The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
Sincerity of Conviction the Great Thing
Sincerity of Conviction the Great Thing.
First among the duties of the preacher is that of proclaiming the supreme value in the sight of God of genuine, earnest piety, and of declaring that mere views and opinions, however new, however old, however true they may be, have no power in themselves to bring us near to God or to improve our lives; that to bring us into the state in which we ought to be, something far higher is needed than mere correctness in religious opinion, and an intelligent perception of the errors in the creeds of others. In a certain sense it does not matter one straw what our religious belief may be, if our hearts are not earnestly seeking to know God and to do His will. I would therefore especially press on the consideration of those who do not agree with me this deep conviction of my heart, that whether the truth lies with me or with them, neither I nor they stand nearer to God on that account. We are all near to page 177 God or far from Him only in proportion to our earnestness and sincerity—to our purity of motive, and our loyalty to God's will. In this sense it does not signify what a man's creed may be, whether he accepts the whole Bible as God's written word, or rejects a considerable portion of it as untrue; whether he believes in a ruined and lost world, and worships a Divine Redeemer of himself and of the elect, or believes that the world has been ever nursed in the arms of an Almighty and Loving Father; whether he attributes the phenomena of pain and sin to the agency of a personal devil, or regards these causes of shame and sorrow as the agencies of a Holy God who is making all things work together for good; whether he prays to God trusting in the mediation of Jesus Christ as the only condition on which God will hear his prayer, or prays without mediation as Jesus taught us to pray; whether he believes that the death of Christ on the cross was the one act which enables God to forgive us our sins, and to save us from endless torment, or believes that God forgives sin when repented of simply out of His own great love and justice, and saves all men from endless suffering, because all men are His children—whatever be a man's creed, I say, let it be Romanist, Protestant, Hindoo, Buddhist, Mahomedan, Unitarian or Theist, he is in every case in the path of safety, in the road which leads him to God, if only he be earnest and sincere—upright in motive and loyal to duty. The Bible itself says as much in many places. "God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation, he that feareth Him (i.e., reverences God) and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him."—Voysey.