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FILLS MAN’S NEED FOR DIVINE REVELATION If the Bible is the Word of God, if it immeasurably transcends all the productions of human genius, then we should naturally expect it to be attested by marks which evince its Divine origin. That such an expectation is fully realized we shall, at some length, seek to show. Those marks are not vague and uncertain, but definite and unmistakable, and are of such a character as man could not be the author of them. The indications that the Bible is a Divine revelation are numerous, various, and conclusive. They are such as appeal severally to those of different tastes and temperaments, while taken together they present a case which none can invalidate. The Bible is furnished with such credentials as only those blinded by prejudice can fail to recognize it is a messenger from Heaven. They are of two kinds—extraordinary [miracles and prophecies] and ordinary, and the latter may be distinguished again between those which are objective and subjective—the one addressed to reason, the other capable of verification in experience. Each has the nature of a distinct witness, yet there is perfect agreement between them—united, yet independent. 1. Man’s Need. We may well draw our first argument for an intelligible and authoritative revelation of God from our imperative requirement of the same. We have presented evidence to show God exists, that He created man a rational and moral being, endowed with the power to distinguish between good and evil, and, therefore, that he was [originally] capable of knowing God, obeying Him, and worshipping Him. But man could neither intelligently obey nor acceptably worship God unless he first had a direct revelation from Him of how He was to be served. In order for there to be intercourse between man and his Maker, he must first receive from Him a communication of His mind prescribing the details of his duty. Accordingly we find that immediately after the creation of Adam and Eve God gave them a particular statute. He first informed them what they might do ( Genesis 2:16), and then specified what they must not do. Thus, from the outset, was man made dependent upon his Creator for a knowledge of His will, and thus, too, was his fidelity unto Him put to the proof.
If such were the case with man in his pristine glory, as he was made in the moral image of God, how much greater is his need of a Divine revelation since he has left his first estate, lost the image of God, and become a fallen and depraved creature! Sin has defiled his soul: darkening his understanding, alienating his affections, vitiating all his faculties. Should a critical objector here say, But you are now assuming what has not yet been proved, for you are taking for granted the authenticity of Genesis [wherein the defection of man from his Maker is recorded]. It should be sufficient reply at this stage to ask, What other alternative remains? Only this: that God created man in his present woeful plight, that he has never been in any better condition. But is not such a concept abhorrent even to reason? Surely a perfect God would not create so faulty a creature. Could One who is infinitely pure and holy make man in the awful state of iniquity in which we now behold him? How, then, has man become such a depraved being?
Why is it that the world over, mankind are so intractable and wayward, that so many are regulated by their lusts rather than reason, that if the restraints of human law and government were removed and everyone given free rein, the earth would speedily become a charnel-house? During the first half of this twentieth century, despite our vaunted education and civilization, enlightenment and progress, we have witnessed the most appalling proofs of human depravity, and that on a scale of enormous magnitude. So far from beholding any indication that man is slowly but surely ascending from the ape to the Divine, there is abundant evidence to show that the larger part of our race has descended to the level of the beasts. But how comes this to be, if man at the beginning was a sinless and holy creature? Apart from the Bible, no satisfactory answer is forthcoming: neither philosophy nor science can furnish any satisfactory explanation.
What has just been pointed out makes manifest yet another aspect of man’s deep need of a plain revelation from God. Man is now a fallen and polluted creature—no one who reads the newspapers or attends the police courts can question that. How, then, do the ineffable eyes of God regard him?
How is it possible for fallen creatures to regain their former glory? Reason itself tells us that one who has rebelled against God’s authority and broken His laws cannot at death be taken into His presence, there to spend a blissful eternity, without his sins being first pardoned and his character radically changed. The convictions of conscience reject any such anomaly.
But apart from Divine revelation, how are we to ascertain what will satisfy the thrice holy God? In what way shall a guilty soul be pardoned, a sinful soul be purified, a polluted creature made fit for the celestial courts? All the schemes and contrivances of human devising fail utterly at this vital point—at best they are but a dream, a guess. Dare you, my reader, risk your eternal welfare upon a mere peradventure?
Turning back from the future to the present: how is God to be worshipped by man? Such a question is necessarily raised by the being and character of God and of man’s relationship to Him as His creature. That the Deity should be acknowledged, that homage ought to be rendered unto Him, has been owned by the majority of our fellows in all climes and ages. True, their conceptions of Deity have varied considerably, and so, too, their ideas of how to honor Him; yet the conscience of all nations has convicted them that some form of worship is due unto God. It has been generally felt and avowed that there should be an acknowledgment of our dependency upon God, that supplications for His favor should be offered, that confessions of sin should be made, that thanksgivings for His mercies should be returned.
Low as man has fallen, yet until he be steeped in vice, the dictates of reason and the promptings of his moral nature have informed him that God ought to be worshipped. Yet without a special revelation from God, how is it possible for any man to know that he worships aright, that his efforts to honor God are acceptable to Him? The crude and debasing idol worship of those who are ignorant of or have spurned God’s Word will clearly evince the need for such a revelation.
From the works of creation, the voice of conscience, and the course of Providence, we may learn enough of God and of our relation to Him as to make us the accountable creatures of His government. But of that knowledge which is necessary to our salvation, we can discover nothing whatever. Unwritten revelation is inadequate to meet the needs of a sinner.
We need a further revelation in order to learn our real character and ascertain how we may be acceptable unto God. Creation as such exhibits no Savior, announces no redemption, and supplies not the least indication that the forgiveness of sins is possible, much less likely. If we break the laws of nature we must suffer the penalty. Ignorance will not exempt us nor will penitence remit the suffering. Nature’s laws are inexorable and are no respecter of persons. A child falling into the fire will be burned as surely as the vilest criminal. If we had nothing more than the visible world from which to draw our conclusions, we could never infer a hope of mercy for the transgressor of law. Nor would our moral instincts hold out any prospect of future relief—for conscience condemns us and informs us that punishment is just.
Religion [from re-ligo “to bind back”] must have something to tie to. It must have a foundation, a basis, an ultimate appeal. What is that appeal?
Many say tradition: to the teaching of “the Fathers,” to the decree of Councils, to an authority lodged in the Church as a Divine corporation, indwelt and made infallible by the presence of the Holy Spirit. That is the doctrine of Rome—a doctrine which binds to a system assumed to be supernatural, but which is “as shifting as the decrees of councils have shifted, contradictory as the statements of church fathers have been conflicting, blind and confusing; a congeries of truths and errors, of affirmations, and denials, of half lights and evasions from Origen to Bellarmine” (G.
The Papacy’s claim to be the seat of Divine authority is refuted by historic fact and personal experience. Her career has been far too dark and checkered, her influence on human life, liberty and progress, much too unsatisfactory for any impartial investigator to be deceived by such an arrogant pretension.
Others make their own instincts the supreme arbiter. That which commends itself to their “intuitions” or appeals to their sentiments is accepted, and whatever accords not therewith is spurned. But since temperaments and tastes differ so widely, there could be no common standard to which appeal may be made, and by which each one might test the rightness or wrongness of his preferences. Each separate individual would become a law unto himself: nay, if nothing be right or good save what I approve of, then I am my own god. This may be termed the religion of nature, and it accounts for every vagary from the myths of Paganism to the self-delusion of mis-called “Christian Science,” for everything put forth from Homer to Huxley. Such self-limitation exposes its utter poverty. Self cannot advance beyond the bounds of an experience which is limited by the present. How can I know anything about the origin of things unless I be taught by One who existed before them? Apart from a special revelation from God, what can I possibly know of what awaits me after death? Human reason is the ultimate court of appeal for the majority of this generation. But reason is not uniform: what appears to be logical and credible to one man, seems the very opposite to another. Most of what was pointed out in the last paragraph obtains equally here—reason can know nothing of what it has no experience. The great subject of controversy between Infidels and Christians is whether reason [the intellect and moral faculties] be sufficient to enable us to attain all that knowledge which is necessary for bringing us to virtue and happiness. That question is not to be answered by theorizing but by experiment; not by conjectures, but facts.
It must be submitted to the test of history. At what conclusions did the reason of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans arrive? So far from formulating any adequate conception of Deity, they worshipped birds and beasts, and invented gods of the most revolting character. There was no agreement among their most renowned thinkers. Their systems of moral philosophy were woefully defective and their framers notoriously profligate. Even today where the Bible is rejected reason rises no higher than agnosticism: I know not—whether there be a God, a soul which survives the death of the body, or what the hereafter may hold.
If it be asked, What purpose does reason serve in connection with spiritual things? We answer, first, its province is to form a judgment of the evidence of Christianity: to investigate and to estimate the grounds on which it claims to be a Divine revelation. Its duty is to weigh impartially and determine the force of such arguments as we have advanced in the preceding discussion and those we will present. Second, its office is to examine carefully the contents of Scripture, to acquaint ourselves with its teachings, to attentively consider the demands they make upon us—which we could not do if we had no more understanding than the irrational beasts. Third, its function is to subordinate itself unto the authority of Divine revelation—the absurdity of the opposite is self-evident. Reason is certainly not to constitute the judge of what God says, but is rather to consider and test the evidence which demonstrates that He has spoken.
The wisdom of God is not placed on trial before the bar of human foolishness. Man is the scholar, and not the Teacher—his reason is to act as a servant and not a lord. We act most reasonably when we thankfully avail ourselves of the light which God has vouchsafed us in His Word.
Having shown the limitations and inadequacy of man’s own faculties— manifested everywhere in the records of history, both ancient and modern—we return to our opening postulate: man’s need of a special and infallible revelation from God. He needs such in order to deliver from a state of spiritual ignorance—a state which is fraught with the utmost peril to his soul. Consider how prone is the mind of man to embrace error, how ready and fertile to invent new religions. Even when unfallen, man required that his path of duty be made known to him by his Maker. Much more so does man, considered as a fallen creature, require an unerring Mentor to instruct him in spiritual things, one outside himself, infinitely above him. In a world of conflicting opinions and ever-changing theories, we must have a sure Touchstone, an unvarying Standard, an ultimate Authority to which appeal can be made. Amid all the sins and sorrows, the problems and trials of life, man is in urgent need of a Divine Guide to show him the way to present holiness and happiness and to eternal glory. 2. A Presumption in its favor. This follows logically from all we have presented. Since man sorely needs such a revelation from God, and He is able to furnish it, then there is a strong probability that He will do so. He who endowed man with his intellectual faculties, is certainly capable of granting him a further degree of light by some other medium. “Revelation is to the mind what a glass is to the eye, whether it be intended to correct some accidental defect in its structure, or to enlarge its power of vision beyond its natural limits” (Professor Dick).
To argue that we should be uncertain whether such a revelation be genuine or not would be tantamount to saying that because there are so many impostors in the world, therefore there is no truth—that because so many are deceived, none can be sure that he is right. It is both presumptuous and unreasonable to affirm that God is unable to supply a communication unto mankind which is lacking in those marks that would authenticate it as coming from Himself. Cannot Deity legibly inscribe His signature on the work of His own hand?
We might indeed draw the conclusion that since man is so vilely apostatized from his Maker, that God will justly abandon him to misery.
Yet we perceive that, notwithstanding the criminal conduct of His creatures, God still makes His sun to shine and the rain to fall upon them, providing them with innumerable blessings. Thoroughly unexpected as it might well be, we behold God exercising mercy unto the sinful sons of men, ameliorating those evils which they have brought upon themselves, and providing means by the use of which their sufferings are much alleviated. Though we could not from those things warrantably draw the conclusion that God would proceed any further in our behalf, yet if He should be pleased to extend His care unto our souls as well as our bodies, it would only be an enlargement of the scope of that benevolence already displayed in His provisions for us. It would be in perfect accord with the method He has employed with His creatures, if He further interposed to rescue fallen men from ignorance, guilt and perdition. “From man at the head of creation, down to the lowest organized structure, there is not a necessity for which provision has not been made, and that in exact proportion to its wants. You yourself came into this world a poor, helpless, naked infant, full of necessities, and would have perished from the womb unless provision had been made for you. Who filled for you your mother’s breast with milk and your mother’s heart with love? But you have a soul as well as a body—no less naked, no less necessitous. Shall then the body have its necessities, and those be provided for—and shall the soul have its necessities too, and for it no provision made? Is there no milk for the soul as well as the body? no ‘sincere milk of the Word’ that it may grow thereby?” (J. C. Philpot).
The goodness of God, the benevolence of the Creator, the mercy of our Governor, all point to the likelihood of His ministering to this supreme need of ours, without which everyone of us must assuredly perish.
Brother Philpot draws a further argument in support of this conclusion from the relations which God sustains to us as our sovereign Master and our judge, pointing out that a master’s will must be known before it can be obeyed, that a judge’s law must be declared before it can be transgressed.
Why are theft and murder punished? Because the law of the land expressly forbids those crimes under a prescribed penalty; but since no human statute prohibits ingratitude, none are penalized in human courts for the same. It is a recognized principle that “where there is no law there is no transgression” ( Romans 4:15). Then does it not clearly follow from this that God will give unto us His laws—direct, positive, authoritative laws, binding upon us by Divine sanctions? How could He justly punish what He has not forbidden? And if He has forbidden sin, how and when has He done so? Where is the statute book, written by His dictation, which makes known His will to us? If it be not the Bible, we are left without any!
If it would be a far greater tax upon our credulity to believe that the universe had no Maker, than that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If it involves immeasurably greater difficulty to regard Christianity as being destitute of a Divine Founder, than to recognize that it rests upon the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then is it not far more unreasonable to suppose that God has left the human race without a written revelation from Him, than to believe the Bible is such? There are times when the most thoughtful are uncertain as to which is the right course to pursue, when the most experienced need a guide their own wisdom cannot supply—will the One who furnishes us with fruitful seasons deny us such counsel? There are sorrows which rend the hearts of the stoutest—will He who has given us the beautiful flowers and singing birds to regale our senses, withhold that comfort we so much need in the hour of bereavement? Which is the more reasonable—that the Maker of sun and moon should provide a Lamp for our feet, or leave us to grope our way amid the darkness of a ruined world?!