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Robert Ingersoll Debate Gladstone On V Field 1

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Gladstone On V Field 1

Robert Green Ingersoll

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Some Remarks on his Reply to Dr. Field.



As a listener from across the broad Atlantic to the clash of
arms in the combat between Colonel ingersoll and Dr. Field on the
most momentous of all subjects, I have not the personal knowledge
which assisted these doughty champions in making reciprocal
acknowledgments, as broad as could be desired, with reference to
personal character and motive. Such acknowledgments are of high
value in keeping the issue clear, if not always of all
adventitious, yet of all venomous matter. Destitute of the
experience on which to found them as original testimonies, still,
in attempting partially to criticize the remarkable Reply of
Colonel Ingersoll, I can both accept in good faith what has been
said by Dr. Field, and add that it seems to me consonant with the
strain of the pages I have set before me. Having said this, I shall
allow myself the utmost freedom in remarks, which will be addressed
exclusively to the matter, not the man.

Let me begin by making several acknowledgments of another
kind, but which I feel to he serious. The Christian Church has
lived long enough in external triumph and prosperity to expose
those of whom it is composed to all such perils of error and
misfeasance, as triumph and prosperity bring with them. Belief in
divine guidance is not of necessity belief that such guidance can
never be frustrated by the laxity, the infirmity, the perversity of
man, alike in the domain of action and in the domain of thought.
Believers in the perpetuity of the life of the Church are not tied
to believing in the perpetual health of the Church. Even the great
Latin Communion, and that communion even since the Council of the
Vatican in 1870 theoretically admits, or does not exclude, the
possibility of a wide range of local and partial error in opinion
as well as conduct. Elsewhere the admission would be more
unequivocal. Of such errors in tenet, or in temper and feeling more
or less hardened into tenet, there has been a crop alike abundant
and multifarious. Each Christian party is sufficiently apt to
recognize this tact with regard to every other Christian party, and
the more impartial and reflective minds are aware that no party is
exempt from mischiefs, which lie at the root of the human
constitution in its warped, impaired, and dislocated condition.
Naturally enough, these deformities help to indispose men towards

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belief; and when this indisposition has been developed into a
system of negative warfare, all the faults of all the Christian
bodies, and sub-divisions of bodies, are, as it was natural to
expect they would be, carefully raked together, and become part and
parcel of the indictment against the divine scheme of redemption.
I notice these things in the mass, without particularity, which
might be invidious, for two important purposes. First, that we all,
who hold by the Gospel and the Christian Church, may learn humility
and modesty, as well as charity and indulgence, in the treatment of
opponents, from our consciousness that we all, alike by our
exaggerations and our shortcomings in belief, no less than by
faults of conduct, have contributed to bring about this condition
of fashionable hostility to religious faith: and, secondly, that we
may resolutely decline to be held bound to tenets, or to
consequences of tenets, which represent not the great Christendom
of the past and present, but only some hole and corner of its vast
organization; and not the heavenly treasure, but the rust or the
canker to which that treasure has been exposed through the
incidents of its custody in earthen vessels.

I do not remember ever to have read a composition, in which
the merely local coloring of particular, and even very limited
sections of Christianity, was more systematically used as if it had
been available and legitimate argument against the whole, than in
the Reply before us. Colonel Ingersoll writes with a rare and
enviable brilliancy, but also with an impetus which he seems unable
to control. Denunciation, sarcasm, and invective, may in
consequence be said to constitute the staple of his work; and, if
argument or some favorable admission here and there peeps out for
a moment, the writer soon leaves the dry and barren heights for his
favorite and more luxurious galloping grounds beneath. Thus, when
the Reply has consecrated a line (N. A. R., No. 372, p. 473) to the
pleasing contemplation of his opponent as "manly, candid, and
generous," it immediately devotes more than twelve to a declamatory
denunciation of a practice (as if it were his) altogether contrary
to generosity and to candor, and reproaches those who expect (ibid)
"to receive as alms an eternity of joy." I take this as a specimen
of the mode of statement which permeates the whole Reply. It is not
the statement of an untruth. The Christian receives as alms all
whatsoever he receives at all. Qui salvandos salvas gratis is his
song of thankful praise. But it is the statement of one-half of a
truth, which lives only in its entirety, and of which the Reply
gives us only a mangled and bleeding fustum. For the gospel teaches
that the faith which saves is a living and energizing faith, and
that the most precious part of the alms which we receive lies in an
ethical and spiritual process, which partly qualifies for, but also
and emphatically composes, this conferred eternity of joy. Restore
this ethical element to the doctrine from which the Reply has
rudely displaced it, and the whole force of the assault is gone,
for there is now a total absence of point in the accusation; it
comes only to this, that "mercy and judgment are met together," and
that "righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. ixxxv.

Perhaps, as we proceed, then will be supplied ampler means of
judging whether I am warranted in saying that the instance I have
here given is a normal instance of a practice so largely followed

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as to divest the entire Reply of that calmness and sobriety of
movement which are essential to the just exercise of the reasoning
power in subject matter not only grave, but solemn. Pascal has
supplied us, in the "Provincial Letters," with an unique example of
easy, brilliant, and fascinating treatment of a theme both profound
and complex. But where shall we find another Pascal? And, if we had
found him, he would be entitled to point out to us that the famous
work was not less close and logical than it was witty. In this
case, all attempt at continuous argument appears to be deliberately
abjured, not only as to pages, but, as may almost be said, even as
to lines. The paper, noteworthy as it is, leaves on my mind the
impression of a battle-field where everyman strikes at every man,
and all is noise, hurry, and confusion. Better surely had it been,
and worthier of the great weight and elevation of the subject, if
the controversy had been waged after the pattern of those
engagements where a chosen champion on either side, in a space
carefully limited and reserved, does battle on behalf of each
silent and expectant host. The promiscuous crowds represent all the
lower elements which enter into human conflicts: the chosen
champions, and the order of their proceeding, signify the dominion
of reason over force, and its just place as the sovereign arbiter
of the great questions that involve the main destiny of man.

I will give another instance of the tumultuous method in which
the Reply conducts, not, indeed, its argument, but its case. Dr.
Field had exhibited an example of what he thought superstition, and
had drawn a distinction between superstition and religion. But to
the author of the Reply all religion is superstition, and,
accordingly, he writes as follows (p. 475):

"You are shocked at the Hindoo mother, when she gives her
child to death at the supposed command of her God. What do you
think of Abraham? of Jephthah? What is your opinion of Jehovah

Taking these three appeals in the reverse order to that in
which they are written, I will briefly ask, as to the closing
challenge, "What do you think of Jehovah himself?" whether this is
the tone in which controversy ought to be carried on? Not only is
the name of Jehovah encircled in the heart of every believer with
the profoundest reverence and love, but the Christian religion
teaches, through the Incarnation, a doctrine of personal union with
God so lofty that it can only be approached in a deep, reverential
calm. I do not deny that a person who deems a given religion to be
wicked may be led onward by logical consistency to impugn in strong
terms the character of the Author and Object of that religion. But
he is surely bound by the laws of social morality and decency to
consider well the terms and the manner of his indictment. If he
founds it upon allegations of fact, these allegations should he
carefully stated, so as to give his antagonists reasonable evidence
that it is truth and not temper which wrings from him a sentence of
condemnation, delivered in sobriety and sadness, and not without a
due commiseration for those, whom he is attempting to undeceive,
who think he is himself both deceived and a deceiver, but who
surely are entitled, while this question is in process of decision,
to require that He whom they adore should at least be treated with
those decent reserves which are deemed essential when a human

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being, say a parent, wife, or sister, is in question. But here a
contemptuous reference to Jehovah follows, not upon a careful
investigation of the cases of Abraham and of Jephthah, but upon a
mere summary citation of them to surrender themselves, so to speak,
as culprits; that is to say, a summons to accept at once, on the
authority of the Reply, the view which the writer is pleased to
take of those cases. It is true that he assures us in another part
of his paper that he has read the scriptures with care; and I feel
bound to accept this assurance, but at the same time to add that if
it had not been given I should, for one, not have made the
discovery, but might have supposed that the author had galloped,
not through, but about, the sacred volume, as a man glances over
the pages of an ordinary newspaper or novel.

Although there is no argument as to Abraham or Jephthah
expressed upon the surface, we must assume that one is intended,
and it seems to be of the following kind: "You are not entitled to
reprove the Hindoo mother who cast her child under the wheels of
the car of Juggernaut, for you approve of the conduct of Jephthah,
who (probably) sacrificed his daughter in fulfillment of a vow
(Judges xi. 31) that he would make a burnt offering of whatsoever,
on his safe return, he should meet coming forth from the doors of
his dwelling." Now the whole force of this rejoinder depends upon
our supposed obligation as believers to approve the conduct of
Jephthah. It is, therefore, a very serious question whether we are
or are not so obliged. But this question the Reply does not
condescend either to argue, or even to state. It jumps to an
extreme conclusion without the decency of an intermediate step. Are
not such methods of proceeding more suited to placards at an
election, than to disquisitions on these most solemn subjects?

I am aware of no reason why any believer in Christianity
should not be free to canvass, regret, condemn the act of Jephthah.
So far as the narration which details it is concerned, there is not
a word of sanction given to it more than to the falsehood of
Abraham in Egypt, or of Jacob and Rebecca in the matter of the
hunting (Gen. xx. 1-18, and Gen. xxiii.); or to the dissembling of
St. Peter in the case of the Judaizing converts (Gal. ii. 11). I am
aware of no color of approval given to it elsewhere. But possibly
the author of the Reply may have thought he found such an approval
in the famous eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where
the apostle, handling his subject with a discernment and care very
different from those of the Reply, writes thus (Heb. xi. 32):

"And what shall I say more? For the time would fail me to tell
of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah: of David
also, and Samuel, and of the prophets."

Jephthah, then, is distinctly held up to us by a canonical
writer as an object of praise. But of praise on what account? Why
should the Reply assume that it is on account of the sacrifice of
his child? The writer of the Reply has given us no reason, and no
rag of a reason, in support of such a proposition. But this was the
very thing he was bound by every consideration to prove, upon
making his indictment against the Almighty. In my opinion, he could
have one reason only for not giving a reason, and that was that no
reason could be found.

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The matter, however, is so full of interest, as illustrating
both the method of the Reply and that of the Apostolic writer, that
I shall enter farther into it, and draw attention to the very
remarkable structure of this noble chapter, which is to Faith what
the thirteenth of Cor. I. is to Charity. From the first to the
thirty-first verse, it commemorates the achievements of faith in
ten persons: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob,
Joseph, Moses (in greater detail than any one else), and finally
Rahab, in whom, I observe in passing, it will hardly be pretended
that she appears in this list on account of the profession she had
pursued. Then comes the rapid recital (v. 31), without any
specification of particulars whatever, of these four names: Gideon,
Barak, Samson, Jephthah. Next follows a kind of recommencement,
indicated by the word also; and the glorious act and sufferings of
the prophets are set forth largely with a singular power and
warmth, headed by the names of David and Samuel, the rest of the
sacred band being mentioned only in the mass.

Now, it is surely very remarkable that, in the whole of this
recital, the Apostle, whose "feet were shod with the preparation of
the gospel of peace," seems with a tender instinct to avoid
anything like stress on the exploits of warriors. Of the twelve
persons having a share in the detailed expositions, David is the
only warrior, and his character as a man of war is eclipsed by his
greater attributes as a prophet, or declarer of the Divine
counsels. It is yet more noteworthy that Joshua, who had so fair a
fame, but who was only a warrior, is never named in the chapter,
and we are simply told that "by faith the walls of Jericho fell
down, after they had been compassed about seven times" (Hebrews xi.
30). But the series of four names, which are given without any
specification of their title to appear in the list, are all names
of distinguished warriors. They had all done great acts of faith
and patriotism against the enemies of Israel, -- Gideon against the
Midianites, Barak against the hosts of Syria, Samson against the
Philistines, and jephthah against the children of Ammon. Their
title to appear in the list at all is in their acts of war, and the
mode of their treatment as men of war is in staking accordance with
the analogies of the chapter. All of them had committed errors.
Gideon had again and again demanded a sign, and had made a golden
ephod, "which thing became a snare unto Gideon and to his house"
(Judges viii. 27). Barak had refused to go up against Jabin unless
Deborah would join the venture (Judges v. 8). Samson had been in
dalliance with delilah. Last came Jephthah, who had, as we assume,
sacrificed his daughter in fulfillment of a rash vow. No one
supposes that any of the others are honored by mention in the
chapter on account of his sin or error: why should that supposition
be made in the case of Jephthah, at the cost of all the rules of
orderly interpretation?

Having now answered the challenge as to Jephthah, I proceed to
the case of Abraham. It would not be fair to shrink from touching
it in its tenderest point. That point is nowhere expressly touched
by the commendations bestowed upon Abraham in Scripture. I speak
now of the special form, of the words that are employed. He is not
commended because, being a father, he made all the preparations
antecedent to plunging the knife into his son. He is commended (as
I read the text) because, having received a glorious promise, a

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promise that his wife should be a mother of nations, and that kings
should be born of her (Gen. xvii. 6), and that by his seed the
blessings of redemption should be conveyed to man, and the
fulfillment of this promise depending solely upon the life of
Isaac, he was, nevertheless, willing that the chain of these
promises should be broken by the extinction of that life, because
his faith assured him that the Almighty would find the way to give
effect to His own designs (Heb. xi. 17-19). The offering of Isaac
is mentioned as a completed offering, and the intended blood-
shedding, of which I shall speak presently, is not here brought
into view.

The facts, however, which we have before us, and which are
treated in Scripture with caution, are grave and startling. A
father is commanded to sacrifice his son. Before consummation, the
sacrifice is interrupted. Yet the intention of obedience had been
formed, and certified by a series of acts. It may have been
qualified by a reserve of hope that God would interpose before the
final act, but of this we have no distinct statement, and it can
only stand as an allowable conjecture. It may be conceded that the
narrative does not supply us with a complete statement of
particulars. That being so, it behooves us to tread cautiously in
approaching it. Thus much, however, I think, may further be said:
the command was addressed to Abraham under conditions essentially
different from those which now determine for us the limits of moral

For the conditions, both socially and otherwise, were indeed
very different. The estimate of human life at the time was
different. The position of the father in the family was different:
its members were regarded as in some sense his property. There is
every reason to suppose that, around Abraham in "the land of
Moriah," the practice of human sacrifice as an act of religion was
in vigor. But we may look more deeply into the matter. According to
the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were placed under a law, not of
consciously perceived right and wrong, but of simple obedience. The
tree, of which alone they were forbidden to eat, was the tree of
the knowledge of good and evil. Duty lay for them in following the
command of the Most High, before and until they, or their
descendants, should become capable of appreciating it by an ethical
standard. Their condition was greatly analogous to that of the
infant, who has just reached the stage at which he can comprehend
that he is ordered to do this or that, but not the nature of the
thing so ordered. To the external standard of right and wrong, and
to the obligation it entails per se, the child is introduced by a
process gradually unfolded with the development of his nature, and
the opening out of what we term a moral sense. If we pass at once
from the epoch of Paradise to the period of the prophets, we
perceive the important progress that has been made in the education
of the race. The Almighty, in His mediate intercourse with Israel,
deigns to appeal to an independently conceived criterion, as to an
arbiter between His people and Himself "Come, now, and let us
reason together, saith the Lord" (Isaiah i. 18). "Yet ye say the
way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel, is not
my way equal, are not your ways unequal?" (Ezekiel xvii. 25).
Between these two epochs how wide a space of moral teaching has
been traversed! But Abraham, so far as we may judge from the pages

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of Scripture. belongs essentially to the Adamic period, far more
than to the prophetic. The notion of righteousness and sin was not
indeed hidden from him: transgression itself had opened that
chapter, and it was never to be closed: but as yet they lay wrapped
up, so to speak, in Divine command and prohibition. And what God
commanded, it was for Abraham to believe that He himself would
adjust to the harmony of His own character.

The faith of Abraham, with respect to this supreme trial,
appears to have been centered in this, that he would trust God to
all extremities, and in despite of all appearances. The command
received was obviously inconsistent with the promises which had
preceded it. It was also inconsistent with the morality
acknowledged in later times, and perhaps too definitely reflected
in our minds, by an anachronism easy to conceive, on the day of
Abraham. There can be little doubt, as between these two points of
view, that the strain upon his faith was felt mainly, to say the
least, in connection with the first mentioned. This faith is not
wholly unlike the faith of Job; for Job believed, in despite of
what was to the eye of flesh an unrighteous government of the
world. If we may still trust the Authorized Version, his cry was,
"though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job xiii. 15). This
cry was, however, the expression of one who did not expect to be
slain; and it may be that Abraham, when he said, "My son, God will
provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering," not only believed
explicitly that God would do what was right, but, moreover,
believed implicitly that a way of rescue would be found for his
son. I do not say that this case is like the case of Jephthah,
where the introduction of difficulty is only gratuitous. I confine
myself to these propositions. Though the law of moral action is the
same everywhere and always, it is variously applicable to the human
being, as we know from experience, in the various stages of his
development; and its first form is that of simple obedience to a
superior whom there is every ground to trust. And further, if the
few straggling rays of our knowledge in a case of this kind rather
exhibit a darkness lying around us than dispel it, we do not even
know all that was in the mind of Abraham, and are not in a
condition to pronounce upon it, and cannot, without departure from
sound reason, abandon that anchorage by which he probably held,
that the law of Nature was safe in the hands of the Author of
Nature, though the means of the reconciliation between the law and
the appearances have not been fully placed within our reach.

But the Reply is not entitled to so wide an answer as that
which I have given. In the parallel with the case of the Hindoo
widow, it sins against first principles. An established and
habitual practice of child-slaughter, in a country of an old and
learned civilization, presents to us a case totally different from
the issue of a command which was not designed to be obeyed and
which belongs to a period when the years of manhood were associated
in great part with the character that appertains to childhood.

It will already have been seen that the method of this Reply
is not to argue seriously from point to point, but to set out in
masses, without the labor of proof, crowds of imputations, which
may overwhelm an opponent like balls from a mitrail leuse. As the
charges lightly run over in a line or two require pages for

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exhibition and confutation, an exhaustive answer to the Reply
within the just limits of an article is on this account out of the
question; and the only proper course left open seems to be to make
a selection of what appears to be the favorite, or the most
formidable and telling assertions, and to deal with these in the
serious way which the grave interests of the theme, not the manner
of their presentation, may deserve.

It was an observation of Aristotle that weight attaches to the
undemonstrated propositions of those who are able to speak on any
given subject matter from experience. The Reply abounds in
undemonstrated propositions. They appear, however, to be delivered
without any sense of a necessity that either experience or
reasoning are required in order to give them a title to acceptance.
Thus, for example, the system of Mr. Darwin is hurled against
Christianity as a dart which cannot but be fatal (p. 475):

"His discoveries, carried to their legitimate conclusion,
destroy the creeds and sacred Scriptures of mankind."

This wide-sweeping proposition is imposed upon us with no
exposition of the how or the why; and the whole controversy of
belief one might suppose is to be determined, as if from St.
Petersburg, by a series of ukases. It is only advanced, indeed, to
decorate the introduction of Darwin's name in support of the
proposition, which I certainly should support and not contest, that
error and honesty are compatible.

On what ground, then, and for what reason, is the system of
Darwin fatal to Scriptures and to creeds? I do not enter into the
question whether it has passed from the stage of working hypothesis
into that of demonstration, but I assume, for the purposes of the
argument, all that, in this respect, the Reply can desire.

It is not possible to discover, from the random language of
the Reply, whether the scheme of Darwin is to sweep away all
theism, or is to be content with extinguishing revealed religion.
If the latter is meant, I should reply that the moral history of
man, in its principal stream, has been distinctly an evolution from
the first until now; and that the succinct though grand account of
the Creation in Genesis is singularly accordant with the same idea,
but is wider than Darwinism, since it includes in the grand
progression the inanimate world as well as the history of
organisms. But, as this could not be shown without much detail, the
Reply reduces me to the necessity of following its own
unsatisfactory example in the bald form of an assertion, that there
is no colorable ground for assuming evolution and revelation to be
at variance with one another.

If, however, the meaning be that theism is swept away by
Darwinism, I observe that, as before, we have only an unreasoned
dogma or dictum to deal with, and, dealing perforce with the
unknown, we are in danger of striking at a will of the wisp. Still,
I venture on remarking that the doctrine of Evolution has acquired
both praise and dispraise which it does not deserve. It is lauded
in the skeptical camp because it is supposed to get rid of the
shocking idea of what are termed sudden acts of creation; and it is

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as unjustly dispraised, on the opposing side, because it is thought
to bridge over the gap between man and the inferior animals, and to
give emphasis to the relationship between them. But long before the
day either of Mr. Darwin or his grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin,
this relationship had been stated, perhaps even more emphatically
by one whom, were it not that I have small title to deal in
undemonstrated assertion, I should venture to call the most
cautious, the most robust, and the most comprehensive of our
philosophers. Suppose, says Bishop Butler (Analogy, Part 2, Chap.
2) that it were implied in the natural immortality of brutes, that
they must arrive at great attainments, and become (like us)
rational and moral agents; even this would be no difficulty, since
we know not what latent powers and capacities they may be endowed
with. And if pride causes us to deem it an indignity that our race
should have proceeded by propagation from an ascending scale of
interior organisms, why should it be a more repulsive idea to have
sprung immediately from something less than man in brain and body,
than to have been fashioned according to the expression in Genesis
(Chap. II., v. 7), "out of the dust of the ground?" There are halls
and galleries of introduction in a palace, but none in a cottage;
and this arrival of the creative work at its climax through an ever
aspiring preparatory series, rather than by transition at a step
from the inanimate mould of earth, may tend rather to magnify than
to lower the creation of man on its physical side. But if belief
has (as commonly) been premature in its alarms, has non-belief been
more reflective in its exulting anticipations, and its paeans on
the assumed disappearance of what are strangely enough termed
sudden acts of creation from the sphere of our study and

One striking effect of the Darwinian theory of descent is, so
far as I understand, to reduce the breadth of all intermediate
distinctions in the scale of animated life. It does not bring all
creatures into a single lineage, but all diversities are to be
traced back, at some point in the scale and by stages indefinitely
minute, to a common ancestry. All is done by steps, nothing by
strides, leaps, or bounds; all from protoplasm up to Shakespeare,
and, again, all from primal night and chaos up to protoplasm. I do
not ask, and am incompetent to judge, whether this is among the
things proven, but I take it so for the sake of the argument; and
I ask, first, why and whereby does this doctrine eliminate the idea
of creation? Does the new philosophy teach that if the passage from
pure reptile to pure bird is achieved by a spring (so to speak)
over a chasm, this implies and requires creation; but that if
reptile passes into bird, and rudimental into finished bird, by a
thousand slight and but just discernible modifications, each one of
these is so small that they are not entitled to a name so lofty,
may be set down to any cause or no cause, as we please? I should
have supposed it miserably unphilosophical to treat the distinction
between creative and non-creative function as a simply quantitative
distinction. As respects the subjective effect on the human mind,
creation in small, when closely regarded, awakens reason to
admiring wonder, not less than creation in great: and as regards
that function itself, to me it appears no less than ridiculous to
hold that the broadly outlined and large advances of so-called
Mosaism are creation, but the refined and stealthy onward steps of
Darwinism are only manufacture, and relegate the question of a
cause into obscurity, insignificance, or oblivion.

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But does not reason really require us to go farther, to turn
the tables on the adversary, and to contend that evolution, by how
much it binds more closely together the myriad ranks of the living,
aye, and of all other orders, by so much the more consolidates,
enlarges, and enhances the true argument of design, and the entire
theistic position? If orders are not mutually related, it is easier
to conceive of them as sent at haphazard into the world. We may,
indeed, sufficiently draw an argument of design from each separate
structure, but we have no further title to build upon the position
which each of them holds as towards any other. But when the
connection between these objects has been established, and so
established that the points of transition are almost as
indiscernible as the passage from day to night, then, indeed, each
preceding stage is a prophecy of the following, each acceding one
is a memorial of the past, and, throughout the immeasurable series,
every single member of it is a witness to all the rest. The Reply
ought surely to dispose of these, and probably many more arguments
in the case, before assuming so absolutely the rights of
dictatorship, and laying it down that Darwinism, carried to its
legitimate conclusion (and I have nowhere endeavored to cut short
its career), destroys the creeds and Scriptures of mankind. That I
may be the more definite in my challenge, I would, with all
respect, ask the author of the Reply to set about confuting the
succinct and clear argument of his countryman, Mr. Fiske, who, in
the earlier part of the small work entitled Man's Destiny
(Macmillan, London, 1887) has given what seems to me an admissible
and also striking interpretation of the leading Darwinian idea in
its bearings on the theistic argument. To this very partial
treatment of a great subject I must at present confine myself; and
I proceed to another of the notions, as confident as they seem to
be crude, which the Reply has drawn into its wide-casting net (p.

"Why should God demand a sacrifice from man? Why should the
Infinite ask anything from the finite? Should the sun beg of the
glow-worm, and should the momentary spark excite the envy of the
source of light?"

This is one of the cases in which happy or showy illustration
is, in the Reply before me, set to carry with a rush the position
which argument would have to approach more laboriously and more
slowly. The case of the glow-worm with the sun cannot but move a
reader's pity, it seems so very hard. But let us suppose for a
moment that the glow-worm was so constituted, and so related to the
sun that an interaction between them was a fundamental condition of
its health and life; that the glowworm must, by the law of its
nature, like the moon, reflect upon the sun, according to its
strength and measure, the light which it receives, and that only by
a process involving that reflection its own store of vitality could
be upheld? It will be said that this is a very large petitio to
import into the glowworm's case. Yes, but it is the very petitio
which is absolutely requisite in order to make it parallel to the
case of the Christian. The argument which the Reply has to destroy
is and must be the Christian argument, and not some figure of
straw, fabricated at will. It is needless, perhaps, but it is
refreshing, to quote the noble Psalm (Ps. 1. 10, 12, 14, 15), in
which this assumption of the Reply is rebuked. "All the beasts of

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the forest are mine; and so are the cattle upon a thousand hills.
. . . If I be hungry I will not tell thee; for the whole world is
mine, and all that is therein. . . . Offer unto God thanksgiving;
and pay thy vows unto the Most Highest, and call upon Me in the
time of trouble; so will I hear thee, and thou shalt praise Me."
Let me try my hand at a counter illustration. If the Infinite is to
make no demand upon the finite, by parity of reasoning the great
and strong should scarcely make them on the weak and small. Why
then should the father make demands of love, obedience, and
sacrifice, from his young child? Is there not some flavor of the
sun and glow-worm here? But every man does so make them, if he is
a man of sense and feeling; and he makes them for the sake and in
the interest of the son himself, whose nature, expanding in the
warmth of affection and pious care, requires, by an inward law, to
return as well as to receive. And so God asks of us, in order that
what we give to Him may be far more our own than it ever was before
the giving, or than it could have been unless first rendered up to
Him, to become a part of what the gospel calls our treasure in

Although the Reply is not careful to supply us with whys, it
does not hesitate to ask for them (p. 479):

"Why should an infinitely wise and powerful God destroy the
good and preserve the vile? Why should He treat all alike here, and
in another world make an infinite difference? Why should your God
allow His worshipers, His adorers, to be destroyed by His enemies?
Why should He allow the honest, the loving, the noble, to perish at
the stake?"

The upholders of belief or of revelation, from Claudian down
to Cardinal Newman (see the very remarkable passage of the Apologia
pro vita sua, pp. 376-78), cannot and do not, seek to deny that the
methods of divine government, as they are exhibited by experience,
present to us many and varied moral problems, insoluble by our
understanding. Their existence may not, and should not, be
dissembled. But neither should they be exaggerated. Now
exaggeration by mere suggestion is the fault, the glaring fault, of
these queries. One who had no knowledge of mundane affairs beyond
the conception they insinuate would assume that, as a rule, evil
has the upper hand in the management of the world. Is this the
grave philosophical conclusion of a careful observer, or is it a
crude, hasty, and careless overstatement?

It is not difficult to conceive how, in times of sadness and
of storm, when the suffering soul can discern no light at any point
of the horizon, place is found for such an idea of life. It is, of
course, opposed to the Apostolic declaration that godliness hath
the promise of the life that now is (1 Tim. iv. 8), but I am not to
expect such a declaration to be accepted as current coin, even of
the meanest value, by the author of the Reply. Yet I will offer two
observations founded on experience in support of it, one taken from
a limited, another from a larger and more open sphere. John Wesley,
in the full prime of his mission, warned the converts whom he was
making among English laborers of a spiritual danger that lay far
ahead. It was that, becoming godly, they would become careful, and,
becoming careful, they would become wealthy. It was a just and

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sober forecast, and it represented with truth the general rule of
life, although it be a rule perplexed with exceptions. But, if this
be too narrow a sphere of observation, let us take a wider one, the
widest of all. It is comprised in the brief statement that
Christendom rules the world, and rules it, perhaps it should be
added, by the possession of a vast surplus of material as well as
moral force. Therefore the assertions carried by implication in the
queries of the Reply, which are general, are because general
untrue, although they might have been true within those prudent
limitations which the method of this Reply appears especially to

Taking, then, these challenges as they ought to have been
given, I admit that great believers, who have been also great;
masters of wisdom and knowledge, are not able to explain the
inequalities of adjustment between human beings and the conditions
in which they have been set down to work out their destiny. The
climax of these inequalities is perhaps to be found in the fact
that, whereas rational belief, viewed at large, founds the
Providential government of the world upon the hypothesis of free
agency, there are so many cases in which the overbearing mastery of
circumstance appears to reduce it to extinction or paralysis. Now,
in one sense, without doubt, these difficulties are matter for our
legitimate and necessary cognizance. it is a duty incumbent upon us
respectively, according to our means and opportunities, to decide
for ourselves, by the use of the faculty of reason given us, the
great questions of natural and revealed religion. They are to be
decided according to the evidence; and, if we cannot trim the
evidence into a consistent whole, then according to the balance of
the evidence. We are not entitled, either for or against belief, to
set up in this province any rule of investigation, except such as
common-sense teaches us to use in the ordinary conduct of life. As
in ordinary conduct, so in considering the basis of belief, we are
bound to look at the evidence as a whole, We have no right to
demand demonstrative proofs, or the removal of all conflicting
elements, either in the one sphere or in the other. What guides us
sufficiently in matters of common practice has the very same
authority to guide us in matters of speculation; more properly,
perhaps, to be called the practice of the soul. If the evidence in
the aggregate shows the being of a moral Governor of the world,
with the same force as would suffice to establish an obligation to
act in a matter of common conduct, we are bound in duty to accept
it, and have no right to demand as a condition previous that all
occasions of doubt or question be removed out of the way. Our
demands for evidence must be limited by the general reason of the
case. Does that general reason of the case make it probable that a
finite being, with a finite place in a comprehensive scheme,
devised and administered by a Being who is infinite, would be able
either to embrace within his view, or rightly to appreciate, all
the motives and the aims that may have been in the mind of the
Divine Disposer? On the contrary, a demand so unreasonable deserves
to be met with the scornful challenge of Dante (Paradise xix. 79):
Or tu sei, che vuoi sedere a scranna Per giudicar da lungi mille

Colla veduta corta d'una spanna?

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Undoubtedly a great deal here depends upon the question
whether, and in what degree, our knowledge is limited. And here the
Reply seems to be by no means in accord with Newton and with
Butler. By its contempt for authority, the Reply seems to cut off
from us all knowledge that is not at first hand; but then also it
seems to assume an original and first hand knowledge of all
possible kinds of things. I will take an instance, all the easier
to deal with because it is outside the immediate sphere of
controversy. In one of those pieces of fine writing with which the
Reply abounds, it is determined abater by a backhanded stroke (N.
A. R., p. 491) that Shakespeare is "by far the greatest of the
human race." I do not feel entitled to assert that he is not; but
how vast and complex a question is here determined for us in this
airy manner! Has the writer of the Reply really weighed the force,
and measured the sweep of his own words? Whether Shakespeare has or
has not the primacy of genius over a very few other names which
might be placed in competition with his, is a question which has
not yet been determined by the general or deliberate judgment of
lettered mankind. But behind it lies another question,
inexpressibly difficult, except for the Reply, to solve. That
question is, what is the relation of human genius to human
greatness. Is genius the sole constitutive element of greatness, or
with what other elements, and in what relations to them, is it
combined? Is every man great in proportion to his genius? Was
Goldsmith, or was Sheridan, or was Burns, or was Byron, or was
Goethe, or was Napoleon, or was Alcibiades, no smaller, and was
Johnson, or was Howard, or was Washington, or was Phocion, or
Leonidas, no greater, than in proportion to his genius properly
so-called? How are we to find a common measure, again, for
different kinds of greatness; how weigh, for example, Dante against
Julius Casar? And I am speaking of greatness properly so called,
not of goodness properly so called. We might seem to be dealing
with a writer whose contempt for authority in general is fully
balanced, perhaps outweighed, by his respect for one authority in

The religions of the world, again, have in many cases given to
many men material for life-long study. The study of the Christian
Scriptures, to say nothing of Christian life and institutions, has
been to many and justly famous men a study "never ending, still
beginning"; not, like the world of Alexander, too limited for the
powerful faculty that ranged over it; but, on the contrary, opening
height on height, and with deep answering to deep, and with
increase of fruit ever prescribing increase of effort. But the
Reply has sounded all these depths, has found them very shallow,
and is quite able to point out (p. 490) the way in which the
Saviour of the world might have been a much greater teacher than He
actually was; had He said anything, for instance, of the family
relation, had He spoken against slavery and tyranny, had He issued
a sort of code Napoleon embracing education, progress, scientific
truth, and international law. This observation on the family
relation seems to me beyond even the usual measure of extravagance
when we bear in mind that, according to the Christian scheme, the
Lord of heaven and earth "was subject" (St. Luke ii. 51) to a human
mother and a reputed human father, and that He taught (according to
the widest and, I believe, the best opinion) the absolute
indissolubility of marriage. I might cite many other instances in
reply. But the broader and the true answer to the objection is,

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that the Gospel was promulgated to teach principles and not a code
that it included the foundation of a society in which those
principles were to be conserved, developed, and applied; and that
down to this day there is not a moral question of all those which
the Reply does or does not enumerate, nor is there a question of
duty arising in the course of life for any of us, that is not
determinable in all its essentials by applying to it as a
touchstone the principles declared in the Gospel. Is not, then, the
hiatus, which the Reply has discovered in the teaching of our Lord.
an imaginary hiatus? Nay, are the suggested improvements of that
teaching really gross deteriorations? Where would have been the
wisdom of delivering to an uninstructed population of a particular
age a codified religion, which was to serve for all nations, all
ages, all states of civilization? Why was not room to be left for
the career of human thought in finding out, and in working out, the
adaptation of Christianity to the ever varying movement of the
world? And how is it that they who will not admit that a revelation
is in place when it has in view the great and necessary work of
conflict against sin, are so free in recommending enlargements of
that Revelation for purposes, as to which no such necessity can be

I have known a person who, after studying the old classical or
Olympian religion for the third part of a century, at length began
to hope that he had some partial comprehension of it, some inkling
of what it meant. Woe is him that he was not conversant either with
the faculties or with the methods of the Reply, which apparently
can dispose in half an hour of any problem, dogmatic, historical,
or moral: and which accordingly takes occasion to assure us that
Buddha was "in many respects the greatest religious teacher this
world has ever known, the broadest, the most intellectual of them
all" (p. 491). On this I shall only say that an attempt to bring
Buddha and Buddhism into line together is far beyond my reach, but
that every Christian, knowing in some degree what Christ is, and
what He has done for the world, can only be the more thankful if
Buddha, or Confucius, or any other teacher has in any point, and in
any measure, come near to the outskirts of His ineffable greatness
and glory.

It is my fault or my misfortune to remark, in this Reply, an
inaccuracy of reference, which would of itself suffice to render it
remarkable. Christ, we are told (pp. 492, 500), denounced the
chosen people of God as "a generation of vipers." This phrase is
applied by the Baptist to the crowd who came to seek baptism from
him; but it is only applied by our Lord to Scribes or Pharisees
(Luke iii. 7, Matthew xxiii. 33, and xii. 34), who are so commonly
placed by Him in contrast with the people. The error is repeated in
the mention of whited sepulchers. Take again the version of the
story of Ananias and Sapphira. We are told (p. 494) that the
Aposdes conceived the idea "of having all things in common." In the
narrative there is no statement, no suggestion of the kind; it is
a pure interpolation (Acts iv. 32-7). Motives of a reasonable
prudence are stated as a matter of fact to have influenced the
offending couple -- another pure interpolation. After the
catastrophe of Ananias "the Apostles sent for his wife" -- a third
interpolation. I refer only to these points as exhibitions of an
habitual and dangerous inaccuracy, and without any attempt at

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present to discuss the case, in which the judgments of God are
exhibited on their severer side, and in which I cannot, like the
Reply, undertake summarily to determine for what causes the
Almighty should or should not take life, or delegate the power to
take it.

Again, we have (p. 486) these words given as a quotation from
the Bible:

"They who believe and are baptized shall be saved, and they
who believe not shall be damned: and these shall go away into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."

The second clause thus reads as if applicable to the persons
mentioned in the first; that is to say, to those who reject the
tidings of the Gospel. But instead of its being a continuous
passage, the latter section is brought out of another gospel (St.
Matthew's) and another connection; and it is really written, not of
those who do not believe, but those who refuse to perform offices
of charity to their neighbor in his need. It would be wrong to call
this intentional misrepresentation; but can it be called less than
somewhat reckless negligence?

It is a more special misfortune to find a writer arguing on
the same side with his critic, and yet for the critic not to be
able to agree with him. But so it is with reference to the great
subject of immortality, as treated in the Reply.

"The idea of immortality, that, like a sea, has ebbed and
flowed in the human heart, with its countless waves of hope and
fear beating against the shores and rocks of time and fate, was not
born of any book, nor of any creed, nor of any religion. It was
born of human affection; and it will continue to ebb and flow
beneath the mist and clouds of doubt and darkness, as long as love
kisses the lips of death" (p. 483).

Here we have a very interesting chapter of the history of
human opinion disposed of in the usual summary way, by a statement
which, as it appears to me, is developed out of the writer's inner
consciousness. If the belief in immortality is not connected with
any revelation or religion, but is simply the expression of a
subjective want, then plainly we may expect the expression of it to
be strong and clear in proportion to the various degrees in which
faculty is developed among the various races of mankind. But how
does the matter stand historically? The Egyptians were not a people
of high intellectual development, and yet their religious system
was strictly associated with, I might rather say founded on, the
belief in immortality. The ancient Greeks, on the other hand, were
a race of astonishing, perhaps unrivalled, intellectual capacity.
But not only did they, in prehistoric ages, derive their scheme of
a future world from Egypt; we find also that, with the lapse of
time and the advance of the Hellenic civilization, the constructive
ideas of the system lost all life and definite outline, and the
most powerful mind of the Greek philosophy, that of Aristotle, had
no clear perception whatever of a personal existence in a future

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The favorite doctrine of the Reply is the immunity of all
error in belief from moral responsibility. In the first page (p.
473) this is stated with reserve as the "innocence of honest
error." But why such a limitation? The Reply warms with its
subject; it shows us that no error can be otherwise than honest,
inasmuch as nothing which involves honesty, or its reverse, can,
from the constitution of our nature, enter into the formation of
opinion. Here is the full blown exposition (p. 476):

"The brain thinks without asking our consent. We believe, or
we disbelieve, without an effort of the will. Belief is a result.
It is the effect of evidence upon the mind. The scales turn in
spite of him who watches. There is no opportunity of being honest,
or dishonest, in the formation of an opinion. The conclusion is
entirely independent of desire."

The reasoning faculty is, therefore, wholly extrinsic to our
moral nature, and no influence is or can be received or imparted
between them. I know not whether the meaning is that all the
faculties of our nature are like so many separate departments in
one of the modern shops that supply all human wants; that will,
memory, imagination, affection, passion, each has its own separate
domain, and that they meet only for a comparison of results, just
to tell one another what they have severally been doing. It is
difficult to conceive, if this be so, wherein consists the
personality, or individuality or organic unity of man. It is not
difficult to see that while the Reply aims at uplifting human
nature, it in reality plunges us (p. 475) into the abyss of
degradation by the destruction of moral freedom. responsibility,
and unity. For we are justly told that "reason is the supreme and
final test. "Action may be merely instinctive and habitual, or it
may be consciously founded on formulated thought; but, in the cases
where it is instinctive and habitual, it passes over, so soon as it
is challenged, into the other category, and finds a basis for
itself in some form of opinion. But, says the Reply, we have no
responsibility for our opinions: we cannot help forming them
according to the evidence as it presents itself to us. Observe, the
doctrine embraces every kind of opinion, and embraces all alike,
opinion on subjects where we like or dislike. as well as upon
subjects where we merely affirm or deny in some medium absolutely
colorless. for, if a distinction be taken between the colorless and
the colored medium, between conclusions to which passion or
propensity or imagination inclines us, and conclusions to which
these have nothing to say, then the whole ground will be cut away
from under the feet of the Reply, and it will have to build again
ab initio. Let us try this by a test case. A father who has
believed his son to have been through life upright, suddenly finds
that charges are made from various quarters against his integrity.
Or a friend, greatly dependent for the work of his life on the
co-operation of another friend, is told that that comrade is
counter-working and betraying him. I make no assumption now as to
the evidence or the result; but I ask which of them could approach
the investigation without feeling a desire to be able to acquit?
And what shall we say of the desire to condemn? Would Elizabeth
have had no leaning towards finding Mary Stuart implicated in a
conspiracy? Did English judges and juries approach with an unbiased
mind the trials for the Popish plot? Were the opinions formed by

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the English Parliament on the Treaty of Limerick formed without the
intervention of the will? Did Napoleon judge according to the
evidence when he acquitted himself in the matter of the Duc
d'Enghien? Does the intellect sit in a solitary chamber, like
Galileo in the palace of the Vatican, and pursue celestial
observation all untouched, while the turmoil of earthly business is
raging everywhere around? According to the Reply, it must be a
mistake to suppose that there is anywhere in the world such a thing
as bias, or prejudice, or prepossession: they are words without
meaning in regard to our judgments, for, even if they could raise
a clamor from without, the intellect sits within, in an atmosphere
of serenity, and, like justice, is deaf and blind, as well as calm.

In addition to all other faults, I hold that this philosophy,
or phantasm of philosophy, is eminently retrogressive. Human
nature, in its compound of flesh and spirit, becomes more, complex
with the progress of civilization; with the steady multiplication
of wants, and of means for their supply. With complication,
introspection has largely extended, and I believe that, as
observation extends its field, so far from isolating the
intelligence and making it autocratic, it tends more and more to
enhance and multiply the infinitely subtle, as well as the broader
and more palpable modes, in which the interaction of the human
faculties is carried on. Who among us has not had occasion to
observe, in the course of his experience, how largely the
intellectual power of a man is affected by the demands of life on
his moral powers, and how they open and grow, or dry up and
dwindle, according to the manner in which those demands are met.

Genius itself, however purely a conception of the intellect,
is not exempt from the strong influences of joy and suffering, love
and hatred, hope and fear, in the development of its powers. It may
be that Homer, Shakespeare, Goethe, basking upon the whole in the
sunshine of life, drew little supplementary force from its trials
and agitations. But the history of one not less wonderful than any
of these, the career of Dante, tells a different tale; and one of
the latest and most searching investigators of his history
(Scartazzini, Dante Alighieri, seine zeit, sein leben, und werkes,
B. II. Ch. 5, p. 119; also pp. 438, 9. Biel, 1869) tells, and shows
us, how the experience of his life co-operated with his
extraordinary natural gifts and capabilities to make him what he
was. Under the three great heads of love, belief, and patriotism,
his life was a continued course of ecstatic or agonizing trials.
The strain of these trials was discipline; discipline was
experience; and experience was elevation. No reader of his greatest
work will, I believe, hold with the Reply that his thoughts,
conclusions, judgments, were simple results of an automatic
process, in which the will and affections had no share, that
reasoning operations are like the whir of a clock running down, and
we can no more arrest the process or alter the conclusion than the
wheels can stop the movement or the noise. (note-1)

The doctrine taught in the Reply, that belief is, as a
general, nay, universal law, independent of the will, surely
proves, when examined, to be a plausibility of the shallowest kind.
Even in arithmetic, if a boy, through dislike of his employment,
and consequent lack of attention, brings out a wrong result for his

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sum, it can hardly be said that his conclusion is absolutely and in
all respects independent of his will. Moving onward, point by
point, toward the center of the argument, I will next take an
illustration from mathematics. It has (I apprehend) been
demonstrated that the relation of the diameter to the circumference
of a circle is not susceptible of full numerical expression. Yet,
from time to time, treatises are published which boldly announce
that they set forth the quadrature of the circle. do not deny that
this may be purely intellectual error; but would it not, on the
other hand, be hazardous to assert that no grain of egotism or
ambition has ever entered into the composition of any one of such
treatises? I have selected these instances as, perhaps, the most
favorable that can be found to the doctrine of the Reply. But the
truth is that, if we set aside matters of trivial import, the
enormous majority of human judgments are those into which the
biassing power of likes and dislikes more or less largely enters.
I admit, indeed, that the illative faculty works under rules upon
which choice and inclination ought to exercise no influence
whatever. But even if it were granted that in fact the faculty of
discourse is exempted from all such influence within its own
province, yet we come no nearer to the mark, because that faculty
has to work upon materials supplied to it by other faculties; it
draws conclusions according to premises, and the question has to be
determined whether our conceptions set forth in those premises are
or are not influenced by moral causes. For, if they be so
influenced, then in vain will be the proof that the understanding
has dealt loyally and exactly with the materials it had to work
upon; inasmuch as, although the intellectual process be normal in
itself, the operation may have been tainted ab initio by coloring
and distorting influences, which have falsified the primary

Let me now take an illustration from the extreme opposite
quarter to that which I first drew upon, The system called
Thuggism, represented in the practice of the Thugs, taught that the
act, which we describe as murder, was innocent. Was this an honest
error? Was it due, in its authors as well as in those who blindly
followed them, to an automatic process of thought, in which the
will was not consulted, and which accordingly could entail no
responsibility? If it was, then it is plain that the whole
foundations, not of belief, but of social morality, are broken up.
If it was not, then the sweeping doctrine of the present writer on
the necessary blamelessness of erroneous conclusions tumbles to the
ground like a house of cards at the breath of the child who built

In truth, the pages of the Reply, and the Letter which has
more recently followed it,* themselves demonstrate that what the
writer has asserted wholesale he overthrows and denies in detail.
"You will admit," says the Reply (p. 477), "that he, who now
persecutes for opinion's sake is infamous." But why? Suppose he
thinks that

* North American Rieview for January, 1888, "Another letter to
Dr. Field." by persecution he can bring a man from soul-destroying
falsehood to soul-saving truth, this opinion may reflect on his
intellectual debility: but that is his misfortune, not his fault.

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His brain has thought without asking his consent; he has believed
or disbelieved without an effort of the will (p. 476). Yet the very
writer, who has thus established his title to think, is the first
to hurl at him an anathema for thinking. And again, in the Letter
to Dr. Field (N. A. R., vol. 146, p. 33), "the dogma of eternal
pain" is described as "that infamy of infamies." I am not about to
discuss the subject of future retribution. If I were, it would be
my first duty to show that this writer has not adequately
considered either the scope of his own arguments (which in no way
solve the difficulties he presents) or the meaning of his words;
and my second would be to recommend his perusal of what Bishop
Butler has suggested on this head. But I am at present on ground
altogether dinerent. I am trying another issue. This author says we
believe or disbelieve without the action of the will, and,
consequently, belief or disbelief is not the proper subject of
praise or blame. And yet, according to the very same authority, the
dogma of eternal pain is what? -- not "an error of errors," but an
"infamy of infamies;" and though to hold a negative may not be a
subject of moral reproach, yet to hold the affirmative may. Truly
it may be asked, is not this a fountain which sends forth at once
sweet waters and bitter?

Once more. I wiil pass away from tender ground, and will
endeavor to lodge a broader appeal to the enlightened judgment of
the author. Says Odysseus in the Illiad (B. II.) greek greek and
more greek: and a large part of the world, stretching this
sentiment beyond its originai meaning, have held that the root of
civil power is not in the community, but in its head. In opposition
to this doctrine, the American written Constitution, and the entire
American tradition, teach the right of a nation to self-government.
And these propositions, which have divided and still divide the
world, open out respectively into vast systems of irreconcilable
ideas and laws, practices and habits of mind. Will any rational
man, above all will any American, contend that these conflicting
systems have been adopted, upheld, and enforced on one side and the
other, in the daylight of pure reasoning only, and that moral, or
immoral, causes have had nothing to do with their adoption? That
the intellect has worked impartially, like a steam-engine, and that
selfishness, love of fame, love of money, love of power, envy,
wrath, and malice, or again bias, in its least noxious form, have
never had anything to do with generating the opposing movements, or
the frightful collisions in which they have resulted? If we say
that they have not, we contradict the universal judgment of
mankind. If we say they have, then mental processes are not
automatic, but may be influenced by the will and by the passions,
affections, habits, fancies that sway the will; and this writer
will not have advanced a step toward proving the universal
innocence of error, until he has shown that propositions of
religion are essentially unlike almost all other propositions, and
that no man ever has been, or from the nature of the case can be,
affected in their acceptance or rejection by moral causes. (note-2)

To sum up. There are many passages in these noteworthy papers,
which, taken by themselves, are calculated to command warm
sympathy. Towards the close of his final, or latest letter, the
writer expresses himself as follows (N. A. R., vol. 146, p. 46.):

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


"Neither in the interest of truth, nor for the benefit of man,
is it necessary to assert what we do not know. No cause is great
enough to demand a sacrifice of candor. The mysteries of life and
death, of good and evil, have never yet been solved." How good, how
wise are these words! But coming at the close of the controversy,
have they not some of the ineffectual features of a death-bed
repentance? They can hardly be said to represent in all points the
rules under which the pages preceding them have been composed; or
he, who so justly says that we ought not to assert what we do not
know, could hardly have laid down the law as we find it a few pages
earlier (ibid, p. 40) when it is pronounced that "an infinite God
has no excuse for leaving his children in doubt and darkness."
Candor and upright intention are indeed every where manifest amidst
the flashing corruscations which really compose the staple of the
anicles. Candor and upright intention also impose upon a
commentator the duty of formulating his animadversions. I sum them
up under two heads. Whereas we are placed in an atmosphere of
mystery, relieved only by a little sphere of light round each of
us, like a clearing in an American forest (which this writer has so
well described), and rarely can see farther than is necessary for
the direction of our own conduct from day to day, we find here,
assumed by a particular person, the character of an universal judge
without appeal. And whereas the highest self-restraint is necessary
in these dark but, therefore, all the more exciting inquiries, in
order to maintain the ever quivering balance of our faculties, this
rider chooses to ride an unbroken horse, and to throw the reins
upon his neck. I have endeavored to give a sample of the results.

W. E. Gladstone.

****    ****

(note-1) I possess the confession of an illiterate criminal,
made, I think, in 1834, under the following circumstances: The new
poor law had just been passed in England, and it required persons
needing relief to go into the workhouse as a condition of receiving
it. In some parts of the country, this provision produced a
profound popular panic. The man in question was destitute at the
time. He was (I think) an old widower with four very young sons. He
rose in the night and strangled them all, one after another, with
a blue handkerchief, not from want of fatherly affection, but to
keep them out of the workhouse. The confession of this peasant,
simple in phrase, but intensely impassioned, strongly reminds me of
the Ugolino of Dante, and make some approach to its sublimity.
Such, in given circumstances, is the effect of moral agony on
mental power.

(note-2) The chief part of these observations were written
before I had received the January number of the REVIEW, with Col.
Ingersoll's additional letter to Dr. Field, who can defend himself,
and at Calvin, whose ideas I certainly cannot undertake to defend
all along the line. I do not see that the Letter adds to those, the
most salient, points of the earlier article which I have endeavored
to select for animadversion.

****     ****

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