2 Peter 1:16-20
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…
The existence of God admitted, another question at once suggests itself. Has this Divine Being directly revealed Himself and made known His will to man? We were taught in childhood that He has. We say, first of all, that the very existence of this alleged revelation, in the form in which we find it, affords a presumption of its truth.
1. The first thing that strikes one on glancing at the books of the Old and New Testament, in which what is called the Christian revelation is contained, is the exceedingly heterogeneous character of their contents. A little of all ages, of all sorts of men, and of all varieties of human thought! But on even a cursory reading of these writings, heterogeneous as they seem, you cannot fail to be equally impressed with a second fact about them, that they have, after all, a strange and most striking unity. One spirit breathes throughout the whole. The same conception of God, as the eternal, self-existent, and infinite Creator, of His natural government of the world, and of His moral government of rational creatures; the same general notions of right and wrong; the same views of the design of human existence, of the individual responsibility of men, of the blessedness of well-doing and of the miseries of sin, of the guilt and want of mankind, of the justice, the goodness, and the grace of God, and of the way of reconciliation with Him. Nor does this unity of sentiment, of spirit, and of general scope and purpose seem less, but rather greater, the more carefully and thoroughly these various compositions are examined. That these men have not been mere copyists from each other, the specific diversities, and the accessions and progressive development of thought afford decisive proof. Two questions meet us therefore, namely, How came they, any of them, by views at once so unique in themselves and so immeasurably superior in intellectual and moral elevation to those attained by the historians, the poets, and the sages of all the world besides? And then, how came they, writing separately and each for his own particular end, living also some of them centuries and even thousands of years apart, so to harmonise with and to supplement each other that, taken together, their writings form one grand and well-adjusted whole? We will not now assert that with these questions before us the conviction must arise that there is something supernatural in all this.
2. The presumption thus created by the existence of the Christian revelation in the form in which we find it, is greatly strengthened, we further observe, by the obvious and admitted fact that it has entered most profoundly into the life and thought of the world. Nor can it be said that other pretended systems of religion have done the same. There are no facts of history by which such an assertion can be justified.
3. Still further, a third fact lies before us in regard to the asserted Christian revelation, which, fairly considered, must predispose us to receive it. The effects which it has wrought, both on individual man and on society, have uniformly been salutary in a very eminent degree. These, too, are allowed to be the proper products of Christianity, and not things incidentally connected with it.
4. Not less significant is a fourth fact which presents itself at the outset to the inquirer about the Christian revelation. It has thus far stood secure against all assaults of those who have sought to overthrow it, although these assaults have been many, persistent, and often conducted with great ability and learning. The ancient prophets, each in his turn, encountered the resistance of unbelief. Then followed the long and mighty struggle between Christianity and the prevailing systems of philosophy and religion throughout the Roman empire. It was a contest of life and death. Yet, after all the Christian faith held on its way and triumphed. So it has been in the modern world. The wits, philosophers, and savants of France, in the last century assailed it with pungent satire, with the coarsest ribaldry. English Deism, in a higher style of thought, with greater strength of reasoning, with no little real learning, enlisting champions who, to great metaphysical acumen, added untiring patience and fixed determination, attacked the historical credit, the supernatural credentials, and the asserted revelations of the Christian Scriptures. There was no lack of will, or talent, or diligent endeavour.
5. It is a fact which no one tolerably informed as to the condition and movements of the religious world will question, that at no period of its history was Christianity more vital, more powerful, more expectant and progressive than at the present time. Can falsehood be imagined to have such vitality?
6. Consider, too, that if the Christian revelation, as it has been received for ages, is Divine, it must be the greatest of misfortunes to reject it as a fable. If it be indeed a sun kindled of God to illuminate the moral darkness of our world, it will shine on to cheer, and warm, and bless the happy multitudes who welcome it, though you shall avert your eyes and hide from its beams in the thick shades of unbelief. You have nothing — nothing — to gain if it be false. You have everything to hope for life, for death, for an immortality beyond, if, as you have been taught from childhood to believe, it is indeed a real utterance, a precious gift of the ever-living God to man.
(R. Palmer, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.