Krummacher: What Is Truth?

Series: The Suffering Savior: Meditations on the Last Days of Christ by F. W. Krummacher (1796-1868)

[learn_more caption=”Introduction and Preface”] CMC Editor’s Note: In the following preface are the words of F.W. Krummacher introducing his readers to his work. It is our intention to post all fifty three of his meditations. Krummacher is regarded as one of Germany’s greatest preachers and was often compared to Great Britain’s C.H. Spurgeon. The reader will learn much of Christ through this series of devotional meditations on the final scenes in the life of Christ on earth. The printed work (first published 1854) has been described as the greatest single volume of the entire nineteenth century on the last days of Christ’s earthly ministry. The meditations are structured around the Old Testament tabernacle. It’s our prayer that you will be richly blessed his writings.

Author’s Preface

In the following meditations I trust I have succeeded in displaying to my readers at least a portion of those riches which are contained in the inexhaustible treasury of our Savior’s sufferings. Unmutilated scriptural truth, such as I believe I promulgate, still finds a favorable reception in the world, which I have been permitted to experience in the most gratifying manner. I mention it, solely to the praise of God, and for the satisfaction of those who are like-minded, that my writings, or at least a part of them, are, as I hear, already translated into English, French, Dutch, Swedish, and as I am assured, though I cannot vouch for the fact, into the Danish language also. My “Elijah the Tishbite” has even appeared in a Chinese attire. But that which is of greater importance, is the news I am constantly receiving of the manifold blessing which the Lord of his great and unmerited favor has bestowed upon my labors. That in his condescension and loving-kindness, He would also deign to bless this my most recent work is so much the more my heartfelt wish and ardent prayer, since it has for its subject the chief supporting pillar of the whole church—the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The division of the work into the “Outer Court,” the “Holy Place,” and the “Most Holy Place,” is intended merely to point out the different stages of the Redeemer’s sufferings, from their commencement to their close, but by no means to attach a less or greater importance to them. Had the latter been the case, I would naturally have assigned the institution of the Lord’s Supper its appropriate place in the “Most Holy Place,” instead of the “Outer Court.” But in the plan of this volume, it falls among the class of events, which immediately precede the propitiatory work of the Mediator.

~ F. W. Krummacher [/learn_more]




Meditation – XXVIII

What Is Truth?

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.
For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—
to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
—  John 18:37-38 ESV

In the whole of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, with the exception of the words prefixed to our present meditation, we do not find a single passage which sounds anything like the complaining inquiry which so often reaches our ears: “Who will give us light, and solve the dark problem of human life?” On the contrary we every where meet with the presupposed fact that truth has not first to be sought, but has long since been bestowed upon man. The different relations in which the pious and the impious stand to it are not those of belief and doubt, but of a willing submission and a wicked resistance to it. The words in Deut. 29:29—”The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever,”—stand immutably firm for all. He who would render it dubious whether God had ever spoken to the sojourners upon the earth, would have seemed to the Israelites like one who should doubt at noon-day whether the sun stood in the skies. The complaint of a want of certainty with respect to that which is above the senses is a folly of modern date, and a relic of heathenism. It is a question long since infallibly answered, both as regards the origin and object of created things, and the calling and destiny of the human race; and the cheering fact that it is so is testified by the words of Moses we quoted above.

Those things which are revealed belong unto us and our children forever. But when, by the Holy Spirit, he states, that “the secret things belong unto the Lord our God,” he intends we should understand that the truth is only revealed to us to the extent of our capacities, and as far as is necessary for our salvation. This conviction greatly tranquilizes us, in the face of so many unsolved enigmas which meet us in the doctrines of faith which are preached to us. When, for instance, our attention is directed to the doctrine of God’s eternal existence, of the Trinity, the creation of the world, the fall of the angels and of man, the twofold nature in Christ, the final consummation of all things, etc., we rack our reason in vain, and our hearts and minds are distressed by their incomprehensibility, we ought then to say, in the words of revelation, “Secret things belong to the Lord our God.” He has only partially revealed these things to us, but that which we do know abundantly suffices for the attainment of the great object of our salvation. We know now in part what we shall hereafter know perfectly. For that period we patiently wait, and feel assured, that when it shall have dawned upon us with its all-pervading and enlightening radiance, doubt and darkness will be forever dispelled, and give place to never-ending and admiring adoration.

These brief observations may serve as an introduction to our present meditation, by which may the Lord be pleased to establish us in the conviction that He himself is the Truth, as well as the Way and the Life!

“He who is of the truth,” said our Lord at the conclusion of his reply, “hears my voice.” Pilate then said unto him, “What is truth?” Some have found in these words a gentle sneer; others the expression of a complete indifference to religion. But neither of these explanations fully accord with the man’s character. The words are more profound and important. They shed light upon an entire age, and upon the inmost state of mind of thousands of its children.

We have already observed that Pilate lived in days which might be designated as those of the mature education of mankind, so far as we understand by that expression, intellectual and moral culture, to which the children of Adam, left to themselves and by the exercise of their own natural powers and abilities are able to attain. Not only had are reached its highest perfection, but philosophy was also at the summit of its boldest investigations; and even to the present day we admire the systems which, by the effort of highly gifted reasoning powers, they called into existence. But still there was no satisfactory basis for them to rest upon. Although the human mind had brought to light much that was probable, yet anything certain and infallible was sought for in vain. Even the greatest of all the sages of antiquity confessed that only if a God were to descend from heaven would it be possible for men to attain to that which was sure. No, the saying became common-place, that only one thing was certain, which was, that we could know nothing of things above the reach of the senses, and even this was not entirely certain.

Such were the views which first gave rise in Greece to that frivolous philosophy of life which, renouncing everything of a superior and super-sensible nature, placed the whole destiny of man in the enjoyment of this world and its pleasures, and which, in a short time, with all its attendant excesses and vices, became the religion of the great mass of the population. In the Roman empire, a certain moral discipline was preserved somewhat longer than in Greece. But after the Romans had subjugated the latter to their sway, those who had thus become their subjects, soared above their conquerors in an intellectual and social point of view, and bequeathed to them, along with their unbelief, their frivolity and their sins. In the higher circles, the traditional belief in a number of deities was not only laid aside, but ridiculed as worthless and visionary; and thus the celebrated Roman orator, Cicero, made himself sure of the applause of his hearers, when, addressing an assembly of the people, he alluded to the punishments of the lower world only in an ironical manner. Scarcely any one any longer believed in Orcus, and its shades and horrors; and just as little faith did they place in the systems of the philosophers. In short, they believed nothing; yet still the negation of the head was by no means able to silence the cry for light and peace from the hearts of thousands.

Pilate stands before us as the true representative of the social culture of his age. Though we must not take it for granted that he ever deeply studied the various systems of philosophy, yet, like others of his own rank, he was doubtless acquainted with the essential results of philosophical investigation, while to the literature of his age he was doubtless no stranger. This man’s path through life brought him into contact with the Lord from heaven, and thus placed him in a spiritual atmosphere, in which feelings and presentiments again awoke in him which seemed to have been long stifled by the breath of the frivolous culture of the age, which he had imbibed with his mother’s milk. Christ, whose very appearance produced a strange effect upon this heathen, speaks to him of another world, of a heavenly kingdom, and finally of a truth which had appeared, and which, therefore, might be really found and known.

Pilate then breaks out into the remarkable words, “What is truth?” The polished heathen of that age, and one of the better kind of them, displays to us by this question his inward state. Something of free-thinking frivolity certainly strikes us in this question on the outset, which causes the inquirer to smile, not only at the popular belief in idols, but, generally speaking, in everything which had reference to the sphere of religious ideas, as nothing but childish dreams and fantastic delusions. “What is truth?” was at that time the language of thousands: “That which we see with our eyes, and feel with our hands, is the only thing that is certain under heaven. No mortal eye sees beyond the limits of the region of the senses; and though the plea of a poetic imagination may be able to satisfy those upon one stage of life and culture, it cannot satisfy all.”

In Pilate’s question, we may further perceive the skeptical philosopher of rank, who is not only aware that the researches of human thought lead to the most diversified and opposite results; but who also cherishes the idea that he has himself reflected and ruminated upon the labors of the wise of this world, and that by his own reasoning upon them, he has arrived at the conviction that nothing can be known or ascertained of things which lie beyond the bounds of visibility. “What is truth?” he exclaims—”One man calls this truth, another that, which is perhaps even something quite the opposite. Systems rise and fall. The man who seeks for truth, sails upon a sea without a haven or a landing-place.”

In Pilate’s question is also apparent the boundless pride of the Roman citizen, who, as respects enlightenment and culture, thinks himself far above all the other nations of the earth, and the Jews in particular. Pilate utters his inquiry with a degree of inward, though transient excitement, as if he would say, “You, a Hebrew rabbi, will surely not think that I, a Roman patrician, am going to seek instruction from you?” The pervading tone of Pilate’s question is, however, of a better kind, and is only slightly tinged with the discords hitherto mentioned. It breathes of melancholy, dejection, and even the silent despair of a heart, which, with the belief in the existence of a world above the stars, cannot throw away the wish and the feeling of necessity for such a world. The soul of Pilate finds itself unhappy and desolate in the dreary waste of absolute unbelief, into which it is banished.

Were we to elucidate the governor’s question, and explain it as proceeding from the inmost recesses of his soul, it would probably imply what follows: “You speak of truth, alas! Truth was never given to a poor mortal to be the companion of his steps. We inquire after it, but echo, as if in ridicule of our anxious desire, only returns our question back to us. We plant the ladder of investigating cogitation, but its steps only lead us into impenetrable mists. Not a single truth has rewarded the many thousand years’ research of philosophic thought, and yet you, Man of Nazareth, speak of truth, as of a resident on the gloomy earth! Death has been silent from the first; the grave below is silent, as well as the stars above; and do you wish to be regarded as having loosed their tongues and unsealed their mysteries?” In Pilate there was doubtless something of the proud philosopher, something of worn-out indifference, something of the professed skeptic, something of the frivolous free-thinker and scoffer, and something of the hasty, jealous, and haughty blusterer, who, with his inquiry, “What is truth?” also meant to say, “How could you venture to trouble me with your Jewish matter of faith, who have things of greater importance to think of?” But still there is something beside this—something better and nobler—an unperverted inquiring mind—a longing for deliverance, but bound down, alas! by the impure and gloomy elements, which enthrall him, so that he cannot act at liberty.

As often as this question of Pilate’s occurs to me, it appears to me as if it had not been asked eighteen centuries ago, but as if uttered in the present day—no, it even seems to sound in my ears as proceeding from my immediate vicinity. It strikingly indicates many philosophers of our own times, and the so-called “height,” which modern intellectual refinement has reached; only that the question, in the mouths of our contemporaries, sounds infinitely more culpable than from the lips of the Roman, whose eyes had not seen what we have; for at that time Jesus was not glorified, nor his Spirit poured out from on high, nor the world subdued by the preaching of the Gospel, nor the wondrous edifice of the Church of Christ established. But after all this has taken place, for a man to step back again to the position of Pilate, a mere heathen, is something no longer human but devilish. An infernal spark now burns in skepticism; and the dubiousness of the Roman, compared with the unbelief of our baptized heathens, is almost like an innocent lamb contrasted with a wily serpent. Unbelief is now no longer the blind bantling of a heart ensnared, and deluded by the spirit of this world; but the light-shunning offspring of a wicked and rebellious will. We feel a degree of pity and compassion for Pilate, but for infidels of the present day, nothing is left them but the fate of those who refuse to come to Christ, that they may have life, to whom is reserved “the blackness of darkness forever.”

“What is truth?” It is soon found, when earnestly sought. There are many, who inquire respecting certain truths, but studiously turn their backs upon the truth of the Gospel, wherever it meets them. They would be glad to see solved a number of problems in nature and in human life; but all their research is a mere effort of the imagination, and the interest they take in it only vain curiosity. They take part in discussions respecting the creation of the world, existence after death, and the kind of life beyond the grave. But they shun the truth as it is in Jesus, and seek in a variety of ways to avoid and evade it. Do you still ask if truth really exists? I tell you, it is in your heart and in your mouth, and your hands lay hold of it. Are not these truths, that you exist, that you bear indelibly in your bosom a consciousness of a higher destiny, but that you are a sinful being, removed far from your legitimate aim, and find, in your soul, no peace which can stand the test? Further, that eighteen hundred years ago, a man appeared upon earth, whom no one could convict of any other crime than that of calling himself “the Truth;” and of having announced himself as the Messiah, who should eventually subdue the whole world to his spiritual scepter; and that you, with all your boasted liberty and independence, are now experiencing the consequences of the fact that a long time ago, at a great distance, in a despicable corner of the earth, yonder despised rabbi of an inconsiderable nation, was executed like a slave; and that on his account, your destinies, in all their relations, are entirely changed from what they would otherwise have been—all this is beyond a doubt; and is not this, therefore, the truth?

Follow the clue of what you now acknowledge as so irrefutable; and you will soon become conscious that mankind is guided by an all-overruling power, and will then be able to swear that a God, who is love itself, must inevitably have revealed himself to his poor dying creatures. And it will not be long before you will behold these revelations beaming in a clear light from the writings of Moses and the prophets. Truth meets you in the nomadic tents of the patriarchs of Israel, as well as in the encampments of the people of God, when wandering in the wilderness. It speaks to you in a voice of thunder from Mount Sinai, and in gentler tones, from the hills and valleys of Canaan. You hear her voice on Bethlehem’s plains, in the harmonious psalms of the “sweet singer of Israel;” and it greets you in the halls of the temple, in significant types and mysterious hieroglyphics. You approach Jehovah’s seers, and your astonished eye looks up to a brilliant starry skies. They are thoughts of truth, which shine upon you with such supernatural radiance.

Led by the hand of these holy seers, you go forward, and are greeted at length by the Truth in person. “I am the Truth,” says one, everything about whom, points him out as more than human; and all who long for the light, are heard exclaiming, “You are He!” That above the clouds there reigns a supreme governor of the world—who this God is—what is his will with respect to his creatures—for what purpose man was created—what is his high calling and true destiny—all this is revealed to you, beyond contradiction, in Jesus Christ. In his manifestation, the depths of Deity, the counsels of eternal love, the abyss of divine mercy, the secrets of life and death, of heaven and hell are unfolded. To every question—be it respecting the essence and marrow of the divine law, the nature of true virtue and holiness, the model of human nature, or whatever it may be—he is himself the decisive and personal reply. And when he speaks and acts, the spirits of doubt, delusion, and falsehood flee away, and light, certainty, and confidence approach us with their heavenly salutation of “Peace be with you!”

Then let the question of Pilate, “What is truth?” no longer be heard upon earth. It can now only be asked by imbecility or obstinate self-deception and diabolical hatred of the light. Truth has made its entry into the world, and dwells confidingly among us, accessible to all who sincerely seek it. A philosophy that acts as if it must first bring up truth from the deep, or fetch it down from heaven, will be punished for its base ingratitude toward the God of grace, by being left to grope eternally in the dark, to grasp at shadows, and never to reach the end of its fruitless investigations. The true object of philosophy now would be to fathom and exhaust the inmost consciousness of the human spirit, and, free from prejudice, to try the effect upon its indelible necessities of the truth which has appeared in Christ. If this were done, it would soon moor its bark, after its long aberrations, on the shores of Mount Zion, and joyfully exclaim, “I have found what I sought, I have reached my goal.” All who seriously and sincerely inquire for truth will inevitably land, at last, in the haven of the Gospel. Hence the Savior was able, with the greatest confidence to say “He who is of the truth, hears my voice.”

Let us thank and praise the all-sufficient God for the unspeakable gift he has bestowed upon us. “Behold, the night is far spent, and the day is at hand.” The prophetic call to “Arise and shine for your light is come,” has long been fulfilled. May the admonition which that call includes be responded to by us, and its promise be experienced! Let us cheerfully make room, in our hearts and minds, for the Truth, which stands at our door, and let us walk as children of the light. He is the Truth, who is at the same time the Way and the Life. Let us cast the viperous brood of doubts beneath his feet, that he may trample upon them, and make him our all in all, for life, death, and eternity.



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