Three Lines and a Bit

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 2
I was hailed one morning by a tall, gaunt and haggard looking fellow with, "Is your name Soltau?"
“Yes, that is my name. What is yours?”
“There's my name over my store," pointing to his place of business.
“Bellet, is it? I knew that name well enough. Yes; I think my brother knows your brother.”
“Well," said he, "I am in the dark; and I thought possibly you might to able to help me. I have blotted God out of my thoughts, but somehow, lately I have been awfully troubled in my mind. The great trouble is that I can’t believe a single word of the Bible—not a word." "I'm sorry for that," I said; "but if you can't, and there, you can't, and there's an end to the matter.”
“But can't you help me?”
“No, I'm afraid not; I don't know how I can.”
“It does seem hard that I can't get some light. It's awfully dark.”
“How long has it been troubling you?”
“About three or four weeks.”
“Can you account for it at all?”
“No, it came all of a sudden—night after night—so that I couldn't sleep for thinking. Can you account for it any way?”
“Yes, I think I can. Does your brother ever pray for you?”
“He has never left off since I left England ten years ago.”
“Then what you are now feeling is merely the beginning of the answer to your brother's prayers. You are getting a bit squeezed, and the truths of past years are coming to the front again. How do you like it?”
“Oh, it's awfully dark, and I'm miserable. I can't get any light anywhere. My health is beginning to suffer. Can't you help me?”
“No," said I, "I'm afraid I can't; it's not so easy to get back to God when you have been going away from Him for ten years. Jesus Christ says, `I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.' You can only get back to God by Him. But what I have said comes out of the Bible, so that won't help you at all.”
“No, I can't believe that.”
After further talk we parted. A few weeks passed, and I saw him coming into the service one night. At the close he came up to me, saying, "Will you try and help me tonight? I am worse than ever; and if I don't get help soon I shall die. I can't sleep, eat, or attend to business. It does seem hard.”
"Not hard, my friend, by any means. The Bible says, 'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap; but then, I forgot, you can't believe a word in the Bible.”
“No, I can't believe a word in the Bible; but can't you help me, somehow?”
“No, I don't see how I can. I have no other resource but the Bible; and that's no use to you.”
“What shall I do? I am all astray. I have got far away from God!”
“What did you say just then?”
“Why, that I'd got far from God, and gone astray altogether.”
“Well, I think I could find one line that you could believe now. Shall I try?”
“Do. I shall be so glad to get one line that I can really believe.”
“Is that true!”
“Why, yes; that's true.”
“How do you know it is?”
“It describes me. I've gone astray! Why, there's one line that I can believe!”
“Well," said I, "You've got what you wanted now—one line out of the Bible that you can believe; so, good night, friend.”
“Stop! wait a minute! True, I've got a line that I can believe; but it doesn't seem to do me any good. That line hasn't helped me at all.”
“No," said I, "it wasn't meant to. It merely states a fact that you knew before.”
"Would you mind trying another line?”
“I don't mind trying another, but do you think one at a time is enough?”
“Well, you see, I don't feel that one line has helped me at all; and I'd much like to try a second.”
“Why, that's true, too; I said: "you went your way from God—I went my way. That line describes us both.”
“Yes, I can believe that line.”
“But observe," said I, "it is a line and a bit—a little more than you expected. So now you have two lines and a bit that you can believe! You never expected that, did you?”
“No, I never did. But yet, somehow, they don't seem to have done me any good. I'm just as dark. I feel no nearer God.”
“No," said I, "they are not meant to bring you into the light, because they merely describe us two; and we know they are true, because they are our experience.”
“Well, would you mind trying the third line?”
“I don't mind, because I can believe all the lines in the Bible; but I wouldn't advise you to try a third. You see, two lines and a bit are a good deal for a man like you to swallow all at once; and I am pretty sure you would find the third line one too many. You wouldn't be able to believe it.”
“I think I might; I think perhaps I might.”
“I feel very sure you will not be able to," I said; "still, if you very much wish it, I will let you see it.”
Once more we read together: "And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." "There, now, this third line is more than you can believe, isn't it?”
“Well, yes, I must confess I can't believe that."
“I told you that two lines and a bit were all you would be able to manage at one time.”
“But how do you account for it that I cannot believe this third line?”
“I could tell you; but you would not much like me to say.”
“I wish you would; for it seems strange that I can believe two lines, but not three.”
“Suppose that instead of this Bible in my hand, I were holding a photograph album, and we were looking at the pictures. The first one would be a picture of John Muir. Yes, you would say, I knew that man well; and it's a good picture of him. The next one, I might say, is that of William Holt. Do you know him? Yes—exactly; a speaking likeness. Now, we will turn over to the third picture. That is Thomas Nelson. Did you ever see him? 'No,' you reply, I never saw him. But I have, I say; and I can vouch for that being a first-rate picture. Now the fourth is James Black. Is he a stranger to you? Yes, I never saw him. But, I say, I know it is as good a picture of him as are the others that we have looked at.
“And then you reply, I can't believe that those last two are a bit like the men you say, because I have never seen them; and until I do see them, I shall never bring myself to believe that those are their pictures, even though they are taken by the same photographer. Wouldn't you be a fool to reason that way?”
“Why, certainly I should; but I have not done that.”
“Yes, you have," I replied. "I have shown you four pictures in that one verse, Isa. 53:66All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6). The first one was yourself—which you immediately recognized. The second was mine; and that, you said, you recognized also. Those two first lines showed us ourselves. Now the third line shows us as plainly the Lord Jesus and God: and you turn around and say, 'I can't believe that third line.' What right have you to call in question the accuracy of the Holy Spirit, in describing to you the Lord Jesus and the Living God, when you have seen His accurate drawing of us two?”
“Let me have the whole verse again.”
“'All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the LORD bath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.'”
“I see! I'm entirely wrong after all. You are right!”
We read the verse over; and once more I tried to explain to him the meaning of the statement in the three lines and a bit.
"Do you mean to say” said he, "that my safety and life depend on my believing that third line?”
"Yes, I do.”
"Then I'll stake my sole existence for time and for eternity on that third line. I put my finger on it, and declare that I believe that every word of it is true.”
Solemnly we dropped on our knees, and I repeated his words to the Lord Jesus. He then followed in humble and broken confession of sin; and before he rose again the light had entered his soul. The three lines and a bit had accomplished the purpose of God! They had found entrance through the door of faith, and he was rejoicing in salvation.