‘Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises.’
‘Precious’ is a very favourable word with the writers of the Bible, especially with St. Peter. He speaks of many things as precious.
I. Christ.—‘Unto you therefore which believe He is precious’ (1 Peter 2:7). Precious as a Saviour from sin, a present friend, and a final deliverer.
II. Faith.—‘To them that have obtained like precious faith with us’ (2 Peter 1:1). Now faith depends for its value upon that which calls it forth. Faith in man, in ordinances, in sacraments, in the Church cannot benefit us by giving us salvation. Faith is precious only as it embraces Christ and enables us to say, ‘He is mine, and I am His.’
III. The Precious Blood.—‘The precious blood of Christ’ (1 Peter 1:18-19). ‘Blood of Christ’ refers to His life taken away and signifies His death, and is precious because it points to the central doctrine of the gospel—the atonement, which stands to all other doctrines in the Bible as the keystone of an arch to all the other stones which are built up upon it; or as the sun to the earth and all the other planets which revolve around it.
IV. The promises.—‘Great and precious promises.’ In old time the Psalmist sang, ‘How precious are Thy thoughts to me, O God!’ The promises are but the thoughts of God put into words, that we might be more able to grasp and understand them.
EXCEEDING GREAT AND PRECIOUS PROMISES
‘Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’
Why are these promises so great and precious?
I. Because of the source from which they come.—These promises flow from the highest source, they flow from Him Who is the fountain of supply to all His people. They are great because they are bestowed upon us by a great God. Let us have great thoughts of God. We often dishonour Him by expecting so little from Him.
II. Because of their intrinsic character.—How can they be described?
(a) They are free. ‘Whereby are given unto us.’ They are not earned, still less can they be deserved, but they are freely bestowed—free as the sunshine, free as the air. These great announcements of the mercy of God are offered without money and without price, they are within the reach of the humblest and feeblest believer, and since they are so there is no excuse for any man remaining destitute of them. He has but to put in his claim to enjoy them, and they are his.
(b) Further, these promises are not only free, but they are full, they are wonderfully complete.
III. Because of the purpose for which they are given.
(a) The negative side. Why are they given? To furnish a way of escape from sin. ‘Having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust.’ And where is lust or evil desire? Not in the outward, material world. Sinful lusts are found in human hearts. This verse is a promise of deliverance from the corruption of the heart. ‘Having escaped.’ A wonderful escape indeed to be set free from the workings of that corrupt heart that has so often brought us into danger and difficulty. There is no real evil but sin. Sorrows, troubles, and trials are not necessarily evils after all—the only real evil is sin. It is sin that darkens our souls and covers us with shame; it is sin that separates men from God.
(b) The positive side. ‘That ye might be partakers of the Divine nature.’ Does some one ask, ‘What is the Divine nature?’ The answer is, ‘God is love.’ With that nature you can achieve the impossible—you can love your enemies. Are you aware that that is a Christian command? Have you ever thought it possible? Or do you think that Christ is like the Roman Emperor Caligula, who wrote his statutes so high up that the people could not read them, and then punished them for disobedience to them. No, ‘His commandments are not grievous.’ You say, ‘I cannot do it.’ I know you cannot, but—Christ in you can. Christ loved His enemies when He was upon earth, and prayed, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’ What we want is the indwelling of God. There is no other remedy for the sins and miseries of men.
—Rev. E. W. Moore.
(1) ‘When Alexander the Great, distributing the spoils of war, allotted to one of his generals a valuable prize, some one standing by remarked, “Those cities are too great a gift for Parmenio to receive.” “They may be too great for him to receive,” replied the king, “but they are not too great for Alexander to give.” Alexander was a great king and he gave according to his greatness. He gave “according to the estate of the king” (Esther 2:18). If so, what may we not expect from the King of kings?’
(2) ‘Shall we not lean our weight upon the promises of God, yea upon Him Himself? Dr. John Paton, of the New Hebrides, in his wonderful missionary story, gives us a striking definition of faith. The natives had no word for faith; when they wished to say they did not believe a report, they said they did not hear it, by which they meant that though they heard it they gave no heed to it. That, however, was not a sufficient definition of faith. Many passages, such as “Faith cometh by hearing,” would be impossible of translation by such means, and the good missionary prayed and pondered, asking God to “supply the missing link.” One day as he was anxiously weighing the matter over at home an intelligent native entered and the missionary thought he would make another trial. “He sat upon an ordinary chair, his feet resting on the floor,” and he asked the native, “What am I doing now?” The native replied, “Koikœ ana, missi”—“You are sitting down, missionary.” “And what am I doing now?” said Dr. Paton, taking his feet off the floor and leaning back in the easy-chair with both feet on the lower rail. Immediately the man replied, “Fakarongrongo, missi,” meaning, “you are leaning wholly or all your weight, missionary.” “That’s it,” shouted the missionary, with an exultant cry. His prayer was answered. Yes. To trust is to lean all your weight.’
A GREAT INHERITANCE
How do these promises come to us? They are all of God; they have their source in His unchanging and eternal love. ‘I have loved Thee with an everlasting love.’ There is the fountain from which they flow, the great heart of God beating with an eternal love. And they flow down to us through Christ. All the promises circle round Him. They stand to Christ as the light to the sun, the stream to the fountain, the branch to the tree, fragrance to the flower. No Christ, no promise. We can truly say, ‘All to Christ we owe.’ They are all ‘in Him.’
I. They are described as ‘exceeding great and precious.’
(a) Great in number. As well attempt to enumerate all the stars which hang out like beautiful lamps in the sky when night falls upon the earth as endeavour to reckon up the promises of God. Promises for the family of God in duty, in temptation, in trouble, in bereavement, in sickness, and in death; for the penitent—outside the inner circle of the children are those who border on the kingdom, but do not enter—there are promises to encourage these: ‘The Son of Man has come to seek and to save,’ etc.; for sinners—we might have thought that God would have passed these by, but no; He says, ‘Let the wicked forsake his way,’ etc. He would win them by promises of mercy and forgiveness.
(b) Great in breadth. They give to the true child of God all things needful for the earthly life; all things necessary for the spiritual life—pardon, purity, peace; and all things pertaining to the future life, culminating in that wonderful word, ‘We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’
(c) Precious because of their value in supporting us while on earth and unfolding to us a grand future. They tell of pardon for all sin, strength against all temptation, comfort in every trial, a glorious resurrection and a happy immortality. Without the promises how dark, with them how bright, the future! As the aurora borealis shines on the cold and frosty sky, tinging it with light, flashing across it bright rays, cheering men, so the promises of God sparkle in the dark night of gloom and trouble, throwing brightness around the grave and illuminating all the future, making glad the children of God.
II. How they operate.—‘That by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature.’ They are means to holiness. In Hebrews 12:10 we are told that chastisements are sent by God ‘that we might be partakers of His holiness.’ Both work for the same end—likeness to Christ, and, as a consequence, to God. We are not to be partakers of the Divine essence, nor are we to be absorbed into the Divine nature, but we are ‘to be holy as He is holy’; we become one with Him in the moral nature; and this oneness will increase more and more for ever, until in heaven, in a sense much higher than can be true on earth, we become ‘partakers of the Divine nature.’ The work of sanctification is gradual, and it may necessarily be so. The greatest things in nature take the longest time to mature. God gives us the promises to accelerate our progress in escaping the corruption that is in the world through lust. Men may be very slow to develop the blossoms of holiness, but let us have hope in God. Let us sometimes think of men in the light of that land where they shall be cleansed and purified through the sanctifying love of God in Christ Jesus; when, free from all temptation, purified from all alloy, they are ennobled and glorified, seated in heavenly places as ‘partakers of the Divine nature.’
III. How they are obtained.—‘Given unto us.’ They are given freely, but we must grasp them by faith. ‘Who through faith have obtained promises.’ Therefore, though free, they may be said to be conditional. Most of them have this condition attached to them: ‘For these things will I be inquired of by the house of Israel to do them for them.’ There are promises which need only the outstretched hand of faith to accept them: ‘Ask,’ etc.; others require importunate prayer: ‘Seek,’ etc.; others, importunate prayer combined with earnest effort: ‘Knock,’ etc. Some are like grapes in the winepress—only tread them and the juice will flow; others are like fruit-bearing trees from which the fruit does not readily drop—you must shake again and again before you obtain it. But whatever the condition may be, remember to fulfil it. Moses knew that God had given a promise to Israel—‘I will make thee a great nation,’ etc.—but he felt that in order to obtain it he and others must work and toil and practise self-denial; so he ‘refuses to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,’ etc., and led the nation on to inherit the promise.
These exceeding great and precious promises are our common heritage. No Church has a monopoly of them; they belong to one and all who will accept them. Seek for those that are applicable to your case.
PRACTICAL CHRISTIAN LIFE
‘And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.’
Such words are evidently addressed to those who are professedly separated from an evil world. They have ‘escaped from the corruption of the world through lust.’ But the Apostle would have them making good their escape by putting as wide an interval as possible between their old life and their new. ‘Beside this’ escape, he says, there is something else, ‘make your calling and election sure’ by ‘working out your salvation with fear and trembling.’ ‘Giving all diligence’ complete the work which is begun. The Revised Version renders the words more exactly, ‘Yea, and for this very cause, adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue,’ etc. The meaning is substantially the same. The idea is that of Christian progress.
I. There is the starting-point, faith.—If we are seeking a destination, the place from which we set forth is of the greatest importance. So in the Christian life. Faith must come first. Without faith—and it is essential that we should learn the lesson—it is impossible to please God.
II. From faith to virtue.—Christian virtue is moral manliness, fighting the battle of life with a brave spirit in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. No doubt the Apostle remembered that spiritual enemies and dangers surrounded Christians at all times. There is nothing more perilous than having faith without the support of manly life. The individual or the community which attends much to doctrine or to feelings, without moral earnestness, without practical endeavour, will be tempted to Pharisaic pride or inflated fanaticism. ‘Devils believe and tremble,’ but ‘Satan cannot love.’ What the world especially wants is not so much confident believers to dogmatise, but Christ-like men and women sending forth spiritual influence like streams of new life into the moral wilderness. The ‘virtue’ is something that all men can appreciate. It is not only light, but heat. It appeals not only to the head, but to the heart. When it touches men in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, it bids them rise up and walk, and spiritual miracles testify to the truth with a power which ‘none of the adversaries are able to gainsay or resist.’ For our own sakes, that we may be held up in a time when many fall, for the world’s sake, that the truth may be glorified in us, let us add to our faith virtue.
III. From virtue to knowledge.—In Bible language, knowing is not a mere cultivation of our human faculties, nor a mere receiving goods into a warehouse. In the Christian life, knowledge calls in the light of God into the treasury of a sanctified intelligence, whence the steward brings forth continually things new and old. ‘The entrance of Thy words giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple.’ ‘I have more understanding than all my teachers, because I have kept Thy word.’ In a busy age like ours, energetic life makes great demand upon us. The multiplication of efforts and interests is necessary in all departments of practical Christianity. But our activity is prone to dissipate itself for lack of concentration, to exhaust itself prematurely for lack of nourishment. Knowledge, when it is derived immediately from God, obtained by prayerful search into the Scriptures, thoughtful inquiry after the mind of Christ, diligent cultivation of fellowship with higher and holier minds than our own, wonderfully feeds the vital strength, lifts us up into the higher life.
IV. Faith, virtue, knowledge, these are the leading graces of the Christian character, and those which follow them in the Apostle’s exhortation are fruits of the Spirit, which abound wherever the Word of God strikes downward into the heart and comes forth into the life—temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity.
‘If you would succeed in your efforts to make progress in the Christian life, every plan should be formed, every business entered upon, every work, engaged in, with prayer. Sir Matthew Hale once observed, ‘If I omit praying and reading a portion of God’s blessed Word in the morning, nothing goes well the whole day.’ The late Earl Cairns was known to go constantly from his knees to important meetings of the Cabinet. Such men were Christians indeed. They brought everything to the touchstone of their religion. And they brought their religion into everything. We want more effort in the Christian life, more decision for Christ, more determination to be separate from the world.’
PROPHECY THE GUIDE TO CHRIST
‘Prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.’
Such is St. Peter’s description of prophecy. He speaks of certain dark spots covering the earth, and scattered over the surface of humanity, upon which a sudden light has burst; just as on a spring day a beam of sunshine will force its way through a reft in the obscuring clouds.
I. This light is prophecy.—What the ‘dark places’ are we need not doubt. The writings of Jew and Gentile alike tell us this. These convince us that men were then living who were like ourselves in every respect, anxious to know the truth, having thoughts and aspirations similar to our own; men who realised to themselves the warfare between the spirit and the flesh, the spiritual and the natural man; who knew as well as we do (though they spoke of it in different language) the keen strife which is carried on within the man between good and evil, and wondered which of the two would be triumphant. These men longed to know the issue of the conflict between right and wrong, and these yearnings are evidence that the ‘dark places’ existed. To these longings we may say, without the least hesitation, ‘Prophecy was as a light that shineth in a dark place.’ All doubts, all difficulties could be resolved by the light which was thrown by the Holy Ghost, ‘Who spake by the prophets.’ Such we may presume to have been the use of prophecy in the dark times that prevailed before the coming of Christ. Prophecy was a light which guided the erring into the truth, and assured the doubters that He Whom they sought was not far from them if haply they might feel ‘after Him and find Him.’
II. And at the time when Christ came, and in the early Apostolic age, when, undoubtedly, this remarkable Epistle of St. Peter was written, prophecy had still its function to fulfil. Otherwise why should St. Peter have added the words ‘whereunto ye do well that ye take heed’? There were at that time both Jews and Christians to whom prophecy was a ‘light.’ There can be no doubt about this; for—
(a) The Jews saw in their dissensions, which marked the concluding years of the existence of Jerusalem, the clearest signs of the decay of Israel, so far as it had existed as a nation.
(b) And to the Christian in the Apostolic age prophecy also had its message.—Of course, inasmuch as the greater part of the earlier Christians were converts from Judaism, the prophecies, whether typical or verbal, were cited by the Apostolic teachers in such a way as to convince them of the identity of the two covenants, the Gospels of the Old and New Testaments respectively. This is evident to any careful reader of the Epistles to the Romans and to the Hebrews.
III. If we turn from the Apostolic age to the writings of Christian teachers in the second century of the Christian era, you will notice that a very striking use of prophecy is made, when the prophetical words of the Old Testament are cited to those who had been brought up from their infancy in the Christian faith. When no controversy existed between Jews and Christians it may be said, as a general rule, that the ‘prophecy’ of the Old Testament is quoted just as any book of the New. ‘Prophecy’ is employed, just as the Gospels or Apostolical writings are, to show the importance of some Christian virtue or some article of Christian faith. Throughout the writings of the so-called Apostolic Fathers there is not a single passage cited from the prophets as evidence of the supernatural character of the Kingdom of Christ. That was taken for granted as a fact, thoroughly accepted by those to whom these early letters were written. In other words, in early Christian times prophecy was not used for controversial purposes, it was employed simply to show people the importance of practical religion.
IV. Prophecy has not even now lost one jot or tittle of its importance.—It continues to be a light which guides men to Christ, and keeps them with Him. And this it does, not only because the predictions contained in prophecy declare that God is the Author of prophecy, but because the prophecies themselves imply the presence of Christ with His prophets. Prediction is indeed evidential, but prophecy is such in a far higher sense. For prediction only teaches us that there is such a supernatural fact as that God has revealed the future to man. It shows us that God did not leave Himself without witness to the truth, either in the land of Balaam the alien, or that of Isaiah the Jew. The power of prediction, like that of miracles, was only incidental to the prophetical office. Prediction was not the essence of prophecy, but only subsidiary to it, as a sign to unbelievers. But to us prophecy is as the light that guides us to Christ, because each page of prophecy, whether predictive or not, argues the presence of Christ with the prophets.
‘If the prophecies are to be a light to us, beware lest that light be quenched. St. Paul has an important text which may be applied as a caution to all who study their Bibles with minuteness. “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?” If a life is spent in mere textual or verbal criticism, what is gained if the Divine words are not realised in the heart? What does a man gain if he succeeds in assigning to the various sections of the Bible dates which will satisfy the opinions of others besides himself, unless those words which he handles so lightly, and perhaps flippantly, have some effect upon his life? The Bible cannot be studied too critically, too minutely, but let every one who ventures on that task remember the two inspired cautions: “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?” “Ye do well that ye take heed [unto prophecy], as a light that shineth in a dark place.” ’
THE COMING DAWN
‘Until the day dawn.’
‘The day.’ What day? The day of all days for this world is the Advent of Christ. That day which will throw over this earth a light never seen before, and clothe it with the most brilliant splendour. Christ calls that ‘My day!’ and every believer will echo it and say, ‘My day!’—‘My day, Thy day.’ Of the exact period of that day’s dawn it appears to me that we have been most wisely and mercifully kept in ignorance. Of its character and its beauty we have just enough told us to enable us to recognise it when it comes, and to know that it will be exceedingly lovely.
I. It is the focus of the present life.—We are led to believe that the eyes of angels are resting upon it. Everything we say, or do, or think, should have reference to that day. There should be the ‘until’ always—that is, ‘until the day dawn.’ You may say, ‘Isn’t it the same thing whether I go to Christ, or Christ comes to me?’ Yes, only if Christ comes first, there will be no parting; and therefore in His mercy God tells us to think much more of the Advent than of death. He does not say, ‘until death comes,’ but ‘until the day dawn.’
II. Is then this life all night?—Is there no sunshine now? Why speak of the day dawning as if it is all now so very dark? It is all comparative. This life is a very happy life; this world is a beautiful world; but we all find that colour changes its hue under contrast. To-morrow’s exceeding joy may make a bright yesterday look dull, however pleasant it was. And when Jesus comes with His glory, and the heavens are new, and the earth is new, all that is now the holiest, the loveliest, and best—tainted as it all is with sin, and change, and sorrow—it will all look like a shadow. Still it is not to disparage the present, but to exalt the future, that we are told to wait ‘until the day dawn.’
III. The struggle of life is severe.
(a) I see a man passing through a long, dark passage, and I see a light at the other end. He cannot see it yet, but he hears a voice which says, ‘Until the day dawn’; and when he comes out the other side the light will be all the more beautiful for its short suspension.
(b) I visit a poor, stricken, bereaved heart. It cries, ‘Oh! this bitter separation! Shall we never meet again? Are we parted for ever? Shall I never look upon that dear face? ‘Oh! to be able to say to that desolate one, ‘A little while, a little while, the resurrection morn will soon be here, and you shall meet, you shall meet, and parting tears shall never flow.’ Only wait for a little interval. The night is far spent. Only wait and trust ‘until the day dawn.’
(c) The work which God has given you to do is very hard. Just of all work, the work you dislike the most, and in which you feel the loss of bodily strength, and you see no results. Life grows heavier and heavier to you every day. But it is all mapped out and measured. It is only a copy of a chart in heaven. The boundary line is all drawn. It cannot go beyond the limit God has ordained for it, not by a feather’s weight, or by one stroke of the clock of immortality, until, ‘until the day dawn.’
To all the mysteries of our world and being, to the chaos of our thoughts, to the dark things within and around us on every side, the key, the true solution is ‘until the day dawn.’
Rev. James Vaughan.
THE DAY STAR
‘And the day star arise in your hearts.’
We should leave our subject very incomplete if we did not go on from ‘the day dawn’ to ‘the day star.’ It fills up the interim, and so fits the whole together—‘Until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.’ There is a difference between ‘the dawn’ and the ‘day star.’ The light of ‘the dawn’ is general. The ‘day star’ gives the thought a focus and fixes it to one spot. ‘The dawn’ is to the whole world; ‘the day star’ arises in our hearts. Now let us observe concerning ‘the day star.’
I. It ‘ariseth’ of its own free action, of its own will and power, of the very necessity of its being; in its very nature it ariseth. It must ‘arise.’ We do not make the day star ‘arise’; neither do we make Jesus come into our poor dark hearts. He does it of His own free grace and favour. He comes of His own necessity. Such is His love He cannot but choose to come. He ‘arises’ in your heart.
II. It is gradual.—‘He arises.’ He goes higher and higher. The light gets stronger, and we see Him more and more. ‘He ariseth,’ and with Him the dawn increaseth.
(a) And where the days are His, we know that there will be day— perfect day. It will not be all night here, but it will be day. The day has begun. Believe me, you who are struggling with darkness, with fears, with difficulties, with sins, with doubts, with shadows: let God now see that it is dark, and by that token more and more light will come.
(b) ‘ The day star’ already lies on the horizon, but be careful to know where it all is. Not in anything outside; not in forms; not in creeds; not in great learning; not in high intellect; not in knowledge; not in head work—it is a matter of the affections. ‘The day star ariseth in your hearts.’
III. The great question for every one of us is, ‘Is that day star yet arisen in my heart?—If not, why?’ Are you wilfully hindering it? Are you turning away from it? Do you not know it when it comes? I am inclined to think that many persons do not recognise the extent, or the preciousness, or the very effect of the light which is now in them. They scarcely dare to believe that some thought or feeling which they have is really the Lord Jesus Christ in their heart.
(a) ‘ The day star’ is a little star, though it be the harbinger of great things. Perhaps the little thing which is now going on in your soul is ‘the day star!’
(b) There may be much that is still very dark after ‘the day star’ has ‘arisen.’ Believe it, recognise it! That desire you have—that sense of sin—that little feeble ray—is the sign of ‘the dawn’ of a better day, a brighter day, an eternal day. It is ‘the day star!’
(c) If you believe that, that faith will of itself go very far to make it ‘the day star.’ Accept it; honour it; sing praises to it. ‘The day star’ has ‘arisen!’ the day star has arisen! It will soon be all day.
—Rev. James Vaughan.
HOW THE SCRIPTURES WERE WRITTEN
‘Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.’
Here we have the apostolic definition of the work of inspiration, and by that definition we are taught that there are two distinct elements to be considered, the Divine and the human; the Divine, for the Holy Ghost moved the writers; and the human, for the communication did not come as a direct voice from heaven, but holy men spake as they were moved. In order therefore fully to investigate the subject, it will be necessary to examine: (1) the Divine element; (2) the human element; and (3) the combination of the two.
I. The Divine element.—I need scarcely say that this Divine element is the great subject of modern controversy. But I hope we may meet the points more especially agitated, by considering four questions:—
(a) Does it extend over the whole book? We have no right to pick and choose amongst the various portions of the Word of God. The whole is arranged as a whole for the accomplishment of God’s great purpose, the whole is included in ‘the Scriptures,’ and the parts are so interwoven one with another, and so beautifully fitted into each other by God’s Divine hand, that there will be found ultimately to be no intermediate path between receiving the whole as the Word of God, or sweeping away the whole and launching forth on a sea of scepticism, without a Bible, without a Saviour, and, as the last step, without a God.
(b) Is it equal? So far as the authorship is concerned, we find no distinction whatever. All alike is called ‘Scripture’; all ‘the Word of God’; all is included in the statement, ‘Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scripture might have hope’; and all is stamped by Divine authority in the words, ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.’
(c) Is it verbal? It is our privilege to regard the whole as one, to receive the whole with equal reverence, and to accept the whole, prediction, psalm, history, facts, thoughts, and words, as the inspired Word of the living God. But the question of verbal inspiration is not the one really at issue. For no one believes that, if there be any accuracy, it took place in the words only. It must have taken place in the thoughts, in the matter, in the facts. If, e.g., there is a variation between St. Matthew and St. Luke, no one supposes that they meant to convey the same thoughts, but made a mistake in accidentally selecting different words. The real point of the controversy is the infallible accuracy of the matter.
(d) Is it infallible? The testimony of our Lord Himself is sufficient. Witness two passages—the one referring to a nice point in a quotation from the Psalms (John 10:35); the other to the whole Word in its sanctifying power (John 17:17). Now what is His language? In the one, ‘The Scripture cannot be broken’; in the other, ‘Thy word is truth.’ With these statements of our Blessed Lord, I am content to leave the subject. In the words of Scripture, I believe that God Himself has spoken to man, and therefore, in the midst of all the world’s disappointments, and in all the failures of even the Church of God, we have here that on which the soul may calmly, peacefully, and fearlessly repose. And whether we look at history or prediction, at promises or judgments, at prophecies understood by those who uttered them, or language veiled in mystery until the Divine purpose is developed in history, we receive the whole as inviolable truth, for all has the stamp of the Spirit Himself, and all is given by inspiration of God. We receive it, we honour it, we submit to it, we acknowledge its Divine authority, and welcome with heartfelt thanksgiving its infallible promises. Yes, we receive it not merely with the deepest conviction of our most deliberate judgment, but we welcome it to our soul with all the deep feelings of a thankful heart, and say with the inspired Psalmist, ‘Thy word is very pure, therefore Thy servant loveth it.’
II. The human element.—But there is a human element in the book as well as a Divine. ‘Holy men spake as they were moved.’ The human authorship is as prominent and conspicuous as the Divine, and any theory of inspiration which excludes it is, I cannot but think, opposed to the facts of Scripture.
(a) There is distinctive character in the different writers. Compare St. Paul and St. John, St. Peter and St. James, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and you see the most transparent variety, a variety which renders it impossible to suppose that they were merely pens, machines, or copyists.
(b) There is the use of natural powers or gifts. St. Paul was a well-educated, intellectual man, with great reasoning powers, so he supported truth by argument. David was a poet, so he breathed out as the sweet psalmist of Israel the hallowed outpourings of a sanctified heart.
(c) There is the use of feeling. All the emotions of the human heart may be found in Scripture.
(d) There is the use of memory. Our Lord’s promise to His Apostles in John 14:26 applies clearly to this point, and shows that the gift of the Holy Ghost, so far from superseding memory, would quicken it, and give it the power of recalling with accuracy the words entrusted to it. ‘He shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.’
(e) There was also the use of personal experience, as, e.g., when St. John said, ‘The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory’ (John 1:14); and again, ‘That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you’ (1 John 1:1; 1 John 1:3).
(f) There was the diligent use of collected information. See St. Luke 1:1-3, where St. Luke does not claim to write original matter, but to have received it from those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the Word.
III. The Divine and the human element.—How is the union to be explained?
(a) Not by supposing that the writers were mere pens, or machines. This is sometimes termed the mechanical theory, but it is clearly inconsistent with facts. Pens never think, argue, remember, weep, or rejoice, and all these things were done by the writers of Scripture.
(b) Not by supposing them to be mere copyists or amanuenses employed to write down the words of the Spirit, as Baruch took down the words of Jeremiah. This may have been the case when they received direct communication, as when Moses wrote out the ten commandments at the dictation of God; but it will not apply to inspiration, as it gives no scope for variety of character. The one dictating mind would be the only one to appear on such a theory.
(c) We will not attempt to explain it by constructing any artificial theories as to the action of the Spirit on the mind of men. Some have endeavoured to classify the modes in which they consider the Spirit may have acted, as, e.g., supervision, elevation, direction, and suggestion. All this may be right, and it may be wrong; for we are taught (Hebrews 1:1) not merely that God spake in divers times, but in divers manners unto the fathers by the prophets. But all such distinctions are unsupported by Scripture, and therefore we may leave them.
Remember that there are two channels through which God has manifested His will, viz. the incarnate Word and the written Word; and surely we are justified in expecting that there will be something of the same character in the two manifestations.
Rev. Canon Edward Hoare.