The Wonder Of The Bible
By Dyson Hague
The wonder of the Bible grows on us as our experience is enlarged, for the more deeply we search it, the more we feel that the Bible is not merely a book, but the Book. It stands alone; unapproachable in grandeur; as high above all other books as heaven is above earth, as the Son of God above the sons of men.
The Wonder of Its Formation
One of the first things about this Book that evokes our wonder is the very fact of its existence. Anyone who has studied the history and origin of the divine Word must be struck with wonderment at the mysterious method of its formation. That it ever was a book, and today the Book of the world, is really a literary miracle. For there never was any order given to any man to plan the Bible, nor was there any concerted plan on the part of the men who wrote, to write the Bible.
The way in which the Bible gradually grew is one of the mysteries of time. Little by little, part by part, century after century, it came out in fragments and unrelated portions, written by various men, without any intention (so far as we can tell) of anything like concerted arrangement. One man wrote one part in Arabia, another wrote another part in Syria; a third wrote in Palestine, another in Greece and Italy; some writers wrote hundreds of years after or before the others, and the first part was written many hundred years before the man who wrote the last part was born.
Now, take any other book; you know fairly well how it arose. In nine cases out of ten a man determined to write a book, thought it out, collected the material, wrote or dictated it, had it copied or printed, and it was completed within four or six or more months or years. The average book, we may suppose, takes from one to ten years to produce, though books like Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, or Tennyson’s poems, took longer to complete. But, generally speaking, a book has been produced by one man within his own generation.
But there is a book that took at least one thousand five hundred years to write, spanning sixty generations of this old world’s history. It enlarges our conceptions of God; it gives us new ideas of His infinite patience as we think of the wonder of His calm, quiet waiting as He watches the strain, the haste and restlessness of man across the feverish years, while slowly and silently the great Book grew. Here a little and there a little of it came on; here is some history, and there prophecy; here a poem and there a biography; and at last in process of time, as silently as the house of the Lord of old (1 Kgs. 6:7), it came forth before a needy world in its finished completeness.
When Moses died there were only five small portions; when David sat upon the throne there were a few parchments more; one by one, prince, priest, and prophet laid on the growing pile their greater and smaller contributions, until in process of time the whole of the Old Testament Bible was written in its entirety.
Then, by the overruling design of the Almighty Spirit, without any concerted collaboration or unity of plan, fragment by fragment, here a biography, there a letter, the New Testament grew.
Yes! The Book is a marvel; it transcends all books; it is the miracle of literature in its formation. It is altogether unexplainable, unless God is its Author.
The Wonder of Its Unification
Another thing: We talk of this Bible as a book. We seldom think of it as a library consisting of sixty-six separate volumes, written by between thirty and forty different authors, in three different languages, upon totally different topics, and under extraordinarily different circumstances.
One author wrote history, another biography; one wrote on theology, another wrote poetry, another, prophecy; some wrote on philosophy and jurisprudence, on genealogy and ethnology, and some, narratives of adventure and travel.
And the strangest thing of all is, that though their subjects are so diverse and difficult – most difficult and abstruse to the natural mind – though there was no possibility of anything like concerted action, or transfer of literary responsibility (for it was impossible for the man who wrote the first pages to have the slightest knowledge what others would write about 1,500 years after he was born), yet this miscellaneous collection of heterogeneous writings is not only unified by men in one book, but so unified by God, the Author, that we never think of it today as anything else than one Book! And one Book it is indeed – the miracle of all literary unity.
The Wonder of Its Age
Again, it is a wonder that that Book is here today. It is a wonder that we have a Bible at all when we think of its age. When we compare the Bible as a book with any other book, in this respect it is a perfect wonder.
You all know that one of the great tests of literature is time. Books that were the rage a few years ago are forgotten today. They were born, they were boomed, and they died. The cold hand of oblivion is laid upon them. Their force is spent. Their power is gone. Where, after all, is the book five hundred years old and read by the masses today? You can put it down for a certainty that the older a book is the smaller is its chance of surviving, or of being read by people of diverse nationalities.
But the marvelous thing about the Bible is that it is the only book in the world that has, in this way and to this marvelous degree, not only overleaped the barriers of time, but has also been able to overleap the barriers of nationality. The Bible, written by men who died between two or three thousand years ago, is not only living today, but is the most widely circulated book in the world.
The Wonder of Its Interest
Another marvelous thing about this Book is that it is the only book in the world read by all classes and all sorts of people. It is a wonderful thing that one book so differs from all others – that it is read by the wisest of men, read to the little child, and read by the old man as he trembles on the brink of the other world.
Verily, it is without a parallel in literature. Our boys and girls read and study it in myriads of homes and Sunday schools; and great scholars like Newton and Herschel and Faraday and Brewster, and great statesmen like Gladstone and Lincoln, have taken this Book as the joy and the guide of their life.
The Wonder of Its Language
Another wonderful thing is that this Book was not written in Athens, the seat of learning in Greece, nor in Alexandria in Egypt. It was not written by men who received their inspiration from the ancient sources of wisdom. It was written by men who lived in Palestine. One was a farm hand, another was a shepherd, and some were fishermen. They were men of no literary reputation. And yet from such men has come a Book that God in His mysterious power has so divested of all provincialism that it has become the standard of the language of the most literary nations of the world.
How do you explain then the fact that these unlearned men, uncosmopolitan men, with all their provincialism, and exclusiveness, and insularity, were enabled to write a book which has become not only the book of the Jews, but the Book of the world today?
The Wonder of Its Preservation
Another wonderful thing about the Bible is that it has stood ages of ferocious and incessant persecution. Century after century men have tried to burn it and to bury it. Crusade after crusade has been organized to extirpate it. Kings of the earth set themselves, and rulers of the church took counsel together, to destroy it from off the face of the earth.
Diocletian, the Roman Emperor, in 303 inaugurated the most terrific onslaught that the world has known upon a book. Every Bible almost was destroyed; myriads of Christians perished; and a column of triumph was erected over an exterminated Bible with the inscription: “Extincto nomine Christianorum” (extinct is the name of Christians).
And yet, not many years after, the Bible came forth as Noah from the ark to re-people the earth, and in the year 325 Constantine enthroned the Bible as the Infallible Judge of Truth in the First General Council!
Then followed the prolonged medieval persecutions. You all know how the Church of Rome denied the Scriptures to the people. The Church of Rome never trusted the people with the Bible. For ages it was practically an unknown book. Martin Luther was a grown-up man when he said that he had never seen a Bible in his life.
Not only so: in consequence of edicts of Councils, and bans and bulls of Popes, Bibles were burned and Bible readers sent by the Inquisition to rack and flame.
Yet perhaps the worst opposition to the Bible has been during the last [two] hundred and fifty years. Its bitterest foes, curiously enough, were men who claimed liberty of thought, and Bolingbroke and Hume and Voltaire seemed so confident of the extermination of the Bible, that the Frenchman declared that a hundred years after his day not a Bible would be found save as an antiquarian curiosity.
Then came the German rationalistic host, with the fiercest and deadliest of all the attacks.
Yet here the Bible is today, stronger than ever. It stands, and will stand. The adversaries have done their worst. They have charged their heaviest charge. They have fired their deadliest volley.
Yet, in spite of all these age-long persecutions and assaults, the Word of the Lord is having free course, and is being glorified.
It Is Inexhaustible
Its depth is infinite; its height is infinite. Millions of readers and writers, age after age, have dug in this unfathomable mine, and its depths are still unexhausted. Age after age it has generated, with ever-increasing power, ideas, plans, schemes, themes, and books. The greatest minds have been its expositors. Myriads of students have studied it daily, and its readers from day to day can be numbered by millions.
The volumes that have been written on single chapters or even verses would fill the shelves of many a library, and today they are as fresh, as fertile, as inexhaustible as the day they were first written. The treasures yet to be found are as the stars of the sky, of infinite multitude.
It Is Authoritative
This is another wonder. It breaks upon you as the Voice from heaven. Five hundred times in the first five books of the Bible it prefaces or concludes its declarations with the sublime assertions, “The Lord said,” or, “The Lord spake!” Three hundred times again in the following books it does the same; and in the prophetical books it does so twelve hundred times with such expressions as: “Hear the word of the Lord,” or “Thus saith the Lord.”
No other book dares thus to address itself to the universal conscience. No other speaks with such binding claim or presumes to command the obedience of mankind, and men in every age and clime acknowledge this claim. The Book speaks to their inner consciousness, with authority, the authority of God Himself.
It Is Living and Operative
Men think of the Bible as a book that was inspired. But the wonder of the Bible is that it is vivifying and operative now. From the far-distant heights of time it comes sweeping into the hearts of men today, and the same breath of God that breathed into it its mystic life makes it living and energizing today. It is the Living Word, vital with the life of the Living God who gave it and gives it living power.
The twenty-third Psalm was inspired. But again and again today, as it is whispered in the hush of the death chamber, or read with the hidden cry, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law” (Psa. 119:18), it is a living Word, and the Spirit breathes life through it once more.
And this is the most remarkable and unique feature of the Bible: I feel that it is mine. Its promises are mine. As I read the 103rd Psalm, it is not ancient Hebrew, it is present-day power; and I, a living soul, overwhelmed with gratitude, cry out: “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
It Creates and Transforms
It changes men’s lives. It alters their destinies. It inaugurates worldwide movements. One of its texts transformed Luther and was the beginning of the greatest of modern epochs. It comes into communities of unrighteousness as a regenerate force. Great enterprises – philanthropic, redemptive, and educational – arise and stand as tributes to its vitalizing power. Ten thousand times ten thousand are the evidences of the regenerative power of the Word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.
It Reveals Christ
But the supreme wonder of the Book is Christ – He is its fullness, its centre, its great subject. Old Testament and New Testament alike tell of Jesus, the great Fact of history, the great Force of history, the great Future of history; for of this Book it can be said: “...The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the Light thereof” (Rev. 21:23).
And as long as men live upon the face of this globe the Book that tells of that Supreme Personality, the Centre of a world’s desire – Christ, the great Arch that spans history, the Keystone of prophecy – Christ, the Revealer, the Redeemer; the Risen, the Reigning, the Returning Lord – Jesus, the Desire of all nations; so long will this Book draw men’s hearts like a magnet, and men will stand by it, and live for it, and die for it!
When you come to this Book, come to it with reverence. Read it with a plea for the Spirit’s help. “...Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Ex. 3:5).
Other books are of the earth. This is from heaven. Do not think and do not say that this Book only contains the words of God! It is the Word of God!
Think not of it only as a good book, or even as a better book, but hold it in your heart and faith, not as the word of man, but as it is in truth, the Word of God; nay more, as the living Word of the Living God: supernatural in origin; inexpressible in value; infinite in scope; divine in authorship, though human in penmanship; regenerative in power; infallible in authority; personal in application; inspired in totality.
– Condensed from a pamphlet. Dyson Hague (1857-1935) was a Canadian clergyman, educator, and author.