The Bible records events from the beginning of creation down toward the end of the first century. Many of the things reported therein transpired long before the pyramids were built along the course of the River Nile. Let it be remembered that the songs of David and Solomon had been sung: and they had gone to their rewards before the great classic poet of Greece had given the account of the Trojan War and the wanderings of Ulysses. Many of the books of the Bible were complete before the first public library was built in the old, historic city of Athens; and all the prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi, had given us a vision of future events and had passed away before the philosophies of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were announced. Two thousand years have passed since the Holy Spirit laid down the pen of inspiration to grasp it nevermore, during which time wonderful things in the earth have been wrought. And yet it is strange to say that the Bible is just as applicable to the people of this hour as it was to those of the first century, when fresh it came from the hand that penned it.
I think it interesting, further, to study the character of the writings, and also of the writers, because of the peculiar and unique features thereof.
In this one library or collection there are sixty-six books, penned by practically forty different writers, stretching over a period from first to last of 1,600 years. And I ask: Who are they? Not a people surrounded by the advantages that characterize modern times, with all our equipment and facilities for learning, but descendants of a people that had been in bondage 430 years, whose lives were burdened, and whose tasks were exceedingly difficult under the overseers and masters that used them to fill the already overflowing coffers of the great Egyptian government. They passed out from under that bondage by the hand of God and the leadership of Moses and wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. Under Joshua they crossed the River Jordan and drove out the enemy, and finally took possession of the land promised unto their fathers. Untutored and unlearned though they were, not a literary folk by any means, scattered over a period of sixteen hundred years, writing about the same events, in a country not much larger than the county of Davidson, Tenn., yet when their products are brought together and woven into one complete whole, there is not a contradiction or discrepancy of serious consideration found in the entire collection.
The Jews have never been known as a literary people in fact. I think it well worth saying that outside of the book of God and perhaps the history written by Josephus, there is not a literary production from the pen of a Jew that occupies first rank in the literature of the world. As a nation, they have disintegrated and have scattered to the four quarters of the earth; their very name has become a byword among the people; and yet they have lived and have given to the world a book that is found in every civilized land ‘neath the broad expanse of heaven, that occupies the first place, challenges the sincerest thought of the best of all the earth; and I suggest that it is not amiss to wonder, in passing, how account for matters of this kind?
Sometimes we are asked: “Is the Bible a book noted for its science?” Is it of scientific value? Let it be modestly said that, in the commonly accepted sense of the term, it was never intended as a treatise of that kind and character; but out of all the books ever scanned by mortal man, let me say, without fear of contradiction, that it is the only one ever written of which every word is dependable and absolutely reliable. Let me say, further, that there is not a real scientific principle known that is in violation of, or contradictory to, the word of God. I know that throughout the ages the enemies of the word of the Lord have sought to find discrepancies. They have endeavored to discount God’s volume on the ground that it is contradicted by scientific research, but they ought to bear in mind that science is yet in its infancy—that the accepted theories of yesterday are contradicted by those of today.
Due to a failure to understand one or both, the Bible and science have been considered by many contradictory, and the fight has been on between them. But I have an idea that in the not far distance pseudo-scientists will have reached their limits, and then real science and the Bible will set out on convergent lines that will by and by come together.
I have noted as a historic fact that the civilization of every land has had to go back, despite the claims and progress of humanity, to the foundation laid by God in that wonderful document given to Moses, and upon that the governments of earth rest. Moreover, in the special relationships of man to man, let it be understood and forgotten not that we go back to the Sermon on the Mount to find the philosophy of life, and the passing of the centuries has failed to record improvements upon that found there.
I suggest this thought just now, in passing: that out of the great chaotic condition that exists in the nations of the earth there is a star of hope rising from its far-distant home a hope indicative of better things; and that hope is this: that when man, in all his boasted vanity, has proven a failure, when the nations of this earth have gone their limits, when business men of every type shall come to themselves, they may all recognize their dependence and accept the golden rule laid down by the greatest of all teachers—viz., that we must do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Then peace and tranquility, happiness and prosperity, will once more smile upon the earth
I call your attention next to this particular characteristic: The Bible, unlike all books written by man, does not become obsolete with the passing of the years. That is a statement that particularly belongs to the Bible, and to it alone. It is a boasted declaration of this generation that, due to progress and learning, our textbooks used a few years ago are no longer found in the schoolrooms of today. Where is the old blue-back spelling book? Where are McGuffey’s old readers? Where are Smiley’s arithmetics and Barnes’ series of histories? They have yielded to the mutations of time; and, therefore, the books that we study today were unknown a generation ago. The very textbooks in our schools on science will give way tomorrow for those with different theories. There must be the adoption of a more modern book. The Bible knows no such thing as passing while the ages come and go. It is ever fresh, like unto a mountain spring from which all our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers slaked their thirst in generations gone by; and still, to us, the same spring offers that drink afresh, and it will continue to offer it to those yet unborn. While it treats of the most sublime problems known to man—of God and of Christ, of heaven and of hell, of salvation and redemption—yet the passing centuries have never added one single thought unto the statements therein found. Scientists cannot get ahead of it. Human progress cannot overtake it or get beyond it. Every generation born upon the earth finds the Bible waiting for it, with its fresh and never-failing stores of wisdom touching everything that affects the welfare of humanity.
Another characteristic of the word of God is the fact that, unlike most, if not all, of the books written by man, it can be translated into different languages and lose none of its power. I take it that this explains why the Greek and other classics of days gone by have remained in the language wherein they were penned. It has been demonstrated that a change to other tongues is but the depreciation, the sounding of the death knell, to the writings and productions of man. But here is a volume that seems to run freely into other languages. It has been translated into more than five hundred different tongues and dialects, and yet it is so plain and clear in its declarations that when we read it we scarcely stop to think that we are reading a book penned in a language other than our own.
But let me announce a stranger fact still. Of all the books the world has ever known, there has never been but one that has incurred the hatred of mortal man. Many books have been disliked, but they had only to be let alone in order to pass out of existence and to be numbered with the past. But the Bible has had a persistent and murderous enemy ever on its trail, seeking to annihilate it, to wipe it from the face of the earth. Had you ever stopped to think of the reason for such a feeling manifested toward it? The Bible has a supernatural enemy who has experienced its power, and ever since he was “knocked out in the third round” the devil has marshaled all his forces to rid the world of the sword of the Spirit.
But there is perhaps another reason which I suggest for your study, and that is this: The Bible draws an appalling picture of man. It does not proclaim his career as one of progress, ever reaching toward holy realms, but rather the reverse. It suggests his course as one of darkness rather than light, because his deeds are evil. It does not picture man as having come into adverse conditions of life by no fault of his own, nor does it represent him as using all the powers of his being in trying to overcome a situation; but it says: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 5:1.) And then, coming down the ages to the New Testament, as revealed in Romans 1:29-31, the Bible pictures man as,
…being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful. And the picture further describes him as having gone astray and walking according to the course of this world and according to the spirit that works in the children of disobedience.
His wisdom is ridiculed and his deeds condemned. He is without God and without hope. When a man looks upon that appalling scene, it is anything but encouraging and inviting; and, therefore, to rid the world of a portrait like that, the enemies have kept up the fight.
But that is not all. Let me say to you, the Bible is the only thing in all this wide world that claims to exercise authority and dominion over man. That very claim is contrary to our disposition and our nature. We are a democratic people, and love to boast of liberty, of absolute freedom; and I repeat: God’s word is the only thing that comes to us and proposes to hold us accountable and amenable for our deeds and for our steps along the pathway of life. Neither does the Bible consult us nor advise with us as to how we would prefer to have it; but it speaks, indeed, as one having authority—not upon a plane or level with mankind, but superhuman, and issues its decrees and its edicts in the form of “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not.” Thus it speaks to the governors and kings, to fathers and to mothers, to masters and to servants, to the rich and to the poor, to the bond and to the free, circumscribing, therefore, our liberty and holding us in check.
The disposition of the world is to break all bonds and to know no limitations, to yield to the appetites, the passions, and the lusts of our own being; and could the enemies of the Bible get rid of it, the man of sin would be revealed and anarchy would reign triumphant over the splendid land in which we live.
But this is not all. There have been ambitious schemes and hellish purposes harbored by men—yea, by governments and by empires—to exercise dominion over other nations, regardless of their wishes and contrary to the principles of holy writ.
Half a century ago the imperial German Government, prompted by such hellish intent and desire of world-wide power, started out to subject the peoples of this earth. Have you ever studied their tactics along this line? They first undertook to get rid of the book of God, and by legislative enactment they drove it out at the back door of the schoolroom and said: “We will train a generation of boys and girls, not under the influence of the God of the Bible, but under the influence of the god of war.” And let me say to you that but for the fact that the power of the Bible was driven out and eliminated, the black crimes and the atrocious deeds that characterize historic pages could never have been possible. When I say to you that their propaganda started forty years ago, that it spread through their government, and that its influence reached the proud land of America, I but state that which all of us have come to recognize as a fact.
That no influence can be in its way, the enemy has sought to destroy the Bible from the face of the earth. May I suggest to you, as a matter of history, some of the efforts that have been made along that line? At first it was tried by physical force. The powers of church and state have been united to rid the earth of every book that bears the name of Jehovah upon it. Officers have been selected and empowered to make a detailed search into the homes to find God’s word, and, if it were found, to confiscate it and bring it unto the powers that be for its absolute destruction. Edicts and decrees went forth, laws were passed, and those persons found with the Bible were subjected to fines and imprisonment—yea, unto death itself. But the devil and his cohorts failed in a matter of that sort. Then they turned and called to their support the intellect and learning, saying: “By that means we will rid the earth of that hateful book which holds in check our ambitious schemes and desires.”
The Bible has, indeed, been an anvil on which many a hammer has absolutely been worn out. Old Voltaire, in the generations gone by, proudly boasted that while it took twelve men to write it up, he would show the world that one man could write it down, and predicted that before the close of his century there would not be one found upon the earth. Following in his tracks, our own Tom Paine, who did so much for the cause of liberty and freedom during the darkest days of the Revolution by bringing out the various issues of The Crisis, became puffed up and inflated and turned his attention to the writing of a wonderful book that he called The Age of Reason. This spread like wild fire all over the land, and tauntingly and proudly its author and his friends boasted that in fifty years the Bible would be found only in some of the museums of earth. But be it remembered that thrice fifty years have come and gone; Tom Paine has also gone the way of all the earth; his book is scarcely mentioned, read, or heard of; while every year there flows from the presses ten million copies of the book of God.
How do you explain this remarkable fact? What the philosophy? I think there is but one explanation, and that is found in the declaration of the peerless apostle to the Gentiles, when he said in Hebrews 4:12 (ARV): “The word of God is living and active.” This is corroborated by Peter’s declaration that the word of the Lord lives and abides forever. And in that is a peculiar remark well worthy of our consideration. I am conscious that we live in a land characterized by death; that all the things beheld by the natural eye have death and decay written thereon. I wonder, is it a fact that in this wide world of ours, that has become a veritable charnelhouse of death, is there one thing which the forces of corruption have been unable to touch or to destroy? I am made to understand and to believe that the word of God still lives in that inexhaustible and inextinguishable manner—yea, it lives with a life superhuman and nothing short of Divine. It is comparable unto nothing, save, perhaps, the Word that was made flesh.
Jesus, the Christ, had no special marks about him to distinguish and differentiate him from the rest of his fellows. Yet he declared that in himself was life. The world believed it not. The evidence of it was not his splendid teachings nor the very fine precepts by him given, but it was that he was able to burst the bars of death asunder and to rise triumphant over the powers of the Hadean world.
The Bible does not “behave” itself, if you please, unlike other books. There is nothing about it that is especially distinguishable, and yet there is that difference between it and all the writing of man that there was between Jesus, the Christ, and the rest of the world that lived in his age.
I submit to you, further, that God’s word has never been equaled by the literature of any nation the world has ever seen. Strange indeed that in the career of Greece and of Rome, or in the great Elizabethan Age, some collection of literature was not penned that would transcend in prominence and influence the word of God. Man did not write it. I want, as his counsel, to put in the plea of “not guilty.”
Let me say also that the Bible belongs not to any period or to any age. It belongs to all classes of mankind and to every condition of life wherein humanity may chance to dwell.
The Bible appeals to the common characteristics and impulses of every man and woman upon the face of the earth. It comes unto the humble, unto those of contrite spirit, unto broken hearts, and gives unto them a halo of hope and a glittering star to guide every footstep further on; it comes to every man, in whatsoever station of life he may be, and challenges the very best thoughts of his being.
Indeed, the Bible is the miracle of the ages. Despite the attacks of pagans, infidels, philosophers, and pseudo scientists, the Bible still stands forth against all such, and is more widely read, more highly respected, and more influential today than any other book in all the world.
Since its inspired and immortal truths were penned thousands of years ago amid the quiet hills of Palestine, wonderful changes in the affairs of men have been wrought.
I think of once lordly Egypt that has been forced to pass under the dominion of a foreign foe. The orators, the poets, the painters, the sculptors, and the architects of once glorious Greece have long since passed away, and their works have slowly, but surely, yielded to the mutations of time. Imperial Rome raised her head sublime, and from the seven-hilled city spread abroad her power and her influence over all the nations of the earth, then humbly bowed her head and ceased to be. Desolation marks the site of old Carthage. Tyre and Sidon no longer send their ships to distant ports. The proud fleets of Spain, laden with the rich treasures of the Aztecs and of the Incas, have long since ceased to sail the seas. The picture of worldwide dominion painted by the ambitious schemes of Napoleon has long since faded, and the “man of destiny” died amid the lonely scenes of Saint Helena. Empires have been overthrown, dynasties have fallen, and the meteoric light of would-be reformers has flashed across the arched sky, only to be swept into oblivion and forgetfulness; while the Bible, a Divine product, woven into the texture of human thought and history by the gradual unfolding of the ages, still stands, bidding defiance to every wave of infidelity, giving comfort and hope to Christians, and pointing sinners to the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. It is the Book of books, that Book that outshines all other books in the literary firmament, as the sun outshines the splendid planets that in their orbits revolve around him.
It is, indeed, the mariner’s north star. It is the compass of every Christian to guide his frail bark across the tempestuous sea of life and finally induct him into those scenes that we expect to burst upon our enraptured visions over there. It is, indeed, a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. It lives and abides forever, and this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you.