Horace Greeley (Editor and Politician):
“It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.”
Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved. With their massora, they kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity–scribes, lawyers, and massorettes.
In regard to the New Testament, there are about 13,000 manuscripts, complete and incomplete, in Greek and other languages that have survived from antiquity.
A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put.
No other book has been so chopped, knifed, sifted, scrutinized, and vilified. What book on philosophy, religion, psychology, or belles lettres of classical or modern times has been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible? With such venom and skepticism? With such thoroughness and erudition? Upon every chapter, line and tenet?
The Bible is still loved by millions, read by millions, and studied by millions.
“But the proconsul urged him and said, ‘Swear, and I will release thee; curse the Christ.’ And Polycarp said, ‘Eighty and six years have I served him, and he hath done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?’”
“It seems strange that the text of Shakespeare which has been in existence less than 208 years should be far more uncertain and corrupt than that of the N.T., now over 18 centuries old, during nearly fifteen of which it existed only in manuscript…with perhaps a dozen or twenty exceptions, the text of every verse in the N.T., may be said to be so far settled by general consent of scholars, that any dispute to its readings must relate rather to interpretation of the words than to any doubts respecting the words themselves. But in every one of Shakespeare’s 37 plays there are probably a 100 headings still in dispute, a portion of which materially affect the meaning of the passages in which they occur.”
(Former Boden Professor of Sanskrit who spent 42 years studying Eastern books) Professor Sir Monier Monier-Williams:
“Pile them, if you will, on the left side of your study table; but place your own Holy Bible on the right side–all by itself, all alone–and with a wide gap between them. For…there is a gulf between it and the so-called sacred books of the East which severs the one from the other utterly hopelessly, and a forever…a veritable gulf which cannot be bridged over by any science of religious thought.”
“For those who feel it, nothing makes the soul so religious and pure as the endeavor to create something perfect; for God is perfection, and whoever strives after it, is striving after something divine. True painting is only the image of the perfection of God, a shadow of the pencil with which he paints, a melody, a striving after harmony.”
I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world – and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.
Any position in which claims about Jesus or the resurrection are removed from the realm of historical reality and placed in a subjective realm of personal belief or some realm that is immune to human scrutiny does Jesus and the resurrection no service and no justice. It is a ploy of desperation to suggest that the Christian faith would be little affected if Jesus was not actually raised from the dead in space and time.
“Therefore let us repent and pass from ignorance to knowledge, from foolishness to wisdom, from licentiousness to self-control, from injustice to righteousness, from godlessness to God.”
Strength can do a lot of damage if it is misguided. T. DeWitt Talmage writes:
There are two sides to the character of Samson. The one phase of his life, if followed into the particulars, would administer to the grotesque and the mirthful; but there is a phase of his character fraught with lessons of solemn and eternal import. To these graver lessons, we devote our morning sermon. . . .
This giant was no doubt the hero of the playground, and nothing could stand before his exhibitions of youthful prowess. At eighteen years of age he was betrothed to the daughter of a Philistine. Going down toward Timnath, a lion came out upon him, and, although this young giant was weaponless, he seized the monster by the long mane and shook him as a hungry hound shakes a March hare, and made his bones crack, and left him by the wayside bleeding under the smiting of his fist and the grinding heft of his heel.
There he stands, looming up above other men, a mountain of flesh, his arms bunched with muscle that can lift the gate of a city, taking an attitude defiant of everything. His hair had never been cut, and it rolled down in seven great plaits over his shoulders, adding to his bulk, fierceness, and terror. The Philistines want to conquer him, and therefore they must find out where the secret of his strength lies.
There is a dissolute woman living in the valley of Sorek by the name of Delilah. They appoint her the agent in the case. The Philistines are secreted in the same building, and then Delilah goes to work and coaxes Samson to tell what is the secret of his strength. “Well,” he says, “if you should take seven green withes such as they fasten wild beasts with and put them around me I should be perfectly powerless.” So she binds him with the seven green withes. Then she claps her hands and says: “They come—the Philistines!” and he walks out as though they were no impediment. . . .
But after awhile she persuades him to tell the truth. He says: “If you should take a razor or shears and cut off this long hair, I should be powerless and in the hands of my enemies.” Samson sleeps, and that she may not wake him up during the process of shearing, help is called in. … The shears or razor accomplishes what green withes and new ropes and house-loom could not do. Suddenly she claps her hands, and says: “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson!” He rouses up with a struggle, but his strength is all gone. He is in the hands of his enemies.
I hear the groan of the giant as they take his eyes out, and then I see him staggering on in his blindness, feeling his way as he goes on toward Gaza. The prison door is open, and the giant is thrust in. He sits down and puts his hands on the mill-crank, which, with exhausting horizontal motion, goes day after day, week after week, month after month—work, work, work! The consternation of the world in captivity, his locks shorn, his eyes punctured, grinding corn in Gaza!
First of all, behold in this giant of the text that physical power is not always an index of moral power. He was a huge man—the lion found it out, and the three thousand men whom he slew found it out; yet he was the subject of petty revenges and out-gianted by low passion. . . .
But how often it is that men with physical strength do not serve Christ! They are like a ship full manned and full rigged, capable of vast tonnage, able to endure all stress of weather, yet swinging idly at the docks, when these men ought to be crossing and recrossing the great ocean of human suffering and sin with God’s supplies of mercy. . . .
It is a most shameful fact that much of the business of the Church and of the world must be done by those comparatively invalid. Richard Baxter, by reason of his diseases, all his days sitting in the door of the tomb, yet writing more than a hundred volumes, and sending out an influence for God that will endure as long as the “Saints’ Everlasting Rest.” Edward Payson, never knowing a well day, yet how he preached, and how he wrote, helping thousands of dying souls like himself to swim in a sea of glory! And Robert M’Cheyne, a walking skeleton, yet you know what he did in Dundee, and how he shook Scotland with zeal for God. Philip Doddridge, advised by his friends, because of his illness, not to enter the ministry, yet you know what he did for the “rise and progress of religion” in the Church and in the world. . . .
Oh, how often it is that men with great physical endurance are not as great in moral and spiritual stature! While there are achievements for those who are bent all their days with sickness—achievements of patience, achievements of Christian endurance—I call upon men of health to-day, men of muscle, men of nerve, men of physical power, to devote themselves to the Lord. Giants in body, you ought to be giants in soul. . . .
Oh, men of stout physical health, men of great mental stature, men of high social position, men of great power of any sort, I want you to understand your power, and I want you to know that that power devoted to God will be a crown on earth, to you typical of a crown in heaven; but misguided, bedraggled in sin, administrative of evil, God will thunder against you with His condemnation in the day when millionaire and pauper, master and slave, king and subject, shall stand side by side in the judgment, and money-bags, and judicial ermine, and royal robe shall be riven with the lightnings.
“It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors.”
“Of the many influences that have shaped the United States into a distinctive nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible.”
It is true that zeal may be badly directed in such a manner that it becomes a curse, but it may also be turned to the highest and best ends to become a mighty blessing. If fire is not well directed, it may become a curse, but fire also – if well directed – is one of the best servants. J. C. Ryle writes:
“It is always good to be zealous in a good cause.” (Galatians 4:18)
[Martin Luther] boldly defied the most powerful hierarchy that the world has ever seen. He unveiled its corruptions with an unflinching hand. He preached the long-neglected truth of justification by faith, in spite of anathemas and excommunications, fast and thickly poured upon him. See him going to the Diet at Worms, and pleading his cause before the Emperor, and the Legate, and a army of the children of this world. Hear him saying, when men were dissuading him from going, and reminding him of the fate of John Huss, “Though there were a devil under every tile on the roofs of Worms, in the name of the Lord I shall go forward.” This was true zeal.
This again was the characteristic of our own English Reformers. You have it in our first Reformer, Wycliffe, when he rose up on his sick bed, and said to the friars, who wanted him to retract all he had said against the Pope, “I shall not die—but live to declare the villainies of the friars.” You have it in Cranmer, content to die at the stake rather than deny Christ’s Gospel, holding forth that hand to be first burned, which in a moment of weakness had signed a recantation, and saying as he held it in the flames, “This unworthy hand!” You have it in old father Latimer, standing boldly on his faggot, at the age of seventy years, and saying to Ridley, “Courage, brother Ridley! We shall light such a candle this day, as, by God’s grace, shall never be put out.” This was zeal.
This again has been the characteristic of all the greatest Missionaries. You see it in Mrs. Judson, in Carey, in Morrison, in Schwartz, in Williams, in Brainerd, in Elliott. You see it in none more brightly than in Henry Martyn. This was a man who had reached the highest academic honors that Cambridge could bestow. Whatever profession he chose to follow, he had the most dazzling prospects of success. He turned his back upon it all. He chose to preach the Gospel to poor benighted heathen. He went forth to an early grave, in a foreign land. He said when he got there, and saw the condition of the people, “I could bear to be torn in pieces, if I could but hear the sobs of penitence—if I could but see the eyes of faith directed to the Redeemer!” This was zeal.
But, reader, to look away from all earthly examples—this, remember, is pre-eminently the characteristic of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself. Of Him, it was written hundreds of years before He came upon earth that He was “clad with zeal as with a cloak,” and “the zeal of your house has consumed me.” And his own words were, “My food is to do my Father’s will, and to finish His work.” (Psalm 66:9; Isaiah 59:17; John 4:34.)
Where shall we begin, if we try to give examples of his zeal? Where should we end, if we once began? Trace all the narratives of His life in the four Gospels. Read all the history of what He was from the beginning of his ministry to the end. Surely if there ever was one who was all zeal, it was our great Example—our Head—our High Priest—the great Shepherd of our Profession, the Lord Jesus Christ. (“Be Zealous”)
God can and does speak to unbelievers through reason, beauty, moral failure, and the existence of evil. As a cloud of apologetical witnesses can testify, God has used philosophical arguments for his existence, scientific supports for the universe’s beginning (Big Bang) and its fine-tuning, and historical evidences for the resurrection of Jesus to assist people in embracing Christ—just as God uses the preaching of the gospel (Romans 1:16) or the loving character of a Christian community (John 13:35). These are all part of the holistic witness to the reality of God and the gospel, all of which the Spirit of God can use to lead unbelievers to embracing Jesus Christ.