The Divine Word, and
the Doom of its Defacers
"For I testify unto every man who hears the words of the
prophecy of this book—If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add
unto him the plagues that are written in this book—and if any man shall take
away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his
part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things
which are written in this book."—Revelation 22:18, 19.
This warning in reference to the Book of Revelation is
applicable to all Scripture, and carries us back to Deuteronomy 4:2 and
12:32. 'You shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall
you diminish from it.'
It is given in the form of a testimony—from the faithful
and true witness, to show its importance, and its truth. To everyone who
hears that testimony the warning comes. How great the responsibility of
those who have the Bible in their hands! How solemnly they should look on
it, and listen to it, and handle it! In this testimony, then there is
declared to us—
I. The perfection of God's word. Man may not
meddle with it—either to add, or to take away. He may meddle with his own
words, or doings, or plans—to alter, to correct, to complete—but not with
what is divine. The words and things of God are not for him to touch. They
are perfect; perfect for the ends required; perfect for God's purpose in
speaking them to man. Can man improve the works of God? the mountains,
rivers, flowers? the blue sky, the stars, the sun? Even so is the word of
God too perfect for him to touch.
II. The honor God puts on it. He has magnified
it, even above His works; so that he who disparages the word of God is more
guilty than he who disparages the works of God. Whether we see its
perfection is not the question. We may be blind to it; but whether blind or
seeing, God expects honor at our hands for His word. It is the fullest
expression of His mind, the completest revelation of His character. It is
such a declaration of the name of God as can be found nowhere else.
III. Our responsibilities in regard to it. It
is not given us for mere speculation or gratification; but for something far
higher. We are responsible for the way we treat it, study it, profit by it.
Its perfection makes our responsibility very great, and appeals to our
consciences most powerfully. Were it not so perfect, we might deal with it
as we deal with a human volume; were it not divine, we might forego the
honor to it of which we speak. Hence the modern dislike to the idea of a
perfect Bible; because the pressure upon the conscience is felt to be so
solemn and so overpowering, with no possibility of evasion or escape.
Definite Bible doctrine, the age hates, as trammeling its freedom—specially
doctrine defined by a divine revelation.
IV. The sin of tampering with it. In regard to
many of the things of God, the idea is, that while it is a misfortune to be
in error, there is no sin in it. No sin in differing from God! No sin in
trifling with His truth, or denying it! No sin in undervaluing His
revelation! The sin of tampering with the Bible is one of which man is not
easily persuaded; yet in the reckoning of God it is real and great. Every
low thought about the Bible is sin. Every attempt to touch it, either in the
way of addition or subtraction, is sin.
V. The danger of meddling with it. The danger
is exceeding great; and the punishment awarded to the meddlers is the
declaration of the danger. God will not be mocked in this!
There are two opposite ways in which men treat the
Bible—to add or to take away; and both these our text condemns in the most
(1.) The doom of those who ADD. 'God shall add unto
them the plagues written in this book.' Those plagues are very fearful. Read
the plagues of the seals, the trumpets, the vials. Are they not fearful?
They are for this life, as well as for that which is to come. The very
mention of them is appalling. Who in our day credits such things, or
believes that God will execute such terrible vengeance upon all such as add
to His word! The Pharisees added to it; the Romanists add to it; and we
ourselves often add to it, by the way in which we enter on its perusal with
unteachable hearts, with preconceived opinions, which would make the obvious
meanings of the word give way before them. Let us tremble at the word! Add
not unto His word, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar. God adds
His plagues to the adders of His book!
(2.) The doom of those who TAKE AWAY from it. This is
especially the sin of our age. We sit in judgment upon its verities; we
tamper with its certainty; we trifle with its words. We take from it; we
render it null and void; we deny its authority; we object to its
inspiration; we cut off what books we please! But let us not be deceived.
God is not mocked. He also can take away—and He will! He will take away—
(a.) Our part of the book of life—effacing our names, and
inserting them in the book of death!
(b.) Our part in the holy city. No holy city, no new
Jerusalem—for the deniers of His word!
(c.) Our part from the things written in this book. These
are many—the promises to the seven conquerors, the first resurrection, the
marriage supper! How much we lose! What a condemnation is there for those
who reject or mutilate the divine word!