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Charles Bradlaugh Roberts Bradlaugh Night3 3bradlaugh1

Mr. BRADLAUGH: Mr. Roberts has been good enough to sketch to you what has happened on the previous two nights of this debate, but his sketch lacks one or two features which I will take the liberty of supplying. The question for discussion and the point that Mr. Roberts ought to try to prove is that the Scriptures are the authentic and reliable records of divine revelation; and in answer to a challenge from myself Mr. Roberts said that by authentic he meant really written by the persons by whom they professed to have been written, and at the times they professed to have been written, and said that there was evidence that the writings were in current circulation at the time they were produced. He has not given a particle of evidence, either on the two previous nights or to-night, in favour of any one person as the writer of any one book.

He has asked me to disprove that some epistle was written by some man whom he calls Paul. His business is not to ask me to disprove it, but to prove it to you, and my business is simply to wait for his proof, and then examine it. If I know nothing whatever on the subject, that doesn’t prove that Paul wrote the epistle: his business is either to prove them or to say nothing about them. Then he is good enough to say something about the books not being the works of impostors. He ought to have told you that I had said that I do not maintain, that I never pretended to maintain, that the Bible, as represented in the authorised English version, which Mr. Roberts tells me is what he is content to be bound by in this debate; I have never pretended that that whole book is the work of some men designedly intending an imposture. I have always pretended and do pretend, that like many other mythic books it is an out-growth of different ages, the work of different men and at different times, full of their blunders when they blundered, full of their crimes when they were criminal, having their poetry if they were poetical, but simply expressing the men and the age out of whom it came. (A voice: ha! ha!) The gentleman who thinks that ridiculous has afforded us the weight of his testimony to the truth of the divine revelation, and I am sure it is the most valuable piece of evidence I have listened to in this debate here. And now you must do me the justice to say that our friends did not begin any of that interruption.

I asked Mr. Roberts whether that could be a divine revelation which, professing to state the character of Deity, contradicted every fairly assumable attribute for Deity, and I read a number of attributes which, with one exception, were thoroughly agreed to by Mr. Roberts; viz., omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, including foreknowledge, infinity, eternity, personality–I added another–all-goodness; to that Mr. Roberts objected, not to the attribute of all-goodness, but as saying that he did not mean to bind God with the meaning of the word goodness as usually applied to man. I did not gather from him any sufficient meaning in lieu of it; that might have been simply my fault, but with that exception we were agreed.

And I drew his attention, not simply to discrepancies of detail, but I drew his attention to Exodus the 32nd chapter, verses 7 to 14, where the Lord says unto Moses, "Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation;" and I asked whether, in that which professed to be a revelation from an all-wise and all-powerful God, we could fairly expect any language of that kind at all. I drew his attention to verse 35, and to chapter 28, verses 1-3, and showed that by those verses God was appointing Aaron a priest at the very time He knew that Aaron was misleading His people, and that God punished the people because they did the sin which Aaron had done, whom God had appointed to be their leader; and I asked him whether this was consistent with any notion of a revelation from God. I took him to the case in 2 Kings 20:1, where He says to Hezekiah, "Thou shalt die", and afterwards, on Hezekiah praying to Him, relents, and doesn’t kill Hezekiah at all, but lets him live. I took him to a variety of texts: Numb. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Malachi 3:6; which represent that God does not repent and that God does not change. I took him to where He repented of having made Saul king, 1 Samuel 15:11; and 2 Samuel 24:15-16, where God punished a people for the crime of their king, and then repented Him of the evil He was doing. I took him to Genesis 6:6, where God repented that He had made man, and it grieved Him at His heart. I took him on the point of omniscience to Genesis 18:20-21, and pointed out to him that the story had reached God in Heaven, that He did not know whether it was true or not, that He had come down to find out; and asked him whether that was consistent with omniscience. I took him through the same story, and showed the whole trick of bargaining with Abraham as to the preservation of the people in the doomed cities. I took him to 2 Chronicles 32:38, and Deuteronomy 8:2. 1 took him from these to the abhorrent cases of legislation in Exodus 21:2-6, where it provides that a slaveowner may give to a Hebrew slave a wife, and that when the seven years of servitude are up, that if the slave have begotten children by that wife he is to leave his children behind him and go away by himself; and if he wants to remain with them, as a penalty for that he is to be made a slave for ever; and I also referred to Leviticus 25:44-46; and I pointed out that while these doctrines applied to the Jews, for the pagans there was a never-ending slavery: "Ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever." I took him to the war commands of Numbers 31:17, and pointed out that while the tendency of all wise men to-day was towards peace, this represented a God full of blood and murder, authorising the killing of every man, of every woman who was a mother and wife, and only sanctioning the saving of women who were not wives for purposes so horrible as to shock all right-minded persons, and which are yet imagined to be legalised by God. (Hisses.)

If you dare not listen to your own Bible you have the fullest evidence that it is not authentic. I took him to the whole story of the fall, as depicted in Genesis, and asked him how God could be imagined as inventing a damnation-trap in which to catch the whole world. I took him to the story of the deluge, and asked him whether it was consistent with the attributes of God, as we have them, that He should convert the whole world into a slaughterhouse, when he was omnipotent enough to have reformed it. I took him to the case of Jacob, the thief, the liar, and the cheat, who was loved by God either because of, or despite his rascality, and to Esau, the one who when strong forgave his mean brother, who nevertheless was hated. I took him to the case of David, in 1st Kings 11:33, 34, 38; and 14:8, where is spoken of as having kept God’s statutes all the days of his life, and as never having done anything wrong; and I pointed out that he was a murderer, a traitor, a liar, a thief, an ungrateful scoundrel, betraying to death the subjects of the king who sheltered him. I asked whether this was a picture of an authentic revelation. Well, those were a few of the little discrepancies. And not one of these having been answered, Mr. Roberts says, if he had time he could, if he had time that he could melt them away one by one, but he has not tried the melting process yet: not one of them has been touched, and nearly the whole of them were put forward in my first speech on the first night.

He has quoted Acts, but until he proves when the book was written, where it was written, by whom it was written, that it was current at the time to which the events it refers to relate, according to his own statement he has no right to read the book of Acts to me at all; because to say, I will prove to you that the Bible is an authentic and reliable revelation of God, simply by reading his statements, is the funniest fashion of conducting a debate I ever heard of in my life. Then Mr. Roberts says this evening, Oh! I will refer to Paul and to the resurrection, but he did not tell you that when he had quoted from Acts the night before last, about Jesus having been seen for forty days, and curiously, he did not mention the forty days: he said "for a certain time" to-night, that I quoted from the last chapter of Luke a statement utterly impossible to be reconciled with that forty days. Why doesn’t he touch that? Then when he deals with the case of Paul, he says Paul, as a truthful man, don’t recite it in the same words. But it is not the question, Is Paul a truthful man? but "Are the Scriptures the authentic and reliable records of divine revelation?" that is, did God, who could not make a mistake at all, send this message to humankind, or is it simply the work of men who may have blundered?

Then in the discrepancies I gave I gave him the whole history of Jesus himself, born without a father, whose mother’s husband had two fathers born in the lifetime of Herod and not born till after Herod’s death, who was in Egypt and Judea at one and the same moment, known and not known by John at the same moment, in the grave three days and three nights, between late on Friday evening and before Saturday was over. These are the discrepancies he says he can answer at the proper time and place, but surely the time is now and the place is here. If not, then I don’t understand what a debate is. I submit to you that merely to go on reading texts out of this book until the book has been disproved is a most absurd thing. What does Mr. Roberts say to-night? Oh, he says, "I began at 1876 and got back to the first century." He did nothing of the kind: he jumped from 1876 to somebody he called Clement of Rome, and whom, without proving, he quoted as a thorough authority. He lumped with him Clement of Alexandria and another, and spoke of those writings "in those days", and I ask whether that is a fashion in which proof can be conducted. We must take the Old Testament first, and show you at any rate who he pretends was the writer of each book; he must show you at any rate when he pretends each book was written. I am not using the word pretend in any unfair sense; I am only using it in the sense of the contention he has got to make out in this case. He must show you where he thinks the books were in custody; and last night he contended that the five books of Moses were in custody at Shiloh during the time of Joshua, but he gave no evidence, quoted no texts, and would not even promise that he would find them at all for me.

Mr. ROBERTS: I did promise I would.

Mr. BRADLAUGH: I did not interrupt Mr. Roberts at all, and I have a splendid memory.

Mr. ROBERTS: I merely avail myself of the Parliamentary right to speak to a question of fact. I merely say I did promise, and I will fulfil my promise before the discussion is out.

Mr. BRADLAUGH: When? On which night of the debate will he fulfil his promise?

Mr. ROBERTS: Next.

Mr. BRADLAUGH: On the next night of the debate Mr. Roberts is here to show that in Shiloh, in the time of Joshua, he can prove that there were five books kept that are called the five books of Moses. Now that is a step; the only pity is, that as he made the statement, he was not prepared with the proof of it at the time. I will show that there is not a particle of such proof existing anywhere, and it won’t be enough to give loose texts from different books; we must have proof of the books, from which the texts are quoted before they can be used as any evidence against me. It is not enough to bolster up one position of a book with a declaration from another until you have verified the portion of the book from which you use the declaration.

Now, if you please, we will carry this a little further. Mr. Roberts asks, What explanation will I give of Paul’s reasons. First, I know nothing about Paul; reading about Paul from the Acts of the Apostles is no evidence to me until the Acts of the Apostles are proved to me. How are they to be proved? The question is, Are they authentic? What does authentic mean? Were they written by some people at some time? Were they current literature at the time they profess to have been written? And when Mr. Roberts has given the evidence of that in relation to the Acts of the Apostles–and I deny that he can show the Acts of the Apostles to be in existence within one century after the time of the alleged death of Jesus, and if that be so the whole burden lies, not of disproof upon me, but of proof upon him. And curiously let us see the kind of reading you have had from the texts: you have had reading from the 22nd chapter of Acts, but what Mr. Roberts should have done was this, not simply to tell you that the language did not agree, but that there was positive contradiction of fact. In Acts 9:7 it is said, "The men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no man"; and yet when he comes into Acts 22, he will there find "They that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not the voice". Now which is true? Is it true that they heard it, or that they did not hear it? Don’t say that Paul made a mistake; it is God who made a mistake if this is God’s revelation to man; this is the point to deal with.

If Mr. Roberts will admit that the people who have written in this book have blundered over and over again, if he will admit that there are many matters of detail entirely incorrect, if he will admit that the book is on a level with any ordinary book, I shall know with what I am dealing; but his contention is that "the Bible is the authentic and reliable record of divine revelation". Now, is it true that the people heard the voice or that they did not? is it true that they stood up or fell down? Can it be pretended that these contradictory statements are divine revelation? Then I will ask you just to consider what he says: he says one man’s evidence as to what he has seen and heard is as good as another’s. But we have got to get the evidence first, and we have not got it, and reading a statement from an unverified book is not evidence; and besides, one man’s evidence as to what he has seen and heard is not as good as another’s: it depends on the ability of the man to judge of the facts of which he gives evidence. Some men can note more accurately and state more clearly what they note; for example, suppose a man comes to you and says I made a journey across the Atlantic in the City of Berlin; when we were half-way across a big fish swallowed the whole ship, and I alone ultimately escaped from the belly of the fish; the man’s evidence is not good, because it contradicts all experience and all probabilities, the whole story outrages all experience, and the moment a man makes such a statement you condemn it at once. And yet when Mr. Roberts comes here and says that somebody saw the invisible God, oh! that ought to be believed, and that is to be something you are to accept! The Bible says "no man hath seen God at any time." O yes, Abraham saw Him; Paul saw Jesus, who was either God or was not–I don’t know which contention Mr. Roberts will make, and don’t much care what I submit is that the testimony to events which contradict all expereince, the testimony to events which are alleged to be outside the range of all experience, is not testimony which you accept in the same fashion as testimony which you are entitled to examine and testimony which you are entitled to weigh.

And I will ask Mr. Roberts frankly to take up the points I have dealt with. On the first night of the debate, when I read nearly the whole of those texts, all except four, he said, Oh! six minutes is not enough to deal with those texts. I said, at any rate you might have done one of them. He told us he had gone through 144 contradictions issued by a society in America, but his business was to go through the contradictions I state, but this has not been done. Last night not a reference, to-night not a reference; and I ask whether it is not simply a sham of a debate to allow these things to go on, and to make no effort at all to answer them now. I submit that if the book contains statements inconsistent with the character of God as omnipotent, inconsistent with the character of God as all-good, inconsistent with the character of God as omnipresent, inconsistent with the character of God as infinite and eternal, then I say that book cannot be a revelation from a Deity having such attributes; and I say it is not enough for Mr. Roberts to say disprove this or disprove that, because the whole burden of proof lies upon himself. He is the challenger in this debate; he has undertaken to prove it; it is he who should have brought his evidence here. I have not seen one particle–one atom of it yet. I don’t know whether I shall during the continuance of this debate, but, at present, the whole case on the other side is utterly unproved.

Mr. Roberts tells you I referred to the Buddhists and Mahommedans; but I will tell you why I referred. He talked of the spread of Christianity, and then I had a right to answer him by the spread of other religions. Oh! he says, I don’t mean the spread now to-day. But in his very opening, he had referred to Christianity as existing in 1876, and I had the same right to go back through it step by step, and show what it had been, and that is what I did; and I showed that while it pretended to be founded on this book as a divine revelation, that it had been productive of murder, of wickedness, of licentiousness, of ignorance, of poverty, of tyranny, of serfdom, and of keeping down people during the whole time that it had obtained power in the world. When Mr. Roberts talks of his first century proofs, he must remember that, at the present moment, I dispute them all, and that I have not had submitted to me the evidence on which I am bound to receive them. To tell me that I am to account for Paul until Paul is proven is the most absurd nonsense. He says that Paul suffered; where is the evidence of Paul suffering? In the Acts. You are going to prove Paul from the Acts, and the Acts from Paul. Well, if that is not turning all debate topsy-turvy, abandoning all reason, then the English language has no meaning whatever.

Well, is there any other evidence I need trouble you with? Yes; that every man spoke in different languages; and he proves that by referring to the Bible. And then he says they were ignorant men. Where is the proof that they were ignorant? How can you even identify the men at all? You have no right to open the book and quote a line from it to me until you have said that this book was written so and so, was in the custody of such and such people, at such a time. Submit to me that evidence, and let me examine it, and then, perhaps, you will be entitled to read the book. But, then, I am entitled to go through it, and to show you, that instead of being a book full of love and kindness and goodness, like every book representing the religion of the past, it is full of the barbarities of the past, full of the cruelties of the past, full of the mischiefs of the past, and full of the ignorance of the past. I sit down saying, that up to this, the third night of the debate, there has not been an atom of attempt to prove one of the positions that lay on Mr. Roberts to prove.

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