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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 82



It would be an easy matter to name some who figured in the more ancient Jewish history, claiming to be confidants of the Almighty, page 21 who, at times, were guilty in their private and public lives of wholesale wickednesses, for which no name could be found, claiming even to have the special sanction of the Most High therefor. These men had not, and could not have possessed, his confidence, and assuredly should not have ours implicitly. Ignorant of their own sins, they had not the sense to wish to hide them, but actually wrote them down with great minuteness, and, I doubt not, with fidelity, as if something meritorious, to be handed down in history to the remotest posterity. With such stains upon their robes, shall we not receive their inspirations with some caution and discrimination? The New Testament is the principal text book of Christians, and Jesus Christ was revealed from heaven to proclaim the true God, to proclaim immortality, and as the teacher of a new and higher aspect of religion. By his incarnation and the extraordinary chain of events which Jed up thereto, by his life and teaching, and spotless, holy, and exalted moral character, by his miracles, by the preternatural circumstances attending his death on the cross, by his re-appearance in visible form afterwards, by his whole life upon earth, by the new and beautiful religion he ushered into the world, just suited to the deep needs of man's whole nature, and by the miraculous spread of this religion, swallowing up all others, he proved himself to have been indeed the Messiah, the regenerator of men, the Saviour of the world; and to him alone as the highest representative of omnipotence the world knows, all men are called upon to come in the interests of the soul. The Assembly's definition of the divine attributes could not be easily obtained, nor could the immortality of the soul from the Jewish Scripture, certainly not from the Pentateuch. Despite their failings, one cannot help looking back to the venerable house of Israel with feelings of holy awe and reverence, to a people who were the honoured and chosen instruments in the hands of the angels to rear, in the face of all the powers of darkness, a temple sacred to the name of the Most High, the foundation of which is the globe and dome—the canopy of heaven. Their history is at once the most singular and the most inexplicable, and will be the most enduring of all the histories of earth. Their religion—that of the educated modern Jew—has a sacredness and a consistency about it which are admirable, while their faith in, reverence for and devotedness to God, are unsurpassed. The Almighty Ruler of the universe is their Saviour, able and sufficient to save them, and, if I may borrow from mundane conceptions, I doubt not, they will all find a joyous entrance into the temple of the heavenly Jerusalem, "sitting down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God," while multitudes of Confession-of-faith Christians are found worthy only to be received into the outer porches.

Whatever claims the religion of the modern world may possess over that of the ancients, let us not deceive ourselves by imagining that either Jews or Christians have been the sole recipients of a divine inspiration, or were the favourites of heaven. The religions of all nations—Chinese, Mexicans, Hindoos, Greeks, Romans, Druids, Jews, and Christians—and of all peoples were necessary developments, according to certain laws, resulting probably from the impingement of the spiritual on the natural world, and the interlacing of both at various page 22 points and at various times during the earth's journey through the universe. Each disclosed some conception of a deity, and was of a character related to the capacities of men and the then existing condition of things, and, with the changing conditions, they severally underwent corresponding changes. One set of ceremonials, one form of idolatry, one form of worship, passed away and gave place to others higher and worthier.

And shall the Church of this enlightened age not move forward? Shall we be content to perpetuate the conception and worship of God formulated by men in times of great superstition and ignorance? If for no other, for this one reason our religion, as explained in the "Confession of Faith," must yield to reform. It fails utterly in the main object it has for its existence, viz., to tell man his destiny in the next world, and how to prepare for it in this.

Man's life upon earth is but a span in duration as a beat of the clock compared to eternity; and if it be possible for men and women, during this brief moment, so to blunder their lives as to be found meet only for "the pains of hell for ever"—banished from the society of some who may be their nearest and dearest of the lineage of earth, and from their Saviour and God, upheld by a perpetual miracle to endure unutterable anguish of some sort without one ray of hope or mercy; or if the doctrine of "Election" be true—then I say the "scheme of salvation" bears not the impress, nor is the world under the government of a "spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth," and the Saviour has not defeated the works of the devil!

The key to Scripture lies here: whatever accords with the sure attributes of the Almighty and the everlasting laws of rectitude is divine; whatever conflicts therewith is not.

So soon therefore as the Church can see her way to interpret the Bible in strict harmony with the Assembly's scientific definition of God's character, so soon will all these errors be corrected, and so soon will the Bible take its place with universal approval as the foremost and best of class-books in all schools and seminaries of learning; till then, I fear, never.

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H Garforth, Printer, 79 Liverpool Street West, Sydney.