The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 13
To the Reader,—
Perhaps some explanation is necessary on the part of a layman stepping forward to meddle, with subjects which are supposed to pertain exclusively to the clerical province. The explanation is a very simple one. No one can seriously bel eve that the people around him are under the power of religious delusion without feeling some degree of impulse to set them right if he can, and without, to some extent, lying under an obligation to do so. He does not require the license of the Presbytery or Ecclesiastical Court to do this. Ordination is unnecessary to qualify him to preach the Gospel of Christ, or to exercise any spiritual function whatever. Authority in the matter comes with enlightenment As soon as he understands and believes the gospel, he is bound to lend himself as an instrument for its diffusion. The command is direct from the mouth of the Lord Jesus himself—"Let him that heareth say come." (Rev. xxii, 17.) And the example of the early Christians leave no mistake as to the duty: "At that time there was a great persecution against the Church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles." Therefore, they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts viii., 1 4.) It is only long-established human tradition that gives countenance to "holy orders," licence," or any other recognized ecclesiastical usage as essential to legitimate evagelization. The power of tradition in this matter, seems, at the present moment, to be growing weaker. Their number is now legion, who, by mouth and pen, assert the common sense and apostolic view that the truth of God is designed to make propagandists of all of whom it makes property, and that white neck-cloth-ism is a branch of the apostacy.
The subject of this work is taken entirely from the Old and New Testament. "The Bible, therefore, is the great standard by which, in such a matter, everything is to be determined; and it is therefore important that I should give the reader some reasons for my faith in such a Book in this advanced age of the apostacy which Paul predicted. He says, "The time would come that men could not endure sound doctrine; but that they would heap to themselves teachers having itching ears—that would be ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth, and that would preach a doctrine of Devils and give heed to seducing spirits;" and would also say, "Where are the signs of His coming."
The Bible then, I consider, is a book with which we have all been familiar from the day on which we began to be conscious—a book to which we have always been accustomed to attach a superhuman importance. On that point I will consider that that regard is justified—that it is proper and logical to believe that the Bible is a book of Divine authorship. On looking page 2 into it. I find it consists in reality of a number of books written at different times by different authors. It opens with five, familiarly known as the five books of "Moses." They occupy a position of first importance. They constitute a basis of all that follow. Commencing with an account of the peopling of the earth, they chiefly treat of the origin and experience of the Jews, of whom Moses says, The Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself, above all the nations that are upon the face of the earth." (Deut. xiv., 2.) They also contain the laws, very elaborately stated, which God vouchsafed by the hand of Moses for the constitution and guidance of that nation. It has now become fashionable, under the sanction of a "Colenzo," to question their authenticity, while admitting the possible genuineness of the remaining portions of the Sacred Record. Without attempting to discuss the question, I may remark that it is impossible to accept Christ while rejecting Moses. Christ endorsed the writings of Moses. He said, "They have Moses and the prophets—let them hear them—if they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe though one rose from the dead." (Luke xvi., 29, 31.) It is also recorded that "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke xxiv., 27.) Further, He said, "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writing, how shall ye believe my words?" (John v., 47.) If Christ was divine, His sanction of the Pentateuch settlers settles the question raised by Colenzo. If the Pentateuch is a fiction, Christ was an imposter. There is no middle ground. They stand or fall together; and the words suitable to those who reject the Five Books and yet profess to be Christian, are to be found in the question quoted above, addressed by Jesus to the Jews, "If ye believe not the writings of Moses, how shall ye believe the words of Christ?"
The next twelve Books present the history of the Jews during a period of several centuries, involving the development of the mind of God to the extent to which that was involved in the messages prophetically addressed to the people in the several stages of their history. This gives them more than historical value. The Book of Job is an exception. It does not pertain to Israel nationally. It is a record of Divine dealings toward a son of God at a time when the nation had no existence. Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, are the inspired writings of two of Israel's most illustrious Kings—writings in which natural genius is supplemented with preternatural spirit impulse In the Books of the Prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi, we are presented with the most important department of Old Testament—Holy Writ. In these seventeen Books—respectfully bearing the names of the writers—we find recorded a multitudious variety of messages transmitted from Deity to the "Prophets" for the correction and enlightenment of Israel. These messages are valuable beyond all conception; they contain information concerning God otherwise inaccessible, and endless instruction as to acceptable character and conduct otherwise unobtainable; but perhaps that which gives them their transcendent value is their disclosures of God's purposes in the future, in which we naturally have the highest interest, but of which naturally we are in the greatest and most helpless ignorance. I ask the reader if there can be anything more grand than that the most High God who rules the nations, and page 3 who has said that the wicked are His sword whereby he causes one nation to chastise another, as He is doing in the present war that is now raging between France and Prussia, to acquaint His servants through the Prophets by "Figure?" What will be the result of these wars, and what would be the signs of Christ's coming and the ushering in of that peaceful age that is so much needed and looked for by His servants? What was the use of Christ telling the Christians to watch the signs if there had been none given? How could I have told the public of Otago that the Napoleon Dynasty must fall, if such truths were not revealed in the word of God? Surely my readers will not say that I am a "Prophet;" or how could the Prophet "Nahum" picture out the railways four thousand years ago? These are the words he uses: The carriages shall tustle against one another in the broadways (or railway stations). They would seem like torches—they would run like the lightnings" Or of the French: "Thy men shall be as women or how could John, in the xviii. of Revelations, picture out the commercial articles that France trades in, or how could they say that Jesus Christ would ride into Jerusalem on an ass; for history tells us that he did. Such men who believe not these truths, are to be pitied.
Coming to the New Testament, we are furnished in the first four Books with a history which is pregnant with results of eternal moment to the human family. The great Messiah appointed of God to deliver our suffering race from all the calamities in which it is involved, appears; and here we have his history and sayings recorded for our study and profit. Part of that history is, that He entrusted His apostles with a mission to the world at large. In the "Acts of the Apostles"—a history of peculiar importance—we have made plain to us, in a practical way, what Christ intended them to do as affecting themselves. In the same Book, we have illustrated to us in the proceedings of the primitive Christians, the real import of the commandment of Christ and the real scope and nature of Christian duty. The remainder of the New Testament is made up of a series of epistles addressed by the inspired apostles to various Christian communities. These letters contain practical instructions in regard to the character which Christians ought to cultivate, and copious elucidation of the higher aspects of their religion. Without them, we should not have been able to comprehend the Christian system in its entirety. Their absence would have been a great blank, and we, in this remote age, should so far have been unable to lay hold of eternal life—these times, when there are so many false Christs. Such is an outline of the "Bible." Composed of many books, it is yet one complete consistent volume, written by men in every situation of life—from the King to the shepherd—and scattered over many centuries. In its composition, it is characterized by a unity of spirit and uniformity of teaching which distinguish it from any other similarly miscellaneous production, and, among books, make it a marvel. It is a truly wonderful book, in whatever light we view it—the product of many centuries—the offspring of many minds, without parallel among the countless volumes that crowd our library shelves. There is no other instance of Forty authors, living in different ages, combining without possible concert or collision, to produce a book which, in all its parts, is pervaded by one spirit, one doctrine, one design, and by one air of sublime authority, which is its peculiar characteristic. The book is a literary miracle. It is impossible to account for its existence page 4 upon ordinary principles. If we suppose it to be a merely human production, we have to account on ordinary principles for the unanimity of forty writers, living at different times, over a period of two thousand years; and to explain the superhuman grandeur of their style, loftiness of their principles, and purity of their doctrines. We have also to deal with the significant fact, that nearly all the writers sealed their testimony with their own blood-submitted to all kinds of disadvantages during life (very different from Mr Baxter or the clergy), had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings—yea, moreover, of bonds of imprisonment, were stoned, were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword,—wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins—in deserts, in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth—being destitute, afflicted, tormented "—(Heb. xi, 36,38)—and all' on account of their professed communications from heaven, which they themselves knew were either true or false (there was no presenting them with a purse of sovereigns or a buggy, us is done these times of so-called Christian light). In fact., to suppose the Bible to be human, is to raise insurmountable difficulties, and to do violence to every probability of the case. The honesty and ability of the writers must be admitted; and yet, on the rationalistic theory, we are forced into the position of believing that, with all their integrity, they acted the knave, or that, with all their native wisdom and genius, they played the fool. The only truly rational theory of the book is that supplied by itself: "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Guest. (Peter ii., 17, 21.) In this we find an explanation of the whole matter. The presence of one Supreme guiding mind, inspiring and controlling the utterances of the authors, completely accounts for their agreement of teaching throughout, and for the exalted nature of their doctrines, on any other supposition, the Book is a riddle which must ever puzzle and bewilder every mind that earnestly faces all the facts of the case.
Yet there are to be found many who are foolish enough to hold the book in contempt as a priestly imposture. Such are objects of pity. They are misled by teachers who becloud the judgment with sophistry, which, though having only the semblance of reason, is so subtile and plausible as to deceive the unwary and the uninformed, and to induce them to reject the only book which can possibly be a revelation from Deity, and throw away their only chance of future perfection and immortality; for surely, if there be a book that contains the revealed will of God, that book is the Jewish Bible, and if there be a possibility of deliverance from the evils of this life—the corruptibility of our physical organizations—the weakness of our moral natures—the essential badness of a great portion of the race—the disjointedness and misconstruction of the social fabric—the bad government of the world, that possibility is certainly made known to us in this book, and brought within our reach by it. And not only so, but the unbeliever sacrifices an immense present advantage. He deprives himself of the Bible's consoling declarations of God's love for feeble humanity—of its glorious promises, so calculated to cheer the mind in distress—of its inspiring sunlit pictures of eternal felicity—of the moral heroism which they impart—of all the abiding support which they give—of all the beautiful and soul-elevating teaching which they contain—of all the noble affection they engender—of all their solace in time of trouble their strength in the hour of temptation—of all the nobleness and interest which they throw around a flittering mortal life; and what does he get in exchange? page 5 Licence to feel himself his own master for a few mortal years, and then to pink comfortless and despairing into the jaws of a remorseless grave! What an awful exchange! If the Bible were a lie, it were bettor to receive its cheering fiction than to drag through the gloom of a vain existence. Better have a happy life than a miserable one; better a purposeful than an aimless one; better a hopeful, expectant, joyful, elevated, noble life, than an an anticipating life of monotonous commonplace and routine. So much better is it to believe the Bible than to take refuge in the dismal comforts of atheism. The effect of the Bible is to make the man who studies it better, happier and I wiser. It is in vain for the leaders of secularism to assert the contrary. All facts are against, them. To say that it is unmoral in its tendencies, to utter the asseveration of a madman. To declare that it makes men unhappy, is to speak against the truth—the tormented experience of the orthodox hallucinated to the contrary. Notwithstanding, to affirm that it makes men wicked, is to be guilty of execrable folly. To parade the history of unrighteous government and tyrannical priestcraft, in support of such a proposition, is to betray the shallowness of a logical idiot But many are deluded by such undiscriminating arguments, and have the misfortune, in many instances, to become conscientiously impressed with the idea that the Bible is a hollow pretension—the production of a selfish and designing priestcraft. Such are to the pitied, as in the majority of instances they are hopelessly confirmed in their conceited delusion. How many of that sort will you not meet in this province.
The modern tendency to disbelieve the Bible must be traceable to some cause. Where shall we look for that cause? The moral inconsistency of professing Christians has, no doubt, done something to shake the faith of many; but is there not a more fruitful source of unbelief to be found in the docturnal tenets of popular religion? At the risk of great offence, I make bold to say this is the case: That these doctrines themselves are so essentially irrational and inhuman as to be repugnant to every well-constituted mind. If the Bible inculcated the doctrines which are preached from the pulpits every Sunday, not one of us in the cool exercise of judgment, could accept it as a true book. This, I have no doubt, will be considered by our clergy blasphemous; but I bespeak a moment's, patience. What I mean seriously to affirm is, that in the religions of the present day, there has been a great departure from the simplicity of the truth as originally made known by the prophets and apostles, and that they now present such an incongenous mixture of truth and error as to perplex and baffle the devout and intelligent mind.
The book is now before the public, and it is my earnest wish that it may be the means of enlightening many of the good and honest-hearted in the great truths contained in the Bible—truths revealed in the writings of Moses and the prophets and apostles. But I expect nothing but the world will progress in ignorance, superstition, hypocrisy and spiritual wickedness—in the the high and low places of old worn out Antichristendom—until Christ shall come and bind the Devil and Satan, which is the so-called Church and State of the present age.