IT has been urged by infidels that the testimony relied on by those who believe on Christ, and believe the Bible, is all on one side--all from Christians. In the nature of the case, the enemies would not be expected to preserve the testimony, or even any testimony, favorable to the Lord, and against themselves. If they had preserved any testimony, and could have found any such to preserve, it would have been unfavorable to Christ and the Bible. But now, why do we go to the friends of Jesus for testimony? We do not do this wholly, or invariably, but in some instances refer to other witnesses, as we intend to do in this discourse. But there is a good reason for not going to infidels for testimony concerning Christ. They have no records, reaching back into antiquity, covering the times and events, and containing any testimony, pro or con., about it, except what is merely incidental, and even is favorable to the Bible. They have no history of the events connected with the establishment of the religion of Christ, or connected with Christ, giving the circumstances and transactions of his life. We could not go to them, then, because they have no testimony about it. They simply want us to reject the testimony we have, and accept no testimony, as they have it! We can not afford to do that.
We might inquire what unbelievers want, what they propose, what they have. They talk about their ideas, their views, their belief, what they hold! What are their ideas? All negative ideas, or really no ideas. What are their views? All negative views, or really no views. What is their belief? All negative, or really no belief. What do they hold? It is all negative, or really nothing--what they do not hold. Their creed is all negative; it runs backward, and consists in what they do not believe, or really consists in nothing. The skeptic does not believe there is a God; he does not believe on Christ; he does not believe Moses or the prophets, Jesus or the apostles; he does not believe the Bible; he does not believe the Mosaic account of the origin of the human race, the fall of man, and the flood; he does not believe the gospel, or in churches or preachers. This is all negative--what he does not believe. What is there in all this to enlighten the world? Strike out all this and you leave an immense blank! Is that still to remain a blank? Strike out the Mosaic history, and the whole Bible, with all there is in all other writings, and in the memories of men, that come out of it, and could be gathered from no other source, and see what kind of a blank you would have! With what do infidels propose to fill this blank? Nothing! There is the whole of it, when all summed up. It is one stupendous nothing!
Do they talk of sciences? We have all the sciences they know anything about. Do they talk of the book of nature? We have that book, and all they know anything about in it. Do they talk about reason? We have that book, and can read it quite as well as they can. What have they that is right, that we have not? Not a living, man of them can tell us of anything they have, that is lawful and right, or anything for the good of man, that we have not. They tell us of nothing we lack, that they have, to elevate, ennoble, purify, or happify, and prepare us for the highest honor and distinction of which our being is capable. They tell us of no danger to which we are exposed, nor any loss we shall suffer in refusing to hear them. What inducement have they to offer us to lead us to give up our faith in God, Christ and the Bible? Simply nothing--no inducement. It is all a blank.
Imagine yourself an unbeliever and meditating on the unbeliever's creed. You could ruminate as follows: "I am happy now; I do not believe there is any God; I do not believe there is any Christ; I do not believe there is any Eternal Spirit; I do not believe the Bible; I do not believe the Mosaic account of the origin of man; nor of the fall; the introduction of sin; the way death came into the world; the account of Noah, the ark and the flood; the account of Abraham, Job, the Egyptians, the Israelites; their bondage and liberation; the giving of the law; nor the story about Jesus, his resurrection, ascension and coronation; I do not believe the apostles, nor any other preachers, nor in churches; I do not believe the gospel; that there is a heaven or hell; that there will be any resurrection or judgment; that man has a soul, or will have an existence after death. I have all this now erased from my mind, and am in the perfection of unbelief.
"If any man inquiries of me about God, I tell him I do not believe there is any God; that I know nothing about God, and believe nothing about him. If any man inquires of me about Christ, I will tell him that I know nothing about him; that I do not believe there is any Christ. If any man inquires about the Eternal Spirit, I will tell him I do not know anything about the Eternal Spirit; I do not believe there is any Eternal Spirit. If any man inquires of me about the Bible, I will tell him I do not believe it. If any man inquires of me about the origin of man, I will tell him I do not know anything about it; that I do not believe the account given by Moses. If any man inquires how sin came into the world, I have my creed ready, and will tell him that I do not know anything about it. If any man talks to me about heaven or hell, I will tell him that I do not believe there is any heaven or hell; that I know nothing about heaven or hell!"
Any one can see that all that is no belief; that there is nothing in all that that any man holds, but simply what an unbeliever does not hold, or what he does not know. Can he enlighten the world in preaching what he does not believe, does not know, or does not understand? Any man can see that there is nothing in this negative creed; this catalogue of things that he does not know to enlighten, ennoble, or in any way elevate and benefit mankind. Whatever else may be true, it is clear, beyond doubt, that no man can largely benefit this world, or enlighten it, in telling us what he does not believe, understand, or know.
The Lord did not always reason with men, and explain things to them, but he took them as they were, and answered them as they deserved. We have examples that are of great value, one or two of which we recite. In view of his mighty works, done in open day, and in the presence of large audiences, where they could not deny what was done, they inquired, "By what authority do you do these things?" They intended to claim Moses for what they did, and thought they were invulnerable. The Lord saw the captious character of their question; that they were seeking no light; not desiring to find the truth, but aiming to ensnare him, and he did not answer them directly, but said, "Answer me one question, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The immersion of John, was it from heaven, or of men?" That was no difficult question, nor one that needed one moment's reflection, if they had simply desired to tell the truth. But that was not in their minds, as the Lord well knew. They were not studying for a true answer, but for an answer that would not involve them in all absurd position. "They reasoned among themselves." What were they reasoning about? No reasoning was needed. All that was needed was an honest answer, in truth. But that was the very thing they were not prepared to give. Look at the sum of their reasoning: "If we say the immersion of John was from heaven, he will reply, Why did you not receive it?" We shall be caught; it will not do to say that. "If we say the immersion of John was of men, the people will stone us, for they all regarded John as a prophet." It will not do to say that! What did their reasoning lead them to? What did it result in? Simply in their coming out and telling what they knew to be false. "We can not tell whence it is." This was feigned ignorance to avoid a dilemma! Men thus dishonest do not find the truth. They are not seeking, but evading it. Such men will be given over "because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved." The trouble is not simply that they received not the truth, but, back of that, they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. If they had received the love of the truth, they would have found the truth itself.
We will recite another example. Certain scribes that came down from Jerusalem learned from the people that the Lord had cast out demons; that he had absolute control over demons. This was a thing open to the eyes of the multitude. They did not receive it second-handed; but instances occurred openly, in daylight, and in the presence of promiscuous assemblies, without any previous arrangement, or anybody knowing what the Lord was about to do. There was no chance to deny the facts with any plausibility. They saw at once that they must admit the facts about his miracles in casting out demons. Accordingly they said, "He cast out demons." So far all right; but they did not stop at this. This would have been fatal to their unbelief, as they very well knew, and the people would have believed on him. Their malicious hearts would not permit this, and they determined to defeat the work. To accomplish this they followed up with the explanation, that "he cast out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons." This act, of charging that what he had done by the Spirit of God, in confirmation of his divine mission, was done by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons, of whom he was possessed, was a more serious matter than they were apprised of. It was ascribing the work he had done, by the Spirit of God, in confirmation of his mission, to the devil. This he explains to be the sin against the Holy Spirit, and the man guilty of this sin shall never be forgiven, but is in danger of eternal damnation. See Mark iii. 29.
These men were enemies of Jesus, and their testimony is what we want. What do they testify as matter of fact? That "Jesus cast out demons." No matter about their comments on it, or their explanation of it. We take not their comment, but their testimony to matter of fact. "He cast out demons." This is the testimony of enemies and opposers, in, their own language of opposition. Jesus had absolute power over demons, or unclean spirits; at his command they were cast out, and the persons possessed of them were restored to their right mind. Take this, as matter of fact, and it is strong evidence in favor of the divinity of Christ.
The next person to be summoned to testify was not a Christian, yet not to be put down as an enemy. He was a man of moderation, and very considerable distinction; a man of mature years, learning and position; a rabbi and ruler among the Jews, by name Nicodemus. He came to Jesus by night. Some have thought that his coming by night was that he might have a quiet and uninterrupted interview with Jesus. But this is doubtful. It is more probable that he did not desire to go openly, as it was by no means popular for the rulers to be having interviews with him; and that he did not prefer to go openly, and to have the matter become one of public notoriety. But I stop not to speculate on the circumstance that he came by night, but simply mention it as matter of fact. He put on the best address he could command, and approached the Savior in the most respectful manner he could command. He addressed him, "Rabbi." He evidently intended this to be most respectful. This was the most respectful style or manner of addressing the doctors of the law. They loved to hear this, as well as some weak men in our day love to hear that precious title, Reverend. Really great men have no use for it, and it does not belong to any man, much less some weak man that expects to derive greatness from a title.
Nicodemus thought the Lord would be pleased to be called rabbi, and thus addressed him, intending the highest respect. But he follows this with the important statement that bears on the matter in hand: "We know that thou art a teacher from God."--See John iii. 1-5. This is strong, and clear. But he does not stop at this; he proceeds to tell how he knows this. "For no man can do these miracles that thou doest except God be with him." When he says, "We know," he does not use the word "we" simply for himself, but including other rabbis. What does he say, "We know?" That "thou art a teacher from God." How do you and other rulers in Israel know this? "For no man can do these miracles that thou doest except God be with him." This comes from a doctor of the law, who lived contemporary with Jesus, in the same country with him, and in a conversation with him. Here is a concession that Jesus was a teacher from God, and the evidence of it: that no man could do the miracles Jesus did, except God be with him. The main evidence we note here is the concession that Jesus did miracles--the miracles ascribed to him in the Scriptures.
This evidence that Jesus did these miracles is of a very important character. The doing of these miracles proves more than Nicodemus inferred. It proves more than simply that he was "a teacher from God." It proves what he claimed--that he was the Son of God. The miracles that the Lord did not only established the proposition that he was "a teacher from God," but all that he claimed to be--"A teacher from God," and much more; above all the teachers from God; "greater than Moses," and above all the angels of God; the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; the Anointed, the Son of the living God. It establishes the very foundation truth of the kingdom of God. We need want no better testimony than this.
Let us call another witness into court. We will call an enemy this time; one who once was, or professed to be, a friend, and who turned away and became an enemy. Surely he must have found out something bad, something that satisfied him that all was not right, or he would not have forsaken him. He had been in all the private counsels; knew all the plans, plots and secrets of Jesus and his whole company. This man turned enemy, and betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, or about fifteen dollars of our coin. Let us now hear this man--get some evidence from him. He went to the priests! That is one case of going to the priests! Certainly it is! And he went with money! That is not all--he went to confess! Let us notice particularly what he does and says. He threw the money he had received for betraying Jesus down at their feet. Let us hear him: "I have sinned!" That is a singular beginning to testify against Jesus! Why, what have you done, Judas? "I have betrayed innocent blood!" This poor creature regretted what he had done, in betraying "innocent blood," so terribly and bitterly that he could endure his life no longer, and sought relief in death, at his own hand.
The only thing we have to do with Judas, at present, is to obtain his evidence, as it bears on the claims of Christ. He had been with Jesus about three and a half years; knew all his private counsels, plans and plots, and now, that he has turned enemy, would certainly like to have some excuse for what he had done, but makes no excuse for it, but confesses for it right out: "I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood." That is the last sentence of Judas concerning Jesus--he pronounces his blood innocent!
We can not turn away from this case without noticing those heartless priests. Does it touch their consciences, or hearts, when they witness the regret of Judas, or his anguish? Not in the least. They, in the most cool and heartless manner, turn away, saying, "What is that to us? See thou to that!" This is a sample of hardened and apostate priests. They have no more heart than a rock. They are as cool as an iceberg. As to conscience, they know the meaning of no such word. Judas is a sample of what men will come to; and the treatment he received is a sample of what any others may expect, who will allow themselves to be made tools for hardened and abandoned teachers in religion, whom God has forsaken and given over to perdition. They grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
We will now call into court, and hear no less a distinguished witness than Judge Pilate, who occupied the judgment-seat when Jesus was tried for his life in the Roman court. In this instance Pilate certainly acted the judge with coolness and calmness. He gave the case a full and fair hearing, permitting all the evidence to be produced; and when he had heard it all, he came out in open court with his decision: "I find no fault at all in him", or, as they would word it now, "I find him not guilty." This created excitement and dissatisfaction among the Jews. They had one string to pull that they knew would tell. They cried out, "You are no friend to Caesar: we are Caesar's friends." This was pulling a political string, and Pilate saw that it would endanger his judgeship. He undertook to pacify them. "You have a custom that I release one to you at the passover; let me release to you the King of the Jews." They cried, "Not this man, but Barabbas." Barabbas was a robber. In this we see what man will come to if left to himself. He will let the guilty go free and put the innocent to death! Pilate then delivered him up to them; but, in accordance with a custom they had, he obtained a basin of water and washed his hands, saying, "I have cleansed my hands of the guilt of this innocent person." The Jews then lifted their voices, and uttered the last prayer that ever came from their lips, that has been answered to the letter: "Let his blood be upon us and our children." What a condition of things was here! What a state of mind! A robber and a murderer is set loose among the people, and the Son of God condemned to die.
What is the sum of the testimony of Judge Pilate? After hearing all they could say against Jesus, he says, "I find no fault at all in him;" "I have cleansed my hands of the guilt of this innocent person." The amount of it is, I find no fault in him, and his blood is innocent.
We must now hear Pilate's wife. She came out into the court, and warned her husband: "Have nothing to do with this innocent person: I have been much troubled in a dream this day in regard to this matter." What is the amount of her testimony? That the blood of Jesus is "innocent blood." How free and open his bearing in the whole transaction! He in no way interrupted their proceedings. He objected to no unfairness, made no defense, nor any effort in any way to clear himself. He made no effort in any way to avoid the execution, but met it as a matter of course; suffered it; endured the cross; suffered the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. When he died, those in authority, in the highest places, pronounced that he was innocent! The history of the world furnishes no other such case as this. It stands out alone, as the wonder of the world! His own most intimate friends made no effort to save him, nor defend him, except one stroke of the sword by Peter, that took off a man's ear, and the Lord healed the injury done in that case, and commanded him to put up the sword, and declared that "they who take the sword shall perish by the sword." On his trial he explained: "My kingdom is not of this world, else my servants would fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews." Nothing is clearer than that Jesus saw the whole programme that was before him, and went right on through it just as he had intended to do.
There was one divine mind that looked down through the ages and saw the end from the beginning, and in the whole life of Jesus--his trial, death, resurrection and ascension--he was simply carrying out the eternal purpose; doing what had been before determined to be done, or what had been before written by the prophets. The prophets whom God employed did not understand the utterances of the Divine Spirit made through them; but we can see now that he who guided their pens in making these utterances understood the matter, and that he saw down through the ages and foretold what should come to pass. We can see clearly that the apostles in the lifetime of Jesus did not understand him; but it is equally clear, now that the whole matter is in history, that he saw through to the end, and went through the programme with a most undeviating purpose.
But we now call into court certain Jews, enemies and opposers of the religion of Christ. They are met to deliberate on what is to be done with Peter and John. The man who opens the case begins like a man in earnest, and with something on his mind. He enters at once into the matter. "What shall we do with these men?" he inquires. Peter and John are the men he is inquiring about. Why, sir, what is the trouble with these men? He proceeds: "For that a notable miracle has been done by them is known to all them that dwell in Jerusalem, and we can not deny it."--See Acts iv. 16. Notice, this was in an opposition meeting, and the statement is from opposers: "Annas, the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest." What do they testify? That a miracle was done! Yes, more, "a notable miracle;" yes, and more yet, that it was "known to all who dwelt in Jerusalem;" yes, more yet, that they could not deny it! "What shall we do with these men?" It was certainly a pretty serious case.
We must comment a little on the surroundings and this miracle. It occurred as Peter and John were about to pass the Beautiful gate, as they were going to the temple. It was at the ninth hour, or three o'clock in the afternoon, as we reckon time; it was in the open daylight; it was in a promiscuous assembly, not called together by the apostles, nor had they any hand in arranging any programme. The apostles did not themselves know before what would be done. They did not know the man with withered limbs would be there, or that they would heal him. The matter all came up incidentally on the human side. The appeal of the poor man for money was the first that arrested the attention of the apostles. Peter openly confessed: "Silver and gold I have none, but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth arise." The man immediately received strength in his feet and ankle-bones, and entered the temple, leaping and praising God. This was an open transaction, known to all who dwelt in Jerusalem. The enemies themselves could not deny it. The apostles did not have. to go out and preach that they had done a miracle. The miracle was done openly, and spoke for itself.
The assertion has been made many times, and we have seen no refutation of it, and think there can be none: that the miracles of Christ and the apostles were never denied for at least six hundred years after the birth of Christ. That they were done was admitted on all hands. They were of such a nature, number and variety, that there was no possibility of denying their existence, at the time and in the country where they transpired; and, at the same time, of such a nature, number and variety, that they could not have been simply false reports, or results of idle rumor. No gossip could get up and put into circulation the report that five thousand people had been fed by a miracle, and induce the people to believe it, in the country where it was reported to have occurred, if it actually did not occur. Much less could the people be made to believe that such a transaction had occurred on two different occasions, and that, too, in open daylight.
Some one might report, at a subsequent time, and in another country, that such a thing had occurred, and find dupes to believe it; but to induce the people in mass to believe that such a thing occurred in their own midst, in open day, when it did not occur at all, would be a wonder greater than any one recorded in Scripture. No mere rumor that any man could have started could have made the people of Palestine generally believe that there was a great earthquake when Jesus died; that darkness extended over the whole land from the sixth to the ninth hour; that the rocks were rent, or that the vail was split in two from the top to the bottom, when those things did not occur at all. If they occurred, the people knew it. It was not faith to them at all, but personal observation and knowledge. If those things did not occur, the people knew it. No rumor could have made them believe it. If these things were not so, the reports about them were the most impudent lies ever told, and would only have passed for the most foolish and idle tales ever uttered. Put these things occurred, and the great body of the people knew it by personal observation. There was simply nobody that doubted or denied that they actually occurred. No man thought of denying it. It was matter of personal knowledge with the multitude, and a man would have been regarded as a simpleton that would have denied it.
It will be noticed, too, that the miracles of the Bible were not of an insignificant nature, of no consequence, and demanding no attention. The transaction at the Red Sea, that liberated between two and three millions of slaves, and that had brought out a vast army to resist it, was no insignificant affair, but one of the most stupendous movements that ever took place on the face of the earth. The opening in the Red Sea, Dr. Adam Clarke maintains, must have been from six to ten miles wide to have afforded space for this vast body of people to have passed over in the given time. This was probably the largest body of people that ever moved in one column on the face of the earth. All this vast body were witnesses of the wonderful occurrence. Equally as many others were also witnesses, and the whole affair stands uncontradicted in all the histories that know anything about it. A matter of such vast importance as this lived in the memories and traditions of the people, being talked in every house till Moses wrote the history of it, while vast numbers were still living who were eye-witnesses. He wrote in the country where the events transpired, in the time of many of the people who know all about it from personal observation, and who were still living. Had the account been false it never would have gained any credence.
There was a meteoric shower some forty-five years ago, when many people supposed the stars were falling. There are many people still living that saw this. The man that would deny that this occurred would be regarded as a simpleton. Yet the evidence is not as various and great, proving that this event occurred, as the evidence was that He who destroyed the first-born in Egypt passed over all the houses with blood sprinkled on the door-posts, and that the wonderful event of crossing over the Red Sea occurred. Should any man deny that any such a shower of meteors occurred, he would be confronted by the publications containing the account of it, issued at the time, and to living witnesses who saw it. In the same way, had any man denied the account written by Moses, he would have been confronted by the tradition that had come down and been talked in every family, and by living witnesses who saw the events. These matters were of such a nature that they could not have been fabricated. The time of their occurrence was not remote, but within the memory of some living. The country in which they transpired was not remote, but the country where they had been. The events were not of a trivial nature, that would soon be forgotten, but of such momentous importance that they could never be forgotten. A nation of two and a half millions of people being at once freed from the most abject bondage, was an event not to be forgotten in the annals of the human race, and the miraculous displays of divine power, connected with this event, could not be forgotten.
The miracles of the New Testament were not limited to the friends of the Lord; some of them occurred when there were no friends present, and when no human being expected anything of the kind. Had any one seen young Saul, and his persecuting company, about noon, as they approached the city of Damascus, heard their talk, and considered their plans, he would have thought of no miracle occurring there, nor anything else favorable to the gospel. Nor was what occurred more unexpected to any one than to Saul himself. Hear his own description of what transpired: "I went to Damascus, with authority and commission from the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them that journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking to me, and saying, in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the goads."--See. Acts xxvi. 12-14.
This wonderful event occurred openly, at midday, among enemies, and not a soul expecting anything of the kind. Saul was going ahead to carry out his commission, but here he received a new commission, and he turned his course entirely for the balance of his life. The Lord said to him, "I have appeared to you for this purpose to make you a minister and a witness both of these things which you have seen, and those things in the which I will appear to you: delivering you from the people, and from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith that is in me."--Acts xxvi. 16-18. This transaction was not simply a wonder, a speculative and marvelous thing, that he went about telling; but it was a transaction of practical import, that revolutionized his whole life. It turned him right about, settled and sent him in a new course of life, precisely the opposite of his former life, which be pursued till he was beheaded for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The turning of Saul of Tarsus was, in itself, a strong evidence, for several reasons. In the first place, he gave up weighty considerations, all against his temporal interest. Then, he was a most decided and determined enemy. Further, he positively knew all about the matter. The nature of the case was such that he could not have mistaken. He knew whether he saw Jesus, whether he heard his voice, whether he received abundance of revelations from him, whether he did miracles. These matters were all personal knowledge with him. He did not have to trust any human being for any of those things--he knew them himself. As certain, then, as he was a sincere man, or an honest man, they were true. That he was an honest man, he gave the fullest assurance in the power of man to give. When he turned, he took his stand, preached the faith which once he destroyed, maintained it at all times, in prosperity and adversity, in perils among false brethren and among robbers, in the greatest persecutions, and in death. From the first time he preached, till the last, he stood firm and maintained the same. No man ever did, or ever can, give any greater evidence of honesty than he did.
Do you say he turned, and became a friend, and therefore his testimony is not from without? He was an enemy till the testimony came that turned him; and if he had not turned, the world would have thought he did not believe it himself. The circumstance that he turned, remained turned, and was true to his now position till he died; adhered to it under all circumstances, and did that at a sacrifice of all things of a temporal character, only strengthens his testimony.
But now for a few practical considerations. It is true that some infidels turn to Christ and become Christians, and some Christians turn away from Christ and become infidels. We make no argument from this, but leave it with simply stating it. It is true, we think, and leaves no doubt, that a large proportion of all the skeptics in this country renounce their skepticism before they die. It is not true that a large proportion of all the Christians renounce the faith of Christ before they die. Here there is a wide difference. This demands the attention of every skeptic. But there is one more difference. Some infidels renounce their unbelief when they think they are near to death. No Christian ever renounces his faith when he approaches death. What is the cause of this? Why does unbelief glide away at the approach of death so frequently; but the faith of Christ never glides away at that solemn and important moment? There is something suspicious in that which so frequently fails in the hour of death. It is a terrible state of things for us to repudiate in death; in the most trying period of this world; and the one when we are honest, if we ever are, what has been upon our lips all along. through life. To say the least of it, there is something in the faith of Christ that will not forsake us in death. We may confess, in death, that we have been traitors to the Lord, hypocrites, or transgressors of any kind; but for a Christian, no matter how weak, cold and careless, to turn round and renounce the faith of Christ at the approach of death, is out of the question. Such a thing, we think, never occurs! Why is this? This is a hard lesson for unbelievers. We want something that will stand by and support us in death.
But there is nothing in unbelief to support any one in death, if it would not forsake us. It promises nothing; it has nothing to promise. It puts us in mind of some Universalists, talking about all men being saved. But how do they prove it? They begin by telling us that there is no devil! But there is no salvation for all men in that, nor for anybody. They proceed: "There is no hell." There is no salvation in that! "But there is no lake of fire." There is no salvation for anybody in that; much less the salvation of all men. "There is no eternal punishment." There is no salvation in that. "There is no such thing as soul and body being destroyed in hell." There is no salvation in that. There will be no sin in the world to come." Well, then, there will be nothing to be saved from, and, consequently, in the place of the salvation of all men, they have no salvation of anybody, from anything.
Unbelief promises nothing, as we said before, and has nothing to promise. It is nothing but one stupendous denial of God, Christ, the Eternal Spirit, Moses, the prophets, the apostles and the martyrs; in one word, the Bible and all it contains! What is there in one perpetual string of negations, denials? There is nothing in that to benefit a soul of our race. No wonder men repudiate it in death. It is utterly empty--there is nothing in it for a dying man!
But this is not all; there is nothing in it for a living man any more than a dying man. Infidels have no law. They are taught no particular manner of life; they never call their brethren to account for anything they do; they never call one of their brethren to account for telling a lie, swearing or cheating. No one ever accuses them of not living tip to their profession! Why not? Because they profess nothing. They believe nothing and are nothing--they have no position. They involve no responsibility, no particular character or manner of life. Their creed is all summed up in the brief sentence, that every man may do just as he pleases. They have no doctrine, no law or gospel, faith or practice. Their work is simply to pull down what others build, to deny what others believe. To hear them talk at one time, they would have you think that they have no credulity, and therefore can not believe like other men. At another time you will find them believing the most incredible things ever heard of. We know not where to find such a bundle of absurdity and inconsistency as in a modern skeptic. At one time he can not believe the Scriptures because the old manuscripts are too uncertain; then, again, we find him believing a few scraps, purporting to have been gathered up from different sources, written hundreds of years before Christ, and containing all the good things he ever taught! He finds no difficulty about how these fugitive scraps came down through manuscripts, and were translated, though their history is almost blank, compared with the history of the books of the Bible.
In one word, when a skeptic is summed up you have a man that has no trouble in believing without evidence, but one that can not believe with evidence! In other words, he can believe almost anything against the Bible, but nothing in favor of it. We have noticed skeptics, and thought of the miserable silly legends of Spiritualists they will swallow down, as if they were revelations from heaven, and then turn round and spurn at the wonderful works of God set forth in the Bible. But we can not pursue this train of thought.
Skepticism is the absence of faith, as darkness is the absence of light, or ignorance is the absence of knowledge. A large share of all we know and act on, in both temporal and divine things, is by faith. We act upon faith in men, money, newspapers, market prices, notes, book accounts, and promises of men. We can believe in all these matters, where vast amounts are involved; believe the testimony of men, though men have in so many instances testified falsely; but skeptics can not believe the ever-blessed God, who has never deceived us! Why will men be deluded and led away from the clear and reliable, and give heed, not only to the doubtful, but to the most stupid legends ever told, and thus risk the loss of everything, without the possibility of gaining anything?
We have a kingdom that can not be moved. The time will come when everything that can be shaken will be shaken, and that which can not be shaken shall remain. The faith of the people of God shall remain; the foundation that God has laid is sure. Those who stand upon it shall not be confounded. "He who shall believe on me," says the Lord, "shall never die; but from him shall flow rivers of living water." "The Lord knows them that are his," and "is able to keep them from falling." The Everlasting Arm is underneath them; and "they shall be kept, by the power of God, through faith to salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." May we love him, adore and honor him; and may he never leave us nor forsake us, but be with us, and grant us grace and glory, and withhold from us no good thing. And to his glorious name, through our Lord Jesus the Christ, be the praise of our redemption, forever and ever.