The Bible is the last voice. It is the voice that speaks to us from the other world, or God has never spoken. The truth about the Bible is told in those words in "The Monastery" which Scott puts into the mouth of the apparition which speaks to the young Glendinning:
Within that awful volume lies
The mystery of mysteries!
Happiest they of human race,
To whom God has granted grace
To read, to fear, to hope, to pray,
To lift the latch, and force the way;
And better had they ne'er been born,
Who read to doubt, or read to scorn.
Among the interesting relics of Thomas Jefferson is his copy of the New Testament. He has gone through the Gospels, scoring out with his pen all passages which present Jesus as a supernatural person. The records of his miraculous birth and all the miracles are deleted, together with all statements which declare Jesus to be the Son of God. In this deleted New Testament the Gospel of Matthew ends with these words: "And he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed" (Matt. 27:60).
"But the word of God is not bound." That is the inscription on a pillar in the crypt of a church in Rome where Paul is said to have been imprisoned. The heroic apostle, bound with a chain and awaiting death, is not disheartened, discouraged, nor despairing. He has full confidence in the spread of the gospel, and in the conquest of Christ, telling Timothy at Ephesus to be true to Christ and the gospel, for which, he says, "I suffer . . . unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound" (II Tim. 2:9). How true that statement of the apostle was— and is—is demonstrated by the simple, yet tremendous, fact that nineteen hundred years after Paul wrote from his prison at Rome, "The word of God is not bound," the words are taken as the text for a sermon on the invincible power of the Bible.
A friend once said to President Grant that Sumner did not believe in the Bible. "Of course Sumner doesn't believe in the Bible," answered Grant. "He didn't write it." That attitude of mind toward Christian truth, however justly or unjustly imputed to the brilliant senator from New England, is typical of many of those who vent their doubts loudly and boast that they do not accept anything the way other people do but must have infallible proofs. There are some people who would never believe in any Bible that they themselves did not write.
During one of the most critical periods of the Civil War, Lincoln wrote to his friend Joshua Speed, "I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this book upon reason that you can and the balance upon faith, and you will live and die a better man."
The intimation might be that most of the Bible you can take on reason, and only a small portion will require the exercise of faith. But if you are to receive the Bible as a revelation from God, you must take it all upon faith.
On a summer trip to the Pacific Coast I broke the journey on a Saturday night at Fargo, North Dakota. I worshiped the next morning in a Baptist church, the Presbyterian and the Congregational churches being closed. After the service, as I walked through the town—and let me say I have great sympathy for the man who comes to a strange city to spend Sunday—I saw a beautiful structure which bore the name of the Norwegian Lutheran Church. I slipped into a seat at the rear of the long nave and heard just the concluding part of the sermon. The closing hymn was sung to the music of Luther's great hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." But the words of the hymn were these:
God's Word is our great heritage,
And shall be ours forever;
To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way.
In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant while worlds endure,
We keep its teachings pure
Throughout all generations.
As these words went up on the wings of Luther's grand music, I said to myself, "That is all that the Church has, God's Word; that is our great heritage; that is all that man has to guide him in life and stay him in death; and to spread that Word throughout the world unto all generations is all that Christ has given his Church to do in this world."—Clarence Macartney
When Thomas Paine showed Benjamin Franklin the manuscript of The Age of Reason, Franklin advised him not to publish it, saying, "The world is bad enough with the Bible; what would it be without it?"
In recent years the thrilling story of Pitcairn Island and the mutiny of the Bounty has been retold and popularized in newspaper articles and books. There is one incident in that story which, indeed, is worth retelling. The mutineers sank their ship and landed with their native women on the lonely island named Pitcairn. There were nine white sailors, six natives, ten women, and a girl of fifteen. One of the sailors discovered a method of distilling alcohol, and the island colony was debauched with drunkenness and vice.
After a time only one of the white sailors who had landed survived, surrounded by native women and half-breed children. This sailor, Alexander Smith, found in one of the chests that had been taken from the Bounty a copy of the Bible. He began to teach his fellow exiles its principles, with the result that his own life was changed, and finally the life of that island colony.
In 1808 the United States ship Topaz visited the island and found a deriving and prosperous community, without whiskey, without a jail, without crime, and without an insane asylum. The Bible had changed the life of that island community.
So it has been from age to age: "The entrance of thy words giveth light" (Ps. 119:130).
I saw the chamber of Luther, with the bed in which he slept, his wash basin, and his desk—a notable desk, too, for on that desk Luther translated the New Testament into German. On one of the walls of the room there is a place bare of plaster. It is the spot where Luther hurled his inkstand at the devil, whose fearful apparition he had seen. This may be but legend. But there is no doubting the fact that by his translation of the New Testament into the language of the people Luther did hurl an inkstand of considerable weight at the devil and all his works.—Clarence Macartney