The CHAIRMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, the threat that I addressed to you at the beginning we are about to remit: instead of keeping you later we intend this evening to close at ten o’clock, I shall therefore be obliged to restrict each gentlemen to ten minutes in their concluding speeches. Mr. Roberts will now speak.
Mr. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, the apostle Peter speaks of men who speak evil of things which they understand not. I am rather under the impression that we have had an exemplification of that in the speech to which you have just listened. Mr. Bradlaugh has said that fossils are better than hell-fire; so say I. But there is an implication under that remark which is not sustained by the facts. The implication is that the Bible teaches the eternal torment with which the clergy have striven to maintain their ascendancy in all those dark ages which Mr. Bradlaugh denounces, and which I denounce equally with him.
Mr. BRADLAUGH: Hear, hear.
Mr. ROBERTS: The Bible is innocent of any such monstrous doctrine, as I am prepared to prove on the right occasion. He makes the Bible responsible for the cathedrals; I should like him to try to prove that the Bible has ordered cathedrals to be built by Christians. He makes the Bible responsible for the wretched houses of the poor and a great many other dark features which characterise the present, and more particularly the past, civilization of Europe. For these the Bible is totally irresponsible. The system of the Papacy, it is, which has given the political law to Europe during all the ages which Mr. Bradlaugh has referred to, and which in itself is a great fulfilment of prophecy and a proof of the Bible’s truthfulness, as I shall show when we come to that department of the subject–I say that these things which Mr. Bradlaugh denounces, are the doings of a system that has tried to suppress the Bible in the doing of them, in order that its iniquity might not be known.
But Mr. Bradlaugh says that the Bible is responsible for a few things that I am afraid to explain. By no means; I am not afraid to explain any of them. The things done and laws enjoined, through Moses, are legitimate enough in view of the prerogative of the lawgiver. Has God, who created man, no right to say when man shall be destroyed? Has Queen Victoria no right to order a man to be hanged? (No, no). Very well, have you any right as soldiers to shoot Frenchmen if they invade England? (A voice: yes). Then upon what principle will you deny that God has the authority to kill as well as to make alive? I own to and take the full responsibility of those statutes which are contained in the Bible: they are wise in their place and their time, and God is a better judge of time and place than we.
Then Mr. Bradlaugh has tried to make a great point of slavery. On this I have simply to say the slavery of the Bible is not the slavery against which modern antislavery advocates have had to contend: the slavery of the Bible was a mere domestic servitude in which rights were recognised as attaching to those in servitude. American slavery recognised no rights; but whatever the form of servitude might have been, I deny that any argument against the Bible could be extracted from it. Has God no right to dictate the form that domestic institutions may take? Is He not possessed of the highest wisdom to judge in what particular circumstances particular institutions are adapted to work best for objects He may have in view in dealing with men? If it came to detail, I would grapple with all these points: and I wish Mr. Bradlaugh would put them to me at the time he has to put questions to me: I would undertake to shoulder them all and not to stagger in the least degree in carrying the burden. They would not in the least shake faith in the Bible; for that faith is founded on too strong reasons to be touched by the kind of objection Mr. Bradlaugh relies on, and as to my treatment of those objections, notwithstanding the tirade of Mr. Bradlaugh against my method of argument, a logical mind is able to perceive that if my argument can be sustained, my proposition is established, that the Bible is the authentic and reliable record of divine revelation. For if Christ rose from the dead, surely it will not be denied that he was the Son of God; if he be the Son of God, surely it will not be denied that his approbation of anything is a proof that it is right, and that therefore his sanction of the writings of Moses and the prophets is a proof that they are authentic and reliable, even if there were a total absence of all other kind of evidence whatever. Is not that so? And I use the case of Paul to show that Christ rose from the dead in the same way that I used the case of the early Christians last night to show that he rose from the dead. And that line of argument Mr. Bradlaugh dares not attempt to meddle with. Instead of dealing with it, he piles upon me a number of little points of alleged inconsistency in the book as a whole, and in a way that I am sure cannot carry conviction to cool and dispassionate and disinterested and logical minds, although it may please and tickle the fancies of a shallow class that do not understand the bearings of evidence. I shall not be diverted from my excellent plan. On the contrary, I rather invite Mr. Bradlaugh to follow me in that plan and pull down, if he can, the house I am building. His course is an oblique one. He did not attempt to allege that the Epistles of Paul are forgeries, and he will not admit them to be true. Why won’t he admit what he cannot deny? Because if these epistles were written by Paul in the first century, my argument is substantiated, and the resurrection of Christ proved. He contents himself, therefore, with saying he has no proof that Paul wrote them. Why doesn’t he give us the argument that leads him to doubt that Paul wrote these epistles? He talks of the practices of a court of law: who ever heard of a counsel for the defendant who shrank from exposing the forged character of a document produced and relied upon by the other side? Therefore on the very principle of advocacy Mr. Bradlaugh has himself sketched out, he ought to do that which he has refused to do; and he cannot do it: (energetically) I defy him to do it. (Laughter). You may laugh, but it is a very serious matter–so serious that you must excuse me for being in earnest. I am so certain that Paul was a true man, that Christ rose from the dead, that I am prepared to place my neck on the block to-night, if necessary, for my faith. You may make light of it, but Christ will shortly be in the world again, to the utter consternation of those who are so easily carried away by the shallow criticisms to which we have listened to-night–I had further arguments on the case of Paul, but as the chairman informs me I have only two more minutes, and as it would be impossible in that short time to develop those further arguments, I will resign my post to Mr. Bradlaugh.