The Inspiration of the Scriptures: 5. Divine Design

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Divine Design-Introduction
Among the marks of God's word, none is more impressive or important than the design which the Holy Spirit was pleased to stamp indelibly on the various books individually and on the entire collection as a whole; and this not only on the O.T. and the N. T. separately, but on both as forming what we, Christians at least, call the Bible. There are faults of transcription in the Hebrew as in the Greek. There are shortcomings and errors of translation in ancient as in modern versions. There are yet more abundantly mistakes in the commentaries from the earliest extant down to our own day. But all these flaws together, though some may conceal the witness of a detail, cannot deface to the instructed eye of the believer (save in a very small degree) the exquisite beauty of the Scriptures, “Forever singing as they shine, The hand that made us is divine.” And this is as much above the orbs of the sky, of which one of our own poets used the words, as what is material sinks below the expression of God's word, mind, gracious affections, and glorious purposes, for His children and His people, and all the nations too, which find their center, their aim, and their accomplishment in Christ the Lord of all and the Son of His love.
That unbelief fails to hear God in His word goes without saying. So Scripture itself testifies; and such is its experience since it was written and diffused in every age, land, and tongue. Nor could it be otherwise with man fallen into alienation from God as a race. “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God,” says the apostle to the Romans (Ro. 8:7). The world by wisdom knew not God,” writes he to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:2121For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)). Who can wonder when he reads the overwhelming words to the Ephesians (Eph. 2:1-31And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Ephesians 2:1‑3))? “And you, being dead in your offenses and sins, in which ye (Gentiles) walked according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; among whom we (Jews) all too had once our conversation in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest.” “And you, being once alienated and enemies in mind by your wicked works,” writes he to the Colossians (Col. 1:2121And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled (Colossians 1:21)). There is therefore innate repugnance to God and His word in every child of Adam. Hence the absolute necessity of being born anew, as our Lord assured Nicodemus (John 3:3-53Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:3‑5)): “Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And if they believed not, when He told them the earthly things, how would they believe if He were to tell them the heavenly things? For God's kingdom embraces both, Christ being the Heir of all things, already set on high, as He will soon be manifested Head over them all.
But all this, and, yet more, the ground of it in His personal glory and in the efficacious work of reconciliation through His death, are unknown to and scorned by the haughty unbelief of man. This sees in the scripture (say of the Pentateuch, the very foundation of the O. T. and no less maintained as divine in the N. T.) only a patch-work of antique human legends which do not even agree, if not an imposture, or at least a romance written as a whole in Samuel's or even Josiah's day if not later still. But so abominable a fraud is the baseless invention of old English Deists, burnished up to date by the mischievous ingenuity and the ponderous learning of their modern successors, chiefly in Germany and Holland, to say nothing of their English speaking disciples.
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they and have done abominable iniquity; there is none that doeth good. God looked down from the heavens upon the sons of man to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back; they are together become corrupt; there is none that doeth good, not even one” (Psa. 53:1-31<<To the chief Musician upon Mahalath, Maschil, A Psalm of David.>> The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good. 2God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. 3Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Psalm 53:1‑3)). So it is that those self-styled “higher” but really skeptical critics treat His word. They exclude God from the authorship of the Scriptures. Not one of them honestly accepts the Lord's ruling by the apostle Paul (2 Tim. 3:1616All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16)): “every scripture is God-inspired, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction that is in righteousness.” It is a sentence expressly affirming divine inspiration, not for the writers only but of every whit, even to be written, as Scripture; as he had already spoken of the O. T. in ver. 15, distinguished by a different term so as to lend the greater emphasis, and to take in every part of what grace was supplying as God's latest communication. Of course the word that Timothy knew applies to what was written of old; for the Scriptures, like other boons from God, are committed to the care of His own, ever liable to fail in keeping intact, and duly understanding, and conveying to others the holy deposit. To remove such human intrusions is the legitimate function of the critic; so that the reader may have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In no other book but the Bible is this found; no, nor in all others put together.
Now the neo-critics start with the preliminary lie that the Scriptures are in no real sense the word of God. They hence deprive themselves and their followers of all confidence in what is written, where no question arises of its primitive text. As they do not truly believe in God's inspiring any Scripture, so still less if possible do they look for His revelation of Himself in it, either in its wondrous unity, or in each part consistently and perfectly contributing to that grand end; and this throughout the varied dealings of God with man before sin came in, and afterward, when there was neither the law of God, nor the government of man ordained by Him; when the promises to the fathers were given, and when the law was given by Moses to their sons; when the Levitical system was introduced, and the shadows of the coming good things accompanied it; when the judges followed till Samuel, and kings were set up; when the prophets became more distinct and pronounced, developing from God what Moses predicted more generally from the first judgment of Israel, then of Judah's idolatrous departure and every other from Jehovah, “till there was no remedy;” and times of the Gentiles began by His people becoming Lo-ammi (not-my-people), and the world-power given meanwhile to the Four Empires. Under the Fourth or Roman was sent the Messiah, presented too with every evidence of grace, truth, and power of God in humiliation, but for this very reason rejected by all, even and worst of all by the Jewish remnant which had returned under the Second empire from captivity in Babylon. Thus was fulfilled the word of the prophets, both in God found by Gentiles that sought Him not, and in the Jews losing their place for the time as a rebellious people to whom He had spread out His hands all the day. Compare Isa. 65:1, 21I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. 2I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; (Isaiah 65:1‑2), with Rom. 10:20, 2120But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. 21But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. (Romans 10:20‑21).
Thus the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, the Only-begotten Son of God, brought out not only the lost and evil state of man, but that of the Jews more guilty still. For in the cross, which was the deepest proof of their combined iniquity, was accomplished fully by Christ the will of God, in virtue of which we have been and are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:1010By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)). The gospel of God's grace to all mankind, and the church (the body of Christ in the baptism of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven), are the blessed consequences which required that new revelation of God commonly called the New Testament. This fully confirms the O.T. in every respect as divine, fulfilling it notably in prophecies of Messiah's person, God and man; His unique walk, mission, and service; His death too, not only through man's hatred but in God's atoning grace; His resurrection and ascension; and His return to raise the dead, to restore the kingdom to Israel, to bless the earth and all the nations, having put down the higher or spiritual powers of evil.
But the N. T., besides sealing the truth of the O. T., reveals for the Christian and the church the mysteries of the kingdom, showing a quite different state of things from the old, and yet more the mysteries with regard to the church, wholly incompatible with Israel's position either in the past or in the future. This therefore only comes into actuality and view when that people as a whole had for a while forfeited its privileges by adding the cross of Christ to its idolatry. Indeed man's responsibility as under law, and still more widely God's government, run through the O. T., though there is also prophetic testimony to His purpose in Christ.
But the New Testament gives us the Son of God come, a man yet the True God and Eternal Life. This brings in the greatest change. It is no longer as in the O. T. God hidden and dwelling in the thick darkness, but God manifested in Him, Who is Son as none else is or can be, the Word become flesh. His death, as sacrifice for sin, goes farther still: not simply God in man tabernacling among men, full of grace and truth, but the veil rent, sin judged in the cross, and the man, at least believing man, brought to God, all the offenses forgiven, himself once and completely purged so as to have no more conscience of sins, and God's Spirit thereon abiding in him forever. Such is the Christian; nor is it all the privilege which might be said. This gives a nearer, a more intimate, character to the N. T. generally; but divine authority belongs equally to both O. and N. Its authority is because God speaks in both through His instruments. If we do not hear Him, we have no living faith. A tract or a sermon, a parent or a preacher, may be the means of presenting the truth to my soul; but if I have not believed God, my faith is human and worthless. We are thus born of God, receiving Christ, the object and spirit of the word, as the apostle says in 2 Cor. 3:1717Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17): “Now the Lord is the spirit” (referring to ver. 6, not the letter but the spirit of the O. T.).
When men rest on the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, they receive the Holy Spirit Who guides into all the truth. Doubtless we only know in part; yet even spiritual babes (1 John 2) are assured that they know all things. Ere long it is learned that each book (remembering that such as the two of Samuel, and their continuation, the Kings, &c. go together), has its own design permeating it, whether in O. T. or in N. Of this its own contents must be the evidence, as will by grace be presented severally ere long. To draw it out fully would demand many large volumes doubtless, even if one had spiritual ability for so serious and difficult a task. Here but a small space can devoted to the purpose. This means that no more can be attempted at present than a cursory view of the various writings which compose the Bible. Such a sketch however involves the advantage that the proofs which scripture furnishes in each case will stand forth free from those clouds of commentary which so often overload and disguise the text.
There is thus no more striking characteristic of Scripture than the design God has imprinted on its various books. Old or New Testament makes no difference. The poetic portion attests it no less than the prose, the prophetic as clearly as the historical. It is quite likely that the various writers may have been unconscious of any intention on their part to effect such a result. All the more instructive and sure is it that one animating and directing Author presided over each several part, imparting a special character to it, and at the same time causing all to contribute to the common purpose of revealing His counsels of glory and His ways of grace, while fully making known the weakness or the wickedness of the creature in resisting His will and doing its own. For that such is the fact, not obviously on the surface but indelibly and deeply underlying the entire body of the Scriptures, is the inevitable conviction produced on the Christian by the careful examination of the Bible as a whole and by the intelligent comparison of its component parts.
Evidence to appear consecutively and in due time will be set before the reader, unstrained, clear, and abundant, that the Scriptures are ruled from first to last by a moral purpose which discloses the wisdom and goodness of God rising above the failure of the creature, and especially man's sin giving occasion to the resources and the triumph of His grace in Christ for heaven and earth, time and eternity, for man, Israel, the saints of old, the church, and the nations. Who but God could have intimated so vast and far reaching an intention from the first writing that ushers in all the books that follow through many generations, not only those composed in Hebrew (with Aramaic in a small degree), but such as after a marked interval appeared in Greek, revealing in that one generation of the N. T. the Son of God come, the gospel and the church, the latest book being the suited answer to the earliest and manifestly closing the complete compass of inspiration?
That in the Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses we have the firm and ample foundation of the O.T. can be disputed by no reader subject to the truth. They are called the Torah or Law, as this is the institution of God given so fully in Exodus and Leviticus, with supplements drawn out by the journeys of Numbers, and the moral rehearsal of Deuteronomy in view of the entrance into the land of Canaan across the Jordan.
The Prophets, early and later, as the Jews distinguished the books that succeed as well as the openly predictive books to which we give that name, attest the growing departure from the law, and hold out the bright vision of Messiah's Kingdom, not only for the restored people of Israel but for all the nations of the earth. Then the hosts of the high ones shall be punished on high and the kings of the earth upon the earth. Then Jehovah shall be exalted, and the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. Then the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.
The Psalms constitute the third division, the leading portion (as in the other sections) giving its title to various books of an emotional and ethic character. Here too we find a class of writings, which bear witness quite as strongly as the others to the grand design of God in His word: the ruin of the first man; the blessedness of the Second, even for all those of the ruined race that put their trust in Him (Psa. 2:1212Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Psalm 2:12)). In the Prophets we have formal witness indeed to a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, which shall supersede that of the law; when the promises to the fathers shall be made good in the true Seed.
It would be idle to impute to the N. T. in the least degree any imitation of the O. T. The fresh revelation has the distinctive power of a divine testimony to the Son of God, the Man Christ Jesus, manifested here below and ascended to heaven after accomplishing His great sacrificial work for man to God's glory. Yet one cannot fail, when attention is drawn to the new collection as compared with the old, to find the unmistakable proofs of a common plan, not named by a single writer, but evident when we have all before us. For there is a similar basis of fact historically presented: not the first but the Last Adam with the new creation dependent on Him, and associated with its Head; and instead of the Law (given alike on a day of Pentecost), the Holy Ghost sent forth from heaven to abide forever. Here only is the “perfection,” which was not possible by the law, though this made its need felt and was its shadow or even its foreshadow.
Then, after the Gospels and the Acts, we have the Epistles, which answer and more than answer to the Ketubhim or “writings” of the O.T., and unfold the grace and truth in Christ and His work and offices, with the blessed hope, all bearing on the heart and walk and worship of the saints.
Finally there is the one wondrous book of the Apocalypse preceded by not a little in the Gospels and Epistles as in the analogy of the O.T. Therein all the predictive revelations of Scripture are coordinated and completed, not only till the establishment of the displayed kingdom of the Lord Jesus filling the heavens and the earth to God's glory, but right on to the endless issues of all in eternity, when evil is finally and forever judged, and the new heavens and earth are come, wherein righteousness, instead of ruling by power, can and does dwell unbroken and absolutely perfect, God being all in all.
Thus is there, where much else differs, a very distinct correspondency in the two volumes, the Old and the New, without the least effort after it by any writer in either volume. What could more indicate without a cloud one Divine mind of infinite purity and goodness, Light and Love, communicating in the Scriptures, as He will accomplish in fact, those purposes worthy of Himself and of His Son, full of blessing for all who believe, but of everlasting judgment to those that love Him not and despise His word?