THERE are seven methods of Bible Study. Of these the first four are primary or elementary. The remaining three are secondary or subsidiary, and relate to the use of three standard compilations or helps to Bible Study-the Bible Dictionary, the Bible Concordance, and the Bible Commentary. The seven methods of Bible Study are
1. The Synthetic Method, or Bible Study by Books.
2. The Parallel Method, or Bible Study by Marginal References.
3. The Topical Method, or Bible Study by Topics.
4. The Typical Method, or Bible Study by Types.
5. The Cyclopaedic Method, or Bible Study by Bible Dictionary.
6. The Microscopic Method, or Bible Study by Concordance.
7. The Explanatory Method, or Bible Study by Commentary.
Before considering the various methods by which we may hope to attain to the mastery of the Bible, it will be well for us to try and form some conception of the Book as a whole. It is important to realise the unity of the Book, and to grasp its central idea. The Bible consists of sixty-six books, written by about thirty-six different authors, during a period of about sixteen centuries. Yet the most distinctive feature of the Book is not the diversity but the unity of its authorship. It is one Mind that is unfolded to us, one Purpose that is disclosed, one Will that is revealed. The Bible is an organism. Its parts are so related that to reject any one book in it is to destroy the symmetry of the whole, for what remains is no longer a body, but a mutilated trunk..
The Bible is a beautiful,. palace built up out of sixty-six blocks of solid marble-the sixty-six books. In the first chapter of Genesis we enter the vestibule, which is filled with the mighty acts of creation. The vestibule gives access to the law courts-the five books of Moses-passing through which we come to the picture gallery of the historical books. Here we find hung upon the walls scenes of battlefields, representations of heroic deeds, and portraits of eminent men belonging to the early days of the world's history. Beyond the picture gallery we find the philosopher's ,-chamber-the book of Job-passing through which we enter the music-room-the book of Psalms-where we listen to he grandest strains that ever fell on human ears. Then we come to the business office-the book of Proverbs -where, right in the centre of the room, stands facing us the motto, " Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." From the business office we pass into the chapel -Ecclesiastes, or the preacher in his pulpit, and thence into the conservatory-the Song of Solomon with the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley, and all manner of fine perfumes and fruit and flowers and singing birds. Finally we reach the observatory-the Prophets, with their telescopes fixed on near and distant stars, and all directed toward " the Bright and Morning Star," that was soon to arise.
Crossing the court we come to the audience chamber of the King-the Gospels-where we find four vivid life-like portraits of the King Himself. Next we enter the work-room of the Holy Spirit-the Acts of the Apostles-and beyond that the correspondence-room-the Epistles--where we see Paul and Peter and James and John and Jude busy at their desks, and if you would know what they are writing about, their epistles are open for all to study. Before leaving we stand for a moment in the outside gallery-the Revelation-where we look upon some striking pictures of the judgments to come, and the glories to be revealed, concluding with an awe-inspiring picture of the throne-room of the King.
I--THE SYNTHETIC METHOD, OR BIBLE STUDY BY BOOKS
One of the chief causes of the widely prevalent spirit of religious indifference is the neglect of Bible Study. The study of the Bible is at once an urgent present need and at the same time an abiding eternal need. The Bible affirms the universal government of God and the eternal duration of man. It demands the present doing of the sovereign will of God. The primary purpose of the Bible is not to satisfy the intellect ; but to correct the will. The Bible brings us at once into the immediate presence of God. Our object in reading the Bible is that we may be brought face to face with God.
It is quite certain that the Church of the present day does not read the Bible as it should. We reverence and pay homage to it, but it does not enter into the warp and woof of the life of our souls, as our daily food enters into and builds up the structure of our bodies. Every Christian ministry should be a ministry of the Word. The real business of the Christian minister is to preach the Word, and the real business of the Christian Church is to adorn the doctrine, to make it beautiful and attractive in the eyes of the world, by translating its holy precepts into the practice of daily life. If the Church is to influence the world it must know the Bible. All that is best in the life of the nation today has been derived from the Bible. But unfortunately the Church of the present day does not, and the world in the present day will not, read the Bible. Hence the decay of attendance in the Christian churches, the loss of young people from the Sunday Schools, and the prevailing secularisation of the Lord's Day. If there is ever to be a revival of spiritual life and power and joy in the Christian Church, there must be a new centre of influence for it to spring from, and that centre can be nothing other than a renewed interest in the study of the Eternal Will as revealed in the Eternal Word. No one ever built his life on the Bible model and had to confess that he had made a mistake and that he might have made a better use of his time. All that is highest and best in us has been derived from the inspiration of the Word of God.
One of the main reasons for the decay of interest in the study of the Bible, apart from the pursuit of pleasure and worldly interests, and the pride of intellect which regards the teaching of the Bible as in some sense outgrown by the advance of modern thought, is the old method of reading the Bible in titbits and snippets instead of devoting the necessary time to grasp the scope and sweep of its majestic argument, and reading the Text in the light of the context, the context in the light of its relation to the book in which it is found, and the book in relation to the Bible as a whole.
The remedy for lack of interest in church prayer-meetings, week-night services, and pulpit ministrations is the introduction of a new method of Bible Study, and Bible Teaching, which will put the people in possession of the rich treasures of the inspired Word, and enable them to master the entire content of the English Bible.
Two illustrations may be given in proof of this statement. Some years ago Mr. D. L. Moody induced Dr. James M. Gray, of Chicago, to introduce the subject of Synthetic Bible Study to the notice of the Christian public of Chicago. The suggestion was acted upon. About four hundred persons out of some one thousand present that evening resolved themselves into a Bible Class for the purpose of Synthetic Bible Study. " This class continued to meet regularly once a week," says Dr. Gray," with unabated interest throughout the whole of that fall and winter, and the next year had multiplied into five classes, held in different parts of the city, on different evenings of the week, but under the same teacher (Mr. W. R. Newell), and with an aggregate membership of over four thousand. The year following, this had increased to five thousand, two or three classes averaging separately an attendance of one thousand two hundred to one thousand five hundred. Since that time similar classes have attained a membership approaching two thousand, and one in Toronto to nearly four thousand."
The second illustration is that of the Friday night meetings of the Bible School under the leadership of Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, at Westminster Chapel, London, with its attendance of one thousand two hundred to one thousand five hundred and sometimes nearly two thousand members each week. For three years Dr. Morgan dealt with the content of the books of the Bible, beginning with Genesis and taking a new book each week. For the next three years he dealt with the message of each book, again beginning with Genesis, devoting a whole evening to each book, and thus making a second systematic synthetic study of the entire Bible. This was followed by a third series of connected Bible Studies, in which the narrative portions of the Bible were dealt with in consecutive order under the title of "The Divine Library as Human History," and again the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation was passed in review.
The remarkable gifts of these great pioneers and leaders in the field of Synthetic Bible Study may be regarded as accounting in some degree for the enormous crowds by which their lectures were attended, but the fact that the theme of their studies was the Bible, the whole Bible,and nothing but the Bible, and that each of them is pre-eminently a "man of the book," indicates the true source of interest and attractiveness in pulpit and class-room, and the direction in which all true ministers of the Word must look if they would reach the-hearts of the people and gather round them congregations of men and women " whose delight is in the law of the Lord."
The synthetic method of Bible Study by books is perhaps the most interesting and the most fruitful of all the methods of Bible Study. It has this great advantage, that it puts the reader into the position of the writer, and enables him to " think God's thoughts after Him " in the very order in which they were originally revealed and in which they originally arose in the mind of the sacred writers. The method is recommended above all others, because it possesses the inestimable advantage of kindling an interest in the study of the Word. It gives us a comprehensive survey of the whole field of truth. It enables us to sweep the horizon and grasp the drift, the purport and the message of the Book as a whole. Other methods are good, but this is the method on which the Book itself was originally composed, and consequently the one which best enables the reader to enter into possession of the mind of the writer. The study of selected passages and disjointed portions of Scripture is perhaps to some extent responsible for the lukewarmness of those who pursue their studies in this way, the discursive method tending to disapate the interest of the reader, which gradually diminishes and dwindles away instead of gathering strength and leading on to mastery.
The following five rules afford a most succinct and at the same time a most complete explanation of what is meant by the synthetic method of Bible Study by books...
Rule 1.-Read the Bible itself, a whole book at a time, and begin with Genesis. A long book like job could be read through without haste in two hours, and the whole sixty-six books in the entire Bible in less than sixty-six hours.
Rule 2.-Read it continuously, right through at a single sitting, without break, interruption or interval.
Rule 3.--Read it thus repeatedly, over and over again, until you have mastered it.
Rule 4.-Read it independently, without consulting other people's interpretation of it until after you have formed your own conclusion as to its aim, purport, content, and message from direct contact and immediate acquaintance with the Book itself.
Rule 5.-Read it prayerfully, gathering your interpretation of it direct from the Spirit of God, Who is present both in the written Word and also in the heart of the devout reader, and Who interprets its meaning to the reader, and prepares the heart of the reader to receive it.
An excellent illustration of the nature of this method of Bible Study is quoted by Dr. James Stalk in the " Bible Readers' Manual," in which he writes of one who said : " I remember perfectly well the first time I ever read an entire book of Scripture at one sitting. I chanced on a Sabbath to be in a continental country, and in a town in which there was no Protestant service of any kind. In the early morning I had gone to the Roman Catholic service, but it was before breakfast, and I was thrown on my own resources for the rest of the day. Strolling out behind the hotel, I lay down on a green knoll, where I remained the whole forenoon. I opened the New Testament, and dipped into the pages here and there, till chancing on the Epistle to the Romans, I read on and on right through it. As I proceeded I caught the spirit of St Paul's mighty theme, or rather was caught by it, and was drawn on to read. The argument opened out and rose like a great work of art above me, till at last I was enclosed within its perfect proportions. This was a new experience. I saw for the first time that a book of the Bible is a complete discussion of a single subject; I felt the full force of the whole argument; and I understood the different parts in the light of the whole as I had never done when reading them by themselves."
Dr. Gray relates a similar experience on the part of an American layman. "He had gone into the country to spend the Sabbath with his family on one occasion, taking with him a pocket Copy of Ephesians, and in the afternoon, going out into the woods and lying down under a tree, he began to read it ; he read it through at a single sitting, and finding his interest aroused, read it through again in the same way, and, his interest increasing, again and again. I think he added that he read it some twelve or fifteen times, and when I arose to go into the house, said he, I was in possession of Ephesians, or better yet, it was in possession of me, and I had been lifted up to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus in an experimental sense in which that had not been true in me before, and will never cease to be true in me again. Thus to master book after book is to fill the mind with the great thoughts of God."
In pursuing this method our first object is to discover the scope of the book, to make a telescopic survey of the subject it deals with, or the ground it covers, to get a bird's-eye view of the whole extent of the book in order to obtain a clear and a comprehensive general idea of its plan, structure, and content, and a vivid impression of its main tenor and general drift. This will enable us to discover the underlying spiritual purpose for which it was written. Every book in the Bible has an object as well as a subject, and usually there will be some keyword or phrase or verse indicating the scope and purpose of the book, and giving the clue to its interpretation.
Each book in the Bible was written for some definite, specific purpose, and was intended to guard the Church in all ages against some definite, specific error. For example, Romans was written in order to guard the Church in all ages against the erroneous doctrine of salvation by works, or merit, or desert, or to make it quite plain to all mankind that God is just as ready to forgive the very worst man that ever lived, as He is to forgive any other member of the race. Similarly, 1 Corinthians is written against rationalism, Galatians against ritualism, and so on, the whole Bible forming a complete armoury whence we may obtain the necessary weapons with which to ward off the attack of any and every spiritual foe.
The results of the application of this method of Bible Study are manifold. In the first place, it is the one method which succeeds best in kindling interest in the Word of God itself. The Bible is without exception the most interesting Book in the world. It is taken from life. It touches life on every side. It puts us into touch with the facts of life. It enables us to see life, to see it steadily, to see it whole, and to see it with the eyes with which God sees it. Not only does this method increase our interest in the Bible, it also deepens our reverence for it and awakens within us the conviction that it is indeed the very Word of God. It is true to fact, true to life, true to God, and true in every part. It produces further a broadening of the mental vision, a quickening of the intellectual powers, a strengthening of the moral powers, and a , deepening of spiritual life. When read in this way the Bible becomes a new Book to us. It is seen to possess an overwhelming interest. It discloses powers of fascination and elements of romance that fill the soul with wonder and delight. It secures the leading of a pure life. It fills the Christian with ardent missionary interest and keen desire to work for Christ. It produces a new sense of the unity and harmony of the whole Bible, a new feeling of its Divine authority.
The synthetic method of Bible Study is also of great value in clearing up the obscurities connected with difficult passages, which yield their true meaning at once when they are seen in their proper place in the entire structure to which they belong. Thus for instance the difficult passages, Hebrews 6: 4-6 and 10: 26-31, are best understood in the light of the drift of the whole epistle, as a warning against the perils of apostasy from Christianity back to Judaism.
The best text-books and examples of the application of the synthetic method of Bible Study are Dr. J. M. Gray's "Synthetic Bible Studies" (Revell, 6s. net) ; Moorhead's " Outline Studies in the Old Testament" (Revell, 3s. 6d. net), and his four volumes of "Outline Studies on the New Testament " (Revell, 3s. 6d.each net) ; Dr. G. Campbell Morgan's "Analysed Bible " (3 vols., Hodder & Stoughton, 3s. 6d. each) containing his lectures on the Content of each book in the Bible, and his "Messages of the Bible " (3 vols., Hodder & Stoughton, 3s. 6d. each) containing his lectures on the Message of each book to the men of our own age. Dr. Gray, Dr. Moorhead and Dr. Morgan have applied the synthetic method to every book in the entire Bible. They have given us the results of their labours in the above-mentioned works.
An auxiliary method of study standing in part outside the synthetic method, and in part embracing it, is the study of Bible Introduction. This method is well expressed in the lines of Solomon Glassius "The author, scope, occasion, theme, time, place and next the form. These seven, let him attend, that reads the text."
The study of Bible Introduction is a useful adjunct to the synthetic study of the Bible, and to some extent involved in it; but it is for the most part a subordinate study and it must never he allowed to occupy valuable time which might be better spent in the synthetic study of the Bible itself. Nor must it ever be regarded as a necessary preliminary thereto. Time spent in the pursuit of auxiliary and subsidiary studies, on questions of date, authorship, and composition, largely speculative and indeterminable, is not well spent, if it means that in pursuing these subordinate studies we thereby deprive ourselves of the time and strength we require for the study of the Bible itself. Where it is found practicable the following divisions are recommended:
3. When written.
4. Where written.
" Character," which corresponds with Synthesis, should be sub-divided into (1) Scope; (2) Purpose ; and (3) Keyword. "Content" corresponds with, Analysis, and may be so exhibited as to include Chapter Summary. Synthesis involves Analysis, and is necessarily preceded by it. Analysis or Content is the division of a book into its main, branch, and subdivisions, according to, the nature and structure of the subject-matter with which it deals, with a view to the study of their separate parts, as integral elements, and in their genetic connection. Chapter Summary is the application of the synthetic method to each individual chapter. The content of each chapter may be summarised and arranged under the following seven heads
1. The principal subject of the chapter. '
2. The leading lesson of the chapter.
3. The best verse in the chapter.
4. The prominent persons in the chapter.
5. The references to Christ in the chapter.
6. The reader's resolve, or the practical result obtained by the application of the teaching of the chapter to the discipline of the will and the direction of the reader's own personal life.
7. The personal prayer or the spiritual desire awakened in the heart of the reader and pleaded before God as a result of the reading of the chapter and meditation thereon.
Chapter Summary may be pursued in a formal and mechanical way without much edification or profit, but it may also be carried out in such a way as to yield an accurate detailed knowledge of the facts contained in each chapter of the Bible, a useful discipline for the will, and a fruitful quickening of the devotional life.
I.-A SYNTHETIC STUDY OF THE Books OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
I. The Pentateuch
(1) Genesis is a book of beginnings. It is the seed-plot of the whole Bible. It relates the history of creation, the fall, the flood, and the beginning of the nations. It gives the biography , of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and the, beginning of the nation Israel. It covers a period of two thousand two hundred and ninetyeight years from the creation of Adam to the going down into Egypt, where Exodus resumes the story, and seventy-one years beyond, viz to the death of Joseph. Altogether two thousand three hundred and sixty-nine years in addition to the ages before Adam. The purpose of the book is to reveal the will and purpose of God in creation and redemption, from the creation of the world to the beginning of national life in Israel. The keyword of the book is the word "generations," which means issue, descendants, posterity, that is, persons and things created, originated, or produced. (Gen. 2: 4, 5:1, 6: 9; 10:1; 11:10,27; 25:12,19; 36:1,9;37:2)
(2) Exodus relates the story of the deliverance from Egypt, the journey through the Red Sea and the Wilderness, and the giving of the Law at Sinai. It covers a period of two hundred and fifteen years. Its purpose is to trace the history of redemption from the beginning of national life in Israel to the erection of the Tabernacle, one year after the exodus. Its keywords are " redemption by blood,", "a redeemed people," " deliverance by power."
(3) Leviticus is a book of laws. A technical treatise-law codified for the priests. It covers a period of one month. Its purpose is to reveal God's method of dealing with sin. The entire book is fragrant of Christ. Every sacrifice, every garment, every ceremony points to Him. Its permanent message is "The remission of sins can only be given through the shedding of innocent blood."Its keywords are "sin," "sacrifice," " atonement," "priesthood," "holiness," "access," " worship," " communion," "fellowship with God."
(4) Numbers is a book of journeyings and murmurings, pervaded by the spirit of rebellion ; a book of pilgrimage and warfare, of wanderings in the wilderness and grievings of the Spirit of God. Its central figure is Moses. Its subject matter is partly narrative and partly legislative law codified for the Levites. It covers a period of about thirty-eight years.Its purpose is to reveal the natural depravity of the human heart, especially its proneness to fall into "the sin that doth so easily beset us," viz. the sin of unbelief, and to illustrate the patience of God in His dealings with sinful men. Its central thought is that of service, walk, probation, discipline, and preparation for warfare. Its lesson-beware of unbelief. Its keywords are "journeyed," "murmured," " rebelled." '
(5) Deuteronomy is a book of recapitulation and review. It is Moses' farewell to Israel--law codified for the people. It contains five addresses and nine charges, or fourteen speeches by Moses and two charges by Jehovah-sixteen speeches in all. It is full of urgent exhortations and solemn warnings couched in terms of the utmost tenderness and the greatest severity. It is one long urgent plea for hearty obedience to God, based on the twofold motive of love and fear. It contains some very remarkable prophecies respecting Christ (Deut. 18.), and the future of Israel (Deut. 28), which have been most strikingly fulfilled. It covers a period of one month, the last month but one of the forty years in the Wilderness, the last month of all being the thirty days' mourning for Moses.Its purpose is to reveal God's holy love, the sole and sovereign motive of God's government of man and man's love to God, the only and the all-sufficient motive of man's obedience to God. Its aim is didactic, homiletic, practical. It reviews the past with an eye to the future.Its keywords are "read,"," learn," "teach," " do," " observe," and " obey "-the " law," " commandments," " statutes," and " judgments" of the Lord.
2. The Historical Books
(1) Joshua is a book of the conquest of Canaan, and the division of the land amongst the twelve tribes. It is the " Ephesians " of the Old Testament. It is the story of a military cam paign typifying the warfare of the spirit. It covers a period of about twenty-five years. Its purpose is to reveal the faithfulness of God, and the fulfilment of His promise respecting the possession of the land ; to teach that God is always at war with sin, and executes His righteous judgments upon men and nations, who, by their colossal wickedness, revolting immorality, and atrocious cruelty, have filled their cup of iniquity to the full ; to teach the lesson of unbounded faith and unfailing courage, in conflict with the enemies of God. Its keywords are " victory " and " possession." " Be strong and of a good courage." " conquer," " possess," " divide," and " inherit " the land, which is yours, not by right of conquest, but by the gift of God.
(2) Judges is a book of relapse and recovery. It relates the story of Israel's progressive national decay from the death of Joshua to that of Samson, under the perpetually recurring fourfold cycle of apostasy, oppression, repentance, and recovery.` We have six apostasies, six servitudes, six cries to God, and six deliverances. Also one attempted deliverance ending in failure. The book covers a period of about three hundred and ninety years. Its purpose is to reveal the perpetual proneness of the human heart to fall away from God, and the everlasting faithfulness of Jehovah, Whose love never fails and Who is always ready to pardon and to deliver those who repent and return to Him; to reveal the fact that God does punish sin, that righteousness exalts whilst sin enslaves. Its keywords are "forsook," "sold," "cried," "delivered," "sin," " punishment," "repentance", "deliverance," "backsliding," "failure," " crime."
(3) Ruth is a charming idyll, forming a third appendix to judges 1:16., and an introduction to 1 Samuel. It is an illustration of piety and purity, in the midst of unfaithfulness and degeneracy, and in striking contrast to the two preceding appendices on idolatry (Judges 17-18) and immorality (Judges 19-21). It covers a period of ten years and a harvest season. Its purpose is to reveal God's plan of redemption, in the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles. Boaz the kinsman-redeemer is a type of Christ, and his union with Ruth, the Moabitess, prefigures the betrothal of the Gentiles; to complete the genealogy of the " seed," who is to be of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10) and, as subsequently revealed, of the family of David (2 Sam.7: 12-16); to give a picture of the family life of the pious ancestors of David. Its keyword is " goel," that is, kinsman-redeemer, which is found in it twenty-five times.
(4) 1 Samuel is a book of the establishment of the monarchy. It is occupied with the story of Eli, the ark in captivity, Samuel, Saul, and the life of David before he came to the throne. It covers a period of a hundred years. Its purpose is to reveal the universal sovereignty of Jehovah, and His method of redemption by means of a Messiah, i.e. an anointed. king. Moses founded a theocracy and a priesthood. Samuel founded a monarchy and a line or succession of prophets, official representatives of the hidden yet sovereign theocratic rule of Israel's invisible King. The prophets make and unmake the kings and prescribe the limits within which the supreme temporal power delegated to them is to be exercised. Their chief function was to foretell the coming of Christ and to prepare the way for Him. Its keywords are " Messiah "-i.e. Christ, i.e. anointed, or appointed, or invested with Divine authority-" king," "kingdom," "reign," "rule."
(5) 2 Samuel tells the story of the reign of David. The king given in anger is taken away in wrath (Hosea 13:11), and the kingdom is transferred from Benjamin to Judah. David is presented as the ancestor and type of Christ, whom he resembles in his sufferings, his prudence, his exaltation, his magnanimity, and his dependence on God. The book contains also a faithful record of David's terrible sin and its awful consequences. It covers a period of forty years. Its purpose is to reveal God's method of redemption by a Messiah Who is to be the " seed " of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the seed of Isaac, the seed of Jacob, the Shiloh or sceptre-bearing descendant of Judah (Gen.3:15, 12:18, 26:4, 28:14 and 49:10), but also the seed of David, the true temple-builder, and the Son of God, in Whom David's house and kingdom and throne shall be established for ever (2 Sam.7: 12-16). These are the sure mercies of David (Is.4:3, Ps. 89: 20-37). To reveal the inconceivable malignity, the iron grip, the irretrievable consequences, and the bitter end of sin, and to enforce the terrible warning-" Be sure your sin will find you out." Its keywords are " Messiah," " Christ," "anointed king" (the word king occurs two hundred and seventy-eight times), "kingdom," " reign," " rule."
(6) 1 Kings is a book of the external history of the kings of Israel and Judah from Solomon to Ahab and Jehoshaphat. Side by side with the secular order of kings, there is a sacred order of prophets. Between the two orders we observe an ever-widening gulf. Also the division of the kingdoms is paralleled by a schism between the prophets. Compare the man of God from Judah and the old prophet of Bethel (1 Kings 13.). Also Micaiah and the four hundred false prophets of Jehovah (1 Kings 22). The history is told from the religious or prophetic point of view. The leading interest centres in the contest between Jehovah and Baal, and the controversy between Jehovah and his people. The book covers a period of about one hundred and twenty years. Its purpose is to reveal the failure of government by kings, the gradual decay of the people, owing to their perpetual proneness to fall away from God, into idolatry and immorality and apostasy, tempered in the case of Judah by occasional reformations and revivals of true religion ; to show that without true religion there can be no pure morality, and that without pure morality there can be no true national greatness or enduring stability. Its keywords are " between two opinions," "divided," "rent," "disruption," "schism."
(7) 2 Kings is a book of the decline and fall of Israel from Ahaziah to Hosea, and the fall of Samaria, and of Judah from Jehoram to Zedekiah, and the destruction of Jerusalem. To this period belongs the rise of prophecy. Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah all belong to the period of 2 Kings. The principal topics of the book are the translation of Elijah, the ministry of Elisha, the passing of Israel, and the passing of Judah. It covers a period of about three hundred and twenty years, but the last four verses record an incident which occurred twenty-five years later. Total about three hundred and forty-five years. Total for 1 and 2 Kings about four hundred and sixty-five years. Its purpose is to reveal the failure of kingship, to arrest the progress of national corruption, to prevent the consummation of the process of national degeneration and decay issuing in the overthrow and. the ruin of both.kingdoms, owing to the perpetual proneness of both kings and people to forget God and to forsake His laws, and to show that the God of grace is also a God of judgment. There is no direct prophecy relating to Christ in 1 and 2 Kings, but " to Him give all the prophets witness," and nearly all the prophets are here. Its keywords are rejected," " cast away," " cast out of sight," " carried away into captivity to Babylon."
(8) 1 Chronicles is a genealogical chart and an ecclesiastical or spiritual history of the people of God from Adam to Ezra, written some time after the return to Jerusalem at the end of the seventy years of captivity in Babylon, perhaps by Ezra himself. The genealogy is preserved with a view to the restoration of the returned remnant to their ancient patrimony. The royal line of David is preserved because it contains the ancestors of the Messiah. The rank and station of the priests and Levites are given with a view to their resuming their proper office and ministry. The history of the reign of David is written from the inner spiritual or Divine standpoint. Its chief interest centres in the temple, its officers and services. It covers a period of three thousand one hundred and two years from Adam to Solomon. Its purpose is to reveal the sovereign choice or election of God as illustrated in the selection of Seth, Shem, Abraham, Israel, Judah, and David, not one of whom were the eldest sons of their fathers, as the channel of Divine redemption and blessing to the race ; to magnify God and lead the people to give Him His right place in the life of the nation. Its keyword is the " House of the Lord."
(9) 2 Chronicles is an ecclesiastical- or inner spiritual history of the people of God, from Solomon to Zedekiah, closing with a brief mention of the proclamation of Cyrus (repeated in Ezra 1: 1-3), It deals principally with the religious character of the kings, the four great, national religious revivals, and the varying fortunes of the House of the Lord. It covers a a period of four hundred and thirty-six years, or if we include the last three verses, fifty years more, and the entire book of 1 and 2 Chronicles three thousand five hundred and eighty-eight years from Adam to Cyrus. Its purpose is to reveal the failure of government by kings, apart from government by God to reveal the active participation of the hand of God, in the external events of history, as seen in His administering defeat to those who forsook Him, giving the victory to those who relied upon Him for help ; to show that the rise and fall of men and nations are determined by the laws which govern the revival and the decay of religious life; to teach the lesson of the vital necessity of real religion. Its keyword is the " House of the Lord " ; the " priests," the "Levites " and the " temple choir " are also prominent.
(10) Ezra tells the story of the return of about fifty thousand exiles under Zerubbabel and Joshua, the rebuilding of the temple, the return of about two thousand exiles under Ezra and Ezra's great religious revival, an attempt to separate the remnant that returned from all heathen influences, and to restore the ancient theocratic government of God. It contains numerous references to the priests, the Levites, and the Nethinims, and several genealogical registers. It covers a period of twenty-one years (see the author's "Romance of Bible Chronology "). To this period the prophets Haggai and Zechariah belong. Its purpose is to record the fulfilment of the promise of God, that at the end of seventy years the people should return to their own land (Isaiah 44:28 , 45:1, Jer. 25: 12, 29: 10); to reveal the universal sovereignty and the everlasting faithfulness of God, and to give an assurance of the ultimate fulfilment of all His promises respecting Messiah, people, and land ; to show that God controls the causes that mould the events of history, in response to the faith of those who rely upon Him. Its keywords are the " House of the Lord" (twenty-five times) and the "Temple of the Lord " (six times). Total, thirty-one times.
(11) Nehemiah is a history of Nehemiah's visit to Jerusalem, the rebuilding (or rather the repair) of the wall of Jerusalem, in spite of the opposition of Sanballat, the great religious revival of Ezra and Nehemiah, the sealing of the covenant, the repeopling of Jerusalem, the dedication of the wall and Nehemiah's subsequent visit, and later reforms respecting the sanctity of the House of God, the maintenance of its worship, Sabbath observance, and heathen wives. It covers a period of fifteen years. (See the author's " Romance of Bible Chronology.") The prophet of the closing years of this period, and of the age immediately succeeding it, is Malachi. Its purpose is to reveal the fulfilment of the promise of God (Jer. 29:10-14, 30: 3, 32:. 26-44) in the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, in restoring the remnant to their own city, and protecting them against their foes ; to give an example of true and noble patriotism. Its keywords are the "wall" of Jerusalem, " Arise and build," " I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down."
(12) Esther is the inspired account of a dramatic incident which occurred at a great crisis in the history of the Jews, when the entire race was in danger of being blotted out of existence. Haman plots against the Jews whom he would exterminate by massacre in one day. Instructed by Mordecai, Esther risks her life and secures for her people the right to act in self-defence on the one lawfully appointed day of the massacre. By risking her life a second time she secures the further right to act in self-defence against any unlawful attack or riotous outbreak on the following day. The book covers a period of ten years. Its purpose is to reveal the fact of the hidden secret working of the sovereign power of God in overruling and co-ordinating the contrary wills of men, so as to make them subserve His own ends, which include the providential preservation of the race from which the Messiah was to spring ; to explain the origin of the Feast of Purim, instituted on this occasion, and observed by the Jews in memory of it, in every country, ever since. The keyword is " the lot is cast into the lap ; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord " (Prov 16: 33).
3. The Poetical Books
(1) Job is a handbook, of practical philosophy, a dramatic poem on the problem of pain, a practical, philosophical discussion of the origin of evil, dealing with the real experiences of a historic person. Eliphaz speaks from personal experience as the depositary of a Divine revelation. Bildad appeals to tradition and the wisdom of the ancients. Zophar argues from the deliverances of reason and conscience and the private judgment of the individual. All alike assert that job's sufferings are sent by God as punishment for his sin. This job denies, and protests his innocence and sincerity. Elihu maintains that suffering is educational, chastening, disciplinary. The problem is left unsolved because it is insoluble. Its purpose is to reveal the fact that evil is by its very nature unaccountable. To explain it is to justify it. No philosophical theory can be framed to account for it without falling into self-contradiction. The solution of the problem is to be found not in the region of thought but in a deed of the Almighty, an actual putting forth of the redeeming activity of God. Man's highest wisdom is to confess his ignorance and sin, and patiently wait for the redemption of God. Its keyword is " patient in tribulation," " Thy will be done","though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him", "shall not the judge of all the earth do right?"
(2) psalms is a collection of spiritual songs forming a handbook of practical devotion. David is the founder of a new order and the originator of a new style of sacred Scripture, viz. poetry set to music for the purpose of devotion. The psalms set forth the attitude of the soul in the presence of God, when contemplating past history, present experience, and prophetic hopes. They celebrate the majesty of God, His goodness and mercy, the kingdom of the Messiah, His sufferings and glory, the wonders of creation, the perfections of the Law, the history of Israel, and the experiences of the individual soul. They are divided into five books, '' not according to authorship, or chronology, or the use of the Divine names, but according to the prevailing tone of the devout life which they breathe, rising progressively from darkness to light, from despair to triumph, from prayer to praise. They voice the experience of the godly soul, disturbed and distressed by frequent relapses into sin, but always rising again into a happy and joyous sense of forgiveness and restoration to communion with God. Its purpose is to reveal God as the one true object of love and worship ; to kindle in every soul a sense of the immediate presence of God ; to provide a hymn-book or manual of public worship and private devotion for the Church of God in all ages ; to reveal the presence of indwelling sin in the heart of the godly, and to exhibit the emergence of a deeper sense of sin as a stage of spiritual growth in the realisation of the holy life ; to kindle the aspiration of the soul after holiness, and to confirm the assurance of ultimate victory over sin on the part of those who seek with broken spirit and contrite heart the pardoning mercy and the redeeming grace of God; to lead the soul into a state of perfect trust in the wisdom and goodness of God, in spite of the most bitter experiences of suffering, affliction, and distress ; to reveal the eternal majesty of the unchanging God and the universal glory of the kingdom of the Messiah; to celebrate the power and goodness of God in creation and in His providential care for His people to reveal the perfect rest and satisfaction and joy of the soul as it draws near and enters into the very presence of God, and obtains the beatific vision of His glory ; to attune the soul to the strain of perpetual praise. Its keywords are " rejoice," " sing," " worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness," "hallelujah, praise ye the Lord."
(3) Proverbs is a handbook of practical morality, a miscellany of master-sentences containing moral truths of practical wisdom for the regulation of conduct. The Hebrew word " Proverbs " means " Governors." Proverbs is the business man's vade-mecum, his guide to honour and happiness and success. It celebrates the value of wisdom and prudence and virtue. What Moses, Samuel, David, and Ezra are to the Law, the prophets, the psalmists, and the scribes, that Solomon is to the wise men (Jer.18:18). He is the founder of a new order, the creator of a new style of sacred literature. - His wisdom is not worldly but heavenly. Its purpose is to reveal the pre-mundane existence and personality of " wisdom as the ultimate foundation of all true morality, the hidden source of all true piety, the eternal possession and daily delight of the Creator (Prov.8:23-36); to inculcate and to impart wisdom ; to furnish "laws from heaven for life on earth"; to show that in the stupendous conflict between good and evil, wisdom and folly, the mastery over the opposing forces can only be obtained by true piety or the " fear of the Lord." Its keywords are "wisdom," " instruction," "understanding," "justice, " "judgment," " equity," "knowledge," " prudence," ".discretion," " the fear of the Lord."
(4) Ecclesiastes is a treatise on the value of life from the standpoint of the man of the world. It probes the depths of the human heart. It traverses the range of human thought. It exhausts the possibilities of human experience. It assays the entire content of human life in the endeavour to find a solution to the problem "How to be happy without God." But the problem is found to be insoluble. The attempt ends in failure and, disappointment, leading to despair. The conclusion is, " Fear God, for in Him alone is found true satisfaction for man's never-dying soul." Its purpose is to reveal the utter emptiness and vanity of all earthly objects and pursuits, and the utter inability of all earthly enjoyments to satisfy the deepest longings of man's immortal soul. The heart is too large for the object. The whole world cannot satisfy it. God has set; eternity (A.V. the world) in the heart (Eccles. 3:11), and nothing but the Eternal God can satisfy man's eternal need.Its keywords are "all," "ever," "every," " the world," " eternity," " God."
(5) The Song of Solomon is an idyll, or rather a suite of seven idylls woven into a beautiful unity. It enshrines the constancy of a rustic maiden of Shunem to her betrothed shepherd lover when tempted to transfer her affections to King Solomon. In form it is poetry not prose, oriental not occidental, an idyll not a drama. Its figures are symbols not images, and the true; interpretation of the poem is not the literal and not the allegorical but the symbolic or typical.Its purpose is to reveal the incomparable strength of a chaste and sincere affection, which no splendour can dazzle and no flattery seduce; to reveal the purity, the sanctity, and the eternity of true love ; and to set forth, under the figure of the bride and bridegroom in an earthly love story, the supreme loveliness of Christ-the object too large for the heart-and the inseparable attachment between Jehovah and Israel, Christ and the Church, the soul and its Saviour. Its keywords are "my beloved is mine," " I am my beloved's," " His desire is toward me," " come, my beloved," " make haste, my beloved."
4. The Major Prophets
(1) Isaiah is the evangelical prophet. In Part I- (chapters 1-35) he bewails the awful corruption of Judah, predicts the birth of Immanuel, pronounces the doom of heathen nations and the woes of Israel and Judah. In Part 2 (chapters 36-39) he predicts Judah's deliverance from Assyria, and foretells her captivity in Babylon. In Part 3 (chapters 40-46) he announces her return from Babylon to her native land. The entire book is shot through and through with Messianic references, each subject dealt with ending in a climax, introducing the millennial era of Messiah's rule, Part 3 forming the grand climax of the whole. Its purpose is to reveal the principle and method of God's work in redemption through the virgin birth, vicarious sufferings, propitiatory sacrifice, and atoning death of the Messiah, and His return to execute judgment on the wicked, to establish peace on earth, to rule in righteousness, and to be the Saviour of the world. The book is so full of references to Christ that it has been called " the fifth gospel." Its keywords are " My righteousness," " My salvation."
(2) Jeremiah is the prophet of the broken heart. He prophesied during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoahaz (Shallum), Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin (Jeconiah or Coniah) and Zedekiah, the last five kings of Judah. He fiercely denounces the sins of the people and the folly of their rulers, and pleads with backsliders to return to God. He sends a letter to the captives in Babylon and foretells the fall of Jerusalem. After its fall, he prophesies to the remnant of the Jews in Judea and Egypt. Then follows a group of prophecies announcing the doom of the nations, and the book concludes with a historical appendix. Its purpose is to reveal the sovereignty of God, the certainty of His judgment and the tenderness of His everlasting love ; to reveal the misery, the tenacity, and the awful corruption of sin, and the coming of a day of salvation when God will write His law in the heart, and the Good Shepherd will lead His people back to God. Its keywords are "lamentation," "weeping," " tears," " the new Covenant."
(3) Lamentations is an acrostic elegy, a dirge, a threnody, or song of overwhelming grief, in five lamentations bewailing the fall of Jerusalem. Each lamentation occupies one chapter. Each chapter contains twenty-two verses, except chapter 3 which has sixty-six verses. In chapters 1-4 inclusive, each verse begins with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, in alphabetical order. For the names of these letters see Psalm 119. Chapter 5 also has twenty-two verses, but it is not an alphabetical acrostic like the others. In tone the book of Lamentations is mournful, dirge-like, funereal. In this respect it resembles Gray's " Elegy, or Tennyson's "In Memoriam." Its purpose is to reveal the overwhelming grief and sorrow of the broken heart of our Lord as He hung and died upon the Cross, vindicating at once the incomparable majesty of the moral law and the unfathomable depth of Divine grace ; to reveal at once the holiness of God and His unutterable love for sinful men. Its keywords are " desolation," " weeping," " tears," "behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow," " My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
(4) Ezekiel is the prophet of the people of God in exile, the prophet of dazzling visions, of departing and returning glory, of the new birth, the new people, the new land, the new temple, and the new city. He embraces all Israel in his prophecy, and predicts their resurrection, their reunion, and their future glory. His prophecies are methodically arranged in chronological order, except chapter 29., which is grouped with other prophecies relating like itself to Egypt. The method of Ezekiel's prophecies, is that of symbol and. vision. The book abounds in metaphors and parables and allegories and symbolic acts. In this respect it resembles Daniel and Revelation.Its purpose is to reveal the majesty, the supremacy, and the universal sovereignty of God, Who works, through chastisement and judgment, to the restoration of all Israel and the final establishment and consummation of the kingdom of God ; to sustain the faith of the exiles on the overthrow of the national economy by promises of national restoration. Its keywords are " I will, " I will not," " and ye shall know that I am the Lord " (fifty times), "Son of Man" (ninety-one times).
(5) Daniel is the prophet of Gentile dominion, The first six chapters contain six historic incidents of the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius the Mede. The last six chapters contain four apocalyptic visions seen by Daniel in the reigns of Belshazzar, Darius the Mede, and Cyrus. The book covers a period of seventy-two years, viz. the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity and the two following years. Its purpose is to reveal the method and the times of God's government of His people, under the dominion of the Gentile rulers of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome ; to indicate the time of the advent and crucifixion of the Messiah, and to give, in outline, a symbolic representation of the history of the world from the Babylonian exile to the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth ; to sustain the faith of the people of God, during times of tribulation, by inspiring examples of noble daring, unflinching courage, immovable faith, and unwavering loyalty to God. Its keyword is " the everlasting dominion of the Son of Man."
5. The Minor Prophets
(1) Hosea is the prophet of mercy. He proclaims the loving-kindness and . tender mercy of Jehovah toward backsliding Israel. He prophesied during the seventy years that preceded the fall of Samaria and the end of the Northern Kingdom, after which, there was a period of seventy years of prophetic silence between the close of the ministry of Isaiah and the prophetic call of Jeremiah. The first three chapters of Hosea are parabolic. Hosea's love for his adulterous wife Gomer, who deserted him for a life of shame, and was sold into slavery, and afterwards redeemed by Hosea and shut up for many days, is an acted parable of Jehovah's inextinguishable love for idolatrous Israel. The names of Hosea's wife and children are likewise symbolic and prophetic of God's method of dealing with His people. Its purpose is to reveal Jehovah's lovingkindness and tender mercy to backsliding and idolatrous Israel, His everlasting faithfulness, and His unquenchable love for the sinful, the erring, and the lost. Its keywords are " Gomer" =rotten-ripe, " Jezebel "=scattered, sour, " Lo-ammi" "=repudiated, " Lo-ruhamah "=unpitied, " I will heal their backsliding," " I will love them freely."
(2) Joel is the prophet of religious revival. He writes on the occasion of a devastating plague of locusts, followed by a desolating drought. This he interprets as a judgment of God. He sounds a clarion call to repentance, in response to which he promises abundant material and spiritual blessing. He announces the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh, the execution of the judgment of God upon Israel's foes, and the establishment of Jehovah's Kingdom in Zion.. Joel is dramatic, eschatological, telesmatic, apocalyptic. It contains the kernel and strikes the keynote of all subsequent apocalyptic prophecies. Its purpose is to reveal the certainty and the solemnity of the coming "day of the Lord," in grace toward the penitent, in judgment upon the rebellious, and in government over all ; to kindle anew the spirit of real religion in the hearts of the people, by proclaiming the judgment and the grace of Jehovah. Its keywords are " the day of the Lord," "sound an alarm," " I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh," "the valley of decision."
(3) Amos is the prophet of justice. His book is a well-ordered whole. It begins with a sonnet of eight stanzas on the doom of the nations (chapters 1-2). Then follow three discourses on the corruption of Israel, each beginning, " Hear ye this word" (chapters 3-6). The doom of Israel is disclosed in a series of five visions (chapters 7:1 to 9:10) and the last five verses contain the usual Messianic conclusion. The message of Amos is predominantly a message of doom. He denounces Israel's incurable depravity, not merely a perpetual violation of the laws of humanity, but chiefly as thwarting God's gracious will and purpose in the government of mankind. Its purpose is to reveal the righteous judgment of God upon the sins of Israel-idolatry, immorality, injustice, violence, robbery, and oppression of the poor; to proclaim the down- fall of the throne, the exile of the people, and the dissolution of the State ; to show that moral causes and spiritual forces determine the standing and the falling of men and nations ; and to intimate the raising again of the fallen tabernacle of David. Its keywords are " justice," " righteousness," "hate the evil," " love the good," " let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream."
(4) Obadiah is the prophet of the doom of Edom. His message, like that of Jonah and Nahum, is exclusively that of the doom of a foreign nation, ending with the usual Messianic conclusion. Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament, and the only book in the Old Testament consisting of one chapter only. It is the original prophecy of the doom of Edam, quoted and enlarged by Jeremiah (49:7-22) and Ezekiel (25:12-14). Compare Psalms 137: 5. The primary reference of Obadiah is to the event alluded to in Amos 1:11 and Joel 3:19. There is also a genuine prophetic reference to the future conduct of Edom at the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the destruction of Jerusalem here foretold being accomplished five years later by Nebuchadnezzar himself. Compare Jer. 52: 29, 3o. The words " thou shouldest not" and neither shouldest thou " in Obadiah verses 12 , 13 and 14 must be translated " do not," as in the margin of the A.V., and similarly in the text of the R.V. Its purpose is to reveal the purpose of God for the deliverance and salvation of the house of Jacob, the judgment of Israel's foes, and the establishment of the kingdom of Jehovah upon Mount Zion; to warn the nations in all ages of the perils of Jew-baiting, anti-Semitism, or hatred of the Jew, whose cause God Himself will undertake, and whose enemies He will destroy. Its keywords are " Esau and Jacob," " unbrotherly hate," "vindictiveness," "retribution," " as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee."
(5) Jonah is the prophet of the doom o f Nineveh averted, the man of anti-missionary spirit who became- the first great missionary to men of other lands, the man of limited outlook, narrow spirit, exclusive sympathies, and perverted patriotism, to whom God reveals the wideness of His mercy, the abundance of His grace, and the universal range of His loving-kindness and tender care, which He extends not only to all men but even to cattle (Jonah 4:11). Jonah is a man, not a myth, a fact not a fable, a type and therefore a reality, not a product of the imagination.. The book is a history not an allegory, a record of fact not a work of fiction. It is the autobiography of a real person, who was a prophet of considerable eminence. Its purpose is to reveal the world-wide range of the purpose of God in redemption, embracing as it did the entire human race; to show that God's covenant with Abraham was that through him all the nations of the earth should be blessed; to reveal the long-suffering forbearance of God, and to rebuke the narrow exclusiveness of His people. Its keywords are "gracious," "merciful," " slow to anger," " of great kindness," " repent," "pity," " spare," " three days and three nights," "life from the pit" (marg.).
(6) Micah is the prophet of justice and mercy He unites in himself the qualities and characteristics of both Amos and Hosea, the stern demands of morality and the free grace of the Gospel, God's truth to Jacob and His mercy to Abraham (chapter 7: 20). His prophecy consists of three addresses, each commencing with " Hear," and each following the same cycle of (i) sin, (2) judgment, and (3) salvation. Its purpose is to reveal Jehovah's purpose of salvation through the going forth out of Bethlehem of Him Whose goings forth have been from of old from everlasting, and the simplicity of Jehovah's requirements-justice, mercy, and a humble walk with God. Its keywords are " justice," " mercy," " humility " or "piety," " swords into plowshares," " Jehovah's controversy," Micah="who is a God like unto Thee " (chapter 7: 18).
(7) Nahum is the prophet of the doom of Nineveh executed. He should be read along with Jonah, the prophet of the doom of Nineveh averted. The book of Nahum forms one entire whole. It is one continuous embodiment of a single inspiration. It is a vivid, glowing, pictorial, dramatic description of the conflict between Jehovah and the world-empire of Nineveh, with reference to the people of Judah. Its purpose is to reveal the irresistible might and majesty of Jehovah and His unalterable purpose of grace to His chosen people, and of everlasting destruction to the pagan powers that set themselves in battle array against Him; to indicate the ultimate issue of the stupendous conflict between good and evil in the final triumph of Messiah, and the publication of the good tidings of the gospel of peace.Its keywords are " Nahum "= comforter (God comforts His people by executing vengeance on their foes), "vengeance," " an utter end," " good tidings."
(8) Habakkuk is the prophet of the doom of if Chaldea. He belongs to the period of the transfer of the sovereignty of the world from Nineveh on the Tigris to Babylon on the Euphrates. His book is a vivid, dramatic, Joblike challenge to Jehovah to explain the prevalence of evil in a world placed under the universal sovereignty of God. What Habakkuk does," says Luther, "is to caress his people, to take them in his arms, to comfort and cheer them, as one caresses a poor weeping child, or a fellow-creature, that it may be hushed and contented, because it will soon, if God will, be better." Its purpose is to reveal the eternal laws of retribution and progress, the place of faith, and the redeeming activity of God in response thereto, in the great drama of the world's history. To show that however dark the immediate prospect, the ultimate issue will be the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. Its keywords are "how long?" "why?" " watch," " wait," " believe," " the just shall live by his faith," " God is come," " salvation."
(9) Zephaniah is the prophet of the doom of Judah. His theme is the consummation of the history of the world in the "day of the Lord," a day of judgment and a day of wrath. His description of the Dies Irae (Zeph. 1: 14-18) is unsurpassed in its fierce terrors, as his description of the blessings of the Divine presence in the restored Jerusalem (Zeph.3:16, 17) is unequalled in its gentleness and beauty. Zephaniah is a compendium of all prophecy. He singles out and enforces the main central truths of all prophecy, omitting local details and temporal agencies, and filling his canvas with an aweinspiring picture of the presence of the Divine Judge Himself. Its purpose is to reveal the method and purpose of the government of God in the judgment of the world, and the issue of the redeeming activity of God in the establishment of His Kingdom-its centre Zion, its kernel Israel, its circumference the world. Its keywords are ".the day of the Lord," ".the day of wrath," "the fierce anger of the Lord," " the Lord thy God in the midst of thee," I will gather," "sing," "shout," be glad," "rejoice."
(10) Haggai is the prophet of the building of the second temple. His prophecy is an inspiration and an encouragement to Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest, and the remnant of the fifty thousand exiles in Babylon, who had returned to Jerusalem about sixteen years before, to resume and to persevere with the work of the building of the temple. Earlier attempts to build the temple had been frustrated by their adversaries, but at length, owing to the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, the foundation of the second temple was laid on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month of the second year of Darius Hystaspes (521-485 B .C.). Like Ezekiel, Haggai's interest centres in the temple and its ritual, but only as these are earthly symbols of the true worship and spiritual service of the Lord Whose glorious presence ever dwells therein. Its purpose is to reveal the surpassing glory of the latter house as the shrine of Messiah's presence, and the immovable stability of His Kingdom, amid the ruin and the fall of the kingdoms of the world ; to encourage the people to build the temple. Its keywords are "the Lord's house," "the Lord's temple," "consider your ways," "the Desire [= (1) Messiah or (2) silver and gold] of all Nations."
(11) Zechariah, like Haggai, is a prophet of the return from exile. The prophecy of chapters 1-8 is an inspiration and an encouragement to Zerubbabel and Joshua and the returned ,remnant to persevere with the building of the temple, the last two of these chapters containing a reply to an inquiry respecting fasting. Chapters 9-14 is a prophecy of the rejection of the Messiah at His first coming, followed by His second advent and His millennial reign. Its purpose is to reveal the fact that on the completion of the seventieth year from the destruction of the first temple, the time had come for the temple to be rebuilt, and in an undated but later prophecy, when the incorrigible unfaithfulness of the returned-remnant had become evident, to announce the coming of the Messiah, Who, after being rejected at His first coming, would return again to reign as " King over all the earth." Its keywords are "the temple," " Zion," " Jerusalem," "the angel of the Lord," "the Lord of Hosts," " my servant the Branch," my Shepherd," " Behold thy King."
(12) Malachi is the prophet of the unconscious corruption of the returned remnant and of the faith and piety of the godly remnant of that remnant. The book is a connected, prophetic discourse on the relation of Jehovah to His people. It is addressed to a degenerate people in a decadent age. In form it is a conversation, a dialogue, an expostulation, containing (1) a charge, (2) a reply, (3) a specification, and (4) a sentence, together with a picture of the ideal worship (1:11), the ideal priest (2: 5-7) and the ideal people (3:16-18). Malachi is the "seal" of the prophets. He closes the Canon of the Old Testament with a prediction of the ingathering of the Gentiles (1:11), the mission of the forerunner (3:1 , 4:5), and the advent of the Messiah (3:1, 4: 2,5). Its purpose is to reveal the failure of the old covenant, and to herald the dawn of a new dispensation, i.e. a new method of Divine administration in human affairs, in which the Sun of Righteousness would arise with healing in His wings. Its keywords are " wherein " " weariness," "corruption," " curse," " my name," " my covenant," " my messenger" (Elijah), "the messenger of the covenant " (Messiah).
II.A SYNTHETIC STUDY OF THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
I. The Four Gospels
(1) Matthew introduces us to Jesus as He is revealed in His words. His genius is typically Jewish. He is characterised by zeal. He writes to unfold the significance of the past. His thought is Biblical, prophetic, culminatory. His style is logical. According to Augustine, his ecclesiastical symbol is the lion. He presents Jesus in His royal aspect as the true Messiah, the King of the Jews. His aim is to convince the intellect. He is influenced by his residence in Judea and his contact with the Apostle James. He writes for Jews living in Judea. He presents Christ as He is revealed to us in His speech, sayings, words, discourses, and doctrines. He appeals in support of the cogency of his argument to the fulfilment in Christ of. the prophecies of the Old Testament. He agrees with James in the emphasis which he lays on the teaching of Jesus and in his constant appeal to the Old Testament. He has points of contact with Acts 1-7, the early history of the Church in Jerusalem. His keyword is "that it might be fulfilled."
(2) Mark introduces us to Jesus as He is revealed to us in His works. His genius is typically Roman. He is characterised by energy. His thought is vigorous, pregnant, practical. His style is vivid, graphic, impetuous. According to Augustine, his ecclesiastical symbol is the face of a man, but Jerome reverses the symbols and gives to Mark the lion and to Matthew the man (See Ezek. 1:10). Mark's aim is to arouse the will. He is influenced by his travels with Peter. He presents Christ as He is revealed to us in His mighty deeds. He writes for Roman readers and appeals to the Roman sentiment of imperial sovereignty. He reflects Peter's energetic, impulsive, unconventional character. He omits all facts reflecting honour on Peter, but faithfully records instances of his presumption and rebuke. He has points of contact with Acts 8-10, Peter and the Roman centurion Cornelius. His. keyword is " straightway."
(3) Luke introduces us to Jesus as He is revealed to us in His grace. His genius is typically Greek. It is characterised by breadth of sympathy. He writes to reveal the hopefulness of the future. His thought is philosophical and historical. His style is literary and artistic. His ecclesiastical symbol is the ox. He presents Jesus in His sacrificial aspect as the atoning Victim and Saviour of the race. His aim is to touch the heart. He is influenced by his constant companionship with Paul, his literary opportunities, and his later date. He writes for Greeks living all over the world. He presents Christ as He is revealed to us in the grace, tenderness and charm of His silent influence. He appeals in the beauty of his portrait, to the world-wide sympathy of the universal human heart. He reproduces Paul's universal gospel of God's free forgiveness and justification of all by grace through faith. He has points of contact with Acts 13-28, Paul's great missionary journeys. His keyword is " to preach the gospel to the poor."
(4) John introduces us to Jesus as He is revealed to us in His unique personality. His genius is typically oriental. It is characterised by penetration. He writes to unfold the meaning of eternity. His thought is contemplative, intuitional. His style is oracular, peremptory. His ecclesiastical symbol is the eagle. . He presents Christ as He is revealed to us in His Divine glory as the Son of God. His aim is to convince the whole man. He is influenced by his acquaintance with the facts of our Lord's Judean ministry during the first year of his ministerial life, by his residence in Asia, and by his far later date. He writes as an independent witness, incidentally though not designedly supplementing the synoptics with which he is .acquainted. He writes for Alexandrians and Asiatics in Egypt and Asia Minor. He presents Christ as an embodiment of Divine Life and Light and Love. His appeal is addressed to the faculty of intuition or spiritual vision. His keywords are " witness " and " believe."
2. The Acts
Acts is a book of the continuation of the work which Jesus began but did not complete. It is a book of the activity of the Holy Spirit. It is a book of the growth, expansion, multiplication, and world-wide spread of Christianity (1) numerically (one hundred and twenty three thousand, five thousand, multitudes) ; (2) socially (layman, priests, proselytes and pagans) ; and (3) geographically, from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, Antioch, Asia Minor, Europe, and Rome, the centre of the civilised world.
3. The Epistles of Paul
(1)Romans is a treatise on the subject of justification by faith, designed to preserve the Church in all ages against the erroneous doctrine of salvation by works, by merit, or by desert.
(2) I Corinthians is directed against rationalism and pride of intellect, and its consequent sectarian divisions.
(3) 2 Corinthians vindicates the authority of the Apostle Paul to whom was entrusted the revelation of God's purpose in the formation of the Church. It was a vital necessity that the Divine authority of this revelation should be put beyond question.
(4) Galatians defends the gospel of the free grace of God against the advocates of ritualism, ceremonialism, and legalism.
(5) Ephesians reveals to us the exalted position of the believer " in Christ," and the purpose subserved by the Church in the eternal counsel of God.
(6) Philippians sets before us the inward state and the outward conduct which should characterise normal Christian experience, the keynote of which is struck in the word " rejoice."
(7) Colossians is a defence of the gospel against the ever-present twofold danger of being evaporated into a philosophy or frozen into a form.
(8) 1 Thessalonians is keyed to the expectation of that ever-impending, ever-imminent event-the second coming of our Lord.
(9) 2 Thessalonians embodies a further revelation respecting a subsequent " day of the Lord," and the apostasy by which it is to be preceded.
(10) 1 Timothy sets before us the mind of Christ with regard to sound doctrine and Church discipline during the declension and the disorder of the " latter times."
(II) 2 Timothy gives similar directions with regard to the corruption and the apostasy of the still later " last days."
(12) Titus emphasises the necessity of sound doctrine, but lays more stress on Church order and on the character of the Christian teacher.
(13) Philemon is an illustration of Christian courtesy, combining the utmost tact with apostolic authority.
(14) Hebrews is a treatise on the finality of faith in Jesus Christ, God's Son, the perfect, complete, and final revelation of God to man. The argument for the superiority of Christianity to Judaism turns on the superiority of Jesus Christ, the vehicle of the new revelation, to (1) angels, (2) prophets, (3) leaders, (4) priests, and (5) patriarchs, the vehicles of the earlier revelation. It is interwoven throughout with exhortations and warnings, and the epistle concludes with a majestic appeal to the incomparable power of a living faith in the living God.
4. The General Epistles
(1) James is the most Hebraic and the least distinctively Christian book in the New Testament. It denounces Jewish sins and calls the churches " synagogues." It resembles the Old Testament, especially the book of Proverbs, and reproduces the teaching of our Lord, especially Matthew's sermon on the Mount. It complements without contradicting Paul's doctrine of justification by faith. James contrasts a living faith which produces works, with a dead faith, i.e. mere intellectual assent which produces nothing. Paul contrasts a living faith which justifies, with works of law , i.e. mere ceremonial observances which justify no man.
(2) 1 Peter links the sufferings of Christ," which are mentioned in every chapter, with the "glory that should follow. It was written to sustain the faith of Christian believers who were undergoing the fiery ordeal of persecution.
(3) 2 Peter deals with the apostasy of those who deny the redeeming value of the atoning death of our Lord, and who scoff at the doctrine of our Lord's return.
(4) 1 John is neither a private letter nor a treatise, but a pastoral address or an encyclical letter to the Churches of Asia Minor. It is characterised by intuitive insight, majestic calm, and contemplative repose. These are combined with absorbing love, burning zeal, and an intensely practical aim. Its main purpose is constructive. It is designed to lead Christians to a conscious realisation of the new life to which they are called in fellowship with Christ, a life at once transcending and vanquishing the world.
(5) 2 John is a letter of a personal and private nature. It lays great stress on the maintenance of the truth, by which is meant the truth revealed in Holy Scripture.
(6)3 John is also a letter of a personal and private character. It deals with a situation of still deeper apostasy in which the authority of the Apostles themselves is challenged and defied. It gives us an insight into the ordinary everyday life of the early Churches, not as we idealise them, but as they really were, with all their excellences and defects, their noble and ignoble features, their meek and their ambitious members.
(7) Jude contemplates " the last time " in which the truths denied are so vital that without them there is no gospel at all. It denounces the false and corrupt teachers who have crept into the Church, and gives solemn warnings against the dangers of backsliding and apostasy.
Revelation is a book of prophecy. The theme of the whole book is the second coming of our Lord, and the stupendous conflict between the forces of good and evil. It traces the downward course of corruption and apostasy to its final issue in the overthrow of the Evil One, and the consummation of the purpose of God in the final triumph of Christianity over all its foes.
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