The acknowledgement of divine instruction in sacred Scripture comes from the apostle Paul in his powerful letter to the Romans. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us” (Romans 15:4). He wrote of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures which are a bequest to all believers throughout all time. He wrote as someone who was a vehicle of divine disclosure through his letters to the early churches. His apostleship is in the same ongoing line of annunciation as that of the prophets and he takes up their theme of hopeful expectation: “God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
The Bible is a glorious provision of inestimable value; a miracle in itself. Its nature is divine. Its message is sublime. Its effects are marvellous. It comes from God as those who are born anew can keenly sense, feeling the breath of God as they press their ear to his lips. His secrets enthral the heart kindling assent, confidence, and love. The qualities of Scripture as the voice of God have nowhere been as beautifully described as in the matchless Westminster Confession of Faith.
We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way to man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts. (Chapter 1. V).
The Holy Spirit is the ablest convincer of the veracity and heavenly origin of Holy Writ. Concurrently he opens text and mind and faith meets with fact to form settled conviction that one is hearing the speech of God. Just as one may detect and differentiate discordant sounds from harmonious music so one senses with heavenly skill and attunement the celestial character of Scripture. Peter describes the process of inscipturation. “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). The same Spirit carries conviction to the heart. The force of inherent authenticity moves the human spirit to acceptance of divine truth.
The enchantment of Scripture is known and felt in its message of mercy. Mercy is the sweet liqueur encased in the language of the Bible. As we crack and consume the solid doctrine of the Biblical tradition we eventually arrive at the delicious centre and roll our tongue over the delicate flavours of God’s compassion. We are amazed at the scope of the Lord’s kindness to sinners, the detailed preparation for their welfare, and the guaranteed certainty of the success of his purpose. Perusal of Scripture becomes a strong source of hope. The deliverance he causes us to crave for is in prospect. Our reinstatement to God’s favour has been won. Eternal life lies just ahead beyond the portal of death. Our Bible is seen to be truly God’s Book; a compendium of the Lord’s pastoral counsel to his folk.
We have access to the most engaging narrative ever told, the forecast of his coming, increasingly elaborated through many generations until at last we follow Messiah’s journey from wooden cradle to wondrous crown. Our Prayer Book affords the wisest advice for gaining the deepest insight into the literary treasure our hands are privileged to hold.
Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and forever hold fast the blessed hope of eternal life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. The Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent.
Could there ever be a more concise, comprehensive guide to our approach to the Word of God? Here is no hasty, superficial scanning of the divine text. Here is no glib, disjointed, quoting of texts disconnected from context. The Bible is read at a reverent and thoughtful pace. Busy eyes close for rumination upon the word received. Slowly or swiftly, depending upon the motion of the interpreting Spirit, the heart swells to a crescendo of joy as the mind grasps that the promises are amazingly true and increasingly near to fulfilment. Our vice-like grasp seizes upon the future and not far off possession of glory. We find ourselves in full agreement with Bishop John Jewel’s In Praise of Scripture:
Here is to be seen the triumph of God, the Lord of lords and the King of kings; how he hath made the name of his Son triumph over principalities and powers, and over the whole world.
Here is a paradise full of delights: No tongue is able to speak them, they are so many; no heart is able to conceive them, they be so great. Here is a shop, wherein is set out the wisdom and knowledge, the power, the judgements, and mercies of God. Which way soever we look, we see the works of his hands; his works of creation and preservation of all things; his works of severe justice upon the wicked and of gracious redemption to the believer.
If we desire pleasant music or excellent harmony, it speaketh unto us the words of the Father and the consent of the Son, the excellent reports of the prophets, apostles, angels, and saints of God, who have been all taught by the Holy Ghost. If we could learn, it is a school; it giveth understanding to the simple. . .So manifold and marvellous are the pleasures which are given us in the word of God.