THE CHAIRMAN: Mr. Roberts will now speak for a quarter of an hour.
Mr. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I only wish Mr. Bradlaugh would employ the opportunity he has during his option of questioning me for 15 minutes, to put to me that host of difficulties he says I did not answer, instead of wasting the time with uncertain and impracticable issues which do not really affect the question, though apparently to the point. As he has never yet so used his opportunity of bringing home to me the alleged discrepancies and difficulties in the Scriptures, he has no right to complain of my not noticing them in the time allotted to me to maintain the affirmative; for what is the duty of any speaker who undertakes to prove the affirmative of anything but to rehearse the positive evidences on which his proposition rests? Positive evidences are far more profitable to consider than mere gaps and negations. The positive argument is more powerful to sustain a proposition than an attempt to grapple with multitudinous details of an opposing character, which are capable, with deliberation and coolness, of being harmonised with the affirmative, but which, in the short time allowed to the disputants, and in the heat of discussion, are not capable of being treated in a satisfactory manner, if the main duty of marshalling the positive evidence is to be performed. I prefer to rehearse before you the great positive evidences on which rests the proposition that the Scriptures are the authentic and reliable records of divine revelation; and Mr. Bradlaugh’s business is to destroy those positive evidences if he can. He has not yet attempted to touch those evidences, and, to-night, for the second time, he has said that it is not his business to do so. He tries rather to inveigle me into the consideration of details which would conceal the general argument from view. I must simply disregard his tactics, and address myself to the important duty of the moment, and that is to make some attempt, in our day, when scepticism is creeping into every corner like a rising tide, to show reasonable minds that there are evidences that cannot, in true, calm and unbiassed process of logic be got rid of, which go to show that God spoke by Moses and the prophets to Israel, and that Jesus rose from the dead and is now in heaven, and will re-appear among men, to carry out that great programme which God has put in his hands to accomplish for the regeneration of mankind and the blessing of all the families of the earth at the appointed time, when we shall have got through the present wretched but necessary preliminary period, when men like Mr. Bradlaugh can with impunity go about and try to blast the hopes of men by attempting to destroy the only foundation of hope that is extant amongst men; for certainly if the Jewish Scriptures do not contain the elements of that hope, there is no hope, and we must be content to drift down the dreadful stream of time to the region of alluvial deposits, and to be laid among those fossils whose eternal fellowship is all that Mr. Bradlaugh can offer us as the result of a life’s exertion and a life’s sacrifice on behalf of the highest aims.
Pursuing that policy, then, I recall your attention to the great and unimpeachable facts connected with the apostle Paul. Not only did he personally testify for forty years, in the face of the organised and formidable opposition of Jew and Gentile, that he had seen Christ; not only did he base upon that testimony the most earnest practical and noble objects it is possible to aim at or conceive in connection with men; not only did he write to communities of the people those epistles of unexampled loftiness, density, purity and power; not only did he work miracles in the execution of his work, but there are minor practical elements in his case which, when impartially considered, will do as much as anything else, to convince sober, practical and unbiassed intellects of the truth of Paul’s whole testimony for Christ. I may mention, as a singular illustration of the truth of this remark, that the late Lord Lyttelton, in his early days, stood on Mr. Bradlaugh’s ground in being a sceptic, and in connection with another gentleman, he undertook to prove the fallacy of the Scriptures by an analysis of the case of Paul. With this view, he sat down to examine that case thoroughly in all its facts, with all the collateral circumstances involved in Paul’s epistles, whose authenticity he confessed himself bound to admit, unless he chose to reject all established rules of evidence. In the execution of his task, he came to the very opposite conclusion to that which he intended to establish. He came to the conclusion that Paul’s case was a proof of the resurrection of Christ; and he reduced to writing, in a systematic way, the whole of the considerations that had guided him to that conclusion, so that others might have the benefit. That argument is extant now, and accessible to anyone; and if examined by logical minds, open to follow the results of evidence, I am convinced it cannot fail to bring them to the same result.
A few, then, of the minor but potent elements in Paul’s case are these. First, he was successful in his labours; he carried away whole districts; he turned the minds of vast masses of men, notwithstanding the oppoition of the authorities and notwithstanding the fact that imprisonment and ruin stared in the face of every one who should adopt his views. This is a circumstance to which too much weight cannot be attached in the argument. The proof of the circumstance I give by reading an extract from the undisproved Acts of the Apostles, and which indeed are their own proof to any man who will calmly read them. In chapter 19 of the Acts of the Apostles, verse 23, we read: "At the same time there arose no small stir about that way": that is, in Ephesus, "for a certain man named Demetrius, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods which are made with hands: so that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at naught, but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. And the whole city was filled with confusion; and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre. And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not", for they were afraid for his personal safety in such a turmoil. That is evidence of the fact that his preaching produced a widespread effect in the teeth of persecution; and as reasonable men, you have to explain that circumstance. What is the explanation? If Christ rose from the dead, if Paul worked miracles, then the circumstance is explained; but if Christ did not rise from the dead, then Paul was a madman, and could not work miracles, and how in that case are you to explain the fact that those vast multitudes went in the teeth of their dearest temporal interests for the sake of believing Paul’s doctrine? There is no explanation apart from that one explanation which I stand before you to represent. There are only four suppositions possible in the case, and they are all inconsistent with the facts except one. No man will say Paul was an impostor; no man will say he was an ignorant enthusiast; no man will say that he was an earnest man deceived by others, for the incident which Paul alleged as the great turning point of his career was of a character that did not admit of the interposition of others in the way of deception. It was something that happened in the broad daylight: it was not at night; it was at noon-day, and what he saw was a light above the brightness of the sun, which is not a thing that could be done by deception. The company of officials who were with him saw it also, and were felled to the earth by the brightness of the light. Besides the light, Paul heard a voice, and here I am reminded of Mr. Bradlaugh’s difficulty about the narrative on this point, to which I will address myself for a moment, as an illustration of the unreal character of the difficulties raised by Mr. Bradlaugh, and which could all of them be dissolved if there were time to address myself to them in detail. In one account it is said that those that were with Paul did not hear the voice; in another, namely, Paul’s own account, it is said they did. What is the explanation of that? Is it a contradiction? It appears like it; but what is the fact? There are two senses in which the word voice is used: you say you hear voices in the street, though you cannot make out the words; you hear a voice if you hear a person speak to you. In the one case you hear without being able to make out what is said: in the other you hear the words. A man who hears the voice and hears the words hears it in both senses; and that was the fact with Paul; but in the case of Paul’s attendants they only heard the sound of the voice without making out the words. Probably this was because the voice "spake to him in the Hebrew tongue". The officers that accompanied him would probably be Romans, and they while hearing the voice, would not know what was said, and therefore they could be said by one narrator to hear and by another not to hear without any contradiction occurring. Paul’s attendants afterwards led him by the hand to Damascus, and when they arrived there, a certain man came to him named Ananias with a message from Christ. Mark this circumstance. On any other supposition than the reality of Christ’s appearance to Paul, it is inexplicable. How came Ananias to know about Paul at all? The New Testament account is that Christ appeared also to Ananias: if this be true, the explanation is obvious, and Christ’s resurrection proved; but if Christ did not appear to Ananias, how came he to know that Paul had been the subject of the incidents that happened on the way? The account is (Acts 9:10): "And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus; for behold he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel; for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake." That is another element in the case. Paul was to suffer by the new course to which he was introduced. If Paul had been to gain any advantage by it, it might have been suggested that he had some sinister object in his testimony; but he gained nothing; he realised the sufferings referred to here. Afterwards, when Paul was brought before King Agrippa, there occurred this remarkable interchange of remarks between the two. Festus, in introducing Paul’s case, said (Acts 25:24), "King Agrippa, and all men that are present here with us, Ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem and also here, crying that he ought not to five any longer. But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him, of whom I have no certain thing to write, unto my lord. Wherefore, I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, 0 King Agrippa, that after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him. Then Agrippa turns to the prisoner, and says, "Paul, thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth his hand, and answered for himself". And observe his compliance with the decorous customs of society, his courtesies, not at all characteristic of a self-confident and egotistical and visionary enthusiast. "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee, touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews, especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore, I beseech thee to hear me patiently". It is just as good as having Paul on this platform to rehearse his own case in the presence of Mr. Bradlaugh. "My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among my own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews, which knew me from the beginning if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?"