A Farmer's Reasons for Not being a Free-Thinker.
Price—Fourpence. Ashburton: Printed at "The Guardian" Office West Street,1881.
A strong desire to benefit those classes of persons who are generally pretty numerous in communities where more than an average amount of worldly ambition and enterprise is combined with a certain amount of intelligence—and where also unfortunately Christain lukewarmness is only too apparent, a desire, I say, to do all in my power for these has led me to write this short pamphlet. Those I chiefly refer to are generally called "honest doubters," men who evidently are exercised in their thoughts on that all-important matter—their relations to their Creator, but who, I am sure, are generally deceived in two ways. They attempt to settle by "reason" alone those things which it cannot do, but which its simple function is to point to that way by which, to any one in real earnest, alone can certainty and happiness be ensured. They also judge Christianity, not for what it is in itself and what it will do for them personally, but from what any one who chooses to call himself a Christain lowers it to, or tries to—they often unwisely conclude that all church and chapel-goers are Christians, and judge Christianity accordingly. If a man represents himself as a perfect arithmetician and we find out that he is ignorant of the multiplication table, do we condemn arithmetic? Because colonial surveys are frequently incorrect (always more or less so) do we conclude that measuring on trigonometrical principles is fallacious? So, even true Christians are but men, while nominal Christians, who are often regular churchgoers, no more belong to Christ than does the most violent infidel.
To that other, and also numerous class of men whose intelligence leads them, while admitting a Creator, to stoutly contend for the rights of the created to lay down what their duty is to that Creator, and regard as a gross absurdity the notion of the Creator's having the right to do so (because a school is solely for the children's benefit the children naturally should dictate what the master should teach them or not teach them!), to that class I can only say that they need not think for one moment that I am fool enough to suppose that anything I can write or prove will in the slightest degree change their opinions. They meet in a club perhaps, and by cast-iron arguments prove Christianity a myth, and yet perhaps the same men page 4 another evening when seated comfortably in the midst of their own families would admit (if they are open to admit anything) that there are some things which while far more essential to human happiness than polemics are still scarcely fit for, or even open to discussion, much loss to be strictly defined and settled by any intellectual controversy. If such is the case with the human affections, a hundred times more so is it with the Divine affections, which just as surely exist, but which are not drawn forth until we know and have God, any more than the human affections appear till there is a wife or child to bring them forth.
However, as the preface is already out of all proportion (but somehow I never did care much for tape, especially when of a red color!) to the subject itself, I will finish by saying that I have changed both tense and person several times, for I like liberty, and it also enables me to write plainly throughout.
A Farmer's Reasons for Not being a Free-Thinker.
In writing the following, I am aware that I shall be laying myself open to criticism in one or two ways. I may be charged with egotism, and also with being ridiculously frank; but as my sole object is the good of others, I do not hesitate to expose myself to these charges, all experience showing that he who allows personal considerations to sway him never benefits his fellows much, either in this world or the next—the everlasting one. And I would like the men of this world, and the unbelievers generally, to give the following their close attention so that they may either profit by it or refute it. (This includes some part of a reply to a free-thinker, the modern name for unbeliever, who, amongst other things, had asserted that faith was a physiological impossibility with many—this will, therefore, have a reference to "Faith.")
I (the writer) am a young farmer. I am considered sensible, and up to the general average of men in point of intelligence ad education. I have done pretty well in farming, having a natural liking for it. Politically, I am a radical, a firm believer in Liberalism, with a strong idea that a leading trait of true Liberalism is a perfect readiness to treat opponents liberally, and to support all Liberal legislation, whether it proceeds from friends or opponents—he who is not liberal to his opponents is no Liberal, for his politics are founded more on passion and feeling than on calm reason. As regards private character, I do not spend money on, nor trouble mayself about, smoking, drinking, women, or theatre-going and never did care about them—and I am in good health. Also, I believe pretty firmly in the notion that he who buys twenty shillings' worth of goods owes, and always will owe, twenty shilling for them till they are either paid for or the creditor voluntarily forgives the debt—legalised compromises for commercial expediency not-withstanding. In fact, I suppose that if the delusion of some persons, to the effect that if a man be upright and moral here, he has nothing to fear hereafter, be true then, I have not a great deal to be afraid of. As I said above, I have written this so that readers can judge, from my opinions and ideas on general things, as to what value they may fairly place on my convictions on that most important of matters—religion. So for as Christianity is concerned, there are but two classes in the world—believers and unbelievers. Being a living and responsible creature, I find myself called on to decide on that most vital of questions—my own destiny—or, rather, to decide on that alternative portion of my destiny which it is left to me to settle, or become elect to. One class, the believers, tells me there is a God; that He has given His Word to the world; that my heart is naturally evil; that this Word affirms it; that God has dealt with this evil once for all in one way, which way we are commanded to take advantage of, or take the consequences, which are eternal—way. I am told, that there is an Evil Influence or Spirit continually working within me against my own eternal interests, and I am, therefore warned against it. But the unbelievers ask me to doubt these things; to regard them as improbable, some few page 6 treating them with ridicule and scorn. They ask me to regard it as absurd, that men are naturally inclined to evil, and point to the present state of civilisation in confirmation thereof. So, being endowed with reason, and, therefore, responsibility, I look and judge for myself, bearing in mind that it is the heart of man only that God deals with, and which He has determined shall be changed or punished, and, also, keeping in mind that I myself, if inclined to evil, cannot see the real extent or nature of evil. Taking this colony, which has had from its commencement every advantage possible in this world, I find that there are thousands of laws passed to prevent men from insulting, injuring, defrauding, stealing, or murdering each other. I find that the stoutest men in the community are engaged and paid to devote all their time to the enforcing of these laws, but that in spite of this, the newspapers teem daily with accounts of outrages, robberies, etc. I find that the colony sends all its wisest and most experienced men to meet together annually for a considerable time solely to make and amend these laws for keeping men in order (and I find that a great portion of this time is spent in their keeping themselves in order, or trying to). I find that men are naturally inclined to run each other down rather than to praise each other. I find that although men believe in God, the majority think it a matter of extreme wonder, if not ridicule, when a man praises God publicly, or ever says anything at all about God in earnest during ordinary conversation, whilst the hearing of a senseless and vulgar comic song is regarded as natural and enlivening. Thinking over these things, I ask, if every one of the hundreds of legal and social restraints, now imposed as an absolute necessity of civilisation, were removed, would things alter for the better or the worse? The question is obviously absurd. Then the heart of man, left unrestrained is naturally inclined to evil, and God looks at and deals only with the heart. I ask, would not these very men who disbelieve this think me mad if I were to propose one law to prevent men from doing too much good to each other. I would be thought mad, and yet the very seeming absurdity of the proposal is a terrible proof of the depths to which the heart of man is sunk. I find that looking at things calmly and without bias, I am compelled to admit that a wise choice must incline one to side with the believers. This is how the matter stands—unbelievers ask me to doubt these things, to look on them as improbable; but are utterly unable to give or show me anything which will prove them absolutely impossible; whereas, believers tell me they are quite sure of the truth of them, and will point me out the means whereby I also may become absolutely certain of their truth. Now, if a man has, say, to pass along a certain track in the night, and he is told by some that certain parts are dangerous in the dark, whilst others tell him this is improbable, he, if wise, will take a lantern to see and provide against the worst—a fool only would pass on unconcerned. And what measure of folly is it, in a matter of eternal concern, to regard as improbable that which admits of a sure proof of its own. Now, I was an unbeliever. If I heard what I fancied was a forcible argument against eternal punishment, or if I heard that there were so many freethinkers in such a country, or especially if I heard any case of Christian inconsistency, I felt an inward satisfaction. And yet, underneath all this, there was a certain uneasiness—ill—defined, but as real as that satisfaction. I felt this uneasiness because I was in doubt on a matter of deep personal concern. As a being of reason, I knew that so long as doubt existed, uneasiness also must exist. If doubt remains, and uneasiness disappears, then true reason has disappeared also (when I say true reason, I mean human judgment uninfluenced by evil, or, more correctly, the Divinely-implanted strivings of the soul for a real and eternal Knowledge of its Creator). Reason, therefore, told me that this uneasiness could not be ever entirely thrown off; in short, it told me that if Christianity were one hundred times more unlikely than I wished or thought it to be, still the consequences were so utterly immeasurable that it would not do merely to doubt it, I must be absolutely certain about it. I considered that a rational being must oe allowing something else than reason to influence him if he does not do everything page 7 in his power to settle a doubtful but all-momentous matter. It must be settled one way or another—whichever way it admitted of proof, precisely as would be done in a secular matter. And as unbelievers were quite unable to prove anything on their side, it was necessary to try the believers' way of proving the truth (more correctly, to yield to those strivings of the soul for liberty). Now, I had thrown over (nominal) religion wholly and deliberately for years, as I had received no real benefit from it, and I was determined there should be no luke-warmness or hypocrisy about me. I had kept away from all churches and chapels for years; but acting now on true reason, I read the Word of God—the Gospels especially—and a few evangelical publications. I was a "hard nail" at the time, but when I came to, read, and think of Christ, and had offered up a word or two in prayer, in spite of myself almost, I became greatly affected. When out at work for days I could not let Christ and His work of atonement into my thoughts for a minute without tears coming into my eyes from involuntary emotion. Yet, I had often lead the same thing before, years ago, without seeing anything particular in them as regarded myself. That was because I read them either as a formal duty, or from well-meaning curiosity, whereas now I was searching for the truth—the vital truth of Christianity. Thus, directly I went to God's Word in earnest, God, true to His name and promise, softened my heart almost in spite of myself. If Christianity were false I would have felt the same, even if not more indifferent, than when I first read the Bible, for I had become far harder in heart. But although affected thus, I was still full of doubt and uncertainty until I saw that I must throw myself, with all my doubts, inward hatreds, blasphemies, and all other sins, entirely on to God's mercy. I did so; and after a moment's struggle, during which all the powers for good and evil seemed to focus all their energies in a fight of one moment's duration, the atonement of Christ proved itself all-triumphant, as it has done in every one of all the millions of cases where it has been sought for in earnest. In itself, this is a simple thing. Christ has already put away all sin, on condition each one believes and accepts His work as his complete justification, thereby practically acknowledging one's utter inability to save oneself, and also becoming obedient to the will of God, by the help of God; but there is such an overwhelming disinclination naturally in man to do this, that without Divine help it never would be done. That uneasiness which exists more or less in all unbelievers is the outcome of those promptings of the Spirit to search for the "truth." Directly after I had thus given my soul into Christ's keeping I walked out and thought to myself, "Well, I would sooner have both my hands and feet cut off and lose my farm than give up what I know now. I had, years before, thought it impossible to believe; I had no faith, and it was because of this that I felt it very hard, and so turned hard and threw over religion altogether. But I was blind, and stumbled over a full, free, and ever-ready salvation, And I deserved to stumble, because, though I could take lots of men at their word, I could not take God at His as to my salvation, being already completed. Simple—awful—-infinite! And, now, my unbelieving and (so-called) free-thinking readers, allow me to tell you that I am not a fool—at least, I rather guess I'm not. I am just as sensible as ever I was in other respects, but those things which reason cannot decide reason has led me to leave entirely in the guidance of Him that thus limited my reason. I still render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and I think it advantageous to do so in this world, but now, also, I render unto God the things that are God's, thinking it equally advantageous to do so, both in this world and the next, when the restitution of all things will be made. As I have said before, I have a right to be considered fairly intelligent and sensible; and there are and have been millions of cases more or less resembling mine all over the world. I ask you, reader, if you are an unbeliever how do you explain this case of mine? If God's Word—if Christianity be false, you cannot account for it, unless everything that usually is supposed to prove men sane, in my case proves me insane. But if Christianity be true, everything is easily and naturally accounted for. I ask page 8 you, as a being endowed with calm reasoning faculties, whether you can afford to exclude my case from consideration? not to mention others. A rational man, in passing judgment on any question, gives due weight to every one thing relative thereto. But if you do believe that Christianity is false, or, at least, doubtful, and that my case is simply a gross delusion founded on a gross delusion, you commit yourself distinctly in one, if not two, ways (freethinkers generally hold that faith is an impossibility with many persons). Whether you believe or not, you will allow that Christianity is a remarkable thing. You can believe that a rational person can, after deliberately taking the only sensible course by which to prove Christianity true or false, grossly deceive himself by believing in a great deception, in which, also, multitudes of the best men in the—world believe. Well, if you have sufficient faith as to believe this and to believe these things are unworthy of consideration, you have a wonderful faith—a faith one-tenth of which, under the guidance of God's Word, would save your soul eternally; a faith which is far greater than I ever had, for it has overcome your calm reason. Again, if you believe that I, having everything to prove me fairly reasonable and intelligent, and coming up to the general average in all those attributes which are generally supposed to argue a man's rationality or sense, am nevertheless grossly and thoroughly self-deceived, you but prove and believe that an ordinarily sensible person is liable to greatly impose upon himself, and if this is possible with me, why not with you? Granted an equality in intelligence, etc., who is to say I am deceived and you are not? Human judgment cannot decide it, because we have here the very soundness of human judgment in question, and human judgment in one of us is so terribly mistaken as to shake confidence in it altogether, we being living examples of its fallibility. Man cannot decide this question, and if it were not that I, recognising this, threw myself on God's hands to decide it for me, I should be one with you in this matter, because I could never have differed from you. This is the kernel of the whole matter. I sought the truth, and God made me a believer; I did not make myself a believer. Now, it is no use bringing "arguments" to me and asking explanations of this and that, because I have experienced a good many of these free-thought fallacies myself. I have done more thinking than reading, and I know and am sure that free-thought, if it were not so disastrous in its consequences, would be ridiculous. I know what a tremendous struggle it is to let true reason have full sway, be the the consequences what they may as regards the sneers and scoffing of others. You doubt Christianity; I am certain it is true. I challenge you, or any other unbeliever, to discuss this question from the heart I have thrown open to you my most inmost thoughts. If you are not willing to express openly also your heartfelt convictions and to show thus your willingness practically to sacrifice all in the search for the truth, does not this fact itself show you that I have a conscious advantage over you in thus being able freely to expose my thoughts when it is of no benefit to me, but for your profit that I do it? I know this, that if you do as I did you will never be able to thank God enough for what He has done, from now to all eternity. Man's destiny, simply illustrated, is like a house with two rooms and a cellar. You are born in one room, and you have a certain time in which to stay in it. There is a door in it leading into the next room, where you can stay peacefully for ever, and you are both commanded and invited to enter it. When your time comes, if you have refused to enter that room, you cannot stay any longer in the first room, so you must be put in the cellar, as the only remaining place, without peace for ever. God has chosen to bring you into this world, and he has chosen to prepare for you an everlasting world or state of happiness and glory. But He has left you with the power of free choice in this as in all other matters, at the same time commanding and inviting you to accept it, it being without money and without price, and can be accepted instantaneously, Goa himself having met everything that Divine Justice necessitated meeting. But if you will deliberately refuse to obey God in this matter, rejecting everlasting salva- page 9 tion, you must exist for ever in the only and Divinely-just alternative—hell. Unbelievers, at death, will be cut wholly and for ever from the presence of God, in which presence every desire of rectified human nature finds its fulfilment, and outside of which presence depraved human nature, freed from all earthly restraints, finds itself, and is in itself all that is undesirable. But you cannot enter this condition without breaking God's commandment, and wilfully smothering those convictions of conscience which God also implanted within us to guide us to the truth. "The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to eternal life."
There is a lamentable misapprehension of facts, or rather of the appearance that things wear at the present time as to Christianity. Some (so-called) "freethinkers" seem to have an idea that "free-thought" is advancing at the cost of Christianity. As to true Christianity, the very reverse is the case. But this is true: in past times people were either believers or else persons who treated Christianity with ignorant indifference, they merely did not believe. Now these people, and all others, are becoming educated. Education will make a person think, but it will not make him a Christian. If Christianity were merely a question of education or intellect, it would amount to this—-that all the clever people would get to heaven. But Christianity is the only equal and fair thing in this world. The conditions of it involve fairness to all alike. To return—-Education will compel men, if unbelievers, not only to disbelieve, but to find reasons and arguments for disbelieving, and it would be strange indeed if Satan were non-plussed for the first time in this world as regards giving his servants an excuse, no matter how intellectual his servants are become. Satan has found it necessary, in order to keep up with the times, to take away his old label "unbeliever" and replace it with the far more enticing and dignified one of "Freethinker." The nominal Christian is a free-thinker when he thinks at all, and if he changed his name a hundred times he is no loss to Christ, for he never belonged to Him. True Christianity is spreading all over the world, but there will be unbelievers also as long as this dispensation lasts. But I know this—that the true Christian is the only free—thinker, properly speaking. I have seen something of both sides and I think I know, therefore. I am aware that I am a great coward! I have not pluck enough to enable me to treat God with indifference, even in this world; and if the free-thinkers can manage to treat Him with the same indifference in the next world as they do in this, I shall acknowledge that they are wise as well as plucky, but till then, and knowing the reverse will actually be the case, I think they are very, very unwise. Their first exclamation after death will probably be one of horror and surprise at their folly in not taking the trouble to look at both sides of the question, asking the help of God also, while on earth, and for not foreseeing that God would satisfactorily explain all those things which puzzled their intellects, but which, even if explained on earth, would not have proved of any spiritual benefit to them. There will be gnashing of teeth at their unaccountable blindness in not seeking salvation for their souls, before they sought for more knowledge for their minds than was necessary. And still I believe that it is with them, as it was with me, more blindness than absolute foolishness, though it is hard to draw much distinction between the two in a rational being, wilful blindness being folly, when by simply asking God to remove it, they can see spititually at once. I earnestly hope and pray that the reader of this, if an unbeliever, will not persist in the vain endeavor to settle this question of eternity in his own mind, but that he will earnestly ask God's assistance, which costs nothing and need not occupy one minute, but immediately settles all things for ail time, besides opening the understanding to a surprising degree, thereby simplifying the seeming confusion of this world in respect to the actual "truth" to a degree which no amount of study and no depth of intellect can possibly attain to. Man alone never did, and never will decide this matter, for this simple reason—-there are physical, intellectual, and spiritual faculties in man, each distinct from the others, and it is no more possible to decide the page 10 spiritual by the intellect than it is to settle the intellectual by the physical. When it is possible to settle an intellectual controversy by physical strength or force, then will it also be possible to settle things spiritual by the agency cf the intellect, but not till then. Spiritual things are the things of God, and by His help alone can the "truth" be known; the first and only use that can be made of the spiritual faculties is that of prayer, an earnest seeking for the "truth," which only the spirit of God can reveal.
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." . . . . "And for this cause (for rejecting the Gospel of Christ) God sendeth them a working of error (or strong delusion) that they should believe a lie."
That the end for which I have written this may be more surely and profitably attained, I wish all "believers" who read this to ask God to use it as the means of bringing some from darkness into light. "Let him know that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his ways shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins."
I think it desirable to say, in reference to that portion of the foregoing which deals with the "unbelievers" inability to prove absolutely their side, and the rational necessity, therefore, for trying the "believers'" side, that I wrote in that way to be the more easily understood by the natural man—the unbelievers; being well aware that it is not the Scriptural or Christian manner of putting in, which is more correctly expressed as the turning from the ways of evil to the ways of God, Who quickens us from spiritual death into life.
As I said before, I am young and healthy, so it is not the near approach of death that can be said to cause me to "turn religious." Also, I have done well as far as I have gone in life, so it cannot be said that it was disgust or disappointment with this world's usage of me which brought the change.
In conclusion, if anyone thinks of writing to me, I hope he will do so as I shall be glad to devote all my time to replying to those who are really desirous of knowing the actual truth of this matter, apart from what man would like it to be.
Address—-"Farmer," Post Office, Ashburton.
God makes a free offer to everyone of the highest possible happiness (infinite joy) for the longest possible period—eternity. Reader, can you ask for more? will you ask for less.?
Printed at the Guardiah Office.