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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 42

10.—Living Epistles

10.—Living Epistles.

Yet, our author is so credulous as to believe that "by this means they may become 'living epistles;' preaching more effectually than by words that the abandonment of old creeds may lead to good ideas and a pure life." Dim probability; possible possibility; yet improbable result. He was wise to place it as a mere hypothesis. At best he can only say it may; he can make no definite assertion. Yet I fail even to be able to endorse his indefinite proposition. Can a negative action of the mind lead to a positive condition of life? Can a mere non-belief effect a positive state? Is it possible that without becoming more virtuous a man's actions can assert that he is living a truer life? If a man only shows that his respect for right does not grow less, what is there in his life to attract the admiration and emulation of others? It is a matter of absolute impossibility that the mere act of casting overboard our faith in old and time-honoured creeds can lead to a good state, unless the belief page 16 in those creeds led to a bad state; then, if so, our action may be the first step toward setting out in a course of life of a better kind. But we will not accept the assumption that a belief in popular creeds is always and necessarily evil; and only by allowing that assumption is Mr Stout's hypothetical position of any value. Man is so constituted that he desires to follow a model. He will never improve his state upon a mere non-belief. He believes always in something, or condition of life, better than his present, and he aspires to that. This he can never do on a "disbelief." Man always erects a positive standard as the goal of his attainments.

The Christian creed has a noble goal. It is up even the very highest point that man can think of. Christianity is not outgrown until man has vanquished every evil and progressed in every virtuous grace—until he has reached the excellency of the Divine. Never can he rest with the mere satisfaction of not descending from his sense of right; but it is with him still press forward and reach higher.

"Nearer my God to Thee; nearer to Thee!"

I am not so foolish as to say this of all men who claim to be Christians, I speak it of what is the spirit of our Divine religion.

"Grow in grace"

Is the motto placed before us; "love God and your neighbour" is hold out as our first duty and our highest privilege. We are taught that all men are to be equally respected and loved, and not to think "more highly of ourselves than we ought to think," and we are taught to hold authority in respect.