Chapter#5: Third Conference
When the time appointed for the third assembly had come, the former company, with the exception of Abd ul-Cadir, came together at the house of Sheikh Ali, who, according to custom, opened the debate. He told them first of the letter from Sheikh Jasir al-Din, who had always been known for his intolerance of free inquiry. He had, no doubt, been informed of their proceedings by Abd ul-Cadir, and his witless nephew, Haj Cadur, whose ravings people mistook for bravery, might very likely have already spread the news abroad. The letter was then read aloud, at the contents of which the company was much moved and concerned. Omar al-Haris arose and said, "Sheikh Nasir has in this letter exhorted us to 'stand to the truth, at whatever risk.' That, at any rate, is sound advice, though not in the sense intended."
Then, at some length, he mentioned the necessities for continued effort to find out what the will of the Lord was, and then, at whatever cost, to stand firm, regardless of the results, seeing that their eternal welfare depended thereon. He closed with a prayer that the Lord would strengthen them to hold firmly by the pillar of truth. Others followed in the same strain; the good Lord would not forsake them, as they sought after His will, whatever might be the pains and lasses in store for them.
The group then proceeded to the question of the day, the genuineness, namely, and authority of the New Testament. Ibrahim was the speaker. He took out his table, which was passed around and reviewed by each. Then he expanded on his subject at some length. The blessed Gospel, he said, needed no outside testimony; but nevertheless a valuable service had been rendered by the Quran, which so confirmed the previous revelation, and glorified Jesus, the son of Mary, that the Muslim had no option left but, in consistency with the same, to accept the New Testament with all its teaching. The whole company, after further debate, agreed that the genuineness of the Gospel had been made so clear as to admit of no further question. And so, after conference and mutual encouragement, they, one and all of them, confessed their faith in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of mankind.
Sheikh Ali then stood. He thanked God for these three conferences, and for the spirit that had guided their discussions. There had been no happier hours in his life. He then reviewed, at considerable length, the arguments in favour of the Gospel, quoting largely from the Quran. "What the Quran tells us, "He said," is indeed only as a drop of water for the thirsty man, which but increases his longing for the stream, whereof to drink and be satisfied; and the grand merit of the Quran is to point the thirsty one to the stream of life that flows from the Saviour." This he illustrated at great length from the Quran itself. God's justice, he went on to say, is satisfied by the atonement of Christ. Through His blood we have peace with God; for the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
"Let us then," he concluded, "cast all our care upon Him for giving us the light of the knowledge of His Son in our hearts, and hold firmly to His salvation. God be thanked for sending us that letter, which guided our steps towards the light, and grant the author thereof a good reward! My friends let us fight the good fight of faith. They may persecute and separate us here, and may even put us to death; but they cannot hurt us beyond the grave, and we shall all meet in the blessed kingdom above. He that sows in tears shall reap in joy. Now the gracious Lord, who has called us into the kingdom of His Son, and guided our feet into the way of peace, preserve and establish us unto every good work! He is our support and all-sufficient defence."
Sheikh Ali shed tears as he ended this address, which touched the hearts of all, and many wept. The company thanked him for his stirring words of faith and love, and ail expressed their resolve to hold on, even unto death.
Then taking up Sheikh Nasir al-Din's letter, they commissioned Ali to draft a reply such as should go in the name of them all. This done, the assembly broke up, after hearing and approving the dispatch, which ran as follows:
"We thank you for your concern lest we should fall into apostasy and its perils. God forbid we should wander tram the straight path; rather, we trust to be guided into the right way. We have been led to inquire whether the Torah and Gospel are genuine or corrupt; and after careful consideration, are convinced that they are genuine. We had supposed them to have been corrupted and altered; but we find them to be, in point of fact, the very same Scriptures which are attested in the Quran, and there said to be "a light and a guide from our Lord.' If you will honour us with your presence, we shall lay the proofs before you, if indeed you and your fellows might be partakers with us in the same blessing. For ourselves, we cannot give up the truth in which we have found rest and peace, even with the prospect of trial and persecution before us. Ours, indeed, are but poor bodies, liable to pain and suffering. But we have counted the cost, and prefer the will of God to that of man; peace of conscience to worldly honour; and even death, with the favour of God, to life.
We are grieved at the threats in your letter. Suppose, as you think, that we have gone wrong; is it right to vex and punish us for it? Should you not, rather, recognise every man's right to private judgment, and attempt to correct our errors? For we are ready to have them pointed out to us by reason and argument. If you will agree to this, good; otherwise we are in the Lord's hands, and He is the best of helpers."
Your faithful brethren, Ali and companions
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