Great Texts of the Bible
Faith and Doubt
Straightway the father of the child cried out, and said, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.—Mark 9:24.
The text is a part of St. Mark’s reference to the great problem which confronted our Lord when He came down from the Mount of Transfiguration. There are many aspects of the scene which call for interest and sympathy; the blight and bitterness of a father’s heart over the limitations of human love; the epilepsy of a son; the paroxysms of this awful malady in the presence of them all; and the mental unbalancing which was worse than death.
We owe to this Gospel the fullest account of this pathetic incident. St. Mark alone gives us this part of the conversation between our Lord and the afflicted child’s father. The poor man had brought his boy to the disciples, and found them unable to do anything with him. Now a torrent of appeal breaks from his lips as soon as the Lord gives him an opportunity of speaking. He dwells upon all the piteous details, with that fondness for repetition which sorrow knows so well.
In the background of the story is the Mount and the glory of the Transfiguration. It is true that the “mist is on the river,” and the “sun is on the hill”; but the sun shines into the valley, and the mist goes. The Master comes down from the Mount, and the child is healed. Is it not the message of the Incarnation? Sin and sorrow are at the foot of the Mount; but though the light be in heaven, the Christ shall be born in Bethlehem. The glory of heaven must cast its light on the earth. As we come to the study of a passage such as this, we learn that darkness is not to shut out the light, but light is to banish darkness. The end is to be not eternal night, but eternal light. Grace is to master sin, and our imperfect life is to know the joy of eternal perfection.
Hours there will come of soulless night,
When all that’s holy, all that’s bright,
Seems gone for aye:
When truth and love, and hope and peace,
All vanish into nothingness,
And fade away.
Fear not the cloud that veils the skies,
’Tis out of darkness light must rise,
As e’er of old:
The true, the good, the fair endure,
And thou, with eyes less dim, more pure,
Shalt them behold.1 [Note: Frederick M. White.]
The subject may be considered under two aspects—
The Suppliant’s Attitude towards Christ
Christ’s Attitude towards the Suppliant
The Suppliant’s Attitude towards Christ
i. His Distress
The case has been in the hands of the disciples, but they have failed to do anything effective, and so the hope that mercifully turns men from one failure to a new test, brings this woe to the Master Himself, if perchance He can do anything. We cannot tell how much hope this father had. Hope is hard to kill, but years of sorrow and disappointment are full of wear and tear, so far as the element of expectation is concerned, and though the expectation of hope may grow less and less, the longing of hope, which bids recourse to new expedients, always lingers where love is. There does not seem to be a great deal of expectancy on his part, but he is full of yearning for the recovery of his son. He is sure that he wants the Christ to try to help his boy and him. “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.”
1. One thing is certain: the man knew what he wanted. And he wanted it very sorely. He felt his sense of utter helplessness. How often this poor father had looked at his boy in the grip of the fiend, and had wrung his hands in despair that he could do nothing for him. It was this sense of absolute impotence that urged him to seek Divine help. If only he could believe in the omnipotence of Jesus. How those words must have sounded in his ear, giving birth to the faith which was trembling in his heart. “If thou canst! Do not say that to Me. I can. And because I can, all things are possible for thee to receive.” As soon as the consciousness of belief dawned upon the father, and the effort to exercise it was put forth, there sprang up the consciousness of its own imperfection. He would never have known that he did not believe unless he had tried to believe. “I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” The man’s desire for the moment was not so much that his faith might be increased, as that his unbelief, which he recognises as the barrier to the healing of his child, might be removed. His words mean rather—“Help my child, though it is unbelief as much as faith that asks Thee to do it.” It is the intense longing of a father’s love that breaks forth in his distracted cry.
Sweet cares for love or friend
Which ever heavenward tend,
Too deep and true and tender to have on earth their end.
These in the soul do breed
Thoughts which, at last, shall lead
To some clear, firm assurance of a satisfying creed.1 [Note: Lewis Morris, Poems (The Muses’ Library), 114.]
2. If our faith is dim and variable, so was that of those who walked with Christ when He was on earth. “O ye of little faith,” “O faithless generation,” “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed,” said our Lord. But to whom? To the self-complacent Scribes and Pharisees? To the thoughtless, ignorant crowd? No; He thus spoke to His disciples. His nearest of kin “believed not on him.” The apostles “as yet believed not the Scriptures.” It was not only the two on the road to Emmaus who were “slow to believe.” We will hope, then, though our faith be almost nothing, that the light will grow. The perfect clay will not be here, but it will lie hereafter.
For deep in many a brave, though bleeding heart,
There lurks a yearning for the Healer’s face—
A yearning to be free from hint and guess,
To take the blessings Christ is fain to give:
To all who dare not with their conscience strive,
To all who burn for this most dear success,
Faith shall be born!
3. Many are the times in our own lives, in the lives of our friends, when we cannot tell scoffers or even ourselves where God is. Perhaps it is bodily pain or moral guilt that clouds our vision; or the sin and suffering everywhere visible ask us, “Where is now thy God?” At such times we make a great mistake if we look for comfort in ourselves; for this is just the quarter whence the mists and clouds spring which hide God from us. Nor should we too much blame ourselves, as if mourning after an absent God always indicated want of love in us; for a man may think more of God and be more anxious to serve Him while doubting His existence, and in the anguish of his soul crying for light, than while resting comfortably in a taken-for-granted creed and coldly serving Him. We know that even to Him whose meat it was to do God’s will, and who loved His father as only He could, there came in His dying agony a moment of mysterious forsakenness—“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
A conscientious, intelligent woman, who had been in deep distress for many weeks, at last said to the clergyman who visited her, “Peace with God I know nothing about, but I have done quarrelling with Him. I have resolved to submit to God and serve Him, and do all the good I can while I live, and then go to hell as I deserve.” The clergyman smiled and quietly remarked, “You will find it hard to go to hell in that way.” The poor woman soon found that her willing submission to God brought her lasting peace. She had found the true religion, which is to know Christ’s will and to do it without stopping to bargain for the ready pay of joy and happiness.1 [Note: E. J. Hardy.]
ii. His Faith
1. In this particular instance, as in all instances, a man’s belief is of vastly greater significance than his unbelief; and, besides that, it is only by one’s distinct possession of belief that one is ever able to get the better of unbelief. So that clearly it is the first of the two clauses rather than the second that makes prior claim to our thought and interest. It is to the moral and intellectual credit of the man in question that he was thoughtful enough to be able to state his case in a manner at once so simple and thorough.
One of the outstanding characteristics of the present age is the extent to which believers doubt, and doubters believe. This strange blending of earnest faith and honest doubt is a great puzzle to some thinkers, and a source of painful anxiety to others. To those who love truth above everything, and believe in its final victory, it is a welcome sign of the times, inasmuch as it proves that men think on these problems; and the Christian faith is never in danger when men exercise their mind upon it. Such men will often find themselves among shadows, and some of their discoveries during the progress of their research will startle and even frighten them; but if they think on, and continue the quest, every step they advance will bring them nearer the clarified and revealing light which surrounds the Person and the presence of the Christ, and farther from the shadows where He is only dimly known.1 [Note: H. E. Thomas.] We should not deprecate thoughtful doubt; we should say with Browning:
Rather I prize the doubt
Low kinds exist without,
Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.
2. What is Faith in its essence—this mysterious power which brought the man an answer to his prayer? Faith in its essence is the power by which we grasp the future, the unseen, the infinite, the eternal; and in its application it is a principle of knowledge, a principle of power, a principle of action. (1) It is a principle of knowledge. Revelation tells us what we can know of the invisible and eternal world, and faith makes the message her own. In this sense it is most true that we believe in order that we may know. (2) It is a principle of power. For faith not only apprehends the unseen, but enters into vital union with it, and so wields, according to its strength, the powers of the world to come. (3) It is a principle of action. Our temptation at present is to acquiesce in worldly motives for right-doing: to stop short of the clear confession, to ourselves and to others, that as citizens and workers we take our share in public business, we labour to fulfil our appointed task, because the love of Christ constraineth us. And yet no other motive has that permanence, that energy, that universality, which can support our efforts through failure, or make them independent of praise, or bring them into harmony with the countless activities of life.1 [Note: B. F. Westcott.]
3. The weakness of new-born faith calls for the compassion of all who love the souls of men. In addition to their own weakness they are liable to special dangers, for at such times Satan is frequently very active. No king will willingly lose his subjects, and the Prince of Darkness labours to bring back those who have just escaped over the confines of his dominion. If souls are never tried afterwards, they are pretty sure to be assailed on their outset from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Bunyan very wisely placed the Slough of Despond at the very commencement of the spiritual journey. The cowardly fiend of hell assails the weak, because he would put an end to them before they get strong enough to do mischief to his kingdom. Like Pharaoh, he would destroy the little ones. He seeks, if possible, to beat out of them every hope, so that their trembling faith may utterly perish.
4. Let us remember that, whilst the cry of infant faith is heard, the stronger voice of stronger faith is more abundantly heard. Jesus Christ once for all laid down the law when He said to one of the suppliants at His feet, “According to your faith be it unto you.” The measure of our belief is the measure of our blessing. The wider you open the door, the more angels will crowd into it, with their white wings and their calm faces. The bore of the pipe determines the amount of water that flows into the cistern. Every man gets, in the measure in which he desires. Though a tremulous hand may hold out a cup into which Jesus Christ will not refuse to pour the wine of the Kingdom, yet the tremulous hand will spill much of the blessing; and he that would have the full enjoyment of the mercies promised, and possible, must “ask in faith, nothing wavering.” The sensitive paper, which records the hours of sunshine in a day, has great gaps upon its line of light answering to the times when clouds have obscured the sun; and the communication of blessings from God is intermittent, if there be intermittency of faith. If you desire an unbroken line of mercy, joy, and peace, keep up an unbroken continuity of trustful confidence.
iii. His Doubt
“Help thou mine unbelief.”
We have considered the man’s faith. And now, when we come to consider his doubt, we find that it is not so desperate. At any rate, whatever it was, he took the right way with it.
1. He made a frank confession of it.—Doubts which loom large in the dark, sometimes assume far less alarming proportions when brought to the light. Faltering faith is better confessed than concealed.
A great-minded and tender-hearted bishop, whose name is cherished by us all, said to a mother who was much distressed by the disposition of her son, a college student, to talk sceptically, “Let him ventilate his notions. Let him air his views. He is trying to find out what he believes, and he will not find out until he exposes his ideas to the full light of day.” Another, equally wise, said in a similar instance: “It is a plain case of intellectual measles. This kind of scepticism is the rash. It is best to let it come out. Don‘t drive it in.”1 [Note: C. C. Albertson.]
2. He went straight to the Master with his confession.—How many knots would be untangled, how many vexed and vexing problems would be solved, by going to the very central source of authority! The rest that our Saviour promises to the labouring and heavy-laden is rest from perturbing thoughts, rest from tormenting uncertainties, rest from harassing doubts, as well as rest from weariness, and weakness, and wickedness. Faltering faith, in the case of this doubter, not only honours itself by candid confession, but points out the way of peace by the very nature of its expression. The confession is a prayer. The doubter who makes the confession of his doubts an advertisement, a mere cheap appeal to publicity, alienates himself, by that very act, from the spirit of the truth-seeker. It is as indelicate to expose one’s doubts in the market-place as to display one’s sorrows to the gaze of passers-by. Here is the golden rule for all such souls as this father, this half-believer: Tell your doubts to God; publish your faith to your fellow-man. There is no place where doubt so quickly vanishes, where weak faith so certainly grows strong, where lame faith leaps, and blind faith sees, as at the Master’s feet, the throne of Grace. There is wisdom in the prayer, “Help thou mine unbelief.”
We do not say there are no others to help our unbelief. There are books and teachers and pastors and friends who help our unbelief. A Cambridge professor once declared that no student of his ever left the university without being permanently influenced by the study of Butler’s Analogy. Walker’s Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation has been useful in dissipating doubt and stimulating faith in many a student’s life. When Phillips Brooks died, a great company of men rose up to call him blessed, to testify that when, in crises of their lives, they went to him, they found light and leading. If anywhere within your reach there is a man of firm faith, a man like Tennyson’s friend who “fought his doubts and gathered strength,” one who has faced the spectres of the mind and laid them, one whose faith is refreshing and contagious, and who knows how to prove that “the soul has reasons that Reason cannot know,” go to that friend, that teacher, and say, “Help thou mine unbelief.” Not to the doubter, to compare your doubts or to confirm them, lest you be like a sick man who seeks advice of fellow-patients in a hospital, but to the believer who has a well-reasoned creed and the capacity to vindicate it, to him go with the request, “Help thou mine unbelief.” But the skill of all such men is feeble compared with His to whom, at this or any moment, we may appeal with the absolute certainty that He will speak to us the one word we most need to hear.
O Thou! unseen by me, that like a child
Tries in the night to find its mother’s heart,
And weeping, wanders only more apart,
Not knowing in the darkness that she smiled—
Thou, all unseen, dost hear my tired cry,
As I, in darkness of a half belief,
Grope for Thy heart, in love and doubt and grief:
O Lord! speak soon to me—“Lo, here am I!”1 [Note: Margaret Deland.]
3. He kept his mind in vital touch with the little that he was already assured of.—All wholesome faith, whether religious or otherwise, is a growth, a process of vital expansion from below upward, and the maintenance of that growth is made possible only by a careful observance of the laws of growth. If you have a bud on your rose-bush that you want to blossom, the last device you would think of resorting to would be to detach the bud from the stalk and to toss it into the air. And yet that is precisely what hosts of young men and young women are doing who are not merely questioning,—which is perfectly proper,—but are nipping the fibre of connection that would unite what they do doubt with what they do not doubt; and so of course their doubts never become faith, cannot become faith. Buds of doubt do not blossom and become conviction when separated from the live stalk of assurance, any more than rosebuds become rose blossoms when cut from the living stalk of the bush. It makes very little difference how small a man’s conviction is if only it is conviction, and if only he will stand to it and be true to it in his thought and in his life, and make that conviction the basis of his thinking, the support of his inquiring, and the law of his conduct.
The heathen philosopher, Plato, said, “My son, many have ere now doubted of the existence of the gods, but no man ever passed from youth to age without at some time or other believing.”2 [Note: B. Jowett.]
When Horace Bushnell was in college he lost his belief in God as God is usually understood. All that remained to him from his previous conviction was a belief in the abstract principle of right. That was not much of a God, but it was something, and that something he held to. Instead of entangling himself in the intricacies of the darkened realm of mystery in which he could so easily have become enslaved and submerged, and thus letting his splendid career of Christian faith and service be sacrificed, he simply held his ground inside the very small area of assurance remaining to him. Instead of dissipating his religious energies by roaming aimlessly in a world where nothing offered to him a basis of firm support, he kept simply and unswervingly to his confidence in the abstract principle of right, and not simply kept to it, but knelt down and prayed to it. “A dreary prayer,” he said it was, but it was a prayer; it was the best he could do, and it was honest, and, as he afterwards told the students at Yale, the God that he had lost came back to him in his act of trying faithfully and sincerely to worship the small fraction of God that had survived to him.1 [Note: C. H. Parkhurst.]
Constrained at the darkest hour to confess humbly that without God’s help I was helpless, I vowed a vow in the forest solitude that I would confess His aid before men. A silence as of death was round about me; it was midnight; I was weakened by illness, prostrated with fatigue, and worn with anxiety for my white and black companions, whose fate was a mystery. In this physical and mental distress I besought God to give me back my people. Nine hours later we were exulting with rapturous joy. In full view of all was the crimson flag with the crescent, and beneath its waving folds was the long-lost rear column.2 [Note: H. M. Stanley, In Darkest Africa, i. 2.]
iv. His Prayer
“I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
1. When we take the prayer in its entirety, it may seem to us a brief and imperfect confession, and a prayer which it were needless for us to use. Certainly the words recorded by St. Mark were the expression of a weak, rudimentary faith: a confession due to interested motives, followed by the petition of one struggling to attain just such a measure of belief as was the necessary condition of his request being granted. “Only he who really believes,” it has been said, “guesses aught of the unbelief of his heart.” He is no true believer who is not keenly alive to the weakness and unworthiness of his faith. No one who has any true faith can fail to realise how this continually requires enlarging and strengthening. We can never dispense with the prayer, “Help thou mine unbelief,” until this life is ended, and faith is exchanged for the open vision of those who know even as they are known. The disciples themselves were rebuked on this very occasion for their unbelief. Later in the ministry they were constrained to address to their Master the petition, “Lord, add to our faith.”3 [Note: T. H. Stokoe.]
“What God requires and looks at,” says Bishop Hall, “is neither the arithmetic of our prayers—how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers—how eloquent they be; nor the geometry of our prayers—how long they be; nor the music of our prayers—how sweet our voice may be; nor the logic, nor the method, nor even the orthodoxy of our prayers. The one thing which prevails is ferventness and sincerity.”
2. The very appeal is a tribute to God.—May we not say that there is a faith of the mind and a faith of the heart? One climbs to his creed by syllogisms, from premise to conclusion, and seems to know not only what he believes, but why he believes it. Another is averse to logic, and clings to God in trustfulness through the magnetism of love. He does not know why he believes; it is enough for him that the character of God finds a response and an affinity in the impulses of his own soul. He may not exactly believe in the God of other men, at least according to the portraiture given by other men, but he believes in God as he understands His portraiture in the Gospel, and he worships what he sees. From the view-point of other men he may be an unbeliever, but his soul clings to an ideal which he finds in the Book of God; and at least he can say: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” And he may take to himself the words of the apostle: “If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” It is something to know what is in your mind, but it is more to know what is in your heart, for out of the heart are the issues of life. The brain is the birthplace of ideas. The heart is the touchstone of impulse. The mind moulds creeds. The heart may have no spoken language, but it is a dynamo, and it throbs motive into life.
A Society of Atheists at Venice sent an address to Victor Emmanuel congratulating him on the escape of his son and daughter from assassination. Forgetting that they were atheists, they thanked Divine Providence for the miraculous escape.
It is told of Thistlewood, the Cato Street conspirator, that, after arguing against the existence of a God, the moment he was left alone he was heard to fling himself on his knees in his prison cell in a passion of entreaty, and that on the scaffold he poured out the agonised supplication, “O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul!”1 [Note: E. J. Hardy.]
Christ’s Attitude towards the Suppliant
i. The Sympathy of Christ
1. There are people so superior in their own estimation that it is impossible to approach them. They do not suffer fools gladly or suffer them at all. If we ask them a question they snap us up; they cannot tolerate our ignorance and stupidity. It is different with those who are really great. Their patience with our infirmities often surprises us. And the greatest of all, the perfect Man, was, and is, the most accessible. He suffered children to come unto Him when His followers would have driven them away. Any one might touch His garment, and He put His hand even on lepers. Few of us believe enough to tolerate doubt. How different was the Truth in this respect! The greater than Solomon who answered the hard questions of humanity was most patient to faithless, awkward, stupid interrogators. The Lord Jesus Christ did not insist upon a confession of His Divinity. Christ’s first followers were far from possessing the full Christian belief. A centurion merely said that a word of His would heal, and the Lord commended the greatness of his faith. An alien woman asked to eat the crumbs of His mercy, and He answered, “O woman, great is thy faith.” When one of His followers declared Him to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he received the beatitude which may now be read in huge letters underneath the dome of St. Peter’s.
Chief Justice Coleridge once confessed that his mind was sorely perplexed on the question of inspiration. He was told that “most of the men who had difficulties on that subject were too wicked to be reasoned with.” We may be sure that this answer was as little pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ, for whom the man who gave it was mistakenly zealous, as was the desire of the sons of Zebedee to call down fire from heaven against opponents. Believers should recognise those weak in faith as “men of like passions” with themselves, and give them credit for wishing to believe if they could do so, instead of, by their manner, conveying to them, while using the endearing term “beloved brethren,” the compliment which some Egyptian kings are said to have paid their people before asking for any special favour, “By the head of Pharaoh, ye are all swine.” They should let them see that they appreciate the difficulties to faith which are felt only by those who try to realise to themselves the meaning of what they profess to believe. Very often unbelievers are in revolt, not against Christianity, but against a grim, repulsive perversion of it.1 [Note: E. J. Hardy.]
2. What constitutes the difference between the believer and the unbeliever, since they both doubt and both believe? Are they not therefore in the same spiritual order? Think not so. The great fact, the determining fact, in the life of the believer is his belief; in the life of the unbeliever it is his doubt. The believer clings to his faith, and suspects his doubt. The unbeliever clings to his doubts and suspects his faith. The poor man of the text, the man with a sick child (and how we pity him, and pity the child!)—is he a believer or an unbeliever? Which does he put first, his faith or his unfaith? “Lord, I believe.” That is the first thing in his mind. That counts most. The other thought is secondary. So he is a believer, but he is a doubting believer. His prayer is the prayer of a doubter, but he is a believing doubter. There is a world of difference between honest doubt and stupid or stubborn unbelief. Jesus dealt differently with the two, and so should we. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” And again, “Tarry one for another.” Some are able to make more rapid progress in truth than others; let not such despise those who find it hard to take their first few steps in faith.
You know how it is in school. There are always some bright, precocious scholars who leave the others far behind. You know the contempt with which the prize scholar sometimes looks upon the “trailer.” You know the impatience of the teacher sometimes when a whole class is held back by one student who cannot get over a hard place or see through an intricate problem. I do not know that the best pedagogy would say to the teacher, “Tarry for the slow scholar,” but many a slow scholar has caught up with his class because some teacher patiently tarried for him. You know what soldiers do on a long march. They tarry for the weak and the lame, except in the emergency of approaching battle. The strong and vigorous will bear the arms of the weak, and if one sinks down by the roadside, there is an ambulance for him, and, in the absence of an ambulance, officers have been known to dismount, and repeat the beautiful self-denial of the Samaritan who put a wounded man on his own beast and brought him to the inn. Look at the Master’s treatment of this doubter. The man confesses his faith is faltering. Something is in the way of his belief. I have wondered if it may not have been that barrier to faith which all of us have stumbled over at times when approaching some great promise of God, that common reflection, “It is too good to be true.” Whatever it was, it was no barrier to the love and power of Jesus, for, without delay, He granted the father’s request, and spoke the word that released and relieved the afflicted child.1 [Note: C. C. Albertson.]
ii. The Power of Christ
1. The father of the boy comes to Christ as a doubter; he is sure of nothing but his own distress. “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” Christ gives him back his doubts. He repeats the father’s words, and places them in contrast with the spiritual facts which he had yet to learn: “If thou canst! For one who believes, all things are possible”: i.e. it is for thee rather than for Me to decide whether this thing can be done; it can be, if thou believest.
It is the majestic power of Christ that draws the distracted father to lay hold of His omnipotence. His word is like the blow of steel upon flint; it strikes a little spark of faith which lights up the soul, and turns the smoky pillar of doubt into clear flame of confidence, “I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
Bishop Westcott has said, “Faith is a principle of power.” Yes, and Christ is the great Power which, as a magnet, draws all faith to Himself. It is to be in touch with Christ that gives faith power.
Can peach renew lost bloom,
Or violet lost perfume;
Or sullied snow turn white as overnight?
Man cannot compass it, yet never fear:
The leper Naaman
Shows that God will and can;
God who worked there is working here;
Wherefore let shame, not gloom, betinge thy brow,
God who worked then is working now.
2. Christ is our great argument. He is both the glory and the defence of Christianity. The case of John Stuart Mill may be taken as a typical one. That this calm, guarded, sceptical thinker should close a life of research by acknowledging the validity of the argument from design, extolling Christianity, attributing its main power to the doctrine of an incarnate God, admitting that Christ is really historical, praising and vindicating His character, and in so many words recommending Him to the worship of men, is certainly something to make the most inveterate unbeliever think and think again. And any man who is conversant with the chief writers of the time will perceive that John Stuart Mill is not solitary, but that, in spite of a materialistic drift, there is an under-current of the earnest, intensely ethical, philanthropic, and spiritual which is turning hearts more and more to Christ. The character of Christ was never so much or so widely appreciated as at the present day, nor has the difficulty of accounting for Him on purely natural principles ever pressed so heavily. In the history of Christ, the materialist is confronted with this question: Was this noble, self-denying, compassionate Holy One, who bore mankind on His heart, who on the Cross prayed for His murderers and resigned His spirit into the hands of His heavenly Father—was He only a fleeting combination of atoms, and was all this sublime self-devotion a delusion? Is this life and death of Jesus a creation of human thought? Is that great picture of God manifest in the flesh, a God so loving that He comes into human nature to suffer and die and thus win men back to Himself, simply the projection of the human heart, an ideal which it forms for itself? Then what depths there must be in the heart that creates such an ideal and worships it! Is this the ideal that man forms? and is he himself only perishable matter?
The history of Jesus is wholly unparalleled. It is so splendid, so wrapt in deepest mystery, so clear, so simple, and so deep, with roots through all the past, and throwing such light over God and man. Is that history a human creation? This is the difficulty that unbelief has to meet. Objections raised against particular parts of the Bible and difficulties about inspiration do not affect this. Treat the Bible as you like, you can never throw the Divine out of it. You can never obliterate the marks of a great Divine purpose in it or remove the glory of its great miracle and proof—Jesus Christ. “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”1 [Note: J. Leckie.]
Faith and Doubt
Albertson (C. C.), College Sermons, 55.
Butler (H. M.), Harrow School Sermons, 61.
Dix (M.), Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, 195.
Hardy (E. J.), Doubt and Faith, 135.
Jowett (B.), College Sermons, 11.
Ker (J.), Sermons, 2nd Ser., 1.
Leckie (J.), Sermons Preached at Ibrox, 362.
Maclaren (A.), The Wearied Christ and other Sermons, 125.
Martineau (J.), Endeavours after the Christian Life, 343.
Parkhurst (C. H.), A Little Lower than the Angels, 186.
Pierce (C. C.), The Hunger of the Heart for Faith, 1.
Roberts (W. Page), Our Prayer-Book, Conformity and Conscience, 192.
Spurgeon (C. H.), The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xviii. 61.
Westcott (B. F.), The Historic Faith, 1.
Christian World Pulpit, lxiv. 359 (Mellowes); lxv. 286 (Cowe); lxxiv. 421 (Thomas).
Churchman’s Pulpit, pt. xx. 396 (Stokoe).