Do I believe the old Book? Do I really believe it? My heart answers that I do. The deepest consciousness of my soul testifies that it is true. I will tell you some of the reasons why I believe it.
The Oldest, and Still the Newest, of Books.
God’s book written in the rocks is old, exceedingly old, but God’s book the Bible reaches back still farther. It goes back not only to the “beginning” of this terrestrial world, but into eternity; for the expression, “in the beginning,” used by John, reaches back long before this world was. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” From past eternity its majestic sweep covers the whole range of being and reaches into the future eternity. It is, in fact, the book of eternity, and within its folds lie the grandeur and sublimity of the great unknown future. It never gets out-of-date. Other books have their run of popularity and are forgotten, but the Bible never grows old; no matter how familiar we become with it, it is ever new. To the Christian it never grows stale, but is always fresh and always satisfying. It ever reveals new depths that we fail to fathom, new heights that we can not scale, and new beauties that enrapture our vision.
We read it over and over, and ever and anon we see new jewels sparkling within its pages, jewels that delight the eye and reflect the light of God. From it refreshing waters break out where we least expect them, and our souls are refreshed like a thirsty man who suddenly finds water on the desert. We may have read a text a thousand times, yet when we look at it again it opens up and presents to us a vista of marvelous truth of which we were before entirely unconscious. What other book can do these things? When we read a book written by man, however interesting it may be, it soon loses its interest and its charm; we do not find new beauties in it as we do in the Bible. Its treasures are soon exhausted, but the Bible is ever new, and so I do not believe that the Bible is man’s book nor that it could be man’s book. Its depths are too deep to come from the heart or mind of man; its heights are too great for him to reach; and its wisdom is more than human. It can but be divine.
The Most Loved of All Books.
Wherever the Bible goes, people learn to love and to treasure it above all other books combined. It is the one book that people love; it is the treasure that people hold fast even at the risk of their lives. In past ages when wicked rulers tried to keep it from the people, they could not. At the peril of their lives people would have it. They underwent dangers and tortures, and shrank not from anything, that they might possess this wonderful book. It is not for what it claims to be—though it claims much—nor for what men claim for it, but for what it is to the individual himself that it is so dearly loved. There is that in the Bible which endears itself to the human heart, and no other book has that quality. Other books are enjoyed and admired and praised and valued; but the Bible, in this respect, stands in a class by itself.
The educated and the ignorant, the high and the low, all races in all climes, when they learn to truly know the Bible, and when they submit themselves to the God of the Bible, learn to love it and to delight in it and are enriched and blessed by it; and because I too feel this deep love in my heart for the old Book, I believe it. I believe that, in some way, it was made for me by One who knew my needs, and that it corresponds to the very essence of my inner self; and I believe that I could not love it as I do if it were not God’s book and if it were not true.
The Most Hated of All Books.
Not only is it the best-loved book, but it is also the most-hated book. No other book has had so many nor such bitter enemies. I suppose more books have been written against the Bible than against all other books combined. Men do not hate Shakespeare nor Milton nor Longfellow; they do not hate works on science nor philosophy; they do not hate books of travel or adventure or fiction; they do not hate the other sacred books of the world; they hate only the Bible. Why this hatred? It can be only because they find in the Bible something that they find nowhere else. What they find there is a true picture of themselves, and the picture is not pleasant to look upon, so they turn away their faces and will have nothing to do with it except to vilify and condemn it. They deliberately misrepresent it and write falsehoods about it; they satirize and ridicule it, using all sorts of weapons and all sorts of methods to combat it, and for only the one reason—that its truth pricks them in their consciences and they can by no other means escape from it.
It is judged by a standard far more stringent than any other book, not excepting the other sacred books. No critic would think of treating any other book as he treats the Bible, nor of requiring of any other book what he requires of the Bible. The more men hate God, the more they hate his Word; and this has a deep, underlying reason, and that reason, I believe, is that the Bible is God’s book and that in it there is so much of God himself.
It Has Withstood All Assaults.
But though so bitterly assailed through all the ages, the Bible has withstood the assaults of all its enemies and stands victorious still. The Greek philosophers, with all their skill, were vanquished. The greatest intellects of modern times find themselves given pause before it. The sharpest arrows that unbelief could forge have not pierced it; the assaults made upon it have resulted only in the destruction of the weapons used. All through the ages countless theories—religious, philosophic, scientific, or other—have been used against the Bible, only to fall in ruins at last before it and to be rejected even by those who once advocated them. The Bible endures an amount of criticism that no other book could endure, and instead of being destroyed, it is only brightened and made better known. Could such a thing be truly said of error? Could error endure what the Bible has endured, and live? It is the law of nature that error is self-destructive, but that truth can not be destroyed; and according to this law, the Bible must be true because of its indestructibility.
It Tells Me of Myself.
My deepest emotions and longings, my highest thoughts and hopes, are mirrored there, and the more settled inner workings of conscience are there recorded. It speaks to me of my secret ambitions, of my dearest hopes, of my fears, of the love that burns within me. My desires are pictured in the Book just as I find them working in my heart. Whatever picture it draws of the human soul I find within myself, and whatever I find within myself I find within its pages, and thus I know that it is true. No man can know me as the Bible knows me nor picture out my inner self as the Bible pictures me; and since no work of man could correspond with my inner self as the Bible corresponds with me, I know that it did not come from man.
It Is the Book of Conscience.
It is as a mirror into which every man, when he looks, sees himself. It speaks to his conscience, not as a man speaks, yet with a potency unknown to any other book. It is preeminently the book of the conscience. Other books appeal to men’s consciences, but not with the appeal of this book. Other books mirror men, but not like the Bible. In the silent watches of the night, in the lonely depths of the forest, upon the expanse of the sea, or wherever man may be, how frequently is it the case that this book speaks into his conscience in a silent yet thundering voice, and before it he is awed and silenced and oftentimes terror-stricken. It speaks to the conscience as only God can speak, and therefore it must be God’s book.
It Gives Comfort and Hope.
To what book do those in sorrow turn? To Voltaire? to Ingersoll? to Haeckel? Do they turn to science or philosophy or poetry or fiction? There is but one book that is the book of comfort. The sad and desolate heart turns to its pages, and as it reads, the consolation of the Holy Spirit, which fills the book, comes into that heart, and it is comforted. It is as the balm of Gilead; it is as a letter from home to the wanderer; it is as a mother’s voice to the child. Friends may speak words to comfort us, but they can not comfort us as does the Book; its words seem to enter into our innermost sorrows with a healing touch. God is the God of all comfort, and it is the comforting God in this comforting book that comforts the soul.
It is also the book of hope. Sometimes man despairs, and he looks here and there for hope, finding none; but there is one book in which hope may always be found. It always has something to offer him to inspire hope with new courage. Therefore it is the hope of the hopeless; since in the troubled soul it brings a calm, brightening dull eyes and causing them to look beyond. It lifts up the bowed head, strengthens the feeble knees, renews the courage, and takes the sadness out of the voice; it is therefore truly the book of hope.
The Book of the Dying.
A soldier, desperately wounded, lay in a trench. The shells were bursting around him; the bullets and shrapnel were whistling through the air; the roar of the guns shook the ground. He was going down into the valley of the shadow of death. Knowing that he must pass over to the other side, he reached into his pocket with his little remaining strength and pulled therefrom a soldier’s Testament. Handing it to a comrade he said, “Read to me.” His comrade opened the book and began to read—“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” A smile overspread the face of the dying soldier as he listened to the words amid that solemn and terrible scene. He closed his eyes and lay quite still smiling, then he murmured, “It is well.” And with a smile still upon his face he passed across to the other side.
For what book do the dying call? For just any book? What words do they wish to hear in the final hour? There is but one book for that hour; but one that can throw light into that shadowy valley. That is the Bible. It is the book of the living and of the dying, the book of the sorrowing and of the hopeless. It is just such a book as the loving Father would give to the children whom he loves, and it meets their need in all the details of their lives as only God could meet it, and therefore I can but believe that it is the book of God.
Only Answer to the Enigma of Life.
The “why” of life is found nowhere else. Other books tell us many truths about life, yet its depths and meaning find expression and answer in only one book. It interprets life; and he who reads the interpretation knows that it is true because it is the story of himself, and in himself is the witness of its truth. Men have sought everywhere the secret of life and the things that pertain thereto, but everywhere, save in the Bible, they find only darkness and obscurity and uncertainty. The Bible, however, speaks in no uncertain terms. It speaks the language of him who knows, and if we reject its voice we are left in a tangled maze, out of which we can not find our way.
The Bible outlives all its critics and is triumphant when they are forgotten; it has many times been pronounced dead, but still it lives; it has been called “exploded,” but its power is not dissipated; it has seen all antagonistic theories of the past, one by one, destroyed and rejected, but it still stands in spite of the critics, in spite of its enemies; and those who anchor their faith upon it need not fear what voice is raised against it. Neither need they fear what weapons are brought to bear upon it; for it is truth, and those who fight against it fight against God and are themselves ruined.
It is adapted to all people of every race and clime, to the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant. Of no other book can this be said. It is the Book of books, the book of God. In it God speaks, and my inmost heart knows that it is the voice of my Beloved, and leaps for joy.