It will scarcely be questioned by any thoughtful person, that the vast majority of professing Christians, and, I think I might say many true believers in Christ, take for granted that the human mind is quite competent to investigate and determine all questions that have to do with the revelation of God and our responsibility to Him. But there exists, I venture to say, no greater delusion; nor could a more presumptuous or dangerous attitude be assumed by the creature. The audacity of assuming such a position is only equalled by the utter folly that it manifests, for this would make the creature judge of his Creator. Because a man is capable of inquiring into the actions of his fellows, and of passing judgment upon those actions according to his own ideas of right and wrong, it is no evidence of his ability to examine into the ways or words of God, and to form his own judgment regarding them. God is Judge of all, but the tendency of all is to constitute themselves judges of God.
“Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself” (Ps. 50:21) is the natural confidence of the unrenewed mind of fallen man; and with this thought dominating him, how could he have any true understanding of the mind of God? Being all wrong in his conceptions of his Maker, he cannot be right regarding any spiritual question. And this is just that which made the rejection of Christ a dead-certainty from the outset, “When we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; … He was despised, and we esteemed Him not” (Isa. 53:2-3). Right from the commencement of man’s sinful history be constituted himself the judge of his Creator, finding fault with His providence, criticizing His ways, breaking His laws, worshipping idols, killing His prophets, wallowing in pollutions, and when face to face with God manifested in flesh condemning Him, as a malefactor, to the death of the cross.
We are told that man requires a certain amount of education, if he is to take up these difficult and abstruse questions. Just fancy a man getting the knowledge of God in the universities of the world! “The world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21) is the verdict of God’s Holy Spirit, recorded against it after it had four thousand years in its fruitless quest; and then when He manifested Himself to them, not only did they not know Him, but so utterly did they disapprove of Him, that they spat in His face, and nailed Him to a gibbet; and all this was done by the leaders of the world, for “the common people heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Who would be mad enough to put confidence in the human mind after such an exhibition of its inability to examine evidence, and give a verdict according to righteousness and truth?
But to this it may be replied, that the ear tries words, as the mouth tastes meat; and I admit that in Job 12:11 the analogy is not only admissible but intended. But supposing the health of the judge is in a bad condition, and thus his taste is perverted; he may desire food that is unwholesome, he may call bitter sweet, and sweet bitter; he may call evil good, and good evil. What then? Where is his ability to judge? He may turn to his neighbour to decide on his behalf. But supposing everyone he knew was suffering from the same malady, no one could render him the slightest assistance.
Again, one of the symptoms of this sickness, and the leading one, is that the afflicted person is always absolutely certain that his taste is excellent, and that he is quite competent to decide for himself between truth and error, and no one could convince him to the contrary. He will ask you what you imagine has been the object in giving him a rational mind if he is not to use it. Besides, he will tell you that even the Bible exhorts us to “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21). But where is the standard of truth, by which we may be able to judge that which is advanced in this world of many voices? If we have no standard of truth, to which the opinions of men may be brought, we must fall back upon our taste, and if our taste is perverted, our case is indeed hopeless as far as our natural resources are concerned.
But have we been left in the midst of this prevailing darkness without any revelation from God? Is it so that He who made us, and who put into our hearts the strong conviction of a future life, has left us to grope about in our blind night for some clue that would solve the mystery of that shadowy land that is so fearsome to the children of men? The worlds that He has made speak of His power and wisdom, and His providences reveal both care and kindness unto all; and that we are accountable to Him for our behaviour while on earth seems deeply graven on our inmost souls. But none of these things is capable of casting one ray of light across the gloom that hides the secret from the gaze of men. None of these things has power to rend the veil, and bring the future into evidence.
In this favoured island of Great Britain it used to be believed that we had a perfect revelation of the mind of God, and this revelation was affirmed to be in the Bible. But at this present time men have become too wise for the Bible. As learning has increased, reverence for the Gospel of the grace of God has decreased; and it is not only corruption of the text, and true meaning of the Word, that prevails—this was so from the beginning—but the Book is altogether cast aside, and fables dominate the minds of men. Popery, Mormonism, Spiritism, Christian Science, Christadelphianism, Evolution, Modernism, and a host of other fables have taken the place of God’s revelation, and though few of those so led astray would affirm that they have got the whole truth, most are ready to affirm that there is a certain amount of truth in every religion, for all have the good of mankind in view, and if all were united in one they would be able with more perfect liberty to march together to the glorious goal, that they suppose lies before the human race.
You may assert that man is a fallen creature, and that his conceptions of God are erroneous. But he knows better! He smiles at your crass ignorance! He has tasted the Word of God, and has had enough of it! He has got something better! A fallen sinner, indeed! No, he has thrown that bit of barbarism overboard, along with a lot of other relics of antiquity. Instead of being fallen, he has risen, risen from the lowest form of life, and he is on his upward way to heights indescribable! He has talked with the spirits across the border! They have told him wonderful things! As for God, the spirits know no more about Him than they knew upon earth! But that is of no consequence, their joys do not spring from their knowledge of Him, or of what He may be in His nature! He is not necessary to their happiness; they can do very well without Him!
And this is where dependence upon their reasoning faculties has led them. They neither want God in this life nor in the next. They could not understand the longing of the heart after God, which is expressed in the words of the prophet, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God” (Ps. 42:1-2). For of this soul-hunger after the living God they know nothing, nor do they wish to know anything.
And the hierarchy, the professed ministers of the Gospel of God, think there may be something in this spiritism. They are not sure that the Gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone that believes. They only desire to investigate this “New Religion,” to prove all things, not by the standard of God’s revelation, for they are well aware that in the most solemn manner necromancy is by the Scriptures condemned; but by the natural ability possessed by themselves to grapple with the phenomena, sift the evidence, separate the precious from the vile, get hold of the facts, and let the world have the result of their investigations! This effort on their part seems very praiseworthy, but I think I could not rightly be condemned if I doubt the faith of such men in the Holy Scriptures. Sir A.C.Doyle has said that spiritism is “either the greatest delusion that had ever been put before the human race, or else it was the very greatest advance that the human race had ever made,” and I also say that the same thing is true of the Bible, only in an infinitely greater degree; for spiritism professes to be simply a discovery of the present enlightened age, while the Bible professes to be the perfect revelation of God, given to men by His Holy Spirit, the title of which might be truly written on the cover of the Book, “THUS SAITH THE LORD.” If the Bible be not this it is the greatest lie that God was ever charged with. It is bad enough to slander men, but what must the end be of the man that has slandered the living God? And if spiritism is the truth the apostles of Christ, who taught the purest morals that were ever heard of, were the greatest liars the sun ever shone upon. Whoever can, let him reconcile this contradiction.
But I say to those men who want to investigate spiritism, suppose you attend one of these seances, and you are brought into contact with, as you think, a dearly loved departed relative—suppose he makes himself visible to you by means of this ectoplasmic covering of his spirit-body—suppose you recognize him—suppose he speaks to you, so that you recognize the voice of your friend—suppose he reminds you of something that transpired in his life, known only to himself and you—what then? You would say, you would be compelled to say, the witness is overwhelming. I am bound to make a complete surrender to spiritism.
But were you really in contact with your departed relative?
“Who could doubt it?”
“Are there no spirits but those of the dead?”
“I cannot tell.”
“But you are not sure that none others exist?”
“Of course, I am not: I know not what beings may be in the universe.”
“After all, this may not have been the spirit of your friend?”
“But I saw his face and heard his voice.”
“But that was all faked.”
“What do you mean?”
“How do you know that was not all masquerade?”
“I recognized my friend.”
“You saw nothing but ectoplasm.”
“It could not be deceived regarding the features.”
“But why could not a wicked spirit, that wanted to deceive you, have appeared to you in an ectoplasmic body?”
“That would not have been my friend.”
“No, but it might have been a perfect representation of your friend.”
“But I knew his voice.”
“But the voice from the spirit-body would not be the same as that from the mortal body?”
“Possibly not, but that could be arranged by means of the ectoplasm. At least, I suppose it could.”
You see, if the spirit of your friend could make an appearance of himself out of the ectoplasm, I fail to see why a spirit that was determined to deceive you could not have done the same. I know it was not the spirit of your friend at all. You will gather from what I have said that while I admit people are subjected to a good many bogus seances, I am strongly of the opinion that there is also actual contact with spirits. The only question is, Who are these spirits? You do not know who they are. A serpent spoke to Eve; that was the devil (Rev. 20:2). The legion of demons identified themselves with the man that was possessed by them, and used him as their mouthpiece (Mark 5). You are no match for them.
“But Satan, if there be such a being, cannot know everything.”
Not everything; but he knows a very great deal more than you think. Who told him that our first parents were forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:1)? Who told the demons that Jesus was the Son of God? (Mark 3:11). How did the devil know that Psalm 91:11-12, referred to Jesus? (Matt. 4:6). Your traffic with spiritism simply means that you have thrown down the gauntlet before the face of the powers of darkness, and have challenged them to combat, your cleverness matched with theirs. The issue of that trial should not be difficult to predict.
“But if one is not to trust to the sight of the eyes and the hearing of the ears, to what is he to trust?”
To God, I should say. Is He not accessible? Why should you put confidence in your own wisdom? You are not a beast. God has set man in intelligent relationship with Himself, and in the place of absolute dependence upon Him for everything, and though fallen this is still his privilege and responsibility; but you wish, and seem determined, to despise His guardianship, mark out a path for yourself, and by your own sapience set every power of evil at defiance. He has spoken to you in the Gospel of His grace, and you have refused to believe it.
“I am not aware that He has spoken.”
I am not so sure of that: it is both true and untrue. The Gospel is His voice to you, and as His voice it has appealed to your conscience, but your inborn enmity against having to do with Him prevents the Word taking deep root in your heart; and like a man heavy with sleep, and who refuses to be awakened, hearing a voice sent to arouse him, turns a deaf ear to that to which he is determined not to hearken. If men do not know that the Bible is the Word of God, why is the world up in arms against it? Who troubles himself about the truth or falsehood of the Koran? or of the various faiths of the nations not Christian? But the whole infidel world must be tilting at the Bible. Why is this? It is simply that there is a subconscious conviction in every soul that hears the Gospel that it is the voice of God to men, but the natural rebellion of the heart against Him whose voice it is rises up against it, and men do not know that it is His Word, because they will not know it. Therefore does He tell them, “He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, has one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). This will be no sin of ignorance, but sin against light. The light was there shining before their eyes, and they knew it was the light of God, but they hated it, because their deeds were evil. Therefore that Word which was light in this dark world would judge them in the last day. Then, again, our Lord says to the Jews in the temple, “Ye both know Me, and ye know whence I am”; and then, again, “Ye neither know Me, nor My Father” (John 7:28; 8:19). The meaning of these apparent contradictions (found all through the Scriptures) is this. If God speaks to His creature, the creature hears, must hear, must know that it is his Creator’s voice; but his rank rebellion against God will not allow him to own the fact. It is the same substratum of hatred against God that makes the atheist say in his heart “There is no God,” when his own existence and the whole universe around him proclaim with no uncertain voice His eternal power and divinity. If God has spoken by the things that He has made, and men will not hearken to His voice, it is not likely they will listen to the Gospel of His grace.
I have referred to spiritism as illustrating the depths to which men can go in dependence upon their natural abilities to grapple with things relating to a future life, and of which no man knows anything without a revelation from God. But when men will not have that revelation, but are determined to listen to voices that would lure them from eternal salvation to eternal destruction, what can be said on their behalf, or on behalf of their spiritual guides, who talk about these devilish deceptions as though they might have their origin in the Father of lights?
Men who have heard the Gospel are very well aware that it is the voice of God to them; and great infidels, who have remained infidels, have had to confess, like the officers that were sent to make Jesus prisoner, and who returned without Him, “Never man spake like this Man,” for the Gospel is but the continuation of the voice of Jesus as heard upon earth. But the mind of fallen man carefully excludes God, and therefore is the Gospel in rejection, as is He who is the subject of it. Therefore the man that puts trust in his own powers to grapple with these things is ever certain to decide against the ways of God; and the more clever and learned he is, the more determined he is to oppose the testimony rendered to a Divine Saviour.
To the greatest philosopher upon earth the offence of our first parents was trivial when compared with the judgment that fell upon the offenders. In the estimation of such the offering of Cain should have been more acceptable than that of Abel, for it was the witness of more abundant toil on the part of the offerer, and it is barbarous to suppose that God could prefer the death of an innocent victim. With such the profane Esau would have more acceptance than his artful brother Jacob; the wild ass Ishmael would be preferable to Isaac, and on the whole Saul be considered a better man than David. God’s choice never would be man’s, and certainly man’s never would be God’s, for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15).
Cursed is man that trusts in man, says the prophet (Jer. 17:5), and he that trusts his own heart is a fool (Prov. 28:26). “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5) God has set man in dependence upon Himself, and therefore no one needs think himself quite competent to take up eternal problems, and to solve them by his own natural intelligence; for should he make any such attempt he is as certain to go astray as though to go astray was the one desire of his heart.
Even the saint of God who desires to learn the truth in its purity, if not careful, is most likely to suppose he cannot be led astray; but enamoured with that which he supposes is fresh truth may, before he is aware, have far wandered on the paths of error. No one is safe who for one moment takes up spiritual questions in his own fancied power. If I am in perplexity regarding the will of God, He is my resource, and He never fails. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto Me” (John 6:45). Let us therefore see to it that it is of the Father that we hear and learn.