By N. B. Hardeman I next call your attention to the first roman writer of note. Caius Cornelius Tacitus, whose ancestors are unknown, was born about the middle of the first century and died in the year 117. Thus he lived contemporary with the apostles and early Christians. He was chosen praetor of Rome in the year 88, and was made consul in 97. He wrote, Description of Germany, The Life of Agricola (his father-in-law), History of Rome, and Annals of Rome. He is one of the most reliable of Roman writers and his superiority of style is such that two of his books are used as texts in our best colleges. Tacitus had no respect for Christians and speaks of them in the bitterest of terms. His evidence, therefore, is the evidence of a foe, and becomes all the stronger because of such. Summing up his testimony, we offer the following:
We think much better of ourselves than what it pictures. It contains a picture of digression, not one of progress. It is a dark and sinister close portrait, not a light and airy panorama. It contains more sorrow and misery than we care to admit.
It does not picture the progress of mankind as we would like it to be portrayed. It challenges us to note that we have arrived where we are through our own hand and by the exercise of our own choices. It does not picture humankind as using their common intellect and power of being as often as it shows us acting upon base emotion and abdicating any responsibility or accountability for our actions.
The view is nicely summed in Genesis 6:5.
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Paul records a similar, but more detailed statement in Romans 1:29 — 32.
“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness,, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters; inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
Man’s wisdom is flatly ridiculed in the Bible. We stand condemned as without God and without hope, full of sin and heady from its pleasures. And when men (and women) look upon the picture presented, it is anything but encouraging and inviting.
Therefore, to rid the world of such a portrait of humankind, as it is most unpleasant to gaze full upon, the enemies of truth have kept up a fight in every age to marginalize it, hoping to eventually to displace and destroy it.
It is the only thing in this world that claims to exercise authority and dominion over us. It is the only book that carries a message of required obedience and that message is absolutely contrary to what most people want to do. You can look to the religious writings of any world religion and you will not find the challenges issued in the Bible in any of them. It promises to hold us accountable for our deeds while we inhabit this frame, and it does not consult us for our opinion, as to how we might prefer to have it.
It declares that it is the only authority, that it is superhuman and not held by any of the demands of our consideration. It repeatedly challenges us and states, “You shall…” “You shall not…” It is the only book known to do so. It is the only book that states that it is God’s Word.
It is a great level seeking to balance things and to hold us in check. And it is altogether against the disposition and appetites of worldliness and materialism. It rails against yielding to the passions and lusts that we have so carelessly invented for ourselves.
And if the enemies of it could, they would be rid of it, so that sin might have a free rein and an open field in which to run to riot.
Governments have sought to destroy it. Religious bodies (even some who claim to call upon the name of God) have sought to overthrow its rule and power. I can mention, without fear of being wrong: Communism, Socialism, Fascism, Humanism, Materialism, and even Feminism. And I’ll coin a new “ism,” a new word, one of those South Florida Cracker Specials: “Theologism.”
Germany prior to both World Wars sanctioned the burning of Bibles. The Soviet Empire was no different in its dislike of Christianity than had been the Roman Empire and others before. And like the Holy Roman Empire which had its start during the reign of Charlemagne, they each sought to pry the Word of God from out of the clutched hands of the common people.
Warnings were issued from pulpits through the voices of preachers and teachers, those teaching salvation, not politics; that in the simplicity of God’s plan, found within his word, lay the only hope for people or for governments, whether these mentioned, our own, or for any the others to come. Yet, the enemies of the Cross have never ceased throughout time to try to wipe the Bible and the Word of God from off the face of the earth.
Churches without any marriage to governments have not been far behind in this commission. They too have discouraged reading of the Bible, as it clearly condemns what they practice. And all of these now seek to undermine its use in instruction for godliness as the others have done also in the simple instruction for reading, history and civics, where it has traditionally also held sway. “Why, it is but a fable, an antique, and not relevant in a modern world” some say. Politics and religion indeed make strange bedfellows.
Even with this noted all of these attempts throughout the ages have failed to produce the sought result. Even in the darkest of ages when men were denied the knowledge of letters and killed for any deviation, the Bible pulsed and sounded out in some small and obscure places and from out of the pure hearts of common men and women.
How then can the fact that the Bible has sustained every charge and has repulsed every attack and each attempt to overthrow it be?
“For the word of God is quick, powerful, and is sharper than any double edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Peter wrote: “the Word of God lives and abides forever.”
It is the only thing that has fully withstood the assault of both its enemies and the ravages of time. It has stood the tests better than any other work given among men. That is due to the fact that it is not like the other books. As Christ was not like other men and stood alone, so the Bible stands alone on the shelf of eternity’s library. It stands alone labeled simply as God’s Word.