The CHAIRMAN: Mr. Roberts will now speak for a quarter of an hour.
Mr. ROBERTS: I said in my opening speech that I did not require the testimony of these men whom I have been compelled to produce, in order to be persuaded that the apostles wrote the New Testainent at the time they professed to have done so. I think the internal evidence is so convincing that no man of clear, calm, patient, unbiassed intellect can fail, in the reading of it, to be persuaded of that fact. A good illustration of this just occurs to me. A certain sceptical gentleman some years ago, speaking with an infidel friend, said that if anybody wanted a cure for infidelity, he would be certain to find it in the reading of the Bible every day for one year. The prescriber of the advice was not consistent enough to carry it out in his own case; but he has since done so, as the result of his attention having been called to a new, or at all events, non-orthodox interpretation of the Bible, and that gentleman is now a believer in the word of God. My anxiety is to bring to bear the argument leading to that result, to so present before you the internal characteristics of the Bible as a whole, as to show you that it is a divine book, and cannot be a human book. I can only do this in a brief form. I will lay before you examples of the Bible’s uniform depreciation of human nature –a peculiarity which is characteristic of the Bible alone. We have in the 8th Psalm this enquiry made: "What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?" In Psalm 144 a similar question is asked and answered in this way: "Man is like to vanity: his days are like a shadow which passeth away." In the 40th chapter of Isaiah we read: "The voice said Cry; and he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodness thereof is as the flower of the field,, the grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it; surely the people is grass." Isaiah 2, last verse: "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of" Ezekiel 36:22nd verse: "Not for your sakes, O house of Israel", that is, not for their sakes would he bring them from all the nations among whom they were scattered. "I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for my holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen whither ye went." In the 17th of Jeremiah, at the 5th verse, we read: "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm … but blessed is the man that putteth his trust in the Lord. " In the 9th of Jeremiah, 23rd verse: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might,, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me."
I mean to contend upon these quotations, which are but a specimen of the universal character of the Bible, that no book, pervaded by such sentiments of depreciation towards man, could have a merely human authorship. I base this contention on the tendency of all writers, whether ancient or modern, Jew or Gentile, to glorify human nature, and boast in human achievements. All human writers, without exception, run in the line of thought illustrated in Mr. Bradlaugh’s National Reformer, which speaks of the dignity of manhood and the greatness of human nature.
Then we have no parallel in any human writing to the constant exaltation of God as the great object of all arrangements and operations. "This people", for instance, we read, referring to the Jews, "have I formed for myself: they shall show forth all my praise." Again, consider this: I Cor. 1st chapter 26th verse: "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; THAT NO FLESH SHOULD GLORY IN HIS PRESENCE." This is not a sentiment native to human nature. Human sentiment always runs in a contrary direction. Man always chooses the powerful, the great, the rich, the mighty, the noble, for the accomplishment of any schemes he may conceive, as we see in all other religions throughout the whole world in every country and in every age. If the Bible were a human production, it would be characterised by human sentiments with regard to human nature; for it is an absolutely universal characteristic of man to glory in man and to boast in his own or somebody else’s wisdom, riches, glory and might. The Bible runs directly counter to human feelings and sentiments in this matter, throughout its entire contents. This is inexplicable if it is a human production: but if the Bible be the reflect of divine views communicated by the Spirit of God to the writers, there is an explanation, instant and entirely satisfactory.
Then we have the perfect modesty of all the men who took a part in the development of Bible things; that is, modesty as regards any credit for the part they performed. I will give you a few illustrations of this. In the 3rd chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and the 12th verse, Peter says: "Why look ye so earnestly upon us as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?" Is it not the tendency in human nature, acting by itself, to take the credit of any gift possessed and to glory of it and make it the means of honour and personal consequence? No one with the history of mankind before him can deny this; but here are men who refuse the credit, as in the case recorded in the 14th of Acts: "Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities UNTO THE LIVING GOD." Again, in the 10th of Acts and at the 25th verse we read: "And as Peter was coming in Cornelius met him" (Cornelius having sent for him by divine direction), 4 4 and fell down at his feet and worshipped him; but Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man". In 1st Cor. 15:9, we find Paul saying: "For I am the least of the Apostles that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." In Exodus 16:8, Moses, speaking of the murmurings of the people says: " What are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord." In Numbers 11:29, Moses, when told deprecatingly by Joshua that somebody else had received the Spirit, replied: "Enviest thou for my sake? Would GOD all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them." In Daniel 2:30, Daniel, when cited before Nebuchadnezzar to explain a dream which had baffled the magicians, prefaced his explanation by these words: "As for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart." Now, if Daniel had been an impostor, like all other impostors, he would have placed his own credit in the front rank; instead of that, he says the explanation he is about to give is not due to his superior wisdom, but to communication from God. That is the utterance of a true man, who knew that the information was not out of his own head, but that he had received it from external sources. If so, the divine character of what he said is proved. Then there is the case of Joseph in Gen. 12:15, 16. Joseph was standing before Pharaoh under similar circumstances, and was called upon to explain an enigmatical dream. Pharaoh said to him: "I have heard say of thee that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. And Joseph answered Pharaoh saying, It is not in me; GOD SHALL GIVE PHARAOH AN ANSWER OF PEACE." Coming down to Christ himself we see the same peculiarity. What does he say concerning the miracles he wrought and wisdom he spake? "The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works."–(John 14:10). "I am come in my Father’s name."–(John 5:43.) And again "Of mine ownself, I can do nothing."–(John 5:30.)
Now, although this argument may not tell in an excited public meeting, yet in the calm hours of anxious thought, I am certain its full weight will be felt by those who are capable of appreciating an argument. It goes more than anything to show that the men who had to do with the transactions involved in the Scriptures and the writing of them were true men, and not such men as Mr. Bradlaugh would represent them to be; though, by the way, he has not given us his idea very distinctly. I should like to hear him define what he thinks they were. He does not consider them designing or ignorant men. Were they honest and enlightened men, then? If so, is not the Bible an authentic and reliable record of divine revelation? The circumstances in which they were concerned were of that character that the men must either have been true or knowingly and deliberately false. They were not like questions of opinion, in which a man may be mistaken without being insincere. The matters to which they stood related were matters of fact, in which the transactors of them must have known positively whether their professions were true or false. And those professions were at the very time put, in many instances, to so severe a test, as to have dispelled any mist of doubt.
Let me give a single affecting illustration in the case of Jeremiah; and, by the way, this bears upon a point which it is well to notice. Mr. Bradlaugh tauntingly asked how he was to distinguish between the false prophet and the true. I answer they may both be distinguished by a simple test. In fact, they are to be distinguished the one from the other on the very principle by which I have sought to demonstrate the divine character of the Bible. The Bible speaks uncomplimentarily of human nature; all other books speak well of it. So the true prophets went against the popular current in denouncing popular sins, while the false prophets "spoke smooth things".–(Isa. 30:10). This peculiarity of the false prophets is illustrated in the following citation: Jeremiah 23:16: "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you; they make you vain; they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you." The disagreeable result of a true testimony is illustrated even in Jeremiah’s case on the occasion when he was inclined to hold his peace. He said: "The word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me and a derision daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name." The thing he said was a disagreeable thing, and brought upon him an attempt, on the part of the rulers of Jerusalem, to destroy his life; and then he makes this pathetic appeal to the princes and the people, which we find in Jeremiah 26:12, and in which the truthfulness of his profession is apparent: "The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard. Now, therefore, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will repent Him of the evil that He hath pronounced against you. As for me, behold I am in your hand,–do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you. But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent, me unto you to speak all these words in your ears."–(Time called.)