The CHAIRMAN: Mr. Roberts will now have a quarter of an hour’s speech.
Mr. ROBERTS: Mr. Bradlaugh occupied a considerable portion of his half hour’s speech in reminding me of what he considered my failures. I have to remind him of what is a much greater failure on his part, and that is to deal with the positive argument in so far as I have unfolded it. I grant I have not yet conducted it very far; but, so far as I have carried it, Mr. Bradlaugh has not attempted to deal with it. Some of his difficulties I will deal with. At none of them am I frightened. In fact, I could like nothing better than a public test on this point in such a form as would admit of a thorough investigation. It is impossible, in the limit of six nights, conducted in this way, to go into the thing in that thorough, exhaustive, and critical manner that would be necessary for the full illustration of the whole of the bearings of the case. I am, therefore, obliged to content myself with a wise way of dealing with the question in a limited time–viz., the plan of seizing hold of those positive, unquestionable facts which Mr. Bradlaugh himself dare not deny, and which, when logically construed, yield the general conclusions for which I am contending, notwithstanding, all those little bits of exceptions which he was taking, and discrepancies which he was urging, as regards the general contents of the Bible. I will undertake, in a thorough legal investigation, in the presence of a judge–so to speak–in which Mr. B. shall question me for so long, and make a speech on my answers, and I question him, and make a speech on his answers, and so forth–I would undertake, under those circumstances, to deal with ever single item that he can produce in the way of general discrepancy; and, under such circumstances, I would undertake that every single difficulty that could be brought forward would melt away in the process. But, meanwhile, it would be most unwise of me to go grappling with the difficulties before I have marshalled the general evidence before you. It is my business to present these evidences, and it is Mr. Bradlaugh’s business to deal with my general demonstration of the positive case, instead of trying to drown my argument with little points, that are not in reality inconsistent with it.
Now, pursuing the general argument, I resume the thread which I was obliged to break, or to drop, at the close of my first half-hour’s speech. I was then showing that the apostles did not expect Christ to die. I will now show that, being dead, they did not expect him to rise. In John 20:9: "As yet they knew not the Scipture, that he must rise again from the dead." I will next show, that, when he did rise, they did not believe it in the first case–all of which goes to show that there was no predisposition in their minds to entertain any fantasy on the subject, and that, therefore, the theory of hallucination relied on by those who deny the certainty of Christ’s resurrection is inconsistent with the facts. The evidence on that point is to be found, amongst other places, in Luke 24: 10, 11: "It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not." Then in Mark 16:14 we have this statement: "Afterwards he (Jesus) appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen." How came they, then, not expecting him to rise, and not believing the testimony of those who had seen him rise; how came they to believe in the fact of his having risen, and to give their lives and their well-being for the sake of their testimony to that fact? The answer is to be found in testimony which I have partly quoted in the earlier part of the argument. Peter says–speaking of himself and the other apostles–"We did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead."–(Acts 10:41). One case in particular illustrates the scepticism of the apostolic band as regarded the first report of his resurrection, and also illustrates the means by which that scepticism was dissipated, and a firm faith lodged in its place; and we shall see that it is a faith placed upon actual personal witness, and not at all upon any fantasy, such as might be supposed to be nursed in a heated imagination. In John 20:24, it is stated: "Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came"–that is, the time of his first interview with the ten disciples–"the other disciples, therefore, said unto him, We have seen the Lord; but he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hand the print of the nails, and put my fingers into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in their midst, and said, Peace be unto you! Then said he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God! Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast believed: blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed". In Luke 24 we find the whole of the apostolic band assembled together at an early period of the day of Christ’s resurrection; and they are eagerly discussing the flying rumous they are hearing first, the report of the women, afterwards, the report of Peter, to whom Christ had separately appeared, then the report of two of the disciples who went on a journey to Emmaus, and to whom Jesus made himself known. We are told in Luke 24:33: "The eleven were gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon! And they (the two who went to Emmaus) told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and said unto them, Peace be unto you! But they were terrified and affrighted." Observe that, if this was a concocted story intended to create the notion–the false notion in that case–that Christ had risen, when he had not, you would not have found all these statements about the disciples not believing, and about them being terrified, and so on. They suppose they had seen a spirit or phantom; they supposed it was not the real Christ. "And he said unto them, why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me and see: for a spirit"–a phantom–"hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honey-comb; and he took it, and did eat before them."–(Verses 38-43).
Realise the facts, please, for they constitute an explanation of the great bravery of the apostles in their testimony afterwards, for which they gave their lives.
The Pharisees (Matt. 27:63), remembered that Christ had said that he would rise again after his death, and they asked Pilate to set a watch over his grave after his death, that there might be no doubt as to the fact of death having taken him and kept him, and, therefore, as to the fact of his being an impostor. What story have the Jews now as to the fact, which both Jew and Gentile admit, that the body of Christ was never found, but that the grave was empty? for all the people in Jerusalem at the time were witnesses to that. They say "his disciples stole him while the watch slept". Do you believe that story, that the disciples stole the body of Christ? What object could they have in stealing away a dead body? How could they steal a body with a numerous guard assembled round the sepulchre? They were a scattered and demoralised band. Yet afterwards they appeared in Jerusalem, and declared Christ had risen.
Thousands believed their testimony. Why? Was it because these men, in a fervid and an earnest manner proclaimed their belief in what might have been an illusion? No; the personal witness of the apostles was only one element in the evidence that persuaded thousands of Jews and Gentiles throughout the whole of the Roman Empire that Jesus of Nazareth, crucified by Pontius Pilate, had risen. The New Testament account is that God confirmed the testimony of the apostles by granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands; and I call upon Mr. Bradlaugh to account for the wide-spread reception of their testimony, if that account or explanation of it is not the correct one. Not only were the apostles personal witnesses of the fact of Christ’s resurrection, but Christ endowed them with power to do things that constitute the confirmation of their testimony. God invited men to believe in the resurrection of His Son, but He did not unreasonably ask them to believe without evidence. He gave evidence; He placed the seal of His confirmation upon their testimony by fulfilling the promise Christ left them before his ascension. What promise was that? Before Christ parted from them he commanded them, we are told in Acts 1:4, that they should "not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which said he, ye have heard of me." What promise? Here is the promise: John 14:26; 15:26: "The Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you… When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning."