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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53

A Letter to Robert Stout, Esq., Solicitor, On the Tract Called "Eyeopener, No. 5."

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A Letter to Robert Stout, Esq., Solicitor, On the Tract Called "Eyeopener, No. 5."

Sir,—I take the liberty of accessing you publicly by letter. My reason for so doing is that last week I received per post enclosed in an envelope a tract, purporting to be a reprint from the 'Dunedin Echo,' and titled "Eyeopener, No. 5." To whom I am indebted for this honour I am unaware, therefore I am unable to make my acknowledgements. Understanding that you are principal proprietor of the 'Dunedin Echo,' and if not sole Editor, conjointly responsible for the matter appearing in that journal, I thought you would not take it amiss if I conveyed to you my public acknowledgements—-as if you were the author and person who sent it—-for the interest you appear to take in my welfare; and at the same time make a few notes and comments upon that tract which, perhaps, you may in the interest of Free Thought publish in your journal. I suppose you to be in some measure acquainted with the Scriptures; you are perfectly aware that when Peter used those words, "I perceive God is no respecter of persons,"—Acts x, 34-35, that it was in reference to the spiritual blessing, commonly termed conversion, that had just been imparted to Cornelius the Centurian. You know that the Apostle followed by saying, "But in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him." I think you will admit, with the clear and lucid mind for which you are credited, that this is an admirable connection, and worthy of Infinite perfection. But you may not be aware that Peter, in common with the rest of the Jewish nation, held doctrines prejudicial to the Gentiles, which, though taught them by tradition, were utterly contrary to the tenor of their Scriptures. I refer you to Exodus, xii., 48-49: "And when a stranger shall sojourn with you, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, then let him come and keep it, and he shall be as one born in the land." "One law shall be to him that is home born and him that sojourneth among you." I think you will candidly admit that there is no contradiction that under the polity of the Israelites, as under the polity of the Christians, God only required submission to certain conditions to show he is no respecter of persons. But the case on which you appear to rest most conclusively for proof that the Bible is contradictory and God is shown to be a respecter of page 2 persons, is Esau venus Jacob. I cannot understand how your legal mind could think this to be a case in point. I understand it to have reference to a certain temporal work that God, the supreme judge of the eternal fitness of things, choose Jacob as the most fitted to accomplish. I am neither a Hebrew, Greek, or Latin scholar, therefore I shall not attempt to put any other interpretation upon Malichi, i. 3, than you have put upon it; but it might be worth your while as a searcher for truth who may be acquainted with these languages, to search and see whether some milder interpretation could not be put upon those words, "Esau have I hated." At all events, whatever may be said about that particular passage, you ought to be perfectly aware that God's dealings with Esau, personally and representatively, up to a very late date show no manifestation of this hatred, for long before Jacob attained to eminence other than a pastoral prince, Esau met him with 400 men equipped for war—Genesis, xxxii. 6. Three hundred years after Moses gives us a chapter of the generation of Esau (Genesis, xxxvi.) which conclusively proves that while Israel was in its infancy as a nation the Edomites, children of Esau, had grown to be a well organised and powerful nation. And this prosperity, with intervals of vicissitudes common to nations at that time, such as subjection to the Israelites, grew till 587 years before Christ, when, as we read in the prophecy of Obadiah, they attained the height of perfection as a nation, while the tribes of Israel had been in captivity more than 100 years, and Judah was just gone into captivity in Babylon. Most people gauging blessing by power and prosperity would have said whatever prosperity a father's blessing may carry in the future Esau had certainly had the best of it up to this time, and there is not a shadow of proof from this case that God is a respecter of persons. Your next contention is that because God called the Israelites to the work of exterminating the seven nations of the Caananites he is a respecter of persons. You appear to ignore the fact that it was a judicial arrangement. If God, the creator and supreme judge of man be admitted; his right to sit in judgment upon nations must be admitted; and if he arrive at the decision that a nation is so corrupt that the earth loathes them, and in the interest of humanity they ought to be swept from the face of the earth, he has certainly the right to appoint the means to carry his decrees into execution. In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah it was fire and brimstone, probably a volcano; in this case he appoints the Israelites. Can we question his right to do so? Your judicial mind unprejudiced must certainly say no. You are doubtless aware that there is a natural law by which the decline and fall of nations is produced. It is seen at work m ancient Greece, corruption and luxuriousness produced effeminacy, and they became a prey to the more rude and less vicious Romans. The Romans in their turn page 3 become corrupt, luxurious, and effeminate, and in turn they became a prey to the less vicious and more hardy Huns, Vandals, and Goths. These are only illustrations of what has been, what will be, as sure as the law of cause and effect, while the present state of things last. You ask, does God ever become fatigued? does he ever repent? I confess I am surprised at seeing such questions in print endorsed by an acute lawyer. Suppose you were counsel for a Chinaman just from the Flowery Land who could not understand a word of English; would you attempt to communicate with him in English? Certainly not; you would, through an interpreter, communicate with him in his own language. (Just so God communicates to man in the language he understands.) "God is not a man that he should repent," expresses the firmness of his purpose. "He repented that he had made man," expresses his thoughts of the enormity of man's iniquity. In no sense can it be looked upon as contradictory. You state the Bible teaches an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Exodus xxi., 24). You do not appear to know—-as a lawyer interested in ancient law records you ought—that this was a part of the law given by Moses for the use of those who administer justice. It is quite true it was misinterpreted in that day to mean the right to personal revenge. It was this spirit which Jesus of Nazareth rebuked when he said, resist not evil, &c. (Matthew v., 39). You mention strong drink (Deuteronomy xiv., 26, and Proverbs xxi.) as contradictory. Do you remember the distance of time between Deuteronomy and Proverbs? There is some reason to think at the later period drunkenuess had become a national sin, hence it was denounced. Have you not read that Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba and called on the name of the everlasting God (Genesis xxi., 33). Yet 400 years after the Children of Israel were forbidden to plant groves of any trees near the altar of the Lord their God (Deuteronomy xvi., 21). Why was this? Because it had become the scene of the licentious worship of the surrounding nations, and hence its condemnation. You have made many more statements which you class as contradictions, such as God is angry, answered by the Chinese illustration; Take no thought for to-morrow, which has always been understood as anxious thought (Matthew vi., 17); Lay not up treasures (Matthew vi., 34), which has always been supposed to be a warning against the unprofitable custom of burying the treasure in earthern vessels, for the very same mouth that spake this commended the man who had the five talents and traded with them (Matthew xxv., 15 to 22). Not one of those are thought of by Bible students as contradictions, and how you could ever let them appear in your paper as such is past my comprehension. You finish by stating that to believe the Bible is to believe what no sane men could believe—-rather strong language you will admit, seeing that you are encom- page 4 passed about in New Zealand with so many people professedly guilty of this insanity. For twenty years I have been guilty of this insanity, and the more I road of it the stronger my faith, i.e. insanity, becomes. It has been of some comfort to me during this period. It has kept me from doing many things that I am sure would have been injurious to my body. It has incited me to do actions that have given me some happiness in the doing. It has given me a hope that cheers me as I pass on my journey, that the end of this life will introduce me into a nobler and better one. You think I am deceived; suppose I am, it is a deception that does me good and not harm; would you seriously advise me to give it up? Can you give me something that will answer the same purpose? I have an intimate friend that believes with me, and every Sunday afternoon he attends the poor house; around the table are seated a few old people, ranging from 75 to 86; they smile at the sight of my friend; he sings with them, he prays with them, he reads with them, and expounds the Bible to the best of his ability to them; they appear pleased; he has evidently made them happy for the time; my friend is happy because he has made them happy. Now supposing the Bible is not true, and there is no God, no hereafter, no heaven, and all this happiness is, as your friend C. Bright would say, but the reflex effect of faith, it does them good, it throws a little sunshine of happiness upon their downward path. Could you honestly advise my friend to give it up, or can you point out something that would answer the purpose of imparting mutual happiness to these old people and my friend? (Do not think that this is penned by a clergyman, or you may think it is because his craft is in danger. These hands work for my necessities, and I am as Mark Antony said, but a plain, blunt man.) My friend knelt by the bedside of an old lady of 79; she was about to die; she (according to you vainly) imagined she was going to a place called heaven; she passed away cheered and happy with this thought; she left an husband behind; he (according to you vainly) imagines he shall soon join her; it cheers and makes him happy; would you advise my friend to undeceive him? There is an old man of 86; he has not a single friend in New Zealand; it is misfortune only that he is poor; he believes he has a friend above; he knows his sands of life are well nigh run out; he believes through the atonement of the Saviour he will soon be where there is fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore. Would you be prepared to suggest to my friend the desirability of telling him he is only deceiving himself? I could go on multiplying these cases, but I think they will suffice.

I am, yours &c.,



Printed and published by Bond, Finney, & Co., Printers, Nelson.