As most of you know by now, I'm a history buff so it stands to reason that our first lesson in this series will relate to history. I'm going to use the life and the accomplishments of a famous American to illustrate this lesson today, and especially his own remarks about one of his accomplishments.
This famous person of which I speak is a man named Lew Wallace. Some of you may be asking, "Who's he? What's he famous for?" And, I'm sure that some of you recognize his name right off. He was (and is) a tremendously interesting character in American history. I'll talk briefly about his accomplishments and then focus upon one of them to make our point.
Lew Wallace was born in Indiana in 1827, a state where his father was later to become Governor. In 1846 the U.S. became engaged in a war with Mexico that lasted until 1848. Lew served as a Lieutenant with an Indiana Regiment during that conflict. After the war, he became a lawyer, but according to his own remarks, didn't care much for that occupation so did not really engage in it.
He served as a State Senator in Indiana until the Civil War began, whereupon he was appointed Colonel of an Indiana outfit. Before the war was over, he had been promoted to Major General. He served on the commission that tried the assassination conspirators of President Lincoln. After the war, he was appointed Governor of the New Mexico Territory where he was involved in quelling the Lincoln County War and thus was acquainted with Billy the Kid.
Following his term as Governor of New Mexico, he was appointed by the President to be the U.S. Minister to the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). He had one other accomplishment that we're going to look at in a moment, but look at what we've seen about him already. He was an officer (Lieutenant) in one war, a Major General in the Civil War, a lawyer, a State Senator, a Governor and basically, an Ambassador. A pretty interesting and successful life in those achievements alone, isn't it? But, he was also an author of both books and poetry and it's in this realm that we draw our lesson.
Lew Wallace is probably more known for one book that he wrote than any of his other achievements. That book is entitled: "Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ."
Actually it's in the background of the writing of this book and his own comments, plus those of other authors and historians, that provided me with my thoughts for today's lesson.
The first thing I'd like to comment about is, that Lew Wallace was not a Christian when he started out to write this book. His initial idea was to present Christ as a mere man and not as Divine. He became a Christian through his study of the life of Christ while preparing to write the book.
It was said that an atheistic friend of his once made a prediction to him that within a few years all of the little white churches in Indiana would only be a memory. They'd all be gone, as would religion in general. Wallace said later that he had no answer with which to argue his friend's assertion because he had no personal convictions regarding God or Jesus Christ. He said in his memoirs about writing the book, that he was ignorant of such elemental Christian things as God, life-hereafter and the Divinity of Christ.
He immediately decided to study them in order to have his own convictions about these things. Do you know what source he used as a study guide? The Bible itself. And this was at a time (1880) when there was a great upheaval of religion in America and many of today's false doctrines were being founded. There were many other "sources" he could have looked at, but he didn't. The Bible alone.
In studying the Bible, he said that he would trust his own logic and training to lead him to the proper conclusions. It's through this study, and the use of his training and intellect that he became convinced that Christ was indeed the Son of God and was Himself Divine. It's reported that he said that no man can read the Bible with an open mind desiring to know the truth in regard to Jesus Christ without becoming convinced of His divinity.
So, his most famous work, what he considered to be his greatest accomplishment, the book, "Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ" was changed from its original concept of Jesus Christ being just another man, to the presentation of Jesus Christ as the Divine Son of God. And the study of the Bible alone, convinced the author, Lew Wallace, to become a Christian.
That's all that's needed for Christianity. If we use the Bible, the Word of God, as it was intended to be used, as the sole source of man's approach to how to be pleasing to God, there would be no divisions in religion. No false doctrines to delude mankind. It worked for Lew Wallace. It will work for anyone.