A SUMMARY OF THE MAIN REASONS FOR BELIEVING THAT THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE NEW CONTAIN GOD'S TRUE REVELATION
IN the Introduction to this Treatise it has been shown that there are certain criteria by which we should test any books which claim to contain a true Revelation. The honoured reader will have perceived, from what has been said in the preceding chapters, that the Bible satisfies those criteria. But we wish to make this still more clear and to sum up the proofs which prove it beyond the possibility of doubt.
1. In the first place, the Injil depicts for us in the Lord Jesus Christ the life and character of the one Holy and Perfect Man who ever lived on earth. Many nations have in their literature striven to draw an ideal picture of a Perfect Man. In some cases this account is quite fabulous, as in what the Hindu books tell us about Rama and Krishna. In others no doubt there is some historical foundation for the story, though legends have grown up about the person of the hero, as in the case of Buddha. But when we compare with Christ all the other great men that have ever lived on earth, and even all the heroes of romance, no one can assert a claim to equal Him in humility, goodness, gentleness, love, mercy, holiness, purity, justice, or in any other good attribute. As His character thus excels even the imaginary heroes of poets and romancers, it is evidently not the product of imagination or romance, but is true and real. The book which reveals Him to us must surely have been given us by God: that is to say, those who knew Him and have written down their own knowledge of Him no doubt, in accordance with His promise (John 16:12, 13), received from God guidance and grace to enable them to bear true witness unto Him (Acts 1:8), in what they wrote as well as in what they said. The Lord Jesus Christ is His own proof.
“The 1 Sun has come as the proof of the Sun:
If thou seekest the proof of Him,
Turn not thy face from Him.”
2. The perfect Revelation of God cannot be a Book, but must be a person: but the book which bears witness to that person and leads us to seek and find Him cannot possibly accomplish its task unless it have been composed under Divine guidance. Those who read the Bible prayerfully, intent with purpose of heart on discovering the truth, find that the Messiah, promised in the Old Testament and given in the New, is the theme of the whole Bible, which points to Him as the Saviour, the Word (كَلِمَة) of God, and hence the only person who can truly reveal God to man. By telling us of Him, of His character, conduct, life, death, resurrection, teaching, and promises, and of His unique revelation of God, the Injil solves the problem which had never before been solved, viz. How could the One True God become the Creator of the world and make Himself known to His creatures? Philosophers of old failed to discover an adequate solution of this problem, and so have those Jews who have rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. Muslim theologians have not been more successful. For example, the Author of the Mizanu'l Mavazin (ميزان الموازين) 2 says, “Every 3 percipient (مُدْرِكٌ) requires an instrument of perception in order to attain the percept (المُدْرَكُ): for between the percipient and the percept there must necessarily be some relation. And since, by reason of His Nature (ذات), God cannot have with created beings any affinity of relationship and conjunction and attachment and resemblance, therefore none of His creatures can attain perception and comprehension of the Divine Nature.” “From 4 among the works and products which are the proof of the existence of the Maker and Doer, none can either themselves attain to perception of the Nature of the Creator nor enable another to reach the abode of His Nature or the perception of His truth.” Hence this writer informs us that there exists a First Creature (اوّل مخلوق نخستين), which is in supreme truth God's only creation, and which is “the 5 Absolute Beauty of past eternity (الازل) and the total Light of the Eternal One and the whole and perfect Manifestation of God”. When God desired to create His creatures and to make Himself known to them, He made the First Creature, and that First Creature became the object of the Maker's whole love and the manifestation of the Divine Attributes. Being beloved by God, he came to love God. That First Creature, who in the first origin came forth from the Eternal Source, is the whole excellent Medium and the Absolute Prophet of God, and everything that happens from the beginning of creation to the end of the Possible is through him. 6 This theory, however, is not really of Islamic origin at all. It comes from 7 the heretics and the heathen philosophers. For example, the heretic Arius taught that there was a First Creature, and that he was the instrument used by God in creating the world. 8 Mani held much the same view of the Original Man, though he said that Satan afterwards made man in the likeness of this original man, uniting the clearest light and his own darkness in him as in a microcosm 9 (العالم الصّغير). The heretical sect of 10 the Naasseni (النْحَشِيّةُ) or Serpent-worshippers, who claimed to be Gnostics (عُرَفَاء), were accustomed to honour a hermaphrodite being called (Αδαμας) Adamas (غير المغلوب), and used to say that knowledge of him was the beginning of the knowledge of God. One of their sayings was, “The beginning of perfection is the knowledge of man; the knowledge of God is complete perfection.” Adam was an image of this Archetypal Man above, who was called Great, Best, Perfect Man. Something not unlike the Muslim theologians' view is also found in the Qabbalah (الْقَبالاءَ) of the Jews, a work full of the most absurd theories and of ideas largely borrowed from the heathen. There we are told that the Infinite had from all eternity wished to become known. That this might occur, the First Sephirah (سفيراة) or Emanation proceeded forth from Him. This First Emanation is called the Crown. From it came forth a second Emanation, and from the second a third, and so on to the number of ten. These together constituted the Archetypal Man, whom the Qabbalists style (אדם קדמון (آذام قذمون and “the Heavenly Man”. His head was composed of the first three Emanations. Earthly man is only a dim copy of 11 him.
But the difficulty is not solved by the hypothesis of a First Creature, by whatever names we may call him. As the Author of the Mizanu'l Mavazin tells us that no creature can comprehend or reveal the Creator, then it follows logically that this imaginary First Creature, being himself a creature, cannot do so. However much he might be superior to man, yet there would still be an impassable gulf between him and his Creator. Hence, if this philosophy be accepted, we must admit that God can never be known by men. This would overthrow all religion. To adore the First Creature would be to put a creature in the place of the Creator. This would be even worse than Shirk (الشِّركُ), which the Qur'an 12 says is the one unpardonable sin. Hence the theory of a First Creature does not help us at all.
Here the Injil comes to our aid, and reveals to us what wise men of old had failed even to imagine, the existence of the Kalimatu’llah (Word of God), who is one with God His Father by Nature (John 10:30) and yet has become one with man through His Incarnation. The Book which reveals this one Manifestation of God must have God as the source of its teaching. The difference between the doctrine of the Bible and that of Muslim philosophy as above quoted must be noted. In both cases the need of a Mediator (مُتَواسِطَ) between God and man is recognized. But the philosophical view (taught, for instance, in the Mizanu'l Mavazin) speaks of an imaginary Being, who is neither God nor man, who owes his supposed existence to the conjectures of Jews, heathens, and heretics, adopted by some Muslims. The Christian view is founded upon the Revelation given us by God Most High. In that Revelation we are told of a real Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both Perfect God and Perfect Man, who has revealed God to us by His holy life and character as much as by His oral teaching, and who has atoned for our sins by the sacrifice of His own life on the cross. If we have to decide between the two views, it is not difficult to say which of the two it is the more wise and reasonable to accept—that which has been invented by men, or that which God has revealed through His holy Prophets and Apostles in the Holy Scriptures.
3. The Gospel is evidently from God, because it satisfies the yearnings of the human spirit for the knowledge of God, for justification before God and remission of sins, and for pureness of heart and life. (1) The Gospel declares God's eternal purpose regarding mankind, and reveals to man the reason why he was created, the sinfulness into which he has fallen, and his need of holiness. (2) It tells us how we may obtain forgiveness of our sins through faith in Christ, and may thus become justified in God's sight. (3) It shows how through faith in Christ our hearts may be cleansed, and how God's Holy Spirit may make our hearts His shrine and purify our thoughts and desires. As our love to God grows more and more, we are strengthened in fighting against sin and the Evil One. (4) The Gospel shows us how through the Lord Jesus Christ we may become God's adopted children. Filled with peace and spiritual joy, we then can look forward with the full assurance of hope and love to the joyful day of the Resurrection and to eternal happiness and holiness in God's presence. As man's spiritual needs are thus satisfied through the Gospel, therefore the Gospel must be God's message to man.
It is known by experience that the sacred books of other religions do not produce this effect. Which of them removes fear of the Resurrection Day? Which of them enables man to know and to love God? Which of them demands purity of heart and life? Which of them tells of a Paradise into which nothing sensual or impure can enter, and in which the saved are free from all that is vile, and that is therefore contrary to the Will and Nature of the Holy One? These books do not show how salvation from sin and acceptance with God can be obtained: therefore they cannot satisfy man's needs. They may order men to perform pilgrimages, to keep fasts, to offer sacrifices: but since none of these things purifies the heart or makes God known, they still leave those who practise them wandering far from the Father's home.
4. The change of heart and life which obedience to the Gospel (البشارة) produces in the true Christian is a proof that it has come from God. This change is first inward and then outward, and it is so great that it is fitly described as a new and spiritual birth (John 3:3, 5), brought about by the agency of God's Holy Spirit.
5. In the Bible it is evident that those Attributes of the Almighty which man needs to know, and is capable of comprehending in some measure, are revealed. God's moral Attributes of Holiness, Love, Mercy, Justice are clearly taught, as well as those which prove Him to be One, Eternal, Almighty, All-Wise, the Creator and Preserver of the Universe. We are taught in the Holy Scriptures that He has revealed Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ, who went about doing good, who never cast out anyone who came to Him for pardon and help, who was without sin, and yet showed kindness and mercy to sinners, who denounced hypocrisy and declared the future punishment of the impenitent, though He laid down His own life to save us from sin and its terrible consequences. The Bible therefore does not only tell us about God, it shows Him to us in such a manner that all may see Him if they will. In so doing, it teaches us how hateful to God's Nature all sin is and ever must be, and that without holiness no man shall enjoy the Beatific Vision (رُوٌيَةُ اللهٍ) of God (Hebrews 12:14).
It is now possible for scholars to become acquainted with the literature of all ancient and modern nations. Therefore we have learnt by study that no one of the learned men and philosophers of ancient times ever succeeded in setting forth God as endued with the Holy and mighty Attributes which we have mentioned. Nor do the books of other religions, even those which have largely borrowed from the Old Testament and the New. Such books, even when they teach the Unity of God, fail to reveal God to men, but leave between the Transcendent God and His feeble creatures a great gulf fixed, so that He can never become known to them.
6. The Divine Origin of the Gospel (الِبشارة) is clear from its spiritual teaching, which is nobler, purer, and more sublime than that given in any other book. Attempts have been made to deny this, and passages have been quoted from Chinese, Indian, Greek, and other writers, which have been said to teach as high a morality as the Gospel does. But in every instance the attempt to prove this has failed. The Lord Jesus Christ taught, for instance, the Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them” (Matthew 7:12). In certain writings of Greek and Indian 13 philosophers we find the negative form of this, bidding us not to do to others what we should not like them to do to ourselves. But between this and the positive beneficence commanded by Christ there is as much distance as between earth and heaven. Confucius, 14 the celebrated Chinese philosopher, gives the precept also in a negative form more than once, but he never once gives it in the positive form. His grandson, Kung Chih, approaches this more nearly when he says: “'In 15 the way of the superior man there are four things, to not one of which have I as yet attained: . . . to set the example in behaving to a friend as I would require him to behave to me; to this I have not attained.” Even here there is no positive precept; he speaks of conduct to a friend only, and not to men in general, and he admits his failure. Again, were it possible to gather from all over the world a collection of moral precepts which would be analogous to those of the New Testament (a thing which men have often attempted, and always failed to accomplish), it would be thereby proved that the one little book which we call the New Testament holds enshrined in it at least as much moral teaching as all other books put together. This alone would prove its inspiration, for by no amount of study could the writers of the New Testament in their own time have culled all these precepts from Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Greek, Latin, Persian, and other writers, many of whom had not then been born. Moreover, the New Testament system of morality is a system, which this collection would not be. It would be a mere heap of withering flowers, whereas the New Testament is the fresh and fertile flower-garden, a garden in which are no weeds. Again, in Christ Himself we have the perfect example, who carried out His own lofty precepts. Nowhere else do we find any such character. Besides all this, while other books give us good precepts mixed with bad, the New Testament gives us good only. The difference will be understood if we remember that, though doubtless the shoulder of mutton given to Muhammad and his companions for supper after the capture of Khaibar was itself good, yet the poison 16 which was in it injured Bishr and others who partook of it. Finally, the Gospel gives a motive-power— love to Christ—which is found nowhere else. A student once asked a learned Buddhist monk in Ceylon, “You have studied the Bible as well as the books of your own religion: what is the greatest difference between them?” The Buddhist replied: “There are noble sentiments in the books of my religion as well as in the Bible: but the great difference between them is that Christians know what to do, and have power to do it; while we know what to do, but have not power to do what we know to be right.” Other religions, we may say, can, as it were, lay down the railway lines: Christ alone can supply the motive power to move the carriages of the train towards the desired goal. This difference is vital. Let it not be forgotten that Confucius only once in all his works mentions God, and then it is in a quotation. He gives absolutely no religious teaching whatever.
7. The inspiration (إلهام) of the Holy Scriptures is proved by the fulfilment of the prophecies which they contain. This fact is unparalleled in the other religious books of the world. Besides the numerous prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Christ, which He fulfilled when He came, as the New Testament shows, we have many others. An infidel King of Prussia once asked a Christian to prove the inspiration of the Bible in two words. He replied, “The Jews, your Majesty.” The prophecies about their fate (for instance in Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Matthew 24:3-28; Mark 13:1-23; Luke 21:5-24) have been fulfilled, as our eyes have seen, in their condition to-day. Similarly, the ruins of Nineveh, Babylon, and other great cities show us that the prophecies regarding them have been fulfilled. Long before Alexander's time, Daniel prophesied of his overthrow of Media and Persia (Daniel 8:3-27) and of the division of the Macedonian Empire after Alexander's death. And history proves that all these predictions, as well as those about the spread of Christianity, the persecutions of Christians, the rise of false prophets, the growth of infidelity in the latter days, have received fulfilment. But as no one except the All-Wise God knows and can foretell the far distant future, it is clear that He has spoken unto men in the Holy Scriptures which contain these marvellous predictions.
8. The miracles wrought by Christ and His Apostles furnish another proof of this. Of these the greatest is the Resurrection of Christ, which proved the truth of His claims to be the Saviour of the world and the Word of God.
9. The truth of the Gospel is also shown by the spread of Christianity in early days, and its having been able to resist all the attacks made upon it by Satan and wicked men (Matthew 16:18) even until our own day. Although the doctrines of the Gospel appear contrary to the reason of men unenlightened by God's Holy Spirit, and are unacceptable to those whose hearts are full of sensual desires, although the first preachers of the Gospel were for the most part poor and not highly educated, and although those who became Christians were most cruelly persecuted and in many cases martyred for their faith, yet, in spite of all this, large numbers of people embraced Christianity. Thus within a few hundred years after Christ's Resurrection the Christian faith had almost entirely overthrown the heathen religions of Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, and some other lands. This victory was not obtained by the sword or by compulsion, but by faith, courage, kindness, faithfulness even unto a martyr's death, and the simple preaching of the Gospel of Christ. Herein was manifest the power of God's Holy Spirit in strengthening the true Christians and enabling them to bear true witness to their Master, so that others also were attracted to Christ and became His faithful soldiers and servants. Other religions besides the Christian have also spread very widely, but never by such means as these. In some cases their propagation has been largely due to two things—the trenchant argument of the sword, and permission to men to follow and indulge in their fleshly lusts in this world, with the hope of doing so to all eternity in still fuller measure after the Resurrection. But the spread of a religion by such means as these is surely no proof that it has come from the Holy and Most Merciful God, who loathes cruelty, oppression, hypocrisy, and impurity. Not thus did Christianity spread in the Roman Empire of old, not thus are its victories in every land won today.
Whoever will now compare what we have pointed out regarding the Holy Scriptures with the criteria of the True Revelation which were mentioned in the Introduction to this volume will have no difficulty in perceiving that the Bible does assuredly contain that Revelation, especially because it throughout bears witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Kalimatu’llah, the perfect Manifestation (مَظْهَرٌ) of God Most High.
1. (Mathnawi) آفتاب آمد دليلِ آفتاب ـ كَر دليلت بايد از وى رو متاب.
2. Fourth edition: printed at the Imperial Press, Constantinople, A. H. 1288.
3. هر مدركى را آلت ادراك از سِنخ مدرك بايد باشد كة ميان مدرك ومدرك از وجود مناسبتي ناجار است ـ و جون خداُيرا از جهت ذات با مخلوقات نسبت ارتباط و مقارنت و علاقة و مشابهت نتواند بود بس ذات آلهي را احدى از مخلوقات او نميتواند ادراك واحاطة كند. (p. 12)
4. هيج يك از افعال و صنايع كة دليل وجود صانع و فاعل هستند نة خود شان ذات صانع را توانند ادراك نمود و نة ديكَريرا بر مقام ذات او و ادراك حقيقت او توانند رسانيد.
5. (Mizanu'l Mavazin, p. 27) جمال مطلق از است ونور كلّي حضرت لم يزل.
6. Op. cit., p. 29.
7. [Somewhat similar is Philo's theory of an “archangel and most ancient λογος”, “standing on the confines separating the creature from the Creator.” See Philo's treatise, “On One who is Heir.”]
8. [Mosheim, Reid's ed., pp. 160, 161.]
9. [Hase, Kirchengeschichte, p. 104.]
10. [Hippolytus, Philosophumena, ed. Miller, Oxford, 1851, pp. 95-105.]
11. [Article in Encyclopaedia Britannica, by Dr. Ginsburg: largely from the Aramaic work Zohar: vide also Dr. Kalisch's edition of the Sepher Yesirah.]
12. See Surah 4:51, 116.
13. [See instances in The Noble Eightfold Path, pp. 172, 173.]
14. Analects, Bk. XII, ch. ii; Bk. XV, ch. xxiii; Great Learning, ch. x, § 2.
15. Doctrine of the Mean, ch. xiii, § 4. [I owe these quotations to Mr. Stanley Smith of Tsechowfu, China.]
16. Ibn Athir, vol. ii, p. 84.