Andrew Fuller Friday: On What the Scriptures Do and Don’t Do

There is nothing in the Scriptures adapted to gratify presumptuous speculation or idle curiosity. Such a spirit, on the contrary, is frequently checked, and every thing is directed to the renovation or improvement of the heart. The account given of the creation of the sun, moon, and stars is not intended, as Mr. Henry observes, to describe things “as they are in themselves, and in their own nature, to satisfy the curious; but as they are in relation to this earth, to which they serve as lights; and this is enough to furnish us with matter for praise and thanksgiving.” The miracles of Jesus were never performed to gratify curiosity. If the afflicted, or any on their behalf, present their petition, it is invariably heard and answered; but if the Pharisees come and say, “Master, we would see a sign from thee,” or if Herod “hope to see a miracle done by him,” it is refused.† When one said to him, “Lord, are there few that be saved?” he answered, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”‡

There is nothing in the Scriptures tending, in its own nature, to excite levity or folly. They sometimes deal in the most cutting irony; but it is never for the sake of displaying wit, or raising a laugh, but invariably for the accomplishment of a serious and important end. A serious mind finds every thing to gratify it, and nothing to offend it; and even the most profligate character, unless he read them in search of something which he may convert into ridicule, is impressed with awe by the pointed and solemn manner in which they address him.

It may be said of the Scriptures, and of them only, that they are free from affectation and vanity. You may sometimes find things of this sort described by the sacred writers; but you will never discern any such spirit in the descriptions themselves. Yet, as men, they were subject to human imperfections: if, therefore, they had not been influenced by Divine inspiration, blemishes of this kind must have appeared in their writings, as well as in those of other men. But in what instance have they assumed a character which does not belong to them, or discovered a wish to be thought more religious, more learned, or more accomplished in any way than they were? Nor were they less free from vanity than from affectation. They were as far from making the most of what they were, as from aiming to appear what they were not. Instead of trumpeting their own praise, or aiming to transmit their fame to posterity, several of them have not so much as put their names to their writings; and those who have are generally out of sight. As you read their history, they seldom occur to your thoughts. Who thinks of the evangelists when reading the four Gospels? or of Luke while reading the Acts of the Apostles? Mr. Paine weaves the laurel on his own brows, vainly boasting that he has “written a book under the greatest disadvantages, which no Bible believer can answer;” and that, with the axe upon his shoulder, like another Sennacherib, he has passed through, and cut down the tall cedars of our Lebanon.* But thus did not the sacred writers, even with regard to heathenism, because of the fear of God. Paul in one instance, for the sake of answering an important end, was compelled to speak the truth of himself, and to appear to boast; yet it is easy to perceive how much it was against his inclination. A boaster and a fool were, in his account, synonymous terms.†

The sacred writers, while they respect magistracy, and frown upon faction, tumult, and sedition, are never known to flatter the great. Compare the fustian eloquence of Tertullus with the manly speeches of Paul. Did he flatter Felix? No; he “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come; and Felix trembled.” Did he flatter Festus, or even Agrippa? No; the highest compliment which proceeded from him was, that “he knew” the latter “to be expert in all customs and questions among the Jews,” and to maintain the Divine inspiration of the prophets; which declaration, with the whole of this admirable apology, contained only the words of truth and soberness.

They discover no anxiety to guard against seeming inconsistencies, either with themselves or one another. In works of imposture, especially where a number of persons are concerned, there is need of great care and caution, lest one part should contradict another; and such caution is easily perceived. But the sacred writers appear to have had no such concern about them. Conscious that all they wrote was true, they left it to prove its own consistency. Their productions possess consistency; but it is not a studied one, nor always apparent at first sight; it is that consistency which is certain to accompany truth.‡

There is an inimitable simplicity in all their writings, and a feeling sense of what they write. They come to the point without ceremony or preamble; and, having told the truth, leave it, without mingling their own reflections. This remark is particularly exemplified by the four evangelists, in narrating the treatment of their Lord. Writers who had felt less would have said more.

There is something in all they say which leaves behind it a sensation produced by no other writings; something peculiarly suited to the mind when in its most serious frames, oppressed by affliction, or thoughtful about a future life; something which gives melancholy itself a charm, and produces tears more delicious to the mind than the most high-flavoured earthly enjoyments. By what name shall I express it? It is a savour of life, a savour of God, an unction from the Holy One.

Excerpt from: “The Harmony of the Scriptures with Its Own Profession Argued from the Spirit and Style from which It is Written,” Chapter III, in The Gospel is Own Witness.

Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 2, pp. 71–73). Sprinkle Publications.

By |October 28th, 2022|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday, Blog|

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