Structure of Scripture
THE PSALM-BOOKS, GOSPELS, AND ACTS
We are now, beloved brethren, to examine that division of
the Old Testament which stands last in all Hebrew Bibles, and last in our
Lord's words in the last chapter of Luke, "the law of Moses, the prophets, and
the psalms." He does not use indeed the Jewish term for this last division,
which was called by the Jews (vaguely enough), "the writings," or "Scriptures,"
- Kethubim; and we have no certain proof that He meant to speak of more than
the actual book of Psalms, in which "the things concerning Himself" are of all
of them the fullest and plainest. Still the order coincides with that of the
Hebrew, and we have seen good reason already for accepting it. The Psalms, with
the four kindred books, are really, in their significance, a fourth division of
the Old Testament. If the other books of the Kethubim are to be added to these,
then indeed the significance is destroyed, but this alone is a better reason
for not adding them than any we can find for doing so.
As they stand in our Bibles also their numerical meaning is again destroyed, while in the order I have before proposed they form a real Pentateuch, as I desire now to show; a Pentateuch of which the book of Psalms is the Genesis, Job the Exodus, Solomon's Song the Leviticus, Ecclesiastes the Numbers, and Proverbs the Deuteronomy.
It needs not many words to show that these books form a series distinct from every other in the Bible. They are not history, it is plain, even the narrative in the book of Job being quite subservient to the moral problem. Nor are they in form prophecy, although the Psalms at least are thoroughly prophetic; but in them the prophecy is not announced as such, but left to come out afterward to the faith that can read it there, just as the types of law and history, which last (as in the person of David) are conspicuous in the Psalms.
Thus, negatively, these books are separated from all other books. As poetical, they are separated also from the historical, but not from the prophetical part of the Old Testament, or at least by no clear line. They are united together by their character as experience books, which applies clearly to them all, however different the experience may be in each. It is the individual path through the world that is exhibited in them, though the "Song" can only be said to be this in a certain sense, and the first three books are all higher in character than the last two. The Psalms, however, with the usual Genesis - largeness, furnish parallels to all the rest.
"Trial" is stamped fully on all, and exercise of heart is begotten of this, the number 5 not only giving the number of books in the section, but the number of divisions of the books in general, as in the five books of the Psalms proper, which the Revised Version now brings before the English reader. The dark and difficult problems of which the world is full are here allowed to have utterance by the lips of man himself, and their solution is given in some sense or other; not always by the vail being lifted indeed, but always by God being brought into them, and man learning, as in Job and in Ecclesiastes, his true place before Him.
The five books are nevertheless very distinct from one another - necessarily so, I may say, from what they are: for how various are the experiences and exercises through which we pass! This distinctness makes our task proportionately easier. Indeed, it is hardly possible here to mistake what is before us. 1 Psalms. No one that knows the Psalms will doubt that they have all the largeness of the Genesis-books. That they are in fact thus large with the fulness of the divine counsels which they are, more fully than is even now generally seen. The reason is, no doubt, the style in which they are written, which may be well understood from the confessedly Messianic psalms. Take for example the twenty-second psalm. It is not a direct prediction, but the Spirit of God leading the Psalmist, in the expression of personal feelings, to go beyond himself, so as to become, whether consciously or not, representative of One greater than himself. The psalm is thus left as a divine secret, a mystery to be unraveled by faith. The prophecy is made to conform to the character of these experience books.
But so also in many another psalm, in which not Messiah but a saint of latter days is put before us in an exactly similar manner; so that the experiences, feelings, and exercises proper to the people of God then are found in the outpourings of the heart of an Asaph, a Heman, an Ethan, a son of Korah, or even of David himself.
The people so taken up is Israel - the ten tribes or the two, - seen in sorrows which will come upon them in the great time of Jacob's trouble, out of which he will be delivered and brought into lasting blessing. It is a time when, the Church having been removed to heaven, and the times of the Gentiles fast hastening to an end, Israel will pass through the trials which will purify and prepare them for the blessing. It is the time of unparalleled tribulation of which the twenty- fourth of Matthew speaks, and the mingled and various character of it is such, that believers of every time have been finding in its prophetic anticipation a provision made for the most diversified conditions, while the saints of that time will find in it a special provision for peculiar need. The sufferings and the grace of Christ are seen in special relation to these, while of course faith's portion ever, and its joy. But the blessing flowing out is seen in connection with Israel and the earth in the constant style of Old-Testament promises. Our own are better and heavenly ones.
But thus the range of the Psalms is an exceedingly wide one, and in striking contrast in this respect with the other books of its division. More even than with Isaiah is their theme salvation, though even here, in the Christian sense, we must not expect to find it in its fulness. The blessedness of one whose iniquity is forgiven and whose sin is covered we do find, and, with the justification of Abraham and Habakkuk's word of the just who live by faith, it is part of the threefold text from the Old Testament on which Paul preaches in the epistle to the Romans. All lines of Old-Testament truth meet us in the Psalms, and what has been said of Israel's great prophet is just as true of her great Psalmist also.
But what makes them psalms gives them surely their character. They are heart-melodies addressed to God; so that in the saddest of them, still God reigns: amid all fears and questionings and darkness and difficulty, it is to Him ever that the soul turns; and thus there comes into its wildest outpourings a rhythm and tender sweetness which awakes nature around, as in the ut- terance of harp or other instrument, into responsive accompaniment. Thus the Psalms proclaim God sovereign, and the book of Psalms as such comes first among the experience books. With assurance of victory in all the strife of which these books are full, the singers are put in the forefront of the battle.
I have already mentioned how the book of Psalms was used of God in leading me into this structure of Scripture, and that it was in the five books into which it is divided that I first found the Pentateuchal mold in which we now see, as I trust, so large a part of it is cast. I feel now in some sense bound to show you in how beautiful and complete a way the "Pentateuch of David" answers to its name.
"Among the fathers," says Delitzsch, "Gregory of Nyssa has attempted to show that the Psalter, in its five books, leads upward, as by five steps, to moral perfection; and down to the most recent times, attempts have been made to trace in the five books a gradation of principal thoughts, which run through the whole collection. We fear that in this direction investigation has set before itself an unattainable end."
All do not, however, acquiesce in this. Another can say, on the other hand, "The distinction of subject I found in them had led me to divide the whole book of Psalms in the same way [into five books] before my attention had been drawn to the well-known fact of its being so divided in the Hebrew Bible. But this principle of order is carried out also in the details of each of the books"*(*"A Synopsis of the Books of the Bible." by J. N. Darby. Vol. ii. p. 59.)
Of this we may be assured; and the writer in question has furnished us largely with the means of following out this order. I propose, however, to give you my own thoughts as to the books in my own fashion, in order to show you the numerical stamp and the connection with the books of Moses, both of which throw much light upon them.
The first book embraces the first forty-one psalms; the second, the thirty-one following; the third, seventeen more; the fourth, similarly, seventeen; the fifth, the remainder - forty-four in number.
The first book divides again into three, which are easily distinguished from one another, the third division being much larger than the first two together. They are distinguished thus: -
The first eight psalms give us as an introduction Christ rejected by the nations, exalted of God, but waiting to take the kingdom which is His, - waiting in a long-suffering which is salvation. This is the second psalm; in the eighth, we see Him as the Son of man set in power over all the works of God's hands. This is "the world to come" of Heb. ii., - the millennial kingdom.
Between these two come five psalms which give the exercises of saints in the meantime between Christ's suffering and glory. These, then, are the subjects of the introductory series.
The second division is from psalm ix. to xv.; ix. and x. giving us the circumstances of the latter days in Israel, and the enemy's power; another five psalms following, giving us their exercise in view of this. Observe how the 5 is repeated here.
The third division carries us to the close of the book; and here we have (as in neither of the others,) Christ in the midst of the people, and His suffering in grace which is the secret of all their blessings. And this divides again into three parts: first, a Messianic series of nine, and this really 3 x 3; secondly, the experience psalms proper, which are now in this third division three times 5; and then two closing psalms (xl. and xli.) which are again Messianic.
I wish I could pause, to show you a little the details; but we may easily see that in the book as a whole we have the counsels of God, which are fulfilled in Christ, the basis of blessing for His people (Israel).
The second book (Ps. xlii.-lxxii.) carries us on fully to the last days, and shows us their deliverance by Christ when in the sorrows of their final trial, the fruit of their sins. I cannot go into the details, but it is quite characteristically the Exodus-book, and the psalms of the sons of Korah (spared in the wilderness when their father sinned,) which open the book are very suitably the expression of this grace. The theme of the third book (Ps. lxxiii.-lxxxix.) is the holiness of God, which is fully shown in all His dealings with the people in the eleven psalms of Asaph which form the first division; while the last six psalms show how Christ as the Servant of God has maintained this holiness even to suffering under the broken law (lxxxviii.). This is the Leviticus of the Psalms.
The fourth, as the Numbers-book (Ps. xc.-cvi.), is a most exquisite illustration of the breadth and variety with which Scripture can treat one common subject. The book is similarly divided to the last into two portions of eleven and six psalms respectively. The first is the creation, the second the redemption-part; but redemption now takes effect upon creation itself, and the wilderness is at an end forever.
The book opens with the ninetieth psalm, a genuine psalm of the wilderness. It is the lament over the generation dying out there under the wrath of God; but it is but the expression of the common doom. God who made man out of the dust is turning him back to it again. Yet is He surely man's dwelling- place in all generations! How strange a disorder has sin introduced!
The ninety-first psalm then takes up the theme, "He who dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." But who knows this secret place, so as to obtain this sure protection? Man as a race has lost the very knowledge of God's name. "When I come unto the children of Israel," says Moses, "and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you, and they shall say to me, What is His name? what shall I say unto them?" God has lost His name for men, but His name is just the expression of what He is. This, then, is the secret of man's ruin; he is departed far from God, and has become a stranger to Him.
But in the ninety-first psalm another voice is heard. The unbelief of Israel accounted for Christ's miracles by saying that He had stolen the name of God. In fact it was true He had it, but as His natural portion which He had never lost. "I say of Jehovah" - not "I will say" - "He is my refuge and strength, my God, in Him do I trust." Here is the Second Man who has never fallen. Therefore all the power of God is on His side: "Because He has set His love upon Me, therefore will I deliver Him; I will set Him on high, because He hath known My name."
The ninety-second - a Sabbath psalm - carries this further: the Second Man, as a new head of blessing, secures the blessing and purification of the earth. The wicked are to be destroyed out of it, the righteous to flourish. And in the ninety-third, Jehovah reigns there, and the world is established that it cannot be moved. The following psalms - seven in number - then give the coming of Jehovah to the earth, and how all things break into song before Him.
But the second division has a deeper secret yet to tell: Jehovah and this Second man are one! And how beautifully is this shown!
First, the hundred and first psalm shows the Second Man in His qualifications for rule upon the earth; in the hundred and second, the time has come, Zion is to be built up again, the nations gathered together to serve the Lord. But where is He that is to rule? Is it a Man cast down in the divine wrath, His strength weakened in the way, His days shortened? Hear Him as He pleads, "O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days! Thy years are throughout all generations."
But what says the answer of God to Him? It is here that the amazing secret is discovered. the humbled Man is owned in His humiliation as Jehovah's Fellow. "Of old hast Thou laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands: they shall perish, but Thou endurest!"
How wonderful is this! and how great are its consequences! Creator and Redeemer are one: the hands that receive the government of the earth are almighty ones: there is an indefectible Head of blessing: God and man are brought how unutterably near! Thus the hundred and third psalm begins now its tale of grace and blessing; the hundred and fourth celebrates Jehovah - the Redeemer - as the Creator; the hundred and fifth is His appeal to Israel, and the final psalm their confession and repentance.
And now the fifth book begins - Israel just ready to take possession of the land after their long dispersion - the Deuteronomic rehearsal of the Lord's ways with men. I need only say that not merely the opening psalm, but the whole book has this character. Only it ends now with full blessing - the blessings of the new covenant - and with the full halleluiah-chorus from all the earth.
That the book of Job gives the same story of trial and exercise, no one will question; nor that, as a second book, it fills its place in bringing before us as it does the work and power of the enemy. In none is this more openly seen, as we are all aware. A comparison with Ecclesiastes, the fourth book of the series, de- velops some points of special interest, which help to make clear the character of each.
Job is the best man on earth, pronounced so of God Himself; Solomon is the wisest, and declared so in the Word of God. In Job his goodness is tested, as in Ecclesiastes is Solomon's wisdom; and, like all things human, each breaks down under the test.
Now these correspond to the two forms of trial specially insisted on in the New Testament as a preparation for Christ. In Rom. v., you have the first in its result: "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." In 1 Cor. i., you have the second in its result: "When in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe." Thus men are proved as to moral character, and as to the value of that for which they sacrificed innocence. And here in Job, the best man on earth is vile, and repents in dust and ashes; in Ecclesiastes, the wisest man can only see vanity written on all under the sun.
This, then, is the main feature of the book of Job: that the best man of earth can on that ground claim no exemption from the severest trials; and that if he assume it, he has yet only to see God aright, and he will abhor himself and repent in dust and ashes. To this clearing of the eyes, God makes frequent use of trial, although it be but the plow before the sowing, not itself the sowing.
In the line of gospel-truth all this is. The gospel itself we may find dimly in Elihu's words, and parabolically in God's ways with Job when brought thus to repentance.
3. Solomon's Song.
In Solomon's Song all true intelligence has seen the picture of occupation with the Beloved. And thus it is a song - yea, the Song of songs; such an one as in the sanctuary alone one sings: for the presence of God is the true home of liberty and joy. In Job, we find the introduction to it indeed in sorrow, but that is another thing. Here also exercise of heart is not over, for it is not the full Christian place that is recognized here, but - as the same writer referred to a short time since says, - "the re-establishment of the relation between Christ and the remnant [of Israel], in order that by exercise of heart - necessary on account of their position - they may be confirmed in the assurance of His love, and in the knowledge that all is of grace, a grace that can never fail. Then is He fully known as Solomon. His heart becomes like the chariot of His willing people (Ammi-nadib) which carries Him away." Occupation with the Lord is the token of the sanctuary, and we shall find it one of the commonest marks of a third section. This is clearly the place of the book, therefore, in this division.
Ecclesiastes is even more plainly the fourth book. In it not only, as we have seen, is man's wisdom proved at fault, but the world itself is tried, and "vanity" is found written upon all. "Vanity of vanities: all is vanity." The trial is made by one with all the resources of a kingdom such as Solomon's. The men of the world require plenty of material to furnish out the happiness they seek; but in this respect, "what can the man do that cometh after the king?" He has wisdom also to make use of these resources, and a hearth set upon doing it. If the result is after all failure, who then shall succeed?
Death is upon every thing; and the more precious any thing is, the more terrible to know that it must pass away. Whether lost wholly and at once, or filched away little by little by the flying moments, still all that we prize is doomed; and we are doomed. To every thing there is a time, and for every thing the time goes by. And God has fixed the place and time of all in this cycle of things that pass and return, among the generations which yet do not return. Eternity, too, is set in man's heart, compassed as he is by that which is for the moment; but eternity no wisdom of his can pierce: it is the wisdom of which death is the price paid, and it cannot elude or look beyond it. Death brings down all to its level - wise and fool, and man and beast: what difference? save that the beast can fill his place for a time with no regrets and no antici- pations, and man cannot. Death he hates and dreads, and conscience forebodes judgment.
It is true, thank God! that Ecclesiastes does not leave things here. God has spoken, and faith has keener sight than any wisdom of man. Still the world as such is gone, therefore, for faith also. To do God's will in it, "this is the whole of man."
And now Proverbs closes with lessons as to this will of God, the maxims of a wisdom higher than human, yet proved also in experience, and which declare the path for him who seeks it. Yet how plainly do we see in this book of moral results, the Deuteronomy, in a sense, of the whole Old Testament, that, except in type and shadow, the heavenly things are not yet come. The glory shines not yet on a road tracked by pilgrim feet. Prophecy and promise do but beckon onward; and the Old Covenant testifies, in its brightest revelations, to what is beyond itself.
THE NEW TESTAMENT.
We come, then, to the New Testament. We have traced the numerical structure all the way through the Old, with whatever imperfection in the way of doing it. We have even begun already to see that the same stamp is on the New; the full light being here come, we ought to see very plainly.
In the Old Testament we have found four Pentateuchs; in the New, spite of its twenty-seven books, there is but one; and this though also a true fifth, is, because of the twofold primary division of Scripture, a single isolated one. And this, it would seem, must be as significant as the Old-Testament four. I do not doubt it to be so, and would venture a thought on the significance of the number 1 in this connection.
The New Testament has its distinctive character in this, that it is the Gospel of grace, which as such manifests God to men. We have already seen this also, and how well it suits a second division of Scripture and with its twenty-seven books. But what, then, is to be the moral effect of such a revelation? Surely this, that God so revealed be enthroned supreme in the hearts of those who receive this testimony, in such a way as could never have been before. Significantly, the ark and mercy-seat, which represent Christ, as we are all agreed, were in Israel the throne of God. He sat between the cherubim. And is it not in Christ that God reigns, as otherwise He has never reigned? both as glorified in His obedience, and in that dear name of "Father" in which we have at once the revelation of God and His relation to us? And what title would like this convey the new obedience to which we are called? - the entire obedience due from children; the endeared obedience which is not only freedom, but freedom as the joy of love?
Thus we find that whereas under the law there were things permitted of which it could be said, "Moses for the hardness of your heart gave you this precept," now nothing is to be conceded to the hardness of men's hearts. "That which is born of the flesh is" indeed still "flesh;" but there is a new birth of the Spirit, and a new power of God for men; and it is to be shown in this, that in the new child's place known, and with the Spirit of sonship, God is to be now wholly God. "Ye have heard that it hath been said to them of old time ....; but I say unto you." "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."
This, then, is what I believe the one Pentateuch of the New Testament suggests to us, spreading out as it does in its glorious compass of twenty-seven books, like the various fruits of the tree of life which the river of life sustains and fructifies. Of this Pentateuch, -
are of course the Genesis. The Lord's life on earth is what John speaks of afterward in his epistle as "the beginning;" and with this, although the manifestation of what is not temporal but eternal, the centuries renew themselves. The first man has been told out, and his history is really over: the Second Man is come, and replaces him. With this, the inarticulate voices of the past fine utterance; the vail is removed, the dark- ness passed; the substance replaces the shadows; the Word made flesh tabernacles among us, and we behold His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten with the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Gospels are four, because He in whom this glory shines is come to put Himself into the hands of His creatures, - to be seen, gazed on, handled by their hands; to submit Himself to every species of trial, - in order that in all this His glory may be fully recognized. Thus each of these Gospels has its different story to tell, both of Person and work, - its different aspect to give to the beholder, - that we may be able more to take in and appreciate as He would have us the Christ of God.
1. The Synoptic Gospels.
But these four Gospels are, as already has been noted, not 2 and 2, which would be true division, and the Son of God cannot be in fact divided. But they are a 3 and 1, the divine numbers being brought out thus; how truly the effect of these part-representations to bring out the divine glory of the Man, Christ Jesus, every believing heart bears witness. The Synoptic Gospels, as they are called, stand thus as the first part here: Matthew with its testimony to the King, Mark to the Ministering Servant, Luke to the Man; clearly united among themselves, and proportionately distinct from John's testimony to the Word made flesh. Yet these three, as their number intimates, also declare, each after its own manner, God in Christ. It surely must be so, or there would be discord, not united witness.
The three agree also in this, and contrast with John, that in them all, as in the parable of the vineyard, which they all give, Christ is seen as God's last testimony to Israel, - His Son, sent after the rejection of all previous messengers, as His last resource. "Having yet, therefore, one son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, `They will reverence my son.'" Accordingly the sole character of the books is affected by this. Testing in this way is still going on. The demonstration of the mind of the flesh as enmity against God is not complete in them until the cross. Israel is not yet set aside; man is not seen as dead in sins; the decidedly Christian truths of new birth and eternal life are not brought out. These, with kindred doctrines, characterize John, whose gospel is therefore in the full sense the Christian one, - the full New-Testament second part. In every way, therefore, the numerical seal is on these books. Of these, the order almost universally recognized is what we find in our common Bibles - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We shall find this order in full accordance with the numerals represented in Matthew. There is one expression found repeatedly in Matthew's gospel, and although it has its roots in the book of Daniel, never actually found elsewhere. It must surely then be characteristic. This expression is, "The kingdom of heaven."
Matthew may be fairly entitled, "The gospel of the kingdom of heaven." There are three things which are borne witness to in the first chapter as to the King, which are of special importance as defining its character. First, Christ is the Son of David; and the Jews necessarily occupy a foremost position in the book. But secondly, He is also "Son a Abraham," which brings in the blessing of the nations also. Thirdly, because it is heaven's kingdom, its King is also, and above all, Son of God.
Matthew gives us, therefore, the Jewish question prominently, the passing of the kingdom to the Gentiles when the Jews reject; yet also their reception of it in a yet future day. It is the dispensational gospel; and this is as much as to say, that of the divine counsels, which these dispensations indicate. Matthew is thus the only gospel which gives specifically the Church, which even John does not.
Its governmental aspect is plain throughout. God is on the throne; but though the Father's name is de- clared, there is not the intimacy yet which this implies. The work of salvation is intimated but as to be, not as yet accomplished. Discipleship and obedience are prominent themes; forgiveness of sins is conditional, and may be revoked; and the outflow of God's heart does not yet, as it will do, awaken man's heart in response. In the cross, as I desire more fully presently to show, we have the trespass- (that is, the governmental) offering.
This may suffice just now, as it is only the place of the book which I am indicating. In looking at those which follow, we shall, however, have occasion briefly to return to this.
Mark has been often looked at as if it were little more than an abridgment of Matthew. It is indeed in many respects similar, and yet in some respects also it is as different as can be. Scripture does not admit of mere repetitions or abridgments; and here will be found a divine purpose and meaning quite distinct and even in contrast with the former gospel.
Thus the dispensational character is not at all in Mark, and the Lord appears only exceptionally as King of Israel, the title itself being simply as condemnation written upon His cross. Even as Lord He is seldom addressed, and never by His disciples. But He is the Son of God in service, in unequaled volun- tary humiliation, which is His brightest glory, a poverty by which He enriches others. It is on this account that the genealogy which comes first in Matthew is not found at all in Mark. Love needs no title to serve but the power to do so. His birth is not given, nor are His earlier years, but the gospel addresses itself at once to His ministry, of which all the tenderness and grace are minutely pictured.
Service in humiliation is thus the theme of Mark, and this fully indicates its place as the second gospel; but this service finds its lowest place and its deepest mean- ing in the cross, which just here answers to that aspect of it which the sin-offering presents, as Matthew answers to the trespass-offering.
In the beginning of Leviticus, apart from the meat- (or meal-) offering, which does not speak of death - is not a sacrifice, therefore, at all, - four offerings speak of Christ's atoning work. Of these, two are sweet savour- offerings; the others, not; because in them the sin and wrong for which they are offered are before the soul, rather than the acceptability of the obedience by which they are met and put away. Now in this way the cross in Matthew and Mark differs from the other gospels, that in them alone we have the cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" whereas in Luke and John the consciousness of nearness to the Father is found throughout.
But which of these - Matthew or Mark - is the sin,- and which the trespass-offering? and what is the difference between the two?
It is this, that the sin-offering speaks of what is against the nature of God, the trespass-offering of what is against His government.
The trespass-offering speaks of sin as injury for which restitution must be made; the sin-offering, of that which God, because of His holiness, cannot look upon, but must put away from Him. Thus only in the sin-offering in Leviticus is the victim burned in the outside place, upon the ground without the sanctifying altar.
But in Matthew and Mark both we have the outside place which the Lord takes; why is this? Because in fact restitution to the throne of God must bear witness to what He is in nature. But then this introduces this perplexity: which gospel, then, represents the sin-offering, and which the trespass-offering, if a main feature of the sin-offering be found in both of them?
Now it is evident that Matthew's is the governmental gospel, and this in itself would surely lead us right. Mark's as the gospel of service, naturally leads to the thought of that which is in its result salvation.
Now it will be found that Mark concentrates our attention upon what sin as sin necessitates before God. Matthew, by its very largeness even, cannot do this. Thus Mark gives us the rent vail, the answer to the darkness of the outside place into which Christ had gone and dispelled it for us; but he does not give, as Matthew, the resurrection of the saints, which is the answer to His death. Death is not the full final penalty, but the stamp of divine government upon a fallen creature. Again, in Mark there is no buying of Aceldama - a significant act which was itself a prophecy of what the nation had purchased with the death of Christ - no "His blood be on us and our children," no judgment even of the traitor. While in Mark also the gospel goes out to every creature.
Notice also, before we close, the order of the offerings in Leviticus and in the gospels here. I have be- fore remarked upon the affinity between 1 and 5 (which is a 4 plus 1,) and between 2 and 4, which is a 2 plus 2. Now in Leviticus, where the order of the offerings is reversed from that in the gospels, and where the meat- offering must be reckoned in, making thus five in all, the trespass-offering stands fifth in order, as it does first here; while the sin-offering stands forth in Leviticus, second here. The peace-offering, which Luke gives us, comes third in both.
And Luke's is a third gospel fittingly, although it is not the Word made flesh - God manifest in this sense. It is God manifest inasmuch as the way is opened now to Him, and man is purged and reconciled as the peace-offering exhibits him. The theme of Luke thus unites in the fullest way with that aspect of Christ's person which this gospel specializes, - the truth of His full manhood. This is shown to be what Luke speaks of in the genealogy which - removed in- deed from the foremost place it has in Matthew, and read backward, because it is not title derived from man, but blessing flowing back to men - links the Lord, not with David merely, nor even with Abraham, but with Adam himself.
Thus you have also the detail of his birth, - His childhood, - His prayers, the full witness of true and pure humanity. And what familiar intimacy with us does all this show! Beside God and the offerer, who each has his part in the peace-offering, the priest who brings both together has his portion also. And the Priest-Mediator is the "Man, Christ Jesus." So all the way through, the heart is full and the lips overflow with this deep blessedness. Joy and praise break out with the sense of assured blessing, and the joy is the echo of God's own, as that central story of the prodigal declares it. But this is not alone; in parable and historical fact the heart of God is manifested, and no where more so than a the cross itself, where a poor thief, enfranchised by His word, follows his Saviour- Lord to paradise.
This closes the Synoptic Gospels. John yet remains with a story still to tell, spite of all that has been told, and a story which, spite of its having been told so long, abides to-day in the same freshness and power as at first.
But why is John's number not 3, instead of 2, if its subject be God manifest in the flesh? Does not this seem as if it should be the stamp of John rather than of Luke? and in not being so, does it not leave after all some vagueness in the use of these numbers which creates again some doubt and perplexity in the mind?
Now, assuredly, if the numerical system be of God, we must expect it to control our thoughts, not be controlled by them. If it were to be the latter, how little indeed would be the service it could render to us!
And yet it should, for its purpose, also be able to bring conviction of its truth to our minds, as light which manifests, - the self-evidence which is that of all Scripture. Let us see, then, if we can discover a reason for 2, and not 3, being the number of the gospel of John.
Three is indeed the number of divine manifestation, as it is of the Spirit of God, of whose coming also the last part of this gospel is specially full, as we are all aware. And yet as the number of the Spirit, it is surely not so suitable as that which speaks of the second Person of the Godhead, the Son of God, just (mark also) as John speaks of Him, the divine Son, the Only Begotten, not the First-Begotten. This at once ought to clear away all difficulty and make the numerical meaning plain. The Word, again, is John's peculiar title; and if 2 speaks also of humiliation, or a lowly place, then "the Word made flesh" doubly bears the numerical seal upon it. God manifest in Christ is the truth of all the gospels, but the Word made flesh, the only begotten Son incarnate, is, without possibility of contradiction, the exact and characteristic truth of John. How beautifully, then, the divine order approves itself here!
Then we have seen that as a second part the gospel of John is the pre-eminently New-Testament part of the gospels also. Here, Judaism and the law are only contrasted with the "grace and truth" which "came by Jesus Christ." "What is written in your law?" He says to them, and the Jewish feasts and language are all interpreted to us as to Gentiles.
But as in contrast again with the three synoptics, John stands alone as by itself the second part. Thus the number 1 is also subordinately stamped upon the book. And so it is assuredly: God's sovereignty is every-where insisted on, that sovereignty in grace whereby He acts in new birth, giving eternal life, an other characteristic feature of the gospel. The spiritual Creator is here all through, and the new Genesis outshines the old one.
One thing more only as to John. The cross is here seen in its burnt-offering aspect - that which stands first in the book of Leviticus, and does so because it is the great pattern of perfect obedience, the type of Him in whose heart the will of God was without competitor enthroned. In this way it unites with what we have been just now considering to give the gospel its double numerical stamp of 2 and 1, for obedience is here that "obedience unto death" in which our salvation was accomplished. Here, then, we must close as to the gospels.
The Acts. The Acts is the second division of the New Testament, and it is the only book in its division. Thus its numbers are similar to those of John, except that John belongs first of all to the Genesis-division, while the Acts constitutes in itself the Exodus. It is not Christ whose history is before us, but His people; and here the character of the book it is impossible to mistake. It is the redemption of believers from under the law, of which the epistle to the Galatians speaks doctrinally. In the Acts, it is the history of that deliverance, the larger part of it being taken up with the instrument God raised up for effecting it. Beginning with Jerusalem and its rejection of the gospel, it shows us then the reception of the Samaritans, afterward the Gentiles openly admitted in Cornelius then the rais- ing up of Saul of Tarsus, the scattering of the Jerusalem saints by persecution, the new Gentile assembly formed at Antioch, and the going forth from thence of Saul and Barnabas upon their mission to the nations.
The question then is raised, Is the law to put its yoke upon these new converts? and that is settled in the negative at Jerusalem itself. The second missionary journey of the apostle follows, the Gentile work enlarges continually; the Jewish disciples remain zealous of the law, and from the hostility of the unbelievers in Jerusalem the apostle of the Gentiles is saved only by a Roman prison. The last chapter of the Acts narrates the final interview with the Jews at Rome, closing with the apostle's word, "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it."
The number 1 is indicated in the Acts by that sovereignty of God everywhere seen in it, which has caused some to say that it should be called rather "The Acts of the Holy Ghost" than "The Acts of the Apostles." I need not enlarge upon this, for all must have remarked it who have seriously and carefully read the book.
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