where the Son of God Himself stood and stands. Let us remain, even if it were at the cost of life itself, faithful to the Holy Scriptures.