The Signs of the Times


June 8, 1882

Skepticism—Its Cause and Cure


The present age is marked by an alarming prevalence of infidel and atheistic tendencies. To successfully resist the tide of evil, God's people should give diligent heed to the instruction and counsel of his word. Its precious examples of faith, its warnings against unbelief, will, if rightly heeded, arm us with divine power to repel the attacks of Satan. ST June 8, 1882, par. 1

The healing of the impotent man at Bethesda has a lesson of priceless worth to every Christian, a lesson of solemn and fearful import to the unbelieving and the skeptical. As the paralytic lay beside the pool, helpless and well-nigh hopeless, Jesus drew near and asked, in tones of pity, “Wilt thou be made whole?” Be made whole!—this had been the burden of his desire and prayers for long, weary years. With trembling eagerness he told the story of his efforts and disappointments. No friend was at hand to bear him with sturdy arm into the healing fountain. His agonizing appeals for help fell unheeded; all around him were those who sought for their own loved ones the coveted boon. When at the troubling of the waters he painfully sought to reach the pool, another would be hurried down before him. ST June 8, 1882, par. 2

Jesus looked upon the sufferer, and said, “Arise, take up thy bed, and walk.” There was no assurance of divine help, no manifestation of miraculous power. What marvel, had the man made answer, “It is impossible! How can I be expected now to use my limbs, that have not obeyed my will for thirty-eight years?” From a merely human stand-point, such reasoning would appear consistent. The sufferer might have given place to doubt, and thus have permitted that God-given opportunity to pass unimproved. But no; without a question, he seized his only chance. As he attempted to do what Christ had commanded, strength and vigor came; he was made whole. ST June 8, 1882, par. 3

Would you, doubting reader, receive the blessing of the Lord? Cease to question his word and distrust his promises. Obey the Saviour's bidding, and you will receive strength. If you hesitate, to enter into a discussion with Satan, or to consider the difficulties and improbabilities, your opportunity will pass, perhaps never to return. ST June 8, 1882, par. 4

The miracle at Bethesda should have convinced all beholders that Jesus is the Son of God. But the Jews desired only a pretext for unbelief, and it was not hard to find what they sought. At Christ's command, the paralytic had borne away the simple mat on which he had lain; and now Satan, ever ready with his insinuations, suggested that this act might be construed into a violation of the Sabbath. The Jews had perverted this sacred rest-day from its original design by their customs and traditions, making its observance a burden rather than a blessing. It was hoped that a controversy on this point would destroy the faith inspired in some hearts by our Saviour's act of healing. ST June 8, 1882, par. 5

As the restored one went on his way with quick, elastic step, his pulses bounding with the vigor of renewed health, his countenance glowing with hope and joy, he was met by the Pharisees, who told him, with an air of great sanctity, that it was not lawful to carry his bed on the Sabbath day. There was no rejoicing at the deliverance of that long-imprisoned captive, no grateful praise that One was among them who could heal all manner of disease. Their traditions had been disregarded, and this closed their eyes to all the evidence of divine power. ST June 8, 1882, par. 6

Bigoted and self-righteous, they would not admit that they could have misapprehended the true design of the Sabbath. Instead of criticising themselves, they chose to condemn Christ. We meet with men of the same spirit today, who are blinded by error, and yet flatter themselves that they are right, and all who differ from them are in the wrong. ST June 8, 1882, par. 7

The man on whom the miracle had been wrought, entered into no controversy with his accusers. He simply answered, “He that had power to make me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.” The Pharisees, pretending ignorance, still urged, “What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?” It was their policy to question and cavil, that they might perplex and entangle him, and lead him to doubt, or else cast discredit upon his testimony. ST June 8, 1882, par. 8

When the Jews were informed that it was Jesus of Nazareth who had performed the miracle of healing, they openly sought to put him to death, “because he had done these things on the Sabbath day.” These pretentious formalist were so full of zeal for their own traditions, that to sustain them they were ready to violate the law of God! ST June 8, 1882, par. 9

To their charges, Jesus replied calmly, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Through the operations of nature, and by the ministration of angels, God is constantly working to sustain and bless humanity. I am working in perfect harmony with my father.” This answer furnished another pretext to condemn him. Murder was in their hearts, and they waited only for a plausible excuse to take his life. But Jesus steadily continues to assert his true position. “The Son can do nothing of himself but what he seeth the Father do. Whatsoever things he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. The Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that he himself doeth.” ST June 8, 1882, par. 10

Ample evidence had been presented, on which to base their faith in Christ, yet all who desired to doubt and cavil found opportunity. And what was the occasion of that murderous outbreak against Christ? A poor sufferer had been made whole! No better excuse have the cavilers of our time. God works through whom he will, by ways and means of his own choosing; but there are ever some to act the part of the criticising Pharisees. They cannot deny that the power of God is manifested through his servants; but still, in some points, the work does not accord with their ideas. If with their finite judgment they can find but the semblance of an excuse, they are free to challenge and disbelieve. ST June 8, 1882, par. 11

In the carrying forward of his work in the earth, and the manifestation of his power, God does not consult the will or imperfect judgment of men. His plans and methods may be directly opposite to those approved by human wisdom. If men would criticise and condemn the Saviour's work, when they had such evidence of divine power as the miracle at Bethesda, can we wonder that they criticise and condemn those through whom he works today? Unbelief will always find an excuse for its existence. God designs that men shall believe, not because there is no possibility of doubt, but because there is abundant evidence for faith. Christ bade the Pharisees, “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.” The Jewish teachers professed to be expounders of God's word; but had they prayerfully studied and rightly understood its teachings, they would not have substituted their own traditions for the law of Jehovah. ST June 8, 1882, par. 12

The Saviour continued, “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings how shall ye believe my words?” Those who begin by doubting and disbelieving the Old Testament, will come to doubt and disbelieve the New. We cannot afford to slight or neglect any of the provisions of God's grace, any of the manifestations of his Spirit. Those who do not gratefully accept and improve the warnings, counsel, or reproofs of divine mercy, will little by little come to regard them with indifference. They feel that it is optional with themselves to receive or reject the light from Heaven. Like the Jews in Christ's day, they reject the clearest evidence, because they find some pretext for doubt, something to criticise. ST June 8, 1882, par. 13

Thus are many in their pride and self-conceit placing themselves where no divine influence can reach them. By persistently cherishing doubt, they lose all power to believe. The Holy Spirit is slighted until its influence is no longer felt. Thus is cut off the means by which God has chosen to communicate with men. He has in reserve no more potent agency through which to reach them. In their own estimation, they are wiser than their Creator. Light has become darkness to them, and how great is that darkness! ST June 8, 1882, par. 14

The word of God is looked upon with distrust for the same reason as was its Author—because it reproves and condemns sin. Those who are unwilling to obey its requirements, endeavor to overthrow its authority. Many read the Bible, or listen to its words as presented from the sacred desk, merely to find fault with the Scriptures or with the sermon. Not a few become infidels, simply through their willful neglect of duty. Others are led to adopt skeptical principles from pride or indolence. They do not love close application. They will not put forth the effort necessary to accomplish anything noble or really useful. But they desire to be thought sharp and critical, to secure a reputation for superior wisdom. Turning their attention to the Bible, they find much which the finite mind, unenlightened by the wisdom from above, is powerless to comprehend, and they begin to doubt and cavil. ST June 8, 1882, par. 15

The indolent man invites Satan's temptations, while those who are actively engaged in some useful calling have neither time nor inclination to cherish doubts or indulge repining. Adam in holy Eden was commanded to labor, and he found in this employment one of the greatest blessings of his sinless existence. If the would-be skeptics of our time would apply themselves to honest, useful toil, they would enjoy improved spiritual as well as physical health. ST June 8, 1882, par. 16

Many consider it a virtue to doubt; and they delight in finding something in the Scriptures to puzzle the minds of others. They do not realize that they are thus entangling themselves in the snare of the fowler. There is a bewitching power in skepticism. Unbelief and stubbornness usually go hand in hand. When a man has once yielded to this deception of Satan, it will be found well-nigh impossible to break the spell. ST June 8, 1882, par. 17

There are some who at first criticise and reason on the wrong side, from a mere love for controversy. But having openly expressed unbelief, they feel that they must maintain their position. Thus they unite with the ungodly, and close to themselves the gates of Paradise. ST June 8, 1882, par. 18

We encounter skeptics not only in the world, but in the church. When the people of God assemble to worship him, there Satan intrudes his presence. Wherever there is a religious interest, there the poor souls that have been entangled in his snare may be found zealously working for their master. On almost every camp-ground may be seen little groups gathered here and there, eagerly listening to what some doubter or infidel has to say. Here the skeptic is in his element. He delights to talk. He has studied the Bible with the sole object of finding passages which he can use to trouble and perplex other minds. Some Christians feel it their duty to defend the word of God, and they enter into controversy with the skeptic—rather with Satan and his angels, who speak through him. This is just what the Prince of darkness and his agents desire. The infidel has nothing to lose, however the discussion may terminate; but the Christian suffers an immeasurable loss when his confidence in God's word is lessened. ST June 8, 1882, par. 19

These scoffers at sacred things may utter many sharp, witty, apt sayings, but “the poison of asps is under their lips.” The father of lies lends them his power and his Satanic cunning. Christians should avoid controversy with these men. We may feel that we are in no danger from their influence, but others will gather about to listen, and some soul may be led into the path of doubt and skepticism. Treat them kindly, but give them no opportunity to parade their infidelity. Give no place for Satan to insinuate his presence. Do not take one step on the enemy's ground. ST June 8, 1882, par. 20

God would have his people shun the society of infidels, atheists, and spiritualists. He has warned us of their character and their fate: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” “The transgressors shall be destroyed together; the end of the wicked shall be cut off.” ST June 8, 1882, par. 21

Satan will endeavor to destroy the faith of every follower of Christ. He comes to some as a roaring lion. To others he appears in angel garments, his voice subdued to the gentlest whisper. Our only safety is to cling with unwavering faith to the word of God, and promptly and resolutely to shun whatever that word condemns, it matters not how pleasing its appearance, or how specious its pretenses. ST June 8, 1882, par. 22

There are some professed Christians who are always weak, always desponding. They permit themselves to be constantly harassed by doubts, and seem to think they must always remain in this condition. These persons might be free, did they but realize their danger, and put forth an effort to escape from the snare of Satan. Let them cease to give utterance to their doubts. Every unbelieving word strengthens their own tendency to doubt, and plants the evil seed in the minds of others. Whatever we choose to sow, that we must reap. If the farmer sows wheat, he will reap wheat. If he sows thistle seed, his harvest will consist only of thistles. ST June 8, 1882, par. 23

Light and darkness, truth and error, are before us. We are free to choose. God will never remove all excuse for unbelief. Those who look for hooks to hang their doubts upon, will find them close at hand. It is far easier to suggest doubts than to inspire faith. Because the natural heart is at enmity with God, a greater effort is required to believe than to doubt the word of the Most High. And Satan himself opposes everything that would strengthen faith. ST June 8, 1882, par. 24

There is one course which all must pursue who honestly desire to be freed from doubts. They are cherishing some indulgence forbidden by the word of God, or neglecting some duty enjoined therein. Let those who complain that they walk in darkness, give heed to the light which already shines upon them, and they will receive greater light. Let them do every duty which has been made plain to their understanding, and they will be enabled to understand and perform those of which they are now in doubt. “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.” ST June 8, 1882, par. 25