CAN WE KNOW?
Everett S. Stackpole

Suppose a prisoner to be confined from birth in a dark dungeon where only the faintest light has ever shone. He has the power of sight but never had the opportunity to exercise it beyond the limits of his dark cell. He has been told of the sun and his latent power of seeing cries out for gratification. He exercises his imagination about the nature of the sun and how he shall feel when he beholds it. Yet no one can describe the sun to him so that he can get any conception even faintly resembling it. His fancy compels him to form mental images, yet he knows on reflection that they must be far form the reality. But never mind, the reality will be more splendid than the imagination. Do not urge the seeker to form no preconception of the blessing sought. You may as well tell him to stop thinking about the subject that is dearest to his heart. God can do exceeding abundantly above all that he can ask or think. The heart of man has never conceived the things that are prepared for those who love God, Well, the prisoner is promised that on a certain day he shall be led forth to see the sun. Bright visions fill his soul. He cannot sleep or direct his thought to any other subject. If weariness overcomes him, his dreams are filled with fancies about the sun and often he wakes with his heart overflowing with desire.

At length the day arrives. He is led forth into a room where a taper is burning. "Is this the sun?" he asks in a half-disappointed tone. It is beautiful, but does not satisfy his hopes. He is led on into a more spacious apartment where a bright lamp is shining. "Is this the sun?" he asks more eagerly and hopefully. He feels not quite satisfied though; he delays to look upon it with pleasure. He is led on into a large covered court where an electric lamp sends forth a glare of light. "Is THIS the sun?" he cries excitedly. His previous dreams are realized and yet the question reveals a doubt in his mind. Presently a broad door is flung open and the beams of the noonday sun fall through a unclouded sky full upon him. He leaps for joy and shorts, "THIS IS THE SUN." No longer he makes an inquiry but a positive assertion and doubtless the counter assertions of all the world combined would not convince him that he had not seen the sun.

So the imprisoned soul, "fast bound in sin and nature's night" has heard wonderful tales told of Him who is the Light of the world. A desire to see Him is awakened and he commences groping blindly in the dark. Some glimmering ray of hope shines upon him from the prophetic word, relieving his self-despair. He gives heed to it as it "a light that shineth in a dark place' and at first wonders if this be the sun. As he advances by consecration and resultant faith, some deep emotional experiences are granted him and perhaps he rests satisfied for a time thinking he has attained all. But the Spirit does His officework and leads him on. At some Bethel or Pisgah or Mount of Transfiguration he gets a heavenly vision or a glorious prospect is unrolled or his eyes are dazzled with celestial light. For the time he is contented and says, "I'll build me a tabernacle and abide here." But in some never to be forgotten day comes his personal Pentecost and the Sun of righteousness in His ineffable splendor rises on his spiritual vision with healing in His wings. He is raised up to sit with Christ in the Heavenlies. Doubts and fears and the "restless, unsatisfied longing" have flow away. He has arrived at "the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God."

Now all the other evidences heretofore mentioned come to him with multiplied force and make assurance doubly sure. He fells the love of God shed abroad in his heart and a responsive love welling up within. A new love for the brethren is felt. Joy ebbs and flows like the ocean. Peace like a mighty river flows on, ever broadening and deepening toward the sea. The promises of God are yea and amen. He lives on the confines of heaven. Such fruit of the Spirit, called the indirect witness, necessarily follows the direct witness and may easily be distinguished from the modified approval of conscience and from the first fruits of the Spirit that arise from prevenient grace. The direct witness is the tree; the indirect is the fruit of it. Once cannot exist without the other, but logically and in fact the tree precedes the fruit and as in the natural world the abundance of fruit is determined by the size and life of the tree, so the clearness and fullness of the abiding Comforter determine the measure and constancy of the fruit of the Spirit. If you would be happy and useful, be filled with the Spirit.

Editor's Note: This essay is excerpted from The Evidence of Salvation or The Direct Witness of the Spirit, written in 1894. It was reprinted in 1994 by Fundamental Wesleyan Publishers.


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