No doctrine, no word, other than this divine truth set down in Scripture, is able to reveal either man’s sin and misery, or the remedy and relief from it. No doctrine other than this alone can effectually humble a soul, and convert it to God, or make a soul aware of what loss it sustains by sin, and restore it to a better condition than was lost by sin. It is the property of God’s law to “convert souls” (v7).
In the right hands, the Bible is a powerful tool for bringing sinners to salvation. When the Holy Spirit opens our hearts to receive the truth, reading the Bible leads to conversion. A recent UK study which investigated the key influences that led to people coming to faith in Jesus has found that one of the biggest influences, second only to growing up in a Christian family, was reading the Bible. In fact, for younger people (aged 18-24) Bible reading is the single biggest influence in bringing people to follow Jesus. As the authors of the study comment, this should encourage us to keep making the Bible as available and accessible as we can. The Bible is designed and provided by God to teach us the truths about Jesus that we need to know for salvation, and the Spirit makes the preaching and even the reading of the Word effectual in conversion. In the following updated extract, David Dickson reflects further on the beautiful characteristics of God’s Word. These are set out in Psalm 19, which opens by showing how God’s works of creation and providence give us true and important but limited information about God’s greatness. The Psalm dwells on the characteristics of God’s special revelation, the Bible, which make it necessary and sufficient for conversion.
Psalm 19 is a sweet contemplation of the glory of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness shining in the works of creation (v. 1-6), and of the glory of His holiness and rich grace shining through his Word and ordinances in His church (v. 7-10).
God’s Glory is Displayed in Creation and Providence
Although the whole earth is full of the glory of the Lord, yet any portion of it will absorb your meditation when you begin to think of it. Here, the psalmist focuses his meditations on the heavens, and the alternation between day and night, and the light of the sun. The invisible things of God, even His eternal power and Godhead, and His glorious attributes of wisdom, goodness, and majesty, are to be seen in the works of creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy work” (v1).
Yet, although His glory is shown to all, yet it is only the child of God, who has been illuminated by God, who can observe it. In substance the heavens declare that they are not their own maker, but that they are made by one, infinite, incomprehensible, omnipotent, everlasting, good, kind and glorious God. And the “firmament” (which I take is the region of the air, and the place of the stars) declares how skillfully and intricately God can adorn the work of His hands, and how powerfully He can put abundant glory on the creature, even though it has nothing in itself to make it glorious.
The Message of Creation and Providence is Plain
Next, the psalmist listens and hears what day and night speak. All that they say, he calls “knowledge” (v2). The day tells us that we live in time, that our days are numbered, that our days go away quickly, that time is precious, and cannot return when it is gone, and that as long as it lasts, it allows us to view the works of the Lord as we go about our own necessary labours. The night says that in ourselves we are weak, and cannot endure long toiling in labour; that as some little short rest is necessary to the labourer, so it is prepared for him, that he may lie under a curtain, and sleep a while, and so be fitted for more work; that he may now quietly review what he has been doing, and may commune with his heart and be still; and that if he does not do what he has to do in time, “the night cometh when no man can work.”