What Is Truth?
George Everard, 1882
A young man had fallen into loose moral habits, and was living a wild and sinful life. Late hours were frequent with him, and he would pay no regard to the remonstrances of a Christian father. Eleven and twelve o'clock would strike, and still the young man would keep the parents up waiting for his return. At last it came to a point. The father told his son that he must either leave his home — or conform to rules.
He followed his old ways, went into lodgings, and was rather pleased to be free from the restraint he felt at home. After a while he picked up some young companions who professed infidel opinions, and soon, like them, he even scoffed at religion and made light of all his parents had taught him.
But the prayers of his father and mother followed him, and in a remarkable way were abundantly answered. One night the young fellow lay awake and began to think. "I tell people," said he to himself, "that there is no truth in the Bible. But there must be truth somewhere, and if not there, where is it? I wonder what the Bible says about truth."
In this way he was led to go to the Scriptures, and he sought out every passage where truth is spoken of. He little anticipated the result. No doubt through the guidance of the Spirit of Truth, he saw everything in a new light. The Bible became its own witness. It so took hold of him that he was persuaded that it was the very Word of the Living God. Not only so, but he was convinced of the evil of his past life. He saw plainly his ingratitude to his parents and his sin against God. He was led to see Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life — and his whole future was the very reverse of his former course.
The story brings home to us two great lessons. It shows, on the one hand, the very close connection that exists between loose and immoral habits — and infidel views. While, no doubt, there are not a few unbelievers whose lives are free from any great vice — yet it is no less true that if a young man goes wrong, it is very convenient to lull his conscience to sleep and cast off all fear by saying to himself that "The Bible is all a lie!"
On the other hand, we see that God's Word shines by its own light. It often so speaks to the heart and conscience, that a man cannot escape from the conviction of its truth. "It bears upon its face, its own calm, bright, immutable aspect, the aspect of more than human honesty, more than angel knowledge — the aspect of Divinest truth."
"What is truth?" Christ has answered this question. He has said, "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17). This had reference to the Old Testament Scriptures. No less is it true of the whole inspired volume. I will mention a few thoughts as to the truth and inspiration of the Bible which have strengthened my own faith, and have enabled me with increasing confidence to rest upon it, as a rock which can never be shaken.
I see more and more in Holy Scripture, a perfect adaptability to the various ills of mankind.
A friend went into one of our lock factories, and he was shown upwards of a hundred locks. He was told that none of the keys would open any of the locks, except the particular one for which it was made.
But then a master-key was shown to him, and this would open any of the hundred locks.
I believe Holy Scripture is like that master-key! There are myriads of human hearts, with various sins, temptations, sorrows, cares, and fears — but the Bible is fitted alike to each and all. It points out the remedy for every form of misery and evil — it leaves no heart and no trouble without some balm suited for its need.
Or look at it in another light.
A child receives a letter from a father in a distant country. But someone suggests that this letter is a forgery; it is written by someone else, and not by the father. But if the child not only recognizes the father's handwriting, but finds in the letter that every matter connected with those he has left behind is accurately known by the writer and the best suggestions made for meeting difficulties or guarding against some danger in the home — will not this assure the child that the letter was not written by a stranger, but was indeed the kind and thoughtful letter of a beloved parent?
Holy Scripture is our Father's love letter to His redeemed children. We may trace the handwriting. The spirit of truth, holiness, and love is seen all through. We mark that He knows and provides for the needs of every one in His large family. There are warnings to caution us against every form of sin, however subtle. There is consolation provided for every one of the manifold varieties of human woe. Hunger and need, pain and suffering, anxieties about the future, disappointments, losses, bereavements — not one of these evils, or any other, but we find some appropriate solace, some heavenly promise, that can lift the heart of the believer above it. Who could so completely have provided for every need — but He who made man and knows the hearts of those whom He has made?
Another thought has often come home to me. If Holy Scripture is not the fruit of Divine wisdom, if it is not a message to us from above — then whence comes this wonderful Book? What account can we give of it?
Can it come from man's great enemy, the Devil? Is not every page of it for the overthrow of his kingdom?
Could it have been written by wicked men? Was there ever a wicked man in the world that did not hate the Bible, and either wish that it were false or endeavor to prove it so?
Could it have been written by good men out of their own hearts? But would good men have taken God's name in vain? And does not every part of it claim to be a revelation from God? Do we not find the words "Thus says the Lord!" continually occurring? And can we imagine godly men thus to have forged the name of Jehovah?
Could it have been written by fanatics and enthusiasts? Then where would have been the calm, quiet, and devout tone that pervades it? Where would have been the depth of wisdom which exercises to this day the earnest study of men of the greatest intellect?
I confess I can see no way out of this difficulty for an unbeliever. If there are difficulties in the Bible — and no doubt many such there are — it seems to me a far greater difficulty to imagine any other source but a Divine one from which it could have come. It seems to me to carry a Divine stamp upon the face of it. Its rebukes of falsehood and every kind of sin; its mighty encouragements to live a holy and a godly life; the power that is ever going forth with it to raise the fallen and the lost — all this tells me that "the Voice that spoke it is Divine," in fact, bearing out its own witness, that it "came not by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).
I have also been continually struck by another point. There is no varnish about the Bible. From first to last, you see plain, naked truth. Look at the history of the chosen nation and of its chief heroes. What a record of sin and imperfection does it present! Look at the lives of apostles and disciples in the New Testament, and the story of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles.
Amidst the tokens of God's power and the manifestations of His grace, how often do you meet with human infirmity, errors, sins, strifes, marring "the beauty of holiness" in the Church, and showing that at all times "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked!"
Then, too, in the narrative of Christ's life, how simply told are the mightiest miracles that He wrought! There is no attempt to dazzle the imagination or to arrest the attention. In a few plain words we read of a multitude being fed with a few loaves — of the winds and waves being hushed by a majestic "Peace, be still!" — of a Lazarus being raised by the command, "Come forth!"
We find it the same in all parts of the sacred volume. There is no display, no adornment, no hiding a painful side, or making much of one that is pleasing. There is the majesty of truth and reality — and nothing else. To my mind, we have here an evidence that cannot be gainsaid. It is just like all the mighty works of God. It ought strongly to confirm our faith that "the words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times."
There are some, I know, who reject the Scriptures because the so-called science of the day seems to be at variance with it. But true science and God's Word cannot be really opposed. Revelation is one page out of God's book, and science is another. So that the teacher of Christian truth ought never to speak against science, neither ought the teacher of science to utter a word against religion.
The two are on different levels, and a man may be very wise in one, but be profoundly ignorant in the other. I am persuaded that we shall find that there is no contradiction between Holy Scripture and the facts of science: it is only in the case of new theories that there is any apparent conflict.
But for what reason do men take Jehoiakim's penknife and cut away thus a portion of God's Word? Is it not for a mere theory which many scientific men utterly reject?
In a certain way, no one doubts the truth of Evolution. It affords to my mind one of the most wonderful proofs of the power and wisdom of God. A marvelous workman must he be who could form a watch that has the power to reproduce and multiply itself — not only once or twice, but to remote generations. But look at that flower. It contains in itself seeds, and these give flowers like it from century to century. Look at that egg. Strange that it contains the germ of a new bird, and thus from age to age the species is maintained and propagated. It seems to us still more wonderful in the case of man, with all his variety of faculties and powers.
Is there really any proof for Evolution? Is there a shadow of proof that man has arisen from the lower creation, and that these have sprung from atoms or molecules myriads of ages ago? If so, what a Creator must He have been who endued these atoms with this strange power!
"Nature made the world," said a skeptic. "But who made Nature?" said his little child. So I would say — If these atoms formed this wondrous world and all within it — then who fashioned these atoms so as to have this energy and force?
"Can Evolution explain the law, order, and beneficence that is everywhere visible? Can Evolution tell us the origin of life, consciousness, affection, will, conscience, morality? Can Evolution bridge over the tremendous gulf that separates man from the beasts of the field and the birds of the air?"
I believe the time will come when those who now scorn the story of man's creation will return to it as far more reasonable than the fanciful theories which now are held by many. What more reasonable than that the Almighty by His own glorious fiat, His own omnipotent word — should call into being the creatures whom His infinite wisdom has designed?
To sum up all, I would say to the reader, "Hold fast your title-deeds!" Don't be persuaded by those who would rob you of your inheritance of Christian truth. Don't admit for a moment that Holy Scripture is not to be believed.
The Word is faithful. It never has failed, and it never will.
This generation will soon pass away. Its mighty men, and its rich men, and its wise men will follow their fathers to the grave. The theories and opinions of this day will give place to others. But there is a Rock that abides, "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falls away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever!" (1 Peter 1:24, 25).
O Word of God incarnate,
O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth unchanged, unchanging,
O Light of our dark sky!
We praise You for the radiance
That from the hallowed page,
A lantern to our footsteps,
Shines on from age to age.