Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.
What the Caliph Omar is reported to have written to Amru, his general commanding in Egypt, has a grand moral. If those books contradicted the Koran, they were false, and ought to be destroyed. If they agreed with the Koran, they were of no use, and might well be spared. One book was enough for Mohammedans. So, when Sir Walter Scott lay dying, he said to his son-in-law one day, "Lockhart, read to me." "What book shall it be?" said Lockhart. "Why do you ask? there is but one," said Scott. Now, if this Book itself were in danger of being destroyed, and I might have only one chapter out of it, I rather think it would be this which Scott asked to be read to him. Probably no single chapter is read so much to the dying, over the dead. It was the Speaker who was about to die. His hearers were about to be launched into a lifelong service, and their last necessity was absolute, child-like faith.
I. LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED. Certainly they were troubled. And they had reason to be. Many times over Judas betrays his Lord, and hangs himself. Many times over Peter denies his Lord and repents. Many times over the Lord Himself is crucified, and buried, rises and goes away and comes again unseen. It is the same old story always; and always with the old refrain: "Let not your heart be troubled."
1. Today, as related to heathen peoples and religions, the Judas Iscariot of Christianity is Christendom itself. At first, Christianity had behind it only the incomparable personality and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. If Christendom were only Christian really, how much longer would China probably be Confucian? or India Brahmanic? These are painful questions. But let not your heart be troubled. Inside of Christendom I see another betrayal of Christianity, which also is very painful. We behold a Christian civilization, incontestably and immensely superior to any heathen pattern. By and by this Christian civilization forgets its Christian parentage; or denies it, and claims for itself another pedigree. Scholarly men analyze and compare the great historic religions, allowing little preeminence to Christianity. Then after a while the conclusion is reached that we really need no religion at all, only science. Take your sop, Judas, and be gone. As for the eleven, let not their hearts be troubled.
2. Peter's denial of the Lord also repeats itself. Scandals and offences are sure to come. Good men are tempted, stumble and fall. Let not your heart be troubled. Peter denied his Master with an oath. Whole communions apostatize. Verily, powers of darkness are busy; and the night is long. But let not your heart be troubled. The morning cometh. Peter repented.
3. As for what Christ said about going away and coming again, changing the economy from flesh to spirit, from sight to faith, it seems strange to us that His apostles should have been so staggered by it. Those apostles, for three years had been under marvellous tuition; and we wonder they got so little out of it. The day of Pentecost had not yet come. By and by men will be looking back and wondering that we so poorly understood the gospel, overlaying it, some of us with ritual, others with dogma. We have much to be ashamed of. But let not your heart be troubled. More Pentecosts than one have come already. And more are yet to come.
II. BELIEVE IN GOD.
1. Commanded belief implies always the possibility of honest unbelief. Such unbelief has increased greatly of late. Partly, it seems like a reaction against outward authority, and traditional opinions, or against a superstitious theism. Partly it is sheer science, clear-eyed and dispassionate, unable to help multiplying second causes.
2. I have no fear of any very long reign of Atheism. In the poor, apathetic Orient, there may be morality enough to conserve society, with little or no religion, as in China. But not in Europe and America, fall of vitality, greedy, rich and restless. With us, irreligion today is immorality tomorrow, and after that the deluge.
3. Much of what passes for belie! in God is mere scholastic assent to the proposition that God exists. Or the attributes most emphasized are those pertaining rather to the Divine essence. What we need is a vivid sense of the personality of God. He must come very close, and be very real, to us, in our whole experience of life. Mankind must be His offspring; and human history, from first to last, the working out of His own eternal and righteous purposes. "We are but two," said Abu Bakr to Mohammed as they were flying, hunted, from Mecca to Medina. "Nay," answered Mohammed, "we are three; God is with us." And so belief in God is not mere assent, nor mere conviction, but absolute personal trust, submission, and service.
4. You and I know very well what troubles us in thinking of God — sin. But if He had no hatred of sin, how much worse it would be for us. We might be in the power of evil spirits stronger than we are, from whose hideous tyranny we should feel it a mercy to be delivered over to the righteous judgment of a pure and holy God. You say you are afraid of God. But what human imagination can picture the horrors of a universe given over to the rioting of evil unrestrained? Thank God for His holiness. Though He slay us, we had better trust in Him.
III. BELIEVE ALSO IN ME.
1. In me, not as a second rival object of trust, but as God manifest in the flesh, rounded out and historic. This takes us back into bewildering depths. Sin is a tremendous mystery. But for sin, however, we might never have known, in this world, the sublime Triunity of God. Triunity, as we have to study it, is the whole Godhead, dealing with the problem of moral evil.
2. "Believe also in Me." The work of atonement is done, was done centuries ago in time, ages ago in eternity. God in Christ now stands pledged to the forgiveness of sin on the condition of repentance.
3. "Believe also in Me." Human history is God's judgment day. Nations are rising and falling. Human history is also God's day of grace. The kingdom began in an upper chamber. From then till now the kingdom has steadily advanced. The steady progress of Christianity has no parallel in the history of any other religion. The problem demands solution. And only one is possible. But for the magnetism of the felt divinity of Christ, Christianity could not have started at all as it did, or continued as it has. It stands today the old solid bulwark of liberty and order against license and chaos.
(R. D. Hitchcock, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.