The Testimony Of Experience
( Originally Published 1895 )
"He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not : one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see."—John ix. 25.
As Jesus passed by with his disciples, he saw a man that was born blind. The Savior paused, spat on the ground, made clay of the spittle, anointed the eyes of the blind man, and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. The blind man obeyed, and came back seeing.
The neighbors of the man were of course astonished. Some of them said, " Certainly this is the blind man that sat by the roadside and begged." Others who were more incredulous said, " t only looks like him." But the man said, " I am he." Then they asked him how his eyes were opened. And he tells them the facts very simply : " A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, `Go to the pool of Siloam and wash' : and I went and washed, and I received sight."
Then they brought the man before the Pharisees, and they called the man's parents and cross-examined them as to the case. They testified that it was certainly their son, and that to their knowledge he had been born blind; but they did not dare to bear testimony as to who had opened his eyes, because the Jews had agreed that if any man should confess Jesus to be the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself." Then they took the man aside who had recovered his sight, and undertook to put words in his mouth in order to take away the honor from Jesus. They said to him," Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." The answer of the blind man is one of exceeding shrewdness as well as straightforwardness. He said, " Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not : one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see."
There were a great many things about the mat-ter that the man did not know. In that age a blind man did not have much chance for knowledge. There were no schools or books for the blind. He did not pretend to understand the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. He did not assume to pit his knowledge, as to the legal aspects of such a deed performed on the Sabbath day, against the wily Pharisees. But there was one point where he grew positive, one place where he was well educated—" One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see."
And I assure you, brothers and sisters, that right there is the mightest power we have to use in convincing this world of the divinity of our holy Christianity. As has been well said by many another, it is not learning, or argument, drawn from prophecies fulfilled, or miracles accomplished or recorded, wherein lie the grandest power and resource of the Christian faith. ts overwhelming power lies in individual hearts that have been touched by the Divine finger into spiritual life; men and women who, whether rich or poor, learned or ignorant, eloquent or stammering, can stand up in the church or in the home, in the office or the shop, and with glad hearts declare, " `One thing I know : whereas I was blind, now I see, '—once overcome with my sins, now conscious of forgiveness through Jesus Christ my Savior. There are many mysteries yet sealed to my vision. Many problems are yet unsolved. Many questions I cannot answer. But there is one thing, blessed be God, which I do not speculate about and which I believe simply : one thing I know, that my sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ."
In modern times we have too often trusted to other influences. But the early disciples found this the great theme of their ministry. When Paul was carried before governors and kings to defend himself, he always had recourse to his experience. This wise and eloquent lawyer knew that his strongest and most convincing plea was the story of his conversion to God. When carried before Agrippa he begins his defense by saying, "At mid-day, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me, and them which journeyed with me." And he went on to tell with profound simplicity his religious experience—how he, came to know Jesus as a divine Savior, and had given up his life to the mission of bearing testimony to this personal knowledge of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
My dear brothers and sisters, we may well follow his example. And you who are not Christians, I preach to you no vague uncertainty. I come to offer you no husks of speculation. I do not mock you by offering you a stone when your hungry soul asks for bread. I offer you a salvation to be tested by experience, a salvation which you may test by your own consciousness. I offer you the bread of life, upon which you may satisfy the deepest hunger of your soul and arise from the feast strong and full of peace.
If Christianity did not submit itself to the test of individual experience, there might be some excuse for the people who are heavy burdened and oppressed with business cares. Men might say they had no time to examine into long and difficult problems because their lives were so driven by the cares of this world. But our Christianity comes to us in the personality of a Redeemer who, ever living, knocks even now at the door of our hearts, and if we surrender our wills to him, will become the personal friend and companion of our daily lives.
This religion of experience is just what every one of us needs in the hours of great emergency and trial. There are times in every man's life when mere philosophy or reasoning fail to give him comfort. When troubles come in like a flood, when disease creeps insidiously upon the citadel of life, when the pale horse and his rider appear at the door—what does reasoning amount to then? Simply nothing. In such an hour the soul demands experience. It cries out for the presence of God, for the tender, compassionate Savior upon whose bosom it may pillow itself in peace.
A few years ago a noted literary lady in our neighboring city of New York reclined in an easy-chair waiting to die. She had been for years what is called a "natural religionist," and belonged to a popular club of that faith. She had satisfied herself with her calm and philosophic theories of life and death during the buoyancy of health. But now the test came. Many of her so-called philosophic friends were about her, and her physician, an intimate friend, sat by and held her hand. She was in great agony of mind. The physician, trying to reassure her, said; " Hold on to your faith ! Hold on to your faith !" until at last the despairing woman exclaimed : " O doctor, I am willing to hold on, if you will only give me something to hold on to." The poor woman learned in that solemn moment that no religion can satisfy the soul in the great critical hours of our history that does not be-come a part of our personal experience.
I am grateful to God that I have this privilege of offering you a salvation that you may test by your own personal consciousness this very hour.
A notorious infidel was once present in a highly literary circle when a lady of international reputation because of her literary work expressed her firm belief in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. He turned to her with an air of seeming astonishment and said : " Do you believe the Bible?"
" Most certainly I do," was the reply.
" Why do you believe it?" he queried again. "Because I am acquainted with the Author." This was her testimony; and all his talk about
the unknown and unknowable went for nothing in view of the blessed assurance born of her personal acquaintance with God.
Bishop Janes used to relate an incident that occurred under his personal observation. A Jewess out of curiosity attended one evening a revival meeting. She was not specially moved by conviction during the service, but as she returned home a thought came flitting across the sky of her mind —"What if Jesus was the Christ?" The thought so settled itself in her mind that she found herself unable to stay away from the meeting the next night, and during the second service the possibility that Christ was the Messiah sank deeper into her heart. She went again the third night, and on that occasion the conviction seized upon her soul that Jesus was the Christ, and she went home horror-stricken with the thought that she was a poor, lost sinner. The agony of her mind was so great that she aroused her husband at midnight, proud and wealthy Jew as he was, and persuaded him to go to the house of a neighboring Christian and get her a copy of the New Testament. Then, as upon her bended knees she for the first time in her life seriously opened the New Testament, a prayer went up from her heart, " O thou God of Abraham, the father of my people, give me light that I may know the truth I" She opened the book at the first chapter of Romans and began to read. She read the apostle's wonderful words in amazement, until she came to the sixteenth verse, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ : for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. These words went through her soul like a flash, of lightning from heaven. Then and there she came to a conscious knowledge of the truth. Jesus revealed himself to her as her Savior, and she entered by faith into the joy of salvation.
This sanie glorious expérience may be yours to-night if you will only give yourself bravely and courageously to be the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
An Ohio lawyer once came home and said : "Wife, I have been converted; let us put up the family altar."
" Husband," said she, trying to keep him from talking so loud, "there are three lawyers in the parlor; perhaps we had better go into the kitchen to have prayer."
" Wife," said he, " I never invited the Lord Jesus into my house before, and I shall not take him into the kitchen." He went into the parlor, and astonished the three lawyers by confessing that he had given his heart to Christ and had found salvation, and asked them to join in prayer with him. God takes care of a man when he thus honors him. For many years that new convert who took Christ into his parlor was the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court—John McLean.
Dear friends, I offer you a salvation to-night that will not only give you consciousness that your sins are forgiven, but will fill your soul with the blessed premonitions of an everlasting life. Hobbes, the infidel, said that death was "a leap into the dark," and Ingersoll, the blasphemer and the apostle of suicide, says he does not know either the captain, or the pilot, or the port, of the ship on which he is sailing; that, indeed, he is in blind ignorance as to whether there be a captain, or a pilot, or a port. But I thank God that you may know the Captain of your ship, and you may be sure of the port toward which she is sailing.
One day many years ago I was riding on horse-back over the mountains of southern Oregon, when a stranger came out from a little cottage and, inquiring if I was a minister, asked if I would come in and visit the bedside of a dying woman. I went into the humble dwelling and found a family of children and grandchildren surrounding a very old woman. She was more than ninety years of age. For more than twenty years she had been blind. She was very weak and was evidently near the end of her earthly pilgrimage. I had to kneel down by her side and put my ear close to her feeble lips in order to catch her whispered words. And while I knelt there she told me that more than three-quarters of a century before, in the old country, she had sought and found forgiveness of her sins through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That was when her life was young. She told me that during all these years of wandering, during which she had buried, one by one, nearly all her heart's loved ones, the sweet consciousness of God's loving presence had never forsaken her. And then, while the happy tears ran down from her sightless eyes over her wrinkled cheeks, and her face glowed with a tender and thrilling de-light, she whispered, I will soon be over there, and I shall see Jesus, and I shall hold all my loved ones in my arms again!" As I knelt there in my young boyhood beside that aged woman, I said to myself, "Here is a soul that is acquainted with the Captain. Here is one who is on speaking terms with the Pilot, and has no doubt about the port to which she is sailing. Like Abraham of old, she beholds a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
I bring you the invitation of the Master to accept this same precious salvation tonight.