Chapter 7: A Personal Testimony – Howard Kelly

BY HOWARD A. KELLY, M. D.

(To those who have believed that faith in the Bible and the God of the Bible does not harmonize with the modern scientific spirit the following testimony from a distinguished physician and surgeon should be of great value.

The Editor of Appleton’s Magazine says of Dr. Kelly:

“Dr. Howard Kelly, of Baltimore, holds a position almost unique in his profession. With academic, professional, and honorary degrees from the Universities of Pennsylvania, Washington and Lee, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh, his rank as a scholar is clearly recognized. For some twenty years Professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Johns Hopkins University, his place as a worker and teacher in the applied science of his profession has been beyond question the highest in America and Europe. At least a dozen learned societies in England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Austria, France and the United States have welcomed him to membership as a master in his specialty in surgery. Finally, his published works have caused him to be reckoned the most eminent of all authorities in his own field.”)

I have, within the past twenty years of my life, come out of uncertainty and doubt into a faith which is an absolute dominating conviction of the truth and about which I have not a shadow of doubt. I have been intimately associated with eminent scientific workers; have heard them discuss the profoundest questions; have myself engaged in scientific work, and so know the value of such opinions. I was once profoundly disturbed in the traditional faith in which I have been brought up — that of a Protestant Episcopalian — by inroads which were made upon the book of Genesis by the higher critics. I could not then gainsay them, not knowing Hebrew nor archaeology well, and to me, as to many, to pull out one great prop was to make the whole foundation uncertain.

So I floundered on for some years trying, as some of my higher critical friends are trying today, to continue to use the Bible as the Word of God and at the same time holding it of composite authorship, a curious and disastrous piece of mental gymnastics — a bridge over the chasm separating an older Bible-loving generation from a newer Bible-emancipated race. I saw in the book a great light and glow of heat, yet shivered out in the cold.

One day it occurred to me to see what the book had to say about itself. As a short, but perhaps not the best method, I took a concordance and looked out “Word,” when I found that the Bible claimed from one end to the other to be the authoritative Word of God to man. I then tried the natural plan of taking it as my text-book of religion, as I would use a textbook in any science, testing it by submitting to its conditions. I found that Christ Himself invites men (John 7:17) to do this.

I now believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, inspired in a sense utterly different from that of any merely human book.

I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, without human father, conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. That all men without exception are by nature sinners, alienated from God, and when thus utterly lost in sin the Son of God Himself came down to earth, and by shedding His blood upon the cross paid the infinite penalty of the guilt of the whole world. I believe he who thus receives Jesus Christ as his Saviour is born again spiritually as definitely as in his first birth, and, so born spiritually, has new privileges, appetites and affections; that he is one body with Christ the Head and will live with Him forever. I believe no man can save himself by good works, or what is commonly known as a “moral life,” such works being but the necessary fruits and evidence of the faith within.

Satan I believe to be the cause of man’s fall and sin, and his rebellion against God as rightful governor. Satan is the Prince of all the kingdoms of this world, yet will in the end be cast into the pit and made harmless. Christ will come again in glory to earth to reign even as He went away from the earth, and I look for His return day by day.

I believe the Bible to be God’s Word, because, as I use it day by day as spiritual food, I discover in my own life as well as in the lives of those who likewise use it a transformation correcting evil tendencies, purifying affections, giving pure desires, and teaching that concerning the righteousness of God which those who do not so use it can know nothing of. It is as really food for the spirit as bread is for the body.

Perhaps one of my strongest reasons for believing the Bible is that it reveals to me, as no other book in the world could do, that which appeals to me as a physician, a diagnosis of my spiritual condition. It shows me clearly what I am by nature — one lost in sin and alienated from the life that is in God. I find in it a consistent and wonderful revelation, from Genesis to Revelation, of the character of God, a God far removed from any of my natural imaginings.

It also reveals a tenderness and nearness of God in Christ which satisfies the heart’s longings, and shows me that the infinite God, Creator of the world, took our very nature upon Him that He might in infinite love be one with His people to redeem them. I believe in it because it reveals a religion adapted to all classes and races, and it is intellectual suicide knowing it not to believe it.

What it means to me is as intimate and difficult a question to answer as to be required to give reasons for love of father and mother, wife and children. But this reasonable faith gives me a different relation to family and friends; greater tenderness to these and deeper interest in all men. It takes away the fear of death and creates a bond with those gone before. It shows me God as a Father who perfectly understands, who can give control of appetites and affections, and rouse one to fight with self instead of being self-contented.

And if faith so reveals God to me I go without question, wherever He may lead me. I can put His assertions and commands above every seeming probability in life, dismissing cherished convictions and looking upon the wisdom and ratiocinations of men as folly if opposed to Him. I place no limits to faith when once vested in God, the sum of all wisdom and knowledge, and can trust Him though I should have to stand alone before the world in declaring Him to be true.

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