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learn when taught just views of God and ourselves,—that God is infinitely holy; man a fallen being, under Divine condemnation, dead in trespasses and sins (Gen. iii.; Rom. v. 12, 18; Eph. ii. 1).
This, then, is the reason above all others for which God gave us the Bible. We are transgressors of his holy law, miserable sinners, children of wrath: it would have been impossible to know, unless God had told us, how we may be reconciled to him and be made holy. The Bible unfolds to us the remedy, which, in infinite love, God has provided for the misery of man. The views God gives of his own character, and our character and condition, are given with reference to this..
Bishop Butler has well expressed what is here meant: "The world being in a state of apostasy and wickedness, and consequently of ruin, this gave occasion for the mediation of a Divine Person, the Messiah, in order to the recovery of the world" (Analogy, Part i. p. 14.)
Or, as he speaks of it more fully (Part ii. chap. i. p. 210), as "a dispensation, carrying on by the Son and Holy Spirit, for the recovery and salvation of mankind, who are represented in Scripture as in a state of ruin." And again (p. 212); "The Son and Spirit have each his proper office in that great dispensation of Providence, the redemption of the world: the one, our Mediator; the other, our Sanctifier." (1 John iv. 13, 14.)
In one word, then, the purpose for which God gave us the Bible was to make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. iii. 15). (1) It shews the necessity for salvation; (2) it explains the nature of that salvation; and, (3) becomes, as the instrument of the Spirit, the power of God to salvation to every one that believes (John xvii. 17; Eph. vi. 17; 1 Peter i. 23).
That this is the great purpose of the New Testament may appear too obvious for illustration; but that this is the general design of the Old Testament also, may be shewn from its first few pages.
The historical part of the Old Testament is to be considered, not as a history of the world, not a history of the Jews, but such a selection from both as Infinite Wisdom saw to be best adapted to make mankind wise unto salvation.
It begins with an account of God's creating the world,
and of his forming man in his own image. This account was published at a time when nearly all mankind, except the Jews, were given up to idolatry, and when the Jews themselves were in the greatest danger of falling into it. The account of the Creation is therefore to be considered, as Bishop Butler has remarked, as an assertion, on the part of the One Great Moral Governor of the world, that it is His world; and that when it came from his hands it was very good.
But this account of the Creation, scarcely occupying more than one chapter, is evidently introductory to its main object, the announcement of man's fall, and the discovery of the means by which alone he could be restored to God's favour (Gen. iii.).
In what immediately follows, many hundred years of man's history are rapidly passed over, and only so much given as illustrates the awful effects of the Fall. Hence the account of Cain, and of the rapid progress of wickedness generally throughout the world; till, by the Deluge, God proclaimed to mankind, what Adam's sentence had failed to teach, how deeply man had fallen under the displeasure of his Maker: that, seeing how he rushed into sin, and involved himself in destruction, we might learn how much he needed a Redeemer to restore him to the Divine favour, and a Sanctifier to renew him unto holiness.
In the midst, however, of the darkness of this scene, such a selection of facts is made, as, faintly indeed, but really, holds out the prospect of man's recovery. Before the Deluge, this is seen in the great promise to Adam (Gen. iii. 15), and in its effect on his descendants Abel, Seth, Enos, Enoch, and Noah. They lived by faith on that promise (Heb. xi.); called on God (Gen. iv. 26); walked with Him (Gen. v. 24); found grace in His sight (Gen. vi. 8); through the merits of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Eph. i. 4; 1 Pet. i. 20; Rev. xiii. 8), and prefigured to them by animal sacrifice (Gen. iv. 4, with Heb. xi. 4). Not striving against (Gen. vi. 3), but, being led by the Holy Spirit, they were renewed in heart by him; and thus may be considered as the first-fruits of redemp
We are told of the re-peopling of the world by Noah and his sons; and then of the building of the tower of Babel
(another terrible instance of the perverseness of man). After this, the general history of mankind is abandoned, and only so far glanced at as it bears on the history of a particular person, Abraham, and particular branches of his family, through whom the Saviour was in the fulness of time to come; and, even of Abraham and his family, only so much is recorded as bears on the one great purpose of man's salvation *.
Again: a part of the Old Testament is prophetic, but (as has been sufficiently shewn page 29) it is prophecy in relation to the same great purpose, to make us wise unto salvation." The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. xix. 10).
Again: a part of the Old Testament, as the Psalms, is devotional; but then it is devotion as adapted to the recovery of a fallen being-to make us wise unto salvation, by teaching us how as sinners we may address God with suitable feelings and suitable language. Here the infinitely great and glorious God is presented to us as we ought to think of Him when we would pray to Him, or praise Him; here are open to our view the varied feelings, the joys and sorrows, of those sincerely struggling against sin; while interwoven with these is that which constantly points us to Christ, and which shews us our need of that Divine help which it is the great work of the Holy Spirit to impart (Ps. li. 10, 12; Ps. cxliii. 10).
The same general remarks apply to what may be called the moral or preceptive parts of the Old Testament, where the duties we owe to God and each other are enforced-for instance, the Ten Commandments.
These rules, applied to our conduct, shew the necessity of redemption by Christ. In the law of God we have a reflection of His character; and by a comparison of ourselves with that law is seen our own character (Rom. vii. 7; Gal. v. 4; Rom. x. 4. viii. 9); thus the Law becomes our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, and to feel the need of his Spirit.
As the Psalms are a heavenly guide to our intercourse with God, so are the Proverbs to our intercourse with men. The book of Job exhibits the afflictions of life; Ecclesiastes,
*For instance, from the time of Moses till the time of Solomon no mention is made in the Bible of the kings of Egypt; and Ishmael (though a son of Abraham) and his descendants are very soon unnoticed.
the vanity of its enjoyments. And the practical effect of them all is, to teach us, that, "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God our Saviour, Jesus Christ." (Tit. ii. 12, &c.)
This general view of the purpose of God in giving the Bible, that, whether we regard its historical, prophetical, devotional, or moral parts, God had in all one object, to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus, it is important should be deeply impressed upon the mind, if we wish either to inform ourselves or instruct others in the knowledge of its truths. It is the key to all its
To assist in the attainment of this object in reading the Bible, the following advice of Archbishop Secker may here be introduced.
After urging the necessity of mixing faith with what we read; of applying by prayer to Him whose gift, saving faith is; after reminding us of the excellent Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent, which is so suitable a prayer for the occasion; he says, "Let the reader stop, on fit occasions, and think, What consolation does this passage administer to me? what acknowledgment to Heaven doth this declaration require from me? what fear for myself doth this threatening call for? what duty doth this precept or pattern point out to me? of what sin doth it convince me? is my character and behaviour suitable to this command or exhortation, this description or good example? or do I see myself here, under another name, reproved, condemned, stigmatized? Have I acquired that sense of my own sinfulness and weakness, and of God's holiness and justice; of my need of the merits of Christ, and the grace of the Divine Spirit; which the whole tenor of Scripture inculcates? or am I still inclined to stand or fall by my own righteousness?"
The following are among the passages quoted by Bishop Butler, as expressing the chief parts of Christ's office as Mediator between God and man, and which is usually treated of under the three heads of prophet, priest, and king: 1 Tim. ii. 5 (one Mediator); John i.; viii. 12 (light of, &c.); Heb. ii. 14 (destroy, &c. devil); Gal. iii. 13 (redeemed from curse, &c.); Heb. ix. (put away sin by, &c.); 2 Cor. v. 18-21
(reconcile, &c.); Phil. ii. (highly exalted, &c.); Eph. iv. 8-13 with Acts ii. 4 (gift and agency of the Spirit); Heb. vii. (Intercessor, &c.); John xiv. 2 (gone to prepare, &c.); John iii. 35; 2 Thess. i. 8 (all judgment, &c., punish with, &c.); Rev. xi. 15 (He shall reign for ever); Rev. iii. 21 (His people sit on his throne, &c.); John v. 22, 23; Rev. v. 12, 13 (worthy the Lamb, &c.)
See also 1 Pet. i. 2, which contains the substance of the plan of salvation.
QUESTIONS ON CHAP. II.
What is that knowledge without which we know nothing to any good purpose; and where alone is that knowledge to be obtained? [p. 33.] What do we learn, when taught just views of God and ourselves? (Confirm this by a quotation from Scripture.)
In what sense does the Bible shew us our disease and our remedy, and become our cure? [p. 35.]
Give the substance of Archbishop Secker's direction for the profitable reading of the Scriptures. [p. 38.]
Give some texts of Scripture explanatory of that which is the great subject of the Bible-namely, the mediation of Christ.
IN WHAT MANNER HAVE THE GREAT TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE BEEN REVEALED?
CONTENTS.-Successive revelations to fallen man, the filling up of an outline at first given: illustrated in reference to-§ i. The nature and attributes of God. §ii. The character and prospects of man. § iii. The great work of man's redemption.
"MEN are impatient," says Bishop Butler, "and are for precipitating things; but God appears deliberate throughout his operations, accomplishing his ends by slow, successive steps. The change of the seasons-the ripening of the fruits of the earth-the very history of a flower-is an instance of this."-So is the Bible.
The Bible is the record of God's revelations to man from the beginning; and presents to us this, as a distinguishing feature of those revelations,-that they are as the gradual filling up of an outline at first given-the expansion of a