The Present Truth, vol. 6
The Present Truth, Vol. 6
January 2, 1890
“Why It Is” The Present Truth 6, 1.
E. J. Waggoner
A man who has been out in a very dark night finds it impossible to see objects distinctly if he suddenly enters a well-lighted room. It would be just as well, yes, even better, for him if the room were at first only partially lighted, for then his eyes would the sooner accommodate themselves to the changed conditions. So also a man who has been in a very deep well, or a cave, cannot see when he suddenly finds himself in the blazing sunlight. Everything at first appears in a haze, then the outlines of form begin to be seen, and finally everything stands out in full relief. PTUK January 2, 1890, page 8.1
The same principle holds good in other things. If you should place a work on geometry in the hands of an Indian just from the plains, you could not expect him to understand it. Its figures would convey no meaning whatever to him. Or if you should place a Greek Testament in the hands of a bright Sabbath-school scholar, it would be unintelligible to him, although he might be able to read the English language with ease. But give him a few years’ time, and he would be able to read the Greek. Yet he would not read it readily at first. He would learn the letters, then certain forms and rules, and then he would stumblingly pick out the meaning of a simple sentence. Even if a book were in a child’s own language, and he were unable to read, he would have to acquire a knowledge of it gradually. And so in everything; all knowledge is gradually acquired. PTUK January 2, 1890, page 8.2
Now let us apply this principle to another case. We claim that the Bible very plainly teaches that the seventh day is the Sabbath, and that no other day is or can be the Sabbath of the Lord. But the question comes up, Why did not all the good of past ages believe and teach thus, if it is Bible doctrine? Why did not the reformers keep the Sabbath? The question is already answered. For centuries the Catholic Church had had supreme sway. Its policy was to keep men in ignorance, especially of the bible; that was a proscribed book. Wherever one was found, it was burned by the priest, and the possessor treated as a heretic. The priests themselves knew nothing of the Bible. Even the cardinals and archbishops, the men in highest position in the church, were ignorant of its teachings. They were taught to look upon it as a vile book, and to look to the church for their spiritual knowledge. PTUK January 2, 1890, page 8.3
Among the common people, the ignorance was of course still greater. There were very few who had ever seen a Bible. If they had seen one, the most of them would have spurned it as a loathsome thing whose very touch would contaminate. Had they ventured to open its pages, it would have conveyed no more to them than if it were blank, for the Bible had not been translated into the language of the common people. The small portions of the Bible that the church allowed the priests to have were written in Latin. And even if the Bible had been translated, to thousands it would still have been a blank, for where there is ignorance of the Bible there is ignorance of the deepest kind. Very few of the people could read; many even of the nobles and princes could not; there was no incentive for them to do so. This was the night, the darkest part of the night, and the darkness, like that of Egypt, could indeed be felt. PTUK January 2, 1890, page 9.1
But night does not always last. God’s Spirit was at work in the hearts of men, and that always brings light. There were men who had all the wisdom that the schools could bestow. They had been moved to acquire this knowledge by a desire to benefit their fellow-men. And yet in regard to the Bible they were as ignorant as the poorest peasant. But they were anxious to serve God, and Christ says that “if any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.” And so these men found the Bible, and, unmoved by the threats of bishops and popes, they translated it and studied it. PTUK January 2, 1890, page 9.2
The Reformation gave the Bible to the people, but they could not grasp all its truth at once. Its simplest doctrines were so directly opposed to the teachings of the church that it took a long time for their minds to comprehend them. The one great point then needed was to make men understand that the pope had no power to forgive sin, or to give men license to sin, or to remit the punishment due to sin; works of penance would not suffice to gain the favor of God. “The just shall live by faith,” was the watchword of the Reformation. People must first learn to believe that the Bible, not the pope, could alone point out the way of life. PTUK January 2, 1890, page 9.3
Some of the reformers had glimpses of still further truth, but not all. The Reformation had only just begun when Luther and his fellow-laborers died. Many grievous papal errors still existed. Other men followed them, who were moved by the same spirit, and now the light began to dawn more brightly, and more and more of the Bible was made clear to men. They had become somewhat accustomed to its rays of light. Some rested content with the little light they had received, and refused to receive any more. But others looked still farther, and were rewarded by finding new treasures. And now a great flood of light shines forth from the sacred page, and men are beginning to endure the sight. But this could not have been done at once any more than men who have been long confined in a dark dungeon could look at once upon the sun at noonday. And this answers the question, “Why were these things not found out before?” PTUK January 2, 1890, page 9.4
E. J. W.