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THE HUMANITY OF THE BIBLE.
ONE great charm of the Bible, and one principal source of its influence and power, is its perfect humanity. It is neither a book of mythology, nor a system of philosophy, nor a collection of moral precepts. It is to a great extent a history of human life. It enters into all human concerns and appeals to all human interests. It represents the human character in all its different states and varied aspects; in its strength and its weakness, its nobility and its meanness, its virtues and its vices, and finally, in its lowest debasement and in its highest exaltation. It begins with the sinless man of creation; announces his fall, and traces his descent through numerous generations, and it ends with exhibiting the perfect man of redemption; in life, in suffering, and in death, the height and the pattern of all excellence. It thus unrolls before us the whole volume of the history of human life and experience in this world, showing us human nature as God made it, as man marred it, and as God-man remade or restored it.
This history of human life is, so to speak, the framework of all that the Bible reveals and that it teaches. God first reveals Himself to man as his Creator and Lawgiver. When, by transgression, sin has entered into the world, and death by sin, God's promises, and laws, and providential arrangements have all reference to man's sinful state, and are adapted to his altered condition. The altered condition of man gives a colouring to the whole Scripture. The Divine character
itself takes a hue from the character of man. For Divine Truth cannot enter into the region of human thought and the sphere of human life, as they had become and still are, in its pure and holy state, as it comes from God, or even as it is received by the angels of heaven. It would transcend their apprehension and exceed their belief, and therefore produce no effect upon them. It must be brought down to them, not merely by being finited, which it must have been to man in his best state, but by taking upon it something of their infirmities and weaknesses. So that the Word revealed in human language partook somewhat of the imperfection which belonged to it when manifested in human nature. God walks in the garden of Eden, and makes coats of skin for Adam and his wife. When God sees the wickedness of man that it is great, it repents the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieves Him at His heart. When men in their loftiness begin to build a city and a tower whose top may reach to heaven, the Lord comes down to see the city and the tower which men have builded. For some time before the Flood we have little more than the generations of Adam, and for some time after it we have little more than the generations of Noah; so that even in these allegorical histories the framework is human, even the Divine itself partaking of the anthropomorphism. In the patriarchal age, which begins with Abraham, the interest hinges on the incidents in the life of the father of the faithful, by whom Providence is working out its plan for the existence of the chosen people, through whom are to come and be preserved the oracles of God, and of whom, as to the flesh, is to come Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.
But all along in the sacred volume we find ourselves in the midst of human affairs, in which human nature may be seen and studied as it manifests itself under every variety of circumstances, ordinary and extraordinary. Jacob and his twelve sons, whence came the twelve tribes of Israel; their going down into Egypt, their sojourn and captivity there; their deliverance, journey, and settlement in Canaan; their consolidation into a powerful kingdom under David and Solomon; their corruption, division, and overthrow, carried away captive into Assyria and Babylon; their return and re-establishment in their own land: the history of these occupy the greater part of the Old Testament. It is true that interwoven with this history and in addition to it there is much of the Divine and religious element. Besides the Divine agency in the events themselves, there is the giving of the Law and the revealings of the Prophets, although a considerable
portion of both relate to rites that are now obsolete, and to nations and circumstances that no longer exist.
But what is the cause of the Bible being of this human character, so that the whole Law and the Prophets are grafted upon it?
The principal cause why the Bible contains so much of man is that God Himself is Man. He is the Divine Man. And finite man is man only because he was created in the image and likeness of the Infinite Man. Great repugnance is felt by the natural mind against the idea of God being Man, or a Person. But Love and Wisdom, omniscience and omnipotence, can have no abstract existence. It may be difficult to think of a Personal Being who is everywhere present. Yet even the natural mind may see it from analogy. The sun, which occupies a place in space, is present everywhere within his own sphere by his rays of heat and light. Why should not He who is the Sun of Righteousness be present throughout the whole universe by and in His rays of Divine heat and light, which are love and wisdom? But there is a higher view than this. God is not extended with space. As time is nothing to eternity, space is nothing to infinity. Space is no part of God's immensity, time is no part of His eternity. They are the finites of His infinites. As effects they exist only in connection with their cause. The effects are finite, the cause is infinite. And between infinite and finite there is no ratio. There is a necessary connection between them. For as the cause is the all of the effect, or the effect is nothing without the cause, so the infinite is the all of the finite, or the finite is nothing without the infinite. The infinite cause of the universe is Man. For love and wisdom are not merely human attributes, but they constitute humanity. Infinite Love and Wisdom are infinite Man, and finite love and wisdom constitute finite man. If God were not Man the universe could not have been created; for God created all things from His Love by His Wisdom; and Love and Wisdom are Man. Infinite Man was the cause of creation, and of this cause finite man was the ultimate and noblest effect. The world was made for man, and man was made for heaven. The world is a storehouse for the supply of man's wants and a school for his education. Yet Nature is not his sole instructress. Nature does much to educate the senses and improve the mind. But as man was made for a higher destiny than a brief span of life on earth, God, who made him for immortality, gave him a guide by whose aid he might attain to eternal life. Yet the Scriptures were not intended to lead to future happiness only. Their teaching is the best possible means of securing
present happiness also, as much at least as the world can supply. The world was evidently formed to minister to human happiness, and nothing but evil interferes with the Creator's benevolent design. Everything proves that the Creator intended to provide the greatest possible measure of happiness for His creatures. Nature with its varying beauties and abounding uses, life with its tender ties and chastened pleasures, make up a very paradise of earthly happiness, if used as God designed them to be used, as His gifts and under the influence of His Spirit of love and wisdom. So would they have been and so would they be used if man had preserved the image of his Maker. But sin has marred the fairest of God's works and frustrated, as far as human folly and perversity could frustrate, His benevolent design. We see this sad condition of things portrayed and exhibited in its effects in the whole of the historical relations and prophetic teachings of the Bible. And this is the second reason that the Holy Book is so human, that it treats so largely of human affairs, and exhibits human nature as it shows itself, in motive and act, in the various circumstances of life. There are in Bible history, as in modern history, too many instances of hatred and revenge, lust and cruelty, fraud and violence, private feud and public wars. Yet there are, notwithstanding the frailty of fallen human nature and prevailing wickedness, some characters of great moral beauty, and worthy of our imitation, such as Joseph, and Job in the land of Uz.
But it is in the New Testament that we find the more perfect examples of character. And it is here that we find the most perfect of all human characters, or rather the character which combines in itself all human perfection without any of its imperfections, Him who was therefore eminently, and indeed exclusively, Man. And in this we see the grand reason why the Bible is so human. All that goes before respecting man leads up to this Man. The first Adam and his descendants lead up to the second Adam and His new generation. When we are called upon to behold the Man, we are invited to look upon Him who combined in Himself, as Man, all humanity past and future. All the imperfections and evils which the men of the Old Testament exhibit, and which were the common characteristics of the race, the Lord, as the son of Mary, assumed. In no other way than that of heredity could the perfect One take upon Himself the sins of the world. Jehovah had made to meet upon Him the iniquity of us all. He stood before Pilate and the multitude as the representative, not as the substitute, of the whole sinful race, bearing their sins in
His own body. At the same time that He, as the son of Mary by birth, bore the image of the earthly, He, as the Son of God by conception, bore the image of the heavenly and of the Divine. In His humanity were present and facing each other the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, the cow and the bear, the calf and the young lion, the sucking child and the asp, the weaned child and the cockatrice. But in Him the hostile nature of the evils inherited from His human mother, although they could not but attempt to assert their power over the pure and innocent nature of the goodness imparted from His Divine Father, and which gave rise to His inward conflicts and temptations, yet no evils in Him ever obtained the ascendency, but on the contrary were always subdued, and so entirely that the wolf dwelt with the lamb, and the leopard lay down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child led them; and the sucking child played on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child put his hand on the cockatrice' den, and their submission was so complete that they had neither the will nor the power to hurt in all the holy mountain of the Lord. The reconciliation of the maternal to the paternal humanity, and thus the reconciliation of man to God, in the person of the Lord, was so complete, that they became a perfect one; and the perfected or glorified Humanity of the Lord is now and ever will be the Mediator between God and manthe consecrated Medium of the reconciliation of man to God. Yet the perfecting of the Lord's humanity did not consist in bringing the evils themselves of man's sinful nature into subjection and harmony with His inherent goodness. Evil and goodness can never be brought into harmony with each other. But the natural inclinations, which belong to human nature, as it was originally created and pronounced very good, but which became evil by abuse and perversion, can be restored to their original state of order and goodness, and brought again into subordination to and harmony with the higher or spiritual affections. By abuse the natural inclinations lose their human character and become bestial; for man's natural inclination or affections are similar to those of animals, and are only human in him when his higher or rational and spiritual nature makes them human, by making them subordinate to spiritual principles and subservient to eternal ends, and this man can now do, because He who took man's nature has done it, and has become, not only the Archetype of man's restoration, but the Power by which it can be effected. "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." "I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE."