The survival of the Bible through the ages is very difficult to explain if it is not in truth the Word of God. Books are like men -- dying creatures. A very small percentage of books survive more than twenty years, a yet smaller percentage last a hundred years and only a very insignificant fraction represent those which have lived a thousand years. Amid the wreck and ruin of ancient literature the Holy Scriptures stand out like the last survivor of an otherwise extinct race, and the very fact of the Bible's continued existence is an indication that like its Author it is indestructible.
When we bear in mind the fact that the Bible has been the special object of never ending persecution the wonder of the Bible's survival is changed into a miracle. Not only has the Bible been the most intensely loved Book in all the world, but it has also been the most bitterly hated. Not only has the Bible received more veneration and adoration than any other book, but it has also been the object of more persecution and opposition. For two thousand years man's hatred of the Bible has been persistent, determined, relentless and murderous. Every possible effort has been made to undermine faith in the inspiration and authority of the Bible and innumerable enterprises have been undertaken with the determination to consign it to oblivion. Imperial edicts have been issued to the effect that every known copy of the Bible should be destroyed, and when this measure failed to exterminate and annihilate God's Word then commands were given that every person found with a copy of the Scriptures in his possession should be put to death. The very fact that the Bible has been so singled out for such relentless persecution causes us to wonder at such a unique phenomenon.
Although the Bible is the best Book in the world yet is has produced more enmity and opposition than has the combined contents of all our libraries. Why should this be? Clearly because the Scriptures convict men of their guilt and condemn them for their sins! Political and ecclesiastical powers have united in the attempt to put the Bible out of existence, yet their concentrated efforts have utterly failed. After all the persecution which has assailed the Bible, it is, humanly speaking, a wonder that there is any Bible left at all. Every engine of destruction which human philosophy, science, force, and hatred could bring against a book has been brought against the Bible, yet it stands unshaken and unharmed today. When we remember that no army has defended the Bible and no king has ever ordered its enemies to be extirpated, our wonderment increases. At times nearly all the wise and great of the earth have been pitted together against the Bible, while only a few despised ones have honored and revered it. The cities of the ancients were lighted with bonfires made of Bibles, and for centuries only those in hiding dare read it. How then, can we account for the survival of the Bible in the face of such bitter persecution? The only solution is to be found in the promise of God. |Heaven and earth shall pass away, butMy Words shall not pass away.|
The story of the Bible's persecution is an arresting one. During the first three centuries of the Christian era the Roman Emperors sought to destroy God's Word. One of them, named Diocletian, believed that he had succeeded. He had slain so many Christians and destroyed so many Bibles, that when the lovers of the Bible remained quiet for a season and kept in hiding, he imagined that he had made an end of the Scriptures. So elated was he at this achievement, he ordered a medal to be struck inscribed with the words, |The Christian religion is destroyed and the worship of the gods restored.| One wonders what that emperor would think if he returned to this earth today and found that more had been written about the Bible than about any other thousand books put together, and that the Bible which enshrines the Christian faith is now translated into more than four hundred languages and is being sent out to every part of the earth!
Centuries after the persecution by the Roman Emperors, when the Roman Catholic Church obtained command of the city of Rome, the Pope and his priests took up the old quarrel against the Bible. The Holy Scriptures were taken away from the people, copies of the Bible were forbidden to be purchased and all who were found with a copy of God's Word in their possession were tortured and killed. For centuries the Roman Catholic Church bitterly persecuted the Bible and it was not until the time of the Reformation at the close of the sixteenth century that the Word of God was again given to the masses in their own tongue.
Even in our day the persecution of the Bible still continues, though the method of attack is changed. Much of our modern scholarship is engaged in the work of seeking to destroy faith in the Divine inspiration and authority of the Bible. In many of our seminaries the rising generation of the clergy are taught that Genesis is a book of myths, that much of the teaching of the Pentateuch is immoral, that the historical records of the Old Testament are unreliable and that the whole Bible is man's creation rather than God's revelation. And so the attack on the Bible is being perpetuated.
Now suppose there was a man who had lived upon this earth for eighteen hundred years, that this man had oftentimes been thrown into the sea and yet could not be drowned; that he had frequently been cast before wild beasts who were unable to devour him; that he had many times been made to drink deadly poisons which never did him any harm; that he had often been bound in iron chains and locked in prison dungeons, yet he had always been able to throw off the chains and escape from his captivity; that he had repeatedly been hanged, till his enemies thought him dead, yet when his body was cut down he sprang to his feet and walked away as though nothing had happened; that hundreds of times he had been burned at the stake, till there seemed to be nothing left of him, yet as soon as the fires were out he leaped up from the ashes as well and as vigorous as ever -- but we need not expand this idea any further; such a man would be super-human, a miracle of miracles. Yet this is exactly how we should regard the Bible! This is practically the way in which the Bible has been treated. It has been burned, drowned, chained, put in prison, and torn to pieces, yet never destroyed!
No other book has provoked such fierce opposition as the Bible, and its preservation is perhaps the most startling miracle connected with it. But two thousand five hundred years ago God declared, |The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the Word of our God shall abide for ever.| Just as the three Hebrews passed safely through the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar unharmed and unscorched, so the Bible has emerged from the furnace of satanic hatred and assault without even the smell of fire upon it! Just as an earthly parent treasures and lays by the letters received from his child, so our Heavenly Father has protected and preserved the Epistles of love written to His children.