A Muslim Governor’s Question
Some years ago during Ramadan, the Vali, who was a conscientious Mohammedan, invited persons of other faiths to an evening feast for the purpose of trying to convert them to Islam. After the guests had feasted on a 13 course dinner, the Vali asked a Bishop: “My Lord Bishop will you kindly tell me what you think I must do to enter Paradise?” “Your Excellency,” replied the Bishop, “if you will permit me. I believe that God, for Jesus Christ’s sake, pardons my sins and will receive me into Paradise.”
“No, Sir,” said the Vali. “I cannot accept that, for I believe God to be absolutely just and righteous. One who is absolutely righteous cannot show favouritism. I am Vali here, and my power is practically absolute. You might have a friend in prison for debt, and you might come to me and say, ‘My friend is in prison for a debt he can never pay; I beg you, for my sake, to pardon and release him’. I am a man, and I might not want to deny you anything as my friend. I might pardon him; but if I did so I would be wronging all the people. If God can do that kind of thing, He is no more righteous than I am. I cannot believe that of Him.”
The Vali then turned to me and asked, “Dr. Ussher, what do you say?” I replied: “Your Excellency, If you will permit me I will use your own illustration. I will make a little change in it, I will call you the King. You have a son who is a friend of mine and loves me. I am in prison for a debt to the Government which I cannot pay. Your son comes to you and he says: ‘Father, my friend is in prison for debt; can you not pardon and release him?’
“You reply: ‘my son, I too love him, and I do not want him to be in prison, but I cannot pardon him, for if I did I would be wronging all the people. I must treat all alike.’ Your son replies: ‘Well, father, will you let me pay his debt, and let him go free?’ ‘Yes, my son, if he will accept it, I will not only let you pay the debt, but I will participate with you in making the payment.’ Your son then goes to the proper office, pays the debt, and it is marked on the books that my debt is paid. He receives a receipt upon which is the Government seal stating that my debt is paid, and now I am free. But I do not know that my debt is paid. Then he comes to the prison, with the receipt, and he says: ‘Rise, Brother, you are free. Your debt is paid. I have paid it.’
“When I hear this I may take one of three courses. I may say, ‘No, I will not accept it. I will not be under obligation to anyone.’ Or I may doubt his word, and refuse to believe this good news. The third thing I might do, and ought to do, would be to fall at his feet, and say, ‘I thank you for paying my debt. I have nothing to give you in return, but I shall endeavour by my life to show my gratitude.’ Then I would leave the prison, and it would be my joy to tell everyone about the one who paid my debt and set me free.
“But this is not all. Your son then takes me to his beautiful home, gives me a Turkish bath, and clothes me in beautiful garments. Later, he brings me to see you, and he says, ‘Father, this is my brother’, and you say, ‘Come, my son, from this day you are my son. You shall take my name upon you. In my name you shall go in and out. All I have is yours. You shall share it with your elder brother.’ This, I said, is Christianity. God is the King. Jesus Christ, His Son, paid my debt and yours too. I believe it, and I know I am free. If you will believe it then it will mean as much to you as it does to me.’
“Now what will be my attitude to your son? When I see him coming, I will do all I can to show my gratitude to him for what he has done for me.” “So,” said the Vali, knitting his brow, “do you mean to tell me that the work you do here in the Hospital and in the Schools is done to show your gratitude to God for something which He has already done for you, and not for the purpose of winning the favour of God.” “Yes, Sir, exactly,” I replied.
Then he said, “Dr. Ussher, you said that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. God is one. How can you say that He is the Son of God?” We were sitting at a window, and the sun was shining into the room. I put my hand into the light of the sun and I asked, “Your Excellency, what is this?” “Why, that is the sun,” he replied. Then I asked, “Well, is that the sun that we see, or is the sun a body behind the light, that no man has seen at any time, but the light declares that it is there?” “Yes, I suppose there is a body there behind the light.”
“There is the body of the sun which we cannot see. Then there is the light of the sun, and there is the power of the sun which I feel on my hand. Which is the sun – the body, the light, or the power?” I continued by asking the Vali, “Is there one sun, or three suns? Which is the sun?” He replied, “It is all one, and inseparable”. I continued: “Your excellency, God loved men, and wished to manifest Himself to man. The manifestation of Himself He calls His Son. The Koran calls Jesus, the Light of God. We Christians worship one God: God the Father, whom no man hath seen at any time; Jesus Christ His Son, who said, ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father’; and God the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts by His power and love.”
From “The Armenian Atrocities and the Jihad, The Muslim World, VI, (1916), pp 140-143 – Indian Protest against Armenian Massacres, p 312 . Reprinted in the Gospel Magazine, February 2005.
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