by John Ritchie
THE BIBLE: ITS DIVINE INSPIRATION,
ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY, AND DAILY USE
The Bible is God’s own Book, His Divine and perfect Revelation, His living Voice speaking to men, in all ages. It should be read prayerfully, listened to reverently, received believingly, obeyed implicitly.
Its central object is Christ, its Teacher the Holy Spirit, its design man’s blessing, its end the glory of God. It is the instrument in regeneration, the means of sanctification, the channel of edification to the believer. It gives light upon all his path, regulates all his relationships and gives counsel for all his behaviour, in the family, the church, and the world. It should be dealt with daily, personally, prayerfully, purposely, perseveringly, in the presence of God, for the soul’s individual need. It is bread to feed, light to search, water to cleanse; the secret of growth, the source of strength, the shield of preservation, the sword of victory.
Read it regularly, connectedly, consecutively. Give your heart and mind the whole field of Scripture. Christ in type and prophecy in the Old; Christ on earth, in life, in death and in glory, in the New. The Bible is from God. It is Divinely inspired, has been miraculously guarded, is of supreme authority, all sufficient, eternal, the standard of doctrine, the channel of blessing, the rule of life, the final appeal on all God’s things, in all ages. Nothing needs to be added to it because nothing is wanting; nothing taken from it, because nothing is superfluous. Like its Author, it is Divine, unchanging, eternal.
Its writers were men, but their words were the words of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21; 2 Sam. 23:2). It was accepted as it existed, was read, used and spoken of as “the Word of God” (Mark 7:13), “the Scripture” which cannot be broken (John 10:35), by the Lord Jesus, of whom it is declared that He “knew all men” (John 2:24), and had “all things” given into His hand (John 3:35); of whom His own disciples confessed, “Now are we sure that Thou knowest all things” (John 16:30)—a glory which some deny Him. Would the Lord have put His imprimature upon a Book, accepting its various divisions as they stood (Luke 24:43-44), calling it the “Scriptures,” opening His disciples’ understanding that they might understand these Scriptures, and sending the Spirit to teach and guide them into “all the truth” therein contained, had He believed, as some now would fain persuade us, that the Book is a combination of truth and error, of Divine revelation and human legend?
The Bible carries its own credentials. It causes its voice to be heard. Its light convicts, its warnings alarm, its grace converts the soul. It shows man, reveals God, testifies of Christ. It is the instrument in conversion, the means of instruction, the power for edification. It teaches the babe, guides the youth, and fully furnishes “the man of God” unto all good works. All God’s mighty men have been readers, students, lovers of the Book. It is not those who have read it longest, examined it most closely, tested it most fully, who doubt or deny its perfection. The men who pretend to “criticise,” and who of late years have been seeking to unsettle their fellows regarding the Divine origin and supreme authority of the Word, have proved themselves to be grossly ignorant of its teaching, and in some cases are unable to quote it correctly. The united voice of all saints in all ages, who have made a life study on a daily use of the Holy Scriptures is, that they are Divinely perfect, and exactly what their Author who is the Eternal God, pronounces them to be—the Oracles of God, His Word which liveth and abideth for ever.
The late Thomas Newberry, Editor of The Englishman’s Bible, who spent a long life in the study and translation of the Scriptures in the original tongues, speaking of their Divine origin, says— “Holy, or Sacred Scriptures, whose SOURCE is God the Father, whose SUBJECT is Christ the Son, and whose COMMUNICATOR is the Spirit of God. They can only be understood in God’s own light, only used aright in His presence, by those who have an unction from the Holy One to know all things.”
C.H.Mackintosh, whose “Notes” on the first five Books are well known, says—“We must faithfully maintain at all cost, the Divine authority and all-sufficiency of the Word of God, at all times, in all places, for all purposes. We must hold to it that the Scriptures, having been given by God, are complete in the very highest and fullest sense of the word: that they do not need any human authority to accredit them, or any human voice to make them available: they speak for themselves.”
Charles H. Spurgeon says: “The Word, the simple, pure, infallible Word of God we must live upon if we are to become strong against error and tenacious of truth.”
J.N.Darby testifies—“My joy, my comfort, my food, my strength for near thirty years have been the Scriptures received implicitly as the Word of God. In the beginning of that period I was put through the deepest exercise on that point. If heaven and earth, the visible church, and man himself, crumble into nonentity, I should, through grace since that epoch, hold to the Word as an unbreakable link between my soul and God.”
Read the Word
Read the Word daily. Set apart a fixed time for the daily reading of the Word. When left to be read at any time, it is frequently not read at all. Keep to your set time, do not allow trivial engagements, social functions, or business calls to deprive you of it. God and the soul first, other things fall into their proper places after.
Read the Word prayerfully. In prayer you speak to God; through the Word God speaks to you. When your eyes rest on the sacred page, let your heart be lifted up to God with the prayer, that the eye of faith may be opened to “behold wondrous things” out of His law (Ps. 119:18). Remember that the Spirit of God is your Teacher, that He by whose inspiration these words of God were written, alone can unfold their spiritual meaning to your understanding and your heart (1 Cor. 2:10-14), and make them strength and comfort to your soul. When you discover some fresh aspect of truth, when you dig out some hitherto unknown treasure, when some new ray of heaven’s light enters your heart, meditate on it, speak to God about it, praise Him for it, ask Him to make it your soul’s personal possession, to make it good to you experimentally.
Robert C. Chapman writes: “Meditation on the Word of God is the chief means of our growth in grace. It is a thriving soul that finds the Book of God growing more and more precious.” But Satan will hinder this if he can. He knows its value.
George Muller, of Bristol, says: “It is a common temptation of Satan, to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer, when our enjoyment is gone, as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were of no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer; whilst the truth is, in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is, to continue praying, for the less we read the Word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray.”
Study the Word
Helps to the study of the Bible are not to be despised, nor ought they to be neglected. We may surely profit through the toils of others who have given their time and talents to the textual criticism, careful translation, and microscopic examination of the Sacred Word, and thus, according to the will of God, His servants become helpers one to another. But let the Book of books, the inspired, eternal Word of the living God have the chief and honoured place. Let it be THE Book, the supreme authority, and all else but as helps to the discovery of its holy treasures, hewers of wood and drawers of water to the sacred Volume which they seek to serve.
Have a good reference Bible, with readable type and margin sufficient for notes and jottings; one good enough to last a number of years of hard wear, for it is not good to change your Bible often, a facsimile Bible, the same in all sizes, in which you will soon learn to find the verses by their location, being always in the same place, whether large or small in type.
A revised or other translation, a complete and trustworthy concordance to the Bible, and a reliable Bible dictionary are useful and now easily acquired helps in the study of the Sacred Word. These, with expositions of truths by gifted and Divinely-taught ministers of the Word, are to be received with thanksgiving and used with wisdom, always in leading you to the Word to dig there for yourselves, never to take its place, or to be read as a Lesson Book to be repeated to others, without having been proved or personally experienced in your own souls. Commentaries, as a rule, are theological and dry; many of them muddy, some quite erroneous, and generally even when sound, cold-blooded, with little in them to enrich the soul, exercise the conscience, or lead the heart out to God. The Word of God itself, under the teaching of the Spirit, opens its secret treasures to the waiting heart, which in patient, diligent, and continuous study of its sacred pages, seeks to become acquainted with the will of God to do it, and with the ways of the Lord to walk in them. Regular and systematic study of the Word, day by day, and every day, gathering here a little and there a little, treasuring, husbanding, and using what we gather, is the slow but sure and only way of becoming acquainted with the whole truth of God.
Methods of study must be largely left to the tastes the capabilities, and the conveniences of the individual. What suits one well, does not lend itself to another. Clearly there must be some method, or many methods adopted; random reading profits little. The Word should be studied systematically, consecutively, topically. The character, scope, subject, and purpose of a book; the outlines, contents setting of a Psalm; the subject, occasion, date and keywords of an Epistle, sought for and grasped. Then its teaching will be understood, its doctrinal, dispensational, and practical parts distinguished, and its application made plain; “rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:16), as the apostle commands. Error is often truth distorted, wrenched from its connection, and presented from one side, apart from the counter truth needed for its balance.
Search the Word
Searching the Scriptures, tracing a word, a subject through them, as a dog scents (for such is the meaning of the word, “Search the Scriptures” in John 5:39), is one method. “Searching the Scriptures”—examining them closely, scrutinising and comparing them, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:12), is equally important for the accurate study of the Word. Thus acquainted with the truths of Scripture, having them dwelling richly in the mind and heart, kept there in freshness by the Holy Spirit who indwells the saint (2 Tim. 1:13-14), they will be brought to remembrance, and wisdom given to utter them by that same Spirit (1 Cor. 2:13-14), in due season with blessing to others. May the Book of God, the Written Word, in which the Living Word is unveiled, become increasingly precious unto, and be unceasingly used by all the people of God.
“A glory gilds the Sacred page,
Majestic like the sun;
It gives a light to every age,
It gives, but borrows none.”