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footnotes . . .

Two of the Greatest

Human reasonings are rarely devoid of truth. They usually have enough truth to "sound good," enabling people to "do okay," and "cope." But human reason alone can never discover enough truth for true victory. Too much of the truth lies outside the scope of reason alone. Furthermore, few human beings are willing to look honestly or reasonably at the logical ends toward which the beliefs on which they base their lives point.

Yet, ah! why should they know their fate,
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies?
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more;--where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.
-Thomas Gray 1
For true victory a knowledge of the Word of God is vital, and there are no substitutes. Human reason may strive and even attain, as the ballyhooed accomplishments of civilization to the eyes of the natural man attest. But human reason alone will always fall short, and sooner or later, will always become subject to fear, defeat, hopelessness and despair. True believing, love and hope are abundant and unfailing only in the spiritual realm, where the Word of God, not human reason, has first place.

To live without a joyful expectation of the return of Christ and of being gathered together unto him as one of God's children, is to either wallow in the mire of religion and spiritual counterfeits, or to crown life as a mere animal existence to be suffered through and have ended in oblivion. The results of the latter are nihilism blooming into unadulterated and unrestrained selfishness, sadism and greed, while the results of the former produce the spectacle of multitudes blithely sliding toward destruction, believing along with Eve, "Ye shall not surely die..."

The ruffled feathers of those to whom "ignorance is bliss" alter the truth not one whit. Furthermore, all of mankind's ignorance, contrary reasoning and unbelief did not stop Christ from coming the first time, and all of mankind's ignorance, contrary reasoning and unbelief are not going to stop him from coming the second. The title deed has been reclaimed from God's adversary, and recovery of the purchased property is going to be made.

Until then, children and grandchildren are destined to inherit the same threadbare rags and history is doomed to replay, ever more drastically, the same sad themes.

Whole bodies of men are sometimes infected with an epidemical weakness of the head, or corruption of heart, by which they become unfit for the stations they occupy, and threaten the states they compose, however flourishing, with a prospect of decay, and of ruin. ...The individual considers his community so far only as it can be rendered subservient to his personal advancement or profit: he states himself in competition with his fellow-creatures; and, urged by the passions of emulation, of fear and jealousy, of envy and malice, he follows the maxims of an animal destined to preserve his separate existence, and to indulge his caprice or his appetite, at the expense of his species.
-Adam Ferguson
Of the Decline of Nations, 1767 2
The fruit of the new-birth spirit, and the witness of the eternal life which that spirit brings, are self-evident to all who care to take an honest look at the accuracy of the Word of God. And those who act on God's Word know that they know that they know.

There is no human being on earth who does not recognize love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, or temperance. The inability of natural men and carnal Christians to cultivate these successfully ought to be a witness to them that they are lacking something. But for far too many, "'tis folly to be wise" is life's one, unalterable maxim.

What masquerades as Christianity during our times today proves itself to be of little help, having divorced itself from the Fountainhead of true Christianity, which is God the Father in Christ Jesus and the way of that Father with His Family through Christ Jesus -- each member of which having Christ born within. Little wonder so many of God's children can be found dying of thirst at the empty cisterns of superstition, speculation and unbelief, having been led to them by inept hirelings who have already taken flight.

But God's children cannot ever ultimately be denied, for Christ cannot deny himself. Their redemption was not sealed by their continued believing, nor can lack of continued believing change their destiny. Their redemption was sealed within them once and for all time by the planting of incorruptible seed, by the faith of Jesus Christ, in the new birth. And no power in heaven or on earth can stop the ultimate redemption which that seal guarantees.

But there is no reason for God's children ever at any time to be denied. The victories that the accuracy of God's Word makes available here and now, though seldom claimed, are nevertheless more than abundantly available. Our song in the night is not one of sorrow or woe, but of triumph and victory.

The new birth and the hope of the return of Christ are not mere platitudes which "sound good," enabling us to "do okay" and "cope," as we shuffle aimlessly down a road to nowhere. The new birth and the hope of the return of Christ are two of the greatest realities of life, being the only way men and women can ever know true victory. But human reason alone has no knowledge of them. True knowledge of them can only come from the accuracy of the Word of God.

-Jeff Stanley

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  1. As quoted by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg on Page 318 of The Great Reckoning, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1993.

  2. Ibid. Page 108.

This essay was originally published in the July/August 1994 issue of the Biblical Research Journal.

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