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Title: Collected Essays, Volume V - Science and Christian Tradition: Essays
Author: Huxley, Thomas Henry, 1825-1895
Language: English
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"For close upon forty years I have been writing with one purpose; from
time to time, I have fought for that which seemed to me the truth,
perhaps still more, against that which I have thought error; and, in
this way, I have reached, indeed over-stepped, the threshold of old
age. There, every earnest man has to listen to the voice within: 'Give
an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward.'

"That I have been an unjust steward my conscience does not bear
witness. At times blundering, at times negligent, Heaven knows: but,
on the whole, I have done that which I felt able and called upon to
do; and I have done it without looking to the right or to the left;
seeking no man's favor, fearing no man's disfavor.

"But what is it that I have been doing? In the end one's conceptions
should form a whole, though only parts may have found utterance, as
occasion arose; now do these exhibit harmony and mutual connexion? In
one's zeal much of the old gets broken to pieces; but has one made
ready something new, fit to be set in the place of the old?

"That they merely destroy without reconstructing, is the especial
charge, with which those who work in this direction are constantly
reproached. In a certain sense I do not defend myself against the
charge; but I deny that any reproach is deserved.

"I have never proposed to myself to begin outward construction;
because I do not believe that the time has come for it. Our present
business is with inward preparation, especially the preparation of
those who have ceased to be content with the old, and find no
satisfaction in half measures. I have wished, and I still wish, to
disturb no man's peace of mind, no man's beliefs; but only to point
out to those in whom they are already shattered, the direction in
which, in my conviction, firmer ground lies."[1]

So wrote one of the protagonists of the New Reformation--and a
well-abused man if ever there was one--a score of years since, in the
remarkable book in which he discusses the negative and the positive
results of the rigorous application of scientific method to the
investigation of the higher problems of human life.

Recent experience leads me to imagine that there may be a good many
countrymen of my own, even at this time, to whom it may be profitable
to read, mark and inwardly digest, the weighty words of the author of
that "Leben Jesu," which, half a century ago, stirred the religious
world so seriously that it has never settled down again quite on the
old foundations; indeed, some think it never will. I have a personal
interest in the carrying out of the recommendation I venture to make.
It may enable many worthy persons, in whose estimation I should really
be glad to stand higher than I do, to become aware of the possibility
that my motives in writing the essays, contained in this and the
preceding volume, were not exactly those that they ascribe to me.

I too have reached the term at which the still, small voice, more
audible than any other to the dulled ear of age, makes its demand; and
I have found that it is of no sort of use to try to cook the accounts
rendered. Nevertheless, I distinctly decline to admit some of the
items charged; more particularly that of having "gone out of my way"
to attack the Bible; and I as steadfastly deny that "hatred of
Christianity" is a feeling with which I have any acquaintance. There
are very few things which I find it permissible to hate; and though,
it may be, that some of the organisations, which arrogate to
themselves the Christian name, have richly earned a place in the
category of hateful things, that ought to have nothing to do with
one's estimation of the religion, which they have perverted and
disfigured out of all likeness to the original.

The simple fact is that, as I have already more than once hinted, my
story is that of the wolf and the lamb over again. I have never "gone
out of my way" to attack the Bible, or anything else: it was the
dominant ecclesiasticism of my early days, which, as I believe,
without any warrant from the Bible itself, thrust the book in my way.

I had set out on a journey, with no other purpose than that of
exploring a certain province of natural knowledge; I strayed no hair's
breadth from the course which it was my right and my duty to pursue;
and yet I found that, whatever route I took, before long, I came to a
tall and formidable-looking fence. Confident as I might be in the
existence of an ancient and indefeasible right of way, before me stood
the thorny barrier with its comminatory notice-board--"No
Thoroughfare. By order. Moses." There seemed no way over; nor did the
prospect of creeping round, as I saw some do, attract me. True there
was no longer any cause to fear the spring guns and man-traps set by
former lords of the manor; but one is apt to get very dirty going on
all-fours. The only alternatives were either to give up my
journey--which I was not minded to do--or to break the fence down and
go through it.

Now I was and am, by nature, a law-abiding person, ready and willing
to submit to all legitimate authority. But I also had and have a
rooted conviction, that reasonable assurance of the legitimacy should
precede the submission; so I made it my business to look up the
manorial title-deeds. The pretensions of the ecclesiastical "Moses" to
exercise a control over the operations of the reasoning faculty in the
search after truth, thirty centuries after his age, might be
justifiable; but, assuredly, the credentials produced in justification
of claims so large required careful scrutiny.

Singular discoveries rewarded my industry. The ecclesiastical "Moses"
proved to be a mere traditional mask, behind which, no doubt, lay the
features of the historical Moses--just as many a mediæval fresco has
been hidden by the whitewash of Georgian churchwardens. And as the
æsthetic rector too often scrapes away the defacement, only to find
blurred, parti-coloured patches, in which the original design is no
longer to be traced; so, when the successive layers of Jewish and
Christian traditional pigment, laid on, at intervals, for near three
thousand years, had been removed, by even the tenderest critical
operations, there was not much to be discerned of the leader of the

Only one point became perfectly clear to me, namely, that Moses is not
responsible for nine-tenths of the Pentateuch; certainly not for the
legends which had been made the bugbears of science. In fact, the
fence turned out to be a mere heap of dry sticks and brushwood, and
one might walk through it with impunity: the which I did. But I was
still young, when I thus ventured to assert my liberty; and young
people are apt to be filled with a kind of _sæva indignatio_, when
they discover the wide discrepancies between things as they seem and
things as they are. It hurts their vanity to feel that they have
prepared themselves for a mighty struggle to climb over, or break
their way through, a rampart, which turns out, on close approach, to
be a mere heap of ruins; venerable, indeed, and archæologically
interesting, but of no other moment. And some fragment of the
superfluous energy accumulated is apt to find vent in strong language.

Such, I suppose, was my case, when I wrote some passages which occur
in an essay reprinted among "Darwiniana."[2] But when, not long ago
"the voice" put it to me, whether I had better not expunge, or modify,
these passages; whether, really, they were not a little too strong; I
had to reply, with all deference, that while, from a merely literary
point of view, I might admit them to be rather crude, I must stand by
the substance of these items of my expenditure. I further ventured to
express the conviction that scientific criticism of the Old Testament,
since 1860, has justified every word of the estimate of the authority
of the ecclesiastical "Moses" written at that time. And, carried away
by the heat of self-justification, I even ventured to add, that the
desperate attempt now set afoot to force biblical and post-biblical
mythology into elementary instruction, renders it useful and necessary
to go on making a considerable outlay in the same direction. Not yet,
has "the cosmogony of the semi-barbarous Hebrew" ceased to be the
"incubus of the philosopher, and the opprobrium of the orthodox;" not
yet, has "the zeal of the Bibliolater" ceased from troubling; not yet,
are the weaker sort, even of the instructed, at rest from their
fruitless toil "to harmonise impossibilities," and "to force the
generous new wine of science into the old bottles of Judaism."

But I am aware that the head and front of my offending lies not now
where it formerly lay. Thirty years ago, criticism of "Moses" was held
by most respectable people to be deadly sin; now it has sunk to the
rank of a mere peccadillo; at least, if it stops short of the history
of Abraham. Destroy the foundation of most forms of dogmatic
Christianity contained in the second chapter of Genesis, if you will;
the new ecclesiasticism undertakes to underpin the superstructure and
make it, at any rate to the eye, as firm as ever: but let him be
anathema who applies exactly the same canons of criticism to the
opening chapters of "Matthew" or of "Luke." School-children may be
told that the world was by no means made in six days, and that
implicit belief in the story of Noah's Ark is permissible only, as a
matter of business, to their toy-makers; but they are to hold for the
certainest of truths, to be doubted only at peril of their salvation,
that their Galilean fellow-child Jesus, nineteen centuries ago, had no
human father.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, we will pass the item of 1860, said "the voice." But why all
this more recent coil about the Gadarene swine and the like? Do you
pretend that these poor animals got in your way, years and years after
the "Mosaic" fences were down, at any rate so far as you are

Got in my way? Why, my good "voice," they were driven in my way. I had
happened to make a statement, than which, so far as I have ever been
able to see, nothing can be more modest or inoffensive; to wit, that I
am convinced of my own utter ignorance about a great number of things,
respecting which the great majority of my neighbours (not only those
of adult years, but children repeating their catechisms) affirm
themselves to possess full information. I ask any candid and impartial
judge, Is that attacking anybody or anything?

Yet, if I had made the most wanton and arrogant onslaught on the
honest convictions of other people, I could not have been more hardly
dealt with. The pentecostal charism, I believe, exhausted itself
amongst the earliest disciples. Yet any one who has had to attend, as
I have done, to copious objurgations, strewn with such appellations as
"infidel" and "coward," must be a hardened sceptic indeed if he doubts
the existence of a "gift of tongues" in the Churches of our time;
unless, indeed, it should occur to him that some of these outpourings
may have taken place after "the third hour of the day." I am far from
thinking that it is worth while to give much attention to these
inevitable incidents of all controversies, in which one party has
acquired the mental peculiarities which are generated by the habit of
much talking, with immunity from criticism. But as a rule, they are
the sauce of dishes of misrepresentations and inaccuracies which it
may be a duty, nay, even an innocent pleasure, to expose. In the
particular case of which I am thinking, I felt, as Strauss says, "able
and called upon" to undertake the business: and it is no
responsibility of mine, if I found the Gospels, with their miraculous
stories, of which the Gadarene is a typical example, blocking my way,
as heretofore, the Pentateuch had done.

I was challenged to question the authority for the theory of "the
spiritual world," and the practical consequences deducible from human
relations to it, contained in these documents.

In my judgment, the actuality of this spiritual world--the value of
the evidence for its objective existence and its influence upon the
course of things--are matters, which lie as much within the province
of science, as any other question about the existence and powers of
the varied forms of living and conscious activity.

It really is my strong conviction that a man has no more right to say
he believes this world is haunted by swarms of evil spirits, without
being able to produce satisfactory evidence of the fact, than he has a
right to say, without adducing adequate proof, that the circumpolar
antarctic ice swarms with sea-serpents. I should not like to assert
positively that it does not. I imagine that no cautious biologist
would say as much; but while quite open to conviction, he might
properly decline to waste time upon the consideration of talk, no
better accredited than forecastle "yarns," about such monsters of the
deep. And if the interests of ordinary veracity dictate this course,
in relation to a matter of so little consequence as this, what must be
our obligations in respect of the treatment of a question which is
fundamental alike for science and for ethics? For not only does our
general theory of the universe and of the nature of the order which
pervades it, hang upon the answer; but the rules of practical life
must be deeply affected by it.

The belief in a demonic world is inculcated throughout the Gospels and
the rest of the books of the New Testament; it pervades the whole
patristic literature; it colours the theory and the practice of every
Christian church down to modern times. Indeed, I doubt if, even now,
there is any church which, officially, departs from such a fundamental
doctrine of primitive Christianity as the existence, in addition to
the Cosmos with which natural knowledge is conversant, of a world of
spirits; that is to say, of intelligent agents, not subject to the
physical or mental limitations of humanity, but nevertheless competent
to interfere, to an undefined extent, with the ordinary course of both
physical and mental phenomena.

More especially is this conception fundamental for the authors of the
Gospels. Without the belief that the present world, and particularly
that part of it which is constituted by human society, has been given
over, since the Fall, to the influence of wicked and malignant
spiritual beings, governed and directed by a supreme devil--the moral
antithesis and enemy of the supreme God--their theory of salvation by
the Messiah falls to pieces. "To this end was the Son of God
manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil."[3]

The half-hearted religiosity of latter-day Christianity may choose to
ignore the fact; but it remains none the less true, that he who
refuses to accept the demonology of the Gospels rejects the revelation
of a spiritual world, made in them, as much as if he denied the
existence of such a person as Jesus of Nazareth; and deserves, as much
as any one can do, to be ear-marked "infidel" by our gentle shepherds.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now that which I thought it desirable to make perfectly clear, on my
own account, and for the sake of those who find their capacity of
belief in the Gospel theory of the universe failing them, is the fact,
that, in my judgment, the demonology of primitive Christianity is
totally devoid of foundation; and that no man, who is guided by the
rules of investigation which are found to lead to the discovery of
truth in other matters, not merely of science, but in the everyday
affairs of life, will arrive at any other conclusion. To those who
profess to be otherwise guided, I have nothing to say; but to beg them
to go their own way and leave me to mine.

I think it may be as well to repeat what I have said, over and over
again, elsewhere, that _a priori_ notions, about the possibility, or
the impossibility, of the existence of a world of spirits, such as
that presupposed by genuine Christianity, have no influence on my
mind. The question for me is purely one of evidence: is the evidence
adequate to bear out the theory, or is it not? In my judgment it is
not only inadequate, but quite absurdly insufficient. And on that
ground, I should feel compelled to reject the theory; even if there
were no positive grounds for adopting a totally different conception
of the Cosmos.

For most people, the question of the evidence of the existence of a
demonic world, in the long run, resolves itself into that of the
trustworthiness of the Gospels; first, as to the objective truth of
that which they narrate on this topic; second, as to the accuracy of
the interpretation which their authors put upon these objective facts.
For example, with respect to the Gadarene miracle, it is one question
whether, at a certain time and place, a raving madman became sane, and
a herd of swine rushed into the lake of Tiberias; and quite another,
whether the cause of these occurrences was the transmigration of
certain devils from the man into the pigs. And again, it is one
question whether Jesus made a long oration on a certain occasion,
mentioned in the first Gospel; altogether another, whether more or
fewer of the propositions contained in the "Sermon on the Mount" were
uttered on that occasion. One may give an affirmative answer to one of
each of these pairs of questions and a negative to the other: one may
affirm all, or deny all.

In considering the historical value of any four documents, proof when
they were written and who wrote them is, no doubt, highly important.
For if proof exists, that A B C and D wrote them, and that they were
intelligent persons, writing independently and without prejudice,
about facts within their own knowledge--their statements must needs be
worthy of the most attentive consideration.[4] But, even
ecclesiastical tradition does not assert that either "Mark" or "Luke"
wrote from his own knowledge--indeed "Luke" expressly asserts he did
not. I cannot discover that any competent authority now maintains that
the apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel which passes under his name. And
whether the apostle John had, or had not, anything to do with the
fourth Gospel; and if he had, what his share amounted to; are, as
everybody who has attended to these matters knows, questions still
hotly disputed, and with regard to which the extant evidence can
hardly carry an impartial judge beyond the admission of a possibility
this way or that.

Thus, nothing but a balancing of very dubious probabilities is to be
attained by approaching the question from this side. It is otherwise
if we make the documents tell their own story: if we study them, as we
study fossils, to discover internal evidence, of when they arose, and
how they have come to be. That really fruitful line of inquiry has led
to the statement and the discussion of what is known as the _Synoptic

In the Essays (VII.--XI.) which deal with the consequences of the
application of the agnostic principle to Christian Evidences,
contained in this volume, there are several references to the results
of the attempts which have been made, during the last hundred years,
to solve this problem. And, though it has been clearly stated and
discussed, in works accessible to, and intelligible by, every English
reader,[5] it may be well that I should here set forth a very brief
exposition of the matters of fact out of which the problem has arisen;
and of some consequences, which, as I conceive, must be admitted if
the facts are accepted.

These undisputed and, apparently, indisputable data may be thus

I. The three books of which an ancient, but very questionable,
ecclesiastical tradition asserts Matthew, Mark, and Luke to be the
authors, agree, not only in presenting the same general view, or
_Synopsis_, of the nature and the order of the events narrated; but,
to a remarkable extent, the very words which they employ coincide.

II. Nevertheless, there are many equally marked, and some
irreconcilable, differences between them. Narratives, verbally
identical in some portions, diverge more or less in others. The order
in which they occur in one, or in two, Gospels may be changed in
another. In "Matthew" and in "Luke" events of great importance make
their appearance, where the story of "Mark" seems to leave no place
for them; and, at the beginning and the end of the two former Gospels,
there is a great amount of matter of which there is no trace in

III. Obvious and highly important differences, in style and substance,
separate the three "Synoptics," taken together, from the fourth
Gospel, connected, by ecclesiastical tradition, with the name of the
apostle John. In its philosophical proemium; in the conspicuous
absence of exorcistic miracles; in the self-assertive theosophy of the
long and diffuse monologues, which are so utterly unlike the brief
and pregnant utterances of Jesus recorded in the Synoptics; in the
assertion that the crucifixion took place before the Passover, which
involves the denial, by implication, of the truth of the Synoptic
story--to mention only a few particulars--the "Johannine" Gospel
presents a wide divergence from the other three.

IV. If the mutual resemblances and differences of the Synoptic Gospels
are closely considered, a curious result comes out; namely, that each
may be analyzed into four components. The _first_ of these consists of
passages, to a greater or less extent verbally identical, which occur
in all three Gospels. If this triple tradition is separated from the
rest it will be found to comprise:

_a_. A narrative, of a somewhat broken and anecdotic aspect, which
covers the period from the appearance of John the Baptist to the
discovery of the emptiness of the tomb, on the first day of the week,
some six-and-thirty hours after the crucifixion.

_b_. An apocalyptic address.

_c_. Parables and brief discourses, or rather, centos of religious and
ethical exhortations and injunctions.

The _second_ and the _third_ set of components of each Gospel present
equally close resemblances to passages, which are found in only one of
the other Gospels; therefore it may be said that, for them, the
tradition is double. The _fourth_ component is peculiar to each
Gospel; it is a single tradition and has no representative in the

To put the facts in another way: each Gospel is composed of a
_threefold tradition_, two _twofold traditions_, and one _peculiar
tradition_. If the Gospels were the work of totally independent
writers, it would follow that there are three witnesses for the
statements in the first tradition; two for each of those in the
second, and only one for those in the third.

V. If the reader will now take up that extremely instructive little
book, Abbott and Rushbrooke's "Common Tradition" he will easily
satisfy himself that "Mark" has the remarkable structure just
described. Almost the whole of this Gospel consists of the first
component; namely, the _threefold tradition_. But in chap. i. 23-28 he
will discover an exorcistic story, not to be found in "Matthew," but
repeated, often word for word, in "Luke." This, therefore, belongs to
one of the _twofold traditions_. In chap. viii. 1-10, on the other
hand, there is a detailed account of the miracle of feeding the four
thousand; which is closely repeated in "Matthew" xv. 32-39, but is not
to be found in "Luke." This is an example of the other _twofold
tradition_, possible in "Mark." Finally, the story of the blind man of
Bethsaida, "Mark" viii. 22-26, is _peculiar_ to "Mark."

VI. Suppose that, A standing for the _threefold tradition_, or the
matter common to all three Gospels; we call the matter common to
"Mark" and "Matthew" only--B; that common to "Mark" and "Luke"
only--C; that common to "Matthew" and "Luke" only--D; while the
peculiar components of "Mark," "Matthew," and "Luke" are severally
indicated by E, F, G; then the structure of the Gospels may be
represented thus:

  Components of "Mark" = A + B + C + E.
     "       "Matthew" = A + B + D + F.
     "          "Luke" = A + C + D + G.

VII. The analysis of the Synoptic documents need be carried no further
than this point, in order to suggest one extremely important, and,
apparently unavoidable conclusion; and that is, that their authors
were neither three independent witnesses of the things narrated; nor,
for the parts of the narrative about which all agree, that is to say,
the _threefold tradition_, did they employ independent sources of
information. It is simply incredible that each of three independent
witnesses of any series of occurrences should tell a story so similar,
not only in arrangement and in small details, but in words, to that of
each of the others.

Hence it follows, either that the Synoptic writers have, mediately or
immediately, copied one from the other: or that the three have drawn
from a common source; that is to say, from one arrangement of similar
traditions (whether oral or written); though that arrangement may have
been extant in three or more, somewhat different versions.

VIII. The suppositions (_a_) that "Mark" had "Matthew" and "Luke"
before him; and (_b_) that either of the two latter was acquainted
with the work of the other, would seem to involve some singular

_a_. The second Gospel is saturated with the lowest supernaturalism.
Jesus is exhibited as a wonder-worker and exorcist of the first rank.
The earliest public recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus comes from
an "unclean spirit"; he himself is made to testify to the occurrence
of the miraculous feeding twice over.

The purpose with which "Mark" sets out is to show forth Jesus as the
Son of God, and it is suggested, if not distinctly stated, that he
acquired this character at his baptism by John. The absence of any
reference to the miraculous events of the infancy, detailed by
"Matthew" and "Luke;" or to the appearances after the discovery of the
emptiness of the tomb; is unintelligible, if "Mark" knew anything
about them, or believed in the miraculous conception. The second
Gospel is no summary: "Mark" can find room for the detailed story,
irrelevant to his main purpose, of the beheading of John the Baptist,
and his miraculous narrations are crowded with minute particulars. Is
it to be imagined that, with the supposed apostolic authority of
Matthew before him, he could leave out the miraculous conception of
Jesus and the ascension? Further, ecclesiastical tradition would have
us believe that Mark wrote down his recollections of what Peter
taught. Did Peter then omit to mention these matters? Did the fact
testified by the oldest authority extant, that the first appearance of
the risen Jesus was to himself seem not worth mentioning? Did he
really fail to speak of the great position in the Church solemnly
assigned to him by Jesus? The alternative would seem to be the
impeachment either of Mark's memory, or of his judgment. But Mark's
memory, is so good that he can recollect how, on the occasion of the
stilling of the waves, Jesus was asleep "on the cushion," he remembers
that the woman with the issue had "spent all she had" on her
physicians; that there was not room "even about the door" on a certain
occasion at Capernaum. And it is surely hard to believe that "Mark"
should have failed to recollect occurrences of infinitely greater
moment, or that he should have deliberately left them out, as things
not worthy of mention.

_b_. The supposition that "Matthew" was acquainted with "Luke," or
"Luke" with "Matthew" has equally grave implications. If that be so,
the one who used the other could have had but a poor opinion of his
predecessor's historical veracity. If, as most experts agree, "Luke"
is later than "Matthew," it is clear that he does not credit
"Matthew's" account of the infancy; does not believe the "Sermon on
the Mount" as given by Matthew was preached; does not believe in the
two feeding miracles, to which Jesus himself is made to refer; wholly
discredits "Matthew's" account of the events after the crucifixion;
and thinks it not worth while to notice "Matthew's" grave admission
that "some doubted."

IX. None of these troublesome consequences pursue the hypothesis that
the _threefold tradition_, in one, or more, Greek versions, was extant
before either of the canonical Synoptic Gospels; and that it furnished
the fundamental framework of their several narratives. Where and when
the threefold narrative arose, there is no positive evidence; though
it is obviously probable that the traditions it embodies, and perhaps
many others, took their rise in Palestine and spread thence to Asia
Minor, Greece, Egypt and Italy, in the track of the early
missionaries. Nor is it less likely that they formed part of the
"didaskalia" of the primitive Nazarene and Christian communities.[6]

X. The interest which attaches to "Mark" arises from the fact that it
seems to present this early, probably earliest, Greek Gospel
narrative, with least addition, or modification. If, as appears likely
from some internal evidences, it was compiled for the use of the
Christian sodalities in Rome; and that it was accepted by them as an
adequate account of the life and work of Jesus, it is evidence of the
most valuable kind respecting their beliefs and the limits of dogma,
as conceived by them.

In such case, a good Roman Christian of that epoch might know nothing
of the doctrine of the incarnation, as taught by "Matthew" and "Luke";
still less of the "logos" doctrine of "John"; neither need he have
believed anything more than the simple fact of the resurrection. It
was open to him to believe it either corporeal or spiritual. He would
never have heard of the power of the keys bestowed upon Peter; nor
have had brought to his mind so much as a suggestion of trinitarian
doctrine. He might be a rigidly monotheistic Judæo-Christian, and
consider himself bound by the law: he might be a Gentile Pauline
convert, neither knowing of nor caring for such restrictions. In
neither case would he find in "Mark" any serious stumbling-block. In
fact, persons of all the categories admitted to salvation by Justin,
in the middle of the second century,[7] could accept "Mark" from
beginning to end. It may well be, that, in this wide adaptability,
backed by the authority of the metropolitan church, there lies the
reason for the fact of the preservation of "Mark," notwithstanding its
limited and dogmatically colourless character, as compared with the
Gospels of "Luke" and "Matthew."

XI. "Mark," as we have seen, contains a relatively small body of
ethical and religious instruction and only a few parables. Were these
all that existed in the primitive threefold tradition? Were none
others current in the Roman communities, at the time "Mark" wrote,
supposing he wrote in Rome? Or, on the other hand, was there extant,
as early as the time at which "Mark" composed his Greek edition of the
primitive Evangel, one or more collections of parables and teachings,
such as those which form the bulk of the twofold tradition, common
exclusively to "Matthew" and "Luke," and are also found in their
single traditions? Many have assumed this, or these, collections to be
identical with, or at any rate based upon, the "logia," of which
ecclesiastical tradition says, that they were written in Aramaic by
Matthew, and that everybody translated them as he could.

Here is the old difficulty again. If such materials were known to
"Mark," what imaginable reason could he have for not using them?
Surely displacement of the long episode of John the Baptist--even
perhaps of the story of the Gadarene swine--by portions of the Sermon
on the Mount or by one or two of the beautiful parables in the twofold
and single traditions would have been great improvements; and might
have been effected, even though "Mark" was as much pressed for space
as some have imagined. But there is no ground for that imagination;
Mark has actually found room for four or five parables; why should he
not have given the best, if he had known of them? Admitting he was the
mere _pedissequus et breviator_ of Matthew, that even Augustine
supposed him to be, what could induce him to omit the Lord's Prayer?

Whether more or less of the materials of the twofold tradition D, and
of the peculiar traditions F and G, were or were not current in some
of the communities, as early as, or perhaps earlier than, the triple
tradition, it is not necessary for me to discuss; nor to consider
those solutions of the Synoptic problem which assume that it existed
earlier, and was already combined with more or less narrative. Those
who are working out the final solution of the Synoptic problem are
taking into account, more than hitherto, the possibility that the
widely separated Christian communities of Palestine, Asia Minor,
Egypt, and Italy, especially after the Jewish war of A.D. 66-70, may
have found themselves in possession of very different traditional
materials. Many circumstances tend to the conclusion that, in Asia
Minor, even the narrative part of the threefold tradition had a
formidable rival; and that, around this second narrative, teaching
traditions of a totally different order from those in the Synoptics,
grouped themselves; and, under the influence of converts imbued more
or less with the philosophical speculations of the time, eventually
took shape in the fourth Gospel and its associated literature.

XII. But it is unnecessary, and it would be out of place, for me to
attempt to do more than indicate the existence of these complex and
difficult questions. My purpose has been to make it clear that the
Synoptic problem must force itself upon every one who studies the
Gospels with attention; that the broad facts of the case, and some of
the consequences deducible from these facts, are just as plain to the
simple English reader as they are to the profoundest scholar.

One of these consequences is that the threefold tradition presents us
with a narrative believed to be historically true, in all its
particulars, by the major part, if not the whole, of the Christian
communities. That narrative is penetrated, from beginning to end, by
the demonological beliefs of which the Gadarene story is a specimen;
and, if the fourth Gospel indicates the existence of another and, in
some respects, irreconcilably divergent narrative, in which the
demonology retires into the background, it is none the less there.

Therefore, the demonology is an integral and inseparable component of
primitive Christianity. The farther back the origin of the gospels is
dated, the stronger does the certainty of this conclusion grow; and
the more difficult it becomes to suppose that Jesus himself may not
have shared the superstitious beliefs of his disciples.

It further follows that those who accept devils, possession, and
exorcism as essential elements of their conception of the spiritual
world may consistently consider the testimony of the Gospels to be
unimpeachable in respect of the information they give us respecting
other matters which appertain to that world.

Those who reject the gospel demonology, on the other hand, would seem
to be as completely barred, as I feel myself to be, from professing to
take the accuracy of that information for granted. If the threefold
tradition is wrong about one fundamental topic, it may be wrong about
another, while the authority of the single traditions, often mutually
contradictory as they are, becomes a vanishing quantity.

It really is unreasonable to ask any rejector of the demonology to say
more with respect to those other matters, than that the statements
regarding them may be true, or may be false; and that the ultimate
decision, if it is to be favourable, must depend on the production of
testimony of a very different character from that of the writers of
the four gospels. Until such evidence is brought forward, that
refusal of assent, with willingness to re-open the question, on cause
shown, which is what I mean by Agnosticism, is, for me, the only
course open.

       *       *       *       *       *

A verdict of "not proven" is undoubtedly unsatisfactory and
essentially provisional, so far forth as the subject of the trial is
capable of being dealt with by due process of reason.

Those who are of opinion that the historical realities at the root of
Christianity, lie beyond the jurisdiction of science, need not be
considered. Those who are convinced that the evidence is, and must
always remain, insufficient to support any definite conclusion, are
justified in ignoring the subject. They must be content to put up with
that reproach of being mere destroyers, of which Strauss speaks. They
may say that there are so many problems which are and must remain
insoluble, that the "burden of the mystery" "of all this
unintelligible world" is not appreciably affected by one more or less.

For myself, I must confess that the problem of the origin of such very
remarkable historical phenomena as the doctrines, and the social
organization, which in their broad features certainly existed, and
were in a state of rapid development, within a hundred years of the
crucifixion of Jesus; and which have steadily prevailed against all
rivals, among the most intelligent and civilized nations in the world
ever since, is, and always has been, profoundly interesting; and,
considering how recent the really scientific study of that problem,
and how great the progress made during the last half century in
supplying the conditions for a positive solution of the problem, I
cannot doubt that the attainment of such a solution is a mere question
of time.

I am well aware that it has lain far beyond my powers to take any
share in this great undertaking. All that I can hope is to have done
somewhat towards "the preparation of those who have ceased to be
contented with the old and find no satisfaction in half measures":
perhaps, also, something towards the lessening of that great
proportion of my countrymen, whose eminent characteristic it is that
they find "full satisfaction in half measures."

_December 4th, 1893_.


      [1] D.F. Strauss, _Der alte und der neue Glaube_
          (1872), pp. 9, 10.

      [2] _Collected Essays_, vol. ii., "On the Origin of
          Species" (1860).

      [3] 1 John iii. 8.

      [4] Not necessarily of more than this. A few centuries
          ago the twelve most intelligent and impartial men to be
          found in England, would have independently testified
          that the sun moves, from east to west, across the
          heavens every day.

      [5] Nowhere more concisely and clearly than in Dr.
          Sutherland Black's article "Gospels" in Chambers's
          _Encyclopædia_. References are given to the more
          elaborate discussions of the problem.

      [6] Those who regard the Apocalyptic discourse as a
          "vaticination after the event" may draw conclusions
          therefrom as to the date of the Gospels in which its
          several forms occur. But the assumption is surely
          dangerous, from an apologetic point of view, since it
          begs the question as to the unhistorical character of
          this solemn prophecy.

      [7] See p. 287 of this volume.


   I. PROLOGUE                                           1
      (_Controverted Questions_, 1892).


 III. SCIENCE AND PSEUDO-SCIENCE [1887]                 90

  IV. AN EPISCOPAL TRILOGY [1887]                      126



 VII. AGNOSTICISM [1889]                               209

VIII. AGNOSTICISM: A REJOINDER [1889]                  263

  IX. AGNOSTICISM AND CHRISTIANITY [1889]              309

   X. THE KEEPERS OF THE HERD OF SWINE [1890]          366

      METHODS [1891]                                   393


[_Controverted Questions_, 1892]

Le plus grand service qu'on puisse rendre à la science est d'y faire
place nette avant d'y rien construire.--CUVIER.

Most of the Essays comprised in the present volume have been written
during the last six or seven years, without premeditated purpose or
intentional connection, in reply to attacks upon doctrines which I
hold to be well founded; or in refutation of allegations respecting
matters lying within the province of natural knowledge, which I
believe to be erroneous; and they bear the mark of their origin in the
controversial tone which pervades them.

Of polemical writing, as of other kinds of warfare, I think it may be
said, that it is often useful, sometimes necessary, and always more or
less of an evil. It is useful, when it attracts attention to topics
which might otherwise be neglected; and when, as does sometimes
happen, those who come to see a contest remain to think. It is
necessary, when the interests of truth and of justice are at stake.
It is an evil, in so far as controversy always tends to degenerate
into quarrelling, to swerve from the great issue of what is right and
what is wrong to the very small question of who is right and who is
wrong. I venture to hope that the useful and the necessary were more
conspicuous than the evil attributes of literary militancy, when these
papers were first published; but I have had some hesitation about
reprinting them. If I may judge by my own taste, few literary dishes
are less appetising than cold controversy; moreover, there is an air
of unfairness about the presentation of only one side of a discussion,
and a flavour of unkindness in the reproduction of "winged words,"
which, however appropriate at the time of their utterance, would find
a still more appropriate place in oblivion. Yet, since I could hardly
ask those who have honoured me by their polemical attentions to confer
lustre on this collection, by permitting me to present their
lucubrations along with my own; and since it would be a manifest wrong
to them to deprive their, by no means rare, vivacities of language of
such justification as they may derive from similar freedoms on my
part; I came to the conclusion that my best course was to leave the
essays just as they were written;[8] assuring my honourable
adversaries that any heat of which signs may remain was generated, in
accordance with the law of the conservation of energy, by the force of
their own blows, and has long since been dissipated into space.

But, however the polemical coincomitants of these discussions may be
regarded--or better, disregarded--there is no doubt either about the
importance of the topics of which they treat, or as to the public
interest in the "Controverted Questions" with which they deal. Or
rather, the Controverted Question; for disconnected as these pieces
may, perhaps, appear to be, they are, in fact, concerned only with
different aspects of a single problem, with which thinking men have
been occupied, ever since they began seriously to consider the
wonderful frame of things in which their lives are set, and to seek
for trustworthy guidance among its intricacies.

Experience speedily taught them that the shifting scenes of the
world's stage have a permanent background; that there is order amidst
the seeming confusion, and that many events take place according to
unchanging rules. To this region of familiar steadiness and customary
regularity they gave the name of Nature. But, at the same time, their
infantile and untutored reason, little more, as yet, than the
playfellow of the imagination, led them to believe that this tangible,
commonplace, orderly world of Nature was surrounded and
interpenetrated by another intangible and mysterious world, no more
bound by fixed rules than, as they fancied, were the thoughts and
passions which coursed through their minds and seemed to exercise an
intermittent and capricious rule over their bodies. They attributed to
the entities, with which they peopled this dim and dreadful region, an
unlimited amount of that power of modifying the course of events of
which they themselves possessed a small share, and thus came to regard
them as not merely beyond, but above, Nature.

Hence arose the conception of a "Supernature" antithetic to
"Nature"--the primitive dualism of a natural world "fixed in fate" and
a supernatural, left to the free play of volition--which has pervaded
all later speculation and, for thousands of years, has exercised a
profound influence on practice. For it is obvious that, on this theory
of the Universe, the successful conduct of life must demand careful
attention to both worlds; and, if either is to be neglected, it may be
safer that it should be Nature. In any given contingency, it must
doubtless be desirable to know what may be expected to happen in the
ordinary course of things; but it must be quite as necessary to have
some inkling of the line likely to be taken by supernatural agencies
able, and possibly willing, to suspend or reverse that course. Indeed,
logically developed, the dualistic theory must needs end in almost
exclusive attention to Supernature, and in trust that its overruling
strength will be exerted in favour of those who stand well with its
denizens. On the other hand, the lessons of the great schoolmaster,
experience, have hardly seemed to accord with this conclusion. They
have taught, with considerable emphasis, that it does not answer to
neglect Nature; and that, on the whole, the more attention paid to her
dictates the better men fare.

Thus the theoretical antithesis brought about a practical antagonism.
From the earliest times of which we have any knowledge, Naturalism and
Supernaturalism have consciously, or unconsciously, competed and
struggled with one another; and the varying fortunes of the contest
are written in the records of the course of civilisation, from those
of Egypt and Babylonia, six thousand years ago, down to those of our
own time and people.

These records inform us that, so far as men have paid attention to
Nature, they have been rewarded for their pains. They have developed
the Arts which have furnished the conditions of civilised existence;
and the Sciences, which have been a progressive revelation of reality
and have afforded the best discipline of the mind in the methods of
discovering truth. They have accumulated a vast body of universally
accepted knowledge; and the conceptions of man and of society, of
morals and of law, based upon that knowledge, are every day more and
more, either openly or tacitly, acknowledged to be the foundations of
right action.

History also tells us that the field of the supernatural has rewarded
its cultivators with a harvest, perhaps not less luxuriant, but of a
different character. It has produced an almost infinite diversity of
Religions. These, if we set aside the ethical concomitants upon which
natural knowledge also has a claim, are composed of information about
Supernature; they tell us of the attributes of supernatural beings, of
their relations with Nature, and of the operations by which their
interference with the ordinary course of events can be secured or
averted. It does not appear, however, that supernaturalists have
attained to any agreement about these matters, or that history
indicates a widening of the influence of supernaturalism on practice,
with the onward flow of time. On the contrary, the various religions
are, to a great extent, mutually exclusive; and their adherents
delight in charging each other, not merely with error, but with
criminality, deserving and ensuing punishment of infinite severity. In
singular contrast with natural knowledge, again, the acquaintance of
mankind with the supernatural appears the more extensive and the more
exact, and the influence of supernatural doctrines upon conduct the
greater, the further back we go in time and the lower the stage of
civilisation submitted to investigation. Historically, indeed, there
would seem to be an inverse relation between supernatural and natural
knowledge. As the latter has widened, gained in precision and in
trustworthiness, so has the former shrunk, grown vague and
questionable; as the one has more and more filled the sphere of
action, so has the other retreated into the region of meditation, or
vanished behind the screen of mere verbal recognition.

Whether this difference of the fortunes of Naturalism and of
Supernaturalism is an indication of the progress, or of the regress,
of humanity; of a fall from, or an advance towards, the higher life;
is a matter of opinion. The point to which I wish to direct attention
is that the difference exists and is making itself felt. Men are
growing to be seriously alive to the fact that the historical
evolution of humanity, which is generally, and I venture to think not
unreasonably, regarded as progress, has been, and is being,
accompanied by a co-ordinate elimination of the supernatural from its
originally large occupation of men's thoughts. The question--How far
is this process to go?--is, in my apprehension, the Controverted
Question of our time.

       *       *       *       *       *

Controversy on this matter--prolonged, bitter, and fought out with the
weapons of the flesh, as well as with those of the spirit--is no new
thing to Englishmen. We have been more or less occupied with it these
five hundred years. And, during that time, we have made attempts to
establish a _modus vivendi_ between the antagonists, some of which
have had a world-wide influence; though, unfortunately, none have
proved universally and permanently satisfactory.

In the fourteenth century, the controverted question among us was,
whether certain portions of the Supernaturalism of mediæval
Christianity were well-founded. John Wicliff proposed a solution of
the problem which, in the course of the following two hundred years,
acquired wide popularity and vast historical importance: Lollards,
Hussites, Lutherans, Calvinists, Zwinglians, Socinians, and
Anabaptists, whatever their disagreements, concurred in the proposal
to reduce the Supernaturalism of Christianity within the limits
sanctioned by the Scriptures. None of the chiefs of Protestantism
called in question either the supernatural origin and infallible
authority of the Bible, or the exactitude of the account of the
supernatural world given in its pages. In fact, they could not afford
to entertain any doubt about these points, since the infallible Bible
was the fulcrum of the lever with which they were endeavouring to
upset the Chair of St. Peter. The "freedom of private judgment" which
they proclaimed, meant no more, in practice, than permission to
themselves to make free with the public judgment of the Roman Church,
in respect of the canon and of the meaning to be attached to the words
of the canonical books. Private judgment--that is to say, reason--was
(theoretically, at any rate) at liberty to decide what books were and
what were not to take the rank of "Scripture"; and to determine the
sense of any passage in such books. But this sense, once ascertained
to the mind of the sectary, was to be taken for pure truth--for the
very word of God. The controversial efficiency of the principle of
biblical infallibility lay in the fact that the conservative
adversaries of the Reformers were not in a position to contravene it
without entangling themselves in serious difficulties; while, since
both Papists and Protestants agreed in taking efficient measures to
stop the mouths of any more radical critics, these did not count.

The impotence of their adversaries, however, did not remove the
inherent weakness of the position of the Protestants. The dogma of the
infallibility of the Bible is no more self-evident than is that of the
infallibility of the Pope. If the former is held by "faith," then the
latter may be. If the latter is to be accepted, or rejected, by
private judgment, why not the former? Even if the Bible could be
proved anywhere to assert its own infallibility, the value of that
self-assertion to those who dispute the point is not obvious. On the
other hand, if the infallibility of the Bible was rested on that of a
"primitive Church," the admission that the "Church" was formerly
infallible was awkward in the extreme for those who denied its present
infallibility. Moreover, no sooner was the Protestant principle
applied to practice, than it became evident that even an infallible
text, when manipulated by private judgment, will impartially
countenance contradictory deductions; and furnish forth creeds and
confessions as diverse as the quality and the information of the
intellects which exercise, and the prejudices and passions which sway,
such judgments. Every sect, confident in the derivative infallibility
of its wire-drawing of infallible materials, was ready to supply its
contingent of martyrs; and to enable history, once more, to illustrate
the truth, that steadfastness under persecution says much for the
sincerity and still more for the tenacity, of the believer, but very
little for the objective truth of that which he believes. No martyrs
have sealed their faith with their blood more steadfastly than the

Last, but not least, the Protestant principle contained within itself
the germs of the destruction of the finality, which the Lutheran,
Calvinistic, and other Protestant Churches fondly imagined they had
reached. Since their creeds were professedly based on the canonical
Scriptures, it followed that, in the long run, whoso settled the
canon defined the creed. If the private judgment of Luther might
legitimately conclude that the epistle of James was contemptible,
while the epistles of Paul contained the very essence of Christianity,
it must be permissible for some other private judgment, on as good or
as bad grounds, to reverse these conclusions; the critical process
which excluded the Apocrypha could not be barred, at any rate by
people who rejected the authority of the Church, from extending its
operations to Daniel, the Canticles, and Ecclesiastes; nor, having got
so far, was it easy to allege any good ground for staying the further
progress of criticism. In fact, the logical development of
Protestantism could not fail to lay the authority of the Scriptures at
the feet of Reason; and, in the hands of latitudinarian and
rationalistic theologians, the despotism of the Bible was rapidly
converted into an extremely limited monarchy. Treated with as much
respect as ever, the sphere of its practical authority was minimised;
and its decrees were valid only so far as they were countersigned by
common sense, the responsible minister.

The champions of Protestantism are much given to glorify the
Reformation of the sixteenth century as the emancipation of Reason;
but it may be doubted if their contention has any solid ground; while
there is a good deal of evidence to show, that aspirations after
intellectual freedom had nothing whatever to do with the movement.
Dante, who struck the Papacy as hard blows as Wicliff; Wicliff himself
and Luther himself, when they began their work; were far enough from
any intention of meddling with even the most irrational of the dogmas
of mediæval Supernaturalism. From Wicliff to Socinus, or even to
Münzer, Rothmann, and John of Leyden, I fail to find a trace of any
desire to set reason free. The most that can be discovered is a
proposal to change masters. From being the slave of the Papacy the
intellect was to become the serf of the Bible; or, to speak more
accurately, of somebody's interpretation of the Bible, which, rapidly
shifting its attitude from the humility of a private judgment to the
arrogant Cæsaro-papistry of a state-enforced creed, had no more
hesitation about forcibly extinguishing opponent private judgments and
judges, than had the old-fashioned Pontiff-papistry.

It was the iniquities, and not the irrationalities, of the Papal
system that lay at the bottom of the revolt of the laity; which was,
essentially, an attempt to shake off the intolerable burden of certain
practical deductions from a Supernaturalism in which everybody, in
principle, acquiesced. What was the gain to intellectual freedom of
abolishing transubstantiation, image worship, indulgences,
ecclesiastical infallibility; if consubstantiation, real-unreal
presence mystifications, the bibliolatry, the "inner-light"
pretensions, and the demonology, which are fruits of the same
supernaturalistic tree, remained in enjoyment of the spiritual and
temporal support of a new infallibility? One does not free a prisoner
by merely scraping away the rust from his shackles.

It will be asked, perhaps, was not the Reformation one of the products
of that great outbreak of many-sided free mental activity included
under the general head of the Renascence? Melanchthon, Ulrich von
Hutten, Beza, were they not all humanists? Was not the arch-humanist,
Erasmus, fautor-in-chief of the Reformation, until he got frightened
and basely deserted it?

From the language of Protestant historians, it would seem that they
often forget that Reformation and Protestantism are by no means
convertible terms. There were plenty of sincere and indeed zealous
reformers, before, during, and after the birth and growth of
Protestantism, who would have nothing to do with it. Assuredly, the
rejuvenescence of science and of art; the widening of the field of
Nature by geographical and astronomical discovery; the revelation of
the noble ideals of antique literature by the revival of classical
learning; the stir of thought, throughout all classes of society, by
the printers' work, loosened traditional bonds and weakened the hold
of mediæval Supernaturalism. In the interests of liberal culture and
of national welfare, the humanists were eager to lend a hand to
anything which tended to the discomfiture of their sworn enemies, the
monks, and they willingly supported every movement in the direction of
weakening ecclesiastical interference with civil life. But the bond of
a common enemy was the only real tie between the humanist and the
protestant; their alliance was bound to be of short duration, and,
sooner or later, to be replaced by internecine warfare. The goal of
the humanists, whether they were aware of it or not, was the
attainment of the complete intellectual freedom of the antique
philosopher, than which nothing could be more abhorrent to a Luther, a
Calvin, a Beza, or a Zwingli.

The key to the comprehension of the conduct of Erasmus, seems to me to
lie in the clear apprehension of this fact. That he was a man of many
weaknesses may be true; in fact, he was quite aware of them and
professed himself no hero. But he never deserted that reformatory
movement which he originally contemplated; and it was impossible he
should have deserted the specifically Protestant reformation in which
he never took part. He was essentially a theological whig, to whom
radicalism was as hateful as it is to all whigs; or, to borrow a still
more appropriate comparison from modern times, a broad churchman who
refused to enlist with either the High Church or the Low Church
zealots, and paid the penalty of being called coward, time-server and
traitor, by both. Yet really there is a good deal in his pathetic
remonstrance that he does not see why he is bound to become a martyr
for that in which he does not believe; and a fair consideration of the
circumstances and the consequences of the Protestant reformation seems
to me to go a long way towards justifying the course he adopted.

Few men had better means of being acquainted with the condition of
Europe; none could be more competent to gauge the intellectual
shallowness and self-contradiction of the Protestant criticism of
Catholic doctrine; and to estimate, at its proper value, the fond
imagination that the waters let out by the Renascence would come to
rest amidst the blind alleys of the new ecclesiasticism. The bastard,
whilom poor student and monk, become the familiar of bishops and
princes, at home in all grades of society, could not fail to be aware
of the gravity of the social position, of the dangers imminent from
the profligacy and indifference of the ruling classes, no less than
from the anarchical tendencies of the people who groaned under their
oppression. The wanderer who had lived in Germany, in France, in
England, in Italy, and who counted many of the best and most
influential men in each country among his friends, was not likely to
estimate wrongly the enormous forces which were still at the command
of the Papacy. Bad as the churchmen might be, the statesmen were
worse; and a person of far more sanguine temperament than Erasmus
might have seen no hope for the future, except in gradually freeing
the ubiquitous organisation of the Church from the corruptions which
alone, as he imagined, prevented it from being as beneficent as it was
powerful. The broad tolerance of the scholar and man of the world
might well be revolted by the ruffianism, however genial, of one great
light of Protestantism, and the narrow fanaticism, however learned and
logical, of others; and to a cautious thinker, by whom, whatever his
shortcomings, the ethical ideal of the Christian evangel was sincerely
prized, it really was a fair question, whether it was worth while to
bring about a political and social deluge, the end of which no mortal
could foresee, for the purpose of setting up Lutheran, Zwinglian, and
other Peterkins, in the place of the actual claimant to the reversion
of the spiritual wealth of the Galilean fisherman.

Let us suppose that, at the beginning of the Lutheran and Zwinglian
movement, a vision of its immediate consequences had been granted to
Erasmus; imagine that to the spectre of the fierce outbreak of
Anabaptist communism, which opened the apocalypse, had succeeded, in
shadowy procession, the reign of terror and of spoliation in England,
with the judicial murders of his friends, More and Fisher; the bitter
tyranny of evangelistic clericalism in Geneva and in Scotland; the
long agony of religious wars, persecutions, and massacres, which
devastated France and reduced Germany almost to savagery; finishing
with the spectacle of Lutheranism in its native country sunk into mere
dead Erastian formalism, before it was a century old; while Jesuitry
triumphed over Protestantism in three-fourths of Europe, bringing in
its train a recrudescence of all the corruptions Erasmus and his
friends sought to abolish; might not he have quite honestly thought
this a somewhat too heavy price to pay for Protestantism; more
especially, since no one was in a better position than himself to know
how little the dogmatic foundation of the new confessions was able to
bear the light which the inevitable progress of humanistic criticism
would throw upon them? As the wiser of his contemporaries saw, Erasmus
was, at heart, neither Protestant nor Papist, but an "Independent
Christian"; and, as the wiser of his modern biographers have
discerned, he was the precursor, not of sixteenth century reform, but
of eighteenth century "enlightenment"; a sort of broad-church
Voltaire, who held by his "Independent Christianity" as stoutly as
Voltaire by his Deism.

In fact, the stream of the Renascence, which bore Erasmus along, left
Protestantism stranded amidst the mudbanks of its articles and creeds:
while its true course became visible to all men, two centuries later.
By this time, those in whom the movement of the Renascence was
incarnate became aware what spirit they were of; and they attacked
Supernaturalism in its Biblical stronghold, defended by Protestants
and Romanists with equal zeal. In the eyes of the "Patriarch,"
Ultramontanism, Jansenism, and Calvinism were merely three persons of
the one "Infâme" which it was the object of his life to crush. If he
hated one more than another, it was probably the last; while
D'Holbach, and the extreme left of the free-thinking host, were
disposed to show no more mercy to Deism and Pantheism.

The sceptical insurrection of the eighteenth century made a terrific
noise and frightened not a few worthy people out of their wits; but
cool judges might have foreseen, at the outset, that the efforts of
the later rebels were no more likely than those of the earlier, to
furnish permanent resting-places for the spirit of scientific inquiry.
However worthy of admiration may be the acuteness, the common sense,
the wit, the broad humanity, which abound in the writings of the best
of the free-thinkers; there is rarely much to be said for their work
as an example of the adequate treatment of a grave and difficult
investigation. I do not think any impartial judge will assert that,
from this point of view, they are much better than their adversaries.
It must be admitted that they share to the full the fatal weakness of
_a priori_ philosophising, no less than the moral frivolity common to
their age; while a singular want of appreciation of history, as the
record of the moral and social evolution of the human race, permitted
them to resort to preposterous theories of imposture, in order to
account for the religious phenomena which are natural products of that

For the most part, the Romanist and Protestant adversaries of the
free-thinkers met them with arguments no better than their own; and
with vituperation, so far inferior that it lacked the wit. But one
great Christian Apologist fairly captured the guns of the
free-thinking array, and turned their batteries upon themselves.
Speculative "infidelity" of the eighteenth century type was mortally
wounded by the _Analogy_; while the progress of the historical and
psychological sciences brought to light the important part played by
the mythopoeic faculty; and, by demonstrating the extreme readiness of
men to impose upon themselves, rendered the calling in of sacerdotal
cooperation, in most cases, a superfluity.

Again, as in the fourteenth and the sixteenth centuries, social and
political influences came into play. The free-thinking _philosophes_,
who objected to Rousseau's sentimental religiosity almost as much as
they did to _L'Infâme_, were credited with the responsibility for all
the evil deeds of Rousseau's Jacobin disciples, with about as much
justification as Wicliff was held responsible for the Peasants'
revolt, or Luther for the _Bauern-krieg_. In England, though our
_ancien régime_ was not altogether lovely, the social edifice was
never in such a bad way as in France; it was still capable of being
repaired; and our forefathers, very wisely, preferred to wait until
that operation could be safely performed, rather than pull it all down
about their ears, in order to build a philosophically planned house on
brand-new speculative foundations. Under these circumstances, it is
not wonderful that, in this country, practical men preferred the
gospel of Wesley and Whitfield to that of Jean Jacques; while enough
of the old leaven of Puritanism remained to ensure the favour and
support of a large number of religious men to a revival of evangelical
supernaturalism. Thus, by degrees, the free-thinking, or the
indifference, prevalent among us in the first half of the eighteenth
century, was replaced by a strong supernaturalistic reaction, which
submerged the work of the free-thinkers; and even seemed, for a time,
to have arrested the naturalistic movement of which that work was an
imperfect indication. Yet, like Lollardry, four centuries earlier,
free-thought merely took to running underground, safe, sooner or
later, to return to the surface.

       *       *       *       *       *

My memory, unfortunately, carries me back to the fourth decade of the
nineteenth century, when the evangelical flood had a little abated and
the tops of certain mountains were soon to appear, chiefly in the
neighbourhood of Oxford; but when nevertheless, bibliolatry was
rampant; when church and chapel alike proclaimed, as the oracles of
God, the crude assumptions of the worst informed and, in natural
sequence, the most presumptuously bigoted, of all theological schools.

In accordance with promises made on my behalf, but certainly without
my authorisation, I was very early taken to hear "sermons in the
vulgar tongue." And vulgar enough often was the tongue in which some
preacher, ignorant alike of literature, of history, of science, and
even of theology, outside that patronised by his own narrow school,
poured forth, from the safe entrenchment of the pulpit, invectives
against those who deviated from his notion of orthodoxy. From dark
allusions to "sceptics" and "infidels," I became aware of the
existence of people who trusted in carnal reason; who audaciously
doubted that the world was made in six natural days, or that the
deluge was universal; perhaps even went so far as to question the
literal accuracy of the story of Eve's temptation, or of Balaam's ass;
and, from the horror of the tones in which they were mentioned, I
should have been justified in drawing the conclusion that these rash
men belonged to the criminal classes. At the same time, those who were
more directly responsible for providing me with the knowledge
essential to the right guidance of life (and who sincerely desired to
do so), imagined they were discharging that most sacred duty by
impressing upon my childish mind the necessity, on pain of reprobation
in this world and damnation in the next, of accepting, in the strict
and literal sense, every statement contained in the Protestant Bible.
I was told to believe, and I did believe, that doubt about any of them
was a sin, not less reprehensible than a moral delict. I suppose that,
out of a thousand of my contemporaries, nine hundred, at least, had
their minds systematically warped and poisoned, in the name of the God
of truth, by like discipline. I am sure that, even a score of years
later, those who ventured to question the exact historical accuracy of
any part of the Old Testament and _a fortiori_ of the Gospels, had to
expect a pitiless shower of verbal missiles, to say nothing of the
other disagreeable consequences which visit those who, in any way, run
counter to that chaos of prejudices called public opinion.

My recollections of this time have recently been revived by the
perusal of a remarkable document,[9] signed by as many as thirty-eight
out of the twenty odd thousand clergymen of the Established Church. It
does not appear that the signataries are officially accredited
spokesmen of the ecclesiastical corporation to which they belong; but
I feel bound to take their word for it, that they are "stewards of the
Lord, who have received the Holy Ghost," and, therefore, to accept
this memorial as evidence that, though the Evangelicism of my early
days may be deposed from its place of power, though so many of the
colleagues of the thirty-eight even repudiate the title of
Protestants, yet the green bay tree of bibliolatry flourishes as it
did sixty years ago. And, as in those good old times, whoso refuses to
offer incense to the idol is held to be guilty of "a dishonour to
God," imperilling his salvation.

It is to the credit of the perspicacity of the memorialists that they
discern the real nature of the Controverted Question of the age. They
are awake to the unquestionable fact that, if Scripture has been
discovered "not to be worthy of unquestioning belief," faith "in the
supernatural itself" is, so far, undermined. And I may congratulate
myself upon such weighty confirmation of an opinion in which I have
had the fortune to anticipate them. But whether it is more to the
credit of the courage, than to the intelligence, of the thirty-eight
that they should go on to proclaim that the canonical scriptures of
the Old and New Testaments "declare incontrovertibly the actual
historical truth in all records, both of past events and of the
delivery of predictions to be thereafter fulfilled," must be left to
the coming generation to decide.

The interest which attaches to this singular document will, I think,
be based by most thinking men, not upon what it is, but upon that of
which it is a sign. It is an open secret, that the memorial is put
forth as a counterblast to a manifestation of opinion of a contrary
character, on the part of certain members of the same ecclesiastical
body, who therefore have, as I suppose, an equal right to declare
themselves "stewards of the Lord and recipients of the Holy Ghost." In
fact, the stream of tendency towards Naturalism, the course of which I
have briefly traced, has, of late years, flowed so strongly, that even
the Churches have begun, I dare not say to drift, but, at any rate, to
swing at their moorings. Within the pale of the Anglican
establishment, I venture to doubt, whether, at this moment, there are
as many thorough-going defenders of "plenary inspiration" as there
were timid questioners of that doctrine, half a century ago.
Commentaries, sanctioned by the highest authority, give up the "actual
historical truth" of the cosmogonical and diluvial narratives.
University professors of deservedly high repute accept the critical
decision that the Hexateuch is a compilation, in which the share of
Moses, either as author or as editor, is not quite so clearly
demonstrable as it might be; highly placed Divines tell us that the
pre-Abrahamic Scripture narratives may be ignored; that the book of
Daniel may be regarded as a patriotic romance of the second century
B.C.; that the words of the writer of the fourth Gospel are not always
to be distinguished from those which he puts into the mouth of Jesus.
Conservative, but conscientious, revisers decide that whole passages,
some of dogmatic and some of ethical importance, are interpolations.
An uneasy sense of the weakness of the dogma of Biblical infallibility
seems to be at the bottom of a prevailing tendency once more to
substitute the authority of the "Church" for that of the Bible. In my
old age, it has happened to me to be taken to task for regarding
Christianity as a "religion of a book" as gravely as, in my youth, I
should have been reprehended for doubting that proposition. It is a no
less interesting symptom that the State Church seems more and more
anxious to repudiate all complicity with the principles of the
Protestant Reformation and to call itself "Anglo-Catholic."
Inspiration, deprived of its old intelligible sense, is watered down
into a mystification. The Scriptures are, indeed, inspired; but they
contain a wholly undefined and indefinable "human element"; and this
unfortunate intruder is converted into a sort of biblical whipping
boy. Whatsoever scientific investigation, historical or physical,
proves to be erroneous, the "human element" bears the blame; while the
divine inspiration of such statements, as by their nature are out of
reach of proof or disproof, is still asserted with all the vigour
inspired by conscious safety from attack. Though the proposal to treat
the Bible "like any other book" which caused so much scandal, forty
years ago, may not yet be generally accepted, and though Bishop
Colenso's criticisms may still lie, formally, under ecclesiastical
ban, yet the Church has not wholly turned a deaf ear to the voice of
the scientific tempter; and many a coy divine, while "crying I will
ne'er consent," has consented to the proposals of that scientific
criticism which the memorialists renounce and denounce.

A humble layman, to whom it would seem the height of presumption to
assume even the unconsidered dignity of a "steward of science," may
well find this conflict of apparently equal ecclesiastical authorities
perplexing--suggestive, indeed, of the wisdom of postponing attention
to either, until the question of precedence between them is settled.
And this course will probably appear the more advisable, the more
closely the fundamental position of the memorialists is examined.

"No opinion of the fact or form of Divine Revelation, founded on
literary criticism [and I suppose I may add historical, or physical,
criticism] of the Scriptures themselves, can be admitted to interfere
with the traditionary testimony of the Church, when that has been once
ascertained and verified by appeal to antiquity."[10]

Grant that it is "the traditionary testimony of the Church" which
guarantees the canonicity of each and all of the books of the Old and
New Testaments. Grant also that canonicity means infallibility; yet,
according to the thirty-eight, this "traditionary testimony" has to be
"ascertained and verified by appeal to antiquity." But "ascertainment
and verification" are purely intellectual processes, which must be
conducted according to the strict rules of scientific investigation,
or be self-convicted of worthlessness. Moreover, before we can set
about the appeal to "antiquity," the exact sense of that usefully
vague term must be defined by similar means. "Antiquity" may include
any number of centuries, great or small; and whether "antiquity" is to
comprise the Council of Trent, or to stop a little beyond that of
Nicæa, or to come to an end in the time of Irenænus, or in that of
Justin Martyr, are knotty questions which can be decided, if at all,
only by those critical methods which the signataries treat so
cavalierly. And yet the decision of these questions is fundamental,
for as the limits of the canonical scriptures vary, so may the dogmas
deduced from them require modification. Christianity is one thing, if
the fourth Gospel, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the pastoral Epistles,
and the Apocalypse are canonical and (by the hypothesis) infallibly
true; and another thing, if they are not. As I have already said,
whoso defines the canon defines the creed.

Now it is quite certain with respect to some of these books, such as
the Apocalypse and the Epistle to the Hebrews, that the Eastern and
the Western Church differed in opinion for centuries; and yet neither
the one branch nor the other can have considered its judgment
infallible, since they eventually agreed to a transaction by which
each gave up its objection to the book patronised by the other.
Moreover, the "fathers" argue (in a more or less rational manner)
about the canonicity of this or that book, and are by no means above
producing evidence, internal and external, in favour of the opinions
they advocate. In fact, imperfect as their conceptions of scientific
method may be, they not unfrequently used it to the best of their
ability. Thus it would appear that though science, like Nature, may be
driven out with a fork, ecclesiastical or other, yet she surely comes
back again. The appeal to "antiquity" is, in fact, an appeal to
science, first to define what antiquity is; secondly, to determine
what "antiquity," so defined, says about canonicity; thirdly, to prove
that canonicity means infallibility. And when science, largely in the
shape of the abhorred "criticism," has answered this appeal, and has
shown that "antiquity" used her own methods, however clumsily and
imperfectly, she naturally turns round upon the appellants, and
demands that they should show cause why, in these days, science
should not resume the work the ancients did so imperfectly, and carry
it out efficiently.

But no such cause can be shown. If "antiquity" permitted Eusebius,
Origen, Tertullian, Irenæus, to argue for the reception of this book
into the canon and the rejection of that, upon rational grounds,
"antiquity" admitted the whole principle of modern criticism. If
Irenæus produces ridiculous reasons for limiting the Gospels to four,
it was open to any one else to produce good reasons (if he had them)
for cutting them down to three, or increasing them to five. If the
Eastern branch of the Church had a right to reject the Apocalypse and
accept the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Western an equal right to
accept the Apocalypse and reject the Epistle, down to the fourth
century, any other branch would have an equal right, on cause shown,
to reject both, or, as the Catholic Church afterwards actually did, to
accept both.

Thus I cannot but think that the thirty-eight are hoist with their own
petard. Their "appeal to antiquity" turns out to be nothing but a
round-about way of appealing to the tribunal, the jurisdiction of
which they affect to deny. Having rested the world of Christian
supernaturalism on the elephant of biblical infallibility, and
furnished the elephant with standing ground on the tortoise of
"antiquity," they, like their famous Hindoo analogue, have been
content to look no further; and have thereby been spared the horror of
discovering that the tortoise rests on a grievously fragile
construction, to a great extent the work of that very intellectual
operation which they anathematise and repudiate.

Moreover, there is another point to be considered. It is of course
true that a Christian Church (whether the Christian Church, or not,
depends on the connotation of the definite article) existed before the
Christian scriptures; and that the infallibility of these depends upon
the infallibility of the judgment of the persons who selected the
books of which they are composed, out of the mass of literature
current among the early Christians. The logical acumen of Augustine
showed him that the authority of the Gospel he preached must rest on
that of the Church to which he belonged.[11] But it is no less true
that the Hebrew and the Septuagint versions of most, if not all, of
the Old Testament books existed before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth;
and that their divine authority is presupposed by, and therefore can
hardly depend upon, the religious body constituted by his disciples.
As everybody knows, the very conception of a "Christ" is purely
Jewish. The validity of the argument from the Messianic prophecies
vanishes unless their infallible authority is granted; and, as a
matter of fact, whether we turn to the Gospels, the Epistles, or the
writings of the early Apologists, the Jewish scriptures are recognised
as the highest court of appeal of the Christian.

The proposal to cite Christian "antiquity" as a witness to the
infallibility of the Old Testament, when its own claims to authority
vanish, if certain propositions contained in the Old Testament are
erroneous, hardly satisfies the requirements of lay logic. It is as if
a claimant to be sole legatee, under another kind of testament, should
offer his assertion as sufficient evidence of the validity of the
will. And, even were not such a circular, or rather rotatory,
argument, that the infallibility of the Bible is testified by the
infallible Church, whose infallibility is testified by the infallible
Bible, too absurd for serious consideration, it remains permissible to
ask, Where and when the Church, during the period of its
infallibility, as limited by Anglican dogmatic necessities, has
officially decreed the "actual historical truth of all records" in the
Old Testament? Was Augustine heretical when he denied the actual
historical truth of the record of the Creation? Father Suarez,
standing on later Roman tradition, may have a right to declare that he
was; but it does not lie in the mouth of those who limit their appeal
to that early "antiquity," in which Augustine played so great a part,
to say so.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the watchers of the course of the world of thought, some view
with delight and some with horror, the recrudescence of
Supernaturalism which manifests itself among us, in shapes ranged
along the whole flight of steps, which, in this case, separates the
sublime from the ridiculous--from Neo-Catholicism and Inner-light
mysticism, at the top, to unclean things, not worthy of mention in the
same breath, at the bottom. In my poor opinion, the importance of
these manifestations is often greatly over-estimated. The extant forms
of Supernaturalism have deep roots in human nature, and will
undoubtedly die hard; but, in these latter days, they have to cope
with an enemy whose full strength is only just beginning to be put
out, and whose forces, gathering strength year by year, are hemming
them round on every side. This enemy is Science, in the acceptation of
systematized natural knowledge, which, during the last two centuries,
has extended those methods of investigation, the worth of which is
confirmed by daily appeal to Nature, to every region in which the
Supernatural has hitherto been recognised.

When scientific historical criticism reduced the annals of heroic
Greece and of regal Rome to the level of fables; when the unity of
authorship of the _Iliad_ was successfully assailed by scientific
literary criticism; when scientific physical criticism, after
exploding the geocentric theory of the universe and reducing the solar
system itself to one of millions of groups of like cosmic specks,
circling, at unimaginable distances from one another through infinite
space, showed the supernaturalistic theories of the duration of the
earth and of life upon it, to be as inadequate as those of its
relative dimensions and importance had been; it needed no prophetic
gift to see that, sooner or later, the Jewish and the early Christian
records would be treated in the same manner; that the authorship of
the Hexateuch and of the Gospels would be as severely tested; and that
the evidence in favour of the veracity of many of the statements found
in the Scriptures would have to be strong indeed, if they were to be
opposed to the conclusions of physical science. In point of fact, so
far as I can discover, no one competent to judge of the evidential
strength of these conclusions, ventures now to say that the biblical
accounts of the creation and of the deluge are true in the natural
sense of the words of the narratives. The most modern Reconcilers
venture upon is to affirm, that some quite different sense may he put
upon the words; and that this non-natural sense may, with a little
trouble, be manipulated into some sort of noncontradiction of
scientific truth.

My purpose, in the essay (XVI.) which treats of the narrative of the
Deluge, was to prove, by physical criticism, that no such event as
that described ever took place; to exhibit the untrustworthy character
of the narrative demonstrated by literary criticism; and, finally, to
account for its origin, by producing a form of those ancient legends
of pagan Chaldæa, from which the biblical compilation is manifestly
derived. I have yet to learn that the main propositions of this essay
can be seriously challenged.

In the essays (II., III.) on the narrative of the Creation, I have
endeavoured to controvert the assertion that modern science supports,
either the interpretation put upon it by Mr. Gladstone, or any
interpretation which is compatible with the general sense of the
narrative, quite apart from particular details. The first chapter of
Genesis teaches the supernatural creation of the present forms of
life; modern science teaches that they have come about by evolution.
The first chapter of Genesis teaches the successive origin--firstly,
of all the plants, secondly, of all the aquatic and aerial animals,
thirdly, of all the terrestrial animals, which now exist--during
distinct intervals of time; modern science teaches that, throughout
all the duration of an immensely long past so far as we have any
adequate knowledge of it (that is as far back as the Silurian epoch),
plants, aquatic, aerial, and terrestrial animals have co-existed; that
the earliest known are unlike those which at present exist; and that
the modern species have come into existence as the last terms of a
series, the members of which have appeared one after another. Thus,
far from confirming the account in Genesis, the results of modern
science, so far as they go, are in principle, as in detail, hopelessly
discordant with it.

Yet, if the pretensions to infallibility set up, not by the ancient
Hebrew writings themselves, but by the ecclesiastical champions and
friends from whom they may well pray to be delivered, thus shatter
themselves against the rock of natural knowledge, in respect of the
two most important of all events, the origin of things and the
palingenesis of terrestrial life, what historical credit dare any
serious thinker attach to the narratives of the fabrication of Eve, of
the Fall, of the commerce between the _Bene Elohim_ and the daughters
of men, which lie between the creational and the diluvial legends?
And, if these are to lose all historical worth, what becomes of the
infallibility of those who, according to the later scriptures, have
accepted them, argued from them, and staked far-reaching dogmatic
conclusions upon their historical accuracy?

It is the merest ostrich policy for contemporary ecclesiasticism to
try to hide its Hexateuchal head--in the hope that the inseparable
connection of its body with pre-Abrahamic legends may be overlooked.
The question will still be asked, if the first nine chapters of the
Pentateuch are unhistorical, how is the historical accuracy of the
remainder to be guaranteed? What more intrinsic claim has the story of
the Exodus than that of the Deluge, to belief? If God did not walk in
the Garden of Eden, how can we be assured that he spoke from Sinai?

       *       *       *       *       *

In some other of the following essays (IX., X., XI., XII., XIV., XV.)
I have endeavoured to show that sober and well-founded physical and
literary criticism plays no less havoc with the doctrine that the
canonical scriptures of the New Testament "declare incontrovertibly
the actual historical truth in all records." We are told that the
Gospels contain a true revelation of the spiritual world--a
proposition which, in one sense of the word "spiritual," I should not
think it necessary to dispute. But, when it is taken to signify that
everything we are told about the world of spirits in these books is
infallibly true; that we are bound to accept the demonology which
constitutes an inseparable part of their teaching; and to profess
belief in a Supernaturalism as gross as that of any primitive
people--it is at any rate permissible to ask why? Science may be
unable to define the limits of possibility, but it cannot escape from
the moral obligation to weigh the evidence in favour of any alleged
wonderful occurrence; and I have endeavoured to show that the evidence
for the Gadarene miracle is altogether worthless. We have simply
three, partially discrepant, versions of a story, about the primitive
form, the origin, and the authority for which we know absolutely
nothing. But the evidence in favour of the Gadarene miracle is as good
as that for any other.

Elsewhere, I have pointed out that it is utterly beside the mark to
declaim against these conclusions on the ground of their asserted
tendency to deprive mankind of the consolations of the Christian
faith, and to destroy the foundations of morality; still less to brand
them with the question-begging vituperative appellation of
"infidelity." The point is not whether they are wicked; but, whether,
from the point of view of scientific method, they are irrefragably
true. If they are, they will be accepted in time, whether they are
wicked, or not wicked. Nature, so far as we have been able to attain
to any insight into her ways, recks little about consolation and makes
for righteousness by very round-about paths. And, at any rate,
whatever may be possible for other people, it is becoming less and
less possible for the man who puts his faith in scientific methods of
ascertaining truth, and is accustomed to have that faith justified by
daily experience, to be consciously false to his principle in any
matter. But the number of such men, driven into the use of scientific
methods of inquiry and taught to trust them, by their education, their
daily professional and business needs, is increasing and will
continually increase. The phraseology of Supernaturalism may remain on
men's lips, but in practice they are Naturalists. The magistrate who
listens with devout attention to the precept "Thou shalt not suffer a
witch to live" on Sunday, on Monday, dismisses, as intrinsically
absurd, a charge of bewitching a cow brought against some old woman;
the superintendent of a lunatic asylum who substituted exorcism for
rational modes of treatment would have but a short tenure of office;
even parish clerks doubt the utility of prayers for rain, so long as
the wind is in the east; and an outbreak of pestilence sends men, not
to the churches, but to the drains. In spite of prayers for the
success of our arms and _Te Deums_ for victory, our real faith is in
big battalions and keeping our powder dry; in knowledge of the science
of warfare; in energy, courage, and discipline. In these, as in all
other practical affairs, we act on the aphorism "_Laborare est
orare_"; we admit that intelligent work is the only acceptable
worship; and that, whether there be a Supernature or not, our business
is with Nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is important to note that the principle of the scientific
Naturalism of the latter half of the nineteenth century, in which the
intellectual movement of the Renascence has culminated, and which was
first clearly formulated by Descartes, leads not to the denial of the
existence of any Supernature;[12] but simply to the denial of the
validity of the evidence adduced in favour of this, or of that, extant
form of Supernaturalism.

Looking at the matter from the most rigidly scientific point of view,
the assumption that, amidst the myriads of worlds scattered through
endless space, there can be no intelligence, as much greater than
man's as his is greater than a blackbeetle's; no being endowed with
powers of influencing the course of nature as much greater than his,
as his is greater than a snail's seems to me not merely baseless, but
impertinent. Without stepping beyond the analogy of that which is
known, it is easy to people the cosmos with entities, in ascending
scale, until we reach something practically indistinguishable from
omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. If our intelligence can,
in some matters, surely reproduce the past of thousands of years ago
and anticipate the future, thousands of years hence, it is clearly
within the limits of possibility that some greater intellect, even of
the same order, may be able to mirror the whole past and the whole
future; if the universe is penetrated by a medium of such a nature
that a magnetic needle on the earth answers to a commotion in the sun,
an omnipresent agent is also conceivable; if our insignificant
knowledge gives us some influence over events, practical omniscience
may confer indefinably greater power. Finally, if evidence that a
thing may be, were equivalent to proof that it is, analogy might
justify the construction of a naturalistic theology and demonology not
less wonderful than the current supernatural; just as it might justify
the peopling of Mars, or of Jupiter, with living forms to which
terrestrial biology offers no parallel. Until human life is longer and
the duties of the present press less heavily, I do not think that wise
men will occupy themselves with Jovian, or Martian, natural history;
and they will probably agree to a verdict of "not proven" in respect
of naturalistic theology, taking refuge in that agnostic confession,
which appears to me to be the only position for people who object to
say that they know what they are quite aware they do not know. As to
the interests of morality, I am disposed to think that if mankind
could be got to act up to this last principle in every relation of
life, a reformation would be effected such as the world has not yet
seen; an approximation to the millennium, such as no supernaturalistic
religion has ever yet succeeded, or seems likely ever to succeed, in

       *       *       *       *       *

I have hitherto dwelt upon scientific Naturalism chiefly in its
critical and destructive aspect. But the present incarnation of the
spirit of the Renascence differs from its predecessor in the
eighteenth century, in that it builds up, as well as pulls down.

That of which it has laid the foundation, of which it is already
raising the superstructure, is the doctrine of evolution. But so many
strange misconceptions are current about this doctrine--it is attacked
on such false grounds by its enemies, and made to cover so much that
is disputable by some of its friends, that I think it well to define
as clearly as I can, what I do not and what I do understand by the

I have nothing to say to any "Philosophy of Evolution." Attempts to
construct such a philosophy may be as useful, nay, even as admirable,
as was the attempt of Descartes to get at a theory of the universe by
the same _a priori_ road; but, in my judgment, they are as premature.
Nor, for this purpose, have I to do with any theory of the "Origin of
Species," much as I value that which is known as the Darwinian theory.
That the doctrine of natural selection presupposes evolution is quite
true; but it is not true that evolution necessarily implies natural
selection. In fact, evolution might conceivably have taken place
without the development of groups possessing the characters of

For me, the doctrine of evolution is no speculation, but a
generalisation of certain facts, which may be observed by any one who
will take the necessary trouble. These facts are those which are
classed by biologists under the heads of Embryology and of
Palæontology. Embryology proves that every higher form of individual
life becomes what it is by a process of gradual differentiation from
an extremely low form; palæontology proves, in some cases, and renders
probable in all, that the oldest types of a group are the lowest; and
that they have been followed by a gradual succession of more and more
differentiated forms. It is simply a fact, that evolution of the
individual animal and plant is taking place, as a natural process, in
millions and millions of cases every day; it is a fact, that the
species which have succeeded one another in the past, do, in many
cases, present just those morphological relations, which they must
possess, if they had proceeded, one from the other, by an analogous
process of evolution.

The alternative presented, therefore, is: either the forms of one and
the same type--say, _e.g._, that of the Horse tribe[13]--arose
successively, but independently of one another, at intervals, during
myriads of years; or, the later forms are modified descendants of the
earlier. And the latter supposition is so vastly more probable than
the former, that rational men will adopt it, unless satisfactory
evidence to the contrary can be produced. The objection sometimes put
forward, that no one yet professes to have seen one species pass into
another, comes oddly from those who believe that mankind are all
descended from Adam. Has any one then yet seen the production of
negroes from a white stock, or _vice versâ_? Moreover, is it
absolutely necessary to have watched every step of the progress of a
planet, to be justified in concluding that it really does go round the
sun? If so, astronomy is in a bad way.

I do not, for a moment, presume to suggest that some one, far better
acquainted than I am with astronomy and physics; or that a master of
the new chemistry, with its extraordinary revelations; or that a
student of the development of human society, of language, and of
religions, may not find a sufficient foundation for the doctrine of
evolution in these several regions. On the contrary, I rejoice to see
that scientific investigation, in all directions, is tending to the
same result. And it may well be, that it is only my long occupation
with biological matters that leads me to feel safer among them than
anywhere else. Be that as it may, I take my stand on the facts of
embryology and of palæontology; and I hold that our present knowledge
of these facts is sufficiently thorough and extensive to justify the
assertion that all future philosophical and theological speculations
will have to accommodate themselves to some such common body of
established truths as the following:--

1. Plants and animals have existed on our planet for many hundred
thousand, probably millions, of years. During this time, their forms,
or species, have undergone a succession of changes, which eventually
gave rise to the species which constitute the present living
population of the earth. There is no evidence, nor any reason to
suspect, that this secular process of evolution is other than a part
of the ordinary course of nature; there is no more ground for
imagining the occurrence of supernatural intervention, at any moment
in the development of species in the past, than there is for supposing
such intervention to take place, at any moment in the development of
an individual animal or plant, at the present day.

2. At present, every individual animal or plant commences its
existence as an organism of extremely simple anatomical structure; and
it acquires all the complexity it ultimately possesses by gradual
differentiation into parts of various structure and function. When a
series of specific forms of the same type, extending over a long
period of past time, is examined, the relation between the earlier and
the later forms is analogous to that between earlier and later stages
of individual development. Therefore, it is a probable conclusion
that, if we could follow living beings back to their earlier states,
we should find them to present forms similar to those of the
individual germ, or, what comes to the same thing, of those lowest
known organisms which stand upon the boundary line between plants and
animals. At present, our knowledge of the ancient living world stops
very far short of this point.

3. It is generally agreed, and there is certainly no evidence to the
contrary, that all plants are devoid of consciousness; that they
neither feel, desire, nor think. It is conceivable that the evolution
of the primordial living substance should have taken place only along
the plant line. In that case, the result might have been a wealth of
vegetable life, as great, perhaps as varied, as at present, though
certainly widely different from the present flora, in the evolution of
which animals have played so great a part. But the living world thus
constituted would be simply an admirable piece of unconscious
machinery, the working out of which lay potentially in its primitive
composition; pleasure and pain would have no place in it; it would be
a veritable Garden of Eden without any tree of the knowledge of good
and evil. The question of the moral government of such a world could
no more be asked, than we could reasonably seek for a moral purpose in
a kaleidoscope.

4. How far down the scale of animal life the phenomena of
consciousness are manifested, it is impossible to say. No one doubts
their presence in his fellow-men; and, unless any strict Cartesians
are left, no one doubts that mammals and birds are to be reckoned
creatures that have feelings analogous to our smell, taste, sight,
hearing, touch, pleasure, and pain. For my own part, I should be
disposed to extend this analogical judgment a good deal further. On
the other hand, if the lowest forms of plants are to be denied
consciousness, I do not see on what ground it is to be ascribed to the
lowest animals. I find it hard to believe that an infusory animalcule,
a foraminifer, or a fresh-water polype is capable of feeling; and, in
spite of Shakspere, I have doubts about the great sensitiveness of the
"poor beetle that we tread upon." The question is equally perplexing
when we turn to the stages of development of the individual. Granted a
fowl feels; that the chick just hatched feels; that the chick when it
chirps within the egg may possibly feel; what is to be said of it on
the fifth day, when the bird is there, but with all its tissues
nascent? Still more, on the first day, when it is nothing but a flat
cellular disk? I certainly cannot bring myself to believe that this
disk feels. Yet if it does not, there must be some time in the three
weeks, between the first day and the day of hatching, when, as a
concomitant, or a consequence, of the attainment by the brain of the
chick of a certain stage of structural evolution, consciousness makes
its appearance. I have frequently expressed my incapacity to
understand the nature of the relation between consciousness and a
certain anatomical tissue, which is thus established by observation.
But the fact remains that, so far as observation and experiment go,
they teach us that the psychical phenomena are dependent on the

In like manner, if fishes, insects, scorpions, and such animals as the
pearly nautilus, possess feeling, then undoubtedly consciousness was
present in the world as far back as the Silurian epoch. But, if the
earliest animals were similar to our rhizopods and monads, there must
have been some time, between the much earlier epoch in which they
constituted the whole animal population and the Silurian, in which
feeling dawned, in consequence of the organism having reached the
stage of evolution on which it depends.

5. Consciousness has various forms, which may be manifested
independently of one another. The feelings of light and colour, of
sound, of touch, though so often associated with those of pleasure and
pain, are, by nature, as entirely independent of them as is thinking.
An animal devoid of the feelings of pleasure and of pain, may
nevertheless exhibit all the effects of sensation and purposive
action. Therefore, it would be a justifiable hypothesis that, long
after organic evolution had attained to consciousness, pleasure and
pain were still absent. Such a world would be without either happiness
or misery; no act could be punished and none could be rewarded; and it
could have no moral purpose.

6. Suppose, for argument's sake, that all mammals and birds are
subjects of pleasure and pain. Then we may be certain that these forms
of consciousness were in existence at the beginning of the Mesozoic
epoch. From that time forth, pleasure has been distributed without
reference to merit, and pain inflicted without reference to demerit,
throughout all but a mere fraction of the higher animals. Moreover,
the amount and the severity of the pain, no less than the variety and
acuteness of the pleasure, have increased with every advance in the
scale of evolution. As suffering came into the world, not in
consequence of a fall, but of a rise, in the scale of being, so every
further rise has brought more suffering. As the evidence stands it
would appear that the sort of brain which characterizes the highest
mammals and which, so far as we know, is the indispensable condition
of the highest sensibility, did not come into existence before the
Tertiary epoch. The primordial anthropoid was probably, in this
respect, on much the same footing as his pithecoid kin. Like them he
stood upon his "natural rights," gratified all his desires to the best
of his ability, and was as incapable of either right or wrong doing
as they. It would be as absurd as in their case, to regard his
pleasures, any more than theirs, as moral rewards, and his pains, any
more than theirs, as moral punishments.

7. From the remotest ages of which we have any cognizance, death has
been the natural and, apparently, the necessary concomitant of life.
In our hypothetical world (3), inhabited by nothing but plants, death
must have very early resulted from the struggle for existence: many of
the crowd must have jostled one another out of the conditions on which
life depends. The occurrence of death, as far back as we have any
fossil record of life, however, needs not to be proved by such
arguments; for, if there had been no death there would have been no
fossil remains, such as the great majority of those we met with. Not
only was there death in the world, as far as the record of life takes
us; but, ever since mammals and birds have been preyed upon by
carnivorous animals, there has been painful death, inflicted by
mechanisms specially adapted for inflicting it.

8. Those who are acquainted with the closeness of the structural
relations between the human organisation and that of the mammals which
come nearest to him, on the one hand; and with the palæontological
history of such animals as horses and dogs, on the other; will not be
disposed to question the origin of man from forms which stand in the
same sort of relation to _Homo sapiens_, as _Hipparion_ does to
_Equus_. I think it a conclusion, fully justified by analogy, that,
sooner or later, we shall discover the remains of our less specialised
primatic ancestors in the strata which have yielded the less
specialised equine and canine quadrupeds. At present, fossil remains
of men do not take us hack further than the later part of the
Quaternary epoch; and, as was to be expected, they do not differ more
from existing men, than Quaternary horses differ from existing horses.
Still earlier we find traces of man, in implements, such as are used
by the ruder savages at the present day. Later, the remains of the
palæolithic and neolithic conditions take us gradually from the savage
state to the civilizations of Egypt and of Mycenæ; though the true
chronological order of the remains actually discovered may be

9. Much has yet to be learned, but, at present, natural knowledge
affords no support to the notion that men have fallen from a higher to
a lower state. On the contrary, everything points to a slow natural
evolution; which, favoured by the surrounding conditions in such
localities as the valleys of the Yang-tse-kang, the Euphrates, and the
Nile, reached a relatively high pitch, five or six thousand years ago;
while, in many other regions, the savage condition has persisted down
to our day. In all this vast lapse of time there is not a trace of the
occurrence of any general destruction of the human race; not the
smallest indication that man has been treated on any other principles
than the rest of the animal world.

10. The results of the process of evolution in the case of man, and in
that of his more nearly allied contemporaries, have been marvellously
different. Yet it is easy to see that small primitive differences of a
certain order, must, in the long run, bring about a wide divergence of
the human stock from the others. It is a reasonable supposition that,
in the earliest human organisms, an improved brain, a voice more
capable of modulation and articulation, limbs which lent themselves
better to gesture, a more perfect hand, capable among other things of
imitating form in plastic or other material, were combined with the
curiosity, the mimetic tendency, the strong family affection of the
next lower group; and that they were accompanied by exceptional length
of life and a prolonged minority. The last two peculiarities are
obviously calculated to strengthen the family organisation, and to
give great weight to its educative influences. The potentiality of
language, as the vocal symbol of thought, lay in the faculty of
modulating and articulating the voice. The potentiality of writing, as
the visual symbol of thought, lay in the hand that could draw; and in
the mimetic tendency, which, as we know, was gratified by drawing, as
far back as the days of Quaternary man. With speech as the record, in
tradition, of the experience of more than one generation; with writing
as the record of that of any number of generations; the experience of
the race, tested and corrected generation after generation, could be
stored up and made the starting point for fresh progress. Having these
perfectly natural factors of the evolutionary process in man before
us, it seems unnecessary to go further a-field in search of others.

11. That the doctrine of evolution implies a former state of innocence
of mankind is quite true; but, as I have remarked, it is the innocence
of the ape and of the tiger, whose acts, however they may run counter
to the principles of morality, it would be absurd to blame. The lust
of the one and the ferocity of the other are as much provided for in
their organisation, are as clear evidences of design, as any other
features that can be named.

Observation and experiment upon the phenomena of society soon taught
men that, in order to obtain the advantages of social existence,
certain rules must be observed. Morality commenced with society.
Society is possible only upon the condition that the members of it
shall surrender more or less of their individual freedom of action. In
primitive societies, individual selfishness is a centrifugal force of
such intensity that it is constantly bringing the social organisation
to the verge of destruction. Hence the prominence of the positive
rules of obedience to the elders; of standing by the family or the
tribe in all emergencies; of fulfilling the religious rites,
non-observance of which is conceived to damage it with the
supernatural powers, belief in whose existence is one of the earliest
products of human thought; and of the negative rules which restrain
each from meddling with the life or property of another.

12. The highest conceivable form of human society is that in which the
desire to do what is best for the whole dominates and limits the
action of every member of that society. The more complex the social
organisation the greater the number of acts from which each man must
abstain if he desires to do that which is best for all. Thus the
progressive evolution of society means increasing restriction of
individual freedom in certain directions.

With the advance of civilisation, and the growth of cities and of
nations by the coalescence of families and of tribes, the rules which
constitute the common foundation of morality and of law became more
numerous and complicated, and the temptations to break or evade many
of them stronger. In the absence of a clear apprehension of the
natural sanctions of these rules, a supernatural sanction was assumed;
and imagination supplied the motives which reason was supposed to be
incompetent to furnish. Religion, at first independent of morality,
gradually took morality under its protection; and the supernaturalists
have ever since tried to persuade mankind that the existence of ethics
is bound up with that of supernaturalism.

I am not of that opinion. But, whether it is correct or otherwise, it
is very clear to me that, as Beelzebub is not to be cast out by the
aid of Beelzebub, so morality is not to be established by immorality.
It is, we are told, the special peculiarity of the devil that he was a
liar from the beginning. If we set out in life with pretending to know
that which we do not know; with professing to accept for proof
evidence which we are well aware is inadequate; with wilfully shutting
our eyes and our ears to facts which militate against this or that
comfortable hypothesis; we are assuredly doing our best to deserve the
same character.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have not the presumption to imagine that, in spite of all my
efforts, errors may not have crept into these propositions. But I am
tolerably confident that time will prove them to be substantially
correct. And if they are so, I confess I do not see how any extant
supernaturalistic system can also claim exactness. That they are
irreconcilable with the biblical cosmogony, anthropology, and
theodicy is obvious; but they are no less inconsistent with the
sentimental Deism of the "Vicaire Savoyard" and his numerous modern
progeny. It is as impossible, to my mind, to suppose that the
evolutionary process was set going with full foreknowledge of the
result and yet with what we should understand by a purely benevolent
intention, as it is to imagine that the intention was purely
malevolent. And the prevalence of dualistic theories from the earliest
times to the present day--whether in the shape of the doctrine of the
inherently evil nature of matter; of an Ahriman; of a hard and cruel
Demiurge; of a diabolical "prince of this world," show how widely this
difficulty has been felt.

Many seem to think that, when it is admitted that the ancient
literature, contained in our Bibles, has no more claim to
infallibility than any other ancient literature; when it is proved
that the Israelites and their Christian successors accepted a great
many supernaturalistic theories and legends which have no better
foundation than those of heathenism, nothing remains to be done but to
throw the Bible aside as so much waste paper.

I have always opposed this opinion. It appears to me that if there is
anybody more objectionable than the orthodox Bibliolater it is the
heterodox Philistine, who can discover in a literature which, in some
respects, has no superior, nothing but a subject for scoffing and an
occasion for the display of his conceited ignorance of the debt he
owes to former generations.

Twenty-two years ago I pleaded for the use of the Bible as an
instrument of popular education, and I venture to repeat what I then

"Consider the great historical fact that, for three centuries, this
book has been woven into the life of all that is best and noblest in
English history; that it has become the national Epic of Britain and
is as familiar to gentle and simple, from John o' Groat's House to
Land's End, as Dante and Tasso once were to the Italians; that it is
written in the noblest and purest English and abounds in exquisite
beauties of mere literary form; and, finally, that it forbids the
veriest hind, who never left his village, to be ignorant of the
existence of other countries and other civilisations and of a great
past, stretching back to the furthest limits of the oldest nations in
the world. By the study of what other book could children be so much
humanised and made to feel that each figure in that vast historical
procession fills, like themselves, but a momentary space in the
interval between the Eternities; and earns the blessings or the curses
of all time, according to its effort to do good and hate evil, even as
they also are earning their payment for their work?"[14]

At the same time, I laid stress upon the necessity of placing such
instruction in lay hands; in the hope and belief, that it would thus
gradually accommodate itself to the coming changes of opinion; that
the theology and the legend would drop more and more out of sight,
while the perennially interesting historical, literary, and ethical
contents would come more and more into view.

I may add yet another claim of the Bible to the respect and the
attention of a democratic age. Throughout the history of the western
world, the Scriptures, Jewish and Christian, have been the great
instigators of revolt against the worst forms of clerical and
political despotism. The Bible has been the _Magna Charta_ of the poor
and of the oppressed; down to modern times, no State has had a
constitution in which the interests of the people are so largely taken
into account, in which the duties, so much more than the privileges,
of rulers are insisted upon, as that drawn up for Israel in
Deuteronomy and in Leviticus; nowhere is the fundamental truth that
the welfare of the State, in the long run, depends on the uprightness
of the citizen so strongly laid down. Assuredly, the Bible talks no
trash about the rights of man; but it insists on the equality of
duties, on the liberty to bring about that righteousness which is
somewhat different from struggling for "rights"; on the fraternity of
taking thought for one's neighbour as for one's self.

So far as such equality, liberty, and fraternity are included under
the democratic principles which assume the same names, the Bible is
the most democratic book in the world. As such it began, through the
heretical sects, to undermine the clerico-political despotism of the
middle ages, almost as soon as it was formed, in the eleventh century;
Pope and King had as much as they could do to put down the Albigenses
and the Waldenses in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; the
Lollards and the Hussites gave them still more trouble in the
fourteenth and fifteenth; from the sixteenth century onward, the
Protestant sects have favoured political freedom in proportion to the
degree in which they have refused to acknowledge any ultimate
authority save that of the Bible.

But the enormous influence which has thus been exerted by the Jewish
and Christian Scriptures has had no necessary connection with
cosmogonies, demonologies, and miraculous interferences. Their
strength lies in their appeals, not to the reason, but to the ethical
sense. I do not say that even the highest biblical ideal is exclusive
of others or needs no supplement. But I do believe that the human race
is not yet, possibly may never be, in a position to dispense with it.


     [8]  With a few exceptions, which are duly noted when
          they amount to more than verbal corrections.

     [9]  _Declaration on the Truth of Holy Scripture._ The
          _Times_, 18th December, 1891.

     [10] _Declaration_, Article 10.

     [11] Ego vero evangelio non crederem, nisi ecclesiæ
          Catholicæ me commoveret auctoritas.--_Contra Epistolam
          Manichæi_, cap. v.

     [12] I employ the words "Supernature" and "Supernatural"
          in their popular senses. For myself, I am bound to say
          that the term "Nature" covers the totality of that
          which is. The world of psychical phenomena appears to
          me to be as much part of "Nature" as the world of
          physical phenomena; and I am unable to perceive any
          justification for cutting the Universe into two halves,
          one natural and one supernatural.

     [13] The general reader will find an admirably clear
          and concise statement of the evidence in this case, in
          Professor Flower's recently published work _The Horse:
          a Study in Natural History_.

     [14] "The School Boards: What they Can do and what they
          May do," 1870. _Critiques and Addresses_, p. 51.



Next to undue precipitation in anticipating the results of pending
investigations, the intellectual sin which is commonest and most
hurtful to those who devote themselves to the increase of knowledge is
the omission to profit by the experience of their predecessors
recorded in the history of science and philosophy. It is true that, at
the present day, there is more excuse than at any former time for such
neglect. No small labour is needed to raise one's self to the level of
the acquisitions already made; and able men, who have achieved thus
much, know that, if they devote themselves body and soul to the
increase of their store, and avoid looking back, with as much care as
if the injunction laid on Lot and his family were binding upon them,
such devotion is sure to be richly repaid by the joys of the
discoverer and the solace of fame, if not by rewards of a less
elevated character.

So, following the advice of Francis Bacon, we refuse _inter mortuos
quærere vivum_; we leave the past to bury its dead, and ignore our
intellectual ancestry. Nor are we content with that. We follow the
evil example set us, not only by Bacon but by almost all the men of
the Renaissance, in pouring scorn upon the work of our immediate
spiritual forefathers, the schoolmen of the Middle Ages. It is
accepted as a truth which is indisputable, that, for seven or eight
centuries, a long succession of able men--some of them of transcendent
acuteness and encyclopædic knowledge--devoted laborious lives to the
grave discussion of mere frivolities and the arduous pursuit of
intellectual will-o'-the-wisps. To say nothing of a little modesty, a
little impartial pondering over personal experience might suggest a
doubt as to the adequacy of this short and easy method of dealing with
a large chapter of the history of the human mind. Even an acquaintance
with popular literature which had extended so far as to include that
part of the contributions of Sam Slick which contains his weighty
aphorism that "there is a great deal of human nature in all mankind,"
might raise a doubt whether, after all, the men of that epoch, who,
take them all round, were endowed with wisdom and folly in much the
same proportion as ourselves, were likely to display nothing better
than the qualities of energetic idiots, when they devoted their
faculties to the elucidation of problems which were to them, and
indeed are to us, the most serious which life has to offer. Speaking
for myself, the longer I live the more I am disposed to think that
there is much less either of pure folly, or of pure wickedness, in the
world than is commonly supposed. It may be doubted if any sane man
ever said to himself, "Evil, be thou my good," and I have never yet
had the good fortune to meet with a perfect fool. When I have brought
to the inquiry the patience and long-suffering which become a
scientific investigator, the most promising specimens have turned out
to have a good deal to say for themselves from their own point of
view. And, sometimes, calm reflection has taught the humiliating
lesson, that their point of view was not so different from my own as I
had fondly imagined. Comprehension is more than half-way to sympathy,
here as elsewhere.

If we turn our attention to scholastic philosophy in the frame of mind
suggested by these prefatory remarks, it assumes a very different
character from that which it bears in general estimation. No doubt it
is surrounded by a dense thicket of thorny logomachies and obscured by
the dust-clouds of a barbarous and perplexing terminology. But suppose
that, undeterred by much grime and by many scratches, the explorer
has toiled through this jungle, he comes to an open country which is
amazingly like his dear native land. The hills which he has to climb,
the ravines he has to avoid, look very much the same; there is the
same infinite space above, and the same abyss of the unknown below;
the means of travelling are the same, and the goal is the same.

That goal for the schoolmen, as for us, is the settlement of the
question how far the universe is the manifestation of a rational
order; in other words, how far logical deduction from indisputable
premisses will account for what which has happened and does happen.
That was the object of scholasticism, and, so far as I am aware, the
object of modern science may be expressed in the same terms. In
pursuit of this end, modern science takes into account all the
phenomena of the universe which are brought to our knowledge by
observation or by experiment. It admits that there are two worlds to
be considered, the one physical and the other psychical; and that
though there is a most intimate relation and interconnection between
the two, the bridge from one to the other has yet to be found; that
their phenomena run, not in one series, but along two parallel lines.

To the schoolmen the duality of the universe appeared under a
different aspect. How this came about will not be intelligible unless
we clearly apprehend the fact that they did really believe in
dogmatic Christianity as it was formulated by the Roman Church. They
did not give a mere dull assent to anything the Church told them on
Sundays, and ignore her teachings for the rest of the week; but they
lived and moved and had their being in that supersensible theological
world which was created, or rather grew up, during the first four
centuries of our reckoning, and which occupied their thoughts far more
than the sensible world in which their earthly lot was cast.

For the most part, we learn history from the colourless compendiums or
partisan briefs of mere scholars, who have too little acquaintance
with practical life, and too little insight into speculative problems,
to understand that about which they write. In historical science, as
in all sciences which have to do with concrete phenomena, laboratory
practice is indispensable; and the laboratory practice of historical
science is afforded, on the one hand, by active social and political
life, and, on the other, by the study of those tendencies and
operations of the mind which embody themselves in philosophical and
theological systems. Thucydides and Tacitus, and, to come nearer our
own time, Hume and Grote, were men of affairs, and had acquired, by
direct contact with social and political history in the making, the
secret of understanding how such history is made. Our notions of the
intellectual history of the middle ages are, unfortunately, too often
derived from writers who have never seriously grappled with
philosophical and theological problems: and hence that strange myth of
a millennium of moonshine to which I have adverted.

However, no very profound study of the works of contemporary writers
who, without devoting themselves specially to theology or philosophy,
were learned and enlightened--such men, for example, as Eginhard or
Dante--is necessary to convince one's self, that, for them, the world
of the theologian was an ever-present and awful reality. From the
centre of that world, the Divine Trinity, surrounded by a hierarchy of
angels and saints, contemplated and governed the insignificant
sensible world in which the inferior spirits of men, burdened with the
debasement of their material embodiment and continually solicited to
their perdition by a no less numerous and almost as powerful hierarchy
of devils, were constantly struggling on the edge of the pit of
everlasting damnation.[15]

The men of the middle ages believed that through the Scriptures, the
traditions of the Fathers, and the authority of the Church, they were
in possession of far more, and more trustworthy, information with
respect to the nature and order of things in the theological world
than they had in regard to the nature and order of things in the
sensible world. And, if the two sources of information came into
conflict, so much the worse for the sensible world, which, after all,
was more or less under the dominion of Satan. Let us suppose that a
telescope powerful enough to show us what is going on in the nebula of
the sword of Orion, should reveal a world in which stones fell
upwards, parallel lines met, and the fourth dimension of space was
quite obvious. Men of science would have only two alternatives before
them. Either the terrestrial and the nebular facts must be brought
into harmony by such feats of subtle sophistry as the human mind is
always capable of performing when driven into a corner; or science
must throw down its arms in despair, and commit suicide, either by the
admission that the universe is, after all, irrational, inasmuch as
that which is truth in one corner of it is absurdity in another, or by
a declaration of incompetency.

In the middle ages, the labours of those great men who endeavoured to
reconcile the system of thought which started from the data of pure
reason, with that which started from the data of Roman theology,
produced the system of thought which is known as scholastic
philosophy; the alternative of surrender and suicide is exemplified by
Avicenna and his followers when they declared that that which is true
in theology may be false in philosophy, and _vice versâ_; and by
Sanchez in his famous defence of the thesis "_Quod nil scitur_."

To those who deny the validity of one of the primary assumptions of
the disputants--who decline, on the ground of the utter insufficiency
of the evidence, to put faith in the reality of that other world, the
geography and the inhabitants of which are so confidently described in
the so-called[16] Christianity of Catholicism--the long and bitter
contest, which engaged the best intellects for so many centuries, may
seem a terrible illustration of the wasteful way in which the struggle
for existence is carried on in the world of thought, no less than in
that of matter. But there is a more cheerful mode of looking at the
history of scholasticism. It ground and sharpened the dialectic
implements of our race as perhaps nothing but discussions, in the
result of which men thought their eternal, no less than their
temporal, interests were at stake, could have done. When a logical
blunder may ensure combustion, not only in the next world but in this,
the construction of syllogisms acquires a peculiar interest. Moreover,
the schools kept the thinking faculty alive and active, when the
disturbed state of civil life, the mephitic atmosphere engendered by
the dominant ecclesiasticism, and the almost total neglect of natural
knowledge, might well have stifled it. And, finally, it should be
remembered that scholasticism really did thresh out pretty effectually
certain problems which have presented themselves to mankind ever since
they began to think, and which, I suppose, will present themselves so
long as they continue to think. Consider, for example, the controversy
of the Realists and the Nominalists, which was carried on with varying
fortunes, and under various names, from the time of Scotus Erigena to
the end of the scholastic period. Has it now a merely antiquarian
interest? Has Nominalism, in any of its modifications, so completely
won the day that Realism may be regarded as dead and buried without
hope of resurrection? Many people seem to think so, but it appears to
me that, without taking Catholic philosophy into consideration, one
has not to look about far to find evidence that Realism is still to
the fore, and indeed extremely lively.[17]

       *       *       *       *       *

The other day I happened to meet with a report of a sermon recently
preached in St. Paul's Cathedral. From internal evidence I am inclined
to think that the report is substantially correct. But as I have not
the slightest intention of finding fault with the eminent theologian
and eloquent preacher to whom the discourse is attributed, for
employment of scientific language in a manner for which he could find
only too many scientific precedents, the accuracy of the report in
detail is not to the purpose. I may safely take it as the embodiment
of views which are thought to be quite in accordance with science by
many excellent, instructed, and intelligent people.

     The preacher further contended that it was yet more
     difficult to realise that our earthly home would become the
     scene of a vast physical catastrophe. Imagination recoils
     from the idea that the course of nature--the phrase helps to
     disguise the truth--so unvarying and regular, the ordered
     sequence of movement and life, should suddenly cease.
     Imagination looks more reasonable when it assumes the air of
     scientific reason. Physical law, it says, will prevent the
     occurrence of catastrophes only anticipated by an apostle in
     an unscientific age. Might not there, however, be a
     suspension of a lower law by the intervention of a higher?
     Thus every time we lifted our arms we defied the laws of
     gravitation, and in railways and steamboats powerful laws
     were held in check by others. The flood and the destruction
     of Sodom and Gomorrah were brought about by the operation of
     existing laws, and may it not be that in His illimitable
     universe there are more important laws than those which
     surround our puny life--moral and not merely physical
     forces? Is it inconceivable that the day will come when
     these royal and ultimate laws shall wreck the natural order
     of things which seems so stable and so fair? Earthquakes
     were not things of remote antiquity, as an island off Italy,
     the Eastern Archipelago, Greece, and Chicago bore
     witness.... In presence of a great earthquake men feel how
     powerless they are, and their very knowledge adds to their
     weakness. The end of human probation, the final dissolution
     of organised society, and the destruction of man's home on
     the surface of the globe, were none of them violently
     contrary to our present experience, but only the extension
     of present facts. The presentiment of death was common;
     there were felt to be many things which threatened the
     existence of society; and as our globe was a ball of fire,
     at any moment the pent-up forces which surge and boil
     beneath our feet might be poured out ("Pall Mall Gazette,"
     December 6, 1886).

The preacher appears to entertain the notion that the occurrence of a
"catastrophe"[18] involves a breach of the present order of
nature--that it is an event incompatible with the physical laws which
at present obtain. He seems to be of opinion that "scientific reason"
lends its authority to the imaginative supposition that physical law
will prevent the occurrence of the "catastrophes" anticipated by an
unscientific apostle.

Scientific reason, like Homer, sometimes nods; but I am not aware that
it has ever dreamed dreams of this sort. The fundamental axiom of
scientific thought is that there is not, never has been, and never
will be, any disorder in nature. The admission of the occurrence of
any event which was not the logical consequence of the immediately
antecedent events, according to these definite, ascertained, or
unascertained rules which we call the "laws of nature," would be an
act of self-destruction on the part of science.

"Catastrophe" is a relative conception. For ourselves it means an
event which brings about very terrible consequences to man, or
impresses his mind by its magnitude relatively to him. But events
which are quite in the natural order of things to us, may be
frightful catastrophes to other sentient beings. Surely no
interruption of the order of nature is involved if, in the course of
descending through an Alpine pine-wood, I jump upon an anthill and in
a moment wreck a whole city and destroy a hundred thousand of its
inhabitants. To the ants the catastrophe is worse than the earthquake
of Lisbon. To me it is the natural and necessary consequence of the
laws of matter in motion. A redistribution of energy has taken place,
which is perfectly in accordance with natural order, however
unpleasant its effects may be to the ants.

Imagination, inspired by scientific reason, and not merely assuming
the airs thereof, as it unfortunately too often does in the pulpit, so
far from having any right to repudiate catastrophes and deny the
possibility of the cessation of motion and life, easily finds
justification for the exactly contrary course. Kant in his famous
"Theory of the Heavens" declares the end of the world and its
reduction to a formless condition to be a necessary consequence of the
causes to which it owes its origin and continuance. And, as to
catastrophes of prodigious magnitude and frequent occurrence, they
were the favourite _asylum ignorantiæ_ of geologists, not a quarter of
a century ago. If modern geology is becoming more and more disinclined
to call in catastrophes to its aid, it is not because of any _a
priori_ difficulty in reconciling the occurrence of such events with
the universality of order, but because the _a posteriori_ evidence of
the occurrence of events of this character in past times has more or
less completely broken down.

It is, to say the least, highly probable that this earth is a mass of
extremely hot matter, invested by a cooled crust, through which the
hot interior still continues to cool, though with extreme slowness. It
is no less probable that the faults and dislocations, the foldings and
fractures, everywhere visible in the stratified crust, its large and
slow movements through miles of elevation and depression, and its
small and rapid movements which give rise to the innumerable perceived
and unperceived earthquakes which are constantly occurring, are due to
the shrinkage of the crust on its cooling and contracting nucleus.

Without going beyond the range of fair scientific analogy, conditions
are easily conceivable which should render the loss of heat far more
rapid than it is at present; and such an occurrence would be just as
much in accordance with ascertained laws of nature, as the more rapid
cooling of a red-hot bar, when it is thrust into cold water, than when
it remains in the air. But much more rapid cooling might entail a
shifting and rearrangement of the parts of the crust of the earth on a
scale of unprecedented magnitude, and bring about "catastrophes" to
which the earthquake of Lisbon is but a trifle. It is conceivable that
man and his works and all the higher forms of animal life should be
utterly destroyed; that mountain regions should he converted into
ocean depths and the floor of oceans raised into mountains; and the
earth become a scene of horror which even the lurid fancy of the
writer of the Apocalypse would fail to portray. And yet, to the eye of
science, there would he no more disorder here than in the sabbatical
peace of a summer sea. Not a link in the chain of natural causes and
effects would he broken, nowhere would there be the slightest
indication of the "suspension of a lower law by a higher." If a sober
scientific thinker is inclined to put little faith in the wild
vaticinations of universal ruin which, in a less saintly person than
the seer of Patmos, might seem to be dictated by the fury of a
revengeful fanatic, rather than by the spirit of the teacher who bid
men love their enemies, it is not on the ground that they contradict
scientific principles; but because the evidence of their scientific
value does not fulfil the conditions on which weight is attached to
evidence. The imagination which supposes that it does, simply does not
"assume the air of scientific reason."

I repeat that, if imagination is used within the limits laid down by
science, disorder is unimaginable. If a being endowed with perfect
intellectual and æsthetic faculties, but devoid of the capacity for
suffering pain, either physical or moral, were to devote his utmost
powers to the investigation of nature, the universe would seem to him
to be a sort of kaleidoscope, in which, at every successive moment of
time, a new arrangement of parts of exquisite beauty and symmetry
would present itself; and each of them would show itself to be the
logical consequence of the preceding arrangement, under the conditions
which we call the laws of nature. Such a spectator might well be
filled with that _Amor intellectualis Dei_, the beatific vision of the
_vita contemplativa_, which some of the greatest thinkers of all ages,
Aristotle, Aquinas, Spinoza, have regarded as the only conceivable
eternal felicity; and the vision of illimitable suffering, as if
sensitive beings were unregarded animalcules which had got between the
bits of glass of the kaleidoscope, which mars the prospect to us poor
mortals, in no wise alters the fact that order is lord of all, and
disorder only a name for that part of the order which gives us pain.

The other fallacious employment of the names of scientific conceptions
which pervades the preacher's utterance, brings me back to the proper
topic of the present essay. It is the use of the word "law" as if it
denoted a thing--as if a "law of nature," as science understands it,
were a being endowed with certain powers, in virtue of which the
phenomena expressed by that law are brought about. The preacher asks,
"Might not there be a suspension of a lower law by the intervention of
a higher?" He tells us that every time we lift our arms we defy the
law of gravitation. He asks whether some day certain "royal and
ultimate laws" may not come and "wreck" those laws which are at
present, it would appear, acting as nature's police. It is evident,
from these expressions, that "laws," in the mind of the preacher, are
entities having an objective existence in a graduated hierarchy. And
it would appear that the "royal laws" are by no means to be regarded
as constitutional royalties: at any moment, they may, like Eastern
despots, descend in wrath among the middle-class and plebeian laws,
which have hitherto done the drudgery of the world's work, and, to use
phraseology not unknown in our seats of learning--"make hay" of their
belongings. Or perhaps a still more familiar analogy has suggested
this singular theory; and it is thought that high laws may "suspend"
low laws, as a bishop may suspend a curate.

Far be it from me to controvert these views, if any one likes to hold
them. All I wish to remark is that such a conception of the nature of
"laws" has nothing to do with modern science. It is scholastic
realism--realism as intense and unmitigated as that of Scotus Erigena
a thousand years ago. The essence of such realism is that it maintains
the objective existence of universals, or, as we call them nowadays,
general propositions. It affirms, for example, that "man" is a real
thing, apart from individual men, having its existence, not in the
sensible, but in the intelligible world, and clothing itself with the
accidents of sense to make the Jack and Tom and Harry whom we know.
Strange as such a notion may appear to modern scientific thought, it
really pervades ordinary language. There are few people who would, at
once, hesitate to admit that colour, for example, exists apart from
the mind which conceives the idea of colour. They hold it to be
something which resides in the coloured object; and so far they are as
much Realists as if they had sat at Plato's feet. Reflection on the
facts of the case must, I imagine, convince every one that "colour"
is--not a mere name, which was the extreme Nominalist position--but a
name for that group of states of feeling which we call blue, red,
yellow, and so on, and which we believe to be caused by luminiferous
vibrations which have not the slightest resemblance to colour; while
these again are set afoot by states of the body to which we ascribe
colour, but which are equally devoid of likeness to colour.

In the same way, a law of nature, in the scientific sense, is the
product of a mental operation upon the facts of nature which come
under our observation, and has no more existence outside the mind than
colour has. The law of gravitation is a statement of the manner in
which experience shows that bodies, which are free to move, do, in
fact, move towards one another. But the other facts of observation,
that bodies are not always moving in this fashion, and sometimes move
in a contrary direction, are implied in the words "free to move." If
it is a law of nature that bodies tend to move towards one another in
a certain way; it is another and no less true law of nature that, if
bodies are not free to move as they tend to do, either in consequence
of an obstacle, or of a contrary impulse from some other source of
energy than that to which we give the name of gravitation, they either
stop still, or go another way.

Scientifically speaking, it is the acme of absurdity to talk of a man
defying the law of gravitation when he lifts his arm. The general
store of energy in the universe working through terrestrial matter is
doubtless tending to bring the man's arm down; but the particular
fraction of that energy which is working through certain of his
nervous and muscular organs is tending to drive it up, and more energy
being expended on the arm in the upward than in the downward
direction, the arm goes up accordingly. But the law of gravitation is
no more defied, in this case, than when a grocer throws so much sugar
into the empty pan of his scales that the one which contains the
weight kicks the beam.

The tenacity of the wonderful fallacy that the laws of nature are
agents, instead of being, as they really are, a mere record of
experience, upon which we base our interpretations of that which does
happen, and our anticipation of that which will happen, is an
interesting psychological fact; and would be unintelligible if the
tendency of the human mind towards realism were less strong.

Even at the present day, and in the writings of men who would at once
repudiate scholastic realism in any form, "law" is often inadvertently
employed in the sense of cause, just as, in common life, a man will
say that he is compelled by the law to do so and so, when, in point of
fact, all he means is that the law orders him to do it, and tells him
what will happen if he does not do it. We commonly hear of bodies
falling to the ground by reason of the law of gravitation, whereas
that law is simply the record of the fact that, according to all
experience, they have so fallen (when free to move), and of the
grounds of a reasonable expectation that they will so fall. If it
should be worth anybody's while to seek for examples of such misuse of
language on my own part, I am not at all sure he might not succeed,
though I have usually been on my guard against such looseness of
expression. If I am guilty, I do penance beforehand, and only hope
that I may thereby deter others from committing the like fault. And I
venture on this personal observation by way of showing that I have no
wish to bear hardly on the preacher for falling into an error for
which he might find good precedents. But it is one of those errors
which, in the case of a person engaged in scientific pursuits, do
little harm, because it is corrected as soon as its consequences
become obvious; while those who know physical science only by name
are, as has been seen, easily led to build a mighty fabric of
unrealities on this fundamental fallacy. In fact, the habitual use of
the word "law," in the sense of an active thing, is almost a mark of
pseudo-science; it characterises the writings of those who have
appropriated the forms of science without knowing anything of its

There are two classes of these people: those who are ready to believe
in any miracle so long as it is guaranteed by ecclesiastical
authority; and those who are ready to believe in any miracle so long
as it has some different guarantee. The believers in what are
ordinarily called miracles--those who accept the miraculous narratives
which they are taught to think are essential elements of religious
doctrine--are in the one category; the spirit-rappers, table-turners,
and all the other devotees of the occult sciences of our day are in
the other: and, if they disagree in most things they agree in this,
namely, that they ascribe to science a dictum that is not scientific;
and that they endeavour to upset the dictum thus foisted on science by
a realistic argument which is equally unscientific.

It is asserted, for example, that, on a particular occasion, water
was turned into wine; and, on the other hand, it is asserted that a
man or a woman "levitated" to the ceiling, floated about there, and
finally sailed out by the window. And it is assumed that the
pardonable scepticism, with which most scientific men receive these
statements, is due to the fact that they feel themselves justified in
denying the possibility of any such metamorphosis of water, or of any
such levitation, because such events are contrary to the laws of
nature. So the question of the preacher is triumphantly put: How do
you know that there are not "higher" laws of nature than your chemical
and physical laws, and that these higher laws may not intervene and
"wreck" the latter?

The plain answer to this question is, Why should anybody be called
upon to say how he knows that which he does not know? You are assuming
that laws are agents--efficient causes of that which happens--and that
one law can interfere with another. To us, that assumption is as
nonsensical as if you were to talk of a proposition of Euclid being
the cause of the diagram which illustrates it, or of the integral
calculus interfering with the rule of three. Your question really
implies that we pretend to complete knowledge not only of all past and
present phenomena, but of all that are possible in the future, and we
leave all that sort of thing to the adepts of esoteric Buddhism. Our
pretensions are infinitely more modest. We have succeeded in finding
out the rules of action of a little bit of the universe; we call these
rules "laws of nature," not because anybody knows whether they bind
nature or not, but because we find it is obligatory on us to take them
into account, both as actors under nature, and as interpreters of
nature. We have any quantity of genuine miracles of our own, and if
you will furnish us with as good evidence of your miracles as we have
of ours, we shall be quite happy to accept them and to amend our
expression of the laws of nature in accordance with the new facts.

As to the particular cases adduced, we are so perfectly fair-minded as
to be willing to help your case as far as we can. You are quite
mistaken in supposing that anybody who is acquainted with the
possibilities of physical science will undertake categorically to deny
that water may be turned into wine. Many very competent judges are
already inclined to think that the bodies, which we have hitherto
called elementary, are really composite arrangements of the particles
of a uniform primitive matter. Supposing that view to be correct,
there would be no more theoretical difficulty about turning water into
alcohol, ethereal and colouring matters, than there is, at this
present moment, any practical difficulty in working other such
miracles; as when we turn sugar into alcohol, carbonic acid,
glycerine, and succinic acid; or transmute gas-refuse into perfumes
rarer than musk and dyes richer than Tyrian purple. If the so-called
"elements," oxygen and hydrogen, which compose water, are aggregates
of the same ultimate particles, or physical units, as those which
enter into the structure of the so-called element "carbon," it is
obvious that alcohol and other substances, composed of carbon,
hydrogen, and oxygen, may be produced by a rearrangement of some of
the units of oxygen and hydrogen into the "element" carbon, and their
synthesis with the rest of the oxygen and hydrogen.

Theoretically, therefore, we can have no sort of objection to your
miracle. And our reply to the levitators is just the same. Why should
not your friend "levitate"? Fish are said to rise and sink in the
water by altering the volume of an internal air-receptacle; and there
may be many ways science, as yet, knows nothing of, by which we, who
live at the bottom of an ocean of air, may do the same thing.
Dialectic gas and wind appear to be by no means wanting among you, and
why should not long practice in pneumatic philosophy have resulted in
the internal generation of something a thousand times rarer than
hydrogen, by which, in accordance with the most ordinary natural laws,
you would not only rise to the ceiling and float there in
quasi-angelic posture, but perhaps, as one of your feminine adepts is
said to have done, flit swifter than train or telegram to
"still-vexed Bermoothes," and twit Ariel, if he happens to be there,
for a sluggard? We have not the presumption to deny the possibility of
anything you affirm; only, as our brethren are particular about
evidence, do give us as much to go upon as may save us from being
roared down by their inextinguishable laughter.

Enough of the realism which clings about "laws." There are plenty of
other exemplifications of its vitality in modern science, but I will
cite only one of them.

This is the conception of "vital force" which comes straight from the
philosophy of Aristotle. It is a fundamental proposition of that
philosophy that a natural object is composed of two constituents--the
one its matter, conceived as inert or even, to a certain extent,
opposed to orderly and purposive motion; the other its form, conceived
as a quasi-spiritual something, containing or conditioning the actual
activities of the body and the potentiality of its possible

I am disposed to think that the prominence of this conception in
Aristotle's theory of things arose from the circumstance that he was
to begin with and throughout his life, devoted to biological studies.
In fact it is a notion which must force itself upon the mind of any
one who studies biological phenomena, without reference to general
physics, as they now stand. Everybody who observes the obvious
phenomena of the development of a seed into a tree, or of an egg into
an animal, will note that a relatively formless mass of matter
gradually grows, takes a definite shape and structure, and, finally,
begins to perform actions which contribute towards a certain end,
namely, the maintenance of the individual in the first place, and of
the species in the second. Starting from the axiom that every event
has a cause, we have here the _causa finalis_ manifested in the last
set of phenomena, the _causa materialis_ and _formalis_ in the first,
while the existence of a _causa efficiens_ within the seed or egg and
its product, is a corollary from the phenomena of growth and
metamorphosis, which proceed in unbroken succession and make up the
life of the animal or plant.

Thus, at starting, the egg or seed is matter having a "form" like all
other material bodies. But this form has the peculiarity, in
contradistinction to lower substantial "forms," that it is a power
which constantly works towards an end by means of living organisation.

So far as I know, Leibnitz is the only philosopher (at the same time a
man of science, in the modern sense, of the first rank) who has noted
that the modern conception of Force, as a sort of atmosphere
enveloping the particles of bodies, and having potential or actual
activity, is simply a new name for the Aristotelian Form.[19] In
modern biology, up till within quite recent times, the Aristotelian
conception held undisputed sway; living matter was endowed with "vital
force," and that accounted for everything. Whosoever was not satisfied
with that explanation was treated to that very "plain
argument"--"confound you eternally"--wherewith Lord Peter overcomes
the doubts of his brothers in the "Tale of a Tub." "Materialist" was
the mildest term applied to him--fortunate if he escaped pelting with
"infidel" and "atheist." There may be scientific Rip Van Winkles
about, who still hold by vital force; but among those biologists who
have not been asleep for the last quarter of a century "vital force"
no longer figures in the vocabulary of science. It is a patent
survival of realism; the generalisation from experience that all
living bodies exhibit certain activities of a definite character is
made the basis of the notion that every living body contains an
entity, "vital force," which is assumed to be the cause of those

It is remarkable, in looking back, to notice to what an extent this
and other survivals of scholastic realism arrested or, at any rate,
impeded the application of sound scientific principles to the
investigation of biological phenomena. When I was beginning to think
about these matters, the scientific world was occasionally agitated by
discussions respecting the nature of the "species" and "genera" of
Naturalists, of a different order from the disputes of a later time.
I think most were agreed that a "species" was something which existed
objectively, somehow or other, and had been created by a Divine fiat.
As to the objective reality of genera, there was a good deal of
difference of opinion. On the other hand, there were a few who could
see no objective reality in anything but individuals, and looked upon
both species and genera as hypostatised universals. As for myself, I
seem to have unconsciously emulated William of Occam, inasmuch as
almost the first public discourse I ever ventured upon, dealt with
"Animal Individuality," and its tendency was to fight the Nominalist
battle even in that quarter.

Realism appeared in still stranger forms at the time to which I refer.
The community of plan which is observable in each great group of
animals was hypostatised into a Platonic idea with the appropriate
name of "archetype," and we were told, as a disciple of Philo-Judæus
might have told us, that this realistic figment was "the archetypal
light" by which Nature has been guided amidst the "wreck of worlds."
So, again, another naturalist, who had no less earned a well-deserved
reputation by his contributions to positive knowledge, put forward a
theory of the production of living things which, as nearly as the
increase of knowledge allowed, was a reproduction of the doctrine
inculcated by the Jewish Cabbala.

Annexing the archetype notion, and carrying it to its full logical
consequence, the author of this theory conceived that the species of
animals and plants were so many incarnations of the thoughts of
God--material representations of Divine ideas--during the particular
period of the world's history at which they existed. But, under the
influence of the embryological and palæontological discoveries of
modern times, which had already lent some scientific support to the
revived ancient theories of cosmical evolution or emanation, the
ingenious author of this speculation, while denying and repudiating
the ordinary theory of evolution by successive modification of
individuals, maintained and endeavoured to prove the occurrence of a
progressive modification in the divine ideas of successive epochs.

On the foundation of a supposed elevation of organisation in the whole
living population of any epoch, as compared with that of its
predecessor, and a supposed complete difference in species between the
populations of any two epochs (neither of which suppositions has stood
the test of further inquiry), the author of this speculation based his
conclusion that the Creator had, so to speak, improved upon his
thoughts as time went on; and that, as each such amended scheme of
creation came up, the embodiment of the earlier divine thoughts was
swept away by a universal catastrophe, and an incarnation of the
improved ideas took its place. Only after the last such "wreck" thus
brought about, did the embodiment of a divine thought, in the shape of
the first man, make its appearance as the _ne plus ultra_ of the
cosmogonical process.

I imagine that Louis Agassiz, the genial backwoodsman of the science
of my young days, who did more to open out new tracks in the
scientific forest than most men, would have been much surprised to
learn that he was preaching the doctrine of the Cabbala, pure and
simple. According to this modification of Neoplatonism by contact with
Hebrew speculation, the divine essence is unknowable--without form or
attribute; but the interval between it and the world of sense is
filled by intelligible entities, which are nothing but the familiar
hypostatised abstractions of the realists. These have emanated, like
immense waves of light, from the divine centre, and, as ten
consecutive zones of Sephiroth, form the universe. The farther away
from the centre, the more the primitive light wanes, until the
periphery ends in those mere negations, darkness and evil, which are
the essence of matter. On this, the divine agency transmitted through
the Sephiroth operates after the fashion of the Aristotelian forms,
and, at first, produces the lowest of a series of worlds. After a
certain duration the primitive world is demolished and its fragments
used up in making a better; and this process is repeated, until at
length a final world, with man for its crown and finish, makes its
appearance. It is needless to trace the process of retrogressive
metamorphosis by which, through the agency of the Messiah, the steps
of the process of evolution here sketched are retraced. Sufficient has
been said to prove that the extremist realism current in the
philosophy of the thirteenth century can be fully matched by the
speculations of our own time.


     [15] There is no exaggeration in this brief and summary view
          of the Catholic cosmos. But it would be unfair to leave it
          to be supposed that the Reformation made any essential
          alteration, except perhaps for the worse, in that cosmology
          which called itself "Christian." The protagonist of the
          Reformation, from whom the whole of the Evangelical sects
          are lineally descended, states the case with that plainness
          of speech, not to say brutality, which characterised him.
          Luther says that man is a beast of burden who only moves as
          his rider orders; sometimes God rides him, and sometimes
          Satan. "Sic voluntas humana in medio posita est, ceu
          jumentum; si insederit Deus, vult et vadit, quo vult
          Deus.... Si insederit Satan, vult et vadit, quo vult Satan;
          nec est in ejus arbitrio ad utrum sessorem currere, aut eum
          quærere, sed ipsi sessores certant ob ipsum obtinendum et
          possidendum" (_De Servo Arbitrio_, M. Lutheri Opera, ed.
          1546, t. ii. p. 468). One may hear substantially the same
          doctrine preached in the parks and at street-corners by
          zealous volunteer missionaries of Evangelicism, any Sunday,
          in modern London. Why these doctrines, which are conspicuous
          by their absence in the four Gospels, should arrogate to
          themselves the title of Evangelical, in contradistinction to
          Catholic, Christianity, may well perplex the impartial
          inquirer, who, if he were obliged to choose between the two,
          might naturally prefer that which leaves the poor beast of
          burden a little freedom of choice.

     [16] I say "so-called" not by way of offence, but as a
          protest against the monstrous assumption that Catholic
          Christianity is explicitly or implicitly contained in any
          trustworthy record of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.

     [17] It may be desirable to observe that, in modern times,
          the term "Realism" has acquired a signification wholly
          different from that which attached to it in the middle ages.
          We commonly use it as the contrary of Idealism. The Idealist
          holds that the phenomenal world has only a subjective
          existence, the Realist that it has an objective existence. I
          am not aware that any mediæval philosopher was an Idealist
          in the sense in which we apply the term to Berkeley. In
          fact, the cardinal defect of their speculations lies in
          their oversight of the considerations which lead to
          Idealism. If many of them regarded the material world as a
          negation, it was an active negation; not zero, but a minus

     [18] At any rate a catastrophe greater than the flood,
          which, as I observe with interest, is as calmly assumed by
          the preacher to be an historical event as if science had
          never had a word to say on that subject!

     [19] "Les formes des anciens ou Entéléchies ne sont autre
          chose que les forces" (Leibnitz, _Lettre au Père Bouvet_,



In the opening sentences of a contribution to the last number of this
Review,[20] the Duke of Argyll has favoured me with a lecture on the
proprieties of controversy, to which I should be disposed to listen
with more docility if his Grace's precepts appeared to me to be based
upon rational principles, or if his example were more exemplary.

With respect to the latter point, the Duke has thought fit to entitle
his article "Professor Huxley on Canon Liddon," and thus forces into
prominence an element of personality, which those who read the paper
which is the object of the Duke's animadversions will observe I have
endeavoured, most carefully, to avoid. My criticisms dealt with a
report of a sermon, published in a newspaper, and thereby addressed to
all the world. Whether that sermon was preached by A or B was not a
matter of the smallest consequence; and I went out of my way to
absolve the learned divine to whom the discourse was attributed from
the responsibility for statements which, for anything I knew to the
contrary, might contain imperfect, or inaccurate, representations of
his views. The assertion that I had the wish, or was beset, by any
"temptation to attack" Canon Liddon is simply contrary to fact.

But suppose that if, instead of sedulously avoiding even the
appearance of such attack, I had thought fit to take a different
course; suppose that, after satisfying myself that the eminent
clergyman whose name is paraded by the Duke of Argyll had really
uttered the words attributed to him from the pulpit of St. Paul's,
what right would any one have to find fault with my action on grounds
either of justice, expediency, or good taste?

Establishment has its duties as well as its rights. The clergy of a
State Church enjoy many advantages over those of unprivileged and
unendowed religious persuasions; but they lie under a correlative
responsibility to the State, and to every member of the body politic.
I am not aware that any sacredness attaches to sermons. If preachers
stray beyond the doctrinal limits set by lay lawyers, the Privy
Council will see to it; and, if they think fit to use their pulpits
for the promulgation of literary, or historical, or scientific errors,
it is not only the right, but the duty, of the humblest layman, who
may happen to be better informed, to correct the evil effects of such
perversion of the opportunities which the State affords them; and such
misuse of the authority which its support lends them. Whatever else it
may claim to be, in its relations with the State, the Established
Church is a branch of the Civil Service; and, for those who repudiate
the ecclesiastical authority of the clergy, they are merely civil
servants, as much responsible to the English people for the proper
performance of their duties as any others.

The Duke of Argyll tells us that the "work and calling" of the clergy
prevent them from "pursuing disputation as others can." I wonder if
his Grace ever reads the so-called "religious" newspapers. It is not
an occupation which I should commend to any one who wishes to employ
his time profitably; but a very short devotion to this exercise will
suffice to convince him that the "pursuit of disputation," carried to
a degree of acrimony and vehemence unsurpassed in lay controversies,
seems to be found quite compatible with the "work and calling" of a
remarkably large number of the clergy.

Finally, it appears to me that nothing can be in worse taste than the
assumption that a body of English gentlemen can, by any possibility,
desire that immunity from criticism which the Duke of Argyll claims
for them. Nothing would be more personally offensive to me than the
supposition that I shirked criticism, just or unjust, of any lecture I
ever gave. I should be utterly ashamed of myself if, when I stood up
as an instructor of others, I had not taken every pains to assure
myself of the truth of that which I was about to say; and I should
feel myself bound to be even more careful with a popular assembly, who
would take me more or less on trust, than with an audience of
competent and critical experts.

I decline to assume that the standard of morality, in these matters,
is lower among the clergy than it is among scientific men. I refuse to
think that the priest who stands up before a congregation, as the
minister and interpreter of the Divinity, is less careful in his
utterances, less ready to meet adverse comment, than the layman who
comes before his audience, as the minister and interpreter of nature.
Yet what should we think of the man of science who, when his ignorance
or his carelessness was exposed, whined about the want of delicacy of
his critics, or pleaded his "work and calling" as a reason for being
let alone?

No man, nor any body of men, is good enough, or wise enough, to
dispense with the tonic of criticism. Nothing has done more harm to
the clergy than the practice, too common among laymen, of regarding
them, when in the pulpit, as a sort of chartered libertines, whose
divagations are not to be taken seriously. And I am well assured that
the distinguished divine, to whom the sermon is attributed, is the
last person who would desire to avail himself of the dishonouring
protection which has been superfluously thrown over him.

So much for the lecture on propriety. But the Duke of Argyll, to whom
the hortatory style seems to come naturally, does me the honour to
make my sayings the subjects of a series of other admonitions, some on
philosophical, some on, geological, some on biological topics. I can
but rejoice that the Duke's authority in these matters is not always
employed to show that I am ignorant of them; on the contrary, I meet
with an amount of agreement, even of approbation, for which I proffer
such gratitude as may be due, even if that gratitude is sometimes
almost overshadowed by surprise.

I am unfeignedly astonished to find that the Duke of Argyll, who
professes to intervene on behalf of the preacher, does really, like
another Balaam, bless me altogether in respect of the main issue.

I denied the justice of the preacher's ascription to men of science of
the doctrine that miracles are incredible, because they are violations
of natural law; and the Duke of Argyll says that he believes my
"denial to be well-founded. The preacher was answering an objection
which has now been generally abandoned." Either the preacher knew this
or he did not know it. It seems to me, as a mere lay teacher, to be a
pity that the "great dome of St. Paul's" should have been made to
"echo" (if so be that such stentorian effects were really produced) a
statement which, admitting the first alternative, was unfair, and,
admitting the second, was ignorant.[21]

Having thus sacrified one half of the preacher's arguments, the Duke
of Argyll proceeds to make equally short work with the other half. It
appears that he fully accepts my position that the occurrence of those
events, which the preacher speaks of as catastrophes, is no evidence
of disorder, inasmuch as such catastrophes may be necessary occasional
consequences of uniform changes. Whence I conclude, his Grace agrees
with me, that the talk about royal laws "wrecking" ordinary laws may
be eloquent metaphor, but is also nonsense.

And now comes a further surprise. After having given these superfluous
stabs to the slain body of the preacher's argument, my good ally
remarks, with magnificent calmness: "So far, then, the preacher and
the professor are at one." "Let them smoke the calumet." By all means:
smoke would be the most appropriate symbol of this wonderful attempt
to cover a retreat. After all, the Duke has come to bury the preacher,
not to praise him; only he makes the funeral obsequies look as much
like a triumphal procession as possible.

So far as the questions between the preacher and myself are concerned,
then, I may feel happy. The authority of the Duke of Argyll is ranged
on my side. But the Duke has raised a number of other questions, with
respect to which I fear I shall have to dispense with his
support--nay, even be compelled to differ from him as much, or more,
than I have done about his Grace's new rendering of the "benefit of

In discussing catastrophes, the Duke indulges in statements, partly
scientific, partly anecdotic, which appear to me to be somewhat
misleading. We are told, to begin with, that Sir Charles Lyell's
doctrine respecting the proper mode of interpreting the facts of
geology (which is commonly called uniformitarianism) "does not hold
its head quite so high as it once did." That is great news indeed.
But is it true? All I can say is that I am aware of nothing that has
happened of late that can in any way justify it; and my opinion is,
that the body of Lyell's doctrine, as laid down in that great work,
"The Principles of Geology," whatever may have happened to its head,
is a chief and permanent constituent of the foundations of geological

But this question cannot he advantageously discussed, unless we take
some pains to discriminate between the essential part of the
uniformitarian doctrine and its accessories; and it does not appear
that the Duke of Argyll has carried his studies of geological
philosophy so far as this point. For he defines uniformitarianism to
be the assumption of the "extreme slowness and perfect continuity of
all geological changes."

What "perfect continuity" may mean in this definition, I am by no
means sure; but I can only imagine that it signifies the absence of
any break in the course of natural order during the millions of years,
the lapse of which is recorded by geological phenomena.

Is the Duke of Argyll prepared to say that any geologist of authority,
at the present day, believes that there is the slightest evidence of
the occurrence of supernatural intervention, during the long ages of
which the monuments are preserved to us in the crust of the earth? And
if he is not, in what sense has this part of the uniformitarian
doctrine, as he defines it, lowered its pretensions to represent
scientific truth?

As to the "extreme slowness of all geological changes," it is simply a
popular error to regard that as, in any wise, a fundamental and
necessary dogma of uniformitarianism. It is extremely astonishing to
me that any one who has carefully studied Lyell's great work can have
so completely failed to appreciate its purport, which yet is "writ
large" on the very title-page: "The Principles of Geology, being an
attempt to explain the former changes of the earth's surface by
reference to causes now in operation." The essence of Lyell's doctrine
is here written so that those who run may read; and it has nothing to
do with the quickness or slowness of the past changes of the earth's
surface; except in so far as existing analogous changes may go on
slowly, and therefore create a presumption in favour of the slowness
of past changes.

With that epigrammatic force which characterises his style, Buffon
wrote, nearly a hundred and fifty years ago, in his famous "Théorie de
la Terre": "Pour juger de ce qui est arrivé, et même de ce qui
arrivera, nous n'avons qu'à examiner ce qui arrive." The key of the
past, as of the future, is to be sought in the present; and, only when
known causes of change have been shown to be insufficient, have we any
right to have recourse to unknown causes. Geology is as much a
historical science as archæology; and I apprehend that all sound
historical investigation rests upon this axiom. It underlay all
Hutton's work and animated Lyell and Scope in their successful efforts
to revolutionise the geology of half a century ago.

There is no antagonism whatever, and there never was, between the
belief in the views which had their chief and unwearied advocate in
Lyell and the belief in the occurrence of catastrophes. The first
edition of Lyell's "Principles," published in 1830, lies before me;
and a large part of the first volume is occupied by an account of
volcanic, seismic, and diluvial catastrophes which have occurred
within the historical period. Moreover, the author, over and over
again, expressly draws the attention of his readers to the consistency
of catastrophes with his doctrine.

     Notwithstanding, therefore, that we have not witnessed
     within the last three thousand years the devastation by
     deluge of a large continent, yet, as we may predict the
     future occurrence of such catastrophes, we are authorized to
     regard them as part of the present order of nature, and they
     may be introduced into geological speculations respecting
     the past, provided that we do not imagine them to have been
     more frequent or general than we expect them to be in time
     to come (vol. i. p. 89).


     If we regard each of the causes separately, which we know to
     be at present the most instrumental in remodelling the state
     of the surface, we shall find that we must expect each to
     be in action for thousands of years, without producing any
     extensive alterations in the habitable surface, and then to
     give rise, during a very brief period, to important
     revolutions (vol. ii. p. 161).[22]

Lyell quarrelled with the catastrophists then, by no means because
they assumed that catastrophes occur and have occurred, but because
they had got into the habit of calling on their god Catastrophe to
help them, when they ought to have been putting their shoulders to the
wheel of observation of the present course of nature, in order to help
themselves out of their difficulties. And geological science has
become what it is, chiefly because geologists have gradually accepted
Lyell's doctrine and followed his precepts.

So far as I know anything about the matter, there is nothing that can
be called proof, that the causes of geological phenomena operated more
intensely or more rapidly, at any time between the older tertiary and
the oldest palæozoic epochs than they have done between the older
tertiary epoch and the present day. And if that is so, uniformitarianism,
even as limited by Lyell,[23] has no call to lower its crest. But if
the facts were otherwise, the position Lyell took up remains
impregnable. He did not say that the geological operations of nature
were never more rapid, or more vast, than they are now; what he did
maintain is the very different proposition that there is no good
evidence of anything of the kind. And that proposition has not yet
been shown to be incorrect.

I owe more than I can tell to the careful study of the "Principles of
Geology" in my young days; and, long before the year 1856, my mind was
familiar with the truth that "the doctrine of uniformity is not
incompatible with great and sudden changes," which, as I have shown,
is taught _totidem verbis_ in that work. Even had it been possible for
me to shut my eyes to the sense of what I had read in the
"Principles," Whewell's "Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences,"
published in 1840, a work with which I was also tolerably familiar,
must have opened them. For the always acute, if not always profound,
author, in arguing against Lyell's uniformitarianism, expressly points
out that it does not in any way contravene the occurrence of

     With regard to such occurrences [earthquakes, deluges,
     etc.], terrible as they appear at the time, they may not
     much affect the average rate of change: there may be a
     _cycle_, though an irregular one, of rapid and slow change:
     and if such cycles go on succeeding each other, we may still
     call the order of nature uniform, notwithstanding the
     periods of violence which it involves.[24]

The reader who has followed me through this brief chapter of the
history of geological philosophy will probably find the following
passage in the paper of the Duke of Argyll to be not a little

     Many years ago, when I had the honor of being President of
     the British Association,[25] I ventured to point out, in the
     presence and in the hearing of that most distinguished man
     [Sir C. Lyell] that the doctrine of uniformity was not
     incompatible with great and sudden changes, since cycles of
     these and other cycles of comparative rest might well be
     constituent parts of that uniformity which he asserted.
     Lyell did not object to this extended interpretation of his
     own doctrine, and indeed expressed to me his entire

I should think he did; for, as I have shown, there was nothing in it
that Lyell himself had not said, six-and-twenty years before, and
enforced, three years before; and it is almost verbally identical
with the view of uniformitarianism taken by Whewell, sixteen years
before, in a work with which, one would think, that any one who
undertakes to discuss the philosophy of science should be familiar.

Thirty years have elapsed since the beginner of 1856 persuaded himself
that he enlightened the foremost geologist of his time, and one of the
most acute and far-seeing men of science of any time, as to the scope
of the doctrines which the veteran philosopher had grown gray in
promulgating; and the Duke of Argyll's acquaintance with the
literature of geology has not, even now, become sufficiently profound
to dissipate that pleasant delusion.

If the Duke of Argyll's guidance in that branch of physical science,
with which alone he has given evidence of any practical acquaintance,
is thus unsafe, I may breathe more freely in setting my opinion
against the authoritative deliverances of his Grace about matters
which lie outside the province of geology.

And here the Duke's paper offers me such a wealth of opportunities
that choice becomes embarrassing. I must bear in mind the good old
adage, "Non multa sed multum." Tempting as it would be to follow the
Duke through his labyrinthine misunderstandings of the ordinary
terminology of philosophy and to comment on the curious
unintelligibility which hangs about his frequent outpourings of
fervid language, limits of space oblige me to restrict myself to those
points, the discussion of which may help to enlighten the public in
respect of matters of more importance than the competence of my Mentor
for the task which he has undertaken.

I am not sure when the employment of the word Law, in the sense in
which we speak of laws of nature, commenced, but examples of it may be
found in the works of Bacon, Descartes, and Spinoza. Bacon employs
"Law" as the equivalent of "Form," and I am inclined to think that he
may be responsible for a good deal of the confusion that has
subsequently arisen; but I am not aware that the term is used by other
authorities, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in any other
sense than that of "rule" or "definite order" of the coexistence of
things or succession of events in nature. Descartes speaks of "règles,
que je nomme les lois de la nature." Leibnitz says "loi ou règle
générale," as if he considered the terms interchangeable.

The Duke of Argyll, however, affirms that the "law of gravitation" as
put forth by Newton was something more than the statement of an
observed order. He admits that Kepler's three laws "were an observed
order of facts and nothing more." As to the law of gravitation, "it
contains an element which Kepler's laws did not contain, even an
element of causation, the recognition of which belongs to a higher
category of intellectual conceptions than that which is concerned in
the mere observation and record of separate and apparently unconnected
facts." There is hardly a line in these paragraphs which appears to me
to be indisputable. But, to confine myself to the matter in hand, I
cannot conceive that any one who had taken ordinary pains to acquaint
himself with the real nature of either Kepler's or Newton's work could
have written them. That the labours of Kepler, of all men in the
world, should be called "mere observation and record," is truly
wonderful. And any one who will look into the "Principia," or the
"Optics," or the "Letters to Bentley," will see, even if he has no
more special knowledge of the topics discussed than I have, that
Newton over and over again insisted that he had nothing to do with
gravitation as a physical cause, and that when he used the terms
attraction, force, and the like, he employed them, as he says,
"_mathematicè_" and not "_physicè_."

     How these attractions [of gravity, magnetism, and
     electricity] may be performed, I do not here consider. What
     I call attraction may be performed by impulse or by some
     other means unknown to me. I use that word here to signify
     only in a general way any force by which bodies tend towards
     one another, whatever be the cause.[26]

According to my reading of the best authorities upon the history of
science, Newton discovered neither gravitation, nor the law of
gravitation; nor did he pretend to offer more than a conjecture as to
the causation of gravitation. Moreover, his assertion that the notion
of a body acting where it is not, is one that no competent thinker
could entertain, is antagonistic to the whole current conception of
attractive and repulsive forces, and therefore of "the attractive
force of gravitation." What, then, was that labour of unsurpassed
magnitude and excellence and of immortal influence which Newton did
perform? In the first place, Newton defined the laws, rules, or
observed order of the phenomena of motion, which come under our daily
observation, with greater precision than had been before attained;
and, by following out, with marvellous power and subtlety, the
mathematical consequences of these rules, he almost created the modern
science of pure mechanics. In the second place, applying exactly the
same method to the explication of the facts of astronomy as that which
was applied a century and a half later to the facts of geology by
Lyell, he set himself to solve the following problem. Assuming that
all bodies, free to move, tend to approach one another as the earth
and the bodies on it do; assuming that the strength of that tendency
is directly as the mass and inversely as the squares of the distances;
assuming that the laws of motion, determined for terrestrial bodies,
hold good throughout the universe; assuming that the planets and
their satellites were created and placed at their observed mean
distances, and that each received a certain impulse from the Creator;
will the form of the orbits, the varying rates of motion of the
planets, and the ratio between those rates and their distances from
the sun, which must follow by mathematical reasoning from these
premisses, agree with the order of facts determined by Kepler and
others, or not?

Newton, employing mathematical methods which are the admiration of
adepts, but which no one but himself appears to have been able to use
with ease, not only answered this question in the affirmative, but
stayed not his constructive genius before it had founded modern
physical astronomy.

The historians of mechanical and of astronomical science appear to be
agreed that he was the first person who clearly and distinctly put
forth the hypothesis that the phenomena comprehended under the general
name of "gravity" follow the same order throughout the universe, and
that all material bodies exhibit these phenomena; so that, in this
sense, the idea of universal gravitation may, doubtless, be properly
ascribed to him.

Newton proved that the laws of Kepler were particular consequences of
the laws of motion and the law of gravitation--in other words, the
reason of the first lay in the two latter. But to talk of the law of
gravitation alone as the reason of Kepler's laws, and still more as
standing in any causal relation to Kepler's laws, is simply a misuse
of language. It would really be interesting if the Duke of Argyll
would explain how he proposes to set about showing that the elliptical
form of the orbits of the planets, the constant area described by the
radius vector, and the proportionality of the squares of the periodic
times to the cubes of the distances from the sun, are either caused by
the "force of gravitation" or deducible from the "law of gravitation."
I conceive that it would be about as apposite to say that the various
compounds of nitrogen with oxygen are caused by chemical attraction
and deducible from the atomic theory.

       *       *       *       *       *

Newton assuredly lent no shadow of support to the modern
pseudo-scientific philosophy which confounds laws with causes. I have
not taken the trouble to trace out this commonest of fallacies to its
first beginning; but I was familiar with it in full bloom more than
thirty years ago, in a work which had a great vogue in its day--the
"Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation"--of which the first
edition was published in 1844.

It is full of apt and forcible illustrations of pseudo-scientific
realism. Consider, for example, this gem serene. When a boy who has
climbed a tree loses his hold of the branch, "the law of gravitation
unrelentingly pulls him to the ground, and then he is hurt," whereby
the Almighty is quite relieved from any responsibility for the
accident. Here is the "law of gravitation" acting as a cause in a way
quite in accordance with the Duke of Argyll's conception of it. In
fact, in the mind of the author of the "Vestiges," "laws" are
existences intermediate between the Creator and His works, like the
"ideas" of the Platonisers or the Logos of the Alexandrians.[27] I may
cite a passage which is quite in the vein of Philo:--

     We have seen powerful evidences that the construction of
     this globe and its associates; and, inferentially, that of
     all the other globes in space, was the result, not of any
     immediate or personal exertion on the part of the Deity, but
     of natural laws which are the expression of His will. What
     is to hinder our supposing that the organic creation is also
     a result of natural laws which are in like manner an
     expression of His will? (p. 154, 1st edition).

And creation "operating by law" is constantly cited as relieving the
Creator from trouble about insignificant details.

I am perplexed to picture to myself the state of mind which accepts
these verbal juggleries. It is intelligible that the Creator should
operate according to such rules as he might think fit to lay down for
himself (and therefore according to law); but that would leave the
operation of his will just as much a direct personal act as it would
be under any other circumstances. I can also understand that (as in
Leibnitz's caricature of Newton's views) the Creator might have made
the cosmical machine, and, after setting it going, have left it to
itself till it needed repair. But then, by the supposition, his
personal responsibility would have been involved in all that it did;
just as much as a dynamiter is responsible for what happens, when he
has set his machine going and left it to explode.

The only hypothesis which gives a sort of mad consistency to the
Vestigiarian's views is the supposition that laws are a kind of angels
or demiurgoi, who, being supplied with the Great Architect's plan,
were permitted to settle the details among themselves. Accepting this
doctrine, the conception of royal laws and plebeian laws, and of those
more than Homeric contests in which the big laws "wreck" the little
ones, becomes quite intelligible. And, in fact, the honour of the
paternity of those remarkable ideas which come into full flower in the
preacher's discourse must, so far as my imperfect knowledge goes, be
attributed to the author of the "Vestiges."

But the author of the "Vestiges" is not the only writer who is
responsible for the current pseudo-scientific mystifications which
hang about the term "law." When I wrote my paper about "Scientific and
Pseudo-Scientific Realism," I had not read a work by the Duke of
Argyll, "The Reign of Law," which, I believe, has enjoyed, possibly
still enjoys, a widespread popularity. But the vivacity of the Duke's
attack led me to think it possible that criticisms directed elsewhere
might have come home to him. And, in fact, I find that the second
chapter of the work in question, which is entitled "Law; its
definitions," is, from my point of view, a sort of "summa" of
pseudo-scientific philosophy. It will be worth while to examine it in
some detail.

In the first place, it is to be noted that the author of the "Reign of
Law" admits that "law," in many cases, means nothing more than the
statement of the order in which facts occur, or, as he says, "an
observed order of facts" (p. 66). But his appreciation of the value of
accuracy of expression does not hinder him from adding, almost in the
same breath, "In this sense the laws of nature are simply those facts
of nature which recur according to rule" (p. 66). Thus "laws," which
were rightly said to be the statement of an order of facts in one
paragraph, are declared to be the facts themselves in the next.

We are next told that, though it may be customary and permissible to
use "law" in the sense of a statement of the order of facts, this is a
low use of the word; and, indeed, two pages farther on, the writer,
flatly contradicting himself, altogether denies its admissibility.

     An observed order of facts, to be entitled to the rank of a
     law, must be an order so constant and uniform as to indicate
     necessity, and necessity can only arise out of the action
     of some compelling force (p. 68).

This is undoubtedly one of the most singular propositions that I have
ever met with in a professedly scientific work, and its rarity is
embellished by another direct self-contradiction which it implies. For
on the preceding page (67), when the Duke of Argyll is speaking of the
laws of Kepler, which he admits to be laws, and which are types of
that which men of science understand by "laws," he says that they are
"simply and purely an order of facts." Moreover, he adds: "A very
large proportion of the laws of every science are laws of this kind
and in this sense."

If, according to the Duke of Argyll's admission, law is understood, in
this sense, thus widely and constantly by scientific authorities,
where is the justification for his unqualified assertion that such
statements of the observed order of facts are not "entitled to the
rank" of laws?

But let us examine the consequences of the really interesting
proposition I have just quoted. I presume that it is a law of nature
that "a straight line is the shortest distance between two points."
This law affirms the constant association of a certain fact of form
with a certain fact of dimension. Whether the notion of necessity
which attaches to it has an _a priori_, or an _a posteriori_ origin is
a question not relevant to the present discussion. But I would beg to
be informed, if it is necessary, where is the "compelling force" out
of which the necessity arises; and further, if it is not necessary,
whether it loses the character of a law of nature?

I take it to be the law of nature, based on unexceptionable evidence,
that the mass of matter remains unchanged, whatever chemical or other
modifications it may undergo. This law is one of the foundations of
chemistry. But it is by no means necessary. It is quite possible to
imagine that the mass of matter should vary according to
circumstances, as we know its weight does. Moreover, the determination
of the "force" which makes mass constant (if there is any
intelligibility in that form of words) would not, so far as I can see,
confer any more validity on the law than it has now.

There is a law of nature, so well vouched by experience, that all
mankind, from pure logicians in search of examples to parish sextons
in search of fees, confide in it. This is the law that "all men are
mortal." It is simply a statement of the observed order of facts that
all men sooner or later die. I am not acquainted with any law of
nature which is more "constant and uniform" than this. But will any
one tell me that death is "necessary"? Certainly there is no _à
priori_ necessity in the case, for various men have been imagined to
be immortal. And I should be glad to be informed of any "necessity"
that can be deduced from biological considerations. It is quite
conceivable, as has recently been pointed out, that some of the lowest
forms of life may be immortal, after a fashion. However this may be, I
would further ask, supposing "all men are mortal" to be a real law of
nature, where and what is that to which, with any propriety, the title
of "compelling force" of the law can be given?

On page 69, the Duke of Argyll asserts that the law of gravitation "is
a law in the sense, not merely of a rule, but of a cause." But this
revival of the teaching of the "Vestiges" has already been examined
and disposed of; and when the Duke of Argyll states that the "observed
order" which Kepler had discovered was simply a necessary consequence
of the force of "gravitation," I need not recapitulate the evidence
which proves such a statement to be wholly fallacious. But it may be
useful to say, once more, that, at this present moment, nobody knows
anything about the existence of a "force" of gravitation apart from
the fact; that Newton declared the ordinary notion of such force to be
inconceivable; that various attempts have been made to account for the
order of facts we call gravitation, without recourse to the notion of
attractive force; that, if such a force exists, it is utterly
incompetent to account for Kepler's laws, without taking into the
reckoning a great number of other considerations; and, finally, that
all we know about the "force" of gravitation, or any other so-called
"force," is that it is a name for the hypothetical cause of an
observed order of facts.

Thus, when the Duke of Argyll says: "Force, ascertained according to
some measure of its operation--this is indeed one of the definitions,
but only one, of a scientific law" (p. 71) I reply that it is a
definition which must be repudiated by every one who possesses an
adequate acquaintance with either the facts, or the philosophy, of
science, and be relegated to the limbo of pseudo-scientific fallacies.
If the human mind has never entertained this notion of "force," nay,
if it substituted bare invariable succession for the ordinary notion of
causation, the idea of law, as the expression of a constantly-observed
order, which generates a corresponding intensity of expectation in our
minds, would have exactly the same value, and play its part in real
science, exactly as it does now.

It is needless to extend further the present excursus on the origin
and history of modern pseudo-science. Under such high patronage as it
has enjoyed, it has grown and flourished until, nowadays, it is
becoming somewhat rampant. It has its weekly "Ephemerides," in which
every new pseudo-scientific mare's-nest is hailed and belauded with
the unconscious unfairness of ignorance; and an army of "reconcilers,"
enlisted in its service, whose business seems to be to mix the black
of dogma and the white of science into the neutral tint of what they
call liberal theology.

I remember that, not long after the publication of the "Vestiges," a
shrewd and sarcastic countryman of the author defined it as "cauld
kail made het again." A cynic might find amusement in the reflection
that, at the present time, the principles and the methods of the
much-vilified Vestigiarian are being "made het again"; and are not
only "echoed by the dome of St. Paul's," but thundered from the castle
of Inverary. But my turn of mind is not cynical, and I can but regret
the waste of time and energy bestowed on the endeavour to deal with
the most difficult problems of science, by those who have neither
undergone the discipline, nor possess the information, which are
indispensable to the successful issue of such an enterprise.

I have already had occasion to remark that the Duke of Argyll's views
of the conduct of controversy are different from mine; and this
much-to-be lamented discrepancy becomes yet more accentuated when the
Duke reaches biological topics. Anything that was good enough for Sir
Charles Lyell, in his department of study, is certainly good enough
for me in mine; and I by no means demur to being pedagogically
instructed about a variety of matters with which it has been the
business of my life to try to acquaint myself. But the Duke of Argyll
is not content with favouring me with his opinions about my own
business; he also answers for mine; and, at that point, really the
worm must turn. I am told that "no one knows better than Professor
Huxley" a variety of things which I really do not know; and I am said
to be a disciple of that "Positive Philosophy" which I have, over and
over again, publicly repudiated in language which is certainly not
lacking in intelligibility whatever may be its other defects.

I am told that I have been amusing myself with a "metaphysical
exercitation or logomachy" (may I remark incidentally that these are
not quite convertible terms?), when, to the best of my belief, I have
been trying to expose a process of mystification, based upon the use
of scientific language by writers who exhibit no sign of scientific
training, of accurate scientific knowledge, or of clear ideas
respecting the philosophy of science, which is doing very serious harm
to the public. Naturally enough, they take the lion's skin of
scientific phraseology for evidence that the voice which issues from
beneath it is the voice of science, and I desire to relieve them from
the consequences of their error.

The Duke of Argyll asks, apparently with sorrow that it should be his
duty to subject me to reproof--

     What shall we say of a philosophy which confounds the
     organic with the inorganic, and, refusing to take note of a
     difference so profound, assumes to explain under one common
     abstraction, the movements due to gravitation and the
     movements due to the mind of man?

To which I may fitly reply by another question: What shall we say to a
controversialist who attributes to the subject of his attack opinions
which are notoriously not his; and expresses himself in such a manner
that it is obvious he is unacquainted with even the rudiments of that
knowledge which is necessary to the discussion into which he has

What line of my writing can the Duke of Argyll produce which confounds
the organic with the inorganic?

As to the latter half of the paragraph, I have to confess a doubt
whether it has any definite meaning. But I imagine that the Duke is
alluding to my assertion that the law of gravitation is nowise
"suspended" or "defied" when a man lifts his arm; but that, under such
circumstances, part of the store of energy in the universe operates on
the arm at a mechanical advantage as against the operation of another
part. I was simple enough to think that no one who had as much
knowledge of physiology as is to be found in an elementary primer, or
who had ever heard of the greatest physical generalisation of modern
times--the doctrine of the conservation of energy--would dream of
doubting my statement; and I was further simple enough to think that
no one who lacked these qualifications would feel tempted to charge me
with error. It appears that my simplicity is greater than my powers of

The Duke of Argyll may not be aware of the fact, but it is
nevertheless true, that when a man's arm is raised, in sequence to
that state of consciousness we call a volition, the volition is not
the immediate cause of the elevation of the arm. On the contrary, that
operation is effected by a certain change of form, technically known
as "contraction" in sundry masses of flesh, technically known as
muscles, which are fixed to the bones of the shoulder in such a manner
that, if these muscles contract, they must raise the arm. Now each of
these muscles is a machine comparable, in a certain sense, to one of
the donkey-engines of a steamship, but more complete, inasmuch as the
source of its ability to change its form, or contract, lies within
itself. Every time that, by contracting, the muscle does work, such as
that involved in raising the arm, more or less of the material which
it contains is used up, just as more or less of the fuel of a
steam-engine is used up, when it does work. And I do not think there
is a doubt in the mind of any competent physicist, or physiologist,
that the work done in lifting the weight of the arm is the mechanical
equivalent of a certain proportion of the energy set free by the
molecular changes which take place in the muscle. It is further a
tolerably well-based belief that this, and all other forms of energy,
are mutually convertible; and, therefore, that they all come under
that general law or statement of the order of facts, called the
conservation of energy. And, as that certainly is an abstraction, so
the view which the Duke of Argyll thinks so extremely absurd is really
one of the commonplaces of physiology. But this Review is hardly an
appropriate place for giving instruction in the elements of that
science, and I content myself with recommending the Duke of Argyll to
devote some study to Book II. chap. v. section 4 of my friend Dr.
Foster's excellent text-book of Physiology (1st edition, 1877, p.
321), which begins thus:--

     Broadly speaking, the animal body is a machine for
     converting potential into actual energy. The potential
     energy is supplied by the food; this the metabolism of the
     body converts into the actual energy of heat and mechanical

There is no more difficult problem in the world than that of the
relation of the state of consciousness, termed volition, to the
mechanical work which frequently follows upon it. But no one can even
comprehend the nature of the problem, who has not carefully studied
the long series of modes of motion which, without a break, connect the
energy which does that work with the general store of energy. The
ultimate form of the problem is this: Have we any reason to believe
that a feeling, or state of consciousness, is capable of directly
affecting the motion of even the smallest conceivable molecule of
matter? Is such a thing even conceivable? If we answer these questions
in the negative, it follows that volition may be a sign, but cannot be
a cause, of bodily motion. If we answer them in the affirmative, then
states of consciousness become undistinguishable from material things;
for it is the essential nature of matter to be the vehicle or
substratum of mechanical energy.

There is nothing new in all this. I have merely put into modern
language the issue raised by Descartes more than two centuries ago.
The philosophies of the Occasionalists, of Spinoza, of Malebranche, of
modern idealism and modern materialism, have all grown out of the
controversies which Cartesianism evoked. Of all this the
pseudo-science of the present time appears to be unconscious;
otherwise it would hardly content itself with "making het again" the
pseudo-science of the past.

In the course of these observations I have already had occasion to
express my appreciation of the copious and perfervid eloquence which
enriches the Duke of Argyll's pages. I am almost ashamed that a
constitutional insensibility to the Sirenian charms of rhetoric has
permitted me in wandering through these flowery meads, to be
attracted, almost exclusively, to the bare places of fallacy and the
stony grounds of deficient information, which are disguised, though
not concealed, by these floral decorations. But, in his concluding
sentences, the Duke soars into a Tyrtæan strain which roused even my
dull soul.

     It was high time, indeed, that some revolt should be raised
     against that Reign of Terror which had come to be
     established in the scientific world under the abuse of a
     great name. Professor Huxley has not joined this revolt
     openly, for as yet, indeed, it is only beginning to raise
     its head. But more than once--and very lately--he has
     uttered a warning voice against the shallow dogmatism that
     has provoked it. The time is coming when that revolt will be
     carried further. Higher interpretations will be established.
     Unless I am much mistaken, they are already coming in sight
     (p. 339).

I have been living very much out of the world for the last two or
three years, and when I read this denunciatory outburst, as of one
filled with the spirit of prophecy, I said to myself, "Mercy upon us,
what has happened? Can it be that X. and Y. (it would be wrong to
mention the names of the vigorous young friends which occurred to me)
are playing Danton and Robespierre; and that a guillotine is erected
in the courtyard of Burlington House for the benefit of all
anti-Darwinian Fellows of the Royal Society? Where are the secret
conspirators against this tyranny, whom I am supposed to favour, and
yet not have the courage to join openly? And to think of my poor
oppressed friend, Mr. Herbert Spencer, 'compelled to speak with bated
breath' (p. 338) certainly for the first time in my thirty-odd years'
acquaintance with him!" My alarm and horror at the supposition that
while I had been fiddling (or at any rate physicking), my beloved Rome
had been burning, in this fashion, may be imagined.

I am sure the Duke of Argyll will be glad to hear that the anxiety he
created was of extremely short duration. It is my privilege to have
access to the best sources of information, and nobody in the
scientific world can tell me anything about either the "Reign of
Terror" or "the Revolt." In fact, the scientific world laughs most
indecorously at the notion of the existence of either; and some are so
lost to the sense of the scientific dignity, that they descend to the
use of transatlantic slang, and call it a "bogus scare." As to my
friend Mr. Herbert Spencer, I have every reason to know that, in the
"Factors of Organic Evolution," he has said exactly what was in his
mind, without any particular deference to the opinions of the person
whom he is pleased to regard as his most dangerous critic and Devil's
Advocate-General, and still less of any one else.

I do not know whether the Duke of Argyll pictures himself as the
Tallien of this imaginary revolt against a no less imaginary Reign of
Terror. But if so, I most respectfully but firmly decline to join his
forces. It is only a few weeks since I happened to read over again the
first article which I ever wrote (now twenty-seven years ago) on the
"Origin of Species," and I found nothing that I wished to modify in
the opinions that are there expressed, though the subsequent vast
accumulation of evidence in favour of Mr. Darwin's views would give me
much to add. As is the case with all new doctrines, so with that of
Evolution, the enthusiasm of advocates has sometimes tended to
degenerate into fanaticism; and mere speculation has, at times,
threatened to shoot beyond its legitimate bounds. I have occasionally
thought it wise to warn the more adventurous spirits among us against
these dangers, in sufficiently plain language; and I have sometimes
jestingly said that I expected, if I lived long enough, to be looked
on as a reactionary by some of my more ardent friends. But nothing
short of midsummer madness can account for the fiction that I am
waiting till it is safe to join openly a revolt, hatched by some
person or persons unknown, against an intellectual movement with which
I am in the most entire and hearty sympathy. It is a great many years
since, at the outset of my career, I had to think seriously what life
had to offer that was worth having. I came to the conclusion that the
chief good, for me, was freedom to learn, think, and say what I
pleased, when I pleased. I have acted on that conviction, and have
availed myself of the "rara temporum felicitas ubi sentire quæ velis,
et quæ sentias dicere licet," which is now enjoyable, to the best of
my ability; and though strongly, and perhaps wisely, warned that I
should probably come to grief, I am entirely satisfied with the
results of the line of action I have adopted.

My career is at an end. I have

    Warmed both hands before the fire of life;

and nothing is left me, before I depart, but to help, or at any rate
to abstain from hindering, the younger generation of men of science in
doing better service to the cause we have at heart than I have been
able to render.

And yet, forsooth, I am supposed to be waiting for the signal of
"revolt," which some fiery spirits among these young men are to raise
before I dare express my real opinions concerning questions about
which we older men had to fight, in the teeth of fierce public
opposition and obloquy--of something which might almost justify even
the grandiloquent epithet of a Reign of Terror--before our excellent
successors had left school.

It would appear that the spirit of pseudo-science has impregnated even
the imagination of the Duke of Argyll. The scientific imagination
always restrains itself within the limits of probability.


     [20] _Nineteenth Century_, March, 1887.

     [21] The Duke of Argyll speaks of the recent date of the
          demonstration of the fallacy of the doctrine in
          question. "Recent" is a relative term, but I may
          mention that the question is fully discussed in my book
          on _Hume_; which, if I may believe my publishers, has
          been read by a good many people since it appeared in
          1879. Moreover, I observe, from a note at page 89 of
          _The Reign of Law_, a work to which I shall have
          occasion to advert by and by, that the Duke of Argyll
          draws attention to the circumstance that, so long ago
          as 1866, the views which I hold on this subject were
          well known. The Duke, in fact, writing about this time,
          says, after quoting a phrase of mine: "The question of
          miracles seems now to be admitted on all hands to be
          simply a question of evidence." In science, we think
          that a teacher who ignores views which have been
          discussed _coram populo_ for twenty years, is hardly up
          to the mark.

     [22] See also vol. i. p. 460. In the ninth edition (1853),
          published twenty-three years after the first. Lyell
          deprives even the most careless reader of any excuse
          for misunderstanding him: "So in regard to subterranean
          movements, the theory of the perpetual uniformity of
          the force which they exert on the earth-crust is quite
          consistent with the admission of their alternate
          development and suspension for indefinite periods
          within limited geographical areas" (p. 187).

     [23] A great many years ago (Presidential Address to the
          Geological Society, 1869) I ventured to indicate that
          which seemed to me to be the weak point, not in the
          fundamental principles of uniformitarianism, but in
          uniformitarianism as taught by Lyell. It lay, to my
          mind, in the refusal by Hutton, and in a less degree by
          Lyell, to look beyond the limits of the time recorded
          by the stratified rocks. I said: "This attempt to
          limit, at a particular point, the progress of inductive
          and deductive reasoning from the things which are to
          the things which were--this faithlessness to its own
          logic, seems to me to have cost uniformitarianism the
          place as the permanent form of geological speculation
          which it might otherwise have held" (_Lay Sermons_, p.
          260). The context shows that "uniformitarianism" here
          means that doctrine, as limited in application by
          Hutton and Lyell, and that what I mean by
          "evolutionism" is consistent and thorough-going

     [24] _Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences_, vol. i. p. 670.
          New edition, 1847.

     [25] At Glasgow in 1856.

     [26] _Optics_, query 31.

     [27] The author recognises this in his _Explanations_.



If there is any truth in the old adage that a burnt child dreads the
fire, I ought to be very loath to touch a sermon, while the memory of
what befell me on a recent occasion, possibly not yet forgotten by the
readers of the _Nineteenth Century_, is uneffaced. But I suppose that
even the distinguished censor of that unheard-of audacity to which not
even the newspaper report of a sermon is sacred, can hardly regard a
man of science as either indelicate or presumptuous, if he ventures to
offer some comments upon three discourses, specially addressed to the
great assemblage of men of science which recently gathered at
Manchester, by three bishops of the State Church. On my return to
England not long ago, I found a pamphlet[28] containing a version,
which I presume to be authorised, of these sermons, among the huge
mass of letters and papers which had accumulated during two months'
absence; and I have read them not only with attentive interest, but
with a feeling of satisfaction which is quite new to me as a result of
hearing, or reading, sermons. These excellent discourses, in fact,
appear to me to signalise a new departure in the course adopted by
theology towards science, and to indicate the possibility of bringing
about an honourable _modus vivendi_ between the two. How far the three
bishops speak as accredited representatives of the Church is a
question to be considered by and by. Most assuredly, I am not
authorised to represent any one but myself. But I suppose that there
must be a good many people in the Church of the bishops' way of
thinking; and I have reason to believe that, in the ranks of science,
there are a good many persons who, more or less, share my views. And
it is to these sensible people on both sides, as the bishops and I
must needs think those who agree with us, that my present observations
are addressed. They will probably be astonished to learn how
insignificant, in principle, their differences are.

It is impossible to read the discourses of the three prelates without
being impressed by the knowledge which they display, and by the spirit
of equity, I might say of generosity, towards science which pervades
them. There is no trace of that tacit or open assumption that the
rejection of theological dogmas, on scientific grounds, is due to
moral perversity, which is the ordinary note of ecclesiastical
homilies on this subject, and which makes them look so supremely silly
to men whose lives have been spent in wrestling with these questions.
There is no attempt to hide away real stumbling-blocks under
rhetorical stucco; no resort to the _tu quoque_ device of setting
scientific blunders against theological errors; no suggestion that an
honest man may keep contradictory beliefs in separate pockets of his
brain; no question that the method of scientific investigation is
valid, whatever the results to which it may lead; and that the search
after truth, and truth only, ennobles the searcher and leaves no doubt
that his life, at any rate, is worth living. The Bishop of Carlisle
declares himself pledged to the belief that "the advancement of
science, the progress of human knowledge, is in itself a worthy aim of
the greatest effort of the greatest minds."

How often was it my fate, a quarter of a century ago, to see the whole
artillery of the pulpit brought to bear upon the doctrine of evolution
and its supporters! Any one unaccustomed to the amenities of
ecclesiastical controversy would have thought we were too wicked to be
permitted to live. But let us hear the Bishop of Bedford. After a
perfectly frank statement of the doctrine of evolution and some of
its obvious consequences, that learned prelate pleads, with all
earnestness, against

     a hasty denunciation of what _may_ be proved to have at
     least some elements of truth in it, a contemptuous rejection
     of theories which we _may_ some day learn to accept as
     freely and with as little sense of inconsistency with God's
     word as we now accept the theory of the earth's motion round
     the sun, or the long duration of the geological epochs (p.

I do not see that the most convinced evolutionist could ask any one,
whether cleric or layman, to say more than this; in fact, I do not
think that any one has a right to say more, with respect to any
question about which two opinions can he held, than that his mind is
perfectly open to the force of evidence.

There is another portion of the Bishop of Bedford's sermon which I
think will be warmly appreciated by all honest and clear-headed men.
He repudiates the views of those who say that theology and science

     occupy wholly different spheres, and need in no way
     intermeddle with each other. They revolve, as it were, in
     different planes, and so never meet. Thus we may pursue
     scientific studies with the utmost freedom and, at the same
     time, may pay the most reverent regard to theology, having
     no fears of collision, because allowing no points of contact
     (p. 29).

Surely every unsophisticated mind will heartily concur with the
Bishop's remark upon this convenient refuge for the descendants of
Mr. Facing-both-ways. "I have never been able to understand this
position though I have often seen it assumed." Nor can any demurrer be
sustained when the Bishop proceeds to point out that there are, and
must be, various points of contact between theological and natural
science, and therefore that it is foolish to ignore or deny the
existence of as many dangers of collision.

Finally, the Bishop of Manchester freely admits the force of the
objections which have been raised, on scientific grounds, to prayer,
and attempts to turn them by arguing that the proper objects of prayer
are not physical but spiritual. He tells us that natural accidents and
moral misfortunes are not to be taken for moral judgments of God; he
admits the propriety of the application of scientific methods to the
investigation of the origin and growth of religions; and he is as
ready to recognise the process of evolution there, as in the physical
world. Mark the following striking passage:--

     And how utterly all the common objections to Divine
     revelation vanish away when they are set in the light of
     this theory of a spiritual progression. Are we reminded that
     there prevailed, in those earlier days, views of the nature
     of God and man, of human life and Divine Providence, which
     we now find to be untenable? _That_, we answer, is precisely
     what the theory of development presupposes. If early views
     of religion and morality had not been imperfect, where had
     been the development? If symbolical visions and mythical
     creations had found no place in the early Oriental
     expression of Divine truth, where had been the development?
     The sufficient answer to ninety-nine out of a hundred of the
     ordinary objections to the Bible, as the record of a divine
     education of our race, is asked in that one
     word--development. And to what are we indebted for that
     potent word, which, as with the wand of a magician, has at
     the same moment so completely transformed our knowledge and
     dispelled our difficulties? To modern science, resolutely
     pursuing its search for truth in spite of popular obloquy
     and--alas! that one should have to say it--in spite too
     often of theological denunciation (p. 53).

Apart from its general importance, I read this remarkable statement
with the more pleasure, since, however imperfectly I may have
endeavoured to illustrate the evolution of theology in a paper
published in the _Nineteenth Century_ last year,[29] it seems to me
that in principle, at any rate, I may hereafter claim high theological
sanction for the views there set forth.

If theologians are henceforward prepared to recognise the authority of
secular science in the manner and to the extent indicated in the
Manchester trilogy; if the distinguished prelates who offer these
terms are really plenipotentiaries, then, so far as I may presume to
speak on such a matter, there will be no difficulty about concluding a
perpetual treaty of peace, and indeed of alliance, between the high
contracting powers, whose history has hitherto been little more than a
record of continual warfare. But if the great Chancellor's maxim, "Do
ut des," is to form the basis of negotiation, I am afraid that
secular science will be ruined; for it seems to me that theology,
under the generous impulse of a sudden conversion, has given all that
she hath; and indeed, on one point, has surrendered more than can
reasonably be asked.

I suppose I must be prepared to face the reproach which attaches to
those who criticise a gift, if I venture to observe that I do not
think that the Bishop of Manchester need have been so much alarmed, as
he evidently has been, by the objections which have often been raised
to prayer, on the ground that a belief in the efficacy of prayer is
inconsistent with a belief in the constancy of the order of nature.

The Bishop appears to admit that there is an antagonism between the
"regular economy of nature" and the "regular economy of prayer" (p.
39), and that "prayers for the interruption of God's natural order"
are of "doubtful validity" (p. 42). It appears to me that the Bishop's
difficulty simply adds another example to those which I have several
times insisted upon in the pages of this Review and elsewhere, of the
mischief which has been done, and is being done, by a mistaken
apprehension of the real meaning of "natural order" and "law of

May I, therefore, be permitted to repeat, once more, that the
statements denoted by these terms have no greater value or cogency
than such as may attach to generalisations from experience of the
past, and to expectations for the future based upon that experience?
Nobody can presume to say what the order of nature must be; all that
the widest experience (even if it extended over all past time and
through all space) that events had happened in a certain way could
justify, would be a proportionally strong expectation that events will
go on happening, and the demand for a proportional strength of
evidence in favour of any assertion that they had happened otherwise.

It is this weighty consideration, the truth of which every one who is
capable of logical thought must surely admit, which knocks the bottom
out of all _à priori_ objections either to ordinary "miracles" or to
the efficacy of prayer, in so far as the latter implies the miraculous
intervention of a higher power. No one is entitled to say _à priori_
that any given so-called miraculous event is impossible; and no one is
entitled to say _à priori_ that prayer for some change in the ordinary
course of nature cannot possibly avail.

The supposition that there is any inconsistency between the acceptance
of the constancy of natural order and a belief in the efficacy of
prayer, is the more unaccountable as it is obviously contradicted by
analogies furnished by everyday experience. The belief in the efficacy
of prayer depends upon the assumption that there is somebody,
somewhere, who is strong enough to deal with the earth and its
contents as men deal with the things and events which they are strong
enough to modify or control; and who is capable of being moved by
appeals such as men make to one another. This belief does not even
involve theism; for our earth is an insignificant particle of the
solar system, while the solar system is hardly worth speaking of in
relation to the All; and, for anything that can be proved to the
contrary, there may be beings endowed with full powers over our
system, yet, practically, as insignificant as ourselves in relation to
the universe. If any one pleases, therefore, to give unrestrained
liberty to his fancy, he may plead analogy in favour of the dream that
there may be, somewhere, a finite being, or beings, who can play with
the solar system as a child plays with a toy; and that such being may
be willing to do anything which he is properly supplicated to do. For
we are not justified in saying that it is impossible for beings having
the nature of men, only vastly more powerful, to exist; and if they do
exist, they may act as and when we ask them to do so, just as our
brother men act. As a matter of fact, the great mass of the human race
has believed, and still believes, in such beings, under the various
names of fairies, gnomes, angels, and demons. Certainly I do not lack
faith in the constancy of natural order. But I am not less convinced
that if I were to ask the Bishop of Manchester to do me a kindness
which lay within his power, he would do it. And I am unable to see
that his action on my request involves any violation of the order of
nature. On the contrary, as I have not the honour to know the Bishop
personally, my action would be based upon my faith, in that "law of
nature," or generalisation from experience, which tells me that, as a
rule, men who occupy the Bishop's position are kindly and courteous.
How is the case altered if my request is preferred to some imaginary
superior being, or to the Most High being, who, by the supposition, is
able to arrest disease, or make the sun stand still in the heavens,
just as easily as I can stop my watch, or make it indicate any hour
that pleases me?

I repeat that it is not upon any _à priori_ considerations that
objections, either to the supposed efficacy of prayer in modifying the
course of events, or to the supposed occurrence of miracles, can be
scientifically based. The real objection, and, to my mind, the fatal
objection, to both these suppositions, is the inadequacy of the
evidence to prove any given case of such occurrences which has been
adduced. It is a canon of common sense, to say nothing of science,
that the more improbable a supposed occurrence, the more cogent ought
to be the evidence in its favour. I have looked somewhat carefully
into the subject, and I am unable to find in the records of any
miraculous event evidence which even approximates to the fulfilment of
this requirement.

But, in the case of prayer, the Bishop points out a most just and
necessary distinction between its effect on the course of nature,
outside ourselves, and its effect within the region of the
supplicator's mind.

It is a "law of nature," verifiable by everyday experience, that our
already formed convictions, our strong desires, our intent occupation
with particular ideas, modify our mental operations to a most
marvellous extent, and produce enduring changes in the direction and
in the intensity of our intellectual and moral activities. Men can
intoxicate themselves with ideas as effectually as with alcohol or
with bang, and produce, by dint of intense thinking, mental conditions
hardly distinguishable from monomania. Demoniac possession is
mythical; but the faculty of being possessed, more or less completely,
by an idea is probably the fundamental condition of what is called
genius, whether it show itself in the saint, the artist, or the man of
science. One calls it faith, another calls it inspiration, a third
calls it insight; but the "intending of the mind," to borrow Newton's
well-known phrase, the concentration of all the rays of intellectual
energy on some one point, until it glows and colours the whole cast of
thought with its peculiar light, is common to all.

I take it that the Bishop of Manchester has psychological science with
him when he insists upon the subjective efficacy of prayer in faith,
and on the seemingly miraculous effects which such "intending of the
mind" upon religious and moral ideals may have upon character and
happiness. Scientific faith, at present, takes it no further than the
prayer which Ajax offered; but that petition is continually granted.

Whatever points of detail may yet remain open for discussion, however,
I repeat the opinion I have already expressed, that the Manchester
sermons concede all that science, has an indisputable right, or any
pressing need, to ask, and that not grudgingly but generously; and, if
the three bishops of 1887 carry the Church with them, I think they
will have as good title to the permanent gratitude of posterity as the
famous seven who went to the Tower in defence of the Church two
hundred years ago.

Will their brethren follow their just and prudent guidance? I have no
such acquaintance with the currents of ecclesiastical opinion as would
justify me in even hazarding a guess on such a difficult topic. But
some recent omens are hardly favourable. There seems to be an
impression abroad--I do not desire to give any countenance to it--that
I am fond of reading sermons. From time to time, unknown
correspondents--some apparently animated by the charitable desire to
promote my conversion, and others unmistakably anxious to spur me to
the expression of wrathful antagonism--favour me with reports or
copies of such productions.

I found one of the latter category among the accumulated arrears to
which I have already referred.

It is a full, and apparently accurate, report of a discourse by a
person of no less ecclesiastical rank than the three authors of the
sermons I have hitherto been considering; but who he is, and where or
when the sermon was preached, are secrets which wild horses shall not
tear from me, lest I fall again under high censure for attacking a
clergyman. Only if the editor of this Review thinks it his duty to
have independent evidence that the sermon has a real existence, will
I, in the strictest confidence, communicate it to him.

The preacher, in this case, is of a very different mind from the three
bishops--and this mind is different in quality, different in spirit,
and different in contents. He discourses on the _à priori_ objections
to miracles, apparently without being aware, in spite of all the
discussions of the last seven or eight years, that he is doing battle
with a shadow.

I trust I do not misrepresent the Bishop of Manchester in saying that
the essence of his remarkable discourse is the insistence upon the
"supreme importance of the purely spiritual in our faith," and of the
relative, if not absolute, insignificance of aught else. He obviously
perceives the bearing of his arguments against the alterability of
the course of outward nature by prayer, on the question of miracles in
general; for he is careful to say that "the possibility of miracles,
of a rare and unusual transcendence of the world order is not here in
question" (p. 38). It may be permitted me to suppose, however, that,
if miracles were in question, the speaker who warns us "that we must
look for the heart of the absolute religion in that part of it which
prescribes our moral and religious relations" (p. 46) would not be
disposed to advise those who had found the heart of Christianity to
take much thought about its miraculous integument.

My anonymous sermon will have nothing to do with such notions as
these, and its preacher is not too polite, to say nothing of
charitable, towards those who entertain them.

     Scientific men, therefore, are perfectly right in asserting
     that Christianity rests on miracles. If miracles never
     happened, Christianity, in any sense which is not a mockery,
     which does not make the term of none effect, has no reality.
     I dwell on this because there is now an effort making to get
     up a non-miraculous, invertebrate Christianity, which may
     escape the ban of science. And I would warn you very
     distinctly against this new contrivance. Christianity is
     essentially miraculous, and falls to the ground if miracles
     be impossible.

Well, warning for warning. I venture to warn this preacher and those
who, with him, persist in identifying Christianity with the
miraculous, that such forms of Christianity are not only doomed to
fall to the ground; but that, within the last half century, they have
been driving that way with continually accelerated velocity.

The so-called religious world is given to a strange delusion. It
fondly imagines that it possesses the monopoly of serious and constant
reflection upon the terrible problems of existence; and that those who
cannot accept its shibboleths are either mere Gallios, caring for none
of these things, or libertines desiring to escape from the restraints
of morality. It does not appear to have entered the imaginations of
these people that, outside their pale and firmly resolved never to
enter it, there are thousands of men, certainly not their inferiors in
character, capacity, or knowledge of the questions at issue, who
estimate those purely spiritual elements of the Christian faith of
which the Bishop of Manchester speaks as highly as the Bishop does;
but who will have nothing to do with the Christian Churches, because
in their apprehension and for them, the profession of belief in the
miraculous, on the evidence offered would be simply immoral.

So far as my experience goes, men of science are neither better nor
worse than the rest of the world. Occupation with the endlessly great
parts of the universe does not necessarily involve greatness of
character, nor does microscopic study of the infinitely little always
produce humility. We have our full share of original sin; need,
greed, and vainglory beset us as they do other mortals; and our
progress is, for the most part, like that of a tacking ship, the
resultant of opposite divergencies from the straight path. But, for
all that, there is one moral benefit which the pursuit of science
unquestionably bestows. It keeps the estimate of the value of evidence
up to the proper mark; and we are constantly receiving lessons, and
sometimes very sharp ones, on the nature of proof. Men of science will
always act up to their standard of veracity, when mankind in general
leave off sinning; but that standard appears to me to be higher among
them than in any other class of the community.

I do not know any body of scientific men who could be got to listen
without the strongest expressions of disgusted repudiation to the
exposition of a pretended scientific discovery, which had no better
evidence to show for itself than the story of the devils entering a
herd of swine, or of the fig-tree that was blasted for bearing no figs
when "it was not the season of figs." Whether such events are possible
or impossible, no man can say; but scientific ethics can and does
declare that the profession of belief in them, on the evidence of
documents of unknown date and of unknown authorship, is immoral.
Theological apologists who insist that morality will vanish if their
dogmas are exploded, would do well to consider the fact that, in the
matter of intellectual veracity, science is already a long way ahead
of the Churches; and that, in this particular, it is exerting an
educational influence on mankind of which the Churches have shown
themselves utterly incapable.

Undoubtedly that varying compound of some of the best and some of the
worst elements of Paganism and Judaism, moulded in practice by the
innate character of certain people of the Western world, which, since
the second century, has assumed to itself the title of orthodox
Christianity, "rests on miracles" and falls to the ground, not "if
miracles be impossible," but if those to which it is committed prove
themselves unable to fulfil the conditions of honest belief. That this
Christianity is doomed to fall is, to my mind, beyond a doubt; but its
fall will be neither sudden nor speedy. The Church, with all the aid
lent it by the secular arm, took many centuries to extirpate the open
practice of pagan idolatry within its own fold; and those who have
travelled in southern Europe will be aware that it has not extirpated
the essence of such idolatry even yet. _Mutato nomine_, it is probable
that there is as much sheer fetichism among the Roman populace now as
there was eighteen hundred years ago; and if Marcus Antonius could
descend from his horse and ascend the steps of the Ara Coeli church
about Twelfth Day, the only thing that need strike him would be the
extremely contemptible character of the modern idols as works of art.

Science will certainly neither ask for, nor receive, the aid of the
secular arm. It will trust to the much better and more powerful help
of that education in scientific truth and in the morals of assent,
which is rendered as indispensable, as it is inevitable, by the
permeation of practical life with the products and ideas of science.
But no one who considers the present state of even the most developed
countries can doubt that the scientific light that has come into the
world will have to shine in the midst of darkness for a long time. The
urban populations, driven into contact with science by trade and
manufacture, will more and more receive it, while the _pagani_ will
lag behind. Let us hope that no Julian may arise among them to head a
forlorn hope against the inevitable. Whatever happens, science may
bide her time in patience and in confidence.

But to return to my "Anonymous." I am afraid that if he represents any
great party in the Church, the spirit of justice and reasonableness
which animates the three bishops has as slender a chance of being
imitated, on a large scale, as their common sense and their courtesy.
For, not contented with misrepresenting science on its speculative
side, "Anonymous" attacks its morality.

     For two whole years, investigations and conclusions which
     would upset the theories of Darwin on the formation of coral
     islands were actually suppressed, and that by the advice
     even of those who accepted them, _for fear of upsetting the
     faith and disturbing the judgment formed by the multitude
     on the scientific character--the infallibility--of the great

So far as I know anything about the matters which are here referred
to, the part of this passage which I have italicised is absolutely
untrue. I believe that I am intimately acquainted with all Mr.
Darwin's immediate scientific friends: and I say that no one of them,
nor any other man of science known to me, ever could, or would, have
given such advice to any one--if for no other reason than that, with
the example of the most candid and patient listener to objections that
ever lived fresh in their memories, they could not so grossly have at
once violated their highest duty and dishonoured their friend.

The charge thus brought by "Anonymous" affects the honour and the
probity of men of science; if it is true, we have forfeited all claim
to the confidence of the general public. In my belief it is utterly
false, and its real effect will be to discredit those who are
responsible for it. As is the way with slanders, it has grown by
repetition. "Anonymous" is responsible for the peculiarly offensive
form which it has taken in his hands; but he is not responsible for
originating it. He has evidently been inspired by an article entitled
"A Great Lesson," published in the September number of this Review.
Truly it is "a great lesson," but not quite in the sense intended by
the giver thereof.

In the course of his doubtless well-meant admonitions, the Duke of
Argyll commits himself to a greater number of statements which are
demonstrably incorrect and which any one who ventured to write upon
the subject ought to have known to be incorrect, than I have ever seen
gathered together in so small a space.

I submit a gathering from the rich store for the appreciation of the


     Mr. Murray's new explanation of the structure of coral-reefs
     and islands was communicated to the Royal Society of
     Edinburgh in 1880, and supported with such a weight of facts
     and such a close texture of reasoning, that no serious reply
     has ever been attempted (p. 305).

"No serious reply has ever been attempted"! I suppose that the Duke of
Argyll may have heard of Professor Dana, whose years of labour devoted
to corals and coral-reefs when he was naturalist of the American
expedition under Commodore Wilkes, more than forty years ago, have
ever since caused him to be recognised as an authority of the first
rank on such subjects. Now does his Grace know, or does he not know,
that, in the year 1885, Professor Dana published an elaborate paper
"On the Origin of Coral-Reefs and Islands," in which, after referring
to a Presidential Address by the Director of the Geological Survey of
Great Britain and Ireland delivered in 1883, in which special
attention is directed to Mr. Murray's views Professor Dana says:--

     The existing state of doubt on the question has led the
     writer to reconsider the earlier and later facts, and in the
     following pages he gives his results.

Professor Dana then devotes many pages of his very "serious reply" to
a most admirable and weighty criticism of the objections which have at
various times been raised to Mr. Darwin's doctrine, by Professor
Semper, by Dr. Rein, and finally by Mr. Murray, and he states his
final judgment as follows:--

     With the theory of abrasion and solution incompetent, all
     the hypotheses of objectors to Darwin's theory are alike
     weak; for all have made these processes their chief
     reliance, whether appealing to a calcareous, or a volcanic,
     or a mountain-peak basement for the structure. The
     subsidence which the Darwinian theory requires has not been
     opposed by the mention of any fact at variance with it, nor
     by setting aside Darwin's arguments in its favour; and it
     has found new support in the facts from the "Challenger's"
     soundings off Tahiti, that had been put in array against it,
     and strong corroboration in the facts from the West Indies.

     Darwin's theory, therefore, remains as the theory that
     accounts for the origin of reefs and islands.[30]

Be it understood that I express no opinion on the controverted points.
I doubt if there are ten living men who, having a practical knowledge
of what a coral-reef is, have endeavoured to master the very difficult
biological and geological problems involved in their study. I happen
to have spent the best part of three years among coral-reefs and to
have made that attempt; and, when Mr. Murray's work appeared, I said
to myself that until I had two or three months to give to the renewed
study of the subject in all its bearings, I must be content to remain
in a condition of suspended judgment. In the meanwhile, the man who
would be voted by common acclamation as the most competent person now
living to act as umpire, has delivered the verdict I have quoted; and,
to go no further, has fully justified the hesitation I and others may
have felt about expressing an opinion. Under these circumstances, it
seems to me to require a good deal of courage to say "no serious reply
has ever been attempted"; and to chide the men of science, in lofty
tones, for their "reluctance to admit an error" which is not admitted;
and for their "slow and sulky acquiescence" in a conclusion which they
have the gravest warranty for suspecting.


     Darwin himself had lived to hear of the new solution and,
     with that splendid candour which was eminent in him his
     mind, though now grown old in his own early convictions, was
     at least ready to entertain it, and to confess that serious
     doubts had been awakened as to the truth of his famous
     theory (p. 305).

I wish that Darwin's splendid candour could be conveyed by some
description of spiritual "microbe" to those who write about him. I am
not aware that Mr. Darwin ever entertained "serious doubts as to the
truth of his famous theory"; and there is tolerably good evidence to
the contrary. The second edition of his work, published in 1876,
proves that he entertained no such doubts then; a letter to Professor
Semper, whose objections, in some respects, forestalled those of Mr.
Murray, dated October 2, 1879, expresses his continued adherence to
the opinion "that the atolls and barrier reefs in the middle of the
Pacific and Indian Oceans indicate subsidence"; and the letter of my
friend Professor Judd, printed at the end of this article (which I had
perhaps better say Professor Judd had not seen) will prove that this
opinion remained unaltered to the end of his life.


     ... Darwin's theory is a dream. It is not only unsound, but
     it is in many respects the reverse of truth. With all his
     conscientiousness, with all his caution, with all his powers
     of observation, Darwin in this matter fell into errors as
     profound as the abysses of the Pacific (p. 301).

Really? It seems to me that, under the circumstances, it is pretty
clear that these lines exhibit a lack of the qualities justly ascribed
to Mr. Darwin, which plunges their author into a much deeper abyss,
and one from which there is no hope of emergence.


     All the acclamations with which it was received were as the
     shouts of an ignorant mob (p. 301).

But surely it should be added that the Coryphæus of this ignorant
mob, the fugleman of the shouts, was one of the most accomplished
naturalists and geologists now living--the American Dana--who, after
years of independent study extending over numerous reefs in the
Pacific, gave his hearty assent to Darwin's views, and after all that
had been said, deliberately reaffirmed that assent in the year 1885.


     The overthrow of Darwin's speculation is only beginning to
     be known. It has been whispered for some time. The cherished
     dogma has been dropping very slowly out of sight (p. 301).

Darwin's speculation may be right or wrong, but I submit that that
which has not happened cannot even begin to be known, except by those
who have miraculous gifts to which we poor scientific people do not
aspire. The overthrow of Darwin's views may have been whispered by
those who hoped for it; and they were perhaps wise in not raising
their voices above a whisper. Incorrect statements, if made too
loudly, are apt to bring about unpleasant consequences.


Mr. Murray's views, published in 1880, are said to have met with "slow
and sulky acquiescence" (p. 305). I have proved that they cannot be
said to have met with general acquiescence of any sort, whether quick
and cheerful, or slow and sulky; and if this assertion is meant to
convey the impression that Mr. Murray's views have been ignored, that
there has been a conspiracy of silence against them, it is utterly
contrary to notorious fact.

Professor Geikie's well-known "Textbook of Geology" was published in
1882, and at pages 457-459 of that work there is a careful exposition
of Mr. Murray's views. Moreover Professor Geikie has specially
advocated them on other occasions,[31] notably in a long article on
"The Origin of Coral-Reefs," published in two numbers of "Nature" for
1883, and in a Presidential Address delivered in the same year. If, in
so short a time after the publication of his views, Mr. Murray could
boast of a convert, so distinguished and influential as the Director
of the Geological Survey, it seems to me that this wonderful
_conspiration de silence_ (which has about as much real existence as
the Duke of Argyll's other bogie, "The Reign of Terror ") must have
_ipso facto_ collapsed. I wish that, when I was a young man, my
endeavours to upset some prevalent errors had met with as speedy and
effectual backing.


     ... Mr. John Murray was strongly advised against the
     publication of his views in derogation of Darwin's
     long-accepted theory of the coral islands, and was actually
     induced to delay it for two years. Yet the late Sir Wyville
     Thomson, who was at the head of the naturalists of the
     "Challenger" expedition, was himself convinced by Mr.
     Murray's reasoning (p. 307).

Clearly, then, it could not be Mr. Murray's official chief who gave
him this advice. Who was it? And what was the exact nature of the
advice given? Until we have some precise information on this head, I
shall take leave to doubt whether this statement is more accurate than
those which I have previously cited.

Whether such advice was wise or foolish, just or immoral, depends
entirely on the motive of the person who gave it. If he meant to
suggest to Mr. Murray that it might be wise for a young and
comparatively unknown man to walk warily, when he proposed to attack a
generalisation based on many years' labour of one undoubtedly
competent person, and fortified by the independent results of the many
years' labour of another undoubtedly competent person; and even, if
necessary, to take two whole years in fortifying his position, I think
that such advice would have been sagacious and kind. I suppose that
there are few working men of science who have not kept their ideas to
themselves, while gathering and sifting evidence, for a much longer
period than two years.

If, on the other hand, Mr. Murray was advised to delay the publication
of his criticisms, simply to save Mr. Darwin's credit and to preserve
some reputation for infallibility, which no one ever heard of, then I
have no hesitation in declaring that his adviser was profoundly
dishonest, as well as extremely foolish; and that, if he is a man of
science, he has disgraced his calling.

But, after all, this supposed scientific Achitophel has not yet made
good the primary fact of his existence. Until the needful proof is
forthcoming, I think I am justified in suspending my judgment as to
whether he is much more than an anti-scientific myth. I leave it to
the Duke of Argyll to judge of the extent of the obligation under
which, for his own sake, he may lie to produce the evidence on which
his aspersions of the honour of scientific men are based. I cannot
pretend that we are seriously disturbed by charges which every one who
is acquainted with the truth of the matter knows to be ridiculous; but
mud has a habit of staining if it lies too long, and it is as well to
have it brushed off as soon as may be.

So much for the "Great Lesson." It is followed by a "Little Lesson,"
apparently directed against my infallibility--a doctrine about which I
should be inclined to paraphrase Wilkes's remark to George the Third,
when he declared that he, at any rate, was not a Wilkite. But I really
should be glad to think that there are people who need the warning,
because then it will be obvious that this raking up of an old story
cannot have been suggested by a mere fanatical desire to damage men
of science. I can but rejoice, then, that these misguided enthusiasts,
whose faith, in me has so far exceeded the bounds of reason, should be
set right. But that "want of finish" in the matter of accuracy which
so terribly mars the effect of the "Great Lesson," is no less
conspicuous in the case of the "Little Lesson," and, instead of
setting my too fervent disciples right, it will set them wrong.

The Duke of Argyll, in telling the story of _Bathybius_, says that my
mind was "caught by this new and grand generalisation of the physical
basis of life." I never have been guilty of a reclamation about
anything to my credit, and I do not mean to be; but if there is any
blame going, I do not choose to be relegated to a subordinate place
when I have a claim to the first. The responsibility for the first
description and the naming of _Bathybius_ is mine and mine only. The
paper on "Some Organisms living at great Depths in the Atlantic
Ocean," in which I drew attention to this substance, is to be found by
the curious in the eighth volume of the "Quarterly Journal of
Microscopical Science," and was published in the year 1868. Whatever
errors are contained in that paper are my own peculiar property; but
neither at the meeting of the British Association in 1868, nor
anywhere else, have I gone beyond what is there stated; except in so
far that, at a long-subsequent meeting of the Association, being
importuned about the subject, I ventured to express, somewhat
emphatically, the wish that the thing was at the bottom of the sea.

What is meant by my being caught by a generalisation about the
physical basis of life I do not know; still less can I understand the
assertion that _Bathybius_ was accepted because of its supposed
harmony with Darwin's speculations. That which interested me in the
matter was the apparent analogy of _Bathybius_ with other well-known
forms of lower life, such as the plasmodia of the Myxomycetes and the
Rhizopods. Speculative hopes or fears had nothing to do with the
matter; and if _Bathybius_ were brought up alive from the bottom of
the Atlantic to-morrow, the fact would not have the slightest bearing,
that I can discern, upon Mr. Darwin's speculations, or upon any of the
disputed problems of biology. It would merely be one elementary
organism the more added to the thousands already known.

Up to this moment I was not aware of the universal favour with which
_Bathybius_ was received.[32] Those simulators of an "ignorant mob"
who, according to the Duke of Argyll, welcomed Darwin's theory of
coral-reefs, made no demonstration in my favour, unless his Grace
includes Sir Wyville Thomson, Dr. Carpenter, Dr. Bessels, and
Professor Haeckel under that head. On the contrary, a sagacious friend
of mine, than whom there was no more competent judge, the late Mr.
George Busk, was not to be converted; while, long before the
"Challenger" work, Ehrenberg wrote to me very sceptically; and I fully
expected that that eminent man would favour me with pretty sharp
criticism. Unfortunately, he died shortly afterwards, and nothing from
him, that I know of, appeared. When Sir Wyville Thomson wrote to me a
brief account of the results obtained on board the "Challenger" I sent
this statement to "Nature," in which journal it appeared the following
week, without any further note or comment than was needful to explain
the circumstances. In thus allowing judgment to go by default, I am
afraid I showed a reckless and ungracious disregard for the feelings
of the believers in my infallibility. No doubt I ought to have hedged
and fenced and attenuated the effect of Sir Wyville Thomson's brief
note in every possible way. Or perhaps I ought to have suppressed the
note altogether, on the ground that it was a mere _ex parte_
statement. My excuse is that, notwithstanding a large and abiding
faith in human folly, I did not know then, any more than I know now,
that there was anybody foolish enough to be unaware that the only
people scientific or other, who never make mistakes are those who do
nothing; or that anybody, for whose opinion I cared, would not rather
see me commit ten blunders than try to hide one.

Pending the production of further evidence, I hold that the existence
of people who believe in the infallibility of men of science is as
purely mythical as that of the evil counsellor who advised the
withholding of the truth lest it should conflict with that belief.

I venture to think, then, that the Duke of Argyll might have spared
his "Little Lesson" as well as his "Great Lesson" with advantage. The
paternal authority who whips the child for sins he has not committed
does not strengthen his moral influence--rather excites contempt and
repugnance. And if, as would seem from this and former monitory
allocutions which have been addressed to us, the Duke aspires to the
position of censor, or spiritual director, in relation to the men who
are doing the work of physical science, he really must get up his
facts better. There will be an end to all chance of our kissing the
rod if his Grace goes wrong a third time. He must not say again that
"no serious reply has been attempted" to a view which was discussed
and repudiated, two years before, by one of the highest extant
authorities on the subject; he must not say that Darwin accepted that
which it can be proved he did not accept; he must not say that a
doctrine has dropped into the abyss when it is quite obviously alive
and kicking at the surface; he must not assimilate a man like
Professor Dana to the components of an "ignorant mob"; he must not say
that things are beginning to be known which are not known at all; he
must not say that "slow and sulky acquiescence" has been given to that
which cannot yet boast of general acquiescence of any kind; he must
not suggest that a view which has been publicly advocated by the
Director of the Geological Survey and no less publicly discussed by
many other authoritative writers has been intentionally and
systematically ignored; he must not ascribe ill motives for a course
of action which is the only proper one; and finally, if any one but
myself were interested, I should say that he had better not waste his
time in raking up the errors of those whose lives have been occupied,
not in talking about science, but in toiling, sometimes with success
and sometimes with failure, to get some real work done.

The most considerable difference I note among men is not in their
readiness to fall into error, but in their readiness to acknowledge
these inevitable lapses. The Duke of Argyll has now a splendid
opportunity for proving to the world in which of these categories it
is hereafter to rank him.

       *       *       *       *       *

DEAR PROFESSOR HUXLEY,--A short time before Mr. Darwin's death, I had
a conversation with, him concerning the observations which had been
made by Mr. Murray upon coral-reefs, and the speculations which had
been founded upon those observations. I found that Mr. Darwin had very
carefully considered the whole subject, and that while, on the one
hand, he did not regard the actual facts recorded by Mr. Murray as
absolutely inconsistent with his own theory of subsidence, on the
other hand, he did not believe that they necessitated or supported the
hypothesis advanced by Mr. Murray. Mr. Darwin's attitude, as I
understood it, towards Mr. Murray's objections to the theory of
subsidence was exactly similar to that maintained by him with respect
to Professor Semper's criticism, which was of a very similar
character; and his position with regard to the whole question was
almost identical with that subsequently so clearly defined by
Professor Dana in his well-known articles published in the "American
Journal of Science" for 1885.

It is difficult to imagine how any one, acquainted with the scientific
literature of the last seven years, could possibly suggest that Mr.
Murray's memoir published in 1880 had failed to secure a due amount of
attention. Mr. Murray, by his position in the "Challenger" office,
occupied an exceptionally favourable position for making his views
widely known; and he had, moreover, the singular good fortune to
secure from the first the advocacy of so able and brilliant a writer
as Professor Archibald Geikie, who in a special discourse and in
several treatises on geology and physical geology very strongly
supported the new theory. It would be an endless task to attempt to
give references to the various scientific journals which have
discussed the subject, but I may add that every treatise on geology
which has been published, since Mr. Murray's views were made known,
has dealt with his observations at considerable length. This is true
of Professor A.H. Green's "Physical Geology," published in 1882; of
Professor Prestwich's "Geology, Chemical and Physical"; and of
Professor James Geikie's "Outlines of Geology," published in 1886.
Similar prominence is given to the subject in De Lapparent's "Traité
de Géologie," published in 1885, and in Credner's "Elemente der
Geologie," which has appeared during the present year. If this be a
"conspiracy of silence," where, alas! can the geological speculator
seek for fame?--Yours very truly, JOHN W. JUDD.

_October_ 10, 1887.


     [28] _The Advance of Science_. Three sermons preached in
          Manchester Cathedral on Sunday, September 4, 1887,
          during the meeting of the British Association for the
          Advancement of Science, by the Bishop of Carlisle, the
          Bishop of Bedford, and the Bishop of Manchester.

     [29] Reprinted in Vol. IV. of this collection.

     [30] _American Journal of Science_, 1885, p. 190.

     [31] Professor Geikie, however, though a strong, is a fair
          and candid advocate. He says of Darwin's theory, "That
          it may be possibly true, in some instances, may be
          readily granted." For Professor Geikie, then, it is not
          yet over-thrown--still less a dream.

     [32] I find, moreover, that I specially warned my readers
          against hasty judgment. After stating the facts of
          observation, I add, "I have, hitherto, said nothing
          about their meaning, as, in an inquiry so difficult and
          fraught with interest as this, it seems to me to be in
          the highest degree important to keep the questions of
          fact and the questions of interpretation well apart"
          (p. 210).



Charles, or, more properly, Karl, King of the Franks, consecrated
Roman Emperor in St. Peter's on Christmas Day, A.D. 800, and known to
posterity as the Great (chiefly by his agglutinative Gallicised
denomination, of Charlemagne), was a man great in all ways, physically
and mentally. Within a couple of centuries after his death Charlemagne
became the centre of innumerable legends; and the myth-making process
does not seem to have been sensibly interfered with by the existence
of sober and truthful histories of the Emperor and of the times which
immediately preceded and followed his reign by a contemporary writer
who occupied a high and confidential position in his court, and in
that of his successor. This was one Eginhard, or Einhard, who appears
to have been born about A.D. 770, and spent his youth at the court,
being educated along with Charles's sons. There is excellent
contemporary testimony not only to Eginhard's existence, but to his
abilities, and to the place which he occupied in the circle of the
intimate friends of the great ruler whose life he subsequently wrote.
In fact, there is as good evidence of Eginhard's existence, of his
official position, and of his being the author of the chief works
attributed to him, as can reasonably be expected in the case of a man
who lived more than a thousand years ago, and was neither a great king
nor a great warrior. The works are--1. "The Life of the Emperor Karl."
2. "The Annals of the Franks." 3. "Letters." 4. "The History of the
Translation of the Blessed Martyrs of Christ, SS. Marcellinus and

It is to the last, as one of the most singular and interesting records
of the period during which the Roman world passed into that of the
Middle Ages, that I wish to direct attention.[33] It was written in
the ninth century, somewhere, apparently, about the year 830, when
Eginhard, ailing in health and weary of political life, had withdrawn
to the monastery of Seligenstadt, of which he was the founder. A
manuscript copy of the work, made in the tenth century, and once the
property of the monastery of St. Bavon on the Scheldt, of which
Eginhard was Abbot, is still extant, and there is no reason to believe
that, in this copy, the original has been in any way interpolated or
otherwise tampered with. The main features of the strange story
contained in the "Historia Translationis" are set forth in the
following pages, in which, in regard to all matters of importance, I
shall adhere as closely as possible to Eginhard's own words.

     While I was still at Court, busied with secular affairs, I
     often thought of the leisure which I hoped one day to enjoy
     in a solitary place, far away from the crowd, with which the
     liberality of Prince Louis, whom I then served, had provided
     me. This place is situated in that part of Germany which
     lies between the Neckar and the Maine,[34] and is nowadays
     called the Odenwald by those who live in and about it. And
     here having built, according to my capacity and resources,
     not only houses and permanent dwellings, but also a basilica
     fitted for the performance of divine service and of no mean
     style of construction, I began to think to what saint or
     martyr I could best dedicate it. A good deal of time had
     passed while my thoughts fluctuated about this matter, when
     it happened that a certain deacon of the Roman Church, named
     Deusdona, arrived at the Court for the purpose of seeking
     the favour of the King in some affairs in which he was
     interested. He remained some time; and then, having
     transacted his business, he was about to return to Rome,
     when one day, moved by courtesy to a stranger, we invited
     him to a modest refection; and while talking of many things
     at table, mention was made of the translation of the body of
     the blessed Sebastian,[35] and of the neglected tombs of
     the martyrs, of which there is such a prodigious number at
     Rome; and the conversation having turned towards the
     dedication of our new basilica, I began to inquire how it
     might be possible for me to obtain some of the true relics
     of the saints which rest at Rome. He at first hesitated, and
     declared that he did not know how that could be done. But
     observing that I was both anxious and curious about the
     subject, he promised to give me an answer some other day.

     When I returned to the question some time afterwards, he
     immediately drew from his bosom a paper, which he begged me
     to read when I was alone, and to tell him what I was
     disposed to think of that which was therein stated. I took
     the paper and, as he desired, read it alone and in secret.
     (Cap. i. 2, 3.)

I shall have occasion to return to Deacon Deusdona's conditions, and
to what happened after Eginhard's acceptance of them. Suffice it, for
the present, to say that Eginhard's notary, Ratleicus (Ratleig), was
despatched to Rome and succeeded in securing two bodies, supposed to
be those of the holy martyrs Marcellinus and Petrus; and when he had
got as far on his homeward journey as the Burgundian town of
Solothurn, or Soleure,[36] notary Ratleig despatched to his master, at
St. Bavon, a letter announcing the success of his mission.

     As soon as by reading it I was assured of the arrival of the
     saints, I despatched a confidential messenger to Maestricht
     to gather together priests, other clerics, and also laymen,
     to go out to meet the coming saints as speedily as possible.
     And he and his companions, having lost no time, after a few
     days met those who had charge of the saints at Solothurn.
     Joined with them, and with a vast crowd of people who
     gathered from all parts, singing hymns, and amidst great and
     universal rejoicings, they travelled quickly to the city of
     Argentoratum, which is now called Strasburg. Thence
     embarking on the Rhine, they came to the place called
     Portus,[37] and landing on the east bank of the river, at
     the fifth station thence they arrived at Michilinstadt,[38]
     accompanied by an immense multitude, praising God. This
     place is in that forest of Germany which in modern times is
     called the Odenwald, and about six leagues from the Maine.
     And here, having found a basilica recently built by me, but
     not yet consecrated, they carried the sacred remains into it
     and deposited them therein, as if it were to be their final
     resting-place. As soon as all this was reported to me I
     travelled thither as quickly as I could. (Cap. ii. 14.)

Three days after Eginhard's arrival began the series of wonderful
events which he narrates, and for which we have his personal
guarantee. The first thing that he notices is the dream of a servant
of Ratleig, the notary, who, being set to watch the holy relics in the
church after vespers, went to sleep and, during his slumbers, had a
vision of two pigeons, one white and one gray and white, which came
and sat upon the bier over the relics; while, at the same time, a
voice ordered the man to tell his master that the holy martyrs had
chosen another resting-place and desired to be transported thither
without delay.

Unfortunately, the saints seem to have forgotten to mention where
they wished to go; and, with the most anxious desire to gratify their
smallest wishes, Eginhard was naturally greatly perplexed what to do.
While in this state of mind, he was one day contemplating his "great
and wonderful treasure, more precious than all the gold in the world,"
when it struck him that the chest in which the relics were contained
was quite unworthy of its contents; and, after vespers, he gave orders
to one of the sacristans to take the measure of the chest in order
that a more fitting shrine might be constructed. The man, having
lighted a wax candle and raised the pall which covered the relics, in
order to carry out his master's orders, was astonished and terrified
to observe that the chest was covered with a blood-like exudation
(_loculum mirum in modum humore sanguineo undique distillantem_), and
at once sent a message to Eginhard.

     Then I and those priests who accompanied me beheld this
     stupendous miracle, worthy of all admiration. For just as
     when it is going to rain, pillars and slabs and marble
     images exude moisture, and, as it were, sweat, so the chest
     which contained the most sacred relics was found moist with
     the blood exuding on all sides. (Cap. ii. 16.)

Three days' fast was ordained in order that the meaning of the portent
might be ascertained. All that happened, however, was that, at the end
of that time, the "blood," which had been exuding in drops all the
while, dried up. Eginhard is careful to say that the liquid "had a
saline taste, something like that of tears, and was thin as water
though of the colour of true blood," and he clearly thinks this
satisfactory evidence that it was blood.

The same night, another servant had a vision, in which still more
imperative orders for the removal of the relics were given; and, from
that time forth, "not a single night passed without one, two, or even
three of our companions receiving revelations in dreams that the
bodies of the saints were to be transferred from that place to
another." At last a priest, Hildfrid, saw, in a dream, a venerable
white-haired man in a priest's vestments, who bitterly reproached
Eginhard for not obeying the repeated orders of the saints; and, upon
this, the journey was commenced. Why Eginhard delayed obedience to
these repeated visions so long does not appear. He does not say so, in
so many words, but the general tenor of the narrative leads one to
suppose that Mulinheim (afterwards Seligenstadt) is the "solitary
place" in which he had built the church which awaited dedication. In
that case, all the people about him would know that he desired that
the saints should go there. If a glimmering of secular sense led him
to be a little suspicious about the real cause of the unanimity of the
visionary beings who manifested themselves to his _entourage_, in
favour of moving on, he does not say so.

At the end of the first day's journey, the precious relics were
deposited in the church of St. Martin, in the village of Ostheim.
Hither, a paralytic nun (_sanctimonialis quædam paralytica_) of the
name of Ruodlang was brought, in a car, by her friends and relatives
from a monastery a league off. She spent the night watching and
praying by the bier of the saints; "and health returning to all her
members, on the morrow she went back to her place whence she came, on
her feet, nobody supporting her, or in any way giving her assistance."
(Cap. ii. 19.)

On the second day, the relics were carried to Upper Mulinheim; and,
finally, in accordance with the orders of the martyrs, deposited in
the church of that place, which was therefore renamed Seligenstadt.
Here, Daniel, a beggar boy of fifteen, and so bent that "he could not
look at the sky without lying on his back," collapsed and fell down
during the celebration of the Mass. "Thus he lay a long time, as if
asleep, and all his limbs straightening and his flesh strengthening
(_recepta firmitate nervorum_), he arose before our eyes, quite well."
(Cap. ii. 20.)

Some time afterwards an old man entered the church on his hands and
knees, being unable to use his limbs properly:--

     He, in presence of all of us, by the power of God and the
     merits of the blessed martyrs, in the same hour in which he
     entered was so perfectly cured that he walked without so
     much as a stick. And he said that, though he had been deaf
     for five years, his deafness had ceased along with the
     palsy. (Cap. iii. 33.)

Eginhard was now obliged to return to the Court at Aix-la-Chapelle,
where his duties kept him through the winter; and he is careful to
point out that the later miracles which he proceeds to speak of are
known to him only at second hand. But, as he naturally observes,
having seen such wonderful events with his own eyes, why should he
doubt similar narrations when they are received from trustworthy

Wonderful stories these are indeed, but as they are, for the most
part, of the same general character as those already recounted, they
may be passed over. There is, however, an account of a possessed
maiden which is worth attention. This is set forth in a memoir, the
principal contents of which are the speeches of a demon who declared
himself to possess the singular appellation of "Wiggo," and revealed
himself in the presence of many witnesses, before the altar, close to
the relics of the blessed martyrs. It is noteworthy that the
revelations appear to have been made in the shape of replies to the
questions of the exorcising priest; and there is no means of judging
how far the answers are, really, only the questions to which the
patient replied yes or no.

The possessed girl, about sixteen years of age, was brought by her
parents to the basilica of the martyrs.

     When she approached the tomb containing the sacred bodies,
     the priest, according to custom, read the formula of
     exorcism over her head. When he began to ask how and when
     the demon had entered her, she answered, not in the tongue
     of the barbarians, which alone the girl knew, but in the
     Roman tongue. And when the priest was astonished and asked
     how she came to know Latin, when her parents, who stood by,
     were wholly ignorant of it, "Thou hast never seen my
     parents," was the reply. To this the priest, "Whence art
     thou, then, if these are not thy parents?" And the demon, by
     the mouth of the girl, "I am a follower and disciple of
     Satan, and for a long time I was gatekeeper (janitor) in
     hell; but for some years, along with eleven companions, I
     have ravaged the kingdom of the Franks." (Cap. v. 49.)

He then goes on to tell how they blasted the crops and scattered
pestilence among beasts and men, because of the prevalent wickedness
of the people.[39]

The enumeration of all these iniquities, in oratorical style, takes up
a whole octavo page; and at the end it is stated, "All these things
the demon spoke in Latin by the mouth of the girl."

     And when the priest imperatively ordered him to come out, "I
     shall go," said he, "not in obedience to you, but on account
     of the power of the saints, who do not allow me to remain
     any longer." And having said this, he threw the girl down on
     the floor and there compelled her to lie prostrate for a
     time, as though she slumbered. After a little while,
     however, he going away, the girl, by the power of Christ and
     the merits of the blessed martyrs, as it were awaking from
     sleep, rose up quite well, to the astonishment of all
     present; nor after the demon had gone out was she able to
     speak Latin: so that it was plain enough that it was not she
     who had spoken in that tongue, but the demon by her mouth.
     (Cap. v. 51.)

If the "Historia Translationis" contained nothing more than has been
laid before the reader, up to this time, disbelief in the miracles of
which it gives so precise and full a record might well be regarded as
hyper-scepticism. It might fairly be said, Here you have a man, whose
high character, acute intelligence, and large instruction are
certified by eminent contemporaries; a man who stood high in the
confidence of one of the greatest rulers of any age, and whose other
works prove him to be an accurate and judicious narrator of ordinary
events. This man tells you, in language which bears the stamp of
sincerity, of things which happened within his own knowledge, or
within that of persons in whose veracity he has entire confidence,
while he appeals to his sovereign and the court as witnesses of
others; what possible ground can there be for disbelieving him?

Well, it is hard upon Eginhard to say so, but it is exactly the
honesty and sincerity of the man which are his undoing as a witness to
the miraculous. He himself makes it quite obvious that when his
profound piety comes on the stage, his good sense and even his
perception of right and wrong, make their exit. Let us go back to the
point at which we left him, secretly perusing the letter of Deacon
Deusdona. As he tells us, its contents were

     that he [the deacon] had many relics of saints at home, and
     that he would give them to me if I would furnish him with
     the means of returning to Rome; he had observed that I had
     two mules, and if I would let him have one of them and would
     despatch with him a confidential servant to take charge of
     the relics, he would at once send them to me. This plausibly
     expressed proposition pleased me, and I made up my mind to
     test the value of the somewhat ambiguous promise at
     once;[40] so giving him the mule and money for his journey I
     ordered my notary Ratleig (who already desired to go to Rome
     to offer his devotions there) to go with him. Therefore,
     having left Aix-la-Chapelle (where the Emperor and his Court
     resided at the time) they came to Soissons. Here they spoke
     with Hildoin, abbot of the monastery of St. Medardus,
     because the said deacon had assured him that he had the
     means of placing in his possession the body of the blessed
     Tiburtius the Martyr. Attracted by which promises he
     (Hildoin) sent with them a certain priest, Hunus by name, a
     sharp man (_hominem callidum_), whom he ordered to receive
     and bring back the body of the martyr in question. And so,
     resuming their journey, they proceeded to Rome as fast as
     they could. (Cap. i. 3.)

Unfortunately, a servant of the notary, one Reginbald, fell ill of a
tertian fever, and impeded the progress of the party. However, this
piece of adversity had its sweet uses; for three days before they
reached Rome, Reginbald had a vision. Somebody habited as a deacon
appeared to him and asked why his master was in such a hurry to get
to Rome; and when Reginbald explained their business, this visionary
deacon, who seems to have taken the measure of his brother in the
flesh with some accuracy, told him not by any means to expect that
Deusdona would fulfil his promises. Moreover, taking the servant by
the hand, he led him to the top of a high mountain and, showing him
Rome (where the man had never been), pointed out a church, adding
"Tell Ratleig the thing he wants is hidden there; let him get it as
quickly as he can and go back to his master." By way of a sign that
the order was authoritative, the servant was promised that, from that
time forth, his fever should disappear. And as the fever did vanish to
return no more, the faith of Eginhard's people in Deacon Deusdona
naturally vanished with it (_et fidem diaconi promissis non
haberent_). Nevertheless, they put up at the deacon's house near St.
Peter ad Vincula. But time went on and no relics made their
appearance, while the notary and the priest were put off with all
sorts of excuses--the brother to whom the relics had been confided was
gone to Beneventum and not expected back for some time, and so
on--until Ratleig and Hunus began to despair, and were minded to
return, _infecto negotio_.

     But my notary, calling to mind his servant's dream, proposed
     to his companion that they should go to the cemetery which
     their host had talked about without him. So, having found
     and hired a guide, they went in the first place to the
     basilica of the blessed Tiburtius in the Via Labicana, about
     three thousand paces fron the town, and cautiously and
     carefully inspected the tomb of that martyr, in order to
     discover whether it could be opened without any one being
     the wiser. Then they descended into the adjoining crypt, in
     which the bodies of the blessed martyrs of Christ,
     Marcellinus and Petrus, were buried; and, having made out
     the nature of their tomb, they went away thinking their host
     would not know what they had been about. But things fell out
     differently from what they had imagined. (Cap. i. 7.)

In fact, Deacon Deusdona, who doubtless kept an eye on his guests,
knew all about their manoeuvres and made haste to offer his services,
in order that, "with the help of God" (_si Deus votis eorum favere
dignaretur_), they should all work together. The deacon was evidently
alarmed lest they should succeed without _his_ help.

So, by way of preparation for the contemplated _vol avec effraction_
they fasted three days; and then, at night, without being seen, they
betook themselves to the basilica of St. Tiburtius, and tried to break
open the altar erected over his remains. But the marble proving too
solid, they descended to the crypt, and, "having evoked our Lord Jesus
Christ and adored the holy martyrs," they proceeded to prise off the
stone which covered the tomb, and thereby exposed the body of the most
sacred martyr, Marcellinus, "whose head rested on a marble tablet on
which his name was inscribed." The body was taken up with the
greatest veneration, wrapped in a rich covering, and given over to the
keeping of the deacon and his brother, Lunison, while the stone was
replaced with such care that no sign of the theft remained.

As sacrilegious proceedings of this kind were punishable with death by
the Roman law, it seems not unnatural that Deacon Deusdona should have
become uneasy, and have urged Ratleig to be satisfied with what he had
got and be off with his spoils. But the notary having thus cleverly
captured the blessed Marcellinus, thought it a pity he should be
parted from the blessed Petrus, side by side with whom he had rested,
for five hundred years and more, in the same sepulchre (as Eginhard
pathetically observes); and the pious man could neither eat, drink,
nor sleep, until he had compassed his desire to re-unite the saintly
colleagues. This time, apparently in consequence of Deusdona's
opposition to any further resurrectionist doings, he took counsel with
a Greek monk, one Basil, and, accompanied by Hunus, but saying nothing
to Deusdona, they committed another sacrilegious burglary, securing
this time, not only the body of the blessed Petrus, but a quantity of
dust, which they agreed the priest should take, and tell his employer
that it was the remains of the blessed Tiburtius. How Deusdona was
"squared," and what he got for his not very valuable complicity in
these transactions, does not appear. But at last the relics were sent
off in charge of Lunison, the brother of Deusdona, and the priest
Hunus, as far as Pavia, while Ratleig stopped behind for a week to see
if the robbery was discovered, and, presumably, to act as a blind, if
any hue and cry was raised. But, as everything remained quiet, the
notary betook himself to Pavia, where he found Lunison and Hunus
awaiting his arrival. The notary's opinion of the character of his
worthy colleagues, however, may be gathered from the fact that, having
persuaded them to set out in advance along the road which he told them
he was about to take, he immediately adopted another route, and,
travelling by way of St. Maurice and the Lake of Geneva, eventually
reached Soleure.

Eginhard tells all this story with the most naive air of
unconsciousness that there is anything remarkable about an abbot, and
a high officer of state to boot, being an accessory, both before and
after the fact, to a most gross and scandalous act of sacrilegious and
burglarious robbery. And an amusing sequel to the story proves that,
where relics were concerned, his friend Hildoin, another high
ecclesiastical dignitary, was even less scrupulous than himself.

On going to the palace early one morning, after the saints were safely
bestowed at Seligenstadt, he found Hildoin waiting for an audience in
the Emperor's antechamber, and began to talk to him about the miracle
of the bloody exudation. In the course of conversation, Eginhard
happened to allude to the remarkable fineness of the garment of the
blessed Marcellinus. Whereupon Abbot Hildoin observed (to Eginhard's
stupefaction) that his observation was quite correct. Much astonished
at this remark from a person who was supposed not to have seen the
relics, Eginhard asked him how he knew that? Upon this, Hildoin saw
that he had better make a clean breast of it, and he told the
following story, which he had received from his priestly agent, Hunus.
While Hunus and Lunison were at Pavia, waiting for Eginhard's notary,
Hunus (according to his own account) had robbed the robbers. The
relics were placed in a church; and a number of laymen and clerics, of
whom Hunus was one, undertook to keep watch over them. One night,
however, all the watchers, save the wide-awake Hunus, went to sleep;
and then, according to the story which this "sharp" ecclesiastic
foisted upon his patron,

     it was borne in upon his mind that there must be some great
     reason why all the people, except himself, had suddenly
     become somnolent; and, determining to avail himself of the
     opportunity thus offered (_oblata occasione utendum_), he
     rose and, having lighted a candle, silently approached the
     chests. Then, having burnt through the threads of the seals
     with the flame of the candle, he quickly opened the chests,
     which had no locks;[41] and taking out portions of each of
     the bodies which were thus exposed, he closed the chests
     and connected the burnt ends of the threads with the seals
     again, so that they appeared not to have been touched; and,
     no one having seen him, he returned to his place. (Cap. iii.

Hildoin went on to tell Eginhard that Hunus at first declared to him
that these purloined relics belonged to St. Tiburtius; but afterwards
confessed, as a great secret, how he had come by them, and he wound up
his discourse thus:

     They have a place of honour beside St. Medardus, where they
     are worshipped with great veneration by all the people; but
     whether we may keep them or not is for your judgment (Cap.
     iii. 23.)

Poor Eginhard was thrown into a state of great perturbation of mind by
this revelation. An acquaintance of his had recently told him of a
rumour that was spread about that Hunus had contrived to abstract
_all_ the remains of SS. Marcellinus and Petrus while Eginhard's
agents were in a drunken sleep; and that, while the real relics were
in Abbot Hildoin's hands at St. Medardus, the shrine at Seligenstadt
contained nothing but a little dust. Though greatly annoyed by this
"execrable rumour, spread everywhere by the subtlety of the devil,"
Eginhard had doubtless comforted himself by his supposed knowledge of
its falsity, and he only now discovered how considerable a foundation
there was for the scandal. There was nothing for it but to insist upon
the return of the stolen treasures. One would have thought that the
holy man, who had admitted himself to be knowingly a receiver of
stolen goods, would have made instant restitution and begged only for
absolution. But Eginhard intimates that he had very great difficulty
in getting his brother abbot to see that even restitution was

Hildoin's proceedings were not of such a nature as to lead any one to
place implicit confidence in anything he might say; still less had his
agent, priest Hunus, established much claim to confidence; and it is
not surprising that Eginhard should have lost no time in summoning his
notary and Lunison to his presence, in order that he might hear what
they had to say about the business. They, however, at once protested
that priest Hunus's story was a parcel of lies, and that after the
relics left Rome no one had any opportunity of meddling with them.
Moreover, Lunison, throwing himself at Eginhard's feet, confessed with
many tears what actually took place. It will be remembered that after
the body of St. Marcellinus was abstracted from its tomb, Ratleig
deposited it in the house of Deusdona, in charge of the latter's
brother, Lunison. But Hunus, being very much disappointed that he
could not get hold of the body of St. Tiburtius, and afraid to go back
to his abbot empty-handed, bribed Lunison with four pieces of gold and
five of silver to give him access to the chest. This Lunison did, and
Hunus helped himself to as much as would fill a gallon measure (_vas
sextarii mensuram_) of the sacred remains. Eginhard's indignation at
the "rapine" of this "nequissimus nebulo" is exquisitely droll. It
would appear that the adage about the receiver being as bad as the
thief was not current in the ninth century.

Let us now briefly sum up the history of the acquisition of the
relics. Eginhard makes a contract with Deusdona for the delivery of
certain relics which the latter says he possesses. Eginhard makes no
inquiry how he came by them; otherwise, the transaction is innocent

Deusdona turns out to be a swindler, and has no relics. Thereupon
Eginhard's agent, after due fasting and prayer, breaks open the tombs
and helps himself.

Eginhard discovers by the self-betrayal of his brother abbot, Hildoin,
that portions of his relics have been stolen and conveyed to the
latter. With much ado he succeeds in getting them back.

Hildoin's agent, Hunus, in delivering these stolen goods to him, at
first declared they were the relics of St. Tiburtius, which Hildoin
desired him to obtain; but afterwards invented a story of their being
the product of a theft, which the providential drowsiness of his
companions enabled him to perpetrate, from the relics which Hildoin
well knew were the property of his friend.

Lunison, on the contrary, swears that all his story is false, and that
he himself was bribed by Hunus to allow him to steal what he pleased
from the property confided to his own and his brother's care by their
guest Ratleig. And the honest notary himself seems to have no
hesitation about lying and stealing to any extent, where the
acquisition of relics is the object in view.

For a parallel to these transactions one must read a police report of
the doings of a "long firm" or of a set of horse-coupers; yet Eginhard
seems to be aware of nothing, but that he has been rather badly used
by his friend Hildoin, and the "nequissimus nebulo" Hunus.

It is not easy for a modern Protestant, still less for any one who has
the least tincture of scientific culture, whether physical or
historical, to picture to himself the state of mind of a man of the
ninth century, however cultivated, enlightened, and sincere he may
have been. His deepest convictions, his most cherished hopes, were
bound up with the belief in the miraculous. Life was a constant battle
between saints and demons for the possession of the souls of men. The
most superstitious among our modern countrymen turn to supernatural
agencies only when natural causes seem insufficient; to Eginhard and
his friends the supernatural was the rule; and the sufficiency of
natural causes was allowed only when there was nothing to suggest

Moreover, it must be recollected that the possession of
miracle-working relics was greatly coveted, not only on high, but on
very low grounds. To a man like Eginhard, the mere satisfaction of the
religious sentiment was obviously a powerful attraction. But, more
than, this, the possession of such a treasure was an immense practical
advantage. If the saints were duly flattered and worshipped, there was
no telling what benefits might result from their interposition on your
behalf. For physical evils, access to the shrine was like the grant of
the use of a universal pill and ointment manufactory; and pilgrimages
thereto might suffice to cleanse the performers from any amount of
sin. A letter to Lupus, subsequently abbot of Ferrara, written while
Eginhard was smarting under the grief caused by the loss of his
much-loved wife Imma, affords a striking insight into the current view
of the relation between the glorified saints and their worshippers.
The writer shows that he is anything but satisfied with the way in
which he has been treated by the blessed martyrs whose remains he has
taken such pains to "convey" to Seligenstadt, and to honour there as
they would never have been honoured in their Roman obscurity.

     It is an aggravation of my grief and a reopening of my
     wound, that our vows have been of no avail, and that the
     faith which, we placed in the merits and intervention of the
     martyrs has been utterly disappointed.

We may admit, then, without impeachment of Eginhard's sincerity, or
of his honour under all ordinary circumstances, that when piety,
self-interest, the glory of the Church in general, and that of the
church at Seligenstadt in particular, all pulled one way, even the
workaday principles of morality were disregarded; and, _a fortiori_,
anything like proper investigation of the reality of alleged miracles
was thrown to the winds.

And if this was the condition of mind of such a man as Eginhard, what
is it not legitimate to suppose may have been that of Deacon Deusdona,
Lunison, Hunus, and Company, thieves and cheats by their own
confession, or of the probably hysterical nun, or of the professional
beggars, for whose incapacity to walk and straighten themselves there
is no guarantee but their own? Who is to make sure that the exorcist
of the demon Wiggo was not just such another priest as Hunus; and is
it not at least possible, when Eginhard's servants dreamed, night
after night, in such a curiously coincident fashion, that a careful
inquirer might have found they were very anxious to please their

Quite apart from deliberate and conscious fraud (which is a rarer
thing than is often supposed), people, whose mythopoeic faculty is
once stirred, are capable of saying the thing that is not, and of
acting as they should not, to an extent which is hardly imaginable by
persons who are not so easily affected by the contagion of blind
faith. There is no falsity so gross that honest men and, still more,
virtuous women, anxious to promote a good cause, will not lend
themselves to it without any clear consciousness of the moral bearings
of what they are doing.

The cases of miraculously-effected cures of which Eginhard is ocular
witness appear to belong to classes of disease in which malingering is
possible or hysteria presumable. Without modern means of diagnosis,
the names given to them are quite worthless. One "miracle," however,
in which the patient, a woman, was cured by the mere sight of the
church in which the relics of the blessed martyrs lay, is an
unmistakable case of dislocation of the lower jaw; and it is obvious
that, as not unfrequently happens in such accidents in weakly
subjects, the jaws slipped suddenly back into place, perhaps in
consequence of a jolt, as the woman rode towards the church. (Cap. v.

There is also a good deal said about a very questionable blind
man--one Albricus (Alberich?)--who, having been cured, not of his
blindness, but of another disease under which he laboured, took up his
quarters at Seligenstadt, and came out as a prophet, inspired by the
Archangel Gabriel. Eginhard intimates that his prophecies were
fulfilled; but as he does not state exactly what they were, or how
they were accomplished, the statement must be accepted with much
caution. It is obvious that he was not the man to hesitate to "ease" a
prophecy until it fitted, if the credit of the shrine of his favourite
saints could be increased by such a procedure. There is no impeachment
of his honour in the supposition. The logic of the matter is quite
simple, if somewhat sophistical. The holiness of the church of the
martyrs guarantees the reality of the appearance of the Archangel
Gabriel there; and what the archangel says must be true. Therefore, if
anything seem to be wrong, that must be the mistake of the
transmitter; and, in justice to the archangel, it must be suppressed
or set right. This sort of "reconciliation" is not unknown in quite
modern times, and among people who would be very much shocked to be
compared with a "benighted papist" of the ninth century.

The readers of this essay are, I imagine, very largely composed of
people who would be shocked to be regarded as anything but enlightened
Protestants. It is not unlikely that those of them who have
accompanied me thus far may be disposed to say, "Well, this is all
very amusing as a story, but what is the practical interest of it? We
are not likely to believe in the miracles worked by the spolia of SS.
Marcellinus and Petrus, or by those of any other saints in the Roman

The practical interest is this: if you do not believe in these
miracles recounted by a witness whose character and competency are
firmly established, whose sincerity cannot be doubted, and who appeals
to his sovereign and other contemporaries as witnesses of the truth of
what he says, in a document of which a MS. copy exists, probably
dating within a century of the author's death, why do you profess to
believe in stories of a like character, which are found in documents
of the dates and of the authorship of which nothing is certainly
determined, and no known copies of which come within two or three
centuries of the events they record? If it be true that the four
Gospels and the Acts were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
all that we know of these persons comes to nothing in comparison with
our knowledge of Eginhard; and not only is there no proof that the
traditional authors of these works wrote them, but very strong reasons
to the contrary may be alleged. If, therefore, you refuse to believe
that "Wiggo" was cast out of the possessed girl on Eginhard's
authority, with what justice can you profess to believe that the
legion of devils were cast out of the man among the tombs of the
Gadarenes? And if, on the other hand, you accept Eginhard's evidence,
why do you laugh at the supposed efficacy of relics and the
saint-worship of the modern Romanists? It cannot be pretended, in the
face of all evidence, that the Jews of the year 30 A.D., or
thereabouts, were less imbued with the belief in the supernatural than
were the Franks of the year 800 A.D. The same influences were at work
in each case, and it is only reasonable to suppose that the results
were the same. If the evidence of Eginhard is insufficient to lead
reasonable men to believe in the miracles he relates, _a fortiori_ the
evidence afforded by the Gospels and the Acts must be so.[43]

But it may be said that no serious critic denies the genuineness of
the four great Pauline Epistles--Galatians, First and Second
Corinthians, and Romans--and that in three out of these four Paul lays
claim to the power of working miracles.[44] Must we suppose,
therefore, that the Apostle to the Gentiles has stated that which is
false? But to how much does this so-called claim amount? It may mean
much or little. Paul nowhere tells us what he did in this direction;
and in his sore need to justify his assumption of apostleship against
the sneers of his enemies, it is hardly likely that, if he had any
very striking cases to bring forward, he would have neglected evidence
so well calculated to put them to shame. And, without the slightest
impeachment of Paul's veracity, we must further remember that his
strongly-marked mental characteristics, displayed in unmistakable
fashion by these Epistles, are anything but those which would justify
us in regarding him as a critical witness respecting matters of fact,
or as a trustworthy interpreter of their significance. When a man
testifies to a miracle, he not only states a fact, but he adds an
interpretation of the fact. We may admit his evidence as to the
former, and yet think his opinion as to the latter worthless. If
Eginhard's calm and objective narrative of the historical events of
his time is no guarantee for the soundness of his judgment where the
supernatural is concerned, the heated rhetoric of the Apostle of the
Gentiles, his absolute confidence in the "inner light," and the
extraordinary conceptions of the nature and requirements of logical
proof which he betrays, in page after page of his Epistles, afford
still less security.

There is a comparatively modern man who shared to the full Paul's
trust in the "inner light," and who, though widely different from the
fiery evangelist of Tarsus in various obvious particulars, yet, if I
am not mistaken, shares his deepest characteristics. I speak of George
Pox, who separated himself from the current Protestantism of England,
in the seventeenth century, as Paul separated himself from the
Judaism of the first century, at the bidding of the "inner light"; who
went through persecutions as serious as those which Paul enumerates;
who was beaten, stoned, cast out for dead, imprisoned nine times,
sometimes for long periods; who was in perils on land and perils at
sea. George Fox was an even more widely-travelled missionary; while
his success in founding congregations, and his energy in visiting
them, not merely in Great Britain and Ireland and the West India
Islands, but on the continent of Europe and that of North America,
were no less remarkable. A few years after Fox began to preach, there
were reckoned to be a thousand Friends in prison in the various gaols
of England; at his death, less than fifty years after the foundation
of the sect, there were 70,000 Quakers in the United Kingdom. The
cheerfulness with which these people--women as well as men--underwent
martyrdom in this country and in the New England States is one of the
most remarkable facts in the history of religion.

No one who reads the voluminous autobiography of "Honest George" can
doubt the man's utter truthfulness; and though, in his multitudinous
letters, he but rarely rises for above the incoherent commonplaces of
a street preacher, there can be no question of his power as a speaker,
nor any doubt as to the dignity and attractiveness of his personality,
or of his possession of a large amount of practical good sense and
governing faculty.

But that George Fox had full faith in his own powers as a
miracle-worker, the following passage of his autobiography (to which
others might he added) demonstrates:--

     Now after I was set at liberty from Nottingham gaol (where I
     had been kept a prisoner a pretty long time) I travelled as
     before, in the work of the Lord. And coming to Mansfield
     Woodhouse, there was a distracted woman, under a doctor's
     hand, with her hair let loose all about her ears; and he was
     about to let her blood, she being first bound, and many
     people being about her, holding her by violence; but he
     could get no blood from her. And I desired them to unbind
     her and let her alone; for they could not touch the spirit
     in her by which she was tormented. So they did unbind her,
     and I was moved to speak to her, and in the name of the Lord
     to bid her be quiet and still. And she was so. And the
     Lord's power settled her mind and she mended; and afterwards
     received the truth and continued in it to her death. And the
     Lord's name was honoured; to whom the glory of all His works
     belongs. Many great and wonderful things were wrought by the
     heavenly power in those days. For the Lord made bare his
     omnipotent arm and manifested His power to the astonishment
     of many; by the healing virtue whereof many have been
     delivered from great infirmities, and the devils were made
     subject through his name: of which particular instances
     might be given beyond what this unbelieving age is able to
     receive or bear.[45]

It needs no long study of Fox's writings, however, to arrive at the
conviction that the distinction between subjective and objective
verities had not the same place in his mind as it has in that of an
ordinary mortal. When an ordinary person would say "I thought so and
so," or "I made up my mind to do so and so," George Fox says, "It was
opened to me," or "at the command of God I did so and so." "Then at
the command of God on the ninth day of the seventh month 1643 (Fox
being just nineteen), I left my relations and brake off all
familiarity or friendship with young or old." "About the beginning of
the year 1647 I was moved of the Lord to go into Darbyshire." Fox
hears voices and he sees visions, some of which he brings before the
reader with apocalyptic power in the simple and strong English, alike
untutored and undefiled, of which, like John Bunyan, his contemporary,
he was a master.

"And one morning as I was sitting by the fire, a great cloud came over
me and a temptation beset me; and I sate still. And it was said, _All
things come by Nature_. And the elements and stars came over me; so
that I was in a manner quite clouded with it.... And as I sate still
under it, and let it alone, a living hope arose in me, and a true
voice arose in me which said, _There is a living God who made all
things_. And immediately the cloud and the temptation vanished away,
and life rose over it all, and my heart was glad and I praised the
living God" (p. 13).

If George Fox could speak, as he proves in this and some other
passages he could write, his astounding influence on the
contemporaries of Milton and of Cromwell is no mystery. But this
modern reproduction of the ancient prophet, with his "Thus saith the
Lord," "This is the work of the Lord," steeped in supernaturalism and
glorying in blind faith, is the mental antipodes of the philosopher,
founded in naturalism and a fanatic for evidence, to whom these
affirmations inevitably suggest the previous question: "How do you
know that the Lord saith it?" "How do you know that the Lord doeth
it?" and who is compelled to demand that rational ground for belief,
without which, to the man of science, assent is merely an immoral

And it is this rational ground of belief which the writers of the
Gospels, no less than Paul, and Eginhard, and Fox, so little dream of
offering that they would regard the demand for it as a kind of


     [33] My citations are made from Teulet's _Einhardi omnia
          quæ extant opera_, Paris, 1840-1843, which contains a
          biography of the author, a history of the text, with
          translations into French, and many valuable

     [34] At present included in the Duchies of Hesse-Darmstadt
          and Baden.

     [35] This took place in the year 826 A.D. The relics were
          brought from Rome and deposited in the Church of St.
          Medardus at Soissons.

     [36] Now included in Western Switzerland.

     [37] Probably, according to Teulet, the present
          Sandhoferfahrt, a little below the embouchure of the

     [38] The present Michilstadt, thirty miles N.E. of

     [39] In the Middle Ages one of the most favourite
          accusations against witches was that they committed
          just these enormities.

     [40] It is pretty clear that Eginhard had his doubts about
          the deacon, whose pledges he qualifies as _sponsiones
          incertæ_. But, to be sure, he wrote after events which
          fully justified scepticism.

     [41] The words are _scrinia sine clave_, which seems to mean
          "having no key." But the circumstances forbid the idea
          of breaking open.

     [42] Eginhard speaks with lofty contempt of the "vana ac
          superstitiosa præsumptio" of the poor woman's
          companions in trying to alleviate her sufferings with
          "herbs and frivolous incantations." Vain enough, no
          doubt, but the "mulierculæ" might have returned the
          epithet "superstitious" with interest.

     [43] Of course there is nothing new in this argument: but it
          does not grow weaker by age. And the case of Eginhard
          is far more instructive than that of Augustine, because
          the former has so very frankly, though incidentally,
          revealed to us not only his own mental and moral
          habits, but those of the people about him.

     [44] See 1 Cor. xii. 10-28; 2 Cor. vi. 12; Rom. xv. 19.

     [45] _A Journal or Historical Account of the Life, Travels,
          Sufferings, and Christian Experiences, &c., of George
          Fox_, Ed. 1694, pp. 27, 28.



In the course of a discussion which has been going on during the last
two years,[46] it has been maintained by the defenders of
ecclesiastical Christianity that the demonology of the books of the
New Testament is an essential and integral part of the revelation of
the nature of the spiritual world promulgated by Jesus of Nazareth.
Indeed, if the historical accuracy of the Gospels and of the Acts of
the Apostles is to be taken for granted, if the teachings of the
Epistles are divinely inspired, and if the universal belief and
practice of the primitive Church are the models which all later times
must follow, there can be no doubt that those who accept the
demonology are in the right. It is as plain as language can make it,
that the writers of the Gospels believed in the existence of Satan and
the subordinate ministers of evil as strongly as they believed in
that of God and the angels, and that they had an unhesitating faith in
possession and in exorcism. No reader of the first three Gospels can
hesitate to admit that, in the opinion of those persons among whom the
traditions out of which they are compiled arose, Jesus held, and
constantly acted upon, the same theory of the spiritual world. Nowhere
do we find the slightest hint that he doubted the theory, or
questioned the efficacy of the curative operations based upon it.

Thus, when such a story as that about the Gadarene swine is placed
before us, the importance of the decision, whether it is to be
accepted or rejected, cannot be over-estimated. If the demonological
part of it is to be accepted, the authority of Jesus is unmistakably
pledged to the demonological system current in Judæa in the first
century. The belief in devils who possess men and can be transferred
from men to pigs, becomes as much a part of Christian dogma as any
article of the creeds. If it is to be rejected, there are two
alternative conclusions. Supposing the Gospels to be historically
accurate, it follows that Jesus shared in the errors, respecting the
nature of the spiritual world, prevalent in the age in which he lived
and among the people of his nation. If, on the other hand, the Gospel
traditions gives us only a popular version of the sayings and doings
of Jesus, falsely coloured and distorted by the superstitious
imaginings of the minds through which it had passed, what guarantee
have we that a similar unconscious falsification, in accordance with
preconceived ideas, may not have taken place in respect of other
reported sayings and doings? What is to prevent a conscientious
inquirer from finding himself at last in a purely agnostic position
with respect to the teachings of Jesus, and consequently with respect
to the fundamentals of Christianity?

In dealing with the question whether the Gadarene story was to be
believed or not, I confined myself altogether to a discussion of the
value of the evidence in its favour. And, as it was easy to prove that
this consists of nothing more than three partially discrepant, but
often verbally coincident, versions of an original, of the authorship
of which nobody knows anything, it appeared to me that it was wholly
worthless. Even if the event described had been probable, such
evidence would have required corroboration; being grossly improbable,
and involving acts questionable in their moral and legal aspect, the
three accounts sank to the level of mere tales.

Thus far, I am unable, even after the most careful revision, to find
any flaw in my argument; and I incline to think none has been found by
my critics--at least, if they have, they have kept the discovery to

In another part of my treatment of the case I have been less
fortunate. I was careful to say that, for anything I could "absolutely
prove to the contrary," there might be in the universe demonic beings
who could enter into and possess men, and even be transferred from
them to pigs; and that I, for my part, could not venture to declare _à
priori_ that the existence of such entities was "impossible." I was,
however, no less careful to remark that I thought the evidence
hitherto adduced in favour of the existence of such beings
"ridiculously insufficient" to warrant the belief in them.

To my surprise, this statement of what, after the closest reflection,
I still conceive to be the right conclusion, has been hailed as a
satisfactory admission by opponents, and lamented as a perilous
concession by sympathisers. Indeed, the tone of the comments of some
candid friends has been such that I began to suspect that I must be
entering upon a process of retrogressive metamorphosis which might
eventually give me a place among the respectabilities. The prospect,
perhaps, ought to have pleased me; but I confess I felt something of
the uneasiness of the tailor who said that, whenever a customer's
circumference was either much less, or much more, than at the last
measurement, he at once sent in his bill; and I was not consoled until
I recollected that, thirteen years ago, in discussing Hume's essay on
"Miracles," I had quoted, with entire assent, the following passage
from his writings: "Whatever is intelligible and can be distinctly
conceived implies no contradiction, and can never be proved false by
any demonstrative argument or abstract reasoning _à priori_."[47]

Now, it is certain that the existence of demons can be distinctly
conceived. In fact, from the earliest times of which we have any record
to the present day, the great majority of mankind have had extremely
distinct conceptions of them, and their practical life has been more or
less shaped by those conceptions. Further, the notion of the existence
of such beings "implies no contradiction." No doubt, in our experience,
intelligence and volition are always found in connection with a certain
material organisation, and never disconnected with it; while, by the
hypothesis, demons have no such material substratum. But then, as
everybody knows, the exact relation between mental and physical
phenomena, even in ourselves, is the subject of endless dispute. We may
all have our opinions as to whether mental phenomena have a substratum
distinct from that which is assumed to underlie material phenomena, or
not; though if any one thinks he has demonstrative evidence of either
the existence or the non-existence of a "soul," all I can say is, his
notion of demonstration differs from mine. But, if it be impossible to
demonstrate the non-existence of a "substance" of mental phenomena--that
is, of a soul--independent of material "substance"; if the idea of such
a "soul" is "intelligible and can be distinctly conceived," then it
follows that it is not justifiable to talk of demons as
"impossibilities." The idea of their existence implies no more
"contradiction" than does the idea of the existence of pathogenic
microbes in the air. Indeed, the microbes constitute a tolerably exact
physical analogue of the "powers of the air" of ancient belief.

Strictly speaking, I am unaware of any thing that has a right to the
title of an "impossibility" except a contradiction in terms. There are
impossibilities logical, but none natural. A "round square," a
"present past," "two parallel lines that intersect," are
impossibilities, because the ideas denoted by the predicates, _round,
present, intersect_, are contradictory of the ideas denoted by the
subjects, _square, past, parallel_. But walking on water, or turning
water into wine, or procreation without male intervention, or raising
the dead, are plainly not "impossibilities" in this sense.

In the affirmation, that a man walked upon water, the idea of the
subject is not contradictory of that in the predicate. Naturalists are
familiar with insects which walk on water, and imagination has no more
difficulty in putting a man in place of the insect than it has in
giving a man some of the attributes of a bird and making an angel of
him; or in ascribing to him the ascensive tendencies of a balloon, as
the "levitationists" do. Undoubtedly, there are very strong physical
and biological arguments for thinking it extremely improbable that a
man could be supported on the surface of the water as the insect is;
or that his organisation could be compatible with the possession and
use of wings; or that he could rise through the air without mechanical
aid. Indeed, if we have any reason to believe that our present
knowledge of the nature of things exhausts the possibilities of
nature, we might properly say that the attributes of men are
contradictory of walking on water, or floating in the air, and
consequently that these acts are truly "impossible" for him. But it is
sufficiently obvious, not only that we are at the beginning of our
knowledge of nature, instead of having arrived at the end of it, but
that the limitations of our faculties are such that we never can be in
a position to set bounds to the possibilities of nature. We have
knowledge of what is happening and of what has happened; of what will
happen we have and can have no more than expectation, grounded on our
more or less correct reading of past experience and prompted by the
faith, begotten of that experience, that the order of nature in the
future will resemble its order in the past.

The same considerations apply to the other examples of supposed
miraculous events. The change of water into wine undoubtedly implies a
contradiction, and is assuredly "impossible," if we are permitted to
assume that the "elementary bodies" of the chemists are, now and for
ever, immutable. Not only, however, is a negative proposition of this
kind incapable of proof, but modern chemistry is inclining towards the
contrary doctrine. And if carbon can be got out of hydrogen or oxygen,
the conversion of water into wine comes within range of scientific
possibility--it becomes a mere question of molecular arrangement.

As for virgin procreation, it is not only clearly imaginable, but
modern biology recognises it as an everyday occurrence among some
groups of animals. So with restoration to life after death. Certain
animals, long as dry as mummies, and, to all appearance, as dead, when
placed in proper conditions resume their vitality. It may be said that
these creatures are not dead, but merely in a condition of suspended
vitality. That, however, is only begging the question by making the
incapacity for restoration to life part of the definition of death. In
the absence of obvious lesions of some of the more important organs,
it is no easy matter, even for experts, to say that an apparently dead
man is incapable of restoration to life; and, in the recorded
instances of such restoration, the want of any conclusive evidence
that the man was dead is even more remarkable than the insufficiency
of the testimony as to his coming to life again.

It may be urged, however, that there is, at any rate, one miracle
certified by all three of the Synoptic Gospels which really does
"imply a contradiction," and is, therefore, "impossible" in the
strictest sense of the word. This is the well-known story of the
feeding of several thousand men, to the complete satisfaction of their
hunger, by the distribution of a few loaves and fishes among them; the
wondrousness of this already somewhat surprising performance being
intensified by the assertion that the quantity of the fragments of the
meal, left over, amounted to much more than the original store.

Undoubtedly, if the operation is stated in its most general form; if
it is to be supposed that a certain quantity, or magnitude, was
divided into many more parts than the whole contained; and that, after
the subtraction of several thousands of such parts, the magnitude of
the remainder amounted to more than the original magnitude, there does
seem to be an _à priori_ difficulty about accepting the proposition,
seeing that it appears to be contradictory of the senses which we
attach to the words "whole" and "parts" respectively. But this
difficulty is removed if we reflect that we are not, in this case,
dealing with magnitude in the abstract, or with "whole" and "parts" in
their mathematical sense, but with concrete things, many of which are
known to possess the power of growing, or increasing in magnitude.
They thus furnish us with a conception of growth which we may, in
imagination, apply to loaves and fishes; just as we may, in
imagination, apply the idea of wings to the idea of a man. It must be
admitted that a number of sheep might be fed on a pasture, and yet
there might be more grass on the pasture, when the sheep left it, than
there was at first. We may generalise this and other such facts into a
perfectly definite conception of the increase of food in excess of
consumption; which thus becomes a possibility, the limitations of
which are to be discovered only by experience. Therefore, if it is
asserted that cooked food has been made to grow in excess of rapid
consumption, that statement cannot logically be rejected as an _à
priori_ impossibility, however improbable experience of the
capabilities of cooked food may justify us in holding it to be.

On the strength of this undeniable improbability, however, we not only
have a right to demand, but are morally bound to require, strong
evidence in its favour before we even take it into serious
consideration. But what is the evidence in this case? It is merely
that of those three books,[48] which also concur in testifying to the
truth of the monstrous legend of the herd of swine. In these three
books, there are five accounts of a "miraculous feeding," which fall
into two groups. Three of the stories, obviously derived from some
common source, state that five loaves and two fishes sufficed to feed
five thousand persons, and that twelve baskets of fragments remained
over. In the two others, also obviously derived from a common source,
distinct from the preceding, seven loaves and a few small fishes are
distributed to four thousand persons, and seven baskets of fragments
are left.

If we were dealing with secular records, I suppose no candid and
competent student of history would entertain much doubt that the
originals of the three stories and of the two are themselves merely
divergent versions of some primitive story which existed before the
three Synoptic gospels were compiled out of the body of traditions
current about Jesus. This view of the case, however, is incompatible
with a belief in the historical accuracy of the first and second
gospels.[49] For these agree in making Jesus himself speak of both the
"four thousand" and the "five thousand" miracle. "When I brake the
five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken
pieces took ye up? They say unto him, twelve. And when the seven among
the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces took ye up?
And they say unto him, seven."

Thus we are face to face with a dilemma the way of escape from which
is not obvious. Either the "four thousand" and the "five thousand"
stories are both historically true, and describe two separate events;
or the first and second gospels testify to the very words of a
conversation between Jesus and his disciples which cannot have been

My choice between these alternatives is determined by no _à priori_
speculations about the possibility or impossibility of such events as
the feeding of the four or of the five thousand. But I ask myself the
question, What evidence ought to be produced before I could feel
justified in saying that I believed such an event to have occurred?
That question is very easily answered. Proof must be given (1) of the
weight of the loaves and fishes at starting; (2) of the distribution
to 4-5,000 persons, without any additional supply, of this quantity
and quality of food; (3) of the satisfaction of these people's
appetites; (4) of the weight and quality of the fragments gathered up
into the baskets. Whatever my present notions of probability and
improbability may be, satisfactory testimony under these four heads
would lead me to believe that they were erroneous; and I should accept
the so-called miracle as a new and unexpected example of the
possibilities of nature.

But when, instead of such evidence, nothing is produced but two sets
of discrepant stories, originating nobody knows how or when, among
persons who could believe as firmly in devils which enter pigs, I
confess that my feeling is one of astonishment that any one should
expect a reasonable man to take such testimony seriously.

I am anxious to bring about a clear understanding of the difference
between "impossibilities" and "improbabilities," because mistakes on
this point lay us open to the attacks of ecclesiastical apologists of
the type of the late Cardinal Newman; acute sophists, who think it
fitting to employ their intellects, as burglars employ dark lanterns
for the discovery of other people's weak places, while they carefully
keep the light away from their own position.

When it is rightly stated, the Agnostic view of "miracles" is, in my
judgment, unassailable. We are _not_ justifiable in the _à priori_
assertion that the order of nature, as experience has revealed it to
us, cannot change. In arguing about the miraculous, the assumption is
illegitimate, because it involves the whole point in dispute.
Furthermore, it is an assumption which takes us beyond the range of
our faculties. Obviously, no amount of past experience can warrant us
in anything more than a correspondingly strong expectation for the
present and future. We find, practically, that expectations, based
upon careful observations of events, are, as a rule, trustworthy. We
should be foolish indeed not to follow the only guide we have through
life. But, for all that, our highest and surest generalisations remain
on the level of justifiable expectations; that is, very high
probabilities. For my part, I am unable to conceive of an intelligence
shaped on the model of that of man, however superior it might be,
which could be any better off than our own in this respect; that is,
which could possess logically justifiable grounds for certainty about
the constancy of the order of things, and therefore be in a position
to declare that such and such events are impossible. Some of the old
mythologies recognised this clearly enough. Beyond and above Zeus and
Odin, there lay the unknown and inscrutable Fate which, one day or
other, would crumple up them and the world they ruled to give place to
a new order of things.

I sincerely hope that I shall not be accused of Pyrrhonism, or of any
desire to weaken the foundations of rational certainty. I have merely
desired to point out that rational certainty is one thing, and talk
about "impossibilities," or "violation of natural laws," another.
Rational certainty rests upon two grounds--the one that the evidence
in favour of a given statement is as good as it can be; the other that
such evidence is plainly insufficient. In the former case, the
statement is to be taken as true, in the latter as untrue; until
something arises to modify the verdict, which, however properly
reached, may always be more or less wrong, the best information being
never complete, and the best reasoning being liable to fallacy.

To quarrel with the uncertainty that besets us in intellectual
affairs, would be about as reasonable as to object to live one's life,
with due thought for the morrow, because no man can be sure he will be
alive an hour hence. Such are the conditions imposed upon us by
nature, and we have to make the best of them. And I think that the
greatest mistake those of us who are interested in the progress of
free thought can make is to overlook these limitations, and to deck
ourselves with the dogmatic feathers which are the traditional
adornment of our opponents. Let us be content with rational certainty,
leaving irrational certainties to those who like to muddle their minds
with them. I cannot see my way to say that demons are impossibilities;
but I am not more certain about anything, than I am that the evidence
tendered in favour of the demonology, of which the Gadarene story is a
typical example, is utterly valueless. I cannot see my way to say that
it is "impossible" that the hunger of thousands of men should be
satisfied out of the food supplied by half-a-dozen loaves and a fish
or two; but it seems to me monstrous that I should be asked to believe
it on the faith of the five stories which testify to such an
occurrence. It is true that the position that miracles are
"impossible" cannot be sustained. But I know of nothing which calls
upon me to qualify the grave verdict of Hume: "There is not to be
found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of
men, of such unquestioned goodness, education, and learning as to
secure us against all delusion in themselves; of such undoubted
integrity as to place them beyond all suspicion of any design to
deceive others; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind
as to have a great deal to lose in case of their being detected in any
falsehood; and at the same time attesting facts performed in such a
public manner, and in so celebrated a part of the world, as to render
the detection unavoidable: _all which circumstances are requisite to
give us a full assurance in the testimony of men_."[50]

     The preceding paper called forth the following criticism
     signed "Agnosco," to which I append my reply:--

     While agreeing generally with Professor Huxley's remarks
     respecting miracles, in "The Agnostic Annual for 1892," it
     has seemed to me that one of his arguments at least requires
     qualification. The Professor, in maintaining that so-called
     miraculous events are possible, although the evidence
     adduced is not sufficient to render them probable, refers to
     the possibility of changing water into wine by molecular
     recomposition. He tells us that, "if carbon can be got out
     of hydrogen or oxygen, the conversion of water into wine
     comes within range of scientific possibility." But in
     maintaining that miracles (so-called) have a _prospective_
     possibility, Professor Huxley loses sight--at least, so it
     appears to me--of the question of their _retrospective_
     possibility. For, if it requires a certain degree of
     knowledge and experience, yet far from having been attained,
     to perform those acts which have been called miraculous, it
     is not only improbable, but impossible likewise, that they
     should have been done by men whose knowledge and experience
     were considerably less than our own. It has seemed to me, in
     fact, that this question of the retrospective possibility of
     miracles is more important to us Rationalists, and, for the
     matter of that, to Christians also, than the question of
     their prospective possibility, with which Professor Huxley's
     article mainly deals. Perhaps the Professor himself could
     help those of us who think so, by giving us his opinion.

     I am not sure that I fully appreciate the point raised by
     "Agnosco," nor the distinction between the prospective and
     the retrospective "possibility" of such a miracle as the
     conversion of water into wine. If we may contemplate such an
     event as "possible" in London in the year 1900, it must, in
     the same sense, have been "possible" in the year 30 (or
     thereabouts) at Cana in Galilee. If I should live so long, I
     shall take great interest in the announcement of the
     performance of this operation, say, nine years hence; and,
     if there is no objection raised by chemical experts, I shall
     accept the fact that the feat has been performed, without
     hesitation. But I shall have no more ground for believing
     the Cana story than I had before; simply because the
     evidence in its favour will remain, for me, exactly where it
     is. Possible or impossible, that evidence is worth nothing.
     To leave the safe ground of "no evidence" for speculations
     about impossibilities, consequent upon the want of
     scientific knowledge of the supposed workers of miracles,
     appears to me to be a mistake; especially in view of the
     orthodox contention that they possessed supernatural power
     and supernatural knowledge. T.H. HUXLEY.


     [46] 1889-1891. See the next Essay (VII) and those which
          follow it.

     [47] _Inquiry Concerning the Human Understanding_, p. 5;
          1748. The passage is cited and discussed in my
          _Hume_, pp. 132, 133.

     [48] The story in John vi. 5-14 is obviously derived from
          the "five thousand" narrative of the Synoptics.

     [49] Matthew xvi. 5-12; Mark viii. 14-21.

     [50] Hume, _Inquiry_, sec. X., part ii.



Within the last few months, the public has received much and varied
information on the subject of agnostics, their tenets, and even their
future. Agnosticism exercised the orators of the Church Congress at
Manchester.[51] It has been furnished with a set of "articles" fewer,
but not less rigid, and certainly not less consistent than the
thirty-nine; its nature has been analysed, and its future severely
predicted by the most eloquent of that prophetical school whose Samuel
is Auguste Comte. It may still be a question, however, whether the
public is as much the wiser as might be expected, considering all the
trouble that has been taken to enlighten it. Not only are the three
accounts of the agnostic position sadly out of harmony with one
another, but I propose to show cause for my belief that all three
must be seriously questioned by any one who employs the term
"agnostic" in the sense in which it was originally used. The learned
Principal of King's College, who brought the topic of Agnosticism
before the Church Congress, took a short and easy way of settling the

     But if this be so, for a man to urge, as an escape from this
     article of belief, that he has no means of a scientific
     knowledge of the unseen world, or of the future, is
     irrelevant. His difference from Christians lies not in the
     fact that he has no knowledge of these things, but that he
     does not believe the authority on which they are stated. He
     may prefer to call himself an Agnostic; but his real name is
     an older one--he is an infidel; that is to say, an
     unbeliever. The word infidel, perhaps, carries an unpleasant
     significance. Perhaps it is right that it should. It is, and
     it ought to be, an unpleasant thing for a man to have to say
     plainly that he does not believe in Jesus Christ.[52]

So much of Dr. Wace's address either explicitly or implicitly concerns
me, that I take upon myself to deal with it; but, in so doing, it must
be understood that I speak for myself alone. I am not aware that there
is any sect of Agnostics; and if there be, I am not its acknowledged
prophet or pope. I desire to leave to the Comtists the entire monopoly
of the manufacture of imitation ecclesiasticism.

Let us calmly and dispassionately consider Dr. Wace's appreciation of
agnosticism. The agnostic, according to his view, is a person who says
he has no means of attaining a scientific knowledge of the unseen
world or of the future; by which somewhat loose phraseology Dr. Wace
presumably means the theological unseen world and future. I cannot
think this description happy, either in form or substance, but for the
present it may pass. Dr. Wace continues, that it is not "his
difference from Christians." Are there then any Christians who say
that they know nothing about the unseen world and the future? I was
ignorant of the fact, but T am ready to accept it on the authority of
a professional theologian, and I proceed to Dr. Wace's next

The real state of the case, then, is that the agnostic "does not
believe the authority" on which "these things" are stated, which
authority is Jesus Christ. He is simply an old-fashioned "infidel" who
is afraid to own to his right name. As "Presbyter is priest writ
large," so is "agnostic" the mere Greek equivalent for the Latin
"infidel." There is an attractive simplicity about this solution of
the problem; and it has that advantage of being somewhat offensive to
the persons attacked, which is so dear to the less refined sort of
controversialist. The agnostic says, "I cannot find good evidence that
so and so is true." "Ah," says his adversary, seizing his opportunity,
"then you declare that Jesus Christ was untruthful, for he said so and
so;" a very telling method of rousing prejudice. But suppose that the
value of the evidence as to what Jesus may have said and done, and as
to the exact nature and scope of his authority, is just that which the
agnostic finds it most difficult to determine. If I venture to doubt
that the Duke of Wellington gave the command "Up, Guards, and at 'em!"
at Waterloo, I do not think that even Dr. Wace would accuse me of
disbelieving the Duke. Yet it would be just as reasonable to do this
as to accuse any one of denying what Jesus said, before the
preliminary question as to what he did say is settled.

Now, the question as to what Jesus really said and did is strictly a
scientific problem, which is capable of solution by no other methods
than those practised by the historian and the literary critic. It is a
problem of immense difficulty, which has occupied some of the best
heads in Europe for the last century; and it is only of late years
that their investigations have begun to converge towards one

That kind of faith which Dr. Wace describes and lauds is of no use
here. Indeed, he himself takes pains to destroy its evidential value.

"What made the Mahommedan world? Trust and faith in the declarations
and assurances of Mahommed. And what made the Christian world? Trust
and faith in the declarations and assurances of Jesus Christ and His
Apostles" (l.c. p. 253). The triumphant tone of this imaginary
catechism leads me to suspect that its author has hardly appreciated
its full import. Presumably, Dr. Wace regards Mahommed as an
unbeliever, or, to use the term which he prefers, infidel; and
considers that his assurances have given rise to a vast delusion which
has led, and is leading, millions of men straight to everlasting
punishment. And this being so, the "Trust and faith" which have "made
the Mahommedan world," in just the same sense as they have "made the
Christian world," must be trust and faith in falsehoods. No man who
has studied history, or even attended to the occurrences of everyday
life, can doubt the enormous practical value of trust and faith; but
as little will he be inclined to deny that this practical value has
not the least relation to the reality of the objects of that trust and
faith. In examples of patient constancy of faith and of unswerving
trust, the "Acta Martyrum" do not excel the annals of Babism.[54]

       *       *       *       *       *

The discussion upon which we have now entered goes so thoroughly to
the root of the whole matter; the question of the day is so
completely, as the author of "Robert Elsmere" says, the value of
testimony, that I shall offer no apology for following it out somewhat
in detail; and, by way of giving substance to the argument, I shall
base what I have to say upon a case, the consideration of which lies
strictly within the province of natural science, and of that
particular part of it known as the physiology and pathology of the
nervous system.

I find, in the second Gospel (chap. v.), a statement, to all
appearance intended to have the same evidential value as any other
contained in that history. It is the well-known story of the devils
who were cast out of a man, and ordered, or permitted, to enter into a
herd of swine, to the great loss and damage of the innocent Gerasene,
or Gadarene, pig owners. There can be no doubt that the narrator
intends to convey to his readers his own conviction that this casting
out and entering in were effected by the agency of Jesus of Nazareth;
that, by speech and action, Jesus enforced this conviction; nor does
any inkling of the legal and moral difficulties of the case manifest

On the other hand, everything that I know of physiological and
pathological science leads me to entertain a very strong conviction
that the phenomena ascribed to possession are as purely natural as
those which constitute small-pox; everything that I know of
anthropology leads me to think that the belief in demons and
demoniacal possession is a mere survival of a once universal
superstition, and that its persistence, at the present time, is pretty
much in the inverse ratio of the general instruction, intelligence,
and sound judgment of the population among whom it prevails.
Everything that I know of law and justice convinces me that the wanton
destruction of other people's property is a misdemeanour of evil
example. Again, the study of history, and especially of that of the
fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, leaves no shadow of
doubt on my mind that the belief in the reality of possession and of
witchcraft, justly based, alike by Catholics and Protestants, upon
this and innumerable other passages in both the Old and New
Testaments, gave rise, through the special influence of Christian
ecclesiastics, to the most horrible persecutions and judicial murders
of thousands upon thousands of innocent men, women, and children. And
when I reflect that the record of a plain and simple declaration upon
such an occasion as this, that the belief in witchcraft and possession
is wicked nonsense, would have rendered the long agony of mediæval
humanity impossible, I am prompted to reject, as dishonouring, the
supposition that such declaration was withheld out of condescension to
popular error.

"Come forth, thou unclean spirit, out of the man" (Mark v. 8),[55] are
the words attributed to Jesus. If I declare, as I have no hesitation
in doing, that I utterly disbelieve in the existence of "unclean
spirits," and, consequently, in the possibility of their "coming
forth" out of a man, I suppose that Dr. Wace will tell me I am
disregarding the testimony "of our Lord." For, if these words were
really used, the most resourceful of reconcilers can hardly venture to
affirm that they are compatible with a disbelief "in these things." As
the learned and fair-minded, as well as orthodox, Dr. Alexander
remarks, in an editorial note to the article "Demoniacs," in the
"Biblical Cyclopædia" (vol. i. p. 664, note):--

     ... On the lowest grounds on which our Lord and His Apostles
     can be placed they must, at least, be regarded as _honest_
     men. Now, though honest speech does not require that words
     should be used always and only in their etymological sense,
     it does require that they should not be used so as to affirm
     what the speaker knows to be false. Whilst, therefore, our
     Lord and His Apostles might use the word [Greek: daimonizesthai],
     or the phrase, [Greek: daimonion echein] as a popular
     description of certain diseases, without giving in to the
     belief which lay at the source of such a mode of expression,
     they could not speak of demons entering into a man, or being
     cast out of him, without pledging themselves to the belief of
     an actual possession of the man by the demons. (Campbell,
     _Prel. Diss._ vi. 1, 10.) If, consequently, they did not hold
     this belief, they spoke not as honest men.

The story which we are considering does not rest on the authority of
the second Gospel alone. The third confirms the second, especially in
the matter of commanding the unclean spirit to come out of the man
(Luke viii. 29); and, although the first Gospel either gives a
different version of the same story, or tells another of like kind,
the essential point remains: "If thou cast us out, send us away into
the herd of swine. And He said unto them: Go!" (Matt. viii. 31, 32).

If the concurrent testimony of the three synoptics, then, is really
sufficient to do away with all rational doubt as to a matter of fact
of the utmost practical and speculative importance--belief or
disbelief in which may affect, and has affected, men's lives and their
conduct towards other men, in the most serious way--then I am bound to
believe that Jesus implicitly affirmed himself to possess a "knowledge
of the unseen world," which afforded full confirmation of the belief
in demons and possession current among his contemporaries. If the
story is true, the mediæval theory of the invisible world may be, and
probably is, quite correct; and the witch-finders, from Sprenger to
Hopkins and Mather, are much-maligned men.

On the other hand, humanity, noting the frightful consequences of this
belief; common sense, observing the futility of the evidence on which
it is based, in all cases that have been properly investigated;
science, more and more seeing its way to inclose all the phenomena of
so-called "possession" within the domain of pathology, so far as they
are not to be relegated to that of the police--all these powerful
influences concur in warning us, at our peril, against accepting the
belief without the most careful scrutiny of the authority on which it

I can discern no escape from this dilemma: either Jesus said what he
is reported to have said, or he did not. In the former case, it is
inevitable that his authority on matters connected with the "unseen
world" should be roughly shaken; in the latter, the blow falls upon
the authority of the synoptic Gospels. If their report on a matter of
such stupendous and far-reaching practical import as this is
untrustworthy, how can we be sure of its trustworthiness in other
cases? The favourite "earth," in which the hard-pressed reconciler
takes refuge, that the Bible does not profess to teach science,[56] is
stopped in this instance. For the question of the existence of demons
and of possession by them, though it lies strictly within the province
of science, is also of the deepest moral and religious significance.
If physical and mental disorders are caused by demons, Gregory of
Tours and his contemporaries rightly considered that relics and
exorcists were more useful than doctors; the gravest questions arise
as to the legal and moral responsibilities of persons inspired by
demoniacal impulses; and our whole conception of the universe and of
our relations to it becomes totally different from what it would be on
the contrary hypothesis.

The theory of life of an average mediæval Christian was as different
from that of an average nineteenth-century Englishman as that of a
West African negro is now, in these respects. The modern world is
slowly, but surely, shaking off these and other monstrous survivals of
savage delusions; and, whatever happens, it will not return to that
wallowing in the mire. Until the contrary is proved, I venture to
doubt whether, at this present moment, any Protestant theologian, who
has a reputation to lose, will say that he believes the Gadarene

The choice then lies between discrediting those who compiled the
Gospel biographies and disbelieving the Master, whom they, simple
souls, thought to honour by preserving such traditions of the exercise
of his authority over Satan's invisible world. This is the dilemma. No
deep scholarship, nothing but a knowledge of the revised version (on
which it is to be supposed all that mere scholarship can do has been
done), with the application thereto of the commonest canons of common
sense, is needful to enable us to make a choice between its
alternatives. It is hardly doubtful that the story, as told in the
first Gospel, is merely a version of that told in the second and
third. Nevertheless, the discrepancies are serious and irreconcilable;
and, on this ground alone, a suspension of judgment, at the least, is
called for. But there is a great deal more to be said. From the dawn
of scientific biblical criticism until the present day, the evidence
against the long-cherished notion that the three synoptic Gospels are
the works of three independent authors, each prompted by Divine
inspiration, has steadily accumulated, until, at the present time,
there is no visible escape from the conclusion that each of the three
is a compilation consisting of a groundwork common to all three--the
threefold tradition; and of a superstructure, consisting, firstly, of
matter common to it with one of the others, and, secondly, of matter
special to each. The use of the terms "groundwork" and "superstructure"
by no means implies that the latter must be of later date than the
former. On the contrary, some parts of it may be, and probably are,
older than some parts of the groundwork.[57]

The story of the Gadarene swine belongs to the groundwork; at least,
the essential part of it, in which the belief in demoniac possession
is expressed, does; and therefore the compilers of the first, second,
and third Gospels, whoever they were, certainly accepted that belief
(which, indeed, was universal among both Jews and pagans at that
time), and attributed it to Jesus.

What, then, do we know about the originator, or originators, of this
groundwork--of that threefold tradition which all three witnesses (in
Paley's phrase) agree upon--that we should allow their mere statements
to outweigh the counter arguments of humanity, of common sense, of
exact science, and to imperil the respect which all would be glad to
be able to render to their Master?

Absolutely nothing.[58] There is no proof, nothing more than a fair
presumption, that any one of the Gospels existed, in the state in
which we find it in the authorised version of the Bible, before the
second century, or, in other words, sixty or seventy years after the
events recorded. And, between that time and the date of the oldest
extant manuscripts of the Gospels, there is no telling what additions
and alterations and interpolations may have been made. It may be said
that this is all mere speculation, but it is a good deal more. As
competent scholars and honest men, our revisers have felt compelled to
point out that such things have happened even since the date of the
oldest known manuscripts. The oldest two copies of the second Gospel
end with the 8th verse of the 16th chapter; the remaining twelve
verses are spurious, and it is noteworthy that the maker of the
addition has not hesitation to introduce a speech in which Jesus
promises his disciples that "in My name shall they cast out devils."

The other passage "rejected to the margin" is still more instructive.
It is that touching apologue, with its profound ethical sense, of the
woman taken in adultery--which, if internal evidence were an
infallible guide, might well be affirmed to be a typical example of
the teachings of Jesus. Yet, say the revisers, pitilessly, "Most of
the ancient authorities emit John vii. 53-viii. 11." Now let any
reasonable man ask himself this question. If, after an approximate
settlement of the canon of the New Testament, and even later than the
fourth and fifth centuries, literary fabricators had the skill and the
audacity to make such additions and interpolations as these, what may
they have done when no one had thought of a canon; when oral
tradition, still unfixed, was regarded as more valuable than such
written records as may have existed in the latter portion of the first
century? Or, to take the other alternative, if those who gradually
settled the canon did not know of the existence of the oldest codices
which have come down to us; or if, knowing them, they rejected their
authority, what is to be thought of their competency as critics of the

People who object to free criticism of the Christian Scriptures forget
that they are what they are in virtue of very free criticism; unless
the advocates of inspiration are prepared to affirm that the majority
of influential ecclesiastics during several centuries were safeguarded
against error. For, even granting that some books of the period were
inspired, they were certainly few amongst many; and those who selected
the canonical books, unless they themselves were also inspired, must
be regarded in the light of mere critics, and, from the evidence they
have left of their intellectual habits, very uncritical critics. When
one thinks that such delicate questions as those involved fell into
the hands of men like Papias (who believed in the famous millenarian
grape story); of Irenæus with his "reasons" for the existence of only
four Gospels; and of such calm and dispassionate judges as Tertullian,
with his "Credo quia impossibile": the marvel is that the selection
which constitutes our New Testament is as free as it is from obviously
objectionable matter. The apocryphal Gospels certainly deserve to be
apocryphal; but one may suspect that a little more critical
discrimination would have enlarged the Apocrypha not inconsiderably.

At this point a very obvious objection arises and deserves full and
candid consideration. It may be said that critical scepticism carried
to the length suggested is historical pyrrhonism; that if we are
altogether to discredit an ancient or a modern historian, because he
has assumed fabulous matter to be true, it will be as well to give up
paying any attention to history. It may be said, and with great
justice, that Eginhard's "Life of Charlemagne" is none the less
trustworthy because of the astounding revelation of credulity, of lack
of judgment, and even of respect for the eighth commandment, which he
has unconsciously made in the "History of the Translation of the
Blessed Martyrs Marcellinus and Paul." Or, to go no further back than
the last number of the _Nineteenth Century_, surely that excellent
lady, Miss Strickland, is not to be refused all credence, because of
the myth about the second James's remains which she seems to have
unconsciously invented.

Of course this is perfectly true. I am afraid there is no man alive
whose witness could be accepted, if the condition precedent were proof
that he had never invented and promulgated a myth. In the minds of all
of us there are little places here and there, like the indistinguishable
spots on a rock which give foothold to moss or stonecrop; on which, if
the germ of a myth fall, it is certain to grow, without in the least
degree affecting our accuracy or truthfulness elsewhere. Sir Walter
Scott knew that he could not repeat a story without, as he said,
"giving it a new hat and stick." Most of us differ from Sir Walter
only in not knowing about this tendency of the mythopoeic faculty to
break out unnoticed. But it is also perfectly true that the mythopoeic
faculty is not equally active in all minds, nor in all regions and
under all conditions of the same mind. David Hume was certainly not so
liable to temptation as the Venerable Bede, or even as some recent
historians who could be mentioned; and the most imaginative of
debtors, if he owes five pounds, never makes an obligation to pay a
hundred out of it. The rule of common sense is _primâ facie_ to trust
a witness in all matters, in which neither his self-interest, his
passions, his prejudices, nor that love of the marvellous, which is
inherent to a greater or less degree in all mankind, are strongly
concerned; and, when they are involved, to require corroborative
evidence in exact proportion to the contravention of probability by
the thing testified.

Now, in the Gadarene affair, I do not think I am unreasonably
sceptical, if I say that the existence of demons who can be
transferred from a man to a pig, does thus contravene probability. Let
me be perfectly candid. I admit I have no _à priori_ objection to
offer. There are physical things, such as _tæniæ_ and _trichinæ_,
which can be transferred from men to pigs, and _vice versâ_, and which
do undoubtedly produce most diabolical and deadly effects on both.
For anything I can absolutely prove to the contrary, there may be
spiritual things capable of the same transmigration, with like
effects. Moreover I am bound to add that perfectly truthful persons,
for whom I have the greatest respect, believe in stories about spirits
of the present day, quite as improbable as that we are considering.

So I declare, as plainly as I can, that I am unable to show cause why
these transferable devils should not exist; nor can I deny that, not
merely the whole Roman Church, but many Wacean "infidels" of no mean
repute, do honestly and firmly believe that the activity of such like
demonic beings is in full swing in this year of grace 1889.

Nevertheless, as good Bishop Butler says, "probability is the guide of
life;" and it seems to me that this is just one of the cases in which
the canon of credibility and testimony, which I have ventured to lay
down, has full force. So that, with the most entire respect for many
(by no means for all) of our witnesses for the truth of demonology,
ancient and modern, I conceive their evidence on this particular
matter to be ridiculously insufficient to warrant their

After what has been said I do not think that any sensible man, unless
he happen to be angry, will accuse me of "contradicting the Lord and
His Apostles" if I reiterate my total disbelief in the whole Gadarene
story. But, if that story is discredited, all the other stories of
demoniac possession fall under suspicion. And if the belief in demons
and demoniac possession, which forms the sombre background of the
whole picture of primitive Christianity, presented to us in the New
Testament, is shaken, what is to be said, in any case, of the
uncorroborated testimony of the Gospels with respect to "the unseen

I am not aware that I have been influenced by any more bias in regard
to the Gadarene story than I have been in dealing with other cases of
like kind the investigation of which has interested me. I was brought
up in the strictest school of evangelical orthodoxy; and when I was
old enough to think for myself, I started upon my journey of inquiry
with little doubt about the general truth of what I had been taught;
and with that feeling of the unpleasantness of being called an
"infidel" which, we are told, is so right and proper. Near my
journey's end, I find myself in a condition of something more than
mere doubt about these matters.

In the course of other inquiries, I have had to do with fossil remains
which looked quite plain at a distance, and became more and more
indistinct as I tried to define their outline by close inspection.
There was something there--something which, if I could win assurance
about it, might mark a new epoch in the history of the earth; but,
study as long as I might, certainty eluded my grasp. So had it been
with me in my efforts to define the grand figure of Jesus as it lies
in the primary strata of Christian literature. Is he the kindly,
peaceful Christ depicted in the Catacombs? Or is he the stern Judge
who frowns upon the altar of SS. Cosmas and Damianus? Or can he be
rightly represented by the bleeding ascetic, broken down by physical
pain, of too many mediæval pictures? Are we to accept the Jesus of the
second, or the Jesus of the fourth Gospel, as the true Jesus? What did
he really say and do; and how much that is attributed to him, in
speech and action, is the embroidery of the various parties into which
his followers tended to split themselves within twenty years of his
death, when even the threefold tradition was only nascent?

If any one will answer these questions for me with something more to
the point than feeble talk about the "cowardice of agnosticism," I
shall be deeply his debtor. Unless and until they are satisfactorily
answered, I say of agnosticism in this matter, "_J'y suis, et j'y

But, as we have seen, it is asserted that I have no business to call
myself an agnostic; that, if I am not a Christian I am an infidel; and
that I ought to call myself by that name of "unpleasant significance."
Well, I do not care much what I am called by other people, and if I
had at my side all those who, since the Christian era, have been
called infidels by other folks, I could not desire better company. If
these are my ancestors, I prefer, with the old Frank, to be with them
wherever they are. But there are several points in Dr. Wace's
contention which must be elucidated before I can even think of
undertaking to carry out his wishes. I must, for instance, know what a
Christian is. Now what is a Christian? By whose authority is the
signification of that term defined? Is there any doubt that the
immediate followers of Jesus, the "sect of the Nazarenes," were
strictly orthodox Jews differing from other Jews not more than the
Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes differed from one another;
in fact, only in the belief that the Messiah, for whom the rest of
their nation waited, had come? Was not their chief, "James, the
brother of the Lord," reverenced alike by Sadducee, Pharisee, and
Nazarene? At the famous conference which, according to the Acts, took
place at Jerusalem, does not James declare that "myriads" of Jews,
who, by that time, had become Nazarenes, were "all zealous for the
Law"? Was not the name of "Christian" first used to denote the
converts to the doctrine promulgated by Paul and Barnabas at Antioch?
Does the subsequent history of Christianity leave any doubt that, from
this time forth, the "little rift within the lute" caused by the new
teaching, developed, if not inaugurated, at Antioch, grew wider and
wider, until the two types of doctrines irreconcilably diverged? Did
not the primitive Nazarenism, or Ebionism, develop into the
Nazarenism, and Ebionism, and Elkasaitism of later ages, and finally
die out in obscurity and condemnation, as damnable heresy; while the
younger doctrine throve and pushed out its shoots into that endless
variety of sects, of which the three strongest survivors are the Roman
and Greek Churches and modern Protestantism?

Singular state of things! If I were to profess the doctrine which was
held by "James, the brother of the Lord," and by every one of the
"myriads" of his followers and co-religionists in Jerusalem up to
twenty or thirty years after the Crucifixion (and one knows not how
much later at Pella), I should be condemned, with unanimity, as an
ebionising heretic by the Roman, Greek, and Protestant Churches! And,
probably, this hearty and unanimous condemnation of the creed, held by
those who were in the closest personal relation with their Lord, is
almost the only point upon which they would be cordially of one mind.
On the other hand, though I hardly dare imagine such a thing, I very
much fear that the "pillars" of the primitive Hierosolymitan Church
would have considered Dr. Wace an infidel. No one can read the famous
second chapter of Galatians and the book of Revelation without seeing
how narrow was even Paul's escape from a similar fate. And, if
ecclesiastical history is to be trusted, the thirty-nine articles, be
they right or wrong, diverge from the primitive doctrine of the
Nazarenes vastly more than even Pauline Christianity did.

But, further than this, I have great difficulty in assuring myself
that even James, "the brother of the Lord," and his "myriads" of
Nazarenes, properly represented the doctrines of their Master. For it
is constantly asserted by our modern "pillars" that one of the chief
features of the work of Jesus was the instauration of Religion by the
abolition of what our sticklers for articles and liturgies, with,
unconscious humour, call the narrow restrictions of the Law. Yet, if
James knew this, how could the bitter controversy with Paul have
arisen; and why did not one or the other side quote any of the various
sayings of Jesus, recorded in the Gospels, which directly bear on the
question--sometimes, apparently, in opposite directions?

So, if I am asked to call myself an "infidel," I reply: To what
doctrine do you ask me to be faithful? Is it that contained in the
Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds? My firm belief is that the
Nazarenes, say of the year 40, headed by James, would have stopped
their ears and thought worthy of stoning the audacious man who
propounded it to them. Is it contained in the so-called Apostle's
Creed? I am pretty sure that even that would have created a
recalcitrant commotion at Pella in the year 70, among the Nazarenes of
Jerusalem, who had fled from the soldiers of Titus. And yet, if the
unadulterated tradition of the teachings of "the Nazarene" were to be
found anywhere, it surely should have been amidst those not very aged
disciples who may have heard them as they were delivered.

Therefore, however sorry I may be to be unable to demonstrate that, if
necessary, I should not be afraid to call myself an "infidel," I
cannot do it. "Infidel" is a term of reproach, which Christians and
Mahommedans, in their modesty, agree to apply to those who differ from
them. If he had only thought of it, Dr. Wace might have used the term
"miscreant," which, with the same etymological signification, has the
advantage of being still more "unpleasant" to the persons to whom it
is applied. But why should a man be expected to call himself a
"miscreant" or an "infidel"? That St. Patrick "had two birthdays
because he was a twin" is a reasonable and intelligible utterance
beside that of the man who should declare himself to be an infidel on
the ground of denying his own belief. It may be logically, if not
ethically, defensible that a Christian should call a Mahommedan an
infidel and _vice versâ_; but, on Dr. Wace's principles, both ought to
call themselves infidels, because each applies the term to the other.

Now I am afraid that all the Mahommedan world would agree in
reciprocating that appellation to Dr. Wace himself. I once visited the
Hazar Mosque, the great University of Mohammedanism, in Cairo, in
ignorance of the fact that I was unprovided with proper authority. A
swarm of angry undergraduates, as I suppose I ought to call them, came
buzzing about me and my guide; and if I had known Arabic, I suspect
that "dog of an infidel" would have been by no means the most
"unpleasant" of the epithets showered upon me, before I could explain
and apologise for the mistake. If I had had the pleasure of Dr. Wace's
company on that occasion, the undiscriminative followers of the
Prophet would, I am afraid, have made no difference between us; not
even if they had known that he was the head of an orthodox Christian
seminary. And I have not the smallest doubt that even one of the
learned mollahs, if his grave courtesy would have permitted him to say
anything offensive to men of another mode of belief, would have told
us that he wondered we did not find it "very unpleasant" to disbelieve
in the Prophet of Islam.

From what precedes, I think it becomes sufficiently clear that Dr.
Wace's account of the origin of the name of "Agnostic" is quite wrong.
Indeed, I am bound to add that very slight effort to discover the
truth would have convinced him that, as a matter of fact, the term
arose otherwise. I am loath to go over an old story once more; but
more than one object which I have in view will be served by telling it
a little more fully than it has yet been told.

Looking back nearly fifty years, I see myself as a boy, whose
education has been interrupted, and who, intellectually, was left, for
some years, altogether to his own devices. At that time, I was a
voracious and omnivorous reader; a dreamer and speculator of the first
water, well endowed with that splendid courage in attacking any and
every subject, which is the blessed compensation of youth and
inexperience. Among the books and essays, on all sorts of topics from
metaphysics to heraldry, which I read at this time, two left indelible
impressions on my mind. One was Guizot's "History of Civilization,"
the other was Sir William Hamilton's essay "On the Philosophy of the
Unconditioned," which I came upon, by chance, in an odd volume of the
"Edinburgh Review." The latter was certainly strange reading for a
boy, and I could not possibly have understood a great deal of it;[60]
nevertheless, I devoured it with avidity, and it stamped upon my mind
the strong conviction that, on even the most solemn and important of
questions, men are apt to take cunning phrases for answers; and that
the limitation of our faculties, in a great number of cases, renders
real answers to such questions, not merely actually impossible, but
theoretically inconceivable.

Philosophy and history having laid hold of me in this eccentric
fashion, have never loosened their grip. I have no pretension to be an
expert in either subject; but the turn for philosophical and
historical reading, which rendered Hamilton and Guizot attractive to
me, has not only filled many lawful leisure hours, and still more
sleepless ones, with the repose of changed mental occupation, but has
not unfrequently disputed my proper work-time with my liege lady,
Natural Science. In this way I have found it possible to cover a good
deal of ground in the territory of philosophy; and all the more easily
that I have never cared much about A's or B's opinions, but have
rather sought to know what answer he had to give to the questions I
had to put to him--that of the limitation of possible knowledge being
the chief. The ordinary examiner, with his "State the views of
So-and-so," would have floored me at any time. If he had said what do
_you_ think about any given problem, I might have got on fairly well.

The reader who has had the patience to follow the enforced, but
unwilling, egotism of this veritable history (especially if his
studies have led him in the same direction), will now see why my mind
steadily gravitated towards the conclusions of Hume and Kant, so well
stated by the latter in a sentence, which I have quoted elsewhere.

"The greatest and perhaps the sole use of all philosophy of pure
reason is, after all, merely negative, since it serves not as an
organon for the enlargement [of knowledge], but as a discipline for
its delimitation; and, instead of discovering truth, has only the
modest merit of preventing error."[61]

When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I
was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an
idealist; a Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I
learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last,
I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of
these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of
these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed
from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain
"gnosis,"--had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of
existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong
conviction that the problem was insoluble. And, with Hume and Kant on
my side, I could not think myself presumptuous in holding fast by that
opinion. Like Dante,

    Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
      Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,

but, unlike Dante, I cannot add,

    Che la diritta via era smarrita.

On the contrary, I had, and have, the firmest conviction that I never
left the "verace via"--the straight road; and that this road led
nowhere else but into the dark depths of a wild and tangled forest.
And though I have found leopards and lions in the path; though I have
made abundant acquaintance with the hungry wolf, that "with privy paw
devours apace and nothing said," as another great poet says of the
ravening beast; and though no friendly spectre has even yet offered
his guidance, I was, and am, minded to go straight on, until I either
come out on the other side of the wood, or find there is no other
side to it, at least, none attainable by me.

This was my situation when I had the good fortune to find a place
among the members of that remarkable confraternity of antagonists,
long since deceased, but of green and pious memory, the Metaphysical
Society. Every variety of philosophical and theological opinion was
represented there, and expressed itself with entire openness; most of
my colleagues were _-ists_ of one sort or another; and, however kind
and friendly they might be, I, the man without a rag of a label to
cover himself with, could not fail to have some of the uneasy feelings
which must have beset the historical fox when, after leaving the trap
in which his tail remained, he presented himself to his normally
elongated companions. So I took thought, and invented what I conceived
to be the appropriate title of "agnostic." It came into my head as
suggestively antithetic to the "gnostic" of Church history, who
professed to know so much about the very things of which I was
ignorant; and I took the earliest opportunity of parading it at our
Society, to show that I, too, had a tail, like the other foxes. To my
great satisfaction, the term took; and when the _Spectator_ had stood
godfather to it, any suspicion in the minds of respectable people,
that a knowledge of its parentage might have awakened was, of course,
completely lulled.

That is the history of the origin of the terms "agnostic" and
"agnosticism"; and it will be observed that it does not quite agree
with the confident assertion of the reverend Principal of King's
College, that "the adoption of the term agnostic is only an attempt to
shift the issue, and that it involves a mere evasion" in relation to
the Church and Christianity.[62]

       *       *       *       *       *

The last objection (I rejoice as much as my readers must do, that it
is the last) which I have to take to Dr. Wace's deliverance before the
Church Congress arises, I am sorry to say, on a question of morality.

"It is, and it ought to be," authoritatively declares this official
representative of Christian ethics, "an unpleasant thing for a man to
have to say plainly that he does not believe in Jesus Christ" (_l.c._
p. 254).

Whether it is so depends, I imagine, a good deal on whether the man
was brought up in a Christian household or not. I do not see why it
should be "unpleasant" for a Mahommedan or Buddhist to say so. But
that "it ought to be" unpleasant for any man to say anything which he
sincerely, and after due deliberation, believes, is, to my mind, a
proposition of the most profoundly immoral character. I verily believe
that the great good which has been effected in the world by
Christianity has been largely counteracted by the pestilent doctrine
on which all the Churches have insisted, that honest disbelief in
their more or less astonishing creeds is a moral offence, indeed a sin
of the deepest dye, deserving and involving the same future
retribution as murder and robbery. If we could only see, in one view,
the torrents of hypocrisy and cruelty, the lies, the slaughter, the
violations of every obligation of humanity, which have flowed from
this source along the course of the history of Christian nations, our
worst imaginations of Hell would pale beside the vision.

A thousand times, no! It ought _not_ to be unpleasant to say that
which one honestly believes or disbelieves. That it so constantly is
painful to do so, is quite enough obstacle to the progress of mankind
in that most valuable of all qualities, honesty of word or of deed,
without erecting a sad concomitant of human weakness into something to
be admired and cherished. The bravest of soldiers often, and very
naturally, "feel it unpleasant" to go into action; but a court-martial
which did its duty would make short work of the officer who
promulgated the doctrine that his men _ought_ to fell their duty

I am very well aware, as I suppose most thoughtful people are in these
times, that the process of breaking away from old beliefs is extremely
unpleasant; and I am much disposed to think that the encouragement,
the consolation, and the peace afforded to earnest believers in even
the worst forms of Christianity are of great practical advantage to
them. What deductions must be made from this gain on the score of the
harm done to the citizen by the ascetic other-worldliness of logical
Christianity; to the ruler, by the hatred, malice, and all
uncharitableness of sectarian bigotry; to the legislator, by the
spirit of exclusiveness and domination of those that count themselves
pillars of orthodoxy; to the philosopher, by the restraints on the
freedom of learning and teaching which every Church exercises, when it
is strong enough; to the conscientious soul, by the introspective
hunting after sins of the mint and cummin type, the fear of
theological error, and the overpowering terror of possible damnation,
which have accompanied the Churches like their shadow, I need not now
consider; but they are assuredly not small. If agnostics lose heavily
on the one side, they gain a good deal on the other. People who talk
about the comforts of belief appear to forget its discomforts; they
ignore the fact that the Christianity of the Churches is something
more than faith in the ideal personality of Jesus, which they create
for themselves, _plus_ so much as can be carried into practice,
without disorganising civil society, of the maxims of the Sermon on
the Mount. Trip in morals or in doctrine (especially in doctrine),
without due repentance or retractation, or fail to get properly
baptized before you die, and a _plébiscite_ of the Christians of
Europe, if they were true to their creeds, would affirm your
everlasting damnation by an immense majority.

Preachers, orthodox and heterodox, din into our ears that the world
cannot get on without faith of some sort. There is a sense in which
that is as eminently as obviously true; there is another, in which, in
my judgment, it is as eminently as obviously false, and it seems to me
that the hortatory, or pulpit, mind is apt to oscillate between the
false and the true meanings, without being aware of the fact.

It is quite true that the ground of every one of our actions, and the
validity of all our reasonings, rest upon the great act of faith,
which leads us to take the experience of the past as a safe guide in
our dealings with the present and the future. From the nature of
ratiocination, it is obvious that the axioms, on which it is based,
cannot be demonstrated by ratiocination. It is also a trite
observation that, in the business of life, we constantly take the most
serious action upon evidence of an utterly insufficient character. But
it is surely plain that faith is not necessarily entitled to dispense
with ratiocination because ratiocination cannot dispense with faith as
a starting-point; and that because we are often obliged, by the
pressure of events, to act on very bad evidence, it does not follow
that it is proper to act on such evidence when the pressure is absent.

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews tells us that "faith is the
assurance of things hoped for, the proving of things not seen." In the
authorised version, "substance" stands for "assurance," and "evidence"
for "proving." The question of the exact meaning of the two words,
[Greek: hypostasis] and [Greek: elegchos] affords a fine field of
discussion for the scholar and the metaphysician. But I fancy we shall
be not far from the mark if we take the writer to have had in his mind
the profound psychological truth, that men constantly feel certain
about things for which they strongly hope, but have no evidence, in
the legal or logical sense of the word; and he calls this feeling
"faith." I may have the most absolute faith that a friend has not
committed the crime of which he is accused. In the early days of
English history, if my friend could have obtained a few more
compurgators of a like robust faith, he would have been acquitted. At
the present day, if I tendered myself as a witness on that score, the
judge would tell me to stand down, and the youngest barrister would
smile at my simplicity. Miserable indeed is the man who has not such
faith in some of his fellow-men--only less miserable than the man who
allows himself to forget that such faith is not, strictly speaking,
evidence; and when his faith is disappointed, as will happen now and
again, turns Timon and blames the universe for his own blunders. And
so, if a man can find a friend, the hypostasis of all his hopes, the
mirror of his ethical ideal, in the Jesus of any, or all, of the
Gospels, let him live by faith in that ideal. Who shall or can forbid
him? But let him not delude himself with the notion that his faith is
evidence of the objective reality of that in which he trusts. Such
evidence is to be obtained only by the use of the methods of science,
as applied to history and to literature, and it amounts at present to
very little.

It appears that Mr. Gladstone some time ago asked Mr. Laing if he
could draw up a short summary of the negative creed; a body of
negative propositions, which have so far been adopted on the negative
side as to be what the Apostles' and other accepted creeds are on the
positive; and Mr. Laing at once kindly obliged Mr. Gladstone with the
desired articles--eight of them.

If any one had preferred this request to me, I should have replied
that, if he referred to agnostics, they have no creed; and, by the
nature of the case, cannot have any. Agnosticism, in fact, is not a
creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous
application of a single principle. That principle is of great
antiquity; it is as old as Socrates; as old as the writer who said,
"Try all things, hold fast by that which is good;" it is the
foundation of the Reformation, which simply illustrated the axiom that
every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in
him; it is the great principle of Descartes; it is the fundamental
axiom of modern science. Positively the principle may be expressed: In
matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take
you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In
matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain
which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the
agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not
be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may
have in store for him.

The results of the working out of the agnostic principle will vary
according to individual knowledge and capacity, and according to the
general condition of science. That which is unproven to-day may be
proven by the help of new discoveries to-morrow. The only negative
fixed points will be those negations which flow from the demonstrable
limitation of our faculties. And the only obligation accepted is to
have the mind always open to conviction. Agnostics who never fail in
carrying out their principles are, I am afraid, as rare as other
people of whom the same consistency can be truthfully predicated. But,
if you were to meet with such a phoenix and to tell him that you had
discovered that two and two make five, he would patiently ask you to
state your reasons for that conviction, and express his readiness to
agree with you if he found them satisfactory. The apostolic
injunction to "suffer fools gladly" should be the rule of life of a
true agnostic. I am deeply conscious how far I myself fall short of
this ideal, but it is my personal conception of what agnostics ought
to be.

However, as I began by stating, I speak only for myself; and I do not
dream of anathematizing and excommunicating Mr. Laing. But, when I
consider his creed and compare it with the Athanasian, I think I have
on the whole a clearer conception of the meaning of the latter.
"Polarity," in Article VIII, for example, is a word about which I
heard a good deal in my youth, when "Naturphilosophie" was in fashion,
and greatly did I suffer from it. For many years past, whenever I have
met with "polarity" anywhere but in a discussion of some purely
physical topic, such as magnetism, I have shut the book. Mr. Laing
must excuse me if the force of habit was too much for me when I read
his eighth article.

And now, what is to be said to Mr. Harrison's remarkable deliverance
"On the future of agnosticism "?[63] I would that it were not my
business to say anything, for I am afraid I can say nothing which
shall manifest my great personal respect for this able writer, and for
the zeal and energy with which he ever and anon galvanises the weakly
frame of Positivism until it looks, more than ever, like John Bunyan's
Pope and Pagan rolled into one. There is a story often repeated, and I
am afraid none the less mythical on that account, of a valiant and
loud-voiced corporal in command of two full privates who, falling in
with a regiment of the enemy in the dark, orders it to surrender under
pain of instant annihilation by his force; and the enemy surrenders
accordingly. I am always reminded of this tale when I read the
positivist commands to the forces of Christianity and of Science; only
the enemy show no more signs of intending to obey now than they have
done any time these forty years.

The allocution under consideration has a certain papal flavour. Mr.
Harrison speaks with authority and not as one of the common scribes of
the period. He knows not only what agnosticism is and how it has come
about, but what will become of it. The agnostic is to content himself
with being the precursor of the positivist. In his place, as a sort of
navvy levelling the ground and cleansing it of such poor stuff as
Christianity, he is a useful creature who deserves patting on the
back, on condition that he does not venture beyond his last. But let
not these scientific Sanballats presume that they are good enough to
take part in the building of the Temple--they are mere Samaritans,
doomed to die out in proportion as the Religion of Humanity is
accepted by mankind. Well, if that is their fate, they have time to be
cheerful. But let us hear Mr. Harrison's pronouncement of their doom.

"Agnosticism is a stage in the evolution of religion, an entirely
negative stage, the point reached by physicists, a purely mental
conclusion, with no relation to things social at all" (p. 154). I am
quite dazed by this declaration. Are there, then, any "conclusions"
that are not "purely mental"? Is there "no relation to things social"
in "mental conclusions" which affect men's whole conception of life?
Was that prince of agnostics, David Hume, particularly imbued with
physical science? Supposing physical science to be non-existent, would
not the agnostic principle, applied by the philologist and the
historian, lead to exactly the same results? Is the modern more or
less complete suspension of judgment as to the facts of the history of
regal Rome, or the real origin of the Homeric poems, anything but
agnosticism in history and in literature? And if so, how can
agnosticism be the "mere negation of the physicist"?

"Agnosticism is a stage in the evolution of religion." No two people
agree as to what is meant by the term "religion"; but if it means, as
I think it ought to mean, simply the reverence and love for the
ethical ideal, and the desire to realise that ideal in life, which
every man ought to feel--then I say agnosticism has no more to do
with it than it has to do with music or painting. If, on the other
hand, Mr. Harrison, like most people, means by "religion" theology,
then, in my judgment, agnosticism can be said to be a stage in its
evolution, only as death may be said to be the final stage in the
evolution of life.

     When agnostic logic is simply one of the canons of thought,
     agnosticism, as a distinctive faith, will have spontaneously
     disappeared (p. 155).

I can but marvel that such sentences as this, and those already
quoted, should have proceeded from Mr. Harrison's pen. Does he really
mean to suggest that agnostics have a logic peculiar to themselves?
Will lie kindly help me out of my bewilderment when I try to think of
"logic" being anything else than the canon (which, I believe, means
rule) of thought? As to agnosticism being a distinctive faith, I have
already shown that it cannot possibly be anything of the kind, unless
perfect faith in logic is distinctive of agnostics; which, after all,
it may be.

     Agnosticism as a religious philosophy _per se_ rests on an
     almost total ignoring of history and social evolution (p.

But neither _per se_ nor _per aliud_ has agnosticism (if I know
anything about it) the least pretension to be a religious philosophy;
so far from resting on ignorance of history, and that social evolution
of which history is the account, it is and has been the inevitable
result of the strict adherence to scientific methods by historical
investigators. Our forefathers were quite confident about the
existence of Romulus and Remus, of King Arthur, and of Hengist and
Horsa. Most of us have become agnostics in regard to the reality of
these worthies. It is a matter of notoriety of which Mr. Harrison, who
accuses us all so freely of ignoring history, should not be ignorant,
that the critical process which has shattered the foundations of
orthodox Christian doctrine owes its origin, not to the devotees of
physical science, but, before all, to Richard Simon, the learned
French Oratorian, just two hundred years ago. I cannot find evidence
that either Simon, or any one of the great scholars and critics of the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who have continued Simon's work,
had any particular acquaintance with physical science. I have already
pointed out that Hume was independent of it. And certainly one of the
most potent influences in the same direction, upon history in the
present century, that of Grote, did not come from the physical side.
Physical science, in fact, has had nothing directly to do with the
criticism of the Gospels; it is wholly incompetent to furnish
demonstrative evidence that any statement made in these histories is
untrue. Indeed, modern physiology can find parallels in nature for
events of apparently the most eminently supernatural kind recounted
in some of those histories.

It is a comfort to hear, upon Mr. Harrison's authority, that the laws
of physical nature show no signs of becoming "less definite, less
consistent, or less popular as time goes on" (p. 154). How a law of
nature is to become indefinite, or "inconsistent," passes my poor
powers of imagination. But with universal suffrage and the coach-dog
theory of premiership in full view; the theory, I mean, that the whole
duty of a political chief is to look sharp for the way the social
coach is driving, and then run in front and bark loud--as if being the
leading noise-maker and guiding were the same things--it is truly
satisfactory to me to know that the laws of nature are increasing in
popularity. Looking at recent developments of the policy which is said
to express the great heart of the people, I have had my doubts of the
fact; and my love for my fellow-countrymen has led me to reflect, with
dread, on what will happen to them, if any of the laws of nature ever
become so unpopular in their eyes, as to be voted down by the
transcendent authority of universal suffrage. If the legion of demons,
before they set out on their journey in the swine, had had time to
hold a meeting and to resolve unanimously "That the law of gravitation
is oppressive and ought to be repealed," I am afraid it would have
made no sort of difference to the result, when their two thousand
unwilling porters were once launched down the steep slopes of the
fatal shore of Gennesaret.

     The question of the place of religion as an element of human
     nature, as a force of human society, its origin, analysis,
     and functions, has never been considered at all from an
     agnostic point of view (p. 152).

I doubt not that Mr. Harrison knows vastly more about history than I
do; in fact, he tells the public that some of my friends and I have
had no opportunity of occupying ourselves with that subject. I do not
like to contradict any statement which Mr. Harrison makes on his own
authority; only, if I may be true to my agnostic principles, I humbly
ask how he has obtained assurance on this head. I do not profess to
know anything about the range of Mr. Harrison's studies; but as he has
thought it fitting to start the subject, I may venture to point out
that, on evidence adduced, it might be equally permissible to draw the
conclusion that Mr. Harrison's other labours have not allowed him to
acquire that acquaintance with the methods and results of physical
science, or with the history of philosophy, or of philological and
historical criticism, which is essential to any one who desires to
obtain a right understanding of agnosticism. Incompetence in
philosophy, and in all branches of science except mathematics, is the
well-known mental characteristic of the founder of positivism.
Faithfulness in disciples is an admirable quality in itself; the pity
is that it not unfrequently leads to the imitation of the weaknesses
as well as of the strength of the master. It is only such
over-faithfulness which can account for a "strong mind really
saturated with the historical sense" (p. 153) exhibiting the
extraordinary forgetfulness of the historical fact of the existence of
David Hume implied by the assertion that

     it would be difficult to name a single known agnostic who
     has given to history anything like the amount of thought and
     study which he brings to a knowledge of the physical world
     (p. 153).

Whoso calls to mind what I may venture to term the bright side of
Christianity--that ideal of manhood, with its strength and its
patience, its justice and its pity for human frailty, its helpfulness
to the extremity of self-sacrifice, its ethical purity and nobility,
which apostles have pictured, in which armies of martyrs have placed
their unshakable faith, and whence obscure men and women, like
Catherine of Sienna and John Knox, have derived the courage to rebuke
popes and kings--is not likely to underrate the importance of the
Christian faith as a factor in human history, or to doubt that if that
faith should prove to be incompatible with our knowledge, or necessary
want of knowledge, some other hypostasis of men's hopes, genuine
enough and worthy enough to replace it, will arise. But that the
incongruous mixture of bad science with eviscerated papistry, out of
which Comte manufactured the positivist religion, will be the heir of
the Christian ages, I have too much respect for the humanity of the
future to believe. Charles the Second told his brother, "They will not
kill me, James, to make you king." And if critical science is
remorselessly destroying the historical foundations of the noblest
ideal of humanity which mankind have yet worshipped, it is little
likely to permit the pitiful reality to climb into the vacant shrine.

That a man should determine to devote himself to the service of
humanity--including intellectual and moral self-culture under that
name; that this should be, in the proper sense of the word, his
religion--is not only an intelligible, but, I think, a laudable
resolution. And I am greatly disposed to believe that it is the only
religion which will prove itself to be unassailably acceptable so long
as the human race endures. But when the Comtist asks me to worship
"Humanity"--that is to say, to adore the generalised conception of men
as they ever have been and probably ever will be--I must reply that I
could just as soon bow down and worship the generalised conception of
a "wilderness of apes." Surely we are not going back to the days of
Paganism, when individual men were deified, and the hard good sense of
a dying Vepasian could prompt the bitter jest, "Ut puto Deus fio." No
divinity doth hedge a modern man, be he even a sovereign ruler. Nor is
there any one, except a municipal magistrate, who is officially
declared worshipful. But if there is no spark of worship-worthy
divinity in the individual twigs of humanity, whence comes that
godlike splendour which the Moses of Positivism fondly imagines to
pervade the whole bush?

I know no study which is so unutterably saddening as that of the
evolution of humanity, as it is set forth in the annals of history.
Out of the darkness of prehistoric ages man emerges with the marks of
his lowly origin strong upon him. He is a brute, only more intelligent
than the other brutes, a blind prey to impulses, which as often as not
lead him to destruction; a victim to endless illusions, which make his
mental existence a terror and a burden, and fill his physical life
with barren toil and battle. He attains a certain degree of physical
comfort, and develops a more or less workable theory of life, in such
favourable situations as the plains of Mesopotamia or of Egypt, and
then, for thousands and thousands of years, struggles, with varying
fortunes, attended by infinite wickedness, bloodshed, and misery, to
maintain himself at this point against the greed and the ambition of
his fellow-men. He makes a point of killing and otherwise persecuting
all those who first try to get him to move on; and when he has moved
on a step, foolishly confers post-mortem deification on his victims.
He exactly repeats the process with all who want to move a step yet
farther. And the best men of the best epochs are simply those who make
the fewest blunders and commit the fewest sins.

That one should rejoice in the good man, forgive the bad man, and pity
and help all men to the best of one's ability, is surely indisputable.
It is the glory of Judaism and of Christianity to have proclaimed this
truth, through all their aberrations. But the worship of a God who
needs forgiveness and help, and deserves pity every hour of his
existence, is no better than that of any other voluntarily selected
fetish. The Emperor Julian's project was hopeful in comparison with
the prospects of the Comtist Anthropolatry.

When the historian of religion in the twentieth century is writing
about the nineteenth, I foresee he will say something of this kind:

The most curious and instructive events in the religious history of
the preceding century are the rise and progress of two new sects
called Mormons and Positivists. To the student who has carefully
considered these remarkable phenomena nothing in the records of
religious self-delusion can appear improbable.

The Mormons arose in the midst of the great Republic, which, though
comparatively insignificant, at that time, in territory as in the
number of its citizens, was (as we know from the fragments of the
speeches of its orators which have come down to us) no less remarkable
for the native intelligence of its population than for the wide extent
of their information, owing to the activity of their publishers in
diffusing all that they could invent, beg, borrow, or steal. Nor were
they less noted for their perfect freedom from all restraints in
thought, or speech, or deed; except, to be sure, the beneficent and
wise influence of the majority, exerted, in case of need, through an
institution known as "tarring and feathering," the exact nature of
which is now disputed.

There is a complete consensus of testimony that the founder of
Mormonism, one Joseph Smith, was a low-minded, ignorant scamp, and
that he stole the "Scriptures" which he propounded; not being clever
enough to forge even such contemptible stuff as they contain.
Nevertheless he must have been a man of some force of character, for a
considerable number of disciples soon gathered about him. In spite of
repeated outbursts of popular hatred and violence--during one of which
persecutions Smith was brutally murdered--the Mormon body steadily
increased, and became a flourishing community. But the Mormon
practices being objectionable to the majority, they were, more than
once, without any pretence of law, but by force of riot, arson, and
murder, driven away from the land they had occupied. Harried by these
persecutions, the Mormon body eventually committed itself to the
tender mercies of a desert as barren as that of Sinai; and after
terrible sufferings and privations, reached the Oasis of Utah. Here it
grew and flourished, sending out missionaries to, and receiving
converts from, all parts of Europe, sometimes to the number of 10,000
in a year; until, in 1880, the rich and flourishing community numbered
110,000 souls in Utah alone, while there were probably 30,000 or
40,000 scattered abroad elsewhere. In the whole history of religions
there is no more remarkable example of the power of faith; and, in
this case, the founder of that faith was indubitably a most despicable
creature. It is interesting to observe that the course taken by the
great Republic and its citizens runs exactly parallel with that taken
by the Roman Empire and its citizens towards the early Christians,
except that the Romans had a certain legal excuse for their acts of
violence, inasmuch as the Christian "sodalitia" were not licensed, and
consequently were, _ipso facto_, illegal assemblages. Until, in the
latter part of the nineteenth century, the United States legislature
decreed the illegality of polygamy, the Mormons were wholly within the

Nothing can present a greater contrast to all this than the history of
the Postivists. This sect arose much about the same time as that of
the Mormons, in the upper and most instructed stratum of the
quick-witted, sceptical population of Paris. The founder, Auguste
Comte, was a teacher of mathematics, but of no eminence in that
department of knowledge, and with nothing but an amateur's
acquaintance with physical, chemical, and biological science. His
works are repulsive, on account of the dull diffuseness of their
style, and a certain air, as of a superior person, which characterises
them; but nevertheless they contain good things here and there. It
would take too much space to reproduce in detail a system which
proposes to regulate all human life by the promulgation of a Gentile
Leviticus. Suffice it to say, that M. Comte may be described as a
syncretic, who, like the Gnostics of early Church history, attempted
to combine the substance of imperfectly comprehended contemporary
science with the form of Roman Christianity. It may be that this is
the reason why his disciples were so very angry with some obscure
people called Agnostics, whose views, if we may judge by the account
left in the works of a great Positivist controversial writer, were
very absurd.

To put the matter briefly, M. Comte, finding Christianity and Science
at daggers drawn, seems to have said to Science, "You find
Christianity rotten at the core, do you? Well, I will scoop out the
inside of it." And to Romanism: "You find Science mere dry light--cold
and bare. Well, I will put your shell over it, and so, as schoolboys
make a spectre out of a turnip and a tallow candle, behold the new
religion of Humanity complete!"

Unfortunately neither the Romanists, nor the people who were something
more than amateurs in science, could be got to worship M. Comte's new
idol properly. In the native country of Positivism, one distinguished
man of letters and one of science, for a time, helped to make up a
roomful of the faithful, but their love soon grew cold. In England, on
the other hand, there appears to be little doubt that, in the ninth
decade of the century, the multitude of disciples reached the grand
total of several score. They had the advantage of the advocacy of one
or two most eloquent and learned apostles, and, at any rate, the
sympathy of several persons of light and leading; and, if they were
not seen, they were heard, all over the world. On the other hand, as a
sect, they laboured under the prodigious disadvantage of being
refined, estimable people, living in the midst of the worn-out
civilisation of the old world; where any one who had tried to
persecute them, as the Mormons were persecuted, would have been
instantly hanged. But the majority never dreamed of persecuting them;
on the contrary, they were rather given to scold and otherwise try the
patience of the majority.

The history of these sects in the closing years of the century is
highly instructive. Mormonism ...

But I find I have suddenly slipped off Mr. Harrison's tripod, which I
had borrowed for the occasion. The fact is, I am not equal to the
prophetical business, and ought not to have undertaken it.

       *       *       *       *       *

[It did not occur to me, while writing the latter part of this essay,
that it could be needful to disclaim the intention of putting the
religious system of Comte on a level with Mormonism. And I was unaware
of the fact that Mr. Harrison rejects the greater part of the
Positivist Religion, as taught by Comte. I have, therefore, erased one
or two passages, which implied his adherence to the "Religion of
Humanity" as developed by Comte, 1893.]


     [51] See the _Official Report of the Church Congress held
          at Manchester_, October 1888, pp. 253, 254.

     [52] In this place and in the eleventh essay, there are
          references to the late Archbishop of York which are of
          no importance to my main argument, and which I have
          expunged because I desire to obliterate the traces of a
          temporary misunderstanding with a man of rare ability,
          candour, and wit, for whom I entertained a great liking
          and no less respect. I rejoice to think now of the
          (then) Bishop's cordial hail the first time we met
          after our little skirmish, "Well, is it to be peace or
          war?" I replied, "A little of both." But there was only
          peace when we parted, and ever after.

     [53] Dr. Wace tells us, "It may be asked how far we can rely
          on the accounts we possess of our Lord's teaching on
          these subjects." And he seems to think the question
          appropriately answered by the assertion that it "ought
          to be regarded as settled by M. Renan's practical
          surrender of the adverse case." I thought I knew M.
          Renan's works pretty well, but I have contrived to miss
          this "practical" (I wish Dr. Wace had defined the scope
          of that useful adjective) surrender. However, as Dr.
          Wace can find no difficulty in pointing out the passage
          of M. Renan's writings, by which he feels justified in
          making his statement, I shall wait for further
          enlightenment, contenting myself, for the present, with
          remarking that if M. Renan were to retract and do
          penance in Notre-Dame to-morrow for any contributions
          to Biblical criticism that may be specially his
          property, the main results of that criticism, as they
          are set forth in the works of Strauss, Baur, Reuss, and
          Volkmar, for example, would not be sensibly affected.

     [54] See De Gobineau, _Les Religions et les Philosophies
          dans l'Asie Centrale_; and the recently published work
          of Mr. E.G. Browne, _The Episode of the Bab_.

     [55] Here, as always, the revised version is cited.

     [56] Does any one really mean to say that there is any
          internal or external criterion by which the reader of a
          biblical statement, in which scientific matter is
          contained, is enabled to judge whether it is to betaken
          _au sérieux_ or not? Is the account of the Deluge,
          accepted as true in the New Testament, less precise and
          specific than that of the call of Abraham, also
          accepted as true therein? By what mark does the story
          of the feeding with manna in the wilderness, which
          involves some very curious scientific problems, show
          that it is meant merely for edification, while the
          story of the inscription of the Law on stone by the
          hand of Jahveh is literally true? If the story of the
          Fall is not the true record of an historical
          occurrence, what becomes of Pauline theology? Yet the
          story of the Fall as directly conflicts with
          probability, and is as devoid of trustworthy evidence,
          as that of the creation or that of the Deluge, with
          which it forms an harmoniously legendary series.

     [57] See, for an admirable discussion of the whole subject,
          Dr. Abbott's article on the Gospels in the
          _Encyclopædia Britannica_; and the remarkable monograph
          by Professor Volkmar, _Jesus Nazarenus und die erste
          christliche Zeit_ (1882). Whether we agree with the
          conclusions of these writers or not, the method of
          critical investigation which, they adopt is

     [58] Notwithstanding the hard words shot at me from behind
          the hedge of anonymity by a writer in a recent number
          of the _Quarterly Review_, I repeat, without the
          slightest fear of refutation, that the four Gospels, as
          they have come to us, are the work of unknown writers.

     [59] Their arguments, in the long run, are always reducible
          to one form. Otherwise trustworthy witnesses affirm
          that such and such events took place. These events are
          inexplicable, except the agency of "spirits" is
          admitted. Therefore "spirits" were the cause of the

          And the heads of the reply are always the same.
          Remember Goethe's aphorism: "Alles factische ist schon
          Theorie." Trustworthy witnesses are constantly
          deceived, or deceive themselves, in their
          interpretation of sensible phenomena. No one can prove
          that the sensible phenomena, in these cases, could be
          caused only by the agency of spirits: and there is
          abundant ground for believing that they may be produced
          in other ways. Therefore, the utmost that can be
          reasonably asked for, on the evidence as it stands, is
          suspension of judgment. And, on the necessity for even
          that suspension, reasonable men may differ, according
          to their views of probability.

     [60] Yet I must somehow have laid hold of the pith of the
          matter, for, many years afterwards, when Dean Mansel's
          Bampton Lectures were published, it seemed to me I
          already knew all that this eminently agnostic thinker
          had to tell me.

     [61] _Kritik der reinen Vernunft_. Edit. Hartenstein, p. 256.

     [62] _Report of the Church Congress_, Manchester, 1888, p. 252.

     [63] _Fortnightly Review_, Jan. 1889.



Those who passed from Dr. Wace's article in the last number of the
"Nineteenth Century" to the anticipatory confutation of it which
followed in "The New Reformation," must have enjoyed the pleasure of a
dramatic surprise--just as when the fifth act of a new play proves
unexpectedly bright and interesting. Mrs. Ward will, I hope, pardon
the comparison, if I say that her effective clearing away of
antiquated incumbrances from the lists of the controversy, reminds me
of nothing so much as of the action of some neat-handed, but
strong-wristed, Phyllis, who, gracefully wielding her long-handled
"Turk's head," sweeps away the accumulated results of the toil of
generations of spiders. I am the more indebted to this luminous sketch
of the results of critical investigation, as it is carried out among
these theologians who are men of science and not mere counsel for
creeds, since it has relieved me from the necessity of dealing with
the greater part of Dr. Wace's polemic, and enables me to devote more
space to the really important issues which have been raised.[64]

Perhaps, however, it may be well for me to observe that approbation of
the manner in which a great biblical scholar, for instance, Reuss,
does his work does not commit me to the adoption of all, or indeed any
of his views; and, further, that the disagreements of a series of
investigators do not in any way interfere with the fact that each of
them has made important contributions to the body of truth ultimately
established. If I cite Buffon, Linnæus, Lamarck, and Cuvier, as having
each and all taken a leading share in building up modern biology, the
statement that every one of these great naturalists disagreed with,
and even more or less contradicted, all the rest is quite true; but
the supposition that the latter assertion is in any way inconsistent
with the former, would betray a strange ignorance of the manner in
which all true science advances.

Dr. Wace takes a great deal of trouble to make it appear that I have
desired to evade the real questions raised by his attack upon me at
the Church Congress. I assure the reverend Principal that in this, as
in some other respects, he has entertained a very erroneous conception
of my intentions. Things would assume more accurate proportions in Dr.
Wace's mind, if he would kindly remember that it is just thirty years
since ecclesiastical thunderbolts began to fly about my ears. I have
had the "Lion and the Bear" to deal with, and it is long since I got
quite used to the threatenings of episcopal Goliaths, whose croziers
were like unto a weaver's beam. So that I almost think I might not
have noticed Dr. Wace's attack, personal as it was; and although, as
he is good enough to tell us, separate copies are to be had for the
modest equivalent of twopence, as a matter of fact, it did not come
under my notice for a long time after it was made. May I further
venture to point out that (reckoning postage) the expenditure of
twopence-halfpenny, or, at the most, threepence, would have enabled
Dr. Wace so far to comply with ordinary conventions as to direct my
attention to the fact that he had attacked me before a meeting at
which I was not present? I really am not responsible for the five
months' neglect of which Dr. Wace complains. Singularly enough, the
Englishry who swarmed about the Engadine, during the three months that
I was being brought back to life by the glorious air and perfect
comfort of the Maloja, did not, in my hearing, say anything about the
important events which had taken place at the Church Congress; and I
think I can venture to affirm that there was not a single copy of Dr.
Wace's pamphlet in any of the hotel libraries which I rummaged, in
search of something more edifying than dull English or questionable
French novels.

And now, having, as I hope, set myself right with the public as
regards the sins of commission and omission with which I have been
charged, I feel free to deal with matters to which time and type may
be more profitably devoted.

I believe that there is not a solitary argument I have used, or that I
am about to use, which is original, or has anything to do with the
fact that I have been chiefly occupied with natural science. They are
all, facts and reasoning alike, either identical with, or
consequential upon, propositions which are to be found in the works of
scholars and theologians of the highest repute in the only two
countries, Holland and Germany,[65] in which, at the present time,
professors of theology are to be found, whose tenure of their posts
does not depend upon the results to which their inquiries lead
them.[66] It is true that, to the best of my ability, I have satisfied
myself of the soundness of the foundations on which my arguments are
built, and I desire to be held fully responsible for everything I say.
But, nevertheless, nay position is really no more than that of an
expositor; and my justification for undertaking it is simply that
conviction of the supremacy of private judgment (indeed, of the
impossibility of escaping it) which is the foundation of the
Protestant Reformation, and which was the doctrine accepted by the
vast majority of the Anglicans of my youth, before that backsliding
towards the "beggarly rudiments" of an effete and idolatrous
sacerdotalism which has, even now, provided us with the saddest
spectacle which has been offered to the eyes of Englishmen in this
generation. A high court of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, with a host
of great lawyers in battle array, is and, for Heaven knows how long,
will be, occupied with these very questions of "washing of cups and
pots and brazen vessels," which the Master, whose professed
representatives are rending the Church over these squabbles, had in
his mind when, as we are told, he uttered the scathing rebuke:--

    Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
        This people honoureth me with their lips,
        But their heart is far from me.
        But in vain do they worship me,
        Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men.
                                          (Mark vii. 6-7.)

Men who can be absorbed in bickerings over miserable disputes of this
kind can have but little sympathy with the old evangelical doctrine of
the "open Bible," or anything but a grave misgiving of the results of
diligent reading of the Bible, without the help of ecclesiastical
spectacles, by the mass of the people. Greatly to the surprise of many
of my friends, I have always advocated the reading of the Bible, and
the diffusion of the study of that most remarkable collection of books
among the people. Its teachings are so infinitely superior to those of
the sects, who are just as busy now as the Pharisees were eighteen
hundred years ago, in smothering them under "the precepts of men"; it
is so certain, to my mind, that the Bible contains within itself the
refutation of nine-tenths of the mixture of sophistical metaphysics
and old-world superstition which has been piled round it by the
so-called Christians of later times; it is so clear that the only
immediate and ready antidote to the poison which has been mixed with
Christianity, to the intoxication and delusion of mankind, lies in
copious draughts from the undefiled spring, that I exercise the right
and duty of free judgment on the part of every man, mainly for the
purpose of inducing other laymen to follow my example. If the New
Testament is translated into Zulu by Protestant missionaries, it must
be assumed that a Zulu convert is competent to draw from its contents
all the truths which it is necessary for him to believe. I trust that
I may, without immodesty, claim to be put on the same footing as a

The most constant reproach which is launched against persons of my way
of thinking is that it is all very well for us to talk about the
deductions of scientific thought, but what are the poor and the
uneducated to do? Has it ever occurred to those who talk in this
fashion, that their creeds and the articles of their several
confessions, their determination of the exact nature and extent of the
teachings of Jesus, their expositions of the real meaning of that
which is written in the Epistles (to leave aside all questions
concerning the Old Testament), are nothing more than deductions which,
at any rate, profess to be the result of strictly scientific thinking,
and which are not worth attending to unless they really possess that
character? If it is not historically true that such and such things
happened in Palestine eighteen centuries ago, what becomes of
Christianity? And what is historical truth but that of which the
evidence bears strict scientific investigation? I do not call to mind
any problem of natural science which has come under my notice which is
more difficult, or more curiously interesting as a mere problem, than
that of the origin of the Synoptic Gospels and that of the historical
value of the narratives which they contain. The Christianity of the
Churches stands or falls by the results of the purely scientific
investigation of these questions. They were first taken up, in a
purely scientific spirit, about a century ago; they have been studied
over and over again by men of vast knowledge and critical acumen; but
he would be a rash man who should assert that any solution of these
problems, as yet formulated, is exhaustive. The most that can be said
is that certain prevalent solutions are certainly false, while others
are more or less probably true.

If I am doing my best to rouse my countrymen out of their dogmatic
slumbers, it is not that they may be amused by seeing who gets the
best of it in a contest between a "scientist" and a theologian. The
serious question is whether theological men of science, or theological
special pleaders, are to have the confidence of the general public; it
is the question whether a country in which it is possible for a body
of excellent clerical and lay gentlemen to discuss, in public meeting
assembled, how much it is desirable to let the congregations of the
faithful know of the results of biblical criticism, is likely to wake
up with anything short of the grasp of a rough lay hand upon its
shoulder; it is the question whether the New Testament books, being,
as I believe they were, written and compiled by people who, according
to their lights, were perfectly sincere, will not, when properly
studied as ordinary historical documents, afford us the means of
self-criticism. And it must be remembered that the New Testament books
are not responsible for the doctrine invented by the Churches that
they are anything but ordinary historical documents. The author of the
third gospel tells us, as straightforwardly as a man can, that he has
no claim to any other character than that of an ordinary compiler and
editor, who had before him the works of many and variously qualified

       *       *       *       *       *

In my former papers, according to Dr. Wace, I have evaded giving an
answer to his main proposition, which he states as follows--

     Apart from all disputed points of criticism, no one
     practically doubts that our Lord lived, and that He died on
     the cross, in the most intense sense of filial relation to
     His Father in Heaven, and that He bore testimony to that
     Father's providence, love, and grace towards mankind. The
     Lord's Prayer affords a sufficient evidence on these points.
     If the Sermon on the Mount alone be added, the whole unseen
     world, of which the Agnostic refuses to know anything,
     stands unveiled before us.... If Jesus Christ preached that
     Sermon, made those promises, and taught that prayer, then
     any one who says that we know nothing of God, or of a future
     life, or of an unseen world, says that he does not believe
     Jesus Christ (pp. 354-355).


     The main question at issue, in a word, is one which
     Professor Huxley has chosen to leave entirely on one
     side--whether, namely, allowing for the utmost uncertainty
     on other points of the criticism to which he appeals, there
     is any reasonable doubt that the Lord's Prayer and the
     Sermon on the Mount afford a true account of our Lord's
     essential belief and cardinal teaching (p. 355.)

I certainly was not aware that I had evaded the questions here stated;
indeed I should say that I have indicated my reply to them pretty
clearly; but, as Dr. Wace wants a plainer answer, he shall certainly
be gratified. If, as Dr. Wace declares it is, his "whole case is
involved in" the argument as stated in the latter of these two
extracts, so much the worse for his whole case. For I am of opinion
that there is the gravest reason for doubting whether the "Sermon on
the Mount" was ever preached, and whether the so-called "Lord's
Prayer" was ever prayed, by Jesus of Nazareth. My reasons for this
opinion are, among others, these:--There is now no doubt that the
three Synoptic Gospels, so far from being the work of three
independent writers, are closely interdependent,[67] and that in one
of two ways. Either all three contain, as their foundation, versions,
to a large extent verbally identical, of one and the same tradition;
or two of them are thus closely dependent on the third; and the
opinion of the majority of the best critics has of late years more and
more converged towards the conviction that our canonical second gospel
(the so-called "Mark's" Gospel) is that which most closely represents
the primitive groundwork of the three.[68] That I take to be one of
the most valuable results of New Testament criticism, of immeasurably
greater importance than the discussion about dates and authorship.

But if, as I believe to be the case, beyond any rational doubt or
dispute, the second gospel is the nearest extant representative of the
oldest tradition, whether written or oral, how comes it that it
contains neither the "Sermon on the Mount" nor the "Lord's Prayer,"
those typical embodiments, according to Dr. Wace, of the "essential
belief and cardinal teaching" of Jesus? Not only does "Mark's" gospel
fail to contain the "Sermon on the Mount," or anything but a very few
of the sayings contained in that collection; but, at the point of the
history of Jesus where the "Sermon" occurs in "Matthew," there is in
"Mark" an apparently unbroken narrative from the calling of James and
John to the healing of Simon's wife's mother. Thus the oldest
tradition not only ignores the "Sermon on the Mount," but, by
implication, raises a probability against its being delivered when and
where the later "Matthew" inserts it in his compilation.

And still more weighty is the fact that the third gospel, the author
of which tells us that he wrote after "many" others had "taken in
hand" the same enterprise; who should therefore have known the first
gospel (if it existed), and was bound to pay to it the deference due
to the work of an apostolic eye-witness (if he had any reason for
thinking it was so)--this writer, who exhibits far more literary
competence than the other two, ignores any "Sermon on the Mount," such
as that reported by "Matthew," just as much as the oldest authority
does. Yet "Luke" has a great many passages identical, or parallel,
with those in "Matthew's" "Sermon on the Mount," which are, for the
most part, scattered about in a totally different connection.

Interposed, however, between the nomination of the Apostles and a
visit to Capernaum; occupying, therefore, a place which answers to
that of the "Sermon on the Mount," in the first gospel, there is in
the third gospel a discourse which is as closely similar to the
"Sermon on the Mount," in some particulars, as it is widely unlike it
in others.

This discourse is said to have been delivered in a "plain" or "level
place" (Luke vi. 17), and by way of distinction we may call it the
"Sermon on the Plain."

I see no reason to doubt that the two Evangelists are dealing, to a
considerable extent, with the same traditional material; and a
comparison of the two "Sermons" suggests very strongly that "Luke's"
version is the earlier. The correspondences between the two forbid the
notion that they are independent. They both begin with a series of
blessings, some of which are almost verbally identical. In the middle
of each (Luke vi. 27-38, Matt. v. 43-48) there is a striking
exposition of the ethical spirit of the command given in Leviticus
xix. 18. And each ends with a passage containing the declaration that
a tree is to be known by its fruit, and the parable of the house built
on the sand. But while there are only 29 verses in the "Sermon on the
Plain" there are 107 in the "Sermon on the Mount;" the excess in
length of the latter being chiefly due to the long interpolations,
one of 30 verses before and one of 34 verses after, the middlemost
parallelism with Luke. Under these circumstances it is quite
impossible to admit that there is more probability that "Matthew's"
version of the Sermon is historically accurate, than there is that
Luke's version is so; and they cannot both be accurate.

"Luke" either knew the collection of loosely-connected and aphoristic
utterances which appear under the name of the "Sermon on the Mount" in
"Matthew"; or he did not. If he did not, he must have been ignorant of
the existence of such a document as our canonical "Matthew," a fact
which does not make for the genuineness, or the authority, of that
book. If he did, he has shown that he does not care for its authority
on a matter of fact of no small importance; and that does not permit
us to conceive that he believed the first gospel to be the work of an
authority to whom he ought to defer, let alone that of an apostolic

The tradition of the Church about the second gospel, which I believe
to be quite worthless, but which is all the evidence there is for
"Mark's" authorship, would have us believe that "Mark" was little more
than the mouthpiece of the apostle Peter. Consequently, we are to
suppose that Peter either did not know, or did not care very much for,
that account of the "essential belief and cardinal teaching" of Jesus
which is contained in the Sermon on the Mount; and, certainly, he
could not have shared Dr. Wace's view of its importance.[69]

I thought that all fairly attentive and intelligent students of the
gospels, to say nothing of theologians of reputation, knew these
things. But how can any one who does know them have the conscience to
ask whether there is "any reasonable doubt" that the Sermon on the
Mount was preached by Jesus of Nazareth? If conjecture is permissible,
where nothing else is possible, the most probable conjecture seems to
be that "Matthew," having a _cento_ of sayings attributed--rightly or
wrongly it is impossible to say--to Jesus among his materials, thought
they were, or might be, records of a continuous discourse, and put
them in at the place he thought likeliest. Ancient historians of the
highest character saw no harm in composing long speeches which never
were spoken, and putting them into the mouths of statesmen and
warriors; and I presume that whoever is represented by "Matthew" would
have been grievously astonished to find that any one objected to his
following the example of the best models accessible to him.

So with the "Lord's Prayer." Absent in our representative of the
oldest tradition, it appears in both "Matthew" and "Luke." There is
reason to believe that every pious Jew, at the commencement of our
era, prayed three times a day, according to a formula which is
embodied in the present "Schmone-Esre"[70] of the Jewish prayer-book.
Jesus, who was assuredly, in all respects, a pious Jew, whatever else
he may have been, doubtless did the same. Whether he modified the
current formula, or whether the so-called "Lord's Prayer" is the
prayer substituted for the "Schmone-Esre" in the congregations of the
Gentiles, is a question which can hardly be answered.

In a subsequent passage of Dr. Wace's article (p. 356) he adds to the
list of the verities which he imagines to be unassailable, "The Story
of the Passion." I am not quite sure what he means by this. I am not
aware that any one (with the exception of certain ancient heretics)
has propounded doubts as to the reality of the crucifixion; and
certainly I have no inclination to argue about the precise accuracy of
every detail of that pathetic story of suffering and wrong. But, if
Dr. Wace means, as I suppose he does, that that which, according to
the orthodox view, happened after the crucifixion, and which is, in a
dogmatic sense, the most important part of the story, is founded on
solid historical proofs, I must beg leave to express a diametrically
opposite conviction.

What do we find when the accounts of the events in question, contained
in the three Synoptic gospels, are compared together? In the oldest,
there is a simple, straightforward statement which, for anything that
I have to urge to the contrary, may he exactly true. In the other two,
there is, round this possible and probable nucleus, a mass of
accretions of the most questionable character.

The cruelty of death by crucifixion depended very much upon its
lingering character. If there were a support for the weight of the
body, as not unfrequently was the practice, the pain during the first
hours of the infliction was not, necessarily, extreme; nor need any
serious physical symptoms, at once, arise from the wounds made by the
nails in the hands and feet, supposing they were nailed, which was not
invariably the case. When exhaustion set in, and hunger, thirst, and
nervous irritation had done their work, the agony of the sufferer must
have been terrible; and the more terrible that, in the absence of any
effectual disturbance of the machinery of physical life, it might be
prolonged for many hours, or even days. Temperate, strong men, such as
were the ordinary Galilean peasants, might live for several days on
the cross. It is necessary to bear these facts in mind when we read
the account contained in the fifteenth chapter of the second gospel.

Jesus was crucified at the third hour (xv. 25), and the narrative
seems to imply that he died immediately after the ninth hour (_v_.
34). In this case, he would have been crucified only six hours; and
the time spent on the cross cannot have been much longer, because
Joseph of Arimathæa must have gone to Pilate, made his preparations,
and deposited the body in the rock-cut tomb before sunset, which, at
that time of the year, was about the twelfth hour. That any one should
die after only six hours' crucifixion could not have been at all in
accordance with Pilate's large experience of the effects of that
method of punishment. It, therefore, quite agrees with what might be
expected, that Pilate "marvelled if he were already dead" and required
to be satisfied on this point by the testimony of the Roman officer
who was in command of the execution party. Those who have paid
attention to the extraordinary difficult question, What are the
indisputable signs of death?--will be able to estimate the value of
the opinion of a rough soldier on such a subject; even if his report
to the Procurator were in no wise affected by the fact that the friend
of Jesus, who anxiously awaited his answer, was a man of influence and
of wealth.

The inanimate body, wrapped in linen, was deposited in a
spacious,[71] cool rock chamber, the entrance of which was closed, not
by a well-fitting door, but by a stone rolled against the opening,
which would of course allow free passage of air. A little more than
thirty-six hours afterwards (Friday 6 P.M., to Sunday 6 A.M., or a
little after) three women visit the tomb and find it empty. And they
are told by a young man "arrayed in a white robe" that Jesus is gone
to his native country of Galilee, and that the disciples and Peter
will find him there.

Thus it stands, plainly recorded, in the oldest tradition that, for
any evidence to the contrary, the sepulchre may have been emptied at
any time during the Friday or Saturday nights. If it is said that no
Jew would have violated the Sabbath by taking the former course, it is
to be recollected that Joseph of Arimathæa might well be familiar with
that wise and liberal interpretation of the fourth commandment, which
permitted works of mercy to men--nay, even the drawing of an ox or an
ass out of a pit--on the Sabbath. At any rate, the Saturday night was
free to the most scrupulous of observers of the Law.

These are the facts of the case as stated by the oldest extant
narrative of them. I do not see why any one should have a word to say
against the inherent probability of that narrative; and, for my part,
I am quite ready to accept it as an historical fact, that so much and
no more is positively known of the end of Jesus of Nazareth. On what
grounds can a reasonable man be asked to believe any more? So far as
the narrative in the first gospel, on the one hand, and those in the
third gospel and the Acts, on the other, go beyond what is stated in
the second gospel, they are hopelessly discrepant with one another.
And this is the more significant because the pregnant phrase "some
doubted," in the first gospel, is ignored in the third.

But it is said that we have the witness Paul speaking to us directly
in the Epistles. There is little doubt that we have, and a very
singular witness he is. According to his own showing, Paul, in the
vigour of his manhood, with every means of becoming acquainted, at
first hand, with the evidence of eye-witnesses, not merely refused to
credit them, but "persecuted the church of God and made havoc of it."
The reasoning of Stephen fell dead upon the acute intellect of this
zealot for the traditions of his fathers: his eyes were blind to the
ecstatic illumination of the martyr's countenance "as it had been the
face of an angel;" and when, at the words "Behold, I see the heavens
opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God," the
murderous mob rushed upon and stoned the rapt disciple of Jesus, Paul
ostentatiously made himself their official accomplice.

Yet this strange man, because he has a vision, one day, at once, and
with equally headlong zeal, flies to the opposite pole of opinion. And
he is most careful to tell us that he abstained from any
re-examination of the facts.

     Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; neither
     went I up to Jerusalem to them which were Apostles before
     me; but I went away into Arabia. (Galatians i. 16, 17.)

I do not presume to quarrel with Paul's procedure. If it satisfied
him, that was his affair; and, if it satisfies anyone else, I am not
called upon to dispute the right of that person to be satisfied. But I
certainly have the right to say that it would not satisfy me, in like
case; that I should be very much ashamed to pretend that it could, or
ought to, satisfy me; and that I can entertain but a very low estimate
of the value of the evidence of people who are to be satisfied in this
fashion, when questions of objective fact, in which their faith is
interested, are concerned. So that when I am called upon to believe a
great deal more than the oldest gospel tells me about the final events
of the history of Jesus on the authority of Paul (1 Corinthians xv.
5-8) I must pause. Did he think it, at any subsequent time, worth
while "to confer with flesh and blood," or, in modern phrase, to
re-examine the facts for himself? or was he ready to accept anything
that fitted in with his preconceived ideas? Does he mean, when he
speaks of all the appearances of Jesus after the crucifixion as if
they were of the same kind, that they were all visions, like the
manifestation to himself? And, finally, how is this account to be
reconciled with those in the first and third gospels--which, as we
have seen, disagree with one another?

Until these questions are satisfactorily answered, I am afraid that,
so far as I am concerned, Paul's testimony cannot be seriously
regarded, except as it may afford evidence of the state of traditional
opinion at the time at which he wrote, say between 55 and 60 A.D.;
that is, more than twenty years after the event; a period much more
than sufficient for the development of any amount of mythology about
matters of which nothing was really known. A few years later, among
the contemporaries and neighbours of the Jews, and, if the most
probable interpretation of the Apocalypse can he trusted, among the
followers of Jesus also, it was fully believed, in spite of all the
evidence to the contrary, that the Emperor Nero was not really dead,
but that he was hidden away somewhere in the East, and would speedily
come again at the head of a great army, to be revenged upon his

Thus, I conceive that I have shown cause for the opinion that Dr.
Wace's challenge touching the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord's Prayer,
and the Passion was more valorous than discreet. After all this
discussion, I am still at the agnostic point. Tell me, first, what
Jesus can be proved to have been, said, and done, and I will say
whether I believe him, or in him,[73] or not. As Dr. Wace admits that
I have dissipated his lingering shade of unbelief about the
bedevilment of the Gadarene pigs, he might have done something to help
mine. Instead of that, he manifests a total want of conception of the
nature of the obstacles which impede the conversion of his "infidels."

The truth I believe to be, that the difficulties in the way of
arriving at a sure conclusion as to these matters, from the Sermon on
the Mount, the Lord's Prayer, or any other data offered by the
Synoptic gospels (and _a fortiori_ from the fourth gospel), are
insuperable. Every one of these records is coloured by the
prepossessions of those among whom the primitive traditions arose, and
of those by whom they were collected and edited: and the difficulty of
making allowance for these prepossessions is enhanced by our ignorance
of the exact dates at which the documents were first put together; of
the extent to which they have been subsequently worked over and
interpolated; and of the historical sense, or want of sense, and the
dogmatic tendencies of their compilers and editors. Let us see if
there is any other road which will take us into something better than

There is a widespread notion that the "primitive Church," while under
the guidance of the Apostles and their immediate successors, was a
sort of dogmatic dovecot, pervaded by the most loving unity and
doctrinal harmony. Protestants, especially, are fond of attributing to
themselves the merit of being nearer "the Church of the Apostles" than
their neighbours; and they are the less to be excused for their
strange delusion because they are great readers of the documents which
prove the exact contrary. The fact is that, in the course of the first
three centuries of its existence, the Church rapidly underwent a
process of evolution of the most remarkable character, the final stage
of which is far more different from the first than Anglicanism is from
Quakerism. The key to the comprehension of the problem of the origin
of that which is now called "Christianity," and its relation to Jesus
of Nazareth, lies here. Nor can we arrive at any sound conclusion as
to what it is probable that Jesus actually said and did, without being
clear on this head. By far the most important and subsequently
influential steps in the evolution of Christianity took place in the
course of the century, more or less, which followed upon the
crucifixion. It is almost the darkest period of Church history, but,
most fortunately, the beginning and the end of the period are brightly
illuminated by the contemporary evidence of two writers of whose
historical existence there is no doubt,[74] and against the
genuineness of whose most important works there is no widely-admitted
objection. These are Justin, the philosopher and martyr, and Paul, the
Apostle to the Gentiles. I shall call upon these witnesses only to
testify to the condition of opinion among those who called themselves
disciples of Jesus in their time.

Justin, in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, which was written
somewhere about the middle of the second century, enumerates certain
categories of persons who, in his opinion, will, or will not, be
saved,[75] These are:--

1. Orthodox Jews who refuse to believe that those who do observe it to
be heretics. _Saved_.

2. Jews who observe the Law; believe Jesus to be the Christ; but who
insist on the observance of the Law by Gentile converts. _Not Saved_.

3. Jews who observe the Law; believe Jesus to be the Christ, and hold
that Gentile converts need not observe the Law. _Saved_ (in Justin's
opinion; but some of his fellow-Christians think the contrary).

4. Gentile converts to the belief in Jesus as the Christ, who observe
the Law. _Saved_ (possibly).

5. Gentile believers in Jesus as the Christ, who do not observe the
Law themselves (except so far as the refusal of idol sacrifices), but
do not consider those who do observe it heretics. _Saved_ (this is
Justin's own view).

6. Gentile believers who do not observe the Law, except in refusing
idol sacrifices, and hold those who do observe it to be heretics.

7. Gentiles who believe Jesus to be the Christ and call themselves
Christians, but who eat meats sacrificed to idols. _Not Saved_.

8. Gentiles who disbelieve in Jesus as the Christ. _Not Saved_.

Justin does not consider Christians who believe in the natural birth
of Jesus, of whom he implies that there is a respectable minority, to
be heretics, though he himself strongly holds the preternatural birth
of Jesus and his pre-existence as the "Logos" or "Word." He conceives
the Logos to be a second God, inferior to the first, unknowable God,
with respect to whom Justin, like Philo, is a complete agnostic. The
Holy Spirit is not regarded by Justin as a separate personality, and
is often mixed up with the "Logos." The doctrine of the natural
immortality of the soul is, for Justin, a heresy; and he is as firm a
believer in the resurrection of the body, as in the speedy Second
Coming and the establishment of the millennium.

The pillar of the Church in the middle of the second century--a
much-travelled native of Samaria--was certainly well acquainted with
Rome, probably with Alexandria; and it is likely that he knew the
state of opinion throughout the length and breadth of the Christian
world as well as any man of his time. If the various categories above
enumerated are arranged in a series thus:--

                     _Justin's Christianity_
                       /                    \
_Orthodox_    _Judæo-Christianity_     _Idolothytic_
_Judaism_      ______/\______          _Christianity_   _Paganism_
              /              \
      I.     II.  III.  IV.    V.       VI.  VII.          VIII.

it is obvious that they form a gradational series from orthodox
Judaism, on the extreme left, to Paganism, whether philosophic or
popular, on the extreme right; and it will further be observed that,
while Justin's conception of Christianity is very broad, he rigorously
excludes two classes of persons who, in his time, called themselves
Christians; namely, those who insist on circumcision and other
observances of the Law on the part of Gentile converts; that is to
say, the strict Judæo-Christians (II.); and, on the other hand, those
who assert the lawfulness of eating meat offered to idols--whether
they are Gnostic or not (VII.). These last I have called "idolothytic"
Christians, because I cannot devise a better name, not because it is
strictly defensible etymologically.

At the present moment, I do not suppose there is an English missionary
in any heathen land who would trouble himself whether the materials of
his dinner had been previously offered to idols or not. On the other
hand, I suppose there is no Protestant sect within the pale of
orthodoxy, to say nothing of the Roman and Greek Churches, which would
hesitate to declare the practice of circumcision and the observance of
the Jewish Sabbath and dietary rules, shockingly heretical.

Modern Christianity has, in fact, not only shifted far to the right of
Justin's position, but it is of much narrower compass.

                    /                             \
           _Judæo-Christianity_   _Modern Christianity_  _Paganism_
_Judaism_     _____/\_____                   _______/\_______
             /            \                 /                \
    I.     II.    III.     IV.        V.   VI.    VII.     VIII.

For, though it includes VII., and even, in saint and relic worship,
cuts a "monstrous cantle" out of paganism, it excludes, not only all
Judæo-Christians, but all who doubt that such are heretics. Ever since
the thirteenth century, the Inquisition would have cheerfully burned,
and in Spain did abundantly burn, all persons who came under the
categories II., III., IV., V. And the wolf would play the same havoc
now, if it could only get its blood-stained jaws free from the muzzle
imposed by the secular arm.

Further, there is not a Protestant body except the Unitarian, which
would not declare Justin himself a heretic, on account of his doctrine
of the inferior godship of the Logos; while I am very much afraid
that, in strict logic, Dr. Wace would be under the necessity, so
painful to him, of calling him an "infidel," on the same and on other

Now let us turn to our other authority. If there is any result of
critical investigations of the sources of Christianity which is
certain,[76] it is that Paul of Tarsus wrote the Epistle to the
Galatians somewhere between the years 55 and 60 A.D., that is to say,
roughly, twenty, or five-and-twenty years after the crucifixion. If
this is so, the Epistle to the Galatians is one of the oldest, if not
the very oldest, of extant documentary evidences of the state of the
primitive Church. And, be it observed, if it is Paul's writing, it
unquestionably furnishes us with the evidence of a participator in the
transactions narrated. With the exception of two or three of the other
Pauline Epistles, there is not one solitary book in the New Testament
of the authorship and authority of which we have such good evidence.

And what is the state of things we find disclosed? A bitter quarrel,
in his account of which Paul by no means minces matters, or hesitates
to hurl defiant sarcasms against those who were "reputed to be
pillars": James "the brother of the Lord," Peter, the rock on whom
Jesus is said to have built his Church, and John, "the beloved
disciple." And no deference toward "the rock" withholds Paul from
charging Peter to his face with "dissimulation."

The subject of the hot dispute was simply this. Were Gentile converts
bound to obey the Law or not? Paul answered in the negative; and,
acting upon his opinion, he had created at Antioch (and elsewhere) a
specifically "Christian" community, the sole qualifications for
admission into which were the confession of the belief that Jesus was
the Messiah, and baptism upon that confession. In the epistle in
question, Paul puts this--his "gospel," as he calls it--in its most
extreme form. Not only does he deny the necessity of conformity with
the Law, but he declares such conformity to have a negative value.
"Behold, I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye receive circumcision,
Christ will profit you nothing" (Galatians v. 2). He calls the legal
observances "beggarly rudiments," and anathematises every one who
preaches to the Galatians any other gospel than his own. That is to
say, by direct consequence, he anathematises the Nazarenes of
Jerusalem, whose zeal for the Law is testified by James in a passage
of the Acts cited further on. In the first Epistle to the Corinthians,
dealing with the question of eating meat offered to idols, it is clear
that Paul himself thinks it a matter of indifference; but he advises
that it should not he done, for the sake of the weaker brethren. On
the other hand, the Nazarenes of Jerusalem most strenuously opposed
Paul's "gospel," insisting on every convert becoming a regular Jewish
proselyte, and consequently on his observance of the whole Law; and
this party was led by James and Peter and John (Galatians ii. 9). Paul
does not suggest that the question of principle was settled by the
discussion referred to in Galatians. All he says is, that it ended in
the practical agreement that he and Barnabas should do as they had
been doing, in respect to the Gentiles; while James and Peter and John
should deal in their own fashion with Jewish converts. Afterwards, he
complains bitterly of Peter, because, when on a visit to Antioch, he,
at first, inclined to Paul's view and ate with the Gentile converts;
but when "certain came from James," "drew back, and separated himself,
fearing them that were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews
dissembled likewise with him; insomuch as even Barnabas was carried
away with their dissimulation" (Galatians ii. 12-13).

There is but one conclusion to be drawn from Paul's account of this
famous dispute, the settlement of which determined the fortunes of
the nascent religion. It is that the disciples at Jerusalem, headed by
"James, the Lord's brother," and by the leading apostles, Peter and
John, were strict Jews, who had objected to admit any converts into
their body, unless these, either by birth, or by becoming proselytes,
were also strict Jews. In fact, the sole difference between James and
Peter and John, with the body of the disciples whom they led and the
Jews by whom they were surrounded, and with whom they, for many years,
shared the religious observances of the Temple, was that they believed
that the Messiah, whom the leaders of the nation yet looked for, had
already come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Acts of the Apostles is hardly a very trustworthy history; it is
certainly of later date than the Pauline Epistles, supposing them to
be genuine. And the writer's version of the conference of which Paul
gives so graphic a description, if that is correct, is unmistakably
coloured with all the art of a reconciler, anxious to cover up a
scandal. But it is none the less instructive on this account. The
judgment of the "council" delivered by James is that the Gentile
converts shall merely "abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and
from blood and from things strangled, and from fornication." But
notwithstanding the accommodation in which the writer of the Acts
would have us believe, the Jerusalem Church held to its endeavour to
retain the observance of the Law. Long after the conference, some time
after the writing of the Epistles to the Galatians and Corinthians,
and immediately after the despatch of that to the Romans, Paul makes
his last visit to Jerusalem, and presents himself to James and all the
elders. And this is what the Acts tells us of the interview:--

     And they said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many
     thousands [or myriads] there are among the Jews of them
     which have believed; and they are all zealous for the law;
     and they have been informed concerning thee, that thou
     teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to
     forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their
     children, neither to walk after the customs. (Acts xxi. 20,

They therefore request that he should perform a certain public
religious act in the Temple, in order that

     all shall know that there is no truth in the things whereof
     they have been informed concerning thee; but that thou
     thyself walkest orderly, keeping the law (_ibid_. 24).[77]

How far Paul could do what he is here requested to do, and which the
writer of the Acts goes on to say he did, with a clear conscience, if
he wrote the Epistles to the Galatians and Corinthians, I may leave
any candid reader of these epistles to decide. The point to which I
wish to direct attention is the declaration that the Jerusalem
Church, led by the brother of Jesus and by his personal disciples and
friends, twenty years and more after his death, consisted of strict
and zealous Jews.

Tertullus, the orator, caring very little about the internal
dissensions of the followers of Jesus, speaks of Paul as a "ringleader
of the sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts xxiv. 5), which must have affected
James much in the same way as it would have moved the Archbishop of
Canterbury, in George Fox's day, to hear the latter called a
"ringleader of the sect of Anglicans." In fact, "Nazarene" was, as is
well known, the distinctive appellation applied to Jesus; his
immediate followers were known as Nazarenes; while the congregation of
the disciples, and, later, of converts at Jerusalem--the Jerusalem
Church--was emphatically the "sect of the Nazarenes," no more, in
itself, to be regarded as anything outside Judaism than the sect of
the Sadducees, or that of the Essenes.[78] In fact, the tenets of both
the Sadducees and the Essenes diverged much more widely from the
Pharisaic standard of orthodoxy than Nazarenism did.

Let us consider the condition of affairs now (A.D. 50-60) in relation
to that which obtained in Justin's time, a century later. It is plain
that the Nazarenes--presided over by James, "the brother of the Lord,"
and comprising within their body all the twelve apostles--belonged to
Justin's second category of "Jews who observe the Law, believe Jesus
to be the Christ, but who insist on the observance of the Law by
Gentile converts," up till the time at which the controversy reported
by Paul arose. They then, according to Paul, simply allowed him to
form his congregations of non-legal Gentile converts at Antioch and
elsewhere; and it would seem that it was to these converts, who would
come under Justin's fifth category, that the title of "Christian" was
first applied. If any of these Christians had acted upon the more than
half-permission given by Paul, and had eaten meats offered to idols,
they would have belonged to Justin's seventh category.

Hence, it appears that, if Justin's opinion, which was probably that
of the Church generally in the middle of the second century, was
correct, James and Peter and John and their followers could not be
saved; neither could Paul, if he carried into practice his views as to
the indifference of eating meats offered to idols. Or, to put the
matter another way, the centre of gravity of orthodoxy, which is at
the extreme right of the series in the nineteenth century, was at the
extreme left just before the middle of the first century, when the
"sect of the Nazarenes" constituted the whole church founded by Jesus
and the apostles; while, in the time of Justin, it lay mid-way between
the two. It is therefore a profound mistake to imagine that the
Judæo-Christians (Nazarenes and Ebionites) of later times were
heretical outgrowths from a primitive universalist "Christianity." On
the contrary, the universalist "Christianity" is an outgrowth from the
primitive, purely Jewish, Nazarenism; which, gradually eliminating all
the ceremonial and dietary parts of the Jewish law, has thrust aside
its parent, and all the intermediate stages of its development, into
the position of damnable heresies.

Such being the case, we are in a position to form a safe judgment of
the limits within which the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth must have
been confined. Ecclesiastical authority would have us believe that the
words which are given at the end of the first Gospel, "Go ye,
therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," are part
of the last commands of Jesus, issued at the moment of his parting
with the eleven. If so, Peter and John must have heard these words;
they are too plain to be misunderstood; and the occasion is too solemn
for them ever to be forgotten. Yet the "Acts" tells us that Peter
needed a vision to enable him so much as to baptize Cornelius; and
Paul, in the Galatians, knows nothing of words which would have
completely borne him out as against those who, though they heard, must
be supposed to have either forgotten, or ignored them. On the other
hand, Peter and John, who are supposed to have heard the "Sermon on
the Mount," know nothing of the saying that Jesus had not come to
destroy the Law, but that every jot and tittle of the Law must be
fulfilled, which surely would have been pretty good evidence for their
view of the question.

We are sometimes told that the personal friends and daily companions
of Jesus remained zealous Jews and opposed Paul's innovations, because
they were hard of heart and dull of comprehension. This hypothesis is
hardly in accordance with the concomitant faith of those who adopt it,
in the miraculous insight and superhuman sagacity of their Master; nor
do I see any way of getting it to harmonise with the orthodox
postulate; namely, that Matthew was the author of the first gospel and
John of the fourth. If that is so, then, most assuredly, Matthew was
no dullard; and as for the fourth gospel--a theosophic romance of the
first order--it could have been written by none but a man of
remarkable literary capacity, who had drunk deep of Alexandrian
philosophy. Moreover, the doctrine of the writer of the fourth gospel
is more remote from that of the "sect of the Nazarenes" than is that
of Paul himself. I am quite aware that orthodox critics have been
capable of maintaining that John, the Nazarene, who was probably well
past fifty years of age, when he is supposed to have written the most
thoroughly Judaising book in the New Testament--the Apocalypse--in the
roughest of Greek, underwent an astounding metamorphosis of both
doctrine and style by the time he reached the ripe age of ninety or
so, and provided the world with a history in which the acutest critic
cannot [always] make out where the speeches of Jesus end and the text
of the narrative begins; while that narrative is utterly
irreconcilable, in regard to matters of fact, with that of his
fellow-apostle, Matthew.

The end of the whole matter is this:--The "sect of the Nazarenes," the
brother and the immediate followers of Jesus, commissioned by him as
apostles, and those who were taught by them up to the year 50 A.D.,
were not "Christians" in the sense in which that term has been
understood ever since its asserted origin at Antioch, but Jews--strict
orthodox Jews--whose belief in the Messiahship of Jesus never led to
their exclusion from the Temple services, nor would have shut them out
from the wide embrace of Judaism.[79] The open proclamation of their
special view about the Messiah was doubtless offensive to the
Pharisees, just as rampant Low Churchism is offensive to bigoted High
Churchism in our own country; or as any kind of dissent is offensive
to fervid religionists of all creeds. To the Sadducees, no doubt, the
political danger of any Messianic movement was serious; and they would
have been glad to put down Nazarenism, lest it should end in useless
rebellion against their Roman masters, like that other Galilean
movement headed by Judas, a generation earlier. Galilee was always a
hotbed of seditious enthusiasm against the rule of Rome; and high
priest and procurator alike had need to keep a sharp eye upon natives
of that district. On the whole, however, the Nazarenes were but little
troubled for the first twenty years of their existence; and the
undying hatred of the Jews against those later converts, whom they
regarded as apostates and fautors of a sham Judaism, was awakened by
Paul. From their point of view, he was a mere renegade Jew, opposed
alike to orthodox Judaism and to orthodox Nazarenism; and whose
teachings threatened Judaism with destruction. And, from their point
of view, they were quite right. In the course of a century, Pauline
influences had a large share in driving primitive Nazarenism from
being the very heart of the new faith into the position of scouted
error; and the spirit of Paul's doctrine continued its work of
driving Christianity farther and farther away from Judaism, until
"meats offered to idols" might be eaten without scruple, while the
Nazarene methods of observing even the Sabbath, or the Passover, were
branded with the mark of Judaising heresy.

But if the primitive Nazarenes of whom the Acts speak were orthodox
Jews, what sort of probability can there be that Jesus was anything
else? How can he have founded the universal religion which was not
heard of till twenty years after his death?[80] That Jesus possessed,
in a rare degree, the gift of attaching men to his person and to his
fortunes; that he was the author of many a striking saying, and the
advocate of equity, of love, and of humility; that he may have
disregarded the subtleties of the bigots for legal observance, and
appealed rather to those noble conceptions of religion which
constituted the pith and kernel of the teaching of the great prophets
of his nation seven hundred years earlier; and that, in the last
scenes of his career, he may have embodied the ideal sufferer of
Isaiah, may be, as I think it is, extremely probable. But all this
involves not a step beyond the borders of orthodox Judaism. Again,
who is to say whether Jesus proclaimed himself the veritable Messiah,
expected by his nation since the appearance of the pseudoprophetic
work of Daniel, a century and a half before his time; or whether the
enthusiasm of his followers gradually forced him to assume that

But one thing is quite certain: if that belief in the speedy second
coming of the Messiah which was shared by all parties in the primitive
Church, whether Nazarene or Pauline; which Jesus is made to prophesy,
over and over again, in the Synoptic gospels; and which dominated the
life of Christians during the first century after the crucifixion;--if
he believed and taught that, then assuredly he was under an illusion,
and he is responsible for that which the mere effluxion of time has
demonstrated to be a prodigious error.

When I ventured to doubt "whether any Protestant theologian who has a
reputation to lose will say that he believes the Gadarene story," it
appears that I reckoned without Dr. Wace, who, referring to this
passage in my paper, says:--

     He will judge whether I fall under his description; but I
     repeat that I believe it, and that he has removed the only
     objection to my believing it (p. 363).

Far be it from me to set myself up as a judge of any such delicate
question as that put before me; but I think I may venture to express
the conviction that, in the matter of courage, Dr. Wace has raised for
himself a monument _ære perennius._ For really, in my poor judgment, a
certain splendid intrepidity, such as one admires in the leader of a
forlorn hope, is manifested by Dr. Wace when he solemnly affirms that
he believes the Gadarene story on the evidence offered. I feel less
complimented perhaps than I ought to do, when I am told that I have
been an accomplice in extinguishing in Dr. Wace's mind the last
glimmer of doubt which common sense may have suggested. In fact, I
must disclaim all responsibility for the use to which the information
I supplied has been put. I formally decline to admit that the
expression of my ignorance whether devils, in the existence of which I
do not believe, if they did exist, might or might not be made to go
out of men into pigs, can, as a matter of logic, have been of any use
whatever to a person who already believed in devils and in the
historical accuracy of the gospels.

Of the Gadarene story, Dr. Wace, with all solemnity and twice over,
affirms that he "believes it." I am sorry to trouble him further, but
what does he mean by "it"? Because there are two stories, one in
"Mark" and "Luke," and the other in "Matthew." In the former, which I
quoted in my previous paper, there is one possessed man; in the
latter there are two. The story is told fully, with the vigorous
homely diction and the picturesque details of a piece of folklore, in
the second gospel. The immediately antecedent event is the storm on
the Lake of Gennesaret. The immediately consequent events are the
message from the ruler of the synagogue and the healing of the woman
with an issue of blood. In the third gospel, the order of events is
exactly the same, and there is an extremely close general and verbal
correspondence between the narratives of the miracle. Both agree in
stating that there was only one possessed man, and that he was the
residence of many devils, whose name was "Legion."

In the first gospel, the event which immediately precedes the Gadarene
affair is, as before, the storm; the message from the ruler and the
healing of the issue are separated from it by the accounts of the
healing of a paralytic, of the calling of Matthew, and of a discussion
with some Pharisees. Again, while the second gospel speaks of the
country of the "Gerasenes" as the locality of the event, the third
gospel has "Gerasenes," "Gergesenes," and "Gadarenes" in different
ancient MSS.; while the first has "Gadarenes."

The really important points to be noticed, however, in the narrative
of the first gospel, are these--that there are two possessed men
instead of one; and that while the story is abbreviated by omissions,
what there is of it is often verbally identical with the corresponding
passages in the other two gospels. The most unabashed of reconcilers
cannot well say that one man is the same as two, or two as one; and,
though the suggestion really has been made, that two different
miracles, agreeing in all essential particulars, except the number of
the possessed, were effected immediately after the storm on the lake,
I should be sorry to accuse any one of seriously adopting it. Nor will
it he pretended that the allegory refuge is accessible in this
particular case.

So, when Dr. Wace says that he believes in the synoptic evangelists'
account of the miraculous bedevilment of swine, I may fairly ask which
of them does he believe? Does he hold by the one evangelist's story,
or by that of the two evangelists? And having made his election, what
reasons has he to give for his choice? If it is suggested that the
witness of two is to be taken against that of one, not only is the
testimony dealt with in that common-sense fashion against which the
theologians of his school protest so warmly; not only is all question
of inspiration at an end, but the further inquiry arises, After all,
is it the testimony of two against one? Are the authors of the
versions in the second and third gospels really independent witnesses?
In order to answer this question, it is only needful to place the
English versions of the two side by side, and compare them carefully.
It will then be seen that the coincidences between them, not merely in
substance, but in arrangement, and in the use of identical words in
the same order, are such, that only two alternatives are conceivable:
either one evangelist freely copied from the other, or both based
themselves upon a common source, which may either have been a written
document, or a definite oral tradition learned by heart. Assuredly,
these two testimonies are not those of independent witnesses. Further,
when the narrative in the first gospel is compared with that in the
other two, the same fact comes out.

Supposing, then, that Dr. Wace is right in his assumption that
Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote the works which we find attributed to
them by tradition, what is the value of their agreement, even that
something more or less like this particular miracle occurred, since it
is demonstrable, either that all depend on some antecedent statement,
of the authorship of which nothing is known, or that two are dependent
upon the third?

Dr. Wace says he believes the Gadarene story; whichever version of it
he accepts, therefore, he believes that Jesus said what he is stated
in all the versions to have said, and thereby virtually declared that
the theory of the nature of the spiritual world involved in the story
is true. Now I hold that this theory is false, that it is a monstrous
and mischievous fiction; and I unhesitatingly express my disbelief in
any assertion that it is true, by whomsoever made. So that, if Dr.
Wace is right in his belief, he is also quite right in classing me
among the people he calls "infidels"; and although I cannot fulfil the
eccentric expectation that I shall glory in a title which, from my
point of view, it would be simply silly to adopt, I certainly shall
rejoice not to be reckoned among "Christians" so long as the
profession of belief in such stories as the Gadarene pig affair, on
the strength of a tradition of unknown origin, of which two discrepant
reports, also of unknown origin, alone remain, forms any part of the
Christian faith. And, although I have, more than once, repudiated the
gift of prophecy, yet I think I may venture to express the
anticipation, that if "Christians" generally are going to follow the
line taken by Dr. Wace, it will not be long before all men of common
sense qualify for a place among the "infidels."


     [64] I may perhaps return to the question of the authorship
          of the Gospels. For the present I must content myself
          with warning my readers against any reliance upon Dr.
          Wace's statements as to the results arrived at by
          modern criticism. They are as gravely as surprisingly

     [65] The United States ought, perhaps, to be added, but
          I am not sure.

     [66] Imagine that all our chairs of astronomy had been
          founded in the fourteenth century, and that their
          incumbents were bound to sign Ptolemaic articles. In
          that case, with every respect for the efforts of
          persons thus hampered to attain and expound the truth,
          I think men of common sense would go elsewhere to learn
          astronomy. Zeller's _Vorträge und Abhandlungen_ were
          published and came into my hands a quarter of a century
          ago. The writer's rank, as a theologian to begin with,
          and subsequently as a historian of Greek philosophy, is
          of the highest. Among these essays are two--_Das
          Urchirstenthum_ and _Die Tübinger historische
          Schule_--which are likely to be of more use to those
          who wish to know the real state of the case than all
          that the official "apologists," with their one eye on
          truth and the other on the tenets of their sect, have
          written. For the opinion of a scientific theologian
          about theologians of this stamp see pp. 225 and 227 of
          the _Vorträge_.

     [67] I suppose this is what Dr. Wace is thinking about when
          he says that I allege that there "is no visible escape"
          from the supposition of an _Ur-Marcus_ (p. 367). That a
          "theologian of repute" should confound an indisputable
          fact with one of the modes of explaining that fact is
          not so singular as those who are unaccustomed to the
          ways of theologians might imagine.

     [68] Any examiner whose duty it has been to examine into a
          case of "copying" will be particularly well prepared to
          appreciate the force of the case stated in that most
          excellent little book, _The Common Tradition of the
          Synoptic Gospels_, by Dr. Abbott and Mr. Rushbrooke
          (Macmillan, 1884). To those who have not passed through
          such painful experiences I may recommend the brief
          discussion of the genuineness of the "Casket Letters"
          in my friend Mr. Skelton's interesting book, _Maitland
          of Lethington_. The second edition of Holtzmann's
          _Lehrbuch_, published in 1886, gives a remarkably fair
          and full account of the present results of criticism.
          At p. 366 he writes that the present burning question
          is whether the "relatively primitive narrative and the
          root of the other synoptic texts is contained in
          Matthew or in Mark. It is only on this point that
          properly-informed (_sachkundige_) critics differ," and
          he decides in favour of Mark.

     [69] Holtzmann (_Die synoptischen Evangelien_, 1863, p. 75),
          following Ewald, argues that the "Source A" (= the
          threefold tradition, more or less) contained something
          that answered to the "Sermon on the Plain" immediately
          after the words of our present Mark, "And he cometh
          into a house" (iii. 19). But what conceivable motive
          could "Mark" have for omitting it? Holtzmann has no
          doubt, however, that the "Sermon on the Mount" is a
          compilation, or, as he calls it in his
          recently-published _Lehrbuch_ (p. 372), "an artificial
          mosaic work."

     [70] See Schürer, _Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes_,
          Zweiter Thiel, p. 384.

     [71] Spacious, because a young man could sit in it "on the
          right side" (xv. 5), and therefore with plenty of room
          to spare.

     [72] King Herod had not the least difficulty in supposing
          the resurrection of John the Baptist--"John, whom I
          beheaded, he is risen" (Mark vi. 16).

     [73] I am very sorry for the interpolated "in," because
          citation ought to be accurate in small things as in
          great. But what difference it makes whether one
          "believes Jesus" or "believes in Jesus" much thought
          has not enabled me to discover. If you "believe him"
          you must believe him to be what he professed to
          be--that is, "believe in him;" and if you "believe in
          him" you must necessarily "believe him."

     [74] True for Justin: but there is a school of theological
          critics, who more or less question the historical
          reality of Paul, and the genuineness of even the four
          cardinal epistles.

     [75] See _Dial. cum Tryphone_, §47 and §35. It is to be
          understood that Justin does not arrange these
          categories in order, as I have done.

     [76] I guard myself against being supposed to affirm that
          even the four cardinal epistles of Paul may not have
          been seriously tampered with. See note 1, p. 287 above.

     [77] Paul, in fact, is required to commit in Jerusalem, an act
          of the same character as that which he brands as
          "dissimulation" on the part of Peter in Antioch.

     [78] All this was quite clearly pointed out by Ritschl nearly
          forty years ago. See _Die Entstchung der
          alt-katholischen Kirche_ (1850), p. 108.

     [79] "If every one was baptized as soon as he acknowledged
          Jesus to be the Messiah, the first Christians can have
          been aware of no other essential differences from the
          Jews."--Zeller, _Vorträge_ (1865), p. 26.

     [80] Dr. Harnack, in the lately-published second edition of
          his _Dogmengeschichte_, says (p. 39), "Jesus Christ
          brought forward no new doctrine;" and again (p. 65),
          "It is not difficult to set against every portion of
          the utterances of Jesus an observation which deprives
          him of originality." See also Zusatz 4, on the same



Nemo ergo ex me scire quærat, quod me nescire scio, nisi
forte ut nescire discat.--AUGUSTINUS, _De Civ. Dei_, xii. 7.

[81] The present discussion has arisen out of the use, which has
become general in the last few years, of the terms "Agnostic" and

The people who call themselves "Agnostics" have been charged with
doing so because they have not the courage to declare themselves
"Infidels." It has been insinuated that they have adopted a new name
in order to escape the unpleasantness which attaches to their proper
denomination. To this wholly erroneous imputation, I have replied by
showing that the term "Agnostic" did, as a matter of fact, arise in a
manner which negatives it; and my statement has not been, and cannot
be, refuted. Moreover, speaking for myself, and without impugning the
right of any other person to use the term in another sense, I further
say that Agnosticism is not properly described as a "negative" creed,
nor indeed as a creed of any kind, except in so far as it expresses
absolute faith in the validity of a principle, which is as much
ethical as intellectual. This principle may be stated in various ways,
but they all amount to this: that it is wrong for a man to say that he
is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can
produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is
what Agnosticism asserts; and, in my opinion, it is all that is
essential to Agnosticism. That which Agnostics deny and repudiate, as
immoral, is the contrary doctrine, that there are propositions which
men ought to believe, without logically satisfactory evidence; and
that reprobation ought to attach to the profession of disbelief in
such inadequately supported propositions. The justification of the
Agnostic principle lies in the success which follows upon its
application, whether in the field of natural, or in that of civil,
history; and in the fact that, so far as these topics are concerned,
no sane man thinks of denying its validity.

Still speaking for myself, I add, that though Agnosticism is not, and
cannot be, a creed, except in so far as its general principle is
concerned; yet that the application of that principle results in the
denial of, or the suspension of judgment concerning, a number of
propositions respecting which our contemporary ecclesiastical
"gnostics" profess entire certainty. And, in so far as these
ecclesiastical persons can be justified in their old-established
custom (which many nowadays think more honoured in the breach than the
observance) of using opprobrious names to those who differ from them,
I fully admit their right to call me and those who think with me
"Infidels"; all I have ventured to urge is that they must not expect
us to speak of ourselves by that title.

The extent of the region of the uncertain, the number of the problems
the investigation of which ends in a verdict of not proven, will vary
according to the knowledge and the intellectual habits of the
individual Agnostic. I do not very much care to speak of anything as
"unknowable."[82] What I am sure about is that there are many topics
about which I know nothing; and which, so far as I can see, are out of
reach of my faculties. But whether these things are knowable by any
one else is exactly one of those matters which is beyond my knowledge,
though I may have a tolerably strong opinion as to the probabilities
of the case. Relatively to myself, I am quite sure that the region of
uncertainty--the nebulous country in which words play the part of
realities--is far more extensive than I could wish. Materialism and
Idealism; Theism and Atheism; the doctrine of the soul and its
mortality or immortality--appear in the history of philosophy like the
shades of Scandinavian heroes, eternally slaying one another and
eternally coming to life again in a metaphysical "Nifelheim." It is
getting on for twenty-five centuries, at least, since mankind began
seriously to give their minds to these topics. Generation after
generation, philosophy has been doomed to roll the stone uphill; and,
just as all the world swore it was at the top, down it has rolled to
the bottom again. All this is written in innumerable books; and he who
will toil through them will discover that the stone is just where it
was when the work began. Hume saw this; Kant saw it; since their time,
more and more eyes have been cleansed of the films which prevented
them from seeing it; until now the weight and number of those who
refuse to be the prey of verbal mystifications has begun to tell in
practical life.

It was inevitable that a conflict should arise between Agnosticism and
Theology; or rather, I ought to say, between Agnosticism and
Ecclesiasticism. For Theology, the science, is one thing; and
Ecclesiasticism, the championship of a foregone conclusion[83] as to
the truth of a particular form of Theology, is another. With
scientific Theology, Agnosticism has no quarrel. On the contrary, the
Agnostic, knowing too well the influence of prejudice and
idiosyncrasy, even on those who desire most earnestly to be impartial,
can wish for nothing more urgently than that the scientific theologian
should not only be at perfect liberty to thresh out the matter in his
own fashion; but that he should, if he can, find flaws in the Agnostic
position; and, even if demonstration is not to be had, that he should
put, in their full force, the grounds of the conclusions he thinks
probable. The scientific theologian admits the Agnostic principle,
however widely his results may differ from those reached by the
majority of Agnostics.

But, as between Agnosticism and Ecclesiasticism, or, as our neighbours
across the Channel call it, Clericalism, there can be neither peace
nor truce. The Cleric asserts that it is morally wrong not to believe
certain propositions, whatever the results of a strict scientific
investigation of the evidence of these propositions. He tells us "that
religious error is, in itself, of an immoral nature."[84] He declares
that he has prejudged certain conclusions, and looks upon those who
show cause for arrest of judgment as emissaries of Satan. It
necessarily follows that, for him, the attainment of faith, not the
ascertainment of truth, is the highest aim of mental life. And, on
careful analysis of the nature of this faith, it will too often be
found to be, not the mystic process of unity with the Divine,
understood by the religious enthusiast; but that which the candid
simplicity of a Sunday scholar once defined it to be. "Faith," said
this unconscious plagiarist of Tertullian, "is the power of saying you
believe things which are incredible."

Now I, and many other Agnostics, believe that faith, in this sense, is
an abomination; and though we do not indulge in the luxury of
self-righteousness so far as to call those who are not of our way of
thinking hard names, we do not feel that the disagreement between
ourselves and those who hold this doctrine is even more moral than
intellectual. It is desirable there should be an end of any mistakes
on this topic. If our clerical opponents were clearly aware of the
real state of the case, there would be an end of the curious delusion,
which often appears between the lines of their writings, that those
whom they are so fond of calling "Infidels" are people who not only
ought to be, but in their hearts are, ashamed of themselves. It would
be discourteous to do more than hint the antipodal opposition of this
pleasant dream of theirs to facts.

The clerics and their lay allies commonly tell us, that if we refuse
to admit that there is good ground for expressing definite convictions
about certain topics, the bonds of human society will dissolve and
mankind lapse into savagery. There are several answers to this
assertion. One is that the bonds of human society were formed without
the aid of their theology; and, in the opinion of not a few competent
judges, have been weakened rather than strengthened by a good deal of
it. Greek science, Greek art, the ethics of old Israel, the social
organisation of old Rome, contrived to come into being, without the
help of any one who believed in a single distinctive article of the
simplest of the Christian creeds. The science, the art, the
jurisprudence, the chief political and social theories, of the modern
world have grown out of those of Greece and Rome--not by favour of,
but in the teeth of, the fundamental teachings of early Christianity,
to which science, art, and any serious occupation with the things of
this world, were alike despicable.

Again, all that is best in the ethics of the modern world, in so far
as it has not grown out of Greek thought, or Barbarian manhood, is the
direct development of the ethics of old Israel. There is no code of
legislation, ancient or modern, at once so just and so merciful, so
tender to the weak and poor, as the Jewish law; and, if the Gospels
are to be trusted, Jesus of Nazareth himself declared that he taught
nothing but that which lay implicitly, or explicitly, in the religious
and ethical system of his people.

     And the scribe said unto him, Of a truth, Teacher, thou hast
     well said that he is one; and there is none other but he,
     and to love him with all the heart, and with all the
     understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his
     neighbour as himself, is much more than all whole burnt
     offerings and sacrifices. (Mark xii. 32, 33.)

Here is the briefest of summaries of the teaching of the prophets of
Israel of the eighth century; does the Teacher, whose doctrine is thus
set forth in his presence, repudiate the exposition? Nay; we are told,
on the contrary, that Jesus saw that he "answered discreetly," and
replied, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God."

So that I think that even if the creeds, from the so-called
"Apostles," to the so-called "Athanasian," were swept into oblivion;
and even if the human race should arrive at the conclusion that,
whether a bishop washes a cup or leaves it unwashed, is not a matter
of the least consequence, it will get on very well. The causes which
have led to the development of morality in mankind, which have guided
or impelled us all the way from the savage to the civilised state,
will not cease to operate because a number of ecclesiastical
hypotheses turn out to be baseless. And, even if the absurd notion
that morality is more the child of speculation than of practical
necessity and inherited instinct, had any foundation; if all the world
is going to thieve, murder, and otherwise misconduct itself as soon as
it discovers that certain portions of ancient history are mythical,
what is the relevance of such arguments to any one who holds by the
Agnostic principle?

Surely, the attempt to cast out Beelzebub by the aid of Beelzebub is a
hopeful procedure as compared to that of preserving morality by the
aid of immorality. For I suppose it is admitted that an Agnostic may
be perfectly sincere, may be competent, and may have studied the
question at issue with as much care as his clerical opponents. But, if
the Agnostic really believes what he says, the "dreadful consequence"
argufier (consistently, I admit, with his own principles) virtually
asks him to abstain from telling the truth, or to say what he believes
to be untrue, because of the supposed injurious consequences to
morality. "Beloved brethren, that we may be spotlessly moral, before
all things let us lie," is the sum total of many an exhortation
addressed to the "Infidel." Now, as I have already pointed out, we
cannot oblige our exhorters. We leave the practical application of the
convenient doctrines of "Reserve" and "Non-natural interpretation" to
those who invented them.

I trust that I have now made amends for any ambiguity, or want of
fulness, in my previous exposition of that which I hold to be the
essence of the Agnostic doctrine. Henceforward, I might hope to hear
no more of the assertion that we are necessarily Materialists,
Idealists, Atheists, Theists, or any other _ists_, if experience had
led me to think that the proved falsity of a statement was any
guarantee against its repetition. And those who appreciate the nature
of our position will see, at once, that when Ecclesiasticism declares
that we ought to believe this, that, and the other, and are very
wicked if we don't, it is impossible for us to give any answer but
this: We have not the slightest objection to believe anything you
like, if you will give us good grounds for belief; but, if you cannot,
we must respectfully refuse, even if that refusal should wreck
mortality and insure our own damnation several times over. We are
quite content to leave that to the decision of the future. The course
of the past has impressed us with the firm conviction that no good
ever comes of falsehood, and we feel warranted in refusing even to
experiment in that direction.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the course of the present discussion it has been asserted that the
"Sermon on the Mount" and the "Lord's Prayer" furnish a summary and
condensed view of the essentials of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth,
set forth by himself. Now this supposed _Summa_ of Nazarene theology
distinctly affirms the existence of a spiritual world, of a Heaven,
and of a Hell of fire; it teaches the Fatherhood of God and the
malignity of the Devil; it declares the superintending providence of
the former and our need of deliverance from the machinations of the
latter; it affirms the fact of demoniac possession and the power of
casting out devils by the faithful. And from these premises, the
conclusion is drawn, that those Agnostics who deny that there is any
evidence of such a character as to justify certainty, respecting the
existence and the nature of the spiritual world, contradict the
express declarations of Jesus. I have replied to this argumentation by
showing that there is strong reason to doubt the historical accuracy
of the attribution to Jesus of either the "Sermon on the Mount" or the
"Lord's Prayer"; and, therefore, that the conclusion in question is
not warranted, at any rate, on the grounds set forth.

But, whether the Gospels contain trustworthy statements about this and
other alleged historical facts or not, it is quite certain that from
them, taken together with the other books of the New Testament, we may
collect a pretty complete exposition of that theory of the spiritual
world which was held by both Nazarenes and Christians; and which was
undoubtedly supposed by them to be fully sanctioned by Jesus, though
it is just as clear that they did not imagine it contained any
revelation by him of something heretofore unknown. If the
pneumatological doctrine which pervades the whole New Testament is
nowhere systematically stated, it is everywhere assumed. The writers
of the Gospels and of the Acts take it for granted, as a matter of
common knowledge; and it is easy to gather from these sources a series
of propositions, which only need arrangement to form a complete

In this system, Man is considered to be a duality formed of a
spiritual element, the soul; and a corporeal[85] element, the body.
And this duality is repeated in the Universe, which consists of a
corporeal world embraced and interpenetrated by a spiritual world. The
former consists of the earth, as its principal and central
constituent, with the subsidiary sun, planets, and stars. Above the
earth is the air, and below is the watery abyss. Whether the heaven,
which is conceived to be above the air, and the hell in, or below, the
subterranean deeps, are to be taken as corporeal or incorporeal is not
clear. However this may be, the heaven and the air, the earth and the
abyss, are peopled by innumerable beings analogous in nature to the
spiritual element in man, and these spirits are of two kinds, good and
bad. The chief of the good spirits, infinitely superior to all the
others, and their creator, as well as the creator of the corporeal
world and of the bad spirits, is God. His residence is heaven, where
he is surrounded by the ordered hosts of good spirits; his angels, or
messengers, and the executors of his will throughout the universe.

On the other hand, the chief of the bad spirits is Satan, _the_ devil
_par excellence_. He and his company of demons are free to roam
through all parts of the universe, except the heaven. These bad
spirits are far superior to man in power and subtlety; and their whole
energies are devoted to bringing physical and moral evils upon him,
and to thwarting, so far as his power goes, the benevolent intentions
of the Supreme Being. In fact, the souls and bodies of men form both
the theatre and the prize of an incessant warfare between the good and
the evil spirits--the powers of light and the powers of darkness. By
leading Eve astray, Satan brought sin and death upon mankind. As the
gods of the heathen, the demons are the founders and maintainers of
idolatry; as the "powers of the air" they afflict mankind with
pestilence and famine; as "unclean spirits" they cause disease of mind
and body.

The significance of the appearance of Jesus, in the capacity of the
Messiah, or Christ, is the reversal of the satanic work by putting an
end to both sin and death. He announces that the kingdom of God is at
hand, when the "Prince of this world" shall be finally "cast out"
(John xii. 31) from the cosmos, as Jesus, during his earthly career,
cast him out from individuals. Then will Satan and all his devilry,
along with the wicked whom they have seduced to their destruction, be
hurled into the abyss of unquenchable fire--there to endure continual
torture, without a hope of winning pardon from the merciful God, their
Father; or of moving the glorified Messiah to one more act of pitiful
intercession; or even of interrupting, by a momentary sympathy with
their wretchedness, the harmonious psalmody of their brother angels
and men, eternally lapped in bliss unspeakable.

The straitest Protestant, who refuses to admit the existence of any
source of Divine truth, except the Bible, will not deny that every
point of the pneumatological theory here set forth has ample
scriptural warranty. The Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, and the
Apocalypse assert the existence of the devil, of his demons and of
Hell, as plainly as they do that of God and his angels and Heaven. It
is plain that the Messianic and the Satanic conceptions of the writers
of these books are the obverse and the reverse of the same
intellectual coinage. If we turn from Scripture to the traditions of
the Fathers and the confessions of the Churches, it will appear that,
in this one particular, at any rate, time has brought about no
important deviation from primitive belief. From Justin onwards, it may
often be a fair question whether God, or the devil, occupies a larger
share of the attention of the Fathers. It is the devil who instigates
the Roman authorities to persecute; the gods and goddesses of paganism
are devils, and idolatry itself is an invention of Satan; if a saint
falls away from grace, it is by the seduction of the demon; if heresy
arises, the devil has suggested it; and some of the Fathers[86] go so
far as to challenge the pagans to a sort of exorcising match, by way
of testing the truth of Christianity. Mediæval Christianity is at one
with patristic, on this head. The masses, the clergy, the theologians,
and the philosophers alike, live and move and have their being in a
world full of demons, in which sorcery and possession are everyday
occurrences. Nor did the Reformation make any difference. Whatever
else Luther assailed, he left the traditional demonology untouched;
nor could any one have entertained a more hearty and uncompromising
belief in the devil, than he and, at a later period, the Calvinistic
fanatics of New England did. Finally, in these last years of the
nineteenth century, the demonological hypotheses of the first century
are, explicitly or implicitly, held and occasionally acted upon by the
immense majority of Christians of all confessions.

Only here and there has the progress of scientific thought, outside
the ecclesiastical world, so far affected Christians, that they and
their teachers fight shy of the demonology of their creed. They are
fain to conceal their real disbelief in one half of Christian doctrine
by judicious silence about it; or by flight to those refuges for the
logically destitute, accommodation or allegory. But the faithful who
fly to allegory in order to escape absurdity resemble nothing so much
as the sheep in the fable who--to save their lives--jumped into the
pit. The allegory pit is too commodious, is ready to swallow up so
much more than one wants to put into it. If the story of the
temptation is an allegory; if the early recognition of Jesus as the
Son of God by the demons is an allegory; if the plain declaration of
the writer of the first Epistle of John (iii. 8), "To this end was the
Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil,"
is allegorical, then the Pauline version of the Fall may be
allegorical, and still more the words of consecration of the
Eucharist, or the promise of the second coming; in fact, there is not
a dogma of ecclesiastical Christianity the scriptural basis of which
may not be whittled away by a similar process.

As to accommodation, let any honest man who can read the New Testament
ask himself whether Jesus and his immediate friends and disciples can
be dishonoured more grossly than by the supposition that they said
and did that which is attributed to them; while, in reality, they
disbelieved in Satan and his demons, in possession and in

An eminent theologian has justly observed that we have no right to
look at the propositions of the Christian faith with one eye open and
the other shut. (Tract 85, p. 29.) It really is not permissible to
see, with one eye, that Jesus is affirmed to declare the personality
and the Fatherhood of God, His loving providence and His accessibility
to prayer; and to shut the other to the no less definite teaching
ascribed to Jesus, in regard to the personality and the misanthropy of
the devil, his malignant watchfulness, and his subjection to
exorcistic formula and rites. Jesus is made to say that the devil "was
a murderer from the beginning" (John viii. 44) by the same authority
as that upon which we depend for his asserted declaration that "God is
a spirit" (John iv. 24).

To those who admit the authority of the famous Vincentian dictum that
the doctrine which has been held "always, everywhere, and by all" is
to be received as authoritative, the demonology must possess a higher
sanction than any other Christian dogma, except, perhaps, those of the
Resurrection and of the Messiahship of Jesus; for it would be
difficult to name any other points of doctrine on which the Nazarene
does not differ from the Christian, and the different historical
stages and contemporary subdivisions of Christianity from one another.
And, if the demonology is accepted, there can be no reason for
rejecting all those miracles in which demons play a part. The Gadarene
story fits into the general scheme of Christianity; and the evidence
for "Legion" and their doings is just as good as any other in the New
Testament for the doctrine which the story illustrates.

It was with the purpose of bringing this great fact into prominence;
of getting people to open both their eyes when they look at
Ecclesiasticism; that I devoted so much space to that miraculous story
which happens to be one of the best types of its class. And I could
not wish for a better justification of the course I have adopted, than
the fact that my heroically consistent adversary has declared his
implicit belief in the Gadarene story and (by necessary consequence)
in the Christian demonology as a whole. It must be obvious, by this
time, that, if the account of the spiritual world given in the New
Testament, professedly on the authority of Jesus, is true, then the
demonological half of that account must be just as true as the other
half. And, therefore, those who question the demonology, or try to
explain it away, deny the truth of what Jesus said, and are, in
ecclesiastical terminology, "Infidels" just as much as those who deny
the spirituality of God. This is as plain as anything can well be, and
the dilemma for my opponent was either to assert that the Gadarene
pig-bedevilment actually occurred, or to write himself down an
"Infidel." As was to be expected, he chose the former alternative; and
I may express my great satisfaction at finding that there is one spot
of common ground on which both he and I stand. So far as I can judge,
we are agreed to state one of the broad issues between the
consequences of agnostic principles (as I draw them), and the
consequences of ecclesiastical dogmatism (as he accepts it), as

Ecclesiasticism says: The demonology of the Gospels is an essential
part of that account of that spiritual world, the truth of which it
declares to be certified by Jesus.

Agnosticism (_me judice_) says: There is no good evidence of the
existence of a demoniac spiritual world, and much reason for doubting

Hereupon the ecclesiastic may observe: Your doubt means that you
disbelieve Jesus; therefore you are an "Infidel" instead of an
"Agnostic." To which the agnostic may reply: No; for two reasons:
first, because your evidence that Jesus said what you say he said is
worth very little; and secondly, because a man may be an agnostic, in
the sense of admitting he has no positive knowledge, and yet consider
that he has more or less probable ground for accepting any given
hypothesis about the spiritual world. Just as a man may frankly
declare that he has no means of knowing whether the planets generally
are inhabited or not, and yet may think one of the two possible
hypotheses more likely that the other, so he may admit that he has no
means of knowing anything about the spiritual world, and yet may think
one or other of the current views on the subject, to some extent,

The second answer is so obviously valid that it needs no discussion. I
draw attention to it simply in justice to those agnostics who may
attach greater value that I do to any sort of pneumatological
speculations; and not because I wish to escape the responsibility of
declaring that, whether Jesus sanctioned the demonological part of
Christianity or not, I unhesitatingly reject it. The first answer, on
the other hand, opens up the whole question of the claim of the
biblical and other sources, from which hypotheses concerning the
spiritual world are derived, to be regarded as unimpeachable
historical evidence as to matters of fact.

Now, in respect of the trustworthiness of the Gospel narratives, I was
anxious to get rid of the common assumption that the determination of
the authorship and of the dates of these works is a matter of
fundamental importance. That assumption is based upon the notion that
what contemporary witnesses say must be true, or, at least, has always
a _primâ facie_ claim to be so regarded; so that if the writers of any
of the Gospels were contemporaries of the events (and still more if
they were in the position of eye-witnesses) the miracles they narrate
must be historically true, and, consequently, the demonology which
they involve must be accepted. But the story of the "Translation of
the blessed martyrs Marcellinus and Petrus," and the other
considerations (to which endless additions might have been made from
the Fathers and the mediæval writers) set forth in a preceding essay,
yield, in my judgment, satisfactory proof that, where the miraculous
is concerned, neither considerable intellectual ability, nor undoubted
honesty, nor knowledge of the world, nor proved faithfulness as civil
historians, nor profound piety, on the part of eye-witnesses and
contemporaries, affords any guarantee of the objective truth of their
statements, when we know that a firm belief in the miraculous was
ingrained in their minds, and was the pre-supposition of their
observations and reasonings.

Therefore, although it be, as I believe, demonstrable that we have no
real knowledge of the authorship, or of the date of composition of the
Gospels, as they have come down to us, and that nothing better than
more or less probable guesses can be arrived at on that subject, I
have not cared to expend any space on the question. It will be
admitted, I suppose; that the authors of the works attributed to
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, whoever they may be, are personages
whose capacity and judgment in the narration of ordinary events are
not quite so well certified as those of Eginhard; and we have seen
what the value of Eginhard's evidence is when the miraculous is in

       *       *       *       *       *

I have been careful to explain that the arguments which I have used in
the course of this discussion are not new; that they are historical
and have nothing to do with what is commonly called science; and that
they are all, to the best of my belief, to be found in the works of
theologians of repute.

The position which I have taken up, that the evidence in favour of
such miracles as those recorded by Eginhard, and consequently of
mediæval demonology, is quite as good as that in favour of such
miracles as the Gadarene, and consequently of Nazarene demonology, is
none of my discovery. Its strength was, wittingly or unwittingly,
suggested, a century and a half ago, by a theological scholar of
eminence; and it has been, if not exactly occupied, yet so fortified
with bastions and redoubts by a living ecclesiastical Vauban, that, in
my judgment, it has been rendered impregnable. In the early part of
the last century, the ecclesiastical mind in this country was much
exercised by the question, not exactly of miracles, the occurrence of
which in biblical times was axiomatic, but by the problem: When did
miracles cease? Anglican divines were quite sure that no miracles had
happened in their day, nor for some time past; they were equally sure
that they happened sixteen or seventeen centuries earlier. And it was
a vital question for them to determine at what point of time, between
this _terminus a quo_ and that _terminus ad quem_, miracles came to an

The Anglicans and the Romanists agreed in the assumption that the
possession of the gift of miracle-working was _primâ facie_ evidence
of the soundness of the faith of the miracle-workers. The supposition
that miraculous powers might be wielded by heretics (though it might
be supported by high authority) led to consequences too frightful to
be entertained by people who were busied in building their dogmatic
house on the sands of early Church history. If, as the Romanists
maintained, an unbroken series of genuine miracles adorned the records
of their Church, throughout the whole of its existence, no Anglican
could lightly venture to accuse them of doctrinal corruption. Hence,
the Anglicans, who indulged in such accusations, were bound to prove
the modern, the mediæval Roman, and the later Patristic miracles
false; and to shut off the wonder-working power from the Church at
the exact point of time when Anglican doctrine ceased and Roman
doctrine began. With a little adjustment--a squeeze here and a pull
there--the Christianity of the first three or four centuries might be
made to fit, or seem to fit, pretty well into the Anglican scheme. So
the miracles, from Justin say to Jerome, might be recognised; while,
in later times, the Church having become "corrupt"--that is to say,
having pursued one and the same line of development further than was
pleasing to Anglicans--its alleged miracles must needs be shams and

Under these circumstances, it may be imagined that the establishment
of a scientific frontier between the earlier realm of supposed fact
and the later of asserted delusion, had its difficulties; and torrents
of theological special pleading about the subject flowed from clerical
pens; until that learned and acute Anglican divine, Conyers Middleton,
in his "Free Inquiry," tore the sophistical web they had laboriously
woven to pieces, and demonstrated that the miracles of the patristic
age, early and late, must stand or fall together, inasmuch as the
evidence for the later is just as good as the evidence for the earlier
wonders. If the one set are certified by contemporaneous witnesses of
high repute, so are the other; and, in point of probability, there is
not a pin to choose between the two. That is the solid and
irrefragable, result of Middleton's contribution to the subject. But
the Free Inquirer's freedom had its limits; and he draws a sharp line
of demarcation between the patristic and the New Testament
miracles--on the professed ground that the accounts of the latter,
being inspired, are out of the reach of criticism.

A century later, the question was taken up by another divine,
Middleton's equal in learning and acuteness, and far his superior in
subtlety and dialectic skill; who, though an Anglican, scorned the
name of Protestant; and, while yet a Churchman, made it his business
to parade, with infinite skill, the utter hollowness of the arguments
of those of his brother Churchmen who dreamed that they could be both
Anglicans and Protestants. The argument of the "Essay on the Miracles
recorded in the Ecclesiastical History of the Early Ages"[88] by the
present [1889] Roman Cardinal, but then Anglican Doctor, John Henry
Newman, is compendiously stated by himself in the following passage:--

     If the miracles of Church history cannot be defended by the
     arguments of Leslie, Lyttleton, Paley, or Douglas, how many
     of the Scripture miracles satisfy their conditions? (p. cvii).

And, although the answer is not given in so many words, little doubt
is left on the mind of the reader, that, in the mind of the writer,
it is: None. In fact, this conclusion is one which cannot be resisted,
if the argument in favour of the Scripture miracles is based upon that
which laymen, whether lawyers, or men of science, or historians, or
ordinary men of affairs, call evidence. But there is something really
impressive in the magnificent contempt with which, at times, Dr.
Newman sweeps aside alike those who offer and those who demand such

     Some infidel authors advise us to accept no miracles which
     would not have a verdict in their favour in a court of
     justice; that is, they employ against Scripture a weapon
     which Protestants would confine to attacks upon the Church;
     as if moral and religious questions required legal proof,
     and evidence were the test of truth[89] (p. cvii).

"As if evidence were the test of truth"!--although the truth in
question is the occurrence, or the non-occurrence, of certain
phenomena at a certain time and in a certain place. This sudden
revelation of the great gulf fixed between the ecclesiastical and the
scientific mind is enough to take away the breath of any one
unfamiliar with the clerical organon. As if, one may retort, the
assumption that miracles may, or have, served a moral or a religious
end, in any way alters the fact that they profess to be historical
events, things that actually happened; and, as such, must needs be
exactly those subjects about which evidence is appropriate and legal
proofs (which are such merely because they afford adequate evidence)
may be justly demanded. The Gadarene miracle either happened, or it
did not. Whether the Gadarene "question" is moral or religious, or
not, has nothing to do with the fact that it is a purely historical
question whether the demons said what they are declared to have said,
and the devil-possessed pigs did, or did not, rush over the heights
bounding the Lake of Gennesaret on a certain day of a certain year,
after A.D. 26 and before A.D. 36; for vague and uncertain as New
Testament chronology is, I suppose it may be assumed that the event in
question, if it happened at all, took place during the procuratorship
of Pilate. If that is not a matter about which evidence ought to be
required, and not only legal, but strict scientific proof demanded by
sane men who are asked to believe the story--what is? Is a reasonable
being to be seriously asked to credit statements which, to put the
case gently, are not exactly probable, and on the acceptance or
rejection of which his whole view of life may depend, without asking
for as much "legal" proof as would send an alleged pickpocket to goal,
or as would suffice to prove the validity of a disputed will?

"Infidel authors" (if, as I am assured, I may answer for them) will
decline to waste time on mere darkenings of counsel of this sort; but
to those Anglicans who accept his premises, Dr. Newman is a truly
formidable antagonist. What, indeed, are they to reply when he puts
the very pertinent question:--

     whether persons who not merely question, but prejudge the
     Ecclesiastical miracles on the ground of their want of
     resemblance, whatever that be, to those contained in
     Scripture--as if the Almighty could not do in the Christian
     Church what He had not already done at the time of its
     foundation, or under the Mosaic Covenant--whether such
     reasoners are not siding with the sceptic,


     whether it is not a happy inconsistency by which they
     continue to believe the Scriptures while they reject the
     Church[90] (p. liii).

Again, I invite Anglican orthodoxy to consider this passage:--

     the narrative of the combats of St. Anthony with evil
     spirits, is a development rather than a contradiction of
     revelation, viz. of such texts as speak of Satan being cast
     out by prayer and fasting. To be shocked, then, at the
     miracles of Ecclesiastical history, or to ridicule them for
     their strangeness, is no part of a scriptural philosophy
     (pp. liii-liv).

Further on, Dr. Newman declares that it has been admitted

     that a distinct line can be drawn in point of character and
     circumstance between the miracles of Scripture and of Church
     history; but this is by no means the case (p. lv) ...
     specimens are not wanting in the history of the Church, of
     miracles as awful in their character and as momentous in
     their effects as those which are recorded in Scripture. The
     fire interrupting the rebuilding of the Jewish temple, and
     the death of Arius, are instances, in Ecclesiastical
     history, of such solemn events. On the other hand, difficult
     instances in the Scripture history are such as these: the
     serpent in Eden, the Ark, Jacob's vision for the
     multiplication of his cattle, the speaking of Balaam's ass,
     the axe swimming at Elisha's word, the miracle on the swine,
     and various instances of prayers or prophecies, in which, as
     in that of Noah's blessing and curse, words which seem the
     result of private feeling are expressly or virtually
     ascribed to a Divine suggestion (p. lvi).

Who is to gainsay our ecclesiastical authority here? "Infidel authors"
might be accused of a wish to ridicule the Scripture miracles by
putting them on a level with the remarkable story about the fire which
stopped the rebuilding of the Temple, or that about the death of
Arius--but Dr. Newman is above suspicion. The pity is that his list of
what he delicately terms "difficult" instances is so short. Why omit
the manufacture of Eve out of Adam's rib, on the strict historical
accuracy of which the chief argument of the defenders of an iniquitous
portion of our present law depends? Why leave out the account of the
"Bene Elohim" and their gallantries, on which a large part of the
worst practices of the mediæval inquisitors into witchcraft was based?
Why forget the angel who wrestled with Jacob, and, as the account
suggests, somewhat over-stepped the bounds of fair play, at the end of
the struggle? Surely, we must agree with Dr. Newman that, if all these
camels have gone down, it savours of affectation to strain at such
gnats as the sudden ailment of Arius in the midst of his deadly, if
prayerful,[91] enemies; and the fiery explosion which stopped the
Julian building operations. Though the _words_ of the "Conclusion" of
the "Essay on Miracles" may, perhaps, be quoted against me, I may
express my satisfaction at finding myself in substantial accordance
with a theologian above all suspicion of heterodoxy. With all my
heart, I can declare my belief that there is just as good reason for
believing in the miraculous slaying of the man who fell short of the
Athanasian power of affirming contradictories, with respect to the
nature of the Godhead, as there is for believing in the stories of the
serpent and the ark told in Genesis, the speaking of Balaam's ass in
Numbers, or the floating of the axe, at Elisha's order, in the second
book of Kings.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is one of the peculiarities of a really sound argument that it is
susceptible of the fullest development; and that it sometimes leads to
conclusions unexpected by those who employ it. To my mind, it is
impossible to refuse to follow Dr. Newman when he extends his
reasoning, from the miracles of the patristic and mediæval ages
backward in time, as far as miracles are recorded. But, if the rules
of logic are valid, I feel compelled to extend the argument forwards
to the alleged Roman miracles of the present day, which Dr. Newman
might not have admitted, but which Cardinal Newman may hardly reject.
Beyond question, there is as good, or perhaps better, evidence for the
miracles worked by our Lady of Lourdes, as there is for the floating
of Elisha's axe, or the speaking of Balaam's ass. But we must go still
further; there is a modern system of thaumaturgy and demonology which
is just as well certified as the ancient.[92] Veracious, excellent,
sometimes learned and acute persons, even philosophers of no mean
pretensions, testify to the "levitation" of bodies much heavier than
Elisha's axe; to the existence of "spirits" who, to the mere tactile
sense, have been indistinguishable from flesh and blood; and,
occasionally, have wrested with all the vigour of Jacob's opponent;
yet, further, to the speech, in the language of raps, of spiritual
beings, whose discourses, in point of coherence and value, are far
inferior to that of Balaam's humble but sagacious steed. I have not
the smallest doubt that, if these were persecuting times, there is
many a worthy "spiritualist" who would cheerfully go to the stake in
support of his pneumatological faith; and furnish evidence, after
Paley's own heart, in proof of the truth of his doctrines. Not a few
modern divines, doubtless struck by the impossibility of refusing the
spiritualist evidence, if the ecclesiastical evidence is accepted, and
deprived of any _à priori_ objection by their implicit belief in
Christian Demonology, show themselves ready to take poor Sludge
seriously, and to believe that he is possessed by other devils than
those of need, greed, and vainglory.

Under these circumstances, it was to be expected, though it is none
the less interesting to note the fact, that the arguments of the
latest school of "spiritualists" present a wonderful family likeness
to those which adorn the subtle disquisitions of the advocate of
ecclesiastical miracles of forty years ago. It is unfortunate for the
"spiritualists" that, over and over again, celebrated and trusted
media, who really, in some respects, call to mind the Montanist[93]
and gnostic seers of the second century, are either proved in courts
of law to be fraudulent impostors; or, in sheer weariness, as it would
seem, of the honest dupes who swear by them, spontaneously confess
their long-continued iniquities, as the Fox women did the other day
in New York.[94] But, whenever a catastrophe of this kind takes place,
the believers are no wise dismayed by it. They freely admit that not
only the media, but the spirits whom they summon, are sadly apt to
lose sight of the elementary principles of right and wrong; and they
triumphantly ask: How does the occurrence of occasional impostures
disprove the genuine manifestations (that is to say, all those which
have not yet been proved to be impostures or delusions)? And, in this,
they unconsciously plagiarise from the churchman, who just as freely
admits that many ecclesiastical miracles may have been forged; and
asks, with calm contempt, not only of legal proofs, but of
common-sense probability, Why does it follow that none are to be
supposed genuine? I must say, however, that the spiritualists, so far
as I know, do not venture to outrage right reason so boldly as the
ecclesiastics. They do not sneer at "evidence"; nor repudiate the
requirement of legal proofs. In fact, there can be no doubt that the
spiritualists produce better evidence for their manifestations than
can be shown either for the miraculous death of Arius, or for the
Invention of the Cross.[95]

From the "levitation" of the axe at one end of a period of near three
thousand years to the "levitation" of Sludge & Co. at the other end,
there is a complete continuity of the miraculous, with every gradation,
from the childish to the stupendous, from the gratification of a
caprice to the illustration of sublime truth. There is no drawing a
line in the series that might be set out of plausibly attested cases
of spiritual intervention. If one is true, all may be true; if one is
false, all may be false.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is, to my mind, the inevitable result of that method of reasoning
which is applied to the confutation of Protestantism, with so much
success, by one of the acutest and subtlest disputants who have ever
championed Ecclesiasticism--and one cannot put his claims to acuteness
and subtlety higher.

     ... the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If
     ever there were a safe truth it is this.... "To be deep in
     history is to cease to be a Protestant."[96]

I have not a shadow of doubt that these anti-Protestant epigrams are
profoundly true. But I have as little that, in the same sense, the
"Christianity of history is not" Romanism; and that to be deeper in
history is to cease to be a Romanist. The reasons which compel my
doubts about the compatibility of the Roman doctrine, or any other
form of Catholicism, with history, arise out of exactly the same line
of argument as that adopted by Dr. Newman in the famous essay which I
have just cited. If, with one hand, Dr. Newman has destroyed
Protestantism, he has annihilated Romanism with the other; and the
total result of his ambidextral efforts is to shake Christianity to
its foundations. Nor was any one better aware that this must be the
inevitable result of his arguments--if the world should refuse to
accept Roman doctrines and Roman miracles--than the writer of Tract

Dr. Newman made his choice and passed over to the Roman Church half a
century ago. Some of those who were essentially in harmony with his
views preceded, and many followed him. But many remained; and, as the
quondam Puseyite and present Ritualistic party, they are continuing
that work of sapping and mining the Protestantism of the Anglican
Church which he and his friends so ably commenced. At the present
time, they have no little claim to be considered victorious all along
the line. I am old enough to recollect the small beginnings of the
Tractarian party; and I am amazed when I consider the present position
of their heirs. Their little leaven has leavened if not the whole,
yet a very large lump of the Anglican Church; which is now pretty much
of a preparatory school for Papistry. So that it really behoves
Englishmen (who, as I have been informed by high authority, are all
legally, members of the State Church, if they profess to belong to no
other sect) to wake up to what that powerful organization is about,
and whither it is tending. On this point, the writings of Dr. Newman,
while he still remained within the Anglican fold, are a vast store of
the best and the most authoritative information. His doctrines on
Ecclesiastical miracles and on Development are the corner-stones of
the Tractarian fabric. He believed that his arguments led either
Romeward, or to what ecclesiastics call "Infidelity," and I call
Agnosticism. I believe that he was quite right in this conviction; but
while he chooses the one alternative, I choose the other; as he
rejects Protestantism on the ground of its incompatibility with
history, so, _a fortiori_, I conceive that Romanism ought to be
rejected; and that an impartial consideration of the evidence must
refuse the authority of Jesus to anything more than the Nazarenism of
James and Peter and John. And let it not be supposed that this is a
mere "infidel" perversion of the facts. No one has more openly and
clearly admitted the possibility that they may be fairly interpreted
in this way than Dr. Newman. If, he says, there are texts which seem
to show that Jesus contemplated the evangelisation of the heathen:

     ... Did not the Apostles hear our Lord? and what was _their_
     impression from what they heard? Is it not certain that the
     Apostles did not gather this truth from His teaching? (Tract
     85, p. 63).

     He said, "Preach the Gospel to every creature." These words
     _need_ have only meant "Bring all men to Christianity
     through Judaism." Make them Jews, that they may enjoy
     Christ's privileges, which are lodged in Judaism; teach them
     those rites and ceremonies, circumcision and the like, which
     hitherto have been dead ordinances, and now are living; and
     so the Apostles seem to have understood them (_ibid_. p.

So far as Nazarenism differentiated itself from contemporary orthodox
Judaism, it seems to have tended towards a revival of the ethical and
religious spirit of the prophetic age, accompanied by the belief in
Jesus as the Messiah, and by various accretions which had grown round
Judaism subsequently to the exile. To these belong the doctrines of
the Resurrection, of the Last Judgment, of Heaven and Hell; of the
hierarchy of good angels; of Satan and the hierarchy of evil spirits.
And there is very strong ground for believing that all these
doctrines, at least in the shapes in which they were held by the
post-exilic Jews, were derived from Persian and Babylonian[97]
sources, and are essentially of heathen origin.

How far Jesus positively sanctioned all these indrainings of
circumjacent Paganism into Judaism; how far any one has a right to
declare, that the refusal to accept one or other of these doctrines,
as ascertained verities, comes to the same thing as contradicting
Jesus, it appears to me not easy to say. But it is hardly less
difficult to conceive that he could have distinctly negatived any of
them; and, more especially, that demonology which has been accepted by
the Christian Churches, in every age and under all their mutual
antagonisms. But, I repeat my conviction that, whether Jesus
sanctioned the demonology of his time and nation or not, it is doomed.
The future of Christianity, as a dogmatic system and apart from the
old Israelitish ethics which it has appropriated and developed, lies
in the answer which mankind will eventually give to the question,
whether they are prepared to believe such stories as the Gadarene and
the pneumatological hypotheses which go with it, or not. My belief is
they will decline to do anything of the sort, whenever and wherever
their minds have been disciplined by science. And that discipline
must, and will, at once follow and lead the footsteps of advancing

The preceding pages were written before I became acquainted with the
contents of the May number of the "Nineteenth Century," wherein I
discover many things which are decidedly not to my advantage. It would
appear that "evasion" is my chief resource, "incapacity for strict
argument" and "rottenness of ratiocination" my main mental
characteristics, and that it is "barely credible" that a statement
which I profess to make of my own knowledge is true. All which things
I notice, merely to illustrate the great truth, forced on me by long
experience, that it is only from those who enjoy the blessing of a
firm hold of the Christian faith that such manifestations of meekness,
patience, and charity are to be expected.

I had imagined that no one who had read my preceding papers, could
entertain a doubt as to my position in respect of the main issue, as
it has been stated and restated by my opponent:

     an Agnosticism which knows nothing of the relation of man to
     God must not only refuse belief to our Lord's most undoubted
     teaching, but must deny the reality of the spiritual
     convictions in which He lived.[98]

That is said to be "the simple question which is at issue between us,"
and the three testimonies to that teaching and those convictions
selected are the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord's Prayer, and the Story
of the Passion.

My answer, reduced to its briefest form, has been: In the first
place, the evidence is such that the exact nature of the teachings and
the convictions of Jesus is extremely uncertain; so that what
ecclesiastics are pleased to call a denial of them may be nothing of
the kind. And, in the second place, if Jesus taught the demonological
system involved in the Gadarene story--if a belief in that system
formed a part of the spiritual convictions in which he lived and
died--then I, for my part, unhesitatingly refuse belief in that
teaching, and deny the reality of those spiritual convictions. And I
go further and add, that, exactly in so far as it can be proved that
Jesus sanctioned the essentially pagan demonological theories current
among the Jews of his age, exactly in so far, for me, will his
authority in any matter touching the spiritual world be weakened.

With respect to the first half of my answer, I have pointed out that
the Sermon on the Mount, as given in the first Gospel, is, in the
opinion of the best critics, a "mosaic work" of materials derived from
different sources, and I do not understand that this statement is
challenged. The only other Gospel--the third--which contains something
like it, makes, not only the discourse, but the circumstances under
which it was delivered, very different. Now, it is one thing to say
that there was something real at the bottom of the two discourses--which
is quite possible; and another to affirm that we have any right to
say what that something was, or to fix upon any particular phrase and
declare it to be a genuine utterance. Those who pursue theology as a
science, and bring to the study an adequate knowledge of the ways of
ancient historians, will find no difficulty in providing illustrations
of my meaning. I may supply one which has come within range of my own
limited vision.

In Josephus's "History of the Wars of the Jews" (chap, xix.), that
writer reports a speech which he says Herod made at the opening of a
war with the Arabians. It is in the first person, and would naturally
be supposed by the reader to be intended for a true version of what
Herod said. In the "Antiquities," written some seventeen years later,
the same writer gives another report, also in the first person, of
Herod's speech on the same occasion. This second oration is twice as
long as the first and, though the general tenor of the two speeches is
pretty much the same, there is hardly any verbal identity, and a good
deal of matter is introduced into the one, which is absent from the
other. Josephus prides himself on his accuracy; people whose fathers
might have heard Herod's oration were his contemporaries; and yet his
historical sense is so curiously undeveloped that he can, quite
innocently, perpetrate an obvious literary fabrication; for one of the
two accounts must be incorrect. Now, if I am asked whether I believe
that Herod made some particular statement on this occasion; whether,
for example, he uttered the pious aphorism, "Where God is, there is
both multitude and courage," which is given in the "Antiquities," but
not in the "Wars," I am compelled to say I do not know. One of the two
reports must be erroneous, possibly both are: at any rate, I cannot
tell how much of either is true. And, if some fervent admirer of the
Idumean should build up a theory of Herod's piety upon Josephus's
evidence that he propounded the aphorism, it is a "mere evasion" to
say, in reply, that the evidence that he did utter it is worthless?

It appears again that, adopting the tactics of Conachar when brought
face to face with Hal o' the Wynd, I have been trying to get my
simple-minded adversary to follow me on a wild-goose chase through the
early history of Christianity, in the hope of escaping impending
defeat on the main issue. But I may be permitted to point out that
there is an alternative hypothesis which equally fits the facts; and
that, after all, there may have been method in the madness of my
supposed panic.

For suppose it to be established that Gentile Christianity was a
totally different thing from the Nazarenism of Jesus and his immediate
disciples; suppose it to be demonstrable that, as early as the sixth
decade of our era at least, there were violent divergencies of opinion
among the followers of Jesus; suppose it to be hardly doubtful that
the Gospels and the Acts took their present shapes under the influence
of those divergencies; suppose that their authors, and those through
whose hands they passed, had notions of historical veracity not more
eccentric than those which Josephus occasionally displays: surely the
chances that the Gospels are altogether trustworthy records of the
teachings of Jesus become very slender. And, since the whole of the
case of the other side is based on the supposition that they are
accurate records (especially of speeches, about which ancient
historians are so curiously loose), I really do venture to submit that
this part of my argument bears very seriously on the main issue; and,
as ratiocination, is sound to the core.

Again, when I passed by the topic of the speeches of Jesus on the
Cross, it appears that I could have had no other motive than the
dictates of my native evasiveness. An ecclesiastical dignitary may
have respectable reasons for declining a fencing match "in sight of
Gethsemane and Calvary"; but an ecclesiastical "Infidel"! Never. It is
obviously impossible that in the belief that "the greater includes the
less," I, having declared the Gospel evidence in general, as to the
sayings of Jesus, to be of questionable value, thought it needless to
select for illustration of my views, those particular instances which
were likely to be most offensive to persons of another way of
thinking. But any supposition that may have been entertained that the
old familiar tones of the ecclesiastical war-drum will tempt me to
engage in such needless discussion had better be renounced. I shall do
nothing of the kind. Let it suffice that I ask my readers to turn to
the twenty-third chapter of Luke (revised version), verse thirty-four,
and he will find in the margin

     Some ancient authorities omit: And Jesus said "Father,
     forgive them, for they know not what they do."

So that, even as late as the fourth century, there were ancient
authorities, indeed some of the most ancient and weightiest, who
either did not know of this utterance, so often quoted as
characteristic of Jesus, or did not believe it had been uttered.

Many years ago, I received an anonymous letter, which abused me
heartily for my want of moral courage in not speaking out. I thought
that one of the oddest charges an anonymous letter-writer could bring.
But I am not sure that the plentiful sowing of the pages of the
article with which I am dealing with accusations of evasion, may not
seem odder to those who consider that the main strength of the answers
with which I have been favoured (in this review and elsewhere) is
devoted not to anything in the text of my first paper, but to a note
which occurs at p. 212. In this I say:

     Dr. Wace tells us: "It may be asked how far we can rely on
     the accounts we possess of our Lord's teaching on these
     subjects." And he seems to think the question appropriately
     answered by the assertion that it "ought to be regarded as
     settled by M. Renan's practical surrender of the adverse

I requested Dr. Wace to point out the passages of M. Renan's works in
which, as he affirms, this "practical surrender" (not merely as to the
age and authorship of the Gospels, be it observed, but as to their
historical value) is made, and he has been so good as to do so. Now
let us consider the parts of Dr. Wace's citation from Renan which are
relevant to the issue:--

     The author of this Gospel [Luke] is certainly the same as
     the author of the Acts of the Apostles. Now the author of
     the Acts seems to be a companion of St. Paul--a character
     which accords completely with St. Luke. I know that more
     than one objection may be opposed to this reasoning: but one
     thing, at all events, is beyond doubt, namely, that the
     author of the third Gospel and of the Acts is a man who
     belonged to the second apostolic generation; and this
     suffices for our purpose.

This is a curious "practical surrender of the adverse case." M. Renan
thinks that there is no doubt that the author of the third Gospel is
the author of the Acts--a conclusion in which I suppose critics
generally agree. He goes on to remark that this person _seems_ to be a
companion of St. Paul, and adds that Luke was a companion of St. Paul.
Then, somewhat needlessly, M. Renan points out that there is more than
one objection to jumping, from such data as these, to the conclusion
that "Luke" is the writer of the third Gospel. And, finally, M. Renan
is content to reduce that which is "beyond doubt" to the fact that the
author of the two books is a man of the second apostolic generation.
Well, it seems to me that I could agree with all that M. Renan
considers "beyond doubt" here, without surrendering anything, either
"practically" or theoretically.

Dr. Wace ("Nineteenth Century," March, p. 363) states that he derives
the above citation from the preface to the 15th edition of the "Vie de
Jésus." My copy of "Les Évangiles," dated 1877, contains a list of
Renan's "Oeuvres Complètes," at the head of which I find "Vie de
Jésus," 15^e édition. It is, therefore, a later work than the edition
of the "Vie de Jésus" which Dr. Wace quotes. Now "Les Évangiles," as
its name implies, treats fully of the questions respecting the date
and authorship of the Gospels; and any one who desired, not merely to
use M. Renan's expressions for controversial purposes, but to give a
fair account of his views in their full significance, would, I think,
refer to the later source.

If this course had been taken, Dr. Wace might have found some as
decided expressions of opinion, in favour of Luke's authorship of the
third Gospel, as he has discovered in "The Apostles." I mention this
circumstance, because I desire to point out that, taking even the
strongest of Renan's statements, I am still at a loss to see how it
justifies that large-sounding phrase, "practical surrender of the
adverse case." For, on p. 438 of "Les Évangiles," Renan speaks of the
way in which Luke's "excellent intentions" have led him to torture
history in the Acts; he declares Luke to be the founder of that
"eternal fiction which is called ecclesiastical history"; and, on the
preceding page, he talks of the "myth" of the Ascension--with its
"_mise en scène voulue_." At p. 435, I find "Luc, ou l'auteur quel
qu'il soit du troisième Évangile"; at p. 280, the accounts of the
Passion, the death and the resurrection of Jesus, are said to be "peu
historiques"; at p. 283, "La valeur historique du troisième Évangile
est sûrement moindre que celles des deux premiers." A Pyrrhic sort of
victory for orthodoxy, this "surrender"! And, all the while, the
scientific student of theology knows that, the more reason there may
be to believe that Luke was the companion of Paul, the more doubtful
becomes his credibility if he really wrote the Acts. For, in that
case, he could not fail to have been acquainted with Paul's account of
the Jerusalem conference and he must have consciously misrepresented

We may next turn to the essential part of Dr. Wace's citation
("Nineteenth Century," p. 365) touching the first Gospel:--

     St. Matthew evidently deserves peculiar confidence for the
     discourses. Here are the "oracles"--the very notes taken
     while the memory of the instruction of Jesus was living and

M. Renan here expresses the very general opinion as to the existence
of a collection of "logia," having a different origin from the text in
which they are embedded, in Matthew. "Notes" are somewhat suggestive
of a shorthand writer, but the suggestion is unintentional, for M.
Renan assumes that these "notes" were taken, not at the time of the
delivery of the "logia" but subsequently, while (as he assumes) the
memory of them was living and definite; so that, in this very
citation, M. Renan leaves open the question of the general historical
value of the first Gospel; while it is obvious that the accuracy of
"Notes" taken, not at the time of delivery, but from memory, is a
matter about which more than one opinion may be fairly held. Moreover,
Renan expressly calls attention to the difficulty of distinguishing
the authentic "logia" from later additions of the same kind ("Les
Évangiles," p. 201). The fact is, there is no contradiction here to
that opinion about the first Gospel which is expressed in "Les
Évangiles" (p. 175).

     The text of the so-called Matthew supposes the pre-existence
     of that of Mark, and does little more than complete it. He
     completes it in two fashions--first, by the insertion of
     those long discourses which gave their chief value to the
     Hebrew Gospels; then by adding traditions of a more modern
     formation, results of successive developments of the legend,
     and to which the Christian consciousness already attached
     infinite value.

M. Renan goes on to suggest that besides "Mark," "pseudo-Matthew"
used an Aramaic version of the Gospel, originally set forth in that
dialect. Finally, as to the second Gospel ("Nineteenth Century," p.

     He [Mark] is full of minute observations, proceeding, beyond
     doubt, from an eye-witness. There is nothing to conflict
     with the supposition that this eye-witness ... was the
     Apostle Peter himself, as Papias has it.

Let us consider this citation by the light of "Les Évangiles":--

     This work, although composed after the death of Peter, was,
     in a sense, the work of Peter; it represents the way in
     which Peter was accustomed to relate the life of Jesus (p.

M. Renan goes on to say that, as an historical document, the Gospel of
Mark has a great superiority (p. 116); but Mark has a motive for
omitting the discourses, and he attaches a "puerile importance" to
miracles (p. 117). The Gospel of Mark is less a legend, than a
biography written with credulity (p. 118). It would be rash to say
that Mark has not been interpolated and retouched (p. 120).

If any one thinks that I have not been warranted in drawing a sharp
distinction between "scientific theologians" and "counsels for
creeds"; or that my warning against the too ready acceptance of
certain declarations as to the state of biblical criticism was
needless; or that my anxiety as to the sense of the word "practical"
was superfluous; let him compare the statement that M. Renan has made
a "practical surrender of the adverse case" with the facts just set
forth. For what is the adverse case? The question, as Dr. Wace puts
it, is, "It may be asked how far can we rely on the accounts we
possess of our Lord's teaching on these subjects." It will be obvious
that M. Renan's statements amount to an adverse answer--to a
"practical" denial that any great reliance can be placed on these
accounts. He does not believe that Matthew, the apostle, wrote the
first Gospel; he does not profess to know who is responsible for the
collection of "logia," or how many of them are authentic; though he
calls the second Gospel the most historical, he points out that it is
written with credulity, and may have been interpolated and retouched;
and, as to the author, "quel qu'il soit," of the third Gospel, who is
to "rely on the accounts" of a writer, who deserves the cavalier
treatment which "Luke" meets with at M. Renan's hands.

I repeat what I have already more than once said, that the question of
the age and the authorship of the Gospels has not, in my judgment, the
importance which is so commonly assigned to it; for the simple reason
that the reports, even of eye-witnesses, would not suffice to justify
belief in a large and essential part of their contents; on the
contrary, these reports would discredit the witnesses. The Gadarene
miracle, for example, is so extremely improbable, that the fact of its
being reported by three, even independent, authorities could not
justify belief in it, unless we had the clearest evidence as to their
capacity as observers and as interpreters of their observations. But
it is evident that the three authorities are not independent; that
they have simply adopted a legend, of which there were two versions;
and instead of their proving its truth, it suggests their
superstitious credulity: so that if "Matthew," "Mark," and "Luke" are
really responsible for the Gospels, it is not the better for the
Gadarene story, but the worse for them.

A wonderful amount of controversial capital has been made out of my
assertion in the note to which I have referred, as an _obiter dictum_
of no consequence to my argument, that if Renan's work[99] were
non-extant, the main results of biblical criticism, as set forth in
the works of Strauss, Baur, Reuss, and Volkmar, for example, would not
be sensibly affected. I thought I had explained it satisfactorily
already, but it seems that my explanation has only exhibited still
more of my native perversity, so I ask for one more chance.

In the course of the historical development of any branch of science,
what is universally observed is this: that the men who make epochs,
and are the real architects of the fabric of exact knowledge, are
those who introduce fruitful ideas or methods. As a rule, the man who
does this pushes his idea, or his method, too far; or, if he does not,
his school is sure to do so; and those who follow have to reduce his
work to its proper value, and assign it its place in the whole. Not
unfrequently, they, in their turn, overdo the critical process, and,
in trying to eliminate error, throw away truth.

Thus, as I said, Linnæus, Buffon, Cuvier, Lamarck, really "set forth
the results" of a developing science, although they often heartily
contradict one another. Notwithstanding this circumstance, modern
classificatory method and nomenclature have largely grown out of the
work of Linnæus; the modern conception of biology, as a science, and
of its relation to climatology, geography, and geology, are, as
largely, rooted in the results of the labours of Buffon; comparative
anatomy and palæontology owe a vast debt to Cuvier's results; while
invertebrate zoology and the revival of the idea of evolution are
intimately dependent on the results of the work of Lamarck. In other
words, the main results of biology up to the early years of this
century are to be found in, or spring out of, the works of these men.

So, if I mistake not, Strauss, if he did not originate the idea of
taking the mythopoeic faculty into account in the development of the
Gospel narratives, and though he may have exaggerated the influence of
that faculty, obliged scientific theology, hereafter, to take that
element into serious consideration; so Baur, in giving prominence to
the cardinal fact of the divergence of the Nazarene and Pauline
tendencies in the primitive Church; so Reuss, in setting a marvellous
example of the cool and dispassionate application of the principles of
scientific criticism over the whole field of Scripture; so Volkmar, in
his clear and forcible statement of the Nazarene limitations of Jesus,
contributed results of permanent value in scientific theology. I took
these names as they occurred to me. Undoubtedly, I might have
advantageously added to them; perhaps, I might have made a better
selection. But it really is absurd to try to make out that I did not
know that these writers widely disagree; and I believe that no
scientific theologian will deny that, in principle, what I have said
is perfectly correct. Ecclesiastical advocates, of course, cannot be
expected to take this view of the matter. To them, these mere seekers
after truth, in so far as their results are unfavourable to the creed
the clerics have to support, are more or less "infidels," or favourers
of "infidelity"; and the only thing they care to see, or probably can
see, is the fact that, in a great many matters, the truth-seekers
differ from one another, and therefore can easily be exhibited to the
public, as if they did nothing else; as if any one who referred to
their having, each and all, contributed his share to the results of
theological science, was merely showing his ignorance; and as if a
charge of inconsistency could be based on the fact that he himself
often disagrees with what they say. I have never lent a shadow of
foundation to the assumption that I am a follower of either Strauss,
or Baur, or Reuss, or Volkmar, or Renan; my debts to these eminent
men--so far my superiors in theological knowledge--is, indeed, great;
yet it is not for their opinions, but for those I have been able to
form for myself, by their help.

In _Agnosticism: a Rejoinder_ (p. 266), I have referred to the
difficulties under which those professors of the science of theology,
whose tenure of their posts depends on the results of their
investigations, must labour; and, in a note, I add--

     Imagine that all our chairs of Astronomy had been founded in
     the fourteenth century, and that their incumbents were bound
     to sign Ptolemaic articles. In that case, with every respect
     for the efforts of persons thus hampered to attain and
     expound the truth, I think men of common sense would go
     elsewhere to learn astronomy.

I did not write this paragraph without a knowledge that its sense
would be open to the kind of perversion which it has suffered; but, if
that was clear, the necessity for the statement was still clearer. It
is my deliberate opinion: I reiterate it; and I say that, in my
judgment, it is extremely inexpedient that any subject which calls
itself a science should be intrusted to teachers who are debarred from
freely following out scientific methods to their legitimate
conclusions, whatever those conclusions may be. If I may borrow a
phrase paraded at the Church Congress, I think it "ought to be
unpleasant" for any man of science to find himself in the position of
such a teacher.

Human nature is not altered by seating it in a professorial chair,
even of theology. I have very little doubt that if, in the year 1859,
the tenure of my office had depended upon my adherence to the
doctrines of Cuvier, the objections to them set forth in the "Origin
of Species" would have had a halo of gravity about them that, being
free to teach what I pleased, I failed to discover. And, in making
that statement, it does not appear to me that I am confessing that I
should have been debarred by "selfish interests" from making candid
inquiry, or that I should have been biassed by "sordid motives." I
hope that even such a fragment of moral sense as may remain in an
ecclesiastical "infidel" might have got me through the difficulty; but
it would be unworthy to deny, or disguise, the fact that a very
serious difficulty must have been created for me by the nature of my
tenure. And let it be observed that the temptation, in my case, would
have been far slighter than in that of a professor of theology;
whatever biological doctrine I had repudiated, nobody I cared for
would have thought the worse of me for so doing. No scientific
journals would have howled me down, as the religious newspapers howled
down my too honest friend, the late Bishop of Natal; nor would my
colleagues of the Royal Society have turned their backs upon me, as
his episcopal colleagues boycotted him.

I say these facts are obvious, and that it is wholesome and needful
that they should be stated. It is in the interests of theology, if it
be a science, and it is in the interests of those teachers of theology
who desire to be something better than counsel for creeds, that it
should be taken to heart. The seeker after theological truth and that
only, will no more suppose that I have insulted him, than the prisoner
who works in fetters will try to pick a quarrel with me, if I suggest
that he would get on better if the fetters were knocked off: unless
indeed, as it is said does happen in the course of long captivities,
that the victim at length ceases to feel the weight of his chains, or
even takes to hugging them, as if they were honourable ornaments.[100]


     [81] The substance of a paragraph which precedes this has
          been transferred to the Prologue.

     [82] I confess that, long ago, I once or twice made this
          mistake; even to the waste of a capital 'U.' 1893.

     [83] "Let us maintain, before we have proved. This seeming
          paradox is the secret of happiness" (Dr. Newman: Tract
          85, p. 85).

     [84] Dr. Newman, _Essay on Development_, p. 357.

     [85] It is by no means to be assumed that "spiritual" and
          "corporeal" are exact equivalents of "immaterial" and
          "material" in the minds of ancient speculators on
          these topics. The "spiritual body" of the risen dead
          (1 Cor. xv.) is not the "natural" "flesh and blood"
          body. Paul does not teach the resurrection of the body
          in the ordinary sense of the word "body"; a fact,
          often overlooked, but pregnant with many consequences.

     [86] Tertullian (_Apolog. Adv. Gentes_, cap. xxiii) thus
          challenges the Roman authorities: let them bring a
          possessed person into the presence of a Christian
          before their tribunal, and if the demon does not
          confess himself to be such, on the order of the
          Christian, let the Christian be executed out of hand.

     [87] See the expression of orthodox opinion upon the
          "accommodation" subterfuge already cited above, p. 217.

     [88] I quote the first edition (1843). A second edition
          appeared in 1870. Tract 85 of the _Tracts for the
          Times_ should be read with this _Essay_. If I were
          called upon to compile a Primer of "Infidelity," I
          think I should save myself trouble by making a
          selection from these works, and from the _Essay on
          Development_ by the same author.

     [89] Yet, when it suits his purpose, as in the Introduction
          to the _Essay on Development_, Dr. Newman can demand
          strict evidence in religious questions as sharply as
          any "infidel author;" and he can even profess to yield
          to its force (_Essay on Miracles_, 1870; note, p. 391).

     [90] Compare Tract 85, p. 110; "I am persuaded that were men
          but consistent who oppose the Church doctrines as being
          unscriptural, they would vindicate the Jews for
          rejecting the Gospel."

     [91] According to Dr. Newman, "This prayer [that of Bishop
          Alexander, who begged God to 'take Arius away'] is said
          to have been offered about 3 P.M. on the Saturday; that
          same evening Arius was in the great square of
          Constantine, when he was suddenly seized with
          indisposition" (p. clxx). The "infidel" Gibbon seems to
          have dared to suggest that "an option between poison
          and miracle" is presented by this case; and it must be
          admitted, that, if the Bishop had been within the reach
          of a modern police magistrate, things might have gone
          hardly with him. Modern "Infidels," possessed of a
          slight knowledge of chemistry, are not unlikely, with
          no less audacity, to suggest an "option between
          fire-damp and miracle" in seeking for the cause of the
          fiery outburst at Jerusalem.

     [92] A writer in a spiritualist journal takes me roundly
          to task for venturing to doubt the historical and
          literal truth of the Gadarene story. The following
          passage in his letter is worth quotation: "Now to the
          materialistic and scientific mind, to the uninitiated
          in spiritual verities, certainly this story of the
          Gadarene or Gergesene swine presents insurmountable
          difficulties; it seems grotesque and nonsensical. To
          the experienced, trained, and cultivated Spiritualist
          this miracle is, as I am prepared to show, one of the
          most instructive, the most profoundly useful, and the
          most beneficent which Jesus ever wrought in the whole
          course of His pilgrimage of redemption on earth." Just
          so. And the first page of this same journal presents
          the following advertisement, among others of the same

          "To WEALTHY SPIRITUALISTS--A Lady Medium of tried power
          wishes to meet with an elderly gentleman who would be
          willing to give her a comfortable home and maintenance
          in Exchange for her Spiritualistic services, as her
          guides consider her health is too delicate for public
          sittings: London preferred.--Address 'Mary,' Office of

          Are we going back to the days of the Judges, when
          wealthy Micah set up his private ephod, teraphim, and

     [93] Consider Tertullian's "sister" ("hodie apud nos"),
          who conversed with angels, saw and heard mysteries,
          knew men's thoughts, and prescribed medicine for their
          bodies (_De Anima_, cap. 9). Tertullian tells us that
          this woman saw the soul as corporeal, and described its
          colour and shape. The "infidel" will probably be unable
          to refrain from insulting the memory of the ecstatic
          saint by the remark, that Tertullian's known views
          about the corporeality of the soul may have had
          something to do with the remarkable perceptive powers
          of the Montanist medium, in whose revelations of the
          spiritual world he took such profound interest.

     [94] See the New York _World_ for Sunday, 21st October,
          1888; and the _Report of the Seybert Commission_,
          Philadelphia, 1887.

     [95] Dr. Newman's observation that the miraculous
          multiplication of the pieces of the true cross (with
          which "the whole world is filled," according to Cyril
          of Jerusalem; and of which some say there are enough
          extant to build a man-of-war) is no more wonderful
          than that of the loaves and fishes, is one that I do
          not see my way to contradict. See _Essay on Miracles_.
          2d ed. p. 163.

     [96] _An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine_,
          by J.H. Newman, D.D., pp. 7 and 8. (1878.)

     [97] Dr. Newman faces this question with his customary
          ability. "Now, I own, I am not at all solicitous to
          deny that this doctrine of an apostate Angel and his
          hosts was gained from Babylon: it might still be
          Divine nevertheless. God who made the prophet's ass
          speak, and thereby instructed the prophet, might
          instruct His Church by means of heathen Babylon"
          (Tract 85, p. 83). There seems to be no end to the
          apologetic burden that Balaam's ass may carry.

     [98] _Nineteenth Century_, May 1889 (p. 701).

     [99] I trust it may not be supposed that I undervalue M.
          Renan's labours, or intended to speak slightingly of

    [100] To-day's _Times_ contains a report of a remarkable
          speech by Prince Bismarck, in which he tells the
          Reichstag that he has long given up investing in
          foreign stock, lest so doing should mislead his
          judgment in his transactions with foreign states. Does
          this declaration prove that the Chancellor accuses
          himself of being "sordid" and "selfish"; or does it not
          rather show that, even in dealing with himself, he
          remains the man of realities?



I had fondly hoped that Mr. Gladstone and I had come to an end of
disputation, and that the hatchet of war was finally superseded by the
calumet, which, as Mr. Gladstone, I believe, objects to tobacco, I was
quite willing to smoke for both. But I have had, once again, to
discover that the adage that whoso seeks peace will ensue it, is a
somewhat hasty generalisation. The renowned warrior with whom it is my
misfortune to be opposed in most things has dug up the axe and is on
the war-path once more. The weapon has been wielded with all the
dexterity which long practice has conferred on a past master in craft,
whether of wood or state. And I have reason to believe that the
simpler sort of the great tribe which he heads, imagine that my scalp
is already on its way to adorn their big chief's wigwam. I am glad
therefore to be able to relieve any anxieties which my friends may
entertain without delay. I assure them that my skull retains its
normal covering, and that though, naturally, I may have felt alarmed,
nothing serious has happened. My doughty adversary has merely
performed a war dance, and his blows have for the most part cut the
air. I regret to add, however, that by misadventure, and I am afraid I
must say carelessness, he has inflicted one or two severe contusions
on himself.

When the noise of approaching battle roused me from the dreams of
peace which occupy my retirement, I was glad to observe (since I must
fight) that the campaign was to be opened upon a new field. When the
contest raged over the Pentateuchal myth of the creation, Mr.
Gladstone's manifest want of acquaintance with the facts and
principles involved in the discussion, no less than with the best
literature on his own side of the subject, gave me the uncomfortable
feeling that I had my adversary at a disadvantage. The sun of science,
at my back, was in his eyes. But, on the present occasion, we are
happily on an equality. History and Biblical criticism are as much, or
as little, my vocation as they are that of Mr. Gladstone; the blinding
from too much light, or the blindness from too little, may be presumed
to be equally shared by both of us.

Mr. Gladstone takes up his new position in the country of the
Gadarenes. His strategic sense justly leads him to see that the
authority of the teachings of the synoptic Gospels, touching the
nature of the spiritual world, turns upon the acceptance, or the
rejection, of the Gadarene and other like stories. As we accept, or
repudiate, such histories as that of the possessed pigs, so shall we
accept, or reject, the witness of the synoptics to such miraculous

It is exactly because these stories constitute the key-stone of the
orthodox arch, that I originally drew attention to them; and, in spite
of my longing for peace, I am truly obliged to Mr. Gladstone for
compelling me to place my case before the public once more. It may be
thought that this is a work of supererogation by those who are aware
that my essay is the subject of attack in a work so largely circulated
as the "Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture"; and who may possibly, in
their simplicity, assume that it must be truthfully set forth in that
work. But the warmest admirers of Mr. Gladstone will hardly be
prepared to maintain that mathematical accuracy in stating the
opinions of an opponent is the most prominent feature of his
controversial method. And what follows will show that, in the present
case, the desire to be fair and accurate, the existence of which I am
bound to assume, has not borne as much fruit as might have been

In referring to the statement of the narrators, that the herd of
swine perished in consequence of the entrance into them of the demons
by the permission, or order, of Jesus of Nazareth, I said:

"Everything that I know of law and justice convinces me that the
wanton destruction of other people's property is a misdemeanour of
evil example" ("Nineteenth Century," February, 1889, p. 172).

Mr. Gladstone has not found it convenient to cite this passage; and,
in view of various considerations, I dare not assume that he would
assent to it, without sundry subtle modifications which, for me, might
possibly rob it of its argumentative value. But, until the proposition
is seriously controverted, I shall assume it to be true, and content
myself with warning the reader that neither he nor I have any grounds
for assuming Mr. Gladstone's concurrence. With this caution, I proceed
to remark that I think it may be granted that the people whose herd of
2000 swine (more or fewer) was suddenly destroyed suffered great loss
and damage. And it is quite certain that the narrators of the Gadarene
story do not, in any way, refer to the point of morality and legality
thus raised; as I said, they show no inkling of the moral and legal
difficulties which arise.

Such being the facts of the case, I submit that for those who admit
the principle laid down, the conclusion which I have drawn necessarily
follows; though I repeat that, since Mr. Gladstone does not
explicitly admit the principle, I am far from suggesting that he is
bound by its logical consequences. However, I distinctly reiterate the
opinion that any one who acted in the way described in the story
would, in my judgment, be guilty of "a misdemeanour of evil example."
About that point I desire to leave no ambiguity whatever; and it
follows that, if I believed the story, I should have no hesitation in
applying this judgment to the chief actor in it.

But, if any one will do me the favour to turn to the paper in which
these passages occur, he will find that a considerable part of it is
devoted to the exposure of the familiar trick of the "counsel for
creeds," who, when they wish to profit by the easily stirred _odium
theologicum_, are careful to confuse disbelief in a narrative of a
man's act, or disapproval of the acts as narrated, with disbelieving
and vilipending the man himself. If I say that "according to
paragraphs in several newspapers, my valued Separatist friend A.B. has
houghed a lot of cattle, which he considered to be unlawfully in the
possession of an Irish land-grabber; that, in my opinion, any such act
is a misdemeanour of evil example; but, that I utterly disbelieve the
whole story and have no doubt that it is a mere fabrication:" it
really appears to me that, if any one charges me with calling A.B. an
immoral misdemeanant I should be justified in using very strong
language respecting either his sanity or his veracity. And, if an
analogous charge has been brought in reference to the Gadarene story,
there is certainly no excuse producible, on account of any lack of
plain speech on my part. Surely no language can be more explicit than
that which follows:

"I can discern no escape from this dilemma; either Jesus said what he
is reported to have said, or he did not. In the former case, it is
inevitable that his authority on matters connected with the 'unseen
world' should be roughly shaken; in the latter, the blow falls upon
the authority of the synoptic Gospels" (p. 173). "The choice then lies
between discrediting those who compiled the Gospel biographies and
disbelieving the Master, whom they, simple souls, thought to honour by
preserving such traditions of the exercise of his authority over
Satan's invisible world" (p. 174). And I leave no shadow of doubt as
to my own choice: "After what has been said, I do not think that any
sensible man, unless he happen to be angry, will accuse me of
'contradicting the Lord and his Apostles' if I reiterate my total
disbelief in the whole Gadarene story" (p. 178).

I am afraid, therefore, that Mr. Gladstone must have been exceedingly
angry when he committed himself to such a statement as follows:

     So, then, after eighteen centuries of worship offered to our
     Lord by the most cultivated, the most developed, and the
     most progressive portion of the human race, it has been
     reserved to a scientific inquirer to discover that He was no
     better than a law-breaker and an evil-doer.... How, in such
     a matter, came the honours of originality to be reserved to
     our time and to Professor Huxley? (Pp. 269, 270.)

Truly, the hatchet is hardly a weapon of precision, but would seem to
have rather more the character of the boomerang, which returns to
damage the reckless thrower. Doubtless such incidents are somewhat
ludicrous. But they have a very serious side; and, if I rated the
opinion of those who blindly follow Mr. Gladstone's leading, but not
light, in these matters, much higher than the great Duke of
Wellington's famous standard of minimum value, I think I might fairly
beg them to reflect upon the general bearings of this particular
example of his controversial method. I imagine it can hardly commend
itself to their cool judgment.

After this tragi-comical ending to what an old historian calls a
"robustious and rough coming on"; and after some praises of the
provisions of the Mosaic law in the matter of not eating pork--in
which, as pork disagrees with me and for some other reasons, I am much
disposed to concur, though I do not see what they have to do with the
matter in hand--comes the serious onslaught.

     Mr. Huxley, exercising his rapid judgment on the text, does
     not appear to have encumbered himself with the labour of
     inquiring what anybody else had known or said about it. He
     has thus missed a point which might have been set up in
     support of his accusation against our Lord. (P. 273.)

Unhappily for my conduct, I have been much exercised in controversy
during the past thirty years; and the only compensation for the loss
of time and the trials of temper which it has inflicted upon me, is
that I have come to regard it as a branch of the fine arts, and to
take an impartial and æsthetic interest in the way in which it is
conducted, even by those whose efforts are directed against myself.
Now, from the purely artistic point of view (which, as we are all
being told, has nothing to do with morals), I consider it an axiom,
that one should never appear to doubt that the other side has
performed the elementary duty of acquiring proper elementary
information, unless there is demonstrative evidence to the contrary.
And I think, though I admit that this may be a purely subjective
appreciation, that (unless you are quite certain) there is a "want of
finish," as a great master of disputation once put it, about the
suggestion that your opponent has missed a point on his own side.
Because it may happen that he has not missed it at all, but only
thought it unworthy of serious notice. And if he proves that, the
suggestion looks foolish.

Merely noting the careful repetition of a charge, the absurdity of
which has been sufficiently exposed above, I now ask my readers to
accompany me on a little voyage of discovery in search of the side on
which the rapid judgment and the ignorance of the literature of the
subject lie. I think I may promise them very little trouble, and a
good deal of entertainment.

Mr. Gladstone is of opinion that the Gadarene swinefolk were "Hebrews
bound by the Mosaic law" (p. 274); and he conceives that it has not
occurred to me to learn what may be said in favour of and against this
view. He tells us that

     Some commentators have alleged the authority of Josephus for
     stating that Gadara was a city of Greeks rather than of
     Jews, from whence it might be inferred that to keep swine
     was innocent and lawful. (P. 273.)

Mr. Gladstone then goes on to inform his readers that in his
painstaking search after truth he has submitted to the labour of
personally examining the writings of Josephus. Moreover, in a note, he
positively exhibits an acquaintance, in addition, with the works of
Bishop Wordsworth and of Archbishop Trench; and even shows that he has
read Hudson's commentary on Josephus. And yet people say that our
Biblical critics do not equal the Germans in research! But Mr.
Gladstone's citation of Cuvier and Sir John Herschel about the
Creation myth, and his ignorance of all the best modern writings on
his own side, produced a great impression on my mind. I have had the
audacity to suspect that his acquaintance with what has been done in
Biblical history might stand at no higher level than his information
about the natural sciences. However unwillingly, I have felt bound to
consider the possibility that Mr. Gladstone's labours in this matter
may have carried him no further than Josephus and the worthy, but
somewhat antique, episcopal and other authorities to whom he refers;
that even his reading of Josephus may have been of the most cursory
nature, directed not to the understanding of his author, but to the
discovery of useful controversial matter; and that, in view of the not
inconsiderable misrepresentation of my statements to which I have
drawn attention, it might be that Mr. Gladstone's exposition of the
evidence of Josephus was not more trustworthy. I proceed to show that
my previsions have been fully justified. I doubt if controversial
literature contains anything more _piquant_ than the story I have to

That I should be reproved for rapidity of judgment is very just;
however quaint the situation of Mr. Gladstone, as the reprover, may
seem to people blessed with a sense of humour. But it is a quality,
the defects of which have been painfully obvious to me all my life;
and I try to keep my Pegasus--at best, a poor Shetland variety of that
species of quadruped--at a respectable jog-trot, by loading him
heavily with bales of reading. Those who took the trouble to study my
paper in good faith and not for mere controversial purposes, have a
right to know, that something more than a hasty glimpse of two or
three passages of Josephus (even with as many episcopal works thrown
in) lay at the back of the few paragraphs I devoted to the Gadarene
story. I proceed to set forth, as briefly as I can, some results of
that preparatory work. My artistic principles do not permit me, at
present, to express a doubt that Mr. Gladstone was acquainted with the
facts I am about to mention when he undertook to write. But, if he did
know them, then both what he has said and what he has not said, his
assertions and his omissions alike, will require a paragraph to

The common consent of the synoptic Gospels affirms that the miraculous
transference of devils from a man, or men, to sundry pigs, took place
somewhere on the eastern shore of the Lake of Tiberias; "on the other
side of the sea over against Galilee," the western shore being,
without doubt, included in the latter province. But there is no such
concord when we come to the name of the part of the eastern shore, on
which, according to the story, Jesus and his disciples landed. In the
revised version, Matthew calls it the "country of the Gadarenes:" Luke
and Mark have "Gerasenes." In sundry very ancient manuscripts
"Gergesenes" occurs.

The existence of any place called Gergesa, however, is declared by the
weightiest authorities whom I have consulted to be very questionable;
and no such town is mentioned in the list of the cities of the
Decapolis, in the territory of which (as it would seem from Mark v.
20) the transaction was supposed to take place. About Gerasa, on the
other hand, there hangs no such doubt. It was a large and important
member of the group of the Decapolitan cities. But Gerasa is more than
thirty miles distant from the nearest part of the Lake of Tiberias,
while the city mentioned in the narrative could not have been very far
off the scene of the event. However, as Gerasa was a very important
Hellenic city, not much more than a score of miles from Gadara, it is
easily imaginable that a locality which was part of Decapolitan
territory may have been spoken of as belonging to one of the two
cities, when it really appertained to the other. After weighing all
the arguments, no doubt remains on my mind that "Gadarene" is the
proper reading. At the period under consideration, Gadara appears to
have been a good-sized fortified town, about two miles in
circumference. It was a place of considerable strategic importance,
inasmuch as it lay on a high ridge at the point of intersection of the
roads from Tiberias, Scythopolis, Damascus, and Gerasa. Three miles
north from it, where the Tiberias road descended into the valley of
the Hieromices, lay the famous hot springs and the fashionable baths
of Amatha. On the north-east side, the remains of the extensive
necropolis of Gadara are still to be seen. Innumerable sepulchral
chambers are excavated in the limestone cliffs, and many of them still
contain sarcophaguses of basalt; while not a few are converted into
dwellings by the inhabitants of the present village of Um Keis. The
distance of Gadara from the south-eastern shore of the Lake of
Tiberias is less than seven miles. The nearest of the other cities of
the Decapolis, to the north, is Hippos, which also lay some seven
miles off, in the south-eastern corner of the shore of the lake. In
accordance with the ancient Hellenic practice, that each city should
be surrounded by a certain amount of territory amenable to its
jurisdiction,[101] and on other grounds, it may be taken for certain
that the intermediate country was divided between Gadara and Hippos;
and that the citizens of Gadara had free access to a port on the lake.
Hence the title of "country of the Gadarenes" applied to the locality
of the porcine catastrophe becomes easily intelligible. The swine may
well be imagined to have been feeding (as they do now in the adjacent
region) on the hillsides, which slope somewhat steeply down to the
lake from the northern boundary wall of the valley of the Hieromices
(_Nahr Yarmuk_), about half-way between the city and the shore, and
doubtless lay well within the territory of the _polis_ of Gadara.

The proof that Gadara was, to all intents and purposes, a Gentile, and
not a Jewish, city is complete. The date and the occasion of its
foundation are unknown; but it certainly existed in the third century
B.C. Antiochus the Great annexed it to his dominions in B.C. 198.
After this, during the brief revival of Jewish autonomy, Alexander
Jannæus took it; and for the first time, so far as the records go, it
fell under Jewish rule.[102] From this it was rescued by Pompey (B.C.
63), who rebuilt the city and incorporated it with the province of
Syria. In gratitude to the Romans for the dissolution of a hated
union, the Gadarenes adopted the Pompeian era of their coinage. Gadara
was a commercial centre of some importance, and therefore, it may be
assumed, Jews settled in it, as they settled in almost all
considerable Gentile cities. But a wholly mistaken estimate of the
magnitude of the Jewish colony has been based upon the notion that
Gabinius, proconsul of Syria in 57-55 B.C., seated one of the five
sanhedrins in Gadara. Schürer has pointed out that what he really did
was to lodge one of them in Gadara, far away on the other side of the
Jordan. This is one of the many errors which have arisen out of the
confusion of the names Ga_d_ara, Ga_z_ara, and Ga_b_ara.

Augustus made a present of Gadara to Herod the Great, as an appanage
personal to himself; and, upon Herod's death, recognising it to be a
"Grecian city" like Hippos and Gaza,[103] he transferred it back to
its former place in the province of Syria. That Herod made no effort
to judaise his temporary possession, but rather the contrary, is
obvious from the fact that the coins of Gadara, while under his rule,
bear the image of Augustus with the superscription [Greek: Sebastos]--a
flying in the face of Jewish prejudices which, even he, did not dare
to venture upon in Judæa. And I may remark that, if my co-trustee of
the British Museum had taken the trouble to visit the splendid
numismatic collection under our charge, he might have seen two coins
of Gadara, one of the time of Tiberius and the other of that of Titus,
each bearing the effigies of the emperor on the obverse: while the
personified genius of the city is on the reverse of the former.
Further, the well-known works of De Saulcy and of Ekhel would have
supplied the information that, from the time of Augustus to that of
Gordian, the Gadarene coinage had the same thoroughly Gentile
character. Curious that a city of "Hebrews bound by the Mosaic law"
should tolerate such a mint!

Whatever increase in population the Ghetto of Gadara may have
undergone, between B.C. 4 and A.D. 66, it nowise affected the gentile
and anti-judaic character of the city at the outbreak of the great
war; for Josephus tells us that, immediately after the great massacre
of Cæsarea, the revolted Jews "laid waste the villages of the Syrians
and their neighbouring cities, Philadelphia and Sebonitis and Gerasa
and Pella and Scythopolis, and after them Gadara and Hippos" ("Wars,"
II. xviii. 1). I submit that, if Gadara had been a city of "Hebrews
bound by the Mosaic law," the ravaging of their territory by their
brother Jews, in revenge for the massacre of the Cæsarean Jews by the
Gentile population of that place, would surely have been a somewhat
unaccountable proceeding. But when we proceed a little further, to the
fifth section of the chapter in which this statement occurs, the whole
affair becomes intelligible enough.

     Besides this murder at Scythopolis, the other cities rose up
     against the Jews that were among them: those of Askelon slew
     two thousand five hundred, and those of Ptolemais two
     thousand, and put not a few into bonds; those of Tyre also
     put a great number to death, but kept a great number in
     prison; moreover, those of Hippos and those of Gadara did
     the like, while they put to death the boldest of the Jews,
     but kept those of whom they were most afraid in custody; as
     did the rest of the cities of Syria according as they every
     one either hated them or were afraid of them.

Josephus is not always trustworthy, but he has no conceivable motive
for altering facts here; he speaks of contemporary events, in which he
himself took an active part, and he characterises the cities in the
way familiar to him. For Josephus, Gadara is just as much a Gentile
city as Ptolemais; it was reserved for his latest commentator, either
ignoring, or ignorant of, all this, to tell us that Gadara had a
Hebrew population, bound by the Mosaic law.

In the face of all this evidence, most of which has been put before
serious students, with full reference to the needful authorities and
in a thoroughly judicial manner, by Schürer in his classical
work,[104] one reads with stupefaction the statement which Mr.
Gladstone has thought fit to put before the uninstructed public:

     Some commentators have alleged the authority of Josephus for
     stating that Gadara was a city of Greeks rather than of
     Jews, from whence it might be inferred that to keep swine
     was innocent and lawful. This is not quite the place for a
     critical examination of the matter; but I have examined it,
     and have satisfied myself that Josephus gives no reason
     whatever to suppose that the population of Gadara, and still
     less (if less may be) the population of the neighbourhood,
     and least of all the swine-herding or lower portion of that
     population, were other than Hebrews bound by the Mosaic law.
     (Pp. 373-4.)

Even "rapid judgment" cannot be pleaded in excuse for this surprising
statement, because a "Note on the Gadarene miracle" is added (in a
special appendix), in which the references are given to the passages
of Josephus, by the improved interpretation of which, Mr. Gladstone
has thus contrived to satisfy himself of the thing which is not. One
of these is "Antiquities" XVII. xiii. 4, in which section, I regret to
say, I can find no mention of Gadara. In "Antiquities," XVII. xi. 4,
however, there is a passage which would appear to be that Mr.
Gladstone means; and I will give it in full, although I have already
cited part of it:

     There were also certain of the cities which paid tribute to
     Archelaus; Strato's tower, and Sebaste, with Joppa and
     Jerusalem; for, as to Gaza, Gadara, and Hippos, they were
     Grecian cities, which Cæsar separated from his government,
     and added them to the province of Syria.

That is to say, Augustus simply restored the state of things which
existed before he gave Gadara, then certainly a Gentile city, lying
outside Judæa, to Herod as a mark of great personal favour. Yet Mr.
Gladstone can gravely tell those who are not in a position to check
his statements:

     The sense seems to be, not that these cities were inhabited
     by a Greek population, but that they had politically been
     taken out of Judæa and added to Syria, which I presume was
     classified as simply Hellenic, a portion of the great Greek
     empire erected by Alexander. (Pp. 295-6.)

Mr. Gladstone's next reference is to the "Wars," III. vii. 1:

     So Vespasian marched to the city Gadara, and took it upon
     the first onset, because he found it destitute of a
     considerable number of men grown up for war. He then came
     into it, and slew all the youth, the Romans having no mercy
     on any age whatsoever; and this was done out of the hatred
     they bore the nation, and because of the iniquity they had
     been guilty of in the affair of Cestius.

Obviously, then, Gadara was an ultra-Jewish city. Q.E.D. But a student
trained in the use of weapons of precision, rather than in that of
rhetorical tomahawks, has had many and painful warnings to look well
about him, before trusting an argument to the mercies of a passage,
the context of which he has not carefully considered. If Mr. Gladstone
had not been too much in a hurry to turn his imaginary prize to
account--if he had paused just to look at the preceding chapter of
Josephus--he would have discovered that his much haste meant very
little speed. He would have found ("Wars," III. vi. 2) that Vespasian
marched from his base, the port of Ptolemais (Acre), on the shores of
the Mediterranean, into Galilee; and, having dealt with the so-called
"Gadara," was minded to finish with Jotapata, a strong place about
fourteen miles south-east of Ptolemais, into which Josephus, who at
first had fled to Tiberias, eventually threw himself--Vespasian
arriving before Jotapata "the very next day." Now, if any one will
take a decent map of Ancient Palestine in hand, he will see that
Jotapata, as I have said, lies about fourteen miles in a straight line
east-south-east of Ptolemais, while a certain town, "Gabara" (which
was also held by the Jews), is situated, about the same distance, to
the east of that port. Nothing can be more obvious than that
Vespasian, wishing to advance from Ptolemais into Galilee, could not
afford to leave these strongholds in the possession of the enemy; and,
as Gabara would lie on his left flank when he moved to Jotapata, he
took that city, whence his communications with his base could easily
be threatened, first. It might really have been fair evidence of
demoniac possession, if the best general of Rome had marched forty odd
miles, as the crow flies, through hostile Galilee, to take a city
(which, moreover, had just tried to abolish its Jewish population) on
the other side of the Jordan; and then marched back again to a place
fourteen miles off his starting-point.[105] One would think that the
most careless of readers must be startled by this incongruity into
inquiring whether there might not be something wrong with the text;
and, if he had done so, he would have easily discovered that since the
time of Reland, a century and a half ago, careful scholars have read
Ga_b_ara for Ga_d_ara.[106]

Once more, I venture to point out that training in the use of the
weapons of precision of science may have its value in historical
studies, if only in preventing the occurrence of droll blunders in

In the third citation ("Wars," IV. vii.) Josephus tells us that
Vespasian marched against "Gadara," which he calls the metropolis of
Peræa (it was possibly the seat of a common festival of the
Decapolitan cities), and entered it, without opposition, the wealthy
and powerful citizens having opened negotiations with him without the
knowledge of an opposite party, who, "as being inferior in number to
their enemies, who were within the city, and seeing the Romans very
near the city," resolved to fly. Before doing so, however, they, after
a fashion unfortunately too common among the Zealots, murdered and
shockingly mutilated Dolesus, a man of the first rank, who had
promoted the embassy to Vespasian; and then "ran out of the city."
Hereupon, "the people of Gadara" (surely not this time "Hebrews bound
by the Mosaic law") received Vespasian with joyful acclamations,
voluntarily pulled down their wall, so that the city could not in
future be used as a fortress by the Jews, and accepted a Roman
garrison for their future protection. Granting that this Gadara really
is the city of the Gadarenes, the reference, without citation, to the
passage, in support of Mr. Gladstone's contention seems rather
remarkable. Taken in conjunction with the shortly antecedent ravaging
of the Gadarene territory by the Jews, in fact, better proof could
hardly be expected of the real state of the case; namely, that the
population of Gadara (and notably the wealthy and respectable part of
it) was thoroughly Hellenic; though, as in Cæsarea and elsewhere among
the Palestinian cities, the rabble contained a considerable body of
fanatical Jews, whose reckless ferocity made them, even though a mere
minority of the population, a standing danger to the city.

Thus Mr. Gladstone's conclusion from his study of Josephus, that the
population of Gadara were "Hebrews bound by the Mosaic law," turns out
to depend upon nothing better than the marvellously complete
misinterpretation of what that author says, combined with equally
marvellous geographical misunderstandings, long since exposed and
rectified; while the positive evidence that Gadara, like other cities
of the Decapolis, was thoroughly Hellenic in organisation, and
essentially Gentile in population, is overwhelming.

And, that being the fact of the matter, patent to all who will take
the trouble to enquire about what has been said about it, however
obscure to those who merely talk of so doing, the thesis that the
Gadarene swineherds, or owners, were Jews violating the Mosaic law
shows itself to be an empty and most unfortunate guess. But really,
whether they that kept the swine were Jews, or whether they were
Gentiles, is a consideration which has no relevance whatever to my
case. The legal provisions, which alone had authority over an
inhabitant of the country of the Gadarenes, were the Gentile laws
sanctioned by the Roman suzerain of the province of Syria, just as the
only law, which has authority in England, is that recognised by the
sovereign Legislature. Jewish communities in England may have their
private code, as they doubtless had in Gadara. But an English
magistrate, if called upon to enforce their peculiar laws, would
dismiss the complainants from the judgment seat, let us hope with more
politeness than Gallio did in a like case, but quite as firmly.
Moreover, in the matter of keeping pigs, we may be quite certain that
Gadarene law left everybody free to do as he pleased, indeed
encouraged the practice rather than otherwise. Not only was pork one
of the commonest and one of the most favourite articles of Roman diet;
but, to both Greeks and Romans, the pig was a sacrificial animal of
high importance. Sucking pigs played an important part in Hellenic
purificatory rites; and everybody knows the significance of the Roman
suovetaurilia, depicted on so many bas-reliefs.

Under these circumstances, only the extreme need of a despairing
"reconciler" drowning in a sea of adverse facts, can explain the
catching at such a poor straw as the reckless guess that the
swineherds of the "country of the Gadarenes" were erring Jews, doing a
little clandestine business on their own account. The endeavour to
justify the asserted destruction of the swine by the analogy of
breaking open a cask of smuggled spirits, and wasting their contents
on the ground, is curiously unfortunate. Does Mr. Gladstone mean to
suggest that a Frenchman landing at Dover, and coming upon a cask of
smuggled brandy in the course of a stroll along the cliffs, has the
right to break it open and waste its contents on the ground? Yet the
party of Galileans who, according to the narrative, landed and took a
walk on the Gadarene territory, were as much foreigners in the
Decapolis as Frenchmen would be at Dover. Herod Antipas, their
sovereign, had no jurisdiction in the Decapolis--they were strangers
and aliens, with no more right to interfere with a pig-keeping Hebrew,
than I have a right to interfere with an English professor of the
Israelitic faith, if I see a slice of ham on his plate. According to
the law of the country in which these Galilean foreigners found
themselves, men might keep pigs if they pleased. If the men who kept
them were Jews, it might be permissible for the strangers to inform
the religious authority acknowledged by the Jews of Gadara; but to
interfere themselves, in such a matter, was a step devoid of either
moral or legal justification.

Suppose a modern English Sabbatarian fanatic, who believes, on the
strength of his interpretation of the fourth commandment, that it is a
deadly sin to work on the "Lord's Day," sees a fellow Puritan yielding
to the temptation of getting in his harvest on a fine Sunday
morning--is the former justified in setting fire to the latter's corn?
Would not an English court of justice speedily teach him better?

In truth, the government which permits private persons, on any pretext
(especially pious and patriotic pretexts), to take the law into their
own hands, fails in the performance of the primary duties of all
governments; while those who set the example of such acts, or who
approve them, or who fail to disapprove them, are doing their best to
dissolve civil society; they are compassers of illegality and fautors
of immorality.

I fully understand that Mr. Gladstone may not see the matter in this
light. He may possibly consider that the union of Gadara with the
Decapolis, by Augustus, was a "blackguard" transaction, which deprived
Hellenic Gadarene law of all moral force; and that it was quite proper
for a Jewish Galilean, going back to the time when the land of the
Girgashites was given to his ancestors, some 1500 years before, to
act, as if the state of things which ought to obtain, in territory
which traditionally, at any rate, belonged to his forefathers, did
really exist. And, that being so, I can only say I do not agree with
him, but leave the matter to the appreciation of those of our
countrymen, happily not yet the minority, who believe that the first
condition of enduring liberty is obedience to the law of the land.

       *       *       *       *       *

The end of the month drawing nigh, I thought it well to send away the
manuscript of the foregoing pages yesterday, leaving open, in my own
mind, the possibility of adding a succinct characterisation of Mr.
Gladstone's controversial methods as illustrated therein. This
morning, however, I had the pleasure of reading a speech which I think
must satisfy the requirements of the most fastidious of controversial
artists; and there occurs in it so concise, yet so complete, a
delineation of Mr. Gladstone's way of dealing with disputed questions
of another kind, that no poor effort of mine could better it as a
description of the aspect which his treatment of scientific,
historical, and critical questions presents to me.

     The smallest examination would have told a man of his
     capacity and of his experience that he was uttering the
     grossest exaggerations, that he was basing arguments upon
     the slightest hypotheses, and that his discussions only had
     to be critically examined by the most careless critic in
     order to show their intrinsic hollowness.

Those who have followed me through this paper will hardly dispute the
justice of this judgment, severe as it is. But the Chief Secretary
for Ireland has science in the blood; and has the advantage of a
natural, as well as a highly cultivated, aptitude for the use of
methods of precision in investigation, and for the exact enunciation
of the results thereby obtained.


    [101] Thus Josephus (lib. ix.) says that his rival, Justus,
          persuaded the citizens of Tiberias to "set the villages
          that belonged to Gadara and Hippos on fire; which
          villages were situated on the borders of Tiberias and
          of the region of Scythopolis."

    [102] It is said to have been destroyed by its captors.

    [103] "But as to the Grecian cities, Gaza and Gadara and
          Hippos, he cut them off from the kingdom and added them
          to Syria."--Josephus, _Wars_, II. vi. 3. See also
          _Antiquities_, XVII. xi. 4.

    [104] _Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Christi_,

    [105] If William the Conqueror, after fighting the battle
          of Hastings, had marched to capture Chichester and then
          returned to assault Rye, being all the while anxious to
          reach London, his proceedings would not have been more
          eccentric than Mr. Gladstone must imagine those of
          Vespasian were.

    [106] See Reland, _Palestina_ (1714), t. ii. p. 771. Also
          Robinson, _Later Biblical Researches_ (1856), p. 87



The series of essays, in defence of the historical accuracy of the
Jewish and Christian Scriptures, contributed by Mr. Gladstone to "Good
Words," having been revised and enlarged by their author, appeared
last year as a separate volume, under the somewhat defiant title of
"The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture."

The last of these Essays, entitled "Conclusion," contains an attack,
or rather several attacks, couched in language which certainly does
not err upon the side of moderation or of courtesy, upon statements
and opinions of mine. One of these assaults is a deliberately devised
attempt, not merely to rouse the theological prejudices ingrained in
the majority of Mr. Gladstone's readers, but to hold me up as a person
who has endeavoured to besmirch the personal character of the object
of their veneration. For Mr. Gladstone asserts that I have undertaken
to try "the character of our Lord" (p. 268); and he tells the many who
are, as I think unfortunately, predisposed to place implicit credit in
his assertions, that it has been reserved for me to discover that
Jesus "was no better than a law-breaker and an evil-doer!" (p. 269).

It was extremely easy for me to prove, as I did in the pages of this
Review last December, that, under the most favourable interpretation,
this amazing declaration must be ascribed to extreme confusion of
thought. And, by bringing an abundance of good-will to the
consideration of the subject, I have now convinced myself that it is
right for me to admit that a person of Mr. Gladstone's intellectual
acuteness really did mistake the reprobation of the course of conduct
ascribed to Jesus, in a story of which I expressly say I do not
believe a word, for an attack on his character and a declaration that
he was "no better than a law-breaker, and an evil-doer." At any rate,
so far as I can see, this is what Mr. Gladstone wished to be believed
when he wrote the following passage:--

     I must, however, in passing, make the confession that I did
     not state with accuracy, as I ought to have done, the
     precise form of the accusation. I treated it as an
     imputation on the action of our Lord; he replies that it is
     only an imputation on the narrative of three evangelists
     respecting Him. The difference, from his point of view, is
     probably material, and I therefore regret that I overlooked

Considering the gravity of the error which is here admitted, the
fashion of the withdrawal appears more singular than admirable. From
my "point of view"--not from Mr. Gladstone's apparently--the little
discrepancy between the facts and Mr. Gladstone's carefully offensive
travesty of them is "probably" (only "probably") material. However, as
Mr. Gladstone concludes with an official expression of regret for his
error, it is my business to return an equally official expression of
gratitude for the attenuated reparation with which I am favoured.

Having cleared this specimen of Mr. Gladstone's controversial method
out of the way, I may proceed to the next assault, that on a passage
in an article on Agnosticism ("Nineteenth Century," February 1889),
published two years ago. I there said, in referring to the Gadarene
story, "Everything I know of law and justice convinces me that the
wanton destruction of other people's property is a misdemeanour of
evil example." On this, Mr. Gladstone, continuing his candid and
urbane observations, remarks ("Impregnable Rock," p. 273) that,
"Exercising his rapid judgment on the text," and "not inquiring what
anybody else had known or said about it," I had missed a point in
support of that "accusation against our Lord" which he has now been
constrained to admit I never made.

The "point" in question is that "Gadara was a city of Greeks rather
than of Jews, from whence it might be inferred that to keep swine was
innocent and lawful." I conceive that I have abundantly proved that
Gadara answered exactly to the description here given of it; and I
shall show, by and by, that Mr. Gladstone has used language which, to
my mind, involves the admission that the authorities of the city were
not Jews. But I have also taken a good deal of pains to show that the
question thus raised is of no importance in relation to the main
issue.[108] If Gadara was, as I maintain it was, a city of the
Decapolis, Hellenistic in constitution and containing a predominantly
Gentile population, my case is superabundantly fortified. On the other
hand, if the hypothesis that Gadara was under Jewish government, which
Mr. Gladstone seems sometimes to defend and sometimes to give up,
were accepted, my case would be nowise weakened. At any rate, Gadara
was not included within the jurisdiction of the tetrach of Galilee; if
it had been, the Galileans who crossed over the lake to Gadara had no
official status; and they had no more civil right to punish
law-breakers than any other strangers.

In my turn, however, I may remark that there is a "point" which
appears to have escaped Mr. Gladstone's notice. And that is somewhat
unfortunate, because his whole argument turns upon it. Mr. Gladstone
assumes, as a matter of course, that pig-keeping was an offence
against the "Law of Moses"; and, therefore, that Jews who kept pigs
were as much liable to legal pains and penalties as Englishmen who
smuggle brandy ("Impregnable Rock," p. 274).

There can be no doubt that, according to the Law, as it is defined in
the Pentateuch, the pig was an "unclean" animal, and that pork was a
forbidden article of diet. Moreover, since pigs are hardly likely to
be kept for the mere love of those unsavoury animals, pig-owning, or
swine-herding, must have been, and evidently was, regarded as a
suspicious and degrading occupation by strict Jews, in the first
century A.D. But I should like to know on what provision of the Mosaic
Law, as it is laid down in the Pentateuch, Mr. Gladstone bases the
assumption, which is essential to his case, that the possession of
pigs and the calling of a swineherd were actually illegal. The
inquiry was put to me the other day; and, as I could not answer it, I
turned up the article "Schwein" in Riehm's standard "Handwörterbuch,"
for help out of my difficulty; but unfortunately without success.
After speaking of the martyrdom which the Jews, under Antiochus
Epiphanes, preferred to eating pork, the writer proceeds:--

     It may be, nevertheless, that the practice of keeping pigs
     may have found its way into Palestine in the Græco-Roman
     time, in consequence of the great increase of the non-Jewish
     population; yet there is no evidence of it in the New
     Testament; the great herd of swine, 2,000 in number,
     mentioned in the narrative of the possessed, was feeding in
     the territory of Gadara, which belonged to the Decapolis;
     and the prodigal son became a swineherd with the native of a
     far country into which he had wandered; in neither of these
     cases is there reason for thinking that the possessors of
     these herds were Jews.[109]

Having failed in my search, so far, I took up the next book of
reference at hand, Kitto's "Cyclopædia" (vol. iii. 1876). There, under
"Swine," the writer, Colonel Hamilton Smith, seemed at first to give
me what I wanted, as he says that swine "appear to have been
repeatedly introduced and reared by the Hebrew people,[110]
notwithstanding the strong prohibition in the Law of Moses (Is. lxv.
4)." But, in the first place, Isaiah's writings form no part of the
"Law of Moses"; and, in the second place, the people denounced by the
prophet in this passage are neither the possessors of pigs, nor
swineherds, but these "which eat swine's flesh and broth of abominable
things is in their vessels." And when, in despair, I turned to the
provisions of the Law itself, my difficulty was not cleared up.
Leviticus xi. 8 (Revised Version) says, in reference to the pig and
other unclean animals: "Of their flesh ye shall not eat, and their
carcasses ye shall not touch." In the revised version of Deuteronomy,
xiv. 8, the words of the prohibition are identical, and a skilful
refiner might possibly satisfy himself, even if he satisfied nobody
else, that "carcase" means the body of a live animal as well as a dead
one; and that, since swineherds could hardly avoid contact with their
charges, their calling was implicitly forbidden.[111] Unfortunately,
the authorised version expressly says "dead carcase"; and thus the
most rabbinically minded of reconcilers might find his casuistry
foiled by that great source of surprises, the "original Hebrew." That
such check is at any rate possible, is clear from the fact that the
legal uncleanness of some animals, as food, did not interfere with
their being lawfully possessed, cared for, and sold by Jews. The
provisions for the ransoming of unclean beasts (Lev. xxvii. 27) and
for the redemption of their sucklings (Numbers xviii. 15) sufficiently
prove this. As the late Dr. Kalisch has observed in his "Commentary"
on Leviticus, part ii. p. 129, note:--

     Though asses and horses, camels and dogs, were kept by the
     Israelites, they were, to a certain extent, associated with
     the notion of impurity; they might be turned to profitable
     account by their labour or otherwise, but in respect to food
     they were an abomination.

The same learned commentator (_loc. cit._ p. 88) proves that the
Talmudists forbade the rearing of pigs by Jews, unconditionally and
everywhere; and even included it under the same ban as the study of
Greek philosophy, "since both alike were considered to lead to the
desertion of the Jewish faith." It is very possible, indeed probable,
that the Pharisees of the fourth decade of our first century took as
strong a view of pig-keeping as did their spiritual descendants. But,
for all that, it does not follow that the practice was illegal. The
stricter Jews could not have despised and hated swineherds more than
they did publicans; but, so far as I know, there is no provision in
the Law against the practice of the calling of a tax-gatherer by a
Jew. The publican was in fact very much in the position of an Irish
process-server at the present day--more, rather than less, despised
and hated on account of the perfect legality of his occupation. Except
for certain sacrificial purposes, pigs were held in such abhorrence by
the ancient Egyptians, that swineherds were not permitted to enter a
temple, or to intermarry with other castes; and any one who had
touched a pig, even accidentally, was unclean. But these very
regulations prove that pig-keeping was not illegal; it merely involved
certain civil and religious disabilities. For the Jews, dogs were
typically "unclean animals"; but when that eminently pious Hebrew,
Tobit, "went forth" with the angel "the young man's dog" went "with
them" (Tobit v. 16) without apparent remonstrance from the celestial
guide. I really do not see how an appeal to the Law could have
justified any one in drowning Tobit's dog, on the ground that his
master was keeping and feeding an animal quite as "unclean" as any
pig. Certainly the excellent Raguel must have failed to see the harm
of dog-keeping, for we are told that, on the traveller's return
homewards, "the dog went after them" (xi. 4).

Until better light than I have been able to obtain is thrown upon the
subject, therefore, it is obvious that Mr. Gladstone's argumentative
house has been built upon an extremely slippery quick-sand; perhaps
even has no foundation at all.

Yet another "point" does not seem to have occurred to Mr. Gladstone,
who is so much shocked that I attach no overwhelming weight to the
assertions contained in the synoptic Gospels, even when all three
concur. These Gospels agree in stating, in the most express, and to
some extent verbally identical, terms, that the devils entered the
pigs at their own request,[112] and the third Gospel (viii. 31) tells
us what the motive of the demons was in asking the singular boon:
"They intreated him that he would not command them to depart into the
abyss." From this, it would seem that the devils thought to exchange
the heavy punishment of transportation to the abyss for the lighter
penalty of imprisonment in swine. And some commentators, more
ingenious than respectful to the supposed chief actor in this
extraordinary fable, have dwelt, with satisfaction, upon the very
unpleasant quarter of an hour which the evil spirits must have had,
when the headlong rush of their maddened tenements convinced them how
completely they were taken in. In the whole story, there is not one
solitary hint that the destruction of the pigs was intended as a
punishment of their owners, or of the swineherds. On the contrary, the
concurrent testimony of the three narratives is to the effect that
the catastrophe was the consequence of diabolic suggestion. And,
indeed, no source could be more appropriate for an act of such
manifest injustice and illegality.

I can but marvel that modern defenders of the faith should not be glad
of any reasonable excuse for getting rid of a story which, if it had
been invented by Voltaire, would have justly let loose floods of
orthodox indignation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus, the hypothesis, to which Mr. Gladstone so fondly clings, finds
no support in the provisions of the "Law of Moses" as that law is
defined in the Pentateuch; while it is wholly inconsistent with the
concurrent testimony of the synoptic Gospels, to which Mr. Gladstone
attaches so much weight. In my judgment, it is directly contrary to
everything which profane history tells us about the constitution and
the population of the city of Gadara; and it commits those who accept
it to a story which, if it were true, would implicate the founder of
Christianity in an illegal and inequitable act.

Such being the case, I consider myself excused from following Mr.
Gladstone through all the meanderings of his late attempt to extricate
himself from the maze of historical and exegetical difficulties in
which he is entangled. I content myself with assuring those who, with
my paper (not Mr. Gladstone's version of my arguments) in hand,
consult the original authorities, that they will find full
justification for every statement I have made. But in order to dispose
those who cannot, or will not, take that trouble, to believe that the
proverbial blindness of one that judges his own cause plays no part in
inducing me to speak thus decidedly, I beg their attention to the
following examination, which shall be as brief as I can make it, of
the seven propositions in which Mr. Gladstone professes to give a
faithful summary of my "errors."

When, in the middle of the seventeenth century, the Holy See declared
that certain propositions contained in the work of Bishop Jansen were
heretical, the Jansenists of Port Royal replied that, while they were
ready to defer to the Papal authority about questions of faith and
morals, they must be permitted to judge about questions of fact for
themselves; and that, really, the condemned propositions were not to
be found in Jansen's writings. As everybody knows, His Holiness and
the Grand Monarque replied to this, surely not unreasonable, plea
after the manner of Lord Peter in the "Tale of a Tub." It is,
therefore, not without some apprehension of meeting with a similar
fate, that I put in a like plea against Mr. Gladstone's Bull. The
seven propositions declared to be false and condemnable, in that
kindly and gentle way which so pleasantly compares with the
authoritative style of the Vatican (No. 5 more particularly), may or
may not be true. But they are not to be found in anything I have
written. And some of them diametrically contravene that which I have
written. I proceed to prove my assertions.

PROP. 1. _Throughout the paper he confounds together what I had
distinguished, namely, the city of Gadara and the vicinage attached to
it, not as a mere pomoerium, but as a rural district_.

In my judgment, this statement is devoid of foundation. In my paper on
"The Keepers of the Herd of Swine" I point out, at some length, that,
"in accordance with the ancient Hellenic practice," each city of the
Decapolis must have been "surrounded by a certain amount of territory
amenable to its jurisdiction": and, to enforce this conclusion, I
quote what Josephus says about the "villages that belonged to Gadara
and Hippos." As I understand the term _pomerium_ or _pomoerium_,[113]
it means the space which, according to Roman custom, was kept free
from buildings, immediately within and without the walls of a city;
and which defined the range of the _auspicia urbana_. The conception
of a _pomoerium_ as a "vicinage attached to" a city, appears to be
something quite novel and original. But then, to be sure, I do not
know how many senses Mr. Gladstone may attach to the word "vicinage."

Whether Gadara had a _pomoerium_, in the proper technical sense, or
not, is a point on which I offer no opinion. But that the city had a
very considerable "rural district" attached to it and notwithstanding
its distinctness, amenable to the jurisdiction of the Gentile
municipal authorities, is one of the main points of my case.

PROP. 2. _He more fatally confounds the local civil government and its
following, including, perhaps, the whole wealthy class and those
attached to it, with the ethnical character of a general population._

Having survived confusion No. 1, which turns out not to be on my side,
I am now confronted in No. 2 with a "more fatal" error--and so it is,
if there be degrees of fatality; but, again, it is Mr. Gladstone's and
not mine. It would appear, from this proposition (about the
grammatical interpretation of which, however, I admit there are
difficulties), that Mr. Gladstone holds that the "local civil
government and its following among the wealthy," were ethnically
different from the "general population." On p. 348, he further admits
that the "wealthy and the local governing power" were friendly to the
Romans. Are we then to suppose that it was the persons of Jewish
"ethnical character" who favoured the Romans, while those of Gentile
"ethnical character" were opposed to them? But, if that supposition is
absurd, the only alternative is that the local civil government was
ethnically Gentile. This is exactly my contention.

At pp. 379 to 391 of the essay on "The Keepers of the Herd of Swine" I
have fully discussed the question of the ethnical character of the
general population. I have shown that, according to Josephus, who
surely ought to have known, Gadara was as much a Gentile city as
Ptolemais; I have proved that he includes Gadara amongst the cities
"that rose up against the Jews that were amongst them," which is a
pretty definite expression of his belief that the "ethnical character
of the general population" was Gentile. There is no question here of
Jews of the Roman party fighting with Jews of the Zealot party, as Mr.
Gladstone suggests. It is the non-Jewish and anti-Jewish general
population which rises up against the Jews who had settled "among

PROP. 3. _His one item of direct evidence as to the Gentile character
of the city refers only to the former and not to the latter_.

More fatal still. But, once more, not to me. I adduce not one, but a
variety of "items" in proof of the non-Judaic character of the
population of Gadara: the evidence of history; that of the coinage of
the city; the direct testimony of Josephus, just cited--to mention no
others. I repeat, if the wealthy people and those connected with
them--the "classes" and the "hangers on" of Mr. Gladstone's
well-known taxonomy--were, as he appears to admit they were, Gentiles;
if the "civil government" of the city was in their hands, as the
coinage proves it was; what becomes of Mr. Gladstone's original
proposition in "The Impregnable Rock of Scripture" that "the
population of Gadara, and still less (if less may be) the population
of the neighbourhood," were "Hebrews bound by the Mosaic law"? And
what is the importance of estimating the precise proportion of Hebrews
who may have resided, either in the city of Gadara or in its
independent territory, when, as Mr. Gladstone now seems to admit (I am
careful to say "seems"), the government, and consequently the law,
which ruled in that territory and defined civil right and wrong was
Gentile and not Judaic? But perhaps Mr. Gladstone is prepared to
maintain that the Gentile "local civil government" of a city of the
Decapolis administered Jewish law; and showed their respect for it,
more particularly, by stamping their coinage with effigies of the

In point of fact, in his haste to attribute to me errors which I have
not committed, Mr. Gladstone has given away his case.

PROP. 4. _He fatally confounds the question of political party with
those of nationality and of religion, and assumes that those who took
the side of Rome in the factions that prevailed could not be subject
to the Mosaic Law_.

It would seem that I have a feline tenacity of life; once more, a
"fatal error." But Mr. Gladstone has forgotten an excellent rule of
controversy; say what is true, of course, but mind that it is decently
probable. Now it is not decently probable, hardly indeed conceivable,
that any one who has read Josephus, or any other historian of the
Jewish war, should be unaware that there were Jews (of whom Josephus
himself was one) who "Romanised" and, more or less openly, opposed the
war party. But, however that may be, I assert that Mr. Gladstone
neither has produced, nor can produce, a passage of my writing which
affords the slightest foundation for this particular article of his

PROP. 5. _His examination of the text of Josephus is alike one-sided,
inadequate, and erroneous._

Easy to say, hard to prove. So long as the authorities whom I have
cited are on my side, I do not know why this singularly temperate and
convincing dictum should trouble me. I have yet to become acquainted
with Mr. Gladstone's claims to speak with an authority equal to that
of scholars of the rank of Schürer, whose obviously just and necessary
emendations he so unceremoniously pooh-poohs.

PROP. 6. _Finally, he sets aside, on grounds not critical or
historical, but partly subjective, the primary historical testimony on
the subject, namely, that of the three Synoptic Evangelists, who
write as contemporaries and deal directly with the subject, neither of
which is done by any other authority_.

Really this is too much! The fact is, as anybody can see who will turn
to my article of February 1889 [VII. _supra_], out of which all this
discussion has arisen, that the arguments upon which I rest the
strength of my case touching the swine-miracle, are exactly
"historical" and "critical." Expressly, and in words that cannot be
misunderstood, I refuse to rest on what Mr. Gladstone calls
"subjective" evidence. I abstain from denying the possibility of the
Gadarene occurrence, and I even go so far as to speak of some physical
analogies to possession. In fact, my quondam opponent, Dr. Wace,
shrewdly, but quite fairly, made the most of these admissions; and
stated that I had removed the only "consideration which would have
been a serious obstacle" in the way of his belief in the Gadarene

So far from setting aside the authority of the synoptics on
"subjective" grounds, I have taken a great deal of trouble to show
that my non-belief in the story is based upon what appears to me to be
evident; firstly, that the accounts of the three synoptic Gospels are
not independent, but are founded upon a common source; secondly, that,
even if the story of the common tradition proceeded from a
contemporary, it would still be worthy of very little credit, seeing
the manner in which the legends about mediæval miracles have been
propounded by contemporaries. And in illustration of this position I
wrote a special essay about the miracles reported by Eginhard.[115]

In truth, one need go no further than Mr. Gladstone's sixth
proposition to be convinced that contemporary testimony, even of
well-known and distinguished persons, may be but a very frail reed for
the support of the historian, when theological prepossession blinds
the witness.[116]

PROP. 7. _And he treats the entire question, in the narrowed form in
which it arises upon secular testimony, as if it were capable of a
solution so clear and summary as to warrant the use of the extremest
weapons of controversy against those who presume to differ from him._

The six heretical propositions which have gone before are enunciated
with sufficient clearness to enable me to prove, without any
difficulty, that, whosesoever they are, they are not mine. But number
seven, I confess, is too hard for me. I cannot undertake to contradict
that which I do not understand.

What is the "entire question" which "arises" in a "narrowed form" upon
"secular testimony"? After much guessing, I am fain to give up the
conundrum. The "question" may be the ownership of the pigs; or the
ethnological character of the Gadarenes; or the propriety of meddling
with other people's property without legal warrant. And each of these
questions might be so "narrowed" when it arose on "secular testimony"
that I should not know where I was. So I am silent on this part of the

But I do dimly discern, in the latter moiety of this mysterious
paragraph, a reproof of that use of "the extremest weapons of
controversy" which is attributed to me. Upon which I have to observe
that I guide myself, in such matters, very much by the maxim of a
great statesman, "Do ut des." If Mr. Gladstone objects to the
employment of such weapons of defence, he would do well to abstain
from them in attack. He should not frame charges which he has,
afterwards, to admit are erroneous, in language of carefully
calculated offensiveness ("Impregnable Rock," pp. 269-70); he should
not assume that persons with whom he disagrees are so recklessly
unconscientious as to evade the trouble of inquiring what has been
said or known about a grave question ("Impregnable Rock," p. 273); he
should not qualify the results of careful thought as "hand-over-head
reasoning" ("Impregnable Rock," p. 274); he should not, as in the
extraordinary propositions which I have just analysed, make assertions
respecting his opponent's position and arguments which are
contradicted by the plainest facts.

Persons who, like myself, have spent their lives outside the political
world, yet take a mild and philosophical concern in what goes on in
it, often find it difficult to understand what our neighbours call the
psychological moment of this or that party leader, and are,
occasionally, loth to believe in the seeming conditions of certain
kinds of success. And when some chieftain, famous in political
warfare, adventures into the region of letters or of science, in full
confidence that the methods which have brought fame and honour in his
own province will answer there, he is apt to forget that he will be
judged by these people, on whom rhetorical artifices have long ceased
to take effect; and to whom mere dexterity in putting together
cleverly ambiguous phrases, and even the great art of offensive
misrepresentation, are unspeakably wearisome. And, if that weariness
finds its expression in sarcasm, the offender really has no right to
cry out. Assuredly ridicule is no test of truth, but it is the
righteous meed of some kinds of error. Nor ought the attempt to
confound the expression of a revolted sense of fair dealing with
arrogant impatience of contradiction, to restrain those to whom "the
extreme weapons of controversy" come handy from using them. The
function of police in the intellectual, if not in the civil, economy
may sometimes be legitimately discharged by volunteers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some time ago in one of the many criticisms with which I am favoured,
I met with the remark that, at our time of life, Mr. Gladstone and I
might be better occupied than in fighting over the Gadarene pigs. And,
if these too famous swine were the only parties to the suit, I, for my
part, should fully admit the justice of the rebuke. But, under the
beneficent rule of the Court of Chancery, in former times, it was not
uncommon, that a quarrel about a few perches of worthless land, ended
in the ruin of ancient families and the engulfing of great estates;
and I think that our admonisher failed to observe the analogy--to note
the momentous consequences of the judgment which may be awarded in the
present apparently insignificant action _in re_ the swineherds of

The immediate effect of such judgment will be the decision of the
question, whether the men of the nineteenth century are to adopt the
demonology of the men of the first century, as divinely revealed
truth, or to reject it, as degrading falsity. The reverend Principal
of King's College has delivered his judgment in perfectly clear and
candid terms. Two years since, Dr. Wace said that he believed the
story as it stands; and consequently he holds, as a part of divine
revelation, that the spiritual world comprises devils, who, under
certain circumstances, may enter men and be transferred from them to
four-footed beasts. For the distinguished Anglican Divine and Biblical
scholar, that is part and parcel of the teachings respecting the
spiritual world which we owe to the founder of Christianity. It is an
inseparable part of that Christian orthodoxy which, if a man rejects,
he is to be considered and called an "infidel." According to the
ordinary rules of interpretation of language, Mr. Gladstone must hold
the same view.

If antiquity and universality are valid tests of the truth of any
belief, no doubt this is one of the beliefs so certified. There are no
known savages, nor people sunk in the ignorance of partial
civilisation, who do not hold them. The great majority of Christians
have held them and still hold them. Moreover the oldest records we
possess of the early conceptions of mankind in Egypt and in
Mesopotamia prove that exactly such demonology, as is implied in the
Gadarene story, formed the substratum, and, among the early Accadians,
apparently the greater part, of their supposed knowledge of the
spiritual world. M. Lenormant's profoundly interesting work on
Babylonian magic and the magical texts given in the Appendix to
Professor Sayce's "Hibbert Lectures" leave no doubt on this head. They
prove that the doctrine of possession, and even the particular case of
pig, possession,[117] were firmly believed in by the Egyptians and the
Mesopotamians before the tribes of Israel invaded Palestine. And it is
evident that these beliefs, from some time after the exile and
probably much earlier, completely interpenetrated the Jewish mind, and
thus became inseparably interwoven with the fabric of the synoptic

Therefore, behind the question of the acceptance of the doctrines of
the oldest heathen demonology as part of the fundamental beliefs of
Christianity, there lies the question of the credibility of the
Gospels, and of their claim to act as our instructors, outside that
ethical province in which they appeal to the consciousness of all
thoughtful men. And still, behind this problem, there lies
another--how far do these ancient records give a sure foundation to
the prodigious fabric of Christian dogma, which has been built upon
them by the continuous labours of speculative theologians, during
eighteen centuries?

I submit that there are few questions before the men of the rising
generation, on the answer to which the future hangs more fatally, than
this. We are at the parting of the ways. Whether the twentieth century
shall see a recrudescence of the superstitions of mediæval papistry,
or whether it shall witness the severance of the living body of the
ethical ideal of prophetic Israel from the carcase, foul with savage
superstitions and cankered with false philosophy, to which the
theologians have bound it, turns upon their final judgment of the
Gadarene tale.

The gravity of the problems ultimately involved in the discussion of
the legend of Gadara will, I hope, excuse a persistence in returning
to the subject, to which I should not have been moved by merely
personal considerations.

With respect to the diluvial invective which overflowed thirty-three
pages of the "Nineteenth Century" last January, I doubt not that it
has a catastrophic importance in the estimation of its author. I, on
the other hand, may be permitted to regard it as a mere spate; noisy
and threatening while it lasted, but forgotten almost as soon as it
was over. Without my help, it will be judged by every instructed and
clear-headed reader; and that is fortunate, because, were aid
necessary, I have cogent reasons for withholding it.

In an article characterised by the same qualities of thought and
diction, entitled "A Great Lesson," which appeared in the "Nineteenth
Century" for September 1887, the Duke of Argyll, firstly, charged the
whole body of men of science, interested in the question, with having
conspired to ignore certain criticisms of Mr. Darwin's theory of the
origin of coral reefs; and, secondly, he asserted that some person
unnamed had "actually induced" Mr. John Murray to delay the
publication of his views on that subject "for two years."

It was easy for me and for others to prove that the first statement
was not only, to use the Duke of Argyll's favourite expression,
"contrary to fact," but that it was without any foundation whatever.
The second statement rested on the Duke of Argyll's personal
authority. All I could do was to demand the production of the evidence
for it. Up to the present time, so far as I know, that evidence has
not made its appearance; nor has there been any withdrawal of, or
apology for, the erroneous charge.

Under these circumstances most people will understand why the Duke of
Argyll may feel quite secure of having the battle all to himself,
whenever it pleases him to attack me.

[See the note at the end of "Hasisadra's Adventure" (vol iv. p. 283).
The discussion on coral reefs, at the meeting of the British
Association this year, proves that Mr. Darwin's views are defended
now, as strongly as in 1891, by highly competent authorities. October
25, 1893.]


    [107] _Nineteenth Century_, February 1891, pp. 339-40.

    [108] Neither is it of any consequence whether the locality
          of the supposed miracle was Gadara, or Gerasa, or
          Gergesa. But I may say that I was well acquainted with
          Origen's opinion respecting Gergesa. It is fully
          discussed and rejected in Riehm's _Handwörterbuch_. In
          Kitto's _Biblical Cyclopædia_ (ii. p. 51) Professor
          Porter remarks that Origen merely "_conjectures_" that
          Gergesa was indicated: and he adds, "Now, in a question
          of this kind conjectures cannot be admitted. We must
          implicitly follow the most ancient and creditable
          testimony, which clearly pronounces in favour of
          Gadarênhôn. This reading is adopted by Tischendorf,
          Alford, and Tregelles."

    [109] I may call attention, in passing, to the fact that this
          authority, at any rate, has no sort of doubt of the
          fact that Jewish Law did not rule in Gadara (indeed,
          under the head of "Gadara," in the same work, it is
          expressly stated that the population of the place
          consisted "predominantly of heathens"), and that he
          scouts the notion that the Gadarene swineherds were

    [110] The evidence adduced, so far as post-exile times are
          concerned, appears to me insufficient to prove this

    [111] Even Leviticus xi. 26, cited without reference to the
          context, will not serve the purpose; because the swine
          _is_ "cloven-footed" (Lev. xi. 7).

    [112] 1st Gospel: "And the devils _besought him_, saying,
          If Thou cast us out send us away _into_ the herd of
          swine." 2d Gospel: "They _besought him_, saying, Send
          us _into_ the swine." 3d Gospel: "They _intreated him_
          that he would give them leave to enter _into_ them."

    [113] See Marquardt, _Römische Staatsverwaltung_, Bd. III.
          p. 408.

    [114] _Nineteenth Century_, March 1889 (p. 362).

    [115] "The Value of Witness to the Miraculous." _Nineteenth
          Century_, March 1889.

    [116] I cannot ask the Editor of this Review to reprint pages
          of an old article,--but the following passages
          sufficiently illustrate the extent and the character of
          the discrepancy between the facts of the case and Mr.
          Gladstone's account of them:--

          "Now, in the Gadarene affair, I do not think I am
          unreasonably sceptical if I say that the existence of
          demons who can be transferred from a man to a pig does
          thus contravene probability. Let me be perfectly
          candid. I admit I have no _à priori_ objection to
          offer.... I declare, as plainly as I can, that I am
          unable to show cause why these transferable devils
          should not exist." ... ("Agnosticism," _Nineteenth
          Century_, 1889, p. 177).

          "What then do we know about the originator, or
          originators, of this groundwork--of that threefold
          tradition which all three witnesses (in Paley's phrase)
          agree upon--that we should allow their mere statements
          to outweigh the counter arguments of humanity, of
          common sense, of exact science, and to imperil the
          respect which all would be glad to be able to render to
          their Master?" (_ibid._ p. 175).

          I then go on through a couple of pages to discuss the
          value of the evidence of the synoptics on critical and
          historical grounds. Mr. Gladstone cites the essay from
          which these passages are taken, whence I suppose he has
          read it; though it may be that he shares the impatience
          of Cardinal Manning where my writings are concerned.
          Such impatience will account for, though it will not
          excuse, his sixth proposition.

    [117] The wicked, before being annihilated, returned to the
          world to disturb men; they entered into the body of
          unclean animals, "often that of a pig, as on the
          Sarcophagus of Seti I. in the Soane
          Museum."--Lenormant, _Chaldean Magic,_ p. 88, Editorial


       *       *       *       *       *


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       *       *       *       *       *



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     By KARL GROOS, Professor of Philosophy in the University of
     Basel, and author of "The Play of Animals." Translated, with
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