Simple Testimony 1917, p. 8.
"Seeing is believing" is a saying as trite as it is untrue.
The following occurrence proves how utterly deceived one may be while trusting to what he believes to be the sight of his eyes.
In one of the departments of the University of Kansas some time ago the lecturer stood on a platform addressing a body of some hundred students. Suddenly the front door opened and the janitor of the building came rushing to the front, shouting angrily at the professor, who leaped from the rostrum and met his opponent in the middle of the room. There was a quick interchange of hot words, a struggle ensued which ended with the janitor drawing a revolver. A shot rang out and the two men were with difficulty separated.
When the case was tried all the witnesses swore that it was the janitor who fired the shot, some even testifying that they saw the smoke issuing from the weapon after its discharge.
Will it surprise the reader to be told that it was not the janitor who fired the shot but a man stationed outside the building at an open window? The whole affair was prearranged, an experiment in psychology to test the value of direct evidence before the law students of the University.
And there are many who, in the realm of the spiritual, demand visible demonstration before believing. They ask for what they call tangible proofs; they will receive nothing "on trust," and refuse to believe anything that cannot be discerned by the senses—sight, hearing or touch —their deified trinity, the only god in whom they trust. And in doing this they consider themselves exceedingly astute, and look down with affected pity, and even scorn, on those who have not seen, yet have believed. "Yes," they answer, when it is demanded of them that they have faith in God, "when we see we will believe"; and wise in their own conceits they maintain the ground that they will believe nothing except that which can be demonstrated to the senses.
This they think is rational and safe ground. But is it? Is their attitude toward revealed truth really rational? In view of the above-cited incident, No. Our senses may deceive us, our reasonings are oftentimes faulty; and our deductions are frequently false as our premises are erroneous.
Law students are not, as a rule, easily gulled, nor are they more prone than others to jump at conclusions. Yet in the demonstration arranged for them by their professor they were every one of them deceived; and trusting to the sight of their eyes were ready to declare under oath to be fact that which they afterwards learned to be false.
Yet in view of this (and such mistakes are being made constantly) men, and especially young men, say when spoken to of the verities of Scripture, "Give us proofs, produce for us some direct evidence; we are perfectly willing to believe, but we want to see, hear, touch, taste or handle something to which we may attach our faith." Stupendous folly, when it is every day being demonstrated to us that our natural senses are the very things that we cannot trust. Some are colour-blind, and to the sight of such red appears white, and green looks blue. Some have an impaired taste and to them every bitter thing is sweet, and the sweet bitter. To some the finest music is but discordant noise, while to others (as the heathen chief who heard a famous band play in London some years ago) the big drum is the acme of pleasurable sound. I have known of persons to whom the odour of kerosene oil seemed most delightful perfume! So much for the impaired and perverted senses of fallen man and any real dependence that may be placed upon them.
Except ye see . . . ye will not believe," was the scathing denunciation of the divine Master, "the Author and Finisher of faith," to the unbelieving generation of His day.
Those hundred or more University students saw, or thought they saw, and were deceived and put to shame like gullible children at the trial of the case staged so cleverly for their undoing, as credible witnesses who were sure because they saw.
How then can you know the certainty of those things in which from a child, perhaps, you have been instructed: the great doctrines of the Bible, such as God's existence, the creation, man's fall, the personality of Satan, redemption from sin by Jesus Christ, eternal life for man, the soul's immortality, heaven, hell and other equally important truths? Yes, that is the question. How can you know? by what means may you be sure?
That you cannot implicitly trust your senses is evident. You may have insisted that to believe a thing it must be demonstrated; and it has been demonstrated, by test as fair and full as could be desired, that not one but one hundred clear-headed young men, who were themselves preparing to sift, examine and weigh testimony, could be ludicrously deceived by appearances.
How, then, we repeat, can we know the things of the Bible to be true? Can we know? or shall we take the banal ground of the agnostic and say, We cannot know, no one can tell, it is impossible to be sure? We Christians know; we "know we have passed from death unto life"; "we know we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens"; "I know that my Redeemer liveth," the believer can say (1 John 3:14; 2 Cor. 5:1; Job 19:25). All this and much more we know; and we know it beyond the shadow of a doubt. But how? Well, how was it known by the students finally that it was not the janitor who fired the shot but a man posted for the purpose at a near-by window? It was by credible verbal testimony, the statement of trustworthy men, the word, the assurances of men who they knew would not, in this matter at least, deceive them.
And we believe, not because of visions, revelations, or feelings, nor because by a process of reasoning we have arrived at the conclusion that we may rationally believe, but because God, who cannot lie, has spoken! He has declared these things to be so, and not to believe them would be to make Him a liar, — the extremity of human guilt.
Our faith rests on adequate testimony, the Word of the living God, unchangeable and eternal. And to this the doubter must come if ever he is to arrive at a satisfactory state of mind and heart in reference to the stupendous realities of eternity.
There are evidences, on every hand, many and varied and of the very best; evidences both direct and indirect. The world is full of them, and they may be seen every day; museums of antiquity contain them; evidences of the Bible's veracity are writ large on Egyptian and Assyrian monuments and temples; the ruins of buried cities and the tombs of forgotten kings abound with them, even mummies bearing mute testimony to what the "scripture of truth" declares; and the spade of the excavator brings to light fresh witnesses every year. The natural sciences, astronomy, geology, physiology, anatomy, including even that most exact of all sciences, mathematics, all bear united and harmonious witness to the truth of Scripture, written with "the finger of God."
And in the realm of the moral we have evidence multiplied; at home thousands of men and women reclaimed by the Gospel from lives of degradation, crime and shame; we see saints suffering from incurable diseases, lying helpless year after year on beds of pain, yet rejoicing in hope and patient in tribulation; martyrs die triumphant firm in their confession, preferring torture to deliverance purchased by a denial of their faith; while in the mission-field not only do we see the power and truth of the Gospel manifested in the regeneration of individual savages, but whole districts, islands and archipelagos transformed as if by magic through the influences of the circulation and reception of that book called the Bible.
But all this, though wholly adequate as direct testimony to the truth of Christianity, is not presented for your faith. We have a more sure basis for our belief: God, His word, His testimony, as revealed in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. He speaks, and therefore we believe. It is impossible to be deceived here. It is not necessary to laboriously gather, sift and weigh testimony, or examine witnesses. By the Word of God we know.
"I know whom I have believed and am persuaded," wrote one who ranked with the foremost thinkers of his day: Paul of "much learning" and deepest intellect, yet not faithless, but believing because he had the testimony of Him whose Word is "forever settled in heaven," where shams, deceits and illusions cannot abide, for all there is light and truth and verity.