The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 84
Lewisville Road, Wellington. 16th July, 18—
16th July, 18—.
Sir,—I received your letter in which you request me, with good wishes to each other, to let the subject of annihilation drop; and as you returned my epistle, as you call it, I should have considered that as I had done my duty it was not necessary to say any more about it. But you open another channel for correspondence by charging me with having no love and charity : that I cannot admit, for these two qualities I claim; and seeing the great error you are labouring under, especially with regard to doctrine, and my having attempted to convince you of your error in such strong terms as I did, should have been a proof to you that I really loved you. The duty of convincing one another is our Christian rule and God's command. (Leviticus xix. 17.) It is the production of real love, and is unavoidably necessary. It is not merely a test how far a person's faith is sound, but it is a substantial means of building up one another's faith; for, before a person is convinced of his guilt or error he sees no cause to repent and to turn from his erroneous ideas, and consequently seeks no forgiveness. If you knew me to be in error as to doctrine, and you convinced me even in the strongest terms, I should not feel offended, but only think the better of you and love you the more for it, because it would be a proof to me that you studied my spiritual welfare. A sound doctrine is the soul of faith, therefore did the Apostles urge it in such strong terms. (See Galatians ii. 11; Eph. iv. 14, and many more.) It is always dangerous to commit sin of a serious nature; still the difference between committing a sin of a serious nature, and the holding of a false doctrine of a serious nature is very great. Sins can, shall, and will be forgiven, if the sinner takes the right course for obtaining forgiveness; but a person holding a false doctrine may be compared to one viewing objects through a coloured glass, who is quite incurable so long as he clings to it. If the question were one of having committed a sin of a serious nature I should speak quite in a different manner. King David had fallen very deep; but holding a sound doctrine it brought him on his feet again, for it caused him at once to admit his guilt (2 Sam. xii. 5); and, having repented, God forgave him (Psalm xxxii. 5). A false doctrine, however, produces no repentence; no, never. A false doctrine may be compared to insects lodging in the root of a tree and sucking its sap away, until the tree withers and is cut down for firewood. "Convince, or allow yourself to be convinced," is our Christian rule, and is in fact the subject of the gospel, and must be practised with full zeal; it is the fruit of the love of God shed abroad in the hearts of true believers. God's Spirit is a convincer (John xvi. 8); and the exercise of this quality is the building up of the Church of Christ into spiritual union; and where that is not practised Christianity soon dies and becomes an empty form—a dead.
See how our Lord met Peter, when he was attempting to introduce a false doctrine (Matt. xvi. 23); also St. Paul (Gasans i. 8). Surely you do not mean to say Christ and Paul had no love and charity ? Our Christian profession is beyond any natural feelings; it does not know father or mother, sister or brother, wife or child. No true Christian, who possesses the mysterious secret (Rev. ii. 17) in reality, and not merely in fancy, will ever object to any attempt to convince page 49 of wrong, whether in doctrine or practice : for if he is in the wrong he is always prepared to admit it, and is, in fact, only too glad to be convinced of his error; and if he is accused wrongfully he is prepared to clear himself of the accusation.
Now, Sir, you have done neither of these; on the contrary, you will not convince. and decline to be convinced; but request me, with good wishes, to drop the matter. What does that amount to? Supposing I were in error, it would mean this: that you send me, with good wishes, to hell; but concerning yourself it proves how far your doctrine of annihilation has sucked away the real sap a Christian draws from the true Vine (John xv.). I do not study philosophy at all with respect to religion; I trample it under foot, knowing it to be dangerous and deceiving (Coll. ii. 8). All my study with regard to religion is in the fulness manifested in Christ Jesus (verse 9), the riches of which fulness can never be searched out; and if that study appears to some to make a fool of me, then I will be one; it has, however, brought me so far through this world and has kept me on my course to the next, and I shall abide by it, God helping me.
You say further, in your letter, "You have been misinformed as to—'s spiritual condition." This is another charge which I cannot admit; because I do not act on hearsay or information, further than that it leads me sometimes to an investigation, and then I act as I find it. However, with regard to——'s spiritual condition I have received no information, nor have I ever made any inquiry about it. The remarks I made were drawn from her behaviour on the evening in question; but if I have been mistaken in her condition the better it is for her. But your admission that she found no interest in our discussion, betrays something to the contrary, viz., that she must be spiritually very dead. As the subject of our discussion was of our common Christian faith and doctrine, I cannot see how—could have had no interest in it. Surely she does not mean to say that she is not possessed of a soul, subject either to pain or joy, as to the state she is in when leaving this world. If it had been myself, it would have roused all my attention, under the close examination as to how it stood with me in that respect; for discussions such as we had are rather rare now-a-days, however much religion may be talked about. I repeat again, as said already, that sins can, shall, and will be forgiven, if the sinner takes the right course to obtain forgiveness, and that the greatest sinner may be saved. But by the teaching of false doctrine, such as this subject of annihilation in all its branches, not one soul can possibly be saved, but will most surely be condemned; for it denounces the whole Scripture : because if the doctrine of annihilation be true, then the Scripture is false. Talking merely of such matters in a friendly way, and afterwards each party continuing to hold and enjoy his own opinion regardless of evidence, is merely making a mockery of religion. A doctrine, if false, must be reproved and denounced with full zeal; so the Prophets, our Lord himself, and the Apostles did, and it has been the practice of all true Christians in all ages; though thousands have sealed their evidence with their blood, and under cruel torture. Also a true and sound doctrine must be defended, and has been defended and upheld, with the same zeal and sacrifice.—Yours, &c.