By Mr. Roberts
MR. ROBERTS has asked and obtained Mr. Bradlaugh’s consent to the publication of this review of the discussion at the end of the published report. He has also offered to print along with it any rejoinder Mr. Bradlaugh may choose to write, but Mr. Bradlaugh has not chosen to write a rejoinder. The addition of a review of the discussion by one of the disputants will seem uncalled for and out of place to such as hold with Mr. Bradlaugh that the discussion should stand or fall on its own merits. If Mr. Roberts could limit his view to the discussion as a performance or trial of polemical skill between two men, he would be of the same mind. But this aspect of the case is to him of the least consequence. He cannot shut his eyes to the wider bearings of the affair, as affecting, in however small a degree, the convictions of those who may seek in the reading of this discussion, some acquaintance with the merits of the question debated. This to him is the only important phase of the reported discussion, and has led him to desire and to ask permission to supplement the discussion with a few things necessary to complete the consideration of the subject.
Six nights seems a long time, and long enough to exhaust the subject, or at all events to allow of a very adequate treatment of it. But in the practical working, the case was otherwise. Each disputant had only one hour and a quarter per night, and part of that devoted to interrogation. Even with a full and undisturbed occupation of that time, any one having any acquaintance with the subject will know how small an extent of ground could be covered in an hour. But when it is remembered that a half of that hour was broken into two separate speeches, in reply to speeches from the other side, it will at once be seen that half-an-hour was practically all that was at the disposal of the affirmative side for the elaboration of lines of thought involving really extensive treatment, if at all thoroughly done. The consequence was that the affirmative argument was imperfectly developed, while on the other hand, it was absolutely impossible to deal with a great portion of the hostile details marshalled so rapidly, and on the whole so skilfully (for a bad cause) on the other side.
To make good the deficiency arising from these causes, Mr. Roberts proposed to Mr. Bradlaugh a second discussion, in which Mr. Bradlaugh should affirm the mythical character of the Scriptures which would have given Mr. Roberts the opportunity of following all his objections, but this Mr. Bradlaugh declined. Consequently, Mr. Roberts’ only other course is to add this review, which he thanks Mr. Bradlaugh for consenting to. For convenience sake, the review is divided into six parts, corresponding with the six nights of the debate; and each part into two sections.–1, the affirmative, and 2, the negative.
MR. ROBERTS’ ARGUMENT.
The first night may be found somewhat ineffective on the affirmative side. This was due to a cause that could not be appreciated by listeners. It could only be known thorougly to the speaker himself. A word or two will make it intelligible. Mr. Roberts is in the habit of speaking extempore in the absolute sense. But in meeting a man like Mr. Bradlaugh, he felt he must make some degree of preparation. Yet could not prepare to the extent of getting ready speeches verbatim. He had to limit himself to notes. The consequence was that, hampered by notes and not having speeches by heart, he had neither the advantage of complete preparation on the one hand nor the impromptu freshness on the other. This disadvantage was aggravated by the embarrassment natural to meeting an able man for the first time, of whom he had not yet taken the measure, and of commencing the discussion in a large strange hall. The result was that what preparation had taken place was not fully utilized, while the argument put forth lacked the completeness and force that an extempore effort would have had.
The importance of the first night’s argument will only be appreciated by those with whom the question of the Bible’s divinity is a matter of anxiety. By such the argument will be felt to be a vital one and satisfactory. It supposes a man anxious to satisfy himself as to the truth of the Bible. Such a man has it in his power to apply various tests; but obviously the first one is that which relates to what he actually sees and knows for himself. He is living in the world to which the prophecies of the Bible relate. He knows what are the leading features of the affairs of mankind as they now exist. Hence, he can apply an immediate and palpable test of a precise and crucial kind. If it could be shown that the state of things now existing is what ought not to exist according to the Bible, the inquirer would feel that it was needless to proceed another step in the investigation. On the other hand, if it can be shown that the state of things now existing is exactly what ought to exist, according to the Bible, every one instinctively feels that that is a powerful fact in its favour, and one in fact which almost of its own force proves its divinity. Hence this enquiry is of great consequence in the consideration in question. Mr. Bradlaugh made light of it, and tried as much as possible to conceal its importance from view. But the fact remains that the two great features of the present situation of human affairs are what the Bible requires–the existence and dispersion of the Jews, and the dominant existence in Roman Europe of a political ecclesiasticism, founded on a corruption of apostolic Christianity.
The following are portions of Mr. Roberts’ notes, unused in the discussion. The substance of some of them may appear in certain parts of the discussion, but not in this form:–
"The proposition I have to maintain, joyful if true. It lights the horizon with the morning glow of hope, while Mr. Bradlaugh’s position is the reverse. Mr. Bradlaugh would extinguish the historic light of Bethlehem. He asks us to believe there is no hope. He would overwhelm us with dreary despair. He would take from us God, and ask us to regard our being as the accidental development of callous force, undiscriminating, unknowing, unconscious, unloving, helpless law, which has brought us thus far, but will not and cannot take us farther. He inscribes the skull and crossbones on his banner, and holds up to us the coffin as our goal.
"I am here to maintain that, in the strict sense, the question is not an open one: not one admitting of a doubt, when the evidence in its entirety is realised. Doubts there always are in some minds; but this is no argument against the truth. Doubt may be the mere result of ignorance of the facts, or incapacity to discern the logical result of facts, or aversion to fairly open the mind to that result.
"The proposition I have to affirm stands on a very broad foundation. It is not a theory depending upon correctness in the process of induction. It is not the question of an isolated historical incident, depending for its credibility upon circumstances easily capable of distortion or suppression. It is not even a matter of creed in the ordinary sense, depending upon modes of reading and argument. It is a great and broad historical matter, embracing in its foundations, current, existing facts; the attested history of mankind, and the known characteristics of human nature in a hundred generations.
"I will show that the truthfulness and divinity of the Bible are shown by every test that can be applied to it.–1. By the facts that ought to exist at the present moment on that hypothesis. 2. By external testimony to its existence in ancient times. 3. By its correspondence with the known history of mankind. 4. By its internal consitution and peculiarities. 5. By the nature of its histories, and 6, by the fulfilment of its prophecies.
"I am not unaware that much may be said against these propositions; but this fact is no disparagement of their truth. Where is the matter, person or thing against which ingenious hostility cannot say something? It is a true proverbial saying, that there are two sides to every question–not that there are two real sides, but two ways of arguing it. Cases in court every day furnish an example. But truth exists for all that.
"It is not an uncommon thing to assume a theory of a matter, and to hammer everything into harmony with that theory, with however much violence to truth. Somebody must have done this in the Tichborne Case. Somebody does it in the present question. You will judge on which side this process is resorted to. I know a gentleman of Mr. Bradlaugh’s persuasion, who on board the Aleppo, being cornered on the evidences of Christ’s resurrection, said he would not believe in that resurrection, though he could not dispose of the evidence, because the resurrection was contrary to his experience!
"The plan to work by is to lay hold of what is unquestionably true, and decide all doubtful points in accordance with these. We shall have doubtful matters urged against the Bible. I shall undertake to grapple with and explain these in harmony with the views I present, while, on the other hand, I know it is impossible for the opposing side fairly to dispose of the positive evidences in favour of the truthfulness of the Bible.
"The difficulties against which the argument for the Bible has to contend may be called artificial difficulties–not real, but easily raised with telling effect where ignorance exists, such as 1, the history of Papal Europe; 2, the nature of orthodox doctrines; 3, misconception of Bible teaching; 4, natural sympathy with unbelief.
I.–If the Bible is true, there ought to be Jews now in existence, because besides the evidence adduced in Mr. Roberts’ first speech on the sixth night of the discussion, it is written (Jer. 31:36): "If those ordinances (of heaven and earth) depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever." The existence of the Jews is a fact which is known to all the world.
"If the Bible is true there ought to be extant in the earth a corrupt Christianity, as the basis of the political system of Roman Europe, maintained by the kings thereof; because such was foretold to be the final form into which the community established by the apostles would grow, and it was also foretold that the system so developed would continue in existence and power till the re-appearance of Christ. Proof as follows:–
I.–Acts 20:29: After my (Paul’s) departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
2.–2 Tim. 2:16: Shun (O, Timothy) profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a canker.
3.–2 Tim. 3:13: Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
4.–2 Tim. 4:3: The time will come when they (Christians–see context) will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5.–2 Peter 2:1-2: There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies … And many shall follow their pernicious ways by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of; and through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.
6.–2 Thess. 2:3: That day shall not come except there come a falling away jirst, and that man of sin be revealed who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped … The Mystery of iniquity doth already work.
7.-I John 2:18: Antichrist shall come.
1.–2 Thess. 2:7: The mystery of iniquity doth already work.
2.–2 Tim. 1: 15: This thou knowest that all they which are in Asia be turned away
3.–I John 2:18: Even now are there many antichrists.
4.–I John 4:1-5: Many false prophets are gone out into the world… and the
world heareth them.
1.–Rev. 17:1-3: The inhabitants of the earth made drunk with the wine of her fornication.–(that is with the teaching of Rome-see last verse of the chapter.)
2.–Rev. 14:8: She made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
3.–Rev. 18:3: All nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
4.–Rev. 19:2: She did corrupt the earth with her fornication.
APPEARING OF CHRIST.
1.–2 Thess. 2:8: Whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of HIS COMING.
2.–Rev. 16:15-19: Behold I (Jesus) come as a thief … And Great Babylon (that is Rome-see 17:18) came in remembrance before God to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.
3.–Dan. 7:9-11: The Ancient of Days did sit … and the judgment was set and the books were open. And I beheld then, because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake, I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame.
Europe is Roman-ecclesiastical at the present moment–consequently the existent state of things is what the truthfulness of the Bible requires. If the world had been Pagan, as it was when the apostles died; or in a state of enlightened and faithful subjection to the teachings of Christ, this would have been an argument against the Bible.
External evidence of the authenticity of the New Testament.– The collateral testimony to the existence of the Bible at the time it professes to have been produced, is beyond reasonable dispute. As regards the New Testament, there is the uncontradicted tradition of the Christian community from the very beginning, which, on examination, will be found to carry more weight than even the express testimony of individual witnesses. The New Testament is mainly composed of the epistles of Paul, addressed not to persons but to churches. These letters were preserved and read habitually by the various churches to whom they were addressed, which is the best evidence of authenticity that could be produced. Besides being preserved and read by these, they were copied and circulated among all the Christian communities. They were equally used in Alexandria, and Carthage, and Gaul. They are cited by the writers of the second century as commonly and familiarly as by preachers and writers in our own day. The uncontroverted writings of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement, and Alexandrinus prove this; and the fact is conclusive evidence of their previous currency for a long time, and establishes their authenticity by proving them to have been received by the very communities to whom Paul’s letters were severally addressed in the first instance. No demonstration could be more complete than this. It is not in the least affected by the fact that literary forgeries were abundantly perpetrated in the second and third centuries. These forgeries only go to show that there were genuine writings in existence, commanding the confidence and influencing the lives of the Christian community from the very commencement of its existence. The forgeries are, therefore, indirect evidence in support of the authenticity of the New Testament.
Being authentic, the nature of the contents is evidence of their divinity. The contents would be evidence of divinity, even if the authenticity were in doubt.
Mr. Bradlaugh says, on page 26: "I do not pretend that at any particular date, some class of ignorant and designing men forged a whole book which they called the Bible, for the purpose of deceiving the people: such would simply be an absurd contention." He also says: "I have never contended … that the whole of this Bible is the work of ignorant and designing men." This concession is an indication of the strong position of the Bible with regard to the evidence of its being a genuine production. If Mr. Bradlaugh could have affirmed that the Bible was the work of ignorant and designing men, he would not have scrupled to do so. He says he does not do so, and has never done so. Consequently, on the testimony of its bitterest foe, the Bible is the work of enlightened and candid men, for that is the opposite of ignorant and designing. If the Bible is the work of enlightened and candid men, it is a reliable witness to the innumerable facts which it testifies. The facts are, therefore, true; and consequently, the Bible is the reliable record of divine revelation; because its record embraces the constant testimony of God having spoken the things recorded and done the things described; e.g. the crossing of the Red Sea; communications to Moses on Sinai; the resurrection of Christ, &c.
Mr. Bradlaugh says a book in which there are "contradictions on the surface" and admitted "difficulties and obscurities", cannot be a record of divine revelation. This is plausible but not true. The logic of the argument is not apparent unless it be this: "I, Mr. Bradlaugh, have an idea what a divine revelation ought to be, and it is not possible that anything can be a divine revelation which differs from my idea of it. The Bible differs from my idea of what a divine revelation ought to be, therefore, it is not a divine revelation." This would be plain reasoning, but even Mr. Bradlaugh, with all his assurance, would not like to be guilty of it in this form. Yet this is what his argument amounts to. If this is not the argument, there is nothing in it. On what other principle can he contend that the existence of difficulties in the Bible is an evidence of its untruth? The fact of the difficulties in reality works the other way. The Bible does not profess that God has made His way as plain as the shining of the sun. On the contrary, He has concealed wisdom, and made it difficult of attainment, that the intellect of His creatures may be stimulated and developed. Thus we are told to "search for wisdom as for hidden treasure."–(Prov. 2:4). Further, that it is "the glory of God to conceal a thing, and the honour of kings to search out a matter." (Prov. 25:2). More than once we read, "Here is wisdom: let him that hath understanding" do so and so. The whole Mosaic economy was an enigma.–(Heb. 9:9; 10:1.) The gospel contained a mystery hid from the beginning.–(Rom. 16:25.) Christ spoke in parables that the scornful ruling class might not understand.–(Mark 4:11-12.) These things are testified in the Scriptures; if, therefore, we are to judge the Scriptures by their own professions, it is a circumstance in their favour that there are "difficulties and obscurities."
The same principle is observable in nature–the workmanship of the Being who revealed Himself to Moses. The precious metals are hidden: the earth has to be mined to get at them. Valuable results are got at through difficulty. Coal, and gas, and drainage, and useful articles are not come at without skill and labour and patience. We have not obtained the convenience of rail and telegraph without a vast amount of patient application and difficulty. The Bible is in harmony with nature in this respect. We err if we judge it by any theory of our own as to what it ought to be. Our business is to take it as it stands, and adapt ourselves to it wisely as in natural things. To fall out with the Bible because it differs from our idea of what it ought to be, is foolish. We might as well fall out with our own existence because we have to take the trouble to eat, and in most cases to procure our food and do many other things with difficulty.
But Mr. Bradlaugh says the Bible contradicts itself. If this were really so in the serious sense required by Mr. Bradlaugh’s argument, it would doubtless be fatal to the claims of the Bible as a whole. It would not prove that some things in it might not be of God, though contradicted by some things in it that might be of human addition. It would, however, prove that the Scriptures as originally delivered had been corrupted and might therefore raise a difficulty as to which part was to be received with confidence and which rejected. But in point of fact the contradictions alleged by Mr. Bradlaugh do not exist. They are appearances of contradiction merely, which disappear on close investigation. This is no unusual thing in truth. Everyday life makes us familiar with constant illustrations of two apparently opposite statements, being both true and reconcilable. Minds not careful to ascertain truth, can find in every day occurrences abundant materials for captious telling criticism: but it is possible, for the candid mind to steer a safe course through intricacies of an apparently conflicting character, and arrive at the possession of truth. This is the case with the Bible, where appearances of contradiction exist which Mr. Bradlaugh turned to the most advantage.
Mr. Bradlaugh referred to Numbers 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29, and Matt. 3:6, setting forth
1.–"God is not a man that He should lie, nor the Son of Man that he should repent."
2.–"The strength of Israel will not lie nor repent, for He is not a man that He
3.–"I am the Lord: I change not: therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."
In juxtaposition with these, he placed 2 Kings 21:1-5; 2 Sam. 24:16; Gen.6:6, and I Sam. 15:11, which he contended were illustrations of
1.–"Thus saith the Lord, set thine house in order; for thou shalt die and not live….. I have heard thy prayer……. I will add unto thy days fifteen years."
2.–"The Lord repented Him of the evil."
3.–"It repented the Lord that he had made man upon the earth."
4.–"It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king."
And upon these Mr. Bradlaugh argued there was a clear contradiction. But there is none to those who realise that there are two aspects in which God’s actions, like man’s actions, are to be considered, first in so far as they depend upon Himself, and secondly in so far as they conditionally depend upon the actions of others. The first three texts affirm the steadfastness, in the sense of nonfickleness, of any purpose the Almighty may form, when the stability of that purpose depends upon Himself alone. The last three intimate a change of purpose consequent on a change of the conditions in others upon which the purpose was based. This distinction is actually affirmed in Jer. 18:7, "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to pluck up and to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have pronounced turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them." There is no conflict between personal steadfastness of purpose and readiness of adaptation to changed circumstances. The difference between a stable and an unstable man illustrates the point in some degree. The one can always be relied upon under given circumstances; and the other not at all. But the steadiness of the stable man does not consist in a propensity to adhere with mulish pertinacity to plans without reference to their propriety; but in the disposition to steadily follow a certain course of action, so long as that course of action is wise. To continue in the course when circumstances have so altered as to make that course unwise, would be evidence of stupidity and not of stability. To alter the course when the circumstances dictating it have altered, is no evidence of inconstancy or instability. The stability of a wise man shows itself in steadily pursuing one end, and adapting himself to every change in circumstances that might prevent him reaching his aim; like the captain of a vessel who has to shift his sails a hundred times in a voyage, and tack in many different directions to reach the port of destination. The contrast to this would be the man at sea who determined to keep his sails as they were, whatever wind should blow. The first man will be found in a certain port at last, weather permitting; but the other you will never know where to find.
Now, in effect, the declaration of the first three passages concerning God is, that He is more stable than any sea captain that ever put foot on a quarter deck; that His purposes, where they depend only upon Himself, are immovable and unchangeable absolutely; that anything resting on His word is more certain and secure than the everlasting hills; that He is, in His nature, the highest reason and most steadfast of purpose; that the principles upon which He acts are absolutely unchangeable; that nothing like wanton change or fickleness is possible in Him. But this is not inconsistent with the fact that He adapts Himself to circumstances as they arise in the evolution of His purpose. The human race, in the first instance, turned out differently from His desire. He intended them to be obedient, and was working with them on this basis. They became disobedient, and (after much patience) with the alteration in the conditions upon which the original intention was based, He alters His intention, and gives them up as hopeless. Saul is chosen on the understanding that obedience is the basis of favour. Saul disobeys, and God repents (or changes His mind) with reference to his selection as king. This is not inconsistent with the unchangeability of the principle on which He acts. What would be thought of a stable captain who should allow a mutinous officer to continue in his place? The captain would put him in irons, and would not, thereby, sacrifice his character for stability, but contrariwise would establish it.
When it is seen that the first set of passages have (as the context will show) reference to God’s sovereign purpose, while the second set refers to intention dependent upon the condition of others, the appearance of "contradiction" disappears.
Next with regard to the character of God, Mr. Bradlaugh refers to Exod. 32:7, 14, and asks whether we are there to find a divine representation of it: "Let me alone that my wrath may wax hot against them (Israel) that I may consume them." This is addressed to Moses, who was interceding with God for Israel, who had grievously offended in turning to idolatry while Moses was in Sinai. Mr. Bradlaugh would contrast it with the New Testament declaration, "God is love", and contend there was a contradiction; but there is no force in the argument, unless it can be shown that two qualities or attributes cannot co-exist in the same character. Mr. Bradlaugh himself would not pretend that this can be shown. It is a matter of everyday experience that a benevolent man may be capable of great anger if circumstances call for it. Mr. Bradlaugh may say, "But God is not a man." True; but we can reason from the small to the great. If created man is capable of both love and anger without inconsistency, there can be no true objection to the Bible representation of God in both aspects. It is expressly testified (and in the New Testament too) not only that He is love, but that "He is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29); where also (10:31) it is said "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." If we are to judge of the consistency of the Bible revelation of God, we must take all parts of it, and not leave out one or elevate one at the expense of another. The philosopher (who after all is a very ignorant person as regards the primary force of the universe) may smile at the idea of God being capable of anger, but he can show no reason against it. Nature, of which he can give no account, except that it is, shows destructive forces and performs destructive operations, and what objection can there be to the analogue of this existing in the first cause? The creator of the eye can presumably see; and the creator of the impulse of anger can presumably show it in a higher form than we know it. There is no inconsistency in the revelation of the divine character. If anger is shown, it is never without a cause, and the cause is always to be found in things that frustrate the objects of love. Divine love without divine energy to destroy things that would work against it, would be a weak and incomplete character. There is perfect symmetry in the divine character when all its parts are taken in. But, of course, if you disconnect manifested wrath from the circumstances that evoke it, and from the ultimate objects which its manifestation proposes, you exhibit an unintelligible and ugly thing. By a similar treatment of the modest man’s anger, it would be possible to show him a tyrant. But this is neither a skilful nor a faithful treatment of the subject. God angry with sin is not an ugly but a beautiful picture, when seen in connection with the evil results of sin and the perfection of divine love, where the divine wisdom and authority are accepted as a law of action.
But there is another consideration to be taken into account with the transaction at Sinai, which becomes specially appropriate in looking at another of the alleged contradictions, viz., the statement that Moses and the elders of Israel saw God (Ex. 24:9-11), and the statement in John 1: 18, that "No man hath seen God at any time". The consideration is that the term God does not always mean the Creator in propria personae. While the Pentateuch tells us that God spoke to Moses at the bush, it explains that the medium of communication was an angel (Exodus 3:2, 6), which is supported by the New Testament.–(Acts 7:30.) It records that Jacob saw God face to face, yet the actual personage seen was an angel.–(Hosea 12:4.) Jehovah, we are told, rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire, yet the narrative shows the actual operators in the case were angels.–(See Gen. 19; compare the following verses–1, 14, 22, 24.) The same thing appears many times; and the case of Moses on Sinai is no exception, for we are expressly informed, in Acts 7:38, that it was an "angel which spoke to Him in the Mount Sinai"; and, in the 53rd verse, that the law was given "by the disposition (or ministration) of angels." In the light of this, there is nothing inconceivable in the proposition that seems to startle Mr. Bradlaugh; the difficulty exists in the want of information, and not in the subject itself. That the name of God should be identified with angels may, at first sight, appear a little confusing; but the difficulty vanishes when we recognise the fact illustrated in Ex. 23:21 ("I send mine angel: obey his voice, for MY NAME is in him"), that angels engaged specially in the service of the Creator bear His name. "They do His commandments, hearkening to the voice of His word."–(Psalm 103:20.) They act as the instruments of His power; but the connection between their acts and His authority is maintained in the use of the singular verb, with (their) plural nominative–a grammatical anomaly, explained by the fact that one power operates through a plurality of agents.
It is another difficulty with those who think with Mr. Bradlaugh, that God should write with His finger (Ex. 24:12; 32:16); but, in view of the fact that angels are actually signified, there is no difficulty. The angels are spirit (Psalm 104:4), and spirit is taught by the Bible to be the substratum of all substance, pervading all space.–(Psalm 139:7.) What difficulty would there be to an angel possessing control of this permeating energy in tracing with his finger on stone, characters which, in consequence, should be deeply graven there? The accomplishments of electric science should teach us that there are higher possibilities in heaven and earth than even philosophers dream of, and point to higher developments of power and intelligence than it is permitted frail mortals to experience.
Then stress is laid on the so-called discrepancies between the two versions of the Decalogue.–(Ex. 20; Deut.5.) It is usual to speak as if the existence of the differences constituted a difficulty in the way of receiving either, but much attention to the matter is not needed to perceive the fallacy of the suggestion. If there were even serious differences between the two accounts, they would not, in the presence of all the evidence, disprove that God gave the law from Sinai; for while one account (that of Exodus) is, so to speak, the official and exact record of what transpired at Sinai, the other is part of an historical resume orally delivered by Moses forty years afterwards, in which correctness of fact was of more concern than exactness of words. Verbal variations between such a rehearsal and the original deliverance are natural; but the variations are slight indeed; much more so than might have been expected. The language, in both cases, is nearly identical throughout, and the meaning absolutely so, except that, in the rehearsal in the plains of Moab, Moses supplemented the fourth commandment with a retrospective explanation of its reasons, and omits the reference to the creation contained in the original. The variations are confirmatory of the historical reality of the matter, for the one is evidently no copy of the other, but both independent accounts, written at two different times; and that, under such circumstances, they should be so alike in substance is evidence that they both refer to a matter of historic occurrence. Those, therefore, speak otherwise than as scholars who talk of "perplexity (on the part of believers) in having to defend two opposing accounts." The two accounts are not "opposing", but mutually confirmatory; and there is no perplexity in the maintenance of both when this is done on Bible ground simply, apart from the theories of inspiration which belong to the clerical thought merely. The Spirit, doubtless, guided Moses in the record, but the guidance had reference more to substance than to form. The Scriptures never show us the preternatural brought to bear where the natural is sufficient.
It is put forward by the same class as an implied impossibility, that God should "issue a complete ethical code which contains nothing about the love of God or the love of man, nothing about public or private worship or prayer; nothing about trust in God or gratitude towards Him; nothing about such virtues as generosity, gratitude, prudence, temperance, fortitude, activity, nor thoughtfulness, which offers a reward to virtue, but not an eternal reward; and not the reward of God’s blessing and a good conscience, but longevity in one narrative, and in the other, prolonged residence in Judea." This is very specious; but the fallacy of it is apparent when a demand is made for the authority for assuming that the Bible puts forth the Mosaic law or any part of it as "a complete ethical code." The Bible does the very opposite. It declares the law to have been provisional, partial and imperfect, adapted only to the transition period for which it was given. Paul, discussing this very point, discourses thus: "God gave the inheritance to Abraham by promise . . . Wherefore, then, serveth the law? It was added, because of transgression, till the seed should come . . . The law was our schoolmaster [a teacher of first lessons] unto Christ . . . after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."–(Gal. 3:19, 24, 25.) The law he further styles a "shadow of good things to come" (Heb. 11:1); and that it made nothing perfect (7:19). There is a good deal of evidence on this point; but it is perhaps unnecessary to quote more than the following: "If the first covenant (the law) had been faultless, then had no place been sought for the second."–(Heb. 8:7.) Mr. Bradlaugh may object to this teaching of Paul’s, but he ought, at all events, to see that it is a false assumption that the law, or any part of it, is put forward by the Bible as "a complete ethical code."
It was a system of things which was never intended as a complete development of the divine will, but adapted to the special exigencies of a time of crudeness and transition. For these times its adaptation was admirable. Its immeasurable superiority is realised when contrasted with the contemporary mortals of Egypt and Chaldea, or (later) of Greece and Rome. It is not doing justice to the subject to judge of the Mosaic system of things in the light of the larger illumination that has since come from the same source. Granted that it had nothing to do with "eternal rewards", a reason might be given for this which would startle sceptics, and that is, that eternal rewards of the clerical order are fictions of Paganism. This answer can be substantiated. Disembodied destinies are unknown to the teaching of Christ and Moses. The Bible treats immortality as a something extraneous to human nature, and to be realised (in a limited number of cases only) by resurrection at Christ’s reappearance on the earth. The immortality of the soul is not mentioned in either the Old or New Testaments. It is foreign to the teaching of both, as much as it is opposed to philosophical truth of the Huxley order.
Then Mr. Bradlaugh said something about the Bible being opposed to science. He did not elaborate this objection. Presumably his reference was to the notion that the Bible "teaches that the universe was created in six days, six thousand years ago." This is not a correct representation of what is involved in a reception of the Mosaic account. "Heaven and earth" of Genesis is not synonymous with "the universe". Heaven is described as "the firmament", formed "to divide the waters that are above the firmament from the waters that were under it." It is, therefore, the body of atmosphere encircling the globe, whose existence was thus Mosaically made known ages before it was philosophically ascertained. The testimony is, that heaven and earth, in this limited sense, were the subject, six thousand years ago, of a process called "create". But does this create (bara) express the theological idea of being "made out of nothing"? By no means, for such an idea is foreign to the Bible. The teaching on this point is, that all things were formed "out of God."(Rom. 11:36; Cor. 8:6), and the Hebrew verb bara, translated "create", signifies to make, in the sense of constitute, arrange, set in order. It is used periphrastically with "formed the earth to be inhabited" in Isa. 45:18. It is translated "made" in the following instances: Psalm 47:48; Num. 16:30; "done", in Ex. 34:10; "choose", in Ezek. 21:17; "make fat", in Samuel 2:29; in other places, "create". That Moses does not teach the creation of the earth in the ordinary sense, six thousand years ago, is proved by his recognition of a pre-"creation" existence. Before the six days’ work began, he speaks of the earth as being "without form and void", and "darkness on the face of the deep".–(Gen. 1:2.) How long it had been in this state is not hinted; but the narrative leaves room for the measureless ages said to be required by geology. Neither was the human the first rational race on its surface, if we are to attach the same sense to the words addressed to Adam as they possessed when addressed to Noah: "Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish (fill again) the earth." There may have been a previous race, swept away after the manner of the flood, the catastrophe leaving the earth in the state in which the six days’ work found it. Jude and Peter both refer to pre-Adamite occurrences in this direction.–(2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6.) The work occupying the six days was the work of reclaiming the world from pre-Adamite chaos, with which there is nothing inconsistent in the "historical, critical, and scientific books", to which it is usual to make such reverential allusion.
"That because God then rested, the last day of the week is to be observed as a day of absolute idleness" is usually a difficulty brought forward by the sceptical objector. That he should stumble at it with orthodox views of divine operations, is no matter of marvel. The difficulty is not incidental to the subject itself. The "Elohim", the angels of Almighty power, carrying out the mandates of Omnipotence in the re-organisation of the world, must have expended vast energies in the enormous physical achievements of the six days; and although their endowment with these energies must be correspondingly vast, there is nothing inconceivable in their finding the seventh day’s cessation a source of refreshment. The Creator only is unlimited in His power. The idea may be startling to clerical minds, but it belongs to the Bible, and is the explanation of what strikes him in this item as inexplicable.
In Genesis 1 light appears on the scene before the sun. This is made a difficulty needlessly. If all light came from the sun, it might be a difficulty; but there are many sources of light besides the sun. Witness the phosphorescent glow of the ocean at night. There is light in the rocks. A blow with a steel instrument will manifest a spark of it. Light is latent everywhere. It requires but all-controlling Power to be brought to bear to make it manifest; and this was what took place in the present instance. The Spirit of God, which is in itself the light of all light, brooding on the face of the waters, illumined the darkness covering the face of the deep. But it is said, What need for this mode of light, seeing the sun was in the heavens, where it had been for countless ages? Answer: there are conditions of the atmosphere which prevent the light of the sun from coming through. An unusually dense storm-cloud will darken the air at noon. Now, it is evident that when the Mosaic six days’ works of re-organisation began, the globe was enwrapped in watery vapours; for we read in verse 7 of a separation taking place between the light and the heavy elements of the vaporous mantle, the condensed water descending and the vapour ascending to the cloud region of the atmosphere. Before this took place, the vaporous covering of the earth would effectually prevent the light of the sun from reaching it, and cause that state of darkness which was first dispelled by Spirit-caused light.
Verses 16 and 17, speak as if the sun, moon and stars were then made for the first time. But the narrative was written for man as an inhabitant of the earth. We must therefore, read it from the terrestrial and not the astronomical stand-point. From this point of view the sun, moon, and stars would come into existence at this time; for previous to the fourth day, they would not be visible from the earth, on account of the condition of the atmosphere previously referred to; and, therefore, practically, they did not exist in relation to the earth. It is not the modes of the divine procedure that are made the subject of narrative, but the practical results in relation to us. Yet the narrative is consistent with the modes, though the modes are not made visible. God made two great lights, &c.,; true: in this there is nothing as to how long He took to make them. Having made them, He placed them (or caused them to appear) in the terrestrial firmament on the fourth day. Thus the narrative suits the proximate aspect of the case, as it would have appeared to a man witnessing the evolutions of the six days, and at the same time, is not in conflict with the mightier phase in which they are to be contemplated through the medium of astronomical science.
There is palpable fallacy in Mr. Bradlaugh’s method of construing evidence when it bears on divine things. Called upon to define the principle upon which he believes in the existence and productions of ancient secular writers, he says: "On matters of ordinary occurrence, I accept the best experience of the best men, as I find it fairly recorded, and upon that canon of evidence, I can prove all reasonable historic events." But when matters of extraordinary occurrence are in question, then he says "the experience does not apply." The fallacy here is that Mr. Bradlaugh sets up ordinary experience as the standard of what is "reasonable" and possible. If we accept testimony to things we know to be possible, it is not because of the nature of the things testified, but because of the reliability of the testimony proved in various ways before we accept it. Therefore, we should act illogically if we rejected the same testimony to an event out of the channel of our experience, merely on the ground that the event is out of the experience, for that would be the mere opposition of ignorance to knowledge. For example: a European banished a hundred years ago, to a foreign island, cut off from all communication with the civilised world, has descendants who never heard of the electric telegraph. Mr. Bradlaugh visits them and tells them a message can be sent invisibly across three thousand miles of ocean in five minutes, and that when it arrives, it is not the paper written by the sender. They say he is fooling them. He earnestly declares it is true, and says he has witnessed the performance. They say it cannot be. Mr. Bradlaugh fetches men from the ship that has brought him to the island. They confirm his representation, and declare they also have seen the telegraph at work, and have themselves received messages from long distances in a few minutes, although the messages were invisible in the transmission. If they act on Mr. Bradlaugh’s principle, the islanders will say the law of evidence does not apply in such a case, and those who give such evidence must be mistaken, because they declare a thing of "extraordinary occurrence", and inconsistent with their 6 "experience". They would say, "If it had been a matter of ordinary occurrence", such as the sending of a letter under the wing of a bird, or shooting a message on an arrow, or darting a swift canoe across the water–anything in harmony with their "experience"–they could have received the testimony of Mr. Bradlaugh and his company; but "when you give us an extraordinary occurrence–of a message going and not going–seen when you get it, and not seen when it is coming–that crosses the ocean and yet does not take time to cross–it is then, say they, that the canon of evidence does not apply."
Mr. Bradlaugh would be amused at the simplicity and conceit of the islanders. Their presumption also would strike him, in setting up their limited island experience as the measure of what is possible in the great world of civilisation. Yet this is the position which he himself takes up in relation to the testimony of the apostles. He does not deny that their testimony is given; he does not deny that it is honest and capable testimony; but he won’t receive it because the testimony affirms the resurrection of Christ, which is "contrary to his experience". By the ordinary "canon of evidence" the authenticity of the Bible is proved; but because it testifies "extraordinary occurrences", therefore, says Mr. Bradlaugh, "the ordinary canon does not apply!" The reasoning is utterly fallacious and perverse. It ought to go the other way round. Mr. Bradlaugh ought to say, "This testimony is authenticated in too many ways for me to deny it. Therefore, although the testimony affirms something outside of the channel of my experience, it must be true; and I am ignorant of many things that are possible."
"But" says Mr. Bradlaugh, "this book tells me of a man who had no father." In this Mr. Bradlaugh is mistaken. It tells us of Jesus, who had no human father, but who had a father in the Creator, whose son he thereby became.–(Luke 1: 35.) Surely Mr. Bradlaugh would not deny the possibility of the Power that produced the first man without human instrumentality, producing a second without human instrumentality.
"It tells me", says Mr. Bradlaugh, "of a man who was in the grave when he was out of it, and who was seen by one woman, who is two women, who are more than three women." This is a misrepresentation. Jesus was in the grave three days and three nights, as was shown to Mr. Bradlaugh in his last questioning of Mr. Roberts: and he was seen by one, by two, by three, and by more women, on the morning he rose from the dead. The evidence on the point is perfectly consistent, though varied in the form of its presentation, as was fully shown on the fifth night of the discussion.
"It tells me that Christ’s mother’s husband had two fathers. " It does not, Mr. Bradlaugh. It gives you two genealogical lines–one Joseph’s and the other Mary’s, but both nominally terminating in Joseph, as the Jewish custom required; because Mary, by marriage, had become one with him.
"It tells me Christ lived at the same time in Judaea and Egypt. " It does not, Mr. Bradlaugh. There is an omission of mention in Luke’s narrative of the visit to Egypt, but that narrative is elliptical enough to allow of the insertion of Matthew’s, though, at the first sight, the two are irreconcilable.
"It tells me that Christ was known to John and not known to him at the same moment of time. " This is not so. John the Baptist knew Jesus as his righteous cousin, but not as the Messiah. His ignorance of his Messiahship may appear marvellous in the light we now possess; but it is otherwise when we remember the circumstances preceding Christ’s baptism in the Jordan. John "was in the desert until the day of his showing to Israel".–(Luke 1:80.) He was brought up there from childhood. He was secluded from sources of information with regard to Jesus; and those sources, even if they had been accessible, were very scanty. The knowledge of Christ’s exact origin and character was known in an express form only to Joseph and Mary, who were reticent on the subject (Luke 2:33, 51), and to Elizabeth, John’s mother, who being old, must have died soon after John’s birth. By the time John was come to discretion, the matter had quieted down. Christ’s boyhood and manhood, till thirty, were undistinguished by the supernatural. There was nothing to manifest his Messiahship. His unblemished character was known to John, but not his identity with the coming one. It had been revealed to John, that on whomsoever, in the act of baptism, the Holy Spirit should descend, that same was the Messiah; and on this his attention was fixed. Hence, his declaration, to which Mr. Bradlaugh’s objection has reference: "I knew him not; but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he that baptizeth with the Holy Spirit."–(John 1:33.)
Then Mr. Bradlaugh wants to know if the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is consistent with the omniscience or goodness of God. On the first point, he points out that "God is represented as saying that the report has reached Him about Sodom and Gomorrah, and that He is going down to enquire, and will know." The objection may be presumed to be expressed in the question, "If God is everywhere present, why did he want to come down to know?" In answer to this, it is sufficient to refer to what is written a few pages back (page 200), on the subject of angels and the use of the term "God", in describing their instrumental relation to things done by them in obedience to the Creator’s mandate. What is there written furnishes the explanation to this objection. God in the case was the angels, undoubtedly, as anyone will see who will take the trouble to peruse the narrative, e.g., Gen. 19:1: "And there came two angels to Sodom at even." Though the Creator is omniscient, it does not follow the angels are. Peter (I Pet. 1:12) hints in a contrary direction in saying, "Which things the angels desire to look into". The fact that the angels "do the commandments" (Psalm 103:20) is evidence of their limitation. Consequently, Mr. Bradlaugh’s objection is founded on misapprehension. These remarks apply in other cases where Mr. Bradlaugh raises a similar objection.
As to his objection to the destruction of Sodom on the score of goodness, remarks already written on page 287 supply the answer. The destruction of the wicked, so far from being inconsistent with goodness, is a part of it. The eternal toleration of evil would be the frustration of eternal goodness. The wicked are useful in their place, their existence supplying one of the conditions of the probation of the opposite class; but goodness requires their final destruction. Consequently, the destruction of the Sodomites proves the very thing that Mr. Bradlaugh quotes it to disprove. The same remark applies to the deluge.
Mr. Bradlaugh’s allusion to the Garden of Eden as "a damnation trap in which to catch the whole human race, so that God might punish them", is mere clap trap, or a trap to catch the claps of his shallow and ribald supporters. Even with the Calvinistic theory of pre-destinated eternal hell-fire for tormented millions in view, such a description of a matter only possibly involving important truth, is utterly reprehensible. But when directed against the Bible account of the matter, it is the rave of insanity. Adam was simply placed under a higher will than his own, and taught that submission to that will was imperative, and that revolt against it was so serious that nothing short of death would be the consequence. Mr. Bradlaugh may deny the existence of that superior will, but he cannot deny that the Bible theory of the fall, to which only his criticism can apply, involves it, and that therefore the matter is to be considered and judged on the theory of its existence. Looking at it in this way, the transaction of Eden certainly appears in a different light from that in which Mr. Bradlaugh’s coarse description would make it appear. Subjection to God is the highest condition of human well being. It is the necessity of his nature when his nature is fully developed in all its faculties. It is also an element in divine pleasure and a prerogative of the divine right. Consequently an arrangement that brought that subjection visibly and consciously to bear on Adam, so far from being "monstrous", appears in the light of kindness and wisdom, whether in relation to God or man. The representation of the appointment of such an arrangement is in fact one of many proofs of the divinity of the Scriptures. A human conception of the beginning of things would certainly have represented man as free to do what he liked and as he liked. God’s authority to which the human mind is naturally averse would not have been brought to bear at the very start of human existence in a humanly-invented version of the facts. Adam did not submit implicitly to the law in which divine authority embodied itself: consquently, there came on him, and therefore on his descendants who inherit his being, the consequences belonging to rebellion. Even had the transaction stopped here, there would have been no room for Mr. Bradlaugh’s objection: for surely if a military officer may in Mr. Bradlaugh’s estimation, legitimately shoot an insubordinate soldier, he cannot deny the Creator’s right to deal as he likes with a disobedient creature. But we have to take the sequel into account. That sequel shows God making use of the evil result of the fall, as a means of developing at last the highest good on earth. Doubtless, the understanding of the truth is necessary to qualify a man to see this; and as Mr. Bradlaugh does not possess this understanding, he is not competent to judge the matter which he so harshly condemns. In any system of truth, a man must understand the system as a whole before he is qualified to rightly estimate any part of it in detail. This is peculiarly and emphatically true of the Bible as a whole. With regard to the "story of the fall" in the way Mr. Bradlaugh puts it, Mr. Bradlaugh can only succeed with those who are ignorant of the Bible. He and his disciples may know something of the trashy writers of ecclesiastical antiquity, and perhaps something of the ever-changing speculations of crude superficial scientists; but a man must be ignorant of the Bible or morally incapable of appreciating its system of teaching, who speaks of the garden of Eden as a "damnation trap".
Mr. Bradlaugh made some smart observations on the case of Jacob and Esau; but the smartness was in the way of marshalling his words, rather than in justly or logically treating the facts as they stand. He declared Jacob to be a rascal, a liar, a robber, a cheat, and asked whether God loved Jacob because of these things or in spite of them. He omitted to show that Jacob was all these. He referred to certain recorded incidents, but these do not prove his contention. A liar is a man who is in the habit of lying: a rascal is a man who is in the habit of defrauding. A man’s character is not to be described by isolated acts or incidents. A man may in the main be very different from some act in particular he has committed. Jacob’s character in the main was such as to please God. In certain transactions he acted with human weakness. The record of the weakness is evidence of the genuineness of the record, for an invented history of Jacob would have suppressed them. Jacob was a "plain man dwelling in tents." He was docile and God-fearing, while Esau was a wild roving man, cognising the facts of nature merely as an animal does, without any recognition of the contriver and proprietor of nature. This constitutes the difference between men whom God is pleased with and those He is not pleased with. So it is revealed: "To this man will I look, who is humble and of a contrite heart, and who trembleth at my word." Mr. Bradlaugh may despise the fact; but it is not in his power, either to show it is not the fact or why it should not be the fact. Wise men are content with facts, whatever speculative theory they may have formed as to what things ought to be. The fact in this case is that the God of the Bible has declared He is pleased with those men who appreciate him, and will forgive their iniquities. The case of Jacob is an illustration of this revealed fact, instead of being a contradiction to it. And so also is the case of David on which Mr. Bradlaugh harped so much. He was emphatically "a man after God’s own heart". Mr. Bradlaugh asks how could this be when he was a murderer and adulterer, and died with vindictive words in his mouth towards Shimei, Joab, and others. A "man after God’s own heart" is a man who answers to the definition given by God Himself: "To this man will I look, to him that is poor and of contrite spirit, and trembleth at my words."–( Isaiah 56:2.) David answered exactly to this description. God’s word in anything commanded his profoundest reverence and regard; and when convinced of wrong-doing, he was penitent to the utmost abasement. He would not sanction the killing of Saul by Abishai, because Saul was the Lord’s anointed.–(I Sam. 26:9-11.) He made instant confession and reparation in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. Towards God he was "as a little child", while, towards man, he was "a mighty man of valour". When he sinned, he confessed and forsook his sins. Thus he was a man after God’s own heart. In considering his directions to Solomon concerning Shimei, Joab, &C., it must be remembered that David sat in the seat of judgment for God, and that the men in question had sinned against God in the several matters of their offence. If David had been personally vindictive, he would not have spared them as he did. As absolute monarch of Israel, under God, he had the power to take away their lives, which he would have done if characterised by the disposition suggested in the objection. Instead of that, he allowed them to live so long as he himself was alive, but left the judicial punishment of their crimes to the wisdom of Solomon.
This exhausts the scriptural difficulties referred to by Mr. Bradlaugh on the first night. He referred to them several times during the other nights, so that there will be the less to answer in the review of those nights.
Two other points will conclude this notice of the first night. Mr. Bradlaugh expressed surprise that Mr. Roberts should have assumed the admissibility of certain evidence in the debate, instead of coming prepared to prove it, link by link. "His business is", said Mr. Bradlaugh, "to prove as he goes on", which, of course, sounded very reasonable, but which, as Mr. Bradlaugh applied the axiom was very unreasonable. The thing he asked Mr. Roberts to do would have taken all the time in the doing, and would have left the real argument out in the cold. And it was perfectly unnecessary to do it. Everybody knows of the existence and authenticity of the books he asked Mr. Roberts to prove. The abundance of early forgeries does not interfere with this fact. He might as well have asked proof of the fact that King James’ English Version of the Bible was a translation of the original. But, of course, Mr. Bradlaugh’s cue was to entangle the debate with extraneous matters, like a counsel in a bad case, who harasses his opponent with technical objections, and keeps as long away from the merit as possible. On this principle, doubtless, he also tried to make the differences between the Hebrew Scriptures and the Septuagint to appear much more serious than they are. The mere alteration of numerals he put forward as indicating extensive and radical dissimilarity, which does not exist. The Septuagint is the substantial counterpart in Greek of the Hebrew Scriptures; but, of course, it was Mr. Bradlaugh’s aim to hide this as much as possible.
MR. ROBERT’S ARGUMENT
THE argument on this evening, taking the three speeches and the questions together, was more complete than the argument on the first night. In brief it amounted to this: There is no question that Christ was crucified. There is no question that his disciples afterwards preached his resurrection. How came they to do so, and how came thousands of those who had crucified him to believe? If Christ rose, there is an explanation. If Christ did not rise, the apostles declared what they knew to be false, and must have had a motive in doing so. What motive could they have? It brought them into collision with Jew and Pagan, and exposed them to incessant disadvantage. The only other alternative is: they may have sincerely believed that Christ rose though he never did; but this alternative is inconsistent with the facts. When he rose they did not believe it. All this shows there was no predisposition to entertain a fantasy on the subject. What, then, led them to believe and preach the resurrection of Christ? The reason given for the change is a reasonable account of the change: Christ appeared to them, spoke to them, ate with them, asked them to handle him, stayed with them six weeks, and finally sent power to work miracles upon them. If this occurred there is an explanation of the great fact that a few poor men, whose doctrine was that they should not resist their enemies, succeeded in subverting Judaism and Paganism in the teeth of the organised opposition of both, and the effect of whose work is a fact of the present moment, inwrought with the fife of all civilsed nations, evidenced in every legal document which has to state in what "year of our Lord" the matter originates. The New Testament account exhibits a cause adequate to the establishment of that system in the world. If that is denied, we have an effect for which no efficient cause is shown.
The only attempt Mr. Bradlaugh made to answer this was a loose allusion to the Mahommedans and Buddhists. "I do not dispute the existence of the Mahommedans, said he, but I should be very sorry to accept that as a proof of the authenticity and divinity of the Koran." The cases are not parallel; and Mr. Bradlaugh’s assumption that they are, shows either that he did not understand, or that he chose to ignore his opponent’s argument.
The existence of the Mahommedans is a proof of effectual means having been taken to establish Mahommedanism in the world. We examine the facts, and we see the nature and operation of these means at once. As has been truly said, Mahomet took the way to succeed. He gave his followers a commission to exterminate the infidel, and offered life and protection to everyone who should embrace Islamism. The system is embodied in the Koran. This Koran is in the hands of millions of Mahommedans in the present day, which proves it to be Mahomet’s work, for no other than Mahomet’s work could have obtained currency among their succeeding generations. Thus the existence of the Mahommedans with the Koran in their hands is a proof of the authenticity of the Koran; and an examination of their history and their documents explains their rise and success, and proves them not divine, for Mahomet in the Koran admits the divinity of Abraham, the prophets and Christ, and thereby destroys his own claim, even if there were no other disproof; for the divinity of Christ excludes the divinity of any other "prophet, priest and king", which Mahomet was probably unaware of.
The argument of Mr. Bradlaugh’s opponent was that when the history and literature of Christianity are examined in the same way, its divinity follows as a logical result. The present existence of professing Christians is only the first step in the argument. It is a great fact, calling for explanation. The explanation is contained in the book in the hands of Christians, the authenticity of which is proved exactly in the same way as the Koran (only that there is a large amount of collateral evidence, which is awanting in the case of the Koran). No other than the genuine writings of the apostles could have obtained universal currency among Christians at the start, and none but the writings universally current at the start could have obtained universal circulation among the succeeding generations, from which it follows that the book now in the hands of universal Christendom is the authentic work of the apostles. The testimony of early and doubtful Christian writers can be dispensed with in this argument. When, in the next place, we come to look at the facts connected with the rise and progress of the system established by them, we have no such explanation as exists in the case of Mahommedanism. While Mahomet took the way to succeed, Christ took the way to fail if no miracle was employed; for he prohibited his disciples from using the sword, and taught them to eschew in every form the physical resistance of their enemies. As a matter of fact, they did not resist, but fled from persecution, and suffered themselves, when caught, to be slain in large numbers. The State authorities employed their whole power against them; yet in spite of this, they finally planted Christianity in the world on the ruins of Paganism. Now, as a mere matter of common reason, there must have been a cause equal to this success. It cannot be found in the nature of the principles inculcated, for these are opposed to the natural tendencies of human nature. But it is found in that which they allege in their writings to have been the cause:–their testimony that Christ rose from the dead, and endowed them with supernatural gifts in attestation of their testimony. The first fact explains the constancy of the apostles, during years of suffering for their testimony. The second fact explains the great and widespread conviction produced by the testimony. Take away these facts, and there is no rational explanation of an undoubted historic fact, constituting the greatest revolution the world has ever seen.
Mr. Bradlaugh either did not see or evaded the force of this argument. He tried to pooh-pooh it by the general and absurd allusion to Mahommedanism already referred to. In quieter hours, the reader will, perhaps, be able to appreciate it at its true value.
Mr. Bradlaugh tried in the same way to reduce the evidence of Tacitus and Pliny to nothing. He said there was nothing in either of them to prove the authenticity and divinity of the Scriptures. They were not quoted to prove this by themselves, and, therefore, a statement like this does not get rid of them. They were quoted to prove the existence of a widely-scattered and persecuted community of Christians at the end of the first and beginning of the second centuries; and this they do prove most conclusively. And the proving of this establishes one step in the argument by which the authenticity and divinity of the Scriptures is proved. Therefore, the testimony of Tacitus and Pliny is of great importance in its place. Only an undiscriminating or a reckless opponent would assert it to be otherwise.
Mr. Bradlaugh asserted on the second night, and several times subsequently, that there is "tolerable evidence" "that the whole of the sacred books of the Jews were destroyed during the captivity, and had to be re-written". Mr. Bradlaugh made this statement with the view of casting discredit on the Old Testament part of the Bible; but the statement is not true. The testimony of Eusebius to this effect is a mere re-echo of a statement in the Book of Esdras; and though it might be valuable in proving Eusebius’ acquaintance with Esdras, and, therefore, of the antiquity of Esdras, if that were called in question, just as his quotations from the New Testament are good evidence of the existence and authenticity of the New Testament as against men like Mr. Bradlaugh, who find it necessary to deny that the New Testament was produced in the first century, it is of no weight whatever in determining the truth of the statement of Esdras. We must consider that statement on its own merits. That the author of the Book of Esdras made the statement is without doubt; and it gives Mr. Bradlaugh a convenient peg on which to hang the theory that the Scriptures of the Old Testament are the production of Esdras, and not of Moses, and the other various writers to whom they are ascribed. But the merest comparison of any part of the Old Testament with the writings of Esdras is sufficient to convince minds of the most ordinary penetration, that the theory is without foundation. The author of the drivelling inanities of Esdras could never have written the lucid and majestic utterances of Deuteronomy. There is no more in common between Esdras and the Bible than there is between the doggerel rhymester of a village newspaper and the writings of Milton or Shakespeare. If Esdras wrote the books of the Old Testament, Esdras would have imparted his own qualities to them, and Esdras and the Bible would have been manifestly from the same hand. Instead of this, they are as dissimilar as possible. It may be said that Esdras wrote the books of Moses, &c., from memory, and that this would account for the difference between his own productions and the Scriptures of Moses and the prophets. Granted the possibility of an extraordinary verbal memory equal to the feat of reproducing burnt books; but in that case, the proof for the prior existence and authenticity of the books so reproduced would be the same as if they had not been burnt. The only difference would be, that instead of existing with an unbroken continuity in a literary form, they existed, for a short time, in the brain of a man who was thoroughly familiar with them.
But there is positive evidence that the Scriptures were not destroyed at the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. That many copies were destroyed is highly probable, and that many Jewish persons may have supposed that these comprehended every copy is also possible, which may have given rise to the tradition reflected in the pages of Esdras. But there is evidence that this notion, if it existed, was a wrong notion. There were two deportations of captives from Jerusalem before the destruction of that city by Nebuchadnezzar.–(Jer. 52:28-30.) Among them was Daniel, who says of himself: "In the first year of Darius (at the close of the seventy years’ captivity), I, Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, &c. "–(Dan. 9:2.) Here is Jeremiah at least in the possession of Daniel seventy years after the destruction of Jerusalem, and before Esdras was written; and if the book of Jeremiah was in his possession, the other Scriptures would be in his possession also; for the reason that would lead him to have one part would lead him to have all. The probability is that he took them with him when carried from Jerusalem amongst other notable captives to Babylon.
Then we have "The Book of the Law of Moses" in the custody of those who returned from the captivity at Babylon. It was read to the congregation on their return to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 13:1), which establishes the conclusion to be inferred from the case of Daniel, that the Scriptures were in safe preservation, in the custody of such as feared God among the captives in Babylon, notwithstanding the destruction that befell the temple and its contents. That such should be the case is most natural, in view of the special duty that devolved on the priests to take charge of and instruct the people in the holy writings, as has already been shown in the review of the first night.
If it is objected that the evidence is derived from the books said to have been destroyed and re-written by Esdras, it only shows the falsity of that idea all the more forcibly; for had the statement been true, the internal evidence of the books said to have been reproduced, and for such a reason, would have supported and not confuted it. Mr. Bradlaugh is very willing to believe Eusebius when he supposes his statements are damaging to the Scriptures; but, fortunately, there is evidence that Eusebius’ borrowed information on this point is incorrect. Finally, even if true, it would not weaken the foundation on which the validity of the Scriptures rests; for Christ endorsed them; and if his resurrection is proved, his endorsement of them would be proof of the authenticity and divinity of the Scriptures, even if they had, at one time, been annihilated, and required to be reproduced by Esdras or anybody else.
THE GOD REVEALED IN THE BIBLE.
We next pass to Mr. Bradlaugh’s remarks on the God revealed in the Bible. It is, doubtless, true that the Bible reveals "something much clearer than" that He is the "primal creative energy". The statement that He was the primal creative energy was an accommodation to those who ask for God from the merely scientific point of view. It was advanced as a definition at once the simplest and most unassailable by those who deny Him. It was not intended to express all that is revealed of Him; but it does express the primary fact that all things are Grk. ek autos, out of Him (1 Cor. 8:6; Rom. 11:36); that they exist and subsist in Him (Acts 17:28), and that they are sustained by the word of His power, which is universal (Heb. 1:3; Psa. 139:7-12). The definition, however, does not exclude nor conflict with other things that are revealed concerning Him; and those other things are not of the contradictory character which Mr. Bradlaugh’s reckless allegation would make them appear. The Bible reveals "a God who is everywhere, and who lives somewhere above", without teaching an anomaly; for its teaching on the subject is that the universal "spirit" and the Father dwelling in heaven are one God (Ps. 139:1-12; 1 Cor. 2: 10-11; Matt. 6:4, 9; 10:20). Mr. Bradlaugh and his friends may not be able to comprehend this idea; but it is not altogether inconceivable to those who realise the unity subsisting between the sun and the light of the sun diffused through space–two things absolutely one in nature and connection, and yet capable of being spoken of as two things. If the sun can be in heaven, and people on earth can yet talk of letting the sun in at their windows, it is not necessarily a contradiction to teach that "God lives somewhere above", and is yet everywhere present. The one is a visible fact; the other is an attested fact, though invisible, and this is all the difference as regards their relation to our understanding. They are both equally inscrutable and both equally reasonable. There is something subtler than light. Scientific men call it "force"; and to this force they ascribe all manifestations of force, light itself included. What it is, they know not and cannot conceive; but its existence is none the less apparent to their understandings. Consequently the Bible, in teaching an universal inscrutable Spirit, teaches no more than we are compelled scientifically to receive; only it adds what science cannot know or find out–that this universal primal force has focal centre in a Supreme Personal Intelligence of tangible glory and form. Such as Mr. Bradlaugh can only say they don’t believe it; they cannot disprove it, and they cannot show a reason why it should not be so. No reason can be given for the primary and the absolute. It may as well be one thing as another, so far as our conceptions or inductions are concerned. Our simple duty is to find out what it is and believe. It is for the earnest mind to decide whether the Bible does not reveal it. Mr. Bradlaugh’s contradiction does not get rid of it. Its revealing that God is everywhere and yet in heaven, instead of proving the Bible undivine, is an evidence in the other direction; for human reason would not have conceived of a thing so apparently contradictory.
As to its revealing "a God who could be seen and who could not be seen", that is explained by the fact developed early in the review–that while angels, bearing the name of God as His representative to men, were often seen, the Eternal Father Himself is invisible to mortal eye, "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto."–(I Tim. 6:16.) So also with its representations of "a God who knew everything and did not know some things": the Eternal Father knows all things: but "the angels who do His commandments, hearkening to the voice of His word", (Psalm 103:20), and who, bearing His name, are sent forth to execute His behests, they do not necessarily know all things. Even the Son of God was limited in his knowledge, (Mark 13:32), though he could say "I and the Father are one".–(John 10:30.) Mr. Bradlaugh makes havoc of the general teaching of the Bible from ignorance of the details of what it reveals. He is like a child telling a professor of electrical science that he contradicts himself because he says electricity binds together and rends asunder. There is a well-known saying about certain who rush in where angels fear to tread. The saying is not inapplicable to those who criticise in Mr. Bradlaugh’s ferocious and blundering style.
As to the Bible teaching "a God who is unchangeable, continually changing", the charge is not true. It has already been dealt with and it is unnecessary to repeat; we notice it merely to make our review of the second night complete.
Mr. Bradlaugh makes great capital out of the slavery clauses of the Mosaic code. He does this by an illegitimate treatment of the subject only. He makes no allowance for the prerogative of God, as the Proprietor of all things, to dispose of men as He chooses; nor of His right and ability to give laws adapted to such special ends as He might have in view at any particular time. No candid man could be guilty of this mistake. It is expressly declared in Ezekiel that the Mosaic statutes were designedly otherwise than good. Thus: "Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes and polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols, wherefore I gave them also statutes THAT WERE NOT GOOD and judgments whereby they should not live."–(Ezekiel 20:24-25.) Peter also speaks of the Mosaic law as "a yoke which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear", (Acts 15:10) and Paul describes it as "a ministration of death".–(2 Cor. 3:7.) Mr. Bradlaugh may say it was unreasonable that God should give a law of this defective and oppressive nature, (though such a criticism would be the height of presumption), but he cannot say that the Bible puts it forward as an absolutely good thing in its entirety. Consequently, he is precluded from founding any argument against the Bible on its non-goodness in any particular. The Bible professes it was not good in some of its statutes, and perhaps these included the slave laws on which Mr. Bradlaugh founded his inuendo. The fact that it should declare some of them to be "not good" (and that because of Israel’s sin) is another of the many indirect proofs of its divinity; for merely human writers would never have spoken thus of their own law, especially for such a reason.
Mr. Bradlaugh tries to make light of the Septuagint as a witness to the authenticity and reliability of the Hebrew Scriptures. This literary monument is self-evidently a witness of the most valuable kind, notwithstanding the doubts raised by learning. The opponents of the Bible would certainly feel themselves relieved of a great difficulty if the Septuagint ceased to exist. As Mr. Bradlaugh laid stress on the fact that Mr. Roberts did not read the extract from Josephus in support of it, the extract from Josephus is here set forth as follows:
"When Alexander had reigned twelve years, and after him Ptolemy Soter forty years, Philadelphus then took the kingdom of Egypt, and held it forty years within one . . . Demetrius Phalerius, who was library keeper to the king, was now endeavouring, if it were possible, to gather together all the books that were in the habitable earth, and buying whatsoever was anywhere valuable, or agreeable to the king’s inclination, (who was very earnestly set upon collecting of books,) to which inclination of his, Demetrius was zealously subservient. And when once Ptolemy asked him how many ten thousands of books he had collected, he replied, that he had already about twenty times ten thousand. But he said he had been informed that there were many books of law among the Jews worthy of inquiring after, and worthy of the king’s library, but which, being written in characters and in a dialect of their own, will cause no small pains in getting them translated into the Greek tongue: that the character in which they are written seems to be like that which is the proper character of the Syrians, and that its sound when pronounced, is like to theirs also; and that this sound appears to be peculiar to themselves. Wherefore, he said that nothing hindered why they might not get those books to be translated also; for while nothing is wanting that is necessary for that purpose, we may have their books also in this library. So the king thought that Demetrius was very zealous to procure him abundance of books, and that he suggested what was exceeding proper for him to do; and therefore he wrote to the Jewish high priest that he should act accordingly . . . Ptolemy wrote, and that in the manner following:–‘King Ptolemy to Eleazar the high priest, sendeth greeting . . . I have determined to procure an interpretation of your law, and to have it translated out of Hebrew into Greek, and to be deposited in my library. Thou wilt therefore do well to choose out and send to me men of a good character, who are now elders in age, and six in number out of every tribe. These by their age, must be skilful in the laws and of abilities to make accurate interpretation of them; and when this shall be finished, I shall think that I have done a work glorious to myself; and I have sent to thee Andreas, the captain of my guard and Aristeus, men whom I have in very great esteem; by whom I have sent those first-fruits which I have dedicated to the temple, and to the sacrifices, and to other uses, to the value of a hundred talents; and if thou wilt send to us, to let us know what thou wouldest have further, thou wilt do a thing acceptable to me.’
"When this epistle of the king was brought to Eleazar, he wrote an answer to it with all the respect possible:–‘Eleazar the high preist to king Ptolemy, sendeth greeting. If thou and thy queen Arisone, and thy children, be well, we are entirely satisfied. When we received thy epistle, we greatly rejoiced at thy intentions; and when the multitude were gathered together we read it to them, and thereby made them sensible of the piety thou hast towards God. We also showed them the twenty vials of gold, and thirty of silver, and the five large basins, and the table for the shew-bread; as also the hundred talents for the sacrifices, and for making what shall be needful at the temple: which things Andreas and Aristeus, those most honourable friends of thine have brought us; and truly they are persons of an excellent character, and of great learning, and worthy of thy virtue. Know then, that we will gratify thee in what is for thy advantage, though we do what we used not to do before; for we ought to make a return for the numerous acts of kindness which thou hast done to our countrymen. We immediately, therefore, offered sacrifices for thee and for thy sister, with thy children and friends; and the multitude made prayers that thy affairs may be to thy mind; and that thy kingdom may be preserved in peace, and that the translation of our law may come to the conclusion thou desirest, and be for thy advantage. We have also chosen six elders out of every tribe, whom we have sent, and the law with them. It will be thy part out of thy piety and justice, to send back the law when it hath been translated; and to return those to us who bring it, in safety.’–Farewell?
"This was the reply which the high priest made; but it does not seem to me to be necessary to set down the names of the seventy (two) elders who were sent by Eleazar, and carried the law, which yet were subjoined at the end of the epistle . . . And when they were come to Alexandria, and Ptolemy heard that they were come, and that the seventy elders were come also, he presently sent for Andreas and Aristeus, his ambassadors, who came to him, and delivered him the epistle which they brought him from the high priest, and made answers to all the questions he put to them by word of mouth. He then made haste to meet the elders that came from Jerusalem for the interpretation of the laws … And when they had gone over the bridge he proceeded to the northern parts, and showed them where they should meet, which was in a house which was built near the shore, and was a quiet place, and fit for their discoursing together about their work. When he had brought them thither, he entreated them (now they had all things about them which they wanted for the interpretation of their law), that they would suffer nothing to interrupt them in their work. Accordingly, they made an accurate interpretation, with great zeal and great pains; and this they continued to do till the ninth hour of the day; after which time they relaxed and took care of their body, while their food was provided for them in great plenty; besides, Dorotheus, at the king’s command, brought them a great deal of what was provided for the king himself. But in the morning they came to the court, and saluted Ptolemy, and then went away to their former place, where, when they had washed their hands, and purified themselves, they betook themselves to the interpretation of the laws. Now when the law was transcribed, and the labour of interpretation was over, which came to its conclusion in seventy-two days, Demetrius gathered all the Jews together to the place where the laws were translated and where the interpreters were, and read them over . . . So the king rejoiced when that his design of this nature was brought to perfection to so great advantage, and he was chiefly delighted with hearing the laws read to him and was astonished at the deep wisdom and meaning of the legislator."
So much for Josephus’ intelligent account of the origin of the Septuagint. Mr. Bradlaugh’s allusion to the Darghestan roll is illustrative of his sense of the value of the Septuagint to the defenders of the Bible; and it also illustrates the facility with which he can lay hold of an utterly worthless argument when the case he is opposing fails to admit of reasonable objection. He says, "There is no Pentateuch roll which can be carried back earlier than the famous Dargheston roll, and that comes nearly 600 years on this side of the Christian era, by the contention of its best men–580 odd years." This has nothing to do with the question. The question is not as to the age of a particular document, in the antiquarian sense, but the age of the Septuagint as a literary production. Surely our confidence in the authorship of a book does not depend upon the possession of the manuscript he wrote, or any other MS. of a particular age. If it does, how comes Mr. Bradlaugh to receive so implicitly the writings of Philo, on which he founds his preposterous theory of Christianity originating with the Essenes? Philo wrote 1,800 years ago, and, probably, the oldest copy of his works is not a fourth of the age of "the famous Darghestan roll" of the Pentateuch. Yet Mr. Bradlaugh, who receives Philo in the absence of ancient copies, makes it an objection in the case of the Pentateuch, that the oldest copy is more than a thousand years old! This is mere child’s play. The Darghestan roll, the oldest of ancient copies of the Pentateuch, is only the survivor of a family of similar documents, whose origin, in a literary sense, is traceable to the incident recorded by Josephus, who wrote 1,800 years ago.
Mr. Bradlaugh makes some proper remarks on the subject of martyrdom, without, however, weakening the force of the argument arising from the martyrdom of the apostles. "Martyrdom", he says, "is no voucher for the divinity" of the thing for which the martyr suffers death. "There have been martyrs for every heresy." True; but martyrdom is an evidence of sincerity; and this sincerity becomes an important affair to consider when the question involved is a question of fact, in which the sufferer was a personal witness of the fact alleged. If a man suffers death for an opinion, his death is no proof that his opinion was right, but it is a proof he sincerely held it, and may lead thoughtful people to investigate the grounds on which it was held. But the case is different in an instance like the apostles. They suffered persecution not for an opinion, but for declaring they had seen Christ alive after his crucifixion. This was a question of fact. Their suffering death for such a cause is proof that they believed the fact; and the only question left to be investigated is as to whether they were mistaken in their belief. An investigation of this question, conducted on the ordinary principles of evidence, leaves no room for doubt; and the only ground of opposition that can be taken to their testimony is the one that was taken by a gentleman on board the Aleppo, who being pressed on this point, admitted that he could not get rid of the evidence of Christ’s resurrection, but that he could not receive it, because it testified to a thing that was out of the region of his experience. The absurd nature of this position has already been noticed.
The very circumstance which Mr. Bradlaugh cites in opposition to their testimony is a proof of its reliability. He says: "I will show you that when Jesus was in danger, his disciples ran away, and his most trusty disciple denied him over and over again." It is true that the disciples fled when the officers came to apprehend Jesus, and that Peter denied him three times. Yet all the disciples (and Peter in particular) afterwards bore witness to his resurrection, and suffered for their testimony, as the same account tells us. This leads to two questions, which cannot be reasonably answered without affording proof of the truth of Christ’s resurrection. How came men who deserted Christ in the presence of danger, to afterwards brave death by their testimony to his resurrection? Such men must have had a good reason for taking a course which amounted to walking into the jaws of death itself. If Christ rose and appeared to them, there is a reason which explains all. If Christ did not rise, we have the inconceivable phenomena of proved cowards acting the part of heroes on behalf of a lie, and succeeding, without the use of force, in establishing the Christian faith, in the face of armed opposition on the part of the two great religious organizations of the age Judaism and Paganism. The other question is, How comes the New Testament to record that "the disciples ran away and his most trusty disciple denied him over and over again?" If the apostolic work was not divine, it was a human work conceived with human objects and established by human means. In that case, the New Testament was written for the purpose of establishing the credit of the apostles and the prestige of their work, from a human point of view. On such a supposition, it is impossible to understand the desertion of the disciples and the unfaithfulness of Peter being placed on record. It is an unknown thing in the history of imposture or fanatacism, that pretenders labouring to establish the credit of an imposture, should publish facts tending to throw discredit on it; least of all, that the leader of the movement should be held up, at one time, as a traitor to the cause, in the very documents intended to establish its reputation! But if Christ rose from the dead, all is explained. We then see that these things are placed on record, first because they happened, and, secondly, because their occurrence was wholesome to be known, both as regarded the apostles themselves, who were liable, in their privileged position to be exalted above measure, and believers in general who might be tempted to regard the apostles as free from human frailty.
Mr. Bradlaugh objects to the statement that both Jew and Gentile admit that the body of Christ could not be found after his crucifixion. He thinks such an assertion reckless, and illustrative of carelessness in the use of words. He challenges the production of any Rabbinical admission to the effect that the body of Christ could not be found. The answer is that this is one of many things which are obviously true without being capable of technical demonstration. There are demonstrations that are more conclusive than technical demonstrations. In this case, we have an illustration. The Jews, to this day, say the disciples of Christ stole the body of Christ, and then raised the report that he had risen. What is this but an admission that the body could not be found? If the body of Christ could have been found, would this story, which dates away back to the very beginning of the "Christian Era", have been invented? On the contrary, would not the body have been produced, to the utter confutation of the apostolic testimony in that and all subsequent times? This question acquires increased force, in view of the fact that the apostles were apprehended and imprisoned by the very council of priests that obtained the crucifixion of Jesus. When the apostles were brought before them as prisoners at the bar, what did the apostles say? "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom YE SLEW AND HANGED ON A TREE. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins. And we are witnesses of these things, and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey Him." The apostles accused their judges of being the slayers of Jesus. Their judges, it is added, "were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them."–(Acts 5:33.) Now, in such a state of mind, would not their judges have obtained possession of the body of Jesus had it been obtainable, and, by its production, have silenced for ever the intolerable testimony of the disciples, who fled from Christ in the hour of darkness, but were now so bold? The fact that they did not do so is in itself proof that the body of Christ could not be found, and that they admitted it. This is proof that will be conclusive to most minds, even if Mr. Bradlaugh requires the evidence of "Rabbinical writings" for it, which even if produced, would be scouted by him as freely as other more unimpeachable writings were.
MR. ROBERTS’ ARGUMENT.
THE argument on Paul’s case was fairly developed. It lacked entire fulness, however, owing to the absence of some things which time did not admit the introduction of. This applies to both arguments used and to arguments not used. As to the arguments used, they might be made fuller and richer and stronger: but the length to which the review has already gone compels us to be content to allow them to go as they are.
The arguments not used were those which go to show the impossibility of Paul’s case being explained on any hypothesis except the one that he was a true man. And these can only now be indicated in a brief manner. For their full elucidation, the reader is referred to Lord Lyttelton’s treatise on the case of Paul. Mr. Roberts intended to submit had time admitted, that Paul was either,
l.–An impostor who declared what he knew to be untrue for selfish ends.
2.–A self-deceived enthusiast.
3.–An enthusiast deceived by others, or
4.–A true man undeceived by himself or others, who related what actually occurred, to whom Christ actually appeared, who really wrought miracles, and who is therefore a true witness of the resurrection of Christ, and therefore of the divinity of the Scriptures.
Paul must have been one of these four. Taking them one by one, it was intended to be argued–
1.–That he could not have been an impostor, aiming by falsehood at selfish ends, because, as a matter of fact, his testimony cost him everything dear to man: fortune, friends, reputation, and at last life itself (Phil. 3:8, "For whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ"; also see I Cor. 4:9-13). Also, because his demeanour is inconsistent with the character of an impostor, as illustrated by his life as recorded by Luke in the Acts, of which this is a fair specimen: "And as we tarried there (at Caesarea) many days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle and bound his own hands and feet and said, Thus saith the Holy Spirit, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hand of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we and they of that place besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done."–(Acts 21:10-14.) Anyone who can imagine an impostor enacting this part has no acquaintance with human nature. Again, take the speech which Paul addressed to the elders of the Ephesian Church at Miletus, on the occasion of parting from them for the last time: "Ye know that from the first day I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind and many tears and temptations which befell me by lying in wait of the Jews. And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there, save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God." . . . ."I have coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel. Yea; ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things how that so labouring, ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus: how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."–(Acts 20:18-24; 33-35.) These are not the words of an impostor. Neither were Paul’s doctrines by possibility the doctrines of an impostor. For a fair example of them, the 2nd chapter of his epistle to Titus may be read.
It was then intended to be argued that he could not have been a self-deceived enthusiast (that is, a man victimised by a feverish mental illusion, which impelled him, in a state of semi-madness to declare things that he thought true, but which were not true). 1, Because the convictions he entertained were not such as the laws of hallucination would have predisposed him to entertain, if he were of that temperament. The conviction that a crucified claimant of the Messiahship was really the Christ, was opposed to his education as a Jew and a Pharisee, and opposed to his natural bent as a combative and energetic upholder of the law of Moses. His education as a Jew would implant the view that the Messiah, when he appeared, would be immortal, and that therefore, Jesus, as having been crucified, could not be he; while, on the other hand, his conviction that the law of Moses was divine, and his ardent desire to signalise himself in its defence, would incline him strongly to set himself against a doctrine that a crucified Christ was the end of the law. To oppose the apostles would naturally appear to such a man to be doing God service. Hallucination in a case like Paul’s, according to the law of that disease, would have taken a form in harmony with these Judaic proclivities. The vision seen as the result of hallucination would have been a vision instructing him to extirpate the Christians and championize the cause of Judaism throughout the world. Instead of that he was arrested in the very act of giving effect to all his cherished convictions. On an expedition to destroy the Christians, he saw something which went directly in the teeth of his education–something that was in direct opposition to his purpose, and which diverted his whole energy into the very opposite channel, becoming a preacher of the faith which formerly he destroyed. 2, The nature of the work to which he set himself was not what a selfdeceived enthusist would have undertaken, and certainly one he would not have succeeded in. He sought to turn the pagans from idolatry, the Jews from their stereotyped and lifeless Judaism, and all men from sin, with the object in all cases "that they might receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance", in a kingdom to be set up by Christ at his return. In the execution of this work, he showed none of the egotism of an enthusiast. He did not seek to bring attention to himself. On the contrary, he objected to those among the Corinthians who said "I am of Paul". His remark on this point was "Who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed?"–(I Cor. 3:5.) Then Paul’s success is evidence that he was no mere enthusiast. That he was successful cannot be denied. The modern existence of Christendom is evidence of it. His success involved the bringing over of "a great company of the priests", of the temple (Acts 6:7), and the turning away of all the lesser Asia from idolatry–(Acts 19:26). How could an enthusiast, with nothing else than ignorant heated words have achieved such results? But if Paul saw Christ and had a word of salvation from him, and if "God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul", the success is accounted for; and in that case, Paul was no mere enthusiast. His words are not the words of heated enthusiasm in any case. We have them in his letters and speeches written and delivered under many circumstances, and they are all cool, sober, logical words, such as a man who had seen Christ, and who was endowed with the spirit of God would write, and never such as the victim of hallucination would write. 3, This introduces the next disproof of his having been a self-deceived enthusiast. His doings and sayings are those of a clear-headed, courteous, reasonable man, accommodating himself to circumstances as the interests of the object he had in view required, which is an entire contrast to the deportment of a self-deceived victim of a deranged imagination. Thus he is personally respectful to Felix, Festus and Agrippa, and temperate and coherent in the defence he was called upon to offer in answer to the accusation of the Jews. Let any one doubting this, read the 24th, 25th and 26th chapters of Acts. Thus also he adapted himself to the various classes with whom he came in contact in such a way as their several cases required, in regard to their acceptance of the gospel. His testimony on this point is this: "Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew that I might gain the Jews, to them that are under the law as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law. To them that are without the law as without law … that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak that I might gain the weak. I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some. "–(I Cor. 9:19-22.) These are not the tactics of an illusionist, but of a sensible man with an important work in hand. Enthusiasts, who are so to the extent of being victims of self-deception, do not work in this rational way. The same feature of calm good sense is illustrated by his avoidance of the martyrdom which the Jews were prepared to bestow upon him. The Jews formed a plot for his destruction at the time he was a prisoner in the hands of the Romans.–(Acts 23:12.) Paul got to know of it, and informed the Roman captain. The captain sent him to Caesarea under guard, transferring him to the jurisdiction of Felix, and afterwards of Festus. Festus sent for the Jewish council to prefer their accusation against Paul at Caesarea. When they came they asked Festus to try Paul’s case at Jerusalem, intending to kill him on the way thither. Paul said he was not unwilling to die if he was proved worthy of death; but he objected to be given into the hands of the Jews, and appealed to be reserved to the hearing of Caesar at Rome. This was not the action of an enthusiast, who would have rushed with bravado into the jaws of death. It was the action of a reasonable man who felt and tried to avoid the calamities incident to his position as an apostle, but who, nevertheless, persevered in the testimony that brought them, because he knew it was true. The same remarks apply to the case in which he made use of his status as a Roman citizen to avoid examination by scourging.–(Acts 22:25.) It was the act of a cool and astute and sensible man and not of an enthusiast, who would simply have blundered himself into difficulties in a heated and irrational manner, and lacked capacity or desire to extricate himself in a sensible way. 4, Enthusiasts are usually vain, and have a conceit of their personal importance in relation to whatever hobby they have in hand. Paul’s letters exhibit the reverse of this. He says of himself that he "was not meet to be called an apostle" (I Cor. 15:9), and this not in a mawkish spirit of self-depreciation, but for a reason which he immediately adds, "because I persecuted the church of God." For the same reason he styles himself "less than the least of all saints" (Eph. 3:8), and also "the chief of sinners"–(I Tim. 1:15). In I Cor. 11, he apologises for having to indulge in self-vindication in defence against the slanders of traducers. These are not the expressions of a self-deceived and egotistic enthusiast: they are just the sort of expressions to be expected from a capable man who had commited a great mistake through ignorance, but who, with all his faculties about him, had seen his mistake, and, under a deep sense of humiliation, was striving to undo the mistake by a lifetime of exertion.
The facts of the case distinctly exclude the theory of Paul being a self-deceived enthusiast. Therefore the only enquiry remaining, is whether he was deceived by others, to which the answer is brief. This was perhaps sufficiently touched on the third night of the debate. It was shown that the occurrence which changed him from a persecutor into a defender of the Christian faith, was of such a nature as not to admit of the operation of third parties in the way of deception–(Acts 9:26). As Paul afterwards said to Agrippa, it was a thing "not done in a corner", but in the presence of a band of officers, and in the full blaze of the noon-day sun. Paul and the whole company were struck to the earth by a light "above the brightness of the sun". A communication was made to Paul in their presence, audible to them all, but intelligible only to Paul, as it was made in "the Hebrew tongue". They heard the voice, but saw no man. The attempt of Mr. Bradlaugh to make a contradiction between the account which says they heard the voice and the account which says they did not hear the voice, was disposed of in the debate. T’hey heard the voice but could not make out the words. So may we dispose of Mr. Bradlaugh’s attempt to make a difficulty of the fact that one account says they all fell to the earth and another that "they stood speechless". The two statements are perfectly reconcilable if we suppose the company were felled to the earth by the first burst of the brightness, and afterwards rose and stood speechless while Paul received the communication addressed to him. This is not a gratuitous supposition; for that they did rise to their feet after falling is certain, seeing they afterwards led Paul by the hand to Damascus. Two truthful accounts must be consistent one with another, even if they appear contradictory; and the lover of truth is not to be scared away from the endeavour to establish their consistency by the irrational dogmatism (unconcerned to find the truth), which says there ought to be nothing to reconcile. When the incident was at an end, Paul was found to be blind and remained blind for three days, and only had his sight restored by the healing interposition of one of the Christian disciples of Damascus whom he had come to destroy. This evidence of the reality of the revelation to Paul was left behind in a way that made doubt impossible. The whole event was of a character that did not admit of third parties interposing as deceivers of Paul. Consequently, the theory that he was an enthusiast deceived by others has no standing ground. Only the fourth hypothesis remains, that he was a true man, undeceived by himself or others, who relates what actually occurred, to whom Christ actually appeared, who really wrought miracles, and who is, therefore, a true witness of the resurrection of Christ, and, therefore, of the divinity of the Scriptures.
Mr. Bradlaugh made no attempt to explain Paul’s case in harmony with the atheistic theory. He simply refused to look at it. He said he had no evidence that Paul ever existed, although, inconsistently enough, he refused to say, when pressed on the point, that Paul’s letters were forgeries. He rightly defined literary forgery to be the writing of any document in another man’s name: yet he would not commit himself to the affirmation that the epistles of Paul were forgeries. If he could have substantiated the notion that they are forgeries, he would have asserted it gladly, of course. His refusal to assert it is, therefore, evidence that he
knows the notion that they are forged cannot be maintained (as indeed the whole world of critics, if not Mr. Bradlaugh, is well aware). Therefore, the fact that Paul wrote the epistles is proved by the very tactics of the man who professed to doubt that there ever was such a man. Consequently, the case of Paul is a fact. The nature of the case was pressed upon Mr. Bradlaugh’s attention, and he was asked for an explanation of it on his hypothesis; but he did not advance an explanation. His not advancing an explanation is proof that he could not explain it, and his inability to explain it is a proof that the case is inexplicable on atheistic grounds, and that the only explanation of it that can be given is the explanation given many times by Paul himself, that Christ appeared to him and endowed him with power to execute a mission in his name to the nations of the earth–in which case, Christ rose from the dead, and the Scriptures are the authentic and reliable records of Divine revelation.
In default of dealing with Paul’s case, Mr. Bradlaugh contented himself with repeating, in a rabid and offensive style, the alleged inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible he had enumerated on the previous evenings. As these have been answered in the review of the first and second evenings, it is not necessary to notice them here. It is sufficient to supply the proof which he demanded, that the apostles were ignorant men. It is to be found in Acts 4:13: "Now when they (the rulers) saw the boldness of Peter, and John, and perceiving that they were UNLEARNED AND IGNORANT MEN, they marvelled."
The only other point really calling for notice is Mr. Bradlaugh’s attempt to make the Bible responsible for the doctrine of eternal torments. For the full treatment of this subject, including a scriptural exegesis of the terms on which Mr. Bradlaugh relied as proving this, the reader had better refer to Everlasting Punishment not Eternal Torment: being an answer to the "Rev." Dr. Angus, by R. Roberts. It is to be had at the office mentioned on the cover of this pamphlet, price 8d.
MR. ROBERT’S ARGUMENT.
MR. ROBERTS was somewhat diverted from the argument he had intended to elaborate this evening, by the stress laid by Mr. Bradlaugh on the absence (as he alleged) of contemporary witness to the currency of the apostolic writings in the first century and first half of the second century. The objection was of little weight even if well founded; because a book might exist from remote antiquity, and bear internal proof of its having done so, without our being able to find other books of a similar age in which it should be mentioned. The absence of such other books would be no disproof of the book we have. It would only prove that no other books had survived for the same number of ages, and this fact would not be wonderful in view of the now public character of the New Testament, and the private character of the books alleged to be absent. But though the point was of no great weight in true logic, Mr. Roberts felt it might seem weighty to some, and therefore occupied a considerable part of the time in showing that contary to Mr. Bradlaugh’s assertion, there were books, traceable back to the first and second centuries, in which the contemporary existence of the New Testament was distinctly recognised. The doing this, prevented him from saying all he intended to say in support of the affirmation to which he had intended to devote the evening, viz: "That the literary and moral peculiarities of the Bible–the character of its sentiments, so entirely alien to the universal tendencies of human nature–Jew and Gentile–It’s clear, chaste, vigorous and concise diction–It’s agreement one part with another, notwithstanding the great intervals of time at which its different parts were produced; and its perfectly artless candour in the record of facts irrespective of their bearing for or against the interests involved–are totally at variance with the supposition that the book is the production of ignorant and designing men; and prove that its existence is due to that divine initiative and guidance in the writers to which both Paul and Peter attributed it."
In support of this proposition, Mr. Roberts intended a line of argument which was only partly carried out. The omitted parts may be briefly indicated.
The internal constitution of the Bible is the strongest evidence of its divinity. This argument is the least capable of being made palpable, especially to those unacquainted with the Bible and unaccustomed to the line of thought which it involves. The proposition falls at first with little weight on the ear; but its weight increases with increasing experience of human nature and human literature, until at last the thinking mind can dispense with all other evidence of the Bible’s divinity. Its contents are found sufficient.
Some features of these contents were noticed in the debate. Its revelation concerning God is first in rank. This is distinguished from all human conceptions of Deity, as reflected in the polytheisms of confessedly unenlightened men. The gods imagined by men were limited like men. The God revealed in the Bible is declaredunsearchable. The different powers of nature were, by the ignorant, attributed to different gods, which superficially seemed probable. The Bible attributed all to ONE GOD. Science has confirmed the Bible revelation of God to this extent, that it has shown all power to be ONE at the root, and that root "unknowable", which is only another word for the Bible term "unsearchable".
Then as to man: the philosophers taught that man was constitutionally an immaterial immortal being, underlying and distinct from the body, and capable of existence apart from it, a fallacy from which came their doctrine of postmortem rewards and punishments in the elysian fields and tartarus, and a consequent rejection of the doctrine of the resurrection. This notion, succinctly defined as "the immortality of the soul", was, like their polytheism, a plausible deduction from appearances–universal among the ancients, beginning with the Egyptians, notwithstanding his association with whom, Moses, by the admission of Gibbon, is untainted with the notion. The prophets and apostles are likewise free of this philosophic speculation, and, on the contrary, teach human mortality as expounded by Tyndall and other scientists of the modern era. The doctrine of immortality which they teach is the hope of resurrection to a future existence on the earth. Science does not teach this, because science only deals with what is, and can throw no light on what is to be. With the doctrine of human mortality all Scripture agrees, as the reader may find proved in Twelve Lectures, by R. Roberts. Consequently, the Bible is in harmony with science on the subject of man as well as God: that is, as regards his harmony with present constitution. That the Bible should teach a doctrine in harmony with science in an age when all the world was dreaming about natural immortality of speculative induction, is another proof of the Bible’s divinity. This argument has been obscured by orthodox religion, which accepts the Pagan view, and, by consequence, teaches the eternal torment of the unrighteous–a doctrine which gives the argument for unbelief an advantage that does not belong to it.
The Bible’s depreciation of human nature, and exaltation of God, were both noticed in the debate. These peculiarities stamp it as of Divine origin. The sentiments are foreign to human nature. Their prominence in the mouths of the prophets explain the Jewish treatment of the prophets; and that treatment reacts in confirmation of the Divine origin of the sayings of the prophets. Jesus refers to it thus: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, &c. " (Luke 13:34). There was a class of prophet that received different treatment, to which Jesus also refers: "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you, for so did theirfathers to THE FALSE PROPHETS"–(Luke 6:26). The false prophets spoke smooth or pleasant things, which ensured popularity: the true prophets spoke things that were disagreeable to human nature, and brought destruction on themselves. Yet the Scriptures of the disagreeable prophets, which testify against the wickedness of Israel, are preserved, while the Scriptures of the false prophets have perished: in which also there is evidence of God at work.
The aversion of Israel to the teaching of the true prophets, and their relish for those who led them to idolatry, is very effectually illustrated in the case of Elijah, who, on Mount Carmel single-handed, confronted four hundred prophets of Baal. This case may be taken as the history of the subject condensed into a single incident. The Jews have always been on the side of those who drew them aside from the One God, and against the few faithful men who in different ages have striven, under Divine command, to bring them back to the paths of Moses. This is in harmony with the work of the prophets being a Divine work; and inconsistent with the notion that they acted on their own uninspired volition; for a human volition merely would have led them in a human and popular direction.
Why did the Jews prefer idolatry to the Divine institutions? This brings us to another argument. The Mosaic worship was contrary to human inclinations. It called on them to serve an invisible God: it required faith at their hands. Other nations had gods they could see, and whose worship they made the occasion of licence and delight. To these foreign gods, Israel turned aside from the beginning of their history, as soon as Joshua and his contemporaries were dead (Judges 2:11-13); which is proof that their God was no invention of their own; or the outcome of a national idiosyncrasy. Other nations have always been faithful to their invented gods, because they continued subject to the taste and fancy that led to the invention. Such a thing as a nation changing its gods is unknown. This very fact is made the basis of expostulation by God with Israel, through the prophet Jeremiah: "Pass over to the Isles of Chittim and see, and send unto Kedar and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing: hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? But my people hath changed their glory for that which doth not profit."–(Jer. 2:10). This fact of itself–that the Jews as a nation continually departed from the God of their fathers, while no other nation deviated from their traditional idolatries–goes a long way, in a logical process of treatment, to prove that the religion of the Jews was not a religion of Jewish origin, in the sense of its being the invention of the Jews; but was higher than they, namely, what it professes to be: a system Divinely communicated to them by the hand of Moses.
There is next the agreement of one part of the Bible with another throughout, notwithstanding the long intervals during which its different parts were produced. If it were a human production, each successive contributor would have imparted his own sentiments to it, and we should have that diversity of character which belongs to every human work in which many actors have been engaged during a series of ages. Instead of this, the book is absolutely one. Whether you take Moses, Malachi or Christ, there is the same depreciation of human nature; the same supreme exaltation of God; the same stern enunciation of duty; the same uncompromising rebuke of departure from the way of right. The spirit of the book in this respect is identical throughout, and this cannot be said of any literature under the sun, in which a variety of writers of different ages have been employed, nor is there any book under the sun characterised by the sentiments just enumerated. The Bible stands absolutely alone in this respect, like a majestic mountain among hillocks of rubbish.
Then there is the same hope, in all the books of the Bible, of a coming age in which Christ, as King of Israel, shall rule on earth universally, and mankind be blessed. A few illustrations of this must suffice. Genesis speaks of a promise to Abraham, that in him and his seed (a great personage who should possess the gate of his enemies), at a future time, should all the families of the earth be blessed.–(Gen. 22:17-18.) Moses speaks of a prophet like unto himself, whom God should raise up to Israel whom they should hear.-(Deut. 18:15-18.) Isaiah speaks of a king who should rise in the line of David, and reign over all nations, with the result of abolishing the art of war from the studies of mankind.–(Isa. 11:1-9; 2:4; 32:1-8.) Daniel speaks of one like the Son of Man who should appear, and whom all peoples, nations and languages should serve and obey.–(Dan. 7:14.) Paul speaks of a day in which God should judge the world in righteousness by Christ (Acts 17:31), and when the people of Christ would reign and judge the world with him.–(I Cor. 6:2; 2 Tim. 2:12.) Revelation speaks of the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of God and His Christ, who shall reign for ever and ever.–(Rev. 2:26; 11:15.)
If the Bible were a merely human production, there would not be this absolute identity of hope among writers, extending over three thousand years. The existence of this identity is a proof of the controlling presence of a common guidance in all the writers, even the guidance professed in the book itself: "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."–(2 Pet 1:21.) The force of this argument will be appreciated by those who realise the endless and contradictory diversities of human authorship of different ages. Its force is somewhat hidden by the corruptions of orthodox Christendom, which has long ago abandoned the one apostolic "hope of Israel", common to the whole Scriptures, and embraced the miserable substitute of an imagined post mortem beatification of an imaginary personal invisibility, in regions above the stars.
Then there is evidence of divinity in the Bible scheme of future life. This scheme defers all reward till an appointed era, to be inaugurated by the personal reappearance of Christ in the earth, when many generations shall have yielded first, to the grave and then to the resurrection–their quota of tried men– tried in necessary times of evil. The vastness and splendour of this scheme stamps it as divine. Man would never have invented such a scheme. This is not the place to prove that this is the scheme. The reader must be referred to Twelve Lectures, before mentioned for its full illustration.
Next there is the perfect candour of the Bible narratives, which is never characteristic of human histories. David’s crime is chronicled in sober and merciless truth, although he was king when the record was written. So with the fathers before him. The naked truth is told. The very things which Mr. Bradlaugh makes use of against the Bible, are in this respect one of the highest evidences of its genuine character, for had the Bible been written by king-flatterers and sycophants, as his senseless tirades imply, there would have been a suppression of things that do not stand to the credit of those for whom they are supposed by him to have been written. Then the writers say things that never would have been said by men writing to prop up a pretended revelation. Matthew, for instance, records that at an interview with Christ after his resurrection, some of his disciples "doubted." –(Matt. 28:17.) A bolsterer up of a pretended revelation would never have written this. It is written because it is true; and the fact that some doubted is an element in the self-evident truthfulness of the narrative, for it is just what would happen with real living men who, not expecting Christ to die, had seen Christ crucified and now saw him alive. In their partly-enlightened state, his death was a puzzle and his resurrection a puzzle also, and "doubt" the natural consequence. And had there been no further evidence, the doubt of the "some" might have continued. But their doubt did not continue; all doubts vanished with the outpouring of the Spirit and display of miraculous gifts. The fact that they previously "doubted" made their subsequent confidence all the more reliable, because it showed the reason of their doubt had disappeared. Certainly, a forger, writing a fictitious narrative to obtain credit for Christ’s resurrection, would never have represented any of the disciples in the act of doubting but rather in an ecstasy of adoring confidence, after the style of Roman Catholic fables.
Similar remarks apply to the statement of John that at a certain time, "many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him." This is a candid record of a fact which there could be no object in publishing, but rather in suppressing, as the fact itself was capable of yielding a damaging effect to some who might argue like Mr. Bradlaugh: "If men who saw his miracles deserted him, how can you expect me to believe, &c. " Its record is an evidence of truth; and the occurrence of the fact recorded is in harmony with our acquaintance with human nature. Men get accustomed to anything. Marvels cease to be marvels when they are of common occurrence. It is easy to understand that men, drawn after Christ in the first instance by the sensational attraction of his miracles, would easily become disaffected when doctrines unpleasant to human nature were propounded for their acceptance. It is human nature to the life. A fictitious writer would never have imagined it possible for any human being to desert the Christ of his narrative: he would be certain to represent every one as awe-struck and spell-bound for ever. And even if he could have imagined another possibility, he would have been careful to conceal it from a narrative intended to create confidence in a Christ that never existed. The record that many ceased to be his disciples is one among many strong proofs of the genuineness of the narrative.–There is a number of such candid statements. In fact, they abound throughout the Scriptures and constitute an evidence in the very opposite direction to that to which such as Mr. Bradlaugh make them point. We must be content with the two examples cited.
Then the literary character of the Bible is evidence of a more than human authorship. Its diction is chaste, dignified, vigorous, free of redundancy or irrelevant details. It is unlike all other books in the nature of its historic narratives. It never puts on record the kind of occurrences that come under the category of story and adventure. It never shows any regard for the curiosity of the reader. It never ministers to the taste that finds pleasure in the mere knowledge of what happens. It confines itself to matters having relation to the main purpose in hand. If it ever diverges from its condensed historical style, and enters into personal particulars, it is because those personal particulars have a bearing on some subsequent event of public importance, or to illustrate the operation of some truth important to be known. The story of Amon and Tamar is an example: it led up to the rebellion of Absalom. The story of David and Uriah is another: it led to a public revolution in the punishment of David. The story of the Ephraimite and his concubine is another: it led to the near extirpation of a tribe, and the slaughter of multitudes in Israel in punishment of their sins. In no case is a story told for its own sake. In this the Bible differs from all human books: and the difference is inexplicable if the Bible be a human book; because if a human book, it would show the universal taste for mere incident, in the liking for which, Jew and Gentile are alike, as shown by the writings of Josephus. The following is a good specimen of the Bible’s historical conciseness: "Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts; half of the people followed Tibni, the son of Ginath, to make him king; and half followed Omri. But the people that followed Omri prevailed against the people that followed Tibni, the son of Ginath; so Tibni died, and Omri reigned."-(I Kings 16:21.) A human account of this matter would have entered upon the intrigues and the fightings, and the adventures incident to the triumph of Omri, with a due admixture of trumpet blowings over this one’s intrepidity, and that one’s wonderful generalship, &c. This argument in its full force will only be appreciated by those who possess a thorough acquaintance with the Scriptures, and some acquaintance with human writings of all ages. With such it is of great weight. To others, it may be evident by a comparison between the Bible itself and all imitations that have been attempted, such as the Apocrypha and Apocryphal New Testament.
Finally, the character and precepts of Christ as displayed in the New Testament, are themselves conclusive evidence of the divinity of the Scriptures. No man could have imagined such a character; no man could have invented such precepts, least of all such men as those who wrote the gospel narrative–poor fishermen, "unlearned and ignorant men." The only way such a narrative could come to be written (even if men who are called "learned", had been writers) is by the appearance of such a man as Christ, and the presence with the writers of such a guidance in the writers as Christ promised he would send them after his departure–the guidance of the Holy Spirit which should "bring all things to their remembrance whatsoever he had said unto them."
There was little in Mr. Bradlaugh’s argument on the fourth night calling for any further notice than what it received in Mr. Robert’s replies. It was in the nature of a feint to draw the other side from a strong position. He raised a great outcry against the ecclesiastical writers of the first, second and third centuries, whose works Mr. Roberts referred to merely to show that there was external evidence of the existence of the New Testament at the time it professes to have been produced. Many things he said that were misleading, and some that were positively untrue. Such, for instance, as his remark, "It is simple impertinence (for Mr. Roberts) to read names to us and tell us he has got the books here when those books do not exist in the world." "Mr. Roberts said he would quote to you from Tatian. There is not a scrap of Tatian existing . . . " Mr. Roberts did not pretend to have books that do not exist. He did not pretend to have even all the books that do exist. When he said he produced "five witnesses" to a particular date, he meant in the sense of producing them in argument. Tatian’s existence as an author is proved by quotations from him in Eusebius, who wrote shortly after the end of the third century. On the same authority we know that Tatian was born before A.D. 150, and that he wrote a book entitled A Harmony of the Four Gospels. The fact that we do not possess this Harmony of the Four Gospels does not weaken the evidence arising from the fact of Tatian writing such a work. His writing such a work shows that the four gospels existed in his day, and also that they had existed as a universally-accepted authority among Christians for a long time before, for men do not write harmonies of unknown and newly-produced books. But Mr. Bradlaugh sought to obscure the argument by making a great outcry about the absence of Tatian’s books, and, no doubt, he succeeded with some lacking penetration, but the truth calmly remains for all that.
Mr. Bradlaugh also made a point of the dates adduced being "disputed dates". In the sense that they lack the definiteness and certainty of a registrar’s certificate of birth, no doubt they may be disputed; but they are undisputed in the substantial sense. That is they are substantial approximations to truth, and even allowing for a few years’ uncertainty, one side or another, the argument founded on the writings of the men remain untouched. The argument is that men living within a few years of the dates mentioned could not quote the New Testament familiarly, which they all do, if the New Testament had not existed as a widely-accepted authority. Mr. Bradlaugh’s tactics merely amounted to throwing so much dust over this point. His reckless declarations will have no weight with those who are calmly in search of truth and reason.
Mr. Bradlaugh made great use of the literary forgeries that were undoubtedly common in the third and fourth centuries. He asked among so many forgeries, how was he to know the true? He might have been excused on the score of inability of discernment had he rested there: but when he went on to deny the existence of true apostolic writings, it had simply to be shown that he was going against all reason; for surely the very existence of forgeries prove that there must have been something originally true and valuable to imitate. Mr. Bradlaugh’s answer to this was, "If Mr. Roberts’ contention is true, the existence of a false gospel of Barnabas would be evidence of an imitation of a true gospel of Barnabas." The rejoinder is, first, perhaps there was a true gospel of Barnabas, for Luke testifies (Luke 1:1) that "many" had taken in hand to set forth an account of the things believed among the Christians, and perhaps Barnabas was among the number. But, secondly, it would at least prove the existence either of Barnabas or of the New Testament allusion to Barnabas. And it would prove that the writing of a gospel was according to the imitator’s conception of what Barnabas was likely to do: and this conception must have been founded on the fact that the apostles and their companions did write gospels. So that even in this way, a false gospel of Barnabas, while perhaps not proving a true gospel of Barnabas, would prove that there were true gospels somewhere. We notice this point because it is one of the few arguments of Mr. Bradlaugh’s which seemingly had something in them. Mr. Bradlaugh tried to make a great deal out of the fact that Mr. Roberts did not read extracts from the books of the early ecclesiastical writers, in support of his assertion that they quoted from the New Testament. He even said unjustifiable and untrue things on the subject; as for instance, that these writers "do not say a word of what Mr. Roberts thought they said." The best answer to this will be to quote a few samples of their sayings, with references to the works where they may be found. This is done by the aid of Dr. Brewer’s compilation, which was produced at the discussion.
Who was born somewhere about the middle of the second century: died about A.D.213.
He wrote several works in Greek, and among others Poedagogus (The Instructor), and Stromata (Sundries). From these two the following are extracts: "This passage is not to be found in any of the FOUR GOSPELS, but is taken from the (spurious) gospel to the Egyptians."-(Strom. 3, 465, D.) "As Luke in the Acts of the Apostles records Paul to have said."–(Strom. 5, 588, B.) "In like manner writes Paul in his Epistle to the Romans."–(Strom. 3, 457, B.) "The blessed Paul, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, says, Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children."–(Poed. 1, 96, D.)
Who was born early in the second century, and died A.D. 181.
He wrote three books, to "Autolychus", in defence of the Christian religion. The following are extracts: "These things the Holy Scriptures teach us: for JOHN says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (Book 2, 100 C.) The gospel says "Love your enemies, and pray for them that despitefully use you, for if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even publicans the same?"–(Book 3, 126, B.C.)
Who flourished in the second half of the second century.
He wrote a petition to the Emperor on behalf of the Christians whom he had joined: also a treatise on the resurrection. The following are extracts: "To convince you we are not Atheists, hear the maxims in which we are instructed:" "I say unto you, love your enemies: bless them that curse you and pray for them that persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father in heaven, who maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."–(Petition, page II. B.C.) "The corruptible must put on incorruption" (The Resurrection, page 61, C).
Who was born about A.D. 130, and died A.D. 202.
He wrote a work "against heresies" in five books. The following are extracts: "Matthew, among the Jews, wrote a gospel in their own language while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel at Rome. After the death of the fore-named apostles, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, delivered to us in writing the things that Peter had preached. Next Luke, Paul’s companion, put down in a book the gospel preached by Paul. Lastly John, the beloved disciple, published his gospel while he was dwelling at Ephesus" (Adv. Hoer. 3, 1). "This same disciple (John) says in his epistle, little children, it is the last time"–(Adv. Hoer. 3, 16). Irenaeus also mentions by name thirteen of Paul’s epistles, and quotes copiously from them in the course of his argument, and speaks of "The Revelation of John", the disciple of the Lord.
Who flourished in the second half of the second century.
He wrote several works in Greek, and among others, one entitled Extracts of the Law and the Prophets, in his preface to which he says: "When I went into the East, I procured an accurate account of the books of The Old Testament", which is, of course, an indirect recognition of the New Testament.
"Who was born about A.D. 130, and died about the close of the second century.
He wrote several works, only one of which is now extant, viz., Oration to the Greeks, in which he quotes from the epistles. Eusebius mentions the name of one of Tatian’s other works, which furnishes evidence of the existence of the gospels in Tatian’s day, viz., A Harmony of the Four Gospels.
Who was born about the beginning of the second century and died about A.D. 167
He wrote three works, viz., an Apology to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, on behalf of the Christians; an Apology to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius with the same object, and a Dialogue with Trypho. His quotations from the New Testament are very numerous. The following are specimens:–"Christ said, Unless a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven."–(Apology, 94A). "Before the Lord was crucified, he said, ‘The Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected of the Scribes and Pharisees, and be crucified, and the third day he shall rise again."–(Dialogue, 327A). "Paul, in his address to the Greeks, saith thus: ‘Be you as I am, for I am as ye are.’ "–(Dialogue, 40D ).
Who was born early in the second century and died about A.D. 153.
He wrote Five Books of Commentaries on the Sayings of our Lord. In his preface he says: "If at any time I met with one who had conversed with the elders, I enquired of the sayings of those elders. I asked him what Andrew or Peter said, what Philip said, what Thomas or James had said, what John had said, what Matthew had said or any other of the Lord’s apostles. What they told me by word of mouth have I here set down in writing, and nothing in these Commentaries has been taken from books." Of Matthew, he says: "It was written in Hebrew and was termed the Lord’s sayings;" and of Mark: "Mark was the interpreter and follower of Peter, and the gospel which bears his name was composed from Peter’s own words."–(Book 3, 31.)
Who was born about A.D. 80, and died A.D. 167.
He wrote an epistle to the Philippians. The following are extracts recognising the existence of the New Testament: "Do we not know that the saints shall judge the world, as Paul teaches?" (Cap. 11). "Neither I nor any one like me can come up to the wisdom of the blessed Paul, who wrote to you a letter, being absent in body but present in spirit". –(Cap. 3). "Remember what the Lord said, Judge not that ye be not judged; forgive and ye shall be forgiven; be merciful that ye may obtain mercy."–(Cap. 2.)
"Who was born about A.D.35, and died about A.D. 107.
He wrote seven epistles in which the existence of the New Testament is recognised thus: "You are the companions of St. Paul, who throughout his whole epistle to you (the Ephesians), mentions you with praise."–(Epistle to the Ephesians, sec. 12.) He many times quotes, without acknowledgement, the words of the New Testament. Thus: "The tree is known by its fruits" (to the Eph. 14): "Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (to Polycarp 2). "Christ was baptised of John to fulfil all righteousness (to Smyrna 1.)
Who flourished before the end of the first century.
He wrote a book entitled The Shepherd, in which there are some fifty quotations from the New Testament, without naming the books from which the quotations are drawn. The following are specimens: "No man cometh unto the Father but through the Son."–(Similitude 9:12.) "The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit: and if thou defile the temple of God thou shalt die."–(Sim. 5, 7). "If ye resist the devil he will flee from you."–(Precept 12, 5).
"Who was born about A.D.30 and died A.D. 100.
He wrote an epistle to the Corinthians, in which the Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians is expressly referred to thus: "Take into your hands the epistle of Paul the apostle, and see what he wrote to you. "–(ch. 47). He quotes many times from the New Testament, without referring to the source, thus: "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again"–(Ch. 13). "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, "Woe to that man by whom offences come. It were better for that man if he had not been born."–(ch. 46) "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."–(ch. 56).
Who is supposed to have been born at the beginning of the first century, and to have died A.D. 61.
The epistle bearing his name, whether written by him or not, was extant in the first century, as proved by the allusions of other writers to it. He quotes from Matthew, Luke, Acts, Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Hebrews, I Pet. and Revelation. Examples: "Let us beware, lest it should happen unto us; many are called but few chosen"–(ch. 4). "He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."–(ch. 5). "Give to every one that asketh thee."–(ch. 19.)
MR. ROBERTS’ ARGUMENT.
THE argument on the origin of the Jewish nation as involved in the writings of Moses, was fairly indicated, but only partly illustrated. It is capable of being worked out in great detail with convincing results. The authenticity of the writings is sufficiently established by the testimony of Christ and the voice of the Jewish nation, as pointed out and proved in the debate. We have therefore merely to consider the history set forth. This history, like the history of Christianity, is only intelligible with God in it. This will be seen by anyone fairly looking into it. With such a view only can we understand the entire absence of any endeavour in any part of it, to ascribe the law to Moses or any credit of any part of the transactions to him, or to the Jewish nation. So far from taking credit, Moses expressly said to the people, "I have not done these things of mine own mind" (Num. 16:8). It is a popular habit to ascribe the Jewish law to the wisdom of Moses as if he were the author of it. This habit is totally at variance with the scriptural representation. God is always kept in the foreground and Moses appears as His servant only. This peculiarity is not confined to the language of Moses, but belongs to the events connected with the organization of the nation. It is particularly manifest in the incident on which Moses based his claim to Israel’s submission to the law. He did not, like an impostor, merely report that so and so had happened to him privately, and that the result was this law which they had to obey. He based his claim to their submission on an open and public event of which they were all witnesses. "He brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And Mount Sinai was altogether in a smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the smoke thereof went up as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly"–(Ex. 19:17). The people were afraid at the manifestation. "And all the people saw the thunderings and the lightnings and the noise of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, and when the people saw it, they removed and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, speak thou with us and we will hear, but let not God speak with us lest we die."–(Ex. 20:18, 19). Afterwards referring to this, Moses asks them to remember it: "Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together and I will make them HEAR my words that they may learn to fear ME all the days that they shall live upon the earth … and the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire. Ye heard the voice of the Lord, but saw no similitude: only ye heard a voice … Did ever people hear the voice of God as thou hast heard and live? … Out of heaven, He made thee to hear His voice that He might instruct thee: and upon earth He showed thee His great fire and thou heardest His voice out of the midst of the fire"–(Deut. 4:10-12; 33, 36.) It was this public demonstration that laid the foundation of the authority over a rebellious nation like Israel, of Moses, whom they several times sought to destroy. This was the object of it. It is so stated: "The Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I came unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee AND BELIEVE THEE FOR EVER."–(Ex. 19:9). When the event was over, "The Lord said unto Moses, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven."–(Ex. 20:22).
Now for the present argument, it matters not whether these things really happened, or were invented by a writer who narrated them to establish the credit of Moses. The great fact connected with them lies here: they base the authority of the law on the command of God and never on the wisdom of Moses. And the argument arising from this fact is that such a thing is inexplicable on the hypothesis of the Mosaic writings being writings of a merely human origin, for written with a human origin, they would have been written with a human aim like all other human writings; and the aim would have been to show that the law was due to the superior sagacity of Moses, and to set forth the constant loyalty of the Israelites to it. Of course, the argument is strengthened a hundred fold when it is shown that Moses was the writer.
The nature of the sentiment pervading the law, is inconsistent with the idea of a human origin. We know what human nature is in the thousand instances of experience, history and political institutions. To glorify the leader or the nation, is the tendency of all men in every country and age; and the Jews, as we know them in their speeches and literature, are no exception. But the Mosaic institutions offer a complete contrast to this tendency. Instead of boasting in ancestry and the exploits of their armies, they were taught, for instance, to speak depreciatingly of their origin on the presentation of the first-fruits; and to refer their deliverance to God. They were taught to say, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation great, mighty and populous. And the Egyptians evilly entreated us and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour and our oppression. And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs and wonders." The deliverance of Israel is never ascribed to Israelitish prowess. The style of allusion is well illustrated in Psalm 44:1-3: "We have heard with our ears, O God: our fathers have told us what work Thou didst in their days, in the
times of old, how Thou didst drive out the heathen with Thy hand, and plantedst them: how Thou didst afflict the people and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but THY RIGHT HAND AND THINE ARM and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them."
This peculiarity is intelligible enough if God spake to Moses and did all the mighty works by which Israel was delivered from Egyptian thraldom. On any other principle, it is unintelligible. Particularly is this the case with certain matters of detail. There are features in the law which could not have originated with men legislating out of their own heads. For instance, Israel was commanded to let the land lie untended and unsown every seventh year; and we read this in connection with it: "And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? Behold, we shall not sow nor gather in our increase. Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for THREE YEARS."–(Lev. 25:2.) What man or men would have been mad enough to append to a public law a provision beyond all human control (affecting the weather and the crops), and subject to the test of experience once in every seven years? For inventors to have enacted such a law would have been to make the detection of their imposture inevitable; and that in a short time, for once in every seven years it would be found whether, as a matter of fact, the enhanced production took place. Take God out of this law, and its enactment is inexplicable; but if God spake by Moses, it is perfectly intelligible.
So with the attendance at the periodical feasts exacted of all Israel. Three times a year were they all to assemble at the chosen centre. In the natural order, obedience to this would expose their country to the danger of invasion, while they were absent, but this assurance was associated with the law. "Neither shall any man desire thy land when thou shalt go up thrice in the year to appear before the Lord thy God."–(Ex. 34:24.) If God gave the law, this is intelligible, because, as with the weather and the crops, so with the matter of human desires, it is in His power to regulate their operation; but if this law was a human invention, it is impossible to conceive how a promise came to be introduced as to affairs beyond human control, and the truthfulness of which was open to test every year.
There is a variety of incidents and other matters of detail to which the same general remarks apply, viz., that their record is inexplicable on any theory short of the narrative being a true one. The length to which the review has already extended forbids more than a brief reference to one or two of them. Prominent among them is the reason given for Moses, who led them out of Egypt, not being allowed to take the children of Israel over Jordan into the Land of Promise and not being allowed to enter there himself. Moses alluding to this reason in his rehearsal on the plains of Moab, says: "The Lord was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither. But Joshua, the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither; encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it"–(Deut. 1:37.) The incident to which Moses alludes is described in detail in Num. 20:7-13; and expressly referred to in Num. 27:12-14. On the reading of these parts, it will be found that the incident in brief was this: under the irritation caused by the continual discontent and insubordination of the people, Moses, when directed by God to bring water for them out of the rock, struck the rock twice with his rod, and took the credit of bringing out the water. "Hear now, ye rebels", he exclaimed, "must WE fetch you water out of this rock?" This was an offence to God in standing between Him and Israel, and is thus condemned by God: "Because ye believed me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them."–(Num. 20:12.) Let there be read in connection with this matter the account of the death of Moses in Dent. 32:48-52 and 34:1-6; such a story is intelligible if true: but if not true, for what purpose could it have been invented? We must judge of the theory of invention in such a case by the history of invention universally. Invention is resorted to always with an object: and in a case like this (the leader of a nation), the object is to establish the credit and reputation of the man concerned. But here is an incident having the very opposite effect. Here is an account of the death of Moses, showing his career cut short in punishment for the unfaithful use of divine power in a certain matter. The man who can believe such a story to have been invented must either have a very poor acquaintance with mankind, or a poor capacity for judging of the simplest facts. Invention, in such a case, if required to account for the death of Moses before the completion of his work, would be likely to have taken the form of representing that God had told him he (Moses) was too good and great a man to be allowed to enter upon the hard and bloody work of conquering the Canaanitish nation; and that, therefore, he would let him go to rest. The "patriotic" inventor would never have represented Moses an offender against the majesty of God, and still less, that he became so through the inveterate stubbornness of the people he was leading from Egypt. Such a story is self-evidently a true one; it is evidence that God wrought with Israel, and that therefore the Scriptures are the authentic and reliable records of divine revelation.
Other incidents of a like nature are the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, by fire, for non-compliance with a divine command (Lev. 10:3); and the discouraging report of the spies sent to search the land; the people’s endorsement of it; their proposal to stone Moses, and appoint another captain, under whom they might return to Egypt: the sentence that they must as a punishment wander forty years in the wilderness, till the whole of the adults should be worn out by death (Num. 13 and 14, the whole of the chapters); the murmuring of the people for flesh, and the distress of Korah, Dathan and Abiram and the people’s sympathy with them, even after their destruction (Num. 16)–all of these, and others which will occur to the reflective reader of the Scriptures, are passages in the history of Israel that are inexplicable as to how they came to be recorded, except on the one simple principle that they happened: for the tendency of them is to blacken the national character of Israel, and to take away all ground of even the commonest human satisfaction in the contemplation of their history. The invention of records having such a tendency is inconsistent with the universally known character of man, Jew and Gentile. Where invention is resorted to, it is to heighten the credit of a nation or its leaders. These things cannot have been invented. They are recorded because they happened; and in that case, God wrought with Israel in all their generations, from Moses to Christ, and, therefore, the Scriptures are the authentic and reliable records of divine revelation.
Mr. Bradlaugh made no attempt to meet his opponent’s argument, but wasted his time with the technicalities of the evidence of the so-called "Christian fathers", whose writings are extraneous to the main subject. It was, perhaps, a clever diversion–an attempt to draw the enemy from a strong position; but not the course of an earnest man, persuaded of the truth of his argument, and prepared and anxious to grapple with all difficulties on their merits. Mr. Bradlaugh aims no higher than legal strategy. His tactics were well described by a friend of his who intended the description as a compliment, but which will hardly be regarded in that light by earnest men. The friend in question, signing himself "T. Evans", described Mr. Bradlaugh as "most skilful of fence", remarking that had he not been so, "he would have been ‘cornered’ several times".–National Reformer, July 2, 1876. "Fence" is all very well in the conduct of a law case in court, where the aim is to avoid by hook or by crook material damage; but when it is resorted to in a process which concerns the investigation of truth for its own sake, it becomes an illegitimate and contemptible art, which only men bent upon a personal triumph would use. It really means the art of obscuring as much as possible the facts which the other side may seek to exhibit, and of evading the logical results of facts that have to be admitted. The employment of such an art amounts to the intrusion of brute force upon the domain of reason, and the arrest of the process of evidence by mechanical obstruction–an art cultivated by a certain class of the legal profession, but not to be considered admissible in the field of candid polemics.
An illustration of it was furnished in the very instance on which Mr. Bradlaugh’s friend in question particularly complimented him, in a letter appearing at the time of the discussion in the columns of the National Reformer. The instance concerned the extract from Athenagoras, which was cited by Mr. Roberts to show that the New Testament existed in the days of Athenagoras, inasmuch as Athenagoras cites one of the precepts of Christ, drawn from Matt. 5:44-45. Athenagoras does not give a reference to Matthew, he uses the words of Matthew, which is the material argument in the case. But in Dr. Brewer’s compilation, from which Mr. Roberts quoted the extract, the reference is supplied, not as part of the quotation but as a mere guide to the student, by which he may prove whether the words quoted are Matthew’s words or no. Mr. Bradlaugh holding the book in his hand, seized hold of this feature and declared with much vehemence that the reference to Matthew was not in Athenagoras at all, but had been added by Dr. Brewer; which, of course, was true, but did not dispose of the evidence of Athenagoras at all. The evidence of Athenagoras consisted in his using words that are in Matthew, in describing to the Emperor the precepts in which the Christians were taught. But Mr. Bradlaugh concealed, or sought to conceal this evidence by declaiming about the reference which had never been put forward at all! His manner of doing it betrayed a consciousness that he was indulging in artifice; but of course the unthinking portion of the audience, unable on the spot to discern between the one thing and the other, could not see the wince either in the manner or the argument, but thought a strong point had been made, while the correspondent in the National Reformer spoke of Mr. Bradlaugh disposing of Athenagoras "as easily as an athlete would overthrow a child". "It was shown", said he, "that the material words of reference had been added." The writer of these words either did not comprehend "the material words" in the argument or he deliberately lent himself to a false note of triumph. This is a fair specimen of the kind of sophistry by which thousands are daily hoodwinked, and apparently glad to be so.
The instances in which Mr. Bradlaugh did touch on the merits of the argument were few. Referring to the statement in the Mosaic account of the exodus, that the clothes of the children of Israel did not wax old during the forty years’ sojourn in the wilderness, he asked the audience to imagine a man at the end of the forty years wearing the clothes he had when a baby. Of course the audience laughed; but the folly at which they laughed was Mr. Bradlaugh’s–not the Bible’s. Babies’ clothes might be of unwasting stuff without being used for those who had outgrown them. Sensible mothers would put bye the undecaying articles for the babies to come after; and it is only Mr. Bradlaugh’s reckless logic that requires us to suppose that the Jewish mothers that came out of Egypt were less sensible than the Jewish mothers of to-day.
So when he points to John the Baptist sending disciples to Jesus to know whether he were the Christ or no, and asks how this is consistent with John having heard a voice from heaven at the Jordan, declaring at Christ’s baptism that he was the Son of God, he only appears to strike a blow at the New Testament account. No better proof than this very circumstance could be given that the New Testament narrative is an unconcocted and true narrative. A concoctor of such a story would have imagined and represented John the Baptist as, of course, animated by a sublime and indomitable confidence that no circumstances could affect. But the narrative being true, we find John subject to the weakness of human nature. Shut up in prison at a time when, in common with all the disciples, he "thought the kingdom of God would immediately appear" (Luke 19:11), the overpowering effect of confinement and hope inexplicably deferred, is seen in an embassage to Christ to re-assure himself. And Christ’s answer, instead of being inconsistent with truth, must appear in the opposite light to every reflecting mind. Mr. Bradlaugh asks why he did not remind John of the heavenly voice at his baptism. Jesus did better than that. He did not appeal to faltering human memory of an event already doubted; he appealed to what was actually transpiring. "Go and tell John WHAT YE SEE: how that the dead are raised", &c. If the story had been concocted, no doubt the narrative which, in the first place, would never have represented John in doubt, would, in the case of that supposition, have made Christ appeal triumphantly to the events of the Jordan.
The same train of confirmatory thought is suggested in relation to that other and more painful scene in the history of Christ, which Mr. Bradlaugh desecrated with his blasphemous declamation: viz., the agony of his expiring moments, when he exclaimed: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" Mr. Bradlaugh asked how such an exclamation could come from the lips of a man who knew that his death was to be the salvation of the world; and whether the words are not a confutation of his professed character. The question derives its piquancy from the assumption that the tranquillity and mental composure of the Saviour ought to have been imperturbable. No doubt, in the case of an invented Christ, it would have been so represented. We should have had the sort of demeanour imputed to him that is alleged of the canonized "saints" of Roman Catholic fable. We should have had the spectacle of a transfixed man, looking placid and at ease, and delivering himself, in beatific trance, of an unnatural speech, calling upon heaven and earth to witness his confidence and submission without murmur or wince to a death which was necessary for the salvation of men. Instead of that, we have "the man Christ Jesus", showing all the susceptibilities of a human being. We have him approaching death the day before with a fearful apprehension that caused him to "sweat as if it were great drops of blood". We have him praying earnestly that if it were possible, the cup might pass from him: "yet not my will but Thine be done." After this, we have him unresistingly submitting to apprehension and condemnation and crucifixion. And then we see him transfixed on the cross, suspended in the most agonizing position in which it is possible for a human being to be placed, with the whole weight of his body bearing upon his out-stretched and lacerated hands and feet. We see him endure for six hours the fierce agonies of crucifixion, and at the end of that time, it is no unnatural sound we hear when with a loud wail of agony, he exclaims "My God! my God! why hast Thou forsaken me?" Is such a wail inconsistent with his previous knowledge in hours of calmness that God required him to die? Nay, is it inconsistent even with the continuance of that knowledge? Was it not the fact that God had forsaken him in the sense of leaving him in the hands of his enemies, and in the sense, too, of withdrawing from him that overshadowing and immeasurable presence of the Spirit that had been with him during all the days of his ministry? The "why" may seem to express surprise where expectation ought to have excluded it, but we have to think that although the fact of his death was known to him beforehand, it may be that he did not realise to himself all the horrors of the ordeal till the dark cloud actually came upon him; and that in the weakness of the hour (for he was crucified through, in or out of weakness–2 Cor. 13:4), his mental vision may have become clouded with the shadow of death, and caused him to ask what he would not have asked in the calm prospect of the event itself. The whole picture is thoroughly unartificial. It is such as men depicting an imaginary or invented Christ would never have drawn. No stronger evidence exists of the truth of Christ’s profession and mission than those very dying words which Mr. Bradlaugh made the subject of his coarse enquiries.
MR. ROBERTS’ ARGUMENT
IN nature, the argument was satisfactory, but not in extent. This was inevitable from a vast subject having to be crowded into a very small compass. Its vastness may be inferred from the fact that Bishop Newton, in attempting to illustrate the fulfilment of Bible prophecy, filled a volume of hundreds of pages.
However, its logical essence is not weakened by brevity. Its pith lies in the fact of the universal impossibility of prophecy. It is impossible to lay too much stress on this fact. The foretelling of an eclipse is not a prediction: it is merely an arithmetical deduction from known rates of progress. The predictions which belong to the Bible have to do with the state of countries, the fortunes of races, the destinies of individuals–all matters quite beyond human calculation. The results in these cases depend upon so many unknown contingencies that only a Power having control of those contingencies could say what will happen. It will convince anyone of this if they try to foretell the issues of the Eastern Question; the future of France; the fate of the Disraeli Ministry, or the destiny of the Prince Imperial.
The notion that Moses and the prophets were only astute men who by large discernment of human affairs, were able to foretell what should happen centuries afterwards, is not only absolutely gratuitous, but it is opposed to all experience of men. There are probably as astute men living in our day as in any age, and where is the man that can tell us a day ahead what shall be? On the natural discernment theory, there ought to be better prophets now than at any time, because there is so much larger a stock of human experience to go by than at any former time. But in point of fact, there is not the least ability anywhere to foretell the future. The future is a dead wall to the human eye. No man can forecast even the markets for a day ahead, let alone political destines which are so peculiarly liable to unknown contingency. This inability to penetrate the future is appealed to in the Scriptures as the evidence of imposture on the part of those in Israel who falsely pretended to be divine. The challenge is put in this form: "Let them bring forth and show us what shall happen . . . SHOW THE THINGS THAT ARE TO COME HEREAFTER that we may know that ye are gods."–(Isa. 41:22-23). In contrast to this, we have the following declaration from God: "I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times, the things that are not yet done, saying, my counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure…… Behold the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: BEFORE THEY SPRING FORTH, I TELL YOU OF THEM" (Isa. 46:9; 42:9). Moses and the prophets foretold the fate of the Jews thousands of years ahead, and also the leading developments of Gentile power in their relation to God’s further purpose on earth. It cannot be said that the ability to do this was a Jewish faculty: for the Jews are as helpless today as their Gentile neighbours. They have had no prophets among them since God forsook them for their iniquities, and dispersed them through the countries. There is only one possible explanation of the prophecies in the case, and that is the explanation given by the prophets themselves, when they represent that God spoke to them what they said and wrote, and in that case, the Scriptures are the authentic and reliable records of Divine revelation.
Mr. Bradlaugh simply evaded the issue, and sought to cover his retreat by a great outcry against the alleged prurient character of the Bible. This was sufficiently met in the debate. It is one of the proofs of the Bible’s divinity that it speaks of things as they are without reference to human delicacies, which in most cases are a mere recoil from appearances not founded on an intrinsic aversion to wrong. Many minds easily shocked at a breach of human manners, are absolutely insensible to impressions of righteousness. The Bible deals with facts and truth; and if these may sometimes appear prurient, it is only because of the prurient fastidiousness of mankind, and not because of the use made of the facts. If the Bible ever makes delicate allusions, it is never in the spirit of lust, but always as a mere matter of literal and colourless fact. In this there is a vast difference between the Bible and other books with which Mr. Bradlaugh most unreasonably sought to class it. Shakespeare and Byron would have no fascination for prurient readers if their allusions were like the Bible’s. Mr. Bradlaugh’s inuendo would have more force against medical books than against the Bible: but the fact is, there is no reason in the objection whatever. It was one of several instances in which Mr. Bradlaugh’s reckless logic allowed him to appear in the unnatural character of an indignant virtuoso against a book which, in spite of all his diatribes, teaches a virtue beyond the capacity of the majority of men to understand or appreciate.
The only other thing calling for notice is Mr. Bradlaugh’s remark, that in the case of there having been a pre-Adamite race, Adam was not "the first man" which I Cor. 15:44 calls him. The answer is, first, the pre-Adamite race are not spoken of as man but as "the angels which sinned"’ (2 Pet. 2:4), and that, therefore, there is no inconsistency in describing Adam as "the first man". And, secondly, even if the pre-Adamite race had been human, Adam was "the first man" of the present race, and as this is the sense in which Paul uses the phrase, it is in no way inconsistent with the pre-Adamite existence of another race of which he was not then speaking.
The Review is now at an end. Mr. Roberts thanks Mr. Bradlaugh for permitting him to add to it the report of the discussion. Mr. Roberts has offered Mr. Bradlaugh the opportunity of writing a rejoinder to it for appearance in the same pamphlet, but Mr. Bradlaugh has not accepted the offer; and, therefore, the report and the review go forth without the reply from him that he might be able to give; but Mr. Bradlaugh has other means of letting his friends know his mind, of which he will, doubtless, avail himself should he consider it necessary to take notice of anything appearing herein.
It is only fair to Mr. Bradlaugh to add that as far as the report of the last three nights of the debate is concerned, he has not revised it, though offered the opportunity of doing so. He considers the reporting of that part of the debate badly done. In fact he stated this to be the reason for his declining the task of revision. The labour required, he said, would be too great to be accomplished within a reasonable time. It is right to say that the part of the debate in question was reported by a man appointed by Mr. Bradlaugh’s own agent; and that the first half of the debate which Mr. Bradlaugh commended as well done, was reported for Mr. Hodgkinson, of Norman Cross, by Mr. Arthur Andrew, with Mr. Pulbrook, 28, Threadneedle Street, London.