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Charles Bradlaugh Roberts Bradlaugh Night4 4bradlaugh2

Mr. BRADLAUGH: Mr. Roberts, in his first speech, said he had a large number of witnesses, and that he could read from them, chapter and verse. For I challenged him to do so–that will be in the memory of all of you. I challenged them in very explicit terms; and instead of venturing to read a line of any of them he has occupied himself by reading texts from the Bible. I went through the witnesses, and I put it to you, that although I could not possibly guess what his first speech would be, that I dealt with the majority of them there and then, and he has not ventured to pretend that any one of my statements was untrue. But the difficulty is that if mine were true, his were not accurate. He said to you, when he was talking about Tatian, Theophilus, Athenagoras and Mileto, that he had got these and would read them if Mr. Bradlaugh challenged him. Mr. Bradlaugh did challenge him, and he has not read them, and will never read them during this debate. I carefully distinguished between what he could read and what he could not. I took one writer, Clement, whom he could have read. Clement I have read not at second-hand but in a translation. If he had read Clement, as I quoted Clement, does he mean to say I did not read the passages of Clement distinctly enough for him to know their truth or falsehood? Mr. Roberts ought to have known Clement and the others, or he ought not to have challenged me to debate.

Mr. Roberts says he had taken his information from reliable writers. My objection is that the mass of writers who wrote on the side of Christianity is not reliable. We may take a few men and agree with Lardner as to their credibility. I believe that Lardner writes thoroughly, earnestly, and honestly, and although I don’t agree with reference to his ancient authority when Lardner’s opinion is distinct and complete with regard to it, he is entitled to some respect. But when I find a man like Paley convicted of receiving information at second and third hand, and making blunders, do you think somebody ought to pass muster whose information comes at third or fourth hand? It is not reasonable; it is fencing with an empty scabbard–not fencing at all. In his last speech, Mr. Roberts says he does not need external evidence; then he should not call it. If that was the case, our friend in his first speech should not have tried it. I have only found this that my opponent has offered to advance evidence with this curious result, that all through I have always been right and we have not heard Mr. Roberts right in one instance. Take Solomon in the writer Josephus, the Proverbs in the writer Josephus. When he got Josephus, although Mr. Roberts was ready with explanations, there was not a word about Solomon or the Proverbs in the quotation. Mr. Roberts says I misapprehended him about Josephus and Tacitus, and I am bound to accept what he said; but I cannot imagine what he meant by asking me about Josephus and Tacitus. The question was what Josephus had written about Tacitus? and if it was not put with that object, then it was an attempt at bewilderment on the part of the questioner. At present I take it he has been misinformed. He did not quote Tatian to you. He has not read a line from Tatian, and he never will. In my speech I referred him to the only authors he could get references from. If he likes he can have my books, and I think I can supply him from my own little library with such English translations as exist of every one, not only of the people whose works are supposed to be whole, but of such extracts as are supposed to be prepared not from infidel sources–for I don’t go to infidel sources–but from Christian sources.

Where are we about to go in this debate? Mr. Roberts first says there is external evidence. So there is. Now quote it and see what it is worth! But he cannot even do that. And, then, again I appeal to my friends, and I appeal to Mr. Roberts, whether he thinks the way to convince me that this book is God’s authentic revelation, is by quoting to me writers I am better acquainted with than he is, and who don’t say a word of what he thinks they say. It might do with somebody who never debated at all, but it doesn’t do with me.

Now what have we? We have a statement that we must account for Christianity, and in accounting for Christianity we may be very simple. Every religion in the world is the result of growth more than of fraud. There are some few cases, but very few, in the world, in which people have been utterly fraudulent. But the truth of cases in which men make headway, are cases in which they have had strong convictions–very often believe themselves to be thoroughly in the right, and although I may think them utterly wrong, it is not an impeachment so much of their morale as it is of their accuracy in dealing with these things. I do not regard Johanna Southcote as I would a woman not misled by enthusiasm. It does not follow because I do not regard a book as true, therefore I regard it as a directly fraudulent manufacture. The Pantheisms of the world, the religions of the world, the superstitions of the world–call them what you will–have not been the product of special men at a special moment. They have been the outcome of special organisations, and with different types of men we obtain different types of religion. It is only some men who have never been out of some Christian Evidence volume–with a large amount of "evidence" at fourpence a volume–it is only such men who put to you the conclusion of absolute fraud and forgery, or of absolute truth.

All the religions of the world have some truth in them. I don’t deny there have been good Christians; but when I am to have the apostles put to me for examples of perfect modesty, and Peter, of all people, quoted as "modest Peter", I must give you an illustration of Peter’s modesty. Peter to whom God had revealed, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven." How does "modest Peter" then get on when his master was being despitefully used? "Modest Peter" declared "I know not the man"; with an oath, "I know not the man". "But surely you were of the company", says a bystander: "Damn you, I don’t know the man". That is your "modest Peter". If that was modesty, then Tatian was evidence. But let us, if you please, see what we are to do? External evidence–very inconvenient when it is to touch internal evidence. Very inconvenient! "Mr. Bradlaugh talks so quickly and incoherently". Then I will talk slowly about the internal evidence, and will remind you that this divine revelation says that John did know Jesus, and that he did not know him at one and the same moment of time; we have not been honoured with an explanation of that; nor of his own witness, Justin Martyr, saying that a fire was kindled in the river Jordan just at the moment of the baptism. He has not answered about three days happening between late on Thursday evening and before Saturday was over. He has not answered whether it was one woman, or two women, or more than two women, who went first to the grave. He has not answered the slight contradiction between Luke 24 and Acts 1, as to 40 days Christ was said to be upon the earth after the resurrection. He has not answered any one of the mass of contradictions which have been pointed out, and although I may talk quickly I talk tolerably clearly; and if he imagines the Bible to be true, I can only say I wish him quicker wit when he challenges me another time. But we have had sneers at infidelity and references to the National Reformer–not a bad journal. I did not introduce it; Mr. Roberts did. It is a very good journal; there is a great deal of sensible writing in it to my taste. It happens to contain in the volume for 1867 the whole of the evidence which Mr. Roberts has referred to to-night, all turned down. He could read it from there. He would do right to refer to it, and it would have saved him from some blunders.

Then he talked of infidelity. What is infidelity? The world calls me infidel, and I am not ashamed. What is an infidel? If it is to be unfaithful to my views, then I am not. If it is to be unfaithful to my convictions, then I am not. If it is to be unfaithful to my country, then I am not. If it is to be unfaithful to the redemption of the human race, then I am not. If it consists in disbelieving that God made a damnation trap to catch all the human race in, then I am an infidel. I have used no hard words against Mr. Roberts. The word infidel came several times from him. I am content to argue out this question without the slightest resort to verbal retaliation. But I carry two swords and it depends upon those who fight me which one I fight with. I am ready to fence with the rapier, and I can handle the two-handed broad-sword too, and if wielding the two-handed weapon is necessary, I wield it. At the last moment, before I sit down, I remind Mr. Roberts that he professed to have upon the platform the writings of Tatian, Theophilus and others. He has not quoted them, and cannot quote them, and never will quote them throughout this discussion.

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