The Ancient Faith
EVIDENCES OF THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE
TEXT.–“To whom he showed himself alive, after his sufferings, by many infallible proofs.”–ACTS i: 4.
THE Evangelist Luke, author of the book styled Acts of Apostles, made the statement just read, and now selected as a text for a discourse on the Divine Authority of the Bible. It is a fundamental statement, when properly considered. It is not simply that Jesus was shown to his apostles after his sufferings, nor that he was shown to them alive, but he showed himself to them alive. Nor is it all, that he showed himself to them alive, nor that he did this by proof, nor that he did it by proofs, nor that he did it by any proofs, but he showed himself alive by many INFALLIBLE proofs. The apostles not only saw the Lord, and saw him alive, but he showed himself to them alive; and gave them proof, and not only proof, but proofs; not only proofs, but more, many proofs; and even more than that, many infallible proofs, that he was the Lord himself. This grand statement is fundamental; involving the great issue between the believers in the Bible and unbelievers; the friends of the Bible and the enemies. It involves the foundation of the entire revelation from God to man. If this statement is true, the Bible is true and from God, and all the consequences follow, whether we understand them or not. With this statement the Bible stands or falls; and with it stands or falls our faith and our hope of all beyond this life.
If Jesus showed himself alive after his sufferings by many infallible proofs, he rose from the dead. On his resurrection from the dead, the entire question turns. An impostor could not have raised himself from the dead. God would not have raised an impostor, and thus aided him in palming off an imposition on the world. If Jesus rose, God raised him. If God raised him, he is Divine. If he is Divine, all he ever said is true. This is the foundation of the entire matter of revelation. He said he was with the Father before time began; that the Father loved him before the foundation of the world; before the founding of kosmos, or the material world. “Before Abraham was, I am,” said he. He said he came down from heaven. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last; the Bright and Morning Star, the Root and Offspring of David. I am He who was dead, and am alive; and behold, I live forever and ever. I am He who was, and who is, and who is to come, the Omnipotent.” He was before all things, and by him all things consist. It was by him and for him the universe was made. He is the express image of the invisible God and the brightness of the Father’s glory. In him dwells all the fullness of the Deity bodily. The apostles say, He knew all things. He came before the world as no other teacher ever did, declaring, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to me.”
There is no account of his having been educated, or having any opportunities, in continuous association with the wise, the learned, and the great. On the contrary, he was evidently brought up in comparative obscurity. Yet, on coming forth from this obscurity, to the position of a public instructor, the very first time he opened his lips, and on every subsequent occasion, he showed that he knew all about man, what was in him, even to his very thoughts; that he knew the Scriptures thoroughly; the patriarchs, the prophets, and the entire history of man, from the creation down to his time. He was never deceived nor disappointed by any man, nor set of men, but saw through them and all their designs; knew and frequently foretold the results that would follow. From the day he entered his public ministry till he ascended to heaven, it is clear that he saw all things in advance, comprehended all that was coming, and that even his enemies were blindly following the programme he had marked out for them, without seeming to know that they were confirming his claims as a prophet, and proving that he could see the future as clearly as the past.
The issue to be examined in this discourse is not about an opinion, a speculation, or some intricate theory, but about a person–the most wonderful person that ever appeared as an inhabitant of this earth. The issue now in hand is not about his personal appearance either, his manners, or peculiar points in his teaching, but about Him, AS A PERSON. The whole issue centers in and turns on one question. That question is, Did he rise from the dead? If he rose, his claims are all established. The Bible is a Divine Book. If he did not rise, his claims amount to nothing, and the Bible is without Divine authority, and only to be regarded as any other book of antiquity. Before coming to the main point of discussion, it is necessary to array before the mind the two parties–the friends and the enemies of Jesus, the believers and unbelievers; examine their ground, what they claim, what they propose; what they affirm and what they deny; how far they agree and wherein they differ.
NON-BELIEF IS AN EMPTY LIFE
What, then, do unbelievers claim? What do they affirm? What do they advocate? What do they defend? The deliberate answer to each of these four questions is, Nothing, nothing under the shining heavens, either for this world or the world to come. They claim nothing, affirm nothing, advocate nothing, defend nothing. They deny Christ, the apostles, the prophets, and the Bible, as possessing Divine authority, but propose nothing instead. They would take the Bible from us, our faith and hope, but propose to give us nothing in return. They would take away the Church, the ministry, and all our religious edification, but propose nothing in return. They would take away our worship, and all the hallowed memories of the kingdom of God, but give us nothing in return. In casting away the Scriptures and the Savior, they do not propose any other system of religion. They believe no other. They believe nothing, advocate nothing, and defend nothing. They simply deny what others believe, pull down what others build up, oppose what others defend. They have nothing to offer you but doubts, instead of your unshaken faith; confusion, instead of your clear and intelligible understanding of the right way of the Lord; their want of confidence, instead of your confidence; their restlessness of mind, instead of your peace with God; their wavering and continual distrust of everything, instead of your full assurance of faith; their want of confidence in God, instead of your everlasting trust in him.
We might have some reason for listening to a man who proposes something, but certainly none in listening to a man who proposes nothing; who has nothing to believe; no theme, except how many things he does not believe; how many things he does not understand; how much is absurd, inconsistent, and contradictory to his mind. We cannot lean on things that we do not believe, nor things that are absurd. We must have something in which we have confidence, which we believe, living and dying, in order to happiness. To be happy, the soul of man must have something on which to rest; on which to lean with the fullest assurance of faith.
Nor is it in the way of the full assurance of faith, that we find some things in the Bible that we do not understand, or cannot explain. That only proves that the Bible, in that respect, is like all the works of God, deep, profound, and wonderful, beyond the comprehension of the human mind. But the matter now to be investigated is not of that character. It is a question of fact. The same mind required in the investigation of questions in the arts, in science and history, is required here; the same reason and understanding also. The friends of the Bible come before the world with a proposition, on which, in the nature of the case, everything rests, and on which they rest everything–an affirmative proposition. But to approach the question with intelligence it is necessary to look at the surroundings, and ascertain what is admitted, what is denied, and the real ground of controversy. The following items are admitted:
- That there was such a person as Jesus of Nazareth.
- That he lived at the time assigned to him in the Bible.
- That he lived in the country assigned to him in the Bible.
- That he was nailed to the Roman cross.
- That he actually died on the cross
- That the body was given to Joseph of Aramathea.
- That Joseph laid it in his own new tomb.
- That a great stone was placed at the entrance of the tomb, and an armed guard of Roman soldiers was stationed over it to guard it; that the directions given those who posted the guard there, were, to “make it as secure as you can.”
- That the reason for posting the guard there, was that the enemies remembered that he said he would rise the third day, and they feared that his disciples would steal the body and tell that he had risen from the dead.
- That early on the morning of the third day, the body was missing–that it was not in the tomb.
In all these points there is a perfect agreement among both friends and enemies. A dissenting voice is not heard. But here comes the real issue. It is in accounting for the absence of the body.
THE EMPTY TOMB
The two parties–the friends and the enemies–account for its absence in two different ways. The friends say, the body was raised from the dead. The enemies say, the body was stolen. Here is the issue. So far as the information goes, no other ground has been taken by anybody. The judgment must be made up between these two grounds. The testimony and surroundings on each side must now be briefly considered. Turn your attention to the enemies’ side first. What is their position? It is that the body was stolen. Who were their witnesses? The Roman guard, consisting of sixty soldiers. The number of witnesses is sufficient to prove anything, all things being equal. To what do they testify? That the body of Jesus was stolen from the tomb. So far the testimony appears clear and conclusive. Who stole the body? They say the disciples stole it. That statement also appears clear and conclusive. Where was the guard when the theft was committed? They were all at their post. That appears to place them in a proper position for witnesses. What were they doing while the disciples committed the theft? They say they were asleep. This involves their testimony in the depths of absurdity, and completely destroys it. Stop and consider the matter.
- If they were confessedly asleep, how did they know the body was stolen? How did they know the disciples stole it? If they were asleep, when the body disappeared from the tomb, how did they know that it did not rise and walk out? The confession that they were asleep when the body disappeared from the tomb, had it been true, was a clear confession that they knew nothing about the question how the body disappeared, and could not be competent witnesses touching the question in dispute. Had they been asleep, they could have testified that, when they awoke from their sleep, the body was gone from the sepulcher, but certainly could not have testified as to the manner in which it disappeared. These considerations set aside their statement as wholly unreliable.
- But their statement is unreliable on another account. It was certain death, under the Roman military law, for a soldier to be found asleep while on guard. Then the guard was divided into different watches, and each watch only required to be on guard six hours at a time, involving no necessity for being sleepy while on guard. Then, it would have been marvelous for the entire watch to have fallen asleep at once, and so soundly asleep, as not to have been awakened by the rolling away of the stone from the entrance of the tomb, which was “very great,” and the entire transaction of taking away the body! This is an incredible story.
- But if they were asleep, why were they not brought to account and punished, for violating the military laws, especially in such an important case? There is not a word about their being tried or punished! If the confession of their having been asleep had been believed, would the whole thing have passed off thus quietly? By no means. They would have been tried and punished.
- They had the disciples completely in their power. Why did they not confront them with the body, and compel them to return the body when they commenced telling that it was risen? The reason is, they did not believe the story themselves. They knew that the disciples did not have the body in their possession.
- What motive could the disciples have had in stealing the body? They could not have made it alive. They would have known that they could have been compelled to return it, and that, it being found in their possession, would have been a means of exposing them. They knew they were powerless, and that there would have been no difficulty in bringing them to punishment.
- It is also true that the disciples never understood what he said about rising the third day, and did not believe that he would rise. They believed, till the last, that his kingdom would be an earthly kingdom, and that he would be an earthly king ; and when he died, all their expectations in him were blasted. They went away, saying, “We thought it was he who was to have redeemed Israel.” They gave all up as lost. After he rose, they still had the idea of a civil government in their heads, and said to him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
- The thing reported was impossible. The moon was at its full, giving light all night. The Jews from all nations under heaven were there, in attendance on their great anniversary, tented in all directions; and the Roman guard, ever watchful, was there, rendering it impossible for those discouraged and disappointed disciples to have gone to the tomb, rolled away the stone, taken the body, and conveyed it away unobserved. The man who can believe the story that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, as reported by the guard, ought never to say anything about the credulity of Christians, for he can believe not only without evidence, but against all evidence and reason. There is nothing here on which any human being can rest the soul.
EVIDENCE FOR RESURRECTION
But now turn your attention to the other side, and consider the account. How do the friends of Jesus account for the absence of the body from the tomb on the morning of the third day? Their account of the matter is, that he rose from the dead. Who are their witnesses? The following list is given by Paul:
- He was seen alive, after his resurrection, by Cephas.
- He was then seen by the twelve apostles.
- Afterward, he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once, the greater portion of whom were still living when Paul wrote the first letter to the Corinthians.
- After that he was seen by James.
- Then by all the apostles.
- Last of all, by Paul.
These witnesses were not all present, it will be observed, on all the occasions alluded to; nor are these occasions the only ones on which he was seen; nor are the persons here enumerated the only persons who saw him after he rose from the dead. But these are sufficient for the present purpose. They did not all see nor observe the same things; but among them were some who saw him repeatedly during a space of forty days; who ate with him, drank with him, handled him, heard him, and, on sundry occasions, had the fullest opportunity to make themselves competent witnesses. In these interviews, he talked over many of their previous transactions, explaining things he held taught them, and bringing all things to their remembrance. Concluding these personal interviews with them, he took them to Mount Olivet, and in their presence, and in open day, ascended up into heaven. This makes substantially the case. The next thing is the examination. There are but two grounds on which testimony can be made doubtful. 1. If there can be shown a possibility of mistake on the part of witnesses, it renders the testimony doubtful. 2. If the honesty of the witnesses can be questioned, it renders the testimony doubtful. But if the witnesses could not have been mistaken, nor dishonest, there remains no ground of doubt. These are the two points now to be examined.
- Could these witnesses have been mistaken? They certainly could not. If they did not testify to the truth, they knew they did not. There was no mistake about it. The reasons for saying they could not have been mistaken must be given somewhat in detail:
- He was seen on too many different occasions, by too many different persons, and by some of these persons too often, for them to have been mistaken. If but twelve persons had seen him but one time, in open day, the testimony would have been considered conclusive. But he was seen of above five hundred brethren at one timed by the twelve more than once, and by several others again and again, during a space of forty days. So many of them saw him so frequently, that they could not have been mistaken. If what they said about seeing him was not true, they knew it was not true.
- There could have been no mistake about identifying him on these occasions, for there were so many who saw him, and the opportunities for identifying him were such as to render it impossible for them to have been mistaken. They saw him in daylight, ate with him, handled him, and conversed with him. In these interviews he rehearsed many things he had said, and spoke of many things he had done before his death. The interviews were too numerous, the conversations too extended, and the things on which they discoursed were of such a nature as to identify him beyond all dispute.
- They were with him in open day; heard him say that he was about to leave them, and return to his Father; and on the Mount of Olives they saw him ascend to heaven, They saw, also, a convoy of angels, who said, “Why stand you here, gazing up into heaven? That same Jesus, whom you see ascending into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him ascend into heaven.” There could have been no mistake about the main matter here. If these things were not true, they knew they were not true.
- The apostles claimed that the Lord, after he ascended to heaven, gave them power to heal all manner of diseases–to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the dumb. They said they did all these things. In saying this, they could not have been mistaken. They knew whether they did these things.
- Some of these witnesses made statements that could have been proved false, if they had been false, by almost any number of persons. As samples: the statements of Matthew, published in Palestine, eight years after the death of Christ, that he fed thousands, in open day, by miracle; that there was a great earthquake when he died; that there was darkness over the whole land from the sixth till the ninth hour; that the vail in the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; that the rocks were split; the statement of Paul, that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once. These, and many more statements like them, could have been disproved by almost any number of witnesses, if they had not been true; and the enemies could have thus defeated the apostles. But instead of these statements being refuted, they are confirmed by all the testimony in the world, in any way bearing on them. They stand, not only uncontradicted by anything written in that age, but corroborated by every authority having connection with them. These were statements about which they could not have been mistaken.
- They claimed that they were inspired by the Savior, empowered to make revelations from God, and to speak in all the languages under heaven–languages that they had never learned. They know whether they had received these revelations and whether they could speak these languages. They could not have been mistaken here.
This is certainly sufficient to show that there was no ground for mistake on the part of these witnesses in regard to the matter in hand. If the things they testified to were not true, they knew it.
- The other side remains to be considered. Could they have been dishonest? Could they have been pretenders? They certainly could not, for the following reasons:
- They had no inducement to tell falsehoods touching the matter in hand. Every earthly interest they had was against the ground they took, and in favor of their renouncing it.
- That Jesus rose from the dead, if not true, was the most unpopular and unwelcome story that any man or set of men could have told at the time in which they lived. The idea, that these timid men would have had the boldness and determination to face the world, Jews and pagans, and declare persistently that Jesus rose from the dead, knowing it to be false, is the very climax of absurdity.
- Admitting the possibility of these timid and cowardly men (as they were before the death of Christ) to have had the effrontery to stand up in Jerusalem, before the learned rabbis, the doctors of the law, the scribes and priests, at the first, and declare that Jesus rose from the dead, knowing that they were telling a falsehood; still, there remains no way of accounting for their persistence in their statement, and maintaining that it was true, though every possible means were used to induce them to recant, till they sealed their testimony with their blood. What man of intelligence can believe that these men were dishonest; mere pretenders; telling what they knew to be false, and that they were true to their original purpose, and every man of them stood by every other man in telling and maintaining the falsehood, through stripes, imprisonments, and banishments, till the last one was martyred for telling the falsehood, and not a man of them could ever, by any means, be induced to give it up? The man who can believe this ought to say nothing of the credulity of Christians! It is to believe that men can have two opposite characters at the same time, and maintain both till death; that they can be hypocrites, pretenders and deceivers for life, engaged in palming off a grand falsehood on the world; and yet so true to their falsehood and to each other, that not one of them ever could be induced to betray and expose the falsehood or his fellow-witnesses. Not one of them ever could be induced to save himself from stripes, imprisonment, or death, to turn States evidence! What they stated at the first, they stated at the last.
- Take Paul as a more particular example. Three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned. Five times he received forty stripes, save one. He was exposed to wild beasts in Ephesus. Finally, in Rome, he was deliberately beheaded. Yet he stood to the same testimony from the first till the last. Can any man doubt that he was an honest man?
- Those men bore unquestionable marks of honesty, sincerity and candor in the purity of their lives, the purity and correctness of their teaching. They not only taught purity, but practiced it.
If, therefore, these were not honest, sincere and candid men, the world never contained any. They gave the highest evidence that men can give of honesty and sincerity. It is, therefore, impossible for men who understand what evidence is, men of intelligence, to conclude that they were dishonest. It is morally impossible for them to have been dishonest. It follows, then, with the force of demonstration, that, as they could not have been dishonest, and could not have been mistaken, their testimony is true. The Lord rose from the dead. He is Divine, and the Bible of Divine authority. He was dead, but is alive, and lives forever and ever. In him all fullness dwells. He is head over all things to the Church. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
But now turn back to the first preaching of the apostles. Where did they first preach after he rose? In Jerusalem, where, fifty days before, it was unanimously agreed, he died. Here was the place where the people were better prepared than anywhere else in the world to judge of the truth of their preaching; and among the people who had all the opportunities of knowing whether they told the truth or not, and they, too, the most decided and determined people in their religion on the face of the earth. Here the apostles first stand up, with all the late and present surroundings in the minds of the people, and preach. What is the main ground of the first discourse? That the same Jesus, whom the people had crucified some fifty days before, had been raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God, and the sublime display of supernatural power which they saw and heard was from him. Here the people, in thousands, who were posted in the events of the past few weeks, stood around the apostles, and saw and heard what was before them. Their prejudices were all against them. Popularity was against them. All worldly interests were against them. All existing church relations were against them. What is the result? Three thousand sturdy and determined Jews turn their backs on their former church, their worldly interests, and sins, and yield to the authority of Jesus the Christ. In a few days, five thousand became obedient to the faith. Shortly the Gospel reached Samaria, and the people, with one accord, gave heed to the things spoken by the preacher of Jesus. Triumphantly, grandly, and sublimely it moved onward. In ten years the Gentiles became obedient to the faith. In less than forty years it traveled the length of the Mediterranean Sea and throughout the Roman Empire.
Did uninspired fishermen of Galilee; illiterate, timid, and weak men, do all this, in their own strength? Did they do this by telling a falsehood, sticking to a falsehood, and, in their mere human strength, preaching a falsehood? If they did, their falsehood did more than any truth ever did since the beginning of time, for such a revolution had never been brought about before by any sort of preaching, true or false. To say that the apostles did this in their own strength, by preaching a falsehood, and one of the silliest falsehoods ever told, too, if it was a falsehood at all, is to say, that the most stupendous, grand, and sublime religious movement recorded in the world’s history, was achieved by weak and ignorant men by preaching a falsehood, in spite of all the learning, talent, money, prejudice, pride, popularity, civil and religious authorities on the face of the earth! The man who will say this, is not a subject of argument.
No doubt, many statesmen, philosophers, men of wealth, and powerful men of the world of different kinds, as well as distinguished religionists of different kinds, of that day, thought the whole affair about Jesus of Nazareth a shallow thing, with which the people had been carried away, and that, in a short time, there would be nothing more heard of Jesus or his apostles. But how stands the case now? Eighteen centuries have gone into the past, and their events are known in history. What has become of the statesmen of Greece and Rome? Excepting a few, their names have gone into oblivion. Where is that mighty civil superstructure, on which they put forth their greatest power and skill? In less than four hundred years, it was divided into petty kingdoms, and the wisdom of the great men who framed the Roman government was shown to be foolishness with God. Where are the philosophers of Greece and Rome? Excepting a few, their names are not even found in history. Their systems of philosophy have been exploded, and many of the things in which they gloried and prided themselves most, have been demonstrated to be erroneous and false. Where are the men of wealth of those times? Gone, ages since; their vast estates scattered to the winds, and they forgotten.
But where is the name of Jesus of Nazareth? It has been interwoven with the history of the civilized world for eighteen hundred years. Every infidel that now writes a letter, in some form or other, puts down “the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight.” Every note of hand, bond, deed, mortgage, bank check, summons, receipt, no matter by whom written, believer, or unbeliever, bears “the year of our Lord on it,” either in full or in some abbreviated form. If any man thinks the power of our Lord Jesus the Christ is nothing, or a matter of no consequence, let him inquire for the origin of the observance of the Lord’s day or the first day of the week. What statesman, philosopher, or great man of the world, originated the observance of the first day of the week? No great man did it. It originated with Jesus of Nazareth. Has he any power on earth now? Lift up your eyes and look at the stupendous business operations of the civilized world. See the busy multitudes in the departments of agriculture, mechanic arts, commerce, and trade, as the week closes. Then, open your eyes on the Lord’s day morning, and see the general suspension! Where is the power that suspends all this? Whose wonderful hand stays and suspends all those busy multitudes? Where did all this originate? You trace back and find the origin of it in the resurrection of our Lord from the dead. Before that event, nothing of the kind described had ever existed on the first day of the week. There had been such a thing as the observance of the Sabbath or the seventh day, but no observance of the first day as a sacred day, since the beginning of time.
Amid all the unbelief, the hardness of heart, and terrible impenitence of these times, the name of Jesus finds its way into all the records, the legal documents, the documents of State, and the entire literature of the civilized world. Even in the most degraded forms of an apostate church and people, the name of Jesus fills every thing. Where, too, are the names of the apostles? Their names, have gone wherever the name of Jesus is known. Where, is the Gospel of Christ? Written, printed, and circulated, in the Scriptures, throughout the world. After the Jews have hated, despised, and malignantly fought the religion of Christ, the apostles, and the Lord himself, for eighteen hundred years; after the pagan world have fought it as long, and powerful and learned infidels have put forth their most determined efforts to crush it; in one word, after it has stood the criticism and opposition of all the combined influences that could be brought against it, for eighteen hundred years, it is received and believed by more people than at any other period since it became a power among men. What is grandly in its favor is, that the most powerful, enlightened, and elevated people in the world, are the people who receive the Word of God. The most pure, benevolent, and good people in the world, are those who practice the Bible most closely.
Faith in the Savior and in the Bible, never gives way at the approach of death. This cannot he said of Infidelity. There is, it may be admitted, now and then a determined case of infidelity, where a man resists the Bible and hugs his infidelity till the last. Cases of that kind are not the rule, but the exception. No man can know precisely; but, in nine cases out of ten, when death is supposed to be approaching, skepticism vanishes away and disperses like mist before the rising sun, and leaves the soul without any support in the most trying hour. It is simply a matter of fact, that at death, or the supposed approach of death, the faith of the saint becomes stronger and stronger, and the unbelief of the skeptic becomes weaker and weaker. The believer maintains his ground, and leans on his faith to the last. It never fails him. In numerous instances, skeptics repudiate their unbelief with their last breath, and warn their friends against it. Why is this? The reason is, there is reality on the side of the believer. He is founded on the Rock of Ages, and can sing in death, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord.” The dying saint can commend his faith to those he leaves behind. The infidel repudiates his unbelief when he is dying, and admonishes his friends and warns them against it. In the last moments, there is a great difference between the man who can say, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and the man who says “There is no God.”
But, turning to the skeptic again, before closing the present discourse, What does he propose? To do away with the Bible, the ministry, the Church, and all religion. What are we to have, then? No Bible, no ministry, no Church, and no religion; nor error, nor superstition, nor impositions. Indeed! But the world is filled largely with religious establishments that came not from the Bible, that are not only not authorized by anything in the Bible, but condemned by the Bible. Not only so, but error, superstition, and imposition abound where the Bible has never gone, and is not known–error that did not originate with anything in the Bible. Banishment of the Bible is no guarantee that error, superstition, deception, and imposition shall cease. The Pope, at one time, had the Bible well-nigh done away, but there was more error, superstition, deception, and imposition then than ever existed where the authority of the Bible prevailed. Deception was then reduced to a science. When they got the authority of the Bible out of the way, the Romish priesthood were organized and confederated in a grand systematic scheme of delusion and deception. The entire scheme was used with no other clear purpose than to delude and deceive the people. It was then that the most terrible spiritual despotism ever known on the face of the earth prevailed and did its work. The reaction from this, in one form of it, resulted in the atheism of France, when the best thing they had for man beyond this life was “Death, an eternal sleep.” It was then and there that Jacobinism prevailed. It was then and there they cut off the heads of some of the noblest of men and women. It was then that the king and queen lost their heads. The millennium of Romanism, without the Bible, preceded the tragedies in France, and the millennium of unbelief followed. No man of sense, who is a friend to his race, desires these scenes, or others like them, to be reënacted, or follow on us or our children. Yet you have no security for anything better without the Bible.
But now some application must be made of what has gone before. The question will come up, How does it follow, as a sequence, that the Bible is of divine authority if the foregoing reasoning is correct? This we will now proceed to show.
- The foregoing argument is to prove that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is the foundation of the divine authority of the Bible. It was in reference to this, that, when Peter made the statement, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” the Lord said, “You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it.” This is the great proposition of the new institution. When it is proved, all minor ones are proved, as a matter of course. This may not be obvious to every person, at a glance, and the argument must be carefully restated and the reasoning applied.
- In the foregoing argument, it is assumed that if Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, his claims are established, and all he ever taught is true; but this has not been elaborated. The intention now is to restate, elaborate, and apply it.
- The whole argument has been shown to rest on the resurrection of Christ from the deed. No power this side of the power of the Almighty could have raised him. The Almighty would not have raised an impostor, and thus aided him in palming off an imposition on the world. This led to the foregoing brief argument to show that he rose from the dead. The result of the argument is as follows: 1. God raised him from the dead. 2. If God raised him, he is the Christ, the Son of the living God; or, which, in amount, is the same, he is divine. All his claims are true. But how does this confirm the divine authority of the Bible? Mainly in the following three ways:
THREE CONFIRMATIONS OF BIBLE INSPIRATION
- He fulfilled numerous predictions of the Old Testament, such as could not, by any possibility, have been fulfilled by an impostor, thus confirming the divine authority of the inspired prophet, who, by the Spirit of God in him, looked down through many long centuries and predicted what would come to pass, and, on the other hand, confirmed the divine authority of HIM who fulfilled these numerous and wonderful predictions. These prophecies, and their fulfillment, connect and interweave the Old Testament with Jesus, so that both stand or fall together. The reasoning turns both ways: The prophets of the Old Testament point to Jesus and find their fulfillment in him. He comes and fulfills their predictions, and thus the divine authority of the prophets and of himself is established.
- After establishing his own divine authority, he called, qualified, and sent the apostles, and confirmed their divine mission, thus indorsing them and the portions of the Bible emanating from them. All they said and did is indorsed by him. As certain as he is from God, all the portions of the Bible from them are divinely indorsed. This settles the divine authority of the New Testament.
- The claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, or, which is the same, Divine, being, established, all his acts and words are of divine authority. It is, then, settled that he was with God before the world was; that it was by him and for him the worlds were made; that he was before all things, and by him all things consist; that he who saw him saw the Father; that he thought it not robbery to be equal with God; that he is the express image of God and the effulgence of his glory; that in him all fullness dwells; that the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in him; that he knew all the past, the present, and the future. That he could look into the past, was evinced by his unlimited acquaintance with all the Old Testament Scriptures, characters, and events, which was shown in all his conversations and discourses. Every thing mentioned in the history of the past was as familiar to him as the passing events around him. He knew all about the flood, Noah, Egypt, Pharaoh, Moses, the kings and prophets of Israel; Nineveh, Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, and Gomorrah. He looked forward, from forty years before the fall of Jerusalem, and saw the Jews fall by the edge of the sword, carried away captive among all nations, Jerusalem trodden down of the Gentiles, and the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles, events extending down through eighteen hundred years, now fulfilled and fulfilling before the eyes of an unbelieving generation. The whole turns on the following three points:
- He knew all things.
- All authority was vested in him.
- All he indorsed is of divine authority.
What, then, did he indorse? He indorsed Moses, in numerous instances, by quoting him as the word of God and the word of the Spirit of God. He indorsed the historical books of Moses and honored them as from God. He indorsed the law of Moses, as the law of God, in numerous instances and in different forms. He indorsed the principal events of the Old Testament, such as the creation, the Adamic sin and its consequences; the destruction of the world by a flood; the call of Abraham and the promise; the overthrow of Sodom; the fate of the proud monarch of Egypt; the liberation of Israel from Egyptian bondage; the giving of the law; events of Sinai and the sojourn in the wilderness; the crossing of Jordan; entrance into Canaan, etc. He indorsed the writings of David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel; and Daniel, as well as other prophets, by quoting them as divine authority. His numerous quotations of the Old Testament, in its various parts, as sacred Scripture, ascribing it to God, to the Spirit of God, etc.; his many references to the Old Testament writings, settles the question of the divine authority with all who believe on Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Having thus indorsed the divine authority of the Old Testament, he turns to the New. “The words thou gavest me I have given them,” said he, in his address to the Father. “All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me,” said he, before he commissioned the apostles. “Go, therefore, and disciple all nations,” etc. His repeatedly meeting with them, talking over all things that had previously occurred between him and them, expounding to them the Scriptures, eating and drinking with them, giving them an opportunity to see him, hear him, handle him, and witness his ascension up into heaven; the endowment of supernatural power, after the ascension, and the continuation of this wonderful power with them, amounts to a complete indorsement of the apostles, establishing their divine authority, and the divine authority of the portion of the Bible emanating from them. The work they did, the wonders they achieved, and the religious revolution of the civilized world that followed them, in view of their native weakness and inability in themselves to do any such work, demonstrates that the power of God was with them all the time, indorsing all they said and did as of divine authority.
What a grand spectacle to see HIM of whom Moses and all the prophets wrote, who was dead and is alive; who is divine; who has all authority in heaven and on earth; in whom all the fullness of the Deity resides fully; standing between the two Testaments, the Old and the New, extending one hand back over Moses and the prophets, fully indorsing the Old Testament as of divine authority; and then turning to the apostles, and extending the other hand over them, and, by indorsing them and accompanying them with the most grand and stupendous displays of supernatural power, indorsing the New Testament, given by them, as of divine authority! This settles the question of the divine authority of the Bible. It is all indorsed by HIM, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. HE has gone into heaven, angels, authorities, and powers being made subject to him. HE is worshiped by all the angels in heaven. HE shall reign till all his enemies shall be put under his feet. To HIM every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. To HIS NAME be honor and power everlasting.
[This sermon is from Benjamin Franklin’s book “The Gospel Preacher (1869)]