Truly, truly, I say to you, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and you receive not our witness.
It seems a moderate claim that the alleged truths of our religion should be respected as realities But this demand covers the whole ground. Admit —
1. That God is a real Father and Sovereign.
2. That each soul is His child and subject.
3. That separation from Him is the most terrible of disasters, to be healed at any cost.
4. That Jesus is the Christ who achieves that reconciliation.
5. That a righteous life is the fulfilment of human destiny. Admit this, and you have granted the whole conclusion. The terms imply something more than intellectual assent. There is such a thing as an ineffectual creed. To realize a doctrine is to have it wrought into the roots of our life. This realization only takes place when the truth emerges from the nebulous haze of conjecture into clear, sharp light — when it takes hold of feeling and is taken hold of by faith. This is needed now for the true efficiency of religion. For our religion is not dogma, or theory, or dream, but a spiritual power. Let us examine a few facts, in the Christian faith which authenticate its claim as a religion of realities.
I. THE IDEA OF GOD. Christianity did not create this. It simply places itself on the basis of a natural reality affirmed by the consenting feelings and philosophies of the nations; and then proceeds to nourish and satisfy it.
1. It is a real authority that speaks (ver. 11).
2. There is reality in the very attitudes and occasions of its revelations.
3. Reality in its substance. "God is a Spirit," and with that simple announcement old idolatries that materialized the gods, and mythologies that multiplied them, vanished.
4. Reality in its disclosures of God's nearness and condescension. He is the God of houses, streets, schools — not distant or etherealized.
II. This opens the true doctrine of INTERCOURSE WITH GOD, or prayer. What is natural if not that a child should speak to his parents, that man should ask for what God only can give? Prayer is a reality — something yearned for, something satisfying. So speaks the world's best experience. To pretend to ask things we do not really desire, or things we have heard others ask for, is not prayer, but speculation or traditional mummery. Christ brings prayer back to reality. "Ask, and ye shall receive."
III. Co-ordinate with this is LOVE FOR MAN. Here again Christianity does not create the faculty, but out of it weaves the bond of spiritual brotherhood. In training this social instinct Christianity gives it the brightest tokens of reality.
1. It stimulates fellowship, and by the healthiest motive — disinterested mercy, of which its central and crucified Form is the incarnate example.
2. It regulates it by the wisest law — broad, far-seeing, equity, saving it from wronging one class by righting another, from destroying without constructing.
3. It directs it to the purest object — the personal relief, the universal liberation, the spiritual rectitude of each soul.
IV. Turning from the social to the private offices of Christianity, we encounter the only satisfactory interpretation of the natural YEARNING TOWARDS AN IDEAL MORAL PERFECTION. It is only in very inferior natures that this sensibility to exalted goodness is utterly depraved. Baseness secretly confesses the beauty of magnanimity. The story of incorruptible conscience is the perpetual charm of literature. With all select souls there is a tantalizing disparity between the aspiring aim and the lagging performance. How does the gospel justify this real passion for the best?
1. By blessing these native aspirations as the Divine seal set on humanity.
2. By encouraging them.
3. By furnishing them nutriment and discipline to ripen their vigour.
4. By holding up one in whom all their promises are realized.
5. By giving them a hereafter where they shall mature into open vision and into calm and balanced power.
V. Not less does the gospel fit the varieties of human consciousness in its great doctrine of A RULING CHOICE DETERMINING CHARACTER. It divides the world into two classes by the inexorable line of that voluntary consecration. There is one differencing point, the point of motive, where the world's people and God's divide.
VI. But there is one reality darker and more fearful. THE LAW AND GUIDE OF LIFE HAS BEEN BROKEN. I know I am frail, offending, and guilty. Who shall deliver .me? Christ. He has come for that.
VII. Infer, then, THE REALITY OF CHRISTIANITY.
1. In its ministry to the cravings of simple, honest hearts.
2. In its marvellous adaptation to the pain and gladness, fear and hope of our humanity.
3. In its unpretending address to our common habits, speaking the language of life.
4. In its boundless relief for a boundless difficulty.
5. In its expanding and exhaustless fulness for all glowing souls.
VIII. THE EARLY CHRISTIANS PREACHED, LIVED, DIED, FOR THIS REALITY, AND CONQUERED THE WORLD.
Parallel VersesKJV: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.