Pastor Walnut Street Baptist Church Louisville, Kentucky, 1881-1907
THERE are three reasons, either of which is decisive.
I. It is the best standard. The other standards offered are, 1st, other sacred books, like the Vedas, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and 2nd, the Church, and 3rd, Reason.
1st. All other books are weak in comparison with the Bible; and the great superiority of the Bible to these books being admitted by all who are likely to read this article, there is no need of arguing the point at length. A simple comparison of the lands where these other books are regarded as standard with the lands where the Bible is most believed in will convince the most skeptical.
2nd. The Church derives its authority from the teaching of the Scriptures. And the church using the term in its modern sense, to include all bodies of Christians — the church has ever taught the inspiration and authority of the Bible, although sometimes claiming the right to interpret it for the people. The meaning of the Scriptures, however, was ever the important thing. Ecclesiasticism has assumed to take charge of the Bible and to dole out its teaching to the people, but ecclesiasticism has never denied its authority. Often, as in the case of the Pharisees, the Scriptures were made "of none effect," but like those Pharisees, ecclesiasticism admitted them to be the highest authority. The result of withholding the Bible from the people and of filtering its teachings through ecclesiastical channels, are manifest in Spain and Italy.
3d. Shall we turn to reason? Then whose reason? Shall we seek to be guided by the reason of the wisest and best ? Who will select these for us ? Those most generally recognized as the wisest and best bow before the Bible. But reason can not avail us. The most it can do, in the most favorable conditions, is to save us from error, it cannot lead us to truth.
II. The second ground for taking the Bible rather than other standards is that it alone is authoritative. It is the only one we are under obligation to accept. The Bible alone speaks "with authority and not as the Scribes."
All through the Bible its authority is asserted. Paul argues for the plenary inspiration of Genesis xxvi:4) when he writes to the Galatians (iii:i6) "He saith not and to seeds as of many, but as of one and to thy seed, which is Christ." Here the argument turns on the use of the singular rather than the plural. Jeremiah called "the roll," the "Words of the Lord." (xxxvi:6.) Jesus quoted Deuteronomy as infallible, and as settling the questions raised by Satan, saying in reply, "It is written." (Matthew iv:4, 7.) Our Lord affirmed the infallibility of the 82d Psalm by quoting from it (John x:35) and saying: "The Scriptures can not be broken." Indeed he argued the infallibility of the clause from the infallibility of the Scriptures containing it. These are but samples. Jesus and His apostles ever treated the Old Testament as fully inspired and hence of absolute and final authority on all questions treated of in its pages. Peter tells us (II Pet. i:2i): "For no prophecy ever came by the will of man, but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." (R. V.) And the apostles are put upon a par with the prophets (Ephesians in :5). Paul claims inspiration for the words he writes (i Corinthians ii-.4, 13) and he enjoins that his epistles be read to the churches as Scripture (Colossians ii:i6). Peter calls the words of the apostles "the commandment" of the Lord (II Peter 3:2), using the strongest Greek word in the vocabulary for authority — entole. And Jude exhorts us to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." (v. 3)
Truth is not a system of "fluent and fluxions," such as Newton discussed. Truth can not change. If two and two did not make four in the time of Abraham they do not make four now and never will make four, while if they do make four now, they always did and always will. No possible change of circumstances or development of mind can have the slightest effect on the truth. So the Bible is God's Word to the world. His message to mankind, was delivered through chosen messengers, but delivered "once for all." It is not subject to addition or development or modification of any kind. It is the absolute and final authority in all questions of faith and morals. We are not bound to believe or do anything because Buddha, or Mahomet, or Shakespeare, or Goethe, or Spencer says so. While we are bound to believe and do whatever the Bible says we must. "Thus saith the Lord" is an end of all controversy.
III. The third ground for taking the Bible rather than other standards is that it alone tells us what our souls need. "Lord, to whom shall we go?" said the astonished Peter, "thou hast the words of eternal life." (John vi:68.) Dim and uncertain is the light of nature and of philosophy on the great questions of character and of destiny; so that Socrates, after thinking on these things as perhaps no other man has ever done, "felt," so his great disciple Plato tells us, "the need of some 'sure word of God' to guide us in the right way." The Bible is not one of a class of books. It is unique in its theme, its power and its authority. All other books are feeble in comparison. Scientific books tell us of matter, offeree, of heat, light and electricity. How feeble all this in comparison with such utterances as "Let there be light," "I am the light of the world," and "All power hath been given unto me." Books on political economy tell us of the laws of trade, of supply and demand, of how to develop the material resources of a country, and how to regulate taxation and the authority of officials. What are such things in comparison with the great themes of death, judgment to come and eternity?
In other books we find such truths as men can spell out with their observations and experiments, and such as they can guess out with their philosophy, but in the Bible we have the revelation of God to us, and the opening of Heaven to our vision. Here we learn the remedy for sin. Here we are told how God can be just and the justifier of him that believeth. Here we find the "words of eternal life." There is but one way of salvation and the Bible alone tells us of that. Nothing else but the Gospel has ever changed a bad man into a good man, or ever can; while the Gospel has done this in multiplied thousands of instances. "There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved," and to be saved is our supreme necessity. Outside the Bible we can learn of God's power, of His wisdom, of His glory, but only here can we learn of His love and of His mercy. Only here can we learn that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." Only here can we learn of Him, whom to know is life eternal. Only here can we find the "sure word of God" for which Socrates sought, and lay hold on the hope which "maketh not ashamed."
Other standards are composed of men's guesses, while in the Bible the great truths of God burn and glow with all the eloquence of heaven. And facing a gainsaying world it becomes us to plant ourselves squarely on God's Word — for we can not do otherwise, God help us — and to point a sin-sick and guilt-blinded race to the open Bible and to the open heaven it reveals.
From the book Baptist: Why and Why Not, published by the Sunday School Board of SBC, 1900. Edited for length. Reprinted for The J.H. Spencer Historical Society. Scanned by Jim Duvall.