The Inspiration and Utility of the Scriptures.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. - 2 Timothy, iii:16.
The Scriptures have been highly valued by the saints in all ages of the world. They have been perused and reperused with devout interest by the people of God. Job, who lived many centuries before the coming of Christ, said, "I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food." And David said of the statutes of the Lord, "More to be desired are they than gold - yea, than much fine gold; sweeter, also, than honey and the honeycomb." Are the declaration of Job and the encomium of David extravagant? By no means. And why? Because all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. The Bible is not of human origin. If it was, it could not have escaped human imperfection, nor could it with propriety be adopted as the standard of faith and practice. It is God's book, and is, therefore, the book of books.
The text affirms the inspiration and utility of the Scriptures. We consider,
I. The Inspiration of the scriptures.
By the inspiration of the Bible, I mean that the writers of the Old and New Testament were so directly and immediately under the influence of the Holy Spirit, that God himself spoke through them to the world. The truths which they committed to record, were as certainly true as if Jehovah had uttered them in an audible voice from the heaven of heavens. "Holy men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has, in these last days, spoken to us by His Son."
If my view of inspiration is correct, it follows that the sacred writers were infallibly preserved from error. But, perhaps, you are ready to inquire for the evidences of inspiration. These are of two kinds, namely, internal and external. To these I shall briefly refer - for the limits of a short discourse demand brevity.
One internal proof of the inspiration of the Scriptures, may be derived from the fact that it was naturally impossible for men to write them without divine assistance. There are facts contained in the Bible of which the unaided mind of man could have formed no conception. There was among the old philosophers a proverb of this kind: "Out of nothing, nothing comes." And it is true so far as the exertions of finite power are concerned - in its application to the operations of Omnipotence it is not true. The
proper idea of creation is the production of something out of nothing. It is evident, therefore, that those who indorsed the old proverb had no conception of the work of creation. "The world by wisdom knew not God." Even if it were conceded that men would infer from the worka of nature the existence of God, they could learn from those works nothing about his moral character. And this is the very point on which accountable creatures emphatically need information. Of the sublime doctrines of redemption, men, left to themselves, would have no idea. These doctrines are above and beyond the range of created intellect. Man's intellectual incompetency to produce such a book as the Bible, shows that it is not his work. He did not make the Bible, because he could not.
But it was morally impossible for men to write the Bible without divine assistance. Had they been naturally, mentally competent, they would have been morally incompetent. There are no good men who are not made so by Almighty grace. If, however, we waive this point, and admit, for argument's sake, that men may be good independently of divine influence, still it follows that good men did not write the Bible without divine aid - for those who wrote it inform us that they were inspired of the Holy Spirit. If they were good men this is true, because good men will not make a false statement. The fact is, therefore, established, that good men did not make the Bible without divine assistance. Did
bad men make it? This supposition is absurd; for it implies that wicked men would write a book which commends every virtue and condemns every vice. And more - it implies that these wicked men pronounced sentence of condemnation on themselves, and had nothing to expect in the world to come but endless perdition. This would have been at war with the powerful principle of self love, and also a violation of the analogies of the moral world. But, on the hypothesis that bad men composed the Bible, how happens it that bad men now do not love a book made by their predecessors in wickedness? "Why should wicked men write a book that all the wicked living subsequently have condemned? The worldly philosopher can not rationally say that philosophy conceived the doctrines of the Bible, for worldly philosophy derides them as revealed. It would surely be unphilosophical for philosophy to scorn what philosophy originated. We are resistlessly led to the conclusion that it was morally impossible for men, of themselves, (whether good or bad men,) to write the Bible. The moral impossibility in the case, conjoined with the intellectual impossibility, furnishes a demonstration of the superhuman origin of the Scriptures. The argument, in a few words, is this: Man, of himself, could not have made the Bible if he would, and would not have made it if he could. It is God's book for the best of reasons. It tells us what no being in the universe but God could tell us. Its own contents are credentials of its divine
origin. But the external evidences of the inspiration of the Bible supply other credentials. The most prominent of these evidences are miracles and prophecy. A miracle is an occurrence at variance with the laws of nature - it is a suspension of some natural law. It is to be remembered, however, that the laws of nature are the laws of God. This being the fact, it is manifest that the Author of these laws can suspend them at pleasure; for their suspension requires no greater exertion of power than their original establishment. It may be said, too, that the introduction of a new dispensation of religion furnishes a suitable opportunity for the display of miraculous power; hence, Moses, in initiating the Jewish economy, being divinely, empowered to do so, wrought many wonderful works - hence, Jesus, at the beginning of the Christian dispensation, performed many miracles in attestation of his divine mission, and the Apostles, receiving power from Him, astonished the people with signs, wonders and mighty deeds. These miracles were wrought in the presence of thousands of competent witnesses, and are as fully proved as testimony can prove any thing. And the miracles of the Bible having occurred, it follows that the Bible is from God. "These things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ," and in believing in Him we recognize the inspiration of the Bible. But I can not enlarge.
Prophecy may be considered the declaration of
an event enveloped in futurity an event which man, by the utmost exercise of his sagacity, can not discern. It has been called a "miracle of knowledge." The 'New Testament abounds with prophecies. Indeed the history of the world may almost be regarded as an evolution of the intimations of prophecy. Moses prophesied that in a certain contingency, the Jews would be dispersed among all nations. The contingency occurred, and the prediction was fulfilled. Isaiah predicted the utter destruction of Babylon, and what was prophecy is now history. Tyre and Sidon were overthrown according to prophecy. Sometimes two prophets predicted things, and it seemed if the predictions of one were accomplished, those of the other could not be. For example - Jeremiah prophesied that Zedekiah, king of Judah, should fall into the hands of the king of Babylon, see him, and be carried to Babylon. Ezekiel prophesied that Zedekiah would go to Babylon, yet, he adds, "shall he not see it, though he shall die there." How could Zedekiah see the king of Babylon and not see Babylon itself, though he was to die there? The predictions of both prophets were fulfilled. The king of Babylon invaded Judea, took Zedekiah captive, then put out his eyes, and afterward carried him to Babylon. So Zedekiah saw the king, but not the city of Babylon. This was not fortunate guessing, it was divinely inspired prophecy; for God alone knew what would come to pass. The various predictions relative to the
birth, life, sufferings, death and resurrection of Christ, were accomplished in a wonderful manner, so that the Apostles proved out of the Scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. The Savior's predictions in reference to the Apostles, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews were fulfilled. And the predictions of Daniel, Paul and John concerning the Romish apostacy have been partially fulfilled, and are now fulfilling, as fast the periods of accomplishment arrive. Now, all these things prove that the prophetical spirit is the Omniscient Spirit. God alone, who knows all things, could enable men to foretell what would come to pass. And if holy men prophesied and spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, the Bible is true, for it was given by inspiration of God. This is a cursory and imperfect reference to some of the internal and external evidences of the divine origin of the Bible.
II. The Utility of the Scriptures.
They are said in the text to be profitable. For what are they profitable?
1. For doctrine. - Doctrine means what ia taught. The doctrine of the Bible is what the Bible teaches. How important the teachings of the Word of God! From that Word we learn whence we came, what we are, and whither we go. We learn our guilt and condemnation as sinners - the mediatorial scheme of mercy through Jesus Christ justification by faith in his
blood - regeneration by the Holy Spirit - the soul's immortality - the body's resurrection - the ultimate salvation of all the righteous - the damnation of the wicked, etc. Where, except from the Bible, can these important truths be learned? Interrogate nature in all her spacious realms and she utters not one of these truths. Human philosophy does not teach them; for human reason can not discover them. The Bible is profitable for doctrine:
" 'Tis here we learn that Jesus died,
To save our souls from hell;
Not all the books on earth beside
Such heavenly wonders tell."
2. For reproof. - The Scriptures are profitable for reproof. They reprove errors in faith and practice. They condemn everything at variance with themselves; for they are the standard tc which we must come. They reprove the thoughtless sinner and the unfaithful Christian. The term translated "reproof," sometimes means conviction. This expresses more than reproof. Many a man is reproved who is not convicted, or convinced. The idea intended to be conveyed here, probably is, that the Bible is not only the means of reproving men for their sins, but of convincing them of their sins. And it is true that the Word of God is the prominent instrument of fastening conviction on the hearts of those who have sinned. This Word, wielded by the divine Spirit, is "living and powerful, sharper
than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit," etc.
3. For correction. - The Bible is not only profitable because it convinces of what is wrong, but because it is the means of rectifying that wrong. "Wherewith shall a young man," says the Psalmist, "cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word." The Scriptures are the divinely-appointed instrument of reforming men in heart and in life. No reformation is worth any thing that does not rest on the Word of God as its basis. There can be no permanency in it. All human organizations for improving and elevating the morality of the people will ever put forth ineffectual efforts, unless they recognize the Bible as supplying the only motives adequate to the production of a pure morality. The Scriptures are profitable for correction - for the rectification of what is wrong.
4. For instruction in righteousness. Righteousness is conformity to a right rule. The Bible instructs us how to attain conformity to this rule. It teaches us to act righteously before God and men. "We need to be taught our duty. "We must learn from the Scriptures not only what to believe, but what to do. The Bible presents Jesus Christ as the incarnation of righteousness, and requires us to be like him. "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself so to walk, even as he walked." "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous." Let any man take the Bible for his guide, and he will
learn that it is profitable for instruction in righteousness.
1. How great are our obligations to God for the Scriptures!
2. How satisfactory are the proofs of the inspiration of the Scriptures!
3. How profitable are these sacred writings!
4. Are they profitable to us?
5. Let us appreciate the sacred volume more highly.
6. Let us show our estimate of it by sending it to all the nations under heaven.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via Inter Library Loan, through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
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