We are all fully aware of the difference between a road sign and the actual place towards we are heading. In like manner a spot on the map isn’t the same thing as the place towards the map directs us. When we are out on a journey we do not camp at the road sign pretending that we have arrived at our destination. The road sign isn’t the real thing. It is merely a pointer towards something far greater than itself.
Paul said about the Law that it was a schoolmaster to Christ. Of the Prophets he said the same: “Ye have, a more sure Word of Prophecy, whereunto you do well, that ye take Heed, as unto a Light that shineth in a dark Place, until the Day dawn, and the Day-Star ariseth in your Hearts.” Neither the Law nor the Prophets are the real thing. They are merely pointers, like a road sign, pointing to a far more glorious reality.
The letter can only be taught outwardly by men, by rules, precepts and instructions. These measures can at best only change our outward behavior, but leave our hearts or consciousnesses unchanged, that is, they continue to be severely influenced by the outlook we inherited at the fall. They put our passions and desires under forced restraint, but like a beach ball when pushed under the water they are bound to occasionally break forth in spite of the dead letter of precept and doctrine.
God has put up these road signs, so they are absolutely necessary pointers towards Christ. They have their time and their place and will do their work in us, yet only for a time as they lead us towards Christ. We must first be babes in doctrine, as well in strength, before we can be men. The Scriptures say about the Law “that it maketh nothing perfect” and is yet highly necessary in order to perfection. When we in the course of time discover that we have camped under a road sign we are compelled to break up and continue our journey towards the Day-Star. The road signs merely teach us where to seek and find “the Fountain and Source of all Light and Knowledge.”
No words can do more for us than sounds and words can do; they can only direct us to something that is far better than themselves. Hence, we cannot say about the letter that it is the Word of God. The letter is the Holy Scriptures which guides us to the true Word of God, namely Jesus Christ. Few have articulated this better than William Law:
“Would you then have me to say, that the written Word of God is that Word of God which liveth and abideth forever; that Word, which is the Wisdom and Power of God; that Word, which was with God, which was God, by whom all Things were made; that Word of God, which was made Flesh for the Redemption of the World; that Word of God, of which we must be born again; that Word which lighteth every Man, that cometh into the World; that Word, which in Christ Jesus is become Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification in us; would you have me say, that all this is to be understood of the written Word of God? But if this cannot possibly be, then all that I have said is granted, namely, that Jesus is alone that Word of God, that can be the Light, Life, and Salvation of fallen Man. Or how is it possible more to exalt the Letter of Scripture, than by owning it to be a true, outward, verbal Direction to the one only true Light, and Salvation of Man?”
John the Baptist’s only office was to prepare the way for the true light, Jesus Christ. He was the letter in personified form – a pointer towards Christ. Hence it would be foolish to swear allegiance to John the Baptist and magnify his ministry when he merely declared the coming of something far greater than himself. In like manner it is utter foolishness not to acknowledge the letter’s proper and subordinate place in relation to the Morningstar. When the real thing came to which John pointed John said: “He must increase, but I must decrease. “(John 3:30) In effect he said that now when the real thing has come my office as a pointer will decrease. The Baptist was indeed a burning and a shining Light, and so are the Holy Scriptures; “but he was not that Light, but was sent to bear Witness to that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every Man, that cometh into the World.”
John did not mean that he as a person had to decrease. It was merely his office and commission appointed for a special time that would decrease. When the Day-Star arises in our hearts everything we formerly have sworn allegiance to will decrease, whether it is the law, the prophets or any such outer precept. It is only in Him we find the truth, life and light which establish us as genuine persons in the Kingdom. He is our wisdom and knowledge. His is our inner law which will increase when He is revealed in us, and as a quite natural consequence of this truly magnificent revelation those outer precepts or pointers will decrease.