The questions of the Bible hold in their principles the present and eternal interests of our humanity, and therefore challenge the attention of the world. Thousands of the wisest and best men of the ages have been intensely interested in its contents. Its great influence and reputation are evidences of its trustworthiness, and of the consistency and intelligence of those who give it their attention; for sensible men do not disregard questions of great importance. This book contains a record of many ugly, dark and wicked deeds, known in the lives of wicked men and nations, with imperfections and apostacies of individuals in high places. This is what we must look for in a book of its pretensions. It professes to contain a revelation of God and his will to man. The ugly, wicked, licentious, and bloody things constitute the background of the picture, representing man in all his ways. It is also shaded with all there was, and is, of moral and noble character in the human. God with his attributes, as the true, grand and glorious Bible picture, shines out through this human background. The justice of God, with his love, long suffering and tender mercies, his approbation and disapprobation, must in the very nature of things be revealed in connection with human character as it presents itself in iniquity and crime, in piety and virtue, both individual and national, in order that the revelation may be complete, full and perfect. The history of men and nations must also be true, sufficiently full to call out, in the divine dealings, all there is in the divine character; otherwise, the revelation would be partial and imperfect.
No physician ever revealed his skill without his patients. No court has ever revealed its justice without its cases. The doctor's dealings with his patients measure the extent of his known skill. Allowing that he understands himself and the conditions of his patients perfectly, and does his whole duty, the revelation of his skill must be perfect, to the full extent of its connection with the diseases treated. So it is with the revealed justice of the court. This rule is a necessary law, governing all revelations of character, both human and divine; otherwise we are left in the dark with reference to the true character of the one who makes the revelation. Our common sense is such that we are always led astray by improper action, unless our superior wisdom enables us to know that the action is improper. Improper action upon the part of a doctor reveals imperfect skill; on the part of the court it reveals imperfect justice, if it is not an entire want of skill and justice.
No such imperfection belongs to our God; therefore the revelation which he made needs only to be understood and it will never mislead us. These great principles of common sense are to be applied in the revelations of God to the nations as the God of nations. Such being the case, we have a very interesting field of thought before us in the bloody scenes that are known in the history of nations, as it is given in the Bible. Where is the morality and righteousness of the wars of which we read? Where is the justice and goodness of God in the bloody wars of Israel? Where is the righteousness of capital punishment? A great many persons say, in their ignorance, there is no righteousness in those things. Friend, travel slowly over this ground. "Take the shoes off thy feet, for it is holy ground." Go into the Bible and look! God is there. You knew it not. Principles never change. Circumstances change and necessitate changes of law, but that which was right at any time in the history of our race is right at all times, under the same circumstances. Is there such a thing as morality carried into public relations? Is there such a thing as jurisprudence? Yes; jurisprudence is morality carried into public relations in the following law: "That course of conduct which pertains to the greatest good of the greatest number is right." This law is of universal application. It belongs to men in all their relations, both public and private, collectively and individually. In the relation of the State to its citizens it taxes them for the support of government, it fines, imprisons and puts them to death for crime. In the relation of nation to nation it imposes tariffs and declares war, filling history with scenes of blood and woe. The common sense of mankind approves this law, and the Bible declares it just. Wars were approved of God, when they were for the greatest good of the greater number. It was upon the same principle that all the divine judgments were administered, from the destruction of the Antediluvians down to the overthrow of Jerusalem by Titus.
This law is the substratum in moral righteousness, underlying all that is right. Such is its wonderful latitude and longitude that, in order to carry it out, it sometimes becomes necessary to tilt a nation into a sea of blood and replace it with a better people. Unbelievers and skeptics who admit this are guilty of wresting Bible facts from their proper places and testing them upon the plane of morality, regardless of the laws of jurisprudence.
This erroneous method of reasoning leads the minds of many ignorant and unsuspecting persons away from the right ways of God. The guilty reasoner justifies taxation, fines, imprisonment and wars in the history of his own country.
It sometimes seems cruel to carry out this great moral principle of which we are treating; it is nevertheless right, and men who abuse its facts and turn things upside down are guilty of opposing the right.
Unbelievers are guilty of selecting from the Bible all that can be tortured out of its place in the laws of jurisprudence and made to look ugly out of its proper relations, and are continually holding such things up before the people, turning them into ridicule, and at the same time they have been through all the bloody scenes of war and justify themselves, wishing to be known in many instances as Major, General or Colonel. We have some such in our own country. They seem to have never learned that many things which are good for humanity are very ugly out of their proper relations. I am glad that God has revealed himself in the jurisprudence of nations, for the facts given inspire confidence in rulers and officials, strength to judges upon the bench, and nerve to warriors who are acting with direct reference to the "greatest good of the greatest number."
A history of God in his dealings with states and nations in order to a perfect revelation of himself necessitates a history of states and nations so far as it is necessary to make known the approbation and disapprobation of God in connection with all that may ever enter into national or state character. Without this we would find states and nations where God did not see fit to show himself. We must find him wherever we find man, approving or disapproving. This is just what we do in the Bible. We do it in no other book. But let us ever remember that all that is wicked had its origin with wicked men and demons, and that the Divine Being, with all his attributes, appears in the foreground in all his relations to men and their conduct, as the grand Bible picture shining out through all the darkness and gloom, surrounded with the virtues and noble deeds of all his worshipers, and that he is building up and throwing down as his righteous judgment approves or disapproves. This revelation of God is like the sun at noonday bursting through dark and heavy clouds and blessing the earth with its rays. In making this revelation, which is related negatively or affirmatively to all there is in human history, God saw fit to communicate his will through man, and in his own language, except in the gift of the great charter of the national existence of the children of Israel and the great foundation truth of the church of God. These he uttered with his own wonderful voice.
Was it reasonable to expect a revelation from God? Is it necessary to the greatest good of the greatest number? If so, it is a thought at once involving the moral character of God and necessitating a revelation of himself. In answering these questions intelligently we must look after the demands for such a communication. Where shall we find them? Answer, in the wants of our humanity. Here two kinds of light are needed for two pair of eyes in order that we may be happy in two respects. First, physical light for the physical eyes, in order to the enjoyment of physical life in a material world. Second, the light of knowledge for the eyes of the understanding, in order to the enjoyment of spiritual life in a spiritual world. It is universally conceded that there are means provided in nature to meet man's physical wants and adaptations that manifest the wisdom that belongs to God; also, that it would have been the work of a demon to create man with these wants, like so many empty vessels, without any provision to satisfy or fill them. Without those supplies our suffering would be great and our wretchedness unendurable. Is there no liability to mental suffering? Are there no spiritual wants consequent upon the nature of mind?
Is it not unreasonable to allow that "Infinite wisdom" provided for all our physical wants and left our spirits with all their demands, like so many children away out in the darkness without hope, uneasy, restless, always dissatisfied, and ever trying to get into the possession of the knowledge of the unseen and future, without one ray of mental light shining out from the heavens upon our relations to perfect our condition and declare the glorious goodness of an all-wise Creator? Volney says, "Provident nature having endowed the heart of man with inexhaustible hope, he set about finding happiness in this world, and failing in his efforts, he set out in his imagination and created a world for himself, where, free from tyrants, he could have all his wrongs redressed and enjoy unsullied bliss." This is Volney's account of the origin of religion, the tap-root of the tree. It contains a most wonderful concession, one that Tyndal made when he said, "There is a place in man's psychological nature for religion." Is there a place in man's physical nature for bread and meat, for food of every variety that man's soul desires? Do we attribute all the mercies of physical life to a supreme intelligence? Has that intelligence created us and left us endowed with "Inexhaustible hope," to be disappointed forever, and the only result, the "imaginary" creation of the Christian's happy heaven. But Volney makes another grand concession in the quotation which I have given, and that is the nature of the Christian's future world in its relations to wrongs as well as tyrants, neither are to exist there. That the Christian's religion, with its beautiful world, does fill up the soul's demands is a fact unintentionally conceded by Volney, and known throughout the land in the contentment and bliss and heroism of the dying Christian. In this hope alone man's spiritual wants are met. This, with all that pertains to it, is in the revelation that God has made to our race. How could this be made? I answer, it was made by the spirit of God. "Holy men of old spake as they were moved upon by the Holy Spirit." This is what we call inspiration. This word is a translation of "Theopneustos," which is from "Theos," God, "pneuma," spirit, Spirit of God. Is it reasonable to allow that this revelation could be given by the spirit of God through holy men? I will let an infidel answer this question. Bolingbroke said, "It is just as easy to comprehend the operation of the spirit of God upon the mind of a prophet in order to give his will to us as it is to comprehend the operations of our own spirits upon our physical nature in order to an expression of our own thoughts." Has such a revelation been made? From all we know of man, his wants, and the adaptation of means in nature to those wants, we are driven to the conclusion that it has, presenting the means adapted to our spiritual wants so perfectly as to enable us to realize fully what Volney declares our very nature, as creatures of hope, impelled us to create "in our imaginations for ourselves." There is no consistent ground that any man can occupy between Christianity and Atheism. And if there is no God, "nature," or the "forces," or whatever lies behind them, to which they belong, as the manifest energies of the same, call it what you may, has made a very unreasonable, bungling mistake in giving in the very nature of man's mind an empty vessel that is to be filled only by the false whims of the imagination of an ever restless and dissatisfied spirit, which, in that case, is to be eternally disappointed and plunged deeper down by the realization of the fact that all its anxieties and hopes were only so many misleading demons.
In order to a perfect revelation of God to man it was necessary that the entire page, the "background" as well as the "foreground," or the human as well as the divine, should be truth, and in every case, all the truth that was necessary to enable man to realize and understand the whys and wherefores of the divine procedure; and also to call out in word or action the Divine Being in all his relations to the conduct of the children of men. Such a record is found in the Bible, given to us by men who were impelled and borne by the Holy Spirit when they wrote and spoke. But it was not necessary that anything upon the dark human "background" of this picture should have its origin with God; it was only necessary that, having originated with man, men or demons, it should be put to record just as it was in all its heinousness and wickedness in order that we might see the true character of God in his relations to it. If a wise physician should undertake to make himself known to the world he would not give us a history of all he did with every patient, and at the same time fail to give us just so much of the true history of each patient as would be necessary to enable us to understand him in all that he did, for both stand or fall together. So it is in the Bible revelation of God to man. Take away the "background" of the picture, and the picture itself is destroyed. That which skeptics in their ignorance are always trying to ridicule is just as essential to a revelation of God in his justice, purity, love and power as the word of God himself. That is to say, the revelation has an objective as well as a subjective side. The subjective is God in his attributes, and the objective is man in his works. It was the objective that drew out the subjective, because all was done for the objective. Take either side away and the revelation ceases to exist. On the subjective side all is of God in its origin, is charged up to him, being spoken by him, and in his name, or done by him, or by his authority. The indices to this great truth are in these or similar phrases, "Hear, O, Israel, thus saith the Lord, thy God," "Thus saith the Lord," "And the Lord said," "The Lord spake, saying," "The Lord said unto me," "The word of the Lord came unto me," "The Lord commanded," "The burthen of the word of the Lord to," "The Lord answered, saying." We are not authorized to charge, as many through their ignorance or wickedness have done, all that we read about in the Bible to God as the author. The words and doings of wicked men and demons are truthfully recorded there, and they are often licentious and blasphemous. The words and doings of good men and angels are there, and the words and doings of God are there. We are authorized to charge to God's account that only which is spoken in his name, or by his instructions, along with that which was done by him, or by his authority, or approved by him. When we get outside of these common-sense thoughts in our interpretations of Bible history we are acting upon our own responsibility, and are liable to be found doing violence to the divine will. If we contradict the record we call in question the veracity of the spirit which controlled the writer, whether the statement relates to God, man or demons. But this statement does not apply to mistranslations, for it is one thing to contradict an uninspired translator, and another altogether to contradict the statement of one controlled by the spirit of God. We fearlessly assert that the Bible is just the book that common-sense and reason demands that it should be in order to contain a revelation of God to man. We would as soon attempt to destroy the divine and lovely side, as change its character, so far as to take from its pages its record of wickedness, misery and woe, for it amounts to the same thing. One more question of importance bearing on this subject demands our attention, and that is the question of miracles. Men have, without any authority from the Bible, treated all miracles as violations of natural law. But it would be well for us to determine the extent of our knowledge of natural laws before we thus dogmatize. That which we call miracle may be in perfect harmony with law that lies just beyond our knowledge. Omniscience seems to be a necessary qualification for such theorizing as asserts that miracles are violations of the laws of nature. Omnipotence is an essential attribute of the Ruler of the universe. But in order to its existence, the Infinite one must be above the laws which he has established, able to take hold of those laws and handle them as he sees proper, otherwise he is not all-powerful. On the simple plane of nature we get lost. Who can account for "Partheno Genesis," or generation without any known sexual organs, which obtains in the animal kingdom. "The spirit of God moved upon," "brooded over" the face of the great deep and life filled the waters. "The Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin" and the Nazarene was begotten. The original expresses the same idea in both cases. Scientists who are radical materialists admit this wonderful feat in the animal kingdom as a natural affair, and yet, without any authority from the Bible, speak of the birth of Christ as the result of "Miraculous conception," in the sense of a violation of natural law. What natural law is violated in "Partheno Genesis?" With me it is allowable that a thousand more just such beings might be, and if necessary to the accomplishment of the great purposes of God, would be produced under the same circumstances and by the same instrumentalities. The feature of the question of miracles which bears on the subject of a divine revelation must now be considered. It is this, would a book containing such a record as that which we have in the Bible, except the record of miracles, reveal God in his attributes to our world? We lay it down as a correct proposition that we must have creative and life-giving power manifested in order to a revelation of God.
If the Bible contained no record of the exercise of powers above the human it would reveal only a human God, which would be no God; and common sense would declare, "It is a book treating of, and presenting man in his attributes." Those facts upon its pages which are in the power of God alone confirm, that is, make sure, the revelation of God to man. Without this feature of the book common sense would have at least one good excuse for rejecting its claims. The Master recognizes this fact in the saying, "If I do not the works of my Father believe me not, but if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works, that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me and I in him." Here we have the fact of "God revealed in the flesh," evinced by the works which the Savior performed. The foundation of faith, or the obligation to believe, is identified with those works. They were a greater evidence of his divinity than the words of any prophet, although those words were the words of the Divine Spirit. Jesus said, "I have greater witness than that of John, for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me that the Father hath sent me." "If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin; their rejection of my claims would be justifiable but for the fact that my divinity is demonstrated in the works which I do." The same thought accompanies the introduction of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the preaching of the Apostles. Paul said, "Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Spirit." "They went everywhere preaching the word; the Lord working with them and confirming the word with signs following." The confirmation was not in the simple fact that miracles were wrought, but in their character. The miracles of Christ were not in the power of false prophets, magicians, or demons. They were in the power of God. Peter said, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power," and that "He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." The presence of God was manifested in his miracles.
The question is often asked, "Why were they not continued throughout the Christian dispensation?" Answer: If they had been continued, they would have lost all their power over the mind by becoming ordinary, and then they would cease to have any bearing whatever in the establishment of a divine proposition. It was not necessary to continue them beyond the witnesses whose testimony closed up the revelation of God. "A covenant once confirmed no man disannulleth or addeth thereto." A continual repetition of the evidence of confirmation was not necessary in order to give faith in a communication already confirmed and left in a historic age for the faith of the world. It is true of sense that the continual sensuous experience causes the object experienced to lose its controlling power, but the opposite is true of faith. So he who knew best what man's nature required ordained that the just should walk by faith and not by sense. And to this end he confirmed "once" the revelation of himself and his will, and left it in the world as his witness to produce faith. "If we receive the witness of men the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son." Is it not a dangerous thing to make God a liar? Is it not a great insult? All unbelievers are thus guilty before God. Our Savior did not speak unadvisedly when he said: "He that believeth not shall be condemned."
"Life and immortality are brought to light through the Gospel." Is it not strange that dying men will reject the motive of life? "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son; he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." Jesus "came to his own and his own received him not, but as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God." Will we possess him through faith and live, or shall we make God a liar, die in our sins, be condemned and banished from the presence of God and the glory of his power?
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The practice of dating from the Christian era was first introduced about the year 527, by Dionisius, surnamed "Exiguus," but better known as Deny's le Petit, a monk of Scythia and a Roman abbot. It was not introduced into Italy until the sixth century. It was first used in France in the seventh century; it was universally established in France in the eighth century. It was used in England in 680; it was in general use in the eighth century. The years of the Christian era are described in ancient documents as the years "of Grace," of "the Incarnation," of "our Lord," of "the Nativity," etc. -- Chambers.
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The cardinal virtues are Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude. Cardinal signifies, in a general sense, principal or pre-eminent. It comes from the Latin word cardo, a hinge. Take cardinal things away from any science and its foundation is gone. Everything in science turns upon cardinal things, as the word cardo signifies.