The Testing of the Bible

Psalms 12:6.---' The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, purified seven times.'

Where are the words of the Lord to be found? We turn at once to the Bible. Is there any process to which that Word has been subjected? There is; and it is of the nature of testing and trying. What is the result, after all the testing and trying? It is that 'the words of the Lord are pure words' manifestly tried, 'seven times purified.'

First, the Word has been tried by the prolonged and severe conflict it has had with the evil existing in the world. It is truth in opposition to all error; holiness as opposed to all sin; love as opposed to all malignity. If the Word is of God it will occupy His place. So it does. it is bitter against nothing but evil, enamored of nothing but good. If it is of Him it will do His work. So it has. Everywhere, always, among friends and foes, through evil report and through good report, it has been, and still remains, the one spirit-word speaking in the understanding and the conscience, the one mighty word, convincing and subduing, the one representative word of the great and ever-blessed God, steadfast, inflexible, uncorrupted, incorruptible, a fixed resolve, a consecrated antagonism to all that God hates and all God seeks to destroy. And that long-continued antagonism has tried it so far as, in that respect, it could possibly be tried.

In the second place, it has been tried by all the contradictions of unbelief, and these are numberless. As it was with the Divine Master, so it has been with the Divine Word. Both have received the same treatment. Concerning Christ the record is that He 'endured the contradictions of sinners against himself.' Just so has it been with the Word of God. Notwithstanding, there it is, not only unmoved, but immovable. They have heated the furnace to the intensest heat and cast it in, and the result has been that it has lost nothing but the tinsel with which man's folly had dressed with gaudy finery, or the bonds wherewith man's authority sought to bind it. Thus it is that today we bear testimony triumphant through these ages of conflict and contradictions that 'the words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.'

In the third place, it has been tried by the false friends of religion. We complain of the bitter temper and the unfair dealings of unbelief. Naturally. But it may be accounted for, if it cannot be excused. There are others towards whom we should turn the tide of our indignation and complaint, and for this purpose we must go to those who profess to be, but who are not, friends of the gospel. In the first centuries, when Christianity had proved itself to be a great moral power, some worldly men who had come to the front in its leadership determined to make it a political engine. They wore the garb of Christianity, they learned to pronounce its shibboleth, they claimed to speak in its name, to embody its temper, and to wield its power. They came to the front, took the highest place, surrounded themselves with all that society could supply them of pomp and ceremony and power. They professed to represent the Word of God, to be its depositaries, its authorized expositors, those, and those only, who had the full knowledge of it, or the power or authority to tell the world what it really meant. But they kept it practically in the background, and overloaded it with dogmas and ceremonies alien to the spirit of the Word: the only manifestly certain result being to keep the people in a state of ignorance and dependence. Yet all that was done in the name of the Bible, and these representative men said, "That is the Word of God, what God has appointed, what God sanctions." Notwithstanding all, here it is---more loved, better understood, more widely diffused, and in the name of the Lord and for His glory, more entirely exalted than ever. 'As silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.'

In the fourth place it has been proved by the personal experience of both saints and sinners. If the question now to be considered were merely a theory to be disputed we should have no practical test by which either to establish or to confute it; but it is a matter altogether for practice and for experience. The world brings every statement to this ultimate test; therefore every man and woman and child able to understand its meaning may here find something to confute if the experience does correspond. Many men have thus received it. It has pervaded and penetrated and filled their whole being; it has been the foundation of their strongest convictions; it has been the fire of their warmest passions; it has been the law that has bound their conscience; it has been that which has helped them in every duty and in every difficulty. For it comes to us as a word that may be tried; it offers a sure and happy guidance; it promises restraint from evil; it promises aid and promptings in the pursuit of good; it assures us of new strength in the discharge of duty, of strong consolation in the hour of trial, a calm peace amidst the tumult of the world, and holy victory in the hour of death.

We hear today of Christianity being "at the cross-roads." The New Testament is being torn in pieces at the hands of a remorseless criticism. The four Gospels are under the microscope. Upon every sentence, every word, is being brought to bear the fiercest light that ever played on human handiwork. In this light we are asked to consider, not only the limitations of the Gospel writers, but the limitations of Him whose words and deeds they record. Taken by itself, it is a disturbing study.

But is that all we really have? The heart knows better. Jesus, whatever the critics make of Him, remains for ever the Creator of the Christian consciousness. he remains the Creator of the soul of today. From the Cross, however interpreted, has streamed out a force of love, of spiritual power, which has been the life of the later world. No criticism can ever touch the inner experiences of Paul, of Peter, of Augustine, of Bernard, of Wesley, of Livingstone; of the myriad unknown ones who in all the ages have by faith overcome the world, have tasted the rapture of the spiritual life. With Jesus came a creation of inner values which no destructive dynamite can blow away. Love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, faith---here is an ailment on which souls have succeeded as never before. Here are riches lodged in the world's heart, safe from assault, where no moth or rust can corrupt, where no thieves can break through and steal.

In Christ, timothy.


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