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Charles Bradlaugh Roberts Bradlaugh Night6 6bradlaugh1

Mr. BRADLAUGH: On the first night of the debate, and again to-night, Mr. Roberts said he would contend that the prophecies of the Bible were so explicit, so sober and so useful in their character, being, in this respect, so unlike the vague, incoherent and irrational predictions of the Greek augurs, as of themselves to prove the divinity of the Bible. Sober! Useful! Explicit! If you have heard one word that has been either sober, useful or explicit, all I can say is you are a great deal more clever at listening than I am. There is one pretence of explicitness, and that is the case of Luke 21, in which there is an "explicit" reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. But Mr. Roberts must have forgotten that the gospel of Luke was not written before Jerusalem was destroyed; but, on the contrary, there is not a particle of evidence of the existence of the gospel before A.D. 150, and the earliest is much later than that. Although he has the coolness to tell you that with respect to the ancient fathers, he was content to call witnesses, he could do without them. I remember that the truth of the evidence came from my side and not his. He pretended to hand his evidence from the fathers to the chairman, and then when I came to question him about them, they vanished into thin mist. On my part, I called as a witness Clement, and was told an idiot could give evidence like that. I called Justin Martyr; Mr. Roberts said he was "trashy". I thought so, too, and so on, with the others. Then he has quoted a prophecy from Hosea, forgetting that, during the dispersion and captivity of the Jews, the whole of their records were swept away, and swept away, too, because they were in the way. Then we had a reference to 2 Thess. 2, which Mr. Roberts had a very curious way of reading. Turning to the chapter, you will find that Mr. Roberts stopped at the word "coming", at the end of the 8th verse, though not a completed sentence. If he had read on he would find that "for this cause, God shall send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie". I don’t know whether it struck him as remarkably inconvenient, or whether he thought it rather too expressive. Certainly the reading was vague enough. He next brought you to the 17th chapter of the Revelation, with its filthy, disgusting language, which he hoped I would not turn into fun, but whose extreme filth was revolting in reading. The 4th verse it requires the height of human audacity to read. There is nothing more revolting to my way of thinking. Mr. Roberts it cannot shock apparently. The woman had "a golden cup in her hand, full of abomination and filthiness of her fornication." Is there abomination of language more filthy and disgusting in any book you ever read in the world? Mr. Roberts says that these prophecies of the Bible are explicit, are sober, are useful. Does this refer to such twaddle as women sitting upon waters and scarlet beasts, with so many heads and so many horns. I want Mr. Roberts to say if that revelation is explicit. It is simply not explicit; it is simply incoherent and irrational. Then he talks of John as the oldest living disciple of Christ. Where is there a particle of evidence of that? It is simply an impertinent assertion. He says that Mr. Bradlaugh is fond of figures of speech, or does not despise emblems, or something of that sort. I am fond of them, but I don’t like filth, and the whole Bible is full of filth. In Hosea, Ezekiel, and Nehemiah it abounds, and the only way of regarding it is as the outcoming of an ignorant and barbarous age. Hosea seems to have entirely lost all sense of decency. Read, if you please, the second chapter. Mr. Roberts says they are not vague. If sober, they are irrelevant, "Plead with your mother, plead; for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband; let her, therefore, put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with her thirst. I will not have mercy upon her children, for they be the children of whoredoms. " I might read you filthy passage after filthy passage, but I don’t like, especially in the presence of ladies. I have not provoked this. These are not our books. You say they are not vague. Perhaps not, sometimes, but they are not sober; and when explicit not useful. If they appeared in any book but the Bible, they would have been suppressed by the society formed for the suppression of indecent publications and seized wherever they were placed (A VOICE: "Shakespeare.") Shakespeare! Yes, but Shakespeare don’t pretend to be a revelation from God to man. I will refrain from reading more of those texts. I should not have used the few I have at all, only I wanted to base what seemed to me an important argument upon them. From gross-minded people we get low figures; from degraded men we get degraded figures; from low people we get licentious arguments; from disgusting men we get disgusting figures. Such things could not have come from an all-wise God. I regretted for the sake of this meeting there was the slightest necessity for dealing with the subject. I can understand it must have been as painful to you as it is to me. But as you had brought before you an example of a horribly filthy passage, I was bound to show you to what such passages lead.

Let us, if you please, pass on to another part of the subject. The Assyrian slabs and Egyptian monuments we are told are not easily deciphered, and when deciphered are not useful. Mr. Roberts is of that opinion, and coming from him it is no doubt entitled to some weight, as my own knowledge is only second-hand, and I have no ability to translate the hicroglyphs of Egypt. Relying upon secondhand information, therefore, it is quite possible I may be misled, but as far as I have been able to follow these hieroglyphs, opinions upon them vary much, and there is no perfectly safe ground for their interpretation. Until I know something more about them than I do at present I should say it would be better not to introduce them at all. Mr. Roberts says that at the end of the first century Rome was a great city reigning over all kings, and when I corrected him he said civilized kings. First, there is nothing about civilized kings in the Bible, and next Mr. Roberts might have known, if he had been explicit enough, that China was as civilized as the bulk of Europe and a portion of Hindostan. To pretend that this city of Rome reigned over all the kings of the world was as perfect a piece of pretence as could be imagined. Early in this debate Mr. Roberts said he would show that there was historic harmony in the Bible not only with the facts, but in relation to the history and the measure of the duration of the world. I pointed to the Egyptian chronicles and to the Septuagint. Is there historic harmony with these? The Bible limits the face of the earth to 6,000 years, while these go back far longer than that. The other day they opened some caverns in a neighbouring county and they found buried there remains which in the silent and increasing march of events, must have been deposited there when England and France were united together, which must have been hundreds of thousands of years ago. Talk of harmony in hieroglyphics 15,000 years old! Panglos’ discoveries speak–discoveries which show that Egypt existed 5,000 years before Eden’s foolish story sounded in the world. There could be nothing more vague, nothing less sober, nothing more incoherent, nothing more irrational. What is the story? God makes one man and one woman, and places this man and woman in a garden, the fruit of one tree of which they were forbidden to eat. The tree was placed within reach and very tempting to the eye, and was, moreover, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As long as man withstood the temptation all was well. But at length the serpent, wiser than the other beasts of the field, persuades the woman in her husband’s absence to partake of the fruit. She does so, tempts her husband to do the same. He does so, and this caused the Almighty to turn round and curse the world. I am told that there is prophecy in it. The prophecy was contained in the curse pronounced upon the serpent:–"Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." That is supposed to be sober, explicit, and useful prophecy. To me it seems as vague, incoherent, and irrational as any that ever appeared in any language. Again, Mr. Roberts, in his first speech, said there were apparent contradictions and discrepancies, but that, when examined by himself, they would melt away one by one. I have given 150 of these discrepancies and contradictions and absurdities. How many of them has he tried to answer? He has referred to the sentiments running through the Bible as evidence of its divinity. Why! they are sentiments of which the readers of the Bible are beginning to be ashamed of. I have produced sentiments as to the treatment of women and training of children–sentiments of giving to men of one nation power over the liberties and persons of their neighbours–sentiments with respect to doctrines which, as good and true men, they must regard as immoral and barbarous sentiments regarding the actions of immoral men, particularly David, the man "after God’s own heart", who never went astray, and, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite, did right in the eyes of the Lord, but still stole a little, robbed a little, was a liar, a thief, and a tenfold scoundrel; and these are anomalies which Mr. Roberts has not attempted to explain.

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