It is stated that a man once asked his friend, "Pray what is your religion?" He answered, "The religion of all wise men." Again he was asked "Pray what is that?" He answered, "Ah! that is what wise men never tell."
This doubtless may be very pithy and facetious, but is it really the mark of a wise man that he refuses to discuss quietly the matters relating to the invisible world around us and to eternity?
It is alas! only too true that men's fiercest passions have been aroused in discussing such matters, and strife, and even foul murders have been the result. It is also true that it is not wise to speak of these things in heat or excitement. Is it not however possible to speak of them quietly, calmly and deliberately, and are not these matters of such infinite importance that we should be glad to get all the help in them that is possible, and if a friend or a neighbour has had any experience in these matters, and can tell us of the way in which he has found comfort and peace of mind in view of the great change, which must come to us all sooner or later, shall we not listen to him and weigh calmly what he says?
No man is wise unless he is sensible of his own ignorance. Such an one will realize that there is no one from whom something may not be learnt, and he will refrain from judging until he has heard the whole matter. Impatience and unwillingness to listen to others is a proof of lack of wisdom.
This treatise is an attempt on the part of one who, having experienced much comfort, peace and joy in his own soul from what he has learnt of the invisible, desires to tell others of the blessing which he has received, simply asking that what is put forward may be read and calmly weighed without prejudice, seeing that the matter is one of infinite interest to us all.
Can God Reveal Himself?
It will be assumed that we all believe that there is a Supreme Being, whom we call God, that He made us and that we belong to and are responsible to Him. Atheists are few and far between, even if there are in truth any real atheists.
There are doubtless a certain number of evolutionists, but evolution can merely carry us back a few steps more than we thought necessary at first, and does not at all help us to understand the beginning or origin of things, and the most fervent believer in evolution must admit the existence of a Supreme Being with whom all things originated.
The great question is, Has God been pleased to reveal Himself to us His creatures in a way more definite than by the creation around, so that we can understand whence we came and whither we go in a manner, which is quite impossible by the use of our senses, or by the exercise of our reason?
It is very evident that the power of our senses is very limited, and that they can only be used for investigating that which is of the material creation around us. They cannot tell us whence all originated, nor can they tell us the goal that is before us. They cannot penetrate the unseen, nor search out the secrets of that which is not material. Also, as to our reason, it is clear that it is a most untrustworthy guide, for no two men think quite alike, and when men try and learn the secrets of their being by the aid of reason, they are like the blind vainly groping to find an unknown way, they arrive at no definite conclusion themselves, still less are they able to give any assurance to others.
Yet, unless we have a revelation from God, we have nothing but our senses and our reason to guide us, and thus we are indeed unhappy, for as to the most important Matter of all we are hopelessly in the dark.
But has God left us in the dark? To assume that He has so is not the way of the wise, for they assume nothing. To commence by assuming that God cannot or will not reveal Himself and His thoughts to us is to beg the entire question, and is therefore the height of folly. Many, also, pride themselves on the name of "Agnostics," or "those who do not know." They say that they know nothing of the unseen world around. Did they stop there, sympathy and pity might be felt for them, but they do not. In nearly every case they do not content themselves with saying, "we do not know," but they go on to say "you do not know, and no one can know that which we ourselves do not know." Where is the consistency of this? If a man confessedly knows nothing of the unseen, how can he tell what another may know? By saying that no one else can possibly know that which he has not learnt himself he has left the ranks of the wise, and done that which he so heartily condemns in others, viz. made a most tremendous assumption without the least particle of proof. If he be a real agnostic let him stop when he says, "I do not know," and let him admit his ignorance as to what any other person may have learnt, otherwise he only condemns himself by the position he takes up.
On the other hand, there are those, doubtless comparatively few in number, but still to be numbered by tens and hundreds of thousands, who do heartily believe that God has and does reveal Himself; and they do not believe this because of something which they heard, may be, at their mother's knee, and because it is something in which they were born and bred (there are of course millions of this description, but such a belief is of little or no value, it is mere credulity), but because they have gone into the matter for themselves. They believed originally the testimony presented to them, but having so believed they received an inward witness to the same, which has wrought a mighty inward change, and they can therefore testify to the truth of that, which they have received, because they daily and hourly experience the comforts to which they testify. They can say with their Master, "We speak that we do know, and we testify that which we have seen."
Surely the wise man, hearing of many such cases, and seeing too how real the change that is often wrought in those, who thus bear witness, will not begin by rejecting this evidence without investigation and put it all down to imagination, superstition, or fanaticism; he will calmly investigate the matter to ascertain as far as possible whether these people have any ground for their faith. Moreover he will not be turned aside because some professors have in these matters been guilty of extravagance. A wise man in looking into a matter weighs not the worst arguments in favour of the case, but the best. He knows that the best things have been abused, and that there are sure to be spurious imitations of every good thing. If he finds a certain number of cases, which are real, this is enough to prove that there is such a thing as a genuine article, even if there be much imposture as well. In fact, a counterfeit is a proof of something real that is counterfeited.
What is the Revelation Referred To?
The revelation referred to is found in the Scriptures, usually known as the Bible, which was as they believe written by holy men of God, who wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. While many are open enemies of this book, and denounce it as an imposture, while others calling themselves friends, yet posing as critics, seek to cast doubt upon the inspiration and authenticity of the book, while many call it true with their lips, but by their ways deny its truth, there are those, who with all their heart and soul accept it as the truth of God, and put their whole confidence in it, and say their present happiness, and their future welfare depend entirely on the truth written therein. To all the arguments brought to bear upon them they answer, "We have proved what is written, for having tested we find it true; it has brought peace to our guilty consciences and rest to our weary hearts. We have found a satisfaction we never knew before, and the longer we live the more blessing we find from that which is therein revealed. How then can we listen to any of the arguments brought against the truth of that in which we find our daily joy and strength?" There is in truth no neutral ground to take on such a subject, the book comes to us with such pretension, the ground taken up by the writers is such, that if it is not written by the inspiration of God it is an imposture.
How frequently does the expression, "Thus saith the Lord," appear in the book. One of the chief writers says, "Which things also we speak not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth"; and again, "If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." Another says, "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."
And not only is this the case, but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, speaking of the Old Testament, "The Scripture cannot be broken," and quoted Scripture with the words, "It is written," as the end of all controversy.
The ground therefore that is taken up by the writers should cause us to accept the book in its entirety, and to bow unreservedly to what is written therein, or else in all consistency we should merely look at it as a purely human production, and that a most erroneous one, because it makes such unbounded profession, which cannot be sustained. It is useless to say that the writers were good men though mistaken when they said they were inspired. There is something very wrong about a man who makes such grave statements if they are unfounded. The exceeding cunning of many of the present attacks is seen in the argument that the book is a very good and valuable one, though in no wise inspired. This line of argument is taken up because it is perceived that the wholesale condemnation of the book would prove the argument to be utterly false, and many, who now listen to specious arguments, would revolt from the coarser ones altogether. The work of the enemy is better done by the insinuation of a mistake here, and a doubt cast on the narrative there, than by direct attacks, and thus the way is paved to go further. We, however, who believe, say that, while admitting small errors by the copyists, which errors are found by comparing different manuscripts to be very trifling, admitting also mistakes in translations, yet we are convinced that we have by the grace of God the Scriptures in their integrity, and we rely upon them absolutely as containing the whole truth of God.
It may be asked how we can say this seeing that fallible men put the Scriptures together, and they may easily have omitted some portions, which were inspired, and have put in some that were not.
It is granted that this not only might, but assuredly would have been the case unless God had distinctly overruled the action taken. The history of the professing Church is a very sad one, and there was much that was very wrong done at the Councils where the Canon of Scripture was discussed, nevertheless we are convinced that the same God who gave the Scriptures, has taken care that they should be preserved to us in their entirety. We have proved them in a thousand ways, and found them all sufficient. Not an error arises, however novel it may seem, but there is the Scripture ready to expose and refute it, not a difficulty nor a trial arises, but it is fully provided for in the Word, and though written so long ago that it would only be a curious book of antiquity if it had been a human production, yet it is perfectly fresh and powerful and applies perfectly to all the circumstances of the day as well as it did to those of 1800 years ago.
If on the contrary we look at the writings of the early Christians, such as those of Ignatius, Clement, Origen, Chrysostom and Augustine, we see no such pretensions as marked the writers of Scripture, we find ourselves on different ground altogether; with much that is nice we find also much that is puerile and defective, and see at once that a chasm of infinite width divides the one set of writers from the other. It is like stepping off a dry stone pavement on to a morass when the Scriptures are left, and the writings of men of old, pious yet uninspired, are taken as a guide. In the first case there is something far above us, which we feel ourselves incapable of judging, but which judges us; while in the second we feel we are dealing with fallible men, superior it may be but still like ourselves.
Surely it is worth while that the book which comes to us with such pretension, and through which many profess to have found so much blessing, should be carefully studied by us all that we may see whether after all we may not find there the blessing of blessings which we most really need. Instead of this so many are content with reading something about the Bible instead of the Bible itself. How often has the writer of this book been met with the remark, "Oh! the Bible is full of contradictions, and mistakes," yet when he has asked to be told of some, of these he has been answered, Oh! I do not know the Bible well enough to point out these mistakes, but this or that person has gone into the matter, and found out many mistakes." This is indeed to condemn a witness unheard, yet it is only too common. If the reader be one of those, who has come to a conclusion in this way let me intreat him to read the book slowly, carefully and impartially in all humility of mind, owning his ignorance, and with prayer (any other way of reading it will be in vain): then he may come to see that his hastily drawn conclusions have been utterly erroneous.
The Difficulties of Unbelief as Regards the Story of Jesus Christ
We hear a great deal nowadays about the difficulties of belief, yet it never seems to strike those who enlarge on these difficulties what difficulties there are on the other side, viz, that of unbelief. It is possible that one side of a question may be very difficult, and yet the other side may be far more difficult, or even impossible.
As an instance, try and conceive God, an infinite being existing unchanged from eternity, and the subject is so difficult that the mind cannot grapple with it, but abandon this thought and try and conceive of God as not existing from eternity, but as having a beginning, and we at once see that this alternative is utterly impossible, and that the first idea must be correct in spite of its difficulty.
It is believed that if the matter be calmly and quietly considered by those, who have felt the difficulties of believing that it will be found that the difficulties of unbelief are greater by far.
It is impossible that in a book like this much can be said on the subject, but a few of these difficulties will be lightly touched upon. It is believed that the question will repay further investigation.
The great difficulty of unbelief is that connected with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the theme of Scripture, and around whose Person all the testimony of Scripture revolves.
Jesus of Nazareth is a historical Personage, no one doubts His existence, but how are we to account for Him, if the testimony of Scripture is not correct?
Every one who calmly reads the accounts of Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels must be conscious how utterly different He is to himself, and to every one else whom he has ever seen or met. He must recognise unselfishness and love, righteousness and holiness, meekness and lowliness combined with a sense of infinite greatness the like of which was never seen before, and never will be seen again among the sons of men.
Is the story of Jesus true? If so we must accept him as Son of God and Revealer of the Father, the Giver of life and the Source of all blessing. We must in this case accept the Old Testament as inspired of God and then we shall have no difficulty in accepting the New, for it is the Old at which special cavil is made. To say that we believe Him to be what He is said to be, and yet to allow that He made mistakes, and that His knowledge was bounded by the knowledge of the men around him is a quibble, which no honest man would accept for a moment.
It may however be said that the history is only based upon facts, and not to be fully relied on, and that there is exaggeration in it. Even so the difficulty is not lessoned by this supposition.
Who were the apostles that they should invent such a character as this, a character so utterly different from that of all the great men the world has ever seen, and yet so infinitely beyond them? For this invention to have taken place, even if more or less founded on fact, is to suppose a greater miracle wrought on behalf of these deceived, or deceiving men, than to accept the narrative as it is as inspired of God. There never was any one like Jesus Christ, and it is altogether out of human power to have invented such a character shining out from the twelve, who accompanied him as something altogether different from them.
If any one will calmly and honestly weigh the matter he cannot but be convinced that the history and character of the Lord Jesus is that upon which the truth or falsehood of Scripture turns, and will also see that let him adopt any hypothesis he pleases, still the difficulty of unbelief will be far greater than that of simple belief in the gospels, as the inspired narrative of the life of the Son of God incarnate, and when once a man has in simple faith accepted this much he will have no difficulty in accepting the other parts of the Bible as inspired. Once accept wholly and unreservedly the truth as to the person of Jesus Christ, God's Son, and all the other difficulties will vanish. If this is not accepted then it is a matter of absolute indifference whether the rest of Scripture is accepted or not. The morality of Scripture is useless apart from the truth as to the person of the Eternal Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us.
And not only is the above the case, but can it be imagined that a few illiterate persons should invent the story that Jesus was God manifest in flesh, and that when He, who was goodness incarnate, came into the world men should hate Him, spit upon and crucify Him. It is very difficult to believe that anybody could have invented such a story, and still more that it should find acceptance, if not true.
Moreover the gospel narratives are all emphatic on this point that He was not only crucified, but also that He rose from the dead. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the fact upon which the gospel hangs. If then He did rise from the dead, the narrative is doubtless true, and Jesus is indeed the eternal Son of God, who is really all that He professed to be, else why did He alone of all men rise from the dead. If on the contrary He did not rise from the dead, there is the unaccountable difficulty to get over that a few ignorant men should palm a lie off upon the world, be filled with the utmost enthusiasm on the subject, be willing for the sake of this lie to endure scorn, contempt and torture, yea and give up their own lives to carry out their deception. If the narrative is true, and they received supernatural power for the carrying out of their mission, the matter is simple, but if not it seems impossible to make a hypothesis which will account for the known facts. Let the reader test this for himself.
Difficulties of Unbelief in Connection with the History and Prophecies of the Bible
The writers of the Bible were nearly all Israelites, and yet it is most remarkable that they, in narrating the history of their own nation, record a history full of sin and shame, of defeat and suffering, which came upon them because of their unfaithfulness, and disobedience of the commandments of God. From the beginning of the world never was it known of historians writing the history of their own nation in such fashion. The writer remembers being very much struck when as a boy he read a history by a French writer. To his astonishment Cressy, Poitiers and Agincourt were very much slurred over while there was much more elaborate mention of victories of the French over the English about which English histories are altogether silent, or else they occupy a very little space in the record.
Can any one believe that a series of writers of any nation writing at different times, and under a variety of circumstances, should be unanimous in showing up the sin of their nation and the consequences thereof, unless the hand of God was upon them making them to write in this way? Never.
And not only is this the case but the Bible is full of prophecies, it lays itself open to be found out incorrect by freely descanting on the future. The future of great empires such as Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, etc., is freely spoken of, the downfall of great towns such as Tyre and Sidon, Nineveh, Babylon, etc., is mentioned with much circumstantial detail, much is told us about many kingdoms and kings, while as for Israel and Judah, Jerusalem and Palestine the details are innumerable. In the case of the book of Daniel so vivid are the details that some of the chapters, notably the eleventh, seem like reading history rather than prophecy, so much so that critics have laboured, and are labouring incessantly to prove that the book of Daniel instead of being written by one, who was a contemporary of Nebuchadnezzar was written about the time of the Maccabees! The attempts of these critics have recoiled on their own heads, and again and again statements made by them as to inaccuracies in the book have been found false, and those made in Daniel to be true.
Facts have been very unkind to the critics, for alas! for them, no sooner do they prove to their entire satisfaction that some historic statement is not true to fact, as for instance, the story given in Genesis 14 or the accounts of King Ahasuerus or the existence of Belshazzar and Darius, than clay tablets or monumental or other records from Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia spring to light to give the critics the lie. Do they blush and with shame confess their error? Not a whit. No sooner are they proved wrong with one hypothesis than they patch up another which is demolished in its turn. Who reads now the works of Hobbes, Tom Paine, or Voltaire? Practically no one. It needs but a short time and the works by which the Bible has been triumphantly proved to be full of error are relegated to the waste-paper basket, while the Bible is more read than ever, finding great numbers who rely on it with the utmost assurance as the written word of God. Will Welhausen and the modern critics fare any better?
The Lord Jesus Christ appealed continually to the prophecies about himself as a proof of His mission; the Apostles did the same. These prophecies are in great detail. If not true, how easy it would be to prove that Jesus is not the Christ; but if true, then the conclusion is irresistible that the book is given by the inspiration of the Spirit of God, and that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the One of whom all the prophets from Moses to Malachi wrote.
Alas! how few comparatively will take the trouble to look into these things, infinitely important though they be. How often, as before remarked, has it been said to the writer, "Oh! the Bible is full of mistakes, I cannot believe it." And when the writer has asked "Kindly show me some of these mistakes," the answer almost invariably is, "I cannot point them out, but I read a book, which showed conclusively it was all wrong." Is that the way to examine such a question as this? To condemn a person without giving him a patient hearing is a crime even in the eyes of worldly men; yet there are men all the world over, who are ready to condemn the book, which purports to come from God without taking the trouble even to read it over once carefully.
As regards prophecy, and the truth of the Bible the history of Israel alone would show any candid man the truth. How literally have all the fearful evils spoken of in Leviticus, and Deuteronomy and in the prophets come to pass. Let any one read these prophecies, and then read a history of the Jews, and see whether the prophecies are not divine utterances. Scattered about, persecuted and hated, yet the nation has been preserved, and not become mingled with the other nations, and indications are very clear that in a short time the other prophecies about the nation, which are yet unfulfilled will be fulfilled, viz. that the Jews will return to their land in unbelief (though there will be a believing remnant), suffer troubles even greater than the awful troubles of the past, and be rescued by the appearance of the Lord Jesus from heaven. The other Jews will be brought from all quarters of the globe, while the ten tribes now lost to sight but seen of God will also be brought to the front, and reunited to the Jews, and made one kingdom, which will be the chief of all the kingdoms of the earth, while Jerusalem will be the world's centre. These prophecies are doubtless definite enough, and yet there are clear indications that the beginning of the end is now not far off. The proud Gentiles, who now think that they can divide the world among themselves have to meet God in judgment, and the poor despised and persecuted Jew must become the head of the nations of earth.
Difficulties of Unbelief in Connection with Science
This may seem a strange heading to many, for are we not constantly told that science has shown that the Scriptures are very erroneous? yet if looked at fairly and honestly the justice of the heading will have to be admitted.
The Scriptures of course are not given to teach us science, but on the other hand true science will never contradict the Scriptures when these are rightly understood. It must, however, be remembered on the one hand that a wrong construction may be put on the meaning of Scripture, and on the other many things have been asserted by scientific men to be facts, which later on have been found not to be so, while as to deductions, many put forward with the greatest confidence have been found false.
There is no branch of science which has been considered more adverse to the claims of Scripture than geology, yet is it not remarkable that leading geologists, such as Sir William Dawson in England and Dr. Dana in America, should be firm believers in the inspiration of the book of Genesis? Is it not absolutely impossible to imagine that Moses should have written an account of creation more than 3000 years ago, and not have made hopeless confusion of the subject unless he had been inspired of God? How could he, unless God had taught him, have written as he did? There are other accounts of creation in the tablets of the Assyrians and the Scriptures of the Hindus, yet they are full of nonsense. How was it that Moses could keep clear of fable when his contemporaries are full of it? Had he been uninspired the first dawn of scientific knowledge would have utterly discredited what he wrote.
The writer once made a challenge, which he would repeat here. Let the first chapter of Genesis be rewritten by any men or set of men in the world, the very cleverest and best informed if possible. Then after twenty years let it be placed alongside of the original, it will be assuredly found that the original more than 3000 years old will be seen by all to be more correct than that written but twenty years ago.
Let the reader read carefully the opening chapters of Genesis, the 26th, 38th, and 39th chapters of Job, the 104th Psalm and pronounce whether it was not impossible for any man thousands of years ago to have written them save by the inspiration of God. Let but the reader be honest in this matter, and he will have to admit that what is so often rashly concluded as a positive proof of the non-inspiration of Scripture will be found a positive proof of its inspiration. Thank God that although "the world by wisdom knows not God" and "not many wise men are called," yet some leading men of science in all its branches are devout believers in the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, and declare that they could not have been written by any human wisdom.
Difficulties of Unbelief in Connection with the Present Power of the Gospel
We are not, however, left merely to the Scriptures themselves, we have also a witness to the power of the Gospel contained in the Scriptures in the lives of those, who believe it. For more than 1800 years has the Gospel been on its trial. During all this time there has been a company of witnesses, who have testified to its mighty power. By it they have been purged from a guilty conscience, by it they have found satisfaction for the heart. The mighty ones of earth have contended with the Gospel, they have slain and tortured its votaries, they have done all they could to obliterate the Scriptures, and to leave not one copy on the earth. Thousands have gone to the burning stake or to the torture-room rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus Christ. Thousands have borne witness to the power of the truth contained in Scripture, thousands do bear witness to this to-day. Liars, thieves, adulterers, slanderers and murderers have felt its mighty power when God has spoken to them through it, and turning to God, confessing their sins, have become changed men and women. Many who have been outwardly religious, moral and orthodox, have found that its words have searched them out, convicted them of sin, and have felt obliged to own themselves poor lost sinners deserving of God's wrath just as much as those, who have sinned in a way manifest to all; they have come to God through Christ and have acknowledged to receiving a blessing, which is to them as life from the dead.
By the mighty power of God to-day numbers are finding the words of that book to be morally the means of giving sight to the blind, the making of the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak, and of healing sin-sick souls. What religion could never do, what education is powerless to accomplish, the Scriptures when brought home to the conscience are doing day by day. Old men and little children, matrons and girls, learned men and ignorant, come forward in numbers and thank God with all their hearts and souls for the Christ of God of which the Scriptures speak, who is to them the one supreme Object of belief, and the Joy of their hearts.
There has been a wonderful increase in human knowledge of late years, marvellous the discoveries of science, extraordinary have been the inventions; were the apostles and prophets such clever and wonderful people that they could invent out of their own brains that which could minister to an accusing conscience in a way altogether out of the power of the wise men for the last nineteen hundred years to equal? Surely if that, which they proclaimed and wrote was their own, it would have been surpassed over and over again? On the contrary no one can produce anything like it, our enemies themselves being judges.
Are we not all conscious of being something more than the beasts? Do we not know that our existence will go on after that mysterious thing called death has come to pass? What can science do for us as regards the future beyond death? What help is education in these things? Thank God, He has lifted the veil for us in the Scriptures, and told us of the One, who has overcome death, and brought life and incorruptibility to light through the Gospel. Reader, you will search in vain through the regions of science, you will call on the wise men of earth in vain to give you what you can only receive through the ministry of poor ignorant fishermen and other apostles, viz. a sure and certain hope of eternal blessedness through the resurrection of Jesus Christ together with present joy in acceptance through and association with that blessed One, who died for us, and who lives for us for evermore; and apart from whom the future at best is but a leap in the dark.
Again, is it not true that even those, who scoff at the Bible, and at what is contained therein, really do in their hearts believe in its power, else why are they so ready to sneer at the shortcomings of those, who profess faith in Christ? Why does the world expect so much more from the one, who is a professed believer than from others? If an agnostic, deist, theosophist, unitarian or even a careless nominal Christian falls into sin no special surprise is manifested, but if one, who has made a decided profession of Christ does so, how much is said about it. Does not this show that much is expected of them?
Again, go into the back slums of our large towns, amongst the wretched, the hungry and forlorn, who is it that you find labouring there to relieve the distress? Ask them why they do it? In almost every case is not the answer, "We have believed in Jesus Christ, and He has sent us"? How should this be the case if the Scriptures are not inspired, and Jesus Christ is not the Son of God, risen from the dead?
Go into the heart of Africa where every step has been gained by the laying down of the lives of those, who went before, whom do you find labouring for the good, temporal and spiritual of the poor negroes? Are they not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ? Is it not the same all over the world? Are not the believers those, who are in the forefront in caring for the burdened, the sorrowful and the afflicted, the downtrodden and the ignorant? They make many mistakes, they may often quarrel when they should not, and they have many defects, yet will they not readily acknowledge that the failures and the defects are their own, while everything good in them is due to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour, and to the Scriptures, which tell of Him.
Again how can we account for the wonderful living energy in the Scriptures to-day. Instead of being an old antiquated book, written so many years ago, do we not feel when we read it that the Author is One, who knows our inmost being, and knows our hearts in a way that we do not even know ourselves? Do we not feel instinctively that it is a book for all time? and that while all other books grow old this maintains its freshness? Why is it that thousands treasure it as they do nothing else? Why was it that Sir Walter Scott, who was such an omnivorous reader when he lay dying, said, "Read the book," and when asked "What book?" replied, "There is but one book, the Bible."
Why is it that when the realities of death stare men in the face they want to hear its words? Why do even careless souls put its texts on the tombstones of those they love?
Why on the other hand do men hate it so? Why are so many straining every nerve to prove it false, why do they show so much bias and prejudice towards it? Is it not because they feel its power so much, and it wounds them so that they would fain get rid of it.
How often has the writer of this seen men proclaim it untrue, yet wince under its knowledge; and the infidel who has called him a superstitious fool has ended the interview by saying "I wish I were you."
Again, though it be but a poor argument, yet it is an effective one. If the unbeliever is right in what way is the believer worse off than he? While if the believer is right woe be to the unbeliever.
How much we, who do believe in the Scriptures and in the Lord Jesus Christ of whom they speak, long that we could shew those who know Him not, whether they be sceptics or merely nominal believers, who know not the power of the Gospel something of the peace, joy and blessedness that comes from the real knowledge of Christ Jesus as a living Saviour in the glory of God.
It will be a great joy, if what has been said here will cause any reader, who has hitherto rejected the Scriptures as unreliable to reconsider the question calmly and quietly, or if it causes any, who hitherto have been merely nominal believers to see the intense importance of the matter, recognising the worthlessness of merely nominal assent to that which if it is worth anything, demands the whole allegiance of the heart as well as of the intellect.
The question is one which admits of no neutrality, for if God has spoken it is self-evident that He expects it to be obeyed, the Gospel in fact is presented to all nations for the obedience of faith. Also if Jesus is indeed the eternal Son of God and Lord of all, and if His death be not a mere martyr's death but a death whereby the infinite love of God is made known and His rights vindicated: if our sins could not be expiated by anything short of this Sacrifice, then it is surely the height of madness and of folly not to believe with all the heart and soul? Surely the gospel of God as revealed in the Scriptures is worth everything or nothing? Either it is the very truth of God, or else is a vain invention of man, and if it is convincing that man could not possibly have invented it any more than men could have set the sun in the heavens, then let there be no neutrality, but let the whole allegiance to our hearts be given to the blessed Son of God, who was and is still rejected by the world at large, but who has been set by God at His own right hand in glory, and who is coming again to have His full rights in the world, and to reign over all.
It should be understood that God can take no counsel with man. It is evident that being God He must do that which He considers right, and must work all things after the counsel of His own will, and it is quite hopeless to fight against His will. At the same time God is love, and His will is that which is the very best of all possible things for His creatures, and blessed is he who bows to that will. If it be asked, How are we to know that God is love seeing that there is so much misery all around? the answer is that this is a time for faith and not for sight. We who have but puny minds, who are acquainted with but one globe, which is but a speck in the universe, and whose knowledge of the past is but as it were of a moment, are, surely incompetent to judge of God, who has the whole universe in the hollow of His hand, and before whom past and future are alike spread. Beside, to all the difficulties, the apparent contradiction, the sorrows we see there is this answer, unsatisfactory doubtless to the one, who would argue with God but perfectly satisfactory to the simple: God gave His Son, He gave His all in so doing, and seeing He has done this He has proved Himself to be love, and therefore we can trust Him to be fully justified in all His dealings in the day when all results are made manifest.
Could puny complaining man be in God's place for a single day, and see all the rebellion and wickedness, the hypocrisy and pretence that goes on in the world, would he not sweep the world out of existence at once? Yet God has gone on in patience with rebellion for all these years, if so be that man will repent and turn to God, but it is a necessity that this should not go on for ever, and God must eventually arise in judgment on all, who oppose His will.
In the meantime the gospel of His grace is going out to all mankind offering not only a present pardon, and a prospect of future blessedness, but a present satisfaction for the heart in the knowledge of that blessed One, whom to know is life eternal. God has nothing higher, nothing better to offer than that which He is now offering in the gospel, for those who receive the gospel know that God has undertaken their cause, and will assuredly carry out His blessed purpose concerning all who believe, for they must be conformed to the image of God's Son and share His blessed lot to all eternity. What more could God offer than this perfect likeness to the perfect One in whom is all God's delight.
It is doubtless very humbling to be told that we are naturally, even man in his best estate, poor lost sinners, and that do what we will we can never make ourselves acceptable to God; in fact that our condition is so desperate that nothing short of the death of God's Son could be of any avail as a remedy.
Man in the pride of his heart would fain consider himself an exalted creature, though strange to say civilised man thinks little of the rights of the uncivilised, and the nations, who have the power, grasp the countries of the weak without scruple. Is not the real reason of the dislike of many to the gospel and to the Scriptures generally that man is really shown up to be the being he is? Other writings exalt man and make much of him, but God's book plainly tells us that he will not do for God, and that there is a Man of another order exactly the opposite of the first man, and that in this second Man is all God's delight and the first must make way for the second, and for those, who are associated with this second Man, Christ Jesus.
Christ is the centre of all God's counsels, the delight of God's heart. Men crucified him, God has exalted Him and the crucial question for the moment is, are we on the side of those, who rejected Him, or on the side of Him, who is rejected? All fall into the former class, heathen, sceptic, deist, or nominal Christian, who have not from their hearts believed on Jesus Christ as Saviour, and owned Him as their Lord. We have not to make ourselves fit for God, we could not do so. All He looks for is a confession of our guilt and need, and a turning from our own resources to Him, who gave His Son for us. All the rest is His work, He receives, He heals, He guides, He brings to glory. It is not that there is any weakness in Him. He must have His own way and therefore if kindness and gentle admonition will not serve their purpose He will chastise, and may be this chastening will be very severe, but whatever it be it will be in love in order that the desired end may be accomplished; and He will not fail, for He will assuredly carry out in the best of all possible ways that which He has set Himself to do. We need not therefore fear that having come to Him through His Son we may yet be lost, because we shall not hold on. God gave His Son, is the answer to an accusing conscience, and God gave His Son is an answer to all our other fears. With that overwhelming proof of love before us there is nothing that need be feared, all we have to do is to trust Him.
Only let us see to this that we do not neglect so great salvation, because if we do, let us be assured of this that the God, who forsook His own Son on the cross where He was the Sin-bearer, will never pass over the sins of him, who refuses or neglects that sacrifice, and stands before God to answer for his own sins. Alas! for such, for them there can be no hope seeing that they have turned their backs on the only One in whom there is any blessing for poor guilty, sinful man.
May God grant that every reader of this little treatise may have his eyes opened to see the love of God as manifested in His gift of Jesus Christ, and that He may commit himself wholly to Him. Then assuredly he will find what a blessed thing it is to belong to Christ, and that the Scriptures are the very word of God upon which he can wholly rely knowing that when all else fails they will prove a sure rock and resting-place for time and for eternity.