The Authoritative Word of God

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 9
1It is evidently an all-important question, Have we a revelation from God? a communication of His thoughts on which we can rely? Is there nothing certain, nothing certainly known, nothing which enables me to say, I have God's truth? Have I from God such a revelation of His mind as is authentic and authoritative, such that I can know from Himself what God is?
I cannot trust in man. Man who has not had such a revelation is lost in what degrades human nature. I cannot trust the church or doctors. They too have their history, and what a history it is!—and in these days they are a reed which, if a man lean on it, breaks and pierces the hand. Where am I to turn to be able to say, Here I have the truth I can love and rest on? Here is what God has given me from Himself? To have this, I must have two things: a revelation from God; if every man is a liar, here is truth. But I must have it also communicated authentically to be able to reckon it. It is a matter of fact that men have not known God, nor His character without a revelation. Universal heathenism, civilized and uncivilized, is the witness of it. They have not liked retaining Him in their knowledge when He was revealed to them. It is no use telling me that the worship of Lingam and Yoni, of cats and monkeys, and fetishes, is a true knowledge of God. It may prove that man wants a God, that he cannot help having one; but, if so, that he cannot find Him, or will not have Him.
The case then stands thus: I look all around to find God and His truth. The heathen cannot point Him out; I cannot find man among them that is not degraded. He deifies his passions and adds degradation to them.
I am told perhaps, But Plato, does he tell us nothing of God? Well, if I leave the universal heathenism, and enclose myself in the narrow groves of the academy, I find one who teaches the grossest communism, women and all, and makes men and women a mere stock for breeding human beings for the republic, and holds that the supreme God can have no direct communication with the creature; but that it must be by demons, and mediately, perhaps, the λόγος. He was, with the Rabbinical Jews, strange to say, the inventor of purgatory. The later forms of it brought in Arianism. I cannot find it among Mahometans, nor their paradise of Houris above and the sword below. The Koran, which is on the face of it a wretched imposition—revelations invented for the occasion that called for them—the Koran or the sword is not a revelation of God, save as a judicial scourge of Christendom. The Jews cannot tell me of God, cast out from Him according to their own scriptures. Am I to learn it in the intrigues of the Jesuits, rendering every nation under heaven restless? or in the infallibility of the Pope, which nobody, but grossly ignorant partisans, believes and history gives the lie to? Am I to worship the golden idols of the mother of God set up on steeples and highways where there is power to do so? Is this to be my resting-place?
Shall I turn to Protestants? But the mass of teachers amongst them are infidels in most parts. Perhaps I may have the choice of Puseyism or liberalism, or countless opinions and heresies which contradict and destroy each other. Am I told that there is a real consent in the evangelical creeds? I do not quite admit it; Luther did not think so. They all agree in one thing—baptismal regeneration! But if I inquire whether the teachers believe in the formularies they sign—not one of them: they are obsolete. What am I to do? Say with Pilate, What is truth? and wash my hands in despair and give up Christ to His enemies? But we have the word of God to rest on.
All, here there is something—God worthily revealed. But— “the most unkindest cut of all” —it is not, I am now told, the word of God. It is a compilation of various traditions and documents some seven or eight centuries after it professes to be written, drawn God knows whence (only not from Him), and by God knows whom! partly a law produced some seven or eight hundred years after it professed to be written, with some of its documents recognized as already existent, perhaps, at that date! professed prophecies put together by some compiler frequently under some name they do not belong to; a long conflict having subsisted between the moral element and the ceremonial or priestly, but the former got the victory in Ezra's time, but only then, though they never had the law as it is till Josiah's time I and yet, strange to say, they got the victory only to fix the nation in ceremonialism and the authority of priestly tradition in which it had never been before! Besides the two chief documents, however, from which the early history is compiled, and other parts suited to them by the compiler, another author has been discovered whose writings are intermingled with the two chief ones, and whose object is to attach importance to the progenitors of northern Israel! Prophets claim an intuition coming from God; still their great object was not future events.
Such are the scriptures! They are, if we are to believe these learned men, not the word of God, but an uncertain compilation flowing from the progress of Israel's history, partly from priests, under whom the laws grew up, never complete till Ezra, partly from prophets contending with their principles (not, mind, with their sins against God, or their breaches of the law, it was not formed yet), partly from lay life in the midst of the people! These are the factors (that is the word) of the Old Testament! As to the New: well, four epistles may be Paul's, the expression of the higher spiritual life in the Christian; the rest spurious or doubtful, and much of it comparatively a modern attempt to reconcile the Pauline and Petrine factions in the church, or a late fruit of Alexandrian philosophy and reveries, or Jewish symbolism!
It is no great wonder if a very large body of the French Protestant clergy declared they would sign nothing, no apostles' creed, nor anything else; they supposed men would have to believe something, but they did not know what it was yet; and the poor laity, not so learned, but more of babes, said, as I know them to have done, “Pourtant, si nous sommes des Chretiens, it nous faut un Christ quelconque” (Well, but if we are Christians, we must have some kind of Christ). Such is the point to which what is called the church has brought us. Not now priestly ceremonies and traditions combated and corrected by prophets professing divine intuition, but priestly and ecclesiastical ceremonies and traditions bringing weariness to the spirit (where it does not rush to popery as a refuge), merging into heartless and flippant infidelity, living in a speculative pseudo-historical outside, without one spiritual apprehension of the divine substance of what lies at their door and before their heart-speculations which last some twenty years or so, first Paulus' gross denial of miracles and resurrection, then Strauss with his mythical Christ, and then Baur and the Tubingen school, the false speculative fancies of which are already judged and given up;2 and now the later forms of these and De Wette and the like, warmed up anew for Scotland; as the English in such things generally do when they have passed their day in their native country.
It is admitted that Professor Smith has exaggerated what a child may see in scripture, and, I add, through ignorance of scripture not understood it, and that his system as to the books of the New Testament cannot hold water. I shall be told that for all this, Astruc's theory and Baur's reasoning have produced an immense effect. They have, in those not taught of God; not in substituting any certain system, but in turning lifeless dogmatism into speculative infidelity and skepticism.
And where is the word of God? Where it always was, as light is in the sun. Men may have found olive leaves, and these be broken up into small patches of light, or hang over the spots in a way not to be explained. It may be found that the spots are coincident with auroras and magnetic disturbances; but those who have eyes walk, as they ever did, in its full and clear, divinely-given light. It shines as it ever did, and the entering in of the word gives light and understanding to the simple. They have a nature that can estimate it in the true character God gave it, which these learned men have not; for He hides these things from the wise and prudent, and reveals them unto babes. “They shall be all taught of God,” is the declaration of the Lord and the prophet for those who can hear.