If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
Generally we mean by evidences of Christianity proofs which mostly appeal to the educated. What, then, are the illiterate to do? Have they no sufficient reason for believing the Bible to be God's Word, beyond the fact that it is received as such by their Church and country? This would be to place their faith on a very precarious foundation; and we know that cottagers and artizans have been as well able to withstand scepticism as "the wise and prudent." Our text satisfactorily accounts for the matter by declaring that a readiness to do God's will shall be followed by a discovery of the origin of the doctrine. It sets before us a method of demonstration which may be tried by the ignorant as well as by the learned, inasmuch as it must be worked out by the heart rather than by the head.
I. WHY SHOULD THE BEING READY TO DO GOD'S WILL ENSURE THE ASCERTAINING WHETHER A DOCTRINE BE FROM GOD?
1. This readiness marks honesty of character and freedom from those prejudices which impede the search for truth.
(1) A man who sets himself to investigate a doctrine may see that if established it will entail duties he has no wish to perform; and what chance is there of his deciding that the doctrine is true when he desires to prove it false? It would be greatly for the interest of a worldly-minded man to prove Christianity false; he would get rid thereby of much that menaces him in his pleasures, and secure himself against the pleadings of conscience. His disposition is opposite to that of our text: in place of a readiness to do God's will, whatever that may be, there is an eagerness to keep it out of sight whenever at variance with his own. How then can it be expected that, prejudiced against Christianity and inclined to its rejection, he could be a fair judge of evidences.
(2) But suppose a man anxious to discover God's will that he may perform it: we may be sure that he is already striving to be obedient up to the full measure of his knowledge. There could not be this readiness if the conduct were not regulated by such portions of the Divine will as have already been ascertained, it follows from this that he will not be the slave of depraved inclinations, and therefore will search after truth with the clearheadedness of one whose understanding is not darkened by mists which rise from a heart in love with vice. And, further, it is evident that, as he is prepared to obey if he can determine what is truth, he will not be swayed by partialities; he has no private interest to serve, and we may therefore calculate on his conducting his inquiry with that fairness and integrity of purpose which almost ensure that his conclusions will be sound. Is it likely that such a man should fall into fatal error? Impossible, for —
2. You must add to considerations drawn from the structure of the human mind that the special assistance of God may be expected. The attributes and Word of God clearly pledge Him to communicate a knowledge of His will wherever faithfully sought. If it be a principle in the Divine dealings to give over to a reprobate mind those who like not to retain God in their knowledge, and allow the understanding to be darkened to believe a lie, when they take pleasure in unrighteousness, it must be equally a principle with God to guide the meek in judgment, and to teach the meek His way, so that they who heartily seek shall assuredly discover the will of God. Therefore we believe that the Holy Spirit will assist every man who, with readiness to obey, proceeds to examine the Bible. What does all this assume? That the Bible is its own witness, and can prove of itself that it came from God. There is an evidence of God speaking in the Bible, which is only to be found and appreciated where certain moral qualities are possessed, and is fully as convincing as the combined testimony of miracles and prophecy.
(1) The Bible sets out with a broad statement of human corruption, and descending into particulars, it speaks of the deceitful heart; of the tendency of the affections to fasten on anything rather than God, etc. As the man of honest mind peruses this stern and revolting picture of himself, and compares what he reads with what he feels, the comparison assures him of the accuracy of the delineation.
(2) The self-evidencing power of the Bible is seen further in what it says of our salvation. The man who has felt himself to be a sinner will be conscious of such a suitableness in the whole scheme of redemption as will be an irresistible argument in favour of its truth. If the adaptation of the material world to our natural circumstances be allowed as good evidence that God made the world, the just as exact adaptation of the gospel to our spiritual circumstances should be received as good evidence that God planned the gospel.
(3) There is yet another evidence, that which results from putting Scripture to the proof, and finding it made good. If I act on the directions, and find myself a partaker of its promises, I am witness that both are of God. If the Bible tells me that if I pray in Christ's name I shall obtain what I need — if thus praying I receive — if it tell me that through believing in Christ I shall be progressively sanctified, and I find holiness following on faith, etc., there is a growing evidence of the Divine origin of Scripture.
II. THE PRACTICAL INFERENCE — a readiness to perform God's will is the great security and guide to its discovery. If the doctrines of Scripture remain hidden it is not through deficiency of revelation or defect of intellectual power. The only reason for the rejection of those doctrines is one derived from the heart, not from the head. You would quickly comprehend the truth if you were prepared to make it the rule of your practice. Do I wish to be convinced? would be a hard question for many readers and hearers. Should I like to be taken at my word? would be a hard question in the hour of prayer. Men talk very plausibly of not being answerable for their faith, as though it were not optional to believe or disbelieve; but it is optional whether to mortify or indulge a passion, whether to persist in or abstain from practices which are sure to warp the understanding and influence its decisions. Let what will be said of Bible mysteries and the weakness of human faculties, regulate your life by what you know, and you will be sure to know more. So that in our text lies a principle on which the last Judgment may proceed, one on which every unbeliever may be tried and condemned.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.