By Max I. Reich
God has not only revealed His mind in nature, in history, in providence and in His Incarnate Son, but also in sacred literature. And there is a wonderful harmony between the Word of God, which is Christ as the Revealer of the Father, and the Words of God, which is the name by which George Fox and the early Friends loved to distinguish the Scriptures from other writings.
In order to arrive at a right answer to the important question. “How shall I thinking of the Scriptures?” we need but seek to find out what our Divine Lord, who is the Truth Himself, said of them, and how He used them when He was on earth.
Our Lord constantly witnessed to the Divine origin and holiness of the ancient Scriptures—the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets. And while He declared Himself to be greater than they, as the fountain of Truth must be greater than the streams from that fountain, yet He most emphatically states that “They are they which testify of Me.” We thus have it on highest authority that Christ is the theme of the Old Testament as well as of the New. It is not merely that He is occasionally suggested, but the ancient Scriptures in their totality, ranging from Genesis to Malachi, have one grand object, to set forth His glory and to prepare for His appearing.
What a difference it makes in our reading of the old Testament to seek for the unfolding of Christ in its pages! We shall then discover a marvelous unity and purpose in that book, made up of such a variety of communications, written at different times and by different instrumentalities. Not Jewish origins, imbedded in traditions, folk lore and historical documents, but the progressive revelation of the Christ who was to come into the world, is their great subject. His Face shines from their pages; His features are more and more clearly delineated; so that we can read beforehand of His sufferings and of the glories that should follow.
In every stage of the blessed earthly life of our Lord, the Scriptures were honored and used by Him. As a youth, the only thing recorded of the silent years between His birth and His public ministry, was His sitting among the doctors hearing them expound the Scriptures. In them he had found, as He put it, “the things of His Father.” In the lonely desert of temptation, He defeated the tempter’s suggestions by the three-fold “It is written.” Our Lord had no doubt of the Divine truth of the Book of Deuteronomy, from which he quoted the answers which put hell to flight. That Truth, believed in, lived out and trusted in the hour of danger, became His “shield and buckler.”
The public ministry of Christ was a constant fulfilling of the Scriptures. In them He saw His Messianic programme. He became the Servant of God depicted so strikingly in the second book of the prophet Isaiah. He could say to the people of Nazareth: “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” He proved to be the Man the Old Testament called for. If He had not appeared, the religion of Israel would have raised more questions than it was able to settle. And so right on the to the death upon the cross, He Quoted from the twenty-second Psalm which so strikingly utters the experience of the crucified and rejected, but finally triumphant One. And He dismissed His spirit in the language of the thirty-first Psalm when He said: “Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit.”
We have not space to mention all the instance where our Lord made use of the Scriptures, But even in resurrection He was still putting particular honor upon them. He opened the understanding of His disciples that they might understand them, and beginning at Moses He traveled with them through their entire range expounding to them the things concerning Himself. No wonder their hearts burned within them.
So if the end of the Scriptures is to lead us to Christ, Christ again leads us in company with Himself to the Scriptures, and gives us a spiritual understanding of them. And what He thus seals home upon our souls, will become spirit and life in our experience.
Max I. Reich joined Friends in 1904. It was through the writings of a great evangelical Quaker, Stephen Grellet, that he was introduced to Quakerism, and he became one of the last of the ministers of the evangelical tradition. His son has observed that “his passing seems to mark the close of an era of evangelical fervor.”
The first seventeen years of his life he lived as an orthodox Jew. Then he heard the words, “he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Soon after this he found himself on his knees confessing his belief in Jesus before God. “Immediately upon this confession,” he says, “it seemed as if a great weight had been lifted of my heart and mind and I felt as if the Father himself had come forth and kissed me.” This decision meant a complete break with his family and the religious community in which he had been reared.
His message as a Quaker minister was closely related to his knowledge of Judaism and his personal encounter with Jesus Christ. His ministry was always aimed toward gathering to the Lord, and he knew that the God who seeks to gather all men to himself in Christ is also the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.
After he came to settle near Philadelphia, he became associated with the Tract Association of Friends and was an active member from 1918 to 1944. During this time he wrote a number of tracts that were published by the association, and it is fitting at this time that some of these that deal with his testimony for Christ should be republished by the Association that he served so well.
Lewis Benson, 1952.