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Charles Bradlaugh Roberts Bradlaugh Night3 3bradlaugh2

Mr. BRADLAUGH: There is one thing that I think I ought to do before commencing this speech, and that is personal to myself. A little while ago I disputed the ruling of the chairman. It happened to be exactly the reverse of the ruling of the chairman last night, and I thought I was right in disputing it at the moment. I now think I was wrong. I think that when you accept a chairman you ought not to challenge his decision, and I therefore tender him my apology.

I feel considerably troubled about the course this debate has taken, because, frankly, I would not have entered into it at all if I had not thought that the best that could be said for the authenticity of the Scriptures would be said, and that I could reply to it. And I hold that it is not the proper way to prove that authenticity by simply reading from the Bible and contending that that is evidence, because with reference to the New Testament, I put the challenge in a very narrow shape, because I challenged there the possibility of evidence of the four Gospels until the year A.D. 150. Now on that I am either right or wrong. The burden is on Mr. Roberts, and he ought to have been prepared, before he entered into a debate of this kind at all, to deal with that, and what he ought to have been prepared to do would have been this had he been frank: he would have said, the old Hebrew books, I am not prepared to verify them in the same fashion, because there is in the Hebrew nation only that literature to which I can appeal: there is no literature outside it. But he then would be bound to try the books on their contents. What I complain of is this that he pretends there is evidence, which he ought to know don’t exist, and that he don’t answer frankly, for the purpose of avoiding the confession of it. And I will give you what seems to me the most startling evidence of that. Challenged to prove that the book of Genesis existed at what he called the era of Joshua, he read these verses–and why I wanted to read them was: I knew that they had nothing whatever to do with it, and I knew that I would read them much quicker than he did, and that it would give me the opportunity of asking further questions. There is not a particle in the 31st, 32nd, 33rd, or 34th verse which he read identified any books as written by Moses then being in existence. On the contrary, the pretence is there that Joshua wrote something upon stones, not that Moses wrote something, and not that they had then got that which Moses wrote.

Well, now we come to the only difficulty which Mr. Roberts chose to deal with. He says he could deal with all of them; why don’t he? He wants me to take up the time of my speech in questioning. It is enough for me to state the objections in my speeches. I have plenty of other matters I want to deal with. I want to show that Mr. Roberts has not a ray of evidence in favour of the case he ought to maintain. But he says, Oh! the statements in the 9th of Acts and the 22nd of Acts are reconcilable, for although one says they heard a voice, and the other says they did not hear it, it does not mean that, but it means that they did hear it but did not understand it. Now I ask, If this is a divine revelation, why did not God say what He meant, instead of leaving it for Mr. Roberts 1,800 years afterwards to give the explanation? Well, Mr. Roberts says they all fell down; but Acts says No, they stood speechless. I don’t know whether they did or did not; I only know that the story contradicts itself. Mr. Roberts says that Christ rose and was seen for a long period prior to his ascension. I quoted from the 24th of Luke to show you that that was impossible, and he never dared to answer it. Which statement is true? both cannot be. Let us dismiss such things as Lord Lyttelton. The Lord Lyttelton who has just died never said he was an Atheist at any time.

Mr. ROBERTS: His father: they are both "late".

Mr. BRADLAUGH: You should say what you mean. Now I have another allegation, and I am extremely doubtful whether the most straining of opinion can identify the views of Lord Lyttelton, as expressed in his writings–now dealing with Lord Lyttelton the father–at any time of his life, with the opinions put forward by me. But if it were so, the fact that Lord Lyttelton said one thing at one time of his life, and at some other time of his life said something else, makes nothing out whatever for the case Mr. Roberts has to prove. I will tell you what would be important: if he would put forward the evidence on which Lord Lyttelton was convinced; then that evidence might have some effect. But I have never yet found Mr. Roberts quote accurately from any things he has been dealing with, and I want precise evidence, not general statements, because the general statements, when examined, simply come into nothing at all. What is the case? O! Paul spoke. But suppose Paul did speak, how does this get rid of the objection I took to the 21st of Exodus, which gave a man the right to have a slave, to keep that slave, if he were a Jew, for seven years; if he at the end of that time had been married before he went into slavery, he was to take his wife and children with him; but if his master had given him a wife, and she had borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children were to be the master’s. How can any statement about Paul make that a revelation from a good God? How can anything make the text in Deuteronomy, which says you are to kill a man who tries to entice you away from your religion–how can any statement about Paul make that a revelation from a good God? How can any statement about Paul make that a revelation from a good God which says both thy bondmen and bondmaids shall be of the heathen round about you, and they shall be your bondmen and bondmaids for ever? Nothing about Paul will make that into a good declaration. The civilisation of the world condemns it, the humanity and civilisation of to-day reject it; and then, Mr. Roberts ventures to tell me about my scepticism, which is ruining the world–yes, my scepticism has had to fight against the slavery which this book taught against the corruption which this religion fostered. But Mr. Robert’s business in this debate is not to attack my scepticism, but to prove that these Scriptures are an authentic Divine revelation. I am quite willing to come at another time and defend my scepticism against any representative Christian. Here I bind myself to the Bible, and when he talks about my wanting to put you amongst fossils at any rate the fossils are better than the hell and damnation which this book teaches. But these kind of things are no arguments either on one side or another: they are simply so much talk thrown in to utterly avoid the subject. The subject we ought to deal with is this: Is there evidence of the authenticity–that is of the authorship–of these books? What is the evidence? It is not for Mr. Roberts to say to me, Can you disprove it. Because, supposing I am the most ignorant man in the world, that don’t make out a case for him. My business is not to disprove. In the opening of a case on the part of the plaintiff in a court of law–because Mr. Roberts has talked about what ought to be done in a court of law–the plaintiff has to prove his case; the only duty of the defendant is to cross-examine the witnesses, and unless a prima facie case be made out, he is not obliged to do anything more, and that is what I say here: there is no case to go to a common sense jury. Mr. Roberts has read, in a tone of voice which may be effective from the pulpit, texts from the Bible, but he has not given a particle of evidence outside. Friends, I cannot understand that Mr. Roberts could allow one of these points, which he says he can explain, to pass unexplained for three nights, when he knows the effect they must have. I show God cruel, I show God repenting, I show God vascillating, I show God unjust to peoples and favouring kings against peoples, I show God, by the texts I have quoted, giving pardon to kings, no pardon to people, and punishing a people for the offence of their king; and if you tell me that is a revelation from an all-wise God, and a just and merciful God, then language has a different meaning in your mouth than what it has when spoken by most English people. And I object that no man, when pleading here, has any right to cast my scepticism against me; his business is to make out his book. Without scepticism we should still have been in the dark ages of the world, when your Bible-Church was triumphant. If it had not been for the scepticism of the Arabian and the Moor, who lit up philosophy again when your Christianity had crushed out its flame, there would have been no possibility for the reform of to-day. When your Church was in the plenitude of its might, you had a divinely-ordained tyranny, a proud and licentious clergy, and not a shadow of aspiration amongst the people. You twit me with my scepticism: what have your Churches done? Look where huge cathedrals cumbered the ground, while poor men’s dwellings were miserable, and the poor had no right. God’s revelation! Why didn’t it rescue peoples long ago? Why didn’t it give freedom to peoples long ago? Why didn’t it help the people long ago? Why didn’t it relieve the poor and sick long ago? Why is it that infidelity has had to battle against the tyrannies of the world when your Church has taken the side of the strong against the weak. Friends, I have nearly arrived at the exhaustion again of my time, and I have only to regret that this third night, as every other, is utterly fruitless on the question we have to discuss, because, if Mr. Roberts begins at the beginning of one epistle and reads to the end of it, until he has addressed some evidence as to the authenticity of that epistle, it is so much waste of time. We don’t seem to apprehend the commonest principles of evidence in a case of this kind; and I ask you, who were against me when I began to speak–I ask you, if you think my opinions so bad, at any rate you ought to give the frankest and the best care to try to change those opinions, so that they may not influence others for wrong. I have been obliged to find throughout the whole history of the world that what you call the Bible has been on the side of the wrong, on the side of the mighty against the people, on the side of the priest against the poor, on the side of the rich abbot and richly-endowed cathedral and the rich King. I find the people in misery, and that those who have striven to rescue them have been assailed as sceptics during their lives, and have only been canonised when their bones have mouldered in the grave.

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